Saturday, 22 September 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Prandicles and Piggishness

The combination of very fine tackle and tiny hooks is now widely used on waters with a healthy fish population, and also where the fishing pressure is not so great. The development of this tackle was simply to induce shy fish to accept a bait. Very sensitive forms of bite indicators were then needed to register these bites. The problem now is that many anglers are unable to recognise the difference between the bite from a shy suspicious fish, and the equally delicate but very deliberate bite from a totally unsuspicious fish. The problem is bite detection, not actually attracting bites.

The reaction of many anglers to very delicate bites is to fine down their tackle even further. On flogged, understocked waters, and in very cold conditions when the metabolic rate of the fish is sluggish, they are probably taking the right course of action. But in very many instances they are going to make the problem worse. I do not like making generalisations but I shall now put one forward which more often than not is true.


Of course there will be exceptions, and I have already mentioned two of them. The argument I put forward is that the finer the tackle, the smaller the hook and bait you use, the more delicate and difficult to detect will be the ensuing bite. Please note I have said delicate bite, not hesitant or shy, because there is a world of difference. A delicate bite can be every bit as deliberate as a bite which drags your rod off the rest. All this stems from a fact about fish behaviour, and I stress it is a fact not a theory.

All wild creatures have inbuilt survival in­stincts, without which they would quickly disappear from the face of the earth, without any help from man. One of the prime factors regarding the survival of a creature, is its ability to take advantage of a food supply. Left to their own devices the population of any species is dependent on the food supply. To ensure that only the strongest and healthiest specimens survive a shortage in the food avail­able, most wild creatures have evolved very strong competitive aggression over food.


This instinct is very strong and is retained even when there is an abundance of food, or in the case of some animals, when they have been domesticated for thousands of years.
To give you some idea of what I mean, I will give examples which you could notice in every day life. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the lawn together with a few larger pieces of bread, and watch the reaction of the garden birds. A number of things will happen. Squabbles will break out to establish a pecking order between species and individuals.

The im­portant fact, which I will shortly relate to fish­ing, is that all the tiny pieces of bread will be eaten on the spot, whilst any larger pieces will be dragged whey by an individual bird to be eaten out of reach of his competitors. The distance the larger bits of bread are dragged away from the feeding area is related to the physical strength of the species of bird, and the amount of competition for the food. To give another everyday example of this instinct, watch the reaction of your pet dog or cat at feeding times. Most dogs bolt their plate of meaty chunks so fast that they nearly choke. This is simply to get it down before it gets pinched, even though it is now a totally un­necessary reaction.


A large food item such as a juicy bone, will be taken away or dragged under a table to be eaten without disturbance. Cats, although more dainty eaters, will drag any large food items off their plate to some quiet corner to be eaten without interference. I have quoted these examples as something everyone can observe, even if they are not very interested in wildlife, and are not fortunate enough to fish waters where the reactions of fish can be observed. I must make it clear also that my comments on fish reaction to baits do not apply when the fishes' metabolic rate is reduced in very cold weather.

Tackle and methods devised by match anglers to catch fish in heavily fished, often badly stocked waters are now very often used in all types of waters. Nothing wrong with this, providing you do not continually get broken by fish you can't handle. This aggressive feeding instinct is very noticeable with fish, and can be used to great advantage by anglers. Fish picking up a tiny bait can swallow it on the spot without fear of other members of the shoal taking it away from them.

This is why very sensitive methods of bite detection have to be used when fishing with tiny baits and fine lines. Fish do not deliberately pull your float under or straighten your swing tip out. This is the result of the fish moving off with your bait. If you can encourage fish to react more vigorously when picking up your bait, then you get a much better indication on your tackle.


These delicate bites encountered when using fine tackle and small baits are often referred to as shy bites, when in fact they are nothing of the sort. Chub picking up, a legered single caster will not move far, so the quiver tip will only pull round slightly. The same fish picking up a lobworm will run with it, pulling the rod vigorously over. I have often watched the reaction of chub to various baits in clear water. Handfuls of casters will have the chub queuing up to intercept them as they drift past in the current. A large wad of bread creates a completely different reaction from the chub.

The first chub to reach the bread in the rush, grabs it and bolts away from the rest of the fish….

To see if this reaction resulted from the quantity of bait rather than the size of it I have tried different experiments. Single casters flicked at the chub were intercepted gently with no mass reaction from the shoal. A bucketful! of bread was greeted by a near riot as chub swarmed about with the stuff gushing out of their mouths.

I fish a small reservoir which holds large numbers of good roach, perch and crucians. This lake is relatively unfished for some of the year, yet by using fine sensitive tackle I can create the situation where fish give the very slight bites many people class as shy bites. On windless days I can shot a sensitive antenna. float so that only the slightest bit of the tip protrudes above the surface. By setting the depth so that my float only just trips the bottom or is just clear I have an extremely sensitive set up. A single caster or maggot on a tiny hook produces what I call surface tension bites when the fish pick up the bait. The bites are so delicate that the float hardly moves.


Perch are not noted as delicate feeders, yet perch accepting a bait on this rig hardly register a bite on the float. Drop a big lobworm to these fish on much heavier tackle, and the same fish will grab the bait before rushing across the lake.

Carp anglers have come across this situation when using particle baits. Carp will occasionally pick up a grain of sweetcorn and sever the line with their pharyngeal teeth before a bite can be registered. Carp taking a large paste bait usually bolt off across the lake, producing the well-known carp runs.
Any angler encountering delicate bites should assess whether they are produced by shy fish or are from confident fish picking up a small bait.

More often the cause is the latter, and the best course of action is to just increase the size of bait. This will produce a much more vigorous bite. Reducing the size of your hook or bait will not encourage the better bites and will only reduce your chances of landing a big fish. Give it a bit of thought, and although it will not induce more bites it will make it much easier to detect those you do get. I use large baits for chub and barbel simply to avoid small fish, but the bites I get on big baits are terrific. You don't have to fish outsize baits to induce a better bite however; just try two or three maggots instead of one.


For this short morning session it was out with the smelt and roach deads, and also a lure rod from time time and little roving around. The session was tough really tough and oddly the only fish I picked up on a deadbait was a Chub. Usually the deadbaits at least produce a run up at the deep bit, but zilch today per from possible crayfish nibbles. Even the lure which picks up at least a jack or two, didn't even have a nudge or a nibble today.

Hmmm out with the spam again next I think, some big gobstoppers too, I'm sure there is some method in my madness....

Friday, 21 September 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Petricores and Ponasks

The walk down to the lair of giant Chub I was greeted with that pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.

There is a word for it to apparently, that being ‘petrichor’

Basically, the scent of rain on dry ground. The word was coined in the 1960s by mineralogists studying the chemical composition of that scent. Petr- is the Greek root for stone, and ichor was the word for the blood-like substance in the veins of the Greek gods. So petrichor would be the divine essence of stone.

Enough of the preamble though, just breathe it all in !!!



For me though it signals the return to fish actually biting and rivers likely to rise above and beyond a trickle. You see the river Alne I really wanted to get stuck in to wouldn’t even feature a rubber duck race at the minute, desperately need of some water, like many of the local rivers. I’m impatient and disgruntled I know, but I’m sure there are some specimens to be had in this new river I’m fishing for this season. It looks very roach’y to me but conditions need to be right for the Roach to show themselves.

A little like following a doddering Honda Jazz driver insistent on taking up the whole road and straying over the white line and whom brakes as someone dares to come the other way, patience is a virtue.

I’m sure there will be opportunities to overtake soon, just bite ones tongue a little harder.

You’ll be bankside soon enough I’m sure Mick. The problem is time waits for no man and there are swims I’m sure hold decent fish, Right Now !!!

So what's will determine good conditions then for a dabble for the Alne Roach, well a dull day, or at least not a clear blue skied one. Anything above a moderate wind is bad, unless it's warm westerly in which case it doesn't matter too much if it's strong, or even gale force.


Afternoon temperatures of 6 degrees or above. Less than 4 degrees hesitate about going. Heavy rain in the proceeding days not an issue, as the extra rain could just have served to colour up what is usually gin clear water. 

Hmmm, not that soon then !!!!

To get my mind off it, I was hoping the recent rain we had would have topped up the levels a little, down this little section of the Avon and spur the fish to feed. I was hoping that I was in their comfort zone as well because this was a rare midday session, having only really fished it morning and evening. My kids have their snack times, and I was sure these fish would be happy that the biscuit time was waving in their faces.

Let’s be honest here, Chub when they feed have the blinkers on and are quite easily caught once they are feeding but it’s that initial confidence boost the chub need to get over their worry’s and anxiety. I’ve seen them happily stay deep with food going over their head, but once one queues up at the buffet table, a few more usually follow.

5lb on the nose has been my best up till now and having seen and lost a bigger fish I need to keep trying for something that I know would be a cracking Warwickshire Fish. A 5lber ain’t a bad’un because it took me long enough to get that monkey off my back, but there are bigger fish here still, I know that for a fact. 

So tactics, well you’ve seen it before, a 11ft rod, centrepin and a large hook, you cannot get much simpler than that.

For this session though a change, an addition to the bread, some cubes of spam. You see a couple of swims are ideal for rolling some meat under some cover and along the clear gravely bottom. Oddly I've not seen Barbel here since the start of the new season, but they are good at hiding themselves, and probably feet from you in places. A moving bait sparks some interest though, a little like a predator with a lure, a chubster reaching for their outside of a kebab shop.

This bit of river rises quite quick with a bit of rain and sure enough when I got bankside it was flowing nicely and with a decent colour. 6 or 7 swims fished and oddly it was the first swim I fished that I returned to that produced the fish.



Floating bread did the trick after it became confident in picking up the bait. Not a huge fish for this stretch as it went 3lb and 7oz's but it gave a decent scrap in the current. Despite the meat rolling in some decent swims it didn't produce any fish and also the floating bread was only taken off the top in one swim. Hmmm, surprised as the conditions looked ideal albeit the wind was quite strong. Ok, only 2 and a bit hours, I'm in two minds what to fish for tomorrow morning Barbel or Zander, I'll have to mull it over with a beer me thinks.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Pasties and Panchymagogues

You’d have thought the top bods in the NHS should be worrying about the cancer waiting times and the huge amount of cash they are haemorrhaging, but no, the latest load of public purse money wasting come from Jill Venables, managing director of Cornwall Food and head of facilities and contracts at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust. (the worlds largest business card one would think)

Jill you see, wants to change the 500 year old protected recipe which was the all-in-one meal for Cornish tin miner with something apparently healthier.


So the beef, potato and swede, surrounded by a thick layer of pastry crimped at the edges, could potentially be encrusted in filo pastry, yes filo pastry. 

Obviously not a baker then, because the ingredients go in raw and are cooked for an hour or so, that equals, one burnt pasty.

I dread to think the countless hours spent in meetings discussing that one !!!!

It was the advent of Cornish mining in the 19th century that really brought the pasty into its own and made it an important part of the life of so many Cornish families. 

Pasties were taken down the mines by the adults and children who worked there; the shape and size made them ideal for carrying, and they became the staple for the daily ‘crib’ or ‘croust’, Cornish dialect for a bite to eat, usually taken mid-morning.

It is thought that the miners gave the pasty its distinctive D shape too, the crust became a handle, which was discarded to prevent contaminating the food with grubby, possibly arsenic-ridden hands. 

Others will dispute this, arguing that miners ate their pasties wrapped in muslin or paper bags so that they could enjoy every last bit, as we do today.

They’d have been laughed at if they turned up with a thin filo pastry and a likely soggy bottom !!!!

One of the key elements of the protected recipe is of course the fresh, natural ingredients that make up the filling which surely is far healthier surely than other additive-laden heavily processed foods that is rife in the hospital wards. A genuine Cornish pasty is also baked slowly to produce the succulent, distinctive flavour that has become so well loved it’s highly unlikely that an alternative pastry would produce such a satisfactory result.


The last thing I’d worry about whilst lying in a hospital bed or corridor on deaths door or feeling rubbish would be the food that would be entering my gob. If I want a proper Cornish pasty to make me feel better, leave that decision up to me thank you very much.

Ever heard of the term ‘Low-hanging fruit’ Jill ? clearly not !!!!

The obesity crisis ain’t helping I’m sure, so ditch those onsite junk food outlets you have on site by all means for starters, and don’t penalise me and other because of the gluttonous and don’t try and change history. I expect the pork pie to be hit next to appease the overstaying masses in Walsgrave hospital in Coventry.



Talking of food it's back to the hot brekky and lunches, there is that lovely nip in the air that spells my senses need a little more than a cold salad. Porridge topped with fruit, spicy dals with roti's. It's the start of the fishing season I love, this an beyond, well in to winter, is more me, especially when levels will start to settle and waters become less clear.

So this session I need a little peace, a little solitude, and I could think of no other stretch on the Warwickshire Avon I fish that would give me that. I can fish in to dark and beyond If need be and that was the plan for this session. With the rods still in the car from the last session and the fact I’d run out of deadbaits it was out with the boilie with paste set-up I’d used last time.


There are some good chub here to be had, but not only that, Barbel have been caught here in the past so I was hoping to tempt one come dusk. I usually only fish here after work come winter time as it gives me a fishing option because of the rules being a little less restrictive here on the most part.

I'd rocked up a half an hour before dusk and settled down in one swim and got the rods out. The boilie and paste wrap near some cover which sadly featured a dead sheep, the other rod in a crease just off the main flow. I bought some of this Hinder River Rami paste sometime ago and it is so oily and smells so strong that should surely bring in a fish for a butchers.


The river seemed out of sorts though, lifeless in-fact. I'd never really fished this stretch this time of year though, usually it's in winter where it gives me an option for fishing in to dark for the good Chub that reside here. The flow, just a trickle, the distance to the staging massive.

An initial pluck and small pull after 10 minutes I was hopeful, apart from the paste the small PVA bag of pellets are also quite pungent as well but sadly that didn't bring the fish in to feed. Well past dusk now with the glowsticks about all I could see I had some interest. Despite staying a little longer than I anticipated no fish were forthcoming so it was back in the car with the tail between my legs. I'm sure with a bit more water on it would be a different story, I'll be back.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Flections and Flosculations

Few animals lend themselves more readily to anthropomorphism than the hedgehog, and so it is hardly surprising that Mrs Tiggy-Winkles should long have been a staple of children’s stories.

Hedgehogs, however, do not merely pander to our sentimentality. Perhaps more than any other animal, they enable us to get up close to the wild. They can be met in suburbs, in gardens, in parks. There is no need to be a seasoned naturalist to glimpse them snuffling busily after beetles, worms and slugs. Hedgehogs live alongside us, but not as livestock, not as pets. They are our surest, our most familiar gateway to a fascination with the natural world.


The view from Brockweir bridge....
Now a recent’ish study conducted to look in to hedgehog populations showed that entire swaths of the countryside have become hedgehog-free. Of 261 sites surveyed, traces of hedgehogs were found in a mere 20%. Shockingly, none was found in the south-west. An animal once ubiquitous in our fields and lanes is facing extinction.

It is no coincidence that the decline in their numbers should have begun in the 1950s, when hedgerows began to be grubbed up, fields soused in pesticides, and agriculture expanded on an industrial scale. Nor is it any coincidence that the rate of decline should have accelerated since the 1970s, as the road network was expanded, and the volume of traffic increased.

Hedgehogs cannot survive without the large numbers of invertebrates that are sustained by a healthy countryside. Nor can their populations flourish if their habitats are sliced and diced by ever more gashes of tarmac. 

Stranded on what in effect are islands, surrounded by hungry and predatory badgers, and poisoned by insecticides, it is little wonder that hedgehogs face a struggle to survive. 

Badgers are certainly on the increase, one even decided that it liked the front of my car a few  years ago, and they’ve had the blame for a liking of little baby hogs to supplement their diet. Oddly of late though, I’ve seen more hedgehogs out and about on my travels than badgers, I suppose it helps that I’m often out of the house, at dawn and dusk. 

There seems to be more slugs about this year, whether or not that has got to do with anything I’m not sure. The thing is, us anglers get to see wildlife that others don’t, even Sam saw his first hedgehog the other day, which again is encouraging, as he could put a face to a name, and only ever seen pictures of them in books.



Now talking of wildlife we attended the Brockwier annual soapbox again the weekend just gone and a wildlife trust volunteer I got talking to hadn’t seen an Otter in the wild in the UK, which I found bizarre, considering the amount I see these days.

He was amazed I’d seen them in the daylight hours, errrrr because they are so used to humans now, again us anglers are in a prime position to see things others wouldn’t, the nations waterways have always been a hotbed of activity, were are lucky as anglers I tell thee.

Anyway back to the session, I’d earmarked this swim for a while now, situated on a bend it was also a holding pool as such as upstream it was shallow and thick with streamer weed, downstream, sluggish and much deeper.

Close in it is quite deep with a nice glide, the far bank, like a mill pond just beyond the crease. The plan was, because as you know I always have them, was upstream to fish a boilie with a paste wrap and a PVA bag of freebies, and downstream, just off the main flow fish a lump of spam again.

The rather large overhanging tree had been trimmed back by some hapless hackers but there was still enough of it left to provide some cover for any large fish that decided to reside there. Now this would be another short after work session to try and winkle out a Barbel as dusk, because they are like a switch down here, cutlery banging on the table like my eldest son Ben, they are in a routine.



That’s the good thing about fishing for them, forgot the spending countless hours behind motionless rods, fish at the right time, you can save yourself a load of thumb twiddling time. For those that have diary makers like me it’s ideal as you can cram more sessions in without fear of upsetting the heirs and assigns.

Within half an hour or so the boilie rod received some attention and it didn't let up for the whole session. Plucks, bangs and pull which were obviously inquisitive chub, however a 6" pull of the rod tip continued and I received my first proper bite.



At first I thought it was a chublet but on closer inspection it was an ickle Barbel. I'd had one a little bigger than this when fishing the fast shallower water when float fishing a chunk of meat, sadly it dropped off before I could net it but certainly encouraging considering a small fish down here is a 5lber.

Now I set my hairs up long like the pubes in urinals at work belonging to those far flung, so headed in to dusk the bite response was ridiculous. So much so I was worried about the meat bait still being attached so I ditched it for another boilie with paste. With 20 minutes left a determined Chub eventually snared itself and no more bites materialised.



I'm sure if I scaled down the gear, put the bait tight to the hook I'd have landed quite a few Chub, but I hate using Barbel gear for Chub, I'd rather not catch them and if I do, on my terms. So on to the next session, later on in fact, this time and hour in to dark hopefully at a section on the Avon that I can so that without breaking the rules.

With a little rain on the way I'm hoping that there might be a little pace in the water as I fancy trying some rolling meat as some of the swims are ideal for it. A moving bait is often need for success rather than failure and having using the technique before a few times, it's well worth a try me thinks. 
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