Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Roving with wax worms vlog

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Waxing lyrical

Locally we have had some very heavy rain recently and the rivers have been topped up nicely, almost to the point of localised flooding, a stark contrast to how dry it has been previously, so at the weekend after a bit too much dilly-dallying, trying to choose between barbel fishing or some general roving, the latter was chosen and I decided to take with me what is to myself a fairly new bait and one I have used on three occasions this season, each time they have been nothing less than superb, that bait is wax worms.

These are the plump larvae of the wax moth, think super sized, buoyant, cream coloured maggot and that would lightly sum them up. They can be fished popped up or as a sinking bait and are a very natural looking food, something a fish might expect to see dropping from a bush or tree into the water invitingly. Earlier in the season I put them to use for chub and they worked very well trundled between the weed runs, I tend to fish these in two ways, the first is using an opportunistic approach by casting into a swim with no free offerings and trying to pick off an unsuspecting fish that sees a free meal rolling past, the second is to fish these in conjunction with a light feed of maggots.

The amount of liquid content is akin to a juicy orange, so when nipped on the hook they do give a superb leak off, on larger hooks I prefer to thread one on length ways and then nip one or two on the hook as you would with a normal maggot. They keep very well in the fridge just like maggots and from what I have seen seem to have a better heat tolerance than worms do.

You should be able to purchase these from your local pet shop, however I have been ordering mine from UK Waxworms, you get approximately 270 for £6, now I am unsure as to how that stacks up against the price for these in a pet shop, but baring in mind that the £6 also includes the postage and packaging I would suspect that it is not bad, plus these are mainly used as hook bait only, so 270 tend to go a long way.  I have detoured a little from topic but wanted to explain a bit about them.

On reaching the river this weekend I was met with a pacy, tea coloured scenario and part of me was kicking myself for opting to go quiver tip and link ledger, but there were still plenty of slacks to target and submerged marginal features which would allow fish respite from the burgeoning flow.

As I had not got down till 2pm I decided to concentrate on only a handful of swims, chopping and changing between fishing the wax worms as single baits and using them fished over the top of maggots which were trickled into some swims. The first couple of spots produced a few small perch and gudgeon, moving downstream I found a slack just off a glide and begun to receive some rapier-esque bites hitting the tip, now I have not had that many dace from this waterway in the past, many other species but not lots of dace, at least not from some of the reaches that I fish, well imagine my delight when I started picking up a few of these at regular intervals, not huge fish for the species, the largest was  probably 6oz's, but given this particular waterways thriving ecosystem who knows what sizes that they might go to? Certainly food for thought where a bit of trotting might be concerned, which in my opinion is a more enjoyable way to catch these silver arrows.

It was not long before afternoon was gradually turning to early evening and I was sorely wishing I had commenced fishing earlier, by now the river had risen more and I found myself in the final swim of the trip, a slack near to a sunken tree, this area having plenty of breaks in the flow and a very nice undercut bank next to said tree. Twenty minutes into fishing this swim and I received a slow, almost deliberate bite which I somehow failed to connect with, so a change of hook was made to a heavier gauged size 10 and three wax worms were soon rolling along the undercut bank.

A few trundled casts later and the tip twitched delicately before arching round, I soon realised that I was connected to a better fish as it moved into the pacy current, after a very enjoyable scrap I could see a lovely conditioned bream breaking the surface.

Wax worms, like the American Express advert "never leave home without them"

A perfectly proportioned Abramis from a small Thames tributary, an excellent scrap on the quiver (8.7)

Gold intermingled with a deep, burnished bronze colouration and without doubt one of the nicest river bream that I have had the pleasure to catch, this was the perfect way to end the afternoons fishing and it is safe to say that wax worms have cemented themselves as a firm favourite with me as a welcome addition to an anglers bait armoury. I have not used them trotted as of yet, but I would suspect with delicate presentation by float that they would be the downfall of many a good roach and rudd.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Hour Glass Sand

It's a calm evening as I approach the river, I peer up at the sun as it skips in and out of the clouds, much like I once did in the mornings as a child from beneath the duvet, eyes dilating painfully, urging me to cover my head. The sound of flowing water whets my appetite as does the merry whistle of the electric blue, as it flies by I smile and offer a salute, modest acknowledgement for the king of fishers.

The river is part obscured by balsam and nettle, as I fumble through the vegetation it is with a sense of urgency and yearning, the invitation for me to lose myself is strong almost incessant.

Finally my eyes rest upon the river, its subaquatic jungle beckoning me to wet a line, dense cabbage patch giving way to streamer weed and intimate gravel runs, there is no rush to cast, a deep breath is taken, nostrils fill with the heady aroma of balsam, I rustle about in the rucksack for the small tub of bait that has hidden itself in this Aladdin's cave of piscatorial paraphernalia, sure enough it is to be found at the very bottom where it has secreted itself away, a few minutes later and an underarm cast is made, ripples break the surface film and my connection to the river is complete.

Very few thoughts other than the here and now break into my mind, a chance to wonder what might lurk beneath, I'm excitable as the rod shakes, a faint wing beat can be heard and the culprit soon reveals itself to be a Pipistrelle bat, I watch as it flutters between water and foliage, its balletic movement mesmerising me.

The evening cloud cover slowly disperses and a heavy dew begins to form on the grass, its beads illuminated by an awoken moon, my breath is visible, I shudder a little as night air and expectation meet for the first time.

It is not long before a moonlit hunter can be heard, the wood mice that were chattering so enthusiastically, planning a daring raid on my rucksack fall silent, rustling can be heard as they disperse, lest they become a midnight feast for an owl, its presence given away as leaves fall from the bough above.

A series of staccato taps leave my rod shaking, an odd bite and one that fills me with apprehension and unease, images of crayfish and their shellfish attitude for toying with an anglers bait begin to invade my thoughts, these soon vanish as the rod makes a sudden bid for freedom from the rest.
The lead can be felt tumbling through the cabbage patch as the occupant at the other end gatecrashes its way to safety, the clutch ticking steadily, a splash is heard and a golden bar breaks the surface, I'm more than ready for it to slip into the net but it has other ideas as it disappears under the surface and back downstream. By now my heart beats hard and fast but not from where it should reside, for it has taken a small excursion to keep my dry throat company, the mixture of adrenaline and anticipation creates the oddest of emotional concoctions, but it is one every angler is accustom to and something we willingly repeat.

Eventually the folds of the landing net sag and I come to realise that all along it has been fish playing angler.

As I say a final farewell the hourglass is neigh on empty, I spend the last few grains of it watching this muscular beauty swim off and rejoin its brethren.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Abstraction - Waterways thirst for hydration

So far summer has been a rather dry one, although I am sure a few anglers will have set their alarm clock for the heavy downpours predicted this coming weekend and I would say many of our rivers would dearly benefit from a drop of rain, not because it might make any anglers wet dream come true, but for the fact that many rivers are quite painfully low and in need of replenishment.

It does make me wonder how severely abstraction is harming the habitat and species that co-exist along our riverine environments and how easily abstraction licenses are handed out. Going back to 2010 I remember reading the wwf report which stated that a third of river catchments were being threatened by over abstraction, the likes of the Kennet and Itchen amongst others mentioned in this, has much really changed?

From looking at my local network of rivers, nearly if not all of which are feeders and bloodlines to the Thames, I would have to say that no might be the answer to that question. This leads me on to ponder a few other things, such as how much damage to our rivers is caused by Thames water and their malfunctioning, dare I say archaic sewage system/treatment plants.

For example a few seasons ago on the Blackwater I had packed up from an enjoyable fishing trip, the rain had been heavy and constant enough to cause surface flooding, whilst waiting to be picked up I could see two tankers on the road, cleaning up excess water, from the stench it was obvious that it was more than just surface water. On driving by we took the time to stop and ask one of the guys working the tanker, he did not want to answer any questions and asked us to move on, however we did get a response from one of the other chaps further down the road and he admitted that it was indeed sewage that was being cleared up.

Fast forward to this season and a sewage pipe that crossed above ground to an opposite side of  riverbank began to leak raw sewage during the close season. Thankfully it was spotted early on by one of the clubs officials and the environment agency were soon at hand. Meanwhile Thames water called in two tankers and closed the pumping station. Swift action you might think, but weeks went by with Thames water claiming that they could not commence any reparation due to not being able to hire scaffolding, yet there is a scaffold company local to the site of the incident. In the end Thames water chose to replace said pipe and run the new one under the river bed instead, I can't help feel that the term "hear no evil, see no evil" or in this case smell no evil comes to mind.

You might think I have a bit of a dislike for Thames water and you're probably right, but it is fuelled by the fact they have wiped out a few good reaches of rivers and brooks over the years and got away like so many companies do with just a fine and a slap on the wrist, I think that would perhaps peeve most people.

So far this season I have done seven trips on the Loddon mainly for barbel and of those trips it has been a reasonable balance between captures and blanks.

One of my recent trips resulted in a double hook pull, now I like to think that such things balance themselves out, especially having been lucky in past seasons to land fish to mid double on a lot lighter tackle when I probably shouldn't have. I must admit despite thinking this through I did still go home with a rather rueful smile etched on my face.

Getting down to the river late one evening I was greeted by a friend who had journeyed from Swindon to my neck of the woods and was just setting up, we had a chat and ended up fishing fairly close together, he planned to fish till 11pm and just as he was getting ready to pack up had his first Loddon barbel of the season. This was quite surprising given how unsociable their feeding patterns can be. He was very happy and I duly did the honours with the camera.

A smile speaks a thousand words

I decided to stay on for three more hours, thoughts in my head gnawing away about the recent hook pulls, that and wondering if bats could one day be tamed and used as portable anti mosquito devices.  Don't ever say I don't use time on the bank to think pro actively..

At 1am I started receiving a few delicate line bites accompanied by the odd heavier rattle, forty minutes later and the rod departed the front rest, saved by the butt grip and my hand as I lurched forward, it had to be one of the most violent takes I have had in a while and it was evident I was connected to a very powerful fish that was intent on putting the pacey water to good use.

flashbacks of hook pulls had me playing this fish very gingerly, it was a real scrap and everything that could go wrong nearly did which included the ledger weight lodging in the landing net mesh with  fish sliding back out over the lip, thankfully the weight dislodged and the fish slid into the net on the second attempt.

fighting fit torpedo (10lb)

This was a great way to exorcise those hook pull demons. Although if I am honest I can still hear them whispering to me.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Blackwater - Piecing together the skeleton key

This season I had a plan and one I wished to stick to, that was to target barbel on the Blackwater. Time spent watching and building up a mental image of various stretches of the river over the last few seasons whilst targeting other species had helped a lot, that said on the couple of occasions I did try to tempt one during last season I felt that I approached it half heartedly and lacked the single minded focus it required.

So this season I decided to do evening trips, fishing till midnight hoping with the dry weather that the cover of darkness would help combat the low water levels. Three trips in I was beginning to scratch my head and stare at a piscatorial labyrinth with which to become lost in. The barbel were still spawning and that was definitely making it tricky, thoughts about leaving it till a bit later in the season did cross my mind.

During the fourth trip I had settled into a perfect looking swim, dense streamer weed giving way to dinner plate sized gaps where a bait could be gently lowered and presented, it was a lovely warm evening and there was signs of fish on the opposite margin, the tell tale signs as the foliage was being vigorously nudged back and forth, a sure sign that something was engrossed with spawning activity. Around 10pm a fish in my marginal swim spooked and a trail of bubbles was all that could be seen, I was starting to think that things were not going to go as I hoped. Half an hour later and a mink paddled by, not the best sight in your swim and it followed it up by passing by yet again on its way upstream. This scenario was set to repeat itself and in all honesty it could have done a backstroke on its next lap past my rod, it would not have surprised me had that happened!

I really should have moved swims, as I have always found when fishing its larger sibling the Loddon that you may have a good spot which can produce some very special fish, however once the mink become active you are sometimes better off relocating. Alas I stuck it out and this furry critter that seemed like it had overdosed on energy drinks just kept on going (could well have been powered by Duracell).  I headed home with a bee in my bonnet about furry critters that might make nice coats!

On the evening of my fifth trip there had been a welcome sprinkling of rain, conditions were very humid, with plenty of cloud cover and a welcome breeze. It felt right, but would the river agree? As I made my way to a new spot I passed by a few swims that showed obvious signs of angling activity the Himalayan balsam and reeds trodden down, enough room for an opportunistic cast up or downstream. Tempting as they were I had one area in mind and was hoping the extra depth just might give me a chance.

As evening drew in I had placed some birdseed via bait dropper slightly upstream and lowered the rod into position, a scant amount of free offerings were placed round the hook bait, the last thing I wanted to do was over feed fish that seemed to have an abundance of natural food.

Every fishing trip I am a fairly excitable angler but this evening you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife, for some reason I was like a tightly wound, chubby spring sat on a landing mat.

An hour later and the rod nodded once and tapped a couple of times before the clutch started ticking steadily, not the usual manic bite you would associate from a barbel, oh no that was to come when I lifted the rod and boy did she awaken, tearing off downstream and trying to take me for a tour of the weed bed, as I walked to the limit of my swim to gain some control over her I could feel every surge  and with it the attempt to make for the sanctuary of some nearby snags.

My headlight caught her flank as she broke the surface, words tumbled out my mouth regarding her  length and build, along with a slight helping of expletives. The net seemed to take an age to slip under her, but once it had and she lay recuperating I punched the air with joy, daft as it may seem but I don't think I have ever felt such a feeling of contentment.

 A dream realised from one of my favourite Thames tributaries (12.1)

I was over the moon, I don't think there is a much better feeling than adrenaline combined with knowing that groundwork had culminated in such a reward, if only she could have known how much she had gladdened my heart. As I released her it was with an emotionally choked goodbye.

Part of the key had been unearthed, but this waterway has so many more special secrets that it withholds and has fought its way back from the brink of death by pollution in 1995, long may it continue.