Thursday, 29 June 2017

Late start - big mistake!

I managed to squeeze in another day at Beaver today. It was a bit of a last minute decision as I wanted to collect a second hand landing net handle from the tackle shop, I had seen on Saturday. As is usual in this house, nothing is straightforward. As Rabbie Burns wrote (well almost!) The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. By 1:30 AM, I was still mooching about sorting bits and pieces for today's trip and tidying up some loose ends of work. Half an hour later I was ready for bed. I normally leave home about 05:45 after setting the alarm for 05:00.

As I set the alarm on my smart-phone, yes we have arrived in the twenty-first century, it then proceeded to inform me that it will be sounding in two hours and fifty-seven minutes... Groan. I don't need a lot of sleep, but under three hours is not really enough, even for me. I decided to leave a little later and grab an extra hour or so of sleep.

Two hours and fifty-seven minutes later the alarm on my not-so-smart, smartphone went off. If it was that smart it would have realised it was too early to get up and with the afore mentioned words of Rabbie Burns going around and around in my head, like the literary version of a musical ear-worm, I tried to go back to sleep, but to no avail. I laid there for an hour and eventually got up at 06:00. An hour later than usual. By now I was fine. The lack of sleep was now forgotten and I was firing on all four cylinders. I made my coffee, packed my food and the bait from the fridge but left the bread and feed meat behind by mistake. 

Oh bother! - or something similar
The traffic was a bit heaver than usual, but I had expected that. what I did not expect was an almost stationary on-ramp to the M25 at Swanley. Great. Just over two hours after leaving home I arrived at Beaver Fishery, a trip that normally takes well under an hour. 

I nipped into the office via the staff entrance after parking in the spot that says 'Staff Only'. I can be a bit of a revolutionary some times. I bought my two-rod day ticket, paid for the landing net handle and had a moan about the traffic which was received with complete ambivalence, as usual. I didn't care, it just had to be said. There was one very small advantage with being a little later on a Thursday; the bin-lorry was on its way back up the A22 holding up the north-bound traffic. Normally I am sitting in a queue behind it waiting to get past while it is it on its journey south.

Lately I have been going on about how much gear I take fishing. I have tried cutting it down but unless I am specifically attempting to fish a one-rod session, it is not the best idea for me. I have now got a new mantra. Today I took a good selection of gear and decided what I wanted to use when I got there. This is only practical at venues where I can park at the swim. The last thing I want to do is to leave a van half full of tackle unattended. That is just asking for trouble. It is sad that this has to be considered but I am afraid it is a sign of the times we live in. I was fishing a venue in Kent last year and there was a big match being held on an adjacent lake. Parking for the match was behind where I was fishing. a lot of the guys with vans, emptied the contents onto trolleys and left the van doors wide open. I assume this was to show that nothing was left inside and it was not worth breaking in. Not a bad plan as I know with my van I can lock the cab and leave the back and side doors open.

Security issues aside, I stocked the van with far more than I was going to use so I could make a final decision once I was at the venue. Today was a pleasure session so there was no set plan or strict tackle requirement. I had with me a good selection of rods and a selection of cheap tele-poles, plus enough end tackle to set up a market stall!
My swim for the day
Maze Lake was my choice today. I drove through the complex and parked on the hard standing behind the pegs on the East side of the lake. This is a place I have fished many times before. It can be hard going but it is much better than just dragging the fish out one after the other with little or no thought. I had no idea how the lake was going to fish. Earlier on in the year the lake had been stocked up with several hundred pounds of bream that had been moved from the specimen lakes during their complete refurbishment. I was hoping to find some of those. 

First job was to set a sleeper up. I picked a spot and laid a bed of about twenty of my own home made Two Dog boilies. I then cast a chod rig out, over the top, using a pop-up pineapple flavoured boilie as hook bait. With that rig set, I made sure the line-clip was released and left it sitting across a couple of bank sticks with the bait-runner set with minimum drag. I had three carp rods made up, one now in use and another four feeder/float rods also made up. Looking at the water I decided to make up my old vintage Silstar float rod I have been using recently. I really like this rod, it may be old and heavy by today's standard but I seem to get on with it really well. Being 13ft long means I can fish close in with just the lightest of lobs. 

Silvers - lots of 'em
I settled down to a spot of silver bashing and was catching steadily, mainly small roach on maggot. I did manage to catch one perch but he decided to jump straight back into the lake as soon as I had unhooked him! A couple of hours later the silvers were still taking the lime-light while the sleeper rod was living up to its name. I had no bite alarm on the set-up as I was sitting right next to it and there is nothing more annoying to other anglers than the constant bleeping of the buzzer every time something brushes the line or a robin bounces on the rod. the drag was enough to indicate something was interested, but nothing was. 

By lunch time I had not had any interest, so I decided to check the bait. I reeled in and the bait looked exactly the same as it did several hours earlier. At this point I could see no advantage in recasting to the same spot and picked another fishy looking spot, next to the end of a 'finger' of land that extends into the lake. This area is full of overhanging trees, bushes and reeds. I edged my way towards the spot by clipping up and letting out a few more feet of line and casting again until I was about as close as I dare. I cast. The rig hit the overhanding tree branches, fell through straight into the bushes and some how bounced off the reeds and landed a few inches into the margin. I could not do that again even if I was stupid enough to try. The rig was a standard chod rig baited with one of Ringer's 8 mm 'Bandems'  Pellet Wafters, screwed onto one of my home-made bait spikes. These things are intended to be hair rigged on a band, as the name suggests but hold well on a bait spike. 

A nice F1 off the sleeper rod
Having got the rig just where I wanted it, there was no way I was going to retrieve it to check that I had not lost the bait on its way through the trees. I decided to give it an hour and see what happened. I catapulted a few of my Two Dog boilies out there to give the fish something to get them feeding. Within about twenty minutes my faith was rewarded and the line was ripping off the reel. After swinging silvers to hand all morning on a float rod, this felt like something huge. The carp rod was doing its job and I managed to get the fish landed. Nothing spectacular, but a fish none the less, this decent sized F1was the biggest fish I had caught for a while.

I rebated with a new wafter, the original one was still on the spike, but I thought it had done its job and a fresh one would impart a stronger fresh scent. I was not so daring this time and dropped the wafter about a foot short of the undergrowth, I can't be that lucky twice in a row.

Now the fish seemed to have woken up it was out with the method feeder. The fish seem to like the Two Dog boilies so it made sense to try the Two Dog groundbait on the feeder. Baited with a decent lump of punched Bacon Grill, I set about casting to a spot just to the side of a patch of lilly pads. I didn't have to wait too long to get a bite and sure enough the method was getting bites. Admittedly, only small F1s but a bite is a bite. Surprisingly I saw none of the bream, that have been introduced to the lake, all day.

For the last hour or so, I left the sleeper rod out and had a go at the margin. I had been feeding the margin with the odd handful of maggots, corn, meat and groundbait all afternoon on the hope of attracting some bigger fish. I dropped a feeder in a spot where the bank dropped away steeply and I was getting line bites straight away. Just as I was thinking this was looking promising, the top of the rod bent double and I had a decent fish on the hook. I have tried this before and when there is so little line between the rod and the fish it is hard to control the fish without it breaking off. This time the drag was set to allow the fish to take line. The trouble was it was set tight enough to give enough resistance to spook the fish and it headed straight into the reeds. I was stuck, the line was solid. I tried to walk along the bank to give another angle of attack but to no avail. I could see the nice new medium size, 30g feeder that had run up the line, as it should, just long enough to say goodbye as the line broke and sent it to the depths. 

Ta-dah! Best fish of the day
Okay, not deterred by this I decided to try again but this time with the drag wound out to almost nothing. Again a lot of activity and then the bite. This time the fish ran to open water and I was able to control it. After a long careful battle I managed to land a very well appreciated mirror. Not the biggest fish on the planet but a decent size for me and my biggest fish of the year so far.

With that is was time to pack up and set off home. Another good day at the lake. This time I had the right gear I only used three rods all day. I had given myself the option to fish whatever seemed to be right for the day. I am still planning to have a go at surface fishing using dog mixers, and had the conditions been different I would have done so today but just like Saturday, the only thing interested in my floaters were the moorhens and I am sure they would not appreciate one laced with a hook. 

Very strange. The one on the end looks different. I wonder if he is a hanger-on
One of the funniest things that happened today was the goose procession. When I arrived they were sitting on one of the 'fingers' of land that give Maze Lake its name. Then all of a sudden they all took to the water and went for a circuit of the lake. All very orderly and with a sense of purpose. They did this a couple of time during the day, I have no idea why. I enjoy watching the bird-life at Beaver, after a while the birds grow in confidence and will sit all around waiting for scraps. Having lived in London all my life, it is really nice to sit there interacting with nature that is not so easily accessible in the High Street! I will finish this post with this picture of a confused robin wondering how he was going to carry all his shopping home.

How am I supposed to pick all those up as well?

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Fry-day on Saturday

After a week of sweltering, record-breaking whether here in London, I decided I needed some relaxation in the relative cool of an overcast day at the lake with a selection of tackle. For the past few weeks I have been fishing 'light', taking minimum tackle with the idea of keeping it simple. This practice backfired last Wednesday, as you may have read HERE. Today I was not going to be restricted for choice.

On Wednesday the fish were taking floating bait and cruising around just under the surface. I had a float rod and that was it. It was a breezy day and I was struggling to keep the float stationary even using a long waggler. Today I was not going to be so restricted. Space not being a problem, I packed the van with a good selection of rods, my favourite cheap 5m tele-pole, and a good selection of bait. My aim was to try grabbing the fish off the top with some surface bait. I had a couple of new baits, for me, mini marshmallows and dog mixer biscuits. I also had bread with me. To cope with the huge fish I was going to be hauling out of The Major's Lake, I had packed a carp rod, or three.

As you may have gathered I was off to Beaver Fishery today. The variety of fishing there is great, currently spread over eight lakes and ponds, everything from a well stocked runs lake where your are guaranteed a fish, an idyllic pond with roach, tench, perch and the odd big carp, to the two specimen lakes where you can catch big carp in one and enormous moggies in the other. I usually avoid commercials at the weekend but today I was planning on fishing one of the less 'inhabited' parts of the fishery. I got there about twenty minutes before the gate opens at 07:00 to find five or six cars queuing already. I was not too bothered by this as I was fairly confident that my chosen spot was not going to be inundated with people, and I was right. I had the bank to myself.

The Major's Lake was not going to give up its fish to me today...
I have fished here several times in the past and had a good selection of fish from reasonable bream, tench and perch as well as a good selection of roach and other small silvers. The plan was to put out a sleeper rod over to the island and collect the odd fish trying to keep out of the way. While the other rod was 'sleeping' I had a little go with the tele-pole while soaking some mixers ready for a session of picking 'em off the top a bit later in the day.

I threw a few mixers in just to see if anything was interested. To my surprise, they started zipping about and fizzing. At first I thought there was something in the mixers reacting with the water, the reaction was so vigorous, closer inspection revealed they were being attacked by hundreds (thousands even!?) of fry, I have never seen so many. Lots of fry, but no bigger fish showing any interest. In fact the only interest shown was by the local population of Moorhen; mum (I assume) and a couple of chicks. The chicks were hiding in a clump of reeds to my left and soon recognised the plop of mixer into water meant a free lunch. None of the mixers lasted more than a few seconds before they were 'rescued' by one of the chicks. At this point I realised that floater fishing was out for today, at least in this spot.

I discovered by bitter experience there is not much point in trying to relocate on a Saturday so I decided to just stay put and try a spot of feeder fishing instead. I was now feeling very smug about deciding to bring a good selection of gear. The carp rods went back in the van and the feeder rods came out. Well, I say feeder rods but my short feeders are called 'Picker' rods. Even now after two and a half years plus, I am still baffled by the total lack of standardisation in fishing. Rods, reels, line and hooks all seem to vary from make to make. I am sure they only do it to confuse me! At 9ft and 8ft, give or take a bit, they are ideal for this sort of fishing and allow me to cast easier in confined places. It is all very well being in an idyllic setting but I am always mindful of the tree Gods about me, attempting to claim my end tackle.

I left the sleeper rod out for a couple of hours at a time, checking the chod rig and hooking a fresh PVA mesh bag full of boilies, particles and groundbait each time. To cut a long story short - that did nothing. I saw the odd fish break the surface but not a sign of anything on that rod all day.

I also caught next to nothing on the feeder or the tele-pole. I caught about three fish, none of which required the landing net so the nets were still dry when it was time to pack up. I hardly saw any fish action, other than the fry, but it seems most people were reporting the same. I am wondering if the fish were still recovering after spawning. Someone said it was probably the air pressure but I don't know. I need to study these sort of things a bit more to give me a better chance of 'reading' the water and conditions with a more informed eye.

Fish or no fish I had a great day experimenting and feeding the wild fowl while taking in all the nature around me. I even managed to practise my Spanish by having a short siesta in the afternoon...

...Siesta is Spanish for nap, you know!


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Longest day of the year...

It is also on track to be the hottest day here in the UK in over 40 years. I remember the summer of 1976 it was hot and I was working in a printer's studio in the East End of London. As I was the 'New Boy' I was stuck with any darkroom work. The dark room was an old cupboard that still housed the hot water cylinder - it must have been 200º in there!

Today I went to Oakley Road Fishery (ORF) and I am pleased I did. By lunchtime it was so hot I had already drunk all my drink - all two litres of it! As the fishery is only a few miles away and with a day ticket cost of only £7.00 (That is cheap for down here in the South East) I was not bothered about packing up after six or seven hours. There is no way I was going to sit there and fry in sun-block.

I have been on a mission in recent months to take less gear with me. Well, it may be laudable to try and fish with minimum gear but I think I may have taken this a bit to far. Today, I left home at about 07:30, so no great rush, and arrived at ORF by 08:00. I could have got there earlier but there is no real advantage in that when I am just planning a sit by the lake with some fishing thrown in. I had taken just one rod and one reel. My 13ft 'vintage' (ish!) Silstar match rod and a medium sized Greys fixed spool reel. Bait was limited to just maggots, casters and pellets. I only had a minimal amount of end tackle. In fact. everything I had with me I could easily carry in one go.

Initially I was going to take a couple of feeder/picker rods with me but, in a last minute change of heart, I decided to leave them behind, working on my minimal gear idea. Although I had left the rods behind I had earlier packed some feeders and groundbait that I still had with me. This was advantageous, as it turned out.

There has been some talk recently on the ORF Facebook page regarding the impending arrival of Doug Anderson, all the way from Australia. I knew he had been here for over a week now so I was not sure if I was going to meet this mystery member of Oakley Royalty. I needn't have worried as sitting in the opulent surroundings of the fishery's office was Doug himself. He welcomed me warmly and I introduced myself as "Ralph, the bloke with the blog". To my surprise, his eyes lit up and he said he had actually read it. Blimey, I thought I was the only one who actually reads my waffle...

I made my way around the lake to the other side, the water is apparently deeper over there. I found a spot between a couple of very large and well established silver birch trees. Casting is awkward from there with a 13ft rod, even from the seated position and me and the tree Gods have never seen eye-to-eye about the sacrifice of tackle. Nevertheless, I set about plumbing the depth and yes it is a bit deeper at this end but not by very much. For a few hours I had the top of the lake to myself and set about fishing for whatever came along. The first fish to come and say hello was a small rudd. There are lots of rudd around and they are a sucker for a single maggot or caster.

First fish of the day
There was a lot of tow in the lake and there was a fairly strong breeze for the first few hours. Out with the long wagglers. This did slow the drift down a bit but it is not ideal. The bait must have been just trailing/dragging along behind probably spooking more fish than it was attracting. The fish were not really interested in the bottom as fish were topping all over the place. Hmmm... My 'going light' plan is proving to be a pain. Where I would usually have a van full of gear to fall back on I was completely under-gunned. If I had put some extra bait in I could have stripped the end tackle and just free-lined a floating bait but that was not an option. This lack of tackle was made even more apparent when Doug, who was fishing down the bank, called me over to show me the fish he had just hooked off the surface using nothing more than a hook and dog biscuits. I rushed over to where he was fishing to see what turned out to be a carp of about 10lb.

Doug with the carp off the top I sent down to him...
Back at the birches, I continued to fish varying the depth trying to find some fish. I found all sorts of silvers including some more rudd, roach and a few skimmers but no carp. I was happy, at least I was catching fish.

Look I caught a fish bigger than Doug's - at least in the picture!
Just as I was settling down to catching a few more Doug was into another carp. This one was Bigger than the last and was giving his landing net a bit of a work out. This one Doug reckoned was about 14lb.

An even bigger carp chewing Doug's thumb
The fish were sitting there right in front of Doug not really interested in his free offerings or the hook bait. I suspect the ones that got caught were more annoyed with the bait than hungry for it.

Buy now, it was starting to feel far too hot. It was now pushing towards the low 30s (centigrade) and beginning to get uncomfortable. I was determined to catch a bigger fish so I stripped down the tackle from my float rod and rigged it with a method feeder. Groundbait (my own Surf 'n' Turf) on the feeder with a 8mm pellet on a banded hair. Using my tried and tested method of finding a spot, clipping up and hitting the same spot with about three loaded feeders seemed to do the trick. The next cast produced an F1 within a few seconds. The feeder really does work well here.

The sun was high in the sky and the shadows from the net add strange 'markings' to this very nice looking F1
That was it. Time to head home, it is far too hot here today for a long session, besides I will be out again on Saturday. Another great day at ORF and a very enjoyable one too. I may not have caught as big a fish as Doug, but it was a great day made even better by meeting the man himself.

Heading home, just one more cast... I just noticed my van is the same colour as the Port-a-loo, must make sure I get in the right one!
One advantage of going light is that I could collect everything together and do just one trip to the van and being at ORF means I will be home in less than 20 minutes. I will be back soon with some heavier gear and a tub of Chum Mixers...


Thursday, 8 June 2017

Disgruntled - not really my thing

Two years ago, this month, I was invited to join in with an open match at Beaver Fishery. If you read the post from that day, you will see that I was under equipped and lacking in most of the basic skills. Even so I still managed to score well enough to put me in tenth place. I was really pleased with myself and decided to have another go. Over the past two years I have joined in with most of the opens at Beaver, only missing the odd one here and there, due to work commitments. Oh, and I did manage to oversleep on one occasion!

Mostly, the time spent has been enjoyable but recently I have realised I am really not cut out to be a matchman. In two years I have not got any better at it. I have never had that competitive streak. The first few matches taught me a lot. The guys that fish the matches are a great bunch of friendly blokes and made me feel welcome but like anything you have to put the hours in to be any good at it. Most of these guys spend every hour they can match fishing, and a lot of them are out at least once a week and many of them more than that, just match fishing. I don't want to spend the limited time I have to fish, practising for the next match, which is what seems to have happened.

I want to spend more time just fishing for whatever takes my fancy, when and where I like. I am not saying I will not join in with the odd match here and there, because I am sure I will, but for the time being I am going to concentrate on my pleasure fishing, experimenting with bait and expanding my rig making skills, while getting some time in on the pole.

The June Match

This week I fished the match at Beaver. I decided to take minimal gear and to leave my long pole at home. I ended up with a feeder rod, a pellet waggler rigged with a Sodafloat and a 5m tele-pole fitted with a medium strength elastic to cope with the F1s that Jeff's Lake is full of.

The new Sodafloat
The plan was to fish the method feeder to start with and then, as the fish moved up in the water, to pick them off with the Sodafloat. Finally to collect them from the margins in the last hour. Nice simple plan. It started well with the first decent sized F1in the net within the first five minutes. Almost immediately another F1 was hooked. It was fighting hard and I was probably too overenthusiastic. It bumped off. Two more fish were also lost almost at the net. That was it. I must have spooked all the fish out of my swim. I was stuck on Peg 11, which is not my favourite peg but I am not using that as an excuse.

My final catch placed me last - again!
Now I could not find the fish on the bottom, up in the water or anywhere else for that matter. I probably lost more fish than I caught. The fish in the lake are getting a fair bit bigger than they were when I first had a go at this and I have not really taken this into account. I did manage to land one from the margin on my tele-pole but that was it leaving me with six fish, four F1s, one ghost carp and a tiny roach. I was encouraged by the fact that although my weight was only good enough to give me last place, the others were not all miles better than me.

Last!- Well, at least I caught some fish this time
I have fished from the other pegs along this bank and done much better. Except last time, that is, when I managed to blank. That was back in April as I did not make it to the May match due to work commitments.

Around midday I suddenly realised for the first time that I really was not happy. It was not the lack of catch, although that did not help, but I was thinking about my next pleasure trip. I think what drove it home to me that I was not enjoying this was two-fold. First I realised I was forcing myself to practise, or rather not wanting to practise. I don't want to spend days practising for a match when I would rather be doing my own thing. Then at this match, I was pegged next to a young lad who a year ago was catching next to nothing and enjoying every moment. From that day he has spent every spare moment he can practising on this lake and improving his skills to a level far above mine. It is great to see him improve and to see how much pleasure he is getting out of it. For me however, I really do not want to spend that much time just pulling F1s out of Jeff's Lake one after to other to build my match skills.

It may sound as if I am disillusioned because I have been placed bottom in the last two matches I have entered I really don't think that is it. I think I have performed poorly because I have lost my enthusiasm for match fishing and that has affected my preparation and performance on the day.

It is so easy to get swept along with something and end up doing it because it is there, time for a change. I will give the matches a rest for the time being, I have not entered any more at the moment and that means I will be going fishing when and where I want and for as long and short as I want. Great!