Saturday, 25 August 2012

Bream Chase
The jet stream was too low they said. That was the reason that it had rained almost constantly for two solid months. My week off coincided with the Queens Jubilee that was washed out but went on regardless of the weather. I was hoping to do lots of different types of fishing that week. I wanted to float fish for crucian carp, carp fish a gravel pit, and later fish the opening of the river season for chub. In the end all I did was a quick afternoon/evening session on an old lake that is leased by the club. The lake was previously run by a large angling consortium who had taken lots of their fish out when they gave up the lease.  What is left are a few large carp, rudd, pike, perch and some old dark bronze bream.  My brother decided to have a go for the carp that push twenty pounds; I set up a feeder rod, using pellet paste on a small method feeder and a size 14 hook with a quick stop hair and sweet corn for bait or small mini white shellfish boilies. I catapulted a fair amount of pellets next to some lily pads, very soon the tell tale bubbling started to let me know fish were in the area.
Despite this it took a while for a proper bite, a few dibs on the quiver were all I had until a proper wrap around on the tip and I was into a fish. The usual dull fight told me it was a bream the fish when on the mat did not disappoint; it was a nice dark fish almost like a fish from a large Irish Lough than from a small Essex pit. Small drops of rain arrived on the back of my fishing brolly and the ubiquitous rain returned however mercifully it was a short shower. My brothers carp rods stayed still and quiet as he took to watching my quiver tip, which was good as I was looking away and he shouted out that the tip had pulled round. Another four pound, or thereabouts, bream hit the landing net. No one will fish for bream for their fighting qualities but old wiley bream can be hard to tempt even when you have loads in your swim. These are not commercial fishery bream there is plenty of food for them and they can be discerning, it can take a bit to tempt them. A kingfisher traversed the lake, a flash of blue against the foliage.  Evening was drawing in, the water was still bubbling as fish tore up the bottom of the lake to feed. Time for another pull round on the quiver and another bream graced the landing net.  Darkness was not far away and as I packed away the fishing gear I felt that I should have caught more considering the activity in my swim but anglers nearly always are unsatisfied, which is why we always return I suppose.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Getting Afloat

The early morning drive through sleepy villages and twisting roads to the coast is always filled with anticipation. The Thames Estuary and into the north sea is rather unforgiving at times and I would be better off carp fishing if I wanted to be certain of catching. However, there is a special feeling to going out in a boat and trying and be a master of the angle. Walking down the causeway the sounds, as well as the sights and smells are overwhelmingly evocative. The unmistakable ting ting sound of rigging hitting the masts of yachts, the sound of ebbing tide lapping round the breakwater and the high call of gulls, yes you are going sea fishing.   Compatriots arrive to join the wait. Those fellows with whom you will share the adventures, some you know from previous voyages, and some you don’t know. Conversation is slow at first as all members of this happy band want to drink in the atmosphere. Eventually though the inevitable talk concerns the usual topics such as what will be caught, how strong the tide will be and what baits should be tried first. The boat arrives; ruddy faces skipper calls us on, carrying our loads of gear and testing our sea legs we are getting prepared. The draw is made to decide which part of the boat each angler will fish from. The long slow crawl to the fishing grounds allows the anglers to check rigs, tackle up and take in the sights of the coastline disappearing as the boat heads out. 

The skipper stops the boat and puts down the anchor. “Heads”  comes the shout as casts are made. Grim determination dawns as men watch the tip of the rod for a slight indication. A few rattles on the tip and a slow pull and the fish is on. The smoothound fight is strong as you would expect from a member of the shark family. If the fish wants to dive you better let it. Once you have it safely on the boat there is time to admire this wonderful fish. I always return smoothhounds and its great to see them swim away strongly.  The trip home is often full of thoughts as land comes into view. Lazy looking seals bask on the mudflats as the boat negotiates the channels and the skilful skipper brings us home to dry land. I am only an occasional sea angler but even the most dyed in the wool freshwater angler can enjoy the changing pace when getting afloat on the sea.

Friday, 10 August 2012


During the river close season I had visited a local commercial fishery called Timberlands. Now commercials are not everyone’s cup of tea. Many dislike the artificial nature of these lakes that are managed and stocked with a high density of, usually, carp. The match angler often loves such places where each competitor can fish on a level playing field, winning means you have been the most skilful rather than had the most luck as all swims have fish in them. For me they are second best to more wild venues and fish caught in them usually have less value than a truly wild fish from a river. That being said if they are thoughtfully run and are not just carp puddles then they have their place for me. When they are mixed fisheries where you don’t know what is going to be caught next can in itself be fun and is especially good for getting children into angling. This venue has a few lakes and in one they rather, unusually for a commercial, have some rather large bream into double figures and I had been lucky enough in the past to catch them to over five pounds. Like many anglers I go fishing to enjoy the solitude and on commercial fisheries you usually have to fish alongside many others and if they are poorly behaved (loud radio playing shouting casting over your lines) then the whole experience is rather unpleasant. The sound of an angler constantly tinkering with his electronic bite alarm can be particularly annoying and there is a protocol that is while setting the bobbin keep the alarm off until it is set then switch on. Too many anglers ignore such protocol unfortunately. If well others are well behaved then the experience can be at least more agreeable and occasionally chatting with others of the fishy persuasion can itself be rewarding.

 I had heard that the owner had put in some rather large tench so I returned in late June to try for one of these fish. I am not an out and out specimen hunter. Those dedicated men who grimly sit it out for days for one chance at a larger than average specimen becoming more and more obsessive are not a group that I belong to. That is not to say that I don’t treat my fishing seriously because I do. It also does not mean that I do not want to catch bigger fish because I do. It’s just that enjoyment is more important than size and reducing fishing to a numbers game of pounds and ounces seems to reduce my enjoyment and that is not something I want to happen.

An eleven millimetre halibut pellet fished under a float was my choice of attack on this day. The float is a wonderfully sensitive way to fish but when there are so many small fish around it is perhaps too sensitive as small rudd pecked away cause fast dibs on the float and the temptation to strike became overwhelming on occasions and I bought up the rod fast into thin air cursing my own stupidity more than cursing the fish. Its times like this when I am reminded that fishing is a great leveller and a lesson for life. Stupendous success is rare, monotonous half success more common and utter frustration and failure bought about by ones own shortcomings the most common experience of all. In this way fishing magnifies life itself. The real lesson is to at least try and in doing so to grow and learn with the experience.

Eventually I managed to get into the zone. I was relaxed and still and now managing to ignore the pecking rudd and promised that I would only strike on a proper sail away bite. When it came I was almost hypnotised that I seemed to forget to strike. However, I lifted into the fish and the water erupted in front of me. The rod took on a satisfying bend and the reel locked up as I had forgotten to set the drag and was lucky that this did not result in a hook pull. I realised, as the fish slide majestically over the rim of my landing net that this was a personal best tench. The Green slimy tench with its red eye nestled in the folds of the net I knew it was job done for the day. Weighed and photographed he (as it was a male tench with large pectoral fins) was returned to the water. At five pounds eight ounces it was not going to break any records. Because of the late 1990’s explosion of double figure tench gracing the pages of the angling press a mere five pounder does not seem to be so big but in my youth the tench record less than nine pounds and a five pounder was seen as a specimen. To me it was a rather pleasurable catch and a male fish at that which usually grow smaller than their female equivalents. Ok it was caught in a lake on a commercial fishery yet it I was happy with it and the fish was in good condition which showed that despite their poor reputations commercials don’t need to be poorly run. Other anglers on the lake were generous with their praise when I told them of my capture then returned silently to their pursuits, minding there own business and not causing any nuisance to other anglers.  

Monday, 6 August 2012

Night fishing

Being close to nature is a very important part of my fishing as it is for many other anglers. The sights, smells and sounds of nature are essential elements to the enjoyment. These elements are heightened when fishing into the night. As darkness looms the angler becomes more aware of  his surroundings.  Owls, foxes, and the bark of a Muntjac deer add an alluring atmosphere in the gloom.  Pipistrelle bats swoop low over the surface of the lake sipping insects that have just emerged from the water, their dark shapes standout against the glow of the water.  When on a river the sound of moving water seems louder and more defiant than during the day. On a lake the sudden crash of a Carp in close proximity can be as like an electric shock against the night.
Checking all is ok with the rods before turning in for the night can become a ritual in itself, checking the bait runners are engaged, can the line can move freely?  Are the alarms audible? Then laying awake in the sleeping bag, tired yet seemingly far from sleep as you mind is in gear for action. Every sound  is magnified. A leaf drops onto the roof and seems to vibrate the whole bivvy.
Sleep comes but then the sound of the alarm screams into the night and through the musty feeling of wakefulness you realise that it is your alarm. You dive out into the cool of the night. Playing a big fish in the dark is like being on a Ghost train.  Eerie light from a torch or moon can barely pierce the inky blackness. The sound of the reels clutch as it gives line is sweet music and the power of a large carp can feel like you have hooked a juggernaut.  You only really see the fish as you net it and you still have no real knowledge of its size until it is on the unhooking mat. There in the folds of the net you stare at your prize illuminated in the head torch.  Large carp look magnificent in the half light, the scales of mirror carp seem to shine out into night. After the fish is returned sleep seems a long way off as residual adrenaline still pumps around the body.  Small midges, attracted by the light of the head torch  dance in front of your eyes. Back in the bivvy sleep comes eventually and its a sleep of the satisfied man.