Monday, 31 August 2009

Last of the summer pike...

The end of the summer is here! The bank holiday weekend isn’t the remnants of high summer but the onset of autumn (fall… for those over the pond). We’ve had high winds up to 50mph and that put paid to me fishing a few bass marks I’ve come across, never mind, we’ll see what happens over the next few weeks.

I decided that I had to fish and decided to seek out a stillwater that holds a few pike but is very over grown in parts and casting is a test of keeping swearing under control at the best of times. The wind was really moving the lake surface and casting opportunities were few and far between… however, there is always a lee shore and a patch of quiet water… isn’t there? It was one of those rare opportunities that this particular mark was available… the wind was just right! Cast out and allow the 50mph wind take the fly around the corner some 5 foot short of the reeds. Wait a little and allow the fly to dead drift toward the reeds and dropping gently through the water column at the same time… now strip gently but firmly two strips… wait and so on. Cast again… same thing. Strip, strip and bang… Fish on!

Not big by any stretch of the imagination… a smaller pike valiantly sucked on a large fly at another mark… I love the impudence!
So there it is… the last of the summer pike… Roll on Autumn…

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A "shoal" thing...

3 bearded Rockling

Anna age 5 with fish!

photo of me taken by Anna

Usually I’m writing a fishing trip up within 24 hours of getting home… Time just hasn’t been on my side!

Last weekend we met up with our friends Clare and Nick together with their daughter Anna on Anglesey. Packing the car for a weekend away is usually met with comments relating to the excessive amounts of fishing gear that I ram in every conceivable free space in the car. In reality the number of items is probably no more excessive than the pairs of shoes that I imagine Imelda Marcos takes on hols… fishing gear is just more visible!

Anyway, Janet and Clare had booked a spa treatment day at a local hotel leaving us boys to entertain Anna. How do you entertain a 5 year old girl? Easy… a 21 foot RIB, loads of fishing gear and picnic!

Saturday’s weather looked good with broken cloud and a reasonable amount of sun with little wind. The wind freshened as we got everything ready and as we launched I thought to myself that it could be a short trip out. Yes it was lumpy with wind over tide and getting traces on rods out at sea was a great test of stomach control. I’ve never been sea sick thankfully and I know how to calm the feeling if it arises (a result of many hours spent reading medical papers on the subject during my time spent yacht racing). We were soon fishing… I’d armed Nick and Anna with a 6ft lure rod with multiplier (anything goes when you are after mackerel!) and I had two rods set up one for the bass and a heavier spinning rod with multiplier reel for the mackerel.

Until recently I’d always had fixed spool reels but multipliers do have their place and having got over the hurdle of over runs I actually quite enjoy using them and they are a doddle to use when boat fishing.

There were quite a few folk out in all manner of craft; I was surprised to see a loan kayaker fishing on a quite anonymous dark green “sit on top” and a chap on a small inflatable. Why surprised? Well we were fishing a good way off the land and technically inshore BUT in that chop and fishing alone – questionable decisions and all that!

Observing the other craft there was one interesting common denominator – no one was catching any fish!

Nick really only used his fish finder as a depth sounder until recently. However, we used it and his GPS linked charting system to find interesting structure to fish over. I think more by good luck than good measure I hit into two good mackerel – sadly these were to be the only fish of the day.

We moved from mark to mark utilising some of the 150 horses driving the boat, all the time scanning for sea bird activity and shoals of fish on the sounder. Nothing!

We retired to a sheltered cove for lunch – I promptly got the bass rod out to see if I could conjure up a bass or two, even a pollack would have been welcome. We had a great lunch!

Lunch out of the way we headed back. Nick asked whether we should have one last go across the area we fished pre-lunch. So we did! Anna was armed with a rod and with little instruction proceeded to jig her trace and 2 oz lead continuously for the remainder of the trip without faltering once. I would have dearly loved for her to have landed a fish for all the effort she put in. Back at the beach Anna and I sat waiting for Nick to arrive with the trailer to recover the boat, when a small voice said “Can we do some more fishing?” What a star!

Back at the cottage I did the necessary with the fish as they were to be our starter later on…

With Clare and Janet back and the main course simmering we went to have a look at the falling tide in a nearby bay… a bit of advanced rock pooling! The catch of the day there was a 3 bearded Rockling – what a fantastic looking little fish!

Half a grilled mackerel each with a little salad including home grown “moon squirters” (tomatoes to grown ups!) followed by Scouse (Irish stew is a close description) and pickled red cabbage with a dessert of chilled mango with a passion fruit, cranberry and raspberry sauce… not to mention a glass of wine or two in good company! Who could ask for more?

Monday, 17 August 2009

Heart stopping BIG action all the way!

No big pike pictures? Sadly not… but it doesn’t mean I’ve been devoid of action.

The last three outings have seen me on different venues using new flies as well as the old retainers; the latter have been given a more modern twist… an extra bit of zing!

I recently read that some folk hate reading the dreamy descriptive stuff in magazines preferring the “how to” techie approach to articles. Hopefully anyone reading this blog can siphon off the words that join the information together and drill down to the important bits for them. For me it is perhaps the narrative that inspires me to “go out” and “just do it” to coin a well known phrase.

So (tongue firmly in cheek) for the technically orientated amongst us, here are my thoughts for the day on fly fishing for pike:

1. Get to know your venue
2. Locate bait fish hotspots
3. You have to know where pike are lying up/patrolling
4. You have to watch and see if they are on the feed (swirls etc)
5. Appreciate that if they aren’t on the feed you can still trigger them
6. Hook size and style are important, but a blunt one won’t catch anything
7. Fibres in flies, ring the changes but natural fibre for me mixed with flash out fishes flash only, don’t take my word for it though
8. Colour and size of flies are important for the venue, time of day and the size of pike you are trying to catch
9. Vary your retrieve and at the end of the retrieve STOP and wait… strikes do happen at your feet
10. Be confident in your presentation and ability to outsmart the fish BUT be prepared to alter tactics… don’t just change flies in the hope the next one will work
11. AND read dreamy descriptive articles that impart a sense of adventure and that inspire you to fish and have fun

For those who like dreamy descriptive… I had a few really good takes of late and last night’s nailing of a fly by a good specimen was a real high point that could have only have been eclipsed by landing the fish. Sadly my last view was of the pike with its gill covers flared, tail walking across the lake and great shaking of the head which eventually threw the hook.

That’s fishing!

I didn’t blank during the last three days by any stretch of the imagination. I switched to a pheasant tail trout fly and look what it brought in… yes, the smaller specimen! The other perch is from the same venue back in March… now I have to catch the bigger mamma's and pappa's of this little fella!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Fishing competitions!

Fishing competitions… I recently placed a response on a forum that competitions bring out the best and the worst in folk. I’ve taken part in competitive sport for all the years I can remember, the school rugby team and yacht racing to name two. Fishing has never featured in it… I’ve watched match fishermen bait up and clean up… there is tremendous skill involved but is that what fishing is about?

Fishing for me has two levels, the first is a primeval need to put food on the table and the second is the art of deception in its finest form. Any recreational activity has to be interesting and enjoyable or we wouldn’t take part in it. Take for example the child who is made to take part, it happens whilst they are compliant and then it becomes a chore during the phase when they are digging their heels in as they start to reject the activity. I freely admit I’ve had a lot of interests along the way BUT the fishing rod has always been there and I’ve still got my fathers fishing flies from the 1940s and my first clutch of spinners including one that I caught my first mackerel on, not to mention my first glass spinning rod and his split cane fly rod!

My good friend Nick who I used to race against on the Mersey switched from sail to motor (rather large RIB) some years ago and we as a family have been fortunate to be able to enjoy trips out on the boat encompassing the Dee and Anglesey. I think it was the last time we were out and committed an act of “piracy” in obtaining fish for the barbeque from a boat doing some serious fishing that Nick suggested a fishing competition. Now as I’ve mentioned I don’t do fishing competitions, I only compete with my quarry. I have to admit though that when I fished Chew with Toby in April it was getting a bit monotonous watching by boat partner catch until I got into the fish, so a bit of friendly competition is OK.

Nick, however, threw down a gauntlet… and I picked it up!

Friday night in the local wine bar we met along with our wives and I told Nick that I’d been given a mark to fish during a weekend later in the month. Nick suggested we go out the following day… quite happy to have a practice run! I decided that I’d leave the fly rod at home… we were having a competition after all. My rods of choice were the 4Surespin and believe it or not a jerkbait rod that I have used for piking along with an ABU multiplier… the spinning rod would be set up with a bass lure and the jerkbait rod with a 2oz lead and a mackerel trace.

Motoring out to the first mark I don’t quite think Nick believed how quickly I’d got fishing… moral of the story is set up the rods first! Now I thought I’d got some old tackle… Nick’s fishing box contained weights from probably the same era as my father’s fly gear. I can only deduce that Nick’s dad was as interested in sea fishing as mine was into trout fishing. Nick was soon into the water.

I think my comment to Nick was that we’d better catch or the girls would never let us live it down. The competition therefore shifted from mate versus mate to self preservation of the male status of hunter!

I won’t bore you with the detail of the fishing “competition”, there are 6 fish in the bucket all of which will be on tonight’s barbeque.

All I will say is that if this was the local football derby then the Reds won. I’ll let you work out who the Evertonian is!

I’m looking forward to the second leg in a fortnight’s time.

Footnote: I did go onto the lure for a while and had a follow from one bass of a reasonable size; I also caught a weaver fish (can I ask why the good Lord made weaver fish? The only other time I’d been in contact with one was a painful experience in Abersoch – I now wear wet shoes on beaches!). Photos of Nick and the fish have been played with in photoshop