Saturday, 18 March 2017

BLOGGERS' CHALLENGE 2017-18





  
 
Yes, it's back...and so is Russell (link below)

Starting, perfectly bisecting the close season, at 00.01hrs on May 1st the 2017-18 Bloggers' Challenge is on!!

The 2015-16 challenge proved a really enjoyable added dimension to the season. The prospect of chasing 19 species across three different venue types for three, or was it four?, virtual winners badges certainly kept me alert for the whole period (very unusual!); albeit I took it a bit too seriously in those last few weeks, imagined I had a fortnight yet to go, fell off the metaphorical precipice when Russell advised I was wrong and spent the next 6 weeks in an institution; but other than that it was a hoot.


For newcomers contemplating a go, first and foremost you don't need to author a blog, you simply need your blogging mate to publish pics of your catches and thereby verify that you are an honourable human being, thus underwriting the validity of your catch with the integrity of Lloyd's of London.


Otherwise it's straightforward...

● Russell will create access to the score sheet for you via Google Drive before May 1st.

● Get yourself a set of mini-lightweight kitchen scales from the supermarket for those otherwise unweighable fish, from gudgeon to bleak.


● Post a photo of your fish.

Then add it to the score sheet and see your points magically appear (it's beyond me, but trust me it works!).

So what's the point of the points?
Well, the idea is your best fish of each species is given a score as a percentage of the 2015 record weight  and the spreadsheet keeps track of this across the (this time) 22 species and has 3 tabs - river/drain, stillwater and canal. You could gain an extra 10 points if your fish is the biggest of the species on that water type across all entrants


There are therefore four challenges in one with river, lake, canal and overall 'titles' to go at. You can pick and choose to suit your preferences or just go all-out for everything.

There are no prizes, no sponsorship deal, no Sky TV coverage and certainly no naughty ladies involved so it's a proper, honourable, truly amateur event in the old-fashioned sense...and great fun.

Last time James (link below) walked away with pretty much every category so the gauntlet is laid down for us all to change that as he has already registered to take part this time but more than that it's an opportunity to organise your season to make the most of it and target a few p.b's along the way.


Some excellent fish were taken last time including some of the smaller species and I cannot begin to estimate how many p.b's fell during the challenge but it was good number and included the above 4.9 eel from the Oxford Canal.

Please follow the link to Russell's new blog below where you can register by inputting your details to the contact widget on the left hand side to take part. He will enter everyone about a week before we commence in readiness.

https://russellhiltonfishing.blogspot.co.uk/

https://jamesthespecimenhunter.blogspot.co.uk/


Personally I cannot wait for it to start and running it each alternate year is ideal as annually would be a bit much. It's really nice to have the contrast of a relaxing year sandwiched between the year-long challenges. 

I do hope you can join us and wish you every success if you do!



Sunday, 12 March 2017

BIG CANAL ROACH and the WINTER CHALLENGE - An Update and Summary.


When big canal roach first became the object of the new found angling affections some four years ago the old match fishing bread punch methods had initially been employed but it needed something more selective as the prospect of racing to catch three or four pounds of middlin' fish on the pole had lost its gloss long before.

Larger baits helped although the white crumb feed still meant smaller fish would whittle the bait down until it fitted their sub-hookbait-sized mouths.

The same pole floats used all those years ago happened to be perfect with their long cane tips and body-down shape allowing good bite detection and sufficient bulk shotting to enable the traditional, Fred J Taylor type, lift bite method to be employed for unbeatable sensitivity.

Then research into roach fishing history suggested mashed bread might be the answer as feed. What appealed about that was the likelihood that smaller fish might be choked-off by it. This proved generally to be true and in, perhaps naive, pursuit of the option on canals even the crusts were mashed to a degree ensuring offerings of sufficient bulk to interest and hold a shoal of passing pound-plus fish could at least provide enough of a lull in their ritualistic activities to pluck one or two from the midst of the shoal before they collectively continued their instinctive wanderings.

This certainly worked and soon it became apparent that the target fish could be extracted before the rest were either spooked or simply drifted past.

There were issues with the pole though. The scale of the hook-bait determined the hook size needed to be 16, or 14 in coloured warm weather water, and to sink this hook in on the the strike required reasonably strong pole elastic (for roach on canals) at around no.6. There was an issue here though in that the fish could then go berserk in the feeding zone on the strike.

Others were using rod and line but initially to the, then unflinching, indoctrinated match fishing mind, this could never be as good...until the certainty dawned that presentation couldn't be any worse, as the method was so indelicate as not to require a pole to present it. This was something if a breakthrough in many respects:
- less kit to carry
- the prospect if roving
- no cold hands in heavy early frosts
- no handling a wet pole in the rain
But, most importantly, the ability to strike and draw fish immediately from the shoal combined with benefits in the more inaccurate approach, which enabled the idea of spreading feed more widely to form. Whereas a match angler will be looking to concentrate the fish by feeding tightly this was no longer necessary as often only one fish would be expected and so it helped the prospect of multiple catches resulting in the fed bait being thrown in a metre diameter ring rather than all in one spot.

At this point the peak size was 1lb 4ozs and the average of those over a pound was, unsurprisingly, a touch above 1.2

I knew that bigger average sized fish were being taken on whole lobworms in the depths of winter but with sessions of around two hours available early mornings the thought of sitting freezing awaiting one bite, or no bites, that might easily be missed, was no choice at all. More action was required than that!

One morning in winter a risk was taken, but it was no risk really, if it went wrong it was only one swim and session wasted, and another peg could always be tried. Three or four handfuls of mash were introduced at the outset. Enough to render a winter match peg stone dead with immediate effect....but it worked. Not only was it successful in producing more target fish it also increased the average size to 1.5.10 and the ceiling rose to over one and a half pounds, then further topped by what at the time seemed a freak/fluke fish of a minnow under two pounds four in 2013. I say a fluke because it was fully ten ounces bigger than the next best.

During this whole period the hookbait size was a 15 to 20mm punch but with the advent if greater initial feed quantities came the realisation that a bait that cut out pretty much all fish below the twelve ounce mark would not be detrimental in any way and would undoubtedly pick out the real target, being the biggest fish in the swim. 

Nowadays the hookbait varies from 20mm diameter upwards and is doubled-over and hooked through the thick outer curve created, such that the hook is subsumed within the floating glob of soggy bread in the water.

Bites usually come within about fifteen minutes, sometimes as long as 45, but if it is necessary to wait that long another peg has usually already been primed for the move.

A concerted effort over the past winter has resulted in 27 one pound-plus roach from the Grand Union and Oxford canals, taking the total since returning to the angling fold, and since this particular obsession commenced, to well over 100.
 
----

WINTER 2016/17 BIG ROACH CHALLENGE - Top 10:
 
1.15.5
1.9.11*
1.7.6
1.7.3*
1.7.0*
1.6.8*
1.6.8*
1.6.3*
1.5.13*
1.5.3* 

 

Others: 1.4.10, 1.4.6, 1.4.6, 1.4.2, 1.3.6, 1.3.6*, 1.3.0, 1.3.0, 1.3.0*, 1.2.5, 1.2.5*, 1.1.14, 1.1.10, 1.1.10*, 1.1.10*, 1.0.10, 1.0.8.

[GUC unless *NOXC]
 
----


All-time F, F & F Canal
Top 10 Roach:
2.3.10*
1.15.5
1.13.0*
1.11.8
1.9.11*
1.9.11*
1.9.4*
1.8.5*
1.8.5*
1.7.6

So what does this show?
- Firstly that canals with an established zander presence have the capacity to be some of the best big roach waters outside the pits and lakes of established specimen repute. 
- Tiny hooks, fine lines and careful feeding are not the way to consistently catch the very biggest roach on canals.
- That there is no substitute for experience, research and implementation in achieving a goal and then extending the boundaries of possibility.
- That the quantity of big roach present is staggering, having only once knowingly caught the same fish twice.
- It is possible to have multiple catches of four and five fish over a pound in one short session.
- 99% of these fish have been caught within 20 minutes of home.
 
----

F, F & F - THE NEXT GENERATION(?)
 
TBW has generally had a tenancy to seek perch on worms and so last weekend he decided it was high time he had a go for his first pound-plus canal roach.

From my own efforts over the previous fortnight it was clear they were 'avin' it and as the weather had remained steady the likelihood was there.

In the 1st swim we both fished either side of the feed zone, our unfathomably large flake torn from a medium slice wafting three inches off bottom, floats set to burst through the surface when dear old geriatric rutilus lifted it's head and dislodged the anchor shot.

Could he get a bite? Four fish to yours truly for no valid reason whatsoever including one at 1.3.6 and a surprise rudd. Then his float tows off and a 4 ounce roach is swung to hand!

An old fish with loose scales, this one
Swim 2 had caused me a nightmare a week prior. Ten bites, 2 fish...but they were there and three of 'em had somehow been bumped-off the hook...biorhythm imbalance or something.

It went much the same, 2 lost fish, both good ones but unseen, and then, after a boat had reduced the perhaps over-clarity of the water a touch, he was in.

A deft playing of the fish on his new rod and centrepin, and, with no hiccoughs at all, it lay sparkling in the net, TBW'S teeth to match.

1.2.10, target well and truly hit and last bite of the morning as the boat traffic grew heavier.


It's not often one catches the target first time but this boy has the knack. I think this is the third time; 3lb chub, 2lb perch, now a pound roach!

----

FOOTNOTE:

For those wondering (we hope there are many!), Russell and I are due to make a detailed announcement on the Bloggers, Challenge in the next week or so in plenty of time for a May 1st start.

 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

POLE FEEDER in FLOOD CONDITIONS for ROACH and CHUB...AND BLOGGERS CHALLENGE NEWS!


 

Opting for the pole on a small river or stream with the usual prevalence of snags and other potential banana skins may seem foolhardy on the face of it.

The seasoned angler who may have fished with a pole back in the days when we referred to them as Roach Poles and flirted with thin white elastic, tiny floats, light lines and miniscule hooks would certainly find the idea questionable with memories of yards and yards of uncontrollable light elastic coming into play when a big fish took the bait under extreme, or any, conditions. I distinctly recall The Old Duffer hooking tench and carp in a side-arm off the River Nene some decades ago when the main river was a raging chocolate torrent. All the fish knew where to shelter of course, and so did he. Fibreglass pole in hand, aluminium crook and 6 or 9 inches of dangling elastic made very hard work of landing anything over a pound!

Today the pole fishing world is much changed. While the weight of poles is not much different the stiffness and power is hugely improved and the prospect of using elastics that could tow a small car is only too real.

Against that intro then the pole on snaggy streams is not so daft an idea but, that said, I would not suggest it is any substitute for an Avon rod in tight situations with snags all-round but when there is space to wield the thing, and slacks and creases to take advantage of, then it offers more than float fishing and ledgering in the conventional sense during the colder months. 

It is often the case that rivers fluctuate in depth, colour and flow for the majority of the January – early March period and this is the time when the method is at its most useful, although it does have its uses for a few fish in clear deep water too when perhaps all else would fail during daylight.

The biggest issue with fishing the ‘tip on streams is the finicky bites of smaller fish. It is not, these days, in my own modus operandi to pursue small fish anyway but it has become quite clear the vast majority of roach to this method are over 3 ounces, and often over 6 ounces, but of course it is more the effect of the winter state of river causing this; a time when ‘bits’ are less susceptible to an anglers bait for whatever reason.


4lbs 4 ounces of roach at a good stamp on an otherwise difficult day
The benefit of the pole is that innate feel for what is going on under the surface and associated instant contact with the fish.
Over the past three seasons I have been slowly working on this method each winter when circumstances allowed and eventually coming to terms with the issues and finding solutions. Some of these came from the internet, via websites and YouTube, others were worked out on the hoof, but the way I use it now is good enough to produce a few fish, and very regularly good fish, when all else available is a touch too hit and miss to be reliable.
So how does it work?
I am not big in technical stuff these days as it can very quickly get boring and so I will keep that to the point but, as I alluded to in the previous post, there is one particularly ingenious little dodge that cannot go unmentioned...
The biggest issue as with ledgering for roach is the fish feeling the rod tip and smelling a water rat. The answer is to use a separate short length of fine pole elastic, the old no2 (red) or 3 (green) will usually suit, at the top of the main line of the rig and attached parallel to it in a manner that enables the tension of the line alongside it to be adjusted, for this fairly stiff pole float rubbers about 10-15mm long plugged with an off-cut of pole float bristle do the trick. It is however far easier to look at a diagram!
The idea being that the line between pole tip and feeder is held tight so that the little slack in the mainline enables the fish to pull against the light elastic for 3 or 4 inches (75-100mm) before it meets the more solid resistance of tightened main line and pole tip/main elastic.
The other unusual part of the rig is that it does not require float, to do so would not work as the rest of the line needs to be held tight, as in normal ledgering. All one needs therefore is a simple marker and so chunky pole float bristle, fixed double-rubber, held so that the majority of it is above the water does the job...although I am about to make a further experiment here which I will report back on as, currently, this is the weakest part of the system.


The feeder end of the set-up is fairly standard. A 20g upwards cage feeder (to suit the flow) will do although proprietary ones with the weight in the base are best as this leaves the line above it in more direct contact with the business end.
The feeder is attached, via a beaded clip, on a 4" (100mm) loop to a 1 to 3 foot (300-900mm) hook-length, which in my experience usually ends up at around 18" (450mm) long, and with shot about 5" (125mm) from the hook varying from no8 to no4 again dictated by the flow and (lack or scarcity of) bites.

Finally to the main pole elastic. This does need to be heavy elastic as one needs to subdue those occasional chub. 16 seems to be ideal. This may sound heavy-handed but with the flow, the feeder and the fish a good foot will often show and, as long as those roach are handled gently to the net, there will be no concern at all about preconceived over-gunning.  

Technicalities out of the way then, the actual fishing is very simple...this is the bit that no one else explains!
Somewhat obviously the depth is plumbed with the feeder (best done before adding the hook-length) and the marker bristle ideally wants to be set around 6" (150mm) over-depth.

Personally the preferred bait (be shocked!) is bread. Coarsely liquidised in the feeder and a pinch of flake in varying sizes on the 14 or 16 spade end (for lightness) hook but, again seeking those bigger stamp fish, never smaller than a five pence piece (That said, Iobworms in low feed-content ground bait or molehill is also a good bet when the water is heavily turbid, using sections or indeed whole lob's on a 10 or 8 hook).

Let's assume, for starters, that the depth and flow suit fishing to hand, with the line, say, a foot or so shorter than the pole. The feeder is swung-out downstream and allowed to gently 'plop' through the surface about a metre below the spot where you intend to hold the float, and of course, on small streams, the background can vary massively so being able to see the marker is key in the decision.

The pole is then held tight to the feeder as it sinks against the pole in an upstream direction with the marker above the surface until it is felt to hit the bottom...and if you aren't sure whether this has occurred the feeder is too light and is being held-up by the flow...the marker can then be lowered (still on a tight line) upstream and down toward the surface until it is just touching the water, and held there. This action makes sure that the line is not vertical to the feeder which gives a more direct line from fish to marker without it feeling the feed so much and also gives a degree of latitude in holding the pole whereas a vertical marker is also very difficult to hold in place.

Bites are often very positive in fish above six ounces and sometimes will straighten the slack line parallel with the extra elastic feature such that the bite is felt on the pole before you can even react. Chub regularly do this. More tentative bites however are often magnified by just allowing the marker to hang a fraction more freely at the onset of a bite, thus allowing the fish less resistance once you realise it is interested.


3lbs plus chub on pole feeder
The strike can be straight through the line of marker to feeder and then the fish will be drawn upstream, gauging its size as you go. If it is a bigger fish, perhaps a chub, then do not hesitate to put a significant bend in the pole to keep it out of snags. The heavy elastic is incredible at not only controlling the fish but somehow the lack of a solid resistance, such as it might feel with a rod, makes the fish less likely to 'try anything silly'. This may sound odd, and until it is experienced it is hard to believe, but it is undoubtedly true that fish fight harder on a powerful rod than on an elasticated pole. I am certain they feel more 'concern' the more direct the contact, which is logical.

The second critical point when playing a fish is the need to play it out completely before bringing it too close to the bank to net it. The main failing of the pole is that, subject to the sudden last minute lunging of the fish to get under the near bank, there will be insufficient control.


Biggest chub on the method to date at three pounds, seven ounces
I have tended to find that bites will come within the first three 'drops' (they can barely be described as casts!) and, again odd though it may sound, I am happy to rove with minimal kit until I find creases and slacks that have the target fish in them. Once the fish are found sport can be very entertaining and with the fish often inclined to move around slacks under flood conditions it is often necessary to keep moving the feeder position to keep the bites coming after the initial burst of bites.

Again in my experience, a bite seems to come a certain time after the rig has been settled into the right position and I always believe, though have no actual proof other than the ever-expanding gut, that this is the time it takes for the bread to become waterlogged and soft.

----

Okay. All clear so far?


To the final, trickiest, but again very inventive part of the method (I can say that as I didn't come-up with the idea!). Most pole anglers will be aware of the difficulty in shipping-out a pole with bread on the hook and not losing it on the way out, or, in other situations, snagging the rig and any bait in nearside vegetation.
The above assumed fishing 'to hand' but if you need to add and remove joints to perform the task how do you keep the feeder and bait out of the water until the time is right?
The answer is, as often with these things, very simple and yet a perfect solution.
Cable ties!
Simply wrap a cable tie around the pole a few inches short of the distance between pole tip and feeder; cut the tail off leaving about 3/4" (20mm) projecting up on the side of the pole where your spare hand is (in most cases to the right) and simply hang the line off this as you ship-out. When  you get to the correct length twist the pole with tip held high until the line falls off and lay the feeder in the water once you have requisite control of the swinging weight. These are the sort of tricks, I could never fathom as my wind doesn't work in that way, very impressive thinking indeed, and it's easy to carry a few cable ties of varying length as they weight nothing. One word of warning however - it is no challenge to crush a modern pole so please do not be tempted to over-tighten they only need to grip and this can be achieved by attaching them loosely and sliding them along.
So that is about it. The feed levels and therefore sometimes feeder size will vary from river to river but experimentation on the day will soon sort this out.

Good luck, only about three weeks to go now but, with rivers continually above normal level currently, it is a method well worth the effort of adding to the repertoire in my humble view.


----


BIG WINTER CANAL ROACH CHALLENGE 2016/17

I am told the phrase 'red letter day' refers back to the old tradition, still practiced, of using red ink for special days on calendars and the like.

In that case I have one thing to state here: 22nd February 2017

A date when this happened on the North Oxford canal in an area I had neglected since last winter...


The best single catch of big canal roach to date.

The glow still pervades I must confess, like a Ready Brek advert of old...but with a special diamond and rubies recipe.


----


!! A NEW BLOGGERS CHALLENGE 2017-18 !!

Myself and Russell (yes, he's back!), are intending to run a Bloggers Challenge very much along the lines of the 2015-16 model but with the added small species bleak, gudgeon and ruffe.

This time round it won't be necessary to be author of a blog so long as your fish are reported in photographic form on someone's blog (Martin!) before they are recorded on the spreadsheet.

I am seeking 'expressions of interest', as Land Agents would say, with a view to commencing at 00.01hrs on May 1st 2017, splitting the close season neatly in two. This should give us all plenty of time to seek-out suitably accurate small fish kitchen scales and for the spreadsheeet to be readied and all registered to access it.

'Can't wait!





Monday, 13 February 2017

So What Now?

Five weeks of the river fishing season remaining and priorities now fixed.

For that tail-end of the greatest of all angling challenges, to confound the prey in flowing water, every effort will be made to target them when conditions suit. Without the benefit of turbidity dawn, dusk and after dark only must prevail.

The Winter Big Canal Roach Challenge 2016/17 remains live, and will no doubt blend into spring, prior to a lake campaign when increasing air temperatures have caused that pivotal change in warmth of the water, and thus subsurface activity.

Just a few days ago a trip to a stretch of canal I fished as a schoolboy, cycling to and from tackle-laden, but certainly had not fished in the forty years since, gave up a beauty at one pound six to the usual method when trialling a new float very much suited to lift bites, my old stock now slowly diminishing.


Bream, hybrids and slightly smaller roach also followed.

 
----

The Leam.

I recently had the rather nice fortune of being asked by the Leamington Angling Association to write a few words of encouragement for people wishing to be graced by the banks of this engaging little river.

Incidentally, it has never occurred to me until now that non-locals may be inclined to pronounce the river's name 'leem' but, no, it is indeed 'lem' as in the first syllable of Royal Leamington Spa, through which it, usually somewhat stodgily, flows.

By way of endorsement it was only appropriate that practicing of that preaching followed.

One method that can be relied upon to provide some success within its wildly changeable depth, but that I didn't have space to go into in any detail in the LAA piece, is pole feeder fishing and when the river is up, coloured and cold. It gives a couple of extra dimensions in taking advantage of creases and slacks over that of the quiver-tip, namely:
• accuracy of placing bait and feed, and,
• more prospect of hitting finicky roach bites.

Last season and the season before it was trialled to good effect on stretches further upstream than the Leamington water and was immediately found, for no fathomable reason, to result in the best fish very quickly on bread but also to enable fish to be caught in the most challenging of water conditions from deep holes in which usually the hit-and-miss-ossity of any standard legering method in such tight areas of depth and flow power make it such a problem.

I have not written about this before, other than to hint at it some months ago, as it was work in progress but now I feel we are somewhere near the 'show and tell' stage.

Numerous issues have been addressed along the way and it now feels like a properly valid method to be listed alongside all the others. Given the traditional F, F & F penchant for bread and, secondarily, lobworm fishing it suits very well.

There are some clips, of varying quality, on YouTube and these certainly help but it is quite a technically tricky method and, as such, requires some explanation. It does however involve one of the most ingenious ideas one will ever come across to avoid fish feeling the resistance of the pole when biting.

Given the difficulty in explaining this in words alone I am planning a detailed post shortly. Appetite whetted? I do hope so.


Between half and a whole dozen paragraphs ago I seem to recall suggesting this section might be about the Leam, and so it is - now.

The pleasure in this type of small stream fishing is so much more than anyone can convey in words. Even the likes of David Carl Forbes and Tony Miles limited themselves largely to the 'how' rather than the 'why' when putting pen to paper on their now iconic publications on the subject.

For this humble follower of the angle the harder and more unlikely the acquisition of a bite may be, the more pleasure is to be derived in its pursuit.

Last weekend the colour remained strong, as did the flow
, and the banker roach swims were targeted. At this time our maritime climate was not struggling to burst over a trio of degrees as it has been these past few days.

Targetting known roach pegs and lowering the feeder neatly on or inside the crease line in the first swim, 8m from where I took my first Leam roach over a pound four or five seasons back, the indicator soon plunged down that hole and the wrath of a worthy sparring partner was engaged.

Now in a narrow, snag-strewn water, this was undoubtedly chubby crunch time. I use a heavy carp-style pole elastic for this job to take account of the heavy flow, depth, weight of feeder and the fish and, it may sound surprising, but the fight of even this 3lb plus chub was no match for the incredible subduing qualities of this latex. It is much easier to keep the fish where you want it as, held high over the head of the fish, the pull and power of the pole itself is cushioned but at the same time so are the movements of the fish and, as long as joints are not unshipped until the quarry is beaten, it can be netted without fear of falling foul of those habitual last minute lunges into weed and roots by your feet.

A very nice Leam chub of 3lbs 4ozs resulted followed by a couple of nice roach.

I then fished the banker swim and sat it out with coarsely liquidised bread in the feeder and nips of flakes on the hook. Roach came after two drops had put a little bait into the water and a series followed up to ten ounces for an enjoyable net of four pounds four ounces in conditions under which one would not have believed it possible without the benefit of this method.

The fish do tend to wander in coloured water, moving up and down and side to side, presumably in reaction to flow changes and it is necessary to work your way around the area on streams such as this to stay in touch. One thing is noticeable though and that is that if there are feeding fish present you will catch them immediately.

Just this last weekend produced a larger chub at 3.7.0 on an 8m Pole with this method, landed comfortably even after it went under a snag but the usual slack line trick saw him come out again. A few nice roach and the odd dace completed the scene.

A three pound chub is a noteworthy fish on the Leam these days and two in a week is a very welcome reward for applying a relatively new-found method.

----


North Oxford Canal

This past weekend it was seriously chilly on the bank. Although the air temperatures were higher than on frosty days beforehand, the bitter easterly breeze drove sleet into the cheeks like a dominatrix ice queen.

The first two sheltered pegs produced just a lone 10 ounce roach by way of consolation for having braved it.


The fish knew. They sat in the open water with the Siberian blow straight in the face .

I was supposed to pick The Boy Wonder up at ten (no, he hadn't fallen over) but, due to the age old communication issue with those of a certain age, would not respond to messages, so I waited...it would have been senseless not to. Just as I was losing hope anyway up popped the float in a hideous waving lift bite and, as I struck, the wished-for giant roach to ease the misery of the conditions really did appear to be fighting back. The water was clear to about 20" down, almost too clear, and so the need to stop the fish swirling on the surface was essential.

Consequently it was some time into the scrap that a hybrid of 1.8.0 came into view, not a roach but boy was it a welcome sight on that morning.



As I alluded to in a recent post, a roving shoal can suddenly present a flurry of action and four bites in four drops ensued; an immediately following 12 ounce roach; a 6 ouncer, dropped-off when I was being too ambitious, or maybe frozen, to net it, and a missed bite.

...and that was that, but glowing-faced proof that in the harshest of conditions pleasure is to be had for those sufficiently intrepid to search.


----

In Conclusion

In closing, one would hope that the rain continues. I note this morning that the local rivers have risen and peaked today after more rain at the weekend.



After the first deluge put the rivers very high, and over the road in places, any additional rain has been slow to enter the them due to previously waterlogged ground and freezing conditions. These factors appear jointly to affect things in that the water logging ensures that pretty much any level of subsequent rain affects the level and colour of the water and the frost locks water into the ground thus making the levels stay high and relatively stable longer due to its gradual release.

----

Winter Big Canal Roach Challenge 2016/17

The complete list of 1lb+ fish thus far:
1.15.5
1.9.11*
1.7.6
1.7.3*
1.6.8*
1.6.3*
1.5.13*
1.4.10-
1.4.6
1.4.6
1.4.2
1.3.6
1.3.0
1.3.0
1.2.5
1.1.14
1.1.10
1.1.10*
1.0.10
1.0.8
GUC UNLESS *NOXC


References:

Leamington Angling Association Newsletter, January 2017.
https://leamingtonangling.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/leamington-angling-newsletter-january-2017/


Rough River and Small Stream Fishing. David Carl Forbes (Cassell, 1977).


Big Fish from Small Streams, Tony Miles (Little Egret Press, August 2013). 


Monday, 30 January 2017

The Power of the Stream

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Cold, Clear and Chubby



It was never going to be warm...

 SATURDAY

Canals would be frozen, as would small lakes and with high water having run-off the local upper Avon and Leam these offered the only options. As I've been in eight minds for every trip lately, two choices would prove a bonus.

Saturday the Avon was shrouded in freezing fog and thick frost. The little pond by the gate somewhat remarkably not completely crusty.

Tee shirt, thermal layer, grandad tee, thick shirt, microfleece, fleece gilet, thick fleece, thermal padded coat with zipped-in lining. 9 layers and nothing was getting through this.

Minus two on arrival, but it's been worse. Since my water thermometer became zander bait no temperatures have been taken but I suspected the river would have been around 4degC.
  The colour had dropped out more than expected but that seems to be common with this river these days, quite why is beyond me. The Leam would hold it longer.

As I approached a water rail was silently flushed across into the far side undergrowth and a pair of swans with a still clingy brown-mottled youngster dunked for breakfast.

Somehow I expected roach and it was a little liquidised bread cage feeder that sought to do the business.


 Third cast into the deep hole and a tentative bite was missed but immediately after that unmistakable drag round of the winter chub but it didn't fight like chub staying deep and not diving for the gathered uprooted weed under my feet until well into the battle. From thence he was scooped to the bank however and at 3.7 a nice start.

 In celebration a tiny chestnut bank vole tazzed among the stalks at my feet and was out of sight no sooner than he had been in it.

This was a late start. Firstly I had arrived after the usual faff with gates and as I unloaded realised I hadn't stopped for bread on the way. So the nearest option left me with a Marks & Spencer soft white thick sliced loaf.

"How would this compare with the Blue", I asked myself.

In practice it was a good substitute so if you're ever stuck it's another possibility, albeit medium would have been closer to the mark.

Consequently I contact fishing traffic control to advise of the landing error and was advised I had until lunch time to get over it so things weren't so bad...or so it seemed.

Thankfully the resident ravens kept me amused, as the fishing did not continue as it had started, and as I packed away lifting my seat to expose the last area of frost that hadn't yet thawed it felt a little anticlimactic. Just that one nice chub, always a pleasure in cold weather, but I should be thankful for a bite under such conditions.


SUNDAY:

The following day the second option was taken-up.

The Leam did indeed hold a touch more colour but, as before, it was obvious that the best had passed during the working week.

If Saturday had been the script for Sunday it wouldn't have been a surprise. A decent Leam chub of 2.10 early doors and then flushed green sandpiper and squealing water rail in the phragmites later when roving. Bites in every peg but all tiny tippy-taps and only two sub-sized fish, a roach and a dace to show for it.


A very confident Robin shared each of the first four swims in its search for egg sandwich crumbs and, even though each time I moved scraps would have been left behind, it somehow preferred the challenge of testing its bravery with me sat there.

I'd gone a good year or so away from this stretch until recently and it was incredible how it had changed. The floods can be quite impacting here and it showed in the changes where rafts had been lost and others formed; standing reed and rush beds flattened, dragged-out and reshaped; and whole trees removed. It was as if approaching a new venue in many areas and a few mental notes were made. Dace still lived in the same glide though, as did roach.

Through the meadow back to the car the standing water remained frozen as I cracked-on and with the ram looking a little more lively than some weeks ago I gave him and his flock a wide berth; not that he's ever defensive in his duties, but you never can be certain.

WEDNESDAY

Back to the Avon.

The afternoon fog that appeared to be thickening suddenly slipped away on arrival but the water was clearer still. The flow however remained urgent as I again settled into the mysterious deep hole.

 Again a water rail squealed it's piglet-like call from the far bank and a steady approach, given the continuing cold weather, of liquidised bread in a 15g cage feeder and a smaller than usual flake hookbait combined with the more delicate than usual 9' wand.

A series of unhittable fiddly bites ensued and filled the first hour or more - then an unrelenting pull on the 3/4oz tip resulted in solid resistance.

The Boy Wonder trotted along and removed rod no2 which was dangling a lob down the edge and meanwhile the excellent little lead rod I was relying on that, it turned out, was attached at long last to that elusive for four years 4lb plus chub, coped as well as one with a blue chip reputation would be expected to.

The fish wasn't particularly long and initially it was puzzling as to why it was a struggle to lift it up the bank...until it came fully into view.

"How big do you think it is?", asked TBW.

" I think it's bigger than the one on Saturday but I'm not sure how much more".
Secretly however I felt it might just be tantamount to THAT fish. The fish I set out four years ago to extract from the Leam. A four pounder.
It was in 2016 that I started a new relationship with the Warwickshire Avon though, having been a regular BAA member decades ago. Many say the biggest fish have been removed by the dear old otter and that may well be true so a four pounder could prove to be of greater value than it might immediately seem as time passes.

When TBW asked how many ounces I needed I couldn't bring myself to say and simply asked what it read, praying to myself he would say more than 64.

"66.6", he exclaimed. It must be an omen for a similar Leam fish next surely.
Damien, the chub.
 4 pounds 2 ounces 10 drams. I became a bit Flintoffian.
We anglers often talk of scale or fin perfect fish and on that score this one took some beating
Strangely not the biggest F,F&F chub. That was a 4.6 specimen from a canal back in the 1990's. Okay it wasn't a River Leam fish but, so long in trying, it was very welcome nevertheless.
That ended the afternoon's action but that really was plenty, thank you very much.


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Lame Duck & Dumb Luck


The barbers has that humid, shaving foam-perfumed atmosphere about it.

Outside the scene is hardly resplendent in its inundated monochrome state. Punctuated only by the ochre lettering of the art shop and the crimson of the takeaway.

The impenetrable ground lies glistening in the aftermath of the nights rain. Reflecting the drab street scape via myriad mirrored puddles.

A three hundred and sixty degree shearing - all but to the bone - the winter bites that bit more.

The forecast had been wrong. Instead of an increasingly emerging sun it was horizon to backdrop cloud, and rain non-stop soon after arrival.

The ducks feared not. Even the male Tufted that mistook two impaled maggots for wild food and was unceremoniously towed bankside for release. The flotilla of a dozen kept more distant after he got in a flap.

A small red-finned fish and a green and black striped one provided the only other major distraction, excepting the ever present long-tailed tit flock, an apparently starved robin and a frequently perching but never diving kingfisher.

That was then.

----

Now, two subsequent days of almost unending rain have left the rivers in pre-peak state.

Tomorrow or the day after maybe.

So again I find myself at the reservoir that currently guarantees a few bites and a chance of roach sufficiently grand to make the heart race.


Noting that the fish have been at the source of any ripple on all visits. The casts are made across that line, 30 and 40m distant, but it's tough. Fish again show in the same location relative to the breeze but further off, beyond range.

Eventually a twang and a perch of one pound, one ounce digs it's way to the net for a swift return.


Soon though a gutterally coughing cave dweller arrives and sets-up part of the necessary barrow-load where those roach had topped earlier-on.

Fifteen minutes later the shoal, flushed from their natural intentions, move across the baited traps and both are triggered within seconds of each other...1 hook struck-off in excitement, the second a good roach, the best yet in recent visits at 1.4.6, nestles in the dark mesh...and that was that.


This kind of experience, particularly with roving roach shoals, has been evident a number of times over the years and proves that the possibility of action never disappears if the target is in motion and that tiny fragment of luck can turn disaster to apparent worthy effort.

Commitment, agility of thought, application, skill, planning. They all have their part in narrowing the angles but luck, how does the angler gain control of that factor? Well he or she doesn't of course but it certainly becomes more likely the more thoroughly those first few elements are addressed.