Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Friday 29 January 2016

Warwickshire Avon – It’s Not Cricket

River fishing for Roach is a gentleman’s game and usually fair play is paramount however sometimes you have to flirt with your best friends Wife, a little underhand but ultimately there’s no harm done, it keeps the blood flowing and life’s interest ticking over. The Roach, particularly the large and rare ones are a fish to be treasured, they deserve respect and therefore balanced tackle that goes with it.

In the early 17th century, it was decided by English aristocrats that cricket would be played in a ‘gentlemanly manner'!

Often, the phrase, ‘gentleman’s game’ is used to describe cricket. When we think of cricket, we think of mild-mannered men in white flannels, with their shirts tucked in and their neatly parted hair. A pat on the back, a gentle handshake or sharing a joke while walking back to the pavilion are also the images that pop up in our mind. It is a game that, so they say, segregates the classy from the crude, and ‘the boorish from the benign’.

Historically, the standard of sportsmanship was considered so high that the phrase "it's just not cricket" was coined in the 19th century to describe unfair or underhanded behaviour in any walks of life.

However, in recent time and the changing game this phrase is surely debatable….

So for this session I was bolt rigging for Roach….

You What!!!!!!

I had planned to use bread discs exclusively but with a little more colour in the water than expected it was out with the Lobworms. Roach love them you see and particularly when fishing a bait static it does seem to single out the larger stamp of fish, the problem is, the bites come thick and fast…

Bang, twang, thump, rattle

The problem is despite it being a Barbel bite in miniature more often than not you are striking in to thin air. The size of the bait certainly has an influence in bites received, on one session I had Roach feeding uncontrollably and violently on whole lobworms but recast a half eaten one and they largely avoided it the crafty beggars, try and feed a kid a broken biscuit, they will burst in to tears.

The bites received are proper fast snatch and grab after a few tip rattles and a missed strike the lobworm is bruised and battered and the Roach has a full stomach.

I tried the usual helicopter set-up which is a bolt rig as such as eventually the fish is hooked on the weight of the feeder but for some reason it didn’t have the same effect when a larger hook was used and the maggots swopped for a lobworm. Roach have small mouths and lobs are a gobstopper so bites are missed because the hook isn’t anywhere near the intended target despite the fish sucking in the worm Perch esk and registering the bite. I’ve changed, modified, swopped and adapted my rig over those frustrating sessions and now have something that works reasonably well.

It’s a little like the Chub Poka-Yoke rig in that ignore the sharp twangs and rattles and wait till the rod is properly wrapped over, no real need to strike either.

One of the biggest changes was the hook pattern, I now use a Guru QM1 hook in size 10 (The largest available and just about the right size), it looks like a miniature circle hook, heavily swept shape a short shank and beaked point, it gives fantastic hook-ups.

Despite being barbless the shape helps to retain a wriggly lobworm and being PTFE coated that sharpness is retained which is a must for the rig to work effectively. The hook is tied to a 2ft hooklink and secured to the main line with a quick change bead. A small Drennan gripmesh feeder is largely inconspicuous and it runs up and down the line and stopped in its tracks with a moveable grippa stop, the beauty of this is as it’s adjustable if the bolt effect isn’t working correctly you can make modifications to improve the self hooking rate.

The feeder is filled with liquidised bread and to keep the Roach in a feeding mood, the bread is combined with aniseed flavoured hemp seed and a few red maggots…

hemp to Roach is a little like Haribo Tangfastics to a 4 year old, they love the stuff and gets them in a feeding frenzy, and when they discover it the bites are quick and aplenty.

Having ‘misplaced’ my newly purchased Salter Scales I decided to retrace my steps and head to the same swim that I know has some nice Roach in residence to try and bypass the humdrum see if there were some larger specimens within the shoal. Roach are in pockets along the length of the Warwickshire Avon but its surprising just how localised they are and many areas are completely devoid of them. I didn’t give the swim nearly enough time in the previous session so the plan was to set my stall out for an extended session. Rod properly secured with front and back rest and also my rucksack seat to provide some luxurious backside support.

As a roving angler in the main, sat on ones backside it feels alien to me, but from time to time depending on the session it works.

Now I found the scales pretty quickly and upon settling in to the swim bites were some forthcoming and most bites resulted in fish. They properly give the worm a right doing over but ignore the sharp pulls and rattles and as I said before wait till it properly hoops over. After an hour or so with Roach up to 14oz's the rain started, now it was the rain that gets you wet, you know the horrible stuff, so I went for a wander to the wilds past the bridge.

I fished a couple of swims in and around the bridge and then walked upstream as far as the thicket allowed. There was signs of a vagrant sleeping rough, makeshift bed, fire and even a sofa and a couple of whicker chairs but he wasn't home today, to be honest it looked like he's moved on a long time ago.

The last swim was chock full of Roach, and most were half decent too, 7 oz's and over and again they loved the lobworm. The rain had started again in anger so I headed back after an enjoyable day.

I'm sure there are much bigger fish to be had here but as I'm not renewing the book for the new season, I may never know for sure.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Warwickshire Avon – The Chubby Dace Chase

I’d fished this stretch a few times last winter and discovered a swim full of roach and dace that were tightly shoaled up as either side of the swim was baron and fishless. There were encouraging specimen potential signs and in particular the dace, which were by far bigger than the usual stamp of Avon fish I regularly catch. Previous sessions (a year or so ago) I’d sat behind a quivertip and ledgered a worm or bread disc but for this morning trip I decided to trot a float with either bread disc or a couple of maggots as hookbait. It’s pretty deep here around 7 to 11ft and with it being reasonably wide with long runs you can give the float a proper run through.

Feed a few maggots each trot, jobs a good’s….

A nice plump Warwickshire Avon Roach
Before the first frosts the largely untapped upper reaches are out of bounds because of the huge and dense herbaceous pain in the arse perennials but there is still plenty to go at. I’m not planning to renew this book for next season having decided to fish pastures new but before I confine it to the bin for a future session I’m planning to go past the bridge to the end of the stretch and work my way down.

I’m sure there are some surprises to be had….anyone fancy a trip?

Dace shoals generally hold a variety of sizes so it pays to keep fishing a swim even if you’re catching only small dace to start with, I’ve made that mistake before, persevere and get through the plebeians and eventually the bigger fish will appear. The smash and grabbers are notorious for giving quick sharp bites and unless you are in direct contact with the float then bites can be missed.

Another issue I’ve found when trotting a float, is that even the Lilliputian fish can dunk a float and more often you are striking in to thin air. Using a 2oz quiver you get the knocks and taps but it’s only when you get a proper pull round that you need to lift the rod, they register properly too, like a Barbel bite in miniature, I’m a rover though, it’s more my thing, I also need to do more trotting, I’m sure I’ve been missing a trick.

The usual set-up for dace is as light as possible but I prefer the opposite, these days I like to use a fairly hefty self cocking and highly visible Righyni float as I’ve found even with a bow in the line leave the float can act as a self-hooking mechanism, a bolt rig in effect, you just need to be patient...

.…and get in to the mindset of the bladderated, and the delayed reaction time that goes with it….

Hey, maybe that’s why our Eastern European guests like a drink when they are fishing, maybe a couple of cans of tramp juice prior to commencing battle is the way forward. I wait till the float goes properly under and then just lift the 14ft rod to pick up the line, 9 out of 10 times a fish is hooked.

For my inaugural Grayling session at the Itchen I used a Guru QM1 hook and they impressed me so much they will feature in nearly all my trotting now. The smaller sizes particularly, the circle type pattern just seems to give fantastic hook-ups, being barbless they are also very easy to remove. Before fitting one of the Righyni floats a Drennan Avon was already rigged up so I'd persevere with that and only change if necessary and I was missing bites. 

Now the session was weird, I couldn't for the life of me catch a Dace. I started at the top of the stretch and trotted in more or less every swim without a touch, there were hardly any signs of fish either, the odd fish topped that was it.

When I arrived at the familiar banker I had to battle through the bone dry thicket and eventually had a fishable swim. I fed maggots with each trot and after about fifteen minutes or so eventually I managed a Roach...

..and another Roach, and another, and ....., and it went on like that till I ran out of maggots, I could have built up a reasonable weight if I had a keepnet. I had a few lobworms with me so I upped the hook size and fished a slack a little over depth, again, fish after fish, till the bait ran out.

The fish were not the biggest, but the average stamp of fish was high with most fish over 7 or 8 oz's up to 13 or so.

When I returned home the Salter scales were nowhere to be seen (must have left them), so I might sneak in short session after work and return to the same swim, next time though, I'll fish the quiver and go 'bread' handed....

Monday 18 January 2016

Warwickshire Avon – Lucy’s Mill, A Tale of Poo

Many moons ago I’d fished Lucy’s Mill with a friend of mine Simon and couldn’t even remember what I’d caught, if I recall I didn’t particularly enjoy it, it’s not my sort of venue to be honest, I’ve banged on about it before but I’m an angler that seeks solitude. I get all querulous when mixing with the great unwashed, in the summer apart from the frequent eyecandy, it was a nightmare…

Whatever you do, don’t leave your bait box open or unattended, ‘Alfie’, WILL eat it.

There was a good chance for a Zander though, so Mick, get a grip FFS….

I was hoping during this cold spell the banks would be quiet so for this session I positioned myself between the lower weir and the bridge and intended to fish a small dead bait for the Zander and then use a small jig rod.

There is more or less all species to go at here….but it was the Zander I was after.

Despite catching hundreds from the canal after 5 ot 6 attempts on the river I've failed to catch one, but it's no secret the Mill has some.

The Lucy’s Mill Bridge a stone’s throw away was built in and around 1590 most probably to get people with a pig under one arm, a chicken under the other to market. In 1867 floods destroyed two of the piers and the wooden bridge had to be completely re-built. It was eventually replaced in 1934 with an art deco style concrete bridge to match the design of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre that was opened a couple of years earlier.

The problem I found previously was that the bridge was often a meeting place for those that frequent the Stratford Greenway, the modern phenomenon, MAMILS (middle aged men in Lycra) who despite their supposedly superior fitness apparently find it difficult to negotiate the steps with their carbon fiber bikes and GPS computers. A local money raising group (FoLMB) would like it upgraded so I assume cyclists can ride 2 abreast like they do on the local roads, well ok, presumingly for those less mobile, as wheelchair users would certainly benefit from a ramp.

There is an issue though, it spans private land, which would require a compulsory purchase order which is unlikely to be granted. This isn’t China and there isn’t an upcoming Expo, so for the time being, the FoLMB will have to make do, then again it would be nice to see some of my hard earned council tax going to a project that would benefit residents and Stratford’s 4 million yearly visitors.

The river had dropped a huge amount over the last week and a bit because the water had been lapping half way up the benches and partly over the boarding foot bath, still coloured mind, with visibility on a few inches or so.

It was only a short session this, time is precious and all that, anyway a deadbait positioned near the bridge was left untouched for an hour or so, as was the small jig so I moved upstream a little opposite the flats.

The deadbait was getting interest but I didn't manage to connect to anything, I've had the flesh stripped to the bone before, and again, similar results, small fish, cray fish ? I changed from a red head white lure to my favorite colour the firetiger and it was the change what was needed. Within a few casts something hit the lure, not the biggest of fish and it fought more like a Perch but luckily for me, my first river Zander.

Well it's a start, 1lb 8oz, it's a PB anyway.

The amount of dogs walking in this area is staggering and after one decided to relieve its bowls a few feet from me and having to endure the stench that went with it, it was time to leave.

I'll be back again, maybe with an all out deadbait attack or maybe a maggot feeder set-up to see if I could tempt a silver bream.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal - #saveUKzeds

With the local rivers over the banks Danny Everitt's recent post on Save the Zander got me packing my Zander gear to fish a stretch near to me that was electro fished not so long ago.

The Lido stretch at Stratford
The person that used to have the rights to this stretch and made it free for all just so happens now owns and runs my favourite tackle shop that opened last year and I've had many chats on the matter.

After the Zander removal the EA at the time restocked this relatively short stretch with 20,000 silver fish to give it an apparent much needed boost as the canals were baron waste lands and devoid of anglers.

Well it's still devoid of anglers...and it's still contains Zander.

During my 2015 closed season Zander challenge I covered many miles of Warwickshire's canal network and I rarely shared footpaths with other anglers, then again it's like that on the rivers I fish though, especially in the winter. It's not like there isn't any silver fish sport to be hard, because there is, I know a few swims where if you stuck it out you could fill a keepnet with Roach, no problem.

But but but, its a trek from the car park and you cannot park next to where you fish.

The modern fisherman is lazy you see....

I'd been out of the sport for 6 years or so after taking a near 20 year layoff and I couldn't believe the difference when I started up again. I remember one Shanghai AC match at Tunnel Barn Farm in the height of summer, I'd not been to the venue before and had a walk around and I spotted an angler on a bridge with his feet dangling in the water and he was catching F1 carp with a small whip right next to his pinkies.

A 200lb weight in a 5 hour match is possible and every fish would look the same, how is that fun, you have to ask.

So this morning, a nice walk in the countryside with a lure rod and a float fished deadbait fished over depth I managed to catch 7 or 8 Zander in quick succession.

The biggest went 3lb 14oz, not big fish but fun all the same. A couple of nudges on the lure but all in deadbait. The water was cold, that could explain it.

As Danny says those anglers that walk the waterways these days are the predator anglers, they are the eyes and ears for the canal and rivers trust, they need support not alienating. Dropshot and jig fishing has become very popular indeed and it's a great way to get kids away from their PS4's and in to the sport.

They are here and naturalised in many waterways, so get out there and catch them and get some exercise whilst you're at it.

They are addictive....

I'm not a facebook user but give your support and Save the UK Zander

Saturday 2 January 2016

Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal - Mucky Waters

What a contrast to the Grand Union I fished earlier in the week, this was proper chocolate brown, overcast and not particularly pleasant as the cold wind was giving it some. The clarity was such that even with a bright green lure it could only be seen a couple of inches down.

I wanted to fish a series of locks that I'd not fished before. Other areas of this canal I fish the hotspots are the overflow at the lock mouth and its oxygenated waters.

It was predicted to be peeing it down all day so I only took my lure rod for a bit of roving so could shelter from the worst of it was an when required.

Firetiger, my favourite colour didn't do it today.
No need....

Now I've caught Zander in the dirtiest of water but deadbait seems to be King, so I should have also brought some deadbait as it was a mere sprinkle for the three hours I was out, now after one fishing in and around these series of locks without even a nibble I returned from where I came.

I swopped to a clown coloured lure and this showed up far better, it was white and yellow and gave just that little more visibility in the overly coloured water. The first swim I originally fished eventually produced a 3lb Zander which after a couple of casts nailed the lure and give it a proper clonking.

Not a blank but next time I'll go better prepared, certainly the swims look ideal with plenty of potential.

With bladderation off the cards for me for the whole of January to give my liver a well deserved rest and my waist line an opportunity to shrink I'm hoping to get out on the bank as much as possible. We just need some proper cold weather to improve the clarity of the rivers as I'm desperate to go and try and catch Pike Tyson.

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