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.