Monday, 28 November 2011

28/11/11 Motor Pikin'

 It's been over a week since my last outing due to feeling a bit 'under the weather'. Where does that saying come from? does sound typically English.
Talking of things meteorological, It's far too windy to even consider taking the boat out, and the timing and size of the tide this morning were far from ideal for an Arun pike session. I chose instead to get some use out of my Police ticket(much appreciated Dave), and try the semi -tidal stretch of the Adur.
Michael Kernan has  inspired me with fantastic news of a lifetime best forty two inch river pike taken only last week, and in typical M.K fashion..........on an artificial. Winter 'proper',  has still not really arrived so, reasoning that it was warm enough for the pike to 'chase something' I'd give lures a go for a change. I also didn't have the time, energy, and motivation to lug pike bait gear and all it's associated paraphernalia to the river bank, so decided instead to strap my battered, and recently repaired 'E.T sneaker ' four-piece spinning rod to my motor bike, and indulge in both my 'passions' in one hit.
Whilst Muck boots are certainly very capable items of equipment for the modern day winter piker being the warmest, and most comfortable 'walking' wellie I've yet to encounter, they are not entirely suitable for negotiating a six speed foot change, however I managed arrive at Nick's farm in double quick time without missing too many cogs. On the coast the weather was still quite mild(Andy's still catching mullet!), but crossing the downs brought a sharp drop in air temperature with four degrees showing on the bike's thermometer.
The river was clear, but still relatively choked with weed and certainly no place for a treble hook, so I chose to go with a trusty collection of Manns six inchers (probably the finest 'shad' known to mankind) and a couple of 1oz spinnerbaits. Both lures have one single hook, are virtually 'weed less', and can be worked at a snail's pace if needs be. In reality they were the only lures I'd brought with me.
I worked the river from the penstock at Nick's, down to the tidal barrier alternating the lures at every stop, and covering most of the water although the stretch above the bridge was , in places, totally blocked by weed and considerably shallower than I remember. The structure of the upper penstock has changed in recent years and this may have affected the geography of the stretch. I've caught some very big early autumn pike from here in the past but in a much clearer river, and suspected that there may have been pike lurking in the vegetation. If they were, they didn't take any notice of my offerings.
Below the bridge  the river opened out a bit, and I started to get some interest in the lemon shad from a couple of jacks whose eyes were bigger than their tummy, until eventually a good hit resulted in a positive hook up , and this nice looking pike, only ounces short of a 'double' ensured that the landing net went home with a 'fishy ' smell. Interestingly, there were already leaches present on her body which, according to pike fishing lore, does indicate some possible inactivity, although I'm not entirely convinced by this.
The barrier held back the tide just long enough for my liking and, once breached, the water quickly clouded up bringing with it huge rafts of debris but, by then I'd had enough anyway and called it a day.
It was pleasant to spend a couple of  hours fishing with lures but I don't think it could ever completely displace bait fishing methods for me where river pike are concerned. I actually quite enjoy contemplating a couple of ' marker buoys' on a cold winter's day, whilst consuming endless mugs of steaming tea and Dave's legendary sausage butties, and there's no doubting that 'the take' on a pike float is very entertaining fishing indeed. However, lures are certainly far more convenient, especially when fishing time is limited, and there's no doubting their effectiveness  on our 'tidals' in favourable conditions, as Michael had indeed proved. As the winter progresses and the conditions become more difficult, the pike in turn become increasingly difficult to 'move' and it's then that I'm more confident with bait on the hooks, presented statically, albeit with a 'roving' approach.
Whatever the case, to enjoy any level of success with river pike, it's useful to have both approaches in the armoury, as each have their day.
The ride home took me past a very attractive tributary  which enters the river just upstream of where I was fishing today and , Is available on the same ticket. I'd intended to stop and take a look anyway, and was quite impressed by what I saw.Much larger than expected it's a 'must do' for the future especially as Jan has some rather impressive 'night crawlers' available on her vegetable patch, and the little stream looks 'perchy' in a 'chubby' sort of way.


Monday, 21 November 2011

20/11/11 Out At Last.

Finally a window in the weather, and an opportunity to get out in the boat. It wasn't actually that comfortable on the way out despite quite light winds and I had to keep the speed down to 10kts. There was still a bit of swell coming from the S.E sector and for some reason this bumps up the sea.
First port of call was #31 and arriving at 0730,I had the luxury of having the place to myself. First drop with a stinger on the drift, and up comes a small bass 2-3lb almost exactly co-coinciding with a huge bait fish shoal showing on the sounder. In fact, I felt several taps on the lure prior to the bite proper so there were obviously plenty of fish about.
Unfortunately my peace was soon shattered when it seemed as if the whole world and his brother turned up. I quickly decided on a move elsewhere but not before I'd landed  another better bass 4-5lb on the same drift, attempting to conceal it's capture by landing it on the 'blind side' of the boat. Perhaps the arrival of the crowd had moved the fish away because it did go quiet after that.
Seeking a bit of solitude, I headed for the bass drift at the top of the leg and quickly lost a good fish on the first run, but successfully scored in the same area on a subsequent pass with-another good sized bass.
Apart from a pout which took a shine to my lure things went a bit quiet but at least I'd found a few bass so was pleased especially as the tide wasn't that favourable. Most of the boats that had turned up on #31 were anchored up and getting bream among other bits and pieces. I decided to motor over to #13 and anchor up on the east side of what looks like a depression on the chart. This time round I chose to use the bruce, as the grapnel had slipped on my last visit here.
Thankfully the mark, and general area was deserted boat wise and, fishing the remainder of the ebb, it was a 'dogfishfest' from the 'off', with a take on every drop although I did get a welcome change in the shape of this little gurnard.To be honest, I'm still at the stage in my boat angling career when I still enjoy catching anything, particularly if the rod tips are continuously rattlin' which , at the moment, they still are, so 'doggies' are more than welcome. It's time I learnt to skin one for tea!
At LW slack I upped anchor  and headed back to #31 for another go with shads and stingers, but was unable to find any more bass.
By now the wind had dropped a little and , despite now blowing against tide, the bumps had settled making life aboard a little more civilised. Once the tide began running again, It was time to return to #13 and this time. with the current in the opposite direction yet still anchored on exactly the same mark the species changed with a welcome run good bream, three of which were taken, and yet again, another double figure male undulate to complete a pretty good day's work. Reckon the total catch for the day was around 50 fish.
On return to the marina I had a quick chat with a neighbour Phil who'd also been out. He has a much larger boat than mine yet found the morning conditions quite uncomfortable and I must admit to gaining a little bit of extra confidence in my little boat from his remarks.
Nothing exceptional was reported on the radio, although Alan and Ray were their usual entertaining selves. Ray in particular, was on good form today. There was at least one decent cod caught somewhere so I'm still pinning my hopes on getting one on board.

0700-1430 HW 0605 4.9m

Thursday, 17 November 2011

17/11/11 Piking

I should have taken the plunge and gone out in the boat today.I deliberated on the way past the marina this morning, and I had to visit the boat again this evening . Clive had just come in reporting that the weather had been reasonable, and that he 'hadn't had a bad day' which means he probably crucified the bass. Naturally I didn't like to ask any more about the fishing , but it was useful to ask him about the winds. It had been blowing double figures(mph) but from the south and comfortable.Noted for the future.
Instead I went piking to the lower P #1 stretch for a few hours dropping a small pike on a big rudd, and finally nailing a big tail walking single on a small rudd at the top of the stretch.
On closer investigation of the picture of this pike, it would seem that once again , it may be a recapture.I can't be sure because the photographs are of opposing flanks but, if the fins are opaque and the markings the same on both sides, then this is the same 'tail walker' that I caught,from the same spot,on 30/10. Bugger!
 The flooding tide brought huge rafts of debris  ending the session slightly prematurely, just before dusk. Meanwhile, down by the red bridge at HW, Andy scored a mullet .This is the latest Arun mullet that I've heard of due in no small part to the exceptionally mild November we're experiencing.
Well done that man.

16/11/11 Abort To The Pond.

I had hoped to get out in the boat and did indeed try today but within yards of the entrance, I decided that it was far too lumpy so returned once again with my tail between my legs. I'd seen Shaun(our friendly commercial 'cuttler') in the channel on the way out and he'd warned me that it was horrible out there, and  he was proved to be right. Easterly and South Easterly winds against a flooding tide don't make for a comfortable ride.
'Spirit' did get out with James Elton on board and he reported a catch of bream with a few bass and a cod thrown in but, it was the roughest he'd ever been out in. I would have been mullered.
Instead I nipped to the farm pond where the tiddlers were not exactly obliging and the perch were nowhere to be seen. Got broken again by what I think was a carp and ended up with seven rudd and a roach, some of reasonable size.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

12/11/11 Repeat Capture.

      Dave and me have decided to move a bit futher afield with this year's piking campaign in the search for bigger fish and that elusive Arun thirty. It will mean a bit more walking especially on the P #1 stretch but neither of us are particularly bothered by this, and we'll be fishing in even more remote locations.
We began our session today at the 'esses' and gradually worked our way upstream to the first fence, an area I think we've  only bank fished once or twice before.Both fishing deads, It was Dave's turn for action today with a dropped fish(definitely a double) and this double which was successfully landed from the reedy bend.It was immediately recognisable by a growth under it's gill plate, and later confirmed by comparing photographs, as the same fish that both Dave and me had taken in the last week, of last season, a hundred or so yards downstream.

This is actually the third confirmed recapture that we know of although I'm conviced there have been others.Arun fish are generally pale and therefore quite difficult to compare markings in photographs but, we know that my first ever twenty, caught on New year's day 2008 was caught again from quite nearby,and photographed by a different angler in March of the same year.And of course my two biggest ever pike are, rather disappointingly, actually the same fish caught two years apart.
I think it's dangerous to conclude that pike remain within the same area of the river all of the time and it's far more likely that they move about, perhaps revisiting certain spots at random times dependant on food source.It's entirely likely that they move less during extreme water temperatures or flood conditions.However, i think these recaptures may give some indication of the population level of big(double figure) pike in the river, and that perhaps there aren't as many big fish as some would imagine.
Mike Ladle estimates that ,on the Frome, there is a pike for every ten yards of river bank.Obviuosly this is an average figure and is simply given to represent a 'best guess' of the population density but, having fished this river with Mike I would conclude that this distance could be increased four or fivefold for the lower Arun.
Due to the unstable nature of the tidal stretches, i really don't think  ' hot spots' or holding areas, as discussed by Barrie Rickards, exist.If they did, with the amount of effort we've put in over the years,I'm certain we would have discovered them on the stretches we've fished.I suspect that smaller groups do occur occasionally, and we've proved this to be the case with double or triple consecutive captures from a single swim.

Notable features, such as last trip's 'banker' tree,are either rare, or of a transient nature and many are just exposed completely by the tide rendering them useless as a reliable spot,  or destroyed or moved by the severe nature of flooding.
The only real solution is to search the river methodically in the hope of putting a bait near a pike.If conditions are favourable then all the better, but we can't be too choosy when we fish.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

8/11/11 A 'Twenty'

A 22lb Blonde Ray actually...but more of that later! A very interesting trip this one more for information gathered than anything else., Still nursing 'man flu' I'd intended a short session to 'blow away the cobwebs', setting off from the marina at 0930, spending three or four hours fishing the #2 area, and then return before the lock out at 1330.
There were plenty of boats in the general area when I arrived and set up on #29 in quite a bumpy S.E F4 . I couldn't help but notice that the water was surprisingly clear, and did wonder if a bass session on #12 would have been a better bet.
Target was, of course, cod but , listening attentively to the radio, it would appear that they were scarce indeed, however, Dick and Neil were obviously playing with a few 'spikies' somewhere out east, so my reading of the water may have been correct.(Logged for the future)
I did briefly consider running over to #12, but settled instead into a steady stream of dogs, punctuated with two thornbacks and a spotted ray as the tide ebbed nicely. By 1300 all the other boats had disappeared home and Neil called me up to say that he was popping over for the rest of the day, persuading me to stay for the 'lock out' in the process. The wind had dropped considerably by now, making conditions much more comfortable. John on 'Moonlighter' also paid me a quick visit hailing me on the radio whilst I was taking a quick doze under the cuddy. Nice to finally meet in person .
I watched Neil circle around me in the distance, 'searching for some mud' and eventually drop the pick just NE of #6.The slack had given me a quiet spell so I decided on a move to #28 for the remainder of the session.
Neil soon called me to say that one of his crew had dropped a likely cod, and then followed it up minutes later with a successfully boated big double. He knows his stuff this boy.
As the tide flooded a bites began to materialise again and along with the dogs came a welcome bream. Chatting again with Neil on the wireless, I had to cut short our conversation as my whole squid baited heavy outfit was slowly disappearing over the side. After a prolonged battle with several dives and three failed attempts to squeeze the beast into my, on this occasion, totally inadequate landing net, up came this beautiful female blonde ray tipping the scales at 22lb.
The fourth boat fish 'event' of this season for me, and dimensionally the largest fish I've had inside the boat, so far. With her tail extended ,she could possibly just have touched both gunwales, and was actually quite difficult to frame for the shot. Luckily she was cleanly lip hooked, and went back easily gliding like a kite into the depths.
This fish illustrates the fact that in sea fishing, particularly in a boat, you never really know what might turn up. I was indeed elated, and Neil was equally as enthusiastic when i called him up.
Fishing on until dusk, I joined 'Spirit' for the run home in the dark making the mooring at 1800 .
Both Neil and Dick had indeed picked up a few bass out east ,but not in great numbers and it was refreshing to hear Dick mention that he'd upped the size limit for his crew obviously to preserve this valuable asset. I would imagine that numbers will increase soon and I'll be keeping a close eye on windguru. No cod for me again but most of the other boats that I know of faired similarly except for those 'in the know'. I tip my hat to you blokes.