Saturday, 31 January 2009

No flies on me!

I had a little look at my lake yesterday... nothing doing at all. A biting easterly and fishing the fly deep resulted in only one thing. I lost a fly to a very large snag... probably the same snag I lost the last one on!
I decided to spend the afternoon tying at the vice to replace a couple of lost favourites and to try and tie a couple of known pike takers one for a venue I'll be fishing at the end of next month and the other is a Swedish pattern that I quite liked the look of. Oh one fly has sneaked into the hatch... tied three weeks ago and has already hit the favourite pattern!

Not sure whether I'll get out tomorrow... we'll see! SNOW is forecast!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

A hat trick...

Well I'm a little chuffed with myself... can't you tell! Three trips out in 2009 and scored in each one. Not the biggest pike ever but these are really snatched 2 or 3 hours on the bank at an absolute maximum. All the pike have been caught on the fly as well.

A couple of thoughts... all the piking activity has coincided with rising air pressure and I've chosen my times carefully. I have also changed my line to a Rio Striped Bass Intermediate which I think has helped immeasurably with presentation of the fly. In addition water clarity has got better since the cold snap and I'm using two flies... secret unpublished patterns!

Where to next... Mmmm... may be off on Wednesday or Thursday!!! Watch this space!

The photos were taken on an 8MP camera phone... not bad BUT the flare from the sun played havoc with the shot!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Predator Plus!

I knew today was going to be a good day, weather was great and having breakfast one of my other favourite predators was in the garden… the peregrine falcon has always captivated me ever since I read a book written and illustrated by Charles Tunnicliffe RA. I had the privilege to meet Tunnicliffe at his home on Anglesey (must have been 1976/77ish) and he signed the book for me. He was painting at the time and I noticed he had paint on his thumb and that part thumbprint is on the book as well as his signature. I continue to marvel at the way the falcon hunts its prey sometimes I’ve watched it taunt and tease its quarry before climbing high then to tumble and dive like an arrow without remorse or quarter given! I am very fortunate to have a couple of hunting pairs within minutes of the house; and now in the garden (best buzz since the goshawk nailed a wood pigeon in the churchyard across the road).

I decided to fish late afternoon and into dusk, using my “new” pattern again!

Clear skies and rising pressure and a relative calm before the storm (I hear it beat against the windows as I write). I kicked myself that I hadn’t cleaned the fly line from last week but 15 minutes in I had accounted for a 5lb pike… it is so good to feel that connection. I unhooked him quickly and then gave the water time to settle and cast again… Do you know some folk never learn! The cheeky jack followed the fly and mouthed at it but I ran out of water… I glanced about 10 feet away and a much larger pike moved effortlessly by almost oblivious. I changed to a tinsel streamer and cast about hoping for the big girl to strike!

I moved mark… back to my new pattern… I toiled for a good 20 minutes playing cat and mouse with another pike… I watched the follow and the half strike and then the pike twice picked up the fly in a half hearted way… and the connection was lost!

The sun had dipped away by now and breeze started freshen and swing round and an icy wind tried to tear at my clothes. A pigeon racing across the sky and high above a black mark plummeting to earth gradually getting bigger… Now I wonder whether the pigeon will make it to cover in time… probably not!

I’m looking forward to spending a day on a water that has great potential over the next week or so…
message to self: I must tie a supply of flies!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

40lb pike on the fly... can the year get any better!

You know the feeling… busy week and everyone knows that you’ve earmarked a day for fishing? Well, Saturday was the day… 50% of a full moon and high pressure growing in the morning to tail off and drop in the afternoon. All planned and tackled up the evening before, made some stainless wire locks whilst watching TV and enjoying a glass of wine.

I woke to a fine and largely cloudless day with storms forecast for later in the afternoon and evening. Boil kettle, make tea and toast… ready for the off, and the phone rings! My heart sinks as my services are required elsewhere… but family first!

By the time I’ve finished running around it is lunchtime… so I stopped off at home and had a bite to eat… NOW, I am free to go!

Arriving at the lake I had a chat with one of the bailiffs to see what activity there had been over the last week. A good size carp had come out of the water a good size roach were being caught. Mmmm… promising. It is now 2pm and I’m running against time with a shortening day and a steady increase in the wind (and no doubt a falling barometer). I decided to stay with the intermediate line and the baitfish pattern I tied 10 days ago… Fan casting around the first mark and I was getting used to the fly line… gradually increasing the distance.

Then bang! A snag… nope it is moving. Terrific! First pike of the year and the Harrison fly rod is christened. Not a huge pike by any stretch of the imagination BUT a pike all the same! Rod, reel, line and fly all performing in perfect harmony to produce a 2-3lb jack… what a lovely fish. I can’t fault the Harrison Advanced Rods fly rod, it just feels like part of me when I cast!

I changed fly to a bucktail mohican in orange and yellow and worked my way along the bank. Ooh! Think I have a bite… not a snag and it is heavy… it is dark and this thing is moving… a carp alarm rings in the distance and I can see a carper playing a fish… I think it dawned on me just as I was retrieving his rig that we were playing each other. He had cheekily decided to fish the swims on the other side of the lake using his distance carp rods to drop a bait just off the peg in front of me… blimey it could have easily been a 40lb fish! I went round to his bivvy and shared a few laughs as his mate was doing a bit of leg pulling!

So I am off the blocks and fishing… and a fish on the fly as well… slight change of hook as well; I used a Varivas Big Mouth Xtra to tie the last few flies on.

So a new year, a new pattern and a pike on a new rod.

I feel marvellous!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

It's a small world...

Photo Courtesy: Wirral Globe

Spot the odd one out? No… Oh, is it that there is a connection? Yes… Now guess the connection!

It is what we used to do… I haven’t hung my kites up totally – having said that, I only went out once last year… too much piking! Dave Tough or Tufty as I know him was a fellow kite buggier or parakarter and we were members of Wirral Sand Yacht Club. In 2007 we took part in a 24 hour event to break and set a new world record for the furthest distance travelled in a kite powered vehicle (that's me in a promotional shot for the event). The event was a great success and the new record set lasted 12 months (broken in 2008 in Germany!). The event was incredible but so much work went into it I suffered burn out! So I went fishing… which is where the blog all started.

I was on the phone one evening to Tufty and said that I’d been fishing and found by sheer chance that we both fish for pike. It is amazing that we never talked about fishing previously… anyway Dave (Tufty) has sold his kites and buggy and is back to his fishing ways. I needled him back in September or October by sending him a picture of my fly caught pike and he returned the favour last weekend.

Dave and his son Daniel had three pike on Sunday… Daniel getting his first and the first of the day… Fantastic! Daniel looks as pleased as punch and so he should, what a great looking fish!

I’ll have to see if I can organise a piking trip to Dave’s neck of the woods.

Friday, 9 January 2009

A kind of magic...

Last year my number on my Dee Anglers ticket was 001 this year 009… I must be slipping!

The Dee has been fishing its socks off recently, with excellent bags of chub and roach being caught by those after silver fish. The Dee is my bĂȘte noire, having only achieved 2 fish and 2 misses in almost 18 months fishing it… so, why is it the proverbial, itch you can’t reach? It is probably down to tactics and what the fish feed on.

I met
Mike Ashcroft today… we’ve only been trying to meet up for a year or so! Nice guy and very knowledgeable about “his” river. During a discussion about bait Mike confirmed a comment I’d heard ages ago… dead baits don’t work on this river, those that have had takes on dead baits are a small proportion and the majority of fish fall to live bait.

Those baits are chub, dace or roach, and these fish have a tendency to shoal in pockets on the river and move during the course of the year. The pike that gorge themselves on this mobile larder seem to congregate from various parts of the river, if their markings are anything to go by… from silvers that you’d find in coloured waters to dark browns for those who live in the dark recesses of the river. We are talking about something that has gone on for many centuries… a pike’s rights of passage perhaps.

I’m grateful to Mike for the bits of the jigsaw that I keep looking for to enable me to catch more pike. I suspect the Dee pike will continue to be a little elusive unless I spend more time on the river and choose to fish for the silver fish that will end up as bait.

However, I am sold on the fly rod approach at the moment and so it is perseverance that is required.

I arrived at 0930 hrs to see a river "on the bones of its arse" as one fisherman said, I hadn't seen the river that low in well over a year! The free pegs were full and I didn’t fancy the high perched positions of the matchmen on the other side of the river, and the casting would have been a bit of a beggar! Mike suggested a mark downstream and sure enough I saw a jack of perhaps 8 or 9 lbs (I hesitate to say 10!) surface and slash at bait fish on three occasions. Using a Puglisi style bait fish pattern I cast around… nothing… change to the tandem… nothing… change to a play on a surf candy but in muted greens and yellows to imitate a pike fry. I used the same casting approach and felt a snag… a snag that pulled back momentarily and then dropped the fly! Pah!

I walked downstream and chatted to a chap who was standing in his garden on the other side of the river, I watched the swans and pochard… oh and the snipe… I also lost two flies, one of which is a favourite pattern and a good catcher of pike for me… so to the vice once more!

I went back to the mark where Mike was and he had a live bait on that would go mental every so often and then go quiet… either the bait was sending a Morse code message using the alarm or there was a big fat mother of a pike sat on his shoulder. I think we were all willing the take to happen but sadly it didn’t.
Mike then started hallucinating about eating a whole leg of lamb on his own... oh and hold the vegetables... just the meat. Perhaps that's why Mike has such an affinity with the pike!

I then had a little cast again on a peg that had become free… apart from the sand that pervaded everything… fly line, reel and rod, I was pleased to see that the patterns I tied this week worked well. I can see a large tying session happening during the course of the week!

Reflecting on recent events and a day that provided little action (and most notably the one before Christmas)… I have to say that part of the enjoyment is being out there… there is the frustration of blanking BUT you do learn something new each time out. It is also an activity that you can immerse yourself in and all thought, great or small disappears whilst casting about for a fish!

It's a kind of magic! (ref A Kind of Magic: Queen. Released 1986)

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The Cottage in the Wood

Happy New Year!

Due to the winter freeze up (-9 deg Centigrade) over the New Year period there wasn’t any fishing but a few nice walks in the Lake District and a stay in an excellent hotel (again)!

So do you fancy a veloutte of Jerusalem artichoke with a seared scallop floating in it, a pithivier of guinea fowl or perhaps a full cooked breakfast with Cumberland sausage and award winning black pudding? A fantastic wine list as well? Is there too much choice to make up your mind? Here are a few easier questions for you then.

Do you enjoy excellent food? Do you enjoy quiet surroundings? A friendly atmosphere? Good access to great countryside? If the answer to all of those questions is yes; please read on. If not, then don’t read on as it will only make you insanely jealous!

The Cottage in the Wood is situated on the road from Braithwaite to the Whinlatter Forest visitor centre and commands views across a wooded valley across toward Skiddaw and is only 10 minutes or so from Keswick and Derwentwater.

We stumbled across The Cottage in the Wood in April when I went up for a day’s guided fishing and we just had to return. We got one of those rare cancellations at the beginning of December for the New Year period… we were just so busy with work, boys and Christmas to get ourselves organised. We were very lucky! The guests staying in room 1 which has views over the valley booked it in October… just to give you an idea of how popular this place is!

Our room on this occasion was a standard double… cottage style but NOT twee! En suite shower room, flat screen TV and tea/coffee making facilities. We did have a superior room last time… the attic suite… contemporary with a traditional twist!

We’ve only been there when it’s been cold… and you are welcomed by a good log fire in the grate the warmth of which is only surpassed by Kath. Kath is welcoming, helpful but not intrusive… this hotel feels like an extension of your home! On arrival Kath shows you to your room and lets you settle in and arranges afternoon tea for you by the fire… just what the doctor ordered after a drive! Hot steaming tea with a slice of home made carrot cake… the cake was exceptional… so moist and light,definitely not wet and leaden!

We’d arrived on New Year’s Eve for the five course dinner… and we weren’t disappointed!

Liam is the other half of the equation at The Cottage in the Wood… he takes locally sourced produce and turns it into a work of art… the only difference being that you can eat the art! If you think you have eaten good food… think again! We consider ourselves pretty good on the kitchen front and have been to some top restaurants BUT believe me the creations here are exquisite and if your partner chooses something different on the menu it will leave you arguing as to who had the best! You will have to come back again for more!

So no fishing! No, sadly not but every cloud has a silver lining and the walks albeit not strenuous enabled us to catch up with our friends Clare and Nick and their daughter Anna. We walked up toward Easedale Tarn from Grasmere but with leaving it a little later on in the day and with ice across the foot path in places we didn’t get to the tarn… shame BUT we didn’t miss out on a great a bowl of soup at "Jumble" in Grasmere.

Breakfast at The Cottage are worth mentioning… fantastic cooked breakfasts with the same attention to detail… best fry ups EVER and just the thing to set you up for a day of walking or fishing!

Yesterday it was just the two of us and we walked along the edge of the partially frozen Derwentwater in glorious sunshine and cold, crisp, clean air! Fantastic… it was just good to be out and about.

Leaving Keswick it started to drizzle and we wended our way back home through the Lake District… travelling back on the A591 from Ambleside to the M6 via Windemere was a little tedious at times.

To sum up… The Cottage in the Wood… a hidden jewel in a forest setting.

As a bit of a post script… if you want advice on walking in the area Liam is your man as I believe amongst everything else he runs in the fells! For fishing drop me an email and I’ll put you in touch with a guide like no other… he knows where the fish are and has a great sense of humour! For those with Euros and Dollars in their pockets… there may be no better time to come and visit and get some great fishing in!