Friday, 31 January 2014

One of the Weirdest Days

The incessant rain has knackered the river again and apart from a zander trip earlier in the week where I caught a 14lb pike on a 4" crankbait I've struggled to get out so after finding a group of fish in the same area last week I thought I'd try a little experiment. When the river is in flood lure fishing becomes pretty much a waste of time, and the few times I've tried fishing deadbaits in those conditions that has failed as well. Why this has been I don't know as I've caught well in flooded rivers before on big smelly deadbaits; was it because they switched off or was I just in the wrong place?

Knowing the whereabouts of a few fish allowed me to test for an answer so off I set with a coolbag of baits and a couple of rods. On arrival the river was a good 4ft above the levels of last week, with heavy flow and quite a dirty colour.

Float fishing the slacker margins was the order of the day so I dropped a whole mackerel on the left of the swim and half a mackerel to the right. Twenty minutes or so later the whole mackerel float bobbed. I picked up the rod and pulled the line out of the clip as the float started to bob again. A quick strike saw me into a fish which although didn't seem to have a lot of weight made up for it by charging around the swim. I got it near the surface and with a swirl she shook the hooks! It felt a low double at best so I wasn't too concerned.

Back out with another whole mackerel in the same spot and half an hour later the same float bobbed, then moved off. I quickly picked the rod up and leant into the fish. This felt a lot heavier, staying deep and feeling powerful. After a couple of minutes of her trying to shed the hooks in the vegetation hanging in the water I got her close and could see she was a nice fish. I lowered the net and in she went. This is where it got really interesting. I lay the rod down and grabbed the net frame with both hands but as I lifted the rubber mesh gave way and the fish fell through a big hole and back into the river. It took me a split second to realise what was happening; I was still attached to the fish but the braid was running through the hole in the net! I grabbed the rod again but at 12ft it was too long to manoeuvre so took hold half way up the rod. It was now a bit easier to control through the outstretched net but the fish was now fighting harder than it did initially, charging left and right. I eventually got her close but the swim meant I had no chance of handing her out so she'd have to go back in the net. As I was steering her to the net she lunged and now the tip ring was caught in the mesh as well! What a mess! I got it off after a minute or two and as she came into view I scooped her up. With one quick motion I dropped the rod and hoisted the net straight out onto the bank. I couldn't believe I'd actually landed her after such a calamity!

Luckily she was well hooked otherwise I wouldn't have got her in and on the scales she went bang on 24lb...

I thought it might be the same fish I had from the same swim last week but photo's show it is a different fish. I already had the camera set up for a self take but as the timer was nearing its countdown the other rod went off so you'll have to excuse my facial expression as it took me by surprise at the critical moment. I quickly put the fish in the margin where she bursted away, picked up the other rod and wound down. The fish had dropped downstream but wasn't very big so she quickly came in. Just a tiddler of about 5lb.

I stuck it out in the same spot for a couple more hours but with nothing happening decided to move to another swim downstream. After making the move the baits were put out and I sat back for a coffee. Within 10 minutes the whole mackerel float bobbed and started to move off downstream. I was on it in a flash and leant into the fish. It felt small and came in with no problem but as it came to the surface something didn't look right.. it was a chub! The bottom treble was a couple of inches inside the mouth; now I know chub have big mouths but to take a whole mackerel is a bit much.

On the scales the chub went 4.11lb..

I lost another fish just after this before deciding to move back upstream for the last hour. I fished a swim which looked "right" for 15 minutes but with no takes I made my way back to my original swim, which I'd fed with chopped up baits before I moved.

Out went a couple of whole mackerel in the same spots as earlier and a small handful of mashed fish were thrown around each bait. Time passed without incident and with dark nearly there I decided to move one for the last 5 minutes. I stood watching the float for any signs of movement before picking up the rod but it wasn't doing anything. I'm not sure how but on picking up the rod there was suddenly a fish on; whether it picked up the bait at the exact same time I lifted the rod or whether it snatched it as it moved I'm not sure but was certainly glad of the action. Again, this felt like a good fish but as she hit the surface I could see the top treble was a few inches out of her mouth, meaning the bottom treble was only just inside her mouth at the snout. I eased off, fearing a hookpull but after a minute or two she was in the net. Hmmm, bigger than I thought! I got her out and straddled her to remove the hook but it had come out in the net. I took hold of her to put her on the scales but as I did so I noticed a mark on her chin.. it was the same 24lb fish I'd had earlier!

That was it for the day and what a strange one it was... very successful but fraught with incident. I'm glad most days aren't this weird but it was good to get a conclusion to my experiment.

Friday, 24 January 2014

When it all Comes Right

Well, it's been a busy week as it has seen much less rain and with it the rivers started to drop and get somewhere near fishable conditions. With the river close season fast approaching I decided I'd make the most of it and get out as much as possible.

On Tuesday I arrived at first light and found the river still pushing through but the colour wasn't too bad so hopes were high of a fish or two. I fished down the first stretch with little to show apart from a follow off a decent double but fishing back up towards the car my lure got hammered in a swim I've never had a take from before. She was heavy in the strong flow but went in the net without too much trouble. I rested her in the net while I got my scales, camera etc ready thinking she looked about 18lb or so, so was surprised, and very happy to see the scales go to 20.01lb... Sweet!

I fished the rest of the section but with nothing doing I headed off to a different stretch. I fished down but again only had two follows from the same double. Time was now getting on a bit so I changed my lure and made my way back upriver. I had a jack from the same swim the fish had followed earlier but as I got back to the start of the swims I had a good fish hit the lure off the surface as I was about to lift it out. After trying to keep her out of the snags afforded by the high levels she went in the net first time. She was a very thickset fish and on the scales she went 20.10lb..

With the light now fading fast I walked down to the end of the stretch to give it one last go. After a few casts I was glad I did as another fish hit the lure right next to a sunken tree. With a controlled slide I got down to the water level and netted her; a nice long fish but not as bulky as some and on the scales she went 18.06lb.

I went home a happy boy and looking forward to the next day.

On arrival the water seemed to be in better condition than the day before and after fishing half a dozen swims the lure got walloped as a fish shot out from the margin. She was very lively, charging around the swim making strong runs before she went in the net. On the scales she went to 15.06lb and gave me a soaking as I let her go. On I fished but apart from a jack about 6lb that was it. I went back to my second choice stretch as the day before but struggled to find a fish. Perhaps fishing this relatively short stretch twice in two days had put too much pressure on them but I eventually landed one about 12lb.

I arrived on Thursday morning feeling a bit worn out.. knackered really! Early starts, late finishes and lots of walking was wearing me down, but this was the last chance before more rain moved in to ruin the river yet again.

I fished down the river without a sign on a fish before I got to the swim I'd lost a good fish from last week. I pitched the lure short under an overhanging tree and a nice double followed it to the edge before turning away. Next cast the same thing happened so I decided to let her rest for a few minutes and fish the rest of the swim. I made a short cast, knowing that the fish wouldn't be in the fast water in the middle and as the lure came into view in the marginal slack a fish came out of nowhere and chomped down on it. It all happened so fast all I could do was instinctively react and suddenly there was a good fish thrashing about on the surface. My thoughts went back to how I'd lost that fish last week but this time all went to plan and she went in first attempt. With a big grin I got the stuff ready before struggling to lift her out.. a nice problem to have. I got her out and scrambled up the muddy bank. She was a real beauty and on the scales she went 24.03lb..

That was it for that stretch so I'd made my mind up to go to a stretch that I rarely go to. I've fished there several times but was yet to catch anything other than jacks. I knew it held good fish as I'd seen one lying on the bottom last year. I started off in the first few swims and after a few minutes my softbait got smashed off the surface as it neared the edge. After a scrappy fight I perched myself on a clump of grass where I could reach the water with the net, where she went straight in. Another cracker and on the scales she went 21.14lb..

I couldn't believe I'd had my second brace of 20's in a few days and couldn't stop grinning. I sat down for 5 minutes letting it all sink in before moving 20 yards downstream and sending the lure back out. As it came into view another pike shot up and whacked it but it came off after a few seconds. I'd guess it was a mid double.

I carried on fishing every swim for a mile or so with just one more jack about 6lb. Time was now getting on so I made my way back intending to fish the first swims again. I stopped off in the swim where I'd caught the jack and promptly missed another jack. I got back to the first swim where I'd caught earlier and a good fish followed the lure in twice on consecutive casts but wouldn't take it. I sent the lure back out in a different direction and as it came in close a decent fish hit it but after a few seconds of it thrashing on the surface she came off. I moved along a bit and made another cast when a fish hit it. This one stayed on and was about 9 or 10lb.

I went back to the first swim and after changing my lure made a few casts. This time another good fish hit as I was bringing the lure into the edge. It looked a good double but I'm not sure if tiredness was taking it's toll because the scales settled on 24lb exactly!

What a day.. I've managed to catch three 20's in a day once before and this time it didn't really sink in either. After spending countless hours and walking countless miles searching out these big fish it all seems a bit surreal when it all comes together but one thing's for sure, these are the days, indeed weeks, that stay etched in your mind forever... I love fishing!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Good.. and Not So Good

The deluge has put paid to most of my regular river fishing for the last couple of weeks but managed to get out for a bit of zander fishing. Not much happening there either but I had a few small ones and several pike, including a couple about 13lb.. one on a deadbait and one on a lure meant for zander!

Things changed earlier this week though and with the rivers dropping a bit I saw a chance to go out piking. I arrived on Monday and the river was still well up and flying through. The colour wasn't too bad though, although it was still a bit mucky. I fished along one of my regular stretches but nothing was happening. Swims which usually fish well during high water seemed barren of fish. I eventually got to one of my favourite swims of last year, but which has only produced one take this winter, and sent the lure downstream and out from a marginal tree hanging in the water. By holding the rod high I steered the lure under the tree and although the force of water meant that the paddle tail was working without winding in I started a slow retrieve. A few turns of the reel and the lure got hit hard. It was difficult to judge the size of the fish due to the extra flow but eventually she came round to my way of thinking and neared the net. At first glance she looked like a 20, with a big wide head and broad across the back but as it turned out she wasn't very long. In the net and onto the scales where she went 19.12lb...

Happy with the fish in far from ideal conditions I carried on but nothing else wanted to play so mid afternoon I went to another stretch. After the long walk to the swims I made a cast full of high hopes that a new bit of water brings. A few casts later a nice double shot out from the margin but stopped an inch short of the lure! She looked at me crouching behind a clump of grass with disdain and with one swish of her tail she disappeared.

On I went and several swims later a fish hit the lure close in. I struck but after showing me her flank whilst shaking her head she came off in a split second. A couple of swims later the exact same thing happened but this time I at least got a good look at the pike.. an upper double who nonchalantly idled off after throwing the hooks. That was it for the day but with the weather looking to hold I decided to come back the following day.

I arrived back at first light and found the river in similar condition.. high and fast but with just about enough visibility. I fished the entire stretch without a take and on the way back up dropped in the most likely swims again. In one swim I made a few short casts, fanning the river downstream of me and on the last cast I swung the lure into the margin before starting the retrieve. I'd hardly moved it when it got hit about as hard as a lure possibly can be, wrenching the rod round. I struck and was into a good fish at last. The force of water made it feel very heavy but I eventually bought her upstream to me where she surfaced. This one was definitely a 20! I reached down with the net but the heavy flow kept pushing her out of reach. I could see she wasn't hooked very well and feared a hook pull. I had her half in the net but every time I tried to lift her the flow pulled her back out, then once she was 3/4 in I lifted again and realised that the mesh had now caught on an underwater bramble. This wasn't good; I dropped my rod and heaved but she wouldn't go all the way in.. then the inevitable happened. As the flow backed her out of the net the spare hook caught in the mesh. She was still attached but to the outside of the net. She was almost within touching distance so made a split second decision to try and hand her out but before I had chance to lay face down in the mud, with a big swoosh she was off! Gutted! I hate losing fish of any size but this one was about 22 or 23lb at a guess. The rod got chucked up the bank and I just hope there weren't any children close by to hear me curse.

I fished on with the loss still hurting and eventually landed a scraper double for my troubles. About lunchtime I went to another stretch  and on the first cast a nice double followed the lure in. She wouldn't take it though and sank away. I fished down to the end before changing my lure and fishing back up. A few swims in and a fish finally hit the lure. She went 16.02lb on the scales..

A few swims further on I had another hit from a big slack and after a short fight she went straight in the net. Bit bigger this one at 18½lb..

That was it for the day and although I'd had a couple of decent days on the river the loss of that fish still pains me now. Don't get me wrong, I love catching any fish of any size but my efforts generally revolve around catching 20lb+ pike so to lose one like that didn't sit well. Oh well, the rivers are now flooded again so it was good while it lasted.

Friday, 3 January 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different

As I'm sure everyone knows, the rivers have been in a terrible state over the Christmas period and with the high levels and colour putting the pike off I decided on a change of tac. Zander don't mind the colour so I thought they might be worth a go while the pike fishing is so poor.

I arrived at the venue just after first light and the water was coloured but not too bad. On went a 15g, 5/0 jighead and a 4.5" Kopyto shad in my favourite yellow flavour but after an hour nothing had happened apart from a couple of tiny dinks that may or may not have been zander. I changed the lure for a 4" Kopyto in red and orange and sent it out on a long cast. About 10 yards towards me I had a solid hit and struck when I felt the pleasing headshakes of a fish on the end. As I started to bring it towards me it didn't feel anything special but then the line went slack! I thought the fish had come off but I quickly wound down and was relieved to find that it had just bolted towards me. It came across the river not doing much until it got close then it started to fight, a typical dogged zander fight with plenty of headshaking. It made a few deep runs in the margins and seemed to be bigger than I first thought. At one stage it left a big vortex on the surface even though it was too deep to see. By now I thought that it might be a half decent fish and as always with zander I started worrying about the hook pulling. A couple of minutes went by before it came to the surface where a big head shocked me. With knees shaking I led her to the net and my mate netted her first time. I could see it was the biggest zander I'd ever seen but wasn't prepared for her width and depth when we lifted her out. Big zander are very impressive when you see them on the bank.

I lay her down and opened her mouth, which had the bite power and dentistry of a pitbull, and the lure was a good 5" back with the hook firmly embedded in a fleshy part of the mouth. I put her in the sling and onto the scales which sailed round to settle on 13.11lb... a new pb to start the year off...

I spent the next 15 minutes drinking coffee and grinning like an idiot before I fished on. Although I'm not a regular zander angler, maybe 10-20 short trips per year, I've been after a big one for a few years and to catch one as my first fish of 2014 was a bit surreal.

The day passed by with just a few missed zander hits and a bit of lure fishing for pike but they were unlikely to feed and no hits came my way. I was happy with what I'd caught anyway so wasn't too bothered but about an hour before dark I had another solid hit from a zander. This one fought all the way back, but didn't have the power of the earlier fish, but I was still very happy to get my second of the day at 6¼lb..

Short of catching a 30lb pike I couldn't have wished for a better start to the new year and I went home a very happy man.

Happy New Year to all and I hope 2014 brings you all the fish you wish for!

Be Careful What You Wish For!

With the river levels being so low for weeks I'd been praying for a drop of rain to bring them back up to winter levels... I should have known better really as since then the weather has been atrocious with gale force winds and torrential rain making the rivers almost unfishable.

In between downpours I managed to find a day where the river was dropping do headed out for a session.. it was a bit of a gamble as it was still high but if the colour had dropped out it could have been good day. As usual lately though this wasn't what I found when I got there. The river was still very high and pushing through at a rate of knots but there was some visibility in the stained water.

I started off with my usual big softbaits and fished the stretch without a sign of a fish but the water had visibly dropped by 6" and had cleared a bit so decided to go back to where I started and fish it again. This time I changed my lure for a bright firetiger pattern and after half a dozen swims a fish hit it in the margins. After zipping around the swim she went in the net first time and on the bank I estimated her at about 11½lb or so. Blank averted, I continued in the happy knowledge that at least I'd caught something.

I decided to put a catfish rattle on my leader in the hope increasing attraction and whether it was because of it, or in spite of it, a few swims later I had another hit. This one was a bit bigger at about 14-15lb. I was unhooking her as a walker came past so she took a quick photo..

A few swims later another mid double shot out from the margins at the lure but missed it and no matter what I did she never came out to play again.

I fished the stretch once more hoping that the clearing water might help my cause but had nothing else show any interest so went to another stretch for the last couple of hours. This stretch turned out to be much dirtier and I never saw a sign of any fish.

Still, 2 doubles isn't a bad result in bad conditions.