Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Hard Going but Light (Rain) at the End of the Tunnel

I've been struggling recently due to the very low river levels and last week was no exception. I had planned to go twice but after the first day I didn't bother going again, deciding I probably should start Christmas shopping, although I don't usually do that until Xmas Eve.

Anyway, on the day I went the river was the lowest I've ever seen it and crystal clear, so much so that I could see the bottom across most of the river and with it all of the snags and rubbish that was in there. I'll never understand the mentality of people who dump all manner of crap into beautiful places without conscience.

The day was tough with only 3 follows from unusually (for this stretch) small fish in the first 6 hours.. none of which looked like they were going to hit the lure. I made a move to another stretch that I've not fished this year which is generally a bit shallower, yet again hoping that the fish would be easier to locate in any deeper areas. That didn't really prove to be the case but after an hour a fish whacked the lure in shallow water. Unfortunately the strike met with nothing and all I got for my effort was a few extra slashes in the tail of my softbait. I carried on knowing that there were a few big slack areas towards the end of the stretch but, after the long trek, the river level meant that there was only a couple of feet of water in them. By now I'd pretty much resigned myself to a blank but I had a few chucks in each swim as I was there. I arrived in one of the very last swims which didn't look promising, very shallow with pacey water over a gravel bottom looking more like a typical trout swim, but on the second cast a fish hit the lure and I was finally rewarded with a pike.. not a big one at about 8lb but very welcome nonetheless.

This week has seen quite a rise in the water level but once the colour starts to drop out the fish should be well on the feed... I've just got to hit it right.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Quiet Couple of Weeks

With the rivers dropping to summer levels and being crystal clear the fishing has been difficult for the last couple of weeks.

I fished a regular stretch one day without incident until a couple of upper doubles followed my lure in on the same cast, swimming side by side, which is unusual. Neither took the lure but a couple of short casts later and one of them hit it. On the scales she went 18.09lb and although I fished for the rest of the day on that stretch and another that was the only action.

A couple of days later I went again but the river had dropped even further and the fishing had got even harder. I fished a couple of stretches without so much as a follow! I fished one swim where two pike could be seen lying on the bottom in the shallow water but no matter what I threw at them they weren't interested.. in fact, they couldn't even be bothered to move out of position even after I dropped a big lure right on their noses.

I had made plans to go for the whole weekend with a mate but after a chat we decided it just wasn't worth the effort and expense so the plan was changed and we went to a beautiful stretch of river that I've been fishing for a few years on and off. This river has always had some cracking pike in it which can often be seen in the shallow, clear water but my last trip there last year was a bit of a disappointment. I had a few fish upto 18½lb but there was no sign of any of the bigger fish. This trip proved to be the same and was hard going for the most part. We did find some fish on one stretch on the first day though. What was strange is that even though we'd fished for hours without a take between us (apart from a 2lb jack for my mate on the first cast) we had two double hook-ups within 10 minutes, with the first hook-up resulting in two pike about 9lb then the next hook-up giving us two scraper doubles. Although I missed a mid double and had a follow from an upper double, that was it for the day. We'd decided to sleep at the venue so I knocked up a spag bol and we sat under a myriad of stars having a few beers and Jack Daniels, talking fishing and taking the mick out of each other. The next day proved to be similar to the first and the only concentration of fish we could find were in the same stretch as the day before, albeit in an area further along. I was first in with a low double and a while later my mate missed a good fish which he blamed on me for talking to him. A few minutes later he missed another which looked to be a low double. He wasn't happy by now and was speechless.. which is unheard of for him! I managed another scraper double shortly after before we went back for lunch which comprised of the compulsory bacon & egg sarnies, washed down with a couple of beers. We had a longer lunch than we'd planned so decided to go back to the stretch we'd caught from for an hour. My mate had a fish about 8 or 9lb on virtually the first cast as soon as it hit the water but that was it. We had met with the fishery owner earlier in the day and after a chat he said we could go and fish an adjacent lake so we headed back to give it a go for the last hour. On the way back I dropped into the swim where a good fish had followed the previous day in the hope that it was still there and on the first cast my lure got hit. Unfortunately it wasn't the same fish and one about 6 or 7lb came in. That was it on the river so we headed off to the lake, but after doing a complete circuit we'd only had one follow each from small fish so decided to call it a day. All in all we landed 10 pike between us, 6 for me and 4 for my mate, but it was tough going.

A couple of days later I decided to get out again but went to a different stretch to where I normally fish. This stretch is made up of shallow and deeper areas within the same swims so I was hoping that the fish could be found in the deeper areas more easily than on the other stretches which have a more uniform depth. Not sure if that proved to be the case but I managed to catch a scraper double and one about 6lb, although I somehow lost 2 or 3 other pike to hook pulls.

With the rivers remaining low and clear it is tough going at the moment and with no sign of rain it isn't going to get any easier any time soon but as they say, "you've got to be in it to win it" so next week I plan on spending a couple of days out on the rivers.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Quite a Week

After catching such a nice fish earlier in the week I decided to get back out while my luck was in. Although the river wasn't in the greatest of conditions, with a bit too much colour, I was hoping to hit it in perfect conditions as the colour dropped out.

Unfortunately this didn't prove to be the case but after a lot of searching things came good in the end.

On Wednesday night I pondered going fishing on Thursday but the weather wasn't looking good with strong northerly's and north easterly's planned so had decided to go on Friday instead. My body clock had other ideas though and I awoke on Thursday at 4.30am! Shame to waste such an early start so off I went.

The fishing was hard and after 7 hours without a fish or even a follow things were looking pretty grim. I still had a few hours of daylight left so went off to a different stretch ever hopeful of a change in fortune. The river was still quite high and pushing strongly through but I came across a slack behind a fallen tree and sent my lure along the bank. About half way back next to a big clump of submerged grass a good pike shot out and smashed the lure, sending a spray of water everywhere as I struck, but the hooks didn't connect! How the hell did I miss that one I thought to myself! I wandered off gutted at missing the fish but encouraged by some action at last.

On I went, fishing every suitable spot with just one follow off a scraper double to show for it. Time was getting on and I was nearing the end of the stretch when a fish smashed the lure off the surface as I went to lift it out. I struck into it and the fish thrashed around on top for a while before I could get down to her with the net. In she went first time and I could see it was a good fish. I secured the net and left her to recover while I got myself sorted... with the weigh sling wetted, scales zeroed and camera set up for a self-take I lifted her out. After such a short fight and a rest in the net she was full of beans and gave me a bit of a beating up on the mat and as I leant over her, cradled in my arms, the loose stinger hook whipped past and caught my chin which started bleeding badly. No matter, it's only blood! After unhooking her she calmed down and went on the scales which went round to 24.14lb. As luck would have it one of the bailiffs came along at the perfect time and took a few photo's...

That was it for the day but plans were in place for me to come back again the following day.

Friday started pretty much the same as Thursday. The first stretch produced nothing at all so it was back to the same stretch as the day before. As I got to the slack where I'd missed the fish I was hopeful that she might still be there, even though the river had dropped about 18", and sure enough the lure got smashed on the first cast in exactly the same spot. This time she didn't want to risk it getting away and inhaled the whole lure. On setting the hooks she went berserk and powered all around the shallow swim, kicking up clouds of mud as she went. As she went in the net she looked a lot bigger than I'd thought she was when I missed her and on the scales she went 26.04lb.. exactly the same weight as the fish from another stretch a few days earlier.

This fish was in great condition and was very long. If she'd had the girth of a lot of the big fish from lately she'd be very big indeed. After a few quick photo's I held her in the water in the net but after a few minutes she didn't seem to want to swim off. I was getting worried a bit as I couldn't reach her to "swim" her back and forth to get some oxygen through her gills and the length of her meant her nose was pushed up against the mesh of the net, even though it's a XL size. Only one thing for it; off came the boots and socks and with trousers rolled up I slid down the bank into the shallows. I wouldn't normally have been able to do this (and it's certainly not recommended from a safety point of view) but I could see the bottom which was flooded grass. Bloody hell was it cold! I grabbed her tail wrist and eased her out of the net. I pushed her forwards and backwards about 4 or 5 times when I felt her kick, then with an immense amount of power she exploded out of my hand and shot off, leaving me dripping with the spray. Not sure if it was the net mesh restricting her breathing or whether she was just having me at it but it was worth getting wet to see her swim off so strongly.

This week's not been easy with the river not quite being on form but with 4 fish caught, 2 at 26.04lb, a 24.14lb and one about 11lb it has been a great weeks fishing.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Back in the Game

After having my arse handed to me at Chew it was back to my usual haunts yesterday. It was freezing cold at first light with the temperature at -0.5°C and a hard frost covering the ground. The river had again dropped a few more feet and the water was gin clear which aren't good conditions.

I started off and on the third cast I felt a quick bump as a pike hit the lure but I think it only grabbed the tail as the hooks didn't go home, but it was an encouraging start in the conditions. Unfortunately that was the only action for several hours apart from a low double following my lure in 3 times but not taking it.

Lunchtime was approaching before I finally got a proper hit and a feisty fish about 11lb was landed. I was happy with this fish in the conditions but made my way back to the car fishing all of the available swims. As I neared the car I got to a swim I'd not yet fished, and which happens to be the swim my biggest fish from this stretch had come from at 24.12lb last year. It's a tricky swim as there's a tree lying on the bottom parallel to the bank that's about 60ft long! I'd lost plenty of lures on this tree last year before the water dropped and I could see what was down there. I made a couple of short casts and bought the lure over the tree. On the third cast the lure came close in, clearly visible in the clear water about 15ft from where I was stood when a big fish shot out of nowhere and engulfed the lure. I struck and with a big splash she was hooked. I could see it was 20lb+ so when she went in the net first time I let out a big sigh of relief. I secured the net and got my scales and camera ready, and asked the coarse angler in the next swim to come and take a few trophy shots. With everything ready I lifted the net and as she left the water she seemed to grow! She was a stunning fish in perfect condition and had been feeding really well. I laid her on the mat and noticed that the hooks had come out in the net! There's such a fine line between catching them and losing them sometimes.

On the scales she went 26.04lb and to say I was happy is an understatement. I sat down for a coffee and a fag and grinned like an idiot... this is what it's all about for me; seeing a big pike hit a lure up close and feeling the power and aggression of the strike.. it never fails to impress me.

I carried on and fished the rest of the day without a sign of a fish, apart from a small jack that followed the lure in but after a fish like that it didn't matter. Can't wait to get back again now.

A Tough Few Days

After the success of a few days earlier I went out again hoping for some of the same but things had changed somewhat. There had been some early morning frosts which were the first of the winter and the river had dropped a couple of feet. The fishing was hard all day but ended up with 3 fish.. one about 14lb, one about 11lb and a 6lb jack on lures.

A close friend of mine had managed to book a couple of days boat fishing on Chew a couple of days later and although it's not a place I particularly like or fish very often I thought it would make a change and of course, you're always in with a chance of a real monster sized pike. To cut a long story short, we fished Saturday and Sunday and boated 6 fish between us but the biggest was about 7-8lb! I had a big fish we estimated at about 25lb nip the tail of my lure a couple of times before it turned away at the boat but that was the highlight of the trip. Not what we went there for but there was a 36lb'er, 2 x 29's and a number of other 20's caught whilst we were on there. It seems that Chew is a bit of a lottery when it comes to fish location and you either drop on them or you don't. That doesn't really suit me as I always like to have a plan on big waters.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Back on the River

With the rivers having been in almost continual flood, one of my favourite lakes having 15ft of water drained from it for repairs and another still 5ft down on normal levels it's been a bit quiet over recent weeks. I've had a few trips out landing a couple of perch to about 1½lb and a handful of pike to about 11lb so when the river started to fall a couple of days ago I decided on a trip. The anticipation meant I had very little sleep and was raring to go at 5am. On arrival I was very happy to see the water relatively clear with a tinge of colour, although it was pushing through quite fast... good conditions for this river.

I arrived at my favourite swim at first light and my big softbait got walloped on only the second cast. It felt like a decent fish but with a big headshake and an underwater flash of the fish it was off! Not a great start but at least the fish were up for it. I fished a few more swims then came to another favourite. Although the water was pushing through there is a small slack of a couple of feet against the bank and with the level quite high the vegetation meant the pike had plenty of spots to lie up and ambush from. This proved to be the case and within a few casts a good fish hit the lure hard. After a good fight she was in the net and was in perfect condition. She weighed in at 18.09lb which was a very nice start to the day.

I had a few more casts when an old chap arrived at the top of the swim, obviously wanting to fish it. We had a quick chat and I said I'd be moving along soon so he was welcome to it. As he started to set up it turned out he's been fishing this river for over 50 years and was a mine of information, a really nice fella, named Ken. I'd caught the fish within a few feet of me and there was still a big chunk of water I'd not covered so flipped the bait out again, further downstream. As it got closer a fish hit it hard and on striking into it it was obviously a good fish. It got closer and came to the surface where we could both see it was long, wide and deep and the lure was completely inside it's mouth. It seemed beat but as I reached for the net it decided to tailwalk, thrashing it's head from side to side, and as it did so the lure came flying out at me! I was left shaking and gutted. We both estimated it to be at least 25lb. By now a lot of pleasure anglers had turned up and swims were very limited. I fished on and managed another about 10lb or so, but the loss of that fish was still stinging. I eventually got back to the same swim and was having a chat with the old fella, who was catching roach, dace and bleak almost every cast but every now and again a pike would shoot out and nick one off his hooks on the surface. After about the third time he asked me to have a chuck in his swim to try and catch it. After a couple of casts a good pike followed the lure to my feet then disappeared into the depths. I made a short cast and as the lure hit the surface at my feet a big mouth appeared out of nowhere and smashed it, sending a spray of water everywhere. Unfortunately the hooks didn't find a home and an inspection of the lure showed that it had just grabbed the tail. Ken started to fish again but a few minutes later the pike nailed a roach he was winding in, attacking it like a broaching submarine.. very impressive! Once again he asked me to have another go for it and on the first cast downstream it hit the lure. This time she was hooked and after a few powerful surges she was in the net. Once on the bank her true depth could be seen and she was deep, but not that long, and on the scales she went 20.12lb, making up for the earlier lost fish.

I carried on and the light was fading fast by now but I decided to stick it out. I got to a swim I'd not fished as a coarse angler had been there all day and flicked my lure out, letting the current swing it into the bank. A couple of turns of the reel handle and another fish hit it. After an brief fight she was in the net and it was another good fish. Much longer than the earlier fish but her belly was completely empty. On the scales she came agonisingly close but after weighing her twice I settled on 19.15lb. Just one small roach and she'd have gone over the magical 20 but no matter, still a great fish. It was pitch dark by now so instead of setting up a self-take photo I let her go.

All in all a great days fishing which hopefully won't be the last if the rain stays away.

Friday, 18 October 2013


After an uneventful and very wet morning session on Wednesday I decided to get out again on Thursday to get my pike fix.

On arrival I could see that the lake had risen about 3" from the previous days rain and although the water clarity was perfect the fishing was very slow.. in fact, it was positively inert with not so much as a follow for several hours. I had my excuse ready and blamed it on the cold rain from the day before; the temperature had dropped dramatically on Wednesday and was only 6°C at 5am.

Whatever the reason the pike just weren't interested in feeding. I knew they were there and hoped that the warm sunshine and mild westerly wind might bring them on the feed later in the day after the water had warmed. As it turned out that didn't really happen so there's only one thing to do when the pike aren't feeding and that's to play on their instincts and annoy them into snapping at a lure.

I loosely call it the shock method when trying to explain it to anyone as you're trying to shock the pike into snapping at the lure, not to eat but to maim, kill or chase it away. The tactic is simple.. get a softbait down deep where the pike are lying and jerk it without retrieving too fast. Another way to do it is to jerk the lure off the bottom a couple of feet and then let it drop back onto the deck on a tight line, the same as when jigging for zander. A lure worked like this seems to grab their attention and they hit it out of pure aggression. It's a risky tactic amongst rocks and tackle losses are unavoidable but you've got to get it in their face so you just have to live with a few lost lures and leaders. As the pike are not trying to eat the lure, takes are usually one quick thump as they snap at them as they get too close and annoys them. I think they must try and spit it out as fast as they take it, rather than hold onto it, because takes can be hard to hit and you have to strike fast to set the hooks. Hookholds can also be a bit poor with the method due to them not trying to eat it.

Anyway, I started with the shock tactic and not long after I felt a hard thump at the bottom of the shelf as I jerked it upwards. I struck quickly and a decent fish started shaking it's head and twisting. It seems as though the pike are in as much shock as you when they feel the hookset. They often don't seem to know what's happened and initially behave differently to a fish hooked on normal retrieve tactics. The braid was doing a merry dance zipping around in all directions on the surface before I could get any real control but I got it up quickly enough where the pike started fighting normally. A couple of minutes passed before it came to hand and I easily slipped one hookpoint out from its tentative hold at the edge of its mouth. It was in perfect condition... I didn't weigh her but she was about 15lb..

The afternoon passed by and I managed a couple more jacks to the shock method and missed a mid double that took me by surprise as I lifted the lure out of the water. I just saw an open mouth appear, grab the lure and make a big splash as I tried to set the hooks, followed by the fish turning sideways and disappearing! A bit later I had another hit and a healthily fat scraper double came to hand.

Even with the fish completely off the feed I managed to winkle out 4 fish by the end of the day so if you find yourself in the same situation give the shock method a go.. you might just save a blank.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

As with a lot of waters that open at the start of October, the fishing starts very well and tails off after a month or so. Lack of angling pressure means the fish are off guard and are willing to feed on whatever is thrown there way.

After last weeks successful session I decided on a return trip before the weather turned more wintery so went back yesterday. On arrival we were surprised to find no-one else pike fishing which gave us more water to play with but after a slow start it was obvious that the fish had been fished for hard over the last week. A couple of lost pike floats and rigs, one with a perch livebait still attached, were pulled out of the water and put in my bag for disposal.

About an hour in I made my way to a corner and straight away a small tap on my lure had me wondering if it was a bit of weed or a snag, but I hit it anyway. It was a fish however and a decent one. After a short fight I chinned her out and unhooked her. She was long and thin and not in the greatest of condition so I took a quick photo and released her straight away. I had to hold her in the water for 10 minutes or so while she recovered but eventually she kicked out and swam off.  I didn't weigh her but she was about 16lb or so..

The day continued with a few more fish but nothing over 9lb or so, and a follow from a big fish, and eventually I found myself in the same corner as earlier. A short under-arm pitch of the lure saw it land 20ft out where I let it sink for a few seconds before starting the retrieve. About half way back the lure got viciously hit; it was one of those takes that happens so fast and hard that I don't remember striking. I must have done though as a good fish was powering off in all directions. After a strong fight she came to hand where I chinned her out. She wasn't as long as the earlier fish but she had been feeding very well and was in perfect condition. As she had a full belly I decided to weigh her and wasn't far out with my guess when she went 15.10lb..

The fishing slowed down after that with my Dad landing just the two. He lost a big fish though which is always a sickener! In the afternoon Steve joined us for a few hours but it was hard going by then. He missed a few fish and I managed two more small ones but that was it for the day. We fished on until dark but the forecast was right and the wind turned around to a cold easterly and never saw another fish. Still, not a bad day for me, landing 7 pike in total with two mid doubles.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Trout Reservoir Opening Day

I've been looking forward to this day for a while now and with the trout reservoir opening up for pike fishing a friend of mine, Steve Bates, and I had booked a boat for the opening day. The fish in this reservoir respond well to bait so the plan was to fish with bait and throw a few lures around throughout the day.

The first look at the water revealed that there was a big blue/green algae bloom and that the water levels were down a couple of feet. Fish were rising all over though so perhaps it wasn't too bad.

We motored off to a favourite spot and dropped the anchor. We both put a couple of rods out with bait on, mine with a big sardine and a whole mackerel, and Steve's with a turbo smelt and a whole herring.

It wasn't long before my sardine float twitched and moved slowly off. A quick wind down and a small fish was hooked and brought to the boat. It was only about 4lb but it was a start. Bait back out and 15 minutes later my mackerel float went, but it was a very slow, twitchy take. I wound down and leant heavily into the fish but, although I felt the fish for a split second, I failed to hook up. The mackerel came back chewed up and sporting several big slashes. I quickly sent it back out to the same spot. About 15 minutes later the same float started twitching then stopped, it twitched again and I wound down and hit it. This time a fish was hooked but it felt small. All of a sudden the fish hit the surface with a splash over 20ft of water and after a quick fight it neared the boat. This was no pike but a 4-5lb rainbow trout with a huge head and mouth. It was in beautiful condition with full fins and I was happy to see it swim off strongly.

At this point it looked like we were in for a good day but even though we moved around fishing several different areas and methods no more fish were caught. I had a couple of trout follow lures and Steve had a jack follow his lure but that was it!

On arrival back at the jetty we were told that no-one else had had any interest at all from the pike, and some had even given up early and gone home! Not a great start to the fishing on here but with colder weather planned for the end of this week perhaps the algae will die off and bring the fish on the feed.

Traditional Piking Season Start

The 1st of October heralds the start of the piking season for many anglers, mainly due to the perception that pike are a cold water species. This is true to an extent but like all cold blooded animals, when their surroundings are warmer it increases their metabolism and they become more active, and hence need more food to sustain them.

Fishing for pike with bait in the warmer months is a dangerous business as they swallow their food quickly so deep hooking is much more likely. Deep hooking, playing pike in low oxygenated water, and playing them for extended periods which leads to lactic acid build up in the muscles, are the main cause of fatalities in pike during the warmer months.

I pike fish throughout the year but during the summer I limit my fishing to well oxygenated rivers, large lakes and reservoirs, and only fish with lures on suitably heavy tackle. Heavy tackle is needed to ensure the pike are landed quickly and they should always be allowed to recover in the margins before release.

Anyway, the 1st of October means just one thing to me.. the opening up of venues; those that do not allow pike fishing throughout the year.

This year I decided to take my Dad to a reservoir that I  usually fish on this date but the lack of rain this year, and the venue being partly drained to allow work to the banks, meant that the water levels were a good 5ft below normal. On arrival at first light it was obvious that the majority of the reservoir would be too shallow to present a real chance of any fish so we were limited to fishing one bank which formed the dam. There were two bait anglers already fishing when we arrived but a quick chat revealed they hadn't caught any pike as yet. We arrived at the first spot and second cast I had a fish about 6lb or so. The action carried on with fish being landed regularly and by lunchtime we had caught about 10 pike between the two of us. The bait anglers had had a few fish but not in the numbers we were catching. As we were limited in available water the pike had had enough of us chucking lures at them so the afternoon went by with just the odd fish being caught. The bait anglers had a good spell in the afternoon and at the end of the day they ended up with about 8-10 pike between them. As the light started fading the pike started hitting the lures again and when we packed up we had had a total of 16 pike, 8 fish each. Although the biggest fish was only about 11-12lb, the average size was about 6 or 7lb and it was good sport. A nice start to the traditional season.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Redemption (and a broken landing net!)

After the debacle that was Friday 13th and with the river having risen a couple of feet I decided on another trip as soon as the water started to drop, hoping that it would have bought the fish on the feed.

I managed to get out of bed this time and arrived at the venue at 6.45am for an early start. I made my way to my banker swim and started chucking my lure around but after 10 minutes or so it became obvious that there were no pike there. This was strange as this swim has produced a double on virtually every trip there this season, usually within a few casts. Moved to the adjacent swim and flicked the lure out round a tree where it made it's way towards me. As I paused beneath me there was a big puff of silt and a low double smacked the lure; I struck, there was a big splash, but I didn't hook up! A few casts later in the same swim the lure just stopped dead mid retrieve. It didn't feel like a fish and I didn't feel a hit as such but struck anyway. A couple of headshakes and the fish was off! It looked like my luck from Friday the 13th was still with me.

I carried on fishing all along the stretch but all I had to show for it was a couple of missed takes from jacks. It seemed that the fish weren't really on the feed and any hit I did have came from fish that wanted the lure almost stationary. A switch to a very slow sinking bait that I'd made buoyant by inserting a large balsa stick into a while back seemed to be the answer.

It was now about 1.30pm as I got towards the end of the stretch and to a swim I've only had one follow from this year from a fish about 7-8lb. I started off pitching short around the sunken tree on my right, then just over the nearside shelf along the swim. On about the 6th cast I could see the lure coming up over the shelf about 5 yards out when suddenly a huge open mouth and a pair of eyes came shooting straight up behind it. It happened so fast I can't remember the hit or striking but I'd hooked what was obviously a big fish. It tore around the swim ripping the 100lb braid off my baitcaster with ease.. an incredibly strong fish. After several runs it started to tire but was not done yet. As I got it closer to the bank it made a dive for a clump of reeds on my left and got in them.. I applied steady pressure, hoping the hooks wouldn't pull, and it came out after a few nervous seconds. As it came out it shot off to the right in an attempt to get me in the sunken tree but I was ready for it and turned it just in time.

I'd lowered the net down the steep bank by now and drew the fish closer. She went in head first but I was at full reach and couldn't lift the net with my left hand! She swam out! Luckily the hooks didn't get tangled in the net but she'd found some more strength. After a couple more minutes she was ready for the net for the second time but as she went in I couldn't lift the net again. I quickly dropped my rod and grabbed the net handle with both hands and with a big heave she was in. I then noticed that the mesh was wrapped over one of the arms so if she'd made a dash for freedom she would have made it. I eventually shook it out and she was finally safe in the bottom of the net. What a fight and what a relief. She could have escaped several times but my luck had finally changed.

Due to the high, steep banks I had to lift her vertically upwards and as I did so the metal arm of my Savage Gear net broke at the hinge... not that I cared at the time because this was the biggest fish I'd had out of this stretch at 24lb on the nose..

After such a big fight I was surprised to see that she had a big chunk of her tail missing.. God only knows how hard the fight would have been if it had been full!

I carried on fishing; not really caring if I caught any more and that proved to be the case, apart from a few missed chub and a missed jack about 8lb. Just before dark I decided enough was enough so went home a very happy boy.   :D

Friday the (effin) 13th

After praying for heavy rain for weeks now and with the river levels slowly rising last week I decided late on the Thursday night to go down for a bash. I'm not the superstitious sort so it being Friday the 13th didn't bother me.

First off, I slept through my alarm, which never happens when I'm going fishing, so instead of getting up at 5am I awoke at 6.30. Quickly out the door and I was on my way at 6.45.

The forecast for the day looked good, with heavy cloud cover all day and light showers in the afternoon.

I got to the first swim where mid doubles seem to come from on every trip but only had a jack and a few half hearted knocks from there. On I went and missed a scraper double in the next swim! It then started raining! A few swims later managed one about 9lb off the top so things were looking up! Or so I thought.

A few swims later the lure was hit mid river and as soon as I hit it I knew it was a good fish. As it came up the nearside shelf head first I could see it had hit the big softbait straight across the back and it was wedged in it's mouth, with the head sticking out one side and the tail the other. I could see the underside of the bait which didn't bode well as both stingers were visible. It shook it's head for a bit but when I reached for the net it spat the lure straight out at me! Gutted! I'm not sure if it was even hooked or was just holding onto the lure. The real wounder was seeing it sit there for about 15 seconds in 18" of water! At this point I even considered diving in on top of it and wrestling it in! :lol: A few suitable expletives later and I carried on.

The day passed by with me missing a few small fish and landing a couple more but with the thoughts of the lost fish and the increasing rain it was hard going. In the afternoon went back to the car for lunch and to get my chub gear.. I've been having a few recently on the lures which is fun, although I've been disappointed with the fight tbh.

As it was raining so hard I decided i'd take my pike rod with me as well and fish the first few swims again, including where I'd lost the biggie. Got to the swim where there seems to be a resident shoal of chub and promptly missed 2 fish off the top! Put on a crankbait and first chuck had a tiddler about ½lb! After a while decided to rest the swim and carry on to the pike swims. First cast in my banker swim and a mid double hit the lure. It went berserk but I got it in and lowered the net. As the net touched the water the fish thrashed and came off! Arghh! By now the river was rising and colouring and with a few more swims pike fished nothing was doing so went back to the chub swim for a few more casts. It was now pouring with rain and as I'd only got a packable shower jacket I was soaked down to my undercrackers! It wasn't long before a nice chub hit my jitterbug and a 4lb ish fish came to hand. At least I was finishing on a high.. wrong again. Had a couple more casts when I heard a metallic noise and a splash next to me.. it took me a couple of minutes to realise that my pliers had dropped out of my pocket and into the river. I lay on my stomach and reached in, fumbling around in the dirty water up to my armpit, when I nearly went head first into the river! Sod it, time to go... at least I had a reason to leave, although by this time it was 7.30pm and the light was fading anyway.

Not the most successful or enjoyable day! Maybe there's something in this Friday the 13th malarkey?

As for the rain.. be careful what you wish for! I got bucketloads of it! :roll:

Monday, 2 September 2013

Savage Gear Real Eel Review - Part 2

I took the real eel out for it's second swim a couple of days ago. I have changed the jighead for a 15g one and it seems to suit the bait perfectly. The eel comes with a hole already cast into it to help run the supplied jighead hook but, although useful for that, I found that it doesn't allow a jighead collar to grip very well. I started off with leaving the jighead hook as standard but it soon became apparent that it was going to slip off at some point so cut it and glued it in. I rarely use a top hook when rigging big softbaits, preferring to cut the hook off at the bend and glueing the shank and collar into place, as I find that the bait is easier to rig, is more secure and lasts longer.

I got to my banker swim and clipped the eel on. After a couple of casts an upper single followed it in but didn't hit it and a couple of casts later it did the same thing. A few casts later the eel got hit hard and I was expecting to see the same fish to come up but this one was a bit bigger. I didn't weigh it but it was 14-15lb..

(apologies for the poor photo.. I had a rank amateur taking the shot!  :lol: )

After using the eel a couple of times now I'm quite impressed. It fishes very well slow and shallow and when you pause it, it doesn't dive for the bottom and the tail never stops moving. It's certainly a useful lure that catches fish.

Does it do anything different to a slow sink mag dawg or large grub? Not really, although there are slight differences. It is definitely more realistic which I think can be a factor in clear water when fishing them slowly.

The downsides are that it is expensive for what it is and the material is so soft that it is already showing severe, deep slashes along the body so not sure how long it will last. It's a trade off though, if it wasn't so soft the action wouldn't be the same. Perhaps strangely, none of the hits so far have even got near the tail.. every one has been across the body. At its price point I wouldn't use the 40cm eel where there were lots of jacks but if it lasts several doubles the cost would be offset somewhat. Personally I'd prefer a cheaper body on its own, without the jighead and stinger. I think the supplied jighead is too small and the hook too large, and although it might be a bit OCD, I can't bring myself to trust anyone else's traces, leaders or stingers. Paranoid maybe but when fishing for big fish I'd be more than a bit annoyed if a mass produced one failed.

Due to the very low water levels on the river it hass been hard going for the last few weeks so I've been spending a couple of hours chub fishing with light lure gear. It's been fun and today I decided to just fish topwaters for them. Fishing with an Arbogast Jitterbug in Coach Dog colour I managed to catch 3 with the biggest going 3.12lb. I've never weighed a chub before and was surprised how heavy it went so I'm guessing one I had last time out was a minimum of 4lb.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Savage Gear Real Eel Review - Part 1

I've been given the opportunity to try out and review the 40cm Savage Gear Real Eel via the LAS so thought it might be worth putting on the blog.

First off I'd like to say that I'm not associated with any tackle company so any review I do will be a warts and all and if I'm not convinced by something I will say so. I'd rather people know what to expect if they purchase one based on user experience... so, here's my first review of the 40cm real eel.

When it came in the post what first struck me was how realistic it looked. The colours on the olive pearl flavour are very close to the real thing and the detailing was exceptional, especially the head and mouth. The material is soft which enables the tail to move at very, very slow speeds, which is one of the first things I look for in a big softbait. As most who know me know, I fish big softbaits for 90% of the time and from experience, and a chat with a couple of people who have used them, the jighead that came with it just didn't seem heavy enough to keep the bait keeled. I have yet to test this as the river I took it to has quite a bit of flow but I will try it out in stillwater at some point. Another concern is the size of the single hook... I don't like to use a very large single on the top of baits as I think they have the potential to be fatal if they go through the roof of the mouth. The accompanying stinger looked to be the right size which is about the same as a 3/0 Owner ST36, and made of a slightly thicker wire. If I was being pedantic I'd rather the stinger length be slightly longer but we're only talking 1-2cm here.

For the purposes of it's first test I rigged the eel on a 20g jighead with 2 no. 3/0 owner ST36's rigged on the underside (my standard big SP rigging) and with that took my 40cm real eel out for a swim yesterday.

I arrived in the first swim and put on my favourite big softbait.. second cast and a pike about 12lb was landed. Blank averted, on went the eel. A few casts were made to see how the eel swam and even with a 20g jighead the eel could be bought back just 2-3ft down on a steady retrieve. It's easy to fish at any depth you need though just be letting it sink deeper and slowing down the retrieve. I'd run out of 15g jigheads but I think that they would be perfect size for this bait for shallow water. The eel looked very realistic in the water with the tail still moving even when it was almost stationary and it had a slight side to side rocking movement, which is a big fish attractor imho. The bait also reacts well when given a small twitch of the rod, keeling over slightly before returning to a level swimming position.

I moved to the next swim and first cast a small pike about 6-8lb hit the eel but didn't connect.. not sure why but there weren't even any teeth marks in it! I fished a few more swims but even after fishing one of my banker swims nothing was doing. I tried my other lures for comparison but nothing was taking them either so I'm sure it wasn't the eel that was at fault. I got to the end of the stretch and made my way back to the first swim. On the second cast a double (quite possibly the fish I caught earlier) whacked the eel but even though it hit it right between the two trebles it didn't hook up. Not sure why this was as the bait is now sporting several deep slashes, but nothing a bit of superglue won't fix.

Unfortunately, even though I fished the eel for pretty much 6 hours straight that was the last pike I saw with none of my lures tempting them out to play. I fish this stretch regularly and know what works but the lowest water levels I've seen there this river season had seemingly put them off the feed. First impressions are that it is a very useful bait and hopefully my next review will see a fish on the bank to the eel.

As an aside, I spent a couple of hours with the light gear after chub in the afternoon and landed 3, with several more missed or lost. No monsters with the smallest being about 2lb or so and the biggest about 3½lb.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Couple of Firsts

Been down to the river again and after the recent rain the river was falling with a tinge of colour in it.. perfect conditions for a few fish.

I started fishing about 6.45am with no-one around and to the cries of a pair of buzzards circling low overhead it was one of those mornings you are glad to be a fisherman.

I fished a few swims without incident apart from one lost pike and landing a jack about 5lb. After fishing a few more swims in the faster part of the stretch it dawned on me that the extra water pushing down had probably moved the pike to slower areas and nearer to the bank. Fishing downstream I lost another fish which looked to be approaching double figures and lost yet another one! Things weren't going to plan!

I altered my approach slightly and started concentrating on the margins, but fished the middle of the river after the margin spots had been covered with the lure. It was tough going even though the river looked perfect, if a little pacey. I got to a swim and again pitched my big softbait around the fallen tree but again nothing came out for a closer inspection until I chucked the lure in a tiny gap between the tree and the bank. I hadn't even started retrieving the lure when a decent pike shot out and nailed it in full view, and after a good fight she went in the net. On the scales she went 14.13lb and fought me all the time I had her on the bank. Unfortunately the self-take photo's didn't come out very well but no matter.

I carried on and a few swims later another fish came from within a foot of the bank but much smaller at about 5-6lb then in the same swim a low double hit the lure but failed to hook up.. she then followed it in half a dozed times before getting fed up with my ugly mug and disappearing.

On I went and arrived at the last few swims which everyone keeps telling me are hotspots for pike, although I'd not yet had a take in any of them! Got to the last of those swims, cast the lure along the bank and started the retrieve. About half way back the lure got hit hard by what was obviously a good fish. I set the hooks and she went berserk; I slackened off the drag slightly as she was making strong runs and shaking her head, both on the surface and below. She never gave up but after a few nerve wracking minutes, with me praying for her to stay on, I netted her at the first attempt. It was obvious that it was the best fish I'd had from this stretch. I left her in the net while I got the scales and set the camera up for a self-take but luckily a chap and his son had seen me hook it so came for a look. I lifted her out and she was bigger than I first thought, being very wide across her back and head. Her mouth was immense, along with her dental work.

She was a beautiful fish and even with an empty stomach she went 22.07lb on the scales.. my first 20 from this stretch and to say I was happy was an understatement (although I must smile more on camera)..

After that I went back to the car for lunch and to swap my gear for a light outfit with the intention of trying for a chub on a lure. I've never tried this before but have seen chub in the stretch. I fished several swims with no takes when suddenly a fish hit my small crankbait mid river in fast, shallow water. A mate of mine who fishes for chub told me a while back that they hit hard but this one must have been swimming straight at me as there was a slight hit before I set the hooks. Not big at about 1½lb but my first chub on a lure.

A few casts later the lure got hit with a hard thump and somehow I missed it but shortly afterwards another chub about 2lb came to the net, followed by a much smaller one about ½lb.

I fished on until I came to some deeper swims and thought I'd try for a perch but apart from a few small ones nipping at the tail of my shad I had nothing so went back to the car to get my pike gear out again for an evening spell.

Off I set again to the end of the stretch and in the third swim a good pike hit mid river. On the scales she went 15.07lb (again; I seem to catch a few at this weight here!)..

I thought I'd be on for another fish or two but after fishing the entire stretch had no other takes so packed up about 9pm exhausted. It was a marathon of a day fishing over 14 hours in total but with 5 pike and 3 chub to show for it, it was well worth the effort.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Easy Treble

Popped down the local canal last night for a couple of hours after zander. They're not big in this canal but you can usually catch a few fish on short sessions so with the lack of decent waters anywhere near me it's a place to go for an evening. Arrived in the first swim and on the second cast a decent zander for the canal hit the lure. I didn't weigh it but it was about 4lb, which is as big as I've had from here. A few casts later I was jigging the 3" shad around some weeds when a nice perch decided to nail it. The perch was in perfect condition and weighed something like 1½lb or so and had completely swallowed the lure. Luckily the hook came out very easily but the lure was so far back I had to pull the tail out of it's throat.. it was well on the way to it's stomach. Next cast a pike hit it, splashed on the surface, then took me all over the place including under a moored boat. Got her in and she was about 10-11lb.

So that was 6 casts from the same swim and 3 decent fish landed.. I thought I was on for a great evening but apart from missing a few more zeds and landing a size 7 trainer I didn't catch anything else over the next two hours! Oh well, a nice treble anyway.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A Wet Morning on the River

After the recent rain I was hopeful that a bit of a flush through would bring the fish on the feed on the river so decided to get down there.

The journey comprised of dry periods then heavy showers, and with further rain forecast it looked like I was going to get a bit damp. I started fishing about 6.30am and it was obvious that the river had risen about 6" and was pushing through a bit. The colour was perfect but there was a lot of streamer weed coming down. In the first swim I made a couple of casts when a fish banged the lure but didn't hook up. The next cast it followed the weed covered lure up the shelf and made a huge splash on the surface.. but missed it! A few casts later though the fish hit it hard and the first of the day was in the net. I slid down the muddy bank to the water and unhooked her. At about 9lb a nice fish but no monster. As I was releasing her my foot slipped and I got a boot full and chucked my pliers in! Luckily it was shallow and I was already wet so reached for them.. then the other foot slipped off a rock and that foot got a soaking as well! On checking the lure the fish had almost destroyed it.. there was a split in the head about 2" long and the tail was hanging off! Bit of a bugger as I used half a tube of superglue the night before repairing the slashes in that one and it's spare. On went the spare.

 I squelched to the next few swims but all I could catch was weed but further along another fish hit the lure and came to hand.. bit smaller around 6-7lb.

On I went, slipping and sliding down steep banks, all the while removing handfuls of weed on almost every cast. Had another fish about 6lb then got to a swim I've not had a take from before.. couple of casts and a decent fish hit mid river. She came in quite sedately compared to most fish in this river and into the net. I had a quick look and she was very fat, but not that long, and on the scales she went 15.07lb. Lovely fat fish but her back end was very tatty for some reason..

I went to re-set the stingers on the softbait to find that she had bitten the tail clean off! Bugger! Out with the initial lure and a load of superglue later I was ready again. A few casts later another fish hit which was about 6lb. Whilst unhooking it I noticed that it didn't have any teeth at all on the right side of the lower jaw! No damage but they just had never grown by the looks of it.. you could run your finger along a smooth surface.. very strange, never seen that before.

I carried on and missed a couple of small ones but the rain and the weed got heavier. It was now almost impossible to get 6 turns of the reel handle before it was weeded up. I'd fished pretty much the whole stretch by now anyway so called it a day about 1.30pm after noticing the river had risen several more inches since I arrived. I went looking at potential stretches but neither looked very promising.. the search continues.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Week in Wales

It's been busier than normal for fishing this last week. I'd organised a North Wales Bass Fish-in for a few LAS members on 20-21st July and I took the opportunity to get a few extra days in.

Travelled up to the coast on Monday and spent some time with family who live there but on Tuesday decided on a few hours bass fishing in the estuary, my first of the year. Conditions and tides were not great with the low tide about 10am so a couple of hours after that the tide started flooding in, and brought with it quite a few fish.

As ever, I started out with a surface lure and with bass smashing into the biggest shoal of whitebait I've ever seen all around me it wasn't long before the first hit, albeit a bit subdued. Unfortunately it didn't stick but I was surprised to see a couple of garfish jump clear as I struck. I didn't know garfish took surface lures! That happened on a few more occasions over the next few hours but I didn't manage to connect with any of them. During those few hours I also got hit several times by, which I could clearly see, were very small bass. There were lots of them around which bodes well. I finally managed to hook one on an OSP Bent Minnow and while bringing it in two more bass were trying to steal the lure out of its mouth. At one point one of the other bass hooked itself on the loose treble so I was playing two fish at once. Unfortunately it came off but I was happy to land my first bass of 2013.. a tiddler really but they're all good..

Wednesday came and I made the trip to a big glacial lake for some pike fishing. I arrived about 11am and started fishing at the start of a long bay. Not long after I had a follow from a small jack then one about 4lb, which turned out to be the smallest pike of the trip.

I carried on wading along the bank and a couple of hundreds yards or so later hooked a better fish on my favourite blue Salmo Sweeper. Again not a big fish but it scraped into double figures at a guess..

To cut a long story short. I carried on all along the bank and caught a total of 10 pike, biggest around 14lb, three other doubles and the rest being 6-10lb. Every single fish was in perfect condition and fought like tigers in the clear, well oxygenated water, with most tailwalking and none of them giving up until you let them go. I got several soakings when releasing them which always makes me smile.. as long as it's summer! It was now time to get some food and set up camp on the other side of the lake for the night. On arrival at the spot I started fishing again but there didn't seem to be many pike around this area. I managed a small one on a jerkbait but after fishing a few hundred yards decided it was time to fish my way back. I clipped on one of my home made topwaters in black perch flavour and started back. Within half a dozen casts a pike came flying completely out of the water and engulfed it from behind. Another pike around 6lb came in and gave me one last soaking before I finished for the day. A great days fishing for this venue which usually gives up 3 or 4 fish a day.

Next morning I was up early and made my way back over the far side near to where I'd fished to the day before. It started well with a scraper double hitting a jerkbait within a few casts. 30 yards further along I missed the same fish twice in two casts before she put her head down and skulked off.

I carried on around a point to a favourite bay but caught only one jack and after fishing several more hundred yards without anything happening I made my way back to the first bay for a last few casts before I had to leave. This turned out to be a good move as I had a fish about 13lb. Apologies for lack of photo's but it was red hot and I was up to my chest in water so didn't bother with weighing or photo's.

It was now Thursday afternoon so after stopping for provisions and essentials (beer) I drove up to the Llyn peninsula for the bass bumble.

After setting up camp, and with Jono arriving within the hour, decided a rest and a beer or two were in order. Jono arrived and an hour later we decided to go have a few casts. This bass fish-in has been going for 3 years now and even if the bass fishing isn't great you can usually catch small pollock easily so we were hopeful of a fish or two..... Wrong! We fished the first area without so much as a tap on the lures. This wasn't looking good for the fish-in! After a couple of hours fishing we went back to camp feeling deflated and thinking of possible other venues. Too early to give up on it yet though as the daytime sunlight and temperature levels were blistering.

We made our way back for the evening session up to dark not feeling very confident but within half an hour I landed a bass on a toby.. a small one but very welcome.

We fished around to a bay where we've done well before and I had a decent pollock on the way. On arriving at the bay I started chucking a Lucky Craft Gunfish around. Just a quick mention of this lure; I always loved the Lucky Craft Sammy which was my no.1 surface lure but the Gunfish is even better imho. It's like a Sammy on steroids and allows you to fish it in many more ways than a Sammy. Anyway, I was lucky to hit a shoal of bass and I managed 3 more before they moved on. The biggest was about 3½lb or so and it jumped a good 3-4ft out of the water during the fight.

After a late night of festivities we were up early(ish) for another go but it seemed as hard as yesterdays daytime session with just a few small pollock landed, although I did manage another bass. Jono decided to do a bit of LRF'ing and was quickly into tiny pollock, blennies and Gobies. I haven't got the patience for fishing miniscule lures but I wanted to catch my first wrasse this year so on went a tiny jighead and grub.. not exactly LRF'ing as I just clipped it to my 20lb fluoro bass leader. After feeling like a bit of an idiot jigging tiny softies around the rocks I actually had something take a bite.. but I missed it! A few drops later and as I lifted a tiddler jumped on it, but I was like a kid in a sweet shop when a scorpion fish swung in. I rarely do this type of fishing so thought I'd never see one of these cool little fish.

We moved our way around the coast to some deeper water and I had a hit off a decent pollock but it took me in the kelp.. no way was I losing one of my favourite bass lures so I eventually got the courage up to jump in.. bloody hell it was cold! I thought I was having a heart attack for a minute but after swimming past the lure a gentle pull and it came up with the fish still attached! We carried on and after a few casts with bass lures we switched back to the tiny grubs. I found a huge rock with an overhang and started dangling. Suddenly a decent wrasse hit it and dived for the rocks. I held it out and it came up before diving again for rocks. I held it again and then it made its last attempt at some rocks before I stopped it.

My first wrasse and I'm well happy!

Moved around the same rock and it happened again! Similar length to the first one but much fatter with some beautiful markings with turquoise flashes coming from the eyes.

That night two more lads arrived and on Saturday another lad arrived which made 5 of us. The day went by in a similar fashion.. up early, fish until mid afternoon, back for a rest then back out for the evening. The fishing was quite poor but a few fish were caught and we were having a good laugh anyway.

We fished the Saturday daytime with just a few small wrasse and pollock but things picked up on the evening and I had two more bass off the top along with a couple of pollock. Sunday was similar and I did manage another half decent wrasse. Unfortunately most people had to leave which left me and Jono to fish the Sunday evening.. that didn't go well, with Jono breaking a reel and no fish showing at all apart from a pollock, albeit the biggest of the trip at about 2½lb.

So that was it; we left on the Monday morning for the long drive home.. exhausted but pretty happy with my weeks fishing.

Total caught - 15 pike, 8 bass, 3 wrasse, a scorpion fish, several pollock and a foot long launce!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Good Day on the River

Went down to the river again on Thursday for another bash and after a couple of casts in the swim I had a fish from last week near the overhanging tree it was clear there wasn't any fish under it. A couple of casts to the middle of the river and a pike hit the lure as it came up over the nearside shelf. At about 9lb not big but a good start to the day.

A few casts later and another fish hit the lure a bit further out as I twitched it mid retrieve. A big swirl and a big flash of a decent fish and it was off! "Curses" or words to that effect! Stayed in the swim for a bit longer trying different lures and eventually she followed the lure in but wouldn't take it. At least I got a good look at her and she looked every inch a mid to upper double. I left her to calm down a bit for another try on the way back.

Fished a few swims further along but nothing doing at all then came to an opening in the undergrowth that I'd scrambled down before. It's not a swim as such but you can get down to the water with a controlled slide and a bit of luck. I noticed a small shoal of bleak in the swim which seems to be a rare sight this year as there's hardly any food fish showing at all on this stretch.

A few casts later and the lure got smashed a couple of rod lengths in front of me. Slightly better at about 10 or 11lb. Half a dozen casts later and another fish hit as I was bringing the lure upstream.. big splash as it hit it but it didn't connect. No matter as it chased it down and hit it again a few seconds later. Much stronger fish this one and put in a great fight. On the scales she went 15lb bang on.


Fished the swim for a bit longer but it had gone quiet so carried on to fish the remaining few swims in this direction. Again, nothing showing at all so turned back. On the way back I dropped into the successful swim again and after a few casts another fish hit. This one fought like a demon and tailwalked a few times, soaking me in the process. Didn't weigh her but a very similar size to the earlier 15lb'er. That made it 3 fish from this one swim.

Carried on and fished the rest of the stretch to the far end with only a tap off a jack that followed the lure in and a follow from another double which then promptly disappeared back under it's tree and didn't come back out. I've got a feeling it was the same fish that I had a couple of chances at on opening day.. she seems to live under that particular tree.

Went back to the car for lunch and decided to walk back to the swims I'd caught from for a last go as they seemed to be stacked up in the one swim.

Fished the first swim but the fish I'd missed earlier seemed to have moved on so carried on to the swim I'd had the 3 fish from. A few casts in this spot and the lure got hit yet again.. another good fight with the fish making several powerful runs and tailwalking before I could chin her out. On the scales this one went bang on 15lb as well and for a moment thought it might be one of the earlier fish but on inspection of the photo's they show that all 3 were different fish. So that was three 15lb'ers and a low double from one swim!

Fished just downstream of this spot as I could just reach the back end of the run and promptly missed another double, then a smaller one! I contemplated the day so far over an ice cold pint of stella which lasted a good 2 minutes and made my way back to the car.

I'd arranged to meet a mate at a different venue and an hour later was there. Despite fishing a few areas over a further 5 hours all we had to show for it was one small jack for my mate which was disappointing but can't complain after the mornings fishing I'd had. Another long day though.. out the house at 6.30am and back at 11pm after driving 200 miles!

Looking at the photo of the last fish I've noticed that it is the same fish I had last week at 15.07lb.

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Couple of Hours Zander Fishing

Popped out to a local canal on Sunday evening for a bit of zander fishing with a light rod and small Kopyto shads. It started off well with a small zed on the first cast and over the next couple of hours we managed 6 more all on 3" shads either slowly retrieved or hopped along the bottom. None of them were over 3lb but fun all the same on light gear comprising 20lb braid, 15lb Wonderwire leader and a 5g, 4/0 jighead.

I had a chat with a chap who lives on the bank of the canal who had told me that a 19lb pike had been caught a few days earlier from a few hundred yards upstream in a basin. If I'm honest I was sceptical as I've fished here infrequently for 5 years and only had 3 pike, biggest about 2½lb. After leaving him I had a cast and then another when I had a hit. This fish felt a lot bigger and thoughts of a big zander started going through my mind. After a couple of minutes without seeing the fish I then thought maybe I'd hooked a carp but eventually the fish swirled on the top and powered off again. I now knew it was a pike, and not a bad one.

I coaxed her into the net where she thrashed, and the hook promptly came out! On the scales she went bang on 16lb.. a nice end to a couple of hours.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

River Exploration

I've been looking for new areas of the river recently, without much success if I'm honest, with only a couple of missed fish so decided a long day would be in order. The plan was to fish a stretch I've been trying for the morning then go looking for new stretches for potential.

The alarm went off at stupid o'clock, 4am, and a bleary eyed me stumbled out of bed. I arrived about 6.15am and was fishing at 6.30. I had the whole stretch to myself at this point which is the benefit of going so early. I fished most of the best looking, and so most fished, swims without even a follow and I started to question whether the stretch held many fish. I made my way upstream to the last half dozen swims and after fishing a few of them came to a non-descript swim which was so shallow you could see the bottom with only one small tree to the right of the swim. This tree only had a couple of feet of water under it so I wasn't expecting too much.

I pitched one of my favoured big lures just past the branches of the tree and it landed with a big splash. I hardly had time to engage the baitcaster before a decent pike flew out from under the tree and smacked it. I struck and the pike leapt out of the water and spit the hooks! This all happened within less than a second of the bait hitting the water. Several seconds of enthusiastic questioning of the parentage of the fish followed before I gathered my composure. I re-set the stingers on the softbait and under-armed the lure a bit further out from the tree... two winds of the handle and the pike came back for another shot. This time the hooks went home and after a decent fight she was in the net. I left the fish in the water in the net while I got the unhooking kit, scales and camera out and it was obvious she'd got some strength back when I lifted her out. I opened her mouth with one hand to see where the hooks were and sure enough they were in the same position 90% of them are with this hooking arrangement, 2-3" back in the bottom of the mouth with the front stinger hanging loose. This is where it got interesting as she shook her head and somehow one of the points of the spare 3/0 Owner ended up firmly embedded in my finger, past the barb! I've seen this happen to other lure anglers, even very experienced ones, but this is the first time it has happened to me. With the fish tensing up I didn't have time to think so just ripped it out.. luckily it came out first time but the blood was flowing. On the scales she went 15.07lb and was in perfect condition.

I carried on and fished the rest of the stretch and managed one more jack, but missed a very small one and lost an upper single. By this time I'd fished every swim on the stretch at least once so decided to get some lunch and go for a recce on some other stretches.

Off I set with just a vague idea of the areas I wanted to look at. I found a stretch I thought/think is day ticket but after walking a couple of miles of overgrown banks it was obvious that it wasn't really suitable pike habitat.. very shallow and fast with hardly any ambush points. I cast a few lures in one potential area which was slightly deeper and slower but to no avail. I walked back to the car, which involved an exhausting walk up a steep hill. By now I'd been fishing for 10 hours and walked about 5 or 6 miles. Undeterred I found another stretch which had a bit of deep water close in but there were a few anglers fishing there already. They were complaining that all they could catch were eels, and big ones! Personally I like eels and spent many years chasing them as a youngster, sometimes alongside the legendary John Sidley who lived just down the road from me. The "eels" info was stored for future reference and off I set to another stretch. I've fished this stretch before from the opposite bank and although very pacey there were some interesting slacks and eddy's which needed looking into on this bank. To cut a long story short I fished all the likely looking spots for just one jack and one more missed before exhaustion, stinging nettles and the biting insects got the better of me.

Overall I fished for 13 hours and walked about 10 miles for 3 pike. The disappointing thing was not finding much in the way of new stretches with good potential.. so the search goes on.

And remember.. be careful out there kids! Playing with sharp pointy things can be painful!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Couple of Hours with the Frogs

I popped out to a local(ish) river last night for a couple of hours to fish topwater frogs but on arrival found the normal stretch unfishable due to works to the weir. Tried to cast where the fish usually come from but couldn't reach it so made my way to a few swims downstream. When fishing weedless topwater frogs I always cast the lure onto the far bank and a straight, steady pull usually sees the frog gently "plopping" into the far margin. This can result in a very quick and violent strike and is probably the best tip I can give when using weedless frogs.

Fished the first spot with nothing to show for it apart from a half hearted swirl from the nearside margin so moved down a bit. 2 or 3 casts to the far margin and the frog fell into the water 2ft behind a small patch of weed. Half a second later a pike exploded out of the weed, across the surface and engulfed the frog. In the net it was only about 6lb but the fun of frog fishing is the take, not the size. It didn't fight particularly well and I could see why.. it only had half a tail! Not sure what had done the damage; most likely a heron or, even though unlikely, perhaps even an otter or mink.


This one certainly wanted the frog!

Carried on fishing a different spot around some lillies and had a big bow wave chase the lure down but it didn't hit it. Then managed to lose another one. All fun on the frogs though!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Bit Better on the River

I took the boat out on Wednesday with a mate of mine, Gerry Todd, back to the river Avon. We set off and fished several areas for only a foul hooked bleak and a small pike for Gerry. Thoughts wondered if the fishing was going to be as slow as last week but when we reached the favourite spot things started to pick up a little. I missed a couple of takes on the surface frogs then over the next few hours managed 9 pike. None of them were over 6 or 7lb but they were fighting fit in the oxygenated water and put up a great scrap on the medium and light outfits we were using. It is interesting that most of the pike are still sporting spawning marks so it would seem that they spawned very late this year.

We spent an hour jigging for zander but that proved fruitless so decided to make our way to the other end of the stretch. Along the way I picked up another 4 jacks and Gerry managed one on trolled crankbaits but the weir at the downstream end is a long way so we decided to just motor down there.

When we arrived it looked good. There is a branch to a lock gate which opens out into a pool and it looked like it would hold a few fish. Gerry was first in with a perch around the 14oz-1lb mark but no matter what I did I couldn't find a pike. I eventually found one but yet again it was only about 5lb. Time was now getting on so off we set back upstream to the launch. On the way we trolled crankbaits and I managed a few more jacks but they were small. One fish which was a bit bigger decided to tailwalk and actually jumped in the boat!

Overall a nice day out with the final tally coming to 11 pike for me and 6 to Gerry, plus a perch but the bigger fish just don't seem to be putting in an appearance for some reason which is disappointing as doubles are usually on the cards from this stretch. I get the feeling the rivers need a bit of a flush through.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Slow Start to the River Season

The long awaited 16th June finally arrived and I decided to fish a couple of stretches I've not fished before. The alarm clock went off at 4am and I arrived at the first stretch at 6.30am. A quick chat with another angler and off I set with a big softbait hanging from my Dave Lumb Prowler Plus X with an Abu Revo Toro Winch and 100lb braid. I fished a few open swims close to where I'd parked with nothing apart from a small knock, which was probably a jack grabbing the tail of the big lure. I continued downstream for a mile or two but only found about 5 more swims that were even remotely accessible. This stretch was never going to be easy to fish but it was disappointing that nothing was even following the lures.

After 3 hours I decided to move to another stretch which has more bank access; unfortunately this meant that most swims were taken by coarse anglers! A passing chat with a few of them revealed that they weren't catching anything which didn't bode well. Although the river was a little low it seemed in good condition but everyone was struggling. Finally found an empty swim and climbed down to the water. It looked a classic swim with a fallen tree at the downstream end that had every chance of holding a pike or two. A few casts later I cast the lure level with the fallen tree and let it swing in towards the bank when a pike came flying out and whacked it in full view, but I could see it only hit the tail. The fish followed my lure several more times without taking then disappeared. A change to a jerkbait bought her out but again she only took a half hearted swipe at the lure. Another change of lure and she came out yet again but wouldn't take! Not a monster but a low double that would have started the season off nicely.

I carried on downstream fishing wherever I could get in with only a tiny jack not much bigger than the lure showing any interest. Back on the way upstream I got in a swim that I hadn't fished and even though it looked perfect I couldn't find a fish. I noticed a small hole in the undergrowth to the right of the swim with an overhanging tree and although it was almost unfishable decided that I was desperate enough to give it a go. The swim was so overgrown that I couldn't even get an underarm swing with the lure so only managed to get it about 5ft out. Without reeling the lure swung in on a tight line and came to rest directly underneath me about 4ft down to the water when there was a huge splash as a good fish came up over the shelf and nailed it. I struck best I could but the hooks just didn't set and the fish powered off along the shelf. I'd guestimate it at a high double but knowing the build of the fish in the river it could have made 20! Gutted! I've had this happen on this river a few times before and I'm pretty sure I know why it didn't hook up.. the high banks mean that the lures come over the shelf and rest head first on the waterline directly underneath where you're stood and not having a top hook on the lure means that the strike pulls the top of the lure across it's top jaw while the hanging hooks come out of the open mouth. I could use other lures but this particular lure is deadly on this river and a top hook tends to unbalance the bait making it keel over on its side.

I fished on but it started raining and never really stopped for the rest of the day. After 12 hours of climbing up and down banks, slipping over in the mud, getting stung by nettles and eaten by insects I was exhausted so called it a day. I'd fished every swim at least once by this time so the decision wasn't a hard one.

A couple of days later decided to get the boat out and head for a stretch on a different river. It's a lovely stretch which holds plenty of pike, perch and zander. The first launch of the season often takes longer than usual and this day was no different. No matter as there weren't any other cars/trailers at the slipway so it looked as though we had free reign for the day. We slowly made our way upstream having a few casts at different spots that I've caught from before but only had one small jack to show for it, with a couple of fish missed/lost. We arrived at the top of the stretch in a dead arm which isn't a good description as it has a lot of flow coming over the sluice gates.. it's more like a weirpool and usually holds a lot of fish. Started casting surface frogs around as they love them up there in the pads but not a single take! This wasn't going to be an easy day either by the looks of it and it proved to be the case. We fished several areas, dead arms, weirpools and the open river with not much to show for it. I missed what seemed like a decent fish and lost one about 9lb or so but we only ended up with 7 jacks. It was nice to be back on the river though and summer is more about fun fishing for me rather than hunting down the big girls.... most of the time! ;-)   It was nice to get one on a frog anyway.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Short Session

My Suzuki DF6 outboard was due a service which meant a trip to Derbyshire so instead of driving home and back again to pick it up decided to find somewhere to wet a few lures whilst it was being done. A dig around on Google identified a few venues within easy reach and after speaking to one of the LAS lads who lives nearby a venue was decided on.

I dropped the motor off and off we went to the lake. On arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely looking lake and a few club members were telling me how it was full of pike.. I've heard that before so took it with a pinch of salt but after half a dozen casts the first pike was landed. We continued around the first half of the lake fishing each available swim quickly to cover some water. By the time we'd finished the circuit of the first half we'd landed 6 pike.. nothing big but good sport all the same as they were hitting everything we chucked at them, apart from topwaters!. We then fished the other half of the lake which is much shallower and silty and only managed one more. Time was now pressing on so decided to fish part of the first half again for the last half hour. This turned out to be a good move as 3 more were landed and also about the same lost.

All in all quite a productive few hours with the total coming to 10 pike.. the easiest pike fishing i've had in months!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

LAS Canal Club

Popped out for a few hours down the LAS Canal Club stretch on Tuesday, which for those that don't know is an 11 mile stretch of canal that is leased primarily as a predator fishery. It contains pike and perch but the predominant species is zander.

Fishing was quite hard with just a couple of zeds lost and a couple landed but on the way back to the car in the twilight I saw a fish topping next to some weeds. A quick cast with a 3" shad and it got walloped; the rod got wrenched down, a big vortex of water and line ripping off the spool before the hook pulled! Pretty sure it was a carp. It's not the first carp out of the stretch on a lure as a couple of 18lb'ers have come to similar tactics. Oh well, it was quite exciting for about 5 seconds!

A Couple of Days in Wales

At the end of May I went to Wales to visit family and took the opportunity to fish for a couple of half days with a mate of mine on one of the big lakes that we both fish occassionally.

Met up with Jono at the lake on Thursday morning and after launching his boat off we set. The first bay looked good but after half an hour of casting topwaters and jerkbaits it seemed devoid of life; no insects, no fry and no trout meant no pike. We were in the wrong place so on with a trolling lure and off we set looking for a few fish. Not long after Jono had a hit on one of my borrowed crankbaits and landed this strange looking pike about 11lb or so...

As the water is gin clear on this lake every fish we've caught from there before is vividly marked and dark as you'd expect so it was a surprise to see a fish so pale and with pink stripes either side. I've never seen a pike coloured like this and it was a beauty in a strange sort of way.

We carried on trolling for a while with nothing to show for it so drifted back along the bank we'd just fished casting jerkbaits into the shallows. I had a jack and a follow from a slightly bigger fish but it was slow going. At the end of the treeline we stopped on the bank casting lures into one of Jono's favourite spots but after fishing the stretch with nothing doing it was back to the trolling.

After 40 yards of starting my lure was hit hard and a big head eventually came to the surface. For a minute I thought it might have been a twenty but as it turned we could see it was skinny... nice fish though at 15.04lb...

This fish came from the area we just covered from the bank so it seemed they wanted lures down deep.

Back round to where we started the troll and off we set again.. this time we got about 100 yards before another hit on my rod. It seemed a decent fish but once in the net it didn't look so big. We didn't weigh it and it might have made a scraper double but for the sake of argument called it 9lb+.

It went very quiet after that so decided to retire for food and beer for the day.

The Friday was a very different day; blazing sunshine and heat, flies hatching, trout rising.. that is, until we stripped down to summer clothes! Not long after that it went very dark, windy and cold and stayed like that for the rest of the day. Jono managed a nice scraper double before the sun disappeared then had a few more jacks but the fish were hard to come by so once again we retired for beer and food.

It was a chilly evening so Jono got dressed for the occassion in his new onesey! It was funny how people went out of their way to avoid him when we went for a short walk.

The following lunchtime saw me leave to fish a new venue for a few hours to see if there was any potential but after 4 hours of clambering through overgrown banks, down 45° slopes and over boulders I hadn't even had a follow. Not given up on it just yet though as there is surely pike in there.

Overall a great couple of days, even if the fishing was a bit slow, but the water was still a bit cold and things haven't really kickstarted yet. Fishing takes you to some fantastic places though and it was just nice being on a big wild water..

Won't be too long before I'm back again for another go, this time with some bass fishing thrown in.