Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to One and All, here's to a rather more encouraging 2017 than the autumn of 2016 has been.

Yes, and HonGenSec is out there this afternoon. Dedication.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Win Bonus in Tough Times?

The Stillwater is tough. 

So tough that a bite is at the very least a pleasant surprise and, more often in fact, something of a shock.

A couple of weeks ago I felt that floundering feeling when I wasn't enjoying my fishing enough as it seemed to have become directionless and predictable. Too many stretches of canal had turned clear and the banker stretch, although in perfect trim, could only be enthused over so many times.

A decision was made.

Target roach on all venues.

It started with blanks. In fact Monday would have been my sixth consecutive, but no one said it would be easy.

The Stillwater was too still, however I did see some quality fish topping at dawn which gives me future hope, but wind and colour are required.

The hours I whiled away on the banks were exceptional for bird life however and precisely fifty species were listed topped by a fantastic winter visiting firecrest plus a few brief glimpses of an otter bubbling it's way eastward in search of that which I could not find. That tiny bird was the harbinger of what we Burtons call a 'Let's Weep!' moment, such as I last felt when discovering my first ever Dartford warbler in Dorset. Magical.

No bites ensued in two visits and the next thing to make me emotional was meeting a good old friend or two by chance in the tackle shop. About fifteen years they reckon it had been. Cue selfies, tales of days gone by and, I'm told, Facebook may subsequently have been involved, though that is beyond my oldfangledness.

On a tip-off I decided to fine-tune the roach method on another pond where I might get a bite before returning when conditions would be right in search of the prey of palpitations.

As I used to think as a match angler..."You learn nothing if you're not getting any bites".

Arriving before dawn, good fish topped all round with the increasing light and just occasionally some real specimens rolled too.

Fishing two rods at 30m with maggot feeders it was second cast with each rod that the action started and continued unabated until I cut the flavouring from the feeder by way of a reverse experiment and the bites immediately ceased. Amazing proof.

Archie Braddock - you were right, as we're my informal mentors. I was tempted to call them Mentors A & B but that implies a hierarchy so I'm going with Mentor P and Mentor I. I suspect they will become MP and MI in no time...oh, they already have.

Roach, Rudd and a solitary perch completed a lively two hour session with nine pounds of fish which included the golden prize of a rather sneaky p.b. Rudd of 1.2.

Next day the air was a little less welcoming at three degrees but I had a couple more things to try out and so headed to the same peg again. This time for a quarter short of two hours but the hoped-for big roach showed themselves for the first hour of daylight once more.

Second cast again with each rod and two fighters were on the bank. Initially disinterested, but increasingly keen to get away the closer to the bank they came, the unmistakable fight of unseasonal tench was upon us. One could have been lucky, two worthy of comment but to take four up to 5.2.11 was just plain silly. Add to this two roach and three perch, all around ten ounces each and the sixteen pound catch in one and three quarter hours summed-up a commercial-esque(!) session I could never have seen coming.

The second tench, or tenchlet at 1.6, carried festering growths in the roots of its fins and so I slipped it back and thus avoided infecting the keepnet. Photographs are now with the holding club and their experts are on the case to pursue it further. Deer stalkers donned and magnifying lens in hand as I write no doubt.

I think the wind is on the rise in a few days' time, so, having ironed-out a few wrinkles in the method, it's back to The Stillwater to try to tempt the untemptable but until then this alternative is too good to miss for December. Those bigger early-priming roach are there to be had too. The lake is the source of the roach p.b. on stillwaters at 2.1.8 of three decades ago, the best of a magnificent brace and a day when, just minutes later, The Old Duffer nabbed one for himself of 2.0.8 to confirm the venue pedigree.

This morning with, again, very little time to play with, it was back to attempt to tease out those bigger roach that had been active early, a fortunate by-product of this rig-testing industry. It had been a brief frost yesterday evening but, with temperatures due to soar up to 6degC before dawn with some cloud and rain in the early hours, the likelihood of tremulous tench yet ravenous roach became too tempting to ignore.

On arrival it was actually seven degrees but the breeze was biting and I'd forgotten my trousers, or at least my thermal over-trousers, and had to sit like some old(er) boy with a jumper over my thighs looking distinctly as though my carer had cleared-off in search of someone more spritely.

I fancied two options:
A maggot feeder at 30-35m and a flavoured maggot feeder at 60m, both with maggot hook baits.

The result:
4 bites to the flavour in 2.25 hours fishing, all hooked and landed. Zilch on the other. Now there's no doubt that Archie, MI & MP were right.

Encouraging one pound fish to the bank with a slightly over-gunned rod and careful use of the clutch has been interesting in that it has really enabled the identification of the fish by fight characteristics quite easily

So the week ended with a less numerous catch but a nice weight of eight pounds-odd comprising this lovely, yet thermally confused, tench of 5.9:

A probable roach X rudd hybrid of a gnats under a pound:

and two of these chunky footballers:

With an approaching ten days or so to tackle various venues, and the weather looking settled there's genuine optimism in the air, and the water I hope

Monday, 5 December 2016

An Icy Stare

The rivers are running clear again and back at normal level with flow slackening.

The Stillwater would be too still and watery to cope with the cold snap this past week.
The canals had been frozen just a couple of days prior.

So what to do?
A heated aquarium, perhaps.


I hatched a plan via some dubious logic to go to an area where bites would always be minimal thus it would seem no different.

The conjoined Oxford & GUC it was then. Opposite brambles overhanging a naturalised bank.

Bread in front, chopped worm to the right.

Neither area produce so much as a pinhead bubble of action with water temperature just 2.7degC until against all odds the zed float started to trot gently off to the left and I connected with a sedate individual of a couple of pounds that simply couldn’t be bothered to fight

Cut and run to our field on the River Leam. Very clear with the bottom in view where under two feet deep. 
A very tempting swim had formed after the recent high water so confident soared for a perch or two.  

Now you'd guarantee it, would you not?


Where might the canal not be frozen?

Chilly scene
Iced canals fish much better and more consistently than open sections in extreme conditions but the days of heaving interchangeable steel weights and chains on ropes to create that perfectly formed match fishing peg are long gone, even though results would be less buoyant. Besides, playing bigger fish through a hole in the ice is not the wisest of recipes for success.

Protected areas in less exposed landscapes. Close to settlements. Perhaps near boats or where a ripple might form.

It took six bridge visits to find a reasonable option and sadly. It was the same location as yesterday!

A different peg, and more sheltered admittedly, but a worse conclusion. Not a tap.

Deadbait float to left. Worm float to right.
To quit and admit defeat or concoct more hair-brained options?
The latter.

I found myself between a bridge and a lock on the GUC proper. A much better option, albeit the roads were somewhat dodgy in getting there.
A boat had just been through and broken a channel through the ice although where I sat clearly had a crust earlier in the day. It started to recede and as I set-up the floes became less and less daunting.

The cross section of the cut was tapering from shallows across into deeper water nearside of middle extending right into the near bank. Boats would moor here for the lock so it made sense.

With melting ice the subsurface temperature had dropped to 2.5degC but, as is the way of things, confidence was not yet dented, merely pressured.

Again two rods. One with a lob chopped in half and hooked in two sections, flavour oozing. On the other, a roach tail cut from a frozen sample.

The second boat was operated quite efficiently by three girls apart from a little lurch when the controller went back into gear having coasted past me this causing a swirling murklet of canal water to surge right over the square metre my floats occupied. Who'da thunk it?!

No sooner had they gone than students started arriving at the lock cottage for a birthday party (no, I wasn't eavesdropping, they were quite happy to yell the information to each other).

The deadbait float indicated the tiniest of possibilities. Just lowering almost imperceptibly and occasionally moving an inch or two one way or another but, with the canal water still rocking back and forth after the lock activity, I thought little of it and it settled to nought.

A few minutes later I decided to recast as the whole weekend had been littered with leaf issues and the baits could have been concealed.

Something told me to ease into the rig rather than just lift and as I did I sensed a tightening and then some solid though far from urgent digs. This rig was alive.

As I continued to engage with the quarry I was alert to the possibility that any slack could be disastrous and pressure was continually applied. I saw a zander shape under the surface as it kited around and then burst through the surface, it's gills flaring up at me like a can-can dancers skirt. It thrashed itself straight into the net as it peaked too surly and immediately upon lifting clear proceeded to display its chunky self as a new p.b.

67ozs less the net. 3.6.11 and an icy stare
Not exceptional by others' standards but good enough, especially on a day when anything occurring at all was distinctly unlikely.

Roll-on yet more difficult times? No! Milder air is on the way and a breeze to come with it