Pike in the weir pool

Fishing weir pools can be very productive, you can catch many species, in particular Pike. They absolutely love this area and will patiently wait to snap up a tasty roach.

I’m not truly into predator fish, but there’s something about the cold eerie winter on a river bank that attracts me to them. Rivers are hardly fished these days. I grew up fishing on rivers from a very early age and it’s where I’ve learnt my craft and gained my knowledge of the waters.

Not having any roach with me, I settled for half a mackerel as bait. 18lb main line, to a wire trace with a size 4 single hook. A very simple rig.

I’m a firm believer of studying the water before making my first cast. I decided to cast a few feet away of an overhanging tree just past the middle of the weir pool. If any pike are loitering nearby this is where they may be. As I lay my rod onto its rest, a gush of wind blows my unhooking mat straight across the river! All I could do is wave it goodbye as I watch it toss and turn upstream and never to be seen again. I’m getting into a habit of loosing tackle in the wind. Earlier in the season my new fishing umbrella flew across two lakes. Luckily I managed to retrieve it when the wind eventually blew it back towards the bank.

An hour in and I’m still patiently waiting for a bite. I boil my ghillie kettle to make a hot cup of coffee. As I’m preparing my beverage, my rod tip starts to bounce up and down with venom. In the excitement I manage to drop my milk and trip over my tackle bag and land with hands and knees onto the floor. I don’t like leaving the bite to develop too much as the hook can go deep past their throats. This isn’t nice for the fish nor for myself to remove the hook. After what seemed like I had just completed and failed the krypton factor assault course I reach for my rod.

I pick up it up from it’s rest and I’m met with an almighty thud and the reel begins to scream line out. The pike takes me to the middle of the weir. I keep the pressure taught allowing my 8ft rod to naturally bend and absorb each knock it receives from this super predator fish. Pike are strong and do not give in easily. With each visit above water he thrashed his tail and dived back under, reminding me he means business. He wasn’t happy at all.

With several runs in and out of the weir he starts to tire and eventually gives in to me. Landing net ready I scoop him up, and I as do so he whips his tail in defeat making an almighty splash.

I unhooked him by the water and weighed him. 8lb 2oz. Not a battle warrior by far but a beautiful pike all together. I released him back into the bubbling murky dark weir pool and watched him slowly disappear to grow and fight another day.

I pat myself down like a bird ruffling it’s feathers back into place and tend to my grazed hands and knees.

I think I’m going to need some more painkillers.

The Pikes karma…..

New umbrella that was blown away and landed two lakes away!

Advertisements

Race against time

I took my acolyte 14ft float rod, a pouch of maggots, large bread punches and some spam. The last time I stalked for a particular species was over 20yrs ago.

In the past few weeks I had seen some chub activity in this stretch of the river, so it was only a matter of time before I visited it.

After many failed attempts of no indication of fish, I reached a stretch of river that was wider and the flow slower, much slower. My gut feeling was telling me I might be in luck here.

A pinch of red maggots thrown downstream eventually showed some interest. I could see those large mouths sucking the maggots down. A perfectly rounded piece of spam came out of the 11m punch which I placed onto a size 14 hook. I gently lobbed the float out slightly upstream. It settled and cocked, slowly making it’s way towards the baited area. Nothing, it floats straight passed them. I reeled in and repeated the process. Nothing! A third, fourth and fifth attempt nothing! Frustration was settling in and It was beginning to get dark, however the neon tip on my float helped a little with my vision.

I lob the float out for the sixth attempt, it cocks and heads for the baited area. Whoosh! Float dips down and away. The next 4 minutes felt like 40. This chub put it’s head down and took me on a wild goose chase. My rod bucking to and fro soaking up every lunge he threw at it. I held my position with the rod held upright over my right shoulder, gently taking him away from cover. I can feel he’s starting to tire, making it easier for me to control his unpredictable movements. I’m making progress and have him in front of me, a rod length away. He makes one final half hearted attempt slapping his tail and tried to lunge into the reed beds below my feet, I turned him away for one final time whilst my rod escorted this muscular specimen into my landing net. He was absolutely covered in weeds from head to tail and when I was unhooking him, his mouth was full of those tasty little red maggots.

I was losing light and sadly I wasn’t going to get a chance for another. 🎣

Quill and reed fishing floats.

Quills, swan, goose, crow, pheasant, peacock and porcupine. Then there’s reeds, Balsa, Norfolk and Sarkanda. These reeds are best to be dried once cut for a year or two before using them.

Sarkanda is a delicate reed to work with and many will avoid this beautiful reed because it’s soft and can easily snap during the processing stage. I know of a few that will substitute this for Victorian Reed, found in the Cambridgeshire fenlands. This Reed is extremely strong and is made from floodwater reed. Because of this the reed is stained dark and mottled.

The porcupine quill is by far the best. The original quill float still used by the Injuns, Light and very sensitive. The quill itself has beautiful markings. There’s no need to paint it, but maybe a little sealant varnish to protect it during its time in the water.

Handmade floats date back to over 2500 years ago and traditional methods are still being used today to make them. There’s nothing like making your own fishing float, then going out to catch fish with them.

I’ll post another blog soon detailing how a feathered quill is transformed to a fishing float.

Sarkanda Reed

A cold morning’s fishing

This year has been the worse year to date for me. Lots of other hobbies have had to be put on the side line, until I recover from my injury. Fishing is one I can just about do (with some help), for me it’s great for de-stressing and strangely enough…healing.

Yesterday was a beautiful morning. On route to the river, my wife quickly points over to her right. A beautiful trio of Chinese water deer running across the frosty fields at full pelt towards the winter wheat fields. Definitely disturbed…. A thick mist hovering over the weir beside the old Roman bridge, making the place look more inviting each time I pass. I need to wet a line or two there.

I arrived at my location, the whippet jumps out of the truck and begins to twist and turn at full speed, leaving his footprints in the frost behind him as he goes. Head down he picks up various scents from animals that may have lurked during the night, weaving from left to right, looking up occasionally to see where I am. The cold vapours from his mouth form a cloud over his face. It sure was cold. A sharp whistle and he turns and runs back towards me. By the bank I peg the whippet down, otherwise he would be off hunting.

The 14ft acolyte rod is set up with my homemade porcupine quill, I dot the tip as low as I can get away with, just a sniff at the bait will sink that quill. As I was about to make my first cast I hear that unmistaken tap tap tapping! The chiselled beak of a woodpecker. I’ve not heard one for years. I couldn’t locate it’s whereabouts as it’s distinctive hammering was echoing through the spinney. I managed to quickly record it on my phone. It must have known I was doing this, as soon after it’s drumming had stopped. It’s tapping was probably a warning to the others that I’d been “Spotted”.

I used the left over slices of thick cut toasty white bread. Choosing a 9mm bread punch to try my luck on some bigger fish. With a nugget of black heavy groundbait thrown in every half hour. Not long after the fish arrived and were content to stay in my swim. Each silver I handled was freezing cold to touch and I could also see the groundbait stuffed in their mouths whilst unhooking them. They’re definitely stocking up before the winter arrives. The bites were constant, and on almost every chuck that quill disappeared under the water and another feisty red fin was swung in to my hand.

I lost a fish that felt decent, my rod was soaking up each hard knock the fish fired at me. My drag was releasing more line as it was fighting to get away, but it was no good. The quill shot up out of the water and into the air like a rocket whilst I ducked to not get hit! A Chub maybe…

The temperature was dropping quickly, the whippet began shaking and was giving me the eye, probably cursing me why I’d chosen him over my my longdog to come fishing. I did feel bad for him, but he works in much colder conditions than today without any complaint. My wife had sneakily put his coat in my fishing bag, I’m against dog coats and clothing such animals. But as he was not on the move so I put his coat on, he was very grateful when I did. His thin tail whipping against my knee and quickly started licking my hand to say thank you.

The last cast went on for further 45mins before I eventually gave in. I called my wife to come and collect me. Shortly I heard the distinctive diesel engine of the Land Rover coming down the track, the dogs ears pricked up and it’s tail waggling at some knots. My lift had arrived.

All aboard the defender and off home to warm up beside the log burner.

Rabbiting

Winter is the best time to net a few rabbits for the pot. Here is a family of lurchers. Dam and with her two sons. This particular cross is a Saluki x Whippet. Stamina, speed and patients is what is needed to catch rabbits when ferreting. Good strong feet too as they’ll more than likely work around brambles and dense cover.

In most places no nets are used. The net is usually covered over the rabbit hole, so when the rabbit bolts after being pushed out by the ferret, it’s then captured in the net which closes in on itself. The lurcher replaces the net and hopefully snaps them up. A good ferreting dog will be quiet and still, always listening below ground at the rabbits as thud their feet alerting the others there’s danger. As the ferret enters the rabbit warren you must be silent otherwise the rabbits will not bolt and corner themselves. This is where you might have to dig down to the ferret that has captured its prey and refusing to let go. The ferrets wear collars with detectors so their owner above ground using a hand held machine can detect the whereabouts by listening to the tone of the bleeps. These are very good and can travel far down below ground 8ft plus.

When the rabbits are caught they are killed instantly. Once cleaned and jointed they are put in the freezer. Stews, rabbit pie and curries are made from them. Sometimes the ferrets will have a whole rabbit to themselves. They will eat the whole carcass and it’s perfect food for them.

River roach and bread punch.

I couldn’t resist as the weather today was beautiful. After my physio session I headed for the river. I was set up by 1pm and decided to use one of my homemade Sarkanda reed floats. Bait today was a loaf of Warburtons thick cut toasty, with a 9mm Bread punch. and a little dark mix of groundbait to be lobbed in every half hour.

Within 10 mins of starting the float dipped, a quick strike and the first feisty roach is netted. A beautiful pristine specimen. The shoal seemed to of homed in on my groundbait which was a sweet nutty mix. A steady flow of roach were being caught and I must say a nicer stamp too. I was hoping that Mr pike would stay away.

During my session, before placing the next roach into the keepnet, I stopped and held it. Turning it over on both sides, admiring it’s beauty. Perfect condition, each scale in place, with a tinge of blue/purple, bright orange eye and red fins. They are the most beautiful sliver fish in my books. The roach continued to feed in bursts but as time went on I was loosing more daylight.

Gathering a handful of dried twigs and pine cones from my bag that I had been drying from last year. Lighting the fuel I boiled some water in my good old ghillie kettle, not soon after, I hear the whistle on the kettle begin to sing gently like a roller canary, and warning me that the water had boiled.

Whilst enjoying my beverage I sat back and looked at my ledger rod. I had been trying my luck with a some spam and cheese paste, hoping to catch a nice chub. Not a sniff all afternoon. I waited until the pheasants went up to roost, then put my head torch on and packed away.

Not today Mr Chub….

Brace of Chub

img_9727

img_9730

What a cold morning it was on the river!

The trees are becoming barer, it’s hard to believe that summer has only passed, now theres that eerie feeling and haunting look that now surrounds me. Winter is definitely on its way. As I sit for a few minutes soaking up the tranquil atmosphere, a skein of geese fly over my head and land in the next field behind me. They will do this all day, spending 20 or so minutes feeding, then flying back and forth to their pond. My dogs ears prick up, alert and wide eyed, I follow his eye line and see a young heron sitting feet away from me tucked in the reeds. This heron was to cause me much grief later on….

The plan today was to fish two rods both on the float. One on bread punch and the other using some stinky cheese paste that I made yesterday and some good old spam just in case.

The chub rod was set up over depth, approximately 3” on bottom. This particular stretch is around 13ft deep and virtually still. I’ve seen chub here on a few occasions but have never targeting them until today.

Of course my 8inch homemade Swan quills were to dictate the bites from both rods.

I moulded a nice piece of cheese paste onto a size 4 Drennan specialist hook and casted just short of the overhanging tree. As the float cocks itself up sitting proud,  I wait in anticipation…

The roach were on the feed from the word go. I didn’t use any groundbait today because of this. Just a few pinches of hemp to keep them close by and that kept them trickling in to hand. There were some nice sized roach today in pristine condition.

That beautiful but annoying heron was obviously hungry. I lost count how many times he’d take off and give it his best to steal my roach each time I was reeling one in. At one point he dived right towards a roach that I was about to land. His timing was awful and got caught in the landing net. He was brave, stupid and clearly desperate for food. Luckily he managed to untangle himself then flew over to my left and landed yards from me to sulk.  He started to preen himself and ruffled his feathers back into place. On the next catch I gave him a small tasty roach to eat. One gulp and it was down the shoot. He then flew off and I saw him land several 100 feet away. I was glad when he buggered off yet happy he had eaten.

With no sniff at the cheese paste I changed the hook-bait to a rough cut cube of spam. Earlier I had aired the meat so it slightly hardened. I find spam can be too soft straight out the tin and easily fall off the hook. Burying the hook into a large cube I gently recast.

Another two hours and the tip of my float still remained dry. The temperature was beginning to drop. It had been 3hrs with no indication. Just as that bubble hovering over my head was saying “I’ve blanked today” the tip shoots under at a race of knots. I could see the float beneath the water and shoot off to my right. I lift the rod and was met with a solid thud. The drag starts to release line, the rod now putting in a great bend, the thudding not stopping and my rod soaking up each knock he gives me. Heart beat at 190BPM, I manage to turn it as it try’s to head right under willow tree, several turns bringing him away from all obstacles that he wanted to bury himself in, it starts to tire, slowly it comes towards me, landing net ready, it dives back under slapping its tail and headbangs towards the reeds. He beat me, but  I held the tension and patiently waited for him to come out. He soon breaks free and comes out into the open. My advantage. This time I prevent him from going any deeper or further away. Rod held high his head appears out of the water and he gently slides into the net.

I had that great feeling of satisfaction holding a fine autumn chub. Perfectly scaled in a golden brown colour and very muscled. I cut another piece of spam and buried the hook. I recast and hope for another. 10 mins later the float disappears, I strike and I’m met with another solid thud. After a really good scrap and a wet foot due to falling into a small hole whilst desperately trying to keep him away from the reed bed, a second muscular chub eventually meets my landing net.

I called it day from here on. My cheese paste failed today, or maybe those chub didn’t fancy it, who knows, but this brace of chub really made my day.

Spam wins the day! 🎣