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.