Monday, 20 April 2020

Season 2019/20 Top Six: Part Three.


 This part of the series leads me down the path of possibly the most infuriating species in our rivers, sometimes they can be so obliging, other times I am left scratching my head, even when I know fish are present.

 Rewind back September last year. I had only just started to get some mobility back, walking just a mile was taking huge tolls on my energy levels and the pain felt just attempting such short distances were often unjustifiable, but wholly necessary in my rehabilitation. Fishing, short distances was just the escape I needed.

 Targets were not in my thinking, simply walking, or should I say hobbling the banks was enough for me. Of course, I had a rod with me and a little bait with my camera and some scales in case I caught something worthwhile. My choice of swims were very limited and my first fishable swim provided me with a couple of challenges, these being presentation and approach. Stalking on this river is a joy, when the fish can be found, luckily for me, this particular area does hold the odd Barbel, but also Chub and of late some good ones have been slipping up.


 A decent bank of low cloud was passing through as the sun struggled to burn it off, within an hour this was long gone and a lovely sunny day followed. In such low light conditions stalking, even in a couple of feet of water is a tough ask. Not in a rush I was only too happy to sit and wait.

 Greedy.

 Chub are very well known for being shy creatures at times, this perception can be sometimes very distorted when they become confident feeders and within five minutes of setting up I put the gear down and proceeded to flick free offerings out on the treeline and not before long the odd fish would waddle from out of the cover and take slow sinking pieces of flake, five minutes later this fish became so greedy I could not resist not fishing for it any longer.

 With the cloud now all but gone visibility was much better and this chub was proving to be very greedy and inevitably she would slip up. Gingerly I tossed a small piece of flake out along the treeline with a small BB shot and allowed it to drift downstream invitingly towards the overhanging tree...the anticipation was so great my glasses steamed up so much I couldn't see. Thump! a tremendous whack through the rod had me focused, not that I could see what I was attached to, my initial thoughts were that obviously hungry chub that barely turned away from twenty or so free offerings, but the fight was pretty strong for a chub, sharp lunging runs into the far bank cover had me thinking a barbel such was the speed at which it stripped line. 

 Now it wasn't out of the realms of possibility, just unusual given the technique/swim. For well over a minute I just held on for dear life with the rod tip dipped under the surface, hoping that with the consistent pressure whatever it was would come free of the trees. A couple of faint taps through the rod suggested the fish was still on but I was no closer to finding out what it was, then a giant vortex broke the surface downstream as a large chub rolled, worryingly, it was not in line with where I thought it was and had clearly gone through a part of the tree and now I was in it.

 Typical chub style, play dirty whenever they can. 

 Thankfully when the line pinged free of the branch I was back in direct contact with the chub which was now well downstream of the treeline. As the next couple of minutes sailed by I could now see the fish that had caused me all sorts problems and it wasn't done yet. A few old branches off of an upstream tree gave her the all clear to try and smash me up again, what is it with chub and playing dirty!.

 It got to point now where it could go either way, I had to make a swipe for it and with the tension still on the net was shipped out under the branches and after a brief kick and splash it was evident the chub was in the net! That was hard work!

A very good fish for the river without doubt.
 Lifting it out the river I was certain she would go five pounds, but in truth I was just delighted to have won the battle, this one did not want to co-operate at all!


 The Rueben's settled on 5lb 6oz, for this watercourse that's big, fours are a welcome specimen here.

 Through the pain a smile was creeping through and wondered whether that would be it, given the nature of the fight I started to feel quite uncomfortable and thought about knocking it on the head, but one swim close by is often a decent shout for a fish, typically barbel would be likely. 

 Not easy to get in, once in there though a quick change of bait was made as the flow often increases here and keeping the bait on or very near the bottom is paramount. No fish could be seen as I hobbled into the peg, but, with an abundance of Ranunculus they could be hiding right under my feet, I'd never know it. First roll down didn't reveal anything, second roll down again nothing, on the third time I felt a light pluck on my finger and thought it was the bottom, just below the meat I could see a fish back off and assumed it had just had a go, so I left it to continue rolling down and within seconds the rod hooped round, there was no mistake in the fish' intentions this time, the taster obviously got the better of it.

 A powerful battle ensued mid-flow as the Chub made off downstream, stripping five-ten yards of line off at the first attempt, unusual for chub but that day they seemed to have a bee in their bonnet, running, long and hard! Not that I was complaining at all. With a healthy bend in the rod I just allowed the fish to tire itself out as there wasn't much other than the weed to negotiate, even the far bank trees weren't a problem, with such low water the branches didn't touch the water, so when it rolled under the tree I didn't sweat it and within a minute or two she was in the net and the thought of finally landing a six-pound Chub from this little urban river was too big of an ask. The scales didn't seem to think so...I had done it, that target just a few years ago would have been unimaginable, infact possibly would have been admitted to an institution. The sudden upsurge in this shoals growth/weight gain is something of a mystery to me, but not all completely out the question.


 Looking back on some records and fish pictures I have located to distinctive specimens that have pushed on, fish number one in Oct 2016 weighed 3lb 9oz - Dec 2018 weighed 5lb 4oz and another weighed 4lb 10oz in Dec 2018 and now goes 5lb 6oz in Sept 2019, so they are growing and pretty quickly as those figures suggest. It will hopefully be an exciting 2-4 years ahead for this little river, could.....could a seven pound specimen be possible? The above fish would suggest it should'nt be ruled out, no matter how insane that claim me seem.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Season 2019/20 Top Six: Part Two.


  It has to be said, its not one of my best thats for sure, numerous targets set and most missed owing to my lack of time on the bank.

 My best six catches here were probably about as good as it got, leading on from the canal linear that was sneaked out of a busy and testing situation. Now we change direction to a little farm pond where rumours of big Tench have lingered for a little while now and after a couple of years I finally found myself there. A couple of early spring trips got my teeth into what would await me as the water warmed and the Tench would begin to grow in size as peak time approached.

 18th May 2019.

 A lovely warm day with light wind meant a day on the float was certainly on the cards, a tactic I love to deploy when tinca's are involved, either the lift method or a gently dotted down float are my preferred, but on this occasion I used a small piece of crow quill and lay it on the surface, fishing just a inch or so overdepth, any indication would result in the either the float sliding under such were the manner of bites or the line would shift across the surface before inevitably slide under.

 After a 40 minute drive the farmland was in view and the prospects of a good days fishing lay with the fishing gods, my homework was done to a certain extent. I targeted the same peg as the two previous visits and set about building up my peg with hemp and caster to get them feeding confidently, where I would then fish a piece of bread flake over the top of it, a piece big enough to just cover a size 10 hook.

 At 7am I was ready to go. With the tell tale pin head bubbles lining marginal areas of the lake it gave me goosebumps, I knew what was going on down there. Tails of tench wafting in mid water as they buried their heads in the silt searching for the goodies had me filled with excitement, the morning mist still hanging in the air with the sun just beginning to pierce through it in odd spells before thickening again and just before my first cast of the day I was greeted by a marauding Barn Owl, scouring the fields flanking the pond in search of breakfast, being there was just heavenly.

 From the very beginning there was the odd shudder on the quill as Tench moved the water around the baited area, no doubt multiple fish were grubbing around under my float without taking a bait or were they? I know Tench pretty well and they have an incredible talent for picking up a bait and spitting it out without any detection on alarms, float or quivertip, no matter how delicate, I suspected those tiny hesitant quivers on the quill was bait possibly being ejected.

 Twenty minutes slipped by before I finally got a proper take, the quill went from flat on the surface to half buried by the time I struck, with my hand on the rod it only took me a split second to lift into the fish and boy do these fish pull! A good solid fight at close quarters got me warmed up nice and quick. At first glance it looked a good fish and once it was in the net I thought the days account was opened with a seven pounder. Not bad going. Given the average the size I previously encountered this was a bit bigger with only one seven logged in my previous two sessions.

A typical example of our pristine they are.

Back to whence she came too.

 I only had one thing on my mind and that was to get my gear back out. The anticipation is always a massive lure to keep me coming back and it didn't take long for number two to take the bait, a couple of minutes spent angling the tench out of the pads saw a good fish of around mid-five pounds in the net, a super start.

7.9, best from the lake, at this point.

The 7.9 was followed this 7.12.

A brace of upper sixes in the space of four mintues.

 The fast start was soon followed by a tricky spell where the bubbles began to stop appearing and the old ones were following the slow natural drift on the lake into a corner under a couple of willows. My intentions were to stay put as I know fish tend to come through in waves every thirty minutes to an hour and the day continued to play out in that exact fashion, by eleven o'clock I could see fish up in the water and were now no longer feeding on the bottom, I had to change my approach, an observation that without polaroids I wouldn't have made and it proved crucial as within minutes of coming up two feet it bought me another ripping tug on the quill! very exciting stuff, what was more exciting was I could see the Tench suck in the flake a split second later my float registered a wobble.

Another good fish 7+
 As the average seemed to be better than my previous trips the thought of even bigger Tench coming by and falling foul to my very basic tactics looked likely, if I ever had a better chance of catching big tinca's I can't remember it. With a few Tench caught and fish moving through my swim the float began to spend more time moving than not as a precession of fish would mouth the flake and eject before I could strike, bearing in mind I can see it all happening, it appeared every fourth or fifth fish that tried the bread would end up taking it, guessing this was the confidence levels increasing at the lack of action when other fish tested it, (no shot and effectively fishing freeline meant there no resistance) with a slack line fish were able to move off three or four foot without feeling a thing.

 As the day progressed I stalked fish after fish, most of which were over 6lbs, every one giving a fantastic account of themselves as the battle to escape became frantic as they approached the net. Great fun and as I looked upon the horizon to see the sun going down I knew a good days fishing was coming to an end. My arm ached as a total of 16 Tench was amassed with the totals below. One of the big girls in the end did elude me but will hopefully try a couple of times this year when this lockdown lifts.

 In order of capture: 7lb 9oz, 5lb 8oz, 5lb 12oz, 7lb 12oz, 5lb 10oz, 6lb 11oz, 7lb 0oz, 6lb 15oz, 6lb 14oz, 6lb 6oz, 6lb 8oz, 6lb 7oz, 6lb 5oz, 6lb 6oz, 6lb 0oz and 5lb 15oz.

Total bag weight, 90lb 13oz in a days fishing, with four lost fish too.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Season 2019/20 Top Six: Part One.


 It has to be said, its not on of my best for sure. Targets were set, barring a couple achieved most were missed owing to my lack of time on the bank.

 My best six catches here were probably about as good as it got, starting with my canal ventures which culminated in landing a stunning old linear just under 20lb and with a few heart in mouth moments got the chance I needed, not that the Coots and Moorhens read the script!

 16th May 2019:

 I was out working as usual and my last job was in Hackney where I normally jump on the A102 south, with the conditions as good as they were I put a few spare hours to good use, with my stalking gear in the van from mid-March onwards the only hurdle tackle wise was to find a shop to get a loaf of bread. Three shops later and twenty minutes used up I set about my task in seeking out a towpath tiger.

 I parked up in an area I know only has restrictions up to midday and beyond that it wouldn't cost me anything and could just wander to the canal without worrying about only having one or two hours max stay which gave me freedom of the system. Choosing where to go is often a tough one, previous trips earlier in the spring told me where a few fish were loitering around and normally you can't take that as gospel but in the earlier months they tend not move as much, once the waters begin to warm and spawning is firmly in their minds then they will typically swim 2-8 miles a day, that includes slipping through locks should they be operational.

 The wind was light with the occasional breeze and with not a cloud in the sky gave me almost flawless stalking conditions and armed with the most important asset a stalker could need, polaroids, I was in the game. Typically the canal was busy with joggers, walkers, narrow boats and general chatter boxes, as I am forever being asked whether I had caught anything, to which the answer is usually no. The miles clocked up will inevitably give me chances at catching these very wise creatures and seldom caught monsters, some of which have been in the systems possibly longer than I have been alive.

 By the time I had probably clocked up 5 miles I finally came across a Carp, in fact two of them. A common and a mirror drifting sub-surface on the search for bugs and seeds gave me the perfect opportunity. Centre track of the canal (easy casting distance for me with minimal gear) these two carp drifted in and then out continuing their search for food, given their confidence in people the nature of my attempts wouldn't seem out of place on the canals. I was able to stand at the edge to allow cyclists and runners go behind me. To start with I got a big lump of crust on a size 8 wide gape hook and waited for two Coots to pass through, annoyingly they sensed free food was on the menu and decided to hang around, making my attempt at the Carp all the more difficult.

 Being mindful of many passers-by I had to be extra careful to pick my time impeccably, the birds after twenty minutes seemed to have noticed Gulls getting excited 400 yards or so to my left and the birds hindering me flew off to gorge on the bread buffet, I knew this was my chance, my bait went out and the cast couldn't have been better, no wind, no ripple and......a Moorhen came out of the bushes on the far side who must have been sat on a nest and shot out, straight to my crust! I could not believe it, the Carp were on course for it immediately. In a flash I got the crust in, being careful not to strike anything off to keep it waiting around.

 Just before I cast back out I squeezed a big bit of bread and launched it into the cover the Moorhen came from and the plan had its desired effect when the bird shot straight to the cover for the food, before the bird got there I cast my freshly moulded piece of bread out and within half a minute I had the common circling underneath the crust, beginning to shake with excitement the common began to slip away and the mirror followed in behind and eased up to the crust, looking straight at me she gently tilted her body so now the mouth was tantalisingly close to the crust, I could watch it waft backwards and forwards on the surface and the eyes focused on the bait, the carp was no doubt processing whether it was cosher or not, given these are very clever fish.

 Possibly the longest minute of my angling life ensued as the mirror then slowly dropped away, only about 6-12 inches but enough to make me think she had worked it out, then out of my left eye I could see the birds to my left had exhausted their latest loot and I was back in the frame. A wave of Gulls were starting to work their way up to me and knew I had very little time left, with the mirror hovering just behind she began to slowly make its way back to the crust, fins giving off subtle little movements as it gained the distance and she opened her mouth just a little, enough for her to suck the now sodden crust between her lips and with the common now completely out of sight there was no competition. The lips slowly closed and with that I put a healthy bend in the rod watched the mirror break the water immediately, then off on a 40 yard run, stripping line off a pretty tight clutch, no room for errors around where boats are concerned.

 A towpath tiger was on, a fight I always want to be up for if only I got more chances on such sparsely populated canals. Three powerful surging runs had an audience forming around me and the pressure I guess was on to make this one count, possibly twenty people standing on the grass verge cheering me on, asking questions as I continued my battle and a battle it was!, for over five minutes she did everything possible to escape. Doing what I could, in the end the net was shipped out and the rest as they say, is history, this impossibly stunning canal linear mirror lay resting in the net.


 You never know what will be put before you when trying on the canals, I have grown very fond of the task and resilience required to fish such vast bodies of waters, often with no reward!

Simply superb.

Third Time Lucky?

   At least I was hoping so, 177 miles each way with diesel now costing a years salary to fill up the tank I needed to make it worth while, ...