Saturday, 30 September 2017

I caught some perch!

Dawn and a quick snap from the cab can reflect this - and me!
Today, I finally managed to get a day's fishing in. As usual, I was late to bed last night and as it is Saturday today, the morning traffic is not as bad as it is during the week. I decided to have a lay-in and did not surface until 05:30. After making the coffee and packing the van, it was getting on for 06:30. Leaving at this time on a weekday would mean a two-hour trip if I was lucky. Today it was about three-quarters of an hour, and the M25 was running freely. The view from the side window reminds me of those old British Railways adverts and slogan "Let the train take the strain." Remember?

A rare sight - a blurred image of the traffic on the M25 - It looks very Turneresque 
On my arrival, I made for the fishery's office, paid my day ticket and bought a tub of worms to take fishing with me. Lucky worms! I am not keen on fishing with worms and even less keen on chopping up live worms then sticking things through their dismembered body... Hmmm... Can a worm be dismembered?

I was off to my favoured spot on The Major's Lake. When I arrived, I was shocked that someone dared to erect a bivvy in MY peg. Reaching for the baseball bat, a sudden sense of calm washed over me, and I decided to let the perpetrator off - this time. See what a calming influence has on me. My second choice of a swim, on the other side of the lake (where the disappearing rod incident took place) was inaccessible by the van as that part of the road is, for now, blocked by a couple of articulated lorry tractor units. Besides the swims, either side had been taken making it all a bit crowded. In the end, I settled for the corner swim that will forevermore be referred to as the 'Birthday Swim' since I christened my new accessory chair there on my sixtieth birthday.

The shallow end of the lake looked perfect
If I was an estate agent, I could flower this up to make it sound much better than it really was... Sorry if you are an estate agent, but I am not referring to you, just the stereotypical conception of the beast, honest...

During the week I made a batch of groundbait specifically aimed at attracting perch. The plan was to lay a bed of groundbait down, laced with a sprinkling of free offerings to match the hook bait. For example, I started off using prawns on the hook and added chopped prawn to the groundbait. This proved successful on the first chuck, much to my surprise. First fish and it was a member of the target species. Several more casts produced nothing and trying to keep the prawn on the barbless hook was proving difficult. Hooking a white maggot, in addition, also seemed to help.

Okay, not the biggest fish in the lake but at least it is a perch!
Now for a spot of worm carnage. My pot of worms was opened, and my first victim was extracted from the huddled mass. I place it on the lid, took a deep breath and chopped it into four bits. Blood a guts oozing out it looked repulsive, but I am sure the fish will like it. Two of the bits were chopped further, added to a golfball sized ball of groundbait and added to the swim.

I hooked one piece of worm and made a cast. Seconds later I had another perch similar in size to the first. I tried this several times without adding any more groundbait and caught several more fish of similar size, one after the other - all perch. I have never caught so many perch in one go before. I was finding nothing else. Could my new groundbait be working?

Just to see what would happen, I cast a maggot into another part of the lake and fed over the float with a few more maggots. I caught a roach, and another and another. I was just about to go back to my original line and go after the perch again when the rain came in.

As you may be able to see, it was chucking it down. I switched my hoody for my coat, swapped my hat for the hood and continued - a spot of rain was not going to put me off. To be honest, I don't mind fishing in the rain, it is the setup in such conditions that I don't like. First priority is to cover the maggots as rain give them 'traction' as they all take on the positive mental attitude of Steve McQueen while portraying Capt. Virgil Hilts  (the 'Cooler King') in the classic film The Great Escape.

With a towel over my seat and standing up to cast (after checking for overhanging trees - I am learning!) I continued to fish and, yes, I caught another perch. This fellow did not look happy being dragged out of the lake, into the pouring rain. Perhaps fish don't like getting wet either.

"Oi! Put me back, can't you see it's raining out here!"
By lunchtime, the bites had dried up somewhat. I decided to give the swim a rest and have some lunch. All morning I had a sleeper rod out sitting close to the far bank hoping to catch a big fish patrolling the margins. So far this had not shown even a twitch, let alone a bite. Determined not waste any valuable fishing time, I put a second feeder rod out while I was eating my lunch. Just as I took a bite out of the first of my sandwiches, the tip of the newly cast rod flicked around ad I grabbed the rod just as the line went taught and broke. Classic error - guess who had not slackened off the drag before putting the rod down. This was, of course, a huge fish. It had to be at least twenty pounds in weight, a real specimen sized fish, it was T H I S big!  

Another feeder lost, and that was not the first piece of end tackle to get donated to the lake today. After lunch Andy, the bailiff, came along to check that everything was going to plan and made a few suggestions to help on my quest to bother some of the bigger perch. One of the things he said I could try was to put a heavier float on and cast beyond the patch of lilies to my left. I could then drag the float back so it would sit just next to them in the gap between the main clump and those few leaves to the right, as indicated in the picture by the red ellipse. I changed my float for an excellent new Drennan Puddle Chucker, and after throwing in a couple more of my small worm-laced balls of groundbait, I made a few casts. The float flew over the pads, and after a few further attempts, I was able to coax the float into just the right place. The float had not been sitting there long, presenting another piece of severed worm, when there was movement. First, a little shudder and then the float disappeared like a stone. I had something a bit bigger on the end of the line. 

Trying to stay calm I gently applied pressure to the line and, whatever I had hooked, started to pull back. At last, I had a decent fish with which to play. Then it stopped, I kept the pressure on, but nothing was happening. I released the pressure and reapplied it. Nothing. It was rock solid. I polled a little harder but whatever I was pulling against it was not moving. Eventually, the line went slack, and I retrieved in a section of vegetation. Whatever had taken the worm had released itself and snagged me up. Clever them fish!

Now disheartened with the loss, I decided to leave my pursuit of perch for a while and try out my (new to me) method of attaching the line to the elastic of my tele-pole. Of all my gear, I am now most impressed with my little tele-pole. As supplied I am sure these poles are intended for children to provide a simple method of fishing that does not involve a reel. As such, I am confident they are good. My one came in a starter set I bought when I first set out fishing three years ago. If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you will know that it has gone through a few changes of use in its life. I converted it to a margin cupping pole and used it used it to cup in corn custard for a while. I then elasticated it and turned it into something much more useful. 

The last time I took it out the elastic broke at the connector, so I decided to try the 'crows foot' connection method. Below is a short video explanation I found on YouTube, by Steve Lockett, for those who are not familiar with the technique. It is nine years old now but is very clear and well presented. I added a soft bead to the elastic to prevent the elastic disappearing through the bush and to protect the line from consistently hitting the pole tip.

Out with the tele-pole and maggots and I had a nice relaxing hour catching roach and skimmers, by using single or double maggot on the hook and feeding them loose over the top. I was only fishing the tele-pole for an hour or so, but I had no perch at all in that time. 

Having lost a feeder and got bored with the tele-pole (it is too easy), I went back to my original plan to catch perch. Although I had been snagged by a fish earlier, I thought I would try again to pick one off from under the lily pads. Again I cast over the pads and pulled the float back into my desired position. After a while, I was suspicious that I was snagged as the float had not moved an inch. Sure enough, I was snagged. I pulled the line reasonably tight and tried a dropshotting technic for freeing braided line. The line is pulled tight and plucked fairly vigorously sending a shockwave down the line. I had no idea if this would work with monofilament line, but I had nothing to lose. It did, and the float and end tackle complete with bait rejoined me on the bank at the speed of a bullet. Two subsequent attempts, however, were not so successful and I ended up donating a couple of my favourite floats to the lake, with no more fish to show for it. At this point, it was time to go home. 

I had a great day, survived a torrential downpour and proved that my new groundbait recipe had at least not frightened the fish off. It is too early to say it works, but at least I know it is not doing any harm. I will try it out over the autumn and winter, diluting it with a non-food bulk (molehill soil) in the rivers to save overfeeding and to get it down to the bottom before too much of it is washed away in the flow. 


Friday, 29 September 2017

Bothering The Major's perch

That's it, no more namby-pambying about, I am off to try out my new groundbait tomorrow. After a couple of weeks of indecision and other factors getting in the way, I am off to Beaver tomorrow. More specifically to The Major's Lake, where after talking to the bailiff, I have the best chance of catching a decent fish. Apparently, there have been a few caught in there this week.

I am looking for a perchy place to fish, so it is near the reeds and under the water lilies. The trouble with that is, this is exactly where a lot of other fish will be hanging out - including the pike. The Major's Lake is the fishery's Pike lake in the winter months. It is a good thing the season does not start until Sunday - I hope someone told the pike that!

My favorite swim on The Major's Lake
 I will go and see if my favorite swim has any suitable vegetation. The picture above is a couple of years old, and the lake has been refurbished since then. I may have to go down the shallow end to find some reeds.

Roll on tomorrow!


Thursday, 28 September 2017

Not again!

My intention was to try out my new groundbait today, but it was not to be. From here, in my part of London, there are not many venues locally to fish. Our small local river is only just about fishable, and although better than nothing, it is limited. The next best thing is Oakley Road Fishery that is about half an hour's drive away in traffic. The trouble is Oakley Road is small, and they have a few rules that will restrict my plans to test my new bait. There is no swinging to hand at all, not even tiny fish, which virtually scuppers the use of whips. And they are not keen on the use of groundbait anyway. I get that as the lake is not very big and does not have a flow as it is fed from run-off.

All this means that if I am going to another commercial, I need to leave early just to be clear of the morning traffic, as we live just inside the South Circular road.

Click the image to open in full size.
Midnight and it is not looking good...
I am the first to admit that I am not keen of fishing in the rain or traipsing through the mud. After a spell of beautifully dry weather, perfect for me, where work had prevented me from going fishing, I had made up my mind to go today. Last night it started to rain it was pouring down. Okay, perhaps it will clear, was my thoughts. I decided to wait a while and see how the night developed before making a decision. By now it was past midnight, and if I was going to go, I needed to get some sleep. I can make do with four hours if needed. I had virtually decided that all this was getting too much and thought I would see what the weather was like in the morning.

If that were it, I would probably be out fishing right now instead of writing this, but at about 03.30 I was woken by all the windows in the front of the house resonating in tune with what sounded like a slow running diesel engine.

The gasboard are digging up the road and have narrowed the entrance to the road opposite meaning it's hard to emerge into our road. Stuck across the street wedge between the barriers, a telegraph pole and a parked car is a long rigid refrigerated lorry, slowly shunting back and forth attempting to get around the corner.

As I was wondering if I can help in any way, the driver had apparently given up and proceded to demolish the barriers and cones to make the turn. To my amazement, he stopped (in the pouring rain) and re-erected the entire barrier system.

That was it. I had managed to get a couple of hours sleep, and now I was wide awake with no chance of getting back to sleep. With less than an hour to go until I would have to get up anyway, yet again I abandoned all thought of getting out early to go fishing. 

I have now just received a call from a friend of mine who needs some help tomorrow (instead of the pre-arranged Monday), which now means that tomorrow is out for an early start.
I give up. Well, for now anyway.
Maybe I should just get on with it and go come rain or shine; I don't mind fishing in the rain, it is the setting up and putting away in bad weather that I hate. Being a 100% townie, I also have an aversion to mud!


Monday, 25 September 2017

Cattyfish groundbait!

No, it is not aimed at catfish, it is just made from cat food and fishy things...

It has been a while since I made any new groundbait. My previous concoctions have served me well for the fish I was seeking and the tactics I was using. Recently I have rediscovered the simplicity of float fishing, whether that has been on rod and line, whip or my selection of tele-poles. Most of the time I am happy with whatever comes along and takes my bait. On our small local river, I caught four species in about an hour on my very first visit armed with nothing more than a 3m whip, bread and maggots.

This time of year my thoughts are turning to predator fishing. In past years that has been mainly satisfied by a spot of dropshotting, however, I have been looking into lure fishing for pike, and I think I am going to give that a go, at some point. For now, I am going to go and target the perch using my float gear. I plan to try and tempt the fish into the area with a fishy groundbait as an attractant and then feed over the top with whatever hook bait I am using. I have no idea if this will work, but I will find out. I may end up attracting all the wrong fish. Whatever happens, it will give me a chance to experiment with a new groundbait.

The Assembled ingredients for the base mix of Cattyfish groundbait
This time I want a groundbait with a strong fishy flavour that the fish will be drawn to - I hope! Perch are partial to prawn and with this in mind, a bag of leftover prawn crackers from a takeaway meal this week got me started. I also had to hand a few tins of Tesco's own brand Tuna Chunks; the result of an experimental economy drive that failed. It smells very 'fishy' and tastes horrible, making it an ideal ingredient for my new experiment. Other ingredients in the base mix are white breadcrumb, Rich Tea biscuits, fishy cat biscuit and seed hemp.

Regular readers will recall that for a long time I have been drying out cheap supermarket sliced bread. This was fine when I was only making small quantities of groundbait. As time has gone on, I am using more and more as well as making some for friends. I now buy my breadcrumb ready made that is supplied in sacks, that is much more convenient, if slightly more expensive. If kept dry, it lasts indefinitely. I have a large blue storage barrel that I keep our bulk birdseed in. The breadcrumb is stored in there where it is also rodent free.

Below is my initial recipe. This will make just under a kilo of groundbait, just enough for a single trial session.

My Cattyfish Groundbait Recipe 

Dry ingredients:
  • 200g Breadcrumb
  • 200g Rich Tea biscuits
  • 200g Cat biscuit
  • 50g Prawn crackers
Wet ingredients:
  • 175g Seed hemp, including the liquid (half a tin)
  • 160g Tin of tuna  

Dry ingredients after processing to a fine powder 
Except for the white breadcrumb, which is already processed, the other dry ingredients are 'liquidised' in my super powerful Duronic BL1200 blender and placed in a mixing bowl. The blender is powerful enough to reduce hard ingredients, such as cat and dog biscuits, to powder in no time!

Adding the liquidised wet ingredients
Half a tin of seed hemp is liquidised with the tin of tuna, to make a smelly grey sludge, and added to the dry ingredients. The whole lot is mixed together to form a lumpy mixture that is not of much use as it stands.

This is left to soak for about half an hour before being passed through a groundbait riddle several times to thoroughly mix it together and produce an excellent crumbly mix.

Now it is just right - you can't beat a good riddle!
It made just about a kilo as I had to add a drop of water to the hemp to get it out of the tin. The other half of the tin will be used as loose feed. The finished groundbait is bagged up and ready for use. It will be kept in the fridge for a few days, if I were not going to use it immediately, I would freeze it as the fish may not keep for too long.

Cattyfish Groundbait ready for use
I plan to use the groundbait as an attractant to fish over. To the base mix, I will add whatever I am using as hook bait. Initially I will be using prawn, rough chopped and added in small quantities as I go. If this does not work and I change the hook bait to say, maggots, I will add maggots to the mix.

I will let you know how I get on with this one. As I say I have no idea whether this approach will work, but I will have fun trying!


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Three years already!

My PB so far - See HERE
It does not seem possible that I have been fishing, and writing this blog, for three years already. In that time I have learned a lot, amassed an enormous amount of tackle and caught hundreds of fish. It did not occur to me that I would ever get this involved. I started it initially as a way for my brother and me to get together on occasions other than family gatherings. Well, it has not worked out that way. Tim has just not found the time to come and has not got the interest I have. This surprised me as he was the one that fished when we were kids. I only suggested fishing as an idea because I thought he would be keen. I saw myself sitting on a bank chatting while Tim did all the hard work. As anyone who has been reading this will know, that is far from how it turned out.

I love my fishing, three years on, and I am still finding new things to explore and have a go at. I have recently had a go at river fishing, and I can see the appeal. It can be lovely and peaceful, and there are many places where I am really looking forward to trying out new techniques. With the autumn and winter just around the corner, I will be having a go at some lure fishing this year in some of the rivers I have been investigating.

I have also got a lot of pleasure from writing this blog. I started it as a sort of personal diary, and I was hoping that Tim would join in and author a few post of his own - I have all but given up on that score. I am amazed that here we are, three years on and I have received getting on for 100,000 page views. Okay, not a lot in internet terms but I don't think that is bad for an independent personal fishing site that does not sell anything or allow any advertising. It is not here with any commercial interest just as a pure pleasure website. It seems that others appreciate some of my posts.

The bait posts are always popular as are the repair topics but for me, it is simply a record of what I have been doing. Three years on and I am still writing it and planning my next adventure. I love it!

The top three post over the past three years have been:
  1. Two-dog groundbait... 
  2. Oh, bother! 
  3. Oakley Road