Thursday, 23 June 2016

An Exponential Curve

Well the time has come and with the start of the traditional coarse fishing season so too an up-swelling of blogging all round. It is important to us then after all, respecting the close season where required

Learning curves are always described as steep (unless you are an England footballer or manager in which case the curve is a straight horizontal line. 'Experts', 'pundits' like to use the word exponential in relation to this subject without any clue as to its meaning) and since returning to angling a few years ago this spring has been the steepest I've consequently known; with a ready supply of current, proven and openly shared information to hand it's showing no sign of levelling-off

It's all very well reading the continually regurgitated claptrap in contemporary glossy angling magazines but you simply cannot beat understanding the background logic associated with the necessary tackle, rigs and bait when hatching a plan to ambush the odd fish, and that I've had in spades thanks to very generous and approachable mentors this spring

For me the sharing of ideas is fundamental, without it an individual will stagnate and miss the simplest of key tricks. This can also happen within a closed clique of anglers of course but it is less likely especially if there are driven, progressive minds involved

Even as a match angler I was very open with any successful ideas within whichever group I formed a small part and expected the same from others, though it wasn't always forthcoming

The, admittedly 20-year, step between grease-suspended wire-tipped pole floats and bite alarms; the step from a single squatt to multiple rubber maggots (it's not even real bait for chrissakes!) or from a light canal pole to 4.5lbs t.c. spod rod could not have been higher and, converting the step to a curve, it would be very easy to slide back down it...were it not for the fact that small fish seem so relatively pointless at this stage of proceedings - or should I say, life?

In many respects the change from the very lightest match fishing to using old pseudo and actual carp gear for non-carp big fish hunting would have been much easier had there not been such a gap in angling interest and had the onset of age not occurred, but, what was right then was right for good reason and what is right now likewise

If anyone out there has been reading these, recently ever less frequent, musings since the beginning of FF&F time, and also has a very good, nay exceptional, memory, then that person may recall that when big canal fish, especially roach, became the thrust of the new approach around four years back, there was no certainty as to where this little sojourn might lead. Some things were cast in stone however, it would never result in pursuit of big carp at the cost of all else, nor, would it involve:
  • commercial fisheries,
  • bite alarms, or,
  • fishing chairs!
Now open/broad mindedness is never a bad thing as long as one is prepared to filter-out the dross and spot the beneficial aspects of the subject matter, (back to angling magazines again!) so when the advice came that bite alarms would be necessary that was going to prove a bleep too far and just there was where the line would be drawn, or just before it rather than through or after it, to be more precise

After all that's not fishing is it? Just sitting there waiting for something to trip over the bait, then landing the fish, oh!, and did I mention that they'd hook themselves too?! No that's not fishing, it's just getting out of the house with a new name

So how does one see a bite at 90 yards exactly, which is where the bait needs to be because that's where the fish patrol and you can't steer them away like a roving shoal of starving canal roach?

On a float?...yeah sure

A quivertip?...possible on the face of it but the only option is tightened-up at that range. Unreliable, lacking necessary finesse to read bites and there's the fundamental issue of the rod tip being so soft yet needing to punch-out  two to three ounces and play fish back that distance, through weed, etc. No, that's not gonna work

So, yes okay, we'll go for the helicopter rig and self hooking set-up then. It really is the only option

As the weeks ran into months since the 2015/16 Bloggers' Challenge ended (with a resounding and not to say extremely well deserved overall win by James Denison who was head and shoulders above all-comers throughout really but, for me, the pinnacle was his exploits with big dace. The smallest of proper angler's fish but a fish over the pound is a mighty specimen and as important as any other big fish capture. Russell Hilton put in a superb effort doing it the hard way with largely canal fish for second place, again including some true specimens. I do look forward to doing it all again next year with a year's break between challenges on the cards. A situation I for one welcome as such a competition can become all-consuming and the opportunity to relax into some casual angling each alternate year is equally appealing), where was I? Ah yes, weeks running into months. That's another challenge took root

As I have recounted before The Stillwater has been a baffling experience. One would be forgiven for thinking there are no fish other than (some) small roach and the occasional carp but of course the tales filtering back from others confirms this not be the case

This spring I took it upon myself to make it work, or else find other options that suited my more active style of fishing, and it was at this point that I was coincidentally offered help in discussion with some long-standing members who must have seen some bizarre signs of promise/desperation in this old boy and who have subsequently been so generous for it to be almost embarrassing for me but it is so gratifying to find there really are still people out there in this otherwise often almost cut-throat world where knowledge is king and therefore selfishly protected by many (you know who you are guys!)

Slowly the pieces of the picture have slotted into place until June 16th, yes really - June 16th. With the start of the season my first bite on all this fancy gear I shot up out of my...erm...chair (I'm just keeping it active for someone else you understand, a bit like an old sports car). The closest I had come prior to that was the previous week when the alarm screamed, the bobbin hit the top and then struck the soil like a stainless steel stone...and then a clumsy great crested grebe surfaced and it had all been tantamount to a dream

But June 16th that was different. The bobbin lifted steadily, like it meant it and wasn't going to be put off its course, and stayed there. The hook was home and the fight began. Soon a doctor fish, so scarred it needed a vet anyway, was in the net and the battle had just begun. He went 3.8.8 (I refuse to give up my drams wherever possible!) and fought like a little demon
3lbs 8ozs of pocket battlefish
Now I knew that any bite would result in a p.b. it was fact wasn't it? We'll obviously not. Contrary to the likelihood and advice of others I had prepared myself for a less than exuberant start to this the last throw of the dice at The Stillwater. So, although I really was thrilled, I prayed this was only the start and suddenly confidence was lifted. If there's one there'll be others 

I must qualify this by saying that sitting there in this new found 'let me know when you're ready dear fishes' scenario was not in anyway against the grain once I'd got used to the idea. In fact, wait for it, I'd actually say it was better than my previous post-match fishing middle ground approach as it allowed me to bird and nature watch much more easily. My ancient trusty binoculars sit comfortably within reach, by my side, with mega-zoom camera and various phone-based lists are compiled. Where's the drawback?

Well of course there isn't one, its a massive step forward for this naturalist who happens to be an anger. A trip out is so much more than fishing again, or maybe for the very first time(s), now I can list almost every raptor that passes or passerine that cheeps; spy those small mammals nibbling on the kek or toad that ambles past and even take an interest in bee-mimicking hoverflies

That ain't no bee. The eyes have it
The fishing technique has been fascinating, not just because it is so new but also due to the intricacies of aspects one would not come-up with alone without many months, if not years, of trials but that I have been able to short cut by asking (too many) questions as each issue arose. Hook type, tail length, knot choice, relative position of rod/rest/bobbin/alarm, hook bait, feed, time of day, weather conditions, time of year, where to sit, how to cast, keeping fish out of weed. You name it I've asked it and within, I'd estimate, the space of just 3 weeks the results have shown themselves to reflect the fact of the true matter at hand here which is never criticise something until you understand it, and I for one have been somewhat guilty of this in the past simply because I enjoyed what I did and, I suppose, wished everyone else could enjoy it too

So, thanks to 'mentors anonymous from an unnamed stillwater' life is great. Oh, and did I mention that the tench p.b. did break, twice in fact, and subsequently shot-up from the previous 4.7.0 to 5.12.0 and then a significant jump to 8.8.1 (for me a true specimen) between 16th & 22nd June?

5.12.0 and (then) p.b.
Massive fins of the male
...and that iconic head with tiny red eye, suggesting a daylight feeder
The current p.b. then at 8lbs 8 ounces. A, probable partly spawned-out, female. A nine pound fish a few days prior?
So, the moral of the story is don't fish during the close season. The fish know! Plus they are still feeding now:

The swim this very day at 6.30am
And it's all down to being inquisitive and putting the answers into practice. Then, as is my unavoidable wont, I can look for that further 'edge' once I am reasonably fully versed (I can't stop myself there)

Just commercial fisheries to change my mind about next then. Now that would a challenge for somebody!

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