Monday, 29 November 2010
The temperature having turned from "brrr it's a bit cold" to "sodding freezing", the classic advise usually suggests that fishing is a bad idea. But is it really so? Admittedly, you might have to change plans- and in my case, a trip to Rutland quickly became an impossibility. Cue a hastily planned gamble on the River Severn.
Desperately cold, yes, but the river still looked tempting and clear enough to fly fish, a fact soon confirmed by one or two pulls on a deeply worked baitfish pattern. Pike were first to arrive- followed by perch and zander. Not hectic fishing, but rewarding enough and perhaps fly fishing is not so mad on a freezing river after all?
The slow, subtle presentation of a fly proved especially useful for the pike, with one slack area producing an almighty "thunk" on the fly line. Curious fighters these winter pike- slow, heavy pressure at first, before a real surge of power as they wake up and really take offence.
The fish was immensely long for its weight- and another of similar size came adrift the next day. All the fish were tempted on a fast intermediate line, using flies tied with dumbell eyes to fish point upwards best to search deep, snaggy areas. With the temperature ducking right down to -4C it was necessary to keep clearing the ice from rod rings- credit also to Russ Hilton who soldiered on too, catching his first ever zander in the process. Local knowledge was also important however- and we owe a big thanks to Jim Smith, a real gentleman, not to mention a passionate and highly knowledgable predator angler. By the by, Jim will also be at our monthly Pike Anglers Club meet in January to give a talk.
Thursday, 25 November 2010
A visit to the Fens is something of a pilgrimage to anyone who fishes for pike and zander: miles of reedy channels, wild waters and bumpy roads. A region not unlike Somerset in fact- buckets of fishy looking drains, heavily rustic and "flat as piss on a plate" as Ian Nadin would put it. Fishing heaven.
After more than two hundred mile on the road, five star food and accomodation were definitely not on the cards. In fact, where better to begin than by stoking the fires with a cholesterol heavy breakfast at notorious Green Welly Cafe- a place as likely to win a healthy eating award as George W Bush is to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
My host for a roving adventure was Nigel Savage, Rutland warden and a real predator fly fishing fanatic to boot. Also enjoying the fresh air was his faithful terrier Bonnie- who carried out her own hunt nosing into the bank for voles. Hopping from drain to drain, we were quickly met by panicking roach and several snappy, lairy pike. Whilst the zander didn't show, the jacks gave some real kamikaze hits on the fly and a chance for me to capture some of the action on camera.
It's always interesting to compare notes with another keen angler- but especially someone who puts a good deal of thought into their fishing. Nigel believes in retrieving a good sized fly fairly slowly, whilst really shaking the rod tip to make his fly literally dance like a thing possessed at the end of each retrieve.
As on most drains, the key area seemed to be the shelf on each bank, a fly allowed to drop and flutter across the slope liable to be smashed. The pike simply couldn't resist and whilst no monsters showed up a good few fish came our way, to around the six pound mark.
At nightfall we then retreated to a country Inn for a beer in one of those old buildings where walls, floors and the rest have shifted so much over time that you wonder exactly what you've been drinking. You also couldn't fail to notice the Fen monster above the fire place- a goulish, stretch-your-arms-really-sodding-wide, 36 pound beast from yesteryear.
Back on the prowl the following morning we searched high and low for zander to no avail, although it was a fascinating crash course in presenting a fly for this elusive species. Nigel has caught some cracking fish on his own patterns, including some landed well into darkness. This time they just wouldn't comply though and I got the feeling that if he couldn't contact one, nobody would. It was a long drive back to Devon, a little heavy hearted to be leaving such a wonderful place. Effort doesn't always equal rewards however- such are life and fishing I guess.
On a brighter note though, we had some fun at the Devon PAC match. It was a low turnout with a measly five of us on a cold and clear Tiverton Canal. I had rather fancied lure maniac and LAS man Paul Honey aka "Shrek" (below) to grab the honours with his wiggling, wobbling and diving collection of artificials.
His single hard won jack (plus a mysterious scale on another cast!) was enough to claim second place. I was the one feeling smug however, as my smallish colourful flies tamed three pike for just over four pounds. Whilst some days the vibration of lures helps, it seems that the fly can be just the ticket when its cold and the pike are tricky. Small fish then, but very welcome.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Fly tyers truly will try anything to make a deadlier fly pattern, but how exactly does a tazer gun figure in all of this? It's possibly not what you think (ie passing a current through the lake!). The true answer lies with tying instructor and guide Chris Reeves, who spotted the potential in the colourful wire discarded in Police training exercises from the guns. The plan is a little stroke of genius. Not only do you have an attractive fly material, it also recycles waste and all the proceeds from sales will be going to the "Fishing for Heroes" charity."
Autumn colours were still in the trees on our session at the ever cute Bellbrook Valley Fishery. A real cold snap did little for the fishing however and it was a struggle to get bites for much of the day, rainwater having added colour into the bargain. Nevertheless, the trout did manage to pick out a tazer bug- I had fancied the louder, more "elecrifying" finishes (the reflectiveness gives neat effects with different thread colours and the wire also comes in blue), but Chris caught on the smallish, dark bugs. As per usual, these Bellbrook fish were a cracking quality, full tailed and well marked. A sure sign that they've adjusted well to life in these pretty, matured lakes- not just flooded in to be hoiked out next day. More challenging, but worth the effort I'd say.
For a fuller account of this interesting material (which also makes neat Grayling bugs I'm told) you'll just have to wait for the feature in Total Flyfisher. But in the meantime- Chris has a site where you can buy the wire and also support "Fishing for Heroes": www.fishingclass.co.uk
Monday, 15 November 2010
I once might have laughed at the idea, but it's now a reality. I have become a sponsored angler. A difficult decision? Well, yes and no. An easy decision because Hardy Greys make tackle I already use, abuse and love. But perhaps the thornier concern for me was simply the need to continue freely as a writer, not a sales hack. Hence it was even more important to be with a more traditional company, in the case of Hardy Greys an organisation who actively shun the in your face approach to sales.
So what does all this mean? Am I about to get rich? No. Am I proud to be associated with the company? Yes, very. Does this change what I write? Not much. Do I want to become a celebrity angler? Well, the concept itself is about as daft as a celebrity gardener, like a kind of showbusiness for people with grubby finger nails. And besides, angling needs writers, not egos. It needs people who can conjure up stories about the sport, not just their own ambition. People to put into fresh words that happy madness called fishing.
This is what fires me on- not simply the "how to" of the matter but those thousand and one mysterious corners nobody casts a line into. Like the Devon park ranger using roadkill as catfish bait. Like Mr Leon Guthrie, the world's maddest fly tying genius, born with six fingers on each hand. Like Dean Burman, the filmmaker who swims with pike. Like Mr Norbert Darby, fishing muse and once owner of Britain's shabbiest white fishing van. When the sport is this rich, do we really need another hundred articles on branded carp rigs?
Of course, the simple pleasure and learning process of going fishing are often enough and there are plenty of less leftfield stories also to be written. Pike are a current winter focus for material- but the going has been slow to desperate of late on the Cotswold Water Park. Properly cold last night. Freeze your landing net solid cold. Wake up so cold your face doesn't work cold. After lures failed to trigger a response, deadbaits presented in deeper holes proved equally slow. So much for the big time eh? A long, biteless night- although there's really something to be said for a fried breakfast on the bank. One of those cold, bright phases though- better for pictures than for pike! A beautiful, stirring place nonetheless.
Another place to dispel any notions of glamour was Tiverton AC's annual meeting. In the upstairs of the local Tory club we debated the latest issues with Maggie Thatcher's evil portrait gazing down on us. We tried anyway- there was loud karaoke on downstairs and some idiot was busy murdering the Sinatra songbook ("He aint gonna make the x-factor, izzem?" was the local verdict). On a positive note though, Ian Nadin and myself are proud to have introduced the first ever set of pike rules for the club, insisting on proper kit and safe handling.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Since getting hold of some eye catching materials at the fly fair, tying up and testing some fresh fly patterns has been the weekend challenge. Perch and pike have been on my mind, a fist full of loud, scaled up lures a must to try for predators on the Taunton to Bridgwater Canal.
Exactly how important is colour? It's hard to say, but on slow days I do like some bright or unusual choices, which I'm convinced can provoke an aggressive reaction from pike even when they're not on the feed. Smaller, subtler designs certainly didn't seem very productive on a cold Sunday morning and with the perch were conspicuous by their absence I switched to bold, provocative pike flies. A wise (or lucky) move it proved, as a good fish soon lunged wildly from the depths to intercept the offending fly:
The fish plunged away hard on an eight weight set up, an angry, rolling and thrashing performance. She was scarcely better behaved on the mat, still unwilling to give up the argument as the barbless hook came out. A lovely low double, fit and fiery.
Aside from the odd follow however, little else materialised for myself or indeed Seb Nowosiad fishing his trademark Polish jigs- just a couple of little jacks and a greedy perch taken from the locks. Hard work then, but worth a long walk for those few moments of adrenaline.
Friday, 5 November 2010
With wetter autumn and winter weather, the aquarium clear water loved by trout fishers can quickly become muddier. In fact, with virtually all of our small stillwaters stream fed, this is not so much a possibility as inevitable. So what can you do, other than give it up as a bad deal?
The obvious answer is to give the fish something they can't miss. And with this end in mind, I've been field testing patterns with plenty of colour and disturbance value at Goodiford Mill- a venue which is often a little coloured hence a fair testing ground. At least the fish have been cruising the upper layers, where I always feel your chances are better than deeper down in the murk. Some tricky fishing was anticipated, but in actual fact the going proved pretty hectic with large lures- a good pull and a healthy dose of colour too much for the rainbows to resist.
For the sake of experimentation I also tried duller hues and even small nymphs. The results spoke for themselves; still the odd touch, yes, but nothing like the frequency or sheer violence of hits on those larger, altogether uglier flies. Motion comes into it too though, I'm sure, with materials like rabbit strip or rubber legs greatly aiding the trout in locating the fly. Finding the clearer corners of the lake also helped- but perhaps some extra muddiness in the water isn't such a crisis after all?
Meanwhile, I've also been chasing perch at Luccombes, with mixed results. Something like forty perch came my way to chopped worm, but absolutely nothing over about half a pound. Even whole lobs and even small deadbaits didn't gain a bigger surprise- but such is perch fishing. Amazing how the better fish can disappear, even in the smallest pond. Hopefully the best is to come and at least when it cools down properly you know pretty damn well they'll be slap bang in the deepest water.