Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 2

It is now Wednesday, and I have spent the last few days trying to fight off a real stinker of a cold. I don't often succumb to colds and flu, but this one is playing dirty. By the time I had come around on Monday, I soon realised the book I had ordered had arrived, so between bouts of coughing, spluttering and dozing off, I have had a good flick through and read a few pages.

It looks to be an excellent guide and well worth the £2.80 it cost, including the delivery charge. For a while, a lot of these booksellers were selling books at 1p and charging £2.80 shipping. I assume the way they are charged for listing the books has changed. Either way, it is a good cheap way of building up a library of books without spending a fortune.

I was hoping the net I ordered from Northern Ireland would be here by now. You know that phrase "if it is too good to be true..."  I had heard nothing by yesterday, so I sent the supplier an e-mail asking if my net was indeed on its way. To cut a long story short, the answer was no. Apparently, I had ordered from a website that was out of date and should have been taken down. Refund on its way.

One step forward and another back. The big spoon net would have been useful for dead-baiting for larger pike on the still water I intend to fish; however, it was always going to be too big for the river in Canterbury. As I can't get hold of a big spoon net head, my thoughts are now moving to a large triangular net for use when lifting fish from above in shallow water, as is the requirement when fishing the weir pool in Canterbury.  For roving, on the river, something smaller would be useful but at the moment, everything I take a shine to seems to be out of stock. This is the trouble with the demise of the tackle shop. I really would like to go and look at what I am buying but I think I am going to be stuck with mail order. I did try my local shop but unless I wanted a carp net or a match net I was out of luck.

Hopefully, this cold will be gone soon and I can get back on the case of acquiring the last few bits and pieces I need to go and pester a few pike without harming them.

I can see that this quest still has a way to go yet...

Ralph.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 1

My fishing has not been as prolific as I would have liked it to have been lately. Even when planning to meet up with angling friends I have been forced to cancel at the last minute. No one thing has caused this hiatus in my fishing journey, but the net result (sorry about the pun) is that the colder months are here and I am still trying to get some fishing in.

For the past couple of years, those thoughts have led to dropshotting. This year I have decided to have a go at a spot of pike fishing. Nothing is simple though, as there is pike fishing and pike fishing. My first thought was to lure fish for pike, but this will mean acquiring a whole new lot of gear including rod and maybe reel, landing net, unhooking mat (roving) more tools lures - have you seen the price of some of those? And a whole lot more. I am not saying that I will not follow that path, but for now, I am planning to go dead-bait ledgering or float fishing, or both. I can use one of my carp rods and reel for this.

Yes, I will need some new tackle and the most obvious, must have is a predator landing net. That is one with a large open rubberised mesh. Fox made a super 900mm (roughly 36 inches) predator net until last year, and although an internet search for a supplier threw up lots of hits, without fail, they were all showing the net as out of stock. Eventually, probably through a fluke of my search wording, I found a seller in Northern Ireland that had stock. Being part of Great Britain, shipping via the Royal Mail from Northern Ireland costs the same as ordering it from the mainland and takes a similar amount of time to arrive.

As stated above I will be using my carp rods and reels to start with but loaded with braided main line and not monofilament. The only braided line I have used to date is the much lighter Jig Silk I use on my dropshot gear. Those are small 1500 size reels, and although the braid is expensive, for dropshotting, I don't need much, and there is no distance casting to worry about. To put some line on these much larger spools, I will have to apply a good lot of backing to the spool. This is where I need to do some research. I know I want to use braided mainline and a wire trace, but as to what weights I need, I am at a loss for now. There are so many different opinions.

On the recommendation of one of the guys on The Pikers Pit Forum I have ordered an old book published, in 1994, called An Introduction to Pike Fishing, by David Batten. Hopefully, this will answer a lot of my questions.  

In the meantime, there are still a few things to get together for handling pike safely to protect the fish and my fingers! These include a large unhooking mat, which I have already, a pair of extra long nose pliers and a pair of long wire cutters. For me, I will take a first aid kit along with clean water to wash any cuts. It has been said that pike are likely to introduce an anticoagulant into the wound, meaning it will not readily stop bleeding. Personally, I think this is a myth. The profuse bleeding is probably the result of multiple fine cuts made to look and feel worse by wet, cold hands. Whatever the reason, an open wound is never a good idea next to water, and I will make sure, as well as having the appropriate fish-care equipment, I have some 'me-care' gear with me as well!  

To be continued...

Ralph.
       

Sunday, 8 October 2017

How To Drown Maggots now has a Facebook Group

For all you Facebook fans out there, I have just started a Facebook group page, to complement this blog, where you can join in and post your comments, add your hints and tips or just show us what you have been doing. Rules are few but apart from the obvious ones about conduct and absolutely no swearing, I do not want to see any advertising, there are plenty of places to peddle your wares, so don't do it on my page.

To find the Facebook page, follow THIS link and join today!

Ralph.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Landing net rubbers

Most landing nets, especially the cheaper ones, are supplied with an O-ring at the bottom of the thread that is used to attach it to the handle. When I bought a set of three nets recently, one of the O-rings was missing. Rather than go back to the supplier, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to try out something I have been thinking about for some time.

A neater solution than the usual O-ring
The usual O-ring that is supplied with most landing nets is inclined to twist out of shape and become malformed if the handle is overtightened to the net-head. This can mean the joint will have a tendency to loosen, especially if a big fish is in residence. What is really needed is a washer that can be tightened onto but will also have a bit of 'give' in it so the joint will undo without the use of tools.
It occurred to me that a tap washer would be the perfect substitute. A rummage around in my plumbing gear uncovered a box of mixed tap washers. Just to confuse the issue here, tap washers were originally sized according to the size of the threaded connection into the bottom of the tap, this means the stated size of the washer does not match up with its actual physical size.

I knew these would come in handy one day...

I selected a washer that actually measures 5/8 inch (aproximatly16mm) diameter. The washer I picked has a rubber core and a bonded mesh on each side making the mating surface particularly resistant to scuffing as it is tightened onto. The only problem with a tap washer is the hole in the centre is too small to wind it onto the thread of the net head. My first thought was to pop into the workshop and bore the hole out to a more suitable size. A simple job with a cordless drill and twist bit - wrong!

Larger than life O-ring and washers. The one of the far right has been bored out
The first problem is that it is impossible to hold by hand. Okay, that is easily cured by boring a hole is a scrap of wood, holding that down over the rubber and passing the drill bit through the hole to make the hole in the washer bigger. All that did was to expand the hole in the washer to become a very tight interference fit on the drill bit. The washer had merely expanded under the pressure of the drill. All I want to do is make the hole in the washer bigger. It would be so much easier to just punch it out to the correct size, well it would be if I had a punch!

The washer is prevented from expanding by fitting it in a blind hole of appropriate size
Nothing for it I am now going to have to make a jig, just to bore a hole in a tap washer. What I need to do is to stop the washer expanding as the revolving drill bit is applied to the hole. The jig is easily made by boring a shallow, 16mm diameter blind hole in a piece of MDF. A second piece of MDF has a hole bored through. This hole needs to be the same size as the drill bit to be used. Because the hole in the washer will close up a little after the re-sized hole is bored in it, I have found that a 9mm diameter bit seems to be just about right.

These parts need to be held together while boring out the washer
To use the jig, place the washer in the blind hole, centre the hole in the second piece of MDF over the washer to trap it. With the drill on its fastest speed setting, lightly bore out the hole in the washer through the hole in the second piece of MDF.

Done and now it will fit on the thread - albeit a tight fit
It sounds far more complicated than it really is. The washer can now be fitted to the net head and when the net is tightened up to the handle will not scrunch the washer up and will be securely attached to the handle. This is a straightforward fix, and once you have made the jig, you can convert any number of tap washers to a fishing application.

Ralph.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

I caught some perch!

Dawn and a quick snap from the cab can reflect this - and me!
Today, I finally managed to get a day's fishing in. As usual, I was late to bed last night and as it is Saturday today, the morning traffic is not as bad as it is during the week. I decided to have a lay-in and did not surface until 05:30. After making the coffee and packing the van, it was getting on for 06:30. Leaving at this time on a weekday would mean a two-hour trip if I was lucky. Today it was about three-quarters of an hour, and the M25 was running freely. The view from the side window reminds me of those old British Railways adverts and slogan "Let the train take the strain." Remember?

A rare sight - a blurred image of the traffic on the M25 - It looks very Turneresque 
On my arrival, I made for the fishery's office, paid my day ticket and bought a tub of worms to take fishing with me. Lucky worms! I am not keen on fishing with worms and even less keen on chopping up live worms then sticking things through their dismembered body... Hmmm... Can a worm be dismembered?

I was off to my favoured spot on The Major's Lake. When I arrived, I was shocked that someone dared to erect a bivvy in MY peg. Reaching for the baseball bat, a sudden sense of calm washed over me, and I decided to let the perpetrator off - this time. See what a calming influence has on me. My second choice of a swim, on the other side of the lake (where the disappearing rod incident took place) was inaccessible by the van as that part of the road is, for now, blocked by a couple of articulated lorry tractor units. Besides the swims, either side had been taken making it all a bit crowded. In the end, I settled for the corner swim that will forevermore be referred to as the 'Birthday Swim' since I christened my new accessory chair there on my sixtieth birthday.

The shallow end of the lake looked perfect
If I was an estate agent, I could flower this up to make it sound much better than it really was... Sorry if you are an estate agent, but I am not referring to you, just the stereotypical conception of the beast, honest...

During the week I made a batch of groundbait specifically aimed at attracting perch. The plan was to lay a bed of groundbait down, laced with a sprinkling of free offerings to match the hook bait. For example, I started off using prawns on the hook and added chopped prawn to the groundbait. This proved successful on the first chuck, much to my surprise. First fish and it was a member of the target species. Several more casts produced nothing and trying to keep the prawn on the barbless hook was proving difficult. Hooking a white maggot, in addition, also seemed to help.

Okay, not the biggest fish in the lake but at least it is a perch!
Now for a spot of worm carnage. My pot of worms was opened, and my first victim was extracted from the huddled mass. I place it on the lid, took a deep breath and chopped it into four bits. Blood a guts oozing out it looked repulsive, but I am sure the fish will like it. Two of the bits were chopped further, added to a golfball sized ball of groundbait and added to the swim.

I hooked one piece of worm and made a cast. Seconds later I had another perch similar in size to the first. I tried this several times without adding any more groundbait and caught several more fish of similar size, one after the other - all perch. I have never caught so many perch in one go before. I was finding nothing else. Could my new groundbait be working?

Just to see what would happen, I cast a maggot into another part of the lake and fed over the float with a few more maggots. I caught a roach, and another and another. I was just about to go back to my original line and go after the perch again when the rain came in.

Rain!
As you may be able to see, it was chucking it down. I switched my hoody for my coat, swapped my hat for the hood and continued - a spot of rain was not going to put me off. To be honest, I don't mind fishing in the rain, it is the setup in such conditions that I don't like. First priority is to cover the maggots as rain give them 'traction' as they all take on the positive mental attitude of Steve McQueen while portraying Capt. Virgil Hilts  (the 'Cooler King') in the classic film The Great Escape.

With a towel over my seat and standing up to cast (after checking for overhanging trees - I am learning!) I continued to fish and, yes, I caught another perch. This fellow did not look happy being dragged out of the lake, into the pouring rain. Perhaps fish don't like getting wet either.

"Oi! Put me back, can't you see it's raining out here!"
By lunchtime, the bites had dried up somewhat. I decided to give the swim a rest and have some lunch. All morning I had a sleeper rod out sitting close to the far bank hoping to catch a big fish patrolling the margins. So far this had not shown even a twitch, let alone a bite. Determined not waste any valuable fishing time, I put a second feeder rod out while I was eating my lunch. Just as I took a bite out of the first of my sandwiches, the tip of the newly cast rod flicked around ad I grabbed the rod just as the line went taught and broke. Classic error - guess who had not slackened off the drag before putting the rod down. This was, of course, a huge fish. It had to be at least twenty pounds in weight, a real specimen sized fish, it was T H I S big!  

Another feeder lost, and that was not the first piece of end tackle to get donated to the lake today. After lunch Andy, the bailiff, came along to check that everything was going to plan and made a few suggestions to help on my quest to bother some of the bigger perch. One of the things he said I could try was to put a heavier float on and cast beyond the patch of lilies to my left. I could then drag the float back so it would sit just next to them in the gap between the main clump and those few leaves to the right, as indicated in the picture by the red ellipse. I changed my float for an excellent new Drennan Puddle Chucker, and after throwing in a couple more of my small worm-laced balls of groundbait, I made a few casts. The float flew over the pads, and after a few further attempts, I was able to coax the float into just the right place. The float had not been sitting there long, presenting another piece of severed worm, when there was movement. First, a little shudder and then the float disappeared like a stone. I had something a bit bigger on the end of the line. 

Trying to stay calm I gently applied pressure to the line and, whatever I had hooked, started to pull back. At last, I had a decent fish with which to play. Then it stopped, I kept the pressure on, but nothing was happening. I released the pressure and reapplied it. Nothing. It was rock solid. I polled a little harder but whatever I was pulling against it was not moving. Eventually, the line went slack, and I retrieved in a section of vegetation. Whatever had taken the worm had released itself and snagged me up. Clever them fish!

Now disheartened with the loss, I decided to leave my pursuit of perch for a while and try out my (new to me) method of attaching the line to the elastic of my tele-pole. Of all my gear, I am now most impressed with my little tele-pole. As supplied I am sure these poles are intended for children to provide a simple method of fishing that does not involve a reel. As such, I am confident they are good. My one came in a starter set I bought when I first set out fishing three years ago. If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you will know that it has gone through a few changes of use in its life. I converted it to a margin cupping pole and used it used it to cup in corn custard for a while. I then elasticated it and turned it into something much more useful. 

The last time I took it out the elastic broke at the connector, so I decided to try the 'crows foot' connection method. Below is a short video explanation I found on YouTube, by Steve Lockett, for those who are not familiar with the technique. It is nine years old now but is very clear and well presented. I added a soft bead to the elastic to prevent the elastic disappearing through the bush and to protect the line from consistently hitting the pole tip.



Out with the tele-pole and maggots and I had a nice relaxing hour catching roach and skimmers, by using single or double maggot on the hook and feeding them loose over the top. I was only fishing the tele-pole for an hour or so, but I had no perch at all in that time. 

Having lost a feeder and got bored with the tele-pole (it is too easy), I went back to my original plan to catch perch. Although I had been snagged by a fish earlier, I thought I would try again to pick one off from under the lily pads. Again I cast over the pads and pulled the float back into my desired position. After a while, I was suspicious that I was snagged as the float had not moved an inch. Sure enough, I was snagged. I pulled the line reasonably tight and tried a dropshotting technic for freeing braided line. The line is pulled tight and plucked fairly vigorously sending a shockwave down the line. I had no idea if this would work with monofilament line, but I had nothing to lose. It did, and the float and end tackle complete with bait rejoined me on the bank at the speed of a bullet. Two subsequent attempts, however, were not so successful and I ended up donating a couple of my favourite floats to the lake, with no more fish to show for it. At this point, it was time to go home. 

I had a great day, survived a torrential downpour and proved that my new groundbait recipe had at least not frightened the fish off. It is too early to say it works, but at least I know it is not doing any harm. I will try it out over the autumn and winter, diluting it with a non-food bulk (molehill soil) in the rivers to save overfeeding and to get it down to the bottom before too much of it is washed away in the flow. 

 Ralph.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Bothering The Major's perch

That's it, no more namby-pambying about, I am off to try out my new groundbait tomorrow. After a couple of weeks of indecision and other factors getting in the way, I am off to Beaver tomorrow. More specifically to The Major's Lake, where after talking to the bailiff, I have the best chance of catching a decent fish. Apparently, there have been a few caught in there this week.

I am looking for a perchy place to fish, so it is near the reeds and under the water lilies. The trouble with that is, this is exactly where a lot of other fish will be hanging out - including the pike. The Major's Lake is the fishery's Pike lake in the winter months. It is a good thing the season does not start until Sunday - I hope someone told the pike that!

My favorite swim on The Major's Lake
 I will go and see if my favorite swim has any suitable vegetation. The picture above is a couple of years old, and the lake has been refurbished since then. I may have to go down the shallow end to find some reeds.

Roll on tomorrow!

Ralph.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Not again!

My intention was to try out my new groundbait today, but it was not to be. From here, in my part of London, there are not many venues locally to fish. Our small local river is only just about fishable, and although better than nothing, it is limited. The next best thing is Oakley Road Fishery that is about half an hour's drive away in traffic. The trouble is Oakley Road is small, and they have a few rules that will restrict my plans to test my new bait. There is no swinging to hand at all, not even tiny fish, which virtually scuppers the use of whips. And they are not keen on the use of groundbait anyway. I get that as the lake is not very big and does not have a flow as it is fed from run-off.

All this means that if I am going to another commercial, I need to leave early just to be clear of the morning traffic, as we live just inside the South Circular road.

Click the image to open in full size.
Midnight and it is not looking good...
I am the first to admit that I am not keen of fishing in the rain or traipsing through the mud. After a spell of beautifully dry weather, perfect for me, where work had prevented me from going fishing, I had made up my mind to go today. Last night it started to rain it was pouring down. Okay, perhaps it will clear, was my thoughts. I decided to wait a while and see how the night developed before making a decision. By now it was past midnight, and if I was going to go, I needed to get some sleep. I can make do with four hours if needed. I had virtually decided that all this was getting too much and thought I would see what the weather was like in the morning.

If that were it, I would probably be out fishing right now instead of writing this, but at about 03.30 I was woken by all the windows in the front of the house resonating in tune with what sounded like a slow running diesel engine.

The gasboard are digging up the road and have narrowed the entrance to the road opposite meaning it's hard to emerge into our road. Stuck across the street wedge between the barriers, a telegraph pole and a parked car is a long rigid refrigerated lorry, slowly shunting back and forth attempting to get around the corner.

As I was wondering if I can help in any way, the driver had apparently given up and proceded to demolish the barriers and cones to make the turn. To my amazement, he stopped (in the pouring rain) and re-erected the entire barrier system.

That was it. I had managed to get a couple of hours sleep, and now I was wide awake with no chance of getting back to sleep. With less than an hour to go until I would have to get up anyway, yet again I abandoned all thought of getting out early to go fishing. 

I have now just received a call from a friend of mine who needs some help tomorrow (instead of the pre-arranged Monday), which now means that tomorrow is out for an early start.
I give up. Well, for now anyway.
Maybe I should just get on with it and go come rain or shine; I don't mind fishing in the rain, it is the setting up and putting away in bad weather that I hate. Being a 100% townie, I also have an aversion to mud!

Ralph.