Tuesday 13 December 2016


Autumn....probably winter by the time I get to publish this, and all the colours are muted to dull browns, greens and greys. But there is still great beauty to be see if you look for it. These fungi

caught my eye one damp morning.  And there is always colour in my maple tree once it red shifts into autumn. The brilliant red on the tree does not last long, being at its best for no more than a couple of days.  But the leaves then fall into my pond, providing an extension to the scarlet, not shrivelling up on the ground.

I usually find that Autumnal fishing is not as rewarding as I might wish.   The grayling continue to be co-operative of course, at least until the rain arrives and colours the water too much. Many fish, especially those in stillwaters, become lethargic, without the enthusiasm to feed.    There are exceptions of course, predatory fish will still usually feed, and the clear waters of Autumn probably help them to see their lunch.

So I decided to try something new: drop shotting.  From a boat. On a very large reservoir, supposedly noted for large predatory fish, perch of 2-3 pounds being common, and good pike present to keep the stocks of trout in check.  Two days: on a boat with an outboard, on a huge reservoir. "Avoid the direct line out from the stone tower", I was told, and so I did, keeping a good ten yards away from that line.  Forty feet of water and I jigged and dropped the whole of the first day to no effect, enticing just one trout which turned on the lure right at the surface, and which was missed.   The second day went far better, a dozen perch taking the lure, in somewhat shallower water, maybe about 24 feet or so.   None of the perch topped 3/4 of a pound, which ordinarily would not bother me too much.  But drop shotting on a huge reservoir has to be about the most boring fishing I have ever done in my lifetime.
Big Reservoir.  Nothing to See Here at All. 

When the fish are not biting there is nothing of interest to look at.   Another boat 100 yards away. The odd gull, and a solitary grebe that once ventured just about close enough to be seen.   There was little to look at, nothing to see, and it made the days dreary beyond compare.   The promised 2 or 3 pound perch would hardly have made up for the mind numbing sameness of the day.   The most exciting time was when I came to lift up the anchor at the end of the first day.   Ten yards was apparently not far enough away from the banned line.  I was unable to lift the anchor up, it became progressively heavier as I hauled it nearer the surface.   I had, I was told, hooked an underwater airline with the anchor fluke.   Try as I might I could not dislodge it, and I figured that the only thing I could do was to leave the anchor where it was, and to rely on the attached float to show its position, so it could be retrieved later.   Good plan, but one which failed, failed miserably.  As the pipeline returned to the bottom, it had somehow tangled the line, causing the float to disappear as well.   In theory the anchors had enough attached line to work in any swim on the reservoir, leaving the float on the surface.  In practice the tangle thwarted that idea, and I could see the float some 8 or 10 feet below the surface.   I am in no rush to get back there to see if the fishing improves.

So, after a few more grayling and a solitary canal pike of maybe eight or nine pounds, I headed for the River Severn, in order to try for the zander.   A new venue for me, with zander as the target species, and so I decided to fish two days and nights.   A poor choice of dates left me sitting on the bank during the two coldest nights of the year so far.   But I was prepared.   I don't have a bivvy,  but a brolly with side panels would suffice, especially with a length of black cloth draped over the open front, leaving me just enough space to leap out at the first sign of a bite.  The river was low and clear, slow and easy, and my legered rudd deadbaits remained where I cast them, with few drifting leaves to catch the line.   Few fish to disturb them either.  On the first night a missed run, a very finicky sort of run.  Then nothing for a good while. A second similar run.  I was fairly warm, having taken a butane gas heater into the encampment.   I had found two lengths of the black cloth near the river a few days before, and the second length was draped over my legs.   At the onset of the bite, I cast off the cloth and tottered out into the cold, my legs stiff from inactivity, clotted with pins and needles, and I was as unstable as hell.   I came close to falling into some ten feet of cold Severn slack water.  But I hit the fish and reeled it in.   An eel of about two pounds.  We never had eels near home when I was a young angler, and so my first experience of one was during a match on the Witham.  The 15 inch bootlace wriggled and wrapped itself about the line, and I struggled to control it.  Even putting my boot over its neck failed to subdue the thing, and eventually it wriggled into the grass backwards, taking my hook with it.   The Severn fish was larger, maybe a couple of pounds of pure muscle.  It did not want to be unhooked, and as I struggled with the fish, my stiff legs and the dark, I suddenly noticed how misty it was.   It became apparent that the mist was at its most concentrated near to my brolly encampment.   It was the flames and the smell of smoke that convinced me there was nothing misty about the scene at all.  I had cast off the leg warming cloth rather too near to the gas heater, and it had caught fire. A few moments of panic later, the fire was out, and the eel was finally subdued and returned.    Eels!   And I had two more of the damn things the next night.    The daytime was a little better, three or four small chub, a daddy ruffe and a perch were landed, before something else took the rudd.   A pike, long and slim, tending towards thin.
River Severn Pike
 But a scrapper that just dragged the scales past the ten pound mark.   Nicely hooked in the scissors with the single hook.   Once fit and fat I might have expected this fish to weigh a good three pounds more.  I concluded though, that the fish in general, and the zander in particular were doing no more than they needed to remain in the river and alive.  Cold-bloodedness can be advantageous, especially when you do not want to get caught by a passing angler. The fish were not wasting calories by chasing about the swim, and were thus able to be economical with the tooth. (Sorry!...Am I really sorry?...Of course not...you can all suffer that one.).   In stillwater fish can be very static, moving about very little.  Pond keepers are actually advised not to feed their fish during the colder months, and so fish can survive in stillwater for months without feeding at all.   In rivers they might have to flick the odd fin, and so need a little more sustenance, but a fish is a very efficient machine and can get by, eating very little.

These river fish were using just enough calories to exist, to remain alive. And it reminded me that I too, am on (yet another) diet.  So this next section is about dieting, and is neither compulsory, nor compulsive reading. It doesn't quite qualify as a rant. So feel free to take a tea break here.  Not too many biscuits though! It is intended to remind me to keep the weight reduction going, and to allow myself to throw stones and jeer if I fail to get down to the weight I want to be. Feel free to join in if I fail.  

I had been finding some fishing trips quite heavy going of late, especially those involving climbing back up the steep valley sides after fishing the river.  But as of about 14 weeks ago I had lost two stones: 28 pounds, following a series of successes and failures spread across two years.  Another stone or so has gone in the last 3 months.  I told my wife I was worried about getting a six pack, and have no idea why she laughed. To succeed I find I need targets, and I need to keep it interesting, as my aim, should I hit that target, is to shed a further three stones, getting me back to the weight I was whilst frittering away my time at university. Looking down at my trimmer figure, I cannot see where the extra is going to come from. Losing weight is not easy.

So firstly, I needed some information. As ever, the internet provides it in abundance.  Someone my age, height and weight needs 1650 calories a day... 1650 just to survive and remain at a constant weight.  Moving about, getting out of bed, and other inadvisable activities add to that total.  For a moderately active person, of similar build to myself, add on 600 calories per day, for a total of 2250.  At this point the scientist in me reminds you that one food calorie is equivalent to 1000 real scientific calories.  I guess chefs, and dietitians are none too good with big numbers and someone simplified it all for them.  I really need 2,250,000 calories per day, but I won't dwell on that too much.

So: to lose weight there are two choices  1) exercise more or 2) eat less.   I decided to go for option 3), which is a bit of both.

Using another bit of internet data, a pound of human fat, as eaten by your nearest cannibal, contains 3500 calories.   Enough to feed him and one small kid for a day.  But it allows a calculation:   eat 500 calories each day less than that 2250, and I should lose a pound a week. Astonishingly, to me at least, that formula seems to be pretty accurate. I have, to add some of that necessary interest, been totalling up my calorie deficit over the last couple of months or three, and my predicted loss is matching the theoretical loss very very closely.   There are blips in the process, such as one period of two weeks, during which my weight stayed absolutely constant, despite sticking rigidly to the "rules".  I cannot explain that at the moment. 

So what of exercise?   Another schoolboy physics calculation produced the figure of 6.5 calories used, if I run up to the top room in my house, some 30 steps up,  ( allowing for the accepted figure, one that we all know of course: that the body is about 20% efficient). So twice up all those stairs, 60 steps, should use and lose the calorific equivalent of one Trebor mint.  It says on the packet that one mint = 13 calories.  So there is a way of having a sweet treat.   A reward without the guilt. Run up and down twice and have a sweet.   Of course a more relevant bit of data, is the number of times it would take, running up those stairs, to lose a pound in weight.       The keener types amongst you will no doubt have already worked that out in your head as being 538.46 times, leaving me exhausted one step below the first floor.  This is totally ridiculous, and so any form of extreme exercise has been banished from the weight loss program.   Even walking uses very little.  About 25 miles to lose a pound.  And then I would have to walk back again.  So short walks, a few miles on those days I do not go fishing, is as much exercise as I shall include.     25 miles!     Looking up the calorific value of petrol, enabled me to make yet another daft calculation.   Were I able to run on petrol, I would be getting about 220 miles per gallon.  I think.   I did that calculation a few days ago and have forgotten the exact result.

So food has become different.  I find myself looking at the calorie count of food on the supermarket shelves.  There is not much labelled as being specifically for the dieter.   A few weight watchers bits and pieces.   Now I must say, here and now, that Heinz weight watchers soups are not for the faint hearted, nor for the weak of stomach.  They have all the attractive looks and taste of a bush tucker trial.   Look it up! I never thought that anything could have all the look, smell, taste and texture as the remnants in my sink, just after doing the washing up following a vegetarian party. Oh my God, if that soup were the only option, I would have given up ages ago.  I had bought four cans.   I hope the recycling plant doesn't want all the tins to be empty.  There are a few meals rated at about 350 calories.  So in theory I could actually eat six of them in a day without weight gain!   Three therefore should see the pounds fall off. 

The reduction in food intake, especially with exercise, does occasionally lead to a lack of energy. But my son, now a doctor, has banned me from drinking Red Bull: not good for me, he says,  I know it is good for me when those two blondes drive a huge can of it past as I walk down the road though. But all is not lost: there are diet energy drinks out there now.   But read the labels on them.   How can a can of diet, berry flavoured, energy drink, actually give anyone a boost, when it clearly states on the label that a full can contains only 17 calories?   Barely enough in a can to get me to the top of our stairs.   Advertising standards really need to look at this.   

Whilst talking about advertising, I returned one of those "bags for life" to Sainsbury's yesterday.  It had become badly damaged, and my "only 311 calories" ASDA meals were falling out of it.   They were reluctant at first to swap it for me.  Then I pointed out to them that they were getting all this free advertising from me, a walking billboard, every time I went shopping with it at Tesco or Aldi.   That worked and they swapped it.   I chuckled to myself as I left the store.  They obviously had completely missed that I was having a major laugh at their expense (and I really mean their expense) with that reasoning.   It will come to them in a couple of days.  Maybe.

P.S. I lost another three pounds whilst writing this.  Going for a curry.   Bye.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Whatever Floats Your Float...and Why Your Scales Always Lie.

I wasn't sure today, whether to write about the increasingly ridiculous new "record" 70 pound carp situation or about float fishing. Both offer the opportunity to indulge in a bit of prolixity, but although dealing with the carp might have been fun, I'll leave that to others for the moment, and instead I'll add a sunrise photo I took last week just as I reached the lake.   The photo has absolutely no relevance to the blog content that follows, but I rather like it, and it is straight as it came out of the camera, not tweaked in any way. I just stopped, enthralled,  and watched the scene develop and fade.

Regular readers may remember that I once, as a teenager, took Billy Lane, world match angling champion to task, about a statement he had made about floats in "Fishing" magazine.  The only significant advance he could envisage in float design would be a float the size of a matchstick that could carry two or three swan shot. I forget his exact words but that was the gist of it  More recently another angler I have a lot of respect for was fishing in a match, using a sliding float in about twenty five feet of water. I was watching him fish, picking up tips, and he was using a large sliding float, one carrying 3 or 4 SSG shot set some distance from the bait, in order to make casting easy. The float had a long thin antenna at the top, and he said that the single number 8 shot, placed near to the hook would provide a tell-tale and the float would rise several inches when the fish lifted the tell tale.  Which was indeed completely true....BUT... well,  I'll deal with that "BUT" later.    I invoked good old Archimedes when rebuffing the Billy Lane statement.  Billy was a truly great match angler but certainly no scientist.   Archimedes's principle has much to impact on float design and their use, and it will feature in what follows.  Now there will, of course, be some of you who will say "Screw Archimedes, I have been float fishing for years."  And so you have.  What follows is not mandatory reading, but I hope some of it  may make you think, or actually be of use.   However if you are reading this in the bath I ask you to stop now.  I will not be held responsible should you be caught running damp and naked down the street, a laptop in one hand, a slippery bar of soap in the other, shrieking "Eureka" at all and sundry.     

I'll try not to get TOO technical, but will, as I have said, invoke Archimedian principles, together with a bit of Newton, in order to try and explain how floats really work.  There should be nothing that should overtax anyone who has studied GCSE science or physics, regardless of whether they passed or failed the subject. But I will be going into some detail.   I shall try to be precise about word usage, but may occasionally slip up, at times intentionally.

Why Your Scales Always Lie

The words mass and weight are easily confused, but the difference between them is important. Consider a carp with a mass of exactly 20 pounds.  Your scales will record a weight of 20 pounds...or will they?  No!   They will actually record a weight of fractionally less than 20 pounds.  Things can float in air. Balloons can float and actually rise up in air.  This is because the air is pushing them upwards.  Balloons filled with helium are lighter than air, and so the air can push them skywards. If you made a balloon the same size and shape as your carp, then the air would push up on your carp with the same force as on your carp shaped balloon.   So the air is pushing upwards on that carp, causing the scales to record a weight ever so slightly less than that 20 pounds.    If whilst dangling that carp from your scales, you were to lower the carp into the lake, then the scales will record a smaller weight, a weight that will become zero once the carp is fully submerged.  The carp still has a mass of twenty pounds, but its weight has been precisely balanced by the force with which water is pushing upwards on the carp.      Does it therefore weigh zero?  No. It still weighs 20 pounds, because weight is defined as the force acting on the carp due to gravity.  Gravity is pulling down on that carp, with a force of twenty pounds, if its mass is twenty pounds.  Your scales are recorded the force of gravity on the carp, minus the force pushing upwards due to whatever the carp is submerged in...be it submerged in water...or in air.

The weight recorded by your scales can never be completely accurate, unless you are weighing the carp in a vacuum, which will be rather less healthy for the carp than your  average pond.   But there is an upside:   In air the weight recorded will always be a teensy bit too low.   So if you catch that special fish and the scales show  49 pounds 15 ounces and 15 drams, then it probably actually tops 50.   To get an accurate value, you really need to account for the force exerted by the air on your fish, and add that on.  You can calculate this extra amount quite easily, but I am not going to tell you how.  Work it out for yourself the next time you catch a carp of 49-15-15.

I do not intend to make much comment about river fishing, the odd line or two, but most of this analysis is directed at stillwater fishing with a float.  Such can be conveniently divided into four distinct categories:
1) Surface fishing
2) Midwater fishing
3) Bottom fishing
4) Fishing on the drop.

In surface fishing, although the float may be used to spot the bites, its main use is as a weight to aid casting, in order to achieve the distance and improve accuracy.  There is little more I would wish to add, save that a float made of very light materials might be appropriate, because it will tend to land quite gently on the surface with far less of a splash than a much heavier one.

Like wise I will not mumble much about 'on the drop' fishing or midwater techniques.   

No: instead I intend to concentrate on bottom fishing, although some of what is said may well apply to others of the four categories listed above.   Further, to enable me to discuss in the most detail, I choose to concentrate on the lift method, a method that is probably the hardest to set up and use properly. I have seen it written that Fred J Taylor was the person who first described lift method fishing. I cannot verify that, but have no reason to doubt it, Fred was, after all, a damned good angler.  But even before his time anglers would have seen lifted or flat float bites at times.   What Fred did was to intentionally set up a rig designed to produce such bites more often.    


Why did I spout all that garbage about scales that lie?  Well, it all comes down to buoyancy.  What is a float?   Merely a device to provide some buoyancy in water.  Floats have weight, drop one and it falls to the ground. Drop one in water and it rises to the surface, because it has buoyancy.  The reason it rises is because the water is pushing the float upwards with a force greater than the weight of the float.   Water pushes upwards onto anything  placed into it, even onto objects that sink, like say the Titanic.  And the force that pushes upwards can be easily calculated.   If an object occupies 10 cubic centimetres and is fully submerged, then there will be a force exerted by the water which is equal to the weight of 10 ccs of water.   Water, rather conveniently weighs one gram per cc.  ( or millilitre).  So the upward force would be 10 grams.   Incidentally, you probably know that one cubic centimeter is the same volume as one millilitre.  The only difference is that millilitres are  suitable to measuring the volumes of liquids, whereas ccs are more useful for solids.

Why did the Titanic sink?  It sank because the weight of the ship and its contents overcame the ships buoyancy.  Its mass increased as water replaced the air inside it, and eventually the sea was not able to push the ship up with sufficient force to keep it afloat. Even though, as it sank deeper, the sea tried its level best to keep pushing up with more and more force.  So it sank.  Nothing to do with icebergs at all.

So lets say that your float has a volume of 10ccs  but weighs 5 grams.   It will float, because it weighs less than 10 grams, i.e. less than the weight of 10 ccs of water.  But also when floating, it is stationary, neither rising nor falling. So the forces on it must cancel out. The water therefore must be giving an upthrust of 5 grams.  And the float will be half submerged. The float therefore has 5 grams of unused "spare buoyancy". So it will carry 5 grams of lead shot, which will sink it to its tip. ( It will actually be able to carry very slightly more, because the water will also be exerting a small upward force on the lead shot you have added.  This effect is small, and the volume of the shot and the upthrust on it can, and will be, largely ignored in what follows. The weight of the shot is what is important.)

What can we do with buoyancy, how can we use it to our advantage?
We can move it, we can reposition the main source of buoyancy within the float.   We can have a float with most of its volume at the top end.    We could have the most buoyant part in the middle of the float, or low down.  I cannot think of a good reason to have most of the buoyancy in the middle of a float.

We can also vary its magnitude and have floats with more  buoyancy, or with less. This can be achieved by simply changing the size of the float. Changing the materials of which the float is made does not affect its buoyancy, but does alter how much shot it can carry.  The heavier the materials used, the less shot a float of a specific size and shape will be able to carry.  Simples.

The Lift Method

So what is the lift method? and when might it be best used? Its primary use is to detect bites that might otherwise not be seen with a more conventional float set up. Shy bites.    But it can also be used just for fun, for there is no doubt that to see a float lift two or three inches, or to lay completely flat is quite dramatic. Fishing for early season tench, where bites are usually very positive is perhaps better suited to a laying on approach.

I looked up a couple of articles, to see how others described the lift method, and was surprised to see wide variations in the descriptions given, with some descriptions being plain wrong, and others restricted, or far from complete. One wrote about there needing to be two SSGs, and a swivel with three to twelve inches of hooklength.  Twelve inches between the hook and shot is an excellent way of avoiding lift bites!  An Angling Times article said it was essential to shot the float down to within a midge's of disappearing completely.  I shall comment on that later.  Elsewhere it is claimed to be a method for the margins alone.  Once again: wrong!

Whilst all of these methods can give rise to lift bites, none are an accurate description of how I would define the lift method, and how it used to appear in articles many years ago. the simplest implementation is probably a single SSG set a couple of inches from the hook, below a length of peacock quill with the depth set very accurately. I have caught early season tench like this, a short float usually laying flat when the bites came.  Fish over depth and you are laying on, and with lift method there is no need to use large shot, and no need for ALL the shot to be down near the hook. Using more shot higher up allows you to fish at greater distances, whilst retaining full sensitivity to lift bites.

The crux of lift method, its central feature, is that you use tell-tale shot or shots, just touching the bottom, and close to the hook. But as much of the weight of that shot as possible should still be supported by the float. This means that the line between float and shot will be completely vertical.  The original descriptions of lift method depicted a fish swimming along, seeing the bait, and dipping down to take it.  It then returned to an even keel, and as it did so, it lifted the shot off the bottom. You will see some explanations that say the fish lifted the float...incorrect. The float lifted because it was no longer supporting as much shot. It lifts until it once more is in equilibrium with the remaining shot ( if any).  This makes it ideal for catching crucian carp, whose deep body necessitates then "bending down" to take the bait, thus lifting the shot as they return to the horizontal.  I don't think crucians are shy biters, just lazy fish, that usually  cannot be bothered to swim off with a bait.

At this point we might discuss suitable floats.  Whilst self cocking floats could be used, they are far
Irwell Stick Float and a Grayling
from ideal, and would never lie flat.  A float with most of its buoyancy near the top, one that is quite wide bodied at the water surface is ideal for rivers and trotting. The river has swirling currents, is a very dynamic environment, changing yard by yard, and the effect is that the "pull" of the line on the float is variable.  A wide topped float is able to override these effects, not dipping or rising very much, and also remain visible at long distances. Adding an extra small shot would make little difference to how such a float sits in the stream. On the other hand a thin tip to a float in a river would be constantly misbehaving, dipping, going under, dipping and rising, and would prevent  easy detection of a true bite. The photo shows one of "Purple Peanut"'s hand made stick floats which I used to catch some grayling last week. It has a metal stem, which helps stability and a broad top, ideal for river fishing.
A fine tipped float is, however, perfect for a lift method float.
Kitchen Sink Experiment

I have added a table below, which can be used to show how much shot a float might carry. The table shows the weights of some common shot sizes, and by how much the addition of such shot will sink or lift an antenna float ( the main body of the float remaining sub surface ). The values in bold were measured using a simple kitchen sink experiment. Values are therefore approximate.  The non-bold values were interpolated from the  measured results, but some I couldn't be bothered with doing at all and remain blank.  You can see though that a No 4 shot, which weighs 0.2 grams could sink a float having a 2mm wide antenna by 8cms (or rather more than three inches). The last column shows shot added to a Peanut stick float, demonstrating that it sits very stable, and is not easily messed with by the current..

When in actual use for lift method, these values should be considered as the maximums... reason: some of the shot's weight will be resting on the bottom of the lake.   But it can be seen that a fish lifting even a single shot of these sizes, with a suitable float,  can give quite a significant bite "length".

A long fine antenna float has a number of other advantages.  Its main body will be some distance below the surface, well away from being significantly disturbed by waves, and being thin, the wind will not have too great an effect on it either.  The other advantage is far more subtle.  One problem you may envisage is that it can be difficult to establish the depth very accurately, mainly because the bottom of most waters will vary somewhat in depth. Make your next cast 6 inches away and the depth could be an inch or so deeper, or shallower.  The long thin antenna float can compensate significantly for this depth variation, in that the shot will pull it down until it just hits bottom.  This could leave you with either a half inch of float protruding, or two inches, perhaps even more.  But because that shot, let's say the BB on a 2 mm antenna, will pull the float down up to 16 centimetres, you will still have an effective lift set up, just one with a little more float sticking above the water. Still plenty to play with.   And if you don't want it so high, just reel in a fraction.   A point to note is that the material from which the antenna is made, has no effect on the values in this table.  It is only the volume (or cross section area) that matters. Steel or balsa, it will make no difference if the dimensions are the same.

An important point that you may have missed is that, using a lift method, you can use quite a large float, with a fair shot load, enabling you to cast and fish at distance, yet, because the fish only feels the tell-tale, you can still fish very sensitively.

Shot             Weight             1  mm wide antenna      2 mm wide antenna    Peanut Stick Float

SSG             1.6 grams                      -                                   -                                  4 cm
AAA            0.8 grams                      -                               32 cm                             2 cm
BB               0.4 grams                    64 cm                        16 cm                              1 cm
No 4            0.2 grams                    32 cm                         8 cm                               5 mm
No 6            0.1 grams                    16 cm                         4 cm                               2.5 mm 
No 8            0.06 grams                   9 cm                          2.3 cm                               -

That "BUT".

We have to not only consider Archimedes, and we have, but also Newton. So let's go back to that slider float, carrying 4 SSG and a single tell-tale number 8 shot. If we assume the float had a one millimetre antenna, then a fish lifting that shot would cause the float to lift by as much as 9 centimetres, a bit over three inches. We don't only have to consider how much the float will lift, but how fast it will rise, how long it will take for the bite to be seen.  Once that shot has been lifted, the float, shot and line are acted upon by the "spare buoyancy" that the float now has.  That is in effect a force of 0.06 grams, not very much at all. If we assume the float weighs a couple of grams, then once we add in the weight of those SSGs, that small force has to act on a total of 8.4 grams.  Newton's equation states that force = mass x acceleration.  I am not going to go into the calculations now, but the float is going to accelerate upwards very slowly.  It will also be hindered by the drag caused by the water on the line, shot and float, slowing its rise yet more.  In the first second or so it will have lifted far less than one centimetre, let alone nine.  The tell-tale shot size needs to be matched to the total size if the tackle ( in practice matched to the total volume of the float, which defines how big the total weight of float and shot will be).  So Phil, ditch that number 8 shot and replace it with a BB!   ;-) Only if I fish a very small antenna float would I personally use a shot smaller than a BB.

Whilst on the subject of split shot, isn't is completely disgraceful how much they cost these days? Buy one of those multi-compartmentalized circular dispensers and I get a lot of sizes I never use, and very few of the sizes I do use: SSG, AAA and BB.   The Chairman Mao little red boxes contain so few that it almost breaks the bank to buy one.  I had just 7 SSG in one box. The guy with 4 SSG suspended below his slider has to be one of the super rich.   I have been returning shot to the boxes after use, but they only last so long before they fail to grip, although I usually drop them into long grass well before they become useless. I have only found one source for bulk lead shot, in China. They were so hard that it took pliers to close the split, almost a vice. they were causing far too much damage to the line. But I think I have a solution, as to how I might reduce the costs of my most usual sizes, AAA and BB by a factor of about twenty.  I'll trial it this next week and see how it goes before mentioning it further in here. If it fails I shall keep quiet and go away and hide.
Taking it From the Theoretical to the Lakeside.

Last week I took all this theory to a practical extreme: the float in the photograph is fully 15 inches long, with a one millimetre wide tip, definitely an antenna float and then some.  It took five BBs to just sink it, so I attached the float by a JayZS rig, otherwise setting up the lift method exactly as described above, putting two BBs just a couple of inches from the hook (at times I go as close as an inch), the other three shot being a good foot higher up.  The float sat with great stability in the swim, 10 or 12 yards out, with either an inch or two of the antenna visible, reflecting the slight depth differences it encountered from one cast to the next.

Antenna nicely visible, as are a number of bubbles from feeding fish. A few seconds later the float lifted a good four inches as a fish lifted the two tell-tale shot. It was still lifting as I struck into the fish.

And a good crucian is drawn towards the net following a spirited fight. Note the two shot, set very close to the hook, no more than two inches away.

The result: a crucian of over two pounds, one of several, all over two pounds, to be taken during the session.  Note that the float is longer than any of the fish.

Another crucian is safely returned to the water.

Micro Dotting Your Float...Or Not?

One thing that has always intrigued me is why some anglers, and certainly most pole anglers, always shot their floats down, such that only the merest pin prick shows above the surface.  Sensitivity I hear you all shout, and indeed such a float, shotted down to within a millimetre of being drowned, will pick up the minutest touch, whether from a bite, or from the close passage of a fish, waving the odd fin as it slips past.   But is it necessary to seek such a delicate presentation?  My answer would be that it is neither necessary, nor desirable.   Such floats are invariably small, with a tiny diameter antenna at the top.   Those of you who have kept up with the above will see that, a small diameter antenna, has very little volume in its tip, and therefore very little buoyancy, and therefore it takes very little effort to sink it...even if it protrudes above the surface by a full inch or so.  If the reflections on the water surface are such ( and they usually are) that you cannot see the section of float underneath the water, then with a micro dotted float, you have no idea what is happening after the float has moved that first millimetre downwards. The float has simply vanished.   With an inch, or even half an inch sticking up, you are much better able to judge the progress of a bite and therefore whether to strike at it. And the fish will almost certainly not feel any difference.   All IMHO of course.

Sight Bobs.

Antennae floats have one significant problem.  Visibility. A very thin sliver of material can be very difficult to see at distance, regardless of how you might colour it.  One solution is to add a sight bob to the tip.  If the bob is made of light material, it will not significantly add to the total weight of the float.  It will add marginally to the total buoyancy, but when still above the water a small bob will have little effect upon how the float performs, although it will sit a mite lower for the same shot load, and will be somewhat more affected by the wind than would a pure antenna. If you have an inch of your antenna protruding above the surface, with the sight bob above that, then the performance of the float will be otherwise little changed.  A fish lifting that one tell-tale shot will cause the float to lift by exactly the same amount as if the bob were not there. The only difference will be that the float is ever so slightly heavier, and so will accelerate upwards a  teensy bit more slowly. So the lighter the bob material the better.  A simple bob can be made from a cotton bud at almost zero cost. It comes with a ready made tube attached, which can be cut to length and slid over the antenna, and it is lightweight.  It just needs colouring and/or a varnish spray to suit.  If the tube is a little too large in diameter it can be part filled with anything that comes to hand, a bit of line, grass stem, whatever, such that it successfully jams atop the antenna. Alternatively a kink made in the tube might allow it to grip on its own. Or use glue for a more permanent bob. There is very little to lose by adding a sight bob, and it should enable you to fish very sensitively at much greater distance.

One? Two? A Couple of Hundred?

Lastly, how many floats do you own?  If you have done any amount of float fishing at all, the answer is probably far, far too many.   A float has to be learned, so study how it reacts in still, calm water, in rougher, choppier surfaces, in winds. Be at one with your float.  To do this you really need to restrict how many different types of floats you use.   Let's face it, most of those in your tackle box have never yet seen water. So next time you see that ten year old kid, his one and only float stuck high above his head in that hawthorn tree, give him a few of yours...and then, next time you are on the water check the tree again to see how many more he has lost.   But losing floats is not something just the kids do.  We lose some too.  That bad cast, that risky chuck too near to that overhanging tree, the fish that sheds the hook under tension, causing your float, shot and hook to rocket up into that oak tree directly above your head, lost forever, or at least until the autumnal leaf fall.  So buy several of each type that you use regularly, in maybe a couple of different sizes.  It is unlikely that you have need for more than a dozen different float styles.  So have a few of each pattern, and then a loss of one will not leave you needing to fish differently, just dip into your tackle bag, and there, lo and behold,  is an identical float.    

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Selling My Soul...and Size Thirteen Hooks.

Warning!  This blog entry contains a bait review, and I know some people do not like to bother reading reviews....but I hope there is sufficient other content to remain interesting. Am I selling my soul?

I was surprised a short while ago, yet pleased, that someone asked me whether I might write the occasional review of a product or two in my blog.  I admit that I was initially unsure.  A lot of anglers these days seem to endorse products, especially baits.   I don't read the angling comics much, never buy them, but might be seen browsing their front pages occasionally in a newsagents or in Tesco's magazine racks, Articles in these papers are, in the main, written by the editorial team, well known anglers ( or their ghost writers) , and often seem to ram home the trade names in every other sentence. I do sometimes wonder whether there is any financial relationship between big tackle and bait companies, and the number of times their logo or name appears in an article.  I see many a news item that spends a deal of time describing bait and tackle, naming the manufacturer etc etc.  Often as much attention seems to be given to the manufacturer's named product as to the fish and the capture itself.
    "I caught my magnificent eight and a half ounce bottlenosed gudgeon on two Qualitex elephant dung boilies,  using FFS fortified cat litter groundbait and a size 13 specialist octobarbed, colour coded hook from Stickemup Tackle Co"...Ltd.

Size 13 Hooks
 I actually have a packet of size 13 hooks, (not octobarbed and colour coded), but for those who might have spent an eternity looking for a hook mid-way, between 12 and 14, I am sorry to disappoint you. We all know that hook sizes vary a little from one manufacturer, and one model, to the next, but surely this divergence is going a little too far from the agreed standard?  But I will certainly use one the next time I target bottle nosed gudgeon.

I don't ever have my catches published  in the angling papers, and never did in the past when far more of my fish could have made those pages.  I see so many anglers who want to get their names in the papers as often as possible.  Some have admitted to actively seeking to become a sponsored angler.  I assume it is for the free bait that some of them consequentially get.  Sponsored anglers HAVE to perform of course. They need to justify sponsorship, and to product place the name of whatever it is they are using as often as they may. They have to be seen to be using their sponsored items, and to be using them successfully to catch a succession of good fish. So that, in itself, dictates where they must fish where: mainly recent big fish capture sites and commercials. Commercials give them more or less a guarantee that they are near a "saleable" fish capture. I would worry as a sponsored angler that I should really be fishing their way. I still like to do my own thing.  I like to decide where I fish, when I fish, how I fish, which bait I use, and what I fish for.    When I finally figure out WHY I go fishing then it too will have been for my own reasons.

So when offered a pack of carp bait to "test", at a time when I did not want to fish for carp (something I seldom do), I replied that I rarely sought carp these days, but would be prepared to give the bait a go for other species, and fully expected that they would decline. But no, they accepted.  And  I had nothing to lose, and maybe the bait would indeed be brilliant.   For, if you think about it, why would anyone risk having a bait reviewed if it were not very good? Obviously I would truthfully tell it as it is with respect to results. For unlike a sponsored angler, I have no need to maintain any status. If my words exclude me from further products to try out, then so be it. I would probably never have bought the bait myself, for, never reading any of those angling publications, I am not personally and constantly bombarded with "buy me", "get this" , "use that", and other such adverts.   Therein lie advantages, but also disadvantages: I might never get to try a really superb new bait, and not even know of its existence.

So a pack of bait from "Sticky Baits" arrived on my doorstep, supplied by Keen’s Tackle and Guns.  It contained products from their "Manilla" range. Which was quite a coincidence because my wife was taking a flight to Manila later that same day.  I have two free months in which to play and make the house untidy. Reading the blurb on the Manilla packets, it has a peanut extract base.   This of course sent me off into imagination mode.  I visualized myself throwing in a handful of bait, and then moments later seeing half the lake's fish population  gasping for breath and calling out for ambulances as they suffered anaphylaxis due to a peanut allergy. Coming back to reality I did wonder whether any other species, apart from Homo sapiens, would be vulnerable to a peanut allergy.  And might some of those be fish?

And why has the line spacing in this blog article suddenly changed? I have no idea.  More inexplicable reaction to the peanut word?  Bugger it, I am not messing about changing it back.

So what did happen when I threw in my first handful of the bait?  Nothing.  Nothing for a full five minutes, at which time a good crucian carp splashed over  the groundbait.  More were to splash in the area. None were splashing anywhere else in the lake. It would be unrealistic not to have associated the fish activity with the bait I had chucked in.   On a second trip a crucian splashed within a minute of throwing in the bait.  I did catch a few fish too.     Mainly crucians, but a late evening tench took the bait on both days.  The first I lost, after a good scrap.  It dived  bankside a couple of yards to my right and became solidly snagged.  There was nothing I could do on my crucian tackle. Even with heavier line, I might still have lost the fish, for no-one has yet invented a line that allows me to push a fish further out.  All I can do is to pull it nearer, or at best try to make it deviate a little from its intended course.   Knowing the snag was there on day one might not have helped me much at all. All these tackle dealers, and manufacturers, and not a single one has come up with a push me/pull me line!  Nor even a conductive line, allowing the angler to Taser an uncooperative fish were it to get too close to known snags. But perhaps that would be cheating? The tench on the second day swam into the same snag.  But it was myself with the lucky break this time, and a tench of about five pounds was duly landed.  One good factor, which I liked, was that I was still able to catch fish in the swim, using baits unrelated to the groundbait.  This is important to me, I don't like to see fish that will only take one specific type of bait.

As a scientific thinker, I should have to say that two instances are hardly statistical proof of how effective a bait is, but as an angler I cannot ignore what seems to be an indisputable fact: the bait stirred some fish into action, and did it very quickly. It seems highly likely that they were feeding on the free bait I threw in almost immediately.   Back into scientific mode and I have to ask: "Would any other brand of bait have had the same effect on those mornings?"   Answer: I don't know.  In angling it is almost impossible to make any direct comparison between products.  Far too many other factors involved: factors that cannot be excluded. In the laboratory, such tests are easy to set up, where only one factor can possibly have any effect, anything else being systematically excluded.   Get two anglers in adjacent swims, one catching, the other not, and there are a myriad of variations to consider.  Starting with skill levels at one end of the rod, down to whether or not a pike was idling away its time a foot from one  angler's bait at the other end of the line. Impossible to make a viable comparison. So it comes down to: Will I buy some more of this bait, when my supply runs out?  I would have to say yes, even though to me it smells very much like the popcorn that people inexplicably must eat in cinemas, the smell of which I quite detest.   I might have to just use this bait downwind.

The splashing crucians are worth another mention.  The splashing certainly seems to be related to feeding.  They seem to dash straight up, vertically, to the surface,  and then descend equally vertically.  This is certainly the case in deeper water, as it is possible to see the expelled bubbles rise up to the surface, betraying the path the fish has taken on its way back to the lake bed.   In shallower swims the fish may have dashed back down, and then swam along the bottom, still expelling air.  Why they do it remains a mystery to me.  Another endearing quirk of the crucian carp.

I had intended to take a friend after grayling the other day. He has never caught one. Damned line spacing has jumped again!!   But rain made the river unsuitable for the capture of that species.  So to while away some time I headed for a little local pond, and cast in with the crucian set up,   light line that was still threaded through the rod rings.  I had some of the bait left, so cast in the float, and laid the rod on the ground whilst I put the lid back onto the bait.  Mistake!   I nearly lost the rod, together with my favourite centrepin, as a carp grabbed the bait almost before the float settled.  The rod was headed pondwise at speed.   I lunged and saved the rod, but too late: the carp was already deeply buried in a rather impenetrable grangly type of floating weed.    Superb for crucians, the size 12 hook proved unsuitable for a snagged carp, and came back straightened.   That is as much as I can say about how suitable the bait is for carp. One unexpected  carp was rather overenthusiastic about it.  

In short, I should have liked to have been able to be more scientific about how good the bait was. The practicality is though, that a single angler could never give a statistically valid analysis.  Too many variables, too little time to experiment.   So I have had to fall back on a less rigorous approach and just say that it worked for me, on those days I used it.    Hmmm...the peanuts appear to have forgiven me and allowed my usual line spacing to return.  Weird. And the text size in the published article is different from that in this draft. There is another odd thing about this blogging site. I still have occasional troubles where I have to enter into physical combat with the blog, in order to persuade it NOT to rotate one of my photographs through 90 degrees. It can take me several attempts, messing about with the detail, to get the photograph aligned as I wish it.

Half Tail Crucian
Returning to recent pond trips, and coincidences.  One crucian had a half tail,  somewhat spoiling its looks.   Two days later, on the same water, but well  over a hundred yards away in another swim, I caught the same fish.  I compared the tail, and various blemishes in the scale patterns and it was very definitely the same fish.  It had also gained 2 ounces, just scraping over two pounds on the second capture.  Probably the difference between a full stomach and an empty one, rather than any real growth.   I had another half tail crucian on a different water much earlier in the year.  It came from a water in which I have only caught two crucians, the first being two years earlier, and from the same swim.  Both of those had half a tail, and I suspect they also were the same fish.  I must re-examine the photographs. If I can be bothered. The second capture had also gained two ounces, up from 2-7 to 2-9!  Coincidence again?   

But the coincidences kept coming.   A couple of years ago a certain big fish angler made contact with me through facebook. He mention that a friend of his knew and respected me as an angler from way back. We discussed various things, before, after about six months of chatting, we realized that our sons knew each other well,  both  being brilliant jugglers, and having met frequently at juggling conventions.   Back now to the pond where I nearly lost the rod.  I was fishing it for only the second time in about four years.  As evening approached, it was beginning to drizzle.  I was getting no bites from the target crucians,  the intensity of rain was slowly increasing, and I was travelling light,  minus brolly, so I was considering packing up.  As that thought entered my head, a couple strolled onto the pond.  The guy engaged me in conversation and we discussed initially crucian carp, and then we moved onto angling history. He spoke of many of those anglers I knew well in the past.   After about thirty minutes he suddenly asked me my name, and we realized that he and I had both served on the NASG (National Association of Specimen Groups) committee nearly 50 years ago. He was up from the Midlands visiting his ladyfriend.   And I then twigged that I knew her too:  my usual B&Q checkout lady. Meantime the rain increased yet more, and all three of us became Rattus wettus.  Veryus Rattus wettus. A long way past damp, we soared past wet and substantially got well into drenched. I remained on the water a few minutes after the two of them had departed.  Just long enough to be sure he didn't see me abandoning my post because of the rain, and I left with my reputation intact....my reputation as an idiot?    Coincidences abounded.   And a few days later I discovered that he was also the very friend that my facebook contact had talked of two years ago!    I feel I dare not leave the house now in case I bump into my old grammar school English teacher in the street.  I detested him and would probably still do so.  He probably still carries that cane. Coincidences happen to everyone in life. Some people inexplicably call them miracles.  Others accept them as an occasional fact of life.   I am getting more than my fair share of them recently.   But the statistical "rules" of coincidence do say that some people will have far more than their fair share.   

I had a two day trip to the Trent recently, ostensibly chasing a barbel or two.   A couple of factors were against that stated intent.  Firstly the river was quite low and very clear.   Otherwise not too much weed flowing down so as to snag and drag the end tackle.  But low water was against me catching a barbel. Then, the locals told me that the stretch has relatively few barbel in any case, being in the upper river.  I have not fished the upper stretches much at all, but am informed the fish live in very small shoals, shoals of maybe 4 or 5 fish, often separated by long distances to the next shoal.  Makes it all a bit hit and miss, but I was not really set up for a roving approach on the day. 
Long Lean Four Pound Chub
  I'll know a little better next time.   I did net a few chub, best about four pounds, a long lean fish, that at other  times of the year must weigh far more.  I hit all the good bites, but on the last morning noticed a few chub plucks. Failed when trying to hook them, but had I held the rod more and tried to hit those for the full duration of the session, I may have had far more chub.  Holding the rod constantly though, on a two day session?   I chose just to hit the good bites. I also spent some time chasing
Trent Perch
perch,  and in one, three hour spell had about fifteen.  No monsters though, with the largest about a pound and a quarter.   I am sure bigger are present.  More reasons to be mobile I guess. I did see an otter: crossing the river until it dived. It was some 80 or 90 yards downstream of me, and as it dived it silhouetted a good foot or so of tail against the bright water, leaving just a ring of ripples in its wake.  Only the second wild otter I have seen in the UK, the first encounter with one being far, far better, one of those to treasure forever.  This Trent otter, on reaching the near bank disturbed a moorhen, which scuttered its way across to the far bank in an evident state of panic.   I still have no confirmed, or rather, 
trusted, reports of otters near to my home.  Rumours of the odd one supposedly sighted about 15 miles away in a couple of different directions.  But so many people misidentify mink, that I cannot  yet take any report as being true.  I wouldn't mind the presence of an odd local otter or two.
Trent Sunset

En route back from the Trent, I hit on another club water, one previously unseen, never mind unfished.   Suggestions of there being crucians present, and an unwillingness to return home during the rush hour, caused me to stop and fish.   And there were indeed some crucians.  Three over a pound and a half being landed, amongst a ruck of tench to five and the odd little roach rudd and perch.  This has been a good crucian season for me, but the lack of small ones in all waters, save one which I may mention in the next post, is rather worrying.   Crucians do not do well in the presence of predators, especially pike, and my only catching larger individuals suggests strongly that the crucian potential of these waters is one of a limited lifespan. I think that angling clubs have almost a duty to try to encourage the species.  A great species for kids to catch, and as I tend  to be a big kid myself at times....

Wednesday 17 August 2016

The Crucian Finale...Probably.

I felt like I needed a couple more sessions after those crucians. Even following recent successes, I was not fully satisfied with my performance and so returned to the jinx lake.   The idea was to make  a last trip, or maybe two before veering off to seek another species entirely.  I was better prepared this time, all my old schoolboy crucian knowledge was back, and very much to the fore in the tactical plan.   The weather forecast was not at all bad,  very cloudy, prospect of a little rain, but not so much as to make life on the bankside unpleasant.  And as is more and more often the case these days, the forecast proved to be spot on.  No longer is it more accurate to simply say " Today's weather will be similar to that of yesterday".   Even weather forecasts are no fun any more.

My first cast hit the water not long after dawn.  I had decided to ignore other anglers' suggestions that I fish just three or four feet out from the reeds.  They, and the bailiffs, all recommend this, and say most of the crucians come from very close in.    It had crossed my mind though, that cause and effect may have become confused here.  If everyone fishes close in ( and they seem to do so) then it is inevitable that all the crucians will be taken close in.   So the advice may be self fulfilling.  I decided to fish a fair bit further out, 6 or 7 yards, and would see what happened.

Nothing for quite a while, but after the obligatory couple of small roach, a fish that was better.  The rod stopped dead as the line tightened to the fish. That is always quite a pleasurable moment, when on the strike, the rod stops suddenly and the fish holds solid. It didn't initially move much, very typical of one species. Crucian thinks I.  But it soon became apparent that it was not a crucian, the fight, once it got under way, bored too consistently deep, and was lasting too long.  The fish nearly had me in trouble in the branches of a part dead alder that drooped into the water, and on light crucian gear it was heart in mouth stuff as the tension in the line was necessarily increased to a fairly unsafe value, one getting very near to the breaking strain of the hooklink.    But all was to be well and a scrapper of a tench about three and a half was landed.

The mass of house martins that had spent the early part of the day milling around over the pond had now departed, leaving just a few swallows whose presence I had not noted earlier in amongst the general melee of birds.  A couple of swifts also paid a short visit, but the dozen or so of swallows were to remain throughout the day.  I didn't have too much time to look at them, for the float once again lifted and the "rod stopped dead" situation was repeated.  But this fish was different, it didn't charge about the swim madly, as had the tench.  It set off for the other side of the lake, at a fairly steady and slow pace, largely unaffected by the best I could do on my three pound hook link.  It managed a more or less perfectly straight line swimming away from me at  right angles to the bank. I was not worried, for I was not expecting there to be any snags out there, and fully expected to land the fish in due course.  I should have worried though, for, when some 15 or 20 yards out and counting, the hook pulled.   I will never know what the fish was of course.  I suspect a much bigger tench, although a carp could have been responsible.    I do doubt that, for I suspect a carp would have been travelling at a far greater speed.  Far too many hook pulls this season for my liking.

The voles were back, sneaking bits of food.   I am told by a birdwatching friend that this has been an excellent year for voles. He appears to be right. It should, in consequence, have been a great year for owls too.   But the wet summer has restricted their hunting, and so owls have not fared well at all.  Breeding successes have been limited by unsuitable weather.  I am not too impressed by the blackberries this year either.   There have been trips in other years when the blackberry brambles near my swim have provided much of my food and drink for the day.   Ripened and ripening berries seem rarer this year, although the few I have picked and eaten were wonderfully tarty.   A week in nature can be a long time though, and I hope the fruits may become more prolific soon.

Some days the warblers have constantly given voice, both in the rushes and the nearby trees.   Warblers tend to be amongst what most average birdwatchers call LBJs.  LBJ stands for Little Brown Job or in English, unidentified small bird. In summer the presence of young birds, often not in full adult plumage, serves to confuse the issue still more. Some can be so similar that only the most advanced and experienced twitcher can be sure...or risk saying that they are sure.  All very reminiscent of our own trout/sea trout problems.  FSSF.  Fair Sized Spotty Fish?   But I managed to photograph one bird that repeatedly came quite near.  So this is a photograph of an LBJ.  What is it?   You tell me.  I am guessing  reed warbler in a (pear?) tree.

But to return to the crucian carp.  The dull day seemed to have stimulated them, and having returned to the tactics of my youth, that is to fish lift method very sensitively, they decided to play the game, and although the bites were not 100% hittable, by some wide margin, plenty of bites came, and quite a few were hooked.   Of those 13 were landed, with no less than eight weighing over two pounds.  But 6 or 7 were either pricked or lost to a hook pull.
Four Two Pound Plus Crucians

Again, the fish were very much of a size, the smallest differing from the largest by just a pound. The light and precarious hook holds must be fuelled by the way the species toys with its food.  I have only had one crucian that I remember needed the use of a disgorger, and that hookhold was only just out of reach of my fingers.  I can say the same about barbel, rarely do they seem to be hooked anywhere other than in the lips.  The difference of course is that once hooked, barbel rarely manage to get rid of the hook.

I do wonder for the future of crucians in this water.  Are the pike, of which there seem to be quite a lot, removing all the smaller crucians, leaving an ageing population with no younger fish to back up for the future?  Or are we, for some unknown reason, simply never catching the smaller fish?   Should the club consider a stocking programme?  The fish though, do look young, and so maybe there are quite a few years yet before we need to worry.  I saw an interesting note from someone who has his own carp lake, but added some crucians about 7 years ago.   These are now of a very good size indeed, with some approaching 4 pounds...at only seven years old!   I don't know what he has been feeding them, but if details he has given are accurate, it is a food I suspect would ruin my own dieting plan.    So how old might the fish I am catching be?   And how long might they live?  Peter Rolfe suggests that some top 20 years. I don't know how many of those that remain healthy and avoid predation will actually reach that sort of age.  The average is probably considerably less.  10 years?  12 years?   I will probably not have many, if any, more sessions for crucians, on this lake this year.   But it would seem a good insurance policy to add them to next season's target species.  Who knows how long a good thing will last?

Late in the evening , the kingfishers which had performed several fly-pasts directly over my float during the day, appeared again.   One of them did three straight line typical low flights across, and then along, the full length of the lake. As it did so though, it was pursued by a swallow, which appeared to be chasing it, its zig-zagging flightpath contrasting with the ruler straight path of the kingfisher, yet keeping in close if variable formation.   The swallows had earlier been chasing each other, and I can only imagine that the kingfisher was seen as adding a brightly coloured extension to the game. I don't imagine there was any other reason for the swallow's behaviour.    Intriguing though: there may be more to a birdbrain than many think.
One of the swallows came to watch me fish.  I think this is one of this year's youngsters.  Probably exhausted from chasing after the kingfisher.  The photo is not the greatest, but chances to get a swallow in the picture are quite rare.   When using my small "fishing" camera, although it does have auto focus, it is none too bright at picking exactly what to focus on. There is no manual focus ring. I usually end up focussing on something I think is equidistant from me, and then swinging the camera around, with the shutter half pressed.  Not ideal.

During the day I had other visitors, dragonflies were constantly passing.  This one stopped to lay an egg or two.

And of course the young moorhen that was in constant attendance.

Although welcome, I wish they would all time their visits to the quiet periods between bites. 

Monday 8 August 2016

Frustration Bubbling Up.

I like to vary my angling, if not on a day to day basis, then certainly before a week is out I am usually somewhere else, or doing something different.   I had chosen to try a club water for tench, one I had not fished before. None too distant, and I was not expecting huge fish, a five pounder would have been very well received indeed.   Not that I knew too much about the water in any case, save what the club's brief, and very much out of date, description said.   The location of the large pond, or perhaps small lake was in a very out of the way place, and so the SatNav. was duly programmed, bait sorted, car loaded, and I was on my way.

I quite enjoy telling the TomTom to find the shortest route.   It often leads me into some fascinating spots, places where the hand of man has rarely set foot ( my apologies to whoever I stole that phrase from), but for this trip it was set to find the quickest route.   So I was soon on the motorways, and not much later leaving them for the last ten miles or so.   It was at this point that the Sat Nav decided to fail.  I concluded that the lady sitting inside it had finally got too annoyed with my shouting "You silly *****!" at her, and that she had taken retaliatory action.  Whatever action it was that she took, it was permanent, and I had to replace the unit a couple of days later.  But I was now more than a little lost, and not having brought the club's maps with me, reliance on the unit was proving disastrous, and it was over an hour later that I arrived at the water.  I chose a swim, set up with a Mike Cootes "Tinca Stick Mk 2", baited up the spot and waited.  After a while a smallish roach took the bait, but otherwise all was quiet...until...splash!   A yard or two from my float there was quite a splash, and I glimpsed what I thought was a good sized crucian carp.  A few minutes later a second splash, also in the swim, and unmistakeably a crucian carp.

During the half day session, starting at about 6pm, there were to be about sixteen or twenty such splashy rises, and all, save two or three, were within a five yard radius of the float. Elsewhere on the lake, little of any size moved. It was amusing to watch them rise.   It was almost as if they came up quite slowly, for whatever reasons they might have had, but on first sensing the air, thought "Oh my God, that's not water", and then panicking, with a tail slap of which a small Wels catfish would be proud, darted back down to the bottom.   There was only one logical conclusion to draw from the distribution and timing of these splashes.  My baiting of the swim had drawn the fish into activity, and it seemed logical they were feeding well on my loose feed. Now I like crucian carp, close up there with my favourite fish, and so far this year I had only caught one, an old looking fish of a little over two and a half pounds. It came from a local pond, near home, probably a survivor from when the pond was last in the hands of a fishing club, many years ago.   But there was also, in progress, a photographic contest based upon crucians and crucian fishing.  If I caught a crucian, I could enter its photograph.  So I forgot the tench, and tweaked the  tackle so as to be more suitable for these delightful little carp.  As the evening wore on, I became less likely to have referred to them as delightful.   Despite the rises, I was unable to tempt one, not a single bite, save for the odd small roach, and one tiny rudd.   It was most frustrating.  I knew they were there, my tactics had succeeded before on other crucian waters. And to make matters worse, they all looked to be of a good size, with some that might reach a couple of pounds.  As darkness approached, the only things to lighten the mood were the swallows, and a couple of grey lag geese.   When the first bats started to flash past my head, I packed up, defeated for the moment. I drove home, successfully using the last light of the recently set sun to provide a rough compass bearing, until I reached a suitable signpost.   As I drove I knew it would not be my last visit to the lake.

A couple of mornings later, new Sat Nav installed, and consequentially a few quid lighter, I arrived early at the lake.    It did not take long before the first crucian splashed near my float.  But also there were a lot of fish bubbling, a couple of yards away.  These bubbles were of the typical pinhead variety, much talked about by the likes of Fred J Taylor and his pals many years ago.  So I was convinced that the swim was also full of tench.   I once watched a tench swimming above a bed of Canadian pondweed.  It stopped to dive down into the weed a couple of times, releasing a mass of pinhead bubbles.  I assumed these were aeration bubbles released by the plants' leaves, upon being disturbed by the fish.   But it showed that tench can and do produce pin head bubbles.   But the swim I was fishing was weed free, and so a different mechanism was in place as I fished.   Maybe they were digging into the silt.  But tench they were, and over the course of the half day, I lost one to a hook pull, and landed a male of about three and three quarters.  A very hard fighting fish, which, on the crucian tackle took a major diversion into the lake edge rushes. Just the two tench hooked though.  Crucians once again splashed, a dozen or so, and the tench bubbled continuously and ignored me.  It was as if the tench had now combined with the crucians to take the Mickey out of me.    I could not understand why I had caught no crucians, nor, with so much bubbling, why more tench had not taken the bait.   Lunchtime, bright sunlight, and I headed home.

On the third trip, the tench had gone, fewer crucians splashed, but the perch had joined in the fun.  Twice I had superb lift bites on a static piece of luncheon meat.  Twice it was a small perch that had taken the bait.   I had never considered perch to be spam before, but they were certainly not the

Greylag Geese, Surprisingly Well Camouflaged.

wanted result from hitting those two lift bites.   There were now three grey lag geese, two full adults and a sub adult.  The younger bird kept taking a short flight around the lake.   The sort of "circuits and bumps" training that most light aeroplane pilots practise. Half a dozen times a day, a single circuit around the lake and back to see how impressed mummy and daddy were. A kingfisher landed on my rod, ever so briefly.  I may have twitched a little as it landed, or it may simply have seen me.  Either way I was not the sort of company it wanted to keep.  In all those half a dozen, half day trips I did not see one robin.  It is rare not to have a robin begging cheekily for food.  But the robins had sent in

substitutes, because in every swim I fished, two or three very friendly voles kept stealing morsels of bait.  They were happy to walk over my fingers to get to that bait.  Pretty little creatures with chestnut coloured fur. And so it continued, three more half days spent watching cavorting crucians and bubbling tench, and all for no fish.   The last date for entry into the crucian contest had now passed, and all I had entered was a picture of my float, stationary by some lily pads. Apart from a few small roach, rudd and perch, nothing was caught, my landing net the driest it has been for a long time. Were I superstitious I would now be calling this my jinx water.  Maybe I will do so in any case, if only to label it. But my confidence that I could catch in this water remained high.

Time for a change, so I dropped by to reconnoitre another club water as I drove home .   I had heard rumours of the odd crucian being taken there, but as ever, I was suspicious of possible hybrids.  "Fish any of those swims near that tree." said the local.   "That is where the crucians always get caught".   A couple of days later I arrived just after first light, the sun casting my shadow at great length across the field, and chose one of the recommended swims.   I didn't feel comfortable there, it did not look right, and after 4 hours biteless, save for a couple of miniscule bream, I decided to move, and headed for a swim in which I could see some surface weed.  Within minutes of introducing bait, there were those tench bubbles again.   Lots of them.  The bubbles were to continue throughout much of the day.  My tackle was unchanged, as I had not removed the float and hook after the last trip to the jinx water,, merely splitting the rod into two sections for the trip home.  The float depth was adjusted, because the swim in the new lake was  a deal shallower.  It was not long before a flat float bite brought a roach.  And not very much later that a better fish was on.  A good crucian.  I considered that my luck had returned, a crucian from a lake I had no previous experience of, from a swim the locals did not fancy.   Over the next two hours two more crucians fiddled a bit with the bait, and then lifted the shot from the bottom, allowing the float to rise.  There was a degree of disappointment, for, although the smallest of the three fish was about a pound and a half, their fights were lacklustre, no attempts to reach the nearby weed, and if anything, it might almost be said that they gave themselves up.  These were shiny golden fish, which looked old, and as if they had had a hard life.   Maybe they had, for one or two had some minor mouth damage. I was certainly not the first to catch some of these fish. The rain fell relentlessly, if not actually torrentially and bites stopped coming.  Around six o'clock a long bite free spell ended, the swim became very much alive, lots of bubbling, and it soon became apparent that crucians, as well as tench are able to produce pinhead bubbles.  Maybe the bubbles in the jinx water were crucians?  I had intentionally fished at least  a yard away from those bubbles, for, although I like tench a lot, I did not want a testosterone fuelled male tench churning up a swim in which I sought crucian carp.  Maybe I had made a huge mistake? Had I also been unintentionally avoiding the crucians? Were any of the bubbles actually from tench?

By 9pm I had twenty crucians in the net on the second lake.   I don't really know why, but I had taken

The Only Time I Have Used a Keepnet Since 1973

a keepnet with me for the first time since about 1973. I doubt it will see much use in the future.
All the fish fought poorly, save one. They all fought at midwater, save one, one which ploughed several times into the lake bottom, disturbing mud and bubbles.   It was no crucian, far too powerful a fish, but the hook pulled with the fish still unseen.  Tench?   Carp?  F1? I also had hook pulls on another 5 or 6 crucian carp, and several of those landed were hooked very lightly, the bend of the hook encircling the merest sliver of flesh.  Perhaps when fishing for crucians I need to play the fish more gently, as their delicate bites seem to lead to some tenuous hook holds?  But then, what about those nearby lilies? Ho hum! 

Old, Haggard Poor Fighting Crucian

Two days later, back to face down the jinx.   As I drove along the motorway, mist was lying across the fields, in a low blanket, and as the sun rose behind me, the combination of mist and sun turned the whole rear view into a huge yellow horizon.  I was glad not to be going the other way, for I would have risked a summer version of snow blindness.  When I reached the lake I was greeted by at least sixty house martins, twisting and turning above the lake and drinking from its surface.  Twenty minutes later and they had all gone, replaced by a small handful of swallows. But the jinx, had if ever existed, was now lifted, and four beautiful crucians were hooked, all near to the bubbles.  A fifth shed the hook, possibly because I had not played it sufficiently cautiously.  These were similar in size to the fish from the second lake, with a couple of fish topping the two pounds mark.   But they were very different fish indeed.  More orange than gold, very high backed fish, and fish which put up excellent scraps. I have never noticed such a major difference in the way similar sized fish, of the same species, can fight in two different waters.  These jinx fish looked as crucians should look, and fought as they should fight.   I had a couple more the next day, so am justified in being happy and confident in the way I was fishing.  End of frustrations.  To further lift the day, the Red Arrows, ten jets in total, flew across the pond as I fished.  I guess they thought it was my birthday, but they were not flying in formation, yet were quite low down.  They passed by rather too quickly for me to grab the camera.
Young and Pretty Crucian Scrapper

Driving home, a moment of amusement. I don't intentionally look at car number plates, but it is odd how certain  plates seem to catch the eye.  Maybe it is a similar mechanism to that which causes spelling mistakes (in the writings of anyone but myself) to leap out of the pages at me and shout "Here I am, look at me!"
 This plate was on a 12 seater Ford transit based minibus.  It read  BU52HOL.  Quite appropriate.   But when I stopped behind it at some traffic lights I was able to read the small sticker in the rear window:
"No passengers are left in this vehicle overnight".       Nice, and witty.

When I got home, another surprise.   The photo I took of my stationary float near some lily pads had won a section prize.   £100 of fishing tackle vouchers from Angling Direct, and a copy of Peter Rolfe's book about crucian carp: "Crock of Gold" are on their way to me.    I had intended to suggest my son buys me that particular book for my next birthday, so I am very well pleased, and look forward to reading the book.  It gets highly rated by those who read it.

Stop Press: the book arrived today, and in the introduction it mentions ....crucian carp bubbling when feeding!   And also quite coincidentally, one of those spelling mistakes leapt out of the book at me.

Stop Press again.   A large bucket of bait arrived: another prize from Bait-tech from the competition. My thanks to them also.