Saturday, 7 July 2018

Two blokes go fishing...

Tim was catching lots of these nice little perch and a few roach of similar size
The other bloke had just finished his last night-shift after a run of three weeks of them. He didn't get home until 06:30 this morning. I had a few things I needed to sort out after a trip to Welwyn Garden City yesterday, to collect some second hand fishing gear, but that is another story! I arrived at Tim's place just about mid-day after sitting in the traffic in the Maidstone one way system for what seemed like an eternity. Coming from London, it is necessary to turn left, just before I really want to turn right into Tim's road and do the obligatory tour of Maidstone before landing up where I started, just to be able to now turn left. Don't you just love the town planners?

Tim let me through the gates to our private stretch of the river (Sorry, can't help rubbing it in!) and I parked up in front of his garage. The drive is only just big enough to get the Transit round the corner at the bottom of the ramp - I told him to get a bigger place. No point in having private access to the river if I have to work hard to get the van in there... I dunno, can't get the brother's these days!

First job was to walk down the road and buy some maggots. Yes 'walk' down the road, the tackle shop is a few hundred yards away. If I had written a brief for a place to live, this would have been it. We strolled back to the river and put the maggots to one side to warm up while we got the dropshot gear out and had another go at fooling the perch. Again, just like the last time, straight dropshotting off the jetties was not working. We were getting knocks but I think we need to try some smaller hooks. I had lots of ideas I wanted to try out but, I think I had confused myself and decided to keep it simple. After all, we have plenty of time to experiment. 

We spent a good few hours fishing the river, while listening to the Footie. There was hardly any flow on the water and at times it was like a mill pond. Lots of fish were showing and several jumped clear of the water. After the dropshotting I decided to have a go at slider float Fishing. I was playing with that while the other bloke opted to try the waggler in a spot he found that was only six feet deep. The slider float was a bit strange and did not sink as I thought it should. Thinking about it, maybe I should have used a heavier ledger weight. Some more research prior to the next session is required here, me thinks.
 
Cheesed off with the slider float fishing, I tried catching up-in the-water using a float and a slow sinking bait - single maggot. I could see the fish but they were just looking at the hook bait. I then thought I might as well have a go at feeder fishing using a swim-feeder stuffed with maggots. I have never tried this before. I persevered with this for most of the afternoon, changing my hook length from time to time. I discovered that if I dunked the feeder in a tub of water before casting, the maggots quieten down a bit and fewer were skydiving in a bid for freedom on the way to their destination.

Tim was catching fish, I was not. It was so hot, even in the shade, that the magic was wearing a bit thin as Tim was continually announcing "Got another one!" It is hard to smile and congratulate while grinding one's teeth.

Around 19:00 we wandered in doors where Tim's better half had cooked us some dinner. Fish and chips! I am wondering if she thought this was funny. After dinner we wondered back out into the garden (as you can when you have a river at the bottom of it - jammy beggar!) and decided we would  try a spot of dropshotting again.  Again, neither of us caught anything except a really nice snag that broke my hook and kept my wriggly plastic worm.

It was so hot out there that we did not get around to fishing off the concrete jetty and to be honest, the footie was distracting us somewhat. At the end of the day, I tried several different techniques and while Tim was catching fish, I was not...

Plenty of time to get this sorted. In the meantime, Tim will be feeding the swim regularly to encourage the fish to come and play. Next time, I hope it is a bit cooler as it was very warm there yesterday. So much so I was not feeling 100% at one point and went back to the garage for a cool off! Roll on next time.


Ralph.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Road trip - what a disaster!

Sue looks into the distance awaiting the arrival of the man from the RAC.
Have you discovered Facebook's Market Place yet? It is a sort of cross between eBay and Gumtree. It is the free selling section of Facebook. People list all sorts of things and usually price them. There is no sophisticated checkout, and most items are intended to be bought locally and collected. I searched the site for fishing gear and found all sorts of things, but the prices are insane. A couple of weeks ago there was an old X3 Preston seat box for £30.00. It sold within minutes of it being listed. I discovered a notifications sign-up, so I signed up for fishing alerts.

While I was sitting at the dinner table the other night the phone bleeped, and it was a notification of a listing for an X5 box that was of similar design to my X3. This time it was the princely sum of £20.00. I indicated I was interested. I got a message back to say somebody had got there first and was coming to see it the next day. Thinking that was the end of that I dismissed it and got on with life for the following twenty-four hours.

Ding! The phone went again, this time it was the seller saying the person who had said they were coming to have a look had not turned up and was I still interested? Yes! It turned out there were several other bits for sale, and I asked for a price for the lot. A price was given, and a haggle was done. I ended up buying the box, an 11.5m margin pole, a Carp-Porter box trolley, a rod pod, a huge umbrella with side skirts that zip on and a lot of other smaller stuff. I will show some of the bits as I/we get around to using them. I say "we" because the box now an X3, as I have upgraded my box by swapping over the drawer sections and will been given to the other bloke, along with the 11.5m pole and various bits of tackle.

That aside, the drawback of buying this way is the fact that it has to be collected. A small price to pay if, as this lot was, the lot is a bargain. Listed as 'local' it was actually in Welwyn Garden City. That is fifty miles from us, but it is all easy road and should be no trouble, mid-morning.

How wrong can I be!

The traffic getting there was just one hold up after another, and our sat-nav sent us off down a blind alley where we had to turn around in a space barely wider then the van is long. During this operation, I heard a hissing noise but took no notice as everything felt okay and the noise had stopped. Assuming the noise wad emanating from a remote source, we carried on to our destination using Sue's phone's built-in directions app. We arrived at the destination at 15:00, we had left London at 11:30. After collecting the fishing gear, and loading it into the back of the van, we noticed the rear, near-side, the tyre was looking a bit soft. No worries, I'll change it. Not that simple on a big van, sitting on a gentle slope. The picture at the head of this blog is of the spare, after being fitted... Before you say I should have checked it, I did, and I made sure it had plenty of air in it by pumping it up to 60psi.

The spare was softer than the tyre I had taken off. Nothing for it, with five wheels of which only three were serviceable, I had to call the RAC. Well, the bloke was great, helpful and willing try a few things to see what he could do. The problem turned out to be perished valves on both wheels. The Guy from the RAC took the original wheel and tyre away to have a new valve fitted at a local tyre specialist, and within half an hour we were on our way home.

Back home, it was time to have a cool off and inspect what we had collected. The box was in a far better condition than it looked in the photograph (Makes a change!) and although the seat is a bit tired, it is perfectly serviceable. I will write another blog about the box upgrade and the making of another box for the other bloke.

Just pleased to be home and a shout out for the RAC, without whom we would still be in Welwyn Garden City.

Ralph.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

A good day on Eden Pond

My chosen swim for the day
Unusually for me, I was sound asleep when the alarm woke me at 05:00 this morning. Normally, I am awake, waiting for it to go off. For a split second, I considered rolling over and going back to sleep. This was not an option as nature was reminding me that I needed to get rid of some of that water I had been drinking yesterday in all that heat. To say I am relieved I did, has far more meaning than the quick visit to the little boys room!

For the past few weeks, the M25 has been slow going, clockwise, all along the stretch leading up to the A22 junction. There seems to be no reason for it, but it can add ten to fifteen minutes to the journey. Not that much of a problem usually but today I was aiming to get on Eden Pond. The trouble with being a little late is that all the early-birds get the pick of the swims. As Eden Pond is a small water you really want to be first there. Talking to Andy (head honcho) he said that there was only one guy showing any interest in fishing it today and he was not sure.

Alone again, naturally... Sounds like a song title. I had Eden Pond to myself, all day
I paid my dues, just the one rod today, and bought a tub of maggots with the intention of targeting a few perch at some point in the day. A short drive around the other lakes and off to the far-reaches of the fishery got me to Eden Pond to find no one there. Great. I parked the van behind the hedge that separates Eden pond from Daughter's Lake. Daughter's Lake is closed at the moment as the fish are spawning. That means it is very quiet down there today, making it ideal. As the day went on, nobody else arrived, so I had the place to myself.

The day started off on the cool side, and I was sitting there with a jumper on. As the sun rose above the trees the temperature in my little corner of the lake began to rise but being in the dappled shade, it did not become uncomfortable, once the afore mentioned garment was discarded.

I started fishing with my favourite float rod, an old, thirteen foot, Silstar that was given to me by a fellow member of the Maggot Drowners Forum. This is an early carbon fibre rod that has had a reel-seat whipped onto it. Fitted with a modern Greys FD reel, it makes a very comfortable pairing. I was using four-pound line, as there are some bigger fish in here. I was after the tench, and I would like a bigger roach.

The maggots are getting on a bit now and were looking somewhat sleepy. They were in the pre-caster stage where they become smaller, and their food sack had all but disappeared. I plumbed up (realising I had stolen the other bloke's plummet as we packed up on Sunday) and discovered the water was no more than two feet deep for as long as I wanted to cast. Entirely different to the Medway on Sunday, where three foot from the bank the depth of the water was twelve feet plus! My own plummet - the last one I had left - was looking a bit sad, wrapped in electrical tape, but it lasted the day out.

Maggots seemed to favour the smaller roach, and I caught lots of those with a few around eight inches long. I changed to sweetcorn, and the bites slowed up considerably, but the fish were bigger.

I caught my PB (so far) roach today. Very Happy!
I caught the largest roach I have ever caught, not huge but far bigger than the usual stamp of fish I catch.  At this point, I decided to give the bread a go. I had some bread slop I had mixed, using rainwater, the day before. This I balled into the swim, and while waiting for the initial commotion to die down and the bigger fish to move in, I dug out some bread, my bread box and some punches. I started off with a small 6mm diameter punch which made a nice firm disc. I hooked it directly on to a size 14 hook and cast.

I had to use the bigger net for this one - good fun on the float rod it weighed about 2½lb
The bait had hardly hit the water when the tip of the rod whipped around, and I was playing, what for me was, a big fish. This thing was giving it some and heading for the reeds. I managed to keep it out in the open water, and when it showed itself, my suspicions were confirmed. It was a decent sized tench. In fact, it too turned out to be the biggest tench I have caught so far. At around two and a half pounds, it was not a monster, but I was happy. I continued to fish using bread and tried all the punch sizes I had to hand and settled on the 8mm one as being the most effective for most fish. I caught lots of bream, several more tench plus the odd greedy roach.

One of the smaller bream, but a nice clean-looking fish
I did have a bit of a go with the tele-pole, but the thing was not long enough to get to the places where pole fishing would have paid off so I went back to the float rod and continued to catch the bigger fish. I also tried some stuff my local tackle shop recommended. It calls itself Yum-Yum, but Yuck-Yuck would be a better name, it stinks! I tried it by dropping a few drops onto bread and punching it out. This gave a soggy bit on one side and a nice compressed white on the other. It hooked well, and I caught a good few fish with it, all seemed to be bream. It is too early to decide if it works or not but it did seem to.

Bread punched to 10mm with Yum-Yum soaked into one side

As much as I like Drennan products, I have decided I don't like their antenna-type floats. They fish nicely, but they break far too easily. I was only casting a few yards in an underarm sort of a lob and when I came to unhook my best tench of the day I noticed, yet again, the antenna was missing. I had a rummage around in the float tube and found a short crystal waggler that did the job for the rest of the session.

I have neglected my stock control over the past few months and find myself low on things like small weighted crystal wagglers, in fact, I could not find any with inserted tips of my preferred choice. I found myself so low on plummets that I was taping an old one up that had split. I also discovered I was running low on bait. A trip to our local B&M store is to stock up with a case of Plumrose Bacon Grill. I also need to buy some more Sweetcorn as I eventually used up my stock of tinned 'hookers' after last year's great sweetcorn survey!

Last fish of the day was a nice little tench

What next?

Now there is a question, where to fish next week. I may go back to Beaver, if Daughters lake is open and spend the day with a couple of carp rods out, trying to catch a big fish. On the other hand, I might be brave and try somewhere else for a change... I might even try a new venue.

Ralph.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Maggots, corn, little plastic fishes...

... Oh, and Tim!

A long lens Paparazzi picture taken from the other bloke's balcony    
Have you ever dreamed of having private fishing on tap at the bottom of your garden? I know some of you may have this luxury, but for me, a life-long Londoner it would be marvellous. To discover that my brother (Tim) has just moved into a posh block of four flats (I know, they call them apartments these days!) that has fishing rights at the bottom of the garden is like a dream come true. Now, you know how I have always admired my good looking little brother...

Not only that, the jammy little beggar has a gated entrance and the biggest single garage I have ever seen. This means I can drive around the back and park out of the way in total security. Now here is the unbelievable bit, none of the other residents fish! This means we get the two wooden jetties and the concrete mooring to ourselves. How is that for a result? Today was the first chance we have had to get out there as Tim is doing night shifts at the moment and is asleep during the day - Whimp!

One each? - You can have the one with the trees
It is a thirty-mile drive from here but it an easy one, straight out of town on the South Circular and head for the M20 via the Sidcup bypass. If the South Circular is clear it is well under an hour's drive. If it weren't for all the speed limits, that have been continuously lowered over the years, it would be even quicker. It was suggested we arrived at 10:00, halfway through the day at this time of year but the poor old bloke has to get his beauty sleep, even though, as I have already said, he doesn't need it.

Okay, I'll stop grovelling...

There is one drawback to this venue. As can be seen from the header picture, 'er-in-doors has eyes on us if we are fishing from the jetties. However, there is also a concrete mooring just behind the trees to the left of where we were caught in that long-lens photograph taken from the balcony. Did I not mention, this flat has a balcony looking out over the river too.

Sue and I arrived just about 10:00. Sue and Tim's wife, Kay, both went off to collect their Mother-in-law. Meanwhile, I had realised that my latest family of maggots had been left behind 'chilling' in the fridge. No problem, on top of everything else, this place has a really friendly tackle shop a few hundred yards away! Without further ado, we marched off to the shop and purchased a pint of maggot that he was happy to double bag for us to take away. At £3.25 that is a good buy down here. My 'local' tackle shop in London will only sell them to you in a bait-box, and they are £3.40 a pint.

I must give the shop a mention, Phil, who owns and runs Nick's Tackle (you will have to pay him a visit if you want to know why it is called Nick's tackle and not Phil's Tackle) is a really friendly and helpful bloke. His opening times and other details can be found on his Facebook page, HERE. If you are in Maidstone, make sure you pay him a visit. I am sure Tim and I will be in there a lot. He had a good knowledge of the local fishing and gave us a good idea of what we might expect to catch and a few tips on how to encourage the fish into our small piece of the river.

Neither Tim nor I, have any experience of fishing a river of this size. So far my only experience has been in the Great Stour as it winds its way through Canterbury and our small local river, The Pool. This is an entirely different river. For a start, there are boats and canoes to contend with, and it is deep; surprisingly deep. A few feet off the jetty it must be twelve foot deep. For simplicity, we had a little poke around the jetty and the mooring with our dropshot rods. Nothing much happening there although we did get a few tugs on the line. Eager to get a fish on the bank we rigged a couple of tele-poles with rigs deep enough to find the distant bottom. Due to the trees, it is hard to cast a rod and line at the moment so a spot or gardening will be required. They also become a problem with a tele-pole as the rig is so long and telescoping them in half (as we usually do) does not leave enough length to swing or net the fish very easily. We will have to invent a new technique to use here.

It is early days at the moment, but we are having fun investigating the potential of this great opportunity. We managed to get Tim set up with a line in the water, fishing sweetcorn. While he was doing that I rigged a second tele-pole and started fishing using a single white maggot. Almost immediately I had a bite. Tim was not amused. It was at this point I realised my camera had no film (card) in it. The fish went back in without getting its moment of fame and I re-baited my size 18 hook. As soon as the rig settled I had another, and another and... Tim was now really not amused. I offered to swap poles so he could have a go. We did. I then caught another fish in his swim. I did promise I would not rub it in.

After a good bit of fun with the poles and Tim catching a few fish, the 'girls' were back along with Mum. Time for a break and a spot of lunch 'in the grounds'.

This day was only getting better. The fishing had not been great by some's standards, but we were just happy to catch a few small fish. Phil (from Nick's Tackle) had told of some big fish in the river, colossal river carp and bream to ten-pound plus. I really did not want to catch any of those today on light tackle and small nets. I needn't have worried, we were not going to be breaking any records today.

Tim, got one yet? - Shut up!
After lunch, it was back to the task at hand as we set ourselves up on the concrete jetty. Here we had fewer restrictions from the trees. The water was almost as deep, and we were catching fish easily on maggot. The corn was not doing it today.

This bit goes through there, and this bit will pull through here...
Even on the concrete, trying to avoid the trees was a bit of a pain until we got used to where they were. The odd tangle was quietly unravelled by me, much to the bewilderment of the other bloke who kept saying that he liked the new calm, Ralph. I have felt a lot better over the past few weeks, and I have taken on a calmer approach to life - much to my little brother's delight. He keeps telling how much he is enjoying the new me. I wonder if he will change his mind if I throw him in? The weather was glorious, and we got to have a real old chin-wag about all sorts of things that have no relevance here. Suffice to say, it was a very pleasant afternoon.

Now the good bit 

Unlike a commercial venue, there is no closing time, so after dinner, it was back to the mooring for a good session of dropshotting out into the river now the boat traffic had subsided. We both caught a few perch but nothing to write home about. But it was great fun casting huge distances with these short rods. Long retrieves, with a bit of movement, imparted into the lure and the odd stop, seemed to work the best. Tim managed to find the odd snag, and without exception, we were able to 'ping' the line loose, one of the advantages of using braid. This was Tims first go at dropshotting, and I think he is fairly keen on it.

There is a lot to discover about this stretch of The Medway, but we know there are some very big carp in there - we have seen them. I think this summer will be a learning curve on this water, but I am looking forward to winter this year, there is some very big pike mooching about. Someone caught a decent size one in the Town Centre last week. This is only the start of this journey...

On Wednesday I will be off to Beaver again. I did contemplate fishing for some of the bigger fish, but I have had a change of heart,  and I intend to spend the day float fishing with rod and line on Eden Pond. Just me, my chair and a minimum of tackle and bait. A box of maggots, some corn, meat and maybe a few worms. You never know, I might catch a decent sized perch or roach.

Ralph.   

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Well, I am glad that is over!

Yes, my fishing famine April and May have finally come to an end and I an making up for it now with at least one trip a week. I have spent too much time worrying about life and not really being very productive. In fact, I am sure it was that making me feel ill. It is a vicious circle that can spiral out of control if you let it. A visit to the doctor a couple of months ago opened a can of worms and gave me the kick up the backside I needed. Instead of festering worrying about every last ache and pain, I now know what is wrong, and I can put it right, well at least keep it under control.

An almost total lack of exercise was my main downfall, sitting here for hours on end, in front of this screen tapping away at the keys was keeping my brain alive but doing nothing for my physical health. Now, all that has changed, I back fishing, and it is great!

This little 'mouse' turned out to be a bank vole
It is not just about fishing, either. It is about being able to relax and take in nature around the peg. The little fellow was almost tame, coming to within a few feet of me sitting there watching him (or her?) It was not until I got home that the missus got the books out and we discovered that the little creature was, in fact, a bank vole and not a mouse as I had first thought. I think this is the first bank vole I have ever seen, you don't get many treading the streets of south-east London.

Today is Saturday, and after lunch, I have been getting some dropshotting gear ready for tomorrow when we are off to spend the day with my brother, his wife and my 91-year-old mum. The 'girls' can do their own thing, or they can come and spend the day at the bottom of the garden with us fishing. Yes, the other bloke in this blog has only moved into a flat that has private fishing rights at the bottom of the garden. It should be exciting, and if it is any good I think my brother might be seeing a bit more of me!

Where next?

After tomorrow, it will be back to choosing a venue for next week. I am happy fishing at Beaver. I know I have not tried that many other places but with eight lakes and ponds to choose from, there is just about every environment covered. In recent weeks I have float-fished in Maze lake, feeder fished on Jeff's Lake and this week I was two-rodding it on the shallow side of The Majors Lake with a sleeper out on the island margin and fishing the short pole/tele-pole close in. I could spend the day with a couple of carp rods out on Daughter's Lake. I have never fished it before, and it was netted and restocked this past winter with some very nice looking fish. I now have all the gear I need to fish for the bigger fish so it would be an experience. I will have to take something to read, as I understand it there is a lot of waiting around involved. Having never done it before, it has to be a consideration.

Then again, I could spend the day on Eden Pond. This picturesque small water at the far end of the fishery is home to some bigger roach and tench as well as a few carp to make it exciting. I have fished it before, but somewhat half-heartedly. Set in very natural surrounding, it could be a good way to get some variety on the float rod.

After that, there will still be three lakes I have never fished. I think I still have a lot to explore at Beaver. Since my local lake (that I have only fished a few times) has put the day ticket price up to the same as Beaver, and considering there is only one lake and a small pond, the lack of facilities, bait restrictions and the no swinging of fish rule, no matter how small, I am not sure I will be going back there in a hurry.

I will try some other venues, and now the rivers are open I will be exploring some more parts of the rivers in Kent. For now, though, it is going to be a case of better the devil I know. A Fishing trip a week keeps the doctor away, at least I hope so!

Ralph.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Unlike fish, terrapins have legs!

First fish of the day fell to maggot on the tele-pole
I am slowly working my way around the lakes at Beaver Fishery. Today, I spent the day in one of my favourite spots on The Major's Lake; the grassy bank that separates it from Maze lake.  I had planned to try out my modified feeders but instead I thought it was about time I got the longer pole out. If I had taken the feeder rods, I think it would have been a repeat of last week. One of the things I like about Beaver is the diversity of water. Even within the same lake, there are totally different spots to fish. If I am honest, this place, although picturesque, is probably not the hottest peg on the lake.

 A bank vole doing the cleaning up!

For me, it is not entirely about catching fish all day. If I want to do that I can by fishing Jeff's Lake as I did last week. Today I just fancied a quiet day and if I caught a few fish that would be a bonus. I had a visit from a very tame bank vole who kept coming back all day. He was happy to eat most things that landed in his path. First, he cleaned up all the sweetcorn only to go on to some Two Dog boilies - everybody likes Two Dog bait!  Later I had another visitor who was not so happy to be there.

The lake here is very shallow; only a couple of foot deep. This time of year the water is warm and absolutely full of fry. I had made up a mush from some stale bread and a liberal dose of ground up Vitalin. This I was using as a groundbait to feed the swim when I first got there and to top up during the day. The fry went bonkers for it - there must have been thousands (maybe millions) swimming about. The water was thick with them. Fishing through them was interesting, but I still managed to catch a good few fish. Nothing exceptional but a good variety of roach, rudd, perch and even a decent sized tench. That was an experience on the tele-pole, but I managed to land it. That one fish covered everything in slime - bream have nothing on tench in the slime stakes.


It gets more interesting when something like this tench goes for a single grain of corn hanging on the end of a cheap tele-pole
All the action was coming from close in, within five to six meters. I was fishing using one of the tele-poles and another I had modified to be a cupping kit. At this point, I decided to get the longer pole out, again my inexpensive Maver 9.5m pole. Cheap and cheerful is the only way to describe this thing. It is cumbersome at full length and the only way to fish with it for any time is to use a support roller atop a bank stick. Not the most solid of setups, but it works for me. I fished it at the full 9.5m and caught absolutely nothing. It was not the pole's fault there were just no fish in the middle of the lake.

The longer pole reached out into the middle of this part of the lake but found no fish
I stripped the pole down to top-kit and one section and continued to fish. This produced instant success on corn and maggots. Lots of small (as opposed to tiny) perch, roach and rudd. Surprisingly no skimmers or bream and I did not catch a carp all day, not even on the sleeper rod that was fishing the far margin all day.

Nice perch. one of many caught around this size. One day I will catch a bigger one but this will do for today
It was all going nicely. I had packed up most of the gear and was just fishing the last hour with the top-kit + one when the tip bent around, and the elastic took a dive into the water. What! I was confused. Whatever this was it was heavy, but it was moving slowly. No thrashing about and it felt like a dead weight. I slowly encouraged it to the surface only to discover it was a terrapin, a huge thing the size of a dinner plate! I thought I had seen a couple of terrapins basking on a rock a couple of years ago, but could not be sure as they disappeared before I could get a good look. Today there was no doubt there it was sitting in my landing net. Pondering how I was going to unhook it as its mouth was firmly closed, I put it down on my unhooking mat and like a flash it got up and ran straight back into the lake, cutting the line as it went. The trouble was, I did not think about the fact that unlike fish, terrapins have legs, and this one used them to leg-it before I had a chance to take a photograph.

After that excitement, I decided to pack up and make my way home. Another successful day at Beaver. For me, it is not about how many or how big the fish is, it is about having a nice relaxing day and exercising the muscles I don't usually use.

Dropshotting in The Medway on Sunday with the other bloke. We might even try a spot of tele-pole fishing as well. Neither of us has ever fished this river before, so it could be interesting.

Ralph.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

They've done it again...

I gave up buying fishing magazines regularly some time ago. A few weeks ago, while out with the missus shopping in the supermarket,  I picked up a copy of Angling Times that appeared to have a reel of line attached to it. I did not want the line and did not buy it just because it had it attached. I assumed it was one of their periodical give-aways. Wrong. The cover price had been inflated by 50% to £2.99 instead of £1.99 to cover the cost of the line. This I had not realised until I got home and looked at the receipt. To say I was annoyed was an understatement.

I vowed then not to buy another copy of Angling Times. As it is the first week of the river season, when the Missus asked me if there was anything I wanted while she was out today, I asked here to get a copy of Angler's Mail. I did say if they did not have one, a copy of Angling Times would do, not thinking that would pull the same stunt again. Wrong, for the second time. Today's issue has a cheap method feeder and mould packed with it, and the cover price has been inflated to cover it.

Not so free freebie
The clear plastic bag the magazine is wrapped in, to retain the feeder and mould, is printed along the top which conveniently hides the inflated cover price. Surely this practice can only alienate the readership further. If it said in nice clear print that the magazine is dearer this week because it has more pages and contains a feeder, I would have probably still bought it, but at least It would have been open and honest.

The feeder and mould
After I accepted I had been 'had' again, I took a closer look at the feeder. It is marked as 10g. For me, that is utterly useless. I find the 15g ones are two light for my style of feeder fishing. I decided to make it work, after all, I had paid for it! I needed to make it heavier. My preferred weight is 30g, so it was out with the tools, lead sheet and Araldite.

10 gr(rrr!)
 The bottom of the weight has a raised "10GR" moulded into the weight. I decided to flatten it off to make the contact area greater. This is a simple case of rubbing it on a file. An abrasive paper would do, if you don't have a suitable file to hand.

The bottom is flattened
A piece of lead sheet (an off-cut of roofing lead flashing) was cut roughly to shape, and with careful trimming, I got it to my target weight of 30g when weighed with the feeder. Okay, I am sure a few grams either way would not make that much difference, but I can be a bit anal about such things.

Spot on 30g
 The additional weight was burnished using a burnisher intended to put an edge on a cabinet scrapper - it is hard. But a good quality screwdriver or spanner will work just as well with the soft lead. Make sure all the sharp edges are rounded off, we don't want it to damage the fish or the line, should it come into contact with either.

Burnish the edges to remove any sharp areas
The additional weight was stuck to the feeder using a two-part epoxy resin. The resin is mixed up on a small piece of glass using a chisel-bladed craft knife. Both the glass and the blade are easy to clean by first removing as much as possible while it is still wet, and then scraping the rest off using a utility knife blade.

The additional weight is glued onto the lightweight feeder using an epoxy resin
While I was at it, I added extra weight to a 15g Preston feeder to make it up to 30g. Once the glue was set, I left them to cure and checked for any sharp edges. The feeders will be left overnight to cure fully.

The finished feeder and the Preston one made up to 30g
I am off to the lake again on Thursday and will give them a try. I don't envisage any problems, but I will let you know how I get on. These doctors orders are great, fishing at least once a week is something I could get used to. I am also out on Sunday with the other bloke, dropshotting for perch and maybe some short pole fishing... 

Ralph. 



     

Friday, 15 June 2018

Doctor's orders. Well, almost!

Keeping it simple on Jeff's Lake
After a string of recent visits to the doctor, the consensus of opinion was that I was not getting enough exercise and spending too much time sitting in front of the computer. My latest visit was actually to see the practice nurse, and she agreed with me that fishing would give me some of that badly needed exercise... Result! She did not have to tell me twice. With that in mind, I went fishing again today, and I intend to try and make it at least once a week.

The rivers will be open from tomorrow so that will give me a few more places to fish but for today it is back to the 'old slippers' that is Beaver Fishery. I wanted to get a bend in the rod and where better than on Jeff's Lake. Stocked with a good selection of fish, it is the ideal lake to get a bit of a workout.

An early start got me to the venue in plenty of time and even being half an hour early, I was still third in the queue. It was obviously going to be a busy day. The weather was fine with the promise of a nice day in prospect. The specimen lakes were popular with a sprinkling of bivvies pitched around the banks with a couple of guys waiting to take soon to be vacated pegs. Jeff's Lake was yet to be populated with anglers so I could take my pick of pegs. I opted to fish off the back of the lake on what I call The Beach; a large area of chippings with no defined pegs, as such, meaning setting up can be as casual as it can be.

The maggots are in a deep bait box, but that did not stop the little fellow sorting out the white ones 
A simple approach was the order of the day; a feeder rod and a tele-pole, a selection of bait and a nice comfy chair. After all, I intend to be here for the full twelve hours.  I picked a couple of spots where I had intended to fish with the pole and balled in a couple of golf ball sized offering of my specially made groundbait consisting of bread, biscuit, prawn cracker leftovers, mixed with the dregs of the cereal packets I have been saving. I also mixed up some Two Dog groundbait for use on the method feeder and left it to absorb the lake water.  While the groundbait is soaking up the water and the robin is tucking into my maggots, I set about plumbing up my rig on the tele-pole. At a shade under five meters the pole fishes at a seldom fished distance equating to just under the rod tip of a decently sized float rod. A size 18 hook seems to work with a single or double maggot, and that was what I tried first. Within seconds of dropping the baited hook into the swim, I was battling with my first fish of the day. A nice little roach that falls into the size bracket just above tiddler!

After an hour or so the fish did start to get bigger, and I was catching a good number of roach that were of a reasonable size. Nothing to write home about but at least it was proving the point that if you persevere and continue to fish the same swim, the bigger fish do start to come in.

The roach are getting bigger!
  By now I was getting bored with fishing for the smaller fish and changed tactics. I balled in a couple of balls of groundbait special mix, that I mentioned earlier, consisting anything I could find that needed using up, and switched to the feeder rod. I had eyed up a spot to the right of my original swim. I had intended to put a few feeders-worth of Two Dog feeder mix down by making a few successive casts. Normal I would do this without a hook length. Today I decided to go with a baited hook and guess what. The first cast I had a bite within a few seconds of the feeder entering the water!

Hello Mr F1, My haven't you grown!
It was one of Jeff's lake's, resident F1s. They have got progressively bigger over the past few years I have been fishing here. This was a nice fish and it is really good to get a decent bend in the rod. Thinking this was going to be the start of a run, I quickly baited up and sent out another feeder into the same spot (I am getting better at doing that, these days). Nothing. A few more casts and still nothing. I decided to leave the bait out there for a bit longer while I had a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. As usual, as soon as I got my teeth into my sandwich the, rod tip bent around, and I had the second fish of the day on the feeder.

The second fish off the feeder was a much more of a golden colour. These F1s are good looking fish
This one put up a bit of a fight, but eventually gave up the fight and was a bit cross to find itself captured in my landing net. Several more casts were made but with no reward. It was time for a change. Back to the tele-pole and a change of hook and bait. I stepped up the size of the hook and replaced the maggot with a kernel of sweetcorn. This selected the bigger fish most of the time and the skimmers and bream were starting to slime up my gear.

The first of many skimmers on corn...
A very nice little rudd
It gets far more interesting with bigger fish on the tele-pole. I was catching lots of skimmers and small bream. I even caught a small roach that would have found it hard to get the corn in its mouth. My favourite fish of the day, on the pole, was a little rudd. Really nice little fish that are not that common on this lake. But the most exciting battle of the day was one of the larger F1s who had taken a fancy to my corn only to find me on the other end of very light tackle and a cheap pole that was bending far beyond my comfort zone. After several minutes of letting it swim, turning it and letting it swim back the other way, it eventually tired enough for me to get it in the net. I landed it on the unhooking mat only for it to leap straight off and back into the lake. I guess he did not want his photograph Taken next to such a cheap piece of kit, it would have been humiliating!

The bream were coming thick and fast today
The last few hours of the day were spent feeder fishing for F1s in the open water in the middle of the lake. Once they get going, they are only punctuated by the odd bream. This time of day, it is a fish a chuck. Bait up with Bacon Grill, and the chances are it will be an F1. Put corn on the hook, and the odds move towards it being a bream. I had lots of bream today, not as many as the F1s but more than usual. I even caught a reasonably sized tench, I have only caught one other on this lake, and that was a small one.

Best fish of the day in my book was this nice tench. I have only ever caught one of these on this lake before
The only problem with bream and tench is the amount of slime they carry around with them with the sole purpose in life to cover me and my gear with the stuff. There is nothing worse than the smell of hot baked slime in the back of the van after a drive home in the sunshine. To paraphrase the words of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, played by Robert Duvall, in the film Apocalypse Now: "I hate the smell of slime in the morning"

It was a really good day's fishing and the second trip in two weeks. I must try and keep this up with another trip next week. Another trip to Beaver and this time I will probably have a go for some bigger fish in The Major's Lake. I have not fished there for a while, and I fancy fishing down on the bank between this lake and Maze Lake. I nice secluded, natural spot.

Then next weekend, me and the other bloke will be fishing at the bottom of his garden. Yes, my jammy-beggar of a brother has just moved to Maidstone and now has private access to a stretch of the River Medway at the end of the garden. It even has a pair of small jetties from which we can fish. It looks like the perfect location for a spot of dropshotting. I will let you know how we get on.

Ralph.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Today I went fishing!

First fish of the day - Well, it is a fish!
At last, I managed to get a day on the bank. The last couple of months have been bedlam here. It all started with a visit to the doctor's practice to let them know I was still here. It turned out that I had not been since 1996! As you can tell, I am not one for running to the doctor every five minutes, maybe I should have done, and now they won't let me go. Visits to the practice nurse, doctor and a whole series of tests have determined I have Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Great! I am not going to go into any details or spend any time discussing it online. This blog is about fishing. I am far too young to discuss my ailments. I only mention it as it has been this that has been responsible for keeping me away from my fishing.

While all that was going on, to compound the lack of time, my brother (Tim, the other bloke featured on this blog) decided to move flat. Now, although this meant more time spent away from the bank, it has an up side. His new flat... Hmmmm... 'apartment'  as well as having a huge integral garage, just happens to back onto The Medway and he has private fishing! Yes, the jammy-beggar has a couple of jetties that he can fish from. Looks like it could be an excellent dropshotting venue. Roll on next weekend when the rivers open again.

Back to today. The weather seemed reasonable, so I sorted out some gear and bait last night ready for an early start this morning. I was on the road by 06:00 and on my way to Beaver. I have not been back there since March, and I was keen to see how it was looking as well as how it was fishing.

The guys there work tirelessly to keep the place looking at its best. The fishery is set in natural woodland, and that accompanied by good ground management works really well. Just enough mowing and trimming to keep it looking tidy without looking like a hole in a field. A lot of the lakes/ponds look very natural indeed.

Due to a broken down car on the M25, there were miles of slow-moving traffic. How just one broken down car can make such a hold-up never ceases to amaze me. This had its bad points, not least of all was being held up for at least twenty-five minutes, it also had a good point. I missed the dustcart doing its Thursday collection on the A22, meaning a straight run from the motorway to the fishery.

A greeting of " 'ello stranger" a request to see my current licence and the surgical removal of a brown note from my wallet, welcomed me to the fishery's office. After some discussion, I decided to fish the back of Maze Lake. This was the same place I fished back in March when the only fish to grace the bank was a rouge pike.

Today was different. I wanted to just spend the day relaxing. No pressure and no targets. The plan was to catch anything that wanted to be caught. Due to so many aborted trips, I have been caring for a couple of pints of maggots for the past four or five weeks. In fact, they have been around for so long, even the missus was growing fond of them. referring to them as "your mates", as in "Have you taken your mates out for a walk today?"  To my astonishment, I managed to keep them going with only a few fatalities - probably fewer than a dozen out of a couple of pints.

A nice little perch, just for a change
I started off using one of my elasticated tele-poles. Out of all my gear, these really cheap poles, modified by fitting a bung, elastic and good quality bushes have given me hours of fun. Fishing at five meters means fishing an area that is often overlooked, and as today's adventure confirmed, it shouldn't be!

It couldn't be any simpler. I used a 0.3g float on light line with a twelve-inch hooklength tied to a No.18 hook. The rig was plumbed to dead depth, and one of 'my mates' was just about to find out what going fishing meant for a maggot. Lined up with a tree on the opposite bank, the line was lowered into the water together with a maggot wriggling like mad, trying to remove itself from the hook.

As the float settled a few maggots (half a dozen at the most) were lobbed out to land on and around the float tip. Lifting the float just clear of the water and lowering it again, introduced my hook-bait into the small cascade of maggots making their way to the bottom. Straight away I had a bite. That tell-tale 'rattle' of a small fish thrashing to get away was confirmed by the appearance of a small roach.

The fish were getting bigger, not by much but this little rudd was a nice fish
The fish got bigger as time went on. They were punctuated with the odd perch of similar size. Nothing bigger than five or six inches long but all good fun, all the same. I varied the hook bait by adding more maggots to the hook and/or mixing the colours. I had red and white maggots mixed in the bait box. As I mentioned earlier, I had bought these maggots weeks ago, but the fish did not seem to mind. No sell-by dates for maggots!

The 'far' margin is not far away, a simple lob got me there
The fishing was very easy, and the fish were getting slightly bigger. As lunchtime approached I put the tele-pole down and thought I would try a spot of feeder fishing. Out with the Two Dog groundbait and my go-to hook bait; Primrose Bacon Grill. It was starting to cloud over, so I dropped the feeder in the far margin and had a bit of a tidy up just as a light shower of rain decided to make everything wet. The bait, and especially the maggots, were covered with a towel to prevent the grubs getting wet and staging a mass escape, as the moisture gifts them with the power of traction enabling them to climb the sides of the bait box.

A bed of lilies were just about in range for my short pole from the swim next door
The rain diminished into a few drops, and I started to devour my lunch. The feeder was bearing little fruit, so I went back to the tele-pole and spent an hour or so fishing the next swim along, which had a good spread of lily-pads. They were almost close enough to reach with my little pole. I had not been fishing long when the first fish big enough to stretch the elastic took the bait. It was a bream, and I had left the net at my swim next door. I walked the, now playing dead fish, back to my swim and just as I attempted to net it, it suddenly came alive and slipped the hook. "Oh my, that's a nuisance." (cleaned up version) I exclaimed.
Just as I was pondering this missed fish over a cup of coffee, a few big drops of rain started to come down. I sat it out for a bit and eventually gave in and donned the wet gear. As I was sitting there watching the rain get heavier, Ben (one of the fishery's bailiffs) arrived on his push bike, a short discussion ensued as the rain got heavier. At this point, Ben decided the rain was too heavy to stand around chatting and went. I too had had enough and decamped to the van with all the gear. It was raining so hard that I could not see out of the windows.

Rain... It got worse!
After about ten minutes it eased up, and I decided to move for the rest of the day. I drove around the venue to Jeff's Lake only to find that all my favoured swims had been taken. When I arrived this morning, I was asked not to fish my usual side of Maze Lake as they had intended to do some strimming there. This they had done, and when I checked if it was okay to fish there now, I was given the green light. A three-point-turn and I was on my way back to Maze, this time fishing on my preferred side.

The bream were playing ball...
...and getting bigger
Again I started with the tele-pole and I was back to catching small silvers on every drop. Although this can be fun for a while it can get rather boring. I picked up my light swim-feeder rod and had a go with a small cage feeder filled with groundbait and maggots. A light lob and it was fish on. More silvers. With little thought I snipped off the line to the feeder and installed a 30g method feeder which I filled with ground bait and a Bacon Grill baited hook. There is a lot more water in front of me here so a decent cast was possible. I pulled the rod back and cast to the sound of CRACK! At first I thought I had clipped the edge of the tree next to my swim. If only. To my horror I realised I had cracked the shaft of the rod a couple of inches below the quiver tip socket. The resident ducks stopped in their tracks. the bird life stopped flying and just looked at each other while the maggots stopped wriggling. "Oh my, that's really is a nuisance" I said in a firm and very sincere manner.
My fault, the feeder was far to heavy for my lightweight rod. I swapped the reel over to a much heavier feeder rod, and now I was in business. Nice long casts and a few more bream added to my collection of slime, on me and my net.

The bigger ones were caught right under my feet
For the last couple of hours, I decided to experiment and fish in the near margin. I have tried this before with a float rod, and it works so long as the drag is let as light as is possible but still maintaining a slight curve in the tip. This worked really well, better than I had expected in fact. I must have caught a dozen or so bream in the last hour or so, and all of them contributed to my slime pile!

Ralph.

Monday, 26 March 2018

At last FISH!

Maze Lake is just starting to come to life
After last weeks disaster I decided to make the best of what looks like it will be the last good day for a week or so down here in the south, and pay a visit to my favourite Fishery. Yes, I know, some of you think I should get around a bit more but I like the fact that Beaver Fishery is set in woodland and has plenty of well maintained water to dangle a line. What's more the guys there are constantly up-grading the venue by refurbishing the swims, keeping the vegetation under control, restocking and clearing out the lakes/ponds.

Today, I made the decision to leave a little later than I would do normally - late night, last night! I live about 100yds inside London's South Circular Road, meaning that trying to go anywhere outside it is a complete nightmare any time between 06:00 and 09:00. Outside this time, it is just plain bad. I left just after 09:00 and joined the heavy, but moving, traffic on my way to the other road with a reputation for being a pain; The London Orbital better known as the M25. In reality, the M25 is nowhere near as much hassle as its bad press may suggest. That is unless you had intended to travel past junction 8 in an anticlockwise direction today - it was closed for most of the day while the emergency services dealt with a fuel spill after an accident in the early hours. Luckily, my journey along the M25 ended at junction 6 for Godstone. Enough waffling, the travelling was not bad at all and the journey only took about ten minutes longer than leaving home at 06:00.

Another pike!
The problem with arriving at 10:00 instead of 07:00, apart from the obvious loss of fishing time, is that all the best swims can be taken. Today was no exception and my first and second choice of swim was indeed occupied, as was my third and forth! I decided to have a go at the back of Maze Lake, a place I have been lucky in the past. Today it was very slow. I spent the first couple of hours float fishing. I tried all sorts of bait but got nowhere. Others in my view were not getting anywhere either and some packed up and went home. I switched to a method feeder and made a long cast over to where somebody had been fishing earlier in the hope that there might be some bait laying there attracting some fish. Nothing, not a sniff. After three or four casts into the same spot I decided it was a waste of time and began a fairly brisk retrieve of my feeder. About halfway back it stopped dead solid and I assumed I had snagged on some submerged undergrowth. Then it started to move. This was no snag. A fairly lively fight ensued and when the fish condescend show itself it turned out to be a pike. My second pike ever and it was just as surprised as me.

Rod-rest-reeds - Handy
I had hooked it in the lip and it did not manage to bite through my hook length meaning I was able to net it and unhooked it successfully. This was not as big as the one I caught previously on Majors Lake back in January, but I guess it was around the five pound mark. With the pike rested in the net and returned from whence it came, at least I had avoided a blank. By now it was getting on for lunchtime and I continued with the feeder in the vain hope of finding a carp or bream to come and play, while I was devouring my sandwiches. All this was made harder by the fact that I had left all my bank sticks behind and having to be a bit creative. I found a suitable bunch of reed stalks and grass that was perfect for resting the rod in at a convenient angle to get a slight bend in the quiver tip.

Even the Two Dog method feeder mix was not tempting any fish to have a sniff, let alone a bite. I think all the fish were around the other side of the lake. Maze is a snake-lake with plenty of places for the fish to hide, especially when there is hardly anyone fishing it. I made the decision to move lakes. Having not really caught anything other than my couple of pike all year so far I was itching to get a few fish on the line. Ben, the fishery officer on duty today, said that there were a few people on Jeff's Lake but they were not catching much if anything at all. Hmmmm... By now it was mid afternoon and the Fishery is still on winter time as far as the closing was concerned. That means I need to be out of the gate before 18:00 when it closes automatically. This was a bit of a surprise to me as I thought the fishery was in sync with the clocks going forward for BST (British Summer Time). I was wrong. 19:00 closing does not start until 1st April. That also meant I was another hour short on my fishing time.

Jeff's Lake was flat calm just as I was going home
I knew my best shot at getting a bend in my rod was to try Jeff's Lake and try and bag a few F1s. One advantage with taking the van is that everything can be placed in the back made up and delivered to a new location, quickly and easily. Twenty minutes later I was set up and ready to fish on Jeff's Lake. As I arrived one guy was packing up and looking fairly despondent. On the opposite bank there were a couple of guys who were not catching anything either.

Mk II improvised rod rest
I had an 11ft feeder rod set up with a small 30g Preston method feeder and a 1½ ounce quiver tip. My usual hook and bait is a No.12 hook hair-rigged with a push-stop to take punched bacon grill, with Two Dog groundbait method mix on the feeder. This, I cast out to the near edge of where I know the fish tend to congregate. Having no banksticks or rod rests with me my landing net ring was about to become my rod rest as the first of the F1s took the bait and was keen to come and say hello.

First fish landed on the first cast. Not unusual on this lake, but today it was not what others were experiencing. I rebated the feeder and made a second cast. This time the feeder made it to the bottom of the lake and I was having to wait for a bit, 30 seconds went by and then, bang! Another bite, another F1. By now the other guys had noticed me pull out a couple of fish within a couple of minutes. The next few casts delivered no fish but I was happy to build a small amount of feed in the swim. A few more casts and the results the fishing was producing were okay, but not frantic. I was only getting one bite in three casts. I cast every 40 - 60 seconds so after 10 minutes of fishing I had only caught for or five fish. The guys on the other side of the lake were looking restless and there were mutterings drifting across the lake.

First out was a chirpy F1 on Bacon Grill - Hello!
I decided to change the hook as it was not catching on my nail as it should. A look in the hook length box revealed that I had no more No.12 hooks tied up with push stops. As time was moving on I did not want to stop and tie up and more so I opted to use a No.16 hook that was the only one left tied with a push stop - note to myself to tie some more. I also made a change to the hook bait swapping my favoured bacon grill for a nice juicy kernel of sweetcorn. That did it. I catapulted half a dozen pieces of sweetcorn into my target area and followed it out with the feeder. It did not get a chance to sink as it was taken immediately, and that was with only a 4 inch hook length. For the next hour or so I was landing fish on every cast one after the other. I had found the fish. The guys on the opposite bank went home.

The F1s in here are getting bigger.
A smaller hook and a grain of sweetcorn did the trick
I am more convinced than ever that the Two Dog groundbait mix works really well for F1s and especially on this lake. The change to a smaller hook and sweetcorn just fine-tuned the method to something the fish could not resist. I was not counting but I must have landed thirty fish and probably more in well under under two hours.

Two Dog - works every time
Okay, I am now bored with that. Fishing for F1's on Jeff's lake is too easy. Getting the rod bent for a couple of hours is just what I needed after several months of very little success, but next time I am going to make the effort to get there early and fish one of my preferred swims, on the look out for some bream and the elusive tench. Maybe even a decent roach or even...

Ralph.

P.S. My Two Dog groundbait is not for sale but if you want to give it a try I have published the recipe HERE. Please, let me know how it works for you.