Friday, 21 July 2017

Summer Part 1

Carp or Crap?

I can pinpoint with a high degree of accuracy when the Carp angler inside me died- July 1990. A time where 30lb fish were scarce and even 20lbers weren't that common. I used to catch them on the float up at my local reservoir. I caught a fish of 15lb 9oz which was my new PB. I was only young at the time and was really proud of my achievement. Upon showing a picture to my mate a few weeks later he replied- "Oh yes, I know that fish, I caught it the week before". I should have been pleased for him but I wasn't, it just took away any sense of pride I had in catching it. This coupled with the fact I was routinely ridiculed by the trendy young Carp set for not having the "right" reels or equipment meant as far I was concerned Carp fishing could go and fuck itself. It was worth neither the hassle or the disappointment.
You, my regular reader will of course know that from time to time I will still have a go for them. Almost exclusively fishing for them on the surface, something I still enjoy. The enjoyment is heightened when I turn up with a rod and a bucket to sit on, walk by several anglers all with set-ups worth more than my car (and sadly, their own), catch a few fish and leave while they are still watching pornhub with their bivvy slippers on.
17lb 12oz was the modest target to beat. My PB taken in a match and one that has stood for years. I wasn't really interested in a poor mutilated bugger either that had been caught a hundred times. Anyway, it turned out to be a fairly easy task. Turn up at the lake, fire in some dog biscuits and assemble some suitably unorthodox equipment- a 7ft 10-30g lure outfit, a landing net and unhooking mat. The first cast produced a low double and a chance to asses the suitability of my equipment. It handled it just fine. The same rod I used in Cornwall for Wrasse. That's pretty versatile if you ask me. Besides, I've got loads of Carp rods, using one of them wouldn't be any fun. On the second cast I hooked into something more sizeable and as if often the case with big fish I saw it early in the fight. This makes it more nerve racking than pleasurable but after a dogged few minutes I had my prize in the net. A new PB. 20lb 6oz........... 
   

Roach fishing for Perch

My local venue holds some terrific Roach well over 2lbs. They get caught very, very infrequently. High levels of smaller fish are the main stumbling blocks. I had a couple of half-hearted goes for them this closed season with little success. My last session resulted in several 2lb fish. Sadly they weren't Roach.............


Match that!

After being struck down with a rather unpleasant medical problem I had a short recuperation period at home. A week of doing nothing took its toll and I needed to get out. I hadn't fished a match for three years so it was a perfect excuse to visit a local venue to fish one of the Thursday evening matches they hold there. To cut a long story short it was an uncomfortable match and I didn't fish very well but I won with just over 38lb of mainly small Carp.
The next week I was feeling a lot better and although I drew an unfancied peg I still felt reasonably confident. I won that one too. My 78lb 8oz was a new match record, even those of five or six hours. We fished for three and a half. Week three and I drew what I consider to be the worst peg of the lot. I won again with 65lb. The next week I missed due to my Catfish exploits but the week after I finally drew the peg I had on the first week to make amends for unflattering performance. This time I was really up for it and smashed my old record with 104lb 8oz.
I haven't been since. They are a cracking bunch of lads and fine anglers but nobody wants to see me win every week. That's not being big headed, I even couldn't compete with them if I didn't have a niche. In that first week I had some old pellets that floated, how bloody useless are they I thought? However a Carp came up and slurped them down. It really was that simple. I never looked back and the others could never catch me up.
It's a lovely venue and the Carp are absolutely immaculate. Give it a try or just roll up at 5.15pm on a Thursday night and tell them I sent you........


River or Beach?

The first day of the river season was looming and an old work mate of my dad's had been goading me into a match on Facebook. Bloody cheek of it. I was about to teach him a lesson he'd never forget. A few days before the opening I set off to the river to rake a swim and put some bait in. It would then simply be a case of turning up early on the 16th and smashing 100lb of river Bream out, maybe more. Halfway there my car broke down. Snapped the timing chain that I didn't even know it had (2009 Mondeo's have a belt and a chain). Marvellous.
 Luckily we have a spare car, a Ford StreetKA, just perfect for a 6ft 6in angler and all his tackle. A challenge is a challenge though and sure enough come first light on the 16th I was by the river. It didn't take long to find the Bream but they were in a ridiculously awkward place. The river is about twenty yards wide, eighteen of that was thick with weed and the Bream were in a clearish channel near the far bank and an overhanging tree. I've detailed before how skittish these fish are so I fed some sweetcorn very sparingly. Sure enough after a few minutes a few of them started to tip up, investigating the recently introduced food. Thirty seven casts later I was finally happy that the bait was in the right place. Sure enough the tip went round and I was in. You've all heard the expression- 'I could fall in a dustbin full of tits and come out sucking my thumb"? This was the fishing equivalent- I'd hooked an Eel, which I then lost in the weed despite going in with my chest waders on. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that. I gave up and went for a walk. Graham on the other hand, bagged up on his local river Soar.......


Over the last month I've visited a few of my river haunts. All of them have been rather uninspiring, full of weed, no flow and I just haven't felt the urge to fish them. It's been wonderful watching the fish though. In places where I can see through the weed I've been captivated by fish I never normally see. The usual suspects have been observed, Roach, Rudd, Bream, Perch and Pike and then there are the ones I've never even seen in the stretches let alone caught- Tench, Carp and those dreaded Eels.
With the rivers woefully low I concentrated on the Beach. It proved to be the right decision. Firstly I caught several really small Hounds and then over a period of weeks about forty or so in the 4-7lb range, including eleven in a single session




The biggest one I've had so far has been just under 9lb. Not at all spectacular but very hard won.........


Being only my third year Sea fishing seriously I've been really happy this year although I haven't had any really big fish yet I feel it's only a matter of time. I've been fishing quite well and with a little bit of outside help I've managed far more successful trips which make last years seventeen blanks in a row or whatever it was a distant memory. My helper isn't local. Most of the local sea anglers wouldn't give me the time of day when I probed them for advice. Sign of the times I'm afraid. Anyway, thanks Paul, I really appreciate all your help.
While we are the subject I had a near miss recently. I was happily fishing away and eleven Geordies turned up. One came over to speak to me, lovely fella. Anyway I told him what I knew and half an hour later he had his first hound. Sea anglers fish care really is miles behind coarse anglers. After a bit of faffing around he put in into a plastic bag. Oh no I thought, he's going to keep it. Every part of me wanted to stay on my box and not say anything. It's not against the law but come on, if you're going to keep a fish at least knock it over the head first. Why anyone would want to kill such a fine sporting fish is beyond me anyway. Despite my obvious reluctance I got up to go and say something, what, I hadn't quite decided. I needn't have worried, he was only weighing it!

Our friend Dave Owen made the long journey from Derbyshire to come and sample some Smoothound action. He had a bit of a disastrous session but it wasn't entirely fruitless.....



To make amends we decided to have a go for some Catfish and once again, Dave made the long journey over. I wasn't really bothered about the Cats and had done little to prepare for the session. As a result I had to borrow some bait and hooks off Dave. Despite this I hooked one before it had even got fully dark. At 12lb it was a great introduction to the species and we both marvelled at its unfamiliar strangeness........


It fought remarkably well and with such an early success Dave and I thought we were in for a bumper session. Sadly that was the last of the action. Not a bite between us all night. Very odd and yet more bad luck for Dave. Surely the tide will turn for him soon.

Others

I've probably had as many Thornback Rays as Hounds in the last few weeks. Mostly very small with the odd four or five pounder............. 


Lastly I also had three tiny little baby Tope. Remarkable little things and I use relatively fine wire hooks so hopefully they were none the worse for what may be their only ever visit to the beach.......


SHUK News

Specimen Hunting UK is a loosely held together bunch of reprobates....sorry, big fish anglers. The views you read in this blog have nothing to do with them, in fact they disagree with me on almost every subject they can. Anyway, here's some of them.....

Dave Owen with a lovely double-figure Bream........


Andy Wilson with an accidental but still very worthy Carp taken while Bream fishing. 24lb 7oz..........


Martin Barnatt has struggled to reach the dizzying heights of his previous years' Tench fishing exploits but still managed some fine examples.....


Andy Lewis with a couple of belting Perch, taken on a Tench fishing trip........


Andy Wilson again, this time with a Tench of 8lb 4oz.........


It was only a few weeks ago that Nate Green was struggling, both fish-wise and enthusiasm to actually go fishing at all. He worked through it though and is currently on fire. Two Drennan Cup awards have come his way. The first for this 10lb 12oz Tench.......


The second for this 5lb 5oz Eel.......

To round off a purple patch he went out and caught two double figure Barbel in one night. This was the biggest of the two........



Darren Clarke with a couple of stunning Crucians.....


.......and his PB Bream of 12lb 2oz........


Phil Kenny with a lure caught canal Zander......


Jason Chambers with a modest but increasingly scarce Bass.......


Keith Supple with a Hound larger than any of the ones I've caught. It's Welsh though so doesn't count. Unlucky Keith.........


Leo Heathcote finally got a lure caught Wrasse. Either that or he saw sense and put a limpet on.....


Micro-fish fanatics Carl and Leo.......


Finally its Martin with a Chub, one of several he's taken recenlty upto 5lb 7oz.......


To all those Mike Lyddon fans out there.......hello.......yes you at the back, wake up. He hasn't caught anything for a while so I've got nothing to show you, you can go back to sleep.

Tackle Talk

My Shakespeare Agilty 80 sea reels have been pretty rubbish since I bought them. I had to take the bail trips out and one failed to resist a dousing from a wave which when fishing in the surf is almost inevitable. A few months ago I purchased two Shimano Aerlex 10000 XSB's. They have been faultless. I don't wash then after every trip and they are almost permanently caked in squid juice and sand. The drags are quick setting which takes a bit of getting used to but they perform admirably which is essential when fishing for Smoothounds. I use braid and initially I had a problem with it bedding in but after a few sessions the reel has sorted it out of its own accord. The line lay is good, they cast superbly and are seemingly very tough. Highly recommended. 



To complete my burgeoning team of Shimano reels I bought two Nasci models for lure fishing. One 1000 size and a 2500 for slightly heavier work. Apparently they are the cheapest in the Hagane range of reels, whatever that is. Super smooth and well balanced I've really enjoyed using them. Often a decent reel will have you forgetting it is there. It just goes about its business with the minimum of fuss. My only slight reservation is the flimsy looking drag knob but I'm pretty sure it will stand the test of time. Nice reels. Definitely worth a look.......


Photo's


I had a nice feature in Improve Your Coarse Fishing.........


 Martin returning a lovely Brownie......


Young Jack Owen showing his dad how it's done......


Natasha Supple with a Hound.....


Beach sunset.......



Last but not least, Andy Wilson, alert as ever.......


Till next time..............

Friday, 19 May 2017

Spring part 2, Cornwall Special

Utopia

The side door of Keith's van slid open. I tumbled out from the pitch black into the carpark and for a moment my eyes struggled to adjust to the intense blazing sunlight framed by a vivid cerulean sky.

An hour later......

My eyes closed the distance between the horizon and my resting place, feasting on the vast expanse of Prussian blue water. As my field of vision got shallower the colours in the water separated. Rich sparkling azures and cobalts interspersed with glistening jades and teals. Almost directly below me the amazing clarity of the water became apparent, the bottom clearly visible in ten feet of water. Inch thick fronds of rubbery dulse languidly appeared from my perch before sweeping back out of sight. A watery wonderland as far as you could see and beyond. It was a beautiful place to be.

A quick glance to my right revealed a t-shirt clad, sunglasses wearing Dave and an equally febrile Andy, both great friends. Behind me was another of our friends-  Lee, looking perplexedly in his bag for inspiration. Beyond Lee and up on a plateau were the chaos twins, my Labradors. They have long passed the quizzical stage where they wonder what their consistently odd owner is up to and basked appeasingly in the glorious mid-morning sun.

Looking down below me the water level suddenly dropped four feet, no warning, nothing, before rising again slowly. Despite being slightly disconcerted I lowered my bait down. The weather was perfect, the scenery was out-of-this-world and I was sitting with my mates and being watched over by my beloved dogs while doing the thing I love. Mrs P was forty miles away happily travelling at sixty mph down a zipwire. Knowing she was keeping herself entertained was the icing on the cake. Life doesn't get much better than this I thought to myself.

And then it did. I had a bite.


What goes on tour.....

There were fourteen of us that made the long journey down to Cornwall. I wont spoil it for anyone that was there or is thinking of going by detailing every aspect of the trip (including trip organiser Andy getting horrifically drunk) suffice to say it was a marvellous experience. I can show you what we caught though and I do have one more story to tell a bit further down. Also I'll give you the heads up on some tactics to use if you do find yourself down there. As ever I will also tell you how you can do it on the cheap. It's well worth bearing in mind none of the people you are about to see are dedicated sea anglers. Most of us used coarse tackle. Rock fishing really is quite simple and one of the most magical forms of angling.

My best Wrasse of the trip. 3lb 10oz.....


One from a rainy first day....



Note the big fins. Wrasse frequent areas where violent wave action dislodges food hence their large fin area and powerful tails....


Martin with the biggest of the trip. He actually saw it move into the little cove he was fishing. He dropped a bait in front of it and moments later all hell broke loose. 4lb7oz....


Keith with a beautifully marked example......


A 3lber in the sunshine.....


Looking rather pleased.....


Patrick with a mean greeny.......


 Carl with a shiny little fella.....


Yes alright Carl, you caught it on a lure, we know.....

He's boring us now........

Hapless Drennan Cup also-ran Mike with one of the smallest of the trip.......


 Dave with a three pounder......


And another from David Wrasselhoff.......


Another one from Martin....


Lee with a fine example and on a lure too.....


Jamie highlighting that size doesn't matter.....


Nate bringing up the rear.....



Some rockpool action. Don't ask me what Jamie is doing, we disowned him shortly after seeing his antics......

Blenny Hill......


Mike with what looked suspiciously like a mini wolf fish.......


Blenny Henry....


Ewok Nate with Goby Wan Kenobi.......



Beach antics.....


One of many tiny Bass taken by myself, Dave and Keith.....


Carl with a lure caught Pollock........


And a Scorpion fish......


Myth becomes reality

On the second day I had to take care of the dogs. The rock mark we were fishing for Wrasse wasn't really suitable for them. I only had about 45 mins fishing time before they started to get restless. Luckily by the time we had all reconvened for lunch Keith was keen to try somewhere else. We'd both caught a few Wrasse so fancied a crack at something else. But what?
After a short drive we stopped off at Newtown Tackle for some advice. Various beach marks were discussed before he threw us a curveball. Apparently the local river estuary had been producing some Gilthead Bream. Neither Keith or I had ever caught one and after the tackle shop owner whetted our appetites with tales of fish to 9lb I soon emptied his fridge of Lugworms. "Set your clutches lads, they fight like hell," the owner cautioned as we left.
I can't say the estuary was particularly attractive but the lure of these strange looking fish intrigued us. Just the simple matter of catching one now I thought as I cast two rigs into some likely looking spots. Three very wet and hours later my interest was waning. Typically I then had a bite. The culprit was a tiny Wrasse. Keith then caught one. This coincided with not only the rain stopping but also the disappearance of seemingly hundreds of bait robbing crabs.
Another hour passed. The dogs had eaten three Jumbones each. I was done. I went over to Keith to tell him my desire to call it a day. We both resigned ourselves to the fact that the Giltheads would remain a myth. We agreed to give it a final ten minutes. They passed without incident. I was wet and extremely tired. I wound in one of my rods, took the lead off and split it down. As I was doing this I spotted a suspicious flat spot about halfway across the river. It was enough to see me quickly put the rod back together, bait up and cast to it. I was in the last chance saloon.
As we were still intending to leave I set about sorting all the bait out, throwing most of it in. Completely out of the blue I heard a crashing noise behind me. I looked over to my rods and they weren't where they had been all evening. The tripod had fallen over. I ambled over until I saw my recently cast rod scraping down the rocks towards the water. Something was attached! Was it one of the fabled Giltheads? You bet it was.......



Sadly that was the last fish we caught that day. Luckily for the locals though I put it back. I still cant get my head around sea anglers penchant for killing their quarry. A beautiful fish and yes, they do put up a tremendous fight.

Tackle and Tactics

It took me quite a while on the first day to get the hang of rock fishing. On one hand I'm still no expert but on the other it isn't rocket science. By far the most reliable bait for me was limpet. Simply take a small knife and prise them off the rocks. Scoop them out and fish them dropshot style. I found that bites were more frequent on a whole limpet, sac and all.
Location was a major factor too. Look for any deeper areas, undercut rocks etc. The presence of kelp seemed to be important too, something for the fish to hide in. Wave action too was a good indicator. If you found an over hanging rock with both kelp present and waves crashed on it there would be a Wrasse there, maybe more than one. I hooked four in four casts on day two all from the same spot. They do fight doggedly so make sure your clutch is set properly and try to get them away from their lairs as soon as possible, some of those rocks are sharp. A hook sharpener is useful too as they blunt easily in the harsh environment.
I used a 14-42g rod. Any medium action rod will do. Mine was a cheap DAM Yagi (around £30). It performed brilliantly. I coupled this with a 1000 size reel (Shimano Nasci), 0.10mm J Braid and a 10lb flouro leader. The hooks were size 6 or 4 Drennan Perch hooks. They are superb hooks that I use for many applications. I had been warned fishing over such rough ground might equate to a few tackle losses but I didn't lose a dropshot weight all trip. Take a range between 10 and 30g or anything will do, nuts, bolts etc. That really is about it. Nothing more complex than that. Just add a landing net and it's all you'll need......



Now I understand people's fascination with lure fishing. Indeed Carl caught two Pollock that nobody else managed on the trip. He was the exception though. The lure lads had quite a tough time of it. I take no pleasure in saying that. I've got thousands of lures, everyone caught me square in the wallet. When you're four hundred miles from home in a beautiful place for a limited time I want to realise the venues mysteries, straight away and frequently if possible. To my mind that means bait. The fact that it is completely free in the case of the humble limpet is a real bonus. I'd even go as far to say there isn't an artificial lure in the world more effective than limpets for Wrasse. It is what they eat. A no-brainer.
One last piece of advice is to find the local tackle shop. An invaluable source of information and of course, any bits and bobs you might need. You'll come away more knowledgeable and they'll benefit from your custom.



Some Photo's








Till next time...........