Sunday, 10 March 2019

Really...

 ...it would have been better to stay at home.

It all looks a bit bleak at this time of year
I never thought I would be saying this but in this case, it may well be true. To be, just sitting on the bank, watching the world go by is fun enough. Catching fish is a bonus. Yes, it is nicer when the sun is out, but the cold and wet has not bothered me in the past, at least not like it did on Friday.

Having got seriously delayed getting out last week, I was determined to make an early start, this time. The weather forecast was showing dry morning with light rain showers moving in later. Although the temperatures were in single figures, I thought I would be okay. I try and avoid setting up in the rain, but once I am set up and wrapped up I am usually perfectly happy to keep going in the rain.

I managed to get out and be on the road before 06:00. Sue's trusty 'recycled fridge' (Volvo) was the chosen mode of transport as my van was half full of stuff to be shipped down to our storage 'facility' in advance of our impending house move, that seems to be taking an age, but that is another story!

Okay, it does mean that I can travel faster on the arterial roads as there are no extra speed restrictions placed on the car, as there are on big vans, but I must remember that my 'intimidation' power is much reduced when it comes to asserting ones self into the traffic. It is also not as quick off the mark as the van, especially at speed. That said, I had plenty of time, and a leisurely drive got me to the fishery in just under an hour.

There was a bit of a queue at the gate, but this soon dissipated as it opened and I found myself alone in the office, buying a ticket. I assume all the others were already booked in to the specimen lakes. I bought a two-rod ticket and headed off to Maze Lake.

The lake has had a lot of work carried out on it over the past year, with some major alterations to the layout. It was also netted over the winter and restocked, recently, with a thousand F1s. The lake has not fished well for me, of late, but with all those new fish, surely I should have had a more successful day, in terms of numbers of fish caught.

The flat-calm water did not stay like that for long, once the wind and rain got up
The guys have been busy this winter on the grounds. The surrounding vegetation has been trimmed back to reveal a stark looking landscape that is a bit of a shock at first sight. It amazes me just how different this will look in a couple of months time when mother nature attempts to reclaim the lake as her own.  

My plan for later was to try feeder fishing, one rod at distance and one close in. Before that I wanted to try my luck with my trusty tele-pole and see what was hanging around the severely cropped marginal reeds. To my surprise, I was not getting a sign of anything there big or small, not even a touch.

After a couple of hours I was starting to feel the cold. I have fished in much colder conditions in the past, but this time I was really suffering. I had warm clothes on, more than usual, but I was still starting to feel uncomfortable. I added an extra layer in the form of a hoodie, over my thermal T-shirt, jumper and under my coat. I was wearing gloves and thermal socks inside my boots, yet still I was not very warm. I decided I was being a bit soft and carried on.

I was fed up with the lack of action on the tele-pole and put out a second feeder. at least this way, with the bait-runner drags at a minimum, I could put my gloved hands inside my pockets. Just as I was thinking this was going to be a blank day, the distance feeder's reel started to click and then scream as it paid-out line. A fish!

The only fish to make it to the bank
I wound into my quarry to realise, by the lack of fighting resistance, that I had not found one of the new F1s, but a decent sized bream (at least for me) that just slid into the net and I landed with no problem. Encouraged by my success I reloaded the feeder with my trusty Two Dog groundbait, secured another punch of bacon grill on the hair and recast to the same spot. Meanwhile, the other rod was doing nothing so I recast a new feeder full of the groundbait and sat back and watched the lack of action. I had a couple of takes on the distance feeder over the next couple of hours but lost both of them at the net. One a fairly decent common and another bream, this one a bit more feisty than its previous cousin.

By now I was really feeling disgruntled and cold. I had also had a call about the house sale and had to spend some time trying to sort that out. By now the wind was getting up and it took my line into the branch of a tree as it passed the end of the island. that resulted in the feeder being donated to the lake and a huge tangle of line making friends with the reel. At this point  I decided to ditch the closer of the two feeders and try again with the tele-pole in a new position.

Here, I was more successful in as much as I managed to hook a few more decent sized fish, including a ghost carp that must have gone a few pounds. I fought it for what seemed to be an eternity on the light gear, only to lose it at the net to a chorus of not so tuneful, but heart-felt expletives. Although I hook a few more fish, I landed nothing more. I was surprised that I did not catch any small fish at all, not even a small roach on the tele-pole.

By now the rain was becoming more persistent and I was not enjoying myself at all. At around 15:00 I decided that enough was enough and I started to pack up. I suddenly realised that I had not been out fishing in the cold, like this, since I have lost weight. I have lost a huge amount of weight since this time last year, so much so that I had to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes, including my fishing gear! I am now convinced that the several layers of fat I have lost from around my waist (six inches of it) must have been insulating me from the cold. The strange thing is, I seem to have lost it from all over, including my head! I put my favourite fishing hat on the other day, only to find it slipped over my eyes!

I was back home by 17:30 and it took me all day yesterday to warm up again. No more sitting around stillwaters for me in the colder months, in future I will restrict my fishing on cooler, sun-less, days to roving the rivers and canals.

Ralph   


Sunday, 24 February 2019

Yes, I made it to the bank...

…but it nearly didn’t happen!



My fishing adventures have been somewhat curtailed over the past year for all sorts of reasons. Health issues, the hot weather and an ongoing house move, have all contributed individually or in combination to thwart any plans I had of spending a day at the bank. I did make it a couple of times in November, but other than that, the only outings were to mine or the other bloke's local river, since July. As it turned out, I ended up fishing the same water I had fished in July. This time the conditions were very different.

Over the past week, the weather down here in London has been balmy. Temperatures have been in the high teens with low, but bright sunshine. The lighter nights and dry (ish) weather have added to the illusion of a spring day in February. All this beautiful weather, combined with a convenient gap in our altogether chock-a-block calendar, gave the perfect opportunity to take a day out fishing.

That was the middle of the week, and by Friday I had gathered together some tackle, purchased a pint of maggots and was ready for an early start on Saturday. That was until I realised my mobile phone had gone flat. I plugged it in to charge and forgot about it until early evening. As I was gathering my last minute bits together, I noticed a message from the estate agent selling our house. It merely asked me to call him back. The trouble was it was now too late. I thought about calling him from the bank, assuming I could get a signal, but in the end, I decided to put the fishing on hold.

Saturday morning came, and on the dot of 09:00, I called the agent only to discover that the guy who called was not in until Monday! By 10:00 I had managed to get hold of his colleague, who said he just intended to keep me up to date and there was nothing that needed attention urgently. I know if I had just gone fishing, it would have been a different story. Now, somewhat deflated, I pondered what to do. In the end, I decided to go anyway. I loaded the van and was on the road by 10:10.

I had pondered where to go, but anywhere is a decent drive from here. I stuck to my original plan and set off for Beaver, yes I know, same old story, but I know I will find some fish there.

On leaving the end of my road, I joined a queue of traffic on the South Circular, it was stationary. This part of this very busy road is only two-lane, one in each direction. There is no choice but to sit in the queue and wait. A mile or so further on, the reason for the hold-up was revealed as the police had closed a section of the road (in both directions) diverting the traffic to the left and right, just before the road passes under the railway. It is a fair distance to get to the next crossing point. As these crossing places are a bottleneck, at the best of times, the back-doubles soon became gridlocked. An hour after leaving home I was just about to cross the railway half a mile away from the closure.
I eventually got onto the M25 and sailed the few miles to the A22, the road that winds its way through Surrey and, in due course, past Beaver. Usually, this is not a bad road, except on a Thursday morning when the refuge trucks are out. This particular morning the traffic was thick and more clutch-pumping made for a further tedious delay.

Getting on for two hours after leaving home I drove through the fishery gates.
At this time of year, the gates close at 18:00, so I had barely five hours to fish, after allowing for time to set and pack away, leaving enough time get out of the gate before it closed - automatically.   

Eden Pond - The very sparse vegetation, at this time of year, gives it a very open look
I had thought I would try Maze Lake again, as it has been netted over the winter and a lot of work done on it last summer to fill in some of the redundant water. Talking to Andy, the bailiff, it sounded as that was not a good idea at the moment as no one had been successful on there over the past week or so. Instead, it was suggested that I try Eden Pond, as I was only looking for a few hours of float/short-pole fishing. This I did.

On arrival, I found one other person fishing the lake. He had been there all morning and caught nothing… Not what I wanted to hear. Nevertheless, I set up my minimal kit comprising of a chair, small divvy table (for bait), unhooking mat, net etc. and one of my cheap 5m tele-poles. A light rig using 4lb line and a 3lb hook length to a size 18 hook, suspended under a small rugby-ball shaped, 0.1g pole float. I started off at dead depth with a single maggot.

My first fish of the session, and the year!
I had been feeding a swim close to an outcrop of reeds while I was tackling up. I put the float in and let the bait settle. A gentle lift every now and then did nothing to encourage a feeling of optimism. It had been months since my last trip out fishing way back in early November. I had blanked that day, other than an unfortunate Signal Crayfish. I added a couple of inches to the depth, so the bait would be sitting on the bottom, and put in again with the same bait. Within seconds it was fish on, and I had caught my first fish of the day, and of this year!

A nice roach. Okay, not the biggest specimen in the lake, but not the smallest either. Feeing a few loose maggots every five minutes or so seemed to keep the swim alive. I was catching a good number of roach, all about the same size. I was happy, and the other guy on the lake was still not catching anything. I asked if he would like some maggot and he said he would. I gave him a couple of handfuls and went back to my fishing.

Changing the bait for one red and one white maggot, lead to me landing a nice little perch about the same size as the roach. This little fellow looked as if he had been in the wars, as most of his dorsal fin was missing. I did not photograph him and sent him on his way without putting him through any further stress.

I sat there fishing the small pole for a few hours, soaking up the sunshine that was making for an enjoyable day. Fish were coming at a rate fast enough to make it enjoyable, without being too easy. Subtle changes to depth and bait gave varying results. I was catching, and that was good. At least it was for me. I have learnt that light tackle, at this time of year, seems to be the way to go. Not too light though, as there are a few bigger fish in here.
I caught lots of roach, all about the same size
The elderly chap (yes he was older than me!) took great pains to tell me how long he had been fishing (all his life) and that there were no fish feeding in the lake (pond?) today. He could not understand it. After I had started catching continuously, he decided to pack up and go. He had been fishing using heavy line and a long waggler float that was sticking out of the water by about eight inches. I am not even sure he had plumbed the depth. His tactic was to throw in handfuls of soggy groundbait, that hit the water like a rock, all over the swim. After he had gone, I rigged a rod and lobbed a float out over where he had been fishing and caught a small bream on the first cast. Maybe I am learning something. I was fun to actually find and catch a few fish.

The small bream (large skimmer?) 'nicked' from the other guys swim after he left
Although only a short session, it was fun to get out and as I was so late getting started, I got a half-day ticket which was even better! It was only a few hours, but I enjoyed every moment, and I am so pleased I did not give up the fight to get here, as I was tempted to do when I got caught in all that traffic. The saving grace was the journey home was a good one, and I was home in a fraction of the time it took me to get there.

Ralph.  

Thursday, 15 November 2018

A bend in the rod

Today, the weather forecast was for good weather with a predicted temperature high of 17°C. This being halfway through November, I decided to try and get a day's fishing in before it really started to get cold. As it turned out, the sun stayed hidden, except for a fleeting glance in the afternoon and temperatures never did get near the forecast high. Even so, it was plenty mild enough to make it comfortable with the standard clobber adorning my now much lighter frame. I have lost over two stone over the summer and now my fishing clothes, which were tight, are now a more than comfortable fit. I used to look like a Teletubby, in my bib and brace, now I am starting to resemble a partially deflated Michelin man.

As last week's trip to Beaver was a disaster, as far as catching fish was concerned, I made a point of getting there early this week to get the choice of swims. I have not got up this early for a while, but it all went fine. I was feeling good and as I was not taking too much tackle, and the van is half full of boxes and other junk from the packing up of our house, I chose to take the car. The old, recycled, Swedish fridge is getting on a bit these days (it is even older than the van!), but it still does the job with flying colours.

The water today was dead flat at times. Just look at the refection of the rod in the water
A decent run meant I got to the fishery just as the gates were open and to my surprise, there was no queue. I had expected to be among a whole lot of people who had the same thought as me. After a bit of a catch-up with Andy, I paid my day-ticket money and set off for the back of Jeff's lake. I got there to find just one other person setting up on the far bank. The water was so still, it was like a mirror at times, ideal conditions for seeing the float. That might come in handy later, but for now, it is time to go back to what I know.

Today, I had made the decision to go back to method feeder fishing, using my tried and tested Two Dog groundbait as a feeder mix and Bacon Grill on the hook. I set up and filled the small 30g, Preston flat back method feeder, burying the hook-bait within the feed. This will generally give almost instant results on this lake, but not today. I persevered with this method for a while and eventually gave up, planning to revisit the spot later in the day.

Ah! A nice little roach, for a change
Meanwhile, I had been feeding a spot a few meters out to my right where I could drop a maggot-baited hook in with my short 5m tele-pole. A size 16 hook on a light rig was decimating the gudgeon population. I must have caught several dozen of them! Then, just for a change, I caught a nice little roach. Although I was catching fish this week, my total catch so far probably did not weigh much more than a pound or two at most. After getting bored with catching lots of tiny fish, I reverted to the feeder.

I had some Maggots left over from last week. I had bought a pint of mixed (colour) maggots. I have never used these before, and they are interesting to look at, even if the fish were not at all interested last week. Not wanting to change the rig I thought I would make a 'cocktail' bait by securing a punch of Bacon Grill on the hair, and a couple of the brightly coloured maggots on the hook. Having never tried this before, I was impressed when it resulted in a nice, firm take. For the first time in months, I was playing a fish that had some fight. The fact that it played dead after a very short fight confirmed my assumption that I was playing a bream.

That's more like it
Great! First decent fish of the day, I was on my way. I baited the rig again, and cast. Nothing. That was the end of the feeder fishing in that spot. I decided to go back to the pole and try some bigger bait to try and discourage the gudgeon. I tried at dead depth and nothing. After several attempts, using meat, sweetcorn and even bread, I was getting nowhere other than one perch that went for a piece of red (dyed) Bacon Grill. Even that was only a small fish. In desperation, I changed the hook to a size 10 and loaded it with a bunch of various coloured maggots, after buying another pint from the fishery shop. I also moved the float up the line so now I was fishing with an inch or so of line sitting on the bottom. That changed things dramatically.

The first put-in got a mighty tug. At this point, I realised the line was wrapped around the tip, and the elastic was still in the pole. Snap! The hooklength had broken, and I was left having to re-rig. Next put-in had the same reaction. This time the elastic came out of the pole until it bottomed-out and then snapped. I had brought along a second tele-pole with a stronger elastic fitted. That was rigged with a stronger line and hooklength. I put this in and again I had several strong bites that got away, this time I was just losing the fish. The gear, including the hook, sans bait, was holding up. Then I had another one on. It was playing nicely, and I was as gentle as I could be until it made a bolt for it and bottomed-out the elastic. This time the hooklength broke and the fish was lost.

By now, I realised that there was not much I could do to stop the fish using the small poles. They are excellent for small fish, but if anything of any size gets a hold of the bait, there is nothing I can do to stop it. By now it is getting on for lunchtime. I pulled the line out of the water and poured myself a cup of coffee to have with a sandwich and consider my options. It has been a while since I last fished this lake with any commitment. I did spend an hour or so on here earlier this year catching F1s on corn, but that was at the height of summer, and I was using heavier gear.

The multi-coloured maggots worked well with my Two Dog groundbait feeder-mix
After lunch I hit on the idea of just dropping the feeder in, charged with Two Dog and leaving a bunch of maggots just hanging on a four-inch hooklength. After all, that is not that much different to what I was doing with the pole, once I had started to fish over-depth. That worked! The heavier gear was easily up to the job, and I was landing fish after fish. By now the lake had filled, and I was fishing with seven or eight other anglers. Some were catching, but not at the rate I was. Again, the Two Dog feeder mix was calling in those F1s. I must have had twenty of them over the next few hours, along with the odd bream and a lovely crucian. At least I am reasonably sure it was a crucian. As I understand it, the way to tell the difference is by counting the number lateral line scales. This fish seems to be in the 32-34 bracket which makes it a crucian as F1s usually have more, in the 35-36 range. Please correct me if I am wrong, I am only going by what I have read.

A nice size crucian was my favourite fish of the day
It starts to get dark very quickly at this time of year, so by 4 o'clock I was beginning to pack up, and by 5 o'clock I was all packed up and well on my way home. A great day fishing and I learnt a lot today.

Ralph.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

John Wilson

Long before I was an active angler, I often watched television programmes about fishing. Jack Hargreaves was probably the first 'name' I can remember. His series on the long since defunct 'Southern Television'  was called Out of Town, and later, when it was picked up by Channel 4, Old Country. His soft dulcet tone was very easy to listen to, and his whole demeanour gave him a grandfatherly appeal to a young lad like myself, even though I was not interested in fishing as a kid. 

Later in life, as an adult, I would watch fishing programmes with Sue, my wife. Neither of us were anglers, but we enjoyed watching well-presented fishing programmes as entertainment in their own right. John Wilson's Go Fishing was one such programme. Like many others, we were captivated by John Wilson's genuine enthusiasm for the hobby. It mattered not that we were not interested in having a go ourselves, we soaked up the material on offer for the sixteen years that the programme aired on Channel 4 and then again as repeats on the digital channels in recent years. John Wilson's programmes had (and probably still do) an appeal, way beyond the angling community. 

Today, 13 November 2018, I learned that John has died, this morning in Thailand, after suffering a stroke on Sunday. He had moved there a few years ago to retire to the sun, but in recent months he had decided to return home to spend more time with family. Sadly this was not to be. Although I have never met him, I felt like I had lost a friend. When I took up fishing late in life, just four years ago, the first book I bought was a copy of his Course Fishing Method Manual. Now long out of print, being first published over twenty years ago, I managed to secure a second-hand copy.


The book was obviously well loved before I became the custodian of the volume. The original owner had scribed a declaration on the inside of the cover, stating that the book belonged to him. He had also added his undying love for his girlfriend! Even now, the book is full of the basic information a novice like me needs to further my fishing adventures. I am sure there is many an angler out there today who has learned a lot, and like me, are still learning from the words of John Wilson. 

John Wilson was voted the 'greatest angler of all time' by the Angling Times readers and was awarded an MBE in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours, For services to Angling.  

R.I.P John Dennis Wilson, MBE.

Ralph.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Finally, a day at Beaver...

Your days are numbered...
Today has been a good day. My first visit to Beaver Fishery since July. I missed most of the summer fishing due to one thing or another, although I did manage the odd trip to our local river and Tim's stretch of The Medway, as regular readers of my waffle will know.

The cold and dark of this time of the year did not inspire me to plan an early start, so a leisurely plod was in order. The van is full of boxes as we are in the process of packing up the house, so rather than mess about, I decided to go light and take the car. A float rod and a tele-pole, my comfy seat and a small bag of tackle was the order of the day that all fit nicely into the back.

I left just before 09:00, and to my surprise, the traffic was fairly light. Less than an hour later, I was driving into the fishery. By this time the office was locked, and the guys were out and about tending to the grounds. I could hear the sound of the fishery's Kubota pick-up and headed for the noise. On the bank of Jeff's lake, I found Adam trimming the margins. After a brief chat, we headed back to the office where I paid my day ticket and bought a pint of multicoloured maggots and a tin of hemp.

Maze Lake. The area inside the red box has now been in-filled
Last time I was here, the silted up arm of Maze Lake was being filled in and now completed, access to the 'fingers' is easier from the back of the lake. I decided to have a go at fishing from there. It always seemed a lot of messing about to get there before. I set up in a swim at the end of the 'finger' in a place I could not reach from where I have fished in the past. The spot looked good with open water in front of me and a patch of lily pads to my left at the closed end. The section of the map is taken from the complex map on the fishery's website, showing the layout of Maze Lake as it was before the infill.

The greyed out area inside the red box indicates where the lake has been filled and the red arrow shows where I was fishing for the day. I say fishing, I think in four years, this was the first time here that I blanked, not a sniff all day. The only thing to get dragged out of the lake was a signal crayfish laden with eggs. Even that was foul hooked! Needless to say, it did not make it back to the lake.

The view from my peg, looking out over the swim to the new grassed area of infill.
 The spot looked idyllic. Nice stretch of water in front of me, looking over to the bank that surrounds this side of The Major's Lake. My favourite place to fish is just the other side of that bank. However, the water level is still low in The Major's Lake and is continually being topped up from Maze via a diesel pump that can be heard in the distance. After a while, I forgot the noise was there.

You would think there would be a few fish around those lily pads, wouldn't you?
I was too busy trying to catch fish - unsuccessfully. I started off by cupping in a small cup of maggots and hemp while I was rigging my short, 5m pole. I plumbed the depth to set the bait right on the bottom and impaled one of the colourful maggots. Nothing. I fed a few grains of hemp over the float. Still nothing. After an hour or so, I gave up on the pole and decided to rig my float rod with a long waggler and see what was hanging around further out. Nothing. In short, I tried changing bait to corn, bread and even meat but it all gave the same result, absolutely nothing. I did not get a bite all day until the last few minutes when it was getting dark, and I was about to pack up. Both fish came off the hook and my total catch for the day was one, now deceased, signal crayfish.

This is very similar to a trip we made to our local river back in the summer. It had been raining all day yesterday, and I guess the rain has cooled the water down sufficiently to cause the fish to stop feeding for a while as they acclimatise to their changed environment. Mistakenly, I chose today to go fishing as it looked like the weather was going to be good, not thinking about the fact that it had been raining all day yesterday.

Yes, it would have been nice to catch the odd fish, but never mind, I had a day out in some nice weather getting some fresh air and was able to spend a good few hours without worrying about life in general, moving house and being ill. I think if the weather is not too bad, I might go and say hello to the fish in the weir pool on our local river over the weekend. I wonder if they like multi-coloured maggots!

Ralph. 
   

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Goodbye London and fishing on Thursday - Maybe.


39 years and 19 days after moving into our Victorian terraced house (that we bought as a first time buy back in the days when nobody wanted to live here) we have just put it on the market. Since we moved here the area has steadily become more desirable as the infrastructure has been improved and the surrounding areas have become far too expensive for anybody but the elite.

Now the multi-coloured, ten-year old Ford Cortinias and rusty Morris Marinas that used to adorn the curb have been replaced with Range Rovers, Porsches and Mercedes. Every road has houses being refurbished to high standards and usually with the addition of loft conversions, extensions and even basements excavated. Who would have thought, when we bought a house that had been converted into two flats, for no money at all, that four decades on it would be one of the most desirable locations in the road? Not us, that is for sure. Originally, we had only intended to stay here for three years.

Now after a lifetime of living in the smoke it will be a big wrench to drag ourselves away from all the advantages living in London can offer. This has been made a lot easier in recent years by the growing list of disadvantages for us. There is no doubt that a younger person making his way in life, the modern fast, twenty-four hour vibe of the metropolis can be the perfect place to live.

For me, all that is behind me. At 62 years of age, I have no intention of landing myself with a whole lot of stress I don't need. The thought of moving out to a place where I can just be, has become more and more appealing as the years chug by. Making the move now, before I get too old to enjoy the things I love, makes perfect sense.

So What has this got to do with fishing?


Lots. For a start I will not be able to do much fishing over the next few months while we pack up and sort out the best part of forty years of accumulated stuff. You know, there is furniture, clothes and kitchen utensils and all the rest is 'stuff'. We seem to have far more than our fair share of stuff, in fact I had no idea just how much stuff we actually had tucked away in this house!

Fishing gear comes under the 'stuff' category and again, it mounts up. My intention is to keep some to hand, but the rest will have to be packed up ready to move and put into storage for a while, along with a lot of other stuff. Now I have to decide what to keep to hand.

I could base it on what I take when going 'light'. See HERE. That covers float fishing, but I will add a couple of my short tele-poles and pole-rigs. I will also keep to hand my little telescopic rod that I use on the tiny rivers we have locally. That should do for the foreseeable future. All the rest will go into storage and will still be accessible if I do need it.

The weather looks good for tomorrow and that will give me a good excuse to try out the minimum gear approach. I have not been to Beaver for months, partly due to the moving 'distractions' but mainly due to not feeling well enough. I am really looking forward to a day by a familiar lake just gently fishing for whatever comes along. The last time I was there, the weather was baking hot. I think it will be a bit different tomorrow. Time to dig out some warm clothing and something hot for breakfast on the bank...

...Happy to be going fishing, but even happier now we have just had an offer accepted on a house we want to buy - all we have to do now is sell this one!

Ralph.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

And then there were perch!

We save all the trimmings from Bacon Grill punching
The last time we were down by our local river, here in Catford, it had just been raining, and it was running a torrent over the shallow weir and into the pool we have been fishing lately. Today, normality has been restored, the water was crystal clear, and the chub are cursing around looking for anything that might constitute food. We had no maggots in stock, so we took some Bacon Grill trimmings (the bits left behind after first slicing and then punching a whole can into hook-bait) that had been chopped up ready to use as feed on my next outing.

Having never fed these fish with meat before, I had no idea how they would react. It turned out they are partial to cured, processed pig fat and meat! I might try them of meat next time instead of/as well as Maggots.

As we were watching the chub, I caught a flash of stripes. Yes, the perch from downstream have also arrived in the pool along with the chub. Although not as bold as the chub, they were definitely interested and were patrolling the far bank, close to the pilings. Although they did make the odd excursion our direction, they would not move that far away from the far bank. I should have brought the small pole catapult as although the river is not that wide, it is impossible to get the feed over to the far bank without spooking the fish with my flailing arm.

Next time we get the chance, I will take willies with me and paddle over to the other bank, across the weir. The water passing over it is only a few inches deep, most of the time. Once there I can have a go at fishing from the far bank. With that in mind, I have some Bacon Grill punch that has been dyed red - it might just tempt a passing perch. I might even try dropshotting for them with a small plastic fish!

I would never have thought there could be so much fun to be had just a short mile and a half walk from my front door here in South East London. The more I study this small river, the more I like it and the more interesting it becomes. I really enjoy my short sessions actually fishing, but I am getting just as much fun out of trying to learn where the fish are, as there is no one to tell me. I guess this is what they call watercraft, or at least the learning of it.

Ralph.

   

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

No fish, but I got my spanner back!

The trees have been trimmed - time (and room) to fish
Yesterday, I got back down to Kent to fish with Tim. Having been stuck indoors for the past few weeks, I was really looking forward to a day fishing with the other bloke on The Medway, upstream of Maidstone town centre, attempting to catch a fish! Neither of us did. Since we first fished here, the trees have been trimmed, and the place looks completely different. At last, we will be able to cast with ease. We started off having a go at dead-baiting for pike, as Tim had bought a few frozen roach and skimmers. This was a big learning curve as neither of us had tried this before. Just trying to get the single circle hook through the body of the fish (now unfrozen!) was a bit of a palaver - it would have made a poor comedy sketch. None of what you see on YouTube is as easy as it looks, and this is no different.

Armed with a good few hours of experience, we need to go back to the virtual classroom and see if we can move on a stage. The bait was getting attacked, we were just not feeling a bite, or when we did, we were not connecting with the fish. Hey Ho. After a few hours of 'feeding' the fish we decided to pack it in and go back to float fishing and chatting - sort of what we do best, the chatting that is!

We still blanked, not even a twitch. I guess Saturday's heavy rain had changed the river, that was the clearest I have seen it since we first fished here, back at the beginning of the summer. This part of the river is above the first lock, so the flow is governed by when the lock is opened or the rate water that is allowed to pass. Now, call me thick, but I have just realised that maybe we should be fishing this stretch of the river more like a canal than a river...

Although the fishing was not great, I did come home with a catch, not mine but one of Tim's. When the guys were trimming the trees, he borrowed their magnet-on-a-string and managed to recover the spanner I dropped into the river when we were removing the ladders. That was back on the 4th of August. The spanner had been in the river for a good couple of months. When Tim got it out, it looked in excellent condition apart from what looked like some light surface rust. When I got it home, I gave it a quick wash in warm soapy water and the 'rust' dissipated. It was just a build up of reddy-orange sediment that had deposited itself in the lettering and the jaws of the ring-end. If this is not a good endorsement of quality, I don't know what is. The picture below shows a brand new spanner that I bought to replace the lost item and the recovered spanner. Can you tell which is which?

The lower one has spent the past couple of months at the bottom of the river!
Next time we fish from here, I will be using a slider float and having a go with a long pole. As far as the pike fishing is concerned, I have discovered what we were doing wrong with the rig, I just need to go and find out how to use it! I will let you know how that goes in due course. All in all, it was a great day, with good company and fun fishing, even if we did not land a single fish.

Ralph.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Rain!

It has been raining all morning here in London. By about 15:00 it had stopped, and the sun came out. Itching to get out of the house, we went for a walk along the river and were surprised just how much water was flowing and how high it must have been a few hours earlier. Our usually tame trickle of a river was in full flow. At the confluence of the two rivers, the water was hammering down the shallow weirs with speed not seen all summer, at least not by us.

At the confluence of the River Ravensbourne and the Pool River, The water is flowing over the weirs with force.
From this point, the river flows down through Catford and Ladywell on its way to Lewisham and onward to Deptford Creek and into the River Thames, as the River Ravensbourne. Following our little river upstream to our favourite places, the river was very much higher than usual and carrying a lot of colour.

The camera has frozen the action, and the river looks almost flat calm - it wasn't!
Our little spot where we first caught a few fish last summer was almost unrecognisable as all the bank-side features were submerged and the water was flowing with some speed. In the picture above, you can see, on the opposite bank, where the vegetation has been flattened by water that must have been at least a couple of feet higher, a few hours earlier today.

Again the camera has taken the speed out of the shot, but as you can see, it looked a lot different today!
We continued upstream to the next weir, where we have caught a couple of decently sized chub this summer. Here the water was again barrelling over the weir, turning our usually calm spot into a raging torrent.

By this time we were a couple of miles away from home, and it was time to be getting back. It is Sunday today, and tonight roast pork is on the menu for this evening! There was not much point in trying to fish the river when it is this state as the rain will have changed the water temperature and upset the calm of the river, as we have discovered in the past. I will wait until it calms down a bit before I have another dangle in the river. In the meantime, I will investigate the commercials. I was planning on going to Beaver tomorrow, but with all the rain we have had today I think the fishing there will be harder than I would like, for a day pleasure fishing. It looks as though the weather will be a bit better later in the week, so I may well give it a go on Thursday - we will see.

Ralph.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Well, I tried...

After being stuck in doors for the last couple of weeks due to not feeling too good, I decided that I would at least have a go on our local river. Sue and I had found a good sheltered spot where we had seen lots of chublet and perch patrolling, a few week ago.

As the area is very overgrown in places and surrounded with trees, the visit was in some doubt, due to the prospect of high winds causing trees to be in danger of falling or at the very least, dropping the odd branch. As it turned out, at first, the wind was not as bad as it had been forecast. We had some work to do this morning, so an afternoon session seemed to be the most convenient. It nearly didn't happen at all, as just as we were about to leave the heavens opened. I am not that bothered about rain, but it would have made it less pleasurable, especially for Sue, who is just a spectator (and maggot thrower!) in all this. Luckily the downpour only lasted a few minutes and the sun came out again.

Fishing the river is all about going light, super light. This particular spot is really close to us, less than a mile walk from our front door, through the streets of South East London. I don't like attracting attention by carrying obvious fishing gear around, so we have developed a compact and stealthy kit for such excursions. This comprises of a shoulder bag that contains everything we need including the rod, reel and even a rolled up unhooking mat. The only additional item is a small landing net, borrowed from our light lure fishing tackle.

Going light. Even the rod goes in the bag
Ready to go
When we got to the river, it was fairly obvious that the fishing was not going to be good. The wind had brought a few small branches down into the river and these were drifting down stream and collecting in various locations along the bank.
A Fuzzy rat!
The rats were in evidence, inspecting all these free offerings. I managed to get a shot, albeit a bit fuzzy, of one of the little beggars scurrying around as bold as you like.

Rats are not uncommon along the river, but today there were plenty of them to see. We continued on to our chosen location and had a walk along the bank, as far as is possible without getting involved in a jungle clearance scheme, and chose a swim that looked the best of what was a very poor bunch.

I had pre-rigged my little telescopic rod with a small float and a size 16 hook, baited with a single white maggot. Sue had been baiting upstream from the chosen start of my attempted trot down the river. I had plumbed the depth in a few places and it ranged from almost zero to 15-18 inches at best. There was a narrow channel about a foot from the far bank that was the deepest point, almost everywhere else the water was only about 6 inches deep.

The river was littered with small twigs and leaves. I was not feeling very confident about this. To add insult to injury, we had not seen a single fish or even any evidence of them. Although I knew in my heart I was on a hiding to nothing, I made a few casts. If I wasn't getting snagged on floating debris, my nine-inch deep rig was getting hung up on the bottom.

Not much point really, but I had to give it a go!
After half an hour or so, we decided that standing under a lot of trees that were swaying around in the now increasing wind, catching leaves was not as much fun as it would seem. Time to call it a day and maybe come back when the conditions are a bit more favourable. Still, we gave it a go and I did get on the bank for the first time in a couple of weeks.

Ralph.