June 21, 2013

Great News

I caught my first barbel of the season today but that is nothing to the phone call I received earlier in the day. My old mucker Dave Mason rang to announce that he'd caught his first barbel in nineteen months.
Regular readers will recall that Dave suffered a massive stroke and has no right to stand let alone walk half a mile to his swim and catch a fish unaided, he really is a stubborn, bloody minded old cuss and an inspiration to us all. He's now planning on visiting the Wye in a couple of weeks time and I can't wait to wet a line with him - brilliant!

And I sat behind my rods in the sunshine and landed a nice fish of around eight pounds which was very pleasant but when the second fish tore off I can only be held to blame for its loss. I decided to do a bit of showboating and took a couple of pictures of my Scotties rod in action curve which went well enough but the line was around the second rod and whilst knitting and purling to sort it out I felt the fish dive into a snag close in. I tightened and it was stuck so I pulled again and the hooklink parted just above the hook. That was the end of the action.

June 20, 2013

Of Birds and Blanks

Another opening day and another damp squib. It is traditional to blank on the Wye on the 16th, I don't know why but I nowadays set my sites on a chub or two and cross my fingers but this year - nowt.

I had a couple of hours in a swim that has done me well in the past. I wasn't confident that a barbel would show, I've spent a lot of time looking for them but most seem to still be hiding in their winter haunts, there's not even the usual cloud of minnows int he margins or any chub on the breeding gravels.

I digress, I had a bite after just ten minutes. Woohoo! thought I as the rod nodded in a very chubby fashion but my strike hit only fresh air, I put it down to lack of practice and repositioned the bait. An hour later I had an unusual, nodding sort of bit and lifted into a fast running fish that stopped mid river and shook its head violently. I was wondering what I'd contacted, it was heavy so if it was a barbel I was considering the prospect of an opening day double but, it just didn't feel right. It ran again, shook some more then dived and the line parted with a clean cut just above the hook.

I would guess it was a pike or a salmon, the shaking action indicated a long fish so I discounted the possibility of it being a carp - I'll never know. I know I'll lose the odd fish here and there I just get irked when I don't get to see them, se la vie.

Next morning St. John rang me offering some certain sport in 'his' swim which happens to be on a club stretch but is also at the bottom of his mother in law's garden so he claims it as his own. When I arrived he pointed out the spot and we walked on because, for some reason, he insisted we spend a couple of hours losing leads in a biteless spot upstream. When we chose to move we found two anglers in the spot both of whom had caught barbel. Another dry heave.

So, last evening I was determined to open my account and catch something anything. I don't yet know of the fish are in shallow or deep water so I picked a shallow glide above a deep pool to hedge my bets, its a good swim and I was confident of a bit or two. It was a beautiful evening, warm, nice sky and a quiet river - no canoes.

I sat and listened to the bird life, the binary call of a couple of cuckoos and the triple refrain of the song thrush. The repeated song of the thrush being the easiest way to distinguish them from the similar sounding blackbird. In old times thrushes were known as Throstle hence the old saying repeated by the sober and those with their own teeth "The Throstle singeth thrice".

I was also pleased to watch a pair of yellow wagtails. They are not a species I see every year which is a shame as they are spectacularly attractive and I spent many minutes watching them bathe then flitting out from a bush opposite to grab flying insects. I got a picture but it was on a cheap camera at full zoom so I apologise for its clarity.

The fish were fickle. I had numerous tugs and pulls but only two that I managed to hit, both were from average chub but at least I went home with a smelly landning net.

The news from up and down the river is still pretty grim. A few fish coming out from here and there but its really peggy, one man on a section may have a great day whilst those either side for a long way have struggled. Its still very early, I'll have a poke around here and there but I think the lake is calling me back.

June 10, 2013

A Friday Afternoon Fish

But its Monday, so what am I on about?

I went to the lake today fully expecting to find a heaving mass of spawning carp. Because of this I was only geared up for a day session despite a yearning to spend a long time there.

I arrived and crawled (in my car) along the dam scanning for activity, not a ripple or a bubble anywhere. The wind was pushing up to the dam so I opted for a position at this end of the lake in the woods at the bottom of the steep bank where I could sit on a ledge and fish between the overhanging trees. This, of course, entailed much clambering and slipping but it was well worth the effort, a perfect swim....... Splash!

A fish slapped the surface near the dam. I peered across but a ripple on the surface disguised its location. To me it sounded horribly like a spawning fish but I tied my rig and pretended it didn't happen, or the next one. I cast and sat back. Kersplash, splash.....splash - bugger!

I can't fish when the carp are spawning its just not cricket. I wound in, lifted my net from the bush where it hung over the margin and watched, astonished, as a large bow wave moved out into the lake. Deciding to stick to my principles I packed then had a stroll looking for spawners. However, I found only coloured water and saw some brief action in a reed bed where the fish were hidden from view. It looked to me like the tail end of the spawn, somebody before me had walked through long grass to peer at one of the sites so it had obviously been going on over the weekend. Sadly, its typical for me to turn up after the hot sex action but I digress.

Rather than face the long drive home without catching I took a look at one of the other pools on the estate. This lake of just about two acres is deceptively deep and was stocked with tiny carp and tench a few years ago. The previous occupants disappeared after the big flood in '08 but the new ones have grown well despite some pretty wet weather since then.

As I walked the bank I saw no fish at all, most unusual. There was dirtied water but that may have come from the group of tufted ducks as they fed on the margin shelf. One or two patches of bubbles showed some activity so I set up a float and tried a grain of corn with a little hemp as feed. After half an hour or so I started to see carp cruising by, most I put at about two maybe three pounds with the occasional bigger fish. One small common got its head down on my loose feed and moved toward my bait, the day may not be wasted after all. Then it appeared.

Every now and then we see a fish that stands out from the crowd. The usual notable feature is size but on this occasion it was pure unadulterated beauty. A carp much bigger than any of the others ie about eight pounds, entered from the right and it was stunning. A fully scaled mirror with a crazy paving design of multi sized scales right over its body. I equated it to a fish off a production line where the commons are uniformly pressed out of a regular mould and the mirrors are individually patterned by specialists wearing thick glasses and using tweezers to carefully place each scale. Then, on Friday afternoon, eager for the weekend somebody dunked a naked carp in glue then dipped it deep into a bucket of assorted scales, lobbed into the out tray and said "That'll do". Instead of a 'Friday afternoon car' a vehicle beset with mismatched panels and temperamental electrics, this act of haste has produced a gem of a fish, a one in many thousands specimen that will gladden the heart of any angler fortunate enough to set eyes upon it.

It turned toward my bait sensing the mixture of hemp, corn and pellets on offer. It sank a little deeper and kept going. It spotted my line - it bolted!

I was so annoyed and a little shocked, this lake is fished about as often as Tony Rocca cleans behind his kitchen door (perhaps you should read all of my blogs), so why was it so scared of my line? Surely they learn this kind of alarm - don't they?

I made a two decisions. First, I intend to catch that fish at some stage and second, I put on a lead and sinking rig tubing.

Having spent so much time in the (often vane) pursuit of large carp I had forgotten the thrill of taking and chasing their smaller cousins, I was now fishing hard and wrapped my bait and lead in soaked pellet and put one and a half of my new (shhh, maybe later) boilies on the hair. I sat back and waited.

When the bite came it was dramatic, the fish really tore off and on feeling me at the other end, raced up and down the lake for much longer than a fish of its size has any right to do, A great way to christen my 'Scotties'.

On the bank it was a fine, deep common that also looked a mere two or three pounds in the water but whose girth actually made it double the estimate.

So how big is the fully scaled?

June 01, 2013

Said so...

Three weeks ago I wrote this "Neil has found the fish each time out but, with a succession of terrible luck, has managed to avoid landing anything. Its not a new phenomenon, he went through the same thing on another lake to the point where I thought his head would explode. But he stuck at it then went back and caught the biggest fish in there. It will come good for him."

Just to prove that the old man get's it right some times my prediction came to fruition last evening. I couldn't fish for one reason or another but Nicky and I took a drive out on a lovely warm evening (about bloody time too), and dropped in to see how The Boy was getting on.

His set up looked like a carper's nightmare, a pod with three different rods on it - pure heresy in many circles - with a 12' carbon, an 8' stalker (cast across!) and a MkIV split cane and pin in the margins. As we chatted he had a belting run on the stalker and duly landed a perfect mirror of 22lbs 8oz, a great result and you could almost see his shoulders lift as the weight of the monkey left his back.

We left him to it. How I envied him his night, the atmosphere was electric with nature running at full tilt to catch up after the lousy weather we've had this year. I told him to enjoy the dawn chorus and we were gone.

I had a text a little later; half an hour after our departure he had a right old tussle with a "scraper twenty" (oh how quickly the attitude changes) on his cane rod. No pictures alas but I felt sure he would make do with just memories. I texted back my congratulations and predicted a busy night.

This morning I had another message, 'PB in the sack, come take photo's'. We got up and jumped in the truck. A bleary eyed Neil appeared from his bivvy having had little sleep, one fish landed, lots of false bites from bream and bats and a very long and loud dawn chorus, heaven. The fish was duly given a number (28lbs exactly) and the shutter clicked. I felt pride and relief in equal portions. 


This afternoon I visited the river and started the job of preparing swims and tidying things up. It was warm and everything felt good as I strolled the bank enjoying the sound of the running water. Having done a bit of swim clearing with my slasher, I wandered up to the Peregrine's nest. We've had Peregrines nesting on this stretch for several years and its always good to see them back, I didn't have to wait long. The loud 'kah-kah-kah' is so distinctive only this time I heard the sound of youngsters as well, it was feeding time. I grabbed my binoculars and scanned for the nest. It was only when the female flew off that I managed to zone in on it and there, through the foliage I made out at least one very young chick lifting its head. I'm pretty sure there were two but I'll have to spend a bit of time observing to find out.

I moved on but on my way back past the nest I became aware of a great disturbance. Two crows were chasing the female falcon only she, unlike the docile buzzards, was having none of it and she'd stall, almost hover then turn the tables and chase one of the crows which would dive into the trees only to be harassed by the annoyed Peregrine. Of course, as she was distracted, so the other crow would attack and the hiding one would reappear and join in the fray. This went on for a while until the male joined in and the female left him to it, the aerial display was a joy to witness even if the potential outcome was unnerving. I hope the crows were just trying to protect their patch rather than targeting the nest.

Anyway, peace and quiet resumed with a proud male Peregrine sat on a dead tree looking out over its home range, occasionally calling to the chicks and the incoming female. If anybody can find a more entertaining way to spend twenty minutes I'd love to try it.