Thursday 18 October 2012

A Pit Stop in Reading

Photobucket Another week of travels for me, this time on blustery waters to meet up with Peter Wardle- a man with a great passion for pike fishing, as well as possibly the largest collection of heavy metal albums in the Reading area. It was also a chance to meet the local PAC lads and do battle with some lovely, if sometimes moody gravel pits. On an eventful two day stint we had a bit of everything in terms of both fishing and conditions: fresh autumn sunshine and a thunder storm, periods of sudden excitement followed by damp lulls. It certainly helps to have local knowledge on your side with these large, imposing waters. Pete had that alright- but not always the smoothest navigational skills when it came to negotiating the roads around Reading! In his defence, Pete doesn't drive- and I'm starting to think the area's highways were planned by sadists. Anyway, he more than made up for this by taking us to a tempting looking bay on a large pit. I started off with drifting tactics, which I always like on windy still waters. Photobucket I'm also a fan of dyed baits. These might seem a gimmick, but I like a bait which really stands out- and I've found them very useful on both coloured waters and larger lakes where you want the fish to have the best chance to find your bait. Once upon a time I would paint food dyes onto my offerings (and also usually my fingers) before freezing them. More recently though, some clever bugger at Pikepro came up with the idea of little sprays- much easier. Rather than a huge vaned float I tend to go with a smaller dart style float for the job. The scene looked beautiful, but I was anticipating a lengthy wait. A big surprise then, that an hour or so in and both of us witnessed a fin break the surface in the waves. I recast my drifter bait to the spot and within seconds the float slipped under. A quick strike and I felt nothing. Luckily for me, the fish was still interested on the next cast- again, I managed to miss the first indication, but the fish then grabbed hold as I reeled in for another shot. Photobucket Some days you really do count your blessings. Not only did I get a second and third chance to hook up, but the fish actually came off at the last second. Only a split second movement with the landing net from Pete saved the day! It was a long but pretty skinny low double and a big relief. I do sometimes whether my practise of using just one treble for smallish drifted baits is wise- but perhaps the odd loss is worthwhile payback for an absolute minimum of complications with unhooking? The next run was also slightly fortuitous, as both of us also had a rod out at range at the time. Pete had a sneaky bite that he couldn't quite connect with, before moments later my drop off sounded. The first sight of the fish was a huge head- followed by a long but very skinny body. Don't get me wrong, I love all the pike I catch- but in physique this fifteen pounder reminded me a little of "Plug" out of "The Bash Street Kids". Photobucket The charges were levelled- "I don't know- you come here, you catch our bloody pike!" But in fairness, I would have been lucky to get a sniff without being put in the right spot for the conditions. I hope to be able to repay the favour should Pete fancy a crack at the Somerset Levels (another great place to get thoroughly lost). The second day was harder, with just one jack and a lot of walking and some phenomenally dour weather- but it was also great to meet the Reading PAC crew and give a talk on pike fly fishing and other subjects. The other real recent highlight has been introducing a friend to pike fishing. Fair play to Adam Aplin for persevering with the fly- and catching his first ever pike on the method. After a previous session looking at safe tackle for pike and casting flies in Heavitree Park, we hit the Grand Western Canal. PhotobucketTo his credit, Adam took two fish, also lost a bigger one and now really has caught the fly fishing bug! The pike were certainly obliging for us. I had been talking up the aim of fishing the margins when a cute little jack absolutely hurtled at the fly right under the bank as we watched: Photobucket The best pattern on the day was a yellow and black baitfish in a size 1. I can't emphasise enough how much easier smaller patterns are to cast when you're starting out with pike on the fly- small waters offer a brilliant introduction on lighter tackle and you can always graduate to beefier rods and bigger flies later on. I was also delighted to see Adam handle pike confidently so early and, quite literally, get to grips with the basic skills: Photobucket With the Levels so flooded, the Grand Western also formed a perfect plan B for some filming with the Sky Sports "Tight Lines" crew. I had intended to show them some river piking, but that was rendered impossible by Biblical levels of rain. Never mind- you can catch the action on the show this Friday (the 19th)- or on the podcast later on.

Thursday 4 October 2012

From Country Estates to Council Estates

Photobucket I am an angler of itchy feet. I like fishing a real range of waters. That might seem like stating the bleeding obvious, but it does affect the way you fish. Hopping waters is exciting, but if you make lots of different detours you really have to think on your feet. Sometimes just getting the day ticket is a mission. Like at Shobrooke Lake, Devon- where you hand over your cash at surely one of the most unlikely combined businesses in the land (Ladd's Computers and Guns) for the not incredibly cheap rate of £12.50. "Yeah, I want a day ticket please. Oh, and while I'm here I'll take a Dell lap top and that great big shotgun. Yeah, that one. I'm thinking of an internet fuelled killing spree. Maybe I can chuck the bodies in the lake while I have a crack at some roach on the waggler." Photobucket And if that seemed a bit unlikely, you'd might also wonder what I was doing lobbing out a spomb packed with hempseed and 10mm boilies. No, I haven't sold my soul to Satan or (xxxx insert Godless tackle company as applicable), I'm just finding these little devices really bloody useful and, dare I say it, good fun to use. You don't need some ridiculous spod rod and the result is a lovely, accurate pocket of bait that doesn't sound like an air strike on Kabul. I intended to fish the long pole with casters for the silver fish, but also put out a bonus rod for bigger roach or carp. Joining me was Russ Hilton, who I'd been trying for a while to drag away from the cricket pitch and back to fishing. A good move, because the lake was beautiful and although all the hardcore carpers had bagged the near bank swims, we found some space at the quieter end with a nice, mild breeze pushing towards us. We both enjoyed plenty of bites, with the odd better roach or hybrid thrown in, the odd one over the pound mark: Photobucket The really exciting part was when the bonus rod surged into life. Lobbing the pole behind me, I savoured a good scrap from a carp. It happened later on too, with regular little top ups of bait grabbing the interest of a better one. The two carp couldn't have been more different. The first was a bit of a mutant: bug eyed and no pelvic fins of any description. The next was absolutely gorgeous though, beautifully dark gold and well proportioned. It took careful playing on relatively light gear: Photobucket After such an enjoyable day I felt a real appetite for another trip on a decent sized and leafy lake. Trenchford Reservoir seemed a fair bet for a long walk with some lures. Having no pubs next to it, the place also seemed a good place to take Norbert Darby without fear of distractions such as barmaids and cider. Photobucket The part I'd forgotten is that the place is harder than the Klitschko brothers. We didn't have so much as a whiff of a pike and even with waders, you just couldn't get to around three quarters of the lake. And the bits you could get to were as dead and depressing as Jimmy Saville. Photobucket Time for a move then- and the predictable irony was that the most concrete part of the urban Exe showed far more signs of life. The walk was just as long, and just as biteless to begin with, although the graffiti art on show was right up our street. Some great B-Movie monsters and quirky humour, and Norbert took a shine to a big lady: Photobucket DSC_0779 DSC_0780 DSC_0782 The sun was up, we were laughing and pike were there after all, just not quite where I'd expected them. All we needed was a pint of cider, some jokes in such poor taste I can't repeat them, and a bit of a tactical reshuffle. Best of all, we silenced the town's own "I know everything better than you" character in a moment of pure, poetic justice. He'd been busy telling us that he was the mutt's nuts and declared that all the fish were in deep water; I couldn't help but smile sweetly as he caught a tree the same minute Norbert latched into a nice pike in a painfully shallow swim. It's times like this I wonder if perhaps there is such a thing as divine intervention. Karma is a bitch, ain't it? Photobucket