Monday, 19 March 2018

Goin' fishin' and bargain chairs...

Looking out of the window as I type this, the snow has melted, and the sun is out. Great! Time to go fishing.

 The subtitle of this blog is: "The tale of two blokes who decided to have a go at a spot of fishing..."

Well, tomorrow I am going fishing with 'the other bloke' who this blog is supposed to be about - my brother, Tim. It has been a while since I last got out but it is much longer since we have been able to get together for a day out on the bank. As the rivers have closed, we are back to the commercials for the next few months, and as Tim lives down in deepest Kent, it seemed reasonable to choose one of the many fisheries that are spread around the Kent area. After a bit of discussion, we opted to spend the day at Monk Lakes in Marden.

Monk Lakes Fishery is a massive venue with several lakes and a section of river to cater for all styles of fishing. I have been there a couple of times, myself, once on Bridges Lake and again on Match Lake 4, when there was not a match on. For Tim, this will be a first. I don't really have a plan for tomorrow, but I am thinking it will be more about chatting and eating with a bit of fishing thrown in. I will take a van load of gear, and we can decide what we need once we get there.

The new Aldi offering at a few coppers under £15 has to be a great bargain

Bargain Chairs!

On Sunday, Sue and I popped into Aldi to pick up a few supplies. While we were there, we noticed a pile of the fishing chairs they had on a special a few weeks ago. At the time they were priced at a few coppers under £20 each. I have a decent accessory chair and a couple of cheap chairs similar to these, so I was not really interested. However, on seeing them reduced by a further 25%, I thought it might be worth replacing my existing cheap chairs as they were never perfect and the leg adjustment was very flimsy. The Aldi offering looked much better than my current chairs, so at that price, I thought I would take a chance.

The new chairs are much better than the old ones, the mechanism that locks the legs is stable and clicks into place as the legs are unfolded, the tube sections of the frame are bigger, and the leg adjustment is simple and easy rather than the pin-in-a-hole arrangement of the older chairs. The old chairs were bought almost on day one. Indeed, before I had been fishing. They do the job, but they are very wobbly when the legs are extended. At the time, they seemed good value, but at twice what these new ones have cost, they don't look so good today.

A far superior locking system for the legs  
 One thing that drives me nuts (yes another thing!) with the old chair is that it is hard to stand against anything when it is folded, as the end of the tubes it is standing on do not grip the floor, and it is always slipping down onto the floor of the fishing room. The new chairs have solved this problem by fitting 'feet' with large discs on them, making it far more stable when leaning against a wall. A simple addition that makes a big difference and cures an annoying problem.

The large round 'foot' on the end of the seat frame means the chair will stand up easier when it is folded
These new chairs are one of the best buys I have had from Aldi. It is a shame they only sell fishing gear as the odd special buy. It is well worth keeping an eye out for this stuff after the event to see how far it gets reduced. Even at the full price, these chairs are typical of the quality of Aldi's fishing tackle. Okay, it is not top-of-the-tree, but for the price, it would be hard to better the quality.


Monday, 22 January 2018

Stuck at home again...

It is hard work trying to find a break in the weather to go fishing when I do not have to work. I had planned to visit my local fishery in Bromley on Saturday, but it was raining all day. I know a lot of you will not be put off by a bit of rain but being cold and wet for hours on end does not excite me too much. Today would have been the perfect day, and in fact, I had planned to go, but as has been the norm lately my plans were scuppered by having to work for a few hours this morning.

When fishing commercials as I do, I like to make a decent day of it. I could have gone later and fished this afternoon, but by the time I had got there, I would only get a few hours in before it got dark. I suppose I could fish on into the dark for an hour or two, but that is something I have not done before and am not geared up for. Either way, I have the cost of travelling and rod fees to consider which amount to the same for a full 12 hour day as they are for a few hours.

We are hoping to move this spring, and that will make life easier as there is plenty of free or club fishing to be had in and around North Kent. This will mean an odd couple of hours on the bank will be far more practical, having lots of water within a short drive or even walking distance if I fancy a spot of sea fishing.

Looking at the weather ahead for the next few days does mean I am not going to get out until Thursday/Friday at the earliest. I have been targeting perch the last couple of times I have been out. This time I think I am going back to just traditional float/feeder fishing for some silvers, and anything else that comes along. If I can get to the venue reasonably early, I should be able to fish for a good eight or nine hours, which is far more like it.

Jeff's Lake - Beaver fishery
In the meantime, we have had a disaster. I had made up several 500g bags of my experimental perch paste mix - Chinese Dog Bite that I had placed in our dry-store. Our dry-store is one of those giant plastic storage 'barrels' with a lid that is secured in place with a circular clamp. This thing is rodent proof as well as being watertight. We use it to store all our dry bird seed and bait-making supplies. It keeps everything bone dry... That is so long as you remember to put the lid back on.

As luck would have it, although I had left the lid off overnight, the contents had not come to any real harm as they are all wrapped in plastic. However, the barrel was wet on the inside, so I decided to empty it and bring it in. So far so good. I put the bag of white crumb in the airing cupboards to make sure it kept dry, and that was that.

Later that night we heard a commotion in the garden. This is nothing unusual with the surprisingly large amount of wildlife we live with here in London. It was not until the morning we realised what had been going on. Four bags of the paste mix and three bags of prawn crackers had been left on the outside windowsill by mistake. The noise we heard turned out to be the foxes making short work of the prawn crackers, after ripping the bags open and then having a go at 2kg of the dry Chinese Dog Bite paste mix. The paste mix contains powdered red food dye that does nothing to change the colour of the dry mix but bleeds bright red once it is in contact with water. It rained that night.The foxes have eaten most of it, but what little remains is slowly getting washed away by the rain.

I will have to make up a new batch of Chinese Dog Bite, once I have collected together a few more bags of prawn crackers. I am in no hurry, I have decided to shelve the experiment for a few months and try it out when the weather warms up.

Where to go

I have been thinking about where to go fishing later this week. I want to make a day of it, and at the moment it looks like Beaver is the favoured destination. I know, maybe I should be a bit more adventurous but at the moment I have very little time to fish, going to beaver is a 'safe' bet as there are eight lakes and ponds to choose from. The other alternative is Oakley Road. That is closer, and I don't mind doing a shorter day there as the cost of travelling and day-ticket will be significantly less than going anywhere else. I will decide later in the week. 

Oakley Road in the summer - it might be a bit different at this time of year
I have been using a nice old 13ft Silstar float rod I was given by a friend, a couple of years ago. At the same time, he also gave me a Silstar feeder rod that I have not yet used. I plan to take that with me and give it a go, as well as the float rod. Cage, block-end and even method feeder fishing are proposed methods of attack with the feeder rod and a touch of light float fishing with the other rod.
I wonder if the magic of the Two Dog groundbait mix will work in the method at Oakley Road at this time of the year? I am tempted to have a go, but the jury is still out on the destination. I will let you know at the end of the week.


Saturday, 13 January 2018

How do you spell perch? P-I-K-E !

Today was supposed to be a perch hunting session, but as you can see, it did not go exactly to plan. First, the lake (pond) I had planned to fish was already occupied by the time I arrived at the fishery and after talking to Andy, the bailiff, it seemed that Tuscany would not be the best choice for float fishing due to its depth. Instead it was agreed that The Major's Lake would be my best bet, especially as I had fished it successfully for perch last time I was there.

It was cold today, but at least it was was not raining. Before I did anything, I threw half a dozen maggots into the left hand margin. On this swim, that is the corner of the lake with a lot of miscellaneous undergrowth either hanging over or actually growing in the margin. I set up a float rod with a No.6 hook and impaled my first pair of victims - A lob worm with a maggot to help keep it on the hook. The idea was to fish for the perch conventionally before I tried out my paste. See yesterday's post. I dropped the baited hook into the swim and the float settled and then dropped below the surface before it made off in the direction of the island.

If this is a perch it is a big one. I saw a glimpse of something that was determined to get away but felt more like a carp. I am now thinking this thing is going to snap me off, if I am not careful. Then it turned and was heading back from whence it came.. I lifted the rod in an effort to bring it to the surface. It was then I realised I had hooked a pike, and not a tidily one either. Okay, this was no monster but for me this was going to be something to remember. All my waffle about collecting the correct gear and not wanting to sit here on The Major's Lake waiting for a bite and here I am with a fish-on. Better still I landed it with Andy's help 'driving' my rather undersized net. Typical, the one time I leave the bigger net at home I needed it! Andy estimated it to be around 8lb, I did not have a weigh-sling with me either. To be honest, the last thing I expected to catch and land on light gear with no wire trace, was a pike, but I was really pleased I did as I sat there all, day trying all sorts of tactics, but didn't even get a bite. By mid afternoon the light was fading, and I was cold enough to call it a day.  

My first pike was supposed to be a perch...
The testing of the perch paste will have to wait for another day but even though the fish were not playing today, that one pike made it a day to remember and me a happy angler.


Friday, 12 January 2018

Perch paste - Chinese Dog Bite!

Happy New Year, and I hope you all had a great Christmas!

It has been a funny few months. Fishing has all-but come to a halt since September. I had a couple of hours on the weir pool in Canterbury at the end of November but blanked. Since then a whole raft of things has got in the way of my fishing. I have been planning a piking trip, but that is not as simple as it might be due to my location, stuck here in London. It is far easier at the moment to just revert to type and go and pester a few of the resident perch at my favourite commercial. With Christmas and the New Year over and done with, I am off to carry on with a spot of perch fishing at Beaver. I could do a spot of piking there, but I don't have a lure rod man enough for pike, and I really don't fancy sitting on the bank at The Major's Lake for hours on end on the off chance of bagging one on deadbait.

Time to get the gear together, with such a long gap between sessions I need to regroup and decide what I need to take. I planned to keep it really simple, but while making up some experimental groundbait, a couple of days ago, I realised the mix might be more suited to making a paste. I had used a good amount of leftover prawn crackers, you know the things they give away free every time you buy a Chinese takeaway. The prawn crackers contain tapioca flour that makes the mix hold together like dough. It is not at all friable as groundbait should be so I have ended up with a paste mix that is bright red when made wet. Perch seem to favour red so I am going to see if they are interested in my paste. I have no idea if this will work, but I will give it a go, even though it is not something that is usually used at this time of year, to my limited knowledge. In the tradition of the blog, It has to have a silly name and this one was suggested by Sue, so don't blame me!

In case you fancy having a go at making your own, here is the recipe:

Chinese Dog Bite paste mix
  • 800g dog biscuit selection
  • 150g prawn crackers
  • 1350g white breadcrumb 
  • 1tsp red food colouring powder

The dog biscuits are sold in 800g bags and mine came from our local Poundland. As I have said, the prawn crackers came with a Chinese takeaway, but you can buy them from the supermarket, although they seem expensive. It is probably cheaper to just buy some from the local takeaway, if you don't have any left over. The white crumb I now buy in bulk bags already finely ground and absolutely bone dry. If you don't want a huge amount then just dry out a couple of sliced loaves, that will give you about the correct amount. I found that an 800g loaf will dry out to render about 650g of dry crumb. Finally the food colouring. I found a small pot of red colouring at my local Asian food shop. They sell all sorts of useful ingredients that are not commonly available in the traditional supermarkets. Especially spices which are sold in much larger quantities at reasonable prices.

The dog biscuits are ground up with the prawn crackers. It is almost impossible to whiz the prawn crackers on their own as they are so light they tend to stick to the side of the liquidiser and have to be painstakingly wiped out. The biscuit/cracker mix is added to the crumb and mixed together until the mix has a uniform colour. Sprinkle the food colouring into the mix turning it over as you go. Now, riddle the mixture a couple of times to disperse the colouring evenly. Although the mix will not look very red at this stage, it will change dramatically when the water is added. Personally, I like to add river/lake water to my mixes so I will make it up on the bank. If I do need to make some up before I go, I use rain water.  

The food colouring is very strong and bleeds like mad when it is added to water, in a dry form. It seems to get 'locked in' once absorbed into the paste and the cloud effect I expected to get when the paste is immersed in water does not happen. I might try rolling the paste in dry paste-mix powder, just before it is dropped into the water, and see if that makes a cloud. It is all experimental at the moment, but for me that is all part of the fun.

I will take some of my Cattyfish groundbait as I know that works for perch and try the paste as hook-bait and small amounts of marble-sized loose feed. I will have worms, prawns and maggots with me as well so I should be able to catch the odd perch, come what may. I will post the results of my experimenting in the next few days.


Thursday, 23 November 2017

A Canterbury tale...

Six hundred odd years ago, when Chaucer was penning his famous lines, little did he know that I would be making the journey from London to Canterbury in just over an hour, or at least it should have been. My tail is not going to run to an excess of 17,000 lines (honest!), and it is not going to be written in Middle English verse or prose. It will be more of my usual waffle, that I am sure nobody will be reading in another six hundred years time.

The weir pool in Canterbury
Fishing trips have been few and far between this year. As the weather has cooled over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about doing a spot of pike fishing. Having never done it before, I have been a little reluctant to dive in half-prepared, so today I decided to play it safe and go jigging/dropshotting for perch.

Making the trip to Canterbury is utterly impractical for just a couple of hours fishing alone, so this outing was combined with a trip to see my elderly mum. At 90 years of age, she is still very active, and indeed today we cannot get to her house before midday as she will be in the local library attending the weekly social gathering, drinking tea and eating cake.

We left home at around 07:30. With the intention of being at the water by 09:00. Even taking into account the time it takes to extricate one car and two people from the clutches of the A205 (AKA The South Circular) an Hour and a half would generally be more than enough time to make the trip. As it turned out, the 'getting out' was not bad at all and we made it out onto the dual carriageway/motorway in good time. By the time we reached the end of the M2, there was a queue to join the A2 to make the last part of the journey to Canterbury. This is usually the easy bit! We got to the roundabout after a painful 10 minute crawl up the slip road only to find the A2 at a standstill. As you join the A2 here, the road is at a high point, and it is possible to see a long way down the dual carriageway and the sight that unfolded before us was not good. Solid traffic as far as the eye could see. There was apparently something very wrong.

By now it was getting very close to 09:00, the time we had planned to be there. Usually, this would not have caused too much stress but I had agreed to meet my mate John there at 09:00 and I knew he only had an hour or so to fish. A misguided decision to skip off the main road and 'slip' through the narrow streets that pass through the village of Dunkirk backfired. It just so happened that a couple of big lorries and a bus were all trying to do the same thing, but in opposite directions, causing gridlock. We eventually arrived at the car park in Canterbury at about 09:35, over two hours after leaving home. Just as we were sorting the gear out from the back of the car, John arrived after deciding to do a spot of shopping first, I assume for bait as he was dead-baiting for pike.

We made our way across the road and past the Miller's Arms into the fenced area that encloses the weir pool. Dropshotting was the order of the day for me so, with Sue in charge of the landing net and extra plastic fish, we made our way over to the curved wall at the far side of the pool, next to the weir. There is some slack water there, and it is renowned for being a bit of a hot spot for perch, my intended target species for the session.

The curved wall where I had started fishing - Now John is not having any luck either
It is not very deep here, so the first rig consisted of a 5g weight and a little soft plastic, 5cm lure that was 'lip' hooked to a No.2 dropshot hook, tied to a 5lb fluorocarbon hook length, on 8lb yellow braid that has been loaded on to the spool of a tiny 1500 size reel. The rod is a 6ft, 6inch dropshotting rod. This tiny gear almost feels toy-like. I think my choice of weight was just a bit too light as I could not feel the bottom, so I replace it with a slightly heaver 7g one, and it felt much better. I like to use the long tube-shaped weights when fishing close in and just letting them touch the bottom and then lay down and stand up again with a minimal movement of the wrist.

After half an hour of fruitless dropshotting all the way along the wall and as close as I dare to the overhanging bushes. Even changing form lures to a lob worm ,from John's pot, did not produce any interest. It was apparent the perch had all gone off Christmas shopping and were not at home.

I had bought a slightly longer rod with me, again fitted with a 1500 size reel filled with 8lb Braid. To this, I attached a wire trace and a home-made rubber-band lure fitted with a loose 2g jig weight. I cast out a few times and tried retrieving it at various speeds, sometimes straight back and other times letting fall and then jerking it back to the surface. Nothing, not even a twitch.

I changed my rubber-band lure for a 75mm shad fitted with a more substantial loose jig weight. This was not showing any signs of success before it was sacrificed to the tree Gods.  When a careless cast into the wind took my line over a branch. I managed to get my line and weight back, but it left the lure and hook in the tree - Grrr!

A nice slack area of water close to the wall and with a few weeds looked like it might give up a perch - It didn't!
Meanwhile, John had been having no luck fishing for pike on the opposite side of the pool so as agreed we swapped positions and had another go. Jigging was not a practical proposition in this small pool, as I would be crossing lines with John or any other anglers that arrived. Instead, I went back to my dropshotting rig. I found a little patch of slack water that had some weed growing in it. The colour was starting to go from the water, after the rainfall we had last night stirred up the sediment upstream, and it was now working its way downstream through the weir. Patiently, I worked my way around the weed, and keeping close to the wall, which has been undercut in several places, I worked my way along the length until I was at the bridge you can see in the header picture. Not a sniff of a fish on the line and apart from a couple of swirls, there was absolutely no sign of any fish at all.

It was not only me. John was after a pike and had the same experience, not a single bite or even a glimpse of a fish. I guess it was just one of those days. We only had a couple of hours to fish and if we had more time I would have moved out of the pool and along the river, if for nothing else than to warm up a bit! For me this late Autumn/winter fishing is all new. Today's experience has not put me off, it has just proved I have a lot to learn about fishing in the colder months.    


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 3

By the middle of last month, I had been fighting off a bug that had really got the better of me. While I was feeling too rough to actually go fishing, it gave me a chance to do some armchair research into predator fishing. By now I had planned to have actually been out on the bank and giving it a go. That has not happened yet as here I am on Guy Fawkes night still writing about the thought of it!

There is a lot of useful information in here
I have yet to rid myself of this bug completely. It has left me feeling lethargic (more than usual, that is!) and nursing a persistent cough. The result has been no fishing for the past few weeks and not even much blogging. Today, however, I am feeling a lot better. It has been getting better all week but then on Friday I had a bit of a relapse that spoilt the weekend, but I am hoping that is the end of it. I have a good positive attitude, and I think I should be well enough to get out there later in the week.

A lot of reading has been happening. I bought a copy of the Fox Guide to Modern Pike Fishing. This is a bit of a strange book. A lot of it is written by Mike Brown, who I respect as a decent pike fisherman, but the presentation and editing of the content leave a lot to be desired. Once I had cut through all the laborious stuff, there is a lot of good basic stuff to be gleaned, even if the information is a decade old. I never did, however, work out who 'Nev' is, other than the bloke who wrote the introduction. Funnily enough, the fact that it contains nothing but Fox tackle (not surprisingly) did not detract from getting the facts through. I do feel more confident about tackling my first pike now. I do still need to get hold of a couple of tools although I now have some 30lb braid and some suitable 'circle' hooks that look enormous compared to the hooks I usually choose.


In the last part of this saga, I was bemoaning my lack of success at acquiring a decently sized spoon net-head with a large open rubberised mesh. Well, silly me, I was searching for a pike net when all I had to do was look for a barbel net that, according to the description was 'suitable for pike' among other species! I have my mate John to thank for that information. He too has caught the predator bug, but unlike me has managed to get out there and have a go himself. A productive go at that, having caught a decent sized pike on his first cast. Now I have someone to discuss pike fishing with.

John's 8-6 pike. Not bad for a first cast!
The benchmark has been set, I now have to bag a pike that is bigger than 8-6. Hopefully soon.


Monday, 30 October 2017

Magazines, books, videos and forums...

Without a doubt, the best way to increase one's fishing skill is by practising the art, on the bank, with someone who knows how to do whatever it is you are trying to master. When this is not possible, for whatever reason, it is time to turn to reference material. In days gone by, this was supplied in either magazine or book form, supplemented by the occasional television programme.

Today we are swamped with digital media whether that be social media, in the form of interactive discussion or websites designed to inform. Very little of this material is prepared with any third-party editing or checking. Indeed, what you are reading here is just the result of me sitting here typing away and giving you my thoughts on the world of angling. I do try and write in proper English and check my spelling, but I do make mistakes, and I continually update the blog if a mistake is spotted by me or anyone else. These sort of errors are easy to correct and are (or should be) forgiven as the message is usually understood.

Social media is full of misspellings, bad grammar and often devoid of any punctuation except from the over-uses of the ellipsis (something I am guilty of...) and explanation mark! This matters not, on social media as this is no more than electronic 'Pub-talk', discussion and argument in a two-way forum, after all, this is a free and open discussion. It should be taken as such, and any validity of fact be taken at face value. It is when we find such things in the printed word it seems more worrying.

When I was first involved in publishing in the early 1970s, the old traditions were starting to change. We were still printing all our publications using the traditional letterpress process. This involved using lead type and all manner of specialist trades from compositors and block-makers to highly trained and skilled camera operators that made the film separations to produce horrifically expensive four-colour printing blocks. It was a trade and a closely guarded one at that, some would say too much so. Getting into 'the print' required a long apprenticeship and a lot of dedication. It was not long before this started to change. The newspaper industry was held in a grip by the unions and had been reluctant to modernise. This foot-dragging resulted in a powder-keg of tension that, when it did eventually release, set free a rapid and sensational change to the way things happened. The skills that had been learnt over generations were redundant within a decade or so.

Letterpress printing was replaced with the lithographic process, but the most significant changes were to be seen in the pre-press areas of design and production of printing plates. A whole section of the traditional print trade was to suffer a fatal wound with the development of digital imaging and the use of desktop publishing. In what seemed to be no time at all the entire reprographic industry became redundant. Skills such as 'colour planning' (the assembly of film and colour separations into a set of films ready to make printing plates from) once, one of the highest paid areas of pre-press production, became unnecessary. Today, I can do all the design, pre-press colour separations from the same machine I am using to produce this blog. Initially, a lot of the guys who were planning film moved over to computers bringing their understanding of the process with them. Sadly, this is not the case today as more and more of the 'old school' guys have moved on into retirement.

Without this technology advance, most of the periodicals would have gone long ago. There was a time when advertising paid for the production and magazines had to sell many tens of thousands of magazines to make a profit. Today, the cost of production is so much less, and the cover price is much higher, advertising is not so relevant or so readily secured. Periodicals can survive on just a few thousand sales. You will find that publishing houses are either small one-man-band affairs or they will have a team working on several different titles, writing material, and using fewer outside contributors. The same low cost also means that books can be published very much easier.

The upshot of all this means that, in a lot of cases, quality is compromised. I have written books, hundreds of magazine articles and been an editor of both books and magazines over the past forty-plus years. The books I wrote were sub-edited for general readability, spelling and grammar by someone else and read for the accuracy of content by at least one other who knows the subject. I would read the books several times myself, making further corrections to make it as easy to read and understand as possible. A similar exercise would be undertaken for the magazine articles. None of this happens to the words I write here and, as a consequence, no doubt you will find mistakes in this post.

Today, too many books and publications are produced on the cheap. The standard of writing, quality of images and lack of any continuity make it hard to follow, especially for a novice. As I have said before, all this can be forgiven or at least understood when it is free material put out in good faith. When bad (budget?) material is presented in hard-copy, or for download, with a price tag attached, it is not really acceptable.

What's the answer? Well, I am not really sure. As a novice, I found it really hard to get sound information. I have bought several magazines regularly over the past three years, and although initially, in my ignorance, the advice all seemed good, I eventually realised that most of the articles were blatant product placement. The books, with a few exceptions, are not much better.

At the moment I am trying to get some reliable information about predator fishing. I have not been able to get out onto the bank recently due to a significant dose of what has been designated 'man-flu', by my missus. The books and magazine I have been reading have helped and do give the information, but they take some reading in places. I am sure good books are available, but there does seem to be a lot of poorly put together publications out there making it hard to find reliable information.

Armed with the information I have managed to glean so far, I think I am ready to give predator fishing, or to be more specific, pike fishing, a go once I have secured a few more bits of tackle. With a little experience under my belt, maybe the written word I have invested in will start to make more sense. I am not at all sure that is how it should be.