Sunday 31 December 2023

Grinding Out Results.


 What a washout this winter is turning out to be. God awful wind, insane amounts of rainfall is making getting out on the bank a chore, thats before a trot or cast is made. 

 Two visits to the R.Itchen and one to the R.Blackwater for Barbel have all been a total blank without more than a half hearted tap on the rod ( most likely a chub ) on the Itchen and one Chub off the R.Blackwater, not inspiring returns on substantial efforts and expense.

A very full and flooded R.Itchen.

 With the Barbel not playing ball I decided to target predators yesterday. With Pike and Perch in mind I packed light to try and find a fish or two using live and dead baits. My faith in the previous always has me keeping dead's in the bag until I've eeked out what I feel is possible and very quickly success was struck in the shape of a 9lb 6oz pike which was nice.

 Not to be content with that I went hunting for more and quickly found another a bit smaller which nailed the bait but unfortunately came off as it shook the treble violently enough that it came free, half an hour later I suffered the same fate with another Pike of similar size to the one I landed so I wasn't too upset about that and by 10am the float dipped and sailed away for the fourth time with what was a better fish.

 Watching the Pike slip out of its lair to stalk and snaffle its prey ( my bait ) is so exhilarating, the heart rate does shoot up and as I watched the gills flare and bait disappear I allowed it a couple seconds before setting the hook, a short but sturdy battle ensued before I slipped the net under this decent fish ( 13lb 4oz ).

 A good fish to build upon I thought. It took over an hour before anymore action was had as things looked to tail off but there was one last piece of action in store and that was in the shape of a good upper double that made no mistake in inhaling my bait as it drifted downstream on the pacy flow, I left it a couple seconds like I always do and the hook was set, a powerful fish looked to put my new Drennan Esox " Piker Bait rod" to the test, frustratingly for me the fight was very short lived as I could see my treble on the edge of it's snout and knew one shake would be enough to loosen its grip and with that, she shook her head and my float came hurtling toward me and the fish with one almighty flick of its tail was gone.

 Luck wasn't really on my side yesterday, yes I had caught two, I'm happy about that but it could and possibly should have been FIVE! Maybe another day I'll cash in on those chips ( preferably for an Itchen double figure Barbel?, just saying ).

 The Perch? They didn't show after three hours of trying at a different locale, but I'll keep trying.

Monday 18 December 2023

First Chub of the Winter.


 It's now mid-December and I have only just ( on Saturday ) got out for Chub, the conditions have been all wrong and no weather pattern seems to settle in for long enough to make a concerted effort at one particular species, by the weekend just gone I gave up waiting for that settled weather system and just went. An early start with Brian as we aimed to get to the river before sunrise...

 ...An hour later than billed we arrived. I decided to start on the float with my 14ft Acolyte Plus rod on the pin and my 11ft Acolyte feeder rod to chop and change if needed. Fishing towards a deep run along an undercut bank I started to feed little pieces of breadflake and a couple handfuls of mashed bread, once the free-offerings went out I let the swim settle for about 10mins before fishing it, when I did get a baited hook out the float slipped away fairly quickly and a Chub about 3½lbs battled away deep among the remaining weed, a good start.

 The good start got even better as within my first 5 trots I had three Chub, the third being a much better fish, broad and pretty chunky which I thought would go over the five-pound mark and so it was to be, 5lb 3oz on the digitals was a pleasant sight, always know when you have a better Chub on the end, they just get their heads down try to find every snag in the river but the power in the reserves of the 14ft rod allow you to give you all the help you need. 

My winter's benchmark, 5.03

And it behaved itself!

Nice start :) 

 Thirty minutes in the bites began to dry up, the amount time between the half-hearted pulls on the 7BB float got further and further apart. After 3hrs of fishing and a few Chub later I decided to move on, even though I knew more fish were present, they were just cagey. Issue was is the remaining hours spent on the river provided very very little and I really had to scratch around for a bite and an hour after sunset I finally got another Chub on the bank which was only a small one of 2lb or so.

 It was hard, but a good first Chub trip of the winter.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Barbel Tactics.


 Over the last couple years I have been asked by a few anglers for my input into what makes a good rig for Barbel, this question doesn't really have a straightforward answer as different scenarios the travelling angler is faced with could and probably will dictate how you approach the fishing.

 My go-to and has been for probably a decade is flourocarbon ( referred to as "FC" from now on ), which is almost invisible in water and if we can't see it then you would like to think Barbel can't either, I have tested this out for a good few years and certainly think the Barbel are more confident in feeding on the deck when "FC" is being used instead of monofilament fished straight through or braid / coated braid. I find "FC" where it has it's stiff properties allows when the bait is lowered in or cast to be pushed away naturally from the lead and mainline, where braid or mono' can often coil up near the lead unless fishing pacy water where the line should naturally lay straight.

 The stiffness of FC does have a couple of drawbacks, however these can be combatted by taking a little more time in your rig preparation. One of these drawbacks being the lack of flex in your bait on the hair if one is being used. Where the FC is stiff it doesn't allow the bait to move naturally as you would expect in the flow for it to move around, I would prefer if the hook and hooklink be as fixed in position as possible but still allow the bait to move freely / naturally on the river bed, so what I do is not tie a hair in the FC but to use soft uncoated braid of a low breaking strain, say 8/10lbs and tie my hair loop in that and then whip that onto the hook when securing the FC to lock in place, most good quality hooks size 12 and larger should have enough eye space for the multiple passes. 

 This ensures that the hooklink is stiff, almost invisible and yet the bait on the hair can waft in the flow as freely / naturally as possible and it does work, this seen with my own eyes on my then local river which runs gin-clear approx 300 days a year. When Barbel are feeding with complete abandon then these finer details that may give you an edge one day may not be required. I do believe very much in the tackle selection being absolutely key, theres no point having a bait out there and Barbel not be tempted owing to poor presentation.

 I don't think these little edges above are as true in dirty water as visibility can often be really poor and the Barbel are honing on the bait predominately using their sense of smell. That said I still use FC in the winter as I feel that confident using it, why fix something that isn't broken! 

 Other little nuances I've picked up is rig length, I have spoken to many anglers over the years who swear by the length of their tackle!. Clear river fishing when I was growing up I opted to fish hook-links of just 7/8 inches long where I was hugely successful at times, but on other rivers I have deployed hooklinks of up to 2ft, however this is nothing compared to what some chaps use on the likes of the R.Wye and Severn where tails of 4ft to 6ft are opted for as some are convinced any shorter and the fish simply won't be fooled, I'm not so sure but again, it's all about confidence and if thats what delivers confidence which inevitably would be Barbel shaped then who's to say its wrong! 

 I seem to have sloped off a tad...just below is a sequence of images of my go-to rig for the entire season, easy to make, the components easy to source from most good tackle shops and only takes 30-45mins to knock up 8-10 rigs which should do you a few trips. I don't sharpen my hooks, nor do I decommission a rig once I've caught on it, I use it until the hooklink is fouled or I lose it! 

 So the components I use are in the next image, followed by a step by step of the rig.


The components.

A section of 10lb uncoated braid which will be the hair-loop.

Braided hair-loop threaded through eye and back 
on itself and then "fc" whipped on using a knotless

Cut off tag ends and will look like this.

The finished rig, 8 inches of 12lb FC used with a 
size 10 micro-barb hook and a size 8 swivel 
attached using an overhand loop and neatened up
with a silicone sleeve.

 Some may notice I'm using a size 10 hook for my rigs, I find at this time of year that smaller, more pungent baits work better, especially when the conditions are cold and the Barbel may only feed for short spells, I tend not to use any free-offerings and keep my hookbaits small so a size 10 or 8 is perfect for fishing a 12 or 15mm boilee on the supple hair. In the winter I do use paste too so I make my hairs long enough to allow the extra space the paste would require, I don't tend to fish the baits tight to the bend of the hook, this is to allow a little space for the bait to waft freely in the flow and also affords me the choice if I want to increase the amount of paste I use moulded around the boilee.

 On my hooklink also use a small amount of tungsten putty, this is just to pin the hooklink tight to the bottom making the rig even more discreet, again other anglers pinch shot on the hooklink but I have found this can cause a weak point and when you are targeting Barbel of potential British Record proportions you do not want to find yourself in this position, putty is the best way to pin the hooklink down if you feel it might lying across an uneven bottom and is easy to remove if you feel it isn't needed anymore.

 During the summer months I rarely static fish as rolling meat is my go to method unless conditions do not dictate that be the best approach on that given day. When I do static fish during the summer months where the rivers are clear and the Barbel see a lot more angling pressure then little edges like those above in terms of the rigs may well put more fish on the bank, I certainly believe its benefited me in the past and will continue to do so. 

45mins of work...another 8 fresh rigs tied.

 In terms of FC breaking strains I opt for 12lb as a standard but will up that to 15lb should If I feel the bottom or surroundings are unforgiving. During the winter ( when it's coloured up ) I don't usually fish to snags anyway as I like to use the pull of the bait/paste to bring them upstream away from the potential danger, during the summer months the rivers are typically a lot clearer so you can see the topography and snags present which gives you a better indication of how light / heavy to fish, in the winter there tends to be more water coming through and stronger currents which again would dictate stepping up the tackle which would include mainline, test curve of the rod/s and of course leads / feeders etc.

 Most of you may have your own views on this and would be intrigued to know what your go to's are on this topic and how you feel your tactics fare across a season. 

 A bit random I know but got an hour spare thought I'd scribble this up.

 Tight Lines all and look forward to seeing your catches!!

Monday 4 December 2023

Feel It In My Toes.


 Hmmmmmm.....winter.....I spend months looking forward to it then you remember it's never easy fishing, even when you think you have sussed out a venue. The question I asked myself, can you ever have somewhere truly sussed out? Rivers always like to keep you on your toes and the winter just makes you focus your aim that much more acutely.

The Perch water that I'm currently blanking on.

 In a week where I went fishing for Perch, Grayling and Pike all in separate sessions. For the Perch I have a venue that I've been targeting recently and with that initial success I thought I was on to a winner but have subsequently blanked the following 4 trips and left somewhat uninspired, I put it simply down to the sharp downturn in temps. However my next target shouldn't suffer from a dose of the "I don't wanna feeds", and with that I made the 109 mile drive back down to the Wiltshire countryside for another go for a Grayling of my dreams.

 The grass was crunchy underfoot, the river still up but crystal clear given the drop in temps and my maggots lay almost dormant in their tubs as -5c temps kept them subdued, I could only hope they would all either be useful feed or the single maggots that would tempt a lady onto my size 16 wide gape hook.

 All the previous sounded perfect, problem was the Grayling very quickly seemed to be off the feed, a couple of very good looking swims that have done fish for me in the past were devoid of Grayling and to make matters worse the sharp decrease in temps meant the Trout were feeding in ravenous fashion, buggers could not be avoided! 

1lb 14oz.

 It took me hours to finally find an area where Grayling were feeding and they took ages to tempt, hours of trying and numerous runs trotted I finally started to get some decent fish but the effort put in this time wasn't rewarded in the fashion I usually experience, that was until I connected with a big Grayling just minutes before dusk, a big powerful fish made its way very slowly up the run and in hindsight should have walked downstream to intercept it knowing how many fish I'd lost throughout the day, alas I didn't and the frame of a mid-2lb specimen showed itself in the gin clear water just a rod length out before it came off, I was just a little bit pissed off, that fish would have made my day and in the famous words of Rex Hunt, " Yibbidy Yibbada that's all folks". Not the day I was expecting but, that is winter fishing, it rarely plays to the script and Friday was no different.

1lb 13oz

Prime trotting country!

Oh and a dead Otter in the margins.

 So given that tough day on Friday I decided it would be a good idea to go deadbaiting on the Rother for the day on Saturday. Taking my new Drennan E-Sox Piker 12ft dead-bait rods out for a maiden fling I hoped they would get a beating! 

 Wrong....I spent the day trying to no avail and ended up as ghillie for his royal highness Brian-of-Nazareth, shame Brian didn't hook the one prior to his Erling Haaland look-a-like as that would have been turn up, alas he didn't catch it and I blanked....Where did I leave my golf clubs? 

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 ...