October 27, 2016

As The Leaves Fall

A British person could be cryogenically frozen for years but, on being woken and put outdoors, could tell you the season and probably guess the month to within a few weeks. The same is extremely doubtful of someone living in a hot climate. Yes, the UK has awful weather but it also has the most amazing seasons.

I flowed along a golden carpet of oak and beech leaves as I approached my chosen swim at the lake. There was little wind but one was promised. This was to push a flotilla of leaves the length of the water and form a carpet over the little bay.

The family of Canada geese has grown to a flock of between twenty and thirty. Their noisy resentment of my arriving soon settled as they found their safe distance. A nuthatch reminded me of summer but the influx of redwings, chattering fieldfares and squabbling jays left one in no doubt that the cold of winter is nigh.

All in all the perfect time to be chasing barbel yet here I was, seeking a carp. The river just doesn't draw at my soul in the way it used to. My barbel fishing has come to resemble the carp approach with it's long waits for action and that just doesn't sit right with me. If I am barbel fishing and the going is slow - which it inevitably has been this year - I feel guilty about reading a book to pass the time. Yet on the lake, I embrace this distraction as I feel it is actually beneficial. I'm convinced that the carp know when you are concentrating on the bobbin, willing it to move. On small waters, no matter how stealthy the angler, his footsteps are felt, his shadow spotted and his intent felt. This determination acts like a siren to warn the fish off. I'm on fifteen acres of lake and it still 'feels' that way, why else would the bites tend to come whenever the angler either falls asleep, cooks a meal or has a whizz? Their mind is elsewhere and the fish are left believing the threat has passed. Reading is my way of fooling fish and it works for me. Not that I don't have a crafty look around from time to time and any splash is investigated - from behind the page.

I put some 'mature' groats, hemp and a handful of mixed sized boilies out to a spot between two weedbeds. The second rod had my old Hodder pin on it and with the best intention in the world, I wasn't going to reach the loose feed. So this one was put along what I suspect is a patrol route. I didn't even pva bag this rig, just wrapped a 20mm boilie in paste so that it looked like a big pink golf ball and I was fishing.

Acorns plopped in the water or banged onto my car roof with great regularity. A squirrel rustled back and forth securing it's winter sustenance and the expected wind ruffled the surface of the water so that it came toward me. I bided my time, ate my toasted cheese sandwich (The Ridge Monkey is a godsend) and drank coffee. And yes, Mr Clarkson's opinions on cars that are way beyond my budget, was read and enjoyed.

A bleep! Then another and a drop back signal (I've ditched the Delkims in favour of some Fox alarms and I like the drop back feature very much), and I was at the rod. It was on the 'pin and a Hardy rod bought with barbel in mind. This would be a proper test for it.

The fish paddled slowly left and stayed deep. It neared a tree so the rod was buried deep below the surface and a steady pressure applied. This was pretty much all that happened albeit it happened for several minutes. The rod performed well but needed angling so that the butt took most of the pressure. I think I'll just use it for barbel in future.

In the net and up onto the unhooking mat, I was well satisfied with a nicely proportioned fish of twenty two and a half pounds.

I spent the rest of the day cooking, sleeping, reading and taking the occasional piss but those carp, they knew I was there. Bang goes another theory.

October 11, 2016

A Good Day

I've just returned from a trip to the River Test where I had a session on dave Steuart's 'garden' section. What a place. What a man. Dave is slowly shrinking as he ages but he's still as sharp, talkative and cussed as ever he was. To know him is a privilege and to fish his water.... pure joy.

I stopped overnight with Dave and we chatted about the prospects and all things fishing over a meal at the pub. This was a solo trip so I had the entire length to myself. I woke early and looked from the bedroom window at the clear water running past the house. The ducks were already gathering on his lawn for the morning feed and the robins were adding some music to the scene.

On Dave's advice, I opted to try a swim I'd passed on previous trips. He reckoned it was good for roach and, as the bigger one's had previously avoided me, I decided to give it a go. I put a few balls of blitzed bread into the clear area between the weed beds. I learned that if compressed to a small ball, the bread sank quickly but stayed put at the head of the swim where it would slowly break down and the trout would attack it. However, were it scattered in a loose mush, it would all sink slowly and drive the trout mad as they raced around hoovering up all they could find. Finally I tried somewhere in the middle. This sent off a stream of flake whereas the main amount would sink slowly in an enticing lump and be engulfed by a trout.

Spotty nuisance
Yes, trout are an unavoidable nuisance in the pursuit of finer things when fishing the Test. The general rule is to catch the trout (sometimes two or three times), until they get the message and allow
your feed and bait through to better species. Don't get me wrong. On a fly and in the right circumstances, I'd sell a kidney for trout like these but please leave me alone when there's roach around.

First trot and the float ran alongside the weed nicely until it sharply dipped. My rod (Chapman Harvey Torbett copy and an absolute dream to use), bent and I presumed that trout number one had grabbed my flake. But no. A flash of silver and a see-saw shaking of the body became a roach. A good one! I nursed it to the net with my heart in my throat until it slid over the edge of the waiting net. Yes!

Slightly blurred but lovely
At one pound eleven ounces, it was my biggest river roach for more years than I care to recall. I took a couple of quick snaps but later found that the camera lens was misted by the cool start to the day.

Not to worry. Next trot and a grayling of at least one and a quarter pounds came in. There were large trout patrolling up and down the swim and I'd avoided them, what a start. The luck continued when three or four casts later, I again struck into a confident bite and another fine roach was landed. One pound and fourteen ounces! So close to my first river two pounder but big enough to make the long drive more than worth while.

And then the trout took over. Fish after fish, all between one and three pounds, all ready to jump, run and generally thrash the river to foam if given half a chance. A couple of delicate but missed bites hinted that a roach or two was still about but they were now shy and it was time to move.

I caught so many trout down that fishery. But more grayling, a few dace and a perch interspersed the mayhem and every fish was fun to land.

Another greedy trout
I intended to return to swim 1 but the river was low, the sky bright and I figured that dusk would be the best time to have another go. It was however, merely two thirty and my back and shoulder were hollering for rest. I had another drink and chin wag with my generous host and headed north west once more, driving toward a deep red sunset that glowed behind Hay Bluff as I reached the last leg.