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.    

Ralph

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.

Gotcha!

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.

Ralph.

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.

Ralph.
   

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.