Friday, 29 April 2016

Second match of the year already!

Is it me or does time go by faster these days? It only seems like yesterday that I entered my first match at Beaver but that was last June!  Things have changed a bit since then. My nieve approach based on a single conversation with the guys who ran the local fishing tackle shop, has been honed somewhat and I am hoping to better my own weights from last year.

I can now cast in roughly the correct place each time and I now have a pole and a proper seat-box to add to my armoury.  More importantly I have had a lot more experience of getting the line wet. I can't see me getting into the prizes just yet but I do hope to keep off the bottom slot. Last time out I only just made that by coming third to last. I had a terrible day from a fishing point of view. It was my first time out with a pole and my seat box in a match and I was totally disorganised. So much so that I was not ready at the all-in.

I had made rigid plans as to how I was going to fish the match and stuck to them. What I had not bargained for was the weather; rain, hailstones and strong cross-wind made fishing harder than I had ever encountered before. I had gone from a casual approach that had served me reasonably well last year to a rigid plan that did not take account of the weather or have any built in contingency. Lesson learnt, next week it will be different.

The first thing I have to do is get my box set-up sorted so I can set up quicker. I need to make sure I have all I need to hand and not have to go back to the van to retrieve more gear. One of the problems I have encountered is the need to keep swapping the tools from my box to my tackle box if I am pleasure fishing with my chair and vise-versa. This is easily rectified by spending very little on some duplicate tools such as rig-scissors, marker pen etc. Other things, like plummets and disgorgers, I already have enough to split between two locations. In my case, I think I will look for some scissors that are a different colour to the orange ones I already own. Knowing me I will end up with both pairs in the same place - a green pair would be a nice contrast! If I get everything sorted into the drawers of the box, have the relevant fittings ready and make up my rods before I get to the venue I will save myself a lot of time on the bank. I will also get the bait sorted out, into what I expect I will need for the match, all in bait boxes and ready to use, wherever possible. All these things are obvious but I need to make them second nature. For now I will be making a list.

As far as tactics are concerned, I am not going to get caught out this time by setting a too rigid plan. I have an outline of what I will be doing but not a timetable, if that makes sense. I will make up all my rods ready to use and get the bait organised. I will have the ability to catch up in the water as well as on the bottom. But the main thing is I will try and read the conditions and fish to the day.


Thursday, 21 April 2016

No perch, no tench...

...but lots of fish, well for one of us! Us? Yes, us. Today there were four of us. At this point, if this was a television reality-soap, the scene would change and the words "One week earlier..." would scroll across the bottom on the screen and fade out. Well, its not, but I am sure you get the idea. Last week's edition of Angling Times featured an article that suggested and explained several rigs for spring fishing. Most of the fishing fraternity probably know all this already but I am really grateful when this stuff gets aired again as a lot of it is all new to me.

Mrs M and here new brood of a dozen ducklings - don't venture on to Major's lake! (it has a good head of pike) These guys were first spotted on Eden Pond at the start of the day. By the time we had been fishing on Maze lake for a few hours they arrived there the polish off the scraps...
Back to today and, as usual, the planning department of the Laughton household has been giving the local council a run for its money in the efficiency stakes. Not only had I left the best part of half a ton of hard wood 'shorts' in the back of the van, somebody had left it empty of fuel. That meant an even earlier start. The alarm on my not so smart 'smartphone' sounded at 04:45, after getting to bed three and a half hours earlier. Groan... I seem to get less and less sleep the night before going fishing these days. I jumped out of bed with great gusto and leapt straight into a cold shower while fighting off the attentions of several attractive young ladies who seem to have become overly affectionate after getting one whiff of my deodorant... The snooze alarm then sounded and I dragged myself out of bed to a cold house that was still on GMT. I must get around to resetting the central heating timer.

The van was loaded, refuelled and located in the drive to the fishery by 06:45. Result.

Having made it to the fishery in good time, I was the first in the queue at the gate. By the time the cat  had opened the gate (See HERE) I only had one other queue member for company. I had expected a larger crowd as the weather looked ideal. Apparently, yesterday was the chosen day and the place had been inundated with maggot-grabbing anglers. As a result the fishery's tackle shop had been stripped devoid of maggots. Although I had planned to buy a pint to top up my meagre supply to use as free offerings, it was not the end of the world as I had the best part of a pint with me. It must be impossible for the fishery to predict demand from one week to the next, especially at this time of year. But, as my 'queue-buddy' pointed out, with a smug chuckle, a simple phone call, made the previous day, meant he was aware of the situation and had bought some before he came. Some would say this is sensible and considered planning but I could not help thinking of the catchphrase, coined by the Sheriff in the James Bond film Live and let Die, "Smartass". No offence intended, just my sense of humour propagating mischief.

I have spent the last few visits to Beaver, on Jeff's lake, fishing the pole, but this time my intention was to do something a little more, dare I say, 'traditional'. My inspiration had been the rigs feature, I mentioned earlier, and the fact that I have caught both species, on recent visits to other waters on the fishery, in recent weeks. My rather ambitious (as it turned out) plan had been to target tench and perch on the idyllic puddle of water known as Eden Pond. Tucked away at the far corner of the fishery, this really is a wonderful place to fish. It is well stocked with both my target fish including a good head of golden tench. I have fished the pond several times in the past and always gives some kind of result.

Having splashed out on a two-rod permit, I set off to Eden Pond. One of the nice things about Beaver Fishery is the ability to be able to drive right up to some of the swims on most of the lakes. Eden Pond is no exception. Although this is a great advantage in some respects, it can also make me a bit disorganised. I have been trying to make things easier over the past few months by acquiring bags and cases to store and carry my gear in. I am still working on the place for everything and everything in its place concept...

I took the time yesterday to get the rods ready. I was not pole fishing today so it was just a case of dealing with a couple of rods and my super-comfy accessory chair. It was the first time out for my latest rod, A 9ft Shakespeare Wand, supplied with two glass and two carbon quiver tips. bought as an impulse buy when Sports Direct were selling them on special offer at the ridiculous price of £18.00. It would have been rude not to buy one!

Following the afore mentioned article in Angling Times, I had set up a float rod to tempt tench out from their hiding places using a lift rig with a long whiskered waggler float anchored by a shot sitting on the bottom and a short hook length. This has to be plumbed very carefully and it is important to cast to the same spot every time - a real challenge for me. My new rod was set up using a small running bomb and and a popped up worm. If you don't know how to make a worm pop up, look it up as it is all a bit too gruesome for the pages of this blog!

I fished the two methods for an hour or so with no luck tempting the targeted fish. However the skimmers, bream roach and rudd were more than keen to come out and play. After a while I convinced myself that the tench were all still asleep and the perch were on a diet. I opted to have a bit of fun just pulling out what I could. Bill arrived around 09:00 and we continued to spoil the day of several silver fish until Dave and Terry arrived to complete the quartet of Maggot Drowners (members of the Maggot Drowning forum) just after 10:00.

Bill talking to Terry. Bill does have a right hand, I think he just forgot to pack it
We packed up and set off in convoy for Maze Lake for the rest of the day.  After a quick reconnoitre of the near pegs and the fingers it was decided to fish the opposite side of the lake where we would have a stretch of water (and a car park) all to ourselves. The convoy pulled out and relocated, probably much to the relief of the anglers already fishing.

Terry gets his line wet
Dave is also on his way
Dave and Terry set up on the pole while I was still float fishing, now using a little puddle chucker to see what was hanging about on the opposite bank. It did not take long for the fish to take an interest and before long I was landing a good selection of skimmers and bream. Then the inevitable happened and I got the float tangled up in the vegetation. A bit of a hike around the lake and back up one of the fingers put me opposite my peg. I found the float and managed to free it. A trek back to the peg and I was ready to go again. I cast and the rig landed on target - and sunk! I recovered the rig to discover the float had parted with the stem and weight. I replaced the float with a similar one and cast it straight into the undergrowth on the opposite bank.

The were coming thick and fast - this one fell to the float rig and maggots
Even though I did manage to recover the rig and Bill even found the missing float body on the grass behind us, that was the end of the float fishing for the day. Terry had caught a few bream and Dave was king of the silver fish. Bill was not fishing and had only come along for the day out and pass on some of his experience to me. We had been using a Two Dog groundbait based loose feed to establish the fish in the swim. Now it was time to get the feeder out and catch a few carp.

The feeder was proving itself too
It could be said that the 11ft feeder is over-gunning it a bit for this lake but as it was set up it got pressed into use. Out came the Two Dog feeder mix and the line was clipped up to drop the feeder into a nice little gap between two clumps of vegetation. A couple of casts and the water was starting to look alive. Third cast and we were catching fish. Decent size bream, F1's and carp were all keen on the combination of Two Dog groundbait and 9mm punched bacon grill. By the end of the day the lake had given us a good few hours of fun fishing.

Dave, I know it is all about feeding, but you are supposed to be catching the fish - Is that net duck-friendly
Next time I will be out with the pole, I have a plan - yes another plan... As for my original intentions towards the residents of Eden Pond - I will return. Didn't somebody else say that?

Just as we were packing up I hooked this guy on my last cast of the day. Thanks are due to Dave for the picture and picking up my net that had slid off my knees just as he took the picture
And finally, the last cast of the day produced a hard fighting common of a reasonable size - a great day with plenty of fish and some good company. It is days like this that make all the effort worthwhile - Thanks Lads!


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

First match of the year...

Well, you have to smile!
Last year I entered four of the friendly matches, held at Beaver Fishery, starting with the June match. By that time, the weather had settled and the fish were up in the water. Now, in April (Wednesday 6th) my thinking was that the fish would be down on the bottom, so I was aiming to use the method feeder and out in open water. I set up my pole rigs with the bulk well down the rig to get the bait down in the water rapidly. A couple of lines for the feeder and a long and short pole line... That was the plan.

The day started off to plan, getting the van packed and on the road by 06:00. Running into traffic on the M25 was irritating but not the end of the world as I still got to the venue as the gate opened at 07:00. The draw had been posted and I drew what I would normally regard as a good peg.

Before the match - Happy with this peg
The weather at this point was fine. Dry and light cloud and not at all cold. I could park the van close to the peg and started to get set up. This year I have a totally different set up to last year as I now have a seat box and a pole to consider as well as my familiar feeder rods. You would think that the best part of two hours would be enough time set up, and you would be right. However for whatever reason, it was not enough time for me on Wednesday. I spent ages getting the seat box and all the accessories where they should be - or where I thought they should be! Fiddling about with the pole and rollers all took time. I was not sure what I was doing as I had never set up in a peg with a bank behind me and I was constantly having to go back to the van for bits and pieces I had left behind. By the time the all in was called I was still tackling up my feeder rod and I had not rigged/plumbed the pole top kits.

Throughout the match the weather was poor - to say the least
At this point the weather got darker and there was a chill in the air. However, clad in my Tellytubby outfit (curtsy of Aldi) and my favourite silly hat, I was perfectly warm. I finished off rigging my feeder rod and laid some bait down over three or four casts. Then I hooked a fish - Great! I was off to a start. Feeling confident I cast again, and again and nothing, not even a line-bite. I pre-baited the short pole line and continued to scare the fish away on the feeder line.

By now the weather was starting to reflect my mood...

I dumped a small cup of groundbait on the long line and fished maggot and corn over it. At this point the wind got up. My earlier enthusiasm for this peg was beginning to wane. The wind was gusting from left to right and by now if the light drizzling rain wasn't soaking everything, heavy downpours were making it almost impossible to see the float at times. Getting fed up with this and spending more time fighting the wind, I went back on the short pole line. I baited up and dropped the float in over the pre-baited area. The float settled quickly as it was supposed to (got that right then!) and then the tip dipped away. I struck and had a fish on. Nothing enormous but it was a fish, a small skimmer. I re-baited, cast and caught another one. Then nothing again.

Now everything is soaked. The pole will not slip through my hands yet everything else is as slippery as wet soap. I went back to the feeder for a bit, nothing there using my turf 'n' surf groundbait. I even tried the trusty Two Dog groundbait and that caught a couple of F1s and then dried up.

The wind dropped for a short while so I decided to have another go with the long pole. As I started to assemble the larger sections of the pole, there was a horrible gritty noise. I realised the end section of the short pole had picked up dirt from the bank. Now I had to stop and clean the joint and make a big mental note to order some pole bungs.

Lovely day by the afternoon - after the match!
I fished the rest of the match using the feeder when the wind was too much for me on the pole. I never really got anything going and ended up 12 out of 14. Not last but it was not my finest hour. The guy fishing next to me was a seasoned match angler and he only managed 19lb something. The winning weights were from the banks that were either into the wind or with the wind behind them. The rest of us were not having the best of days.  The weather was appalling for the duration of the match. Almost as soon as the match finished, the sun came out and it became calmer and dry - Typical! 

12/14... Could do better
Even though I only caught just under 11lb of mixed fish I did have an good day experience wise. Boy, did I learn a lot and now I have a shopping list. I need some bags, there is too much just sitting about in the back of the van, it all needs organising... and maybe a trolley... and some bungs... and....

I went home a shadow of my former self - at least I was not last!
But first, I will put this one down to experience and try and be a bit more flexible in my approach. Up to now, I have just winged it and fished the day as it came. On Wednesday I had a plan and stuck to it. Maybe somewhere between the two extremes would have been a better approach.


Friday, 1 April 2016

Pole fishing, going solo...

Originally I was going to make this trip to Beaver yesterday with Bill for another lesson on the pole. As it turned out I had to cancel and rearrange for today. Unfortunately Bill could not make today so it was time to fly solo...

The cat will not let you in until 07:00... I thought that gate shut at 19:00 this time of the year?
The usual early start was uneventful but cold. There was the promise of warmer weather later in the day, but on arrival at the lake there, was a mist hanging over the water and the grass was frosted. Hmmm... Should have stayed in bed.

Misty and cold - Hmmmm...
Bit better now
A walk around the lake and half an hour later the outlook was much more favourable. The sun burnt off the mist and exiled the frost, while I was busy setting up my seat box.... And there's another story. What a palaver! Last time out I forgot to pack the spirit level. I know a lot of you reading this might think that trying to level the seat is a bit extreme but it really is not as daft as it sounds. Sitting on a wonky box that is not aligned to the footplate, for hours on end, can get get very tiring  and even cause back ache.

With six legs and a footplate that can be adjusted independently to the box, my already overloaded brain was having trouble getting this into perspective - up a little, down a little... Eventually all seemed well only to discover that the relationship in height between the seat and the footplate was all wrong. I got there in the end and it was worth the effort as my fishing position was probably as comfortable as I could get it, resulting in a full day's fishing with no comfort issues at all. I didn't actually realise that until I was driving home so it must have been worth all that fiddling about. I am sure this task will get easier with practise.

Now to the fittings, and here is another thing that needs some experience to get right.  I ended up using a couple of ripple bars on the right hand side. The front one, a double, with a pole sock on the inner post. This I used to lay my top kit and cupping set on. To the left I had a tray and a bait waiter. This seemed to work reasonably well but I will add a roost for next week's match as I will have more top kits and rods ready to use. I am sure there is a lot to learn with this seat box and its accessories. I have to remember this in only my third time out with it... At least I get more fishing done on a box. The trouble with my new accessory chair is that it is too comfy and results in less fishing time than one would expect - zzzzzz....
Once set up I fished a long and short pole line and a feeder line. I was ready to try a few things out on the short line that worked really well. I caught fish after fish, some on the drop mainly F1s, bream and skimmers. I am not going to give it all away before the match on Wednesday!

At this point, I was happily fishing away when a voice said "Hello!" I looked around and I was told we had met before... I'm sitting there, metaphorically scratching my head, thinking as fast as I could when I was given another clue. "The MD match"  (MD = Maggot Drowning Forum). That narrowed it down a bit, I had only fished two MD matches... My unexpected visitor introduced himself as Andy. As he had never been to Beaver before, he decided to fish with me on Jeff's Lake... Several hours later I remembered standing at Tricklebrook Fishery at the end of last summer having a long conversion with AndyB28... Groan... I put it down to age!

Hello Andy! Much brighter now
Fishing on the other side (cold side) of the lake were a couple of young lads, one of which turned out to be Matchman123 also from the Maggot Drowning forum and fellow Beaver match competitor... Small world!

After a bit of a chin-wag with Andy, it was back to the task in hand. On the long line I fished maggots and corn over my new Surf 'n' Turf groundbait and caught well. The feeder was not doing much for me using the new groundbait. However Andy was fishing my Two Dog on the feeder with Polony on the hook and landing plenty fish! He was happy, he had not caught F1s before...

I was not counting what I caught but there were a few decent sized lumps. Andy caught steadily most of the day alternating between pole and feeder, as was I. He also had a nice big slab of a bream on the last knockings. All in all a very enjoyable day and I learnt a lot. Again.

One of many - a nice sized bream
...and a good healthy looking F1. Let's how there are a few of these about on Wednesday
The match, next Wednesday, will be interesting if only to see how I get on with using the pole/feeder combination for the first time in match conditions. I am much more confident with the pole now, thanks to Bill G.'s help, over the past few weeks, and shipping in and out has become much easier. It is just the throwing of the bait that is still a problem. Andy showed me a throwing stick he made from an old pole section. It was an inch or so in diameter and about a foot long, maybe a little longer. That was a bit more effective but will need a bit of work to tune it to my hand. I am going to have a go at making one of those... I was eyeing up Sue's 'Henry' hose attachment  when a firm "Nooo! was heard from the kitchen!