Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Fishing on Thursday...

Well, how about that then? Fishing again! At this rate people might think I am taking this seriously. To be honest, it is more about taking advantage of the last few days of good weather we are likely to have this year. I can't see me sitting by the water freezing my bits off, I am not that keen!

Beaver Fishery - Jeff's lake earlier this year
I am going to be very boring this week,  and pay yet another visit to Beaver to get as much practise as I can before the last match of the season, next week. I have got the feeder fishing up to an acceptable level, still room for improvement but a lot better than it has been. It is the float fishing I need to brush up on to see if I can catch something other than carp! Not that I am complaining, the carp soon add up to give a good weight.

Looking at the weather forecast for next week, it looks like it will be raining for the match so I will have to make sure I have my wet gear with me. If I can get set up in the dry that will be good. It is not so bad if it starts raining during the session. Knowing my luck it will rain until the shout for all-in and then it will stop! What ever happens it will be fun and, as usual my only goal is to stay off the bottom slot in the results table... We will see.

As the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter I intend to continue my fishing adventures in town roaming about fishing light. Initially I intend to do a spot of dropshotting in a place I have been planning to visit for the past six months, The Regent's Canal in West London. The canal runs around North London from Paddington Basin in the west to Limehouse basin in the East. There is about 8½ miles of it and I can fish all of it. It is possible to fish Limehouse basin itself but I have yet to investigate that. I understand it is only particular areas where fishing is allowed. The canal can be fished under the Canal and River Trust, Waterway Wanderers scheme The permit costs £20/year or £10 to members of the Angling Trust. 

In recent years the public transport system in London has been improved enormously with easy connections and a much easier payment system that includes suburban rail systems as well as the tube, buses, trams and the Overground (a sort of cross between the suburban trains and the tube). A ten to fifteen minute walk from my front door will get me to any one of three railway stations on three different lines. There are plenty of buses running along the main road and a quick hop on the bus will get me to the dockland light railway. With all this transportation to hand, it makes prefect sense to use it. Driving and parking in central London is just not a practical option these days with congestion and parking charges to pay let alone the hassle of driving in almost grid-locked traffic.

Dropshotting gear is the perfect kit for carting about on public transport. What's more the bait is not smelly or wriggly - it's plastic! Short, light rod, a small 1500 size reel and the smallest landing net is about it, apart from a few bits of tackle and a bag to carry it all in!

The other place I fancy fishing is the Great Stour that runs through Canterbury town centre where fishing is free. I need to go and have a look around on foot, I hear great things about it but I think you have to pick your spot. Parking will be a problem in the centre of Canterbury and even if there is a space, long-term that is, more than a couple of hours is expensive. I will probably investigate the park and ride service. I plan to keep the gear down to a minimum, all light tackle keep moving. if I do take anything to sit on it will be a fold up stool on a sling, or maybe one of those rucksack tackle bags with a stool attached. I don't plan to take a seat box, not even my plastic one! The bag in the photograph looks ideal for what I need. At under £20.00 it has to be worth a look. It appears to have plenty of room for the small amount of tackle and bait required. I might even get my sandwiches in there too! My small landing net and pole will easily tuck under the flap leaving me with just the rod to carry in my hand, either made up while on the 'bank' or folded while travelling.

The idea of fishing light really appeals to me, especially in the urban environment. Maybe that is because I am a townie born and bred, having lived in London for almost sixty years living no more than 3.7 miles away (according to Google maps) from where I live now. This is about to change, with a planned move to the North Kent coast early next year, hence the interest in Canterbury.

I am  sure I will have a totally different approach to fishing, living down by the sea. Not only is there the sea to explore, but there are far more places to fish in and around that area we intend to move to than we have here in the streets South East London. They even filled in the canals that I knew as a kid but never fished.

All that musing is for another day, for now I must concentrate on the task in hand. Time to go and tie some hooklengths, sort out the bait and get everything ready for a spot more practise...


Friday, 25 September 2015

Worm and dog...

Groan... What is so special about five o'clock in the morning? I don't mind so much in the summer but now the nights are getting longer it is dark and damp this time of year. Deep breath jump out of bed and tell myself I will enjoy it when I get there...

This early morning workout has now become a sort of ritual of flask-filling and van loading. An hour to get myself and gear together and three-quarters of an hour to drive to the venue. Back to Beaver for a day pleasure fishing.

If a pond could be 'cuddly' then this is it. Eden Pond's peaceful atmosphere is a unique experience
Today, I had a plan. The intention was to get some time in trying out my new-found free bait from the compost bin, worms. There are ten lakes and ponds at Beaver, and I made for one I have not fished before. Eden Pond is quiet and peaceful pond at the far westerly boundary of the fishery surrounded by trees. Stocked with green and golden tench, carp, roach and perch  It boasts two islands, reed beds and lily pads providing lots of places for the fish to hide and for me to lose some more end tackle. Thankfully, I managed to avoid the latter.

A nice little roach, My fist fish caught on a worm.
I set up a float rod with a small loaded waggler, plumbed to depth and set about baiting the hook with my first worm. At this point I discovered just how slippery and difficult to hook the wriggling little invertebrates are. After chasing them around the bait tub I eventually managed to pick one up. Now, picking them up is only part of it, there must be a knack to this but I have not got it yet. Getting it on the hook was another matter. Talk about fiddly. After chopping the poor little fellow in two it seemed to wriggle even more, understandable I suppose!

I did get it done eventually and cast to my selected spot on in the swim. This is all close in and I am getting much better at getting this on target. A few maggots were fed over the bait and within a few minutes I had a bite. That produced a nice little roach, my first ever fish caught on worm. I continued to experiment with the worms and caught a few more fish but no perch. After three hours 'playing' with the worms, I packed up, noting my short-falls, and moved over to Jeff's Lake.

Looking left from my peg, you can see how Jeff's lake is completely the opposite to the enclosed charm of Eden Pond
This was all part of the plan as my main reason for this visit was to try and improve my feeder casting technique. Having had a couple of 'lessons' on the bank from previous match winners, I had some new knowledge to develop into technique. Over-cooking it on the clip seemed to be the main problem causing the feeder to bounce back and discharging its load in a shower all over the place. Getting that balance right makes such a difference. Not only does the feeder hit the target but it enters the water with a pleasing 'plop' instead of a huge splash, discharging its load at the surface. After a while I was getting it spot on 75% of the time. Okay, not perfect but a huge improvement.

I was fishing three lines at similar distance. One straight in front of me, one at 11 o'clock, and a third at 1 o'clock. I started on the 11 o'clock and started to build some groundbait in the lake bed using my 'two for forty' routine. Using a small 30g Preston flat-back method feeder loaded with a double skin of my Two Dog groundbait, cast and left for 40 seconds. If no action the feeder is retrieved, loaded and recast to the same spot. For hook bait, I have found that  9mm diameter Plumrose Bacon Grill, punched from 9mm thick slice makes the perfect bait for the carp in Jeff's Lake.

Like all tinned meats, Bacon Grill improves with exposure to the sun. It cooks it lightly making the pieces sweat and causes tougher crust to form, making it more robust and less likely to pull off the hair. As the winter is just around the corner the chances of the sun 'cooking' it is less likely to happen on the day. With this in mind I intend to have a go at pre-cooking the bacon grill for the next outing.

Looking out over the lake. My three target areas are the centre of the red circles using the trees for direction markers while having the line clipped up to the distance
I started catching carp between 1½ - 2½lb for a while. When it dried up I switched to the 1 o'clock line. Again, I built up a pile of feed and soon I was catching again. One after the other I was pulling fish out on every other cast. As this line dried up I moved to the 12 o'clock line a did the same.

Okay, my plan was working but I wanted to try something different. I set up a second rod with an open ended feeder. Filled the feeder with maggot, plugged with groundbait at each end. Here I was using my Ginger Tom groundbait and a couple of maggot on the hook. After last weekend's experience in the match at Tricklebrook where I was fishing for carp and ignored the silvers, I thought I would try something different. Moving away from the bacon grill hookbait and looking to attract the silvers.

The feeder had only been out for about ten seconds when I got a bite... Rod bent over and I was fighting a fish. Hmmm... this does not feel much like a silver. No, It was another carp, just like the ones I had been catching on the method and bacon grill. Further casts resulted in a similar result. Disillusioned with my efforts to catch anything but carp, I went back to the method and bacon grill and revisited my original 11 o'clock line at the original distance. My plan was to try and perfect my casting, and after a few casts I was pretty much there hitting the target almost every time. I was still getting the odd 'misfire' but I reckon I am now getting it right 90% of the time. Still not perfect, but a vast improvement on previous sessions.

Just one of the many carp caught during the day. This one at a couple of pound was just one of many
The accuracy was beginning to pay off. I had a swirling, bubbling froth going on, right over my bed of groundbait. Every time I dropped a new loaded feeder on the spot I was rewarded with a bite within a few seconds. Working this spot earlier and then leaving it to rest had paid off. I was not keeping a tally of my catch as my main aim of the day was to improve my casting technique. It is still has a way to go and I have a  but it is a lot better than it was.  I must have caught 40 fish, probably a lot more. Again I was out-fishing most of the others on the lake and complete strangers were noticing and commenting on my catch rate.

The burning question is, have I got better at this fishing lark, or is it the Two Dog groundbait? The last match of the season at Beaver is a week, next Wednesday. I can't wait to see if all this hard work will pay off and work in the match situation.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A change of direction

I have spent most of the summer method feeder fishing for carp. Now the weather is cooling down I intend to start scaling down my feed and tackle and start to target the silvers in the commercial lakes I regularly fish. So it is back to a bit of waggler fishing and I will have a go at using other feeders to lay down some maggot, bread etc. A year on I have a much better idea of what I am doing now. Don't misunderstand me, I still have an awful lot to learn but unlike this time last year, I have had some experience and I am thinking about what fish I am targeting.

My experiments throughout the year with bait has opened my eyes to a whole new subject. This time last year the only bait I was using was maggots. I had no idea what groundbait was and my whole technique was based around what I had seen in a Matt Hayes video. Since then, I have realised that there is a bit more to this fishing lark than just sitting there waiting for a fish to come along and take the bait.

Worms - Home made worms!
Sue has been composting our garden rubbish for years. Every time the lid of the compost bin is removed, there are hundreds of worms piled up hanging on to the underside. Apparently, these are Dendrobaena worms and are good for using as fishing bait. Well, that's okay then, free home-grown bait, assuming Sue does not start charging me for them. From what I read, the worms control their own population numbers. I take this to mean I should be able to harvest them and they will then produce more to restore the numbers providing I am not taking too many at a time. My plan is to take a good supply with me and return the rest to the heap on my return.  

I have never fished with worm before and everyone I spoken to informs me it is the must-have bait. It is time to give it a go. I will take some with me tomorrow for a day 'pleasure' fishing (for me that is, I am not sure the worms will see it that way) and I will let you know how I get on. I am not sure about cutting them up - am I the only angler that is a bit reluctant to become a mutilating murderer? ...Do worms scream?

Look out Mr Perch I am coming to get you!


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Another match, that makes four!

Setting up in the mist of a Sunday morning
On Sunday last, a group of MaggotDrowning.com forum members got together and met up for the annual MD's Southern Championship 2015. This year I was lucky enough to be invited to take part. Having never fished the venue before, I was a little nervous. This would also be only my forth match with all the previous matches being held at my regular haunt, Beaver fishery. The guys assured me that it was a fun day out and I would enjoy it. Reassured,  I put my name down and, at the crack of dawn on Sunday, headed off in the direction of Tricklebrook fishery.

With the best laid plans in place I still didn't manage to get to bed until well after midnight on Saturday. In fact It must have been after one as the alarm on my not-so-smart phone was telling me it would be going off in less than four hours... Groan.

My latest accessory
Bright as a button and full of the joys of spring (even though it is almost Autumn) I leapt out of bed and attempted to silence the incessant warbling of the alarm, only to accidentally set the thing to 'snooze'. After creeping around for ten minutes keeping a quiet as I could, in fear of waking the other half, the alarm started its unwelcome chorus and did the job for me...

To be fair, I am very lucky, Sue supports me in my fishing exploits, even if she is not that interested in sitting on the bank and having a go, she will sit and watch the odd video and I have even found her reading fishing magazines! She just rolled over and said "Have a nice day, don't forget your rolls and flask." Packing the van was done in the dark and my latest 'accessory' was loaded ready for use at the other end. All packed and on the road by 06:00AM.

The journey was interesting, to say the least. Having never been to Tricklebrook before It was down to Jane to navigate, I tell you, the woman can be really irritating whether her mater of fact directions. Thick fog patches made visibility in places almost zero. It cleared somewhat once we got down into the depths of Kent.  Jane? Sorry, she is the voice of the Sat Nav...

The fishery is clearly Signed and there is a small but adequate car park. The rules state that no cars are to be driven to the swims so it was a case of transporting all the gear to the peg.

I got there before seven o'clock to realise I was the first one of the team to arrive. The car park is at a lower level than the lakes with the match lake held by a shallow dam and a higher dam holding the specimen lake a few meters higher. None of this elevation is evident from the aerial photograph. I took the opportunity to walk around the lake, not that I could see much as by now the mist had got thicker. I made it around the match lake, had a peek at the specimen lake and reccied the location of the little boys room!

Back at the van I started to tackle up and load up the sack barrow ready to drag it up the slope to my peg. By this time a lot of the competitors had arrived and Mick (the guy who organised it) was about to start the draw. Peg 11. Hmmm... I had no idea if that is good or bad. All I wanted to do was not to be bottom of the list when it came to the weigh-in. Mick was keen to let us know that his granddaughter, Rosie was a bit of a wizard on the pole chasing those silvers.

The view from my drawn peg
Peg 11 turned out to be opposite the gap between the islands, in line with the end of the furthest. That'll do me. Mind you, I would of said that no matter what number I drew as I had no idea what was in the lake, let alone where they dined out. The fog was lifting slowly - very slowly.

At 10 o'clock Mick called the all-in and we were off. There were three pools, carp, silvers and total weight. I entered all three, just to just to add to the pool as I was not going to fish for silvers. In retrospect that was a mistake, but it is all about the learning for me. I had decided that I would stick to the method and it was good to try out my Two Dog groundbait at a different venue. Hook bait was bacon grill and corn. The sun on the grill toughens it up by lightly cooking it. The smell is making the mouth water but I resisted eating my own bait, you never know if I start that I could end up hooking myself!

Mmmm... Bacon!
Five minutes in and it is fish on. Bang, and the rod is bent over the drag is screaming and I realised it needed tightening. These fish are fighting harder than I was used to. I was using my new 9ft picker and thinking I might have made a mistake. Once I got over the shock I managed to land the fish and I was on my way. Over the next hour or so, I missed a couple and landed another. Then it went quiet.

As the day went on, the sun burnt off the mist and it was shirt-sleeve weather
It is here where, if I had gone over to the silvers, I might have made a greater weight. Instead I chose to stick with the feeder targeting the feisty carp. Looking around there were a lot of poles being used and Mike in the peg next to me was pulling out fish after fish on his. Bucking the trend was Richard on the opposite bank. using rod and line, he was pulling them out at an alarming rate.

After a a long quiet period the rod  was bent double again and this time I thought I had caught something huge. The line went taunt and the rod bent alarmingly. I had not experienced anything like this before. I gave the fish some line and then played the fish until I could get it ready to land. By this time I could see the fish and it was not that big, just another carp about the same size as the others in my net. This was a mirror as opposed to the commons I had caught during the morning. I had no idea how much more feisty these fish can be. I continued to fish for the rest of the day until the all out was called at 3:30PM.

At the weigh in I was second to be weighed. I had a bag of carp that weighed 15lb 6oz and gave me fifth overall and third in the carp pool. Full results can be found HERE. Although I was happy with that, far better than I had expected, I now know I should have alternated between targeting the carp and having a go at the silvers when it went quiet.

My bag of carp
Towards the end of the match, Mick in the peg next to me offered some helpful advice regarding my casting. I was applying far too much force to the cast causing the feeder to bounce back as the line hit the clip. I eased off a bit and the results were much improved. It is all about listening to others and trying to follow the advice. After the match, Mick was kind enough to spend a bit of time explaining where I was getting it wrong and how I could improve my technique. I am most grateful and will keep trying as practise makes perfect. I just wonder if I have enough years left to become perfect!

A well deserved victory
A great day was had by all and my willing helper scooped the trophy and celebrated in the time honoured way! It was really good to meet so many of the forum members and now I can't weight for the next one!

I am off to Beaver later in the week so I will put my new-found knowledge to the test in a nice day-long pleasure session in readiness for the last match of the season there in a couple of weeks time.


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Shifting it

I seem to have a lot of stuff that needs transporting from the van to the bank. This is fine if I can get the van close to the swim. At most of the places I fish this is possible, but it can restrict my choice of peg. At the fishery, where I am competing in match this weekend, there is a rule that states that no vehicles can be driven to the swims. This will mean I will have to tote all my gear from the van to the peg. Time to get some wheels!

Our lightly used sack barrow
I had often thought about using our sack barrow but was put off the idea as I had not seen others using them (in my limited experience) to tote fishing gear. I have now worked out why - eventually. The sack barrow is much too big to fit inside a car as well as the amount of tackle that would necessitate its use. This is not a problem for me as now I take the van fishing, space is the last of my concerns. I did think about building some kind or frame onto the barrow but in the end, after discussing it at great length with myself, that was deemed unnecessary...

The cardboard tubes are glued
to a piece of MDF
A trip to the pound shop rendered some 'bungi' straps and a couple of those soft covered wires that the pier and urban fishing guys use as rod rests buy attaching them to the safety rail often found at the water's edge in those sorts of environments. All I need now is a few bits of cardboard tube. These are glued to a small piece of MDF profiled to fit around the central tube of the frame. The whole thing sits nicely on the axle and is secured with the bungi straps that hold the rest of the gear on the front. This will do for this weekend but I will give the tubes a coat of varnish to render some protection against the wet. My, this is sounding more like Blue Peter with every post!

Our sack truck has been around for a long time but has only had light service with us. I have just done an internet search for a similar barrow and found pages of them for sale for around £30-35 including VAT. That makes it a lot cheaper than the purpose made fishing trolley, and if you want a lighter one you can halve that price... I will use this for now but I am sure there will come a day when something more suited to carrying a match seat box, roost, umbrella, bivvy, bed-chair cooking equipment and poles will be required... Did I say that?

Bait box at the bottom
The idea is that my dark green, heavy duty army surplus, plastic box will sit on the bottom. In this I will put all my bait that is required for the session. Next will be my cheap and useless tackle bag that came with my starter set. I say useless, and it was, until I found another plastic storage box that fits inside and keeps it somewhere near firm. Unhooking mats, towels and cloths are slid between the box and the bag to firm things up and now it is usable, Inside the plastic storage box I keep my main cantilever tackle box containing floats, tools feeders and so on. Rig bag and box will also live in there along with any ancillary clothing and my can't-do-without magnifying sun glasses.

The red storage box squares up the useless bag
Next up the pile comes the stink bag containing keep and landing nets. This is topped off with the groundbait bowls and riddle - you must have a riddle so you can riddle, riddle and riddle. I joke, but since I was given that useful tip my catch rate has improved greatly and the groundbait stays on the method feeder all the way to the target, well most of the time!

All trussed up and ready to go
The rods stand in the short tube
seems to work okay - it is easier to pull than it looks!
Net poles and bank sticks are housed in the cardboard tubes 'bungied' to the frame. The rods are accommodated by standing them in a short section of tube that also hold any short bank sticks and held in place, further up the barrows frame handle, with the soft-foam covered wire things.

Banksticks and handles sit in the long tube...
... while the short tube supports the bottom of the rods and other short items
Finally my chair and the bait waiter are tucked down behind the bucket, bowls and nets, secured in place with another bungi strap. That looks like it will work just fine... now what have I forgotten?



Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Away match...

My forth match is on Sunday and it is not at my usual venue. This means a trip out into Kent to a place I am not familiar with to fish with a whole new group of people...

In the great scheme of things this may not seem such a big deal, but to me it is a significant milestone. Having participated in three matches at Beaver Fishery, I have now been invited to join in with some the guys from MaggotDrowning.com in a friendly match at Tricklebrook Fishery in Kent. Having never fished this venue it will be a whole new experience for me.  It is not far away, about the same distance from me as Beaver, and it should be an easy run out on a Sunday morning. The rules state that vehicles can not be driven to the swims so it looks like I will have to devise some kind of trolley to save me walking back and forth from the van to set up and pack up.

As much as I fancy a purpose made tote of some kind, that is going to have to wait. For this weekend it is going to be a case of making do with whatever I can find laying around here in the workshop. Top of the possible list is a tubular steel sack barrow. I will have to dig it out and see what needs to be done to make it function. I am sure I can cobble something together over the next couple of days - watch this space!

The match lake is to the left of the picture below, and that is where we will be fishing on Sunday. I like the look of the larger specimen lake as it appearers to be nice and open with fewer places for me to sacrifice my end tackle!

Tricklebrook Fishery as seen from the air by Google
It will be interesting to see if the same tactics I have been using at Beaver will work here. I don't have a pole so I am stuck with rod and line although I do have my latest innovation, my telescopic cupping pole. I may or may not use this at the venue as I have no idea if it will be allowed but it worked well in the margins when used to deliver a mix of feed and the baited method feeder, at Beaver

I am off to decide exactly what I need to take on Sunday and investigate providing myself with some kind of fishing tackle barrow...


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Fishing, well almost...

No fishing today. Well, not the sit on the bank type of fishing, anyway...

Living here in South East London, we have most shops to hand. Regular readers will know we can walk down the road to a host of shops. I can see Argos from the upstairs window, at least I could until the new shop/flats (or is that 'apartments' these days?) development grew an extra story. We can buy all manner of spices, cheap bread and biscuits and all the tinned meat and corn I need for my bait-making experiments. But, what I can't buy are angling magazines. Tesco sell Angling Times and Angler's Mail but that is it. Since the WH Smith shop closed, buying a fishing magazine means a 25 minute trek to Lewisham. The exercise is good for us so a brisk walk is the order of the day.

Hmmm... Who bought that pole magazine?
While Sue is paying homage to one of the many sellers of ladies footwear, I am off to WH Smith for a session in the 'library'. After politely ignoring the bloke who saw me looking at a fishing magazine and instantly thought he would discuss the shocking price of tackle with me, I settled on the latest copy of Improve my (your) Course Fishing. A few more nodding grunts at the bloke still going on, by now he had got around to telling me about the huge barbel he had caught on no more than a bent pin tied to a garden cane, he suddenly said, "Oh well, must be getting on". I stifled a "Good!" and gracefully got my lips around to bidding him  "Good day".

By now, still with no sign of Sue, I was reading the other magazines. I had decided that I would expand my reading and maybe move away from IYCF as I fear it might become repetitive, but jury is still out on that one at the moment. I found myself looking at Pole Fishing... WHAT! Hold on a minute, I am always saying I am not interested in pole fishing. Hmmm... This is just like I was emphatic I would not be into match fishing and look where that has go me. At that point Sue arrived and it was time to move on. not having time to put the pole magazine down I had to part with an extra £3.95 when I got to the checkout. Looks like I might have to force myself to read it at some point - I am not really interested in pole fishing, I'm not... Honest!

Having walked all this way and trekked around the shopping centre I was fully justified in accidentally ordering a full English from the Market Cafe. Well, we had walked there and that meant walking back again...

On the way back we pass the hardware shop that sells the black plastic washing up bowls that I use for my bait making. The small ones are ideal for holding my method mix on the bank. Might as well get another one of each size while I am here. At £1.29 for the small one and £1.79 for the larger one that just has to be a really good buy. What's even more surprising is they are made in the UK. I have waffled on about these bowls before, you can read about the small bowl HERE. I bought another one of each, you just can't have enough bowls - Can you?

All that walking and eating meant that Sunday afternoon went by extremely quickly. It is of course a vicious rumour that I was asleep on the sofa, put out by the people who did not catch as many fish as me in the last match. After coming to, it was almost time for the Sunday roast, Yes I know more eating but I am getting to the fishing bit - a bloke has to eat...

Making my own method hooklengths
Sunday evening in our house is a quiet affair, more often than not. A good time to check the 'stock' as I have another match next Sunday. That's two matches in the diary - still can't get my head around that, who'd have thought it a year ago? Not me!

The Tree Gods close cousin, the reeds, claimed another set of feeder end tackle last week so I need to replace that. Oh dear, that means another trip to the tackle shop. I also need some more short hooklengths. I know I can buy them ready made but I do enjoy making my own. So far that has been everything but these hair-rigged with a push-stop. A simple job once the routine is sorted out. The first thing needed is some means of setting the length. For this I am using a rig box that a kind fellow forum member (MaggotDrowning.com)  sent me when I was trying to fathom out how to tie rigs to length. He also sent me a few other bits an pieces including the hooks I have used tonight - Thank you for your kindness.

For anyone reading this who is not conversant with the art of tying there own hooklengths you might find my following notes useful. If you already know all this, please fell free to go and surf ebay for a few minutes instead!

The first thing I do is to strip about a foot of line from the despondence and tie the pushstop onto the end by capturing it in the loop of an overhand loop. I am using 8lb hooklength so any other kind of knot seems to be too bulky to me, but please let me know if you have a better solution. I now secure the hook (here, I am using a size 12, Preston B911x) in the jaws of a Rigmaster (type) hair tool. This is intended to set the length of a hair by placing the loop over the stud in the collar and securing the hook in the vice to produce an identical length to each hair. In this case I am mainly using the tool to hold the hook. I have found that I can hold the hook in my figures and tie it but using this tool as a vice does make it much easier. I can also gauge the length of the hair by holding the stop against the collar until it has been whipped in place after a few turns.

I then tie a knotless knot by passing the line through the back (opposite side to the point) of the eye and then making several turns - usually eight or nine - until the whipping is approximately in line with the point of the hook. The line is then passed through the back of the eye again and pulled tight. If my explanation is not clear, an internet search for 'knotless not, fishing' will bring up lots of illustrated instructions.

My home-made loop gauge
The next part is the bit that always confused me until I realised the the length of the hooklength is determined by the position of the top of the loop tied in the opposite end to the hook.  Once the end is doubled over, so long at that dose not slip, it will determine the length. Okay, it may seem obvious now but it is just one of those things that my small brain found difficult to comprehend. A gauge can be made from a block of wood with panel pins driven into it and the head removed. But the easiest way to do it is to use a rig box as they can be stored in there after they have been made. Once the hook and hair have been tied, the hook is places around the 'hook' pin in the box and the other end is wrapped around the length pin. In this case at four inches. The hooklength is removed from the box and while holding the tag end against the hooklength an overhand knot is tied. I like to keep all the loops to a similar size. This is not necessary but I like to keep it all looking neat.

To do this I use a home made gauge that consists of a slice of dowel with a couple of panel pins set into it. One is longer than the other and the distance apart will set the size of the loop, without effecting the length of the hooklength. You can buy a commercially made loop gauge/tyer such as this one HERE. To do this pass the loop, of the overhand knot, over the long pin and the open knot over the short pin. moisten the knot and pull tight slipping the knot off of the shorter pin and pulling tight with the loop still hooked over the longer pin.

Labelling the rigs before I forget which is which!
Once the loop is tied it can be 'loaded' into the rig box and labelled with its vital statistics before I forget exactly what I have made.

Working on the kitchen table is a good height for me to work and the light is good for my tired old eyes. I also use a piece of black cloth to work on making the line, hooks and those tiny stops stand out. This also makes passing the line through the hole in the stop and the eye of the hook much easier to see.

Next job is to drag myself off to the tackle shop to re-stock the method feeders - Oh well, If I must...


Thursday, 10 September 2015

A day pleasure fishing...

Out with the bins - 05:30 AM - It's still dark!
You can tell the summer is drawing to an end, cold damp and soggy morning here in London today. Up at 05:00 AM, do the necessary and make a flask of coffee. Sue had made the sandwiches and I had prepared all the bait. into the cool boxes and the whole lot is loaded into the van ready to leave before the six o'clock news rattles the cold and damp speakers in the van.

The camera mounted on the dashboard captures a wobbly image
Out onto the South Circular and even at this time I have to wait to get out of the end of the road. There is a distinctive under lying buzz flaunting itself under the newsreaders voice that is usually cured with a spot of percussive  maintenance to the driver's side speaker. The passenger side is a different matter, persisting in being irritating, until we get caught at the next set of traffic lights, where it will receive a satisfying blow from the toe of my right boot! It must be an age thing, but stuff that I used to ignore has now become very irritating, more-so than it ever did before...

The run out onto the M25 is reasonably painless until we meet the fog. I will never understand why other drivers will insist on passing a van just because it is there. Most of the time a modern (ish) van will outrun most cars these days but still they try - even in thick fog. The fog is patchy, and that is the worst kind. Crystal clear one minute and so thick it is hard to see the vehicle in front. My little compact camera, mounted on the dash - hence the vibration -  seems to cut through it better than my tired old eyes.

Even though the fog slowed us all down I still got to Beaver before the gate opened and was third in the queue. Out of all the pegs on all the lakes guess where the bloke in front of me wanted to fish? Yes, you guessed it, the very same peg I had thought about fishing on Jeff's. Typical but it is first come first serve. I have been fishing here lately as I wanted to try and get some idea of where the fish are and the topography of the lake bottom. Yes, a year on and I am now working on my water-craft! With that peg gone I went back to the other side of the lake and set up, initially, for a spot of feeder fishing. I had my latest groundbait to try out...

Loading punched bacon grill to the hair fitted with a meat stop note the hooklength is held alongside the meat-stop needle to prevent it cutting into the hook bait. Also note the colour of the Ginger Tom groundbait
The name of my latest creation is Ginger Tom. Following on from my really successful previous adventures into custom groundbait based on dog biscuit, I have made a feline version using cat biscuit called Ginger Tom. Eager to give it a go I mixed the dry base mixture with some lake water and left it to rest while I set up my gear and a feeder rod. The mix was left for about 20 minutes and then it was obvious it needed a spot more water so it was riddled and a small amount of water added, well mixed by hand and riddles again and again. You can't riddle too much, I was told so riddle I do. I had intended to dye this mix green using liquid food colouring added to the lake water. Well, that didn't work! It made no discernible difference to the colour. For now, the idea of 'Green' Ginger Tom is dead. Instead I will just use it without the green colouration.

I picked my spot and cast for it, using my 11ft feeder rod rigged with a 30g method feeder. Once I was happy, I clipped up and recast just to check I was on target. That life belt I mentioned before is a perfect target to aim for as it is bright reddy-orange colour with a white line top-dead-centre. Hmmm... maybe that is the hook it is hanging on, thinking about it.

I have been using some pre-tied hook lengths recently but I must get around to tying my own with push-stops, I have all the bits I need, just have not got around to doing it. I selected a size 14 QM1 Guru hooklength fitted with a push-stop. These are the best thing I have found so far for my punched meat hook bait. I loaded up the feeder with the hook bait and a double skin of Ginger Tom and cast. Expecting to cast a few times, to lay some groundbait, before I got any action I was taken by surprise when I got a bite on almost immediately. Blimey! This stuff is good!

Everybody posts pictures of big fish; here is one of the smaller ones to address the imbalance!
I reeled in my first catch of the day in, a nice F1 of about 2lb. This continued for a while catching fish on almost every cast then a lull. I changed direction and cast at the same length perhaps 12-15ft to the right. After a few cast of nothing I was about to rethink when the tip bent over and the clutch was screening. This time the fish was a bit bigger at 3½ pound that is a reasonable weight for me on this lake. I decided to continue in that spot for a while longer.

As the bites dropped off I sent the feeder off to the line clip, unclipped and recovered it while contemplated my next move. I thought I would pick a new spot and distance. At this point, with my head full of options I recast on auto pilot. Forgetting the line was free I cast as if I was aiming at my previous target. In that split second while my brain is catching up with the here and now and puzzling where the feeder had gone I realised I had cast clean across the lake into the reeds. Probably my best cast of the day as far as direction was concerned, shame about the distance. A good stout pull freed the line and the feeder in two parts. The line returned as a ball that made cooked spaghetti look positivity neat by comparison, and the reeds gave up the feeder - straight into the lake.

At this point I moved on to do a spot of float fishing. I have been given a selection of rods and reels. All are old but in good condition. Having never been interested in fishing prior to my introduction to the black art twelve months ago, I have never used 'old' rods so I was curious to see how they performed. I put it together only to realise the previous owner must have been left handed and reels at this time were sold as left and right handed. Needless to say as this has been flagged up, I am right handed. Never mind, I will give it a go. Awkward is not the word. I am still trying to get to grips with my modern gear, this is really strange. Nevertheless, I managed to cast a float and line to about where I had plumbed the depth. Maggot on the hook and a modern float.

Within a minute or so I had a fish on the hook. Trying to get it in left handed was far more difficult than I thought and ended up switching hands to control the net. I did not want to risk damaging the poor fish that was foolhardy enough to succumb to my pair of wriggling maggots. I landed the fish and set it free unharmed. Time to switch to a modern rod! I will try this rod out again but first I will try and get hold of a right-handed version of the old reel that came with it.

My short period of float  fishing was not getting me the number of catches I was getting on the feeder so it was time to go back to the favoured method. More casting and catching by now I had 25 on the clicker and I know I had not entered the few I caught first thing (before I remembered the clicker!) and also there were unrecorded catches when the fish were coming thick and fast. These sort of numbers may not seem that fantastic to a lot of you, but to me they are amazing.

Corn custard being delivered to the spot
For a good part of the day I had been feeding the near margin to my right with the odd hand-full of 'slop'. Slop? This is made up of bait leftover from previous fishing trips. Mixed with bread and water. It all goes into an ice cream tub and is frozen until it is needed. By now it is late afternoon and the fish are patrolling the margins looking for free offerings. I can see the bubbles and clouds of silt where the fish are feeding. Time to try my latest secret weapon combination, my cupping in pole and corn custard.

A cup full of corn custard makes a really good cloud and the fish come running
The pole cup was filled with the custard and aimed at a point on the far bank. At full stretch from my sitting position it will discharge in the area I had been pre-baiting. I cupped in a couple of cups full and left it for a few minutes. Obvious signs of fish feeding activity followed. I then filled the method feeder with my usual groundbait mix and set it into the cup, shipped it out to where I had been feeding and dropped it right on top of the pile of free offerings - No sooner had it hit bottom than it was taken by yet another F1 carp. This is too easy, one after the other they are being caught.

Happy with that result it was time to pack up. As I was doing so for the second time, my catch rate was being noticed. As happened last time I was on this lake for pleasure, one of the other anglers near me came over and asked what bait I was using and that he had lost count of how many fish I had caught at 22. Thinking he was just wanting to share his catch total, I asked how many fish he had caught. "One" he said as he walked towards his car.

The clean-up crew arrived just in time to scoff any dropped bait
Let's just hope I can make a decent sized bag at Tricklebrook fishery (Kent) a week on Sunday where I will be fishing with some of the guys from the MaggotDrowning.com forum.


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Munch, munch and grind...

Ready for mixing
It is a good job I can do this in my newly commandeered fishing room, AKA utility room. I am not sure how long I will be able to get away with this but I suspect once the new tiles and floor covering are installed, and the worktops are re-finished I might be evicted. No matter how hard I try, I seem to manage to get crumb all over the place. The dry bread is especially prone to becoming airborne as is the ground cat biscuit.

Messy job!
Now it is time to assemble the Ginger Tom groundbait base mix. The bread is thoroughly dry and it is time to munch it into a fine powder. A whiz in the food processor soon converts it into somewhere near the desired texture. The dry crumb is then passed through a sieve to find any lumps that managed to avoid the blades of the processor. These are finished off in the coffee grinder.  Same applies to the Gingernut biscuits except these do not need to pass through the sieve and besides they are a bit greasy and do not pass through the mesh very easily.

The fishy flavoured cat biscuit is a different matter. Like the dog biscuits (Wagg) I have used in my Two Dog and Red Dog mixes, munching these in the food processor just does not work. The only way to grind these little hard lumps is in a coffee grinder. Although not as hard as the Wagg, they are still tough little bits of dried food. When processed they become a very fine powder and smell rank.

While I am talking about the coffee grinder, I managed to kill the first cheap one I bought - it is not keen on Wagg! - so I went out and bought a new one. This did not last even one grinding and failed on the first attempt - I think this one was faulty, so I took it back and 'part-exchanged' it for a slightly better one. The new one was still way under £20 and is much better. It is much higher quality than its predecessor, easy to clean, has a low volume adapter for grinding small quantities at a time- very handy - and feels generally more solid. Mine came from Argos and cost £17.99

Evenly mixed in my huge bucket
The ginger is already ground so that just needs adding to the mix. All the dry ingredients and combined in a large bucket. My Preston bait bucket is enormous and allows vigorous mixing to be carried out without the risk of spillage. Mix, mix and mix again until an even colouration is achieved, ensuring all the ingredients are combined evenly throughout.
The colouring will be added to the lake water used to moisten the mix. This will also ensure an even application. The recipe, HERE, will make 2kg of groundbait. I bag this up into two separate bags. I will make up one bag at a time, if it is two wet, I then have a further supply of dry mix to add if required.

If I don't use the whole lot in one session what is left is taken home and stored in the freezer until next time. I usually use this fine dry mix to charge my method feeders or to make small balls, using a balling up mould to make 'loose' feed. The advantage of using a balling mould is that it will make projectiles that are aerodynamically similar and will be more likely to hit the same spot each time, whether thrown or catapulted.

Ready to go, 2kg of Ginger Tom base mix that will become Green Ginger Tom on the bank!
I am off to Beaver again tomorrow to try it out - I will post the results when I get home.

Footnote added after trying it out: 
The green colouring does nothing to change the colour. For now it is just plan old Ginger Tom!


Do you want custard with it?

Custard anyone?
Recent exploits with bait making have really got me thinking about all sorts of home-made baits. If like me you enjoy experimenting and finding out what works and what doesn't then this can be fun. If you are doing it purely to save money then my methods are probably not worth the effort, as has been pointed out on several occasions.Yes in pure financial terms the bait is cheaper but it takes hours of effort to make small amounts of bait. For me it is the fun of making your own and when it works it is the look on others faces when I am pulling fish on every cast while others just watch.

I have tried all sorts of groundbait and made several batches of boilies but most of the time I have taken basic techniques and made up my own recipe. Here I have followed Jonny Watts' outline that he gave in an interview for Go Fishing and refined the ingredients to suit the casual maker, like me.

The main ingredient is sweetcorn and can be bought tinned or frozen. The tinned stuff is ideal for hook bait and can be used here, although frozen corn is a much more economical route. As it is going to be whizzed into a smooth paste, the size or structure of the kernels is not important. To this is added evaporated milk and hemp. The evaporated milk can be bought in 410ml tins from your local supermarket (only half a tin required), The own-brand product is cheaper than the well-know brands and is fine for this purpose. That just leaves the hemp.

Without doubt, the cheapest way to buy hemp is in bulk, uncooked and to prepare it yourself. This is exactly what I will do in the future but for now I and recommending buying a single tin from you local tackle shop if, like me, you do not have unending storage space or an immediate use for gallons of the stuff! I found a can at my local tackle shop that had a Krill additive. I only need a quarter of the can for this recipe and the rest can be frozen until required.

Here is how you make corn custard. The frozen Tesco corn is sold in 907g bags for 99p but if you use another brand then 1kg is fine, I think the silly weight of the Tesco product is to hit a price-point. It is not that critical, but what I would say, is if you do change something, note it down so you can repeat it next time to maintain consistency.

Process the sweetcorn until it looks like this

Corn custard with hemp and krill - The Recipe 
  • One bag, Tesco 'value' frozen sweetcorn (907g)
  • Half a 410ml tin, evaporated milk (205ml)
  • Quarter of a 400g can, hemp and krill protein (100g)  
Most of the bag of corn is processed leaving a few whole kernels whole to be added later. add the evaporated milk and continue to blend until the mixture takes on the appearance of soft scrambled egg.

Just add the other ingredients...
...and give it a stir
Place mixture into a large bait box, add the whole sweetcorn and Krill enhanced hemp. Mix together and its  ready to use. place a covering of clingfilm over the box before fitting the lid to stop it drying out in the fridge. Use it the next day or freeze it until the night before you intend to use it. For a change this smells reasonably pleasant. Use it to pre-bait a swim, or to cup over your recast hook bait.

Clingfilm over the baitbox before fitting the lid will keep it fresh
There must be many variations on this theme, I can see some more experimentation going on here - Two Dog custard anyone?


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Fancy a cuppa?

The cheapTele-Pole was no use to me...
For a while now I have been pondering what on earth I could do with something that came with our starter kit we bought last year when we first started fishing. Neither pole nor whip, the telescopic carbon 'rod' seemed doomed to sit in the corner of the room with no prospect of leading a full and useful life. I considered adding elastic (just like real poles) but because it is telescopic it would be impractical to ship in. I then considered making a removable top section. All this was getting far too complicated only to produce something that would never be up to standard, especially when I can buy a much longer margin pole for not much money. At this point I decided to give up any idea of using it to catch fish.

Not being one to give up completely, I had to find another use for it. Discussions on the MaggotDrowning.com forum, sowed the seed of an idea to use it as a cupping pole. Okay it is not overly long and will only be useful for very close in work, but it has to be worth a try. After all I can't think of anything else to use it for.

The top section of the 'pole' is much too flexible to carry a large cup so that was dispensed  with, making it even shorter, now nearer four meters long rather than five. The end of the No.2 section is much too thick to accept standard cups and although I could make my own from plastic containers and aerosol caps there is a limit to how far I really want to go down the Blue Peter route; a million and one things to do with a washing-up bottle...

The tapered handle of an artists paint brush is a perfect fit after adding some shrink-tube
A visit to my favourite poor-man's tackle shops (pound shops!) resulted in the purchase of a pack of telescopic rod extensions. I bet you never knew that sold those, did you? Well, they don't know either because they mistakenly market them as 'Artist's Brushes'. The tapered shaft looks perfect to be a friction fit inside the No.2 section. As it turned out it passed straight through and fell out the other end - Grrr!

The top section was removed and replaced with the paint brush
A cup fits snugly onto the tip of the paint brush
 The next size up was too big but this one was only a whisker too small. A covering of shrink tube not only cured the problem but provided a waterproof finish. The brush now fits snugly inside the second section providing a few inches of extension and a solid tip onto which the cup can be fitted. The brush can be retained complete, you never know when it will come in handy.

See it in use HERE.