Saturday, 23 January 2016

Pole fishing and me!

Oh! and my mate Bill...

Today I went pole fishing for the first time with my new, and first ever pole. I had intended to go a couple of weeks ago but the weather put paid to that. One of the guys on the Maggot Drowning Forum, Bill, had kindly offered to give me a lesson on using my new pole. Today Bill and I spent most of the light hours on Jeff's lake at Beaver Fishery. Bill can't fish at the moment due to an accident that has left him with a less than functioning leg. Being a charitable sort of chap, I thought I would do Bill a favour and let him spend the whole day passing on his years of experience fishing on the pole...

My first pole-caught fish
The day began with the usual early start. I got to Beaver before the gate was open and was the first one there! Although the ambient temperature at home had been well over freezing point (around 7°C at midnight), some of the lakes were frozen over, including Eden Pond, my target water for the first couple of hours until Bill was due to arrive. After talking to Andy (the bailiff) he said my best bet would be Jeff's lake as it was totally clear of ice.

I took Andy's advice and headed for my favourite side of the lake and started to get set up. Not only was I trying out my new pole, I had my new-to-me seat box I had won on eBay during the week. I set about levelling the seat and the footplate to dead-level, and each other, using a scaffolder's level. Standing back to admire my handy work (it was just light by now) I realised I had set up too far from the water's edge and had to start all over again in the correct place.

Getting the height adjustment and relationship between the box and footplate just right is going to be a bit of a learning curve. Once I had it set I added the ripple bar to the side and set my feeder rest on that out to my right. This was a bit of a make-do and mend as the bar needs to be at right-angles to the box to support the pole sections but this puts the feeder rest far too far back to be comfortable. I will have to get hold of a few more fittings for this box, but for now I will use what I have and make a list. The bait waiter is fitted to a bank stick - there is another fitting I need -  and my feeder bowl is sitting on the footplate. I do actually have a hoop and bowl but it is the large one and is far too big for just using as a receptacle for method feeder mix. The small black bowl I have been using is perfect for feeder fishing from a chair but I am going to have to rethink this for using on the box. I think a deep bait-tub is the answer. I need to rethink the whole way I fish and workout exactly what I need to take with me on a particular day.

Here is my bait that I had kept for two weeks.  
Once I had sorted that out I was back to the van to sort out some bait. Back on the 9th of this month, I bought a pint of maggots and a pint of casters for a planned trip that we cancelled due to the foul weather. I decided to keep the maggots and casters and see how long they would last. The casters were packed in a sealed bag. They were wrapped in a black bin-liner,and then into a knotted sealed bag and left in the fridge. The maggots were also kept in the fridge in a bait box and another knotted bag. The maggots were riddled ever-other day and the bran changed for fresh. Over the two weeks I only lost about half a dozen maggots, on the first riddle, after that all the maggots stayed alive. The casters were poured into a large bait tub full of water and the floaters were taken off to use as hook-bait. The rest were all good and, to my surprise, they did not smell at all bad when I opened the bag they had been sealed in. The maggots looked a bit small and dozy, but the picture was taken at about 7:30 AM and they were still very cold, a couple of hours later they were pumped up and as lively as could be. In fact they were escaping and burying themselves under the casters and anywhere else they could get to!

By now it is about 8:00 AM and bill was not going to arrive for an hour or so. I put my pole together, secured my rig to the top-kit, after fitting with a small pole cup, and fitted a plummet to the hook. My rig consisted of a 0.4g slim float on 0.1 line with a size 18 hook on a 6 inch, 0.08 hook length. I was using No.8 elastic and a puller bung in the top kit. I will talk more about rigs in another post - My! That small shot is tiny! I had a go at shipping it out and managed to plum the depth. I was having a real job shipping the pole smoothly and this is only a 9.5M pole, I decided to wait for Bill to arrive before I did any more.

While I was waiting I set up a feeder rod with a small, flat-back method feeder and made a few casts. The water was mirror smooth. the ripples formed by the feeder entering the water went all the way across the water without hindrance. Much like my line sitting there without even a line-bite, nothing. three or four casts and not a thing. Just as I was thinking I would have been better staying in bed, Bill arrived! Now it was out with the pole again and, after a bit of helpful instruction, I was getting the hang of shipping the pole out. Shipping it in was another matter. Watching the videos makes it look so easy. I am really please I bought this shorter pole to start with.

Bill sorting out my top kit at one point during the day. It was very kind of him to give up a day and get me started on the pole. Without his help I would not have had a clue what I was doing wrong - Thanks Bill!
It was not long before I realised that I was having trouble shipping the pole in and out smoothly for several reasons. First, the pole is very flexible. If I had been alone I would not have known it was any more flexible than a more expensive pole, and assumed it was all down to my lack of technique. This is where it really pays off to have someone with you who knows what he is doing.  The upshot of this is maybe I should have bought a slightly better second-hand pole as some suggested. I was against that suggestion as I had no idea what I was looking at. I opted for buying a new pole as I wanted to know that the pole I was buying would be in good order - or at least it should be. Also, If I can master the art of shipping this wobbly pole in and out without dispensing the little pot of maggots along the way, it should be much easier if and when I buy a longer (better quality) pole.

We fished for an hour or so without any bites. By this time I was beginning to think that they had not let the fish out this morning! I decided to try a bit further out than the pole would reach using the feeder rod. I was just telling Bill how the fish were not biting when the tip of the rod slammed around and it was fish on. It was one of the Jeff's lake's population of F1s, and it was a decent fish of a couple of pounds just like the hundreds that I have fished out of here in the past year. Okay, I was happy, we knew there were fish about. Back to the pole and a change of depth. We decided to fish a few inches over-depth. I baited up with a maggot on the hook and a few in the pole cup. I managed to get the feed out there without bouncing it out of the cup and deposited its contents just where I want to. I lifted the pole and set the float just where I had fed and watched the bristle settle and then sink. In the split second I was pondering this, Bill suddenly became very animated and exclaiming "it's a fish - strike!" Okay, I lifted the pole and then started to ship it in as smoothly as I could. How that fish stayed on the hook is beyond my comprehension as the pole tip was all over the place, but it did. The result was may first fish landed on a pole. It was a nice little perch pictured at the head of this post.

Tiny Perch was hungry for a red maggot
Brilliant! I was so happy I had actually caught something. At this point I had to go and answer a call of nature. While I was away Bill had caught a couple more fish. We carried on fishing for the rest of the day on the pole and caught all sorts of fish including the smallest perch I have ever caught. At one point I was sitting there watching the float and it suddenly disappeared to the now familiar call of "Strike!" coming from Bill's direction. I did, the elastic came streaming out of the pole and disappeared into the water. "That's a proper fish" Bill said.

My first tench ever and a decent sized one especially for this time of year
I slowly shipped it in, allowing it to run off some of that energy, and got down to the top kit. It took a couple of minutes for the fight to go out of it and then it broke water. It was a tench. I have never caught one and had said to Sue, the night before, that I was aiming to change that.  For me it was the highlight of my day.

We went on to catch several species of fish, probably more variety than I have ever caught in one day, including perch, roach, rudd, gudgeon, skimmer, carp and the big (at least for me) tench. We Started to pack up at around 4:00 PM as the light was fading. I had one of the most enjoyable days of my fishing journey to date, in no small part thanks to Bill, his sound advice and guidance.  You can't beat first hands on fishing with an experienced guiding hand to point you on your way. Thanks Bill!

Next time out I will have half a clue of what to expect. I am going to practice my shipping in and out and sort out the correct hight settings of my box and footplate before I go next time. That will give the neighbours something to talk about as I get into a session of fishing on the lawn. I am sure they already think I'm nuts!  


Saturday, 16 January 2016

A long stretch...

No, not the custodial kind, the elastic kind... 

First it was the wet that scuppered our plans, now the cold weather has put paid to any fishing for me for a week or so. I know, I'm a woose! I have been thinking about going fishing all week. We had planned to go on Monday but the rain was pouring down and it was cold. I could see no point in going just to get cold and wet. Unfortunately, Tim's shift pattern combined with his inability to get a pass from the missus, means that we will not be able to get out together again for a few weeks. I had planned to go out solo this week but in the end that did not happen due to the cold and an inability to master the art of using small shot when making pole rigs.

A pulla bung allows the elastic to be 'pulled' tight to help control the hooked fish
With some time now available, I decided to get some top kits elasticated. This was not nearly as frightening as it seemed. There was all sorts of talk about how to do this and lots of suggestions advising getting someone else to do it. How hard can it be? It is only a case of shortening the top section until the bush fits, threading a length of elastic and fitting a bung to hold the end of the elastic tight.

Razor saw and home-made bench hook (hooks over the front edge of the bench in use)
The biggest part of all this is cutting the tip to length. Lots of people suggested just dumping the top section and fitting the bush straight into the number two section. This seemed like a waste to me so I persevered with my original plan to cut down the top section until my internal bush fitted. On reflection, maybe I should have gone for the other option and ditch the top section all together as now I only have a very short part of the top section left.

Cutting the carbon-fibre pole to length was easy. Initially I used a fine razor saw and a bench hook to support the section while cutting. This works fine cutting through the top wall of the pole. as the saw breaks through to the side walls, it starts to catch and becomes harder to proceed, until the bottom of the section is reached and the saw starts to cut smoothly again until it is through.

Full size hacksaw
I used this technique until I realised that I was not using the best tool for the job. There are many suggestions out there on the internet regarding using cutting discs,a  file, a junior hack saw and even rolling it under a utility knife. All of which will work but I think there is a tendency to go too light. Just because the tip is of small diameter does not make the material any different to cut. The problem with small tools is they have little mass and will require forcing through the material when it gets tough going in the middle section of the cut. While rummaging around for my razor saw I came across a full size hacksaw fitted with a nice fine bi-metal blade. This is now my go to tool for this job. Makes the cutting very easy, so long as the section is well supported. So far I have elasticated a couple of top kits, fitted with pulla bungs, for the pole and made a cupping kit from a third top kit. The match kit has No.6 elastic and the carp kit is fitted with No.10. I have two other top kits to elasticate over the weekend.

Not cheap but so much better than the cheap alternatives
I also discovered that although horrendously expensive, the branded internal bushes seem to be the best. The cheap alternatives available on the internet just look cheap to me. On thinking about it, how many of these things am I going to buy? Not that many, so I might as well use the better ones. The same applied to the connectors that join the elastic to the rig. There are several alternatives to connectors and, in time, I will probably give them a try, but for now I just want to keep it simple.

The elasticated 'Tele-Pole' about to be extended
With two of the top kits done I had a small external bush left over so I decided to have a go at elasticating the cheap pole/whip (Tele-Pole) that came with our initial starter set purchase. This was very easy to do and should make it a whole lot more useful than without. As the thing is telescopic there is no way of fitting a puller bung that could be used in any practical sense. Instead I fitted a Middy bung with a tensioning winder. This fits into the No.2 section leaving a short elastic which I think will be an advantage as the rig will need to be just over 4m long, plus the hook length (the pole measures 4.6 meters with the tip cut down and the elastic fitted).  I have fitted an No.8 elastic for the time being as I don't want to go too light with this for now.

Winder bung withdrawn from the Tele-Pole
The next job was to make up some rigs for the Tele-Pole. This, I thought, would be the easy bit - Wrong! I had completely underestimated how fiddly applying small shot to a line would be. I have managed to make up a couple of rigs for the Tele-Pole using conventional soft shot made by ZLT. There seems to be a whole lot more to this than I first thought. I need to buy some different shot that is easier to apply to the line. There is an Italian made shot that is said to be nicely made and recommended by several people as well as being purported to be used by the England team. I have ordered some and when it arrives next week I will have a go at putting a few more rigs together - I will let you know how that goes!

Two rigs ready for the Tele-Pole

Hopefully I will out on the bank at Beaver, towards the end of next week, giving it a try.  It looks like the cold snap will ease up a bit by then. The forecast  is for double figure temperatures by Saturday...


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Cancel that!

After a last minute look at the weather we decided to cancel our fishing trip tomorrow as it looks like it will be raining all day. Normally that would not put me off but as we planned this trip to be our first pole fishing outing, I did not fancy sitting there in the pouring rain trying to work out what is what. If we get a dry day this week I will go and have a go myself. Unfortunately Tim  will only have one day off in the next couple of weeks so It looks like we will not be able to get together until later in the month.

I hope the casters will last for a few days sealed in this bag in the fridge
In the meantime I have bait to contend with. I bought a pint of maggots and another pint of casters. Hopefully, I will be able to keep them alive for the next few days until I get back to the bank. The maggots will get a riddle tomorrow and repacked into their nice cosy bait box. I have managed to keep maggots for a week or so but the caters are new to me. It is all good experience.


Friday, 8 January 2016

We're going pole fishing and...

Last time out at Beaver Fishery at the end of November - Probably the only cold day of the winter so far here in the South
Yes, we are about to make our first venture into pole fishing down at our favoured venue, Beaver fishery. It is a bit of a drive out but done early in the morning it is an easy run for both of us. Besides it is getting a bit like old slippers - comfortable and familiar. Now the other bloke has got himself a fishing-friendly job, it looks like we will be on the bank together a lot more this year. My last attempt at catching a few silvers was a bit if a disaster, I picked (probably) the only day of the winter so far that was literally freezing cold with early morning temperatures well below zero. Not only that, I picked a place that was a real frost pocket and froze my bits off for four hours until at last the rod tip started to quiver. Thinking I had a bite at last I was delighted. That was until I realised I was float fishing and the tip was quivering because I was shivering from the clod. At that point I gave up, moved to a lake that was in the sun and spent the rest of the day chasing F1s about using the method feeder and, of course, the now well proven Two Dog groundbait and punched Bacon Grill on the hook.

The purpose of this trip on Monday is to have a go at catching a few silvers on the pole and, if we get the opportunity, we will do a bit of jigging/dropshotting for the odd perch or jack pike. First, the pole...

Pole? Hmmm... stretching it a bit, me thinks
When we bought our first starter set it included it included a collection of carbon tubes labelled as a fishing pole. It was not long before I realised that this was nether fish or fowl. It was put to one side and left for months. I have used it as a cupping device and even tried to fish with it at one point using the ridiculously heavy float,line and hook that it was supplied with.

That is all the experience I have had with anything that resembles a pole... Until now.

I have been thinking about poles ever since I discovered they existed. My first feeling was that they were not for me and I would stay with rod and line. That was before that fateful day in June when I entered my first match. Yes, I know, I said I was not interested in match fishing either, but that was before I had tried it. Okay, I am never going to be a hardened match fisher but I do enjoy a friendly match with a bunch of like-thinking anglers. It was the last match I fished in that got me seriously thinking about getting a pole. There I was, feeder fishing all day, alternating between two rods. One on the method for carp and the other swim-feeding maggots for silvers. I caught two fish, one on each rod, totalling 5lb 9oz and the carp weighed 5lb 8oz, need I say more.

Most of the other guys were alternating between feeder fishing and the pole. Apart from the chap who did not weigh in, I came last. There were not a lot of fish caught that day but I am now convinced that if I had been pole fishing I would have caught a few more.

The pole is supplied with one match and one carp top kit. I bought three extra universal match top 3 kits 
A look through a few catalogues and websites at the eye-watering price of poles is enough to put anyone off. Buying second-hand at this stage is not an option that I favour, having never even held a pole before. In the end, after 'talking' to several people on the Maggot Drowning Forum, I was faced with a whole lot of conflicting views regarding where to start. There was only one thing for it and that was to make a commitment and follow it through. I needed to buy something to get a foot in the door. Eventually I settled on a buying a new 9.5m Maver Aybiss X. This pole had been recommended as a good starter pole and at around £50.00 it was not going to break the bank.

I elected to forgo the new chair I had decided to buy with my Christmas fishing-fund campaign (asking for money instead of socks and aftershave) and use the money to get myself on the pole fishing ladder, albeit on the bottom rung. Along with the pole I ordered a second Maver top 2 carp kit adding £15 to the price. I also bought a further three universal top 3 kits from the discount fishing store, Dragon Carp, that were on special offer at £8.75 each. At a shade over £90 I now own a 9.5m pole and five top kits. Now all I have to do is to elasticate the top kits and acquire some rollers. I have ordered some really cheap flat rollers just to get me going but I think they may not last the test of time, but again, it's a start.  Finally, we will be using our cheap green plastic tackle boxes to sit on as the budget does not run to a seat-box at the moment.

I am off to the local tackle shop later today to get myself kitted out with some bushes and thinner elastic. I already have some bungs but I will need a couple more and I will need some new line to make up rigs and some winders... and I have probably forgotten something, but I can always go back over the weekend if necessary.

I have also ordered, on recommendation, a copy of Pole Fishing, The complete Guide by Mark Wintle & Graham Marsden. Although published in 2009, it will give me all the basic stuff I need to know. An on-line chat with the author assured me that the information is still valid and the only significant innovation of recent years not to be included is the side puller bungs. For me I am not bothered by that as I can easily research that on the internet or at the waterside, by talking to fellow anglers. What I need is all the basics of choosing floats, rig making and the actual technique of fishing the pole. Once I get out there and have a go, I will be in a much better position to evaluate exactly how this pole fishing thing works - or doesn't!  

The time for thinking is done, I have most of the kit I need and by Monday I will have the rest so Tim and I will be down at Beaver Fishery showing the fish who's boss! If the pole does not fill our day, we plan to chase a few perch about with some light lure gear. Either dropshotting or jigging for the little fellows lurking about in the shallows and around the odd spot of cover. 


This will give us a chance to try out some other new kit we have been collecting over the past few months in the way of line, jig-heads, hooks and lures. One amusing episode, was the arrival of a spare spool for my little dropshotting reel - it is so small it fitted through the letterbox! at first I was convinced they had sent me the wrong part, the box looked far too small for a spool!

My! that is a small spool!
Lately I have been dropshotting on the Regent's Canal and I am sure I will be doing a lot more urban fishing in and around London and the towns of Kent. On Monday, time permitting, we will have a chance to try out the technique on the still water of Beaver. We will have to flatten the bur on the hooks to comply with the fisheries regulations but it has to be worth a try. The short 6 or 7ft light rods will be a massive contrast to the 30 odd foot long pole!  

I have just checked the weather for Monday and it looks like it will be dryer than was forecast earlier, it seems to be getting warmer too, a predicted 6ºC - positively tropical! 


Friday, 1 January 2016

Where did that year go?

I write this as the weather is at last showing signs of doing what it should and get a bit colder. With December proving to be much warmer and wetter than I can ever remember, it has given me the chance to get out and fish, a couple of times, in relative comfort. There was a single day, back in November, when we had a frost and I made the mistake of going fishing that day. At that point I thought the winter was here to stay but how wrong could I be. Daytime temperatures in double figures, here in the South East, with many night time lows not far off either has confused the flora and fauna, let alone this novice angler.

I am intending to concentrate on the urban fishing for the winter with the odd venture down to Beaver Fishery to experiment on some of the other ponds and lakes. It looks like Tim will be back fishing, having just started a brilliant job that gives him every-other Monday off. As the Trouble will be at work he will be allowed out on his own! The first trip is planned for a week, next Monday.

Maybe the pike can wait for another time. Instead, Eden Pond at Beaver Fishery may be worth a few hours spent bothering the tamer inhabitants on a cold January...
Tim had mentioned that he fancied a spot of pike fishing and initially I agreed. Although not averse to the idea, I am now of a mind that we need to think about this further before we rush into it. Apart from a lack of appropriate tackle, I am not sure exactly what we need. I think by far the best thing to do is to shelve the pike fishing for a week or two, until we can get the chance to talk to some guys on the bank and hopefully get some first hand advice about handling a big (ish) pike should we hook one. In the meantime we can go and bother a few fish in the other waters using light float tackle and a cheap whip we have had kicking about.

My second ever fish. One of four that I caught that first session - brilliant!

Our fishing year

Reflecting on the year just gone I am surprised by just how much I have learnt and, moreover, how much more there is to learn. Never in a month of Sundays would I have thought I would be so enthused by angling. For years I had dismissed it as something others did. Something that I had no interest in whatsoever. From a passing suggestion, to my Brother in September 2014, I have found myself embroiled in a fascinating world I had no idea existed. At the time I was expecting to be assisting Tim with his fishing and having a bit of a go myself. As it turned out, Tim had a troubled year and could not devote any time to fishing. Even my first trip was made without him. By this time I was all geared up and ready to go. I had seen the Matt Hayes video, and was now an expert! I was itching to go and have a go but, by this time, Tim was otherwise engaged. Sue came to the rescue and promptly offered to come along and keep me company. Grateful of the moral support, I accepted and off we went. Well, the story of that day is one of the most viewed posts of this blog (after Two Dog, that is!) Having caught four reasonable sized fish, much to my surprise, I was sold on the idea. That day I changed my conception of fishing and from that point on I was eager for more.

Tim about to enjoy a day fishing...
Tim did get out a few times, but we did not have great success. His limited fishing experience was now just a distant memory and he had forgotten most of that some forty years on. Most of the time he had either fished on the small river near where we went on holiday as kids, or with his Godfather who was a serious angler. I found myself showing him what to do - not what I had expected at all.

Early days fishing at Beaver
I had been invited to go fishing by a fellow member of the Maggot Drowning Forum to a venue I had not fished before, Beaver Fishery. That was it, I was off. I liked the pace from day one and found everybody really friendly and most of all tolerant and helpful. I started going alone and enjoyed a day fishing solo (never thought I would) I was working on my technique and really getting somewhere. To my surprise I was invited to join in the monthly matches they hold. I was a bit reluctant at first as I had always said I was not interested in match fishing. Eventually I thought I would have a go. I talked to the guys in the local tackle shop and they gave me some pointers. Armed with my new-found knowledge, and by this time I had been experimenting with my own recipe groundbait, so I took that too. I actually managed to not come last and the story of that day, and a link to a video, can be found HERE.

First match, first net of fish - Amazing!
That was it, I was well and truly hooked (Yes, I have been trying to avoid the pun but I relent). For the rest of the summer I was either competing in the matches or refining my technique and bait making. By the end of the year I was pulling good bags of fish out of the lake with ease. I still have a lot to learn but I do feel I have achieved much in the past six months.

This match activity rather put paid to any dropshotting I had planned at the beginning of the year. I had managed to kit myself out with all I needed to get started by the beginning of February, but it was not until the end of October that I actually got to have a go. One nice pleasant Sunday Sue and I took the train to Camden Town and spent the day on the tow-path jigging and dropshotting the Regent's Canal. Although we did not catch anything we had a good day out and learnt a lot. Since then we have been back once for a couple of hours and actually caught a fish.

A few weeks ago Tim came fishing for the first time since the spring. By then, with the help of my own groundbait mix, I had worked out how to feeder fish for F1 carp reasonably successfully. I was able to show Tim how to do it too and he was pulling out fish one after the other. The picture says it all...

First cast and Tim catches his first fish of the day. A day that ended with both of us catching dozens of fish each.
At one point, one after the other.
I am looking forward to fishing with my brother this year and trying some new techniques. We have come to the hobby late in life and missed out on a lot of learning over decades of non-fishing, unlike the little fellow in this video that has to be my favourite from 2015...


I plan to do lots of fishing this year and experiment with new baits and lures. I also plan to visit some new venues and even do a spot of river fishing. You never know, now Tim's situation has improved we may even get some fishing in on other days (other than Monday). Happy New Year to all of you that have taken the time to read my waffle and help us to be better anglers. I hope you have enjoyed reading our blog as much as we enjoy creating it!