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!