Saturday, 15 August 2015

Stalking chub on the Blackwater (Video 83)


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.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Friday, 3 July 2015

Why do you go fishing?




Such a simple question, yet one which I feel some anglers totally miss the point of and dare I say end up disappearing down a tunnel of blinkered thinking and a necessity to catch.


Let me explain why I enjoy fishing.

I enjoy the escapism and peacefulness, the latter being very much venue dependent admittedly, but that first look at a river or lake as you make your way along it, be it a new venue or one that has been inextricably linked to your childhood memories is akin to fresh wind filling the sails of a boat.


The wildlife alone is joy enough to behold and just being able to witness natures theatre is  wonderful. Treated to the sights and sounds of kingfisher, buzzard, kestrel, kite, owl, deer, fox and badger to name but a few, makes any fishing trip a joy on its own.


Granted we all like to catch the odd fish, after all that is part of the reason we go, but as I look more and more at social media I am seeing anglers comment with "I want big fish" , this along with other comments saddens me in more than one way.


The lack of being able to enjoy what you are catching, because angler A,B or C on facebook, twitter, instagram etc have been out and caught bigger. I am seeing a mentality that this creates amongst some anglers and is very much a seemingly one way ticket to having a certain outlook. I feel  they allow it to then encroach upon their enjoyment of their own angling and dare I say go off on one predetermined path.

I like to catch and target (loathe to use that word too) the odd larger fish, but at the same time still get as much enjoyment catching smaller fish no matter the species. If you cannot find that enjoyable I think you need to question if you really do get the same evocative feelings from this pastime any more.

There is also a lack of thinking outside of the stereotypical venues, this saddens me probably the most of all. Granted one of the rivers I fish is the Loddon and you could very much say that makes my statement a bit hypocritical, as it is an oversubscribed river on some club tickets due to the popularity of barbel angling. But I enjoy fishing other rivers which have had and still do have a tendency to be ignored, in some anglers eyes they are deemed not worthy of any attention.

One of my older articles touched on this very lightly. "more river and peace for yourself Mark"  I hear you say and that may well be true but at the same point the ignorance and one track thinking fills me with a non comparable amount of dismay and it would be nice to see more anglers looking at some of these little places as a goldmine in terms of enjoyable fishing trips and that they do contain some absolute monsters, some of which can rival rivers of a more grand scale.

Overlooked

Where has the enjoyment gone from catching a nice fish for a particular venue or for your geographical location? I think in essence media and other fishing programs have in some ways helped to nurture and feed a bit of a mentality of  "if it isn't big I aint interested".

This is not a rant or me trying to crow from some illusionary moral high ground and I do realise that I obviously enjoy using social media to upload and share my fishing vlogs (youtube & facebook). It is just me simply trying to say go out there and enjoy your fishing, don't read into too much on social media, avoid it skewing your thoughts and sending your angling and with it the essence and reason why you enjoyed it in the first place into a downward spiral.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Hamster wheels & opening day




Opening day of the season beckoned and it was fairly evident that quite a few anglers had commenced with a midnight cast, something which I have never been that fussed about, I have to be honest that most of the time I would probably prefer to skip the 16th and let the dust settle.

One thing I did want was my first barbel on the pin this season and so on opening day when I really should have taken the quiver tip rod I instead headed off to the river with the barbel tackle and Marco Cortesi mk2 in tow.  On reaching the river it was nice to find some swims had not been crushed down by the usual June 16th stampede.


I decided to fish a few swims using a simple link ledger and trundling bait along some likely undercuts and gravel runs. Sure enough it was not long before a group of barbel came into sight  right beneath my feet and all were rather preoccupied with only one thing on their minds. I considered my options. 1) Phone home and try to get the quiver tip, possibly risking a verbal ear battering. 2) Crack on and see if I could tempt some chevin.


The latter won easily, besides hardly fair on mum or my ears. I planned to fish a few swims and started off in a shallow area that gave way to some depth along the opposite bank, a few free offerings of slick sense boilie barrels were placed upstream before trundling finally commenced. It became evident early on that the water clarity combined with sunny conditions would make for a tricky affair, so a change of swims was made and I moved slightly downstream to see if I could perhaps tempt some from under a bush.

A few minutes had past when I received a very confident bite and I was soon playing a chunky summer chub.

5.7

The first fish of the season and I was rather cheerful about it, a good scrap considering the barbel tackle. The day was speeding by, the air heavily laced with pollen, it was a hay fever sufferers nightmare, that said the bees were having a jolly good time filling up their pollen baskets.


By evening I had added a few chublets and a couple of greedy brownies that had taken a liking to the bait. I pondered a move back to the shady swim that had produced the larger chub and perhaps another couple of swims further downstream, one of these a rather debris strewn, shallow run with enough cover for a fish to have some welcome respite from the late evening sun.

Making my way back upstream to my first swim I decided to roll the dice and see if there were any more chevin willing to feed, a bite came quite rapidly, the rod tip thudding round and I found myself playing a chub that was putting up a really good tussle in this pacey water. A nicely formed fish with that dappled enamelling that makes them look like they have been given a fresh coat of gilding.

4.1

After a light snack and some welcome rehydration I decided to fish a couple more spots, one of these I had planned to leave and head home, after all I was fairly spent, but the allure proved too much and I found myself wetting a line in a deeper swim in hope of a barbel. Forty minutes later and the isotope moved in one direction only, before the pin crackled into life, a lively scrap from a feisty whisker ensued, this fish powering off downstream in an attempt to put me into the nearest reeds and flotsam that it could find.


A perfectly conditioned six pounder and my first barbel on a pin. I must admit I wholeheartedly enjoyed it, that said I am still not a fully converted pin user for them and certainly won't be ditching the fixed spool reels just yet.