Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Tuesday 31 August 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Lead-Swingers and Ligyrophobia

This short session down at the Warwickshire Avon to be honest couldn't come soon enough, you see my work hasn't let up since I started working on this ground up EV I've been working on for the last 2 years. 

The work started in the office as normal and now much of my work as a design engineer is conducted at home like it has for many from 'that' announcement from Boris for the start of the first lockdown. Ups and downs for sure like most people however I dread to think how many lead swingers are taking advantage and playing the system during these times. 

I'm not complaining as I've stayed in work and I'm very lucky but I don't particularly like conducting business by  Microsoft Teams where from the makeshift design office in the kids playroom my background is an entire wall mural of Ironman and his fellow Avengers. 

Luckily more recently I've been going in to the office or prototype build facility one day a week as I'd go insane otherwise, I get some people like working from home, especially those with a >1 hour commute but we as humans are social animals in the main. 

Now we all need a little “me time” now and then, but people vary greatly in how much time they prefer to spend in solitude. Some try to limit their alone time as much as possible, whereas others desire far more than they can fit into their busy schedules.

Although both solitude and loneliness involve being isolated from others, they’re not the same thing. We feel lonely when we don’t get the personal interactions we need, and it’s quite painful. In contrast, solitude is experienced as pleasurable a kind of alone time that we seek out rather than try to avoid.

Solitude gives us a chance to think, to enjoy a good book, or to get some respite from the stresses of an overactive social life or the pressures of work and the daily grind. 

A desire for solitude can also be the hallmark of a mature, intelligent person, since many intellectual pursuits tend to be solitary in nature and fishing for us is a by-product luckily. 

However, a general preference for solitude may come at a price, in that it puts us in danger of feeling lonely after we’ve accomplished our solitary goals. 

Some people prefer solitude because they’ve had unpleasant social experiences in the past. In response, they throw themselves into their work or hobbies, which they find more enjoyable than spending time with people they find tedious or mean-spirited. But at the end of the day, there’s still an unmet need for meaningful connections with others.

A weeks family holiday where 25k daily steps was the norm, then a trip to Alton Towers where 15k was ticked off before even the first ride on the Wicker Man hardly a holiday, well in the true sense of the term. Then a three night Stag Do this weekend for a clubbing event where will my solitude be sought ?

Well luckily just down the road where I'd only fish for a couple of hours but those couple of hours will be enough to reset the piece and quiet neurons. To be fair the rather lacklustre lure sessions at Instow weren't too bad, well until the four legged noisy stick chasers turned up to spoil the sounds of the waves that is.

The Avon needs rain it really does because when it is a gin clear as this it never fishes well in my experience at all. However once the light goes things start to improve no end and this exactly what happened for this session.

Not even a knock for an hour but then as soon as the light started to go the first sigh of fish in the swim. What I didn't expect though was that a Gudgeon would be the first fish to be interested in the hot fish boilie. 

I thought the 'tap tap tap' might have been from an eel at first but no, it was a Gonk that clearly had eyes bigger than its belly. I'd added a PVA bag of hemp and small pellets so maybe after a starter it wanted its main course.

Soon after a couple of decent chub pulls a Barbel bite ensued but this was no Barbel it was a near 4lb Chub that had hooked itself despite the long hair and gave a 4ft twitch a Barbel angler wants to see but not with a chub on the end.  Still a decent fight to be fair and not unexpected here where Barbel numbers seem to be down. 

Conditions are a massive factor though, a soon as there is colour on the Warwickshire Avon fortunes can change significantly, experience tells me that.
A splasher chub came just before the curfew time and that ended the session but for me fish are secondary for much of what I get out of fishing these days. Solitude you cannot beat it. 

Saturday 28 August 2021

Instow - Potlickers and Potamography

Now the bass is the only common representative in British waters of the family of sea perches. It is among the greatest of sportfish, and known in some localities as the sea wolf, or salmon bass.

I caught the bass earlier in the week out of the blue really but because of the fish actively at the time I knew it was only a matter of time. There where quite a few fish that jumped clear out of the water and luckily I was there at the right time.

There were some cracking sunsets from our accommodation and to be honest my mind couldn't get off that fish I caught because having seen it take the lure like it did, what a fearsome predator they really are. The weather for the whole week had been brilliant being 22 / 23 degrees so there was plenty of beach time and even ventured in to the sea at Saunton for a swim. 

The walk to the industrial pier took around 25 minutes and on the way passing the rocks behind the cricket club I would look for any fish topping.

For many probably not a holiday because I clocked up >23k steps for all but one day lots of walking meant I was quite happy to eat food I don't usually do and not worry about the beer I was consuming. 

Now distributed throughout the Mediterranean, ranging west in the Atlantic to Madeira and northwards to the British Isles, the bass is a fish of the warmer waters. Around the British coasts, bass are most common in the south and south-west of England, the south and west coasts of Ireland, and tend to become more thinly distributed the farther north one moves in the North Sea. 

The overall colour is silver, the back ranging from dull grey to olive green, and the flanks showing sheens of blue or green. In some specimens there is a definite bronze sheen to the cheeks and gill covers. These tints fade with death to leave the fish silver to dull grey. 

The dorsal and caudal fins take the colour of the back, the lower fins being transparent or white. Both the tail and the anal fin have a light marking along the free edges. The first dorsal fin contains between seven and nine sharp spines, the second dorsal has two leading spines followed by between eleven and thirteen soft, branched rays. 

The pectoral fins are made up of soft rays, without spines. The pelvic fins below each have one spine at the leading edge, and the anal fin has three sharp spines, followed by between ten and twelve soft, branched rays. 

The spines, in bass of all sizes, are very sharp and can inflict particularly painful wounds. 

Contrary to belief in some circles, these spines do not inject poison, and any resulting inflammation will be due to neglect of the wound. Bass range far and wide, in changing environments, for food. 

They may follow the shoals of whitebait and mackerel, patrol shingle banks for small flatfish, or come right inshore into very shallow water for sand-eels, sand-hoppers, shrimps, and crabs. 

Thus there is contrast in the fishing, with such extremes as Ireland's famous Splaugh Rock or the comparatively quiet, brackish water of a river mouth, and the difference in the venue calls for a corresponding difference in fishing technique. 

Bass are fiercely predatory, but the large fish can be subtle in their feeding habits , but these are huge fish. Sportfish range between 2 and 6lb, and larger bass are in the big-fish class. Those exceeding 10lb are exceptional fish, and are, unfortunately, few and far between. 

Whatever the size, the bass, on suitable tackle, is renowned as a tenacious fighting fish. Could I catch another one ? errrr nope.

My twin brother Chris managed one mind you, albeit a small splasher but hey, it was a fish and I was struggling. The fish just didn't seem to be there in any numbers. Apart from that one morning on low tide where there were fish topping all over the shop from then it was very quiet indeed.

One of the mornings we popped over to the jetty and fished a bait rod with various baits but not even a bite. The wife and kids were happily catching crabs on the high tide though and in around an hour we managed a good 15 or so which took a fancy to the small sandeels and mackerel.

There were mullet mulling around too but they spooked at the sight of bread and despite trying freelining bread a few times in-front of their noses they were not interested at all. 

The Quay Inn public house and restaurant is situated in a most picturesque location with views of Appledore and Bideford the perfect place to watch the sun go down.

I've always wondered why beer is better in Warwickshire or in the Midlands in general, but despite drinking in various establishments in around Cornwall and the South West to me as on average as a cask ale drinker we are blessed with some cracking brewers. 

Even my brother agrees and he's live in this area for 5 years or so. I popped in to Summerlands the excellent fishing tackleshop in Westward Ho !! for some bits and pieces, but I was doing nothing wrong with the bass fishing apart from maybe not trying for them at dusk.

The tide times were against me sadly because this is a family holiday after all not a fishing holiday.

Still I was quite happy with that one fish at the start of the week and with another weeks holiday to Wales this time where I could do some more sea fishing I think this time I might give float fishing a go.

We are off to Saundersfoot and there is a  harbour there that can be fished with float gear apparently. Also the walk towards Wisemans Bridge has areas with rocks as well.

The reality is with such a volume of water to go at experience is key in sea fishing and that local knowledge passed on to others. I got speaking to a boat owner again on on of the crabbing days and maybe the next time I'm down again I will get myself a boat trip sorted. If I lived by the sea I think as an angler a boat is a must especially when it opens up so many more opportunities.

Something this size looked ideal, but then that would be suitable for a few anglers not me and a couple of others so maybe a little overkill.

I suppose its all about budgets isn't it but heck, if I get to the sea in 10 minutes it would be a no brainer. So again another fantastic trip down to Instow and we all thoroughly enjoyed it especially when unlike this time last year the weather was heard to fault really. Even the journey back wasn't so bad either, like British weather the M5 can be a lottery with any problems causing a big issue. 

We'll be back !!!

Monday 23 August 2021

Instow - Sea Dogs and Sebastomania

Now the term fishing is something of a generalisation for no other pastime contains within itself so many aspects embracing so many different facets, some so far divorced from each other in style as to be hardly comparable. 

And yet, despite this variance of styles and techniques, there is a special camaraderie among anglers, almost masonic, established immediately it is known that the other man fishes. 

It contributes much to the fascination of angling, the non-angler is often surprised to discover that angling is the largest participant pastime in the country, and wonders what on earth anglers find in angling. Conversely, anglers wonder why on earth there are such people as non-anglers, and constantly try to remedy the situation.

The non-angler will never understand the bond anglers have either, but then that is not entirely unexpected unlike this dinosaur cloud that appeared about the Ho !!

They are not at all surprised at the great enthusiasm for catching fish. In a world where so little is left entirely to the whim of the individual, fortunately there is still fishing. 

There are virtually no rules, no times to start or to finish, very little that is truly predictable, much that is speculation, and great scope for ingenuity. 

The words always and never do not apply in angling. It is hardly surprising that in recent years there has been such a great increase of interest in sea fishing. 

There are no frontiers or limitations to the sport to be found in the sea, and one takes as much from sea fishing as one puts into it. 

The man content to lay back in a chair, with rod pointing to the sky and fishing for itself, enjoys the sun and the sounds of the sea on the shingle, and, when he has done, he packs his rod and is happy with a brace of flounders. 

Another man may go afloat in search of winter cod, or clamber over difficult rock faces with a LRF rod to find his sport a more rugged environment. Maybe a lifestyle change is the way to go eventually as I'd love a boat, I really would.

Now perhaps the most important feature of angling is that it is a matter of personal interpretation. While traditionally cut-and-dried methods do undoubtedly yield fish, there is much scope for initiative, particularly in coping with conditions which vary from coast to coast. 

As very much a novice to sea angling, for this another family holiday to North Devon to see my brother and his kids I planned to have another dabble. We were staying in Instow again which is a small village on the estuary where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet. It is between the villages of Westleigh and Yelland and on the opposite bank of Appledore which is the crabbing capital of the World.

 Last years trip didn't go well, the weather changed quite dramatically a couple of days in to the weeks break when a storm hit the area, and the sea changed colour from blue to brown after it. Don't get me wrong, you know me I love fishing in all weather conditions be it good or bad but as someone who is fishing largely blind and is a novice sea angler, I was wasting my time.

The weather was predicted to be a little better for this trip and my brother on the ground said some of his mates were catching bass over at the HO !! using lures and also live prawns under bubble floats. 

It was a family holiday after all so I've be largely limited to Instow around the pier which was a 3 minute walk from the accommodation and also I'd fish just behind the cricket ground as there are plenty of rocks over there which is a fish holding area. The Volvo XC90's boot is ridiculous really so I'd even bring a fork to dig some lugworm as I fancied fishing a bait on the bottom this time round. 

So tackle wise I cobbled together an old carp rod an old reel with 15 pound line and I would fish a single hook flapper rig with crab, small sandeels and mackerel, and then my usual heavy'ish lure rod with surface poppers and some sandeel jobbies. There wasn't any fresh lug in Summerlands tackle but still enough bait to be getting on with.

As I was fishing the jetty with pieces of mackerel for my first short trip out the owner of Estrela Do Mar before heading to his boat stopped for a chat and gave me a few tips of where to find fish in Instow. He even gave me a circle hook from his limited stash and also some live grabs for me to try out, top fella and the story of his 13lb bass was great to listen to.

The problem I had after given some pointers was that I didn't have the right gear to give the bigger bass a good go around the old industrial pier but hopefully the lure will do the business in one of the trip outs. 

It turns out this next month the bigger bass turn to the rivers where their diet changes I assume to fatten themselves up before the temperature drops. Sadly no flatties succumbed to to the mackerel, crab or sandeel baits but the sandeels were coming back proper mullered so I can only assume there were some crabs getting in on the act. 

I knew from the last trip here there is quite a deep gully a short chuck out which hopefully will be a fish holding area. At least the kids can have a go for them especially as its so handy. 

It was quite a windy morning but luckily the best weather is to come. It's always nice to get sea air though isn't it and soon as the tide starts to go out revealing the seaweed and the like the bird activity increases tenfold.

One thing I have noticed is that things do cost me round here, be it a pint of ale, a pub meal or general shopping items. But then I suppose its a captured audience it is the nature of the beast I suppose. 

For the second mornings session I walked all the way over to the industrial pier and stopped off a couple of times on route so chuck the lure around some areas of the flat water where there were fish topping.

I'm not exactly sure what the bait fish were but despite using a popper and also a small fiish minnow nothing decided to take the lure.

The water was crystal clear as expected and I really did think I'd have a nibble or two. The tide was going out fast so the last area was in and around the pier itself.

Wading up to my knees in places the water wasn't particularly deep but I kept plugging away and with small mullet almost swimming around my feet I'm sure there was a bass or two hanging around.

This cheapo sandeel lure looked brilliant in the shallow water and despite the proud hook is seemed to pull through the seaweed no problem.

I was running out of time for this session though and with the diary makers wanting beach time later on where it would be 23 degrees or so, out of the blue literally a couple of meters away from my feet a bass shot out from my left hand side and absolutely nailed the lure.

Patience paid off in the end and a fat fish of around 4lb was on the end of the line and gave a pretty good scrap to be fair.

The change to that lure made the difference so with another 4 mornings at my disposal and also the odd evening hopefully something bigger will turn up. I was already late for lunch so I told the wife to forget the ham sandwiches and I treated myself to some fish and oysters from the Glorious Oyster on the way back.

Sweet chilli skate cheeks with Japanese togashari, chilli spices with mix leaf salad tomatoes with cabbage and carrots. A lovely combination indeed and what a way to end the morning.

Simple fishing in the end with a sandeel lure but a cracking way to catch a bass especially when I saw the fish actually take it. Hopefully I can catch something bigger also with some mullet milling around I'll bring some bread  with me next time.

To be continued... 

Thursday 19 August 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Hidey-Holes and Hippocrepiforms

The tangleator and I didn't have long down at this handy stretch of the Warwickshire Avon, but hopefully with a few maggots and his newly acquired freebie whip a few bites would be forthcoming. 

I promised after finishing work I'd take him away from his mothers apron strings to give her a bit of peace and I needed to top up my lacklustre vitamin D reserves. The river is ridiculously low and clear at the minute however here when the river has been in flood over the years it has carved out a much deeper area where even in these gin clear conditions the bottom cannot be seen. 

Gonks were the target but anything would do to be honest, heck even minnows wouldn't go amiss, as long as Sam was getting bites. The maggots were past their best if I'm honest but hey, when you're a greedy tiddler anything would do to satisfy the grub craving. 

He has really taken to the whip since the first outing and for simple fishing their is nothing better is there. 

Watching that float bury subsurface increases the serotonin levels no end and luckily this short sessions was on of those moral boosting fishing trips where bites were plenty.

Some friends of hours want to join me and Sam on one of our fishing trips and simple ship fishing I'm sure is probably the best way to introduce a kid to angling especially when a natural venue is ideal rather than having to slum it in one the F1 venues where there is more fish than water.  

Despite the gin clear water in the first swim the fish were up for biting and every single snag could be seen in this swim where just to the left of Sam there is a rather large sunken log that I'm sure would have been used by big chub to shed the hook. 

Initially the bleak go in on the act but half an hour in to his first swim we'd managed a nice variety of fish. Fishing slightly over depth picked up the first gudgeon and also seemed to attract the larger stamp of fish.

The next swim the first chuck produced a spirited small roach and lots of minnows. Sam could see the fish he were catching from this elevated swim and he was surprised a large perch, whilst not being interested in the maggots up till that point sucked them in after a precision drop of the float the bait was presented right in-front of his noggin.

A short hard fight ensued because after Sam was hanging on for dear like the pound and a half sergeant ejected the bait and the hook went with it. Sam was gutted as it was a 'proper stripy' and could have even been bigger than his bestest.

The gonks kept him entertained from that point onwards and after only fishing a  hour and a bit in three swims it really was a bite filled session.

I kept my eye out for any larger fish milling around for a future session but apart from a chub or two maybe around a couple of pounds the river was devoid of them. In these conditions though that is not unexpected on the Avon where if you didn't know better you'd be questioning the water quality because of the baron fish related biomass.

With September fast approaching I'm going to have a go for some river Zander because looking back at my blog over the years they are certainly up for a feed around that time.

I've some rods to set-up before then mind you and I've some sea fishing and more barbel fishing to tick off before I have a go at the predators. Hopefully we get some rain sometime soon because we really could do with some colour in the water to mix things up a bit. 

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Braggadocios and Bon Viveurs

The fishing took a back seat the weekend when with some friends we'd ventured over to Stoner park on Henley-on-Thames where there was a dance music festival to attend.

For those ageing ex ravers like me some much needed normality was restored and those dance classics belted out from the decent speakers with the lazers and lights that accompanied those familiar repetitive beats have been missing from the last 18mths of surrealness. Those pounding low frequencies just how I remembered them. 

Oh not my usual genre as I prefer beats more on the techno side but things were all good within ones world again when those woofers were delivering the air you can literally feel. 

We were all one big family for those 7 fun filled hours where the crowd like me was as happy as I was dancing in front of the events DJ's. Football stadiums back to capacity, nightclubs open, its only foreign travel that is largely on the back burner, wouldn't have said that a few months ago now would we.

Anyway it continued on like it always does when you get carried away in good company and I woke Saturday morning to a fuzzy head, good memories and wondering where the heck the time had just gone and why my wallet was looking rather empty. Still a grin from ear to ear like my T-Shirt. 

Now what I didn't mention in the last post was that the elevated swim where I caught the Barbel from really was one of those swims most would walk past in these low water conditions. 

You see even with my extra long and beefy Gardener landing net handle and spoon net at one stage when trying to land the fish I was wondering whether I'd maybe have to get my feet wet.

A stroke of luck came my way though and after one extra reach and extension of my arm to get the net out as far as possible the fish literally swam in to it. 

This landing net combination is fine when you've another pair of hands to manhandle it ,but not when its in my weaker left hand and I've a powerful barbel on the other.

I'm sure it was one of the biggest in the shoal, maybe even THE biggest so for this short smash and grab session I'd fish another swim not a millions miles away that would offer me an easier fish landing opportunity if another came my way.

My heart was pounding ten to the dozen last time and with such a busy weekend I needed one of those more chilled sessions to get the resting heartrate back to normal levels again.
The same tactics and bait would be employed as the last time and again I'd give myself a curfew time because I've often found THAT bite would come just at dusk or half an hour proceeding it. As I said before I cannot be doing sat behind motionless rods for hours on end, my restless legs and being a roving angler put pay to that. 

Before I settled in to the swim I explored a few of the swims with an insect lure to try and catch a chub off the top but there was nothing doing at all. Even the swim where you can usually spot the chub from high up there were no fish milling in and around the cover.

The lure you can left drift down the river and tweak from time to time to try and provoke a reaction and then retrieve slowly to agitate the waters surface to again turn the chubs head. 
I've had perch on this lure as well but in the gin clear water the fish were few and far between. There was the odd dace and small perch milling around but that was it.

So with the chub not playing ball after putting in some small pellets and hemp in to the final swim I'd stick it out here till dusk and until ones eyes needed the help of a head torch.

The bats were very active indeed knocking in to my like and the coughing cows on the opposite field breaking the silence.

It was eerily quiet until the sun had set completely and the swim was almost in complete darkness, that's when I got the first chub pull. 

The small glugged boilie and a pva bag of freebies finally getting some attention. Chub downstream were starting to get active too but they were out of bounds and I couldn't get anywhere near them. 

The surface lure chucked from time to time didn't bring any takes and it was looking like the swim I chose probably wasn't going to do the business.  

And I was right because those couple or three foot pulls probably from chublets stopped completely and the rod top was now motionless. Usually by this time if there was a barbel in the area I'd have known by now but I gave it longer than I usually would and as expected there was nothing doing at all.

It was a bit deeper here so you cannot see the bottom but thinking back over the years I don't think I've ever had a barbel from it. It didn't help that when I decided to retrieve the rig and pack up the lead was stuck on some subsurface cabbages. Was the bait presented correctly ? maybe not :(

A notable drop in temperature but still it was nice to be bankside despite the blank. So on to the next one, a change of venue next time I think.  

Friday 13 August 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Zoomancy and Zodiographers

The small group of barbel I stumbled upon really have been captivating ones attention. I've seen them in close quarters a numbers of time now and apart from being mesmerising to watch can I catch them, errrr nope.

All very frustrating when you have a feeding shoal in your swim and no matter what tactics I'd employ they somehow failed to succumb to my cumbersome tactics. I wasn't quite prepared the last session if I was honest and despite scaling down to a single grain of hemp on a small strong hook they managed to evade capture.

The line went tight a couple of times so the bait was picked up but they didn't hook themselves despite feeding confidently over the hemp, maggots and small pellets. 

Even after being spooked by brushing the line they would return to the swim quite quickly and get their barbules back working again. Eventually a chub that came out of nowhere put paid to that session because his swim disturbance meant they didn't want the same outcome.

So I was back for this short smash and grab session where I'd dump a load of freebies in the swim leave it rest for a while, and then fish a small air hardened Dynamite Baits Hot Fish boilie in to dusk with a large pva bag of freebies. 

I'd bought the boilies before they were available in the UK and they smell fantastic. 

Very spicy and pungent despite their size, oddly they don't seem to sell the smaller version now, 15mm being the smallest I can find now.

Confidence in a bait is key and this fishmeal boilie made with GLM, Tuna meal, Haiths Red Factor and infused with a blend of natural spices, and garlic powder and has a strong spicy fish aroma. It has caught me some nice barbel and chub since I've been using them. The hook was change to a size 12 and the hooklink was increased in length to 4 foot of 8lb fluorocarbon. 

The Warwickshire Avon couldn't be any clearer at the minute trying to mimic Hampshire's Chalkstreams and the dark natural dark brown colour doesn't stand out like a piece of luncheon meat would.

Meat was completely ignored by these barbel even when using a small fingernail sized piece, so something less obvious was the first change I made to try and get the edge over them. The freebies were added to the swim forty five minutes before dusk but there was no sign of barbel when the rod was cast out. 

I was expecting a blank but dusk as we know on the Warwickshire Avon fortunes could change at the flick of a switch. Dusk was a 9.15pm and the bats made an appearance well before that but this swim is dark because of the surrounding trees. The river couldn't really be much lower but here on the far side it deepens up significantly which I'm sure helps a large fish feel more comfortable especially when it has lots of room to escape a furry predator.

As soon as the isotope was needed the first sign of fish came. Initially a couple of sharp chub pulls but the tip was highlighting some little rattles and bangs too. Then oddly all went dead for ten minutes but then completely out of the blue all hell breaks loose and a powerful bite is received and I'm holding on for dear life.

If I don't need to cast far I prefer to use a centrepin as I feel I have more control over the fish and within seconds it came in to its own when after bolting downstream with the rod bent double using both hands and a thumb on the reel I've manage to turn it before it gone on top of me.

It swam upstream then and did a couple or three powerful runs before I got to see its flanks. One of the bigger fish from the shoal I think a long lean fish when it finally graced my net.

The front half was quite chunky though and when I lifted it out after allowing it to rest I thought it might be a double. Not quite, going 9lb 5 ounces on the scales but a lovely mint fish. A quick photo on the iPhone I rested it again and watched it swim off strongly. I worked hard for this one and with nights drawing in to give me time on the bank I will be fishing more in to dusk and beyond because I really do enjoy these short sessions in to dark when tables can turn. 
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