Tuesday, 28 June 2016

What do you want in your sandwiches?

....and they said it would not rain!
Like most of us, I started my fishing journey using simple baits. In my case that was maggots. I never did get around to using the other favoured baits of bread and worm until relatively recently, having by-passed that part of the journey by going straight to meat, pellets and sweetcorn. I became so heavily involved with method feeder fishing that the hook-bait choice took a back-seat as I concentrated all my efforts into making my perfect groundbait method mix.

Since I have been using a pole, my attention has been refocused onto the hook bait. Bread has worked for me, as have worms. I am far more knowledgeable about the type of hook-bait to use when targeting a particular species of fish. This is, of course, a relative term and more knowledgeable in my case means a bit above zero knowledge!

Liquidised fresh bread and compressed bread-punch was attracting some nice skimmers and bream. Chopped worm, maggots and casters fed over either maggot or worm was catching perch after perch. Always up for trying something new, at least to me, it suddenly occurred to me, and I assume it has been tried before, that if I made a sandwich of say bread/bacon-grill/bread, I could punch and compress that to make a white disc with added attractants. Why stop at bacon grill? It was mentioned on one of the forums that peanut butter might make a good paste to wrap around hook bait. How about wrapping the hook-bait around the peanut butter? Punched peanut butter sandwiches sound as if that may work.

Yesterday I spent a day at Beaver Fishery experimenting with new and old (for me!) methods.

One thing I have learnt is to go with your gut. Not to be put off going fishing just because the forecast is for inclement weather. Also don't let a spot of unexpected rain put a dampener on proceedings. As you can see from the header picture, It was fine and sunny at 05:30 AM, yesterday - not! Thanks to a nice hold up on the M25, by the time I arrived at the lake it was turning dry and brightening up.

Hello Mr M., How's the missus?
Busy - VERY busy!
I arrived to be greeted by A very attentive looking Mallard. Just as I was thinking that he looked as if he was rather preoccupied, Mrs M. appeared followed by her now nearly fully grown ducklings, eleven of them. Bearing in mind that last time I saw them they were tiny and there were twelve of them. I was sure a few more would go missing considering the number of large pike that live in the lakes looking for a quick meal and the likelihood of predation by foxes and other mammals.

This damselfly stopped by to say hello and rest on my finger long enough to have its photograph taken
There is far more to a day out fishing than just catching fish. There are plenty of other waterfowl around at the moment including a pair of swans that have given me grief in the past. Yesterday was no exception. After arriving to 'approve' the bait they got very hissy as I stood up and approached them, obviously concerned I was about to make one of the signets into Sunday roast! After a few warning hisses they resumed scoffing the groundbait I had dropped while feeding the swim. A hissed retort from me stopped them dead. They looked at me, then each other. At this point I am thinking that this might not have been wise and they were about to defend their ground. Just as I was thinking of retreating to the van, they slowly turned and paddled off, signets in tow. That was the last I saw of them. There were plenty of dragonflies about too, and a small damselfly landed on my finger for a rest!

I was the only one on the lake, first thing. I was only joined by one other all day so I pretty much had the lake to myself. I balled in a good bit of groundbait made from lots of leftovers, laced with hemp, dead maggots, casters and corn as well as the odd lump of punched meat. I left that alone while I got myself set up. There were several things I wanted to try and I had brought several made up rods, my Hippo (What? - See HERE) and my cupping kit to go with it.

First off I wanted to try a larger method feeder. Up until now I have been using the small Preston feeder and release mould with no problem whatsoever. The fact that these moulds don't work very well has been aired on several forums but I thought it must be just down to  the constancy of the mix. I tried a banjo feeder a few weeks ago and could not get that to release nicely. At the time I put it down to the mix.

First cast and it didn't stop
I had pre-rigged an 11ft feeder rod with a large Preston 30g flat-backed feeder so I was ready to fish in no time. The groundbait had been wetted and riddled and looked just perfect. I attached a piece of punched bacon grill, dropped it into the mould and filled it. I pressed the feeder into the mould and hay-presto... It failed to release. After several failed attempts I gave up and hand moulded the Two Dog groundbait method mix in the palm of my hand. I will have to experiment with this further but for now it was hand moulding. The reel was clipped up from its last use here on Jeff's Lake, so throwing caution to the wind I made a first cast. Just as I put the rod in the rest I got a bite. Blimey!  That was quick, even for the faithful old Two Dog. I continued to catch cast after cast. I don't think I cast without catching and landing a fish. One after the other - very boring when not in a match fishing situation.

Time to do a spot of experimenting. As touched on above, I had been thinking about making some punched bread 'sandwiches'. Someone had mentioned peanut butter as a paste to wrap around pellets. Beaver does not allow the use of nuts, so I contacted the bailiff and asked if I could use smooth peanut butter and was told that it would be fine. I think they are all interested in my bait concoctions as they like my Two Dog and have just topped them up with a few kilos for their own use.

"What are you up to now, a new groundbait?"

"No, sandwiches..."

The plan was to make some sandwiches and punch out a lot of small rounds, compressing them as I went. I used the Warburtons 'Toastie' loaf and punched dozens of hook-baits from a couple of sandwiches. These were compressed as they were formed within the tube of the punch. Once punched they were put in a small plastic box and frozen.

Peanut mush
The trimmings were soaked and more slices of bread added. To this a few tablespoons of peanut butter, that had been thinned down to a thick cream consistency, were mashed in to make a paste. This can be used as a thick paste or thinned down to be used as a soft version. Thinning it still further makes a good cupping feed mush that bursts into a nice white cloud.

Sandwich anyone?
Defrosted, the baits hook very nicely using a 10 or 12 size hook. As they stand they are buoyant and need a small shot, on the end of the line, down by the loop-to-loop connection to the hooklength. A good squeeze between thumb and forefinger will compress them still further and they will then sink - nice and slowly.

Using my 'Hippo' and cupping kit, I cupped in a couple of small amounts of the peanut butter flavoured feed and then dropped in my hook-bait. Within seconds I had a bite. Bang! The elastic dived into the lake and the Hippo was now bending far more than I had ever seen it do before. I played the fish for a while not giving any visual clue as to what it was. It turned out to be a bream. Anyone who said bream don't fight (including me) should try telling this one that.

You know that feeling just before a balloon bursts...
How's that for a first fish off Peanut butter
More cupping in and the fish were biting. I did try just bread on the hook but the response, although good, it was nowhere near as dramatic as when using the peanut butter 'sandwiches'.

Small tench - a peanut butter fan, my PB smallest tench so far!
Fish after fish were being landed and if I had been using my full size pole, in a short configuration (2+2) I would have been able to land them much quicker, but today it was about pleasure fishing and playing a fish on this set up can be rewarding when they do get landed.

Having proved the peanut butter thing worked I got bored with that and went on to my next experiment. Peas. Yes straight forward garden peas. I was watching one of Graeme Pullen's videos I had to give it a try.

If you have not seen these videos before, they are full of off-beat and wacky ideas as well as lots of sound fishing advice. They may get a bit carried away sometimes but their enthusiasm really gets you hooked - at least it does me.

Anyone need a pea?
I had a second feeder rod with me, rigged with a free running twizzled loop and quick change clip to which I attached a 20g, bottom weighted cage feeder. Packed with a similar mix as the balled-in groundbait with a few peas added and a single pea on the hook. Again, the F1s seem to love any of the turmeric based groundbaits and now they love peas too it seems as this was catching well, if not as good as the method. I also tried it with other hook-baits and the take was similar. I have come to the conclusion that the F1s are attracted by the groundbait and free offering and they will try anything - even a bright green pea.

By now it is coming up to lunch time so the pea saga was put to one side and I went over to the pellet waggler, again the rod was all set up in my rod-ready bag so it was just a case of plugging it together and adding a hooklength and pellet. I have been trying this technique for ages with very little success. A quick rummage through my tackle bag (I do enjoy a quick rummage!) revealed that Sue had not reminded me to pack any catapults...

Restricted for range, I opted to fish just a few yards beyond the rod tip. I had been using mixed size pellets and one of the things Graeme Pullen pointed out in a video was that pellets of differing sizes travel differing distances making a much larger spread. Taking this on board, I decided to feed 6mm pellets and use 8mm on the band. I threw a few pellets in, at my desired spot, left it a minute or so and did the same again. this time there was a flurry of surface activity. I made a cast and nothing. I kept feeding only three or four pellets at a time and cast into the same place, fed a few more about a foot short and twitched the float towards me. Still no bites. The float was dipping around so I knew the fish were there. I lengthened the distance between the hook and the float from about 12 inches to 18 inches. I think the fish were missing my hook pellet.  That did it, fish after fish. I was a very happy bunny! Then the band hair broke, while gathering another from the box I noticed I had some tied up with meat stops on them... I wonder...

Hair rigged peanut butter sandwich anyone?
What about hair rigged peanut butter punch? Got to be worth a try. I did and used the same technique as for the pellet waggler, feeding 6mm pellet and this time my new peanut butter punch on the hook. Guess what it worked, but instead of catching F1s I was catching reasonable sized tench, nothing huge but good weight builders for a match.

I still had one more rod unused. My little nine foot Shakespeare Wand was rigged with a small Preston flat-backed feeder. I just had to see if this would work after the trouble I had with the large one earlier in the day. Safe to say it worked fine and I could have pulled out fish after fish with it.

Finally I had been feeding the margin, on and off, all day. I set up a short float to dead depth on the Hippo and plopped it in the right-hand margin. I fed a few walnut sized balls of groundbait and as I did the float disappeared and the elastic was in the water. First out was yet another decent sized tench. Then, with a massive take the elastic was off again and I was hanging on. That is all I could do. I did not want to put too much strain on the rig or the cheap as chips Hippo. I hung on in there and what seemed like an hour but was probably only five minutes of repeating to myself "don't come off, don't come off" like a stuck record, I landed my favourite fish of the day a nice mirror.

What a fight, these things are really powerful for their size. I thought I would lose it but I got it in the end.
With that it was time to go home as I wanted to see the England v Iceland game... I wish I had not bothered!


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Soggy success...

According to the BBC weather forecast it was not going to rain for our third match of the season down at Beaver Fishery...
No rain today... So what's that on my mirror then...
I had spent the weekend sorting out my seat-box set up and was keen to give it a go. I had packed the box with all the necessary tackle and my rods and pole were now housed in my new rod-ready bag and holdall. This has made packing the van much easier and quicker. By 05:30 I was ready to leave. I had planned to get on the road early as I needed to fill up with diesel on the way. Believe it or not, there is always a queue in the service station, at that time in the morning, and today was no exception.
Still raining... Sigh.
The rain always slows the traffic, but I still I arrived at the fishery with plenty of time to spare. Even so, I was second in the queue, waiting for the gate to open - And yes, it is still raining. I am not that bothered about the rain while fishing, but setting up in the rain is horrible, especially that fine drizzle that soaks absolutely everything. Nevertheless, I got set up and started to refine a few of my box fittings. Mainly to do with the position of the legs and where the clamps were located.

Fifteen minutes in and I am almost there
I leave setting up the pole and rollers until last, they are less likely to get damaged that way. The landing nets are in, well, a couple of them are. The third is sitting there just in case I get a huge bag of fish. (I can but dream!) The third net will just require deploying and being clipped into the long tool bar's Snaplok fittings, if needed.  The landing net is just sitting in the margin with the handle resting in the tulip. It was used resting across the bait waiter and worked really well for me. Others had expressed concern over this arrangement but in this set up it worked really well and did not get in the way at all.

A view from the other side of the peg
I drew peg No.1. This peg is different from all the others in that it is sectioned off from the main lake by two reed beds. At first glance it looks to have lots of potential with margins, reeds and even a small patch of water lily pads. This would be fine if the fish thought so too.

I had been thinking about going after the bream as well as the F1s to try and make some weight. I had rigged a feeder rod with bream in mind and, had a good supply of all the things bream like to eat. The trouble was I was about as far away from where I know the larger slabs hang out as I could be and still be on Jeff's lake. My mate John had drawn the peg I was hoping for...

I decided to fish for the F1's in the gap between the reed beds. This was reasonably fruitful, catching a couple almost straight off.  When it slowed down I thought I would have a go at margins with a 2+2 set-up on the pole. I tried all sorts here, maggots , casters even bread, I fed over the top and produced no response at all, not even a line-bite.

Miserable grey day, even the moorhen was heading for cover
By now it had stopped raining, it was overcast and damp. Everything was not just wet, but soaked. It had been drizzling all morning, that very fine rain, that even with my rather hair-depleated pate, was hard to detect although it was visible, in the distance, against a dark background. I now thought I would use some of my specially dug/purchased selection of dendrobaena worms. I chopped a few up (Yuck!) and added them to some hemp, groundbait, maggots and casters to cup in some free offerings over by the reeds. I could reach this point at about 11m, a comfortable length for my pole. The water is only about three feet deep at this point.

The pole was rigged with a 0.4g  float. I reluctantly bisected a worm and impaled the two halves on a hair rig using a meat stop. Am I the only one who dislikes torturing worms, or should I man-up and get on with it? This worm carnage was shipped out to the reeds and managed to bag a couple of skimmers. At this point the rain started to spit large drops into the lake. The drops became more persistent and culminated in a full scale, no holding back downpour. What am I doing here? I must be mad... Groan.

I find my pole is not easily slid through my hands went it is wet so I gave up on that and went back to the feeder. I caught a couple of F1s from the gap in the reads while it was hammering down. I wondered if the fish go down to the bottom in such conditions... I will see if I can find out.

When the rain stopped, it was obvious that this swim was not going to produce any bream or tench as it looked very 'carpy', as one of the guys had described it. Out with the pellet waggler. I fired a few pellets into my chosen spot and landed the float smack in the middle of them. Yes, you are not the only one who was surprised at this achievement! I fired in a few more pellets and twitched the float into them. Text-book fishing by me (it has only taken about a year to get this right) but not a sniff. I had another go, and then another and another... Nothing not even evidence of fish. I went back to the feeder and as it landed I started to eat a sandwich. Just as I raised the tasty morsel to my lips, the tip swung around and I grabbed the rod, depositing afore mentioned sustenance in the groundbait tub.

These fish are not daft, first thing it did was head for the reeds,  leaving me battling to keep it out. I failed. The little 'fellow' (substitute another more appropriate word if you wish) had got me stuck. I still had contact with the fish so I just held the pressure on. Then, the line slowly slackened and one of the reeds parted company with the bed and started to move out into open water, along with the F1. Gotcha! This fish was a fighter and once I got it to the net, I was just about to bag it and it was gone. All I had to show for it was a single reed stem. "Well, that was unfortunate, was it not?" I exclaimed (or something that meant that). My cheese, tomato and groundbait sandwich had taken on an interesting taste and texture.

Not to be put off, I re-baited the rig and tried again. Several fish were caught and most of them made for the reeds. I discovered that if I wound like mad, and applied the pressure away from the reeds as soon as I got a take, I could usually scupper the F1's plans and hold it in open water. This was not always the case and as a consequence I lots a few hook lengths. The guy fishing the other side of the reeds was have a similar problem. At least I hope he was, I learnt some new fishing terms...

The final result - ignore the total weight caught figure!
The time flew by and even though at one point, I was so fed-up and wet, I was considering taking up some other dry pastime, I had had an interesting six hours. Time for the weigh-in and the results. A cheesy smile and a bag of fish made the obligatory catch picture. The damp camera-phone used by Ben (one of the fishery officers) turned out a grainy picture in the low light, but at least there was a record of my catch for prosperity.

It was a grey ol' day
After the numbers were crunched and the total given the now commonplace 'inflation' ( I think someone is adding the lower-case 'L' of lb in as a figure 'one' in places), I came 10th, that is the same as last year when I fished my first match in much better conditions. This time I topped the scales at 18-04 and improvement in weight year-on-year so it was not too bad a result.

Drennan crystal bibbers
Once the match and the prize giving was over I laid everything out to dry. I sat down for half an hour sorting out the bait and mucky tools - I hate wet groundbait with a passion. It gets everywhere and it just sticks to everything. There is no point in me leaving the fishery at this time just to sit in traffic on the motorway. Far better to fish on normally. Even though it had rained for the greater part of the match, it had stopped now and it was, overcast, reasonably warm and with a light breeze that was helping to start the drying off process.

I was sitting on the box drying off the top kits when I saw a few bubbles in the water in front of me. The kit I was drying was rigged with one of those tiny Drennan Crystal Dibbers. I put one of the fresh maggots, that had been part of the mass escape once the rain washed all the anti-climb ground maze from their coats, on the hook (I'll teach it to try and escape). I dropped it gently into the water were the bubbles were showing and threw in a few loose offerings. Within seconds the dibber disappeared and I caught a roach that was not huge but must have been 6-8 oz. After that, it all went dead again and try as I might I could not catch another.  I even made a few casts with the feeder rod in the direction of the gap in the reeds - nothing. By this time I was all fished out and thinking about my dinner.

It had been a day of learning and testing. My seat box and fitting mostly worked and I don't think I will change anything for the next match in July (6th). By then the water will be a good bit warmer and the fish should be more responsive to the pellet waggler and the pole, fishing up in the water. Let's hope for a peg in a better (different) place next time. Having said that, I mentioned earlier that my mate John had drawn the peg I was hoping for, over in what I call the bream end of the lake. Well guess what? He caught fewer fish than me! Maybe my draw was not as bad as it seemed first thing. Maybe he should have been using Two Dog or Surf 'n' Turf groundbait...

Fishing the crystal dibber on a top-kit only - great fun - The little yellow dot in the circle is the tip of the float
Time to pack up and go home - Knackered, damp but surprisingly happy.