Wednesday, 26 August 2015

25/8/15 Wet, Windy Piking.

Driving rain and strong winds aren't exactly ideal conditions for fishing in a small boat but nevertheless, my roach baits  managed to induce two takes from small pike.
I would have liked to explore more swims but instead, only managed a couple of moves during the session,spending the majority of the time tucked up under the cuddy, which is extremely useful, with the bow of the boat nestled against the wind and firmly wedged into the bank side vegetation.
Despite the rain, the river remains in excellent condition with a healthy green tinge. I can only surmise that the ground is still dry enough to absorb the rain fall, rather than channel it into the river which, in winter conditions can become like a mucky drain.
One of my side line pastimes is messing about with old fishing reels and I've amassed a modest collection in recent years some of which get the occasional airing.
I've been servicing a 1950s Young's Gildex No.1 multiplier for Dave recently, and couldn't resist loading it with line and taking it along today for a few casts before handing it back to him. It cost £9 9 Shillings in 1959 when the average weekly wage was about £13 and even featured in 'Mr Crabtree'.
Considering its age, the direct drive reel (the handles revolve like mad things when you cast) works extremely well indeed and I'll admit to becoming quite attached to it.
 The reel is extremely well engineered with quality components and is obviously built to last a long time but, and this is my usual gripe with 'old school' multipliers, Its right hand wind.......and they never made a left hand wind version. Why, seeing as most people are right handed , hold their rod and cast with  their right hand, and most fixed spool reels are left hand wind is one of the angling world's great mysteries.

 Diminutive 'jack' pike with a mouthful of needles.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

22/8/15 Tricky Mullet

It probably wasn't the best day to choose mullet as a target with high air temperatures, and bright sunshine-conditions which I've never favoured when hunting this specie.
Talking of heat,the cooling system on the river boat outboard has been playing up of late. What should be a forceful 'spurt' from the 'tell tale' has gradually weakened to a pathetic trickle so the old motor had to come off the boat for a closer inspection.
Fortunately, after the roach trip of a few days ago the tide was at its highest point when I returned to the boat mooring so I was able to manhandle the outboard up the raking ladder , and on to dry land single handed. No easy task, it has to be said.
After some fettling at home, I considered it was ready to return to the boat so , chose high water again to precariously lower the outboard back in place using a piece of rope that is normally reserved for a life ring on the mooring.
 Naturally, I tie good knots(ahem) but, I was relieved to see the lump of metal land safely on the deck without any damage.
Whist testing an outboard in a bucket of water  at home is fine, they really need to be subjected to a working load, and what better way to do this than to run ten miles downstream for a spot of mullet fishing. If  the engine failed, at least I had a set of oars on board.
Arriving at the first swim with the tide well into the ebb, it was clear there were several fish in residence and it didn't take very long at all to get them feeding on my bread mash, induce a take, and land the three pounder seen above. However, in true mullet fishing fashion, that was the end of it as far as the 'grey ghosts' were concerned.
The fish in the swim seemed to melt away after my capture possibly by the disturbance I'd caused . I carried on for a while but it became clear I would have to look elsewhere for them.
I did a lot of searching, even running as far downstream as Ford but, the mullet were nowhere to be found. A building breeze that funnelled between the river's flood banks didn't help as the ripple on the water made spotting fish increasingly difficult.
Apart from a dfropped fish which I suspect may have been a small thick lip,the only other action I experienced was from a rather nice roach of about twelve ounces, of all things, on the flood tide close to an area of  mud flats. I have caught coarse fish before this low down the river but I'm still surprised when they turn up out of the blue like this.
During the afternoon, the last remaining Vulcan bomber still flying continually circled above me giving me a stunning view of this fantastic aircraft although, little did I know of the tragic event unfolding just a few miles east at Shoreham.
I called a halt to proceedings In the mid afternoon heat and ran the boat back up to the mooring with no issues-thankfully, she's 'peeing' steadily now.

19/8/15 Size Isn't Everything.

1lb 4oz Arun roach
...but somehow, a roach of over a pound seems like quite a big fish. Well lets just say its an above average fish  by my modest standards.
.I have caught a larger roach, an accidental capture whilst mullet fishing way down on the tidal stretch where , by all accounts, they had no right to be but, in all honesty, I have very little provenance with the specie to speak of.
As a youngster in the mid 70s I remember my fishing buddy catching a one pound roach from the Thames at Kingston-a regular haunt of ours at the time. It seemed huge and I recall being quite envious of this 'specimen' especially when most of our catch comprised tiny ruffe and gudgeon.
I can't remember the last time I saw a ruffe, also known a 'pope'. Do they still exist?
I returned to the scene of our pre-baiting campaign for today's fishing. Our (mine and Dave's) last visit was almost entirely unproductive probably because we mostly fished with large pellet baits in the hope of a 'carbel'. However, throughout these sessions we were continually harassed by small fish nibbling at our baits, and I suspected they  weren't all 'tiddlers'.
I'd even declared to my mate my intention to try for a pound roach (achievable ) and a twelve ounce dace (not quite so easy but we'll see)
Scaling the tackle and bait right down to a single red maggot on a size 18 hook coupled to a feeder rig once the swim had been built up with a few casts to get the fish 'going', it was a 'bite a chuck' though not always easy bites to hit.
I had to fish my way through the smaller roach and dace but occasionally the culprits would turn out to be decent roach in the half to three quarter pound bracket topped off by the above specimen at a pound and a quarter. I also managed to catch a common bream of a couple of pounds and a rather feisty eel which subsequently destroyed my end rig.
So, have I been bitten by the roach fishing bug? Well actually yes, and I've been consulting with Brian, formerly a successful match angler on the river, for some tips on how to improve my catch rate.
Perhaps one day a two pound Arun roach will grace my net although this may take some time.
One of this size was recently reported by a Pulborough Angling Club member. It took him  forty years to catch it!

Difficult August.

August can be a difficult month locally for the inshore boat fishing but I've actually had a few 'bloopers' on the river as well so, as this blog is a 'warts an' all' account of my fishing, here's an abbreviated account of the less successful fishing that I've experienced this month.
A night time conger trip with Dave proved to be very slow indeed with only two average sized eels taking the baits. It was a very 'bright' night with a full moon and its entirely possible that this could have had an effect on the eel fishing-who knows. We did pick up quite a few rays-undulate and thornback so it wasn't all bad.
The following day we had a short afternoon session on the river for pike with baits but , as none showed up, there's not much else to say.
 I have also attempted  to tempt a pike on a lure from the boat. I know it can be done as a few years ago friend Michael Kernan had considerable success with the method and even wrote a chapter in a book about it.
Both Dave and me have been less successful and perhaps, need an injection of confidence in the method by catching a few pike on an artificial from the river. Its certainly much more convenient, and active than bait fishing and at least you feel like you're actually hunting the pike rather than simply laying a trap as you do when fishing with baits.
We've also been doing a bit of 'carbelling' pre-baiting a selected swim with 'heavy duty' halibut pellets in the hope that a carp, or an extremely rare, for our river, barbel happens along. Two days without a 'show' is probably enough for me as I'm not sure I've got what it takes to be a 'long stint' angler. These guys who bivvy up for days, or even weeks at a time for a single run  have my admiration-personally, I just haven't got the patience.
On that subject I do know of someone who has caught a barbel from 'our' river-a good one too. It took him twelve sessions to get the bite!
We have often seen a well known angler from the carp fishing world on the river in his own boat  but understand that he's taken just one carp for all his efforts so far this season. That is true dedication for you.
The winds haven't exactly helped the inshore boat fishing but I did manage to get out one afternoon with just lures and feathers.
The lures produced a handful of wrasse on the reefs but disappointingly, just one small bass. Hopefully the bass shoals will return to the deep reefs in September .
The feathers were intended for mackerel of which a few did show but , the majority of hits were from scad. Full houses at times when I ran through a dense shoal of the blighters.
So there you have it-quite a bit of fishing done but some pretty average results by all accounts but, that as they say, is fishing.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

7-9/8/15 Sharking With Brian.

 Brian's first ever blue shark.

 The loneliness of the solo sharker.

My first ever bull huss.
A three day trip to Falmouth once again, in search of some sport with blue shark.
I'd been given a tip from local charter skipper Andy Howell that the blues were starting to show up in better numbers of late so decided on a last minute run down to Cornwall with boat in tow.
Leaving home a 4-30 in the morning proved to be a good move and by the middle of the afternoon the boat was nicely settled on a pontoon mooring in Mylor yacht harbour ready for the next day's assault.
I'd never shark fished solo before but, with my crew Brian not being available until the following day I decided to 'bite the bullet', take advantage of the weather conditions, and go for it anyway despite feeling a certain amount of trepidation.
In the event, I needn't have worried in the slightest. By being extremely organised , having all the tools to hand and only fishing two shark lines , I was able to fish effectively and safely.
I had to wait a while for it to happen but, late in the afternoon a screaming ratchet signalled that the shark had finally picked up my chum trail and the result was a decent sized blue of perhaps close to the ton at the side of the boat.
Two more lesser shark were taken before I called it a day and returned to port having covered about five miles on the drift. The slight wind had assisted me somewhat by helping to spread out the chum trail and this was a bonus as the tides themselves were a bit on the small side. Unfortunately, this season's unsettled weather patterns have meant that 'beggars can't be choosers' when it comes to shark fishing. You've got to go when the weather allows and not be selective when it comes to the best tides.
The following day Brian joined me and I decided to head out to virtually the same area that I had used the previous day. The drift however, was completely different, taking us in completely the opposite direction and leaving us some 14 miles from port at the finish.
Again, we had to wait a long time for some action but, with blue shark fishing ,within reason, there is no such thing as a 'not happening' day. The longer the chum trail is allowed to do its work, the more chance that a shark will pick up the scent and find the baits.
Luckily Brian is a patient angler who just enjoys being out there so we waited, and waited, and eventually, of course, it paid off.
My mate was thrilled to get his first ever shark and I was pleased that the fish didn't tail wrap the trace., was cleanly hooked and therefore gave Brian  a decent 'scrap'. We decided that, as it was Brian's first, we would bring her on board to get a trophy shot which we managed to do successfully.
Shortly afterwards we experienced a dropped run on one of the baits but I sensed that it would return so left the bait in place and sure enough, we were given a second chance resulting in a second shark on what was otherwise quite a slow day.
By the third day the winds really had picked up. Andy was out sharking in his BIG charter boat and reported over the radio that it would have been far too uncomfortable for my Warrior, so we decided to hunt bull huss instead.
I'd never caught one before but Andy had furnished me with some likely numbers inside the shelter of the Fal estuary to try. With very little tide to speak of and a gusty wind it proved extremely difficult to keep the boat still enough for bottom fishing but this didn't seem to stop the huss from biting. We scored nine of the feisty blighters, Brian taking most of them, along with a handful of thornback rays making for a most enjoyable day's fishing.
We'd begun our session by feathering mackerel for bait and had found enough within a minute or two of fishing. Our plan was to end the day in a similar manner and secure a few for a decent evening meal but do you think they would 'play ball'. We did eventually find a few but at one point we though we might have to pay a visit to the local 'chippy' for our tea.
Unfortunately the strong winds were due to persist for the following day so we were unable to continue with the shark fishing and decided to recover the boat and return home-a journey which was made so much easier by travelling through the night rather than mingle with the daytime holiday traffic.

29/7/15 Summer Pike

A controversial subject indeed.
 Traditionally, the 'unofficial' pike fishing season runs from October 1st to the end of the river coarse fishing season-March 14th.
Fishing for summer pike is debated endlessly on forums and in piking literature and has indeed been a contentious issue for many years. I recently read an article on the subject in an issue of 'Angling' magazine from the early 1970s in which the author-Martin Gay, a very prominent contemporary pike angler, was promoting summer piking. The proceeding issues had many letters on the subject both for an against the practice. The celebrated pike angler Mick Brown was an exponent of the sport, devoting whole chapters to it  in his book 'The Practice and Passion' from 1993.
 Nowadays it still something of a sensitive matter with angling clubs often ruling no pike fishing in the summer months.
This situation is apparently ,unique to the United Kingdom as in other countries, particularly mainland Europe, pike fishing is a year round sport.
Pike , despite their fearsome appearance, are actually comparatively delicate creatures and need to be handled correctly in order to facilitate a successful return whatever the time of year. The problem with summer piking is that , with higher water temperatures there could be a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. The pike certainly fight harder in the summer months because they are generally more active so there is a perceived risk that they could tire themselves to an extreme level.
Personally, I take a great deal of care with pike that I catch and have never failed to successfully return, nor ever had to leave hooks in a fish. I've also never had a pike go 'belly up', always ensuring that they are kept out of water for the shortest possible time and carefully 'nursed' back into their environment. Usually this involves supporting the fish in the water and not letting go until it 'strongly' swims away.
 I was lucky because, early in my pike fishing 'career' an experienced pike angler showed me the correct way to handle and unhook a fish and I strongly recommend any tyro pike angler to seek advice and a practical demonstration from an accomplished piker before going it alone even in the colder months.
Unless the weather is extremely warm and water levels low, reduced summer oxygen levels should not be a problem in moving water, particularly one as fast flowing as my local river. Also, because I'm fishing from a boat, a controlled return is always possible as its so easy to support the fish , in the water at the side of the hull.
During the traditional pike 'season' our river is often completely unfishable due to flooding which can sometimes render it out of action for several days, if not weeks at a time. It only takes a day or two of persistent rainfall for the river level to rise considerably, and adopt the colour of tea.
 With recent climate trends this situation has become something of a regular occurrence which is exasperating in the extreme for the keen river predator angler.
I'm only a very 'occasional' still water coarse angler so, hunting pike in pits, lakes and reservoirs doesn't really 'float my boat' -I know, because I've tried it.
Whilst I'm certainly not advocating summer piking for everyone, especially those lacking in experience, it is for the above stated reasons that I've decided, this year, to have a go for them personally but, only on the river, and only from the boat.
Today was my first attempt albeit a brief one, and I did experience some success, catching a rather nice upper single figure pike on my first cast, and experiencing a dropped take later in the session from what was , I suspect a small fish.
Scant results you might say but, believe me, pike from our local river are difficult enough to catch at any time of year so I was not disappointed.
Method of choice was a live roach on a float paternoster rig which gives excellent , instant bite detection. Trace was a single, treble hook affair.
Prey fish are certainly easier to catch in the summer anyway and as I'm a huge fan of bait fishing, especially with a float, it was a no brainer.
Why not lure fish? I hear you say. Well, whilst its probably a sound method to adopt in warmer weather on most waters for pike, seeing as they are so active, personally I've yet to experience much success using it locally. But perhaps I haven't given it enough of a chance.....yet.
For the time being there is something rather magical about watching a pike float........especially when it suddenly isn't there any more..