Saturday, 26 August 2017

At last, a day at the lake...

For all sorts of reasons, I have not been to the lake for the past couple of months. An hour or so snatched here and there on our local river, and one trip to The Stour in Canterbury has been my lot.

The familiar sight of the gate closed, but I was first in the queue - got something right then...
Today, I was off to Beaver Fishery. It's Bank Holiday weekend, and I have a feeling the place might be packed. I needed to get there early, or I might not get a decent swim on whatever water I choose. Commercials can get busy on a typical Saturday, and with it being a bank holiday and having one of the lakes closed it could be a bit of a squeeze. The only rule, when it is like this, is not to move once the swim has been decided upon. I tried to break this rule once and found I could not find anywhere else worth fishing and ended up going home early.

A different swim on Maze lake shows lots of open water and no trees!
The Major's Lake, the largest lake at Beaver, is closed at the moment for maintenance, so I needed to decide between trying to catch some of the bream in Maze, perch and roach in Eden Pond or just have a good play with the F1s in Jeff's Lake. In the end, I opted to fish Maze Lake. At the beginning of the year, extensive work was carried out on the two specimen lakes. A lot of fish, mainly bream, were relocated to other lakes around the fishery. Maze Lake was the recipient of a good many bream, not that I noticed any last time I fished it back in June. That day I was fishing the lake from a peg I have often fished before. Andy (one of the fishery's bailiffs) had suggested that I might be better off looking for the bream in the open water, hence the decision to pick a different swim today.

I had decided to use a couple of rods. A 5m tele-pole fishing for small silvers and a feeder rod at a distance. I started with the feeder rod that would be loaded with my Two Dog groundbait and a big lump of punched bacon grill, hair rigged to a No.14 hook. If I were to do this over on Jeff's Lake, I would be landing F1s with every chuck. Here, the bait can sit there for a while before anything happens. I filled a 30g feeder and let fly 30-40 yards with no hook length. Clipped up and after a couple of minutes I retrieved that one and cast another. I did this half a dozen times to get a bed of groundbait on the spot. I added a hook length baited with a lump of punched Bacon Grill and cast to the spot - Plop! I planned to let that rod sit there, with the drag slackened off, just waiting for a bite. In the meantime, it was out with the tele-poles.

I really enjoy playing with these things. All they are, are 5m cheap telescopic 'poles' that have had elastic fitted through the top two sections, see HERE. Just as I was rigging, one of these poles, the feeder rod bent around, and I had hooked an F1 within a few of minutes of casting out the first baited feeder. This was starting to look promising.

First F1 of the day after only a few minutes of fishing
I refilled the feeder, replaced the hook bait and sent another feeder load to the spot - Plop! It has taken a while, but I seem to be getting on or there about the same place with each cast. Considering I am using a cheap rod the accuracy is fairly good. I do wonder if my casting would benefit from using a better rod. For now, I am not complaining, these rods have served me well, and I have not spent a King's ransom on buying them.

Lots of skimmers around
Plumbing the depth at 5m confirmed the lake is only about three feet deep pretty much in an arc from the swim. I took my time to get the hook at dead depth to start with. I baited the size 18 hook with a single white maggot and continuously fed three or four maggots over the float by hand. At this distance, it is relatively easy to be accurate. This was starting to produce results in the form of small roach, and skimmers that were steadily getting bigger.

Meatster from Aldi - very nice!
Meanwhile, back on the feeder rod, I was catching fish every fifteen to twenty minutes. To my surprise, I had found the bream, and I was catching nice 1-2lb fish interspersed with the odd F1. I had changed hook bait to try a punched salami stick similar to Peperami. This one is called 'Meatster' and is available from Aldi. They do an Original (green packet) and a 'Hot' (red packet). It is less than half the price of the brand leader at £1.09 for a pack of five. I just punched an 8mm 'plug' out of the stick and shoved a meat stop into it. I did not bother to push it all the way through, and it held like, well, I will let you make up your own analogy here! It is very oily and had the texture of rubber, but the fish love it, as do I. It lasts so well, in fact, it is hard to get through more than a few pieces. The rest of the stick does not get wasted. I can't show you the whole of the Hot pack as two sticks got used today; half a dozen punched pieces for the fish, and I had to check it was not off, so I ate the rest. I can now make a good impersonation of Clifford, the Listerine Dragon - If you don't know who that is, Google him!

The feeder line was looking after itself, and I was fishing with my tele-pole happily enjoying the roach when all of a sudden the elastic made its debut straight into the water. Just as I am thinking to myself "My! That's not a skimmer or roach..." the elastic started back into the pole, and a fair sized bream broke the surface thrashing around making a right show of itself. Most bream seem to play dead when caught, not this one, it was seriously annoyed. Just as I am saying my goodbyes to my end tackle and float it reverted to type and played dead. In it came, laying on its side probably feeling a bit foolish after being caught on such cheap gear.

Gotcha! Sitting in the net after taking a maggot on the tele-pole - great fun. The feeder rod is still lying across my leg
At this point, I decide to go after the perch that I know patrol this part of the lake. I baited the hook with a small section of prawn. I buy (well, I get the missus to buy) a 300g pack of Tesco Everyday prawns (£3.00) and split them into three lots of 100g. That amount is plenty for me when I am only dabbling between other catches. I fed a few loose prawns, into the area I planned to fish and hooked a small section of prawn onto the hook. Sure enough, the little stripies were there in abundance, and I managed to catch a good few, one after the other.

They don't have to be big to be fun. This little fellow put up a brave fight and is still cross now!
All of a sudden, it all slowed up and went quiet. The shoal of perch obviously had better things to do than to eat my prawns. The water was swirling a bit, so I knew something was down there. All of a sudden the elastic was out again and the poor little tele-pole was bent double. This time I was sure I was going to lose the lot. You know that feeling when blowing up a balloon and you are waiting for it to burst, well, that was how I was feeling as the elastic was getting thinner and thinner.

Not bad for a cheap tele-pole and light elastic!
I kept the tip down and led the fish first to the left and then to the right in an attempt to tire it out. After what seemed like an eternity, the pressure started to ease, and I manage to net the fish. It was a good sized bream, in fact, it was the biggest fish of the day. I had no idea bream would eat prawns.

What a great day. I found a good swim, had great fun just catching fish all day. The weather was just right, and even the road closure on the A22 did not cause any great dramas. All in all, it was a perfect day.


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Not a fish in sight...

The water was at its normal height today but why was it looking so murky?
Fishing adventures have been very thin on the ground for the past few weeks. What with work, family commitments and trying to get organised to get out of this house, fishing has been very low priority. Today we managed to squeeze in a couple of hours on our local river.

Our only local river, that has any fish in it seemed to be totally devoid of fish today. Not only did we blank, we did not see any fish at all! It was good and early when we arrived at our usual favoured spot. The river was looking very coloured, so much so it was hard to see into the water at all. I was puzzled by this. We fished for about an hour with no success whatsoever. Usually, we have something within the first few casts, but today, nothing.

We like our little spot because we are off the tarmac path, away from the passing 'traffic' of walkers and cyclists, but more importantly away from any of the 'antis' that often seem to patrol these sort of spaces. Having had not a sniff of a fish, we decided to up-sticks and move a good half a mile upstream to a place where we had seen a good shoal of perch, a few chublets, and several other silvers, on several occasions, as recently as last Monday.

The river is in a concrete lining here as the park runs through the old gasworks site and was redeveloped as part of the planning permission concession given when one of the big supermarket chains wanted to build a superstore on the site. There is a lot of vegetation hanging over the wall where the river meanders through its totally man-made environment. Fish seem to hide in the shadows and commute from one area of overhang to the next. On Monday there was a huge (by River Pool standards) shoal of perch patrolling the beat between the overhangs. Today nothing was coaxing them out to play. We tried feeding our tried and tested rolled up bread, meat and even casters but not a sign of a fish. Here we were fishing in full view of other people. Apart from the odd "Morning", we were not bothered. By fishing on the opposite bank to the main path it was only really dog walkers to fend off.

The water here was still a bit murky but nothing like as coloured as it was down-stream earlier. Then the cause of this stirred up murk became obvious. Wet dog. The river has no real depth anywhere and there are plenty of places where dogs can access the river and have a good splash around, stirring up the silt and sending it down our way. I assume all this canine activity does nothing for fish confidence and they have all gone off to hide.

Today has taught us a new lesson. As dog-walkers seem to prefer the early mornings, this is possibly a time to avoid. We have not been here this early to fish before and our planning did not consider dogs. Of the several visits, we have made here over the past few weeks, the most successful one was the first, and that was late morning on a weekday. Maybe that is the time to go in future.


Monday, 7 August 2017

Just a little fishing trip...

We have had some of the best fishing weather of the year over the past month or so and I have been unable to get out and fish hardly at all. Today has been no different, by the time I had finished work it was half past four in the afternoon but I was determined to get at least an hour's fishing in.

By the time we had got the gear together, grabbed some bait and made our way to the river ready to fish, it was half past five. The water looked as if it had a film on top but I think this was some kind of dust 'from' the plants as it didn't shimmer like an oil and there were plenty of holes in it. The first thing to bite was the local bug population, biting us! The place was swarming with all sorts of fauna, all of which was intent on acquiring the taste of human. For me, it is really just a nuisance, but for Sue, it is more of a problem as she reacted badly to bites. Last time we were here she had an awful reaction to a couple of bites. Even though she had used some anti-bug spray and changed her attire to try and keep the little fellows out, they still managed to get her. Let's hope they don't cause her as much discomfort as last time.

We manage to catch a small roach, almost straight-away, on bread punch. I decided to try a single red maggot, thinking I might find another perch, and found a stickleback, just like last time. A few more casts and the tip twitched again, a light strike and I had another stickleback, this time a male with its bright red colouration on the front part of the underside, which I understand to be its spawning colours. I will have to read up a bit more about these fascinating little fish that are full of fight.

A male stickleback in its spawning colouration
After an hour or so, the insect population was getting the better of us, and we decided to call it a day. I had a good time, we caught some fish, and we were only out for less than a couple of hours after work, including the walk to the river and back. We will give it another go, but I think we will try the early morning next time. Always assuming Sue can find some way of keeping the bugs off...