Thursday, 23 July 2015

Best day ever - so far!

The view from the van - come on, open the gate!
Beaver Fishery is rapidly becoming my second home. I was back there today queuing at the gate before it opened at 7am. For me that time makes perfect sense, I can get from my home in South East London to the venue in about 50 minutes and it is an easy run out on the A20 into Kent and a quick squirt around the M25 to the A22 gets me almost there. Believe it or not it is almost painless - even the M25 is not too bad at that time of day. Any later and that journey could take a couple of hours on a bad day.

My intended peg at Jeff's lake, first thing this morning
After parking the van and claiming my peg - it is first come, first serve at Beaver - I walked back to the tackle shop to pay for my day ticket and collect a few pints of pellets. For the last few sessions I have been trying my luck at pellet waggler fishing, with absolutely no success what so ever. After messing with the rig and lots (lots!) of practise I managed to just about get there last time out. I could cast and retrieve without getting in a mess but still no fish. Then it dawned on me, maybe the fish do not like the pellets I am using? I don't know, I have never tried to eat them. I decided to buy a few pints of the fishery's own pellets, working on the theory that the fish would be used to feeding on them.

Today was all about two things. Trying my new 8ft picker rod and having another go at pellet waggling!

Red Dog and Two Dog method mixes follow the links below for my recipes
First thing was to wet the method mix and let it stand for a bit. I wanted to try my latest method mix, Red Dog - see HERE. I also had some of my first mix that is now proven to work, Two Dog - see HERE. Once I was set up, the method mix was riddled a couple of times to make it nice and friable but just sticky enough to hold together. The secret to this method feeder lark is to keep the mix just right. That means adding water during the day if the weather is hot like it was today, and then riddling, riddling and more riddling, as discussed here HERE.

I set up the picker rod with a 15g method feeder and ready made 8lb Drennan Push stop hair rigs, size 14 barbless hooks. I like these a lot, they are ideal for meat and corn. You get eight in a pack for about £2.35. They are convenient but at just a shade under 30p each you pay for it. You have probably realised by know, I enjoy fiddling about making my own stuff so I have bought a pile of push-stops and I will be having a go at making my own in the future, but for now these got me going quickly. I also used special quick connection bead that fit the method feeder. This rig makes for easy changing of the hooklength. I had put the rod together and rigged it last night. I used the 1½oz quiver tip. Here is where my inexperience showed.  I cast the feeder out and tried to tighten up to it only to discover that the tip was far too stiff to record any bend using such a light feeder. A quick visit back to the van and the tip was changed for a much softer one rated at ¾oz. This did make a difference but the whole thing is much more delicate than the 11ft feeder I have been using up until now and will be far more suited to fishing smaller lakes like Maze.

As I was all set up I thought I might as well give it a go. I had a selection of bait with me, chopped and punched bacon grill, dyed and chilli coated red sweetcorn, and straight yellow sweetcorn. I first tried the new Red Dog method mix with Bacon grill - Nothing. I swapped to the Two Dog mix. Still nothing. Okay start again. Back to the Red dog and this time I used one red, chilli with one natural yellow kernel on the hair. That did it. No sooner the feeder has settled I was into a fish. This continued for about 20 minutes pulling a fish on virtually every cast. Some immediately others I might have to sit and wait for 20 seconds or so!

A selection of hook-bait for the feeder
I then made a cast and the line snatched and went limp... It had snapped sending yet another feeder to the bottom of the lake along with its quick change bead and hook length. I am not sure what happened but I think the line was probably not up to the job in hand. I must investigate this a bit further. Maybe I was pushing the very light tackle a bit too far. Besides, I had not bought it for this job and it was only a first time trial so the new rod was consigned to the back of the van and replaced with the 11ft feeder. This rod is so much better for a lake this size. No trees and plenty of power to throw a 30g feeder out to just where you want it.

Deadly combination - my Red Dog method mix and red chilli/yellow corn
I have been using 12 lb camouflage line on this rod. Although it looks very thick, it seems to do the job perfectly landing everything I hook. The hooklengths are 8lb so I should be able to get my gear back whatever happens.

After a while the bites dried up so I went back to the Bacon grill on a slightly different line, using the Two Dog method mix and the fish just kept on coming. I spent a good few hours ringing the changes between the hook bait and the method mix which gave me fish all through the day.     

Drennan Shorty PW floats
After a few hours on the method, I swapped to the pellet waggler to have another go at mastering this method, which has so far eluded me. I set up with the new pellets I bought this morning and prepared to fish.

My! The fishery new pellets did the trick. I had a pellet waggler set up using my one and only Drennan Shorty Pellet Waggler, a PW float adaptor and one of my specially tied hooklengths. The rig was set to fish at a maximum 12 inch depth. I placed a 6mm pellet on the bait band and cast the rig. The shorty float hit the water, the anti dive disc did its job and the float reappeared  instantly, before disappearing almost immediately. I had hooked a fish with my first cast and first pellet - I had not even had a chance to feed any! Thinking this was a fluke, after unhooking and releasing the fish, I recast the same pellet and was about to pick up the catapult when the same thing happened!

I managed to catch 3 or four fish with the same pellet - so far I had only used one pellet and although it was still there banded to the hair, albeit looking a bit tatty, I changed it. This time I fired a few smaller 4mm pellets into the swim and then cast... Nothing... I reeled in a couple of cranks of the handle into the area I had just fed a few pellets... Nothing. Hmmm... There I am, thinking the previous run was just a fluke after all and it was was now over. I recast and all in one go the float disappeared, the real started (just) to scream and the line broke. I looked in disbelief and then mutter a few words that I am not prepared to scribe here. The line had snapped above the float and that was the last I saw if it and the rest of my end tackle. The float will just pull off the line as it is only secured with a float adaptor and not very tightly so I was hoping that it might surface during the day, but it didn't (or if it did, I didn't see it). I hope the fish will be able to release it at some point.

The end of the line where it snapped - It looks as if it was stretched
The line looked stretched where it had broken. I don't think it was 'cut' by something. lesson learned. At 4lb the main line was obviously too light for these fish. Next time I will load the reel with 6lb line and see if that is any better. Another rod got returned to the van. I spent the rest day happily fishing the Feeder and pulling fish out one after the other between breaks for a quick chat with other anglers and the obligatory cup of coffee.

I wonder...

Next to my peg was a bush and a few wild flowers. Sitting on a yellow flowered common ragwort (senecio jacobaea) were a couple of Cinnabar Caterpillars (Tyria jacobaeae) - Impressed? My knowledge of caterpillars is not that good - I looked them up! Apparently these brightly coloured caterpillars can completely devour their food source before they reach maturity. When this happens they can turn cannibalistic and eat each other or starve to death - Isn't nature wonderful!
A Cinnabar caterpillar devouring its only food source 
As this plant is next to the lake and the caterpillar is prone to starving to death, I wonder if any fall in the lake and moreover if fish will eat them. It would make a good subject for a spot of experimentation.  I wonder if it would be practical to make a fly to represent the stripy little creature and have a go as plucking a few fish with nothing more than a hook, a few feet of brightly coloured thread and a few hairs...

And finally...

Around 4 o'clock I was just sitting there musing the day so far when a young lady and her son started to set up on the bank along from me. After a few minutes I heard a voice asking me if I was Ralph. "Err... Yes" I said, a bit startled but as there was no uniform to be seen I could see no reason to say no. The voice turned out to be Claire, Finlay's mum, the lad setting up his gear. Andy the Bailiff had suggested that she introduce herself to me and that I would be able to help Finlay get fishing.

It wasn't so long ago that I had needed help myself. Okay, I am no expert and I explained I was fairly new to fishing myself but I would do what I could. Finlay's gear was far too heavy really but I did what I could. We cocked the float and I showed him how to plumb the depth. Andy had lent him some gear, a landing net and unhooking mat. He even found him one of those fold-up chairs!

After a few tangles Finlay was making some casts of his own and before long he had a fish on. lots of cries of excitement from both Finlay and his mum got me and Andy rushing to help. Finlay had caught his first fish.

That smile says it all
It really did round off a great day. It was a close run thing as to who was the most excited out of the four of us. Even the fish behaved itself and let itself be held for the photograph after Andy gave him a quick lesson on how to hold a fish close to the ground in case it wriggled free.

I have to say, for many reasons this was the best day fishing I have had, so far. Even losing the gear was not going to put a damper on the day. It was good to discovered a few things now, and not in the middle of the match (only my second) I have booked myself in for in a couple of weeks time.


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Look out fish, here I come!

Jeff's lake
In a couple of weeks time I will be fishing in only my second match. I am still pinching myself when I think about entering a match.  A year ago I had no interest whatsoever in fishing. Even when I started fishing I had no intention of match fishing. I am not usually a very competitive person, but I enjoyed my first go far more than I thought I would. Now I need to get some time on the bank. Tomorrow I will be down at Beaver on Jeff's Lake trying out my tactics for the  match on the 5th August.

Most competitors seem to pole fish, and the winners last time were all on the pole, but as the nearest thing I have to a pole is a 5m whip (although it is labelled as a pole) that I got in my starter set (See HERE), I will stick to rod and line. I realise I have no real chance of winning a match, but I have my own personal goals to improve my performance as time goes on.

I am going to have another go at pellet waggling! If I can get this right I should be able to catch a few fish between bouts of feeder fishing. I have some proper pellet waggler float adaptors and, last time I was out, I managed to sort out the tangles. All I need to do now is get the fish to play nice.


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Feeder - Take your pick(er)

I have been pondering which day to go fishing this week. Looking at the weather, Thursday seems to be the best day of the week, down here in the south east. This will be my first chance to try my new rod. For a while now I have had trouble using my feeder rod. After ten months of fishing there are still some basics that I have missed out on.

Pondering my options I was looking at the choice of rods out there and realised that there are all sorts of 'descriptive' names attached to rods that at best are confusing and at worst are misleading. I wanted a less powerful feeder rod that would not constantly end up throwing my feeders onto the far bank, but they all seemed to be big rods like my existing feeder. Smaller rods are listed and they are called 'picker' rods. Why? What's the difference?

Apart from the length, my picker rod is a lot thinner than the feeder
In the old days before the internet it would have been a case of trawling through the magazines, books and catalogues, looking for some explanatory write up and trying to make sense of one-way information. Today, however, it is a much simpler problem to solve. First, attack the internet via a search engine such as Google (there are others apparently). These days, this tends to turn up a myriad of sales listing and can be even more confusing, but it is always worth a try. Failing that, the next port of call is a forum.

There are lots of angling forums out there, I spent several months exploring the forums and eventually found one I liked, coincidentally with a similar name to this blog. The forum is The post I made there asking what the difference between a picker and a feeder rod is, can be found HERE along with a goodly selection of replies. The upshot of this is that it appears shorter 'feeder' rods are called 'picker' rods. This is another one of those confusing facts that is not obvious to the newcomer, like me. As far as I can make out, there is no hard and fast rule at which point a picker becomes a feeder but it is around the 9-10ft mark as my 'feeder' is 11ft long and my new picker is 8ft long.

I will be trying out my new rod this week (Thursday looks like a good day) along with my latest bait experiment - my Red Dog method mix - See HERE. I am also going to try a new, to me, method of pre-rigging the rods. Recently I was made aware of a really useful looking accessory.

The Preston Innovations Spool Safe looks like the perfect answer to my current dilemma. I have more rods than reels and this week I would like to take my new picker and my existing feeder rod with me to get some sort of comparison. Before I rush of and buy one, I will try the theory out. One rod will be fully assembled, complete, and the other will be fully assembled but with just the spare spool filled with line. This time I will secure the line on the reel and place it in a small plastic bag, attached to the rod with some super-soft garden wire. If it works, I will invest in a Spool Safe, next time I am buying some tackle.  


Sunday, 19 July 2015

How it should be...

The whole way we enjoy our hobbies has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. Most of this change has been fuelled by the spread of the internet. We communicate and swap ideas via forums that used to be the preserve of the clubroom or bank. You are reading this, courtesy of the modern internet. The biggest changes have been in how we buy our supplies and tackle. Although I am a big supporter of the local tackle shop, most cannot compete with the range of tackle the big internet suppliers can offer. Most carry a range of the popular tackle but it must be hard to hold a huge stock with a small turnover. Bait seems to be the mainstay of most of the tackle shops I have visited. Yes I can, and do, buy end tackle locally but I also have to buy from afar as there is so much choice out there today.

This, of course, is only from my limited experience here in London and the situation may be very different in other places. Whatever the circumstances, many of us are now buying tackle on line and that can be a very hit and miss affair. I have probably used a dozen different suppliers over the past ten months or so and there are one or two I probably will not use again. Most seem to be okay, but there is one supplier that has gone that extra mile and I feel I should tell you about.
Click on the picture above to go to Fosters' website
Last weekend I decided to replace the feeders I had lost, the Friday before, see HERE. My quick search for a supplier turned up several choices and I selected Fosters of Birmingham. Prices are on a par with what I could get elsewhere so I made an order.

On Monday morning I received a call from a very polite guy from Fosters explaining that a couple of items I had ordered were not in stock. I suspect it is hard to keep track of shop/internet stock for most independent retailers. Some may say this is not good enough but what I would say is, as the owner of a small specialist internet shop (non angling), you try it!

This often happens to me from other suppliers and I end up with half an order and a to-follow list. The difference here is the personal service. By calling me and letting me know what had happened we were able to negotiate some alternatives and wait a couple of days until new stock arrived. There was a small balance of money left over at the end, so I said to just make up the order with more of the same. They did, and I received the order exactly when I expected it.

Brilliant service, I know who I will be using in future.  


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Red Dog method mix...

Two Dog groundbait - my first method mix...
If you have been reading my blog from the beginning you will know I am no expert at any of this but I do like to experiment. Back in April I made some groundbait as a bit of a joke. Made using dog biscuit and hot-dog sausages, I called it 'Two dog ground bait'. The recipe is HERE. To my surprise it made a brilliant method mix, after a few passes through groundbait riddle. The turmeric makes a nice yellow cloud as it disperses in the water. I have used it several times now, matched with punched Hot Dog or bacon grill as hook-bait.

With this success in the bag, I am encouraged to experiment further. There is lots of discussion regarding colour of bait both on the bank, the internet and in the fishing press. My plan is to create some more method mix but this time in red. Working on the if it is not broke, don't fix it theory, I plan to use the same basic recipe as before and just substitute the turmeric with chilli-powder.

My modified savoury groundbait/method mix Recipe 

  • 800g Breadcrumb
  • 800g Rich Tea biscuits
  • 350g Wagg
  • 50g Chilli-powder
  • 1tsp red powdered food colouring 
  • 400g Can of Hot Dog sausages 

My breadcrumb is a combination of leftovers from the kitchen topped up with cheap sliced bread from the supermarket. If you shop around it is possible to find an 800g sliced loaf for 40p. This time the bread came from a Sainsbury's supermarket. Last time I bought any, I found it in Aldi but this time it was nowhere to be seen. The supermarket price war that seems to be constant is doing us a favour! A 800g sliced loaf will usually render 600g+ of dry crumb. The Rich Tea biscuits are Aldi's own brand and seem to be a stock line as they always seen to have them - at 23p for 300g they are the cheapest I have found. Both dry bread and biscuit is 'processed' to a fine crumb.

The Wagg dog biscuit is ground to a fine powder in a coffee grinder - that is the only smelly bit! You can buy Wagg (and other brands) in huge bags make a saving but It would take me a month of Sundays to use 17kg of the stuff, so I usually buy a 1kg box from Poundland - for a pound! 

Chilli powder and other spices are much cheaper if bought in larger quantities from the Asian supermarkets. I managed to buy a 400g bag of Chilli powder for £1.99 - a massive saving over buying small quantities from the mainstream supermarkets.

The quantity of red food colouring is a guess and I might have to add some more once I get to try it out this week. I use little 25g pots of food colouring powder (59p), from the same Asian supermarket I buy the spice.

Hunt around for the Hot Dog sausages as they are often on offer in the pound shops, multiple tins (2 or 3)  of six sausages for the pound. 

After mixing all the dry ingredients together, the can of Hot Dog sausages is 'processed' to a gritty soup. This is added to the dry mix and thoroughly mixed using a plastic spoon. The mix is left to stand for a couple of hours, remixed, bagged and labelled before freezing. 

The mix is still very dry at this stage but the freezing will preserve the meat and prevent any mildew from forming. I will take the mix out of the freezer the night before I go fishing. At the bank, lake water will be added as required and after standing for a while the mix will be passed through a groundbait riddle several times before use.  As the colour is dry powder, it has only partially been activated by the small amout of liquid in the tin of Hot Dog sausages. I will be interesting to see how red it will become, and how red it will make my hands, once the lake water is added on the bank.

Red Dog method mix bagged and ready for the Freezer. Not looking very red...Yet!
The next job is to die some meat to match the method mix and see if that makes any difference to its appeal to the fish. All good fun and I will let you know, later in the week, how I get on...

...Now, what day shall I go fishing? I had better go and have a look at the weather! 


    Saturday, 11 July 2015

    Fishing Friday...

    Lots of room - I could even kip in there!
    Recently I have taken to going fishing in the trusty Transit. There are many advantages to this. The main one being I can take my rods made up and there is no limit to the amount of gear I can carry, although this may turn out to be more of a problem than a benefit!

    At first I was concerned about taking such a big vehicle to commercial fisheries but it does not appear to be a problem, it does not seem that big once it is there in the parking area. The daft thing is, it uses less fuel than Sue's Volvo Estate and is far more powerful. Also it is not a problem bringing back smelly nets and gear. We always have a pile of old pillows and blankets in the over-cab storage so these get used to lay the rods on. An 11ft rod fits across the floor perfectly with room to spare and I only have to remove the quiver tip to get my feeder rod in with no bending. This means I can set up and be fishing in about 10 minutes of arriving at the peg.

    At the end of the day the rods and other gear is quickly stowed ready to go home
    At this time of year, with a big tin box sitting in the sun all day it is a good idea to leave the doors open to let the air circulate, otherwise it can get really hot in there. One thing to remember if you decide to do this, turn the interior lights off (especially in a van as there are several of them) otherwise you can end up with a flat battery if it is not on tip-top form.  

    Tip -  It is not worth asking me how I know this, you might get a rude answer...

    Transport issues aside, I was determined to get a hold on this pellet waggler lark, but first I wanted to get some fish on the bank. I had modestly wet some groundbait as soon as I arrived and re-wet it ten minutes later, again being very sparing with the water. It was already slightly moist as it was the remains of of last mix I had used a couple of weeks ago. It has been sitting in the freezer until last night. Now it had a couple of trips through my riddle, following some helpful advice from a couple of the guys on the bank. With the groundbait perfectly fine and ready to use it was time to fish.

    Maze Lake all to myself
    I was back at my favourite venue and lake; Maze lake at Beaver Fishery. I had intended to go and fish Major Lake at the opposite end to last time but the man with the wetsuit was about to climb in and start clearing some of the lilly pads that were making it impossible to fish this section. I did look at the other side of Maze but in the end I went back to my favourite side and peg.

    This for me is a learning experience and by fishing from the same place several times I keep the variables down to a minimum and start to get to know the lake. When I first fished here I was catching nothing but small silvers and the odd perch, fishing a crystal waggler, baited with maggot. I soon discovered that fishing with a method feeder and using my two-dog groundbait and bacon grill as hook bait I could catch some bigger fish, mainly F1's and bream. I had started off using reasonably large lumps of bacon grill (8mm) the guys from the match told me I was using meat that was far too big and that I should use smaller bits. last time out I did just that and caught next to nothing. so this time I went back to using the bigger bits. Having a naturally suspicious mind, I am now wondering if they were steering me off in the wrong direction...

    Hello! Mr F1, sorry to disturb you...
    After a slow start, an hour or so in and I was catching bream on every cast using the larger hook bait. Man, they are slimy things... Then, to my relief,  the F1s came in and I caught so many I lost count. Every chuck bore fruit within a few seconds. Okay, this was too easy. I decided this would be a good time to try the pellet waggler again. Last time I could not make a cast without the tackle getting completely tied up in knots. I could not workout what I was doing wrong. After a few hours I gave up (see HERE). After a few posts on the Maggot Drowning forum to get some advice I had discovered there were several things I could do to alleviate the tangle problem.

    In the end it turned out to be a combination of things. The first thing I did was to increase the strength of the hooklength from 2lb to 6lb. this made it heavier than the main at 4lb. This seemed odd to me but that was the advice given. I also made the retrieve a bit slower and less frantic. This seemed to work as far as the tackle went. After a couple of hours of getting nowhere, I reverted back to the feeder rod and again the fish were coming thick and fast. I stopped for a bite to eat and a cuppa. While sitting there surveying the swim I thought to myself that this was turning out to be a very good day; lots of fish and no gear lost.

    After my very pleasant short break I picked up the feeder rod and decided to cast towards the island, having previously been in open water just to the left of the lilly pads for a while. I was clipped up and that was well short of the island so I cast. No plop. WHAT! Where has that gone? Oh, blast! I said (well, something like that anyway!)  The feeder had snagged on a branch that was growing towards me and I had not realised it was in range. A good tug on the line made no difference. A lot of muttering and tugging ensued and eventually the line broke making yet another sacrifice to the tree Gods. I re-tackled and cast out again, fairly hard, into the gap between the island to the left of me. It went on an on and by the time I had realised that it was not clipped up any more it was too late. My brand new feeder that had never been wet was now hung up in another tree.

    After a bit of a war-dance, accompanied by some Anglo-Saxon singing, while trying to resist the temptation to snap the rod over my knee and go to the pub, I managed to retrieve the line to the sound of a twang, as the line broke, and the plop of my virgin feeder hitting the water as it slid off the now parted line.

    A lesser man may well have given up at this point, but not me. I was determined that this episode would not ruin my day. A cup of coffee and a caramel wafer works wonders to relieve the stress. That, along with the thought of loading the chainsaw next time! After another unsuccessful dose of pellet waggling I gave up and re-rigged for a spot of stranded float fishing. I am now getting a bit better at casting. Most of the time I can get the cast to fly in the right direction and my distance is reasonable constant. Getting the feed in the correct place was also coming on as some of the meat/corn or pellets landed in the right place! That was until the elastic in my catapult broke. Today was rapidly going down hill, but I was not going to be beat. I had a cheep feeder/mould, that came with a few swim feeders, my better half had found in Aldi  back at the end of last year. This worked really well and saved the day as more of the bream continued to slime my net.

    Mrs. 'M'
    Throughout the day a fearless female Mallard was helping herself to my bait at every opportunity. Even shouting "...and one number 27"  (The menu number of crispy fried duck at our local Chinese take away) didn't seem to work. After an 11hour session it was time to throw all the tackle in the van and head for the electric gate before it automatically closed and locked me in for the night.

    Mr 'M' joined his mate to help with the cleaning up of my peg
    As I was about to leave I noticed that the ducks were back sifting through the wood-chip covering looking for all the bits of bait I had dropped throughout the day. Even though I lost a few bits of tackle I still had a good day.