Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Moat in Pictures...

Since I've not fished this weekend and won't be until well into next week, I thought I'd have a walk around the moat at lunchtime on this glorious day and try to capture its beauty on camera. Quite pleased with the outcome, and feel very privelidged to be able to fish here...

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

After Work Result...

At last I was finally granted permission to send the evening stalking. I had some time owing to me at work so left at 3pm still unsure of where to go. Carron Row was a good bet and usually throws up a fish or two at this time of year, Oaks Melt was another option and being a new venue for me it was a very close second, but the car headed in the direction of Tithe Barn, local to work and with the chance of a nice scaly mirror, I’m a sucker for a scaly mirror.

I parked in the lay-by, donned my fishing clothes, grabbed the gear from the boot and set off along the well worn path. I was travelling light, a large unhooking mat, net, Mark IV and a bucket with my Delmatic, some hooks and floats and a loaf of bread. I arrived at the top pond, saw two guys fishing and had a quick gander at the available swims. There was a ripple on half the water and this blew into the bottom left hand corner, a favourite spot of mine.

The bush I fish to is connected to the out of bounds bank and I fish to it from the last swim. A quick trot round to the bush enabled me to see if there were any fish surrounding it and to throw a few crusts under it. Whilst letting the carp find it I had a quick walk around the middle pond but again, all was very quiet and there were no fish cruising, this didn’t bode well at all. Incidentally there were two anglers fishing this pond, with bottom tactics and they’d had a fish apiece during the day.

Back at my swim I noticed some disturbance, watched and spotted a pair of big rubbery lips break surface and gulp down a crust. I quickly set up the Mark IV, attached a crust to the hook and after four bad casts watched one land sweetly and on the money. The first take I managed to pull the hook from him before it was set, and the second take resulted in a hooked fish that took off like a steam train with me hanging on for dear life. I gradually made some line back but the hook pulled as I reached for the net. The fish was a common around 10lbs.

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After my failure I must have made three or four circuits of the ponds, with the other anglers poking fun telling me I’d wear the banks away if I wasn’t careful. But I can’t keep still during short stalking sessions, not unless I have feeding fish in front of me. I have to be on the move, looking for that opportunity. I found myself back at the same swim an hour later topping up the bush with bread. I stood well back and waited to see what occurred. At first I thought the disturbance was caused by a small carp of 3 or 4lbs, but as the sun reappeared from behind the clouds I saw it...a vision.

It was a crucian, I’d estimate at the weight above, it was huge, it was beautiful, it was all my dreams rolled into one. I watched as it delicately nibbled the crusts hardly making them move, no wonder we never hit the bites. But this fish would have to wait for another time, a dedicated trip for this day I was nowhere near ready for them, or tackled up for them, I was already hatching the plan for my return visit.

No more carp visited the bush and I thought about calling it a day for a brief moment, but one of the guys fishing the middle pond mention the bottom pond. Now not a great deal of folk fish the bottom pond. It’s quite a bit smaller than the other two, being around three quarters of an acre, and it is wall to wall with Canadian pond weed, top to bottom all year round. Couple this with a veritable jungle to manoeuvre to get to most of the pitches and you get to understand why most don’t bother.

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Soon enough I was fighting my way through blackthorn, bramble and all manner of other bushes I don’t know the names of. Eventually I got to the area I liked the look of, the end pitch with fresh grass and reeds signalling that nobody had been here for a while. I looked out across the pool and shuddered at the amount of weed, but I had confidence in my tackle and methods so felt comfortable about fishing, especially off the top.

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I stood with my hook baited and watched for a while before making a cast. There was a small amount of disturbance around half way across in a small gap among the weed. I cast just beyond, teased it back and observed. Within a few seconds there were loads of small silver fish attacking the crust and within a minute it had been devoured. This was going to be fun.

I re-baited the hook and looked up just in time to see a carp’s dorsal fin break surface. I cast once again just beyond and teased it back, but I must have done so too quickly as a bow wave soon shot off and all I was left with was the shoal of silver critters munching away on my crust. I stood a while longer looking for something else to cast at and it came in the shape of yet another dorsal breaking surface. I made the cast, this time much further past the fish and teased it back extra carefully.

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This time the fish didn’t appear to spook, but I did lose sight of it. Sure enough the silvers were at it again, but for a split second they stopped, all went quiet and the half crust I had left on the hook disappeared down the throat of a carp. After the strike I lost a few yards of line ad when I gained control all went horribly solid as I suspected it would. I leaned both sides and kept the pressure on, pulling from one angle and then another and I was sure that I was gaining some line back. Slowly but surely I coaxed my prize towards me and reached out full stretch and netted a massive ball of weed.

I hoisted the net and weed up onto the bank and on the unhooking mat. When I finally got through the weed and found the fish I was quite pleasantly shocked. Not a massive fish, but a very pretty one, the scaly mirror I was looking for was mine. I took a few self takes on the camera and put her back into the margins. I had a big smile on my face and kept saying “YES” whilst looking around to make sure nobody was watching.

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I hung around for a little while later but everything was quiet, the rest of the fish must have sunk down into the depths after all the commotion. But I’d be back, this weedy little haven s just the quiet little paradise I’ve been looking for, another one of those hideaways I can escape to any time I Please. I stopped off at Carron Row on the way back, just to see if I could sneak a common out to complete the set, but it was just as moody as the other place. I fed a few swims with bread but nothing rose so I headed home with a smile and couple of nice future sessions to look forward to, the return on the bottom pond and the big crucians.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Beneath the Surface...

Following on from a previous article about float fishing and wondering what goes on down there, this one explores the signs and what to watch for, things that might give us some idea of what's happening without actually seeing...

To become an expert tip watcher you must develop an understanding with what goes on deep beneath the part we cannot see. To watch and wait for the tip’s disappearance is one thing, but to associate each of the float’s different movements with the fish’s movements is to know when the time is right to make the strike. Strike at the wrong moment and you could ruin the chance of that dream capture; for to sit on your hands, find patience and strike at precisely the right time will often result in success. Sometimes the tip doesn’t even need to vanish; the slightest dip or a gentle slide can be enough.

There are often lots of tell-tale signs that will signal to the angler that a fish is near, even feeding on the bait he has introduced, and to differentiate between a fish brushing the line and one that has taken the bait can be the difference between triumph and failure. Having said that, there is no failure to be felt in fishing, for there is always the chance to cast again, maybe next time, but another opportunity will present itself eventually. That’s the beauty of angling, we can see each trip as a new chapter, or string sessions together and call them a campaign or quest, starting were the last one left off.

Bubbles are probably the most delightful thing you can find around your float. The closer they get the faster your heart beats, the size of them can determine what species of fish is causing the disturbance to the lake bed and in a flash they can melt away leaving you wondering where they went, if they’ll come back and looking anxiously for signs of their reappearance, leaving you quite deflated at times. I am led to believe that single large bubbles can signify eels in the area, that numerous large sheets of bubbles are caused by carp, slightly smaller fizzing is usually down to tench feeding and that the tiny pin pricks you sometimes think you saw can be crucians, although a failure to see the tip actually move in these cases tends to make you wonder if there was really anything there at all. It is quite possible to become so mesmerised by bubbles that you forget that you were watching a float tip and focus on their direction, only to recognise once again the job in hand and realising once again that thumping coming from your chest.

Then there is the gentle swaying from side to side. Carp with line caught around their fins can sometimes cause this, although I usually put it down to roach mistaking the strung out split shot for grains of hemp. These indications are best left as they are very rarely due to fish picking up the hook-bait. In the past I have struck at these pirouettes, which generally ends in a vortex or a sudden mass of bubbles as the fish is spooked. The vortex or tail pattern is another clue that fish are present, usually associated with fishing the margins or shallow water, and these are caused by tails waving, a sure sign that feeding is taking place and to be on your guard for the inevitable, which may or may not happen. You may see items of debris rise from the lake bed; twigs, weed and leaf litter will rise and dance and all this can be very conducive to an increase in perspiration to the palms and forehead.

The area in which you place your float tip also needs some thought and understanding. On your classic pool you’ll often find lily pads, somewhere I always associate with tench and crucians, although you’ll find most species close to or under lily pads. Reed lined margins with a bit of depth will usually be the lair of a carp or two, and overhanging bushes are typical perch territory. Roll up at your favourite pond and you’ll have an idea of where to cast and what you are likely to catch. We can use this to great effect when visiting other waters, perhaps for the first time, using the knowledge we have gained on familiar ground to our advantage when tackling somewhere new. Pads will always be a haven for fish of all types, you can be certain that if perch are present they’ll require a little cover for their ambush, and the carp, although nomadic, will always be prominent within the deeper marginal areas of the lake where a little cavern or shelter helps their confidence. This is called watercraft.

To understand the things above, to become in tune with everything that goes on from the float tip down is to become an expert tip watcher. We cannot see what happens, we don’t really want to see, happy to have a good idea but to let our imagination run wild and conjure up whatever images we wish. It is easy, and quite delightful, to get side-tracked missing the signs and the bites, but it is our decision to concentrate on whatever we like. It helps to have this understanding when it is in our focus to catch a fish, stored somewhere for when we might call upon it. These things are not imperative for enjoying, merely helpful for when we might be inclined to touch something wonderful from another world.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

In Search of Gold....

As I was due to fish last Friday but spent the whole day in bed with a sickness bug, I opted to move my work leave to this Friday, originally planning to fish for tench at the moat, then halfway through the week changing my mind in favour of Oaks Melt for perch, at the last minute changing things completely in favour of my first ever visit to Marsh Farm in search of the wonderful crucians they have on offer and the search for my first ever 2lb fish. I love crucian carp, they are right up there with perch and rudd for me when it comes to looks.

I did a little homework a couple of days leading up to the trip, read a few online articles, picked the brains of a few who have fished there and I was given the impression that if you hit it right, a red letter day could well be on the cards. The venue is said to be the home of the next crucian carp record, and with an accolade like that comes anglers, lots of them, but as I was fishing a work day I hoped the crowds wouldn't be too heavy. Also, rumour was that the shy little fish had began feeding strongest through the night when there were less anglers present. It was shaping up to be a challenge, but a day off work fishing beats a day doing anything else.

I arrived at 730am, just when the shop opens, and what a shop it was. An extensive tackle shop selling everything you could imagine, every type of bait and also refreshments and snacks. The toilet block on-site was as clean as the one in my house, the lakes looked amazing and a big thumbs up must go to the owners. Inside the shop I showed the guy my net, he checks to make sure they are dry, then paid for my day ticket. I chose to purchase the two rod ticket, the reasoning behind this was in case I wanted to put the 500 out with a ground-bait feeder out towards the island later in the day in case things were slow.

The lake I was to fish was the aptly named 'Harris Lake', which had islands running through the centre to give it a 'canal' feel. After walking around twice looking for an area of deepish margin close in I decided to spend the day in peg 46. I had no island in front of me to fish to but reeds to the left and a depth of around 4feet just beyond the shelf. I set up my Wizard, teamed it with my new Aerial loaded with 4lbs line and attached a small pole float as nothing in my traditional float tube was sensitive enough. This particular float sat pretty with just 5 number 10 shot, an edge I was sure in the quest for my timid quarry. A hook-link of 2lb 12oz and a size 14 hook finished the set up.

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I mixed up two kilos of ground-bait but apart from a little hemp left it pretty much unloaded due to not wanting to fill the fish up, rather to keep them grazing with just a few free offerings thrown in every so often. Hook-baits were sweetcorn, luncheon meat and some little hooker pellets. I started off my introducing three tangerine sized balls of ground-bait into the area I had plumbed, the drop where the depth dropped from 3 to just over 4feet. I began fishing somewhere around 9am and was greeted from time to time by various anglers who all had something nice to say about the tackle I was using, which was lovely.

The first time the float went under, after about half an hour, resulted in a hook pull soon after making contact, and the next bite resulted in what was obviously a rather strong tench charging through the reed and breaking me. Not the best start, but once I was tackled up and fishing again the bites, although slow, produced three tench of around the 1.5lb mark and my first crucian of 1lb 6oz.

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Bites were still very slow coming but by lunchtime I'd had three crucians, the other two going just over a pound, and two more tench. I baited the swim a little, ate my lunch and thought about what I could change in order to get more bites, or at least see the ones I was getting but couldn't hit. Whilst thinking back to my match fishing days and asking myself what I would have done differently back then, I spotted the tench were splashing around in the margins opposite me, a good sign as if they are spawning they'd probably leave me alone. Don't get me wrong, I love tench, but with such light tackle and those reeds next to me....well you understand I'm sure.

So, lunch was consumed and a new game plan was hatched. One more number 11 shot was added just a few inches from the hook, I remembered this was what we did when confronted with finicky fish, I'm not sure of the mechanics surrounding this extra drop shot, I just knew it made a difference most times. The second trick was to use pieces of sweetcorn, I mean cut a single grain into quarters and use a small piece, in the past it could be the difference between the fish taking confidently enough for you to see and hit the bites, or not.

With my belly full and a new confidence I began fishing, this time with just 1mm of the float tip showing. It didn't take long for the first bite to come, a gentle dip on that tiny float tip, the result of which was a creaking Wizard and another crucian jag jagging as they do before sliding gracefully towards the net. Fish number four was 1lb 8oz, they were getting bigger.

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The changes I made to my fishing were ever so effective, I wasn't waiting very long at all for a bite, and even though I was still missing a few, the fish were coming thick and fast. A couple more small tench showed too but then came the fish I came for, the target I had set myself, a crucian carp of over 2lbs......1oz over actually. This was shaping up to be one of those days I would never forget.

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I got to 13 crucians, averaging 1.5lbs and a handful of tench and then suddenly everything went quiet, as if the shoal had moved on. The float stopped bobbing, the bubbles stopped rising and for the next hour I wondered where they'd gone. I thought about setting up that other rod and throwing a feeder out into the middle, but the purist in me decided against it opting to persevere with the float in the margins. The float did eventually slide away again, but there was no way of stopping what was attached to the hook which ended with me and yet another hook-link parting company deep within the reeds.

Another hook and a switch to luncheon meat saw one more crucian come to the net, a bonny fish I thought might make 2lb again but which weighed 1lb 12oz, still a fabulous fish, fish I could never tire of catching, whatever their size. It was close to 5pm when I decided to start packing my things away and think about heading home, I would have loved to have stayed until the 8pm closing time, but I had things to tend to back home so really had to get going. 14 crucians and some tench, I'll class that as a red letter day for sure, and I can't wait to return and have another crack at them.

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