Friday, 22 June 2018

River Alne – Redfins and Rigmaroles

There are hundreds of miles of waterways neglected by the average angler. You see he often seeks grand waters of reputation, and often those featured in the declining monthly’s, believing that only in these will he find the fish he wants. In the course of his travels and pursuits, he passes and disregards many streams and rivers which can provide fishing of a very high standard. You see I’m one of those small breed that gets extreme pleasure in fishing an overgrown disregarded widdle, those forgotten waters, and those small rivers with potential unknown.

For me crossing a field, peering over those high stingers, trying to spot fish in the shallowest of streams and the most overgrown of rivers, in waters I know nothing about, defines me as an angler and what I love about my fishing.

Targets obviously exist, a 5lb Chub for example or a 10lb canal Zander, but I get immense pleasure in with the minimum of tackle just finding out what’s tugging ones maggots in a small dirty ditch.

The rigmaroles of partaking in modern carp fishing for example, yeap poles apart, back to basics fishing, just how I like it….

What species thrive in this environment? What size do they attain? Its potential confined within the bounds of my gumption to exploit it as best I can. As new waters are explored, information is gathered of fish and environment, the character of the water becomes clearer , the swims are named of my own choice as small areas remind be of the moments of success and triumph.

I’m hoping to explore this small water and add to one’s growing list of specific areas and swims such as the ‘Tefal Head’, ‘Mick’s Bush’ the ‘Laryngeal Prominence’ ,the ‘J√∂rmungandr’

We’d crossed this bridge many a times before but it was only when we were looking at a house in the area that sadly had sold before we could view it, I got the Wife to stop the car. I spotted a sign nailed to a tree you see and I knew instantly what it was. Sure enough over the weekend when an email was responded to I’d signed up to a small syndicate water, a river that after exploring the whole length last weekend, I wondered why I’d not thought about trying to fish it before, the sign was just that a sign, I’m sure of it.

Are there gems to be had here….?

What species of fish can one expect to find in the streams which lace their way across the countryside? As David Carl Forbes had said in one of his books, predominantly, as one might expect, the fish will be roach, but unfortunately these will invariably be fish of small average size. 

I’d happened upon some information though, which, ok was from a number of years ago now, but the information shared from a witness of capture of a specimen, mentioned that he saw a couple of 2lb’ers been caught in the area.

Now last time, I probably over gunned it a little with the tackle, so for this session, I’d travel even lighter with a smaller landing net this time, also another change, the small 8ft wand rod in my armoury which is rated at 2lb-4lb with a ridiculously sensitive tip would replace the 1.2TC TFG River and Stream rod. Lobworms were ditched in favour of the humble maggot and then as the sun was going down, I’d switch to some breadflake. Just one small reccy highlighted some swims with potential and one in particular was singled out for the last swim to be fished.

Maggots you see take no prisoners, it’s just one of those baits that work for nearly all species of fish so apart from being an excellent bait to at least get a bite or two, you can find out exactly what species are lurking within the water. Once those species are mapped, then it’s a little easier to start to target the specimens with the humdrum by using specific baits and methods to try and single fish out. 

If you think the ickle wand rod will be tested with a big fish on the end, it won’t let me tell you, in-fact the bend it can be subjected to, is beyond ridiculous as well as the backbone it has, that may have to kick in, you can get as much pleasure catching a 8oz Dace like you can a 4lb Chub. Even a half decent carp could be subdued even on a light line, such the action of the rod.

So anyway, enough of the preamble back to the fishing….

I literally had a little under two hours something like that, the first swim which had around a foot of depth, gin clear and some pace produced minnows and not much else, in-fact they became an issue through the short session, far, far to many of them to he honest. I suppose that's why a big lobworm is a little more selective. Anyway I persevered and eventually had a few small trout that gave the 0.5oz tip a proper doing over, not the little taps and pulls the minnows were giving.

With not much time left I hot footed it to an area where I'd caught a Chub last time I was here and again, minnows were an issue until a little chublet was caught and then soon after a gudgeon or two succumbed to the maggot. Now in my rush to get out the house the bread roll I was going to use for bait was drier than a stupidly dry thing, in-fact it was unusable, rock hard in-fact. Probably better lobbing to knock someone out, rather than trying to get some flake out of it.

So I had to stick with maggot, with the sun going down and more minnows being caught, I called time to the session, wondering what could have been. To be honest I plan to wait now till the levels are up because I'm sure it will fish completely differently, at the moment it's ridiculously shallow in lots of areas which won't help the transition of fish. The colour won't help for roach either, so I need to wait till my prospects are higher. An enjoyable session again mind you, two patrolling barn owls and some jumping deer, it's just nice being out sometimes.

So on to the next session, tangle master Sam will be in attendance next time.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Fractals and Fruitcakes

I’m not a football fan, I never really have been to be fair, but I’ve been watching the odd world cup match just to see how prevalent the play acting is these days and why I don’t enjoy watching it. Now to try and watch some of the England match in peace without Sam firing his bushcraft party, crafted bow and arrow at me and to kerb his verbal diarrhoea ,I’d downloaded the BBC Sport VR app and gave him the VR headset to use.

“Dad, why is that man not getting up, he’s only been hit by a ball “ “ I get straight up when I get hit in school like that”

“Because he’s a cheat, that’s why !!”

To be fair the app ain’t that bad, as you can watch the action live and direct from the stadium in a fully immersive environment - as if you were actually watching from inside the stadium in your own hospitality box. It’s a 360 degree too, so turn around and you can see the commentary box as if you were actually there.

Like Sam, I quickly got bored mind you and the second half of the England verses Tunisia match I’d nicked the VR headset off him as he was trying to walk around the house with them on, much to the annoyance of his mother.

So the footy was ditched and I immersed myself in to some 360° VR + 180° stereoscopic 3D Fractal Animations made by Schizo for YouTube.

He is just one of many who have similar uploads that are appreciated by people like me that can properly get out of body experiences from visuals and audio, and the use of a VR headset compounds that.

A fractal landscape is a surface generated using a stochastic algorithm designed to produce fractal behaviour that mimics the appearance of natural terrain.

In other words, the result of the procedure is not a deterministic fractal surface, but rather a random surface that exhibits fractal behaviour. The visuals are just like the way my brain works, hence why I get so much out of them.

Give it a go, it works wonders for my mind and it may well do yours….

So anyway back to the fishing, I think I’ve overstretched myself again for this season, you see apart from the usual 3 club books for the Avon and bits of the Stour and now part of a small syndicate on the river Alne. I’m now also a member of another small syndicate whom now have access to bits of the river Leam but also a mile or so of a prime previously forgotten stretch of the Warwickshire Avon which also includes a mile or so of one of its tributaries. I dread to think how many miles of river that gives me access to, well I know the answer to be honest, it’s far too much.

Fishing new waters if all very exciting though so I’m looking forward to plunging ones maggots in to those new waters in the not so near future to see what I can muster up.

For now though, back to the familiar, I spent quite a bit of time down this little stretch of the Avon last season chasing that elusive 5lb chub I’ve been trying to snare for a while now. I nearly managed it as well, with a couple of fish not far off the magic number being banked well in to dusk with water temperatures near freezing. I like it down here you see, it’s off the beaten track, hidden from view and with a small membership. It also gives me not only the solitude I seek, but an option to fish well in dark if I want to and an area that could well get that monkey off my back.

Not far from here is another one of my club stretches, that for the first couple of months sees banks busy on most days so that will be largely off my radar till it quietens down a little. This small area is ideal to be honest and I’m sure there are some decent fish to be had in its varied waters. I’d only fished a couple or three swims and always managed a decent Chub or two and they were all half decent fish, not little greedy chublets.

For this session I decided to give the floating lure a go again as the bigger fish start to move at dusk here and start topping, but not only that, I’d prime a swim when I got there with some hemp and small pellets and fish a bait over the top for the last half hour or so before heading off home hopefully after landing a fish or two.

I’m a planner, I always have been for my fishing sessions, it’s just the way I like to fish, I just like it that way. I do get bored sat behind rods especially in the warmer months, so this roving and style is more me especially when fishing a different technique, it keeps my interest up. It’s not rocket science this surface lure fishing for Chub, well the way I do it anyway.

I like a swim with half decent pace and it’s just a matter of casting the lure upstream and letting it drift down under its own steam, then give the lure a flick now and then to mimic a dying insect just about to peg it. Often a rise can happen as soon at the lure hits the water but it’s usually out of the blue when the fish nails it. And nail it, it does, they give it a proper doing over so much so, the fish usually hook themselves.

Well best laid plans and all that, the evening was bright the water really clear and the big fish were not showing, plenty of fish topping mind you, maybe bleak judging by the activity and the odd silver flash. Mayfly in abundance as were the insects who were determined to bite me. Now the Duo Realis Shinmushi is such a lovely surface lure to use as it looks fantastic in the water for starters, but on a slow retrieve it's wings act like paddles and they make a disturbance on the surface.

I use a quite heavy flurocarbon leader but sadly despite landing many a Zander on the same hook link and the odd Pike up to 8 or so pound one came out of the blue and within a split second had bitten through all and sundry leaving me without a lure and £12 down. Hmmm I won't make that mistake next time. So I tried a few more swims and even heading in to dusk there were no decent Chub showing. So the last 45 minutes I was sat behind the Chub rod which was over the baited area next to an overhanging tree.

There was some interest straight away but it took the isotope to be glowing before a decent bite materialised. All tentative pulls mind you, after the 3rd unstrikeable bite I let some line out so there was less resistance from the rod top and sure enough 15 minutes past dusk and with me overstaying a proper bite developed and a fish was on.

I knew it was a half decent Chub straight away but when netted I knew it wasn't my target, then again it never is. I didn't weigh it but it was around 4lb I reckon, certainly not unwelcome, don't get me wrong because at least it wasn't a blank, but again another fish caught which was the black sheep off the family, yeap, another fish with a facial deformity.

Maybe the fishing Gods are trying to tell me something, who knows, but I'm getting a little tired with the munters I've been catching....

Monday, 18 June 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Wings and Worrywarts

The other day I had some massive fried chicken wings with the ‘Butchers Social’ signature topping of salted caramel, honeycomb and bacon. Now probably like you, as I was initially I wouldn’t have thought the combination would work but boy they did. Comfort food indeed and was someone with not a huge sweet tooth, they really did work and I really did worry if I’d made the wrong decision as I’d happily eaten any of the other flavours.

The fried chicken skin really went with it well and with the meat falling off the bone, it added to some of the best finger food I’d ever eaten.

Trying new things is good in my book so for this session I was down at a local club water to try and winkle out a Chub or two on a surface lure. I also wanted to have a look as the upper stretch as well just to see what it looked like for a future session and I’m glad I did, because a swim was noted down where I’d saw a rather large bronze carp exiting the water. I’d not seen that before up here to be honest so at least I know where one is now, it’s Zander territory too, so I might do a little double dipping.

The banks were busy, very busy indeed like they always are at the start of the season and usually for the first couple of months of mediocrity many go back to the commercial fisheries, just to get a bend in the rod. To be honest this is the time I like to fish various methods and waters for a bit of variety rather than sit behind motionless barbel rods for hours on end. 

I didn’t have a huge amount of time so after an hour or so reccy it was back down to an area of fast water where there is always Chub picking up what comes their way and not fishing surfaces lure here before, I wanted to see if the method worked. The water is very low at the minute and it was easily walkable from one side to the other, but with the Cocoons donned, I spotted a few dark shadows. After the fourth or fifth cast a chub nailed the lure and a fish was on. 

It’s full of streamer weed but didn’t really hinder the retrieve and it was quickly in the landing net. 

I’ve a habit of catching the runt of the litter and this Chub was no exception, a deformed mouth and also a wound or two, I didn’t help adding to its misery. I managed to hook another two but both managed to shed the hook after a brief play through the fast water. 

An enjoyable short session mind you and I’ll use the method in the week up at a stretch where I know some half decent ones reside. I might fish till dusk as well and fish a boilie over a bad of bait to see if anything of note will turn up when the sun goes down.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

River Alne – Widdles, Wigs and Wamblecropts

Did I miss something in the week, during Presidents Trumps and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un ‘historic’ meeting. Trump made a huge concession the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.

As far I could tell nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, bugger all about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

Maybe the staring of each other hair styles Kim eventually came up Top Trumps, hoodwinked springs to mind, so not top dog after all….

Now talking of top dogs, I wasn’t after a Zander or even a Barbel, but anything that would to be honest as this venue was little more than a stream. 

As I suspected for this first session of the new season, the mile and bit stretch of this diminutive river Alne I’ve got access to for this season was a little more than a widdle. 

I’d fished this small tributary of the River Arrow before, albeit upstream where I managed a few tiddlers on lobworm if I recall. It certainly wasn’t anything to write home about and I vowed never to return, but for me and the way I like to fish, this new stretch is very much my thing.

A jumpable river, off the beaten track, any bite on the quiver tip, any dip of the float, all very intriguing, all very new….

You see I love fishing small waters just to see what is hiding in them, ‘potential giants from tiny waters’ which David Carl Forbes my favourite author and illustrator was an advocate of. 

There is just something special for me fishing this sort of waterway. 

Back to basics, tackle to a minimum, a wriggly worm, a slice of bread. Fishing how it used to be before big business got hold and told us how we should be fishing, and what new item we need to be buying to keep up with the lady eating Desmond’s and the monotonous Charman’s.

Bollocks to that, I’ll fish how I want to fish, ta very much….

Unlike the closed canal zander quest I’d stupidly got myself involved with, fishing with no targets in mind can be more satisfying, more relaxing, and eventually when something of note turns up, even more rewarding too. In the winter just gone the capture of a rare Bard’s area trout and some half decent dace from nothing more than a dirty ditch was up there with the most memorable fishing trips I’d had, and believe you me having nearly reached 600 rambling blog posts, there has been enough of them.

Now having seemingly eaten my way through a whole cow the day before having being treated by the Wife for a nice meal out, this sort of venue is ideal to get ones digestive system back to normality and to keep the indigestion at bay. Roving from swim to swim with cocoons donned to try and find where the fish will likely to holding up. Be it, deeper areas, areas of cover, natural pools and snags that sort of thing, features where fish would feel comfortable residing.

It’s surprising just how much water is covered and when exploring any new venue, areas to target as quickly established.

The water level of the Alne can rise quickly after an afternoon of rain, and a day of it, you’d likely see it over its banks. So it can go from being fishable to no so in a day, but then when it is fishable, that can often open out new swims to fish, and that’s where fishing these sort of waters holds appeal for me. It’s different every session, oh and I could bike it more or less, as it’s just down the road, very handy indeed.

So enough of the guff, we’re back fishing running water again, yippeeeee !!!!

So simple tactics for this inaugural session, a light link ledger setup with a short hooklink and size 12 Kamasan B983, lobworm top or tail and my trust TFG River and Stream rod fitted with a 2oz quiver tip. Centrepin the usual bronze garish jobbie fitted with 4lb line. I wonder what I could pick up if anything. A river like this is open to predation which may well be an issue, but only one way to find out, I’d a few worm to drown.

I walked nearly the whole stretch and certainly lots of character. Shallow riffs, snagged filled deeper pool and areas full of lily pads. I've no doubt it will fish much better with some water on it, but I did catch a couple. A small Chub and a tiny trout, which for this part of Warwickshire areas like this are few and far between. An enjoyable trip mind you and such a quiet area with literally no road noise at all, it's a great place for solitude, and sometimes that's all I'm after.

I'll wait for some rain to top it up a little and then I'll give it another bash.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT99 – Blandfordians and Blabbermouths

So as someone looking forward to all things flowing water, a news article popped up the other day which raised ones eyebrows and got me listening. You see maybe getting back to where the water is clean, clear and flowing, might need some more alcohol consumption of the ale variety. 

The early part of every summer for the last four decades has been spoilt for many Blandfordians by the arrival of a fly with a very nasty bite. Yeap apparently it’s making a comeback, the culprit is the black fly. The proper name is Simulium posticatum and the danger period used to be from about 10th May until mid-June, but now it seems to be all summer from those in the know.

You seldom notice it until it’s gone, leaving a spot of blood, then spend the next week nursing anything from an annoying itch to a large incapacitating swelling.

These blood sucking bugs live near areas of water and gives a particularly painful bite.

The Blandford fly's English common name derives from a major outbreak of people being bitten around the town of Blandford Forum in Dorset, in the 1960s and 1970s. 

In a four-week period during the spring of 1972, some 600 people were estimated to have visited their doctors in Blandford to be treated for insect bites.

Now the fly is more prevalent than ever it seems and an outbreak a few years ago in Hereford this led to hundreds of people seeking medical treatment. NHS figures show a 50 per cent rise in hospital admissions for ‘non-venom insect’ bites in the past decade. Many of these will be by black flies.

The male flies of most species collect in huge swarms which, on calm sunny days, dance in the air near trees or buildings, awaiting the arrival of the females. The female flies enter these swarms and are seized by a male before the mating pair falls to the ground. Before or after mating the female flies frequently seek a meal of blood to supplement their diet and assist in the production of eggs. Each of the many species has a preferred host on which it will feed. Hosts include reptiles, birds and mammals such as deer, horses, cattle or sheep. In the case of the Blandford Fly the main host is man. 

Having satisfied its craving for human blood the female must wait for its 200-300 eggs to mature before returning to the river to place them in the desiccation cracks of the steep, shady river bank, well above the summer water levels.

From the mouth of a Zander
The egg laying females crawl deep into the cracks and stick their egg masses to soil particles in moist humid conditions. The eggs are laid in June and July when the weather is warm. They begin to develop at once but when the eyes of the embryo can be seen through the eggshell as little red dots, development stops. Only a spell of cold weather after the onset of winter will trigger the eggs to progress further. 

Probably the most agreeable cure is a beer from the Badger Brewery of Blandford St Mary called Blandford Fly. Folklore has it that only zingibain from ginger can soothe it. This ale therefore includes a generous dollop of ginger in the brewing process to create a subtly spicy character that gives warmth even when served chilled. 

If the zingibain doesn’t work, the alcohol will buy you temporary oblivion.

So anyway back to the fishing, this session was meant to be down at the deep bit for a bit of double dipping. A couple or three biteless hours on the Zed rods despite leapfrogging an extensive section of cover, I was witness to fish movement like I’d never seen before. Bubbles, bubbles and lots of them and also fish existing the water showing that they were bream feeding in the area and lots of them too. 

So one Zander rod and another with a simple small method set-up to at least try and get a bend in the rod. Feeder filled with a little groundbait, micro pellets and bread or sweetcorn for hookbait.

As I was leaving this area last week with rods in hand a biker stopped me and asked what the fishing was like. 

"Errrrrrr, to be honest mate I wouldn't bother"

Ok if he asked me about 5 or 6 weeks earlier than my answer might have been very different, but to be honest would it though ?. The discovery of another good area for Zander I'd rather keeps it under ones hat, so to be fair, the answer would have been the same. Areas where carp reside will also kept under ones radar because those are quite rare to be honest, unlike the anglers that wan't to catch them which can go from none to many if I turned in to a blabbermouth.

I'm keeping this area to myself, ta very much....

So anyway, back to the fishing.

Now as you know I like to plan my sessions well in advance and with the rods set-up I was planning to head straight to the deep bit, but after losing what appeared to be a half decent fish the weekend when the line snapped because of my error I was back to try and see if it were about again. This area has form as well, albeit a few hundred yards away as the fish pictured in my title picture which weighed 8lb 10oz was caught in this vicinity.

That was sometime ago mind you and despite fishing it many a times since I've not had anything like that again. But then maybe the loss of a fish last week was a sign, you never know. The same plan, just a different location as I'd spotted quite a few feeding bream here as well. The only thing I had to change was the landing net and pole, because with the banks the way they are and with an elevated swim, I had to make sure I had enough reach to be able to land a fish.

So anyway, how did I get on....

Well I had a bite within 5 mins of putting a bait out, on a whole small roach. With the fish quickly landed, the float went back out and it didn't stop for an hour or so. I ended up using two rods in the end and ended up with a brace with two runs happening at the same time. After the 6th fish, all went dead and that's how the Zander rods remained. All fish came to whole fish. For the last hour I put out the small method feeder but that was very quiet indeed without even a nudge on the quiver tip.

So I wasn't doing any wrong after all, catch the Zander when they are moving in a pack, you can catch multiple fish, the most around 12 fish down at the deep bit. That's it for this 2018 closed season quest as my mind turns to running water. Maybe if the rivers are in flood I'll have another dabble as I'm sure PT100 won't be that far away. A little more encouraging this year, but I still feel like I'm going backwards despite managing a fish over 5lb again.

The quest will continue however.... 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT98 – Cockalorums and Coversluts

A windlass in hand, and a walk of conviction despite his diminutive statue. With an oversize and Daz white apron with fresh red accents to try and cover what looked like a sacrificial ritual gone tits up, I was ready to call the scuffers to report a murder but then upon further inspection, it was a red tie-dye t-shirt FFS and this guy was a pastel painter, a colour mixing meddler.

You see out the corner of my eye I noticed that there was an overly large easel on the rude end, a finished scene of bridge and towpath with a blood red backdrop, stupid me.

To be honest it’s always a surprise what you see on the cut, you’re mixing with the great unwashed after all where you must expect the unexpected. As someone who is watching a supernatural western series Preacher at the minute which features vampires, angels, agents sent from Hell, Saints of Killers and flying pigs on the journey to search for God. The similarities are for all to see, you never know what the hell is going to happen, well apart from the bloodshed and gore, that’s not quite up there thankfully.

What was he doing out this time of the morning I wonder, oh yeah, fisherman to alienate stupid, I’m in his poo riddled domain after all. But then as about the only one that seemingly fishes canals these days he’d have better off getting a little more shut eye, because barges and boats don’t bother me that much to be honest.

Reduced oxygen levels because of the warm water, who knows but the Zeds have been properly off it, maybe they’ve switched to a short feeding spell, maybe they’ve been driven off elsewhere by an otter impersonating bad badgering badger. A change of scenery was therefore in order to at least find a Zander or two that might well be up for feeding on the smelt offerings that would be dropped in front of their noggins.

Overflows raise oxygen levels, so a lock mouth was the first port of call, but above the Tefal head is an area I’d not properly given a good go to be honest. If it wasn’t for the fact that a 2 mile stretch is usually very productive then I’m sure it would have received more of my attention. I had some bread with me so if I’d spotted some carp under ones Cocoons I might have a try for one merely by swopping to a readymade hooklink , I’m sure at least one or two of those should be milling around.

This challenge is getting harder and harder, and the quest for a cut double is enough to break even the toughest of men. A 9lb fish the biggest I’ve managed in well over 100 trips but that was caught some time ago now and I’ve had neither hide nor hair from a fish that statue since. The schoolie numbers are definitely down, that’s I’ve no doubt. Maybe the apex predator had handed over his batton and is now mulling around in the side-lines.

If that is the case I’m sure there are some big lurkers still here like they once were. They were transitional then because swims where I’d caught both the 9lb fish and a fish of 8lb 10oz which is in my title banner have been fished many times since without a sniff of the same fish again. So once in a while fishing away from the usual stomping ground may well be advantageous. Hence why the change for this short morning session.

The oxygentated swim didn't produce a bit after half an hour to it was just a matter of exploring the sections of cover before a bite was forthcoming. It took a while to, with only 15 minutes or so of the sessions left eventually I had a bite, now the fish grabbed the smelt on the retrieve so I assume it had been sat starring at it for a good 15/20 minutes or so. Not the size I was after but at least not a blank.

So the last section of cover before heading back as the boats were getting a pin, out went a whole roach next to some thicket. It didn't take long for a bite either. The fish was messing around with it for a while before it was taken confidently right under the cover. Now unbeknown to me whilst the bail arm was off, the line had got tangled behind the body of the reel, so upon tightening up I accidentally cut through the line, that was after I felt that it was a reasonable fish.

Bugger !!! not having a good time of it of late....
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