Sunday, 29 July 2012

Head Scratching And Gut Instincts

I have been out on two trips recently, deciding to fish late evening till early morning, overnight trips only and must say this area of the Thames has been screaming "fish" at me.

My gut feeling has been a good one, you know the kind of vibe and feel we get as anglers, when something feels spot on or not and we then decide to move swims, or pick one swim above another. Sometimes that feeling can work rather well and at other times it can confuse decisions and cloud logical choice. Alas both my overnight trips have resulted in blanks, on the plus side I have found a nice area for Roach, given some of the bites I was receiving on boilies, which certainly will be appealing when I eventually wish to target them, however as I write this, I must admit to wearing my hair thin from head scratching and wondering, I think that I may have jumped the gun and gone down the wrong route with these recent swim choices, so once again it's back to the drawing board and some much needed groundwork. Either way, if and when I do eventually get on some fish, I will certainly appreciate it a lot more. Fingers crossed for a better gut instinct too!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Youtube Bloggers Event - Like Minded Souls

Well the weather has certainly changed now that the gulf stream has decided to finally return to its rightful place and not a moment too soon either! Many months ago an idea was thought upon by fellow youtube anglers and video/blog writers, to create a youtube match event of like minded souls, somewhere we could all meet, fish, discuss and share ideas, so began the embryonic stages of such an event and as months past by, venues were suggested and changed, much thought was put into it until finally we had some plan of what we would do and where we would be doing it.

The venue was to be the river Thames at Pangbourne, a place that was always close to my heart having enjoyed fishing the river over the many years, my family use to live there before moving closer to Reading, which till this day I often pose the question asking them why they ever moved. The plan was to make the group into teams to add a competitive edge, with various prizes, for largest fish, most fish caught and even the unluckiest angler. The prizes were kindly supplied by Middy 30 Plus and CCMoore and consisted of Middy 30 Plus landing mat, weigh sling, as well as various ready tied rigs,  CC Moore had donated a live system session bucket, replete with boilies, pellets, popups and bait dip as well as a selection of pots of their Northern Specials and a slouch beanie hat.

Being the venue host and the closest to the venue, it was my duty to be at the car park to attempt my best effort at meeting and greeting the first early birds to arrive, sadly my cat decided to put a stop to this, by vomiting everywhere  and I arrived 20 minutes later than I wished only to find Dan Jones who had traveled all the way down from Swansea and looked absolutely knackered, was already in the car park and since 6am. After an impromptu chat, another car pulled into view and it was my team mate and one of the event organisers George Day .

George Day

With us being the only planned early arrivals we decided to have a chat and take a look at the river, discussing how to go about allocating swims and such. The Thames was running very pacey still and with a bit of colour, it didn't look bad however and the weather was finally beginning to settle down, which for an event like this is always welcome, especially when there are BBQ's to be tended to. We offered Dan the choice of swims as it was also his 32nd birthday and he dearly wanted a Barbel, a slacker area was picked which also had a nice populace of Lily pads, unfortunately it also had a lovely gift left behind by a previous dog walker, why for the life of me dog owners can't be bothered to clear up their animals excrement is beyond me, failing that, they bag it up and leave it hanging from a bush tree or someones fence. So after a bag was found and spot made at least habitable George and I left Dan to set up.

Bloggers base camp

Not long after Merlin  and his friend, fellow team mate Leo Spanswick, whom had named themselves the "Bream Baggers" turned up, their journey had been a smooth one and not too long, as they both hailed from Kent. eventually the final anglers turned up, Carl and Alex Smith who were also event organisers and were also coming back the same day from a holiday in France to then fish at the event for 24 hours, which certainly showed a lot of passion and true dedication.

Merlin, aka Kent coarse kid

So with us all ready for the off, fishing commenced, with Merlin and Leo opting for a combination of feeder tactics using bread and the ever faithful supermarket frozen corn, along with mainline halibut pellets and boilies for evening time.

Carl Smith

Meanwhile Carl and Alex were fishing feeders with pellet and pepperami and it was not long before the best bite of the day was missed, the pepperami rod arching round violently, before eventually bouncing back in its rest.

Alex  half of  the fishing duo that make up Carl and Alex Smith

This was a pity as bites were showing signs of being a premium that were going to be hard to come by, Carl did catch a small Chublet during late afternoon.

Dan Jones

Dan was now setup in his swim and decided to place both his rods out on boilies, baiting the nearby lily pad bed with Rosehip isotonic boilies  and he looked to have settled into his swim, when there was a nearby predatory chase and take by a Pike, as it happened Dan had brought some sardines with him, (a man prepared for every eventuality), he decided to try wobble a bait through his swim, but alas after much trying, it proved to no avail.

Downstream from Dan, myself and George had setup  close together and fishing the near margins. George opted for a boilie approach and really wanted a first english Barbel, as living in Cambridge he is not blessed with the choice of Barbel waters we have here down south, which to be fair we are spoilt by. He decided to go with an odyssey-xxx boilie in a pva bag with pellets. Both his rods were placed to the right and left near bank margins  along with a few balls of vitalin mixed with  pigeon conditioner, which I had brought along for both of us to use. I considered a far bank cast with a heavy lead and decided to eventually scrap this and place both rods downstream along the marginal gully.
Sticking with my tried and tested Essential baits black snail boilie , low resistance running rig, along with a scattering of matching baits, as well as vitalin and bird seed mix balled up.

The day was a sunny one and the activity on the fish front was quiet, Merlin losing a Perch on sweetcorn and missing some very fast dace like bites being the main highlight of the afternoon.
Being the venue host, there was one thing on my mind only and that was that everyone caught something or at least some of us and as the day wore on into evening, I must admit father Thames was being fickle and not playing ball at all, but being a social there is always two sides to the coin and as the Instant barbecues were lit under a clear evening sky and the banter started, laughter and jokes made, fishing tales and a group of people sharing a single interest together, it  meant a lot to me, I will say this right now as apart from Dan I was the oldest person at the event, hey I'm young at heart! It was heartening to see a group of fisherman of younger ages who are passionate, respectful and at the same time down to earth and kind hearted. To be fair they would put some older anglers to shame, it made me think, if this is the next generation of anglers coming through into our past time then it will be in good hands.

Carl and Alex were busy unpacking and placing burgers and sausages on to the grills, whilst George did his best to tend to them, not an easy feat with only a spork to turn them. As the embers burnt low and many a belly well filled with burger and sausage, we slowly dispersed and made our way back to our swims, baits cast and swims topped up, I have always found this area of the river like a lot of the Thames, to respond well during night time, the one large fly in the ointment being how the weather had gone from low pressure to a sudden high, giving way to heavy dew, as the night progressed  I pondered and said a quiet word to the river, almost begging it for a bone, but not for myself, for any of the other chaps who had traveled to attend this venue.

I spoke softly to it, almost caressing it, "come on, I know you and I know the good days you have given me in the past, give us a gem or two". Would it listen, who knows, manys the time in the past when similar prayers have not been answered. midnight struck and there had been the sign of some activity, my own alarm bleeping on and off and George's right rod doing the same, at nearly 1am, as I sat by my rods, his Delkim one toned and I raced down to his bivvy, grabbing the nearby landing net, ready to do the honours.

I said to him "carp maybe", "feels a dogged fight", came his adrenaline filled reply, "will be a Barbel mate" I said smiling widely, his reply was funny and full of nervous tension, "don't!" he exclaimed. Eventually a Barbel rolled under my headlight and the net was slipped under it, the hook instantly popping out in the net. I smiled, this actually felt better than anything, to see the look on another anglers face, for something they had never caught before in England. as I lifted the net slightly I said to him,"new pb for sure". George was grinning from ear to ear, eventually the other lads made their way to the swim and words of congratulations were passed on to the captor, weighing 9lb 10oz  and looking hollow with room to fill out, it was a new personal best for George, bettering his old one by 4lb+.

New Personal best and one very happy team mate, well done George!

We shook hands solidly and celebrated with a cup tea and some Bourbons. I was relieved one of the guys had caught, let me be totally honest on a scale of 1 to 10 my relief was 11 and it being a new pb was even better. The rest of the night was quiet for me, but upstream Leo Spanwick had bagged an immaculate Bream, which was very fitting given their team name of Bream baggers. This fish  was also a new pb for him. The Bream were proving to be particularly absent as well during the night and I have caught many from this stretch everytime I have fished it in the past.

A picture perfect Thames

Morning dawned and the light mist that had formed was burnt off by a hot sun. It was going to be a quiet morning, I could tell. But upstream the battle for the most fish had commenced in earnest and Merlin was as commited as Carl to winning this, Carl opting to freeline corn and Merlin decided to change to trotting a float with corn and bread. After various changes in who was holding the lead, the award was eventually won by Merlin with a mixed bag of fish including Roach and Chub.

This was to be the final activity, as time was called and rods were reeled in, everything was prepared for the prize ceremony, prizes were awarded to each category winner and hands were shook.
Largest fish prize going to team "fenland for memories", thanks to Georges Barbel, most fish award went to the Bream baggers with Merlin taking 8 Roach, 2 Perch a Chub and Leo Spanwick with his personal best Bream.

Leo with his pb Bream 3lb 8oz  (excuse the quality, was taken from a team mates cam)

Last but certainly not least was the unluckiest angler award, which was won by Dan, we worked this out by the fact that  he picked a swim that had dog mess in it and also wanted to capture a Barbel, but George who was next to him took the only Barbel. He also caught the only sock of the match, which had in fact given him something mimicking a full blooded run.

Like minded souls and some tubby guy leaning to far left.. doh! From left to right. Leo, myself, Carl, Dan, Alex, George, Merlin

Despite the Thames being very slow going, this certainly didn't dampen anyones spirits, after all the event wasn't just about catching fish, it was about the first event and meet up of a group of people with a passionate interest in a pastime that they care about and enjoy. It was a group of like minded souls and I very much look forward to next time.

Click each persons name below to visit each Attendees youtube channel.

George Day

Carl And Alex Smith

Dan Jones

Merlin Higgins And Fishing Friends

Fishing For Memories

New Jigsaw Puzzle Vlog

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A New Jigsaw Puzzle

Waiting, watching, for signs of the Thames red board warnings to abate, no sooner were yellow signs posted on the enviroment agency site, only to be replaced yet again by red. Enough was enough, time and tide wait for no one, my gear was gathered and with one thought on my mind  I headed to a stretch of Thames that was virgin to me, carp and barbel my target, the plan being to try to fish as slack area as I could find and for 48 hours. On my arrival the morning was a damp one and frisky bullocks and calves met me as I made my way to the river.

The Thames was tea coloured and the nearby weir whispered to me, each vortex telling me of what may become of my tackle should I make folly of casting in this area, I surveyed my options and decided to head on further downstream, in search of some reprieve from this fast paced maelstrom.

Eventually I settled for a bend in the river the flow not seeming as violent, stinging nettles barely poked through the watery surface, showing where the bank originally should be, I had marginal bush and tree cover to either side of me and eventually opted for a 6oz watch style, gripper lead on one rod and a normal gripper lead on the other. Casts were made,  a smile of wry amusement passed my lips as the current swept the lead aside even in this more slack area, as I had no other heavier weights with me, I decided to test the current off the edge of the main flow with two weights combined (10oz), on hitting the deck the river laughed mockingly, lifting the weights up, bouncing them across the river bed, I reduced my cast to a metre only and the weight found purchase. Not the most ideal of conditions to be testing the water on a stretch I hadn't much understanding of,  but I was eager to understand, although perhaps a fool to fish more than one night, at least in the same swim. The day passed suprisingly fast, with regular passings of bits of flotsam and broken branches, some of which caressed my lines and others which made full blooded, unseen, u-boat esque contact.

During the day I was kept company by Kingfishers, a pair of Grebes busily worked the far bank and Coots squabbled, making that high pitched, semmingly dysfunctional fuss as only Coots seem to do.

I noted with interest how they were spooking when moving across some areas of the water on the far bank, a sure sign that something of interest was lurking beneath and sure enough as night time fell, a suck was heard and not long after two jumps, the latter sounding like a mid double Carp. Apart from one very half hearted bite, the night remained a very quiet one.

The following morning I decided to bait more regularly throughout the day, the water level had dropped a good 5 inch or so, this did little to calm the current and its malicious undertow, a similar pattern as the previous day occurred, daylight hours were quiet and apart from two half hearted bites, including one dropback during the night, the only other activity was once again on the far bank, jumping was heard yet again and during this time I spent the last half of my final night rueing and psychologically kicking myself for having not packed longer banksticks, as I felt sure if I could have got a bait to this area and rods kept high enough, then maybe I would have stood a chance of some better interest.

Such trips are never negative though and there is always something positive that can be taken, the fact that I managed to spot fish activity in an area that they felt confident to move and show themselves and during such a flooded time on the river, was without doubt the biggest positive. The other being that I have burnt into my mind the image of long banksticks and being a fool to not have taken some with me, does admitting to idiocy count as being a positive?

A new puzzle has been placed in front of me and piece by piece I hope to uncover more of the whole picture on this area of the river, after all this is a part of what makes the journey for us anglers a very compelling one.