Sunday, 30 November 2014

10/11/14 Grayling Again.

 1lb 7oz 'ling'
My local rivers are still too high and coloured to fish due to recent rainfall so, after a quick phone call to the Itchen river bailiff to confirm that river conditions across the border in Hampshire were more favourable ,I decided to embark on a second visit to the fishery.
The plan was to split the day in two, trotting for grayling in the morning, and trying to tempt a pike with a deadbait under a float in the afternoon.
The river was very slightly coloured but nothing compared to what we're used to in Sussex and indeed, the water level was little different to my last visit.
Armed with some newly acquired low light polaroid glasses, it took very little time to locate shoals of grayling to target in the fast shallow flows.
I chose to adjust my tactics slightly for this visit firstly by fishing a much heavier 4 swan loafer type float, and secondly, opting to fish sweet corn on the hook feeding half a dozen grains with each run through.
Grayling are not tackle shy at all and, they seem to find sweet corn much to their liking as once again i quickly lost count of the fish taken. In marked contrast from my last trip , the corn seem to select the better fish as I had a dozen over the pound mark with a brace at 1-07 which is the largest I've caught so far.
These fish can also be taken on feeder tactics if preferred and often the best way is to elect to drop your rig into a back eddy,of which there are several along the coarse beat of the fishery. I chose to run my float through a couple instead, fishing to sighted fish, and scored a couple of nice grayling in the process.
The usual 'nuisance' brown trout also showed up on a couple of occasions to add a bit of variety but, in truth, its the grayling I'm really after at this venue.
Unfortunately, the afternoon foray after pike proved unsuccessful although i really only had a couple of hours fishing before dusk, and the closure of the fishery. The bait was dropped into virtualy every likely looking slack on the stretch but to no avail. Perhaps it would be worth trying again but , as i can catch pike at other venues, yet rarely come across grayling, my mind is on the ladies of the stream ,especially as the potential for a really decent specimen is a realistic prospect on the Itchen.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

1/11/14 The Pike Season Begins

 15lb 12oz

 Greedy pike

I like fishing rivers. If I'm ever forced to give up my sea fishing in my boat,  and that day may well come, then rivers will always capture my imagination and provide me with more than enough of a fishing fix.
I've never really done well with lures when targeting pike in our local rivers and despite trying on a number of occasions, I don't think I've ever caught a double figure fish on an 'artificial'.
 Dave, as an accomplished lure angler, has done much better and his tale of an absolute monster some years ago has always stuck with me, as have several accounts of lure angling success by my good friend Michael Kernan who has taken a 30lb pike on plastic, on our favourite river, albeit after over a quarter of a century of piking.
One of the tallest hurdles that we have to overcome is that of water clarity. Our tidals rarely display the 'right' lure fishing conditions during the traditional  pike season.This time of year provides the best chance but, all too soon the depths of winter arrive, and we are almost forced into using bait methods partly by our confidence in the method, but also by the fact that in murky conditions your relying more on smell (dead baits) and vibration (lives) but also need to give the pike time to actually find your bait. A lure tends to fly past all too quickly.
Today's conditions were indeed a rare 'window' of opportunity unlike an attempt I made a couple of weeks ago when I was hampered both by a flooding tide, which always colours up the water, and a bit too much rainwater  in the river.
Dave and me elected to fish a stretch we rarely visit nowadays and by the time I joined my mate he'd already taken one small jack, and briefly connected with a much better fish on his spinner bait.
I chose to go down the 'shad' route fishing an orange and red six incher with a ten gram jig head which I could work slowly in the margins against the flow.
After a couple of abortive takes from a jack pike and a nice looking perch, which obviously had eyes bigger than its stomach, I had a solid thump from something much larger.
 The pike, being an early season fish, fought very well indeed, and certainly punched well above its weight successfully snagging me in a sunken branch right under my feet. Thankfully with 50lb braid on the Ambassadeur I was able to bully the fish a little before Dave managed to successfully slip her in the net, leaving the foliage behind.
A boldly coloured fish of 15lb 12oz and a personal best lure caught esox for me.
This style of piking is a welcome contrast from our usual winter bait tactics and it's very pleasant indeed not to have to lug around heaps of kit. I don't think lures would entirely replace our sardines and roach but, if the water is clear enough on future visits, we'll probably be giving them more outings.

29-30/10/14 Soft Plastic

Brian is becoming a welcome regular on 'Jupiter' especially of late as he's had a bit of window trouble(one fell out!) with his trusty Orkney Fastliner 19  'Marruig'.

Having secured  a replacement from the factory (Orkney boats is just a ten minute journey from the marina) Brian, along with his capable assistant Alan, managed to refit the window thus rendering the boat in a seaworthy state once again.

Of course, the new window had to be thoroughly tested for integrity, and this would involve sea trials with a spot of fishing thrown in for good measure and I was pleased to be invited along for the ride.
Even if the fishing is slow, it's never a dull day with Brian as he's a born comedian who really should be on the stage.
Agreed tactics would be anchoring up on a ground mark hoping for an early cod although we'd both packed our lure kit for the trip (just in case).
Water clarity was the big unknown. From the shore you can never really tell what its  like 'out there' and, as we'd been experiencing some pretty rough weather lately, perceived opinion was that it would be too murky.
Some shore anglers would have you believe, quite mistakenly, that our local river, The Arun, has a devastating effect on water clarity when its in flood but the truth of it is that even on small tides the 'chocolate' coloured water rarely travels more than a mile or so offshore and usually, the demarcation line is easily seen.
Of course the only way of gauging the conditions is to get out there, and see for yourself.
We did drop the anchor and bait fish for a while, catching the inevitable dogfish in the process but, as we peered regularly over the gunwales discussing the condition of the water it became clear(sic) that we were both thinking along the same lines. In no time at all the anchor was 'upped' and we decided to hit the reef.
 As we approached the chosen mark, thankfully with not another boat around for miles, it became apparent that our great allies, the birds, were active.....indeed they were going ballistic.
This event would save us a huge amount of time and, as we carefully skirted the flock to line up the first drift it became clear that quite a large bass shoal was in residence.
From my own findings , the chosen mark tends to fish better when the tide is running in a certain direction and well under way. In these conditions I think the bass tend to shoal up quite tight, and take up station to feed. Once found they can easily be seen on the sounder as a green mass with lots of 'squiggly' bits on the edges, and this was indeed the case today.
It was great to be able to show Brian what this phenomenon looks like on his sounder and I think , from memory, its the first time we've seen this occur when fishing together.
Almost immediately we were into fish as we drifted quietly over the shoal and rarely did our soft plastics reach the sea bed before being taken. On occasion the fish would rise up to the surface where they could be taken on a hastily switched 'top water' such as my favourite 'Patchinko', although these generally proved to be smaller fish in the 2lb range.
The fishing was at times frantic and I'm sure Brian will have a laugh with me when I say that , in all the excitement,his navigation skills between drifts was at times a little 'haphazard' . The birds helped us and.........You got us there in the end mate.
We ended up with a catch of about forty bass with a best fish of about 7lb before having to leave so I could, rather inconveniently, get to work for a night shift.
The following morning in very murky conditions and with time at a premium, I decided on a solo revisit with just a lure rod on board. Once again I had the mark completely to myself(not unusual at this location and nobody would be able to see me anyway) but, as the tide was just finishing its flood the bass also appeared to be absent. Note I say 'appeared'.
A couple of test drifts proved unfruitful so I decided to act on a hunch, use the time wisely, and check out a neighbouring mark (a new one for me) whist waiting for a more favourable tide state.
Its strange how we, as anglers tend to gravitate to the same spots time and time again and I'm just as guilty as the next man for doing this.
On this occasion, a little experimentation paid off as I managed to pick up four bass from the 'new' reef and thus add it to the ever growing list of  'clutter' on the chart plotter. I'd also gathered some valuable information about the geography of the sea bed and discovered that two features in particular can indeed produce fish even over slack tide.
Once the run off had started in earnest ,a return to the original location was in order and almost predictably there they were again in a nice tight formation on the sounder. They're rarely this easy to find.
No birds to help me navigate today but because I was the only boat working the mark and I ensured that each return leg was well clear of the shoal it remained firmly fixed in one place and I was able to extract a further eleven bass in the two to four pound class before having to ,once again, finish while the fish were still feeding to go back to work.

24/10/14 Ladies Of The Stream

My fishing adventures to the South West of England invariably mean that I drive over the River Itchen near Southampton quite regularly. The momentary glimpse of a very picturesque chalk stream mill has often made me think that I should make the effort to fish the venue especially as its renowned for its grayling fishing.
Thankfully, a section of the river is available during the winter months  for coarse fishing and with the winds blowing enough to keep the boat on its mooring, today was an ideal day to break out the centre pin reel and float rod , and hone my trotting skills.
I'm not a fly fishing enthusiast, although I would gladly flick fluff at bass ,mackerel and even a pike should the opportunity arise.
 Curiously on the Itchen, there are sections (beats) of river that are set aside for fly angling only and where, if you are caught with so much as a single maggot, or grain of corn on your hook, you will in all likelihood be hung, drawn and quartered.
 The tickets to fish this 'exclusive' stretch are double what you pay to fish the coarse section despite the fact that , obviously, its all the same river. I wonder if the fish know something that we don't. Anyway, more of that later.
The 'coarse' stretch that I fished provides more than enough interesting water to roam all day long in search of the beautiful grayling, also known as 'ladies of the stream'. Being a week day, I virtually had the whole of the river to myself apart from one other companion at the very top of the stretch who spent most of the day sitting behind a quiver tip rod.
The 'fly' stretch, on the other hand, was fully booked!
For the first couple of hours I concentrated on the deeper lower areas and, apart from one solitary small grayling couldn't buy a bite. Quite obviously, I was in the wrong place. The upper reaches were far shallower and much faster and this is what grayling prefer. Once I'd become accustomed to the fact that I was a river that I could easily wade across, and with a pace as fast as a speeding bullet, things started to happen.
Grayling are actually not that easy to spot in the water. Something in their name gives away that fact but, once I'd got my eye 'in' , several shoals of fish became obvious.
I chose to use maggots on the day constantly feeding a dozen or so with each run through, although I understand that sweet corn is an equally 'killing' bait. I must have fished at least a dozen different runs and soon lost count of the grayling that I caught along with some boldly marked, but somewhat unwelcome, trout of the brown and sea varieties.
I suppose the biggest grayling was maybe a pound and a half if I was lucky but, the fishing wasn't half good fun and they do put a nice bend in your float rod as they writhe and twist in the current.
As far as aesthetics go, in my opinion, trotting a float with a single action reel doesn't get much more skilful and, if the results of a fly fisher who popped 'over the border' for a chat with my coarse fishing companion are anything to go by, far more effective. He'd caught just the one grayling all day on his Czech nymph and showed quite an interest in our avon floats and maggots.
Apparently big pike lurk in these clear waters and as I spied several likely looking 'lairs' on my travels so, I might just bring some appropriate kit on my next visit. They allow you to use sea dead baits!!

18/9/14 More Nocturnal Meanderings

Another evening trip to the shallow conger mark with Simon. Unfortunately  fishing was  quite slow with just the one decent fish showing despite a couple of shifts on the structure.
I think these conger are quite localised on the mark and perhaps they are few in number, who knows.We never seem to have blistering action here but we're not fishing for any great length of time. It will be interesting to see how long the fish stay on the mark as the winter progresses. With evenings drawing in and more hours of darkness available in the 'civilised' hours I'll be studying the wind speeds carefully on future small tides.

3/10/14 The Blueprint

' Blueprint' is an extremely impressive Breaksea 25 recently commissioned by my marina mates Martin, and his father Tony.
In effect, she is a mini charter boat. Fast, and  comfortable to ride in she has been fitted out  to the boys' exact specification resulting in a craft that is custom made for fishing in our local waters and, in particular, bassing on the reefs and long distance wreck fishing.
Indeed, Martin tells me that the anchor will rarely get wet apart from the odd winter cod foray on ground marks.
Martin is one of three local angling buddies, all thoroughly decent chaps,  who's speciality is catching bass, and catch them they good numbers.
 Personally, as a tyro with a long apprenticeship yet to serve, I can't get anywhere near their results when it comes to tracking and boating 'the spikey ones' so, when an opportunity arises to fish with them ,I always jump at the chance.
Every trip with these guys is a 'school day' and regardless of the catch, a thoroughly enjoyable outing to boot.
Let me say at the outset that these guys have no hidden secrets, no special marks nor revolutionary methods. What they do have is a wealth of experience, an in depth knowledge of  the particular marks they choose to fish ,and an understanding of how the fish react at particular states of the tide.
Indeed, Martin admits to only regularly fishing two different areas for bass and both these are  visited by other anglers who usually drop their anchors and bait fish.
Martin's approach is somewhat different in that he rarely takes bait on board his boat these days as it tends to make a mess of his shiny new deck. Instead , he relies solely on fishing lures, usually vertically fished soft plastics which he does very competently, although he does admit to setting up a live bait outfit on occasion just in case.
These skills cannot been learned over night and, although other anglers will have you believe otherwise (I'm always being asked how they do it), there is no short cut to success with this style of fishing. Once you accept that as fact, the fishing becomes much more enjoyable.
Todays catch was , by my standards , quite spectacular and, as can be seen from the pictures Martin had the best of the fish, catching some cracking bass. Exact size is becoming less relevant as time moves on and Martin rarely bothers to weigh his bass unless he thinks they're doubles!!!
 Don't get me wrong, I did catch plenty of silver myself and had a great time in the process and was able to fit another tiny piece of the jig-saw in place that will enable me to take my bass fishing a step futher in the future.................hopefully this space will be worth watching.

2/10/14 Burning Fuel


A rather uneventful trip this one which was a shame because it was a rare chance to take my good friend, and marina neighbour Alan for a trip out on 'Jupiter'.
Since mooring my boat at the marina , Alan has been an invaluable help on all matters 'fishy' in our locale, due in no small part, to his extensive experience of fishing from small boats on our favourite marks.
We decided to go out on a wreck hunt travelling many miles in the process, and visiting several structures but, do you think we could find a fish???
We couldn't even buy a bite until, on the return leg of the journey, we visited one of our local marks and it produced both a cod , and a few small bass, all taking soft plastic lures.
Isn't that just the way with fishing sometimes.
Wrecking, it would seem, is not as easy as it sounds and is something that I will need to investigate further at a later date. Its all very well going out with Martin and having a good day half way across the Channel but, I need to do it in my own boat.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

16/9/14 A Charter Experience


As a boat owner myself, I very rarely use charters and in fact, I was never that much of a boat angler before buying my first 'tub' and can count my previous charter boat experiences on one hand.
 My enduring memory of one skipper from the early 1980s,  out of Brighton if I remember correctly, is of a grumpy old git who spent much of the day tucked up in his smoke filled cabin reading the paper and who (very) occasionally surfaced to bring out mugs of tea which tasted like tar.
His only utterance during the whole trip was 'lines up' and, as we only dropped the anchor once during the whole day, you could be forgiven for thinking that that was extent of his vocabulary.
Dogfish and whiting made up the catch which were undoubtedly attracted to the boat by my continual 'ground baiting' however, I did manage to impress a prospective girlfriend at the time with my culinary skills and made good use of the catch.
That was a long time ago,  the girlfriend is a distant memory as is my susceptibility to the dreaded 'curse of the sea' however , I will admit to the occasional feeling of (manageable)queasiness , but never on my own boat.
Thankfully also, charter skippers have changed their ways at least, they have in my home port of Littlehampton.
One of our best is undoubtedly 'Spirit Of Arun' skippered, and crewed respectively by my good mate Neil French and his very capable crew, and excellent angler in her own right, Mick Mahoney. They make a formidable pair, In the nicest possible way of course, and in my opinion , provide a service second to none.
I'd already had a 'grand day out' on 'Spirit' last year on a charity tope bash and learned then that
with these guys , its not just about the fishing-the whole day is about ensuring that the customer enjoys themselves and their approach is world's apart from our Thatcher era example above.
Usually the boat , a superb forty foot Lochin with all the bells and whistles, is well  booked in advance as the pair generally run with regular crews however, when the word was put out on 'facepack' by Mick than an 'open' day was available, I decided to jump at the chance as did a few others as the spaces were quickly filled.
Also along for the ride was my old mate Robin 'Fishyrob' Howard who I hadn't seen in a couple of years so it was great to catch up with him too.
 Neil started the day with a quick briefing telling us how the fishing would pan out, and then introduced all to each other which was a nice touch.
We started the day on black bream at anchor with everyone picking up a few along the way  before upping the pick and setting off to smoother ground to drift for plaice which, as you can see, proved equally successful. A few gurnard also put in a welcome appearance and I'm always delighted at the sight of these curious looking fellows.
Robin impressed everyone showing off his prowess with a light rod by  'spinning' an Imitation 'Isome worm' for the plaice. It did prove quite successful and resulted in a little competition taking place between the 'black luggers' and the XL isomes. I can't remember which team won but it just added to the general banter of the day which was constant and lively.
Mick out fished everyone (she always does) and plied us with regular cups of 'proper'tea ,  whereas  Neil gave us the benefit of his wisdom regarding all things piscatorial whilst ensuring that his helm seat didn't get too cold.
The 'team' mucked in on the ride home cleaning both boat and catch all of which just added to the enjoyment of the day.
Overall everybody had a great time with plenty of fish and laughs and I do highly recommend this very professional couple to anyone thinking of charter fishing out of Littlehampton.
You'll find all the info here;