Thursday, 22 September 2016

There comes a time...

All my life I have been confident of my abilities. When it came to painting the stonework on the front of our Victorian terraced house, I was my usual blasé self. I can do that. Twenty years ago I could have done it without even thinking about it. I know there will be people reading this, older than me, who are more than happy climbing ladders and would be more than capable of doing the job. For me, I have had to come to terms with a couple of things have changed. First, my body is now not used to the physical effort required. For me it is also more a case of confidence, or should that be lack of it. Also, standing on a ladder (or tower) at height is something I have never been that happy about but now, I have lost confidence in my knees. This is hard to admit to myself but I find I am terrified of not being able to save myself if I lost my balance. Time to call it a day and go fishing.
This reality hit me on Wednesday morning and with no thought of fishing for couple of weeks, I had not formulated a plan, I just decided I was going. Having no set place for anything at the moment as the house is in the process of being cleared, ready for our impending move to the coast, I had to gather what gear I wanted from all corners of our rambling old abode.

My first thought was to put into practise what I had learnt from my day with Neil at Monk Lakes a fortnight ago. These days my seat-box is fully stocked and ready to go and there are usually a couple of rods in the rod-ready bag, so there was not much to find other than the usual bits and pieces such as bait and other sundry items. Apart from the pole fishing, I also had a couple of other things I wanted to try in passing. I was off to Beaver.

A feast of F1s from the lake today
Next month is the last of the friendly matches at the fishery, for this year, if the same schedule as last year applies this. I want to decide on tactics for this match, hopefully I will draw a decent peg this time! My pole fishing is not really up to the pressures of match fishing but I decided that today I would pitch pole against rod and line and see how I got on. I also wanted to try out my minimal box set up and try and speed up my make-ready time.

I was on the bank just after 07:00 and the first job was to level the box. Lots of people laugh at me for messing around with my little scaffolder's spirit level getting just right, but I don't care. If I have discovered one thing it is that it is important to ensure the box and foot plate are level. I am going to be sitting on the thing for over 11 hours on a day's pleasure fishing so spending ten minutes getting it level is important to me. I have suffered with back trouble in the past but find if the box is level I don't notice any pain at all even after long stints with the pole.

My box set up for the day, replicated here in the garden
I now use a minimum of fittings with my seat-box and tend to customise it for the task in hand. Today I wanted a couple of side trays, one for bait and another set slightly lower to hold things like glasses and hook length boxes. Over this I mounted a long roost that also doubles up as a support for my landing net.

Landing net sits on the roost supports nicely
Support for the other roost bar is provided by a tripod that can be positioned anywhere that is convenient. I also fitted a small bowl loop to the back right-hand leg to hold my groundbait bowl. This I use for storing the now legendary Two Dog Groundbait to be used as a feeder mix.

The bowl can be swung out of the way when pole fishing as the the photograph above
This works really well as I can swing the bowl out of the way behind me while fishing the pole. On the front right-hand leg of the platform sits my feeder arm and a long, double ripple bar onto which I fitted a tulip clip and a  small 'V' roller. These two fittings get used for all sorts of things like holding my rod while I am messing with the end tackle or filling the feeder. It is much easier to quickly support a feeder rod by dropping it into the 'V' roller than trying to balance it on a small butt rest, which is what I used to do. I find myself using it for all sorts of other things too, from hanging my camera on to somewhere to put my spectacles when I need to put them down in a hurry. On this pleasure trip, there is no need to provide anywhere to support keep nets so the accessory bar, that is normally mounted across the front legs, is not required.

I have now kitted out the box with most of what I need, and probably a lot I don't. I can guarantee the thing I leave behind will be just right the right gizmo to solve a particular problem. No worries with the small stuff this time, but...

When I  bought my cheap pole at the beginning of the year, I fitted one of the top kits with a Preston cupping kit I had to hand. This had been used on my original cheap tele-pole to feed the margins. Now that pole has been elasticated the cups were available to use with my pole. This was not a problem until I got my second pole that came with a Maver cupping kit fitted. Today I had my second pole with me. Guess which cups I had. Okay, not the end of the world but a few words, I can't type here, were muttered whilst discussing it with the maggots, the only other living thing in the van.

My aim was to get some pole time in and see just how efficient at catching and landing fish I could be. I chose a couple of lines. One straight out in front of me in open water about nine meters out, which is a comfortable length to work with for me at the moment. I also had a second line, that was about eleven meters to my left, up close and personal to a patch of lilly pads. I was also intending to fish the margins using just the top kit plus one, maybe.

I set about feeding and fishing the line in front of me, a few grains of corn and a single corn on the hook. Nothing. I was fishing at dead depth, I was aligned with a tree in the opposite bank and I was shipping out to the same distance every time.  I checked the depth a couple of times just to make sure it was right and still nothing, not even a twitch. After about half an hour of messing around with different baits and feed (meat,maggots pellets etc) I decided to go back to corn and fish an inch or so over depth. I shipped out with three corn kernels in the toss-pot and a single corn on the hook. No sooner had the float settled than it was pulled under, I lifted into the bite and it was fish-on. This turned out to be a small skimmer. Three or four skimmers later and the F1s and other carp must have seen the commotion and decided to join in. I was catching lots of nice F1's but it takes me a lot longer to land them than I can with rod and line, at least for the time being with my limited experience of pole fishing. I did take the opportunity to refine my catapult work while using the pole. I have a nice small Drennan catapult that is perfect for the job. I am slowly getting better at it, most of the feed now lands in my swim! I am sure speed will come with practise but for now I do not feel confident about using the pole in the next match, which will take place on this lake.

F1's jut keep coming
After targeting the F1's, I tried fishing at the same over-depth as I had been but now with maggot and started catching lots of small silvers including a couple of my favourite fish, the gudgeon Coincidently I caught two one after the other. By this time I was ready to try my lilly pad line. I added the extra sections to the pole, repositioned the rollers and set about plumbing up. I set the depth to an inch or so over depth as I had previously. I had been feeding this spot with a few grains of corn every fifteen to twenty minutes throughout the morning (when I remembered). First drop of a baited hook and within seconds I had hooked something the size of Moby-Dick. Well, it felt like that but as there are no big fish in this particular lake, I was getting a bit over excited. The pole was now showing that is was able to bend and just as I was thinking about what to do next, it straightened and the fish was gone. On inspection the hook length had broken just above the hook. As this was a sudden and clean break (no curly bits as if the knot holding the hook had failed) I can only assume the line had snagged something, what I am not sure, or it had been damaged previously.

A few more fish and I was landing them with little problem, just not as fast as I can with the feeder. As this was a pleasure session I was not too worried about this and continued catching fish for a while until it felt like a good time to take a break and have some lunch. I do like sitting there with a cup of coffee and some nice fresh sandwiches just watching the world go by. Next time I might well bring my seat too - it is much more comfortable for relaxing in... Hmmmm, maybe not, I might end up dozing off.

After lunch I fished for a bit with the pole before getting on to the feeder. For a good while I have been using 11ft feeder rods. These are far too powerful for small waters like this. Yes, they can be used here but I have had one of these 'light-bulb moments' and realised what everybody else knows. It is much easier to be far more accurate, at short distances, with a shorter rod than it is using a longer, over gunned, one. This time I used my 9ft feeder (picker) rod with a 30g flat backed method feeder. Fishing in open water, about twenty meters out, I found I could cast very accurately. By using a tree on the opposite bank as a marker, and locking my arm across my body in the same place every time before the line hits the clip, I was landing in the same spot on virtually every cast, a first for me. This seemed to make a difference. I was landing fish on every cast I could have made a good weight if I was counting but the action was fast and furious and did not seem to slow down. By now I had proved to myself that I should really go for the feeder for match fishing next time. I will continue to hone my pole technique, but I have a lot to learn still and I am far more confident on the feeder.

just under here
Whilst all this catching was going on I noticed a few fish had been stirring up the bottom right under my feet, very close in. I filled a feeder and dropped it in complete with a lump of meat on the hair. BANG! SNAP! no sooner had I dropped the feeder in and the hookbait had freed itself from the groundbait, the fish had taken it and headed for open water like a rocket. I realised that there could have only been a few inches of line between the rod tip and the fish. This plus the fact that the drag was set as it would be normally, reasonably tight, I had no chance of controlling the fish. I tried again, this time with the drag slackened off. Same thing but this time the line paid out allowing the fish to bolt off. I gently tightened the drag and landed what turned out to be a nice small mirror carp.

Gotcha! A nice little mirror carp for a change
So far I had achieved my goals for the day with one thing left to try; the so-called simple art of touch ledgering. This has to be one of the simplest techniques there is. A hook is tied directly to the main line and baited. The idea is the bait is cast out and the line is either run over the index finger of the right hand (I am right handed) or held lightly between finger and thumb of the left hand.

I tried some 'pork pie' paste, as hook bait, that I found in the freezer. I had been using it to make Frylies at the end of last year. I wrapped a lump around the hook and flattened it out to make a reasonably large lump around a No.12 hook. I tried it in the margins with no success. I could feel nothing on the line. I tried making the lump of paste bigger and smaller but nothing seemed to be interested in my offering. I then made an underarm cast out of just a few meters and I could see the bait start to make its decent to the bottom, just as the line was tightening the bait was taken and a reasonable size F1 became the first 'victim' of my journey into touch ledgering. I did catch a few fish using this method but it was more by luck than skill. I could not feel anything on the line until the take. I will need to refine this further...

Salami stick bait
In the mould
Covered with Two Dog mix
feeder pushed into mould
Ready for launch!
Back on the feeder for the last couple of hours gave me the chance to try out a few different hook baits. At Monk Lakes a couple of weeks ago, I tried some stick salami. A supermarket own-brand version of Peperoni sticks. These I punched and hair rigged in a similar fashion to my normal hook bait; Plumrose Bacon Grill. I had very little success with it at Monk Lakes and gave up using it. Today I tried it again. This time I ripped the small dumbbell-shaped pieces, the punching process had made, in half. This produces a bait with a flat base and a rough top. I filled the feeder with groundbait over the hook and bait, making it visible and on the top of the groundbait when released from the mould.  With a single fill of groundbait the hook bait would come away from the feeder almost immediately the feeder hit the water (see picture sequence above).  Within seconds I was playing a fish. I thought at first this must have been a fluke. I tried it again and again with a take every time. Whatever is in this salami stuff these F1s are loving it.

Mmmm, salami!
I had a brilliant day at the lake. Time passed very quickly and I had learnt a lot. One thing that was not so good was my experimental securing method I was trailing to hold the Push Stops on the rig by melting a blob on the end of the hair. My thinking had been that the bait is not going to be under any strain from the fish so the securing to the hair it did not need to be overly resilient. What I had not taken into account was the strain put on it by the fish thrashing around in the landing net. This was causing the stop to snap the blob free from the hair and result in losing it along with the bait. I will now be cutting the hairs from the couple of dozen hooklengths I have left  unused, that were done this way, and retying the stops on some new lengths. I will use the hairless lengths for directly hooked baits.

Being the autumn equinox, the light was starting to go and the temperature was on a downward trajectory, a sign that summer was over and the nights would start to close in from now on It was time to go home, totally satisfied with my day.