Commercial Perch

Bob Roberts got in touch with me and some other anglers to tell us about some big perch being caught from a ‘local’ lake. He wondered if we’d be up for a bit of a social on the place and to hopefully catch a big perch or more. To be honest, I was happy just to turn up for the social, but when he told us that a recent match had produced 12 perch in excess of 2lb 14oz, my attention was well and truly gained. He told us he’d reveal the location closer to the date, but it didn’t stop most of us from having a guess or 3, all wrong I hasten to add! As usual, some anglers had to drop out for various reasons, but on the day 6 hardy anglers met up on a cold, dark February morning.

Believe it or not, when the venue was revealed, it was somewhere I’d walked past many times without a thought of what lurked under the surface. A bonus was that the generous  owner had let us have the place exclusively to ourselves for the day, with free hot beverages thrown in! Any fish caught would be a bonus. When we walked around the lake prior to fishing, it looked absolutely spot on for perch and it wasn’t hard to imagine the places where they’d probably be lurking. In fact there were too many features and it was a case of trying to work out where a big perch would most want to be.

We chose numbers for the order of picking pegs, and it was just my luck that I had the last pick. Never mind I thought, but luckily after everyone else had chosen their peg, I was left with loads of water that was free, and it was the place I fancied most. The reed fringed margins looked a great starting point, but I thought any small fish were more likely to be in deeper water in the cold. And lets be honest, these perch grow big by eating smaller fish, so I wanted an ambush point in deeper water. I chose to put my baits in hopefully the perfect area. Straight ahead was a 10 yard gap between 2 long, thin islands. I could just see (in my mind anyway!) big perch sat on the points of these islands, waiting for some unsuspecting small fish to swim straight into their trap. Surely I couldn’t fail!

I made myself comfortable and used 2 rods, both with link legered lobworms on the hook. These were cast to both points on each island. I also fired a few broken lobworms and casters, my favourite big perch baits, over the top.

For bite indication, I used alarms with very light bobbins on a long drop. That would allow me to keep an eye on the water for any action, plus I could relax and not miss any bites. One hour into the session though, all I’d had was a few twitches and plucks, where’s everyone else was catching. Only the odd modest perch was landed, up to around 2lbs, but some cracking carp were bending everyones rods to the limit.

In the end, my craning neck got the better of me and I switched the right hand rod to float fished casters, occasionally using a worm segment. I thought I still had a chance of a perch on that rod, with any small fish activity possibly bringing the big perch into the swim.

The change finally brought me some action, from a few small roach and a couple of carp. They at least warmed me through, plus I finally caught a perch of around a pound. Things were looking up. Eventually the lobworm rod received a screaming take, but I could tell from the odd powerful run that it was probably a carp. I was right, but still, at least the area was producing now.

Nothing much happened until well into the afternoon. I was just having a coffee from my flask when the sounding alarm grabbed my attention. The bobbin was quickly sailing to the rod butt, so I instinctively grabbed the rod and swept it back. I connected with a solid fish, forcing me to drop my coffee. I slowly eased it towards me and I was a certain it was a big perch. It was heavy, shaking it’s head, but it hadn’t gone on any powerful runs like the carp do. I’d dropped to a 0.15mm fluorocarbon hook link, so I couldn’t bully it too much. I eased the fish to the surface where my suspicions were confirmed. It was a perch and it looked huge! Luckily, the lake owner had insisted we use his landing net heads, and though smaller what I’d normally use, its manoeuvrability enabled me to scoop the fish straight in, before it could make a lunge for the reeds. It only just fitted in as well!

My tirade of swear words followed by the word perch alerted everyone to what I’d caught and they all came walking round to have a look. I placed a sling onto my scales and carefully zeroed them. The Reuben’s gave a reading of 4lbs 1oz, slightly less than I thought, but a magnificent fish from a South Yorkshire pond. After many photos from all and sundry, I put her back to grow bigger still, as she seemed a young fit perch in perfect condition.

I did eventually manage to carry on fishing, but it was mainly a social for me after that perch. I did manage some lovely looking carp on my lobworm rod, and Bob also managed a 3lb perch on his dropshot outfit.

All too soon it was time for us to say our goodbyes and head off home to wherever we came from, but not before we’d all chatted until it was pitch black. It had been a great day. A lake all to ourselves, some nice fish caught, but more importantly it was a day spent with friends who were great company. Roll on the follow up event next winter!

Down The Drain

Every now and then, Martin and I like to spend a day pleasure fishing ( Although all days fishing are a pleasure! ) where we almost treat it like a match. Obviously, the venue has to have a good head of fish, preferably roach, where we can get a lot of bites. This makes a difference to our usual fishing trips for larger fish, where sometimes one bite in a day can be a result. For this particular trip, we chose a Lincolnshire drain.

A plethora of baits and rods were unfurled at the start. It was a new venue to us so we wanted most bases covering. We started by trotting. Martin used a waggler where’s I used a top and bottom float. The cold wind made things tricky, but I soon started to catch some nice fish on my bread flake hook baits. The first fish was a rudd, followed by a roach, then a roach x rudd hybrid. There seemed to be a lot of fish in my peg, but poor Martin was suffering some bad luck. A cormorant surfaced in his peg just after starting, then as he tried to get things going again, a few pike started chasing fish around his swim!

I then started to struggle. The flow stopped, then started flowing the other way before stopping again. Then the water level started rising, by around 18 inches in total. To keep bites coming I was now fishing a small feeder but still using bread on the hook. it was fun watching the quiver tip rattle and pluck, before getting a bite to strike at.

Martin also switched to the feeder and caught his first fish, which looked like a cormorant had tried to grab it. We reckoned it was a decent silver bream of well over a pound.

I started to get a decent run of fish going. They were nearly all good roach, the best weighing 1lb 6oz, with the odd roach x rudd hybrid of well over a pound. It was lovely fishing but I had to really concentrate to hit the bites. Some nearly dragged the rod in, but were missed, but some tiny trembles produced roach over a pound!

Martin was still frustrated, but eventually the roach started to settle in his swim, along with the obligatory roach x rudd hybrid. Just as the sport was picking up, everything went dead. We couldn’t buy a bite.

We thought when the drain starts running off again that the sport would pick up, but it didn’t run off and the water level carried on rising. We called it a day and took our nets out for some photos. Martin had managed a reasonable net in the end, despite the bad luck, with some nice fish amongst them.

I was surprised when I lifted my net out, I’d got a few more fish than I realised. Most were roach a few ounces either side of a pound.

They had the most vivid colours, silver and red, with the shot of blue through their upper flanks. It had been a good day, but as we were tackling down the drain started flowing again, and the water level dropping. I had no doubt that it would now fish really well, but it was time to go home. I’m sure we’ll be back in the future. You can’t beat a good net of wild roach.

 

 

 

Predator Palputations

I haven’t really done very much pike fishing, especially in the last few years. In the freezing cold weather we’re having at the moment, I decided that old ‘Esox’ would be a viable target on my local rivers, drains and canals.

First up, I tried a couple of local rivers. A big fat blank first time out was followed by a chunky mid double on my next trip.

I then fished a local drain that holds good numbers of pike, including the odd really big fish. Sadly, my indicators and float didn’t move all day, but I saw other anglers land a few ‘jacks’ Still, it was a nice crisp day and the anticipation levels are always high.

The snow and rain that fell coloured the local drains and flowing water so I concentrated on a nearby canal. Again, this holds good numbers of pike, many into double figures, with the odd ‘lump’ for good measure.

I fished a few times on a couple of different stretches. I had several runs that I missed and several that I connected with. While these takes were happening, I realised that a pike run is arguably the best, most exciting moment in angling. It’s where the heart, or at least my heart, really starts pumping in anticipation. Will the fish drop the bait? Will I connect with the strike? Is it a PB, a ’20’+ or just a jack? All these thoughts seem to rush through my head, and I like to strike my bites really early! 5 seconds is the most I’ll wait to avoid any possibility of deep hooking.

My early fish were low doubles or high singles.

But after those first few fish, I only managed to make contact with small ‘jacks’ though some looked really pretty and like they could go on to be beasts in the future.

Time will tell whether I get round to fishing for pike again this season, or if I get that big girl or not. They spawn a lot earlier than most fish, and won’t be too far away from their annual mating regime. Whatever I do, I think I’ll be pike fishing a bit more often in the future.

 

 

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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

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

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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!

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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!

 

Bits and Bobs

I’ve had very little time to fish throughout the last month or so and when I have got the rods out I think I’ve fished for the right species at the wrong time! Floods, sharp frosts, plus everything in between have hampered me, but I still managed to put a few fish on the bank.

In the flood I fished a slack area of a local river, hoping some big roach would be at home, but all I caught was a surprise chub plus a small roach. The chub was a surprise because I haven’t seen one on the stretch all year.

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A week or so later I had a fun time trotting for small roach and put a lovely net of fish together. There was an eye opener for me during the day though, a very large pike showed itself. I just need to try to locate her again in the future, but at the moment she’s hiding very well!

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Just before Christmas I had my first fishing trip down south in a long time. A kind invite from a good mate had me fishing a private stretch of the Hampshire Avon that rarely sees another angler. The list of fish caught recently, despite it hardly ever getting fished, is jaw dropping. Roach over 3lbs, dace over a pound, chub to just under 7lbs, huge pike and grayling are all in residence. It was more of a recce trip when I went, but the excitement was still there. The diversity of carriers and wire pools had me foaming at the mouth, but a freezing fog that lingered all day probably didn’t help the fishing.

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Because of the cold I had a go for a big dace, but the very low water level and crystal clear water meant they were very cautious. I soon had a few plump ‘darts’ though, up to a weighed 9oz. The best thing is as you’ll see in the photo, they were all scale and fin perfect. My mate had the largest, but with a number of pound plus fish to his name in the past, he never bothered weighing it! It looked a good 12oz to me.

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Later in the afternoon, I concentrated on fishing a pool where some giant roach live. Every time the tip ‘tweaked and banged’ as something showed an interest in my ‘flake’ offering, my pulse quickened, but the culprits were always average sized chub between 4 and 5lbs. Again, these were in fantastic condition.

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All too soon it was time to come home, but I can’t wait for a return visit! And that probably concludes my fishing for 2016 as work beckons until New Years Eve, which also happens to be my birthday! Have a great new year everybody and tight lines!

 

 

Making Short Sessions Count

It’s that time of year when not only are the nights really starting to pull in, but postmen also get really busy helping Father Christmas deliver all of his presents! Because of this I have to try and squeeze short after work sessions in on local waters, where I can, plus choose what to fish for on my day off, which conditions will often dictate.

First off I was exploring a small river for big roach. A different river to where I normally fish, but one where I’ve lost a big roach before. Unfortunately, we’d just had our first frost of the winter, so the fishing was slow. Trotted bread eventually brought me a few chub between 2 and 3lbs, but it was Martin who nearly stole the show. The big roach he’d hooked did what a lot of big roach do and slipped the hook at the net! We’ll return to try again though, I’m sure of that.

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Over the last week we’ve finally had a decent bit of rain up here. That meant for my next session I was racing to the Trent straight after work and when I arrived it seemed a few other anglers had thought along the same lines. The good news was that all had caught at least one barbel, so I was hoping for a pull or two!

Just as dusk was falling, my downstream rod banged over and I was playing barbel number one. It was quickly landed and might have weighed between 6-7lbs, but I never weigh these fish. The scales in the photo are just for reference. It was quite a plump fish and in prime Autumn condition.

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Just after this action the ‘Super Moon’ came out from behind the clouds. It was like fishing in daylight and I don’t think it was a coincidence that when it went back behind cloud cover my rod tip banged round again!

The culprit was the twin of the first fish, but straight after I was in again. This time the fish became snagged a few times, but by taking the bail arm off, I kept making contact again and eventually landed a ‘scraper’ double.

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I checked the line for damage and it was just the coated braid that had suffered with a bit of the coating rubbed off here and there. You have to fish tough tackle to fish the boulder strewn Trent. I’d have lost this fish on a standard mono or braided hooklink.

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The moon came out again and lit up the Trent Valley, it also lowered the temperature a lot. Just as I was thinking of calling it a night, I was in again, all four takes coming to the downstream rod. I could feel a grating sensation during the fight so I bullied the fish hard. This time though my luck ran out and the hooklink parted. It’s part and parcel of fishing here which is why I use running rigs and barbless hooks. A fixed rig is just irresponsible, but some anglers still fish like this!! Anyway, after the loss I made my way home.

The temperature had plunged when it came to my day off work, but I still ventured out after a big river pike. It was great fun watching the float, under which a deadbait sat, slowly move away and plunge under the surface a few times. The culprits were always hungry ‘jacks’ but it was good sport all the same, and you never know, the next fish could be a ’20’+!!

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After another bout of warm rain, I just had to see if it had stirred my local river roach into feeding. I shot to the river straight after work and it looked just right. There was a tinge of colour, but the light was failing quickly so it was quiver tipped bread instead of the usual trotted casters. I wasn’t to be disappointed as the tip yanked round on several occasions. The first fish was a new fish for me, a 2lb 1oz redfin, and it was backed up with a few more quality samples.

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The only negative was another lost big roach that would almost certainly given me a brace of ‘2’s

Incidentally, out of all the big roach I’ve caught from the river (11 over 2lbs I think!) and the many around 1.8+, I’ve only ever had 2 recaptures. One was a 2lb+ fish and the other around 1.6. It just shows what a great little river this is.

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Roach Magic and Barbel Blues

After last months bream sessions, I have now moved onto flowing water to try and catch some more of my favourite autumnal fish, barbel and roach. Both species can be caught to specimen sizes close to home so they fit into my working week nicely. If I go straight after work I can usually winkle out a big roach or two, and the same for barbel, though the latter suits me better because I can stay a couple of hours into darkness, probably the most productive time for a big fish.

The rivers I fish, and I suspect most others, are painfully low and clear as I write this and have been for some time. They are in desperate need of some sustained rainfall. The clarity means fish are very easy to spot, but they’ve become very nervous as we move into November. The weed they use for cover is dying off and they are using anything to conceal themselves, especially on the smaller rivers. A seemingly barren river can hold many surprises as fish tuck themselves away into the undercut banks or a tangle of tree roots.

Some of the big roach that I’ve previously caught from my local river are doing such a thing. After a couple of days where I couldn’t spot anything, suddenly half a dozen good fish drifted downstream, out of nowhere, right in front of where I was stood. Even better was most were around the 2lbs mark. As quickly as they came, they vanished again! I couldn’t find them so decided to move on for now and use the clear water to my advantage. I walked a lot of the river to see if any more good roach were about. I wasn’t disappointed.

I found a handful of new shoals which taught me a few good lessons about estimating their sizes. The first shoal I found had me believing I’d found the holy grail of roach, a big shoal of 2lb+ fish, with some looking very big. A quick early morning session seemed to prove my eyes were right, as I landed a couple of beauties well over a pound, with a chunky redfin of 2lbs 2oz topping off the morning. All fell to my trotted casters, they just can’t seem to get enough of them!

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The next day I returned to fish the swim hard. I fed a lot of casters and soon had loads of big roach queueing up for more. They weren’t hard to catch once I’d got them going, but the sizes were a shock. Most were around a pound, give or take a few ounces, but I thought they were all a lot larger. I was puzzled, but carried on catching numbers of good roach to 1lb 9oz, with a few more around the pound and a half mark.

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To start with, I was walking the roach 30 yards upstream before releasing them, but after doing this about 15 times I was getting tired, so I slipped the rest in a keepnet instead. The above photos were snapped on my mobile phone. I kept sending the pictures to Martin at work to tease him! I took so many photos of roach that the battery went flat!

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As I tackled down at dusk, I couldn’t believe how many big roach I’d landed in just a few hours after work. I also couldn’t help being slightly down that all the fish I’d estimated at around 2lbs were just over half of that size. Still, I shouldn’t be complaining in these tough times where if a river roach just reaches adulthood its an achievement.

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After all the roach fun I decided to try for a good barbel. I knew my normal boilie tactics would be hard work until nightfall due to the low clear water, so I tried the particle approach instead. After I had patiently fed a few pints of both hemp and casters into my swim over a couple of hours, I finally made my first cast. Gone were the 12b lines and coated braid hooklinks used in coloured water or at night. In their place was one rod, 8lb main line and a 6ft long, 5lb fluorocarbon bottom, tied to a size 14 hook. Bait was a couple of real casters and a couple of fake ones.

It didn’t take long for the rod tip to crash round, with a manic barbel of around 7 to 8lbs the culprit. I landed it reasonably quickly, despite the light gear, because the flow is almost non existent.

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This process was repeated a few times, including into dark, but none of the barbel were much larger. The best fish was an ounce under 10lbs. One thing what amuses me is how hard these smaller fish fight compared to the double figure fish. They go off like rockets, stripping line from the reels drag, unlike the larger fish that tend to sulk on the bottom before begrudgingly giving up.

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I reverted back to my boilie approach on my next trips, because I believe it singles out the larger barbel. Despite a couple of sessions well into dark, all I could muster was a net full of 5lb bream, plus a few chub, though one of these was more than welcome at 5lbs 9oz.

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The odd big fish is still getting caught though so I shall return, rain or no rain, but for now I decided to concentrate on the roach instead.

On my next roach trip I was joined by a mate. I wasn’t too bothered about fishing on this day because the weather was dire. It was chilly and throwing it down. We went to a new swim where I’d recently spotted some roach and chub. I snuck downstream and saw a few roach, with a couple of belters amongst them. They were very hard to see in the gloomy light though. My mate trotted the swim manfully, despite the dire conditions, and was rewarded with a 4lb+ chub and a chunky roach of around 12oz. A  small pike had launched itself at this roach, but let go, allowing it to be quickly landed.

When the weather was at its worst my mate had had enough, allowing me to take over. It was a bad error as I soon swung in a small roach, which the pike jumped out of the water for! It was certainly a bad tempered or very hungry pike, which was confirmed when I struck into my next fish. I could tell it was a big roach, but knowing the angry ‘esox’ was around, I cranked it quickly to the bank, where I shouted at my mate to quickly land it for me, which he did in the nick of time. The pike had almost stolen my prize in the commotion, a few missing scales being the only damage thankfully.

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The scales gave a weight of 1lb 13oz, not quite a ‘2’ but at least it would get the chance to grow on and possibly attain the ‘special mark’

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The next trip was to a completely new area, and obviously another shoal of good sized roach. Initially I had been fooled. Martin and I saw this shoal on one of our walks and he asked me to check them out when the light was better. This I did, getting them taking my casters freely, but I wrote the sizes off at being around 12oz at the best. I realised I’d cocked up big time when Martin rang me one morning to tell me about his catch of good roach, topped off by a couple of low ‘2’s, from that very swim!!! A few days later, at my first available opportunity, I was in the same swim, landing my own silver bullion with the best two fish of the morning going 2lbs and 1lb 10oz The ‘2’ had certainly been in the wars, but seemed fit and healthy.

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In this catch was another half a dozen roach all between 1.4 and 1.8, plus a number of smaller fish from an ounce upwards, so hopefully there are plenty of roach to be going at for the next couple of seasons.

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I walked the same area the next week, wondering how I could have misjudged the sizes so much. What I saw blew me away. This time I approached on the opposite bank to the one I fished. The roach looked very big, in fact there were a lot of big roach, so many that I have to return soon! To confirm my thoughts, I walked miles so that I could look at the roach from the opposite bank, where this time they again looked 12oz at best! The only thing I can put this down to is that if you’re almost level with the water, the light is bent and makes the fish look smaller, but if you’re on a higher bank, this doesn’t happen as much and the fish look nearer to their true size. That’s what probably confused me with the other shoal where they looked bigger than they were. I suppose the moral is don’t judge the size of any fish you spot, at least until you’ve caught a few!

The only downside to this great roach fishing is the loss of the odd big girl. Tiny hooks and light lines means playing a big redfin in flowing water will always be a nail biting affair and this was proven on the 31st of October. I’d singled out three very large roach in the bright autumn sunshine and managed to get the two I wanted most to take my bait. The first was lost after playing it for 30 seconds or so, without ever getting it close in. The second fish came off after just a few seconds. I don’t know how big they were, both of which would have given me a clear picture of the rivers potential for roach, size wise. As Martin said to me later “You’ve had a nightmare on Halloween” It still hurts, but I try to focus on the good times!

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Dream Bream

Following my patchy results from a month of targeting bream on a large stillwater, I returned with a fresh set of ideas. The first thing to try was to target the water as if I was in a match. I’d still use 2 rods to double my chances of fish finding my bait, but I decided to scale things down bait wise and not spod any bait over the spots where I was fishing.

I also changed the end rigs. I used open end feeders that would have lots of chopped worm in them, plugged with a bit of dry groundbait. All the amino acids of the worms and the cloud of the ground bait would hopefully draw the bream in, but with less food items to feast on, they’d find my hook bait a lot quicker. That hook bait was the tail of a lobworm, a classic bream bait if there ever was one. This was fished on a size 16 hook tied to a 4lb fluorocarbon hook link. Everything was scaled down, but not too much. I wanted to land every fish I hooked.

I started the session by making 10 casts with both rods, just as if in a match. This put a bit of bait on both spots, then I waited for the slabs to hopefully move in on my areas. I was still using alarms and bobbins for bite detection. I didn’t fancy staring at a quiver tip for hours on end then missing a bite when I looked away!

Within 30 minutes the bobbin tightened on my right hand rod and I eased into fish number one. I couldn’t hurry things too much, but bream are hardly the hardest fighters in the British Isles so I was soon landing what looked like a nice fish. I always weight the first decent fish so that I have an idea whether to weigh any more that I may land.  The needle on the scales went to 11lbs, a pleasing start.

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After the good start, a lull in the action followed. I questioned my tactics, though a series of strange bites soon produced the smallest pike I’ve ever caught!

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I kept on casting my feeders every 30 minutes, making sure there was alway fresh bait and attraction going into the swim. Eventually I had another typical bream bite, which produced a young looking bream that I knew wouldn’t make double figures.

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This signalled the start of a hectic period where the bream moved onto my bait. Most of the action was on the right hand rod, but it wasn’t long before I was struggling to keep both rods in the water, regularly getting ‘double hookups’ I didn’t weigh any of these mint conditioned bream, estimating most to be between 8 and 11lbs. I knew the more fish i caught, the better my chance of a larger specimen.

I’d just re cast the left hand rod after yet another ‘slab’, when the next fish probably didn’t even let the worm reach the lake bed. As I pulled the line to sink it, it was pulled back through my fingers as yet another bream fought for freedom. This time it felt a little heavier, but careful playing soon had the fish in landing range. After the customary couple of rolls before giving up, this bream squeezed into the mesh and I knew I’d got a decent specimen.

On the mat I couldn’t believe the girth of this bream. It was as fat as a carp and very deep. It just needed more length to be a true giant.

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After placing her in the sling and getting the weight, the 13lb 2oz reading was a little short of what I thought it would weigh. It was still a cracking specimen, and it looked a young fish too, so it may grow for a few years yet. It also justified my switch in tactics. So much so, that I returned to the lake a few days later to try ‘more of the same’

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For the next trip I had the lake to myself. That might have been down to the fact that there was a chill in the air. The temperature was only 5 degrees in the morning and the lake was wrapped in a heavy mist overcoat. Autumn was definitely on its way and I knew this would probably be my last day after the bream. Some leaves were starting to turn brown and some were falling from the trees. I hoped the bream would feed hard prior to the cooler months, sensing hard times were on the way.

A steady mornings fishing produced a few high single figure slabs. Some were the smallest bream I’d caught from the lake. At least the feeder tactics and baits were getting me a lot more action than the previous months fishing. I just hoped the numbers game would produce a big fish

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A quiet period followed before another bite saw me bending into what felt like a heavy fish. After slowly gaining 60 yards of line, a hefty slab only just squeezed into my 30 inch landing net.

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Again, after weighing her, I was surprised that it only weighed 13lbs 10oz, not that I was complaining. In fact I was chuffed to bits. My tactics had produced a raft of big bream, topped by this specimen.

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I carried on fishing, but again the bream were smaller than average. Even a blind bream found my worm hook bait though, proving how good the worms pulling power is!!

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The last few hours of the session went biteless and it was time to wrap my bream campaign up for another year. I’d had a great few days bream fishing, topping off a good month. I was pleased that I’d changed tactics, adapted, and caught a few quality bream.

I just hope the rest of the Autumn and winter go as much to plan. Now what do I target next. Big river roach or barbel? Oh how I love Autumn!!!

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Is the ‘Method’ the Method?

Late summer into early autumn usually sees me partake in a spot of bream fishing. The fish can probably sense that colder weather is on its way and they seem to feed a bit harder than normal, making them easier to catch.

I set out to catch some big slabs on a large stillwater. I fished my usual tactics of method feeders with a popped up piece of plastic corn on a short hook link. These were fished at around 50 yards out over a bed of spodded particles, comprising of all sorts of goodies, mainly pellets, corn and Vitalin.

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Just a couple of hours into my first trip and my delkim signalled that something had taken a liking to my popped up offering. I was soon easing a lovely bream into my landing net that turned out to be just short of 12lbs, a pleasing start.

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A couple more double figure slabs soon followed, along with a male tench that was over 7lbs, though it doesn’t look like it in the photos!

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All to soon it was time to pack the tackle away and head for home, but I couldn’t wait to return.

I thought following my first day, where I’d located the bream, that the following sessions would be productive. I was wrong. Things were slow and I even had a couple of ‘bream blanks’ though a total blank was salvaged with a small lure rod that was used to cast jigs whenever fry exploded from the surface to escape their attacker. This resulted in a few nice perch and  couple of small pike, but I did lose one pike that looked well into double figures

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I was managing to land the odd good bream to keep my spirits up, but I felt I needed to shake things up a bit and change what had worked for me in the past. When you land bream to just short of 13lbs it makes you question whether you’re doing the right thing, but the odd knock and twitch on the rods suggested fish were in the area though weren’t getting their heads down on my hook baits.

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The thing was other anglers were also struggling, or catching a similar amount to me, but the odd one was catching more than most. If you’re in a match and somebody is regularly catching more than you, you either copy what they’re up to or try to make things happen in you’re own peg. I vowed to return in a few weeks time and try a different tactic to try and fool the big slabs into gorging on my baits!

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