Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Octopus the going bait, says man at Morrisons

The sight of fresh sardines in Morrisons is often enough to make me spend a Lady Godiva or two on bait.

This time, the Chipper Fishmonger has just nine of said fish - and little else that grabs my fancy.

I'll have the lot, I say. Chipper Fishmonger can tell by this that I am the sort of customer who knows what he wants.

The sort he's seen before, apart from on his days off, when I am clearly served by other fishmongers.

"Going fishing?" he asks. "Bloke came in earlier who's a big pike fisherman. Nearly cleaned me out, he did. Comes in every week, usually has a few mackerel as well."

Que sera, I say - in case the fishermonger is multi-lingual or a fan of Doris Day, who won an Oscar for best film music with a song of the same name, in 1956.

"Tell you what I have got though," he says, picking up a large octopus. "Bet you've never tried one of these for bait."

I look at the creature and can't quite picture it on two size fours. No thanks Mr Fishmonger.

"Go on, I can let you have it for a fiver..."

Not my sort of bait I'm afraid. In my experience, pike like eating fish not octopi.

"Not what the other bloke says you know. Swears by it he does. He catches some big ones too - I've seen the pictures. Tell you what, I can do you half for £3.Or how about a couple of tentacles...?"

I have my sardines and am already perusing the carrots in the root vegetable aisle. The Chipper Fishmonger shakes his head and goes back to filleting salmon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In actual fact, it was a twenty...

'So nearly a twenty, this prizefighter' went the original post. When I got home and checked my ancient Avons against a 1lbs brass weight I double-checked on the kitchen scales, I found they were 3oz light. So the fish I settled on a weight of 19:14 for wasn't nearly a twenty after all...

As the sun began to drop towards the floodbank this afternoon, a movement caught the corner of my eye. Fry had started topping in the next swim. I shinned up the bank for a better look and saw dimples along the edge of some blanket weed, along with my mate's van bouncing down the track.

Time for a move, I think. Not only is there activity in the next swim, I can press gang matey into helping me move the gear and be there double-quick.

As I cast the baits and stick a brew on the stove, the fry skitter away from some unseen predator. Things are looking up.

They look up even more five minutes later, as one of the floats bobs and jinks away across the surface. I pull into it as the line tightens and there's a big swirl as it bow waves off across the top.

Good fish, decent double, we think to start with, as I pump it back and it surges away again with the reel handles spinning. Then I glimpse its head and wonder if it's the first twenty I've managed from this part of the system.

It takes a few minutes to beat it, every time I gain line on it, it tears off again. My mate reckons he hasn't seen one fight like that in ages.

Netting it's a nightmare thanks to blanket weed and a flying treble, but my mate does a great job. As I cut the trace and lift it onto the mat to unhook it, I find the other treble's just nicked in behind its bottom lip.

It's a mint fish, with olive flanks and vivid markings. In the sling and the dial can't make its mind up between twenty and ounces and two ounces under. So I thought I still hadn't had a twenty from this part of the system - until I checked my scales and found they were weighing 3oz light.

Time for a new set of scales...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rain in the Fens - at last

A foggy start, but there's no mistaking the large drops of cold, wet stuff falling as I load up for today's sortie. Rain.

They're going on  ten to the dozen about it on the radio. Tha'ss rainun' like the clappers that is. Th'ass rained for a good hour in Watlington. Th'ass bin pourin' in King's Lynn.

Needless to say, it's all but stopped by the time I get to the river. The river looks pretty much like yesterday, apart from a bit muddier around the edges.

There's only one other bloke fishing the stretch I've plumped for on a whim. And he's sitting right slap bang in the swim I fancied.

"This is where the roach were shoaled up on Sat'dee," he says, staring at his waggler. "Had a foo today, but that's just died all of a suddin'. I'm off if that rain starts again."

My little mind's whirring away. Roach shoaled, had a few, then went dead - might be off soon. So I drop in next door. Not quite the right place, but near enough to be in there like a rat up a drain pipe when the precipitation prompt's my new-found friend's departure.

I start with two out, keeping the banter going with helpful metereological observations like: "Cor that looks like it's going to piss down soon."

As the sky grows steadily darker, he slings his keepnet up the bank to dry. To say the swim he's in has a slightly obvious feature is a bit like saying Henry VIII liked the odd wedding. As he loads his car and disappears, I'm in like Flynn.

Two hours later, I'm staring into gin clear margins willing the river to colour-up. Or even just flow. It did flow weakly for half an hour or so, as the sluices opened near the bottom of the ebb in the tidal.

Just enough flow to pull the line round and tension the floats, but enough to make me think I was going to get one. Oh well, if the pike aren't feeding I can.

Cook up some pasta, drain, add a tin of meatballs and some of that fancy Italian seasoning stuff and job's a good'un. Jamie Oliver eat your heart out. Suitably fortified, I sit there into the gloaming again without a run. But I reckon things might pick up soon, looking at the weather.

I'm Hank Marvin but Don't Worry - Be Happy

It's Monday and I'm Hank Marvin, because I've forgotten my food. I've got several jars of that powdered tea from the pound shop, which does contain glucose and hydrogenerated vegetable oil (as well as anti-caking agent E341, whatever that is...) but it's not quite the same as proper eating stuff. As in food, like what you need a fork for.

I was going to wind the rods in and head for the nearest garage, but bream started rolling two-thirds of the way across the river and I wondered if the shoal might have a pike or two following it.

So I re-bait and throw all three across, landing one so close to a bream the surface erupts as it bow-waves off for the far margin. Half an hour later and the bream have cleared off a couple of swims upstream, where they're now bubbling away on the bottom.

The river's flat calm and as the sun sinks into the haze it's got lost cause written all over it. By the time I've twitched the baits back across the river, the geese are squealing overhead and a barn owl's patrolling the far bank.

Someone's stuck a couple of great big banners by the road near Downham Market. Don't Worry. Be Happy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

NNG review - tea

When it comes to being a sponsored angler, I'd rather be sponsored by someone who makes tea.

While I can only get to use so much gear or bait over the course of a winter, I never seem to have enough tea. Earl Grey was my brew of choice last season - the subtle citrus note of bergamot helping to cleanse the palette after an early morning fry-up and a couple of roll-ups.

My mates didn' t like my choice of tea. I won't bore you with their less than politically-correct responses. 

My current brew of choice is Ty-Phoo QT. This is dried tea, with added milk. Sling it in, add water and it's job sorted. Better still, it's a quid a jar from the pound shop in King's Lynn.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another piece of the puzzle falls into place

Sometimes when you go out, you learn something. Another bit of the puzzle that's pike fishing falls into place, if you like.

It took a while to make my mind up where I was going today. I fancied a drain I haven't fished in years, but the first stretch I looked at was mirror-calm and devoid of life apart from a horde of gulls. If they'd been diving for fry, I'd have given it a go, but they were sitting aimlessly on the top preening themselves in the mist.

The next bridge had half a dozen cars, so I drove on without stopping. Then I remembered another stretch nearby, where I'd had a few fish several winters back.

The first time I tried it this particular spot, it was the middle of February and the rest of the drain was frozen. I gave it a go and found the pike grouped up in a clear area. I caught seven or eight jacks fishing literally under my feet down a steep bank that was a bit of a scramble.

I went back a few weeks later, towards the end of the season and had three good doubles. I didn't twig why this bit of the drain was any better than any other bit and by the next time I went back a couple of seasons after, the bank had fallen away meaning I couldn't get down it to fish so I wrote it off and never bothered again.

When I pulled up today, there were a couple of grebes diving by the steep bank. One came up with a roach as I watched off the bridge. Sizing it up, I reckoned I could cast across to the same area of drain with a bit of jiggery pokery, so it was out with the rods.

The grebes had skulked off 20 yards downstream by the time I had the first trace clipped on, but something swirled on the far side and sent the roach skittering across the top. The mackerel tail landed a few yards short, but I threw a lamprey over on a second rod to keep it company and after half an hour or so, it was away.

The float was coming towards me at a rate of knots as I wound down into a jack of three or four pounds. Still a fish first chuck, I told myself. It was a glorious day, so I wasn't too bothered about moving. There was more than one fish in the swim the last couple of times I'd fished it - so odds on there might be today.

Wraiths of mist were drifting off the fields, turning the distant landscape into a watercolour painting. I dicked about taking pictures for a bit, fired up Chernobyl to make a brew and as I was savouring the last few drops the lamprey went for a burton.

Yes, a better fish. A need a net for fish, until I pump it close enough to see it's just hooked at the front of its snout, on the bottom hook of the trace. I drop the net, shove the other rod out of the way and kneel down to chin it. It thrashes on the top - a scraper double with a huge gob and 10 inches of lamprey hanging outside.

It shakes its head, gills flared, as I go to grab it - throwing the lamp and the hook in the process. I can live with losing a twelve-pounder. So I decide to sit it out for another hour or two. There had to be another one there, surely.

Church bells were ringing in the foggy distance. A merlin swooped low over the reeds. Lost in my reverie, I nearly jumped out of my skin when a voice piped up behind me: "Are yew doin' any gu-u-ud..?"

An old boy with binos around his neck had appeared from nowhere. Just like an old boy with binos around his neck appearing from nowhere.

"Had one, lost one," I shrugged. "Lovely day all the same ole' podna."

"This used to be a good area roight hair," he said. "I used to pike fish a lot 'round hair. Still do, but th'ass not as good as it was. Yew wanna be over thair, that's where they used to git to."

So I told him I'd had the odd fish over the other side, before the bank collapsed into a sheer drop Bear Grylls would baulk from four or five seasons back.

"There's a slacker over there you know," he said. "Tha'ss why you used to git the pike there. They used to go through it into the ditch to spawn. But summit's happened to it. They blocked it up. That's not been so good the last two or three year now."

As the old boy with binoculars around his neck walked away,  like an old boy with binoculars around his neck walking away, another piece of the puzzle fell into place.

Neville Fickling at Lynn PAC meeting

King's Lynn PAC got up and running again last month with an excellent evening's entertainment provided by Denis Moules. On Wednesday, November 30,  Neville Fickling's going to be the special guest at the Wm Burt Club, in West Winch (where the meetings used to be held years ago when Phil and Mike were the ROs).

The fun gets under way at 7.30pm. Bet it's packed out as it's hard to think of anyone who's had more influence on the modern pike fishing scene than Neville. Get there early's probably a good plan.

He started off fishing round the King's Lynn area and still has the occasional dabble locally, so it will be interesting to hear how he thinks this winter's going to pan out in these parts.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Leeches on pike..? Pull the udder one

See, look - that's got leeches on it. Them pike aren't moving, they're just sitting on the bottom.

If there's one bit of widely-accepted pike lore I disagree with, it's the old maxim about leeches and what they tell us about what the fish we catch have been up to.

If they're the hallmark of lenghty periods of inactivity, how come you can step in the margins and come out with your clod hoppers covered in 'em..?

Sometimes, we look to nature to reinforce our own, rather shallow view on how it all works above or below the surface.

Them cows up the bank are lying down in the field, for example - so that must be going to rain. As in cows never get tired, have an off day or just fancy a breather.

If a pike festooned with leeches is a torpid fish that's been crashed out in the silt, how come it could be assed to take your bait..? Pull the udder one.

I'll send you a text if I get a decent one

LOL ;) UR fishin where just seen ya car no pike there ha ha. Yeah, right. How come I just had one then you muppet. U got lucky how big. Mind your own you *sexually explicit expletive*. Hope you *equally graphic sexual perjorative* drown, you *unconventional use for a ruminant animal's genitalia*.

Ha ha. Ha, *mildly graphic sexual term* ha. How did we ever get by, before the days of mobile phones and text messages..? Slow day, was it mate. Text me next time you're on there. LOL ;) PS: <;)}}}}}}><

Friday, November 18, 2011

Give it a few days - maybe that's the answer

I go through phases when I fish every day. I sometimes find hitting a water for three or four days on the trot is the key to cracking it - possibly because if you're on there long enough, they've got to start feeding sooner or later.

Last time I tried this, I blanked four days out of five, which is dire by even my standards. Then again, I knew of other waters where people were catching, one day enduring a running commentary via text messages from a mate who had dropped right on them and was nailing them one after another a few miles from where my floats sat motionless.

You might think this means I'm stupid. But I've decided if I only learn to fish one more water, it's got to be the Ouse. That means struggling through the blank days until the penny finally drops. I've had a few good twenties off it over the years, but these have all come from well-known areas further upstream from the stretch I'm concentrating on.

The bit I'm fishing has produced the bigger fish in recent seasons, but they're literally few and far between. In fact predators seem to be thin on the ground full stop, which belies the incredible volume of prey fish.

I know find the silvers and you find the pike doesn't always hold true, but what's struck me about the few fish I've managed so far this winter is how thin they are. It's November now - not high summer, when pike do tend to look a bit skinny (from what I remember from when I used to catch the odd one or three zander fishing).

But the pike must be somewhere. Maybe the water's low in oxygen because of lack of rain/flow and amount of weed in the river. Maybe that's what's put them off the feed, along with the incredibly clear water.

Either way, I'm going to give it a few days on the trot and try a new area as well - mainly because parts of the river where I was catching a few pike last season now seem all but devoid of them.

I might even dust off the lure rods - just to see if a more mobile approach pays off better than planting my arse behind three or four bait rods and trying just a handful of swims in a day. Maybe it's a confidence thing, after all.

Confidence is a funny thing in pike fishing

Confidence is a funny old thing when it comes to  pike fishing. Sometimes, you work harder when you think you're going to catch one any minute. Maybe the anticipation spurs you on.

Other days, you put more effort in when you know it's going to be hard, because deep down you know if you don't put the work in, it ain't going to happen, no siree Bob.

The other week, I was full of vim on a rare trip to a large stillwater I used to fish a lot with TC, Chippy Bob and one or two other characters. One of my favourite swims clearly hadn't been fished, if the ankle-deep grass was anything to go by.

I put two legered deads out, one along a line of trees; one tight to an island. As we finished off the last of an ample fry-up, I looked at the rods and just knew they weren't quite right, as I wiped the last of the tomato sauce off me strides and wished I'd brung more bread rolls.

I knew I wasn't going to get a pull on either of them, even though I couldn't quite put my finger on why. They were tightened up a treat, nice baits, sharp hooks. They just had blank written all over them.

Looking across  the lake, I remembered a bar which I can just about hit with a float-legered bait when the wind's right.

Off your back, the cast is a breeze and the braid bows nicely to just pull a float to half-cocked against a lightly-weighted trace in eight or nine feet of water.

Five minutes later, I landed a mackerel tail right on the money. Don't ask me why, I just knew I'd catch one there.

And I was right, for once. The float didn't even settle. As I tightened down I felt a bump, gave it a couple of feet of slack and pulled into a cracking double that turned out to be the only fish of the day, apart from a jack to TC.

I couldn't get another bait back out fast enough after I unhooked it. I reeled one of the leger rods in and re-cast it onto the near slope of the bar upwind of the float rod. Both fouled thick weed as I tightened up, so I wound them in and slung them back out into yet more more thick weed.

I messed around with trying to pop the baits up just above the weed. I tried casting around to find a clear area and twitching back a bouyant pollan on a long link.

In the end, I dropped the baits under the rod tops and sat well back from the bank - just in case there was a kerb crawler or two doing the rounds. I was sure I'd catch another, until the greylags started squealing overhead and I adjourned to licensed premises to toast the season's second double.

Funny thing, confidence.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

There's aliens in the bridge swim at Ten Mile Bank

I know I shouldn't have started talking to one of the colourful characters I sometimes attract when I'm sitting by the river. A little voice inside was going: "Don't - it only encourages them..."

After the usual nice day/yes it's a nice day/caught anything/no not yet preamble, he moved so close I thought he was trying to sneak in my Igloo suit, looked up and down the river to check no-one else was in earshot, and asked: "Hev you ivver seen anythink, you know, like a bit, um, wierd when yew bin fishin' 'round here..?"

Not really, I said. Some skinny dippers once when I was tench fishing. Bold as brass they were. Otherwise, no - can't see Mulder and Scully rocking up down here any time soon.

"Well that's funny you should say that," he said. "Because you'll nivver guess what I see the other night when I was riding my ole bike home from the pub - that was hovering right over that railway bridge that was.

"It was one of them h'alien spacecraft. That look just like the ones what you see on the telly.  C'ept it had like a trunk, like a h'elephant's trunk or something like it.

"And it was dangling down touching the wires. I reckin' they know there h'int no trains last thing at night in the week. They come down and nick the 'lectric off British Rail to charge up their spaceship, I reckin tha'ss what they dew.

"No wonder our bills keep garn up all the time."

It's the 21st Century. Tens of thousands will be born or die today. Major events are happening on the World stage. War is looking increasingly likely with Iran. The Eurozone debt crisis is making politicians look to re-shape our relationship with Europe.

At Ten Mile Bank, I've just met a man who swears he's seen an alien spacecraft.

Is there pike on Mars..? linky

While we're on the subject of baits...

Bait's a funny old subject. I swear by mackerel. One guy I fish with swears by smelt. Sometimes I catch more than he does. Sometimes I don't.

When blueys came out a few seasons back, they were all the rage for a bit. Now they're just another bait, which sometimes catches pike and other times doesn't.

Now you've got to have lamprey on the end or it's no cigar on the big river. That's the upshot of a lengthy phone call comparing results with someone who's been catching more than me of late.

My mate's only been using them on one of the three or four rods he routinely uses on the river. This is the rod the runs come to. 

I like lamprey. I get mine from somewhere that sometimes has the really big mofos, so I stock up when they do.

But they cost two or three times as much as most other fish. So I tend to ration myself and use them when it gets really hard when the rivers are out of sorts.

That trail of blood and gore oozing out of them's a real confidence booster - even if you have to hook them on carefully to ensure the points stay proud and find a good hold.

Sounds like a rummage in the freezer's going to be in order, along with a few new traces tied with Size Twos slightly further apart than my normal bait rig.Whether it'll make any difference is another thing.

There's a little tip in the picture. Trim the tail fins off your baits. It stops the tail masking the points of the top hook, and also stops the bait spinning on the retrieve, which means less kinked traces and tangles caused by line twist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ouse sorry now

You'd have to go a long, long way to beat today on the weather front. Shame the fishing was pants.
I ended up on a bit of river I must have driven past 1,000 times but had never got round to fishing before.

So when the drain I fancied turned out to be covered in blanket weed, I decided to give it a go. Sometimes, when you have a feeling about a certain swim or piece of water, you end up catching.

No-one had told the fish this today, and as the afternoon wore on towards dusk, the only activity had been an eel shredding one of the baits and a crab trying to sneak off with the other one.
Blanking when the weather's dire sometimes has a kind of inevitability about it. I genuinely thought I was going to bag a couple today, the swim just had everything going for it.

For some reason, the river's a good bit shallower than it is a few hundred yards upstream by the telegraph poles. Instead of plunging into 20ft or more of water down the middle, there's a gentler drop into 15ft. 

That means the sluggish flow picks up a bit. I thought that might mean the roach would be there, meaning there'd be a few pike about.

As the sun dropped behind the floodbank, the river came alive with silvers topping. Of maybe they were rudd. When the sky turned blood red, I reached for my phone and took a picture. 

Tick, tick, ticka-ticka-ticka. A run at last, or a crab strong enough to pull a 10" joey along and take line off the Baitrunner.

It's still going like a good 'un as I pick the rod up, wind down and miss it.