Wednesday 27 January 2016

A Slight Insight into the Dace.

 I've thought recently about doing a lot more research on the common Dace ( Leuciscus Leuciscus ). Considering I have been targeting this rather punitive species by comparison of others like the Carp, I felt it was time to do some reading into them, fill in some of those blanks, like how long they live and what average weights are and so on.

A perfect example of a plump Dace. 

 Most of what I'm about to write is just through silver surfing and from previous knowledge of these immaculate creatures. So first of all, what is the record Dace caught in British waters? The answer is a whopping "1.05.02", which was caught in 2002 on the River Wear, the angler was Simon Ashton. What a cracking specimen too I may add!. The common Dace tend to thrive in most of our waterways, including those that aren't pristine, Dace can be quite hardly and can live in rivers as well as stillwaters. When growing up my first ever Dace of 4oz roughly was caught from a council run pond and I know it's not the only pond either. Acceptable PH levels can range from 6-8, so they can be found in a range of waters.

 Although Dace are predominately a river species they can be found in most water-courses, recently all my Dace have come from pacy tributary's of the mighty River Thames, although the Avon and Test have provided me with good sport too. Life expectancy of Dace is relatively unknown from what I have worked out, the estimate though is anywhere between 6-10 years, a fish of 4-6oz is probably around two years old and a specimen of 12-14oz depending on the watercourse is probably around the six year mark, so working out an average I'd say a Dace puts on around 1-3oz a year. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't sound much but the British Record is 21oz 2dr, so with that calculation I'd say that specimen was anywhere between 8-10 years old and had fed very well.

A pair of specimen Silver Darts.

 Another factor I have found through my Dace fishing is that the larger specimens tend to hang around in smaller mobile shoals, this takes more work to catch them but they seem to thrive by moving around a lot, my theory is that they're simply looking for new feeding areas and holding areas
Immaculate chalk stream Dace.
where current isn't always strong, this season though I have caught big Dace in fast and slow water, as well as weir pools too. Although big Dace have made a healthy showing this season it's commonplace for Dace to average weights of only 4-6ozs, this is probably due to amounts of food available that would go between a hungry pack of 100-500 fish, when smaller factions peel off and seek food sources these are the fish that increase in weight and reach the dizzy heights of a pound and super stardom if they surpass that, but these fish are very rare and always revered highly.

 Spawning between March and May depending on water temperature and quality of spawning grounds these relatively small fish can reach their top weights towards mid-Feb as they start to swell in order to prepare their eggs for spawning, hence the term "plump chested", If targeting a record Dace then fishing between Christmas and the end of the season is probably your best chance of getting close, or if you're like me then catching Dace of any size is great fun. The best method for catching Dace is trotting at short range and long distance trotting, maggot and bread is by far the best baits to use and when using maggots a gentle trickle of maggots to get the swim ticking over and once the Dace have started to respond the slowly crank up the quantity that's being introduced to keep them moving through the swim, with that happening you'll have a better chance of having your hook-bait intercepted, but if bites don't come after a few trots play around with the depth and as the fish liven up then shorten up the distance between the float and hook as the bites continue to come.

At 15oz 4dr, this fish is enormous but they do get bigger.

 Ledgering bread flake for Dace at dusk and beyond is also a good tactic although it's not one I use often, bites can be fairly outrageous bearing in mind the size of the fish but using a soft feeder tip (1-1.5oz) is best and fish straight through 4lb line, but always mindful of Chub or even Barbel as on the light tackle it could spell trouble. But trotting is definitely the best way of catching Dace, a centre-pin and a decent rod of 12-14ft is recommended, brand doesn't matter in my opinion. Any time of the year is good for Dace and even during the closed season months, on the fly sport can be very good too as Dace in the warmer months will actively feed in the upper 20% of the water column, dry fly fishing can provide consistent and thoroughly enjoying trips out so don't rule that out if you're ever bored during the closed season, grab a fly rod and give that a try.

Monday 25 January 2016

My Quest for Specimen Winter Dace.

 Since the turn of the year I had a couple of species that I wanted to target, Dace being one of them. I won't say I have been obsessed by them this season but it is borderline, my quest for a one pound specimen is the ultimate goal, but more importantly I've been keen to locate shoals and try to monitor them, not necessarily for conservation but more along the lines to see how quickly they grow.

 The last couple of trips out have been in search of Dace, with plenty of maggots the plan was to trot every run possible. Holding areas have already been located and these have produced good fish to a dram over 14oz with the average roughly 10oz, they're some of the largest average Dace I've ever come across. Whilst I have this pool of special fish to aim at I intend to find out how large they grow. Yesterday I managed a couple of hours on the bank for the "Silver Darts", the colour and level of the river was perfect so I hoped they'd play.

 With only a couple of hours to fish I decided to target a stretch that I've located two distinct shoals, to maximise my time I started feeding maggots immediately and run the float through on a far bank crease, from experience I know that indications are few and far between. For some reason I don't get many fish on each visit, not entirely sure why as I'm certain the shoals are around 30-40 strong each.

 So, before arriving I know that I have to make every opportunity count, well that didn't happen yesterday. The one opportunity I got to land a Dace was ended abruptly by a sneaky bit of willow, a very large Dace cruised up to the surface as it fought in the flow, a clearly big specimen which was very close to the pound mark if not over headed straight for the snag, within seconds it was gone. Witnessing a large Dace transfer the hook to the branch and swim off was gut wrenching, needless to say I swore, a lot. After that two small Chub managed to stay on and represented the only fish caught, it could have been so much better.

Stunning creatures, this is a specimen fish.
 Payback time. Again with a couple of hours to spare today I was determined to go some way to banishing yesterday's nightmare. After a quick stop off at the tackle shop to stock up on maggots I was river bound. With the same tackle as usual I set about working two areas, one of which being the scene of the previous session, I hoped that the Dace were feeding. twenty trots later things seemed a little quiet but that all changed once the bait finally hit the far-bank crease, the first decent trot and it resulted in a fish and not just any fish either, she was big!

 I was extremely cautious in bringing it up the swim towards the net, in the flow it wasn't easy but made sure that I didn't suffer the same fate, lucky for me though she made it in, it was very big and I knew they were in these sections of that size. As I leant over the net to unhook her I found the little size 16 nestled in the bottom of the net......phew, after yesterday I deserved a bit of good fortune, without wasting any time she went straight in my trusty bag to give me a pleasing weight of 15oz 4dr......oh so close, she looked every bit of a pound too.

Proper winter Dace, seasons best at 15oz 4dr.
 Perfect. Amazing creatures. I can't see why such a small amount of angler's tackle the smaller species of our rivers, these are arguably one of the prettiest, but maybe one of these are!

River Rudd are very rare, great stuff!
 That Rudd was a very nice surprise and the monster Dace was backed up by two more lovely fish weighing 13oz 2dr and 9oz 2dr which were in immaculate condition. As I said time was short and that was that, I shall be looking forward to a couple more sessions soon, give it a go.

Another large Dace at 13oz 2dr.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Brace of Pearlers.

 Already this calender year has been kind to me, the catches have been nothing short of fantastic. So I'm hoping that streak continues, this afternoon I had a couple of hours going begging, reluctant to sit at home I headed out with the trotting gear. Over the last couple of months I've been on a purple patch in regards to the Dace, hoping to continue that form I targeted them again.

 My tackle, the usual rod and pin but with the added flow I opted for a slightly heavier setup, 6-7BB is usually overkill but in the elevated river levels it was necessary. I have located a good shoal of Dace over the last year or so and believe I have found them in a holding area as opposed to finding transient fish. Knowing this makes targeting them a lot easier, so with that knowledge I set about feeding small amount of mashed bread before running the float through. A few runs through and I came across public enemy one when it comes to primarily targeting Dace and Roach for that matter, a Trout. After tearing through the swim and upsetting the natives it came in with relative calm for a quick snap.

 The run took a while to get going again but the float buried itself right at the bottom of the run as I was about to begin my retrieve, the fish began to twist and turn in a blatant attempt to escape capture. Clearly a very good fish it was played with great care, less than a minute passed and a cracking Dace of 10oz 7dr was put into the keepnet. Just hoped I would get the chance to put more than one in there. I thought weighing them before putting in the keepnet would reduce the amount of time at the end faffing about, more importantly getting the fish back safely without any stress.

Best at 12oz 1dr.
 Bites were very hard to come by and probably at the end of the session were at a ratio of 30.1 cast to bite, very tough going and it didn't get easier either. Although it wasn't all doom and gloom as I connected with another clonking Dace, certainly larger than the first I gave it the same gentile approach, not bad at all. 12oz 1dr she didn't look fat but was long, so it's a fish that has enormous potential. If only I were to catch that in mid-March, I'm sure it'll be knocking on the door of at least 14oz if not more!.

Awesome stuff, not a bad brace at all!.
 But the bites at that ratio got worse and even though I knew the fish were there, it was a case of moving as it was almost futile to continue. In a way I'm glad as it's always a pleasure to see somebody catch a personal best of any species, this fish was impressive as was the fight it, strong lunges, stripping line, simply being difficult to get in the net. But thoroughly worth the effort, I spotted the fish and was about to set up my rod to give it a whirl, I thought, no, I showed my father where the fish was and the rest is history, a personal best Brown Trout of 6lb 8oz. Totally amazing, glad he was made up with it as any angler would be, sheer beauty in fish form, the colour's were astonishing.

Simply stunning.
 The day didn't end there either as I tried to seek out more Dace on other runs that I know/have
known they frequent, but the Trout were very quick to mop up the flake as it made it's way through the runs, a return is already in mind. The day belonged to James Snr for his stunning Trout. Well played.
Home time descending on another session.

Monday 11 January 2016

Double Trouble.

 This afternoon at work I sat in the pre rush hour traffic pondering on what to do this evening, twenty minutes later I had moved around 100yrds but my decision was no closer to being made. After plenty of debating though I decided to go out in search of Barbel, I haven't been out for them for ages and fancied it with all the rivers up and chugging through. I'm a little out of touch with the rivers lately, as my previous four sessions for the Barbus have registered in two fish and two blanks, not easy going but fishing at night on a different river my chances would be slim but not non-existent.

 Night fishing is something I rarely do but after tonight's session it's clear I should do it more often. My set-up was partner's granddad's split cane rod and the ever faithful Okuma "Sheffield", with a 8'' braided hooklink, the bait? Now that's a secret, I'd have to kill you if I divulged that information. With the river hammering through I simply couldn't cast out far as it would simply be swept away. I did use a healthy slab of "The Source" paste to hopefully add to the smell bait and draw something in for a snack, surely the Barbel were feeding?.

 I was hoping to answer that question but after 30 minutes or so it wasn't looking likely as my rod lay motionless in the rest, another ten to fifteen minutes passed and then out of nothing the rod slammed over and then the centrepin screamed off as a fish took off, I sent the "stick" into action by bending into a decent fish, in the flow it felt very heavy and then all of a sudden it went very slack, the fish came upstream so quickly that I thought it had come off, once I had caught up to it the fish was hanging deep in the flow which wasn't surprising but holding fast very easily and I found it difficult to heave it off the bottom, minutes later a large frame broke the surface, in the beam of my head torch it was clearly a big fish. So here she is, all 10.15 of her.

Very happy indeed, what a stunner.

That rod did creak but held firm.

 Absolutely pukka and the fight was what you'd expect off of a big Barbel. I thought to myself should I stay or move up river, after deciding on the latter it was a case of just putting a bait out and see if anything came about of it, having bagged myself a good'un I didn't mind going home but having made the effort on getting down I had to stay and make good of the time. Roughly half an hour passed without incident to then find out my bait was caught up on some debris that had come down river in the floodwater, not good but at least it came free. I cast back out off the main flow and awaited any inquiry, five minutes later the rod tip slightly nodded before again slamming towards the surface of the river, I was on it like a Greyhound, the little indication had me hovering over the rod before it went so I was as ready as possible.

A joy to use old tackle, still work's brilliantly.

 The battle again was fantastic, in the strong flow the fish felt like the bottom was hooked, really strong and at times I struggled to move it. Plenty of muscle was used to get it moving but was abundantly clear it had no plans on getting banked, a few minutes sailed by before I got a glimpse of her, a decent shape was revealed in the light.

 The closer she got to the net the bigger it got. A fish I thought looked seven pound at a distance was quickly becoming a double, two doubles in one session! something I've never achieved. Counting Chickens and all that I knew it was another big Barbus, a quick spin on the Avons revealed I had cracked it. 10.04. I was so happy with that and I have caught many thousands of Barbel with a lot of doubles for that matter but never had two in a single trip. Tonight was the night. Hooray!.

Awesome stuff. What a belter.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Big Dace in a Wild Place. (Part Four).

 It's been a little while since I targeted Dace, maybe a little too long. These are certainly one of my favourite species, especially when they reach the realms of 12oz. With recent trips spent targeting Pike and Roach, the Dace have slipped off the radar, until today.

 It didn't start well either as I had plenty of issues to resolve before even thinking of setting off to wet a line, by midday I had arrived, finally. Joined by the Pikeman we set about finding some "Silver Darts", the river was up as I expected along with plenty of colour, catching is usually not the difficult part with location usually the stickler, today it was the other way around as the fish were located in previous visits. The job was to get them feeding, bread mashed up was the attractant with a healthy piece of flake sent down to do it's job.

 It did take quite a while for my first bite but when I connected to it a sizeable Dace flashed and was gone, not the best thing to do with a shoal fish, bumping fish usually sends the shoal into shutdown. Thankfully after plenty of chopping and changing the gear around the bites began to appear again, 30 or so minutes later this mint conditioned Dace of 12oz made it's way into the awaiting net, kindly done by my ghillie for the short afternoon session, just the response from the swim I wanted. Even with that fish released away from the swim I felt that bites dried up almost completely due to Dace re-entering the run, it was time to move.

At 12ozs it's a specimen Dace but clear just how big a pound fish really is.

A proper fatty, needs to eat a little more I think.

 We tried a few other swims with no joy when the monotony of the float running through without enquiry was broken as it vanished from sight, that take turned out to be a Chub as it made off towards the far bank cover, in the flow it fought quite well by Chevin standards but not strong enough to defeat me!, a fish of 3lb or so graced my net which was followed by another of around 1.8. The obligatory Trout also showed interest which killed off another swim, mint conditioned but not what I was looking for, surely any Dace in there were long gone.

10oz, not a bad finish.
 As dusk approached swiftly I finished in the swim where I had the large Dace earlier, plenty of hard work to get bites I finally hooked one which spun the dial around to 10oz. A good fish in anyone's book, two Dace over 10oz's in those conditions wasn't bad going, with the wind whipping up some strong gusts and the rain getting more persistent we called it a day as the light failed. Not bad and I shall be back to find that special of all Dace.

Monday 4 January 2016

A Trotter's Arsenal "The tools of the trade".

 Here's some handy tips I've picked over the years and hope they can help improve your trotting for various coarse species.
For every section of river there are variations in flow, speed, consistency of depth and indeed obstructions, depending on these differences the correct tackle should be used to get the most out of the small amount of time we all get on the banks.
Your rod and reel should be light enough to use all day, especially if roving is the plan, nothing worse than having a poorly-balanced set-up, this could make fishing quite difficult where it needn't be, depending on where I am tackling I'll select a rod based on this although I find a 12ft rod is a good length to go with if your'e new to a specific venue and the reel is equally important.
For trotting I couldn't think of anything worse than using a close-faced/fixed spool reel, of course some angler's will find centrepin's difficult to use but they are in my opinion the only type of reel to use for this type of fishing, various pin's are available on the market but I strongly recommend the "Okuma - Sheffield", a magnificent reel and reasonably priced in comparison with some on the market, although the "Grey's - Berwick" is a decent reel too for a little less than the aforementioned, wind can prove tiresome when using a pin but for a large majority of the time they are brilliant, control is second to none and presentation is therefore much better and more likely to present that bait as naturally as the fish would expect.

There are various rods out there available too with the "Drennan Acolyte" one of the better example's although I prefer and almost always use the "Grey's Prodigy TXL", it hasn't let me down once and has landed me canal carp over 20lb and double figure Barbel on the trot, along with a list of specimen Roach & Dace, as a light and compact all-rounder it is the best I've used for a very long time.
Difference species I believe require certain amount of fine tuning when being targeted, Grayling 9 times out of 10 will be held up in pockets or slacks in the main flow, so a decent sized float must be used to keep the bait within the striking zone, too light and the bait could be carried up into the upper-layers where they're less likely to take. The above rod and reel set-up should enable you to do this and effectively.
My favourite pin, the sheffield by Okuma.

Whereas slower deeper water I prefer to use more delicate end tackle as to not rouse suspicion and keep drag to a minimum, easier said than done sometimes, we've all been there but experimenting with various floats and shotting I find the correct balance can be found and this will improve your catch rate.
Having a range of different floats can be very useful should conditions change during the session.

Species like Roach can be difficult at the best of times, large Roach are even more difficult to catch as they're so rare, but when they are located I feel it's a matter of time, I tend to trot for Roach but fish as light as I'd dare, with the shot half way up with a single dropper shot ( no4 or no1 ), but again the pace of the watercourse will dictate this. Line is open to debate as is any of what I've mentioned already but line is quite important and for most river species excluding Barbel and Chub I wouldn't like to use more than 5lb and if I can get away with it then 3 to 4lb is best.

You can never have too many floats.

When I travel I always pack a variety of floats, (wire stem, balsa, plastic stem and a selection quill trotting floats), all of these will be varying in weight in shot they each take, as to match the condition's that I'm met with, being prepared for everything means that you could be successful on the most unlikeliest of visits, bare everything in mind. Plus a couple of small cage feeder's (10-30g) tucked away in the bag, this can sometimes be priceless should trotting not be the flavour of the day, it's saved me on a number of occasions with some memorable catches experienced too.
Be lucky.

Friday 1 January 2016

My 2015 Overview.

 It has been quite a year, as ever I simply enjoy getting on the bank but catching specimen fish of various species enhances my enjoyment, can't think of any other sport that I could enjoy more.

 January: The first month of the year was fairly quiet, plenty of Grayling were caught on the Test over a few trips along with some healthy sized Roach, although nothing large came out it was enjoyable.

 February was spent doing pretty much the same, Grayling were high on the agenda and managed to crack the two-pound barrier twice with the best nudging 2.02, larger were seen but never tempted. Also wangled out a stunning wild river Linear Carp using the technique of stret-pegging. Plenty of other fish also fell during the colder days of the month but that monster Grayling did evade me. The Roach were also on form and I had a couple of very decent bags, one of these was edging towards 30lb.

Beautiful fish aren't they.
 March is always a strange month but things weren't too bad, again a few good Roach came to the net and I had a real red letter day on the Barbel front with a 7 fish haul topped by a 11.13 specimen. Plus I started my canal campaign which fast-forwarded it turned out to be very successful.

 April for me is always a month of transition, the river season is over and the other waters don't usually start producing until it begin's to warm up, but the month's stand out trip was a very short, quick fire spinning session in search of Perch and banked a new personal best weighing in at 3lb 6oz. The rest of the month was a combination between Gudgeon, Trout and Tench with some Crucian's chucked in for good measure.

Stunning creature.
 I do like May, one of my favourite month's as the temp' starts to improve and a lot of species come out of their winter slumps to feed with gusto, my canal fishing took an upward curve as I banished the disappointments of numerous difficult blanks by overcoming a stunning 25.03 Mirror Carp, accompanied by a 7.02 ancient looking canal Bream. A few other species were caught but the canal fish were the highlight of the month.

 On to June, I continued on the canals with more success, I was catching at a rate of a fish every two sessions, fish were hard to locate and even more difficult to catch, the opening couple of days I managed a bumper haul of Roach and Barbel on consecutive days, it was great fun but nothing massive again. My Bream campaign started but it didn't go off like I hoped and missed out on a double-figure fish by a fraction too. Also I had banked some lovely pristine Tench along with a new species to the list in the form of a 4.07 Golden Orfe.

 Usually in July my Mrs and I tend to go away on holiday so I don't get as much fishing in but still made a concerted effort to get on the bank, the Loddon proved to be a little tough but had Chub to 5.09 but the larger specimen's remained elusive, I smashed my PB Brown Trout with a 7.2 animal and I started to locate some great shoals of Dace by taking some to a shade over 14oz.

 August was fairly quiet as I didn't do much fishing but the stand-out trip was travelling to Somerset to track down canal Rudd with Russell Hilton, we were both successful and on the second day I topped my haul with a 2.01 specimen through much hard work and plenty of selective angling.

 September is another of my favourite month's as the days are still longish but the slight chill in the air gets certain species feeding better, namely the big Roach, only the one came in this month but it was a good omen. Double-figure Barbel and large Dace. I travelled around abit but whilst visiting the Stour and Avon fishing was tough.

Beautiful fish. Magical fish.
 October was always going to be interesting and it didn't fail me, the capture of a PB Roach/Bream Hybrid from the canal, some more very large Dace slowly approaching the pound mark, along with my second Roach over 2lb of the season.

 Now November, by this time I'm starting to realise winter should be settling in yet it wasn't even cold, at times I was still out in a t-shirt!, again I wasn't particularly successful on a few trips but when I did catch they were fantastic fish like this stunning Autumn Common of 23.09 from one of my local canals, plus another "fish of a lifetime", this clonking fish pulled the dial around to 2lb 10oz which is the largest Roach for quite a few years.

 Then December, where do I start. It has been quite a month, having been off work for a couple of weeks leading up to Christmas I stepped up my efforts on a couple of fronts by putting in some serious legwork and I certainly reaped the rewards, Chub to just under 6lb, beating my PB Zander four times to finish on 7lb flat with Brian Roberts, a lovely days trotting with Tom Aldous on the Itchen for Grayling and Roach, some big Dace on the Avon, catching my fourth 2lb Roach at 2.06, double-figure Barbel and last but not least, I realised one of my angling dreams as I successfully targeted a twenty-pound Pike and from a River too, at 21.07 I was and still am so made up, a truly wonderful experience and what a creature she was, I'd love another one just to prove it wasn't a fluke!

That's it from me, I hope you enjoyed your angling journey's in 2015 like I did.
Tight lines for the new year and be lucky, make those dreams, reality.

What A Start!

   Since the river season ended I've taken a 3 week hiatus from fishing, work as usual the excuse! Storm Kathleen however was predicted ...