April 25, 2013

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

The Wildlife - Excellent

The Book - A demanding but rewarding read

The Fishing - Well, two out of three ain't bad.

As I pull off the main road and pass through the gate onto the track I go through the same routine, radio off, windows down. I want to hear the sounds of the woods, smell the fresh country air and immediately begin the process of absorption that the lake and it's surroundings demand.

The track is bumpy and long, all carp lakes should be accessed this way, and the last few hundred yards  offer a view through trees of the expanse of water that demands so much of m  y concentration. It also allows a quick scan of the field where anglers park their cars and bivvy up - empty, just what we want.

An initial scan fails to show any signs of fish so I opt for the swim that produced for me last time, at least I have confidence in it. I put two rods together and despite my intention to cast them across to the far side I baited a near swim next to a dead reed bed, I was here for a session, no need to rush anything.

I then put out a marker float to the line I wanted to fish and set off for the long walk around to the far side with a bucket of bait and a catapult. I came across someone walking on the dam, he was living in a cottage on the estate and had plenty of questions about the fishing and what would happen if he was caught with a line in the water. I spent time explaining the rules and offered a gentle threat that he may lose his tackle (wedding not fishing) if discovered and I think he took the hint, he was nice enough and his dog got on with Harvey so no harm done.

By the time I got opposite my swim I could not find my marker float, it had sunk! It was the only one I had in my bag and I knew it was probably too small with the strong breeze pulling on the line but I also think it would have been visible had I not stopped to talk - bugger.  Never mind, I had a good idea where to lob the boilies so did a spot of blind groundbaiting before scrambling back up the sheer bank. In the dappled sunlight I spotted a movement on the ground, a slow worm, a big female gliding through the moss, fallen leaves and twigs. Normally I wouldn't be able to resist the lure of our only legless lizard and I would surely have picked her up for a closer look but I figured she had important work to do and had to go and make some little slow worms for future ground baiters to find, I wished her well and watched her long body disappear in the undergrowth.

Back at base camp and out went the baits and I settled down for the long haul.

Alas it never happened. The carp were nowhere to be seen, not even heard leaping in the night, the lake felt very sleepy. But the spring has landed with a bump and the wildlife was making the most of the sunshine. A cuckoo appeared and called and called for a mate, I was to later see it at dusk as it flew across the lake and back, raptor like in appearance but with a busier flight.

A couple of Greater Horseshoe bats worked the tree line as the sun dipped but they did not visit on the second evening. The number of swallows increased each day and the myriade of song birds in the area made for a fabulous wake up call at first light, a proper dawn chorus that sent the owls back to bed. I love being under canvas at this time of year.

On the second day I put more bait in my near bank swim and put a cane rod together to fish over it. During high summer I would expect the carp to patrol this line but they really aren't moving much yet but I guessed that roach and bream were a possibility and duly put sweetcorn on the hook and waited.

I was led on my bed, I'd put my book down and had drifted off for a while only to be shaken out of it by a run. I'm useless at waking up and staggered down to the rods in a daze and, with its buzzer lights blazing, grabbed the left hand rod and struck. I felt weight but it was lifeless, what's more there was still a buzzer sounding. I had a look around and saw that the cane rod was bouncing and the line was heading off to the left having been cast right, it had crossed the line of the rod I now held. A nifty manoeuvre saw me deftly switch rods whilst furtively looking to see if anybody had witnessed  my cock-up and the New Superb bent pleasingly against a running fish. A bit of knitting had to be undone but I soon had a bream in the net. The swim looked like a battlefield.

That was my only bite. I had a few single bleeps as bream inspected a pineapple pop-up later on but all remained quiet and I had to record a carp blank.

I cannot leave without telling you about the book I was reading. 'For All Those Left Behind' by John Andrews (Mainstream publishing) is a demanding read that will embrace the reader in the emotional journey of man coming to terms with the death of his father. It falls well short of morbid but the ghosts that have haunted the author have directed his life for, well let's face it, too long.

The journey he travels is extremely personal but, as it involves fishing, is one that us anglers can associate with. The locations, moods and moments are exquisitely described and the writing just demands to be read. I got through the whole book in a day which for me is almost unheard of.

This is not a book for everybody but anybody would take something away from the experience. I know the effect that my father's death had on me and could relate to that but it also made me wonder about what I may leave behind. I would hate to think that Neil would find it impossible to fish after my death and I shall give him the book in the hope that he can at least get his head around a few things in readiness for that future event. But having said that, he know's he's getting my Chris Lythe reel so maybe that will be enough to get him to the back to the bank.

On a lighter note, Harvey can in no way be described as a carp dog. I always imagine carp dogs to be Staffies or Jack Russells with names like 'Spod' and 'Delkim', they are content led under a bed chair and will live on a diet of cold curry, cake and boilies. Harvey has had a cosseted life and does not fit into the outdoor lifestyle very easily. He demands to come fishing and I relented but I don't think that he'll do many more overnighters. For a start, he sat in the back of the truck rather than join me as I put the bivvy up. He was still there whilst I tackled up and only joined me for the walk around the lake.

As the day progressed I encouraged him into the bivvy where he ate his tea but he led between me and the car so that I couldn't sneak off and leave him I suppose. Come bed time he stood looking at me, I knew he wanted something so put some water in his bowl - he drank about a pint straight off. Here we have a dog that can die of thirst next to a lake. He spent the night in and out of the bivvy losing the way in and getting panicky at one point, come morning he looked very tired and a little grumpy. I rang Nicky and she came and rescued him, he trotted off with her without so much as a backward glance and apparently, slept for the rest of the day.

April 15, 2013

Split Cane And Centre Pin On The Cheap

I put my hands up and declare that I have spent way too much money on cane rods and centre pins in my time, especially over the last year or so. To my defence I have sold a few and made a bob or two profit along the way so its not all bad, we're not quite up to the National debt of Cyprus just yet.

I have though, recently discovered a hidden gem that has been hither to overlooked by the purists but which may just be an ideal route into the world of centre pin use. I'll explain.

Most of the modern pin users seem to be looking for a reel with which they can fish the margins for carp and barbel. Its playing a fish through such a direct contact that makes the pin so appealing and having a good fish or two will certainly convert most that experiment. The long trotting, although still well practiced, seems to be a secondary concern. Of course, with all centre pins comes the dreaded need to Wallis cast or similar and getting the desired distance, accuracy and delicacy of presentation takes time to master and puts many people off, none of us are beyond suffering the occasional birds nest.

Ray Walton has capitalised on the incapable or lazy by merchandising his Rolling Pin reels that have the ability to turn 90 degrees so they can be cast like a big fixed spool reel. This makes long casting a doddle yet never renoves the thrill of the fight. Unfortunately these reels cost somewhere between £250 and £350 a pop and that's steep, so how about the same for a fiver?

The other day I bought a cheap and cheerful Scout centre pin reel for les than twenty pounds delivered. It was small, didn't run particularly well but was after all a centre pin and it has that same twist to cast feature. Neil took a shine to it and its now in his tackle bag.

I checked out the Interweb and soon found another one, this was a larger version which I snapped up for a penny less than £5.00.  I noticed another forum member had acquired another one (a medium sized one) in a job lot of reels that only cost £10 the lot. Emails were exchanged and he has kindly posted it to me free of charge. You cannot get any cheaper than that.

Okay, nobody is going to go trotting a light stick float with a Scout but for margin fishing I am confident that they will be more than capable and I just find their quirkiness charming and I really like them.

So what about rods? Well I have my share but I have been looking for a stalking rod with a bit of grunt but which will withstand the rigours of a day amongst overhanging trees and undergrowth. I want a rod that will stop a 30lb carp at close quarters but which is ultimately expendable, I have no intention of breaking it but I don't want to fret each time a fish charges off and I have to stand my ground.

Last week I won a rod on Ebay, a Sharpe's Scotties Impregnated 9' 3" salmon spinning rod. This was designed for throwing a lure and fighting big fish, it is robust and reliable, it cost me £20.50. I had to put a couple of gallons on top of that to collect it but that's £25 for a stalking outfit that will land just about anything that swims in UK waters, certainly anything that swims in my syndicate lake.

Today I gave them a go. The weather is on the up, the chiffchaffs are back and singing, I saw Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma butterflies. All in all an ideal time to visit the lake to see if the fish are on the move. They were. I found several basking and one out of reach lump gave a spectacular splash as it crashed out of the water.

I snuck into a swim where a Wallis cast would have been difficult but, with a deft twist of the spool, I made a perfect underarm cast into the desired spot. Alas the fish did not play ball and I went home without a bite but I am satisfied that I have an ideal set of tools for the job and at a ridiculously low price. In austerity times, that makes good sense.

April 09, 2013

Cold But Happy

Neil and I arrived at the lake and mulled over the choice of swims, it didn't take long as something was causing occasional disturbances in a rush bed and two swims were conveniently situated one on either side. Tactics were obvious then, one rod across to the sunnier side of the lake and another just off the weeds in case it was carp cavorting in a natural warm spot.

After a long break from session fishing the process of building my house and getting organised was slow and disorganised but I eventually got there. I had though, chosen a spot where although comfortable and with an excellent outlook over the lake, my bivvy door faced due east which just happened to be where the wind was coming from. It was cold and got even colder as the sun dropped.

I scattered a light amount of boilie/pellet and corn near the weed bed. The swirls and rolls continued but looked suspiciously uncarplike. Eventually I found the culprits - pike. They were hanging in the shallow water and picking off either small fish or frogs causing great vortices as they attacked. I had no pike gear with me so I left them alone, I was happy with my swim anyway and Neil felt likewise.

Despite a narrow gap in the overhead foliage, (bit more gardening needed there), I buzzed a bait across to the far side. I made everything slim and aerodynamic to get the full 90 to 100 yards I needed and to this end I slid the lead into some pva sock and topped it up with just a few little bloodworm pellets and a couple of crushed boilies. I was unable to loose feed due to the gusty wind and only having 15ml boilies with me, they just didn't have the bulk to carry the full distance, but I didn't mind, there's no point in filling a swim when the fish aren't getting their heads down. I was fishing for a bite not a net full.

The Rig

As darkness fell so the owls became active and it felt slightly milder. I sat outside my shelter reading and just taking in the moment but I soon felt chilled and unusually for me, I shut the bivvy door and led in bed reading a fishing book. I soon felt tired, settled down and dropped immediately into a deep sleep.

Something was making a noise, what on earth?...... I rose from the depth of unconsciousness slowly realising I may well be listening to my bite alarm. Suddenly I was moving with urgency and the old routine of - shoes on, head torch on, door open and out to the rods - fell into place. I stood - groggy- a little confused, (I must have been in rem sleep) and was just wondering which rod had gone when the left rod burst into life again and I lifted into a heavy weight.

I love that first contact. The weight followed by the thumping down through the rod, I smiled. I looked across towards Neil's swim and could see his head torch shining through the tree's his voice carried through the air "I thought you were never going to hit that bloody thing".

Meanwhile my brain was slowly catching up with the fact that my line was not coming in as smoothly as it should and that the angle from the rod tip went up rather than out toward the lake surface. The fish had kited left and the line had picked up on a branch overhanging the water. My torch did not penetrate the dark and I was trying to conjure up a mental image of the trees to my left, but I came up blank. However, I could see the line was moving a narrow branch so kept pumping away in the hope that it would free itself. It didn't. It all went solid and I tried shaking and pulling from different angles realising that any one of which could dislodge the hook. I decided to go for broke and heaved the fish hard making it surface still some twenty five yards beyond the snag. We muttered back and forth about 'shit or bust' as opposed to going in to freezing water in the dark - a non starter. The fish was now beneath the tree and thankfully it freed. The last bit was easy, it was tired and slipped into the landing net without fuss and Neil wasn't about to make a mistake - it was mine.

First job was to put a coat on then it was the usual weighing and photographing routine and back it went - 23.8 a very satisfactory result.

I was back in bed in no time but was now frozen to the core and had a fitful sleep. The second day and night passed with just one bleep, a liner at dusk and Neil fared similarly. It matters not, we had some quality time together and there is a long (hopefully) summer ahead of us, this was just a chance to blow the cobwebs off our gear and it will be warner next week. Can't wait.

Whilst I was away the news came that Dame Margaret Thatcher had died. No politician has ever polarised opinion like Maggie but, for what its worth, I was a big fan. I think she was the best politician in living history, maybe ever and although there were losers in the great shake up, the country came out of it stronger than it had been for a long time. Pity its in such a crap state now, we could do with another Maggie Thatcher.

April 06, 2013

At Last?

The lake looked smaller when I arrived but, over the years, this is a phenomenon I have recognised with water, they shrink with familiarity. I feel very comfortable by the lake now and although I have still only lightly fished its waters I have a much deeper understanding of it. I don't think it can ever shrink beyond the size of a challenge and the mystery has just deepened, more of which later.

Neil and I are bursting at the seems to get started. Like a kitten with a bow on a string spring has been teasing us, snatching any glimmer of warmth away just when you think its arrived. Although the sun shone it was cool in the breeze, Neil borrowed my fleece, he doesn't have the protective blubber I possess - but he's getting there.

The walk around was more a gardening expedition than a fish spotting trip, despite the bright conditions the fish are still keeping out of sight. But the mini work party was a success, we have identified a few little ledges low to the water on the wooded side where a bait can be fish amongst the overhanging trees. All that was needed was lop here and a saw there just to remove those branches that might hinder playing a big carp but not enough to put them off visiting these secret spots ;-)

The woods were alive with birds and they at least have ignored the conditions and are getting on with the business of procreation, we watched as a pair of great spotted woodpeckers copulated, the male flying immediately away with a 'cheep', the female sitting, taking in the moment before setting about her nest building - we're not so different are we.

We bumped into Ian and Dave, a couple of fellow syndicate members who were similarly armed with loppers and saws. Ian had the extending loppers and was ensuring a long cast could be made without taking half a tree with you, a job very well done.

Ian recalled his best trip of last season when he landed a 27, 28 and a 29.15 (no matter how much he shook the scales) in the same session. This is impressive fishing but it was what he spotted on a walk around the lake on the same session that enthralled me. In a bay with very limited access, a spot where some good fish are usually visible, he saw a fish that dwarfed the rest of the residents. Having returned three near thirties he was in a great position to identify what was clearly a very big fish and it has reinforced the rumoured tales of an original mirror that was lost in the early days of the syndicate, a fish of about forty pounds.

Is this just one last monster or are there others? I've spent many hours observing the fish and have yet to see anything that really stands out but one thing that these old warriors can do is hide and with relatively new fish greedy for bait they will be very difficult to tempt. Our eagerness to get started just went up a notch.

My kit has been if not sorted then thrown into a useable heap and in the morning I'll dig out all of the bits and bobs needed to cook and survive for a few days. I'm going fishing.