Sunday, 23 September 2012

Suburban Piking

As I approached the canal the the roar of the M4 was very obvious and this would be my background noise for the next couple of hours, it certainly was a far throw from the secluded banks of the Wye.  I decided to fish a short stretch of canal near the city centre which a friend of mine recommended after he had taken some pike earlier in the year on livebaits.
I chose to lure fish, as I had never seen the stretch before I wanted to stay mobile.
It had been raining constantly for the last couple of hours, with no signs of stopping anytime soon so I was resigned to the fact I was in for a soaking! 
The canal was gin clear and the weed was prolific, it wasnt going to be easy to fish, I put on a sub surface lure that had a good wobbling action hoping it would entice a few toothy critters.  I put my lure bag under one of the graffiti daubed benches which was next to a burnt out bin, well I was in the city. 

Not what you call secluded
 The lure came back covered in weed on the first few casts which meant I could only crank it down to about a foot to keep it above the thick weed that carpeted the canal bed.  I was flicking the lure to the far side of the canal just short of the reed beds and floating weed and reeling it back trying to impart a bit of action with every cast.  An hour into the session the rain became heavier and the wind got colder, and with rain running down the back of my neck I had my first follow as a jack pike snatched at the lure falling just short, a quick recast and he followed again however he decided not to commit.  I stayed in this area for a while as I noticed a shoal of roach swimming above a clear patch, some of them looked a decent size certainly worth targetting in a future session.
A familiar face walked down the towpath, it was my mate Josh who had told me about this stretch.  We chatted as I changed lures then carried on casting to the far bank.  As we walked a bit further down the cut I spotted another jack in the margins, I gently lowered the rubber shad in front of the pike and made it dance about right in front of the jacks face!  He didnt move, I even plonked the shad straight onto his head this only made him move a few inches, perhaps he had just eaten!

Rain on the lense
 By now the towpath was littered with puddles, my Goretex jacket had taken a hammering and my summer hat was floppier than ever!  As we walked back up, I cast to likely looking areas then we spotted another of around 6lb I quickly chucked the lure in front of the Pike several times, even changing back to my original lure to try and get a reaction out of him but he just didnt want to play ball.  Time to call it a day, for whatever reason the Pike just werent in the mood, maybe livebaits are a better tactic on this canal.  Even though I didnt manage to persuade one of those Pike to take, they are definately there and in some numbers as we spotted another Pike in the 5-6lb bracket on the way back to the van.  We will return when the weed has died back in the colder months, Ill also be back to target those Roach.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Where have all the Chub gone!

After a productive meeting with my fellow market managers at lunchtime I was soon on my way to a tributary of the Wye hoping to winkle out a few Autumnal Chub.  I really enjoy catching them at this time of year, especially when the fiery orange Autumn sun catches their brassy flanks as you hold them up for a self take.
I chose to fish a stretch of the Monnow that I know intimately although I have not fished it for some years.  One of the reasons I chose to revisit this stretch is that during a conversation with Rob the bailiff a couple of weeks ago he mentioned how the fishing had declined, especially the Chub population, they dont seem to be there in the numbers they were a few years ago.   He explained how patchy the fishing was especially if you fished maggots or worms all you would hook were Brownies.  This seemed hard to believe, I wasn't doubting Robs recent experiences, however I would expect to of caught half a dozen Chub from this stretch a few years ago with relative ease due to the numbers of them.  This sounded like a challenge.

Spam and Bread - Classic
I drove over the small bridge that takes you into the car park, and this instantly brought back vivid memories of all the years I had spent on the river as a lad, stalking Chub in the height of summer, catching a mixed bag on the stick float and lure fishing for Pike, this was where I cut my teeth in river fishing and I learnt alot over those early memorable weekends.
I made my way to the first swim, a slower paced section with over hanging trees on a slight bend, it was one I could normally entice a bite or two.  I was armed with a medium feeder rod, feeder reel loaded with 6lb line, small feeder and a size 6 Drennan Specialist hook.  After all the Barbel fishing Ive been doing recently threading the eyes on the feeder rod felt like threading the eye of a needle with cotton, thin cotton! 
I mashed up a loaf of bread for the feeder and put a 50p sized breadflake on the hook.   I wouldn't normally use bread in the warmer months but I had the Spam as back up.

No one at home.
It looked ideal, big over hanging trees, the fallen leaves slowly making their way down river, the first cast was perfect, under the out stretched branches.  A couple of handfulls of mashed bread were fed slightly upstream and I sat back with the rod in the rest, the butt on my thigh and my finger on the line feeling for any indications.
In the background I could hear water cascading over a small broken weir downstream, a kingfishers high pitched call and about two hundred kids all trying to shout louder than the next one!  I had forgotten about the junior school on the  opposite bank which had obviously just broken for a break releasing what seemed hundreds of kids all rushing and screaming into the playground.  If there were any fish under those over hanging branches im sure it wouldn't of affected them, they hear this almost everyday and it probably bothered me more than the fish.
With no indications after over an hour it was time for a move.  I was travelling light, chair was left behind, I would sit on the unhooking mat, this made it so much easier to move around the river to try and find the fish.

Waiting for a bite.
I walked to a steadier section, not as deep, a nice long glide with several over hanging willow trees on the far bank.  My intention was to fish every 10-15 yards and fish for half hour at a time.  I put on a light leger, baited with luncheon meat and fed a few small balls of mashed bread into each swim just to try and get the Chub going.  After fishing a couple of swims I couldn't believe I was still fishless, I know this stretch like the back of my hand and ten years ago if you asked me to catch a chub I would of made a bee line for this stretch.  Surface activity was minimal too, just the odd dace breaking the surface.  I fed some floating crust and watched them travel the entire glide without any of them being harassed by anything sub surface.
As I waited for a bite I looked down to see 3 big slugs approaching my sliced bread, this was to be my final assault.  I retackled 6lb line straight through to a trusty size 6 and picked a nice sizeable black slug with the intention of rolling it under the over hanging willows.  After another half hour of constantly casting and rolling big fat slugs along the bottom, it started to spit with rain, and as I was travelling light I had no water proofs or brolly so I had to admit defeat.  I was scratching my head, perhaps it was one of those days the fish weren't feeding, however Rob had also struggled to land a Chub recently on a couple of trips.  After so many great memories of this stretch which include my PB Chub, my first river Carp, my PB Roach, it seemed that it was certainly in decline, this might seem harsh after just one session in many years away from the river, so I intend to return during the winter months to target the Chub again, when they will hopefully be shoaled up under those over hanging willows.

Monday, 10 September 2012

A Barbel PB - My Luck Had to Change

I took the opportunity to go fishing this week before my busy work schedule kicks in and I find myself having to plan my fishing sessions around work and family.  As I said in a recent post I'm going to concentrate my autumn/winter efforts on barbel and predators, so with this in mind I found myself on the banks of the Wye just as the sun was rising from behind the trees in a beautiful peaceful Wye Valley dawn. 
Usual tactics were employed of groundbait feeder with fish boilie hookbait.  I donned my BFW hoodie before I locked the van as it felt alot cooler this morning than of late.  I decided to cast the feeder out without a hookbait on to build up some feed in the swim without disturbing the fish that already might be down there feeding for the first several casts.  Once this was done I didn't have to wait too long before my my now baited hook was taken by an eager Barbel after a fishy breakfast and within an hour of fishing my first barbel of the day was in the net.  A long lean fish just over 7lbs, a few quick self takes of which I need more practise and she was back in the water.

A nice start, just over 7lb
The Barbel swam away strongly and the feeder was soon cast out into the swim delivering more groundbait for the hungry Barbel.  As I watched the rod tip I spotted a buzzard in the adjacent field flying low, then it folded in its wings to gain momentum as it swooped down onto its unsuspecting prey probably a rabbit or vole.
The rod tip then wanged backwards as a Barbel disturbed the feeder and I was into my second of the day.  The fight felt different, still powerful but no weight to the fish, I rather hoped it would be a big Chub and I was soon netting then releasing a perfect miniature Barbel of no more than 3lbs.
Over the next few hours I landed one more 7lber, a brace of 6's and a brace of 5's. 

Barbel in the Brambles!
The sun was now high and strong and it certainly was an Indian summer.  The banks on the Wye are often steep, and this swim was no different which makes it difficult for self take shots and with me needing more practise in that area, it certainly provides a challenge.
It was now approaching 12 noon and it had been a decent morning with several Barbel under my belt however the Wye still had one more treat in store for me.
The rod tip pulled down towards the river and my strike was met with a strong fish that confidently took line from my reel as I tried to slow it down and gain control.  I immediately knew this fish was going to be the biggest of the day, it felt heavier and more powerful.  Bigger Barbel tend to be more purposeful in their runs as it attempted to seek the refuge of weed beds or sunken snags.  I got the barbel in front of me after several minutes, I had to give her a bit of stick as I had a sunken branch to my left.  I still hadnt seen the fish as it hugged the river bed as it patrolled up and down the bank, the feeder still hadn't surfaced either.  I slowly pumped the fish up and just as the feeder was about to break the surface it headed down again with a flick of its tail.  Now I was starting to get nervous, I just wanted to get a glimpse of the fish and after a few more heart stopping runs, I could see its golden flanks a foot beneath the rivers surface and realised it was going to be a good Barbel.  I missed the fish on my first attempt to net her then let out a big sigh of relief as I lifted the rim of the net as she lay in the shallows in the soft mesh.  I hauled the fish up the bank with the net held vertical and layed her on the mat and I was quickly zeroing the scales with the landing net head to weigh my fish that was definitely bigger than any other fish that day, but would it go over my personal best.
As always I weighed the fish 3 times each time the scales resting on 9lb 8oz, a new PB, only by a couple of ounces but they all count.  Ill be 50 years old by the time I get a double at this rate!!
I was pleased with a new PB however I wish the pictures were a bit better.

9lb 8oz - just before the rowing boats were out

A few shots of the fish then I let her recover in the net before releasing her.  My fishing was made a little difficult as I continued for a further half hour due to the number of rowing boats that were now out on the river(as you can see in the first photo!) I decided to pack up and go and have a look at another stretch that intend to fish for Chub in the near future, it would be fantastic to catch a Chub PB in this river season as well.

Friday, 7 September 2012

A New PB Barbel - Will it be that Elusive Double...

Had a good session this week, including a new PB Barbel, more to follow tomorrow including pics. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Roll on Winter....

I really shouldn't be wishing the summer away, if we can call it a summer after the deluge of wet stuff that didn't stop falling, but I am looking forward to waters not being so crowded as the colder weather approaches.  My recent outing was in search of my first Avon Barbel.
I decided to fish a stretch of the Avon on the BAA card with my intention of staying the night in the van and making 2 days of it.  On arrival at this popular stretch I made the decision to walk down river away from the "popular pegs" which just so happen to be the closet to the car park!  I as I approached the river I could see a couple of heads down the bank, then another, then another, then as the river came into view there were anglers in every peg, the length of the river.  I know this is a popular stretch but this is ridiculous!
I spoke to one of the anglers, who happened to be fish less up to now, and he explained how the match had been moved that morning from another stretch of the Avon due to car park being flooded, that was why it wasn't listed on the BAA website.
Only about 2 pegs remained, neither one I would of chosen to fish if I had the choice, however as I made the trip I thought id give it a go, I set up and fished on, not in much confidence of catching.  After 2 hours I was also fish less, not even an indication on the rod tip, so made the decision to fish another stretch, one in fact that I hadn't even seen before.

My view upstream towards the weir
I managed to find the new stretch first time which doesn't normally happen, there was about 10 anglers but I found what looked a reasonable swim and fished 2 rods, both on feeder rigs one cast out into the flow and the second on an inside line.  As this part of the river was narrow the pleasure boats were bit of a problem, but at least I was topping the swim up regular.  I fished on all afternoon until it was almost dark however I remained fish less and still in search of my first Avon Barbel.
I made my way back to the van for some fresh bacon rolls and a cuppa.  On speaking to another angler in the car park he said he had been catching steadily all day, a bag full of Bream upto 3lb, not quite what I was after but at least someone was catching something.  I have noticed on these stretches there seem to be very few anglers specifically fishing for Barbel, the majority seem to fish match style for whatever comes along, which is fine, does this mean the Barbel are a bit thin on the ground.

My Swim on day 2
I was back on the water at first light the following morning on the same stretch as I finished up on the previous evening.  I chose to fish a swim further downstream with a big over hanging tree on the far bank.  I fished with just one rod, casting the feeder as close to the foliage as possible.  I tried to keep casting to a minimum and fed the swim by and only recasting when a boat came through causing me to reel in.  I nicknamed the swim the "Ashtray" due to the amount of cigarette butts that were left by an angler from the previous day, not very pleasant.  This was something  I was noticing more and more on these stretches is the amount of litter left by anglers on the banks.  An anglers upstream of me filled an entire carry bag full of litter he picked up from his swim when he arrived as he just couldn't fish with all that crap around and I don't blame him I would of done the same.  Why are anglers so thoughtless when it comes to taking their rubbish back home with them, they will be the first ones to complain when the land owner doesn't renew his lease to the clubs concerned!
Anyway not much happened over the next couple of hours so I photographed a couple of Canada Geese that came through my swim.

Canada Geese
The longer I fished on, it felt more and more likely I was not going to catch my first Avon Barbel today.  It was still only 10am, and I had fished for 4 hours.  I phoned  Rob the bailiff from my club stretch of the Wye who said the river had dropped a little over night and was looking perfect.  That's all I needed to hear, I packed up headed back to the van and drove to the Wye and hopefully get a bend in my rod.  This sounds a little defeatist but as my fishing has been limited recently due to work commitments I just wanted to get a bend in my rod and hopefully get a Barbel on the bank.
Within 90 minutes I was on the banks of the Wye sat under an umbrella with my feeder rig cast out in hope of a bite.  Over the next 4 hours I caught 4 Barbel biggest going just short of 8lb  It was good to have a fighting fish pull my line and I will definitely be back after those Avon Barbel.

6lb 4oz Wye Barbel in between the showers
 As I said at the start I dont want to wish the longer days and warmer weather away but I do enjoy my fishing when the banks aren't so busy.  Im going to make sure I get out on the banks more often as the winter approaches, im going to concentrate on Predator and Barbel fishing for the most part and my challenges from now until the end of the river season will be either my first Avon or Severn Barbel, improve my Pike and Zander pb and hopefully manage my first double Barbel from any river.