Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Tuesday 28 February 2017

Monday 27 February 2017

Warwickshire Avon – A veritable spam chariot

I felt invincible as a 19 years old in my Storm Grey Metro GTI, the grippy 185/55 Pirelli P600’s only highlighted the lack of power from the 1.4 ‘k’ series throwing out those straining 95 horses. The back lanes of Meriden and Balsall Common were my playground, the law often broken.

Some of the speeds travelled over those ‘B’ roads looking back were utterly ridiculous, especially as comparing the body structure to a modern car, I was driving a crisp packet that was ready to crumple at any time.

Then one evening lift of oversteer came in to the equation and I was starring down the face of the grim reaper whilst travelling sideways along a deep and dirty ditch at a considerable speed, how I gathered it up, God only knows.

No wonder the insurance for the cheapish car was £1200 TPFT that’s over 2.5k in today’s money.

So I needed to do something before I killed myself or others for that matter….

I slowed myself down by mimicking that ‘flat eric’ advert and installing one of the biggest sound systems a spam chariot had ever seen. Bespoke trimmed panels with 6X9” drivers in the rear quarters, upgraded door speakers and ‘A’ post fitted tweeters.

The biggest upgrade however was the boot mounted 12” subwoofer which I built myself out of MDF which featured a proper calculated single reflex bandpass enclosure and also provided a mounting for the accompanying amplifier that went with it.

Oxygen free gold plated cable in abundance, money no object….

Let’s just say my Mum knew when to put the tea on the table, the 50hz-150hz meant I could be heard.

Then some git nicked it, it was my pride and joy and I was gutted.

It was eventually found abandoned in a Birmingham school car park where the joy riders had managed to not only help themselves to the Alpine head unit and the majority of the ICE systems but also buggered the reverse gear and gave the engine a misfire.

Sadly only one option, it was written off, an omen? Maybe who knows but it was about the only car I missed as a youth.

Maybe a scare was good though because in future years the cars got ever more mad and powerful, TVR’s, Supercharged V8’s, trackday cars and the like.

One big difference though I learnt to respect them and what they could do, hence why I'm still here.

Now a little like the Zander I've been catching on the cut, I'm hoping wading through the smaller fish eventually a lump will turn up, they are an intriguing species and I've learned to respect them as I've not worked them out just yet, so for this session I was at an area of the Warwickshire Avon that has some Zander in residence to try and bank a lunker.

A long and lean Zander, sat in a 30" Korum Latex Barbel landing net

I was there at dawn with a lovely red sunrise and compared to the day before the weather was much nicer, the wind was still up but it's largely sheltered so rather pleasant as the air was clean and fresh.

The first fish came pretty quickly after I re-positioned the bait in-between some cover.

Not a bad start at 6lb 7oz

The next fish then came on the other rod which was cast 30 or 40 yards further upstream, a much better fish at 8lb 4oz which after checking when I got back home bettered my PB by 1oz :)

The everything went quiet....

I decided to up-sticks to a swim further upstream but after an hour and a half being battered by the wind I decided to head back to where I started more or less.

A small Pike came literally within minutes of casting out and then soon after a Zander of 5lb 15oz's decided he wanted the Roach section. It was quite distinctive, if I catch it again, as it had a rather large open wound so 3 Zander, a PB and a scrappy hard fighting Pike, not a bad morning.

Saturday 25 February 2017

Warwickshire Avon – Poetic Crustice

Cakes, donuts and custard tarts.

Chelsea buns, jam tarts and Bakewell slices.

They don’t quite do it for me sadly, a peppery pork pie or a sausage roll forthwith, chop, chop.

I just haven’t got a sweet tooth so when there are birthday cakes or leaving cakes in work, I rarely indulge. So anything savoury especially as if its free I find hard to refuse, and could happily pulls ones chair up gorge myself on the finger buffet full of scotch eggs, pastries and quiches.

Then again oddly I’m up for a large slice of Victoria sponge if it’s to Mary Berry standard....

yum yum.....

Now think of a piece of white fluffy bread topped off with a golden brown baked crispy crust stuck in front of a large mouthed Chevin.

No right-minded Chub especially a hungry could or would refuse, surely Shirley….

Even I’m licking my lips….

On a recent session for Chub the bites although were there didn’t come as quick as expected and the fish that were caught were OK, but nothing like the size I know that grow here.

Maybe it was the blue-green colour and clarity of the water by my reckoning, it wasn't as coloured as I thought and in previous trips to this part of the Warwickshire Avon bread would have been the better bet.

So with a crusty loaf purchased it was back to try and catch one of the lunkers that have sadly eluded ones hook thus far.

Now I like tinkering with methods so for this session I’d also add some flavouring so by dunking the bread crust once hooked in smoked Mackerel pâté, I’m sure the Chub would be obliging and it….

also doubled as my breakfast….

I was in to minds whether to trot for this session as it’s something I want to do more of in the new season but as the swims are small here it’s more suited to a link ledger, the depth varies quite a bit too you see and I know of a few holes that Chub would likely to be hiding.

I didn’t think it is particularly necessary to feed any mashed bread either as if there is a small head of Chub in a swim then mostly likely the larger fish would find it first, well that’s my thinking, hierarchical feeders where the bully gets its first.

My usual link ledger set-up was modified for this session, a running ledger bead complete with shot link sandwiched between two float stops and a Kamasan B983 tied direct to the link.

The float stops could therefore be moved up and down the line if necessary, particularly in slacks where the flow wouldn’t dictate the buoyant breads height but moving the shot link closer to the hook would.

So did they come to the party....?

Well the greedy smaller ones did, as a short morning session I banked about 8 fish, the biggest 3lb 8oz so not the biggest sadly but on my TFG River and Stream rod and centrepin they give a cracking scrap so it's not all about the big fish as I enjoyed the session immensely.

The search continues....

Monday 20 February 2017

Warwickshire Avon – Enbarbelment

I was bankside just prior to dusk and it was a lovely brisk walk over the fields towards the end of the club stretch. I caught Barbel the morning before further upstream but I wanted to fish one particular swim where I suspect there are bigger fish lurking.

The first day of the season I lost a decent fish in this area and despite fishing it again a few times I’d only banked a couple of splashers.

I only had 3 hours before I had to head back so everything was prepared before the session, the PVA bags tied, the hair rigs equipped.

The river had dropped considerably in 24 hours and even the colour was starting to go, to be honest looked more Chubby than Barbelly but heck got to give it a go.

The river was still carrying some pace and in the usually shallower areas it was motoring through. Luckily this swim has some deeper features which slows the pace somewhat and it’s here where I suspect the large fish may be seeking sanctuary.

As I’ve said before, I don’t particularly enjoy sitting behind ones rods but this swim needed the dedication.

So with two rods out it was sit back and try and watch the rod tips. Barbel don’t mess around though so as long as they are ones peripheral vision, it’s not an issue.

Lots of distractions here you see as the neighbouring fields are full of wildlife.

Just over this short session there were hundreds of Starlings in an acrobatic mass swapping between tree to tree, two hunting hawks,woodpeckers,a barn owl and even a buzzard with wings in a shallow ‘V’, tail fanned with its catlike mewing, an awesome sight.

Oh and the resident Kingfishers which seemed more active than ever….

Then Bang, Bang, Bounce & Bang….

A bite, an hour in, a small but plump fish but some right good whiskers on it so and it would be nice to catch in a few year when it's grown to its frame.

It gave a pretty good fight so maybe that disturbed the swim as no more bites came before I had to up sticks and head homeward bound. At least they are biting, and at the time they are at their fattest too.I need to squeeze another session or two in before the season ends.

Monday would have been ideal, an unseasonal 14 degrees.

Sadly I've got bills to pay, so work it is.

Canal Zander – On Death Row !!!!

Yeap the message is still as confusing as ever. After some communication via Twitter sometime ago and wanted to get clarification again as in March I’ll be starting my double figure canal Zander quest again come the close season.

Anyway an email was received back very promptly last Friday from John Ellis who is the National Fisheries and Angling Manager for the Canal and Rivers Trust.

Pay particular attention to the last bullet….

Thank you for your enquiry via John Harding. My answer is slightly ‘long winded’ but I think it’s important that people understand the background and where the Canal & River Trust currently finds itself.
  • Ultimately the rules (law) regarding zander and other non-native fish species is not set by the Canal & River Trust, it is the police, Natural England and the Environment Agency who regulate the various components of fisheries law. The Trust naturally has to work within the law.
  • When we applied for KIFR site permits, we did suggest to the regulator that a Midlands canal zander zone be set up where this non-native invasive species could be permanently kept. This suggestion was not accepted by the regulator.
  • So as the law stands, the Trust can’t tell an angler that it is legal to return a zander, for on the canal network it is not legal whereas on a river it may well be lawful to return. For what it’s worth the same would apply to all other non-native fish .
John W Ellis BSc(Hons) MIFM C Biol MRSB
National Fisheries and Angling Manager

Saturday 18 February 2017

Warwickshire Avon – Trump Card

The trump card had to be played, I had to get out fishing you see, the river was up and on the rise, weather mild, wind low so there was a chance for a Barbel.

Dave Roberts had already been relaying by text the Barbel he was catching so I needed to get out.

The weekend was already ‘organised’ for me though so the window of opportunity for two fishing sessions was going to need reaching for the pack of cards.

Two you say, well yes, because I had my eye on fishing for Chub too at an altogether different stretch of the Avon but it meant we’d have to leave a little later than expected on the Sunday morning otherwise I’d have a session so short it probably wouldn’t be worth bothering with.

I know my Wife too well though, she can be bought…

To be honest it wasn’t that hard, I finish at lunchtime on Friday you see so often go for lunch, “hey fancy a bite to eat” before we pick the kids up.

“Go Greek if you want, and can get that nice bottle of Makedonikos you like”

“sounds like a great idea, not been there for a while have we”

So mid sharing mezedakias of spanacopita, keftedes, stifdo, sluvlaki and moussaka, oh and a glass down, I was out with it.

“you know Sunday, what time do we have to leave again ?”

“9.30, 10.00’ish”

“Bugger, was hoping to get out again, oh well” “I felt the fresh air helped with my lurgy last week” “sitting on ones backside all week working doesn’t really help does it” “oh forgot to ask” “what did you do in your free time this week ?”

“Just get to the point !!!”

“Conditions are idea are ideal for fishing and the season ends soon, ok if we leave a little later so I can fish Sunday morning.”

“Yes I’m sure that would be ok, you didn’t need to take me out for lunch you know, you only had to ask”

She’s not stupid my missus….

Anyway to the session, 5 degree outside temperature so fairly pleasent for two hours a couple of taps on spicy meat and boilie and then Martin Roberts turned up who was planning to fish for Barbel also, suggested to shorten the hair and chop down the boilie, even suggesting where to cast, and he certainly knows his stuff down here, so it was exactly what I did.

Weirdly the first fish was a small Zander on a Roach section after swapping hook links but after another angler downstream of me had managed a Barbel I was out all with two chopped down 18mm spicy squids.

About half an hour in the left hand rod goes mental and a Barbel is on.

These small Barbel give a spirited fight even in these cold conditions and as soon as it surfaced it was confirmed.

I didn't weight it but looked about 4lb - 4.5lb.

The next Barbel came pretty quickly afterwards and again on the left hand rod. Slightly larger, but a nice mint fish like they all appear to be down here.

Anglers upstream of me were biteless with Martin having my peg when I packed up to get back to family duties. The two anglers downstream were faring better with a couple of fish banked the biggest 9lb.

Certainly despite being cold, the coloured conditions meant they were happily feeding in spells.

So a few hours in the morning and with the river dropping I'm off chubbing. Barbel would be on the feed but there are a couple of swims I want to try, otherwise I'd not forgive myself.

Monday 13 February 2017

Warwickshire Avon - Lucid Dreams

Overboard, I’m now in the relatively shallow, blue clear water.

The coral is vibrant, fish life in abundance, I feel at home taking in the visual spectacle that is before me.

I begin to explore, the mask and snorkel unobtrusive.

A couple of small leopard sharks and a few rays meander past but then further in the distance they about turn, hmmm not sure what’s spooked them.

My vision goes blurry, Whoooooooooooshhhhhhhhhh !!!!!!!!!! I’m being pulled up, the G powerful.

Then I’m above quickly above the surface, looking at myself swimming in these South Pacific waters but I can still feel a connection like an umbilical cord.

Not visual but by mind.

My eyes focus on something dark, it’s a slow moving shadow with the silhouette of the sinister.

It’s a large shark, a Great White if I’m not mistaken. I can see myself facing the other way, I need to do something.

In a flash, I’m dropping through the sky at pace. The waters coming closer as is the shadow.

Spllllllllllllasssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhh !!!!!!!!!!! I’m now in the water, returned to one’s body and my arms and feet flailing in all directions, I’m panicking, I’m shouting. I cannot hear properly.

It’s a dream, I know it is, so let’s wake up. NOW !!!

Back in the room, my heart is beating ten to the dozen, the Wife wondering what’s going on.

I woke up at the right time, though.

Time to get my fishing gear together and get after those Zander.

Now Lucidity occurs during altered states of consciousness and when you realise you are dreaming your brain switches to waking mode in your dreams.

You see in normal dreams, your self awareness is shut down. That’s why they often feel distance and cloudy, but when lucid, the brain wakes up during sleep and your senses become alive, leaving you to explore the inner workings of one’s unconscious mind with total freedom.

It’s scientifically proven too, Keith Hearne a British parapsychologist used a grass polygraph to record sequences of ocular signals and therefore catching pre-determined conscious eye movements from a lucid dreaming volunteer.

I don’t have them ‘that’ often but the ability to control the dream once you have twigged that you are actually in a dream is something to enjoy not be scared of. With lucid dreams, you are always asleep in bed.

Anyone can have a lucid dream too, recognising the dreamstate is the biggest hurdle and habitual recognition is the key to achieving it. Meditation for starters, to focus your mind on demand. Visualisation which is to enter the lucid dream state from waking, dream journaling which is to cement dream memories in the waking world or mnemonic techniques to try and produce spontaneous lucidity in dreams.

I’ve taken an interest you can see such are some of the dreams I’ve experienced. I’m sure it helps me being a relatively light sleeper as being in and out of consciousness is often my usual pattern of sleep.

Now I don’t do any of that or take a herbal concoction of Mugwort and 5-HTP but I do often eat food rich in vitamin B6 and tryptophan which gives dream production a kick start. Chicken, prawns, eggs, brown rice and porridge oats, oh and blue cheese in moderation which does give me some of the most bizarre dreams but those are left for special occasions, I’ve my athletic figure to maintain after all.

So the session well back to the Avon, back out with deadbaits and also the remainder of the fillet steak. To be honest when I looked out of the window I was in two minds to go or not, it was miserable. Cold, with lots of drizzle so not particularly appealing, but with the Poncho donned and all the winter gear on, I was dressed for it.

I settled in the first swim with dead positioned and steak out. It didn't take too long either as the tip was pulled round and I was in to a fish. It was giving a good account for itself too and doing what Chub do. Eventually netted it went 4lb 8oz on the scales. A longish fish too at 54cm's, shame it hadn't got it's winter coat on as might even have made 5lb.

Dave turned up not long after and settled in a swim upstream to do some double dipping as well, with Zander and Chub being his target.

Back to my swim the deadbait rod now springs in to action and I'm in  to a fish. A small Pike took a liking to the Roach section.

Then all went dead....

Two more swims not a sausage, well apart from a pull and a nibble on the steak which didn't result in anything.

So back to one down where I started, with rods out again. Two anglers turn up complete with fancy umbrella and trolley and get their deadbaits out.

By this time I had enough so I decided to call it a day. Dave was on the move too being relatively biteless in the first swim.

A text later from him, looks like it was a tough day for all. A Barbel angler who was downstream blanked as did Dave and the two other anglers who sat it out in my original swim.

Cannot have good session all the time can we. Now there is some milder weather on the way again, so who knows, might give the Barbel a go again.

Friday 10 February 2017

Warwickshire Avon – If Carlsberg Did

If Carlsberg did Chevin Heaven, this small enclave of the Warwickshire Avon would be it.

It’s got everything a Chub would need you see.

Those overhanging bushes and trees for much need cover.

Snags and rafts aplenty and those food carrying creases they love.

Even lap dancing bleak and perch punkah-wallah’s

Shame the beer is like nats wee and I’m here to spoil the party, but then again you cannot have everything. They grow large here too such is the sanctuary, I’ve managed numerous 3 and 4lbers with the biggest going nearly 5 which didn’t quite get that bleeding monkey off my back. One session in particular I banked 6 or 7 fish in a short session with every fish over 4lb.

Good fishing in anyone’s book let alone mine. Talking about books, I've bought a mint copy of late Tony Mile's, Search for Big Chub and enjoying it immensely, some great tips and considering it was published over 10 years ago now, it's very relevant and still a cracking read.

Search For Big Chub - Tony Miles

I’ve seen fish over 5lb here that’s the frustrating thing. One summer I’d stumbled upon one of the swims to see not just Chub feeding up in the water but Barbel too and a few of the Chub looked huge. They were cagey buggers though and despite watching them for half an hour and being as careful as possible with oneself and ones bait they quickly get suspicious and were never seen again. I could only image the size they would go come winter.

I want to catch an Avon 5lber GOD Damn It....!!!! Yes, I hope you’re listening Almighty because you haven’t up till now.

They seemingly love cheesepaste and as green, manky and smelly as you can get it. In the winter with a little colour in the water when targeting them I can think of no other bait I’d instead such the confidence I have in it. Roving is the only way to tackle it so nothing more than a small bag a rod and a landing net are needed. With the weather cold as it is, I find it hard glued to one spot so roving helps to keep ones cockles warm.

You don’t even really need a bankstick because much of the stretch is elevated you just need to position the rod on the ground correctly.

And watch that tip go round….

I use a fairly simple link-ledgered set-up, with a paste cage tied to a hair to help retain the concoction. Hook is a large barbless Guru QM1 which is the pattern I use when Grayling fishing, not only is it an easy hook to remove from the fish when landed, it rarely comes out. It's got a unique pattern out of all the hooks I use, almost circle like.

Now I've never used steak before for Chub but James Hinley has been using it with much success and a rare visit to the local Tesco supermarket there was a chunk of fillet steak going cheap, some of it's in the freezer but I'd got some with me for this session too. I had another hooklink made up and for the last hour of the session I'd see if I had any takers.

So the session went ok, I fished about 6 swims and returned to two. 6 Chub were banked with the biggest going 3lb 8oz. Ok not the biggest of Chub but on relatively light tackle some fun was to be had. There are some bigger fish here sadly they didn't seem to be around today.

Weirdly the Chub didn't seem to mess around with the cheese paste, as soon as they found it they nailed it and the bites unmissable. The steak they seemed to nibble it and return again and again until they decided to take it.

Not sure why to be honest but there was a definite difference. Maybe Jame's Chub are used to find dining. Maybe a bit like my matey Wardy and trying anything remotely healthy or green, it takes a while but eventually inroads can be had.

There was sleet during the session too, well it is winter isn't it but so pleasant to be out after being stuck in the office for most of the week.

I don't know why I don't do more Chub fishing because I love it when I do.

Friday 3 February 2017

Warwickshire Avon – Astral Projection & Barbel Predilection

Prior to this fishing trip I’d spent a couple of days stuck in front of the CAD screen creating a fully parametric model for an aluminium armature that holds an automotive interior clay model stable so the mud monkeys can get carving.

Ok not the hardest of jobs if you know what you are doing but I needed to get my head down and just get on with it, it didn't help I was carrying the lurgy that was going through the Newey household but come on man up Mick….

It's my bread and butter after all.

You see for long stints stuck behind the computer you really need to ‘zone out’ so with my bluetooth headphones donned, mixcloud app open I’d been listening to some outstanding ambient soundscape, downtempo psychedelic and goa trance mixes from uploaders such as Allix and Terrahertz.

Having dabbled in making and playing electronic music in the past I appreciate the skills of other and a couple of these mixes gave me a proper out of body experience such the detachment I was in. Astral Projection if you will.

The headphones (Plantronics BackBeat Pro’s) help as apart from having large fully ear encompassing drivers and a battery that lasts ages they were also noise cancelling so the studios bluetooth speaker and all manner of music on the varying playlist couldn’t be heard.

Now when it comes to my fishing, the reason why I enjoy my session out is that I don’t think about anything when I go. It’s hard to describe to those that don’t get the same out of it like I do but it gives my mind a much needed rest and to be honest if I didn’t get my weekly fishing fix I’d struggle with the daily grind that comes with a busy family life and being the breadwinner and fridge filler.

Weirdly though sat behind ones rods when Barbel fishing which I tend to do I find it difficult to get in to my usual state of mind, I have all manner of things going round ones head, and I don’t particularly enjoy it.

Maybe that’s why it hasn’t featured much in my fishing this season as having a Barbel on the end of one’s line is something that I’d never tire of. The Warwickshire Avon holds some big fish too, fish that I’d certainly like to catch as I’m confident my summer caught fish and PB of 11lb 11oz’s is easily beatable.

I just need to target them in anger again as I’ve done before….

I’d rather a fish from lesser-known areas too, and for next season I’m probably going to re join a stretch that gave me the incentive to give them a proper go.

I had spotted a huge Barbel you see that swam out from the cover of an overhanging tree that was obviously disturbed when I was landing a Chub. What really stuck in my mind though was this fish showed itself to me in all its visual glory, hey look at me and leisurely meandered up river to get amongst some thick streamer weed with seemingly not a care in the world. A bit like Kelly Brook with a gaping cleavage at the TV awards, hey, look at these, it was so, so brazen like it wanted to be seen.

HOLY SH*T, I NEED to catch that and I devised the Gluttonous Poka-Yoke Rig specifically for the task.

One of the most memorable sessions was well over a year ago now and I still remember it really well as the fight was so savage and powerful, a proper two handed jobbie to try and stop the fish getting in the bullrushes downstream but I was disappointed that the fish when eventually landed wasn’t the fish I’d seen, which was a scale up again.

Another trip, again, a nice Barbel, but not the ‘one’

So the 3rd of February 2017 you wouldn’t think I’d be targeting Barbel but with the rivers up after a decent dump of rain for this short afternoon session that’s exactly what I was doing. It had been rather mild you see so rather than a lump of cheese paste in some slacks for Chub it was out with the smelly baits for Mr Barbus.

I’m sure they would be up for feeding….

On this different stretch from where the big'un I'd seen lurks there are fish in numbers and some bigger fish amongst them, they don’t appear to be that localised so you can catch Barbel from most of the pegs along nearly half of the stretch but with the river up there was a specific area I wanted to target as I knew there would be some fishable swims that I could position a couple of smelly baits that would hopefully be intercepted.

No need for the Poka-Yoke Rig for this session just some nice pungent boilies and pre glugged sausage sizzle squabs, and for added attraction from time to time wrapped in stinky paste. I still felt pretty run down so I was looking forward to some fresh air and some rest.

Sit back, headphones on, and wait….

Now the rods had been out for 20 minutes and I spotted Dave crossing the meadow and he was after Zander but one look at the river which was running at some pace and a milky colour maybe Barbel was the better option after all. Anyway after a quick natter he headed upstream to position some baits in an area of slack water.

After a couple of hours with a couple of Chub pulls I decided to move to a swim further down the stretch which had a nice snag to the left and and an area that is a little gap between some streamer weed. In the coloured water you wouldn't know it was there.

Cast out, feel the lead bump a nice bottom and then leave it.

Another half an hour or so went and I noticed Dave again I upticks and was heading to my direction. Biteless so he settled in a swim just up from where I started. To be fair about the best bit of slack water on the whole stretch we were fishing.

Not long after Dave leaves my right hand rod goes riverward and the tip starts to bounce. A fish was on. It felt decent too and gave a couple of satisfying lunges.

A nice Barbel surfaced and was eventually netted. The cold weather meant it didn't fight as well as I know they can, be after resting it in the net and ringing Dave to photograph the fish when we got it on the mat it was bigger than I thought it was. It's length and width a bit deceptive when it was landed.

A mint condition Warwickshire Avon Barbel of 9lb 12oz's

Half an hour past without a bite I decided to pack up and say my goodbyes to Dave and get on my way, the weather was on the turn, the wind was picking up and the rain starting.

Dave had modified his Zander rigs and now had two rods with meat on and as I was chatting to him there were indications on both rods. I thought Chub at first but the the right hand rod goes mental and he has struck in to a decent fish.

The Barbel were on the feed that's for sure.

Another lovely Warwickshire Avon Barbel of 8lb 10oz's. Now with that capture I set-up my rods again but after 20 minutes with the rain getting heavier I packed up again and parted company for the second time with Dave going to sit it out for another 20 minutes.

Well worth the trip out with both fish in stunning condition. Nothing like a good Barbel, is there....

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