Friday, 5 May 2017

Snap, bang wallop!

Hmmm... Where's the hook?
My first reels were supplied filled with 12lb line and my hook lengths were all tied with size 12,14 and 16 hooks. I had great fun fishing with that gear and I am sure if I had been using lighter line at the time I would not have been able to land my first fish. Since then I have been working towards using lighter tackle. Last time out I discovered the error of using too lighter hooks, having my B911 hooks 'modified' by the inhabitants of Jeff's Lake. Today, I was using stronger B911x hooks, only to have my line break or in one case, have a spade hook pull out of one of my earlier attempts at tying spade hooks to line. This is less likely to happen these days as I have got better at tying hooks. Everything gets better with practice. I have also been using my ZT-Pro hook tying station that not only ties perfect hooklengths every go, but they are produced in a fraction of the time it takes me to tie them by hand.

The whole line/hook/reel/rod balance thing starts to make far more sense as time goes on, but the how, where and what also play a big part in the mix. What may be the correct line for one job may be totally inadequate for another. This may sound obvious but making those choices for the inexperienced is hard without any guidance. Today I discovered several things for myself but also had some help from my match fishing mate Brian. It was Brian that helped me out with getting the groundbait to the correct consistency nearly two years ago, see HERE. Just simple 'adjustments' to my casting technique, pointed out by Brian, made so much difference, things I did not realise I was doing wrong or not doing at all can only be spotted by someone who knows, watching me and actually saying something is wrong. A few hours with someone like Brian can make all the difference and I am most appreciative of his support and advice.

Twelve hours of fishing to come - Great stuff!
The light mornings and evenings are back and although the weather is not what you would call glorious, it is fairly dry and not too cold out of the breeze. The fact that the gates are now open until 19:00 means I can get the best part of twelve hours fishing in. Knowing a venue also helps, having fished here for over two years now. I wanted to try out some techniques and tackle on the lake we hold our friendly matches on, and I know the sunny side of the lake is not where the best pegs are but that is the whole point, if it works here, it will work on any peg. Talking of which, I have had several poor pegs in the draw recently and this week, when I had to pull out at the last minute, I was drawn on peg 3, probably one of the best pegs on the lake. In case you were wondering, the draw is done the night before by the fishery bailiffs, who film the event in case of any dispute. A bit like the FA Cup draw, but with a slightly smaller audience.

I walked into the office to pay my day ticket to a warm welcome and some light hearted banter about only being two days late for the match. Dax, the fishery cat came bounding over and demanded some attention, ignoring Andy who was bemoaning the fact that the cat takes no notice of him. Dax's job is to stop the rodents eating the bait, mind you I am not sure that is very cost effective as all the pellet tubs seem to be filled (emptied?) to the same level, that is just about as far as Dax can reach in from the floor. There is a cat food called 'Dax' that looks like fishing pellets, maybe that is where his name comes from...

I walked out of the office and and that air of calm came over me at the start of another day of piece and quiet. Fishing is still an adventure for me. Most of my life both working and home has been spent pursuing indoor activities. Being here thirty-odd miles away from home and intending to spend the next twelve hours out in the open is brilliant - so long as it doesn't rain, and even if it does, it will not be the end of the world.

First fish on the 'new' old rod - A lively little roach
Enough of that, now down to the fishing. Some time ago, I was given a few older rods to try. I have used one of them several times and had great fun with it. During the past week I have dug out another one. This is a thirteen foot long Silstar 3861 match rod. I fitted it with a small FS reel loaded with 6lb line and a light 3-4lb hook length tied to a Kamasan B911x size 18 spade hook. My plan was to use it to fish for whatever would go for a single maggot. After picking a spot and plumbing the depth I cast out and fed a few live maggots over the top. First out was a small roach, then a very slightly bigger one and then a fish just 4oz below (or maybe 4½ oz below) the record!

Only a few ounces below the record...
Don't get too excited we are talking gudgeon here. The UK record for gudgeon is a staggering 5 oz. I don't think I have caught anything bigger than ½ oz, but they are feisty little fish and one of my favourite species. The fishing continues and the fish were getting bigger and more varied. Perch and skimmers also fell foul of the small hook hidden by the maggot. Then, all of a sudden there was a tug and a violent bend of the rod to prelude a flying float being launched from the depths by what must have been an F1 doing a runner! Hook held this time but the hook length was not up to a F1's sudden flight.

Just as the silvers were starting to get bigger, the F1s stole the show
I was not expecting to find an F1 just yet but they will go for anything, it seems and once they are there, nothing else seems to stand a chance. At this point I decided to give it a rest and moved to the Method feeder rod and my Two Dog groundbait. As usual the fish were falling over themselves to join me on the bank. I tried a few different hook-baits including pellet, corn and multiple maggot all producing bites but it was the trusty Bacon Grill that really gets 'em biting - almost immediately and sometimes even on the way down. It can get a bit boring just hauling them out, although it always amuses me how many people fish this lake and hardly catch anything. After a while I can feel the others watching me and the mutterings of "He's got another one!"

A pair of Robins eating maggots!
The nice thing about a day like today is there is plenty of time to look around at the wildlife. Robins are a constant companion at Beaver, like they seem to be at most fisheries, and I enjoy spending a few minutes enjoying their company and feeding them a few maggots. Mrs M. seems to only have a couple of ducklings this year. Perhaps she is having a bit of a rest after running around all last spring and summer chasing a brood of twelve!

Mrs M. and her twins
The fish were starting to look like they might come up in the water so I decided to give my new toy another try. I had used the Sodafloat last time out but had found that some of my experimental bait was not 'unloading' as well as I would have liked. This, as I said, is not the fault of the float but my under estimation of how viscous the fill needed to be. This time I had plans to use all sorts of particles and maggots. I started off using corn and once I got the hook-to-float length right (about 24 inches) I was pulling them out on every chuck. Brian had arrived by now and we discussed the ins and outs of this newfangled feeder float and both agreed it had some merit.

Brian had to leave to get some work done on his van and Just as he did, I lost my new toy. It was time to learn another lesson. Fishing for F1's on a feeder float is fine until they get excited and then the rate of capture increases dramatically. So does the ferocity of the take and the speed at which I was trying to get back out there. I cast out rapidly without readjusting the drag. The float hit the water and it was immediately snatched away with such force the the mainline snapped. The float was attached to the line using a pellet waggler adapter so it will stay with the fish until it snags and then it will just slide off the remains of the line or as I suspect, the fish will just shed the hook in the reads and the float will spend the rest of its days tangled in the reeds.

Lesson learnt, time to re-load some heavier line on the reel for this work. I know I had left the drag tight but even though I had the rod in my hand I did not have time to react. If I had been using heaver line I am sure I would have landed that fish. Although I had another Sodafloat with me, I was not going to risk getting cracked off again so that was the end of my experimenting for another session.

Fishing just off the tip of my vintage Silstar rod with a very visible float
By now the fish were feeding up in the water. By fish I mean the F1s. A few maggots thrown into the lake was producing a flurry of activity on the surface. I went back to my vintage rod and attached a stronger hook length. I know roughly what the depth is in the spot I was fishing and I set my hook to float length at about what I thought to be two thirds depth. Using a bagging float with a large bulbous top gave me something to spot in the flurry of activity that was following every cast. Cast might be a bit of an exaggeration as I was now fishing only a few feet beyond the rod tip.

The F1s are a decent size now in Jeff's Lake
One after the other I was catching fish by leaving the drag set very light and letting the fish bolt off applying light finger pressure to the reel to slow the fish, while steadily increasing the drag. This seemed to work well and I was landing every bite on Guru OM1 size 16 and 6lb hooklength. The shape of the OM1 seems to be almost impossible for the fish to eject. once it has sucked it in it will not cone out without hooking the fish perfectly. Great hook for this fast and furious fishing.

All too soon it was time to pack up and go home. A great day for fish, a great day for some good company and a great day for learning something new. The remains of my bait, apart from the maggots, was fed to the ducks as nothing goes to waste. The maggots are destined for 'processing' into casters, but that is another story I will report on next week...