Wednesday, 24 June 2015

I am rapidly going off trees...

Not all trees, you understand, just the ones that try and claim my tackle. Ever since I started fishing, the Tree-Gods have been asking for sacrifices from my meagre tackle box. On recent fishing trips I have managed to avoid such expense, but today was one of the days the Trees won. No they did not claim any tackle (apart from one hook!) but they did spoil my day.

Nice looking lilly pads close to the island and some clear water to have a go at pallet waggling... Yeah right!
It is all part of that learning curve. Today's lesson was to look up and to each side of the peg rather than just looking at target swims. This may be obvious to many but, as it appears, not to me. After I got myself all set up and ready to go I discovered that I only had a very small window that I could actually cast at. The 'cover' either side of the peg was not a problem, it was the overhanging trees that prevented me from making a conventional cast in any direction other than at an angle of between approximately 75 and 85 degrees to the peg. 

My main aim of the day was to get to grips with pellet waggler fishing. I have tried a couple of times previously but to no avail. This time I was ready and ready to go, but every time I cast, the rig tangled. Today was not going too well... I had joined the hooklength to the main line using a small swivel, as had been suggested in something I had read. Maybe this was causing my problem.  Removing it made no difference, in fact it probably made it worse.

loading the method feeder seems to work well
At this point I decided to revert to my plan 'B' and get the feeder rod out again. As I have already said, from this peg I was restricted to a narrow window to where I could cast. I had got the method mix right, I know my two-dog groundbait mix works as I have caught lots of fish with it on previous occasions. With the help of a couple of the other guys I have got the constancy right.  I can make very neat method feeders up and they stay in place on the cast. My little black mixing bowl is great (See the top and bottom of THIS post from a few moths ago). I can pick it up and put it down with one hand and it sits on my lap a treat when filling the mould. I must say I do like this Preston mould, it seems to do exactly what it is supposed to do with ease.  After more hours casting at the same spot I got nothing. I should have got up and moved but you know how it is waiting for a bus - it will be along in a minute, it never comes and in the end it would have been quicker to walk! The same applies to moving peg, next time if it is not right, I will move.

The lesson was learned and it ended up spoiling my day in terms of catching fish. I still enjoyed myself and I packing up early, which gave me a chance to have a good look around the other lakes/ponds at Beaver. 

Juniors Lake looks interesting
Here bis just one of the other lakes... Lake No.9 is Juniors Lake. According to the literature, it is often overlooked because of its name but it is purported to hold a good stock of fish with carp up to 20lb and Tench to 6lb as well as many others. I might give it a go at some point in the future but it is a bit off the beaten track, well at least the end I fancy fishing is. For the time being I will stick to the pegs with easy access to the van. I should really sort myself out a trolley of some kind then it would not be so much of a problem...


Monday, 8 June 2015

The great groundbait lesson...

After my match début at Beaver Fishery on Wednesday, I thought I should revisit the venue on Saturday to sign any outstanding autographs, not to upset my fan-base...

...As it turned out, they must have been busy. Never mind, I took the opportunity to get some fishing in.

The swans were being pestered this time...
I decided that I would fish Maze Lake where I have fished several time before. I like to go back there and, if I can, to the same peg each time. This way I can see if my technique is improving with the least number of variables. At the moment, time of year is going to make a difference but as time goes on I should be able to see the result of year on year visits. That was the plan

Mallet and 'protector' made from scrap
Beaver Fishery opens at 7:00 AM and it is about a three-quarter of an hour drive from where we live in South East London, always assuming there is not a problem on the dreaded M25  motorway, that is! I arrived about ten minutes before the gate was open and joined a short queue of keen anglers determined to get their favoured spot. Luckily nobody in the queue before me wanted my favoured spot on Maze Lake. I pulled up against the undergrowth and set to work setting up my peg. My latest piece of equipment, to join the growing collection, is a rubber mallet purloined from the workshop.  I had used it on Wednesday to drive the banksticks into the hard ground under the pegs around Jeff's lake, where the open match was staged. I also knocked up a stick 'protector' from a scrap piece of softwood. The bankstick is pushed into the ground enough to stand unaided. The protector is held in contact with the thread and is then hit with the rubber mallet, ensuring no damage is done to the bankstick or mallet. Worked a treat!

I now take the van fishing. This saves a lot of time as I can take the rods ready assembled and tackled up. All I have to do is take them out of the van, add bait and I am ready to go. I set up my chair, bait waiter and wet my bowl of groundbait. I was having terrible trouble filling the Method feeder from the mould. This is where inexperience came in. I did not know if it was too wet or too dry. Luckily for me, one of the guys, I had been match fishing with on Wednesday, came over to say hello and sorted me out.

Riddle, riddle, riddle and riddle some more!
Not only was my groundbait too wet, but is had lumps in and that is not as attractive to the fish as nice fluffy groundbait. Following the advice I had just been given I added some more dry base mix and added the other ingredients to make up the same proportions as the original bowl had contained. As you can see in the picture above, with the side door open on the van, the floor makes an table area to mix the bait and do all sorts of other things away from the peg. The spillages are easily swept out after riddling has been completed!  My two-dog groundbait mix seems to work well and I wanted it to stay constant. The whole lot was thoroughly mixed together and riddled several times to make a fine dryish mix that formed well in the hand as well as when moulded to the method feeder.

A nice sized bream - one of many I was catching on the feeder
With my groundbait sorted I was back fishing. I decided where I wanted to fish and set about finding the length to clip up to. Having got caught out last time I tried this on Maze Lake and ended up giving up, I went with no bait and no hooklength. Just as well I did as the first cast landed up in the trees again! This time, with a bit of a tug, the feeder returned to the lake with a stress relieving splash. I wound it in and recast, this time I was well short so I hand pulled a few meters of line and clipped up. This time the cast landed just about where I wanted to be.

Now the distance was set I secured the short hooklink and baited the hair with a small piece of punched bacon grill. I cast and set the rod in the rest, that had been set to the left of my chair, until l had a slight bend in the quiver-tip. The bait had only been out a few seconds when the bream started to bite one after the other for a while. I was starting to get bored with it. It would have been fantastic if it was a match, I couldn't believe it, virtually every chuck was producing a fish.

I decided to have a break and a coffee from the flask. I set the feeder rod to one side and thought I would have a go at a spot of float fishing. I had a pellet waggler set up in the van and decided to give that a go using soft expander pellets as hook bait and feeding 6mm hard pellets. This had been a method I tried on Wednesday in the match but I could not get it going. As I was wasting so much time, having only caught one fish I went back to the feeder. Now with no pressure I thought I would give it another go but the end result was the same - nothing. I am sure it must be down to my technique but after a few hours of trying I was getting nowhere, I decided to put the pellet waggler to bed and have a go at straight waggler fishing.

I re-tackled with nice long float as it was quite windy by now. Baited up with maggots and had a good time pulling all sorts of small fish out. I changed bait to the punched bacon and was on the fish again straight away. More bream and the odd skimmer - I even caught a small rudd trying to devour a big lump of bacon grill! I have yet to catch a decent sized rudd, but that will come.

A nice little rudd one day I will catch his mum!
I continued to fish for the rest of the day catching much the same - more than I have ever caught before! Towards the end of the day I decided to concentrate on the margins. I had been pre-baiting it most of the afternoon with a couple of lumps of groundbait and the odd sprinkling of maggot. It paid of. I changed my float to one of those short pre-loaded Drennon carp wagglers and baited up with a bunch of maggots. a couple of casts and that was it. The rod bent double and I had hooked me a fish with fight. I thought it must be a carp and as I fought to keep it out of the reeds, it showed itself and confirmed my thought. It turned out to be a common carp. Okay not a huge fish by most people's standards but it was the biggest I have ever caught!

My carp of the day just fitted in the net!
It looks a bit odd in this photograph but I was alone and I didn't want to keep it out of the water too long. It was a very nice looking fish and it made my day, not only because of its size, but because I had used my experience, as short as it is, to know that carp will often move into the margins late in the day to feast on the bait thrown in by homeward bound anglers.

I fished for over eleven hours on Saturday and learnt a lot - my next challenge is to work out what I am doing wrong with the pellet waggler fishing...


Sunday, 7 June 2015

And now the video...

You have seen the blog and now here's the official Beaver Fishery video of the match - that's me in the check padded shirt - I must get some proper fishing gear!  

Now I am looking forward to the next match... The question is can I better my so far personal best (and only weight!) of 15lb? It was a great introduction to match fishing. I would never, in a thousand years, though I would enjoy it - but I did!


Thursday, 4 June 2015

Match that!

First bag - 15lb... Thanks for the photograph Andy!
Back in September last year (2014) I started fishing as something to do with my brother. I must admit, I was not that enthusiastic at the beginning. I was aiming to sit about watching the world go by while Tim did all the fishing. You see, he was the keen one. He fished as a kid with our cousin (also his Godfather) and also in the outlet to the sea of The Swale while on holiday at our chalet, that was located on what was then  Seawview Caravan Site. All I can remember him catching were eels and our Mum trying to deal with them. Our first fishing trip together was aborted and I decided to go it alone. That first time, my wife, Sue, decided to come with me. She was happy to sit there reading her book while I fished for the very first time. That day I caught four reasonably sized (for me) common carp (See HERE). I had only expected to catch a few tiny fish if anything at all.

Since September, for one reason or another, Tim has not been able to come fishing very often so I have decided to go it alone on the days he can't make it. This week my favourite commercial held its usual monthly open match and I decided to give it a go. Yes, I know, I have said on more than one occasion that I had no plans to become a match fisherman. This seemed different being aimed at getting the less experienced angler into a spot of match fishing. It worked.

Setting up on the other side of the lake
Yesterday, I spent a good few hours at the June, Beaver Farm Fishery, open match. Everybody is friendly and helpful and they could not have been more welcoming to complete novice like me. I posted a comment on the Beaver Farm Fishery website's facebook page saying that my only goal was to have a good day and if I managed not to be last, It would be a bonus.

The match was to be over six hours, split over two sessions of three hours with an hours break at the halfway point. I arrived to discover I had drawn peg 4 along the southern side of the lake. Due to a hold up on the motorway, I arrived just after 07:00 AM and the rest of the entrants were well under-way with their setting up.

Scanning my competition for last place, it looked like this was going to be a walkover. The first thing I noticed was that most were 'on the pole'. I was suddenly eleven years old again. You know the feeling, arriving at secondary school for the first day wearing a new pair of short trousers only to discover that virtually every other boy in the school is wearing long trousers... well there I was carrying my float and feeder rods.

Having never done this before, I had to make do with my limited kit. First thing to go was the chair as I had realised this was not going to be high enough as I needed to unhook the fish in the net resting on my legs. My cheap plastic fishing box was pressed into service as a seat. A couple of kneelers were added to make the seat a bit softer. These were wired together and tied to the strap of the box to prevent them blowing away. I had ordered a cheap bait waiter from eBay which screws to a bank stick. I also had a couple of keep nets, one for silvers and one for carp. These also used bank-sticks to hold them in place. By this time I was getting low on bank sticks and my pre-match visit to Mat's Angling had paid dividends as I had picked up a couple more while I was there. After a bit of fiddling with the position of everything I was set-up. I am so glad I had taken the trouble to make up the rods overnight as I was not ready when the start time came but thankfully all I had to do was pick up the complete rod from the back of the van!

A few minutes late, but I was off. The plan was to go with the feeder initially and switch to the float later in the session. I have to let you into another secret here, this was the first time I have ever used a feeder to fish. The last couple of times I have tried to use it I lost the tackle in bushes on the far bank! on that day I gave up and decided to go back to the float at that point. Here I was using the rod and a method feeder for the first time.  I cast it out light to get the range and clipped the line up. I decided to use my two-dog groundbait (See HERE) and punched meat on the hair as hook-bait. I had punched all the meat the night before and had a good selection of sizes to use. I filled the mould with my hook-bait and moistened groundbait, and cast. Andy the bailiff came around to check my set up and suggested I moved the rod rest. As we did this the line went and I had a fish on! I am not sure who was more shocked, me or Andy, This was a huge fish - at least 20lb, I can't show you because it got away... Now, you may not believe me, but it was and just because all the other fish I caught subsequently were much smaller than that doesn't mean to say that the one that got away was not that big...  That's my story and I'm sticking to it! I fished the whole first session on the method and was catching fish every few casts for a while - I must say, my scruffy casting was turning a few heads and me catching reasonable sized fish was also creating a few looks...

By the mid match break I had a few fish in my carp net and one lonely skimmer in the silver fish net. I was feeling reasonably pleased with myself having not fished the method (or any other form of feeder) before. It was obviously working, I have never caught so many fish in one session before and I still had another three hours to go.

After a break for lunch I was back on my wobbly box ready to go. This time I had decided to fish the float using soft pellet hook bait and hard pellet feed. I had pre-baited my swims in the last 5 minutes before the break. See, I had a plan! First cast produced a fish within seconds - that turned a few heads. Luckily attention was diverted by someone on the other side of the lake reeling in the first duck of the day. A young female mallard had been caught in the bill. Between the angler, and the long suffering bailiff, Andy, the hook was extricated from the duck under the careful eye of one Jack Russell terrier and the venue's resident feline rodent control officer.

Apart from that one fish, I could not get anything going with the float so I reverted back to the feeder. Again the tactic worked and although not as productive as it had been earlier I was catching steadily. To keep to plan I went back to the float for the last hour but did not catch anything.  In retrospect, I should have stayed on the feeder, I may have added to my 15lb total. At the end of the match I came 10th out of 15 participants - That'll do me - I was sure I was going to come last.

And then...  

After the match everyone was packing up and I was talking to Mick Hull who had been placed third with 46lb. Mick had been fishing from peg 5, next to me, and had seen and heard (SPLASH!) my erratic casting. He very kindly offered to give me a quick lesson in casting the feeder to a spot. Although I was clipped up I could not seem to get my aim right. Mick showed me where I was going wrong and  now I can get it right where I want it. After everyone else had packed up and gone home I stayed on and continued to practise my casting. After getting the swim going, I was catching nice looking fish every chuck. If I could have done that a few hours earlier I would have caught a few more.

I was catching these F1s on every single cast
I caught as many fish in that couple of hours after the match as I did during the match. Mainly because the lake was my own and also the guys who went home had chucked in the remains of their bait and I just fished over that, from my side of the lake - yes my casting is getting better!

What a great day. I can't wait to get back there and try out some more tactics, now I have a better casting technique I should be able to concentrate on a small area and avoid the trees.


Monday, 1 June 2015

I might have met my match...

Nine months in and I am now ready to take on the world! I have now got to the stage where I have caught so many fish in one day that I have lost count. Yes, there must have been at least a couple of pound of them! I have always said that I did not much like the idea of match fishing and that I am a pleasure angler. This is true, but I can't really say I don't like something if I have never tried it.

My favourite Fishery runs an open match, once a month, aimed at the less experienced angler. The fact that they do not allow the more established match anglers to compete gives us novices a better chance of winning. Personally, I will be delighted if I don't come last, but even if I do, I will have had a go and a day's fishing.

After talking to Mat at Mat's Angling in Lee High Road,  I have a plan (and some bait!) I am not going to reveal my total plan this side of the match, which is next Wednesday. I have done my homework as well and been boning-up on the technique I intend to use. I have a plan, unusual for me I know, but I think that is a big part of this match lark. The other alien concept to me is being organised, but organised I am determined to be.

It seems to me that I will need to keep fishing constantly, no messing around, just full on fishing. First thing to do is decide on a plan. So, I will be fishing a left and a right hand swim on the waggler and back that up with a feeder line straight up the middle. I plan to fish close in, throwing distance rather than having to use a catapult. As for bait, soft expanders on the hook and hard pellet banded on a hair. For the feeder it will be maggot and groundbait fished at a grater distance. That may all change on the day but we will see. whatever happens, the day will be an experience. The pictures may hole a clue as to my method mix, but I will reveal all after the Match... Now, where's my meat punch?

Wish me luck!