Saturday, 30 July 2016

A-Maze-ing!

Last time I fished this side of the lake - Maze Lake can be a bit bleak in the winter...
It has been well over a year since I last went purely float fishing. Like most of us, my first encounter with rod and line was with a float rod and a waggler. There was not much fineness about the whole endeavour. My rod had been described as a 'bit of a broomstick', The reel had been pre-loaded with 12lb line and my hook lengths were about three feet long because that is how they came in the packet.

Even so, I did manage to catch fish and actually land them. Most of the fish I caught were small silvers and about half a dozen in a session, but I was happy and catching the odd skimmer/bream was an event. By June, last year, I had been invited to join in one of the friendly matches at Beaver Fishery. I had said from from day one of my journey that I was not interested in match fishing and all I was intending to do was spend a few hours on the bank, catching fish for pleasure.

Well... I am still not interested, in serious match fishing. I am not the most competitive person ever to cast a rod. The only sports I have had anything to do with (darts and snooker) usually involve beer and were pursued as an excuse for a pint, as we have no got a dog (Just taking the dog for a pint... er... I mean walk, Dear). Friendly matches are different, they are great fun and I have learnt a lot from talking to the guys and trying new techniques. I have even managed not to be last - so far.

I discovered that I could catch a whole lot more fish with a method feeder and they were a lot bigger than the silvers I had caught on my waggler. I had tried using a feeder rod fairly soon after taking up fishing but spent most of the time losing feeders in trees and bushes. It was not until I got to my first match that I had even used one before. The guy in the tackle shop said that would be the way to go. Armed with my feeder rod and my first batch of Two Dog groundbait to use as a feeder mix, I was off. From that day on I was moving further and further away from my initial intention and now with more kit than I know what to do with the 'pleasure' was in danger of becoming a chore.

Lush with vegetation Maze Lake looks a bit more inviting this time of year
Yesterday I decided to go fishing with just a float rod and a minimum of  tackle. My only concession to that was to pack a spare rod and reel in case something went wrong with the particular combination I had chosen to use. Minimal kit meant I could take the car; it was just like turning the clock back to those early visits to Bax Farm (Now The Willows Angling Centre) and Beaver Fishery, nearly two years ago.

The alarm went off at the usual time and because I had so little gear to load I was ready in half the time it usually takes. I twiddled my thumbs for a bit before leaving, took a leisurely drive down to Beaver and was still there fifteen minutes early.

After the usual pleasantries were exchanged - me handing over my ten quid and a couple of 'ello mates' it was off to Maze Lake to claim my favoured peg. By 07:20 I was fishing. Result!

I had pre-rigged my vintage rod that my mate Dave had given me. This I paired with a modern fixed spool reel loaded with 6lb line. I did not want to go too light as there are some bigger fish in this lake. Officially the carp are no bigger then 10lb but I know for a fact some are a lot bigger than that. There is a seventeen pounder that got put back and now the bailiff is offering a prize to anyone who can catch it. I also had a spool of 4lb line with me in case the heaver line became problematic.

 As well as the usual bait, maggots, sweetcorn, bread and bacon grill, I had a packet of Tesco 'Everyday' frozen prawns I was hoping to tempt a perch to take my hook. I also had an ice cream tub full of damp groundbait that had been enhanced with all sorts of free offerings. This was for feeding my swims and hopefully hold some fish in my peg.

Bait selection - feed and hook bait
I started fishing with a smallish (size 18) hook and a single maggot. I was using one of those Drennan Glow Tip Antenna floats. I like the idea of these floats as the hooped colour scheme helps to show lift bites as well as the normal dip indication. I have only used these floats a hand full of times as I have not done much float fishing at all over the past year or so. Every time I have used these floats I have lost the antenna as it tends to part company with the body after a while. Although it is easy enough to make a new antenna it is not really very good. I must write to Drennan and tell them about it.
Drennan Glow Tip Antenna float
I digress. For a good hour or so nothing was happening. I changed depth, hook size and bait but still nothing was happening. I was just about to think about changing the line for the lighter stuff when the float tip disappeared. At Last a fish! as I struck I could feel that frantic vibration of a very small fish. I was correct, the first of about fifty small silvers was about to be hauled out of the water and unhooked. For the next few hours all I could catch was small roach and rudd. I thought once I started catching the smaller fish, the bigger ones, would follow. Apart from a couple of slightly larger fish,  maybe a two or three ounces, the size was not increasing by any significant amount.

The biggest rudd of the day - I still enjoy catching the little fellows
A change of hook size to a larger one and using some different bait paid off and I landed several skimmers/bream. One of these fish jumped clear of the water, nodded and thrashed for a bit before doing the usual thing of laying on its side resigned to the fact that it was going to be landed. The fishing was getting easier. Mainly roach rudd and bream, nothing overly large but some of the bream were of a decent size. I must have had getting on for ten pounds of roach/rudd in a few hours, non of them of any size that would turn a head.

By now I was doing far better than I have ever done on a waggler before. In the past I had caught the odd bream, today I was catching them one after the other. Although I am far from an expert at any of this fishing lark, I must be getting better at it. Balling in the ground bait initially and topping it up from time to time seemed to work well but eventually attracted the wrong type of attention.

Now look you lot, go and find somewhere else to play... Please!
Maze Lake is fairly shallow which means an upended swan can easily reach the bottom and eat my free offering. Even a good talking to only resulted in a 'make me' sort of look and a hiss. These guys are extremely tame even with young'ens in tow. They will feed from your hand, if you are brave enough, although that does mean they stick around longer. Personally I was happy to stop fishing for ten minutes and watch the swans. The signets make a sort of soft whistling noise that is only audible at close range and I had no idea that made such a sound.

A small piece of prawn hook bait
Once the swans made there way off to pastures new, it was back to the fishing. Prawns. By now the prawns had defrosted. It was at this stage in the proceedings that I realised they were "in a protective ice glaze". I assume this claptrap is just an excuse for making weight. I must get a packet and investigate further. Either way at just over £2.00 a packet they are not overly expensive. In fact, next time I will take half a pack which, for me will be plenty.

I chopped a few up using my tackle scissors. A pair of those multi-bladed scissors that are intended for chopping up live worms (yuck!) would be useful here. I am not too bothered about chopping up ready-cooked prawns, but causing mass carnage to a group of unsuspecting worms is a totally different thing...

This bream thinks he's a perch and has been eating Mr stripe's bait. That will teach it...
A handful of chopped prawn was introduced into the swim and the bait was cast into the area. A few seconds later and the float tip disappeared in one motion. I had caught something!   The rod tip bent over and with expectation I played the fish until it was ready to surface. How big is this, I am thinking to myself. This would have been a good sized perch, if it was not for that fact it was a bream. Trust me to find a bream with expensive taste.

Well, at least it is a perch
I cast again and once the float had settled I catapulted in a few bits of chopped prawn. it was not long before the float was on the move, first up, then sideways. I lifted the rod to set the hook and I got it. Probably one of the smallest perch in the lake but at least it was a perch. A few more followed but non of them would have made much of a meal for a bigger perch. Just as I was thinking this was getting boring, the float took of and the rod took on a bend unseen in my time as custodian of this very nice old length of carbon fibre. Just as I was wondering how to play this it snapped back and the fish was gone. The four pound hook length had snapped and whatever it was had gone.

Having given up on the perch I decided to put a hair rigged hook length on with a meat stop. I had a lot of meat with me chopped up into various size cubes and punched into several sized 'pellets'. Having had lots of success with meat on the feeder as hook bait, I had never caught anything on it using a waggler. That changed and I was catching bream easily. At this point I was still using the same Drennan float. Then with a ping the hook link snapped and the rig came home by air! It was at this point I noticed the tip had gone. It had not snapped, simply pulled out of its socket. Although I had another float, time was now marching on and I had another target in mind.

That small red dot is the tip of the float
As I was fishing, I had noticed what looked like a fairly nice sized carp patrolling the margin and right across my peg not a foot from the edge and only just below the surface. I had dropped a baited hook right in front of it a couple of times but to no avail. This was the ideal opportunity to change tackle and see if I could possibly catch it. I replaced the broken float with a pre loaded crystal waggler and shot it down so it was just showing above the surface. I fitted a new short hook length with hair and meat stop as before and set the depth to about 15in. While I was doing this I had been feeding the margin with some of the chopped bacon grill that, by this time, was  crunchy and oozing oil as it had been exposed to the mild sun all day. There were signs of activity. I flicked the float down the margin and fed over it. as the bait was off the bottom, the float was travelling my way with the movement of water through the lake. I did this a couple of times and got nothing. I shortened the depth by about 3in and tried again. That was looking better I was getting some indications, no bites but something was interested. Then with a big take the drag screamed off and I was on a big (for me) fish. I slowly tightened the drag and stopped the fish from diving into the undergrowth as I played the fish it showed itself and I had caught the fish I had targeted. Well, a dog with two tails could not have been happier. Okay not the biggest fish in the lake but going a couple ounces over 6lb was fine by me.

Gotcha!  Nobody was more surprised than me, except maybe the fish
By now it was well after 6 o'clock and as the gate closes at 7 o'clock. I needed to think about packing up. As I had not been fishing with much gear today I had time for that one last cast. I rebated the hair and cast again, not expecting much. Within seconds I was into another fish. This time it was a fair sized bream that gave a good account of itself. Anyone who says bream don't fight had not met this one. Right to the net it was determined to be somewhere else but eventually I got it on the bank and unhooked it. As I was unhooking it there was a little guy with his mum and dad, watching the proceedings. He had been fishing with his dad, and was saying "Look Dad, big fish". He was really excited so I asked him if he wanted to return it to the lake in the landing net. He did, with huge enthusiasm.

That was it for the day, and what a day. A minimum of tackle, a few different baits and I was fishing all day. I may not be the worlds greatest angler but I had one of the best days out I have had in a long time. Limiting the gear I take with me is the way to go. I can't wait to do it again.

Next week I will be back at Beaver for the August match. I had to miss the July event as I had to work so I am looking forward to trying not to come last!

Ralph.