Frustration Continues!

After the highly unseasonal cold east winds and heavy rain, accompanied by hail, it was a pleasant change last week to find the new tench and bream water bathed in very warm spring sunshine. However, any thoughts that Alan and I were holding about the sun sending both species into a feeding frenzy were well wide of the mark. The only fish that were showing any life were the dozens of carp cruising the surface layers, but even they were very disinclined to feed. One angler pursued them both off the top and with zig rigs for two whole days and managed just one take from a 16 pounder. All those of us fishing for the big tench and bream recorded, once again, total blanks. In fact, since the end of the river season, there have been very few fish of any description banked.

It really is head scratching time. As with a lot of waters holding a smallish head of very big fish, when they have not really got their heads down in earnest, they tend to be very nomadic.  On a big gravel pit, therein lies the problem; location is a lottery. I’m sure that, if we had unlimited time on the bank, say seven consecutive days and nights, heavy baiting would eventually draw the fish in. But those days are long gone, Alan and I are both 68 years of age, and two days in a bivvy is quite sufficient! I did have some action, though. During the daylight hours, I concentrated my three fishing rods on rubber maggots and/or rubber corn, popped up to beat the bottom weed. At dusk, though, I switched two of the rigs to rubber corn/lobworm cocktails, with bream through the dark hours the target. As with my first session, this produced two screaming runs from small pike just as the light was fading. Not what I’ve waited for, but better than a blank, I suppose. Despite the lack of action, I’m thoroughly enjoying the fishing. It’s a very pretty pit and the potential of the water is outstanding, and when the fish do switch on, I want to be there.

My other news, for all the barbel fans out there, is that I’ve just had my first e-book published on Kindle, via Amazon. It’s titled Top Tactics for Big Barbel and is available for download at £2.85. If you’re interested, visit kdp.amazon.com for more details. The picture is of the 17lb 2oz barbel that features on the front cover of the new book. This new publishing outlet excites me a lot and I have a whole series of books planned under the Top Tacticsbanner. I’ll keep you all informed of progress on this front, as well as, hopefully, some big bream and tench. Got to keep the faith!!

Tight lines to one and all.

A slow start…

My main target this spring and early summer is tench and bream, and the chosen water is a very pretty gravel pit containing big specimens of each species. Certainly, bream to 16lbs and tench just under 11lbs have been caught and verified. My biggest bream is the 15lb 2ozs specimen from Queenford Lagoon over twenty years ago and it has been 14 years since my last double figure tench; so, I’m champing at the bit!

I’m fishing the water in the company of my good friend and brilliant angler Alan Lawrence. Alan fished the water last spring and, after a slow start, amassed a staggering total of big fish of each species. He also took a handful of good carp on his tench rigs and, with the carp running to mid 30s, there’s the potential for a heart stopping battle on light feeder rods. I’m going to resist the temptation to deliberately fish for the carp, though. I have other carp waters to target; I am totally focused on the tench and bream.

I’ve just returned from my second 48 hour session on the water, and have to report that neither Alan nor I have had a bite! I do not count a 1lb pike that took a swimfeeder on the retrieve. We have been suffering the malaise of many waters up and down the country, with unseasonably cold conditions including strong east winds, heavy driving rain and water temperature more akin to February than May. I know, speaking to many friends, that most anglers are also struggling with the decidedly wintry conditions. I live in hope, though, that these cold, wet conditions will see some really heavyweight tench being caught once the weather normalises. My three double figure fish, plus a string of nine pounders as back up, were taken after the water warmed following an equally miserable spring in 1998.

Although there is no exciting fishing to report back on at the moment, I can report on some of the new TFG products. Having finally retired my battered old Armadillo bivvy, I can say that I am delighted with my new Lok Down. Finding bivvies that will do everything with enough space is hard enough. With almost two inches of rain on my first night using it this week, it could not have had a more strenuous waterproofing test, which it passed with flying colours. Also, the Armo was the Two-Man model and I did debate whether to go for a two man Lok Down as well. In the end I opted for the one man and it is very generously sized, more than big enough for a six footer like me plus a mountain of gear. The Two-Man must be like a dance hall!

The monsoon like conditions were also an extreme test for my new Dave Lane Mag Runner bite alarms. Where bite alarms are concerned, I have no patience with all the bells and whistles some anglers seem incapable of being without. All I ask is that they sound when I get a bite, they don’t give up the ghost in the cold or damp, and they don’t require a second mortgage to keep up with the battery use. I don’t need tone alteration or volume control, although the alarms are supplied with mufflers for those who insist on ultra quiet alarms. Personally, I am not a fan of remote receivers, although one is supplied with the Mag Runners. I suppose I’m a bit old fashioned, but still believe that when I have baits out I should be behind my rods. I will use the remote receiver, though, if I’m forced to sit well back from the rods in very rough weather, so it is an important addition.

I can confirm that they passed the cold and damp situation with no problems! What I particularly like is the small size, the lightness and the dumpy little 12V batteries which are so quick and easy to change. A few years ago, I had other alarms that used the same batteries, and the battery life was outstanding. The alarms themselves, though, were a nightmare in damp conditions, but that’s another story!

Lastly, I am delighted with the new Hardcore Heavy Duty Carryalls. For bivvy fishing, and for using a barrow, the traditional rucksack is hardly ideal. I wanted a tackle bag that was solidly free standing, and not always toppling over, making finding items a lot of messing about. Similarly, the rucksack is altogether the wrong shape for barrow work. I acquired two of the carryalls, one for my tackle and one for my food, stove, cooking equipment, water etc. As well as the easily accessible load carrying, the hard top makes an ideal table. I had several very favourable comments about this luggage and I predict this will become a big seller.

See you again in a couple of weeks, when hopefully I’ll have some big tench or bream to show. In the meantime, here’s a shot of a big tench from a year back to remind us all of what one looks like!

 

The Heat is On!

High temperatures and bright weather aren’t my favourite conditions to be carp fishing in, but I’d booked the Friday off work so Thursday night – with car packed – I was off to my syndicate water in Herefordshire. A stunning estate lake with some of the best-looking carp I have ever seen. Thursday night was quiet, just a good tench of 8lb 6oz and a new lake record (which was very pleasing but not exactly what I was after); the rest of the night drifted by quietly. Friday dawned calm and hot, and unfortunately some of the lake’s residents had started to spawn! Talking to the other members on the lake, we all thought that with these conditions it was going to be a struggle.

I walk around the lake and climb a few trees to see what’s happening, and find a group of carp feeding well away from the spawning fish;  clearly, a move was in order. My TF Gear Chill-out bivvy is soon moved to my new swim, rods cast out just as the late afternoon sun is starting to lose some of its bite. The lake is crystal clear and one of the most important bits of tackle I have for these conditions is the Tfgear Secret Trap fluorocarbon main line, which is almost invisible in the water. Having a  higher specific gravity than water it sinks really well, and on slack lines it is almost like having backleads on – which helps not to spook any of the fish in the area. Within 10 minutes of setting up in my new swim, one of my TFgear Glimmer bite alarms screams into life and the left hand Tsi rod cast close to the far tree line is in action. The fish comes in to about 30yds quite easily – making me think it was maybe one of the smaller fish in the lake – when suddenly it banks to the right and a slow solid run that’s impossible to stop takes 50-60yds of line off me in one go. The fish now kites even tighter to my right and my line is now going through the tree branches. The forgiving tip on the Tsi rod cushions the carp lunges, but with the line now precariously caught up there’s only one option – into the water I go! 10 to 15 minutes later and I’m slowly making some ground on the fish, it rolls out about 15yds and the action of my 3.5lb Tsi is great even at this close range. A couple more minutes and I slip my net under a very large common, but its not till I try to lift the net from the water when I realise I have the lake’s biggest resident; a stunning common that sends the scales round to settle on 40lb 8oz, a new lake record.

40lb 8oz Common – a new lake record.

Pictures taken and congratulations from the other guys, and I settle back down with all rods recast. I retreat to my Comfort-zone fishing bed chair, looking back through the pictures on the camera to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, before drifting off to sleep. I have a few liners in the night so fish are still in the area, but a quiet night overall – not that I’m too bothered. Up early and Saturday is much the same, hot and sunny. I sit out watching the lake wake up, kettle on for an early morning brew when suddenly my middle rod is away. After a very hard fight I slip the net under another stunning common, the scales settle at 30lb 4oz a great result and another lake record falls – the largest brace ever taken on the lake, it really can’t get much better this!

The second Common, yet another lake record

I have to recast all 3 rods after playing the last fish; with all the commotion I was not expecting any more action, so I sit back down to finish boiling the kettle and make some breakfast. The fish have other ideas, and incredibly I’m in again after a good fight as a stunning 25lb mirror comes to the bank. What a session – after 5 years on the water, and many blanks in what seemed perfect conditions, a couple of days I thought would be tough tough turn out to be a record session. I slowly pack down and make my way home, and I think only another angler will know the feeling of satisfaction you get when it all comes together in a session of a lifetime.

25lb Mirror, last catch of the session.

Horseshoe Revisited

Not long after dawn, I was again setting up in swim number 1, for another crack at the tench. The general consensus had been that, the previous week, I had been a little unlucky not to have at least one big female of 8lb or over. In fact, the swim had produced a few doubles already, to over 11lbs. As my personal best is 11lb 11ozs, I was certainly in with a fighting chance of upping that with a little good luck.I approached the fishing in the same way as the week before, only this time I was using some of the new generation of rubber maggots that Chris Hormsby of Enterprise had sent me to try. He has imparted a very lifelike “wriggle” into them, so lifelike in fact that my wife was loath to touch them! I was also using for the first time my new TFG Specialist Bivvy, and was very impressed with it. The erection time stated of 20 seconds is certainly no lie, in fact it took longer to peg out than it did to erect. And pegging out was important in the very strong south west wind which, luckily, was directly behind me.

The session was the complete reverse of the first, the first day being completely blank apart from just one small rudd. Other anglers on the water were saying that the fishing had become very hard with very few fish landed for a few days. On the second morning, after an uninterrupted sleep, I still had over a pint of casters left and debated whether I should introduce any bait on account of the total lack of action in the previous 24 hours. In the end, I put them in, with half a pint to each rod. All or nothing, I said to myself.

At mid morning, another angler Leigh stopped for a chat and as we talked the wind really got up and a fine, squally rain started. I said to Leigh that hopefully the rain would bring the tench on and within seconds of the words leaving my lips, both rods were away. You wait hours for a bite, and then two come at once! With Leigh on hand to deal with one fish, both fish were played at the same time and landed in the same net, quite a bizarre occurrence. Leigh weighed them for me and declared two males of 7lb 6ozs and 6lb 8ozs. Quite an exciting way to end a quiet spell!

There were to be two more tench of 7lb 3oz and 6lb 6ozs before I eventually packed up in late evening, plus a few rudd. The one negative was a big rudd that got round my other line, dragging the second feeder into thick weed. Eventually, with everything solid, the hook pulled out of the fish and I was left cursing my luck.
I’m off to Acton carping next week ; I’ll let you know the outcome.

First Horshoe Experience

I’ve been meaning for some time to have a go for the fabulous tench of Carp Society water Horseshoe Lake near Lechlade in Gloucestershire and this year I finally did something about it. On my arrival I was greeted by Luke and Dave, who man the lodge at the venue, and I was immediately impressed with their professionalism and the terrific way the water is run. They were also very helpful with advice on where tench had been showing and I was soon ensconced in peg number 1. the most productive swim had apparently been Summer Point, the swim next closest to the lodge in Summer Bay, but it was temporarily closed, as were the swims round the shallows, as carp had started spawning.

Once again, I was using a size 12 Pallatrax hook on short Gamma fluorocarbon hooklinks, fished above the Kamasan feeder and held between rubber grip beads on rapid sink rig tubing. This rig ensures that no fish can possibly be tethered on a main line break. It is also easily adjustable to fish the hook bait right alongside the feeder or as far away as deemed necessary.

After finding a nice clear area about 30 yards out, with light Canadian pond weed around the fringes of the swim, I baited with six of my large cones of mixed hemp, casters, mini pellets and dead red maggots. Hook baits were two Enterprise buoyant red maggots with two real ones accompanying. By the time I was sorted out it was late morning, and the first two hours passed uneventfully as far as tench were concerned, although I was being regularly plagued by small rudd. Then, at 1.30pm, I had a real screamer and soon landed a superb tench of 7lb 8ozs. That fish opened the floodgates and in the next four hours tench came regularly. I wasn’t to get a really big fish but there were three more seven pounders and a few sixes. Nothing under six pounds was landed.

After a quiet night, I was expecting more tench action on the second day. But, typical of fishing, for some reason the swim had just died. Apart from more rudd, not a tench was tempted on day two.

It had a been a great first session on a fabulous water and I couldn’t wait to get back. That was planned for the following week.