Thursday 23 February 2012

On the Itchen with Bob James

Photobucket Why is it, I always wonder, that grayling are considered the odd relation of our fish species? They really are a one off: nothing looks, or fights, quite like one. I just love them, but had never tried the legendary River Itchen for them. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Bob James with an eye on trying both bait and fly fishing. What could be more perfect? Photobucket With the wind whipping up across this pretty chalk stream, Bob decided to start trotting while I took the fly rod. Presentation on either method was tricky, but with his customary skill Bob got amongst the fish taking a really chunky chub and this two pound grayling. Photobucket Did I stand a cat in Hell's chance of matching him with my box of nymphs? As crazy as it sounds, the fly picked out more fish on the day. I knew I'd hooked a good one when I saw a big fin and stripy broadside flash mid stream. Walking her downstream, I picked a solid fish out. Photobucket An unreal fish it was too. At 2lbs 2oz the best on the day and a terrific little battle on a 4wt fly rod. I lost a bigger one later too, I'm sure of it (or do they always grow a few ounces when we lose them?). Photobucket You might easily peek at the Itchen and think in terms of trout and grayling, but there's fair variety here. Some decent perch and pike turn up too, and there's also the possibility of a good chub. I tried throwing both nymphs and little streamers in the bushy undercuts and also weighed in with the odd solid chub. Bob reckons a four pounder is pretty much average here- whilst being a Westcountry boy more used to the Culm, my reaction was more along the lines of "it's like a chub, only bigger!" What a day and what a river. Photobucket

Thursday 16 February 2012

Mud and Merchandise

Photobucket Short on sleep, but happy as man who just discovered an oil reserve, I type these lines with dirty nails, a fuzzy head and a sense of relief having finally cracked the Exe this season for a well fed pike. Having struggled for a few sessions it was time for a change of areas. You can hardly blame the pike for deserting your tried and trusted spots- for these creatures it is about survival, not sport. Anglers often talk about that vital commodity, confidence. Today I didn't exactly ooze it at 6am, but had a hunch it would be worth a crack. Time was short with a growing to do list, but as we all know, the most enjoyable time to go fishing is when you really ought to be doing some work some place else. Photobucket One confidence booster all season long has been the use of feeder rigs for pike. Conjecture is one thing, but fishing two rods side by side I've definitely seen more action on the set up with a stinky trail of oily ground bait. At risk of becoming a rig tart, I've also settled on something that seems pretty fool proof so far- at least to this particular fool, a tube section providing a tidy, tangle proof presentation. This morning it was 3-0 in the run stakes to the feeder set up, a lovely river 20lbs 2oz fish the best of two landed. I owe a big thanks to Neil "the Eel", who turned up just as she was netted and helped no end with the task of swiftly weighing and getting a great picture before she was carefully returned. A proper gentleman- I hope the next nice fish is yours mate. Photobucket Coated in mud but content I then suddenly remembered all the stuff I was meant to be taking care of. In the build up to this years "The Big One" fishing show, I've been busy preparing. Not least of all the new items I'm sourcing are the beautifully primitive looking fish prints of John Dullaway. The pike (above) is one of a limited run of 20 signed and numbered collectibles- and I'm thrilled to be promoting the artist at several events this year. More are on the way, including some stunning trout. Photobucket The meat and drink of what I sell remains items like t-shirts and flies however. The above is a "Tango", named after the latin dance- or should that be the glowing, additive laced fizzy drink? A serious re-stock is underway- and on the subject of pike flies, it'll be fun to let a few others loose on the vice at the forthcoming PAC meet at the Mill on Exe (7pm, Tues 28th Feb), where I'll be tying a few and giving the motley crew a crack themselves. It's great to catch on something you've made and these flies are not too tricky once you get started- certainly easier than micro sized trout patterns! I also hope to see some of you at our annual match on the Grand Western Canal, where every competitor will get a pack of free bait courtesy of Devon Baits. We meet at Greenways car park on Sunday 26th, 7am and with a bit of luck mild conditions should guarantee an action packed day (

Friday 10 February 2012

Rolling for Pike

Photobucket When winter temperatures start to reach bleak lows, I often feel most confident of action on running water. Trotting with a pin is a great winter method for chub, roach and grayling- so why not pike? It's great fun- and I usually fish better by being involved and active. Tackle itself is simple- a sporty 13 ft specimen blank coupled with a centre pin carrying 20lb floating braid. I favour a single treble hook arrangement, suspending a bite sized roach, smelt or trout underneath a 20g trolling float. This is lovely stuff- you might feel a bit odd Wallis Casting a dead bait under a sight bob, but the long rod and pin combo offers lovely, intimate presentation. Just like with regular trotting you can let the bait trundle through- or hold the float back gently to let it waft up attractively. The bites are so lovely and clear on this method. With a smallish bait and just one treble I strike firm and early. In clear water the pike will come up for the bait, but interestingly in recent coloured conditions, dyed red or gold baits suspended just above the bottom have scored well. One or two jacks came adrift for me- before this lean, athletic river pike took the pin for a spin! Photobucket The trotting had been earning a few bites then, but it was the feeder rig that took the best fish again. In this case, Russ Hilton successfully commandeered one of my set ups to land this perfectly proportioned ten pounder. What a glorious Levels pike, a scatter of green and sunny gold, with the kind of teeth you don't argue with. Photobucket I have also been enjoying the roving approach with Seb Nowosiad. We've shared some great days and catches over the past couple of seasons- but few colder adventures than a night raid on a secluded drain. Watching a night float is stirring stuff. In the end it was a slow, clear session with the moon high and visibility excellent. This made fishing hard, but allowed me to experiment with camera exposures and white balance to get some interesting night fishing shots. It's a real challenge to get the settings just right- but I tried to capture the cool, clear feel of the night. Photobucket We even explored a an inky black mire of a pool in the moonlight. The sound of ice crystallising and nature coldly tensing provided an eerie backdrop, icy stars above and regular calls from a nearby owl. Had that float dipped under, the line curled off into black I think my heart may have frozen. Night fishing has yielded fish of good average size this season- but not on this occasion. Photobucket