Sunday, 27 March 2016

25/3/16 Bassing In Full Swing

I'd missed a couple of good days mid week ,weather wise, due to work commitments and with the  forecast today not looking that brilliant, I waited until after breakfast before deciding whether or not to venture out. The sea state didn't look too bad from the kitchen window, and the winds were set to drop around lunch time, so I took the plunge.
 On arriving at the marina , Martin called me over and invited me to join him and Neil on his boat so , as we were intending to fish the same mark anyway it made sense to jump on board. In addition, one less boat on the mark would attract less attention .
We started by dropping the pick on a piece of inshore 'ground' and concentrating on filling the live bait tank with whiting. It took some effort but,with twenty or so 'wrigglers' safely on board we headed to the reef just as the tide was topping out and sent out our float rigs.
Live baiting for bass with a float is a very exciting method as is pretty much any fishing from sharking to mulleting which involve watching a lump of brightly coloured balsa wood or plastic. 'Pleasing in disappearance' is the phrase that springs to mind and we didn't have to wait too long for our floats to disappear.
Neil opened the account with a splendid bass of about eight pounds and from then onwards we pretty much had a hook up on every drift- Martin skilfully positioning 'Blueprint' perfectly each time around.
At one point both Neil and myself had a double figure fish each in the boat at the same time which made for a terrific photograph and, along with the sizable bass, plenty of 'scrappers' hit our baits not always, it has to be said, successfully connecting.
We soon lost count of the fish caught but I'm pretty sure I personally approached double figures with, among others, a nice fish around 7-8lb and two doubles of 11lb 6oz and a new personal best at 12lb 9oz . In total four double figure bass came to the boat and we all had a share in the action.
Once again Clive and Kim on board their Orkney joined us on the mark, so I really was surrounded by bass ' superstars', and also had considerable success boating some very creditable fish indeed .
Thankfully, our two boats were left alone to enjoy the fishing for the rest of the day without encumbrance which is something of a rarity although, I suspect this situation will not endure. In a few days the commercial bass ban will be lifted and  soon enough, word will get out. Hopefully it won't be too long before the bass spread out , and become consistently catchable in other areas.
So, a fantastic day afloat with excellent company and a good start to the bass season. Let's hope it lasts.
11lb 6oz

 A brace of doubles (Mine a 12lb 9oz p.b)

 Martin's 'double'

 Double hook up.

21/3/16 The Bass Are Here

Although the coarse season has ended, this time of year is really the beginning of a new inshore boat fishing season and with it comes a sense of optimism. With the day's lengthening noticeably, and the clocks about to leap forward I always get a feeling of excitement thinking about what lies ahead in the coming months.
The sea boat has seen very little use over the winter due to the winds so it was great to finally be able to give her a run out especially as there would, likely as not, be some bass about.
I was up with the sparrow (almost) and headed out to the chosen reef- a mark that seems to be quite reliable at this time of year and one which tends to show the early arrivals. My intention was to spend time catching live baits but with birds working furiously over what was obviously a shoal of bass (confirmed by the sounder image) I decided to stick around a while and fish with lures for the remainder of the flood.
The Fiiish Minnow' was 'hit' on the first drop and from that point onwards I didn't look back. Most of the bass were small but changing to a bigger lure attracted a dozen or so decent fish in the five pound bracket culminating in a splendid specimen of exactly nine pounds.
Unfortunately, I'd neglected to charge the 'Go-Pro' so had to use the compact camera and the pictures are less than satisfactory.
The bites slowed as the flood ended so I tried, unsuccessfully, to drift around with some baited hokkai feathers in search of pouting. The only fish that took the bait was another small bass.!!
Surprisingly , the fishing was far less hectic on the ebb tide but, along with a brace of rather nice Pollack to six pounds, and some wrasse to just under four pounds, I ended the session with thirty five bass in total.
For most of the day I had the mark to myself  but was joined latterly by marina buddy , and fellow bass enthusiast Clive- a welcome sight who also got in on the action. Commercial bassing is banned until the end of the month so  we're making the most of the situation before they arrive and the bass are certainly around in good numbers.
The charter boys were out on a neighbouring mark and scoring well with some very creditable fish on live baits so for the time being, it's all looking pretty rosy out there.
 First of the season- a tiddler.

 Getting better


 Chunky ballan.

14/3/16 Season's End.

So, once again (it seems to arrive earlier as the years go by) the  coarse fishing season ends and with it, the finish of my river piking adventures for another year. I hope to be exploring future pike fishing opportunities in a few weeks but, more of that in later blog entries.
Dave and me finished the season rather quietly with a final trip on the river in a huge tide- in fact the biggest of the year so far.
This season has shown us that these extreme tidal conditions are just not conducive to successful pike fishing and, with some additional rain water in the river, unsurprisingly, we drew a blank. Frustratingly, just a couple of days into the closed season the river had returned to perfect order again.
But, I have no cause for complaint as what a season its been!
I've caught over fifty pike with nearly half of those fish of double figure weights or above, and three 'twenties'.  Statistics which, although unremarkable for keen pike anglers who fish 'going waters' are, by my very average standards ,  quite exceptional.
Much of this success must be attributed to the boat and the advantages , particularly regarding access, that it gives  on the river.
 Most of the locations  fished this season are relatively inaccessible from dry land and therefore contain pike that rarely, if ever see an angler's bait. Although the river most definitely has a low population density of pike, being afloat has made them less difficult (note I don't say 'easy') to locate- a key factor in successful piking.
Simply being able to move swims quickly has proved very useful and its not been unusual on some days to cover known locations over several miles of river although often, this has not been necessary. Many of this year's pike have been found in relatively large concentrations -some swims producing two or three big fish. It's hard to imagine pike lying up next to each other in small areas of river but they appear to do so, and quite regularly.
Its also been quite obvious that mild, low light level weather conditions have produced better results. Those 'classic' cold, frosty bright winter's days so often mentioned in piking literature, and revered by many regular pikers don't seem to work on our river. Many a time pike anglers have mentioned to me in the early part of the season that they don't think it's cold enough yet.
Personally, throughout the winter, it can stay as warm as it likes.  In fact I would go as far as to say that much of established piking 'lore' is , In my humble opinion, pure rubbish.
The  weather has actually been quite kind to us this winter and far fewer fishing days have been lost due to floods and coloured , high water conditions than in previous years.
One method that has undoubtedly proved its worth this season is the use of a live fish as bait-when they can be caught ,which is not always easy.
 Although fishing with dead baits is far more convenient and an excellent method on it's day, statistically live baits have outscored 'deads' for me this time around and, caught some big pike too, despite the fact that I've actually fished with dead baits far more often.
Its just a pity that, in this country we have such draconian rules surrounding their use-in most other 'piking ' countries  fish are treated exactly the same as any other 'live' bait.
The river boat will now be given a well earned rest for a few months until mid June when the coarse fishing season starts again but , in the meantime we've plans afoot. We're hoping to do some 'carbelling' in the summer and some closed season preparations will no doubt be undertaken involving selecting , and baiting swims but more of this later.
Speaking of carp fishing, I recently joined Dave for a short session on a small, secluded ,private lake which holds some rather attractive , if not huge, specimens and we managed to winkle a few out. Dave who, it must be said, is a far more accomplished general coarse angler than myself far out fished me , but I did eventually manage to tempt one with my grain of sweet corn-a fully scaled and very streamlined 'common' of a few pounds.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

5-7/3/16 More Piking Ups and Downs

Once again the end of the season is drawing ever closer and with the river still in very good condition Dave and me decided to take full advantage of the situation and soak some dead baits.
Things began well on the first day with five pike in total including three doubles to my baits at 15lb 1oz, 16lb 8oz and 11lb 3oz all  from the same stretch of river just a few hundred yards in length.
15lb 1oz

16lb 8oz
11lb 3oz
The following day things slowed down considerably and we struggled to find just one small pike each although Dave's must rate as one of the cutest pike we've seen all season.

Finally on the third day I ventured out on my own and failed to even get a single bite which goes some way to show how fickle our river, and It's pike can be.
Dave' took this fantastic picture (no special effects) at the end of the second day .

1/3/16 An Epic Pike Trip.

As pike seasons go , the current one has already been my best by a long shot, producing many memorable days afloat on the river and today will definitely be added to that list.
I'm not usually that much of an 'early riser' but this morning, without the assistance of an alarm, I was up and about 'before the lark' and actually arrived at the boat mooring just after five a.m with the intention of taking advantage of the flooding tide to head up river.
Although Dave and me have both gained considerable geographical knowledge of the river and its associated hazards, navigating in complete darkness is still something of a challenge and my journey upstream was carried out at a 'snail's pace'.
By the time I'd arrived at the chosen area it was still too dark to see a pike float so I settled down with a cuppa and waited.
Eventually I could just see at a rod's length and just after six a.m, the first bait was sent out. Literally within minutes, the roach was taken, and the first pike of the day was boated-a fine fish of exactly 18lb.An excellent start.
As an be seen from the murky picture, it was raining quite heavily but this didn't seem to bother the pike and within the hour, a second pike of 15lb had shown up from the same swim-again on a roach bait.
Naturally I decided to stick around a while longer but nothing more materialised so I  headed up to an area known as the 'Silent Pool'. By this time the wind had really picked up and brought with it some driving rain. The 'Pool ' lacked any real shelter so I elected not to stay too long before moving downstream to a reedy bend with some big trees on the windward bank which would offer some protection and prevent the boat being blown off its anchorage.
Placing a bait tight to a sunken tree did the trick and the third double of the day soon came out at 15lb 14oz-the photo was a complete 'washout' so I've not bothered to include it.!
Just after lunch time the rain finally stopped, and things got a bit more comfortable, so I moved swims a 100 yards or so downstream. Once again a roach bait did the trick with the final fish of the day weighing in at 14lb.

.I like mild weather  for river pike fishing as they seem to be quite willing to feed in these conditions as has been seen so regularly this season. What's been baffling however, is the distinct lack of small pike that we're seeing and statistically, we're catching just as many double figure pike , as jacks, if not more.
Not that I'm complaining you understand.

17, 21,22, 28 /2/16 More Pike Trials and Dave Get's a 'Twenty'

It'll be interesting to see, at the end of the coarse fishing season, just how much  the river boat has been used because it certainly feels like we've both been fishing from her quite regularly.
On the 17th I ventured downstream and caught a small pike from a swim under a tree that is lower down the river than any other  previously caught pike.
On the 21st Dave joined me and we headed upstream to an area close to an old , disused canal intersection where we'd caught pike several years before in Dave's 'tinny'- an aluminium boat. The fishing was slow but my boat partner managed to christen a new bit of 'cane' with a single figure fish whilst I had a double of 11lb 12oz so the area shows some promise.
I returned to the river the following day but succeeded in blanking completely so , it would appear, that we've lost track of the pike.....for the time being.

 A week later and we were both to return for a trip that saw us searching twenty miles of river, for a bite. We started by heading much lower downstream  than we've ever ventured before to areas that we are certain contain fish, that have yet to show themselves. We do know of anglers who have succeeded in this somewhat 'hostile' environment and that's what stops us losing faith and keep trying. One day we will score down there and even a small pike will feel like an achievement. Success in fishing , isn't always measured on how many, and how big.
As the tide flooded we followed it back up river and literally within minutes of Dave dropping his dead bait in our swim of choice, it was taken by this very fine pike indeed of 20lb 4oz. A splendid end to hard day afloat.

16/2/16 Mixed Fortunes.

Finally, the strong winds that have been a major feature of this winter season abated and gave us  a chance to get out to sea in the boat.
 Brian was to join me , and the 'plan' was to take advantage of the small tides and head off to the sand banks in search of blonde ray but unfortunately, my main engine completely failed to start.
No matter how much I tried to coax it into firing, It would have none of it and it appeared to be 'flooding ' quite badly.
Luckily marina neighbour Alan was heading out on his own so , rather than lose a day's fishing, I suggested that Brian jump on with him, whilst I stayed behind to try and source my engine problem.
A fresh set of plugs ,  a bit of patience, and eventually the motor 'staggered' into life but Ideally I needed to give her a good run out to sea to regain my confidence in her.
Brian and Alan were on a nearby mark so after waiting for the tide to flood I decided to join them thinking that, if I needed a tow home, they'd be close at hand.
 I anchored up at the 'half way' and send down a big cuttle bait on one rod, and a squid strip baited 'live bait' rig on another. I only had a couple of hours to fish.
In short , bites were few but I did catch a rather nice conger and also a half decent undulate ray on the live bait rig-in fact it was a new personal best for the specie at 19lb 8oz!! The picture isn't up to much but alongside the boat's fuel tanks, at least It give a bit of perspective to the ray.
We do seem to do very well for undulates in our area and it has produced several fish over the 'official' British record which were all returned to the sea.
 The engine behaved impeccably and has since restarted every time 'on the button' even on the coldest of mornings so it appears that the problem has simply, 'gone away'.
19lb 8oz Undulate Ray

February 2016. Blanking!

The river is flooded so pike fishing has come to a temporary halt and, in the meantime, other venues are being sought to go fishing.
At the beginning of the month Dave and me tried our club lake at Shillinglee for not a sniff of a fish between us.
A few days later and I visited the River Test at Timsbury with Alex for a spot of pike lure fishing. I've not fished here for several years but sadly, in that time, the venue has changed considerably. The banks are now fully 'groomed', probably to satisfy  the needs of the 'fluff chucking' fraternity, and the place has lost much of its charm.
The session began in a promising fashion with a follow from a reasonable pike almost immediately but, that was the only slice of action that either of us experienced all day. To make matters worse, a character on the opposite bank, which I assume is a different fishery, told us that he'd removed most of the pike, and those that he hadn't 'taken' , he'd moved along the river. He proceeded to inform us that once a pike had been moved, it wouldn't return.What a  pillock!
Two days later, in harsh weather conditions, Dave and me returned to Alfold lakes in search of perch and once again, we failed, miserably. Finally, back on the river, a run in the boat upstream to an area that has produced so well this season resulted in the final blank of the 'series' . Fishing at this time of year can be 'challenging ' to say the least.