Monday 31 August 2015

Crucian Carp — Zen Disco

Keith Jobling treated me to a session at Napton Reservoir on Saturday afternoon. A fairly large water for the locality, but not one of those great reservoirs supplying water to the thirsty masses, rather a supply for the nearby Grand Union canal. Split in two pieces by a causeway, it was the reedy swims along that rocky structure that Keith reckoned held our best chance for one or two of the venue's lovely crucian carp. One of whom he'd caught last month.

Keith starts out with a distance feeder approach for large bream. 

I really love crucians and the difficulties they present. But I adore the dinner plate variety. Napton contains only this discoid (disc-shaped) type and none of the more common lentoid (lens-shaped) type. This is because crucians that live in waters stuffed with pike adapt their bodies in response and assume this shape as a brilliant survival strategy.

Lentoid crucian carp of one pound weight
Pike find it much, much harder to attack them successfully. The first reason is that the taller the body of a fish, the fewer pike in a water are able to grasp it because of gape limitations. Pike cannot open their mouths any further than their jaw structure allows. 

A discoid fish of one pound will be able to elude pike with gapes smaller than its height but not those with larger gapes, but a 2lb lentoid fish will be just as vulnerable because it is only as tall as the smaller discoid fish. 

However, a 2lb discoid crucian is much taller than the equivalent lentoid one and able to defeat the attacks of all but the very largest predators in the water. And there's always going to be very few of them.

A discoid crucian carp of half a pound is about as tall as a one-pound
lentoid example but much shorter than a half-pound example would be 
The second reason is one of maneuverability. Lentoid crucians are built for efficient cruising. Discoid ones are built not just for gape avoidance but also for agility because their shorter 'wheelbase' lends much quicker and far tighter turning ability. Imagine the difference between the Land Rover Defender 120 and the 90, if you will.

That matters a great deal when avoiding pike who are missiles that cannot turn once launched but rely completely on narrow focus binocular vision and high speed surprise frontal attack. 

A 'disco' crucian may more easily turn out of the way, avoid the strike, and cannot then be chased. The pike misses by half an inch and then its high-set forward-facing eyes completely lose sight of the prey. 

In a zen trance watching my float...

Anyhow, we didn't catch any!

But it was most fascinating failing to because the water is quite thinly populated with small fish. So bites, when we got them, were quite easy to spot if they arose from crucians. I spent my time sitting cross legged on a council slab focussed intently upon the antennae of my float not moving for 59.99 minutes of the hour. I mean with totally absorbed and unblinking attention. As if I had the one chance to do what I wanted and that was to bank one of these large and handsome fish for myself by observing a movement that might occur, if it occurred at all, during the blink of an eye.

... barely move the whole day long

I did have two or three bites on corn (maybe a few were missed because I had to blink...) but for some reason failed to connect. All we had to show were a handful of perch caught on caster, worm and maggot, and so we left around six, went to Long Itchington, had a pint or two at the towpath pub, and then fished the canal till nightfall under a glorious sunset for the sum result of one skimmer bream to my rod.

But the near margins of Napton's causeway had got right under my skin. I could think of nothing else but Crucian carp caught between a rock and a hard place.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Canal Perch — Insignificant Accumulations

With the Bloggers Challenge nearing the end of its first third and with the autumn season in sight I've been working very hard to get what I can from the canal targeting those species that will be difficult to tempt come November and nigh impossible thereafter. Silver bream I can rest on. If I catch better as I go along than I already have then that'll be a bonus. There's no time to target them specifically. Rudd are similar. They turn up from time to time. And I really do mean time to time!

Carp are my next canal target. They have to be. They are so rarely caught around here that only summer will do for them and then usually at night. Tench I'm satisfied with. My best so far is good enough. There's no point chasing better when better is likely to come through carp fishing, is there? 

However, there's points to score during the daylight hours I often have available between, before, and after work commitments, when I can walk round the corner and make my way with species that will keep the year round. Roach for instance. I have a pounder under my belt and ten bonus points for it but that advantage won't stand long. However, canal roach are my strong point. Every other competitor must travel to catch them, but I don't have to, unless you'd call a three minute walk 'travel'. I don't even bother breaking down my top kit when I'm over! 

Perch are another. So this morning I went down Lady Lane to catch one large enough to catapult me from seventh place to fourth. I'd calculated that I'd require a fish of just six-ounces to do that. I thought that target a forgone conclusion and to be got in the first half hour. But I was wrong there. I had a succession of five-ouncers falling to lob head and tails over chop and most coming within spitting distance, the far shelf not producing well at all and when it did produce only giving up yet more of the inevitable skimmer bream who I've seen a little too much of lately. 

So I concentrated on that productive near line for the rest of the short session. And was eventually rewarded with what I set out for. A perch respectable enough for purpose. I packed down just as soon as it was released having no reason to stay on to catch better with 240 days to go in which to.

At 1lb 2oz it scored 18 points, launched my name to just where I wanted it to be, and with a little in the way of cushioning points too. Not a significant fish by any means. None of my captures thus far could be called that. 

But all are insignificant accumulators, nonetheless...

Monday 24 August 2015

Canal Silver Bream — Gongs

'My tactic for them will be to try next for chub and perch knowing there's a more realistic chance of finding such elusive fish by not trying for them at all...'

You may remember those prescient closing words from two blogs ago? I wasn't kidding. This is silver bream in canals we're talking of where in my locality finding them is simply a matter of pot luck. On occasion I'll catch one or two (but never yet three...) and then lose sight of them for the next week, month, or year. They are not rare, exactly. Not threatened. They are of least concern in that respect. But it seems impossible to angle for them specifically and do well at it anywhere but at certain still waters where you might easily take more in an hour than I have ever caught in 8 years fishing the Coventry Canal

So I began a campaign this morning for my first canal chub. Never seen one. Though they are known to live not so very far away from home at a place I have never fished except for zander. I took two rods for the job. I don't know what bait is best for them so for starters I thought I'd use what I would use for them on rivers. So I took a heavy meat rod just in case a carp came along instead — on rivers I would use the same outfit just in case of barbel. And a light bread rod because that might catch me the other smaller but just as desirable species too.

But the boat traffic was appalling despite foul weather so the meat rod saw very little use and got no bites when it was. The bread rod though, finally received attention in one particular place, so concentrating on that I retired the other for good. 

It was a good decision. I don't mind fishing two rods if action is expected to be slow or there's a long wait for large fish but can't abide it when one rod is very active. I thought the bites far too twangy to be from proper chub — though they might be from chublets — but suspected yet more skimmer bream and when I hooked the first and saw a small grey fish coming in I thought of chucking the bloody rod after it...

But then it flipped over flashing its brilliant flank and showing a pearly underbelly with two pairs of nice pink fins attached. Oh yes! It may have been a small example but was exactly what I 'hadn't' come for — my first silver gong of the season.

Now I hoped for others. A brace or better. Hopefully twice the size or more. But two or three would do. Next fish was a small roach but next was another smaller silver. And then the swim just died. And it never recovered. A twelve ounce roach from a nearby spot rounded things off. 

Once again silver bream had appeared from nowhere and vanished to somewhere in the blink of an eye. I suspect, but don't know, that they swim in very small shoals and are great travellers roaming here and there for feeding grounds. I couldn't feed to keep them. Too many boats passing by for that. 

I dropped into the Marina entrance swim on the way home hoping for silver bream by sheer chance having caught four from the peg in the past. I got four for ten pounds in half an hour. Good fishing, but the medals were all bronze ones I'm afraid

Sunday 23 August 2015

Crucian Carp — Not Quite Solid Gold

What could be a better way to spend time on a warm summer afternoon than sharing a swim with a friend in the dappled shade of a stand of grand old white poplar on the dam bank of an ancient estate lake and fishing for huge crucian carp? It's the perfect picture of a Great British idyl. One that could have been painted by John Constable and hung in a gilt rococo frame on the mansion's sitting room wall. But substitute 'small skimmer bream' for 'huge crucian carp' and the gilding is rubbed somewhat, flaking away here and there, and the red bole beneath is showing through.

The largest of the day. Best bream too...

The water was the deepest in the lake and was alive with signs of fish. Patches of bubbles erupting everywhere. Before first cast the anticipation was electrifying and when the first bites came and were the most delicate little dibs and lifts imaginable things were looking very good indeed for the rest of the day ahead. All we had to do was connect with one in every ten and we'd surely bag a veritable horde of golden treasures...

Martin scored first. And second, and third. Clearly he was going to have a hard time of it on his side of the swim because all were small bream. And every one a snotty one too. I was having a hard time of it missing bites and bumping fish. Eventually I changed hook — though it felt sharp enough there was surely something up with it. Then I joined Martin in his skimmering. One after the other they came. And then when the sun was high in the sky and the shade diminishing we were joined by small perch too. One of which took a grain of corn.

We went through four bait changes. Worm, corn, prawn and pellet. None made a halfpenny difference. The bream were having all of it and there was no way to avoid them. I laid down a bed of hemp to fish over hoping that if it drew crucians in it would hold them fast. What it produced was an exciting  fizzing surface that continued all day but still the culprits were bream rooting around for every last grain.

Vietnamese folding fishing hat. This summer season's 'must have' accessory!

It was hopeless. But it wasn't in any way depressing. It was a lovely day and it was a lovely way to waste time despite things. We had a jolly good time not catching quite what we wanted.

The frame was spoiled but the picture was good!

Thursday 20 August 2015

Canal Roach on the Pole — Join up the Dots

This pole of mine has proven itself capable of radically altering the way I go about canal fishing. I've been out five or six times on two hour sessions since the last successful roach session just to play with it and discover what it can give me. Lots of skimmers is what I've caught but roach are hard to find. Nevertheless, skimmers are plentiful and not nearly so choosy so they provide valuable practise.

Two very short sessions on the North Oxford at Grassy Bend were abandoned early. I was trying to prove that fishing there early afternoon on the weekend in high holiday season could work. Foolish of me. I mean, you probably could catch in swirling thick brown soup if determined enough, but I find myself getting angry with an endless two way flotilla of carbon-emission-aware-middle-class-tourists burning non-renewable fossil fuels in my swim for no reason other than for travel's sake.

Can't they power these things with wood and steam?

It must be jolly delightful fun, I'm sure. But I'd tire of it first afternoon of hire and then require some point in progressing any further next morning. Reaching a stretch with not only a towpath pub but chub and perch form too, I think. The Anchor Inn at Hartshill, for instance. That's the kind of reason I'd need to move along!

Sloped back defeated to the relatively sedate pace of the nearby Coventry Canal beating time at only four boats per hour. The marina entrance has been solid booked, all day long, all week long, and is coming under angling pressure I have never witnessed before. Didn't bother trying there. Some damn fool has been publicising captures, I reckon...

So it was back to my home stretches and desperately seeking solitude. They were having none of it. Never seen so many people fishing around the locality. Lots of kids having a go too. Which is all to the good if they're actually keen and not using fishing equipment as missiles. Half were fishing seriously, half were not. Later three-quarters were chucking things about. The lad remaining at his station gained my respect.

But, for two miraculous hours Monday evening — tourists gorged immobile on chicken and chardonnay suppers, hyperactive disorderly children locked under the stairs where they belong and is best for all the family with 'Enders' on telly— I achieved lasting and unbroken tranquility.

I also discovered all the more reason to love my pole...

Boat track dark grey, radius of pole swing at ten metres yellow grey

My fishing position is the red dot, my lines in yellow. As you can see, I'm fishing the uniform feature where most of my captures of large roach have arisen from all along this canal — down the slope where the shelf enters the track though not quite at the full depth of it.

My first line was far side as usual. Now, I found that shipping in was easiest if I pulled the whole thing around to my left and shipped it back down the bank to the right which is at an angle to the fishing position. In doing so I realised that if the bait was still on I could drop it in again at the near side and at the exact same depth. I then saw if I fed that place I had two lines and if I then fed a further line to the right I had three lines on the go that could be fished in rotation with the same piece of bread.

All I needed to do was sit like a rock, swing out at correct length to my first sight line in the reflections, drop in, pull up, swing around to my second sight line, and if the bread survived then swing around to the third. If nothing occurred then I could go backwards and forwards through the series quickly and accurately until either I hooked a fish or lost the sopping bait.

It was elegant, and it was beautiful!

It was also efficient. Industrially so. The work rate was phenomenal. Time never wasted. Each line was exactly the same depth, which is exactly how it must be when fishing for lift bites from roach because that tell-tale shot needs to be just touching the deck with the float dotted down precisely. The lines were also some considerable distance apart. So no overlapping attractions pulling fish across from one to the other.

A plump winter roach from the very swim in question
Didn't catch any roach, unfortunately. Just the ubiquitous skimmer bream. But, in the right swim in dead of winter when the pesky little sods are inactive but big roach are on the feed, at that time each line might take up to one hour to draw fish in and some won't in two. Then I'm sure this is going to be revelatory. And a damn sight warmer than sitting by a rod awaiting one line coming alive.

But now I have summer species challenge points to amass and that means not fishing for roach again till November when they really pile on weight. But the pole will still see use. There's silver bream to catch, you see, and I've never caught them in the cold. My tactic for them will be to try next for chub and perch knowing there's a more realistic chance of finding such elusive fish by not trying for them at all...

Sunday 16 August 2015

Canal Roach on the Pole — Alternative Shipping Arrangements

About two months ago I was riding through Exhall Green when I spied a skip in the distance which happened to be outside one of my customer's houses. I never pass these yellow troves of treasure by without having a look at the contents. I simply cannot resist them. Usually I'm totting for non-ferrous scrap but this skip contained only carbon, which has no value unless it comes in saleable or useable form. Luckily it came in the form of a rod, two whips and a long pole. A knock on the door, a chat with Mrs Brown, and it's all mine for the taking.

The pole was quite a find because I doubt I'd ever have bought one. 11 metres in total length it would probably reach the brambles on many stretches round here but it seemed ten or nine would put me in the roach zone just up the far shelf. Yesterday I went out round the corner to put the thing to test.

Tactics would be bread fished without ground bait. So many boats are passing through at the moment I think it a waste of Warburtons. The thing is I never use ground bait when roach fishing on rivers and haven't done for some time but have never suffered a lack of bites should a shoal be located. I just think they love the stuff and don't need to be convinced. The other thing is. Roach in this canal cannot be brought into a swim they choose not to occupy. It's all or nothing, or rather all or skimmers should the swim choice be wrong.

For once my swim choice was not a matter of prior knowledge or gut instinct but one of having room enough to ship the pole back. I chose a peg with a nice area of grass behind it. I hadn't any clue if the water out front had roach in it too.

The first thing I discovered is that long poles attract audiences. I think people are intrigued by them. Think them amazing. Believe those who wield them worth watching. Two kids up from Lady Lane, an old lady from the Bungalow Estate, two lads from Grindle Road enjoying an afternoon toke, Martin from the village supermarket, and a procession of passing blokes with an eye for fishy goings on, came by, loitered about, and sat down to view the spectacle.

They were not to be disappointed...

There were plenty of roach and good ones too. But I was using the precise same end tackle I'd use with a rod. In fact I'd simply bitten off my usual canal roach float rig, tied a loop in it, and hung it from the elastic. There was method in this. If this extremely sensitive but tricky to fish rig of mine could be controlled better by pole than it could be by rod then I might just be convinced that pole was the way to go.

The facts were established in the first minutes. It was far easier to control, and better, control was very precise indeed. I could have it fish however I wanted and always have it fish where I wanted. To the square inch rather than the square yard as always before.

My greatest reservation, though, is the sheer length of the thing. Very few pegs round here have the space to swing a drowned cat let alone room enough behind to ship a pole backwards. All pegs are busy with towpath traffic and with an old pole I might encounter section breakage I cannot easily replace. And so if the advantages it lends are so great then I guess I'll have to develop alternative shipping arrangements.

Novel ones, perhaps...

Monday 10 August 2015

Crucian Carp — After Noon

Crucian carp are one of those fish that are fairly easy to find round here. Perhaps I should say that fisheries that contain them are not that uncommon. They live in many local ponds and lakes. Catching them however, is another matter. These venues are not at all like Harris Lake at Marsh Farm where you can fish for crucians specifically. Their bites being very easy to differentiate from those arriving from their main competition, which is tench. All you have to do there is strike at every little indication — tench will pull the float straight under. There's no problem seeing which is which.

A tip off from a local angler fishing the canal put me onto a new prospect. A local free pond where just because it looks as if it should hold them I've tried for them once or twice, but unsuccessfully. He mentioned having caught one to his surprise whilst enjoying a day's general fishing. Asking what kind of size it was he opened his hands and indicated a length that I reckon would be about 2lb, depending on body shape. 

So I went over with a rod hoping to find one for myself. Unfortunately, because the venue is free to fish, not cared for as a fishery should be, and not fished very often, it was choked with weed and so there were just two viable swims open. Before setting off I'd noticed a wind knot in the hook length but forgot all about retying before commencing fishing. It cost me the only bite of the short session when what was certainly a small carp pulled the float straight under, snapping the weak spot under little strain.

I do think it worth a very early morning return soon, and to a swim prebaited the night beforehand to get the fish out of that weed and into the clear. Seems like a plan to me.

My next effort was at Monks Pool in Bulkington. This would be an entirely different prospect. I have caught a crucian there but just the one. It was taken on a prawn intended for perch in early springtime. They are rarely caught because no-one ever tries for them at Monks. All anyone seems to care for are its king carp. It is full of all kinds of species, though. Millions of individuals. Most present in every swim. And therefore crucian bites are impossible to tell from any other. 

I don't think I arrived quite early enough. It was a warm morning and bound to get even warmer later. That would mean after noon it would probably turn into an endless round of arm wrenching tussles with sub double-figure carp. I was not to be proven wrong... 

First swim I managed small rudd and roach, hybrids, perch and bream on both prawn and corn. Moving about I caught more of the same and gudgeon too. No crucians though, and no signs of them either. Of course I knew at some point there'd be carp crashing the party. So I rigged up a barbel rod and flicked out a piece of free-lined crust just to have the first caught by design. It wasn't in the water longer than three minutes before it was engulfed by a pair of rubbery lips attached to 8 pounds of muscle. 

After that three minute knockabout I went back to my float fishing. I'm thinking 8lb would suffice for still-water carp points — I'm probably not going to camp out in hope of a twenty at any point unless it be down the river or the cut. But carp were beginning to show themselves all round the lake by eleven and I just dreaded the thought of getting attached to an endless series of them on a three-pound bottom with all the attendant hassle of re-tying new hook lengths. Then of course, the float zipped away and a small carp stripped twenty yards of line from the spool in seconds. 

Here we go...

It took a little while to tame but was netted and without breakage. Clearly the old bulk spool of 3lb Sensor in my bag was still serviceable and my tying of the spade-end fine-wire B911 up to scratch. But then a swim move brought a proper problem. I'd trickled mashed prawn into the reedy margins of a quiet corner where I'd not seen carp movement, then plopped the baited hook amongst it hoping for a delicate little lift of the antennae to strike at. 

Which I got...

At first I really did think I'd hooked my target because it felt like a two-pounder of one species or another. But then the fish, that clearly had no idea it was actually hooked, became heavier and heavier and heavier. After about fifteen minutes of guiding the fish around in circles in an attempt to tire it, the float appeared and then the shot, and then the huge tail paddle of a carp the like of which I'd thought this lake did not hold. For a while I really thought it was a twenty-pounder. But in the murky water I wasn't sure. 

Very risky short line hook and hold tactics in play. Kept it out of the reeds though...

I didn't see it again for another twenty minutes. I don't think I'd actually tired it much — bored it more likely — but it had begun wallowing. Which was a good sign. I thought I might actually net it eventually if the hook-length could stand the strain of my trying to get it up in the water more often than it was down on the deck.

When I'd managed that I began to see the fish more frequently and it was clear it wasn't quite so large as thought, but still, it was obviously into double-figures so it was well worth being careful with. I netted it (and it only just fitted in the frame) only when I had it make the mistake of coming in close and high at the same time. If I hadn't teased the lump into that position, I might have been at it all day long! 

It was thirteen-pounds nine-ounces and quite a handsome mirror. But was nigh an hour in the beating! 

Because I rarely fish for carp specifically these days, it is the largest I have caught since August 2008 when I was lucky enough to catch a 15lb river fish. I was dead chuffed with this capture. Really pleased. And very impressed with my entire outfit which had coped with a fish it wasn't really built to tame without ever feeling near breaking point. It feels balanced and correct. Forgiving but man enough to fight well above its weight. And that's nice to know when I might encounter a canal carp I cannot afford to lose when fishing for silver bream or roach.

And therefore I'll do something I have never done before and endorse the lot...

Rod: Korum Neoteric XS 11ft Power Float — Feels capable, absorbs lunges perfectly. First proper test of this rod.
Reel: Korum CS 3000 — Predictable smooth clutch without sticky spots, Again, performance when it really mattered.
Main line: Daiwa Sensor 5lb — Cheap and reliable. Doesn't seem to go off with age if kept in the dark.
Hook length: Daiwa Sensor 3lb — Ditto
Float: Drennan Glow Tip Antennae (2 No1) — A peerless float without equal for the lift bite method. Think the larger sizes better for general use. This was the smallest version I think. 
Shot: Dinsmores Super Soft — Does not damage light lines.
Hook: Kamasan B911 (barb-less spade-end fine-wire) size 12 — Holds fish of all sizes without complaint. Surprisingly strong for such a lightweight hook.
Hook tying tool: Stonfo. — Ties super strong knots to spade ends with little effort once the technique is learned. Five turns is best. More or less than five makes for a weaker knot. 

One of the uncommonly encountered  fully-scaled mirrors. Lean and wiry. Like a wildy in many ways.
By far the toughest scrapper I encountered through the day and actually the fairest test of the tackle

After that it was one carp after another and wherever I tried I simply could not avoid them. I think I banked another five or seven. I can't remember quite. I got so used to playing these fish in by degree that I entertained myself by taking selfies mid-fight. Not something I would attempt when playing barbel!

My day concluded with earnings of forty odd points and a climb of another couple of notches up the scoreboard into a comfortable 7th place. Not bad work. I only got my license a month ago and was at the very bottom in last place not so very long before. More importantly, though, this challenge sees me fish with burning desire, zeal and passion. I really do want to do well at it. It feels good to try hard but work harder.

It even feels good to catch carp again...

Every now and then, I might add!

Thursday 6 August 2015

Canal Roach — What Really Matters

When fishing for roach only one weight really matters. Not two-pounds as you may have been led to believe. That target weight is for general anglers who never fish for roach seriously and never will but occasionally might snare a big one by accident. No, one-pound is the target when you fish by design and this rule applies wherever a roach angler might fish, because, if you can't catch pounders there on a regular basis something is seriously wrong with either you, your approach, or the venue. 

Today, for a change, my perennial one-pound target served two purposes. Firstly to determine where I might catch better much later in the year when roach fishing is slightly less tricky than it is by default the whole year round. Not every peg on a canal is a good roach swim. Few are. Secondly, to secure points on the scoreboard and progress up it by degree. I started very late and have some very fine anglers to compete with who I must be in contention with or I'll not sleep soundly...

"Number five, have you got ants in your pants or what? 
Keep still boy, this a year class photo!"

First swim was skimmer central. I had five between four boats in half an hour. The bites were confident   at first, but the mash was then stirred up and bites could not be got straight off the deck so I shallowed-up and fished mid-water where I continued to catch till suddenly the swim died. That's fishing bread in canals for you. When it's terminal, you either move along or go home because once destroyed a bread swim is a very tricky thing to rescue.

I moved two pegs down and decided to fish there without groundbait. It worked well. First fish was a roach of half a pound, the second and third and fourth were blades in the two-ounce range. This was at the very least a roach swim and not a skimmer swim.

They look kindly enough, but are the purest evil...

More boats came through but the lack of groundbait and the scattering of the same throughout the breadth of the cut by propeller wash, seemed to keep fish coming. They were not scurrying off chasing bits of it, I do believe. And there was just the one dollop of white stuff to focus upon, which had my hook in it. 

At last I hit a proper fish, and banked my target for the day. A roach, and a pounder.

Beautiful fish are one-pound roach. They do look large, are very, very handsome, and mean all the right things if better is what you are after. 

Then a pair of voles exited the brambles. Could I get both in frame at the one time? As heck as like...

Very pleased to see them in town, though. But I wasn't so very pleased to see the culprit of the next 'roach' bite...

 I'm just a littleun', innocent, like... I surrender. Spare me!"

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Canal Tench & Bream — Foul Play

After the weekend's debacles down the Avon, the following Monday chasing elusive tench on a fickle canal seemed a better prospect than thrashing a mardy river on its bones. The session proved touchy. The weather was broken overcast, and breezy, but for a change this wind felt to be an improving one. The kind of wind that blows an angler good things.

As I mentioned before. Wind acts upon canals in strange ways. On a route running generally East to West a canal might turn due South and North. Therefore wind will be blowing straight down portions of it no matter where the wind comes from. Other parts will be flat calm with wind coming across. Some areas will be scum traps where buoyant rubbish is pushed and held by opposing movements. Logs, cans, tarps & turds, dead sheep & rats, domestic cats, you name it.

Today the wind is a warm South-westerly and blowing obliquely across the long straight between the M6 bend and Bridge 11. Calm at the head and ruffled at the foot. You'd not think there much of a force acting upon it but there's transverse waves of some amplitude travelling backwards at ten yard intervals which are the surface signs of undertow — the subsurface current set up by water pushed one way having nowhere to go but backwards when it encounters a force that won't give. In this case it's not a solid bank, but a great weight of liquid that is not moving anywhere because it is trapped by forces coming from somewhere along the line northwards. 

It's choppy at my peg because it's aligned directly along the wind direction, but the water is not towing so it's easy to fish regardless. However invigorating I feel this wind might be, it's not going to culminate in a feeding frenzy just yet. Later this evening I reckon. Maybe tomorrow morning. For now bites are regularly spaced at twenty-five minute intervals. And it's all about bream...

The first is no improvement on my previous challenge best, but the second is. At 3lb 7oz it is one of the canal's elders. They really don't run much larger than four-pound hereabouts. A five-pounder is the  ancient specimen that I have never seen. Pleased with gaining a notch up the canal leader-board, I then turn full attention toward tench. They are possible here in daylight, but are hard work. 

There's a boat through every ten to twenty minutes, but worse, there's a gaggle of mallards chasing every damn scrap thrown in. Each time I cast they shoot across to investigate. Every time I put in mash they scoot over and peck up the floating debris. Trouble is, one of the buggers has learned to dive for ground-bait. No pre-baiting here then...

After another fruitless half-hour and the third or fourth near miss with this intelligent, errant foul, I pack up, head home, and go out on my afternoon round.

Returning that evening, calm has fallen upon the waters. It is pleasantly warm and I know I'll catch straight off the bat without the aid of ground-bait. I toss some in anyhow. Plenty, actually. Foul play is elsewhere. Sure enough there's an immediate procession of bream. But no tench. Tench are what I really need right now having already caught bream respectable enough for my purposes. They'll keep and no doubt improve because there's no avoiding them the year round. But I'm buggered in my plan if I can't manage a decent canal tench before end of summer...

Dusk arrives and night falls. When I cannot see the float well enough I retire it. A local acquaintance, Joe, turns up on his bike, pulls a tinny from his backpack, cracks it open, and we talk about fishing. I decide to put a feeder full of ground-bait laced with plenty of corn to one of our shared (but shared and secret) hotspots and the hook baited with a single grain. Around and about, and after dark, tench and sometimes carp are almost guaranteed to fall given weather heading in the right direction. And I really do believe that tonight, it is...

The crucial bite takes just ten minutes to secure. The rod is my roach rod and the tackle light roach ledger. At first it seems to be another bream because it does breamy things like plod and splash, but suddenly this bream wakes up to its predicament and becomes a certain tench. Then I'm in trouble. Luckily, it's surely not a cock, despite the powerful surges, because males hug the bottom like a neodymium magnet to sheet steel where this fish chooses its battleground mid-water.

And that's a very good thing to my mind. Hens do tend to weigh more, and are somewhat less tricky!

After five minutes or so I have her beaten and net her. We both guess three pounds, more or less. I get the four-pound Salters from the bag but they bottom out. Get out the 11 pound set when we're amazed to have the needle plunge to four and a half pounds, jiggle, and then settle at seven ounces past the mark.

How deceptively small fish can look by the LED torch light of an iPhone... 

But the weight is agreed upon. Now I can sleep on my canal tench laurels knowing canal carp and silver bream are next on the agenda. And they will both be adversaries that may take just a little longer in the doing...

If indeed, they're do-able! 

The sweet smell of tench, and success!

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Avon Bream — Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box

Having to compete for best swim is never fun but when the rivers are as low as they are now many stretches have just one or two viable options available and they are invariably filled on the weekend. Martin and I met up with Joe down the Avon early Saturday morning. Joe was already fishing Martin's first choice and my first choice was occupied too. That left the rest of the river at our disposal.

Sounds OK, but unfortunately the rest of the river seemed devoid of fish. I had two alternative swim choices. The first a very deep peg that I thought might contain bream and tench, but it was so sluggish I might as well have been fishing a lake and I didn't get a bite there. The second, which always fishes well with a bit of a push on but does not have the same character without it, offered up a single knock on ledgered meat and a pluck to the same but trotted. Martin fared similarly. However, Joe banked three barbel...

Lucys Mill at Stratford-upon-Avon on Sunday afternoon was an outright disaster. On arrival a moored boat occupied a large part of the available bank with two float fishers trotting maggots above holding two of my first choice pegs. So I was forced to fish my very last choice swim downstream of the boat. With a great pool of water to fish you wouldn't think that a problem but bream were my target and they are found, as you would expect, in a shoal that I think prefers to be where I could not cast to without winding up the other two fellas. 

It was very slow fishing indeed. Just as bite-less as I thought it would be. When the boat moved and a little later the match boys upped sticks too, I was in their vacant pegs before their exit tracks through the grass had puckered back up. It was little better, But, there were at least bites coming every now and then. 

This unique place is that rare river fishery that can provide the angler with 40lb bags of large bream in the middle of a sunny afternoon. This afternoon is as sunny as you like. Casting every few minutes in order to put down a bed of brown crumb and corn as accompaniment for my hook bait of corn and worm cocktail, I'm pretty certain that I will find that big bream of mine.

But then two very small boys turn up. Say they'd recently caught a hundred-pound carp. Of course, I carefully pick apart the details of this remarkable capture and by stealth try to ascertain not only the venue but the swim too...

Can't tease an inch of sense out of them, but mention "this carp of yours would weigh more than either of you (if not both !) slung in a Lidl carrier bag hooked beneath a set of Ruben Heaton hung on a portable gantry". They look nonplussed. Then disappear but then reappear minutes later armed with carp rods. Say they will now fish for carp, but "could you set up for us"?

Ah crap. They've no weights, no hooks, no nothing else, but at least they have line (and thick springy line at that). So I rummage around in my box for the least valuable leads I can find which are two plummets I think I once found on the bank that I never have had a use for. Tie them on the ends, then hitch up a paternoster to dangle them from by tying a figure 8 loop knot 6 inches above to which I attach 2 ft leaders in 8lb line thinking the step down from 25lb to 8lb less ungainly than my alternative option of 3lb. 

I give them both size 8 hooks and instruct them to tie them on themselves. At which point they both sit down in their preferred swim to my right where they hunch over their end tackles in deep concentration. 

About thirty-seconds later one comes over with his knot for my inspection. It's some kind of granny/blood hybrid. Looks like it would hold a gudgeon. So I motion them closer, bite off both attempts, and begin instruction in the fine art of tying the palomar. My practised nimble fingers whip them both up in under a minute. They are astonished. 

"Can we have some bread please, mister?" 

"Yep, and where did you get the rods from, lads"?

"From Dad, he's fishing up there." They explain in unison, one waggling a finger in the direction of Stratford town.

"Why couldn't he set up for you? Is he mentally or physically challenged, or both, or blind, or something?"

"Said he couldn't be bothered to, mister".

All this time I've a beady eye on the rod. It's nodded once or twice but not twice in the same nod, so there's been no need to worry. However my ten minutes of patience is long over and now I'm irritated and becoming stern. Hooking on two bread discs each I instruct them that their preferred swim "is my upstream swim, so can you both fish below me out of harms way, please". And by 'please' I don't mean there's an option. 

Dutifully they drop in where told where I tell them to cast close, in the faster water, which is 'barbel country'. "Behave yourselves. Sit still. And don't turn your backs on those rods for even a moment".

"Barbel"? One enquires. "Are they as big as carp"?

"Depends on the carp, Sonny Jim, but no. They don't get that big here. Nowhere near 100 pounds..." 

I imagine young boys pulled sharply in the drink and towed down to Seven Meadows weir at 15 mph by 16 pounders, but there's a lifebuoy 100 yards downstream, so there's nothing to worry about. I think  — but don't know — that I can sprint that fast.

At last the rod nods twice and the strike meets with the unmistakable brick wall of a large bream running at a right angle to the bank. Plod, plod, plod, donk, donk, plod. In she comes. She's kiting upstream, and then turning downstream, but surely and steadily tacking my way. 

"Cor! What is it, mister?" They ask, mightily impressed by the graceful sight of a well-curved heavy rod.

"It's a big bream"

Three-quarters of the way in the hook-hold fails, but they don't know that, and when the slack is taken up but there's a tremble felt, I'm aware there's a comic moment arriving. Yep, a little perch had taken the worm on the drop as the feeder fell through the deep water to the deck. 

"Blimey, that is a big bream, mister" Is what I'm waiting for, but it doesn't come. 

They blink at me open-mouthed as if I'm some kind of ancient old fool with a head as big and empty as a cardboard box who doesn't know the difference between big fish and little fish when I have one or the other on the end of my line. All small boys may not have not caught one-hundred-pound carp...

But of course, all small boys will have caught small perch.