Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Grand Union Zander - A Surfeit of Lampreys

With the local rivers out of sorts and providing difficult fishing I decided to seek some relative sanctuary and venture to a section of the Grand Union that Zander frequent to see if they are partial to a section of lamprey.

A lamprey bleeds more than a bladderated warfarin user with a head wound,so would they like the weird looking jawless Petromyzontiforme more than they would a headless Roach?

I've caught hundreds of Zander, this was a mere experiment and to keep the interest up and to provide knowledge going in to another cut double closed season quest that I enjoyed so much last time.

On the float rig I scaled down to a much smaller hook than I usually use, on the main rod a simple running rig with a tried and trusted bass hook.

Now King Henry loved a Lamprey pie, sadly it eventually led to his downfall, overindulgence, food poisoning or a post meal wafer thin mint, who knows but in 1135 the 67 year old popped his clogs after being advised against easting them by his physicians. Anyway, if you fancy a bash.
Take your Lamprey and gut him, and take away the black string in the back, wash him very well, and dry him, and season him with Nutmeg, Pepper and Salt, then lay him into your Pie in pieces with Butter in the bottom, and some Shallots and Bay Leaves and more Butter, so close it and bake it, and fill it up with melted Butter, and keep it cold, and serve it in with some Mustard and Sugar.
Would the Zander also be partial to this bleeding morsel dunked within the cuts murky depths....

Before the sun came up strong against the clear blue sky and the swim went dead I had 7 Zander, not bad for a couple hours, the bass hook hooked in the scissors as expected the smaller Dragon hook, not so, all but one fish were hooked a little down the throat, I crushed the barb so not too bad to remove, but not ideal.

Incidentally no lost fish....

The biggest went 3lb 13oz, not huge but a welcome change and the Lamprey worked wonders. I'll definitely use it again.

On the drive back home I stopped off at the lure banker swim and sure enough after a few casts, a small angry Zander grabbed the small lure.

Got to love the Zander, as a predator, right up there with the best of them..

Sunday 27 December 2015

Warwickshire Stour – A Worm in Waters New

I’ve decided I’m not renewing this book for next season, it’s been good to me over the 4 years I’ve fished its club waters, but I’ve decided for the 2016 season it’s out with the old and in with the new. So before the book is confined to the bin I wanted to have one last bash on its waters. I’ve fished in and around this part of the Warwickshire Stour before but this particular stretch I’d never wet a line only having previously fished it ½ a mile upstream.

For those that have never fished the Stour what I would recommend is in the summer when the river is low and the clarity clear, go and walk the banks. In places the river will be shallow and the bed exposed but it’s full of character, deep troughs,holes, gravely runs and provides plenty of visual intrigue. It definitely fishes better in the colder months so before the waters rise it’s well worth doing, very much value added.

The recent forgettable trip to Blenheim Palace left me with a load of lobworms so for this roving session I’d feed a few red maggots and anchor one of the worms to the deck with a simple link ledger set-up. My sort of fishing this especially when it would help walk over the Christmas overindulgences.

I was hoping to find the odd Roach or two…

Now prior to this session I’d been at a local village hall tabletop sale and out of the blue stumbled upon some boxed and apparently unused Salter Brecknell Model 15 scales, I recognised them straight away as Jeff Hatt uses a version of these.They weigh up to 4lbs in 1oz increments so ideal for weighing Roach, they also look great in the photos. A squirt of WD40 and a twist of the zeroing out thumbscrew we were back in business.

Now I got them for £15 quid, Jeff reckons they are worth at least £40, so not a bad purchase.

Being a spring balance it works by Hooke's Law, which states that the force needed to extend a spring is proportional to the distance that spring is extended from its rest position. Therefore the scale markings on the spring balance are equally spaced.

They seem very accurate indeed with the items I weighed (2 small tins of beans are 500grams) so maybe the spring hasn’t been overworked so maybe it was as described, unused.

The first spring balance in Britain was made around 1770 by Richard Salter of Bilston near Wolverhampton. He and his nephews John & George founded the firm of George Salter & Co., still notable makers of scales and balances, who in 1838 patented the spring balance. They also applied the same spring balance principle to steam locomotive safety valves, replacing the earlier deadweight valves.

So enough of that, I was here to catch some fish….

After recent rain which has put the Avon mostly out of action the side tributaries were like a raging torrent and it was putting even dirtier water in to the already coloured river

This was going to be difficult...

It was a matter of moving swims every 10 or 15 minutes or so till I found some fish.

7 or 8 swims later I was wondering what I bothered but then I settled in to a nice open swim with a large bit of slack water and I was eventually getting indications.

The first fish was a Roach and then everyone thereafter, only small fish though and after running about of time and family duties called I managed to catch 25 / 30 roach or so, all on lobworm,the end nipped off and hooked through the broken end seemed to work really well.

The problem was only a small stamp of fish, the biggest 7oz. The size of the fish were poor but at least I christened the scales...

The larger of the brass cylinders is 7"in length...lets hope I catch something more suited at the next session.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Warwickshire Avon - Meet Bob

I've caught this greedy chub 6 or 7 times over the last couple of years so this morning I've decided to name him Bob.

Sadly Bob hasn't been at the Christmas party food as yet as he only weighed 4lb 8oz but I've no doubt we will meet again, till the next time.....

Saturday 19 December 2015

Blenheim Palace – The Monster Perch Search

Friend, Coventrian, Shanghai AC competitor, and fellow automotive jobber Dave Roberts is a specimen angler who has caught many a big fish in the UK and worldwide, the one that immediately springs to mind was the 81lb 5oz Ken Dodd Mirror Carp from Rainbow Lakes in France. The fish’s girth reminded me of the girls that used to frequent Fatty Arbuckles in Stoney Stanton Road back in the day, the cleavage on display provided a short term visual distraction as the weight and size was deceptive and their true weight was well disguised. However from certain angles, if their standards slipped due to K cider and bladderation….

....utterly gargantuan!!!!!!

It was not a place to don the beer goggles…

I’m married and have standards these days so big lake mud sifters I’m not interested in but then out of the blue Dave asked if I would like to join him on a visit to Blenheim where I could share his boat in the quest for one of their reputed monster Perch.

What a stupid question….

Now Blenheim looked a tough old water if Google was to go by and over recent years it has seemed to have got tougher. “Nice Setting though” was used plenty of times in the articles I read as those Tench, Pike and Perch fisherman who often left with the tail between their legs having blanked big style without even a suck maggot vowed never to return.

It was stupidly mild for this time of year too, not ideal Perch weather to be honest, maybe we would pick up one of the Tench that also call the lake their home, we would see by the end of the session. This was a return trip for Dave, the last, many years ago.

The 2000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped park land has been home for the Dukes of Marlborough (Now the 12th), it was also the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill, the setting really is something else, the pictures don’t do it justice at all. It is only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace, and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As I understand it, one of the biggest houses in England.

The boat house
I hadn’t even considered trying for one of the big Pike that reside there as I prefer fishing for them on rivers but as a big Perch is such an impressive fish and visually hard to beat as a coarse species, they were my target for this trip.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire Photo: Blenheim Palace

So prior to the trip I conjured up a method of attack….

A red maggot peppered float fished lobworm which would be fished well off the bottom to avoid the crayfish and at a depth the Perch would probably be happy with and as something a little different, a light lure setup with a jig head fitted soft wiggly worm or crayfish. I’ve not tried drop-shotting yet, so jigging would have to do.

So only one other boat on the whole lake

Hmm I wonder if other people know something we don't....

The first swim looked ideal for Perch so whilst Dave set up his rods I baited with some chopped worm and maggots and fish a big lobworm over the top, a lure went in and around the swim.

Now Dave had everything but the kitchen sink as he planned to fish a big bait for Pike and also go for the Perch, if bites were hard to come by he would also fish a float to just try and get a sucked maggot.

Id seen the pictures of the Comorants on Jeff Hatt's blog and they really are something else here, there are literally hundreds of the things, Grebes too.

They haven't a care in the world either so after positioning the boat near a reed bed I'd have expected them to move, but no, they were happy to sit there bold and brass.

A couple of Kingfishers kept us entertained as the fish were not having it, there wasn't any fish topping either.

One of the hot spots seemed to be near the bridge so we dropped the weights near a fallen tree what was submerged for an hour or so and this time we both had dead baits out. It was much shallower here, again for an hour or so not a touch.

We then moved and positioned the boat more or less in the middle of the arch and again, two dead baits our and 2 lure rods.

Again an hour without a touch we moved a little further up the lake in a sheltered bay using the big poles to anchor in the silt.

I swopped to a lobworm over chopped worm and maggot and also used the jig rod. Dave just wanted a fish at this stage so fed maggots and fish a waggler 20 or so yards from the boat whilst positioning a dead bait a similar distance out.

A slug of port and brandy kept us entertained.... again for an hour the fish didn't

We upticks and then went up past the boat house, the  cold head wind and my rowing skills hindering our process. It was slow.

We went past the other boat and same old story, bugger all.

We then decided to drift down in the wind and use bigger lure on both rods, Dave alternated between a spoon a soft bait and a large diving Plug. I went for a spikey shad.

We both fished in the middle and then towards the margin where there were some dying lily pads.

Again biteless and no fish topping, all very weird. The light was now fading and Dave rowed us back and I kept on throwing the lure behind the boat. 

BANG, wow eventually a fish was on !!! 

It felt like a Perch because of the way it fought, but sadly only a tiddler of a 1lb or so.

Another 1/2 hour around the boathouse with deadbaits out, not even a touch. The other boat had returned now and they had lost a double figure Pike but also remained fishless.

The boat house keeper reckoned it had been fishing ok with some nice Pike coming out, "almost everywhere on the lake" but he hadn't heard of any decent Perch being caught despite saying there is a British record in here. Oh and they had been trapping crayfish, literally tons of them apparently.

If we do come again, I think we will wait till it is properly cold and maybe use some smelly sea baits for the Pike.

Blenheim Palace, what a load of Cormorants....!!!

Sunday 13 December 2015

Warwickshire Stour – Big Roach Quest, Knead for Seed

The more Roach I catch the more I appreciate them as a species, found everywhere from the village pond, pools, lakes and in the biggest of rivers and the smallest of streams. I’ve never really targeted them specifically but then maybe I should, I’ve not even recorded my captures in the past, not sure why just one of those things. I fish the streams and rivers of Warwickshire in the main, not the biggest stamp of fish admittedly but the quality is right up there, the humble Roach really are stunning creatures.

Why not go and fish the River Test for a big'un or go bolt rigging for the 'Roach' at Lochnaw Castle?

Nah I enjoy what I do within my tiny patch and the relative mediocrity that goes with it....well until I get bored anyway.

This week I was shared some Roach catch reports from a clubs matches that took place on the Warwickshire Stour. There were some encouraging signs for a potential capture of a specimen. The biggest Redfin caught in matches has increased year on year and information detailed as recent as last month some proper'uns have been turning up.

….well nearing 2lb in weigh in layman’s terms,which ain’t bad for a small river in Bards Country I can tell thee.

Ironically the Sunday before on route to Sweet Knowle Aquatics with the family, we passed over Wimpstone bridge and I was amazed at the river level. With the Avon properly up and strong tea coloured it looked perfectly fishable and at normalish levels. On the return after purchasing a Thai crab, some sort of sucker fish and 6 Mickey Mouse Platey’s to replace the fish the neighbour 'accidently' over fed whilst we were on holiday we passed over the bridge again, and it looked so inviting.

It had a lovely emerald bluey tinge to it, like a bottle of Bombay Sapphire.

....and I just had to fish it as soon as I could.

There were specifics detailed in the information shared and the larger Roach were from one particular location, however before visiting that area (when I renew my book for the 2015 / 2016 season) I'd fish an area a little further downstream that I've never seen another angler, not sure why though, it’s a bit of a trek from the car but then surely that’s a good thing, well it is in my book it is, as it means you’d be sharing the day with the sheep and flight and enjoying their humanless solitude.

Because of the long trek, luckily this beat isn’t on the matchman’s radar and the stereotypical angling sluggard and lard arse.

I was hoping concentrating on this one area where the fish are under less pressure would likely make the fish less wary and eventually after plugging away the bigger fish would eventually let their guard down and reveal themselves.

Well that was the theory...

One problem though the Stour has frequent club matches (there was one on today) and it’s a lottery when these take place. It’s very much finger in the air…as are the duck shoots which appear to happen just as sporadically. If a match is indeed on, you have limited water to go at and best not fish when there is wildfowling going on despite moving quite a distance away you’d still get covered in lead shot (I did anyway). I’d caught a pristine 12oz Roach in September from the Stour and fancied another dabble for them, it's my sort of fishing this.

The streamier and weedier upper reaches are also of interest next season but for now the slightly wider parts of the river with some decent holes and varying depths are plenty enough for me to go at. The upper reaches are a short car journey away from here and yet couldn’t be more different as it contains some wild brown trout for starters, very chalk stream like, particularly in the summer when it’s low, shallow and pacey. In April and May, when there is a small Mayfly hatch you may well even spot a fluff chucker or three. I’ve walked the length and there are some nice holes and troughs that Roach and Dace are likely to reside.

Freelining bread in the summer months on this sort of river, I've just GOT to do it...(I can see the Wife's eyes glaze over as I write this)

As much as I love the Warwickshire Avon, this small river is more my thing, I know I'm limiting the size of the fish I catch, but for me, location and the enjoyment that goes with it is up there with the PB's too. I really could spend a whole year trying to track down decent river Roach in Warwickshire but I like fishing for most species throughout the year for a bit of variety so I only usually manage a handful of trips.

Decisions, Decisions….maybe I need to become even more specialised and dedicated like my Canal Zander challenge....?

Nah,....BUT if I DID catch a good Roach I could easily be swayed.

With my trotting skills still very much familiar and the 14ft Acolyte Drennan (I’d now bought off a mate) still set-up from the recent Itchen trip for this session I’d have another dabble for a decent fish. With a job lot of past their best maggots left and hemp over (mental note, just take a couple of tins of sweetcorn for the Grayling next time) I’d loose feed these mixed with some liquidised bead and alternate between small bread discs and maggot on the hook.

My head was hazy from a Saturday night in Warwick but roving a small river in the winter is one way to a clearer head and the aftereffects of a lamb madras, better outdoors that in.

The problem was as soon as I got to the river I realised it would be a tough day, the river was on the rise and weak tea coloured, debris would likely be a problem too.

The float went down nicely but after at least 6 or 7 swims and a few hours without a bite, I was struggling. I decided to head back to the car get my small feeder rod and fish a static bait to try and tempt at least a Chub....

A simple helicopter feeder set-up....

Again 4 or 5 swims I was struggling, they are not feeding today.

I decided to walk to the end of the stretch where there was an overhanging tree, I bet it looks completely different in the summer but it looked very Chubby indeed.

I added a little bread disk to the size 16 hook this time and dropped it in and amongst the branches. Within seconds there was some taps and knocks and then the tip knocked violently, I struck and a fish was on.

This was a Chub, only a small one though and despite giving a good account for itself it was quickly netted...

The app on my iPhone tracks my steps and today I covered 4.25 miles. Poor fishing, no Roach but my head was clear and at least I didn't blank.

Monday 7 December 2015

Warwickshire Avon – Penicillium and Pharyngeals - Pt.1

2 years ago I made a job lot of cheese paste, it’s not even been in the freezer, as some of it has been in an air tight container since that faithful day….

The layer of mould matches its malodour, it properly stinks….

I’ve refined my static Chub rig over the last four years since my 20 year angling layoff when I stumbled upon, DJ’ing, nightclubs, lad’s holidays and women and their wet things.

It’s simple but effective…

The pungent cheese paste is moulded around a 10mm cork ball which is secured via a bayonet to an off the shelf 15” hook link. The loop of the hooklink is attached to a quick-change bead which provides a buffer for the running cage feeder which is filled with liquidised bread.

The quick change bead is ideal as I can swop from some cheese to a big lump of bread and a larger hook in seconds.

It’s a rig that has banked me hundreds of Chub up to 4lb 13oz.

A 5lb Chub is the biggest Monkey on my back and I’m determined to put the end to it this winter with sessions planned in familiar venues and some new ones too. I could travel to give me a better chance, but a 5lber from a local river stretch water is what I want.

The river looked great when I got bankside, a nice flow to it and far coloured than its been of late so ideal for a pungent bait. As usual I fish I rove around and give it 20 minutes in each swim then move on. After the fifth or six swim without even a rattle on the tip I was getting desperate. Very very unusual indeed as I would expect to have banked one by now.

There was lots of waiting
Now one swim that looked ideal had 6ft thick dead stingers in the way, so only one thing for it. With the rod held high I trudged a path through to the swim. I then had to clear them away from the water too as they were preventing me from dropping in a bait.

The river narrows and the water quick but the swim between two large overhanging and dropping trees mean that the swim is almost static, a little tricky as I would have to bully the fish, but what Chub wouldn’t like it here. After making a right racket clearing the swim I decided to give it the last hour. Not much happened for 40 minutes or so but then wham a huge bite and a fish was on. The rod was bent double and the fish was snag bound, but some decent side strain and eventually it popped it’s head out in to the mouth of the swim and was netted.

With nowhere to rest the fish I had to retrace my steps and find some softer ground, it was a potential 5lber as it was really long but it had such a hollow stomach, I didn’t even bother weighing it, I guessed at a few oz’s over 4lb. The water is still pretty mild so maybe they haven't got their heads down to properly feed yet.

With the windy now properly gusty and the light rain starting it was time to call it a day, far harder than I could imagined as usually I manage 3 or 4 Chub a session. Oh well there is always next week.

Saturday 5 December 2015

Lower Itchen Fishery - Strong Tea and Strumpets

I’d never caught a Grayling let alone seen one, there are certainly rivers and streams that would be suitable in Warwickshire which is where I predominantly fish because, you see, many rivers in England and Wales only have them because of introduction by man, the original indigenous stocks of were found In the English Ouse, Trent and possibly the Severn, Wye, Ribble, Hampshire Avon and the Welsh Dee, I live in forgotten Warwickshire, you have to travel.

The presence of the ‘Lady of the Stream’ is a good indication of high water quality as their liver is smaller as a percentage of body weight than in trout and many coarse fish, they just cannot detoxify pollutants as well. Then again I’m not sure I’d want them in the clean lowland river on clay the river Blythe for example, it’s kind of nice they are out of reach, as it makes trips like this one more special. Nearby(ish) Worcestershire and the Teme has Grayling apparently but not quite the same is it. Chalk streams are special after all.

There are 210 chalk streams in the world, and 160 of those are in England.

Just a small part of the Lower Itchen Fishery, the main river and carrier stream.
Anyway, back to the fishing…

So with a date set, tickets bought through FishPal.com I’d luckily have some company down to Southampton, Jeff Hatt off of, Idlers Quest. Now it didn’t take long for Jeff to express an interest, seconds if I recall but and having fished the river a fair few occasions I was glad he was accompanying me as I’d have been fishing blind.

Experience is invaluable especially with me being an Itchen and Grayling virgin. So as it’s a bit of a trek down South on route the conversation gave me a much-needed leg up, knowledge is power, information liberating and all that. At the Zedvember sortie the shared stories from Jeff, Danny and the like really did wet my appetite, so much so if the trip went as suggested then it may well become a yearly trip.

I didn't know you had to return a Grayling a certain way to prevent them going belly up, not liking being handled that sort of thing.

All appreciated...

James Denison  and partner in crime, Brian Roberts would also be joining us at the fishery, the more the merrier and as they are also chalk stream veterans I was hoping to learn from them too.

Different strokes for different folks, so two different setups for this trip...

A mate imprudently lent me his new out the packet Drennan Acolyte Ultra 14ft rod which I mated with my favourite trotting pin the J W Young Aerodex 2900. A very light combination indeed, I’d been looking for a new trotting rod as I’ve always felt the 12ft I usually use was a compromise on some of the Avon swims I fish, so for this Itchen trip would give me a good hands on test to see if this was the right rod for me.

They ain’t cheap, these Acolyte’s, so being allowed to borrow it was much appreciated. The tip looks extremely delicate and prone to damage and I was surprised the rod came in a fabric rod bag so luckily many moons ago a spur of the moment purchase of a cheapo TFG rod bag would give it some much needed protection on the journey ‘ Down South’

I usually have my rods already set-up so initially I fitted a Righyni style self cocking 2BB float. I’d used this float before on the Warwickshire Avon and I liked the extra tip length over a standard Avon as particularly when long trotting it gives a visual advantage allowing the tip to be seen further down the swim.

For my second and alternative set-up I decided to bring one of my favourite rods the 11ft TFG River and Stream. It came to the market some time ago but they appear on Ebay from time to time. What a rod, stupidly small diameter but plenty of backbone. For rivers such as the diminutive Warwickshire Stour I use it as my main trotting rod when fitted with the Avon tip. For this session however I rigged up a helicopter set-up with a Kamasan black cap maggot feeder.

Hooks, I had size 18, through to 14’s, bait in the boot, well....(Guru QM1's worked superbly btw)

...plenty of red and white maggot, hemp and sweetcorn, oh and some Warburtons Blue as back-up.

It didn't take too long to get down there and after meeting Brian and James we went through to the fishery and drove up to the top of the coarse beat. The track was more rutted and puddle riddle than I thought, so a not for next time take the Wife's car which is more geared up for this sort of thing.

The coarse stretch to the start of the game stretch couldn't be more different and it was the game stretch I started from.

A Grayling first trot with maggot, tiny, but a PB

We all went our separate ways,

Jeff straight to the carrier stream, Brian and James further downstream.

The first peg I fished I returned to later in the day as the more I fished it, the more maggots I fed the Grayling stamp was getting bigger and bigger. I thought I might have gone a bit OTT with the big float set-up but it worked so well and Grayling did give some proper pull unders too.

Having not caught Grayling before I was amazed at the power from a relatively small fish, especially when they are handled, they are eel like and so powerful, hard to keep still too.

The bigger fish came to sweetcorn and out of the 40 or 50 I caught throughout the day, the biggest and a PB went 1lb 8oz

Now being a game water, from time to time I hooked a trout, I lost a few too, the biggest went a nadger over 2lb, they give a nice scrap too on the light float rod.

The rod was great, picks up line so easily, so, so light which if you're trotting for a hour upon hour, that's a must. You let the rod do the action, it's proper tippy but has some backbone too, even with the trout I felt it could handle bigger fish.

I could have stayed in the productive swim all day, but I took a lunch break of tea and a pasty and bumped in to Jeff who had the same idea. He had been ledgering bread and was being pestered, if you can call it by trout.

I caught Grayling and trout and almost every swim, now I know James particularly is used to this but me as a Warwickshire angler it was all new and almost a novelty, I'd like a fishery like this on my doorstep.

I'm loving the trotting too, I really should do it more often...

Anyway with time cracking on I bumped in to James again who was heading back to the car to head to move downstream and have a crack at the coarse species.

I decided one last half our in the productive swim whilst James tucked in just upstream...

Again, Grayling after Grayling...bit too easy this...

After giving James's van a push as it stuck in the wet grass we both headed to the mill.

Now, the mill looks fantastic, but after Brian had failed to catch a Pike and James, wasn't feeling it, I decided to stick it out.

I initially trotted some maggot and had a couple of small Roach, and after a brownie disturbed the swim after devouring the corn hook offering I went back the car and for the last hour, stuck it out with the maggot feeder.

A few small Grayling I thought well that's my lot...

With the light fading, Jeff turned up and was surprised no one had caught a Chub.

Then within seconds, a proper whack on the tip, then a proper bite and a fish was on. I initially thought it was another trout but was surprised to see a Chub, a reasonable one too at about 4lb. A nice end to the day. Jeff and Brian left to make their way to the Big Smoke and me and Jeff retired to the pub for a well deserved pint and a pie.

Such an enjoyable day, I can see me paying a visit every year now. Cheers chaps, great company.

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