Friday 25 March 2011

New British Perch Record - 6lb 2oz!!!

Just a quick one, but I've literally just found out that Neill Stephen has caught Britain's first authenticated 6lb+ perch and set a new British record weight of 6lb 2oz.  I don't know the guy, and I've never fished the venue, but this is a landmark fish and from how the article reads, Neill applied real specialist tactics to land this fish, so kudos.  Well done that man.

The full Angling Times exclusive article is here:

Thursday 24 March 2011

The End is Nigh! ...Final Days of the River Fishing Season 2010/11

For the first two or three years of this millennium I generally experienced some great fishing towards the back-end of the season.  For some reason, as my river experience has grown each year, my "final session" captures have dwindled.  For the last 4 or 5 "final sessions" I have targetted perch and failedd to catch anything of merit.  I was all set for my final session of the 2010/11 season and after my success piking the previous week, I decided to have a final blow-out session piking, back on the Dove.  With my confidence buoyed by my recent capture, I thought I'd try some different stretches to search out new swims for fishing in the future.  On my way from the freezer after grabbing some pike baits, I spotted my lobworm sack and - despite my previous "last session" experiences with perch - couldn't resist taking them along in case there was a rare, big Dove stripey out there with my name on it.

The original "final" session...
I arrived at the first new stretch before dawn and had a walk to find a few features before grabbing my gear.  The wind was absolutely horrendous and I can't think of a session when I've fished in stronger winds.  On the way down to the features I'd spotted and chummed-up, the wind was behind me, so it made the mile-plus trudge with all my gear (including so many layers that I was comfy when sat in the cold wind, but hot as hell once I started walking!) quite pleasant and easy.  I had so many features to choose from, straight out of the river pike textbook; with eddies, slack water, overhanging trees, faster shallows and steadier pools.  It was hard to know where to start but I managed to cast one rod into a slack below a high bank and the other bait went between some overhanging trees, both initially fishing in around 5 feet of water.  It seemed perfect, but the conditions were not that condusive to successful predator fishing.  The water was low and gin clear and the clouds were continually breaking, meaning the river was bathed in sunshine for most of the day.  At least there was a chop on the water, but that was only due to the gale force winds which pummelled me no matter where I sat! 

Over a period of around four hours I searched a couple of swims, casting the baits around and never leaving them in place for too long.  Both runs the previous week had come within 5 minutes or so of casting out, so I knew that if I landed a bait presented correctly in the right place, I was in with a good chance.  Not a touch came my way, so I decided to move to yet another new stretch.  My walk back to the van was completely against the wind and with the surface area created by me, my rod bag, tackle bag and worst of all, my unhooking mat, I had to battle to make every footstep!  I decided to break the journey up by dropping into another swim which I'd pre-baited with some chum earlier.  Again, nothing happened so I resumed my trek against the headwind and finally managed to drive to the new stretch.

I had a couple of swims in mind here, both a long walk from the car park, but this time I was walking into the wind to reach them.  At some points I couldn't physically walk against the gusts and had to wait for a slight drop in wind speed.  Progress was both slow and exhausting so as I passed swim number one (which I'd planned to fish later, after fishing the farthest one first), I decided I could go no further.  I attempted to chum up behind a far-bank tree, but the wind stopped me reaching beyond half-way!  Accurate casting (usually one of my stronger points) was also nigh-on impossible.  By now I was getting really frustrated, so decided that I'd set my float rod up and have a trot down the near-margin for a perch or two, and hope the wind died down later on.  You guessed it, the wind made trotting less of a precise art and more of a repeated untangling exercise, but I did stick with it for half an hour or so.  In this time I had no bites, but on my final trot, as I began to retrieve, I saw a long silver flash behind my float, before everything went quite solid.  After fishing all day with deadbaits, I had hooked a pike on a lobworm!  Fortunately it was not a big one and had been hooked right in the scissors, so I was able to land it after quite an impressive fight, but one I was never really in any danger of losing.

I moved back to piking after this, and another angler Ian, who I've since found out is a fellow blogger, moved into the "perch" swim and also caught a pike on a lobworm!  This has given me some food for thought regarding the diets of certain pike at certain times of the year.  These fish were surely after some quick, easy protein before spawning, so maybe their diets switch to such easily digestible food sources if the conditions are right.  How widespread or common this switch is, is open to debate and/or experimentation, but it's something I'm going to consider when fishing for back-end predators next season.  I had a good chat with Ian before he left and I fished on well into dark, but couldn't coax a bite on a deadbait.  I retired, drained, wind-battered and quite downbeat about a session I was hoping for much more from.

The actual "final" session

I couldn't really end what has actually been a pretty good season on such a low note, so when the weather settled over the weekend I decided to fish after work for the final few hours before the curtain finally fell.  It was mild but the rivers were still low.  In the daytime the skies were clear and the sun bright, so this would surely result in many species feeding nocturnally, I thought.  So I got out the barbel rods for a final flog in the hope that I could end the season the way I started it ...with a double figure barbel.

As I've mentioned before, the barbelling I enjoy most is on summer rivers which are low and clear, but if they're fished right (and also preferably in the dark), they can be productive.  Predators tend to take over as my main winter targets, so my winter barbel fishing experience is limited to literally 2 or 3 sessions ever.  This is completely against general barbel fishing principles, because not only are the fish at their largest toward the end of the season, if the conditions are right they're reputedly easier to catch too.  I spent two hours each in two different swims, using two varieties of super-stinky luncheon meat which I'd flavoured myself.  One batch with Dynamite "Red Fish" liquid and krill powder, the other with some paprika, cayenne and krill powder.  They were prepared a couple of days before, briefly frozen then defrosted and left to sweat for a few hours, so the flavours had really sunk in.  I used large chunks and relied solely on these for attraction, rather than any loosefeed, which may have fed-off any prospective barbel (or even chub!), rather than encouraged them to take my baits.  I had convinced myself that all of the necessary elements had come together at exactly the right time, so I could be in for an evening to remember.  I don't think I've been as excited about a session since my first of the season!

This fishless post has already gone on for far too long so I'm not going to draw it out for any longer.  Basically, I didn't get a bite, but the evening was a very pleasant one to be sat beside the river, which was notably very serene, slow and calm.  It seemed very poetic, almost as if the rivers had gone through so much over the past nine months that they'd finally given up and had begun their three month rest a few hours early.

Having no fish photos to post, I decided to pose for this one at 11.50 on March 14th.  There was still ten minutes of the season left, but already my optimism had faded and I knew my fate...

A massive shrug or holding a massive imaginary barbel?  I'll leave that for you to decide!
During the closed season I'll be trying to fit in a few after-work eel, zander and maybe even carp stalking sessions.  I'm also hoping to do a day or possibly 24-hour session tench fishing on a local estate lake, I've been invited for a day fly fishing for trout on a Derbyshire reservoir and I've also been invited onto an un-fished private pond which apparently has some perch potential, so I'll let you know how I get on with these...

Oh, and I've also booked for a week in September chasing the monster Zander and Catfish of the River Ebro!

Wednesday 9 March 2011

River Pike - Not Much Beats 'Em!

It's been a while since I posted but the good news is that I did manage to notch up a session in February and I've already got one under my belt for March but the river closed season (which I back 100%) is looming ominously.  I am now faced with the dilemna of which river/stretch/swim/species to target for my final session of the 2010/11 season.  Not an easy one when I've got memberships of 5 clubs, all with their own merits, but I prefer to have plenty of options available (usually, but not when it's down to choosing one last session!).  Anyway, that's to come later this week, but for now I'll tell you about my last two sessions, during which I have been reminded just why and how much I love catching pike from a natural river.

The week or so preceeding the first session had started off with a lot of rain falling and relatively mild weather, but as my session grew nearer, the rain subsided, river levels dropped and clarity started to return to the water.  These developments had me changing my mind at the last minute; I'd originally decided to fish for barbel, but with the water dropping I had an urge to get out there pike fishing.  In the end, I went piking but had barbel tackle with me too, in case the river clarity wasn't as I was expecting.  To cut a long story short, I fished 4 or 5 feature swims over a few hours without a touch and decided to move to a different stretch of river, which could offer me the chance to fish for barbel later should I wish to.  Rain had fallen again overnight and by mid-day the river was rising fast and the colour was returning to the water.  Just when I thought my chances of a pike were completely gone, I had a frantic 15 minute period which gave me two runs from the same spot - both on smelt - resulting in one fish landed and one dropped run.  I was casting to a tiny slack behind a far-bank bush and thought I'd hooked a monster.  It surged into the fast mid-stream flow and ran downstream so far that I had to acrobatically pass my rod around some overhanging trees to follow it!  This is when I realised just how much the river had come up; for maybe 30 seconds I though the fish was snagged because we were completely at deadlock, but finally it surfaced and I was amazed but ever-so-slightly disappointed to see a pike of around 6lb surface!  I was out of breath, my arms were shaking and my heart was pumping hard... all from a pike of this size?!  It was only after I quickly unhooked and returned this fish that it hit me just how enjoyable the whole experience had been and that such a fish from a drain, canal or lake could not have possibly given such an account of itself.  It was a combination of the rivers ferocity and the pikes instincts to use this power to its own advantage which had given me this immense battle from less-than immense fish.  I was suddenly glad I'd chosen to come pike fishing on a river, despite the conditions.  As an added bonus, one of my new Shimano Purist Deadbait Classic rods was christened by this pike!

After missing the next run which came almost immediately after re-casting, I gave the swim another half-hour before cutting my losses and grabbing my barbel gear.  I spotted a peg which looked perfect, but I had another peg in mind which was quite a long trudge away, and I chose not to be lazy and walked to it.  I'd had some barbel from it in the Summer and I was sure it would have the ideal mixture of deep, slack water and fast water which would be the key to me finding some huge winter barbel.  When I got there I was disappointed to see that this swim was not behaving how I expected it to with the extra water, but I had walked a long way with far too much tackle, so I set up there anyway.  Four hours passed with the only things caught being hundreds of dead leaves gathering on the line (in February?!  Where've they come from?!).  I packed away dejected, but having not much experience of barbel fishing after early November, I suppose it was a small lesson learned.  On my way back to the van, I noticed a fishing umbrella reflect my torch light on the other peg I was going to fish.  The chap fishing there informed me this was a pretty good swim in these conditions (why oh why didn't I trust my instincts!!!) and he'd had a couple of chub on breadflake (which was more than I'd had), but he was now fishing boilies for barbel.  As I stood chatting to him, his upstream rod lurched over, and upon picking the rod up the guy pronounced "This is a Barbel...".  Before long it broke the surface and a beautiful, chunky specimen rolled into his small pan net.  It weighed 12lb 3oz!  That would've done me very nicely!  There wasn't a mark on this fish, it was one of the most scale-perfect big barbel I've ever seen.  I did offer to take a photo but the angler was intent on getting the fish back quickly, which I can't blame him for (although the unhooking and weighing was very routine, so the fish was hardly out of the water), but I know with a fish of that stamp and condition I would have been keen to get a trophy shot.

Fast forward to last Friday, the 4th of March.  Knowing that the clock was ticking before the end of the season, I really fancied giving the centrepin another run out, trotting for grayling and chub.  As a new challenge I decided to visit the Dove, rather than the Derwent, as I had never really fished the Dove in winter.  A small part of me was nagging to take a pike rod to fish as a "sleeper" while I trotted, so I packed a handful of deadbaits and my pike tackle and initially set-up in a deep-ish swim which shallowed off at the downstream end, above some rapids.  The pike rod was cast into the near margin as I tried to build up a swim, feeding a small sprinkle of maggots every couple of minutes.  After a couple of hours of trying different trotting speeds, depths, casting distances and baits, I'd had nothing to even suggest a bite, but I'd re-cast the pike bait into a small slack behind a tree.  Within a couple of minutes of the re-cast, my Billy's Backbiter alarm (which I was testing out for only the second time) hollered at me that the lead on my float-leger setup had been dislodged and I hurried to check that indeed the float was moving (still getting used to using a back-alarm rather than a front, roller-wheel one).  The bite was positive so I wound down straight away and watched the Purist take on a lovely curve.

If I hadn't been reminded quite enough on the last session why I loved river pike, I needed no reminding now!  This fish pulled hard to reach the tree, then as I turned its head it made for the main flow and accelerated!  What a fight I had on my hands and as I finally drew the fish toward the landing net, in true pike fashion, it opened its mouth and violently shook its head to try to shed the hooks.  Luckily, although only lightly hooked with one point of one treble, the hooks held firm (good old Owners!) and my prize rested safely in the mesh of my landing net.  Immediately I knew this was my largest pike from the Dove and the weighing ceremony confirmed this, with the fish registering 18lb 13oz, making her my second biggest from any venue this season.  As a small side-note to this, I've caught pike of every single weight (i.e. between 10lb & 11lb and between 16lb and 17lb) up to and including 21lb, but I've never had a fish wiegh between 19lb and 20lb.  I've had two fish just ounces short this season and it does make me wonder if I'd get more satisfaction from "completing the set" with a 19lb fish than I would from catching a 20lb+ fish!  So, if anyone knows of a water with a good head of 19lb 5oz pike in it, let me know!

I lost another fish later on, which felt big, but if I don't end up piking this week, I'll be happy with how my piking has gone this winter.  Not as many sessions as I'd like, but when I have gone, I've done well.  A not-so-grand tally of 5 individual pike landed from 5 sessions, but with 3 of the fish weighing over 17lb, I'm viewing it as a very successful campaign.  Maybe next winter I'll catch 100 tiny jacks!
So, now I'm left with a single very complex conundrum.  Where/how/what to fish for on my sole remaining session of the 2010/11 season.  It's supposed to be really windy for the rest of the week, so maybe trotting and quivertipping won't be the easiest methods to employ.  At least that's a couple of options discounted!  I'll report back next week...  Best of luck to anyone fishing on running water over the next few days.  If you're after low water, get out there quick because we're in for some serious rain...
Footnote:  I also had half an hour testing out some new lures which have just hit the UK, called "Laserlure".  There's a full range of styles available and they all feature a flickering laser, which is supposed to trigger interest from predators, especially in coloured or deep water.  I didn't have any takes on them but I fished on a very cold day, so not ideal for the fish to be chasing moving baits.  I was very impressed by their actions though and I've no doubt they'll catch pike, perch and zander.  They're well worth a look.  I'll be reviewing them soon, but for now here's a picture I took of them and for more info tak a look here: