Ups and Downs

It’s amazing how one short session can go just how you’d want it to, yet the next can be a total disaster. That’s what’s just happened over the last few days.

Firstly, my local rivers are in serious need of big rain. I’ve never seen them so low in my 45 years and I’m worried what will happen if that rain doesn’t come quickly. The odd fish can be seen in the crystal clear water, but some stretches seem devoid of fish. My beloved big roach have managed to ‘vanish’ but I know they’re very hard to see in winter. Their winter colours almost turn them into ‘ghosts’ even in the clearest of water, so I hatched a plan to try and winkle one, or hopefully more, into my net.

I went straight to the river after work, just as it was getting dark. I’d already prepared some mashed bread and had a loaf of fresh bread for my hook baits. I was going to quiver tip at night to see if any roach would come out to feed thinking it was safe. I’d already prepared my tackle the day before. I just needed to prime a few swims with the mashed bread, then fish them in rotation to hopefully earn my reward.

As I made my first cast (well, a lob just off of the rod end really!) I sat on my unhooking mat, waiting for magic to happen. I thought back to when I was just starting to fish in the early 80s, when I used to read about John Bailey and his exploits on those Norfolk rivers. He used to quiver tip for giant roach well into the night and I used to be almost there with him on the bank. As exciting as those tales were, they don’t prepare you for the feelings you get when you’re in the middle of nowhere at night. All of my senses were heightened, and I could hear my heart beating. I strained to see the white quiver tip, not just because of the dark, but through the stream coming from my mouth as the temperature plummeted. Then it happened, the tip lunged forward and started bouncing as a fish tried to make off with my bread.

As I lifted the rod all hell broke loose as a fish thrashed about on the surface. I didn’t turn my head torch on early because I didn’t want to possibly spook any remaining fish and also, I could be spotted from miles around by anyone in the area and I didn’t fancy any crackpots looking for me! Eventually, after one heck of a battle, my 3lb line did it’s job and I landed my prize, which turned out to be a great big trout!! What a surprise, and the first I’d heard of in this river!

IMG_5523

After that commotion I wasn’t expecting a roach, but I soon had another tap then a pull which resulted in another sizeable fish being hooked. This turned out to be a chub somewhere between 3 and 4lbs. At least I was catching, but after all that disturbance I went a few hundred yards downstream to another baited area.

This time when I cast in, my tip started bouncing as soon as I placed the rod in the rest, but I missed the bite. I cursed myself because this was one of my banker big roach swims, so I was watching the tip like a hawk on cast number two. This time there was a couple of rustles, then a pluck, then the tip dropped back so I swept the rod behind me and connected with something solid. The ‘thump thump’ being transmitted through the rod told me that this was probably a roach, and it felt a good one too. After around 30 seconds of holding the rod well out from the bank, hoping the hook holds and all those other horrible thoughts that come into your head when playing a big redfin, I slid a large bar of silver over the rim of my net.

As I lifted her up the bank, it felt a very good roach and this was confirmed when I parted the mesh to reveal a sparkling silver flank, tipped with bright red fins. I wondered whether it would threaten the ‘magic’ 2lbs mark, and I still do, because after rummaging around in my lightweight bag, I realised I’d forgotten my scales! Ah well, whatever the weight, it wouldn’t have been any more beautiful or given me more pleasure.

IMG_5530

I placed her in a net a few yards upstream of me while I tried for more of her shoal mates. The next cast produced a smaller sample, probably getting on for a pound, but the next fish was another lump of a roach. Unfortunately, this time, the hook pulled out. What a horrible feeling, and after 30 minutes or so with no more action, I headed for home both happy and frustrated.

IMG_5549

For my next trip I had an afternoon after predators. My first port of call was for a good pike that had been terrorising the local roach population. I couldn’t believe my luck when I turned up and it was easily visible, hovering at mid water quite close to the bank. A mackerel was soon drifted in front of it’s nose and this is where the fun started. For an hour we had this stand off where the pike would nose the bait, circle it, and then swim away, only to return and repeat the process when I twitched the bait. Eventually the trebles pulled free of the bait, and before I could cast back in, it had been eaten! The crafty so and so. I placed my fresh mackerel in the same spot, and thinking it was a free meal, this time the pike wolfed it down.

The strike set the hooks and a disappointing short scrap was soon over followed by me struggling to lift the net out of the water. It was obviously a good fish, a mid to upper double, but again, I shall never know exactly what it weighed. I unhooked the pike on the mat and folded the landing net mesh over it while I got the rod and trebles away from danger. At this point the pike did a big thrash, meaning the mesh was no longer covering it, then it did the biggest flip I’ve ever seen any fish do, which led to it slipping straight back into the water! I couldn’t believe it, after all that tomfoolery, to finally land it then lose it in such careless circumstances! I suppose it was the classic fishermans tale, the one that got away! At least it wasn’t a PB or a special fish. Lesson learned, and I cursed all the way to the next swim.

The next swim I visited held a shoal of resident perch, some definitely over 3lbs, up to possibly 4. Again, they were clearly visible and this added to my frustrations as they ignored every lure in the box. I ended up firing some casters into the swim, which really switched the perch on. I had a match rod with me so I float fished casters, but had to fish really fine to fool them into taking the bait. I hooked and landed one that weighed 2lbs 4oz, probably the smallest in the shoal.

IMG_5538

After this, the days frustrations grew as I hooked and lost 4 big perch, some after playing them almost to the net, only for the hooks to fall out later on in the fight. I checked my hooks to see if they were made of rubber, but in all honestly, light lines and small hooks are a recipe for disaster in the bony hard mouth of a big perch.

In desperation I put a larger hook on with 3 casters, but these fish weren’t going to be fooled by that old trick. As the light faded, I started digging at the bank with my bankstick and eventually turned over a small lobworm. I broke this in two and placed it on the hook. Within the minute I had another bite and was soon playing a stripey to the net with the larger hook staying in place this time!

IMG_5544

This fish had big shoulders and was very broad, meaning it was slightly heavier than the first perch at 2lbs 8oz. It looked like it could be a real lump a few years down the line.

IMG_5542

Seeing as the light had now gone, I called an end to the session. It had been a strange day, that’s for sure. I couldn’t work out whether it had been a good one or not!

2016, My Angling Year Summed Up

I said in my last annual review, a year ago, that 2016 would be a year of changes due to moving house and sorting a couple of rental properties out. I hoped for everything to be back to normal after a few months, then I could resume my nationwide fishing trips. Alas, here I am on January the 1st 2017 and I’m still a week or so from everything being sorted! The big plus is all my manual work has been finished and when I finally get some spare time to go fishing, I can go wherever I want.

The thing is it will take some real quality fishing to tempt me away from my local waters. 2016 was an eye opener as to what can be found on my doorstep. All of the fish I will post here were caught within 30 miles of my front door and most were caught less than 10 miles away. They may not be Drennan Cup winning specimens, but these are fish I could have only dreamed about in my locality 10 years ago.

My first decent fish of the year came from one of my local rivers trotting and link legering breadflake on a bitterly cold February day. A few good chub to over 4 and a half pounds warmed me up, but it was a fish I lost that had me excited.

img_5103

That fish was lost to a hook pull after a few seconds, but I could have sworn it was a big roach judging by the way it fought. I returned to the same swim a few days later, using maggots as bait this time. Light trotting tactics in the clearing water soon had me connected to a good roach which was safely landed after a nerve jangling scrap. It was 2lbs 2oz of pure winter perfection, one of natures jewels.

img_0606

Going into March and the rains came putting plenty of extra water in my rivers. I chose to fish for barbel and was rewarded with a cracking winter specimen of 13lbs 7oz to end the river season in style.

img_5149

In the river close season I fished on my local canals, though the perch fishing wasn’t as good as the previous year. I still managed fish to not far off the 3lbs mark, plus a few toothy pests, including one of 20lbs 15oz!

070

img_5174

I was now flat out working on ‘housey’ things straight after work which gave almost no time for fishing. I had one trip after tench to an Oxforshire gravel pit, which resulted in a jack pike, but I had to wait for the river season to open again to get back amongst the decent specimens.

Heavy June rains meant a logical target would be barbel and I was not to be disappointed. Plenty came to my rod on a small local river, including a cracker of 10lbs exactly. I thought this was as good as the barbel get on this river, only to take a photo for my mate Martin on the same day of a larger specimen!

img_5203

IMG_1430

When the dry spell came and the rivers cleared, I sight fished for some cracking chub, the best being this 5lb+ specimen

img_5250

I also found a number of small shoals of fantastic roach. These weren’t the same fish that I’d caught the previous year, and they proved to be a real challenge to catch! I still managed to winkle some beauty’s out though, all came to trotted casters.

img_5230

img_5244

As summer turned into Autumn, I tried for a good barbel and was rewarded with a near 13lb cracker. The lack of rains by now was making the rivers very low and clear and fish were tough to fool! Night fishing for barbel suited my busy schedule and they also seemed to lose their caution in darkness.

img_5254

While the rivers were so stale I turned my attention to still water bream and landed some cracking slabs. Many doubles graced my net with fish landed to almost 14lbs. I also managed a bonus male tench of 7lbs

img_5305

img_5338

img_5353

img_5303

A few frosts saw me turn my attention back to the rivers again, which were painfully low and clear. The only plus side to this was that fish spotting was a lot easier, allowing my mate Martin and I to find a lot of specimen roach that we never had a clue about, plus we found a number of very good perch. We’re yet to target the ‘stripeys’ but accidentally caught them to just under 3lbs. We did see many larger fish though, so lets hope our paths cross before March the 14th!

img_5286

Some of the roach shoals Martin and I stumbled across were just fantastic. Some days I could catch more than 20 redfins that were well over a pound, though it was tough to sort the ‘2’s out in the shoal due to the numbers. Perseverance paid off though as Martin and I both got amongst fish over the ‘magical’ mark

img_5372

img_5492

The back up fish were just as much fun to catch though!

img_5432

img_5483

img_5396

The best thing about finding all these local specimen roach is we’ve (Martin and I) got one shoal all to ourselves (or at least we think we have!) They’re well off the beaten track and are a long walk away from any roads. Then the roach are very hard to see in the deeper water while the banks are very overgrown and untouched. We’ve decided to keep this shoal for the future and have allowed ourselves one short session each until next season when we will have another go. We’ve both caught 2 pound fish from the shoal with plenty of back up fish over 1.8. Our future local roach fishing is looking good for the time being at least!

img_5447

I hope 2017 is just as kind to me on the local fishing front, with a few specimens added in on my travels!

May I just add tight lines to everyone who reads this blog and I hope you all have a great 2017!