Monday, 23 June 2014

Frustrations

After catching two superb roach in the last three or four trips, I chose to make hay whilst the iron was hot and went back.    Not good.   The four provisional swims I had mentally listed to choose from, were all full of carp anglers.    People who sit there for days labelling my roach as tench, whenever they rise and splash in front of them.    And this was Sunday evening.   You would think that they would have cleared off to watch some of the football.    Would you believe that none of them anticipated my arrival and left space for me?   One even sneaked in just five minutes before my arrival.  Have these carp anglers no shame?

But it gave me a chance to try another swim, one I have fancied but not fished before.  I blanked of course,
Great Tit and Two Young Pleaders.
spectacularly so, without any signs of fish rising, and nothing interfered with my bait, save for a cheeky robin and some young great tits.

The next trip was to be to one of my proven swims, but became an even greater failure.  I have now realized that blanking without a twitch is far more tolerable to blanking having had six bites.  I made mistakes.  Too many mistakes. The one bite on worm ( probably a tench) was struck too soon.   Years ago when I float fished lobworm for tench under a long piece of peacock quill, I let the float move at least five feet across the water before striking.  Tench have fair sized mouths but a large lively wriggling worm is difficult to engulf when one has no hands and ones' pectoral fins do not quite reach ones' lips. So I struck too soon and missed.    I also missed one bite on hair rigged paste of some kind...krill... I think.    No explanation for that miss. A third bite was missed whilst dealing with the aftermath of this next photograph. The resident pair of swans have 
Silly, Stupid, Semi Submerged Swan.
five cygnets this year, recently hatched.  The parents were shepherding them across my swim, and I was mentally thanking them for keeping far enough out, that they did not swim through and interfere with my lines.  I had recently, writing elsewhere, stated that swans do not feed their young. These swans decided to prove me wrong as one upended, and came back up with a strand of weed which it then gave to its young. Unfortunately weed was not all the swan came up with:  it came up with my line half hitched around its neck.  Stupid bird.  And of course the bait runner went mad, giving out line as the bird tried to disentangle itself...unsuccessfully. When I picked up the rod and clicked the baitrunner off, the line was still firmly in place like a hangman's noose, and every half second or so was jerkily giving way a little more.  I realized that the line was slowly moving as the swan moved away, rotating around its neck, and it was obvious that eventually the feeder and hook would gradually get nearer to the bird, causing a disaster, or even decapitating the swan .  The only thing I could think of doing was to strike hard, so as to break the line.  It broke at the bird's neck, and the swan seemed to be completely unharmed, which was a great relief.  I was still worried that the other part of the line, that with the feeder and hook, might be attached to the bird, but an hour or so later I reeled the end tackle in, having snagged it with another line. So the swan had a lucky escape, and my guilt dissolved.  But having broken the line I had to re-tackle, and whilst I did so, after four hours of inactivity, I had a bite on rod number two.  Missed it due to messing with rod number one at the time, tying on a fresh hook.
My worst errors were the other three bites, which came on 2 maggots topped with three casters.   These bites may well have been roach, possibly very big roach.  My mistake here was to try and fish such baits when I was far too tired to sit and hover over the rods.  The indicators were moving about 12 inches and then stopping. I should have been hitting these bites sooner, before the guts had been sucked out of the casters. Legering casters for stillwater roach is an artform, and I am fairly convinced that I was metaphorically asleep in Tracey Emin's unmade bed... if not actually asleep... which I also may well have been.  I was just too tired to fish in that way.   Maybe shorter sessions chasing these  roach might be better tactics?   Trouble is that after a long drive, I don't really want to fish for just three or four hours before facing the motorway again.

On the way back, I stopped to look at a club pond that was more or less en-route. I had heard that it held great crested newts, and hoped to be able to photograph one.    No chance.    But I did see quite a decent fish stir in the rushes that encircle this very small pond. It is no more than 40 yards by ten, at its maximum dimensions.   So I determined, next morning to have a go for the fish, and also to have another look for the newts.    4am start, because I actually managed to wake up...and get up when the alarm rang,   cast out a float with my light Avon rod, and 4 pound line, expecting that the fish would be a carp of four or five pounds.   I don't often target specific fish, but it seemed a nice challenge for the morning.   Three six inch rudd, brightly lit little fellows took the breadflake on the first three casts.  Then I saw a good sized fish cruise across the pond to my left, heading in towards the rushes.  I predicted (OK, OK I guessed) that, on reaching them it would turn left towards me, and so cast six feet nearer to me and about eighteen inches out from the bank.   After just a minute the float started to glide away, and I struck into a heavy fish.   A heavy sluggish fish, and I was at first quite confused.
Grass Carp
Grass Carp Head
  Too heavy to be a chub, roach, rudd or bream, and too slow to be a carp.   And I was surprised that, although it maintained its depth well, it seemed to have no wish, or ability, to take line.  The fight was all taking place no further than 4 or 5 yards from me.   I found it quite easy to turn the fish, several times.  Of course I had not expected that it would be a grass carp.   Two other grassies I caught last year fought very poorly too.  But this one was far bigger, and a personal best, out of the three members of the species I have now landed in total.    It weighed thirteen pounds seven, and was a very pleasing fish.  A handsome fish but it was never one that was going to go to a second round with Tyson. You might have thought that a fish that was shaped very much like a salmon, might fisght something like one. But no. The head, around the eyes and mouth area is fairly featureless,  leading me to gain the impression that it is a quite gormless creature.  Anyone else think that this is a fish that looks to have less than the usual quota of intelligence?

I was in a bit of a "job done" situation, so decided to return to the other pond I fished recently, to do some bit bashing.   It was still only 5am.  As I nearer the other pond I realized that, in my euphoria, I had completely forgotten about the newts.   Another time maybe.  Pond 2, after a slow start fished well for small fish, and  by eleven o'clock I was starting to get a little bored.  the score stood at about 20 small tench, 15 small crucians, the odd mini carp and F1, a couple of small roach,  rudd, and what I think was a tiny ide.   The largest fish was a two pound crucian/goldfish cross...or maybe it was simply a brown goldfish.   Not sure which.  I was nearing the last cast stage when I had a tangle around the spool.  The 4 pound line has done some serious work, gaining a few twists in the process, and as a result of the tangle, my float dropped quite short, nowhere
near the baited area and the mass of small fish in and around it. I was helped in untangling the line by a fish pulling at the rod tip. Tangle now gone, this fish was putting up a considerable scrap.  I was having trouble keeping it from a close in snaggy area in which I had lost another fair sized fish earlier in the day.  The fish was moving around the swim at speed, always seeming to stay around mid-water, but just would not reveal itself.   On the 4 pound line and Avon, this was quite exciting stuff.   Eventually, after quite a long time, the fish was mine.   I don't usually like carp much, especially mirrors, but this was a common carp that was quite lovely, even by tench standards.  Probably spot on ten pounds, with a great looking tail, and perfect scales.

And see. Blogger has done it once again, rotating my carp this time. 90 degrees anticlockwise.   Well I am sorry, but it is far easier for you to rotate your head, or turn the screen on its side than it is for me to fix this.  I have tried four times, but Blogger keeps beating me, and four attempts is enough. I give up!

Not having had enough of ponds yet, and needing a short session, I visited yet another small club pond.  I had seen the pictures on the club web site, taken in Winter, and it was nicely shrouded by trees, and with very clear obstruction free water.  I nearly decided NOT to fish it because the water itself looked fairly featureless.  What a mistake that would have been!   The pond is now, in high Summer, absolutely lovely, full of lilies, both common yellow and fancy whites.  It was also an "Oh My God" moment, as I realized that hooking anything of a size would present serious problems.
Lilies...Everywhere.
Pristine Mini Tench
Not a Silver Bream

 
The pond was like an estate lake, but made 15 or 20 times smaller, whilst retaining every last clump of lily.  There were hundreds if not thousands of white lily flowers, what my Chinese friends would call lotus flowers.  The place looks absolutely fabulous, and I cast my float into one of the gaps between the lily beds.  Not too long before something took the bread, and the first of a dozen or so tiny immaculate tench came to hand.  I had read, in the club handbook, that the pond contained silver bream, and to be honest their presence was the main reason I chose to fish the pond.  It was not long before the first of a few immaculate but tiny bream joined the tench.  A couple of small and also immaculate rudd and perch were to take red maggots later.  The bream were however, as far as I can tell, just little common bream, and I suspect that their bright shiny condition may have confused other anglers who have caught them in the past.  There MAY also be silver bream in the pond, but somehow I doubt it.  All the while I fished, the wildlife was up and about.  A fox slunk away just outside the pond fence soon after I arrived.  It is probably a fit and healthy fox, for there were many pheasants nearby.  I regularly heard their double croak, followed by that quick fluttering noise of wings that seems to follow each croak.  A small predatory bird was flitting about over and around the pond. I feel it was probably a sparrowhawk, but did not get a good enough look.   The not good enough look was disturbed by my rod suddenly trying to leap into the pond.   I had taken my eye off the float, and a good fish had grabbed the bait, and was diving deep into the lilies.  The light line broke before I could pick up the rod.    Not the first time bird watching has lost me a fish.   The odd carp was now moving, and so I lobbed out a piece of anchored crust, some six inches to the right of the densest lily bed. Having travelled light, the 4 pound line and light rod was all that was available to me, and it was with some trepidation that I chose to fish with floating bread.  After just a couple of minutes a carp showed interest, and following three unsuccessful attempts to slurp in the bread it succeeded and the hooked carp did exactly what I did not want it to do, by diving straight into the thickest of the lilies, just a few inches away. It went in deeper than just the peripheral floating leaves. The densely packed vertical leaves were disturbed too.  Luck was however greatly on my side, and I managed to persuade the fish back out into open water, and after a few more hair raising moments a six pound mirror was netted.   At this point I decided that I could not trust to get such luck again, and packed up. No real point in risking the certain loss of other fish.  Another trip to the same pond would need to be backed up by heavier gear.
But for the moment I feel the need to go greet a grayling and meet a minnow or two....Bye.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Puddling About...and Another Good Roach

I didn't immediately rush back for another go at the tench and roach as caught in recent trips.  Nope: a few short trips to local and club ponds were needed, to balance the excitement of the bigger trips.   Several pond sessions were involved, and were a nice low key alternative to the more serious business of bigger fish.

The first pond, two trips.  Trip one, using a light Avon rod, 4 pound line and a float.   There was a fair bit of needle bubbling going on around my baited area, and tradition indicates that these are always caused by tench.   Factually I doubt the truth of that, but with even the possibility of tench in the swim, the nerves sharpen and the hand hovers above the rod butt.   When the bite came, the only bite, it was no tench,. but a lively little common carp of about four pounds. Always nice to catch carp using bread flake and a float.  I had started early in the morning, about 4 am,   just a short while before the two illegal night anglers let their fire burn out, ensured that they had dropped all the litter they had, and cleared off at 05.30, well before the bailiff was due to make his rounds. I informed the bailiff of their presence later, but was not, after my recent foolish involvement with other wrongdoers, going to tackle them by myself this time.   By 8am the clouds were gathering, and looking a little threatening, and at 9 the first drops started to fall.   I was fishing very light, with no brolly, so managed to pack up within about three minutes, and was in the car as the rain began to fall with serious intent.   I drove the mile or so home, and then had to sit in the car for about 20 minutes, as the rain hammered onto the car roof.  I returned the next day, just as the bats were beginning to stop flying, and this time the short trip was rewarded with a short tench, a little chunky fish of rather less than two pounds.  
A number of carp cruised the surface, in this very muddy watered pond of maybe 90 yards square.   When cruising, they never seem to get nearer to the bank than about 15 or 20 yards.   They can have no idea where they are based on bottom features, and so MUST be using the trees as their SatNav device, ensuring they stay fairly well clear of any danger at the pond's edges.  One carp looked to be over twenty pounds, and another was a pale coloured yellow koi.  As I sat there, from a tree directly above my head, a heron came swooping down, and dangling its feet in the water grabbed a small roach in its bill, from the surface. It left the characteristic grey stain on the water.  Herons plumage is coated with a grey dust that acts as a defence against its being stickied up by fish or eel slime.  Quite a sniper like attack, none of this patient and stealthy stalking of its prey.  ( I always wondered why that word was not spelled as "storking", the herons and stork families being so good at it) .  On this same pond a couple of years ago, I saw a heron land in the water, and paddle its way back to the shore, using legs that were very ill designed for the purpose.  Very odd to see one sitting on the surface swimming.  On another nearby water a heron used to sit atop a small ornamental weeping willow, and then dive in, head first, to attack any small surface fish, even the fish on the end of your line.   It was a bit of a pest, but very inventive in its attack methods.

On Sunday, with the football world cup getting ever closer, I decided at about 4pm that I just had to get away from it all.   My wife would be insisting on watching it, and thus monopolizing the TV.  So I headed out to a smallish club pond that was rumoured to hold a few wild carp. A new water for me.   I settled down in a corner, and the very muddy water suggested a big head of fish might be present.   So on went the breadflake again, being cast out into 5 or 6 feet of water.   I suppose three seconds had quite fully elapsed before I found myself playing a chub of about a pound and a half.   The next hour was quiet, the odd missed bite on halibut based paste, but my bread was now being ignored.    Then the switch was suddenly thrown, and from
Crucian/fancy Goldfish Hybrid.  An Ugly Fish IMHO.

about 7pm, every cast produced a bite.  All on bread.  And there was a hell of a variation in species.   4 carp, a couple of mirrors, but with the biggest being a common of about 4 pounds.   A few small roach, a couple of rudd, one small crucian, a dozen or so tench to about a pound and a half, one more chub.   It was serious every egg a bird territory.   Added to the pure species were four F1 carp/crucian hybrids to about 3 or 4 pounds, one fantail crucian/goldfish hybrid, and another hybrid, whose origins I can only guess at.   It fought very hard, weighed a little under a pound or so, was flattened
Weird Hybrid:  Bream/Your Guess as Good as Mine
heavily side to side, with a very bream like anal fin, yet was quite golden in colour.  The head still carried the remains of spawning tubercles.  The photo does not really do the fish's colour full justice.  Bream/rudd hybrid would be my best guess, but would not really explain, to my total satisfaction, the bright golden colour.  Small bream in my experience are silver, and so it seems inconsistent that their hybrids should suddenly shine out in a blaze of colour. No wild carp came to the net.
I also hooked and played a 5th carp, a mirror, of about ten pounds, to a standstill, but it became snagged right at my feet at the base of a fishing platform.  I tried to free it with the landing net, and also tried to scoop it up, but all I succeeded in doing was to free the carp, the light line breaking about an inch away from the hook.  After this minor disaster, and because a few carp had been taking floating crust, late in the evening I moved the shot up very near to the float and lobbed out a bit of floating bread.   It was snaffled, almost as soon as it hit the water, by a fish that proved to be the second chub.   It has been many years since I last caught a stillwater chub. They don't look any different to those in the rivers.  Then it was time for that last cast.
You must remember the old Rolling Stones hit:

"This will be my last cast,
This will be my last cast,
Maybe the last cast
I don't know..."  

Sing along if you want, just don't expect me to join in.  Regular readers may know why.

To try and avoid chub, I placed a very large cube of bread onto the ridiculously small size 14 hook and made that last cast.   I did not have long to wait before my inch and a half cube of crust was taken....by a twelve ounce rudd!  How on earth it took so much so quickly I have no idea.   But I did make that my last cast.  My final last cast. Quite a change, I am very unused to such frenzied activity, but on that light Avon, and four pound line  it was a pleasant change and very good fun.

Dawn



But not so pleasant as to keep me away from big waters, which is a shame as my next overnight trip was to be a total blank. Not so much as a twitch disturbed the session.  But the dawn was quite lovely. 












Parent and Young Grebe in Silhouette
As the light intensified, the grebes ventured out, parents with their young in tow, now largely grown, and well able to dive themselves, if not to actually catch their own fish yet.

 So the day was spent bird watching, and after a long time trying, I finally managed a poor shot of one of a family of young blackcaps. They were constantly moving in and out of some nearby willows, never keeping still long enough for me to be able to point the camera at them.  But finally: peering out of the foliage at me:
A Young Blackcap

Having blanked miserably on one water, I had little choice, my next trip had to be back to attack the roach, if there were any more to be attacked. I set up my rods so as to be intermediate, rigged such that they had a chance with either roach or tench.  A little too heavy for the roach maybe, and a little too light should a tench decide to bury itself in the weed. Baits were also chosen so as to appeal to both species. And guess what?   I ended up with one tench and one roach. Who would have expected the plan to come together so well as that?


/rant on...  Blogger has decided to rotate my tench through 90 degrees.  Every so often it decides randomly to do this to one of my photographs, and I struggle for about ten minutes messing with the photo and finally sort it. Today, Blogger, I am not going to bother.  The damn photo can stay rotated, so there!  But I wish I knew why it happens. 
/rant off.

The tench was to go 6-2 and gave a good old fight, despite it having quite obviously spawned very  recently.  

The roach was another great fish, 2 pounds 2 ounces, and probably the most gloriously coloured roach I have ever seen.  Like the previous big roach, until it finally laid on its side near the landing net, it seemed to be far bigger that it actually was, and for more than a moment or two, its colour had me thinking that I had hooked a big rudd. It therefore gets a big photo in the blog.  What a stunningly coloured fish this was.  But catching it gives me great hope that others are present, that they CAN be caught, and that they might well be present in somewhat larger sizes than the two landed so far.  The year promises to be very interesting.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Prophetic Premonition of a Big Roach?

Well maybe.   Certainly today's trip has been quite prophetable.  (Oh dear! Oh dear!).    Or was it just another case of predictive text from the blog's built in word processing system working very well, exceeding its brief, and actually affecting my fish catch?  Read on.  Whatever it was, I arrived at the lake again, very early, to find the tench ignoring me completely.   I saw a few roll, scattered around the lake, but none appeared to hunger ravenously for my baits.  

The lake had been calm all morning, no tell-tale bubbles anywhere on view.   One or two carp jumped, well out of my casting range, and nowhere near to the baits of a long range carp angler in a nearby swim.   The grebes swam around, followed by their young, which were still bleating incessantly.  Occasionally the adult would dive suddenly, or even "run away" across the lake surface.  You could almost hear it say "For God's sake shut up for a while, you noisy little brat."  I was saying something similar myself.  But their young all seem to be doing well, taking short dives, and the larger ones amongst them are even starting to grow their crests, although their heads remain striped. A coot, taking a lesson from the individual that chased the flying jay a few days ago, chased a crow away from its young.  The crow flying five or six feet above the water, the coot treading water as it flew in pursuit.  I was surprised by the bird chasing the jay, but maybe they chase anything near the nest or young, including the crow family.

Once more there had been two or three splashy rises of fair sized fish.  Yet again I did not think them to be tench.   In an earlier, very recent blog, I thought they might be good roach and even wondered how I might attempt to catch them.  My premonition/prediction, if that is what it is,  appears to have borne fruit.  On this, my very next trip to the lake, I caught a roach.   My left hand indicator zoomed up, and a fairly quick strike caused the rod to bend nicely.   But the fight was not typical of those recent tench, the fish came quickly up in the water column, and was guided towards the bank rather easily.  It was soon in the net, ( 7 pound line) and I could see it to be not just a roach, but a damned good roach.   It had initially looked far bigger than it
actually was, once I had weighed it.   But at two pounds three ounces, not a fish to be sneezed at, not as a fish from up North anyway.  It had had a minor altercation at some time, either with a pike or a cormorant, and was missing a few scales, but very definitely a roach.  Occasionally as an angler, you may find yourself trembling after landing a fish.  It has not happened very often to me, just five or six times.   But today made it six or seven times.   This fish meant a lot to me.

Any two pound roach is very special.    My last two pound plus roach was also a big lake fish, and was also exactly the same weight:  2-3.  But that fish looked to be newly minted, absolutely gorgeous.   I have high hopes that most roach in this lake, if there are indeed more where this one came from, might also look in similarly perfect condition.    I need to have some more sessions, with at least one roach minded rod active.

Later I missed a bite on a big lobworm.   The rod was aimed at a perch, but a missed bite tells me little of the species.   I wonder....... 

I have never been fazed by big waters, and they have produced many excellent fish for me over a lot of years.  I have known a large number of anglers who take one look at a huge water, especially one with great clarity of the water, and no fish actually visible, and they either back off and go elsewhere, or else give it an hour or so.  You cannot give a big water an hour or so and expect success.  It usually takes more effort.  After a while and with the experience of several big waters behind you, your attitude changes.  It changes from "Oh my God I'll never catch anything here.", to "I hope I catch something today."  Eventually you do reach that third stage where you expect to catch something most days on the lake.  It is a good feeling but needs serious work to get there.

 This lake, and perhaps a couple of others similar to it, may well give up some truly astonishing fish.  Big Perch? Huge Bream?  More carp, roach and tench?   Who knows?   The lake still has that mystery, in that I just do not know how big the fish, of any species, in here grow. And I hope that no-one has the information that might tell me.  And if you have, please keep it to yourself. I simply don't want to know.



Monday, 2 June 2014

Drowning Maggots Whilst the Clouds Remain Gathered.

The weather has remained typical tench, and it has been difficult for me.  Trying not to fish and to give the wife some of my time at the beginning of June!  I held out longer than expected, far longer.  In the good old days I would have been back on the bank, in the exact same spot, casting to that same square yard in an attempt to better the excellent tench caught on the last trip.   Not so this time. I held out for two whole days before finding myself back on the banks of the same water.   And not anywhere near the same swim. The water has so much obvious potential, and I feel any spot on its extensive banks could produce a fish in the same league as my recent PB tench, or perhaps even bigger.   And if it didn't: no matter. Nature has taken over the lake full well, and only its depth now reveals that the water is entirely man-made. Trees, shrubs, reedmace and rushes all disguise the old contours.   The birds and other wildlife have been equally taken in, and are present in some abundance. It is a pleasure just to be asleep near this water.

I arrived just as night started to lose its grip on the scene, quickly set up the rods and fed the swim with a small amount of mixed feed. Then waited. A couple of fish soon moved over the bait, as seems usual with this water.  Also as usual, there were no more rises and no immediate bites to follow the rolling fish.  It would be seven hours later that the first fish would take the bait, and a bright green tench of a little under five pounds tested the rod.  Blank saved, I relaxed, and having helped me out, the fish also relaxed.  They might as well have disappeared entirely from the lake.  It was so quiet that I even struck up a conversation with a carp angler, who had been glued to the next swim for the last three days or so.  Decent chap, for a carp centred angler,  one able to hold an interesting conversation without littering each sentence with the "f" word.  It was appreciated.  He, soon after, was also to land a tench, "one of those green things", and so started a tench v carp banter session.  I congratulated him on the fish, and said he must be pleased, for it gave him another chance to play with his toy boat.    Quite the reverse of course, for the whole point of anyone inventing the boilie, is that it enables a carp angler to fish, and to blank, for a week at a time without ever having the need to reel in.  The lake, in keeping with many others, is usually littered with carp anglers, and on this water, in over a dozen trips, I had yet to see a carp landed. 

This carp angler was fishing at distance (don't they all?) and his baits were in the one area in which I have seen more than the odd carp surface.   On a couple of occasions I have seen quite a few "half inch" themselves out of the water, in the way that only carp do.   It was interesting though, to see the lake depth profile displayed by his on board echo sounder, as his bait boat made its way out towards the fish. His swim was shallower than mine, and very shallow, as little as three feet in some areas. I was fishing into about 14 feet.   I sometimes wonder whether the spots where the carp are seen to frolic and play, are actually the best areas in which to catch them?  The carp anglers seem to be more convinced than I am.  But who am I:  but a mere and insignificant tench angler.

Several pairs of the grebes now have young, some already  3/4 grown, and several times during the day I saw the parent birds perform their head shaking dance.   One pair danced quite close to me, and the dance went on for quite a long time.   I know that I should have grabbed the camera, but I was travelling light and did not have the long lens with me.   Which is a shame, for eventually they broke off their dance, both diving away and when they came back to the surface, each had a beakful of weed, and they went straight into the penguin dance.  Wonderful!   Those birds knew, knew before their dive, that they were going to go all Antarctic.  It was a planned dance.  Better planned than my choice of camera gear.

But this mallard came close enough for the standard lens to be able to take the usual  "awww!" shot of its
dozen newly hatched young.  By the end of the fishing session there were less of these young, four ducklings having disappeared. Probably down the throats of pike and herons.  A pair of little dabchicks swam past, only a little out of camera range.   They now have that chestnut coloured head, colour which is absent through the Winter months.


The swim depth was irrelevant through the night, neither of us having a nibble.  I had not originally intended to fish through the night, and was not really comfortably prepared. A folding stool was going to be my seat for the night until my carp angling friend loaned me his "guest chair".  Yes, it would seem that bivvies these days have accommodation for guests, and presumably spare bedrooms.  So my night, was completely undisturbed by
A Woodmouse. Ears and  a Long Tail.
fish, and was a little more comfortable than I had expected.   As dusk approached, a young woodmouse kept me company. It seemed tame enough to have been someone's pet, and largely seemed to ignore my presence, sitting just a foot or so away. The rain fell fairly consistently through both the evening and the night, but my brolly kept it, and the light wind, at bay.  Indeed it was the weather that prompted me to spend the night, in the erroneous expectation that it would be filled with fish.   Not to be, and by 0700 hours I had not has so much as a line bite.   In contrast to the evening, my morning pal was a little vole, a bank vole I think.  Less obvious ears and a shorter tail than the mouse. The vole repeatedly stole the odd bit of  
A Vole, the First I Have Ever Photographed.
groundbait that had been dropped as I baited up the evening before. 
There had been a few early morning splashy rises, fish the carp lads seem to think are tench.   I am not so sure and strongly suspect good roach might be involved.   There are few of them, in unpredictable spots, and short of casting directly at them when they rise, I cannot really see how to choose where to fish for them... if they are indeed good roach.  
At 0703  my right hand indicator slowly rose to the rod ring and I struck into a good fish, one that felt and fought identically to the big fish of a couple of days ago.   Another big tench was heading my way.   The fight continued to scream tench at me, I could feel it burrowing through the weed, the line coming at times in little jerks as the elodea stems broke off. It was a good tench right up until the moment I saw the fish. A mirror carp.  As a tench it had behaved itself impeccably, keeping to its own side of the swim. As a carp it decided to cross the other fishing line, and my 7 pound breaking strain was unable to prevent the attempt to exit stage left.   Luckily though, the lines did not become entangled, and soon the fish was in the net.

For the Carp Anglers Amongst my Readership
I weighed it at 15-6, and disturbed the sleeping carp angler in the nearby bivvy for a photo opportunity, but mainly to take the chance to add some more banter.  I wondered whether it would also have taken him three minutes to get out of his B&B ( bed and bivvy) if his own buzzers had gone off.  I complained to him about nuisance fish and having to recast my three maggots after landing the carp.   I said that mirror carp all look to have been built by amateurs from incomplete kits of parts, but that common carp, if painted green and photographed without the red-eye reduction set on the camera, would actually be quite pretty.   He admitted that I had taught him something, namely that carp could be caught in the margins, even on this water.   Margins!  I was fishing 35 yards out!   Almost as far as I can cast for God's sake!   Mumble, mumble margins!

As I write this I am listening to "Just a Minute" on Radio Four.   And I had to take a short break.  I love radio comedy, and occasionally they can, on these spontaneous shows, crease me up something terrible.  Today, the minute topic was "my favourite view" and one of the contestants, Giles Brandreth I think, said:
"As the great actress, Maureen Lipton once declared; "The worst thing about oral sex is the view.""  This caused quite a hubbub in the audience and also made me completely unable to type accurately.

Back on the lake, by ten in the morning, the light wind had abated, and the lake was nearly flat calm, with that almost oily look to the surface.   This enabled my to see two small patches of bubbles.  Small, but certainly caused by fish.  And a good  eight or ten yards closer than my hookbaits.  So one rod was recast, shorter, right on top of the bubbles.  Maybe even I  had been fishing too far out.  And maybe I had, for ten minutes later I was playing a tench. A tench I think may have been that bubbler.
Male 6-6, Post Spawning
 The fish was a spawned out male of 6-6. An excellent fish, and very big for a male, if I can say that without a snigger.  It had a small wound, spawning damage just in front of its pelvic fin, visible in the photograph.  After a small injection of bait into the new area, another tench, this time an excellent female of 6-14 was introduced to my landing net.

Another superbly shaped fish, with but a little spawn in it.
6-14 Female
I do wonder why the fish seem to be at vastly different stages in the breeding process.   The male had already spawned,  my biggest female was probably caught just moments before heading to the weedbeds, yet some females seem hardly to have started to develop the egg mass.  We have had a mild Winter, and I wonder whether some fish spent those months in deeper water, water which warmed up more slowly, and therefore held fish which first became active days if not weeks later than others.  Either way it means that I look like always having some tench to target, which are not bloated with spawn.  Some will be heavily gravid, but they seem not to come to any harm, surviving capture well, whereas bream, or male bream at least, do not look as if the close season should have been scrapped on stillwaters.
  
 





Sunday, 1 June 2014

Pond Problems

Because of the laziness mentioned in the last blog, I now have a lot of outstanding  ( as in "not yet done", rather than as in "very good" ) rubbish to write about.  Sandwiched between the tench sessions, have been a few short trips to local ponds.

So I will try to split these trips, pond by pond, and will begin with the scrapyard pond, which has continued to produce the odd surprise. I desperately wanted to catch one of the pond's tench.   I had seen photos of tench caught by others...actually mainly by one particular angler, and although none of those I saw were particularly big, being little more than a pound or so, I still wanted to catch one myself.  The challenge you see.

Because of the location of this pond, in a very run down area, I was shocked to find there were any fish at all, let alone carp and tench, but I set up my float gear, with bread flake and occasionally maggots, and waited.  The first fish was of course NOT a tench, but a carp.   Only about four pounds, but a very good looking, well proportioned common carp. I very nearly like commons.   They seem to fight far better than the mirrors and look just as fish are meant to look,  not like some artist's invention of what a fish should look like.    Mirror carp...or most of them at least...are the Tracy Emin's unmade bed of the fish world.   I concede that one or two do look very good indeed, but most...no sorry, they should be removed from the UK, and wild carp used to replace them.   Size does not matter.  Speed though, does!

As punishment for my thoughts my next fish was a small mirror.  Still no tench.     The next evening trip
Pond Crucian
produced a sail away bite, a very uncharacteristic bite for the culprit, which was a crucian carp.    I had never heard of a crucian being taken before in this pond.   But 50 years ago, in this area, all of the rivers were dead, there were few large lakes, and so most angling clubs revolved around weekend matches by coach, and small local ponds.   And in those local ponds, be they farm pits or JCB holes in the ground, were very often crucian carp.     True crucian carp, for back then few knew how easily they would cross breed with goldfish and carp....both of which were quite rare fish at the time.  The crucian I had caught was a bit of an old warrior, but it weighed two and a half pounds, a very welcome fish indeed.  And I wondered whether there were any more, and were any as big or bigger than this one?   The hunt for a tench became a hunt for crucians, a hunt that remains equally unsuccessful, although the campaign did finally produce a tench of about a pound and a half.  All the tench that have been caught here seem to be about this size, and I think a single year class might be involved, from one fairly good breeding year.   Which prompts the question;  "Are their mummies and daddies still swimming around in the pond?    And if so, how big are they now?    The crucian hunt continued to produce fish: if not crucians. Two bream, each about six pounds.  One a male, dark, ugly, thin, rough and covered with breeding tubercles.   A horrible looking fish.    The female was  by contrast fit, healthy looking, fat and a light gold in colour. Two more different fish of the same species would be hard to catch, but excellent size for such a small venue. I have been left wondering whether all the dark fish are male, and all the golden fish female.   I have always caught fish of both types.   I am going to ignore, for this discussion, several two tone bream that I have caught over the years.  More small carp have followed, two I think, none over four pounds, but commons again.  One or two roach, which leaked milt in my hands.

Last year a couple of young ladies were eating their lunch one sunny day by the pond.   They mentioned that great crested newts were present.   And whilst fishing this Spring, I have indeed seen quite a few newts, including what was probably a pair, one being much darker than the other.    But they seem much smaller than the great crested newts we used to see everywhere 55 years ago.   And so I think these must be common newts, although I have not managed to see one up close yet.    Wonderful to see any newt species locally though.

I have not spent too much time by the Sunday challenge pond, two Sunday challenge sessions for a typical three ounce tench, a two pound common, a tiny perch and a small rudd.   The pond is exceptionally clear so
The Two Grass Carp

Grassies
far this year, the handful of 4 and 5 pound carp seems to have lost some of its fingers, but the two grass carp, the only two in the pond, and which I caught in two consecutive casts last year, remain.    And still look a lot like chub as they swim along.  There seems to be a very tame crow lurking around the venue.   A couple of times it came within a yard or so of me.   I threw it some bread, which it looked at in disgust and then ignored. I must return, camera in hand some morning.


Quite how a clear shallow pond can seem so empty of fish at times is a mystery.   Today I could see one five pound mirror, and a shoal of 30 small rudd.  All the many smaller carp, the roach, bream, crucians, the two grass carp, the tench and perch were invisible.  But they are there...somewhere.





The third pond:
There is a TINY, TINY pond down near the Mersey, so tiny that I have always assumed that it held no fish at all.  Largely weeded up with reedmace and rushes, its open water is maybe 10 yards by 4, with some of that clogged with Elodia. But it is another place where I have seen a few newts. A true wildlife pond.
I was walking, and looking for newts when I spotted, at the surface in an Elodia clearing: a fish!  
Golden Orfe
A crucian no less, maybe 6 or 7 ounces.  I kept looking and was sad to see a bulbous red and white fantail goldfish emerge from the weed too. Later in the day I saw a couple of golden orfe and 4 small rudd.   Maybe the rudd and crucians are natural, but the orfe and goldfish have been dumped of course.  Whatever happened to the good old days when unloved goldfish were flushed down the toilet when the kids were not looking?
So next morning I went down, minimal gear and some bread to check for crucians.  

Got into a spot of bother because it was very early and, as I approached the pond, past the chain mesh fencing of a small company I saw a couple of railway porter style trolleys and a black bag on the ground in the bushes not too far from the Rugby club. Just a few yards from the pond.  I looked at them, heard someone the other side of the fence and thought something was up. Then saw a guy in a balaclava on the path immediately before me. Asked me what I was doing... "going fishing". he seemed unconvinced and so I mentioned it being quite odd to see the  trolleys there. 
He said it was his fishing trolleys and he was fishing " just along there". Unlikely thinks I. Then for some inexplicable, daft reason, I followed him as he claimed he was going to his rod. There was a small iota of "hope he is not in my swim", but in the main I suppose I was curious.  He circled around and then disappeared down near the river. As I walked back, there were now two 10 gallon plastic containers, full of liquid, near the trolleys. And the guy came back up behind me. I told him I had already called the cops, because he was now looking rather threatening towards me. 
" Gimme your phone" he said. "No way", said I, and walked on. He grabbed the hood of my jacket and tried to stop me, demanding the phone again. I refused, and he spun me around, throwing me down an embankment towards the silted up part of the pond. Ripped my jacket.  I was not hurt, so I surreptitiously  tucked my phone inside my fishing boot and climbed up the bank. If he had asked again I would have said I dropped the phone in the fall. I walked on and a second guy, also in a balaclava asked me why I phoned the cops. "because I think someone is stealing something". "Stealing what?" " I dunno" said I. 
And the two guys, luckily, then moved off, now with 4 ten gallon plastic containers, of what I thought were chemicals. Anyway I then really did call the cops, who suggested it was probably diesel. Anyway I am unhurt, slightly ripped camo jacket, but otherwise fine. Oddly, although I was shaking a bit, I realized I had quite enjoyed the whole  incident. I have no idea why I decided to have a go in this way. I have always thought that if I should see a poacher, I would never think of tackling him, not at my age, yet suddenly here I am having a go at sorting two thieves on an industrial estate. Silly me. Coppers took their time...they went to the wrong rugby club! Their dog found nothing, but they could see someone had been climbing the fence.  I am told they got away with about forty gallons of diesel.
Had I had more time, been thinking more clearly, I would have backed away on seeing the trolleys, and if I had not been seen, phoned the cops from some hidden spot, and watched the process.    But   nope: I just dived in!

And I caught nothing.

Gull With Minnow
Walking back along the river I saw a black headed gull fishing in the weirpool.  First I have ever seen perched on a branch, although this branch has been long dead.   It was catching minnows, male fish in full breeding colours.  There are many, many minnows in the river.  Not too much else post cormorants, but many minnows.



Tricky Tench and Trivia.

Well, I am back.  And "Why have I not been blogging?" I hear you ask in your thousands. Well, I suppose maybe half a dozen of you might have noticed my absence.  One or two might even have have missed the missives.  I have the best excuse of all time: pure laziness. Writing has had to compete with fishing, sleep, and idleness.  I have not been re-papering the front room, mowing the lawns, repairing the gates.  Nope, and the more I have been out with the rods, the more I have stacked up to write, and the more momentous that task has become. But finally, a few words are hitting the page.

Since India the fishing has taken a couple of directions.  The arrival of the trout season has ensured a few trips to the rivers, with Salmo trutta as the target.   And a few fish have graced the end of my line.  Nothing huge, with fish to three pounds.  But I am not going to spend too much time talking about the trout.   Much of that was effectively done whilst catching them out of season on trips after the grayling.   And of course, once the seasons switched from coarse to game, the nuisance fish switched too. A few grayling were caught and also a solitary chub.  The chub did not look as if it needed the close season.   A very good looking fish, and at an ounce over four pounds ( I was unable to resist weighing it), my largest from the river for a couple of years.  A shame it did not really count.   Actually two chub...I have just remembered another one, maybe half the size, which intruded upon the trout fishing.
Cormorant Damage on a Good Sized Chub
    There seem to be few chub in the river these days.   Massed black death: cormorants, have seen off so many of the bigger fish, with goosanders also dealing quite effectively with smaller species. Even the common roach is a rarity, and I have gone whole seasons without landing one from the river.

So it was then on to the tench, and my first few trips were to a banker water, one in which I suspected I would catch a few fish.  After all, I had caught tench there in January, February and March,  so April should not be too much of a problem.  And it wasn't.  One trip produced 5 fish, to just shy of six pounds.   Despite their  heavy activity in the opening months of the year, they were still showing no signs of holding any spawn, which pleased me.  All fought very well, as tench invariably do.   But I did have a problem, and not for the first time.  On this trip I was to lose three other fish, on consecutive casts, and all to hook pulls. Were these the only three fish I have lost then I would have dismissed this as a statistical blip,  but I have lost a few other fish, tench and grayling.     Losing the grayling I can fully understand, the upper jaw of the fish is very bony and hard.  A hook in the upper jaw will very often have penetrated only a millimetre or so, and, regardless of it being a barbed or barbless hook, that hold is vary precarious.  A with a fish of a lively nature, such as is the grayling, a lost fish or two is to be expected. There have been days when I have lost half of the grayling I hooked, usually immediately, and it is part of the game, it is to be expected, rule 1.  But tench are different, their mouths are tough, but not so tough as to prevent a sharp hook, and most modern hooks are very sharp indeed when new, from taking a good hold.    And those three fish losses were not immediate.  All were lost well into the fight, as much as a couple of minutes having passed, before the fish was off and away.  I have no explanation for this.  I am happy with my hook choices.  Those fish that I did land were all hooked perfectly, with not a clue as to why the hooks had pulled out of other fish. I feel that I can look at a hook, and taking into account its size and pattern, be confident with my choice.   Other times, with other patterns, or maybe a larger size in the same pattern, I feel that the hook is not perfectly suited to the job.   But my lost fish over the last two season have not all been with one size or even one model of hook.  I am reluctant to assign the get out phrase of "just bad luck", but I can think of no other explanation at the moment.    
The grebes seem to have also been hit by bad luck.   They had been nesting on my previous trip.   This time they were nowhere to be seen, and a coot had taken over the nest site.   Which was annoying as, one day I had driven there with just my camera...no rods...not intention of fishing.   And the damned grebes had gone. Such is life.

Having sated the lust for a few post India tench, it was time to move on to some more difficult waters, waters in which the tench swim bigger...some of them.    The "easy water" has given me fish to 6-14, the others have all produced fish over seven.   In my past a seven pounder would have been seen as more or less unattainable, but these days I am learning rapidly just how far the bar has been raised, and so, despite my vow not to return to being an all out specimen hunter, I have the chance to catch these huge fish with a more leisurely approach.    So water number one, a fair sized reservoir was home for a couple of nights.   The tench were partying elsewhere and my efforts were to be rewarded by a solitary male fish of about four and three quarter pounds.    I lost another fish, a carp which on being hooked came up seven feet or so to the surface, and with a large swirl of water, was away.    I suspect that it was never properly hooked.  It probably would not have been over about ten pounds, as I have yet to land a double figure carp in this water.   Swifts, swallows, house martins and sandmartins all made guest appearances over the water.    

Coot, Sitting on Huge Blue Feet.
Eventually I settled on yet another water, much closer to home than the aforementioned reservoir.  A water from which I extracted just three tench last year.  But their sizes promised much.   The first trip was an overnight session, in a new swim, and a very misty night produced just one small tench, probably less than three pounds.  A few fish were seen to roll, but I was unable to persuade them to come out and see me. In the early morning mist I did see a pair of the resident grebes perform the "penguin" dance.  A birdwatcher friend told me that the dance was so called. I have often seen pairs of grebes, alternately shaking their heads, occasionally dipping their necks down in a momentary preening of the back feathers motion.  But I had never seen the penguin dance, except on TV.   Both birds approached each other, and paddling away  like mad , chest to chest, they raised themselves up high in the water, bodies quite vertical.   Sorry no photo.     The coots, as ever, were being aggressive, chasing and squabbling with each other, often lying on their backs, kicking away with their ridiculous blue feet.

Coot, Being Aggressive With a Mallard
As I drove home along the motorway, I was surprised to see a pair of magpies, fighting on the hard shoulder.  Like the coots, these were lying on their backs, on the tarmac, kicking away merrily with both feet.  Something new, as I have never seen magpies acting quite so before.  "Two for joy?"  Far too often, I see things that are either too brief, or simply at the wrong place, wrong time to get a photo.   Hanging out of the passenger window, whilst driving at 60 mph pointing a camera, was a risk that not even I was prepared to take for you, the reader. So, in the absence of a "selfie", from said magpies, tough.

The next trip to the lake was to be a blank, just a dawn until midday trip.  Very few fish were seen, despite a flat calm lake surface, and a choice of swim that allowed me to see the whole lake.  A slow movement caught my attention though, and a three pound pike drifted slowly into the swim, a few inches below the surface.   Donning my polaroid glasses, I could see that it was many yards from any potential prey. But next time I looked, a second, slightly smaller pike had appeared three or four yards from the first.  They remained for an hour or so, basking in the sunshine.  As I watched them, I noticed something trapped in the scum at the lake edge, and fished it out with my landing net.  It was a cockchafer beetle....
"Yes, yes, I know!   I wouldn't want one of those in my underpants either".   

I thought it had drowned, but it twitched one of its legs slightly.  So, as I was not being disturbed by massed ranks of eager hungry tench, I placed the beetle on the handle of my rod to dry out, and brushed its back to clear off some parachute seed heads that had become stuck to it.  After an hour or so, it moved a little, turning around on the handle.  Eventually it flew off, rattling as it went.  I felt quite pleased with myself, having rescued it. But just take a look at those crazy TV aerials on its head.  The seven individual leaves on each side can by closed up from the fan shape by the insect.   Each leg has a twin hook at its end, and its grip on my finger, in the photograph, was very secure. A tornado would not have dislodged it. What an insane, superb creature.


The next two sessions both produced fish.  Simple legering tactics on the first morning resulted in two tench, a small fish of a couple of pounds and a very nice fish indeed of 7-8.   I was surprised that, given the very mild Winter, it was not bloated and fat with spawn.  Instead it was just a beautifully proportioned and
coloured fish. It has maybe a slight hint of being a two tone fish too.   Top secret bait, as you can see in the
7-8 Female
photo. (Note to the mat police: the fish was on thick wet grass, and came to no harm at all). The next day, also in the early morning I caught another tench in the upper half of the six pound range.  It though had a quite noticeable spawn ball, and I did wonder why all the fish were not at a similar stage of gravidity...gravidness?  Neither word passes the spell checker.  Another fish, which felt much bigger, or which may have been a male was lost to yet another hook pull, after an extended fight. I did not see the fish.

There followed three of four blanks sessions, in each of which a tench or few rolled right over my baited area.  I was surprised a little by the lack of bites in the presence of fish, fish that were obviously attracted by by bait, but, as ever, I would always want such events to occur.  Predictability would destroy much of what I seek from angling.  One session was a night session, float fishing in about 14 feet of water.   No bites at all...until about 11.00 am, when my float slowly lifted and lay flat.  My thoughts of a tench were soon dashed as a two ounce roach came to hand.  A large, probably very large shoal of roach had moved in and three more were hooked, on the drop, in three casts.   As I reeled the last one in, something grabbed it.  Pike, thinks I, but despite the size 14 hook, being already embedded in the roach, I thought I would try to gently bring it to the net.   I soon found it was not a pike, but a perch, with a 8 inch roach half into its mouth.   It spat it out as I looked into the clear water, but soon grabbed it again.   It struggled a bit, and I had to choose whether to strike, and hope enough of the small hook was exposed, or to wait and try to draw the perch over the net very slowly.  I waited until the roach was fully inside the fish's mouth and began to reel in slowly. Of course the perch ejected the roach and swam away.  Size: difficult to say, but well over two pounds for sure, maybe three.  Its stripes were really black, a benefit of life in clear water.  One rod quickly became a lobworm rod, and soon I had a bite.   But the culprit was a slightly disappointing three pound jack pike.

Eight Pounds Nine Ounces
Back to the lake for an early morning session in a new swim. 3.00 am start, and before ten minutes had passed after introducing a smallish amount of bait, two fish, probably tench rolled right on the money.   Very few other fish rolled anywhere, and so I sat, wondering why and how they could ignore my baits.  It was around 8 o'clock, long after the last fish moved, that I had my first bite.   A tench, to judge from the bend in
the rod, and a good one.   Two or three times I thought it had become snagged, but I suspect that it was merely swimming directly away from me, the pressure of my line in accordance with Newton providing an equal and opposite  force.  As it eventually approached the net I saw a huge flank, and knew it to be my biggest tench to date.   8 pounds 9 ounces.   It was well provided with spawn though, and would probably have not touched eight without it.    Would I have preferred it to have been 7-15, without the spawn?  Good Question. But the spawn did not stop it from demonstrating how displeased it was to be so disturbed.  An hour later, the indicator shot up, and the reel began to spin backwards faster than I could have wound it.  I struck and missed!    How could anyone miss such a bite? But as I reeled in a small roach
Super Strong Suicidal Roach
was revealed to have taken the bait.  I might have suspected it had been grabbed by a pike, but its scales were absolutely pristine.   It was just a very fit, suicidal roach.   I wonder what it thought as my strike brought it to a sudden dead stop, directly from warp speed three?  All quiet again, the only movement being from a flotilla of Canada geese with their young.  These geese appear to creche their offspring, and thirteen young were guarded by eight adults.

The guards did not deter the male swan, which now that his mate was on the nest, was attacking anything that swims.   Anywhere on the lake, even hundreds of yards from its nest, the swan was chasing anything that floated.  Geese, mallards, coots.  The coots were also with young now, and as I watched a jay flying very low across the water, dambuster's style, a coot flapped its way across the lake so as to try and intercept the jay.  Ambitious but brave.