Monday, 12 January 2015

8-9/1/15 Thugs Of The Underwater World

Dave had managed to secure a couple of leave days from work to go fishing and, as I was really keen to try and catch some decent perch from some of our club's still water venues, we decided to pool our resources and give them a try.
My experience with 'spikeys' is somewhat limited, having rarely fished for them by design, I've only taken a trio of sizable fish (over one pound)in my angling career , one of which was caught by accident on pike tackle, . Dave's portfolio is somewhat more impressive,  he's already had some decent fish to over 3lb during this coarse season, and a very creditable personal best of 3lb 12oz from the past.
Mature perch are certainly quite formidable looking creatures with sometimes a rather aggressive look to them enhanced by their characteristic 'humped' back. Unfortunately, their bold black stripes tend to fade a little when caught from 'coloured' still waters(and our tidal rivers) but,by virtue of their impressive appearance, they  remain an impressive fish to catch.
On the first day,  we fished  new water which I'd previously investigated , sussing out the logistical aspects such as the availability of parking for our vehicles. Unfortunately, this didn't prevent me from getting my van well and truly 'stuck' in some pretty serious mud requiring 'rescue' in the form of a tow from Dave, and wasting half an hour in the pouring rain in the process.
The rain eventually subsided, giving way to a clear sunny day , perhaps a little too bright for big perch,  as we failed to find them on this occasion. However, the venue did disclose the presence of  several 'prey' species ,including some tiny perch, so will be well worth a future visit perhaps trying some different swims.
 I did get a dropped take on a small live roach bait which suggested  perch, but obviously, I'll never really know the true identity of the culprit.
 It was however a particularly pleasant place to go fishing with kingfishers and circling birds of prey in evidence and best of all, not another angler in sight....well, apart from Dave that is.

Day two saw us at an alternative venue again, a quiet still water than sees comparatively little attention from the  angling fraternity at this time of year.
 By the time I arrived, late as usual, Dave had already landed a nice perch of a couple of pounds so things were certainly looking optimistic.
Bait of choice for me was a king prawn on the hook, with maggots as loose feed mostly to attract prey fish into the swim which would hopefully draw in the predatory perch.  Dave chose a more 'traditional' approach of lobworm, tipped with maggot.

 One rod was fished on the float 'close in' next to some lily pads, and another left to fish itself on the feeder a few yards distant.  As you can see above, the recent heavy rain had resulted in this stream fed lake becoming very heavily coloured but , as perch tend to flourish in commercial fisheries, which are almost permanently murky, I didn't see this as an issue.
It soon  became evident that the swim had quickly become populated by small prey fish as the float  indicated that ' critters' were either nudging the prawn bait, or mistaking the split shot for food so obviously the maggots were doing their job of attracting .
Subsequently the float gently slid away and I connected with my first perch of the winter season , a fish of 2lb 4oz and a welcome sight indeed. The fight could hardly be called spectacular, but that wasn't the point, I was just pleased to hit the target.
Thankfully, I'd chosen to use a barbless hook, as the perch had certainly snaffled the bait deep down in its cavernous mouth, but my size 8 was easily removed with the use of forceps and the fish released completely unharmed.
A couple of bumped fish on each  rod, almost certainly 'nuisance' carp, occurred before the next perch turned up once again, to the float outfit, displaying a similarly delicate , slow take. This time a much more rotund specimen was landed ,and slightly heavier at 2lb 6oz.
Dave had also matched me with a second perch in the two pound bracket until, during the middle of the day the light levels increased and the perch action slowed right down. We're not entirely sure if there's any correlation between the two events but perceived opinion does state that perch prefer low light levels and are often caught early and late in the day especially in clear water.
The action however didn't abate , and a screaming run on the feeder outfit followed, resulting in this bait stealing interloper -a handsome, fully scaled and lean common carp of  8lb. I had hoped that the prawns might be a bit more selective but this obviously wasn't to be the case. It seems that carp will eat anything.

As events had noticeably slowed down I decided to swap to a neighbouring swim, and also change the feeder rod over to a live roach bait attached to a 'dyson' rig with a sunken float.
This was set up on a buzzer and the line left slightly slack to avoid annoying false alarms.
As the light faded, assisted by some cloud cover , perch number three turned up once again to the float fished prawn bait. A slightly bigger fish again,  a personal best equalling 2lb 9oz, and this one did actually put up a reasonable fight.

Finally, another all too 'scrappy' carp of a similar size to my first,shot off with the float fished bait, causing mayhem in the process and probably curtailing any further 'perch' action in my swim.
Meanwhile,Dave had also been busy putting together a varied catch comprising, a tench, eel, bream and a goldfish /hybrid 'thingy,' all falling to his worm bait.
 Curiously, despite both of us fishing a small live roach, usually a 'banker' bait for big perch, neither was taken during the afternoon and this is a difficult one to explain and warrants further investigation.
What a varied day's winter fishing we'd had but for me, it was the perch that made the occasion and I shall return in search of that three pounder in due course.

For the 'tackle tarts' among you, on the float rod today, I was using a recently purchased Abu 506 Mk2, a design of reel that I was particularly fond of in its original form dating from the 1960s. I'd acquired the reel intending to put it to use as a grayling trotting device, but couldn't resist giving it an airing .
Contrary to what 'traditional' tackle aficionados on internet forums will have you believe, this modern version of Abu's famous closed face reel ,is actually equally as well built as the original, and very similar in both looks and feel, the main exception being the composite material that is used for the main body, as opposed to the cast alloy of the original.
Let's face it, most modern reels have composite bodies nowadays and they're pretty bomb proof .Although I suspect many of the parts on this 'new' reel , are indeed identical to the original,It does in fact have several improvements over the 'sixties' design including a drag that actually works, a selectable anti-reverse and a gear lock which makes the process of removing the spool much easier.
 Traditionally known as a 'small fish ' tool, this 506 was well tested today on those carp and performed very well indeed.
If you like this style of reel, I'd recommend you take a close look this version  particularly as , at a shade over fifty quid including four spools and a case, its something of a bargain.

6/1/15 Prospecting.

Something I've rarely done in the past is to investigate new waters without actually fishing them although angling literature, particularly from the past, always seemed to extol the virtues of the, usually closed season activity, of 'scouting' around sussing out venues, fish watching etc.
Of course nowadays things are slightly different. The 'closed season' only applies to rivers and I suppose , for most people, their valuable  spare time is best spent actually fishing but, if you listen to some of the older generation of anglers,  us 'youngsters' want 'instant success' in our fishing and 'everything handed down to us on a plate'.
Perhaps this opinion,  is a reaction to the emergence of 'commercial' type fisheries in recent times both, in the game and coarse sectors of our sport and possibly has some justification but, I believe these venues do have their place, and provide much enjoyment to the angling public at large. I also believe that they play a significant role in keeping the fishing tackle industry afloat, and therefore benefit us all with the  technological development of the equipment we all use.
Personally, I tend to avoid commercials but only because, being  thoroughly anti -social, I prefer to fish venues where there is a distinct lack of other anglers which is why I find the rivers so appealing. Rivers seem to be out of favour with the general angling public probably because logistically, they are that much more difficult to fish than still waters.
The big problem with rivers in the winter, particularly in my local area , is that they are severely affected by rainfall often to the point of being unfishable from the aspect of safety. Sometimes its impossible to actually see where the bank is which could prove a little tricky if you decide to go paddling.
 Usually this type of weather is also associated with low pressure weather systems and their inherent high winds which curtail my inshore boat fishing activities somewhat.
By virtue of necessity, a solution must be found so I look to still waters, preferably quiet ones.
This winter I decided to obtain an additional club membership in order to expand the waters available to me and today I decided to 'recce' a few of those venues........O.K I'll admit, I did have a couple of pike rods in the van just in case..
A quick look at the river confirmed my suspicion that it would be high and coloured however with hindsight, perhaps I should have given it a go as a mate of mine has recently been getting the odd pike from moderately flooded river venues locally. Whatever the case, the club book had a new lake on its list and this demanded further investigation.
What I discovered was actually a chain of lakes that I was to later learn, following a bit of 'googling' , had been a former carp fishing syndicate water. I'll freely admit that I'm not much of a carp angler but , also mentioned in the 'blurb' ,was that one of the lakes held some good perch and this did attract my attention.
 The lakes turned out to be pretty remote , far from easily accessible by vehicle and, as it was a mid week day in the middle of winter-deserted........ideal.
I very much doubted whether there would be any pike in them, and have not subsequently had that confirmed, but being stream fed, the water was the colour of chocolate anyway so I decided to leave it for another day and check out another venue on the list.
Surprisingly this next  little visit turned up another valuable piece of information . This particular lake was also stream fed , yet remained almost perfectly clear and, as I knew it did hold some pike I couldn't resist  a couple of hours spent watching dead bait floats. I didn't catch but it had been a fitting end to a useful day's 'work' and future plans had been hatched.

Classic Reels Still In Use Today.

The Forgotten Mitchell-The 306

The Mitchell 300 is well known for being 'the' coarse fishing reel to have in the 60's , 70's and 80's. They appeared to be everywhere and the French company must have sold millions of them and rightly so as they were a very good quality product.
Mitchell also made a full sized beach fixed spool reel in the shape of the 386 which I believe was based on an earlier model ,the 302, and these proved equally popular among sea anglers. These models also spawned the faster retrieve 402, and 486 versions which were painted in a rather unusual, though not unpleasant, navy blue.
Less well known however, is the intermediate sized reel that Mitchell produced-the 306 pictured here. There was also a faster 406 version and, I believe, a later skirted spool model, the 316.
I do have a distinct memory of seeing these reels attached to the pike rods of one 'Chris Binyon' who appeared on the front page of an Angler's Mail/ Angling Times circa 1972 (anyone remember this)
The 306 is a attractive device , the perfect size for pike or bass fishing (with baits) and lays 15lb mono very well on its relatively narrow spool. The spool oscillation system on these reels was known as a 'planamatic' line lay , and it does work very well  ,with one spool oscillation taking four complete turns of the handle or sixteen turns of the rotor.(306)
There was also an ultra light model-the 308 which used the same gearing and line lay system-a true gem of a reel which I also have in my 'collection' and was , at one time, my main choice for mullet fishing.
I purchased the 306 in the pictures, probably an early 70's model,  several years ago from 'that' auction site in the U.S.A for the princely sum of eleven quid.  It cost almost as much to ship to the U.K but was still a bit of a steal as it was pretty much 'as new'.
 They can still occasionally be found today at bargain prices and, because they are so well built ,usually rarely show much mechanical wear.
Paired up with a 'Chapman's Dennis Pye' split cane Pike rod that I  owned at the time (a veritable 'beast' of a rod with a claimed 4lb test curve) the outfit assisted me me my first ever 20lb river pike on New Year's Day 2008. Foolishly, I sold the rod , but still have the reel today ,and have recently added a manual pick up (PUM) with the intention of giving it a workout in the surf for bass, coupled with a light 1-3oz rod.

My first 'twenty'
Boat Allrounder
Penn Jigmaster 501

Following on from my Senator thread, Barbel Dave has requested a bit more information on the Penn Jigmaster and in particular the narrow 501 model.
Penn introduced the Jigmaster 500 (wide spool) in 1958 and billed it as a fast retrieve (4;1) lure fishing reel probably suited to vertical jigging metal lures from a boat. The narrow 501 model followed in 1965 and even higher speed (HS) versions with a 5;1 gear ratio (505, 506 ) were soon added to the range. The 500 Jigmaster is still available new today in both left and right hand wind guises.
One major design advantage of these reels is the 'one screw' take apart feature(also found on Squidders and Surfmasters) allowing the reel to be easily dismantled into frame, spool and gear drive plate components simply by turning a thumb screw. This makes spool changing or, more importantly, a thorough rinse in freshwater after each session, an absolute doddle.
Interestingly, Penn also produced a 500S model with the thumbscrew on the opposite(non-gearbox )side plate.
The 500,501 Jigmaster reels are fitted with plain bush spool bearings which IMHO, is a major plus on the ease of maintenance front, the 505,506 models have ball races.

I like narrow reels. They sit much better on the rod and don't display that 'rocking' motion when under stress that some wider reels are prone to.
The 501 version is an ideal sized reel for general U.K boat fishing especially as modern thin braids allow the use of smaller capacity reels and the gear ratio, and generous spool diameter means that, unlike other Penn reels of the same era, it's no snail.
These reels also have a 'decent' clicker with more than enough resistance in free spool to cope with quite fast tide flows yet loud enough to wake you when a tope screams off, or a conger slowly skulks away with your bait.(tick, tick, tickety , tick)
A 500 model can easily be converted to a narrow 501 simply by replacing the reel stand Penn component(30-49) same as a 146 Squidder, 100 Surfmaster and all Mariners, cross bars and spool which are all readily available parts.
Both my 501s are 'genuine' models sourced cheaply but my regular 'user' (on the right)has some slight improvements over the standard model;
Alloy spool - can be found on later 501 models or purchased as a new spare part. Plastic spools are a little delicate and plated brass a little heavy and tricky to cast.

Solid cross bars- These definitely stiffen the frame making the reel feel more solid and can either be custom made, purchased as an aftermarket add on, or again found on later models. One piece alloy frames are also available for the true enthusiast (Tiburon) but are not cheap.

Stainless steel gear sleeve- I converted mine to left hand wind so needed to replace this part anyway but these are available from Alan Tani in the States and are worth their weight in gold.
Its unlikely that the standard component (brass) could be damaged in regular use but the s/s replacement is more accurately engineered and the handle is a tighter fit.

Bigger drag star- (10-49) component from a Penn Mariner deep sea reel-I've got BIG hands. In order for the thicker drag star to fit, the spacer bar underneath needs to be carefully filed to allow the drag stack to fit, and the drag to work smoothly.

Power handle- a standard Penn component (24-56)Nice big grip, and adjustable .

Mag brake- My own little concoction that I fitted because I generally cast my baits away from my boat even when fishing down tide and it irons out any 'wrinkles' which seem to occur when casting with thin braid from a rocking boat. Simply, a small mild steel washer is araldited to the inside of the side plate and then thin 1mm disc magnets are set in place until the desired braking effect is reached. Non adjustable(unless you dismantle the reel) but works a treat.

Pinion gear is lightly 'dressed' with a file to improve spool engagement when shifted into gear.

Clutch is standard 3 disc HT100 greased with 'Cal's' star drag grease (can't recommend this highly enough), is very smooth and easily gives 12lb direct pull. 5 disc stacks are available on Alan Tani's site but not really necessary in the U.K. I've hauled 50lb conger and tope on this reel with no dramas.
Main internals are lightly coated with waterproof marine grease(same stuff I use on my outboard) and a tiny drop of 10/40 engine oil is added to the bearings after every rinse. End float on spool is adjusted to a 'gnat's knacker' and she's slightly under loaded with 30lb spectra type braid. I've never had an issue with braid getting behind the spool.
Incidentally, left hand wind conversions involve replacing main and pinion gears, gear sleeve, bridge and a little judicial sculpting with a Dremel tool to the side plate, although 500 left hand side plates are available.
I reckon the total cost of the reel was less than a new Jigmaster. A cracking little reel that I actually sometimes  prefer to use than my Avets.......

Standard , and custom versions of the 501.

'Tricked up' Jigmaster

Mag brake conversion

4/1/15 No Pressure. catch a cod. At least that's what Dave had told me when he mentioned that he'd been given his orders by his better half to come home with some dinner......preferably a cod.
Again, not a very productive day at sea at all whilst others fared much better than us but that, as they say, is fishing.
Certainly no cod graced Jupiter's deck, and it was a struggle to find anything other that the ubiquitous cat sharks,  the odd whiting and a fat pouting, despite working very hard trying three different marks.
 A few cod were caught by boats on other marks but as is the norm, perhaps two or three fish constitutes a good day on the specie in our area. I do wonder what the cod fishing on general ground marks was like in my local area in days gone by.
Talking of the past, with so little to report in this blog entry on the fishing front perhaps it would be an opportune moment to mention a spin off  hobby of mine-my love of old reels.
Here's a piece I did for the Vintage Tackle forum on WSF;

The Penn Senator

Penn multipliers or 'conventionals ,' as they're known in their country of origin, have been a part of the worldwide sea fishing scene for many decades. It's remarkable to think that the Senator model first appeared in Otto Henze's Penn catalogue in 1936, and remains in production to this day.
What's also remarkable is that current Senators are little different from those of nearly eighty years ago, and indeed many of the parts are interchangeable.
Classic Penn multipliers are very simple machines indeed. Most follow exactly the same basic design, in a variety of sizes, and usually comprise only about fifty component parts which makes them fiendishly easy to strip and service. Early Penn literature, included with each reel, explained the full strip down procedure and service in intricate detail.
AS they tended to be constructed using high quality materials and components, they to last a very long time indeed, although due to  long production runs with only minor changes in specification, most spare parts are still available today in both the U.K and U.S.A if required.
Across the pond they , naturally, still have an enthusiastic following for classic Penn products and many reels are customised or 'hot rodded' with some quite outstanding results.
Senator reels are almost synonymous with Big Game fishing across the globe and hold more IGFA records than any other reel. They have been made in a huge variety of sizes from a 1/0 (which is about the size of a Mitchell 602) all the way through to 16/0 and above though nowadays the range is much smaller.
When I started shark fishing I was looking for a reasonably economical way to equip my boat with the necessary sets of gear and used U.S built Senators fitted the bill admirably. All of these reels were purchased quite cheaply, some for as little as £20, cleaned, serviced and occasionally upgraded with some modern parts. Two of the black models date from the sixties.
In the eighties Penn introduced their HT100 carbon drag disc material and all of my reels have been upgraded in this way resulting in very smooth but powerful drags.
The eagle eyed amongst you will also notice that these reels are left hand wind and on a couple , the conversions were carried out myself with readily available parts.
 The black reels are 6/0 plain bearing 114s used for porbeagle sharks and would probably cope with anything swimming in U.K waters whilst the smaller red 4/0 113H ball bearing models are used for blue shark.
O.K they are a little on the heavy side and aren't particularly refined compared to modern lever drag reels but they've all proved their worth on several shark and will , I imagine, be capable of providing sterling service long after I've gone.
 My 'shark' collection.

Classic 6/0 Senator 114 model from the 1960s,little different from models available today.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

1/1/15 Here We Go Again.

What better way to see in the New Year and celebrate my retirement just hours after finishing my last ever shift than to go river pike fishing with my buddy Dave.
I'd had a bit of a 'send off ' from work the previous evening and, although failing to actually see the fireworks as the year ended, still had a bit of a thick head to contend with this morning.
 It wasn't an early a start for me unlike Dave, who had been on the river at the crack of dawn. I really must condition myself more into becoming an early riser .Part of  my problem is that I'm a bit of a 'night owl' and seem to come alive around ten o'clock in the evening, rarely getting my head down before midnight-not that useful for fishing.
River conditions had improved a little since my visits a few days ago, and some of the colour had dropped out of the water, although it was still far from clear. When is it ever.
We did our usual thing of hopping dead bait rods (two apiece)along the stretch of water to be fished, searching all the likely spots whilst discussing all things fishy. The only interruption came in the afternoon when my far bank 'bluey' was taken by this upper single-a very welcome pike following my recent form.
It did occur to me that this fish, like so many we've had from the river, took the bait very soon after it had been cast into the swim. Its likely that it quite literally hit the pike on the head, or at least landed close to its 'lair', the disturbance causing the pike to stir.
  Of course this 'instant take' not always the case, and I've had some exceedingly good pike having sat in one spot for perhaps a couple of hours but generally, I feel that keeping mobile , albeit fishing static dead baits, is a more productive method. With pike fishing, location is everything and once found they can be usually quite easily tempted.
I've tried to pare down  the equipment I carry when piking to a minimum in order to make changing swims easier but, I still think there are improvements to be made in this department, and perhaps I should be moving faster, say spending as little as twenty minutes with baits in one swim.
 This approach also serves to keep things interesting as with every new spot tried, comes renewed enthusiasm and If, at the end of the day, I've failed, at least I know I've tried.
I've already ditched my bite alarms relying solely on floats for bite detection and have even swapped my baitrunners for some comparatively light weight Abu 6501 multipliers which have a built in 'clicker' to warn me of a run should I fail to see the float disappear. .. Maybe its time to jettison my comfy seat too.
 However, part of the enjoyment of these trips with Dave is sitting down with a cuppa and a bakewell, and having a 'gas', and I wouldn't want to miss this so perhaps this 'speeded up' approach is best saved for solo outings.
Whatever the case today, it was very pleasant to celebrate the day with some fishing, and rewarding to see a pike- a welcome injection of enthusiasm for the year ahead.

31/12/14 Year's End.

............and finally, the end of regular employment for me too.
 After a few months of stalling today I worked my last shift as a Firefighter after more than thirty years of service and I suppose can now be called a 'pensioner'.
How my new found situation will impact on my fishing only time will tell although I'm already planning some trips for the year ahead as well as hopefully being able to expand on the regular stuff I do.
Looking back over 2014, its been a year of mixed fortunes.
 Once again I failed to tow the boat up to Scotland to fish for common  skate although this will surely be remedied in the future as this trip demands no small amount of flexibility and the ability to just 'go' when the weather allows.
On the shark fishing front, despite trying very hard, I failed to make contact with a porbeagle ,didn't even get a chance to try locally for a thresher , and just one blue shark trip to Cornwall produced mixed results with two excellent days, followed by two days of struggling.
Locally the spring tope fishing was a bit disappointing although the specie turned up in astonishing numbers, and respectable sizes on the Devon porbeagle run despite not being what I was targeting.
I didn't catch a shore stingray but did get a glimpse of one for the first time ever and will surely be back for another go at these next time around.
As usual , I didn't do a great deal of coarse fishing although the year started in style with the double figure zander ( a first of the specie for me) that I so badly wanted in January. The last pike season 2013/14 was very slow so I was pleased to get that lure caught double in the autumn before the rivers flooded and conditions deteriorated sufficiently to slow the current season down to almost a standstill.
I'm sure there will be a lot more piking done in 2015.
I thoroughly enjoyed my chalk stream grayling trips mostly for having to reacquaint myself  with the necessary skills  involved in trotting a float  with a centre pin reel. They're also particularly attractive looking fish to catch.
Highlights of the year however were two fish caught in my boat not by myself, but by mates who joined me, and two nicer blokes you'll struggle to meet.
 Brian's magnificent near record blonde ray in February easily qualifies  for the 'fish of 2014' and provided me with a huge level of satisfaction to boot. The fish also made the angling press and won Brian some tackle prizes in the process-fame at last-terrific stuff.

Equally exciting, and rewarding was Simon's monster conger in July which was four times bigger than any fish of any specie he'd ever caught before and made Jupiter's deck seem exceedingly crowded- a priceless moment.

In fact, the conger fishing as a whole proved especially  satisfying  piecing the bits of information together, doing the research  and finding the 'old' mark that proved both so interesting and fruitful.
 On a more personal note , it was the progress  made with  lure fishing  for bass and wrasse on the reefs where, at times the fishing was so consistent, and my confidence levels so high that I left bait in the freezer and went out with just a lure rod because its so much fun . There is also the added advantage of less cleaning up to do afterwards.
It appeared to me that just as I'd started to get the hang of things with the 'plastic' it all came to an abrupt end due to the winds,  and I'm really looking forward to the early spring and the chance to get back out there again with just a box of lures. In the meantime however, there is plenty of piscatorial activity to be getting on with.
I've no real hard and fast plan for 2015 but intend to get back into catching a few more grey mullet, a specie that I've tended to neglect in recent years, mostly because of taking up inshore boat fishing.
 Coarse angling too will, I've no doubt, be given a bit more attention, both on moving and still water, though I  will prefer to seek out the more secluded venues with , not another soul in sight. I've yet to catch a nice perch and a big eel wouldn't go amiss either.
I suppose the beauty of being an 'all rounder' is that there is always fishing to be done somewhere regardless of the time of year and climatic conditions. I'm equally happy watching a pike float from a frost glazed river bank in the depths of winter as a shark float miles offshore on a flat calm sea in high summer, and the sense of anticipation,  and feeling of excitement when said float suddenly vanishes  is just the same in either case. There is some thing rather magical about watching a fishing float ,Isn't there.
 Fortunately I'm still young enough (ahem)not to be particularly bothered by so called 'bad weather' . It just means adapting the fishing ,and clothing to suit the conditions, and getting on with it. Nowadays there is absolutely no excuse not to be warm and dry whatever the weather throws at you. I know it's not the 'British' way but frankly I find people who constantly moan about 'our' weather a tiresome bore. 'Put a coat and hat on and get over it'.is my mantra.

My final trips of 2014 were both after river pike and unfortunately, apart from some very determined eels to keep me on my toes, were  unproductive , target wise. Such is the nature of tidal river piking.

Having been stuck indoors with 'man flu' over the holiday period, although still working my final shifts (my last nights were Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), I was desperate to get  a healthy dose of fresh air, despite the river being a little too coloured for comfort.
Also, it was a last chance to try one of my club stretches before it closes for the remainder of the coarse fishing season due to a deer cull taking place.
Despite not succeeding, it was a relief to get out and do some prospecting particularly on swims I'd not fished before, or not visited for some time.
As the year drew to a close I had plenty to ponder on and ,with an impending 'life change' just around the corner naturally those thoughts turned to fishing, plans to hatch, schemes to unfold, and what better way to do it than whilst watching a float.

16/12/14......I've Had Better Days

Today was one of those boat trips when I really wish I just hadn't bothered. I guess all small boat owners experience these sort of days occasionally , its 'part and parcel' of the game and need to be treated philosophically although I'm pleased to say , they're something of a rarity for me. Perhaps I'm just lucky.
I'd been feeling a tad  'rough'  with a severe dose of the dreaded 'man flu' so the actual decision to go was not taken lightly and, after deliberating, I was a little late setting off.
The wind forecasts were favourable but, as is often the case with our unpredictable weather, our esteemed forecasters (who'd want their job)were a little off the mark and a fresh south westerly was developing.
With suitably small tides ,I'd chosen to head west to the deep spring tope marks in the eastern solent at #41 and see if I could winkle out a cod or two. Wayne and his mates from over the other side of Selsey Bill had been picking up quite a few nice 'greenbacks' on nearby marks, so I reasoned that these marks should produce and, as I was fishing solo, it was to be a day to experiment and explore new possibilities.
With wind over tide the long run down to the chosen area was extremely uncomfortable and several times I considered 'throwing in the towel' but, being the stubborn sort that I am, persisted and soon reached the point of no return where I'd gone so far that it wasn't worth turning back to fish more local marks.
Eventually I dropped(sic) the anchor and it was 'dogfish' city from the off with another annoying element in that the boat seemed to be repeatedly dragging off the mark.
Eventually I decided to give up, haul the pick and reset the boat back on the mark. All very well if you've still got an anchor, which I seemed to have lost. I suspect that the nose shackle had come loose and was just holding for a while on the trip ( I use three stout cable ties). When I lifted it on the buoy , the trip must have given way and my gorgeous stainless steel 'bruce'(it came with my Orkney and was too good to let go when I sold her)was lost forever.
Now, although I carry a grapnel for use on rock and as an emergency back up, I don't carry a second 'bruce' so I was unable to continue fishing the mark which was a shame as I really don't think I've tested its potential.
With nothing much that could be done except head for home, I decided to nip close in to Selsey Bill and visit my parents who have a sea front house there on the sheltered , east beach.
They were pleased to see me and in the calm water I could get the boat close enough to hold a conversation with them. To save the day I decided to pay a quick visit on the home run to reef mark #9 and play with some lures for a while. The water clarity wasn't actually that bad and the day was saved somewhat by a couple of feisty wrasse which took a shine to my soft plastic. I love those critters.