Saturday, 29 April 2017

Cracking the whip!

Stationary on the M25 - Great!
Monday - The perfect day to go fishing. I used to hate Mondays when I was a kid. It meant going back to school, not that I hated school because I didn't. What it also meant though was the weekend had come to an end, no more freedom, no more exploring the last of the bomb sites, no more terrorising the locals. There were seven boys in our house and we spent most of our time outside Even so fishing was something we were never close to. We lived too far from the river and docks for that to be a venue. The Surrey Canal was derelict and being filled in and the only place I knew we could fish was Crystal Palace Park which was really just out of our comfort zone as far as a place to go. Monday meant going back to school and being brought under control, being watched all day and no freedom, even in the playground.

These days life is very different, just me and Sue, no kids and no ties. Monday is just like any other day. We work from home and for ourselves so if there is work to be done it can take place at any time on any day - the internet has made all that possible. Monday can be a workday or a fishing day. This week it's a fishing day.

I regard myself as a novice all-rounder. I like all sorts of fishing and although I have not tried any sea fishing or fly fishing yet, I probably will. Currently, my experience has been mainly confined to commercials and the odd trip to the Regent's Canal. My trouble is normally I can't make-up my mind how I am going to fish. Do I take a seatbox and pole, my accessory chair and rods or some of each? That is compounded by the fact that I can take as much gear as I want. I am not restricted for space as I nearly always take the van with me unless I am going to an unknown venue where I might have trouble getting in, in which case I am down to our small estate car that is still enough to take far more tackle than one person can use.

Today was different; I had a plan!

I had some new tackle I wanted to try out. I had some whips and a new feeder float, so it was fairly simple set up. I took my accessory chair, my small bowl and hoop, a few bank sticks and a bait waiter sitting on a tripod... I also took some rods, whips and a good selection of end tackle. Having so little gear meant I was loaded and away in good time. It was a nice bright morning with little traffic in town meaning I was on the motorway in record time. As I went down the hill approaching the point where the A21 continues down towards Hastings, the traffic started to thicken and slow. Bother!  (well, words to that effect).

Solid traffic that actually comes to a standstill at 06:30 in the morning is never a good sign. Thinking that I was going to be late, I was getting a little miffed when all of a sudden it all started moving. Why does it do that? Drives me nuts. Now I am off down to the A22. As I approach one of the roundabouts a black Mercedes cuts me up and squeezes past me. In the past, I would never have let that happen. I could easily have driven him into the roundabout but today I just let him go and muttered a few obscenities under my breath. I followed him down to the point at which I turn off for the fishery only to see him do the same. As I turned in after him I think he must have thought I was going to have words, as he sped off through the fishery not stopping at the office. I didn't see him again, but it made me chuckle.

looking from my peg straight out in front of me
Nobody to my left...
...or to my right
Good, Jeff's lake was empty and I had the pick of the place. I decided to fish from the same peg I was drawn in the match a few weeks ago. I blanked here that day. With a desire to put that right I put out a couple of loaded feeders full of Two Dog. The third one carried a hook bait and within twenty seconds of hitting the water, I was playing the first fish of the day.

First fish of the day fell to the feeder
It turned out to be the first of many. I was catching fish on every chuck usually within a minute of the feeder hitting the water. I know it is much easier in non-match conditions, but the water was far more coloured than it has been and I could see the clouds of sediment being put up by rummaging fish. There was also a lot more activity going on as the day went on. Fish were topping and there were lots of bubbles and swirls evident in the areas I had been loose feeding maggots and corn.

Now I had proved to myself that they had let the fish out today, I put the feeder rod to one side and picked up my new-to-me 3m whip. With fine line a number 20 size hook I was targeting silvers. I baited up with a single red maggot and flicked it out to the spot where I had carefully plumbed the depth and let the bait settle. No sooner the float's bristle had come to rest, it was pulled under. A gentle but positive lift set the hook into that unmistakable vibration of a small roach.

My first whip - caught roach.
 Feeding and flicking the bait into the same area was paying off. I was catching a good number of roach and they were getting bigger. I changed bait for a single caster and caught a small perch. Then with the next cast, the whip was almost snatched from out of my hand, I had hooked something much bigger. I probably reacted too strongly because as suddenly as it was there it was gone. on inspection, the hook had been bent almost straight. rather than changing the hook length I thought I would have a go at reshaping the hook. This I did and it looked all right to me so I baited up and cast again. Blimey! I was into another bigger fish. I guess that the activity of the smaller fish had now brought in the bigger fish to see what was going on. This time I tried to play the fish a bit more gently almost following it around. It must have taken a good ten minutes to land, but land it I did.Not the biggest fish I have ever caught but certainly the most entertaining. That feeling of knowing it could be lost at any minute, and resisting the temptation to try and pull too hard is great. Eventually, I managed to net it.
A decent sized F1 caught on light gear and a whip - great fun!
At this point, the fish were obviously feeding up in the water and I thought I would give the new feeder float a try. I had it set up on 6lb line with a 4lb hook length and a number 16 hook set 12 inches away from the float. As a start, I filled the feeder with corn and hooked a single kernel on the hook. A couple of chucks produced nothing. I reduced the number of kernels I loaded the feeder with and had a couple of touches but still no serious bites. I then increased the hook to float distance by 6 inches to 18 inches. First, chuck and it was fish on almost immediately.

The new Sodafloat comes in its own tube
Now I had found the fish, a few corn kernels in the feeder and one on the hook was producing fish after fish. I wanted to try some other feed bait in the new float and I had brought along some of my Special Corn Custard. This is a kin to that Chinese takeaway favourite Special Fried Rice, in as much as it is my usual Corn Custard recipe (See HERE) with added dead maggots - lovely! I filled the float with the custard and baited the hook with a single maggot. It cast nicely and settled. I waited... Nothing. On inspection five minutes later the float was still almost full of custard. Okay, not the float's fault but it shows the custard needs to be thinned somewhat to be an effective bait for use in this float. I tried groundbait and so long as it is loose it works fine as do maggots, although I found it more effective when only loaded with about half a dozen.  Pellets work well, but make sure they are heavy enough to sink or they will stay in the float!

First victim of the Sodafloat
First impressions with the Sodafloat are good. It will be a learning curve and I intend to use it next week in the match, so long as conditions are good. I will also continue to experiment with it over the coming weeks and I will write a review once I have given it a good airing.

The final hour or so gave me a chance to try out yet another of my new acquisitions. A new tele-pole. This time a very expensive one... well it was for this cheap-scape. My original cheap tele-pole had given me hours of fun. In fact, I had used it earlier today until an over-enthusiastic fish decided to run off with my hook, float, line and a Stonfo connector! I am sure it will throw the hook as it was only a tidily number 20 hook. So I got my brand new 5m elasticated whip out and hooked on a small float to have a go in the margins. Now I did say expensive, it cost me all of £12.95 including delivery. I was not expecting anything flash but I must say, it is far stiffer and lighter than my original one.
Wow! that is the best £12.95 I have spent - look, mum, no sag!
Time was getting on and I only had about half an hour with it but it was coping with F1s with no trouble and I could land them fairly quickly too.  A look at my watch and it was getting on for 18:30. Eleven plus hours of fishing had gone in a flash and it was time to head home. I had the best day of the year so far today and I can't wait for the match next week - surely I will be able to catch a few fish this time, I don't want to be last again.


Saturday, 22 April 2017

I was thinking about going fishing today...

...but changed my mind as I try and avoid weekend stints at commercials. Instead I will stay here and tell you about a few odd repairs I have done recently, tell you about a new feeder float I intend to try out on Monday...

I have been having great fun with my cheap telescopic pole/whip that I elasticated. Wanting to experiment further, I was looking for a proper whip or two. Not wanting to spend a King's ransom on a full set of quality whips, I have been keeping my eyes peeled for some second had ones, just to see if I liked the slightly different style of fishing. Several months of watching the eBay listings bore no fruit, at least none that I wanted to eat.

Then my mate Mick decided to have a clear out and asked if there was anything anyone on the Maggot Drowning forum was after. Amongst his treasures he found a few bits I had asked him for. I have been looking, very half-heartedly, for a 4000 size reel for feeder fishing. Tick! On enquiring as to if he had any flick tip whips, he said he did. The net result was a selection of whips and a reel. Mick also gave me a 8 meter telle/put-over whip with a few 'issues'. One of the top sections had a fracture crack and had lost some of the top coating.

A double layer of shrink-wrap tubing does the trick
The number two section was split and a bit 'crunchy' at about the halfway mark. I did think about a full carbon repair as I have done before (See HERE) but decided I would try something a bit simpler, a heat-shrink wrap. A decent length was slid over the damaged area and heated to shrink it. A hot-air gun, set to the cooler heat, is the ideal tool but most decent hair-dryers will do the job. The area was allowed to cool completely. A second shorter length of the same size tubing was slid over the first and shrunk to make a second layer over the centre of the joint. This puts more pressure on the first sleeve making the joint perfectly strong enough for the job in hand. 

Removing the imprint on the shrink tubing to make the joint look better
The imprint is easily removed with a alcohol-based spirit such as isopropanol or mentholated spirit, leaving the repair looking neat and tidy. Okay, this is not the way to mend an expensive pole section but for this cheap whip it is the perfect answer.

Mind your fingers!
The other problem that seems to beset these cheap tele-poles is the end cap gets lost. This was the case with this pole. Sue suggested using one of the tops to the plastic, wide-mouth fruit juice bottles I keep my pellets in. As luck would have it, once the thread was removed, it was a perfect fit Instant and cheap, this repair will give this giant whip/pole a new lease of life and a bit of fun to have a play with something that has been brought back into use.

Perfect fit
I am off fishing on Monday and I will try out one or two of my new whips and poles. I also have bought one of the new Sodafloats to try. It looks good but the real test will be to see if it helps me catch any fish, we will see.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

At Last - Fish!

A few days ago, a mate who lives down on the coast in Kent offered me some gear that I was interested in. I suggested I would drive down and collect it. As it turned out, he said he was fishing near Sittingbourne and if I liked he would take it there saving me a few miles driving. He was fishing at The Willows Angling Centre, formally Bax Farm Fishery. Those of you who have been with me from the beginning will know this is the first place I ever went fishing back in September 2014. Although I did return a couple of times, I have not been back for a couple of years.

The fishery is under new ownership and over the past couple of years they have made a lot to improvements to the venue. A huge amount of work has been done to make it a better place to fish and to improve the tackle shop. The original specimen Lake has been enlarged and restocked with a good selection of fish to 30lb. There is a good mix of fish in Pan lake and The Stream is stocked with fish for the matchman and pleasure angler. It was here that my mate and his cronies were fishing their match.

Farm Lake - A bit choppy today
I thought it would be fun to fish Farm Lake, which was the lake I fished on that first day. The lake has been netted and restocked since then. It now has a good stock of fish all small, but great fun to catch.

I had decided to lob a cage feeder plugged with Two Dog groundbait holding in about ten maggots with a red on the hook. You have to be quick as they will be out of the cage before it is cast, so it is hook bait first, then fill the cage and cast. I managed to drop the feeder just short of the little island of reeds. A finger on the reel, feathered the cast and it entered the water with a satisfying plop - Perfect! - Even if I do say it myself.  I gave it thirty seconds and gently pulled it back about a foot (the length of my hook length) to place the hook bait amongst the small pile of groundbait and maggots. No sooner had I settled the rod in the rest it was off. A good whip around and a lot of tugging ensued. What ever it was it was not going to grace us with its presence without a fight. It turned out to be the smallest mirror carp I think I have ever caught, but it really did put up a scrap for such a little fish.

This little mirror carp fought like mad to resist being landed and photographed - but failed! 
I continued to catch baby carp and F1s for a while until it all went quiet in that spot. At this point I changed tactics. Somebody on the Maggot Drowning forum had been talking about hooking banded pellets to improve presentation of the bait. Personally I was not sure about this but I thought I would have a go. I filled the feeder once again and instead of using maggots I changed to pellet; moistened 4mm pellet mixed with Two Dog in the cage feeder and a 6mm pellet banded to a hair. This was producing results for a while and that too dried up.

To give that a bit if a rest I changed to my short, 4.5m (after elasticating) whip/pole thingie. This has to be the cheapest bit of kit I own but it never fails to deliver bundles of fun and excitement if I hook anything over a few ounces in weight. Today was no different, first cast landed a small roach who could not resist a single white maggot, then another and another culminating in one large enough to photograph.     

Yes it is a roach - it got me wondering for a bit. I find small silver fish hard to identify
I decided to go back on the feeder and try the hooked pellet again. The cage was filled just as before and I hooked the banded pellet to hold it on the bend of the hook.

Hooked, banded 6mm pellet
I cast into the same area I had been fishing earlier and caught a fish immediately, and another and again. To be honest there was no obvious difference between hooking the pellet and not, as far as I could see. However, this was only the first time I tried it and I will give it a go in future to see if it makes a difference if the fish are playing hard to get.

Feeder fishing this small lake was continuing to be far too easy. I was catching fish every chuck and usually on the drop. Time to try the waggler rod. A few minutes plumbing up to be just off bottom paid off with some fun fishing. A huge No.12 hook and a couple of maggots produced the first of many small  F1s.   

There are a ton of small fish in this lake and the first F1succumbed to a couple of maggots
I continued to fish the same spot, alternating between the waggler and my short pole, changing the bait between various combinations of maggot when I landed a very pale skimmer on the pole. It was almost white. I have never seen one this light in colour before.

A decent sized skimmer for this lake, but what a light colour
As time went on, I continued to fish alternating between the feeder and the waggler. The fishing was now being done between stopping to chat to the odd visitor. A friend of mine, John, who lives relatively locally dropped in to have a chat with me and Mick, who was fishing a match on the stream. John also had some trolley wheels and tyres for me he kindly dropped off - but that is another story! My brother, Tim lives locally and he also popped in to say hello on his way home to bed after finishing a night-shift.

I was joined on the lake by a dad and a couple of young lads. They set up waggler rods and set about trying to catch a fish. As I pulled out fish after fish the lads kept complaining to their dad and saying "he's caught another one!" I was thinking about offering the lads a go with the cheap whip, as I had got that off to a fine art by then, when they upped sticks and went. A little while later the bailiff came around and said they could not understand why they had caught nothing when the bloke on the other side of the lake (me) was catching lots of fish... I must have learnt something in the past couple of years since I fished here last.

As the afternoon drew on, the wind got up and it became quite blustery. I decided to re-plumb the shallow margin and see what was lurking about in the reeds. The fish were still taking the bait, more maggots on the hook and a few dropped in as loose feed. This lake just keeps on producing these small fish. if you are looking for something bigger, then pick one of the other lakes for the next couple of years until this lot grow up a bit. I had a really good fun day and I liked the mini fish, especially the little mirrors of which I caught lots and lots. I gave up counting very early on but I must have had well over a hundred fish out over the day. My favourite catch of the day has to be this perfect linier carp only just slightly bigger than my hand.  

Perfect little fellow - I bet he will go on to be one of the prised fish in this lovely little lake
During the couple of years I have been away from this venue a lot has changed. It was fairly scruffy last time I went but today it was looking very neat and tidy and one of the bailiffs was out on the mower making sure it was looking its best. One of my dislikes about the venue was its open position with no shelter from the wind on some of the lakes. This is being addressed with the planting of trees all over the site. Obviously this will not make much difference immediately but it will help in the future.

Next to Farm Lake a new lake is being dug so they are not sitting on their bums letting the world go buy. The improvements already made to the specimen lake are impressive and although that is not really my style of fishing, I am sure that is where the money is as they now run a booking scheme for longer sessions.

The Stream 'lake' is a section of the stream, that runs through the site, which has been widened to about 14m to allow pole fishing the far bank as fishing is only permitted from one side. It makes a great match venue and has the advantage of being low down on the site which affords better shelter from the wind.

I will be back soon and with a bit of luck, as it is almost walking distance from where Tim lives, I will get my reluctant 'little' brother out to join me, once he gets off of the permanent night shifts he is doing at the moment.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Blankety Blank

No, not the television show but the only way to describe six hours of sitting on my box. It had to happen one day not a single fish during the match. First match of the year and I was so looking forward to it. Nice weather, good drive down in the daylight, had all the right gear but not a single fish in six hours.

A nice April day, shame there were no fish to play with...
The day started well. It was one of those days when the alarm went off just as I was about to wake and getting out of bed was easy. The fact that it was still trying to be dark outside and the sun was just starting to chase the black of the night, away always helps. By 05:30, as I was loading the van, it was really starting to become light and that timid first light was fighting with the street lights for supremacy of the sky. As I opened the back doors of the van the light flooded in to reveal the fact that my van-keeping is not what it should be. Never mind, nobody can see but me. Van loading went on at a pace and we were off. We? Yes, Me, Jane and the family of spiders that live in the void behind the mirrors and spend their entire life making sure the mirrors don't fall out by tying them down. Jane? That's the irritating calm voice of the SatNav. I know, I should know the way to Beaver Fishery by now, but I enjoy the company.

I must get around to giving the back of the van a spring clean...
Thanks to whoever it was that caused the traffic to tail-back along the M25, I sailed through the gates at Beaver a few minutes past 07:00 and made my way to the match office. AKA Jeff's Lake Chalet, When someone hires it for an all-nighter. There, posted on the wall, is the draw. The draw is carried out the night before. I think this is a  hang over from when the matched used to start at 08:00. These days the start time 09:00 but the pre-draw is still in place. Suits me, It always takes me ages to get set up. I drew peg 12. A peg that nobody likes but I have not done too badly from there in the past, but it was not good for me today.

Not a good idea to mix the two
I made the mistake of not really making a plan. I had intended to visit the venue last week to see how the fish were behaving. Having only fished once so far this year I we at a loss as to what should be happening. The warmer weather got me thinking the fish would be more active than they were, so when my tried and tested feeder tactics did not pay off I was stuffed. My efforts to slim down what I take is becoming a real pain. I used to take extra bags of my Two Dog groundbait with me, just in case I needed it or I wanted to give some to someone else. This time I took just what I needed. I poured it into the bowl and promptly added too much water as my collapsible bucket collapsed a little, sloshing in a good splash of water too much. Have I ever done this before when I had a few more kilograms in the van? No. Now I was stuffed the groundbait was far too wet and clung to the feeder like treacle. All I had was half a bag of my green died Surf 'n' Turf mix and that was not dry. I decided to mix the lot together. That made the mix less wet but it was still not right and now it was a mix of all sorts. Well, my theory must be correct. I am convinced that groundbait selects fish by what they dislike, not what they like, Bream and tench are not keen on my Two Dog and Carp are not keen on my Surf 'n' Turf. Conformed. I caught nothing for six hours using a mix of the two.

The water was so clear I could see the end of the empty keep nets
I had taken my pole with me but that was never going to work, I had no bait plan or strategy and I am not very confident with using yet. I just have not had a chance to get practised with it yet. My box was not really set up as well as it could have been and the rollers were not working. All in all it was a mess so I gave up trying. Later in the day a few fish were being caught off the to so I tried with the pellet waggler, nothing. Although I was the only one to blank, there was no huge weight caught with several contestants only weighing in a few pounds. The top weight, caught from what is regarded as one of the best pegs on the lake, was only 38lb 10oz.

After the weigh-in I decided to stay on and fish for a bit longer. I loaded a feeder with the mix of groundbait, which had dried out a bit by now, and cast over to past the halfway mark where I could see a lot of fish. As the feeder hit the water the hooked bait, which was hanging loose, was taken straight away buy a unsuspecting F1. At last a fish!

It was just after 4 o'clock when I caught my first fish of the day
I fished on for a while and caught a few more fish but the fun had gone and I decided to call it a day. Packing up was easy as the van was only a few yards away on the other side of the little bridge that crosses the outflow from the lake back into Eden Brook a few feet below the lake at this end.

Not far to walk so no barrow today
Another poor days fishing for me. A total lack of planning and a muddled approach made for my first match without catching a single fish. Fail to plan, plan to fail. I need to get some time in on the lake before the May match, but that can wait. I am going to try a different venue next week. I am going back to the place where I caught my very first fish. Bax Farm, now under now ownership and renamed The Willows Angling Centre. I have not been back there for a couple of years and the new owners have spent a lot of time and money improving it - should be an interesting day.