Monday, 2 January 2012

Well that was 2011

2011 was a little bit of a strange year for me with too much work and not enough fishing time.

My fishing time seemed to be mostly limited to my holidays with a couple of “days off” thrown in.

The return back to Yorkshire had re-kindled my love of fly-fishing and my trotting sessions this year have made this method a very close second.

One big mistake for me was to book a 2-week holiday at one of these “angling holiday complex sites”. I had chosen to visit a well known one rear Newquay in Cornwall. 
Yes the idea of having 13 well stocked lakes to choose from sounded ideal, but the reality was that most of the lakes were regularly closed to the holidaymakers to allow for private fishing competitions and festivals.
It may be that I have been spoiled by having so many well-run fisheries close to my home, or maybe I was a little blind to the fact that some fisheries are only about the money and not the quality of the experience.

Some of the lakes were so over stocked that it was possible to get the carp to eat from your hand!! With many of the fish showing signs of stress and infecton.

Bait and methods were totally un-important and I soon found that 20 to 30 fish in a 2-hour session was just nothing special. 2 weeks with 1kg of expander pellets to 4kg of micro feed pellets made for some of the most un-interesting fishing that I have ever had.
One thing that I found strange was that a “big money” competition was held on the lake that is advertised as the beginner’s lake! Still I had to chuckle a month later seeing the winners articles in the angling press saying how they triumphed it this prestigious competition.. Well if you say so ;)
It is doubtful that I will try this type of holiday again.

So as autumn came, I was able to finally have some “real fishing” on the river Nene, where a stick float and a pint of red maggots will reward you all day with roach, perch and small chub. Now that is what fishing is all about.

So what will 2012 have in store?

One plan is to do a lot more sea and estuary fishing. I plan to try the coast around Essex in the summer. Why? !!! …….  Well to be honest it is a part of the UK that I have never been to. Looking at the maps of the area I can see lots of promising inlets, estuaries and beaches worth exploring.
I have to say that I am quite looking forward to this and have already started tying all types of saltwater flies and letting my mind wander to the shoals of bass and mullet that I hope will be waiting for me.

But that is a few months away so in the mean time I will have be content with the rivers and drains close to home ….

Well until the start of the closed season that is.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

What to do with left over maggots?

Barnwell Country Park Northamptonshire

Following my trip to Yolk Hill Farm I found the inevitable odds and ends of bait left in the bottom of my tackle bag. This included ¾ pint of maggots. Normally I would let these develop into casters and then freeze them. But the need for another days fishing was so strong that I had to re-pack my bag and set off.

Close to my home is Barnwell Country Park a lovely park made from the remains of a gravel workings. Designed as a nature reserve, it allows fishing on it's two lakes and a lovely backwater that runs off the river Nene. I have fished here many times and always had an enjoyable day.
This is not a stocked water and holds all the spices you would expect from a “wild water”. Tackle should be appropriate for the fish you are targeting keeping in mind they have carp into the 40lb mark and pike up to 25lb.

Today I wanted to continue in my quest for Rudd but also wanted a crack at the bream that live in the north lake so I set up a 13ft “match” style rod for the Rudd and a 12ft “match” rod fitted with a sidewinder indicator. The sidewinder is a quiver-tip type device that clips onto the side of the rod, the line is fed through and a bite shows as a sideways movement of the indicator.
I first used these in Ireland on loch Derg for bream and never looked back …. They are amazing for shy and drop-back bites and take a lot of the guesswork out of quiver-tip fishing for me.

Ground-bait for me was a dry dog meal that I put through a food processor until it resembles fine crumbs. Mix with a little water until it is fluffy. I don't use anything else as it is cheap and works and I always have it around the house.

Janice came along to do some birdwatching so we chose a peg close to the bird hides and not too far from the car.
I could see the fish rising as I was setting up so chose just to fish the float rod at first. A small ball of ground-bait loosely packed was cast towards the fish, breaking up on the surface the water erupted as the Rudd and roach competed for the food. 2 maggots on a size 16 hook with a loaded waggler and I was ready.

First cast and the float was away giving me a lovely roach around 6in long. This continued for around an hour before I remembered that I was also trying for a bream and had my other rod lying on the bank. So a swim feeder full of ground-bait and a bunch of maggots on the hook and I sent this out about 40 yards to a gap in the weed. Sipping coffee and chatting to Janice about her mornings wildlife viewing I saw the indicator spring back in a lovely drop back bite. A good size skimmer bream shining silver and without a scale out of place. I enjoy these fish but not the excessive slime that comes with them. I often wonder how the match fishermen cope with being covered in huge quantities of the stuff during a match.

Well I am not sure what I have done to upset the universal force, but just lately every fishing trip seems to have been affected by rain and high winds and this day was no exception. I always take a “super-size” brolly when Janice comes with me so we can shelter and at least keep comfy and warm.

Full from lunch and the place quiet apart from the rain and the wind hitting the tops of the trees, my mind was soon wandering off to a night just after we were married, camping at Boggle Hole near Robin Hoods Bay on the Yorkshire coast. It was about the same time of the year and our camp had been blown apart from near gale force winds. We de-camped around midnight in pitch black and escaped to the comfort of our car. Reclining in the warm with the rain lashing against the car and the wind howling over the cliffs we both had the best nights sleep we have ever had in our lives.
It may be that bad weather has a relaxing effect when you are warm and cosy.
I soon realised that my daydream had drifted into sleep as I awoke to find Janice too was in the land of Nod, a blackbird greedy devouring my maggots and the bait stripped off my hooks.

Refreshed from my little nap I re-baited and cast out and played the waiting game. Two very nice Rudd came to the net and I realised that I had caught four specimen size Rudd within a week !!
I love to end a session on a high so was happy to pack up and just take a walk around the park and enjoy this lovely spot.

I am lucky that I do tend to catch and often happy with a couple of small roach just to save me from a “blank”. Specimen size fish have never been my goal so I find it extra special when they come along. I regard myself as a pleasure angler as pleasure is all I ever seek from the sport.

But sometimes the “powers that be” allow you something a little out of the ordinary and that is why I fish.

Take each session as it comes and enjoy the special moments

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Flounder Fishing.

One of my favourite sea fish has to be the humble flounder. A easy fish to catch on basic tackle, bold little fighter and very tasty …. but best of all it is a good fish to catch on the fly !!

For me, one of the most prolific flounder venues has to be Arnside in Cumbria. This estuary section of the river Kent holds huge numbers of flounder with the best times being September through to January. This section also holds Mullet, Bass, Eel, Salmon and Sea-trout and best of all it is FREE..

A word of warning first, The tides on this estuary are fast, so when you hear the siren, leave the sand and head straight back to the footpath. You could get cut as a tidal bore will run shortly after the first warning

I like to fish from the public car park downstream to New Barns Bay any swim within this section will always produce good results but the real hot spot is directly in front of the car park and I have had 20+ good size flounder over one tide from here.
During the summer months the practice of “dragging” (deliberate foul hooking) has often been practised here!! be warned, you will be caught and there has been a few court cases and fines for the offenders.

Tackle wise, I like to use a cheap 2lb TC carp rod with a 3oz grip lead. Over the years I tried many types of rig but have found a 1up 1down with 18in snoods with a size 1 hook to produce the goods. I do like to add 4 small lime green beads above the hook for that little attraction.

Bait for me is always frozen black lug worm tipped with mackerel. Don't be tempted to use too much bait, half a lug worm and a thumbnail size of mackerel will be enough.

Fish from low tide to 1h past the high tide and never cast too far as the fish will be within 30yards of the waters edge. Bites are often seen by a quick rattle of the rod followed by a slow pull. I often do not strike at the first bite as the action often causes a take on the other snood.
Only take the fish you want and release the rest for future stocks. The fish revive well and will swim away strongly.

Fly fishing for flounder is unbelievable fun. I use a 9ft 6in (old) 7/8 fly rod 8WF fast sink line and one of the sinking salt-water poly leaders with 9ft of 6lb tippet.

I find the best fishing is at low tide when you can explore the main and side channels. A weighted shrimp pattern on a size 8 hook in white or orange works well for the flounder but don't be afraid to experiment with the fly.
Bread or green weed imitations will do well for the mullet but you will need to track these down as they seem to favour a different place each tide.

Start by casting across the main channel and retrieve in a series of short pulls. Vary your retrieve speeds and take a couple of steps every few casts.
Takes from flounder feel as if you have snagged the bottom and the rod will arc over and the fish will kick. Don't expect the flounder to run but they will give you a scrappy fight to the bank. Landing them is easy, just beach them. My old dog used to love landing them for me and never left a mark, it was lovely to see.
If you are lucky enough to hook a mullet of size then you are in for the treat of your life. Strike and hold on is my best advise.

Give it a go... you will not regret it.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Brief Respite

July 2011

No fishing since last April had me itching to return to the water.
The weather has been warm for the first part of the month and all the summer species have been showing in abundance following spawning.

Last week I took a trip to a small fishery in Northamptonshire called Yolk Hill Farm I had found this little gem by accident during a drive out in the countryside a couple of years ago. It is a small fishery with 3 pools to cater for all levels of experience with a lovely mixed stocking of very fine quality fish. One of the great attractions for me is that you will always see a Red Kite or two that will often fly within 20ft of you if you don't make too much noise.

I chose to fish horseshoe as this little pond contains some of the best Golden Rudd I have ever seen with some will into specimen size. To get the best out of this water it is best to fish light but as some of the carp run close to double figures … not too light. So I opted for a 12ft match rod with 4lb main line and a quill float. Bait for me was simple, 2 red maggots on a size 18hook.

As I was setting up I flicked a small pinch of maggots into the water every now and then and watched the water start to boil as the greedy Rudd pounced on every free offering.

Once set up I flicked the float out into the centre of the boil and had my first Rudd of the morning. The colour of these fish is fantastic, deep golden flanks and blood red fins.
This continued for the next hour with nearly every cast resulting in yet another beautifully coloured fish. Suddenly the float dived in a much different way and I could tell immediately from the fight that this was no ordinary Rudd. I was correct, and smiled to myself as a lovely grey Tench slipped over the net. I was a little surprised as the hook was set 6in under the float in around 5ft of water, but a little loose feed and a bigger Tench on the next cast proved they were indeed feeding just sub surface.

I often pause fishing for a cup of tea or coffee and reflect on the days events or ponder a change of set-up. Today my attention was drawn by two Red Kites performing low level aerobatics over the lakes. I have seen these birds snatch dead fish off the surface of the water, something a seasoned “birdwatcher” from the village tells me they do not do!!!    has anyone told that to the birds?
Looking above the Kites at around 200ft I could see a Buzzard circling (a first for me in this part of the country) So my coffee break lasted a lot longer then usual as I enjoyed the show.

Around 11:30am the cloud rolled in and I was soon huddled under my umbrella trying to keep dry in the absolute downpour that was now upon me. The wind picked up scattering any tackle not bolted to the floor and I twice watched umbrellas floating across the lake with the owners running around the bank to intercept them on the far side. The weather was progressively getting worse and I watched my float being moved around the water with every gust. During the hight of the storm I had a lovely Mirror Carp followed by a large Common Carp just the lift that my dampened spirits needed.

Looking around the lake I could see wet and bedraggled anglers walking through the mud towards their cars, wet, dejected and completely pi**ed off. It may be that I am lazy but I prefer to keep warm and dry under my umbrella and ride out bad weather, and as long as I have coffee in my flask and a couple of biscuits to keep me company then I am a happy man.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Return to Yorkshire Part 2

Following my visit to Raygill I was more than a little exited about my trip to Kilnsey Park. This has nothing to do with the size of the fish or the stocking density, Kilnsey is simply the most beautiful fishery in the UK. Set in the shadow of Kilnsey Crag and surrounded by some of the best scenery that North Yorkshire has to offer. The water flowing off Howgill make a brief stop at the fisheries two lakes then continues into the River Wharf so there is always cool clean water flowing allowing for some hard fighting brown and rainbow trout.

I like to fish light at Kilnsey so arrived at 09:00 with my 9ft 5/6 travel rod. A quick chat at the ticket office told me that sport had been a little slow due to the hot weather and the overnight rain had turned the feeder stream into a raging torrent. Still this did not dampen my enthusiasm as I walked around the lakes remembering past catches and taking in the improvements that have been made to the waters over the last few years.

I had the lower lake to myself on the first cast, so I moved to the inflow where I could see a group of around ten browns and rainbow feeding in the fast water. What fly should I use? I tried to remember what had worked in the past. Sedge and Buzzers are always a good standby as is the Montana Nymph but on seeing a number of dead beetles floating on the water I opted for a Black and Peacock. First cast and the fly swept past the fish without as much as a sniff! This continued for the next four casts. The fly had been in the box for many years and seemed to be riding very high on the water. I always use copper wire to make the fly sink slowly but even this failed to sink the fly, So on the next retrieve I held the fly under the water and squeezed the air out... Perfect I now had a slow sink every time it hit the water.
Next cast and a small rainbow nosed the fly as it passed. The next cast saw the same fish take the fly with a smash, scattering the bigger fish to the four corners of the lake. Even a lighter set-up was too much for this trout and it soon came to the bank at about 7in but splendid in the morning sunshine. Time to move on, My thrashing had undoubtedly spooked any self respecting fish in this part of the lake.

A few other fishermen had arrived and I was happy to see that the good manners were still in use here. It can get very busy at times and people always check their spacings and back cast to avoid causing problems to others. This had always been the case and it was lovely to see that there had been no change in attitudes over the years.

A young boy with his Dad was into a large rainbow and the squeals of delight from both told me that this was his first fish. I watched with a little envy as the trout was many times bigger than my first 40 years ago on the River Aire in Keighley. The boy brought the trout to the net very well and dad scooped the fish without any trouble. I wandered over to congratulate the boy and used their camera to give them the “farther and son” shot that they wanted. I was pleased to see the boy holding the fish in the water and dad instructing how to revive the fish prior to release. It would seem that another generation of catch and release fishermen is well under way in the UK.

The day was getting hot and true to the bailiffs word the sport was a little slow. I chose to have a long lunch so Janice and I had a pick nick and watched the other anglers having as little success as myself. The only exception was the little boy who landed two more fish of a good size before demanding an ice cream from his dad as payment for being the best fisherman on the water.

A little cloud cover came in around 3pm and I moved over to the top lake to try my luck. There had been a good midge hatch and the light breeze was blowing the discarded shuck into the reeds where they collected in mass for the trout to sip in at will. This time I attached a small black buzzer size 18 to my line and cast out into the ripple that was starting across the lake. A couple of casts were rewarded by little pulls and one huge swirl at the end of my retrieve.
This left me wondering, was the fly too small? too big? wrong colour? wrong retrieve speed?
All the usual doubts ran through my mind. Then without warning the line tightens and the rod bent over as a lively rainbow ran for the safety of the far bank. Not a huge fish but a lovely fight on a light rod and was soon in the net. Seeing the fish swim of strongly after release I was happy to break the rod down and call it a day. I had promised Janice a walk around the park and who knows? It may be another 12 years before we come this way again.


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Return To Yorkshire Part 1

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

Well I guess it is true for all fishermen. Work has to come first sometimes and 2011 seems to be the year of little free time.

I have been lucky enough to get a couple of breaks allowing me to wet a line or two.

April was back to my home, Yorkshire with its lovely rivers and some of the best fly-fishing in the country. My wife and I were staying in Hawswick about 20 miles north of Skipton and very close to my favourite trout fishery, Kilnsey Park.

But Kilnsey would have to wait as first on my list had to be Raygill at Lothersdale run by Bernard Clements this is a fishery carved out of limestone holding some unbelievable rainbow trout with a much higher than average size.

Turning up at 08:00 I was surprised how much the waters had changed over the last 12 years but even more surprised that after all these years Bernard remembered me and spoke to me as if it had just been 12 days since my last visit. How time passes…..

Opting to fish the quarry lake I walked over the ridge to be met with a sight that made my heart jump. The steep walls 50ft tall on the west and the little spit of land snaking around the eastern side allowing anglers to cover the water that is 40ft deep in places. I wandered down the track looking into the deep clear water and could see the shapes of huge trout in the depths. A large rainbow leaping near the northern end of the lake broke my trance. “That’s the place for me to start,” I told myself.

Tying on a Dawson’s Olive I made a couple of false casts to get back into the swing of my fly rod. Then casting as far as I could (after an 18 month fly break) I managed to get in the general direction of a group of fish I had seen on the way down. First cast and a tug on the fly. That alone would have made my day. Second cast and my timing was a lot better allowing me to cover twice the distance from the first. The wind was picking up to my back and I felt a little more confident I would soon have my cast back. 
A smash of a take sent the reel spinning and my first big trout in 12 years was on. Trying to enjoy the fight I remembered the fly line was many years old but it seemed as slick and supple as the day it came out of the box.

A second huge lunge saw the bright orange of the backing start running out over the lake. You cannot hurry a Raygill trout and I had to play this one by the book, off the reel and let the rod and drag do the work. 10min later and I was able to slip a fin perfect 24in rainbow over the net. 
When possible I prefer to unhook trout in the water and let them recover a little dipping the net allowing the fish to swim away when it is ready. So barbless hooks and forceps are always used.

A cup of coffee and a change of fly, The Dawson’s Olive may have caught all day, but I had a deep wish to use a dry fly and had tied a lot of hoppers and gnats to throw at the fish.

With the wind getting up, I tried to place a black midge in the water close to a bush. After I retrieved the fly from the bush I made a second and third attempt. Getting a little frustrate with my rusty casting cursed my luck and tried again. It is amazing how all the temper slips from your mind when you see a trout sip your fly from the surface of the water. Waiting one, two, three seconds then strike! The rod bent over and I could feel the fish shaking its head as it ran towards the deepest part of the lake. For the second time I saw the backing flying off the spool as I set in for the long dogged fight that is normal for these fighting fit fish.
This one was about the same length but twice the girth across the back. If I had to pin a weight on it I would say 11lbs is fair, but to be honest, much bigger fish come out to the more experienced locals each week. 
I have never been sure if Bernard deliberately set about building a “big fish” water but he definitely has some fine specimens in his lakes. Long, fully finned hard fighting fish, not the pudding bowls we pull out of some of the southern “monster waters”

By 3pm the wind was near gale force and the rain was stinging my face and ears but as today was more about getting my cast back and giving the lines a much needed stretch after 6 fish to the net and a few that slipped the hook I decided to take my tired arms home so I could rest and dream about the fish waiting for me at Kilnsey.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Enjoy your day – That is all that matters.

18 Feb 2011 08:00

The Wood Pool  @ Bluebell Lakes Complex, Tansor, Oundle 
I try not to visit the same place too many times in succession, but to be honest I find Bluebell to have such divers sport that I can convince myself that I am hundred of miles from the last spot I fished.
Being that this place is only 7 miles from my home, I make no apology that many of my adventures take place here.

Last week I chose to fish the Wood Pool, a fantastic and underrated water on this complex. Sold to visitors as a “beginners” water, it has been stocked with all the fish you would expect in a commercial pond and like most of these waters far too much feed gets thrown in and the fish become large quickly.

But in winter this place comes into its own.

Turning up for an 8am start I found I had the place all to myself (quite normal for a winter mid-week visit). So I left most of my tackle in the car and took a walk around the pool with only what I needed. The pool is a canal style with islands in the middle that is always full of wildlife. This morning the water was very coloured but totally calm as there was not a breath of wind. Throwing about 6 maggots every few yards, I soon found the surface of the water breaking with feeding fish. Being around 5ft deep you can find fish quite quickly even when the water resembles a cup of tea.

First cast with a tiny loaded float and a small piece of worm gave me a lovely skimmer bream as silver as a mirror, shining in the cold morning. I threw a pinch of maggots and chipped worm into the water that immediately began to boil. Second cast the float disappeared and I missed the strike and was left with only the skin of my maggots on the hook. As normal for me when I get exited, third cast ended up on the island in a tangled heap. Normally when this happens I pour a cup of tea and sit down and tackle up again. Sipping my tea I sent out some more maggots and worm chopped into a mush. The water went mad and I could see the backs of the roach as they came up for the slop.

Casting into the boil and throwing a pinch of maggots around the float gave me a roach of around a pound and a half. The roach here can grow to quite a size in this pool and seem to spawn very well as you often see the chub chasing the shoals of tiny fingerling’s in the autumn.
Sport can be fast and furious, but can end just as quickly. After this roach the water went calm and there was no response to the slop thrown into the water. Time to move.

11:30 and the temperature is dropping as the wind is increasing. The fishing seems to be the same all over the pool, 2 or 3 fish then you have to move on. This pool is responsible for my personal best chub and perch to date and both well into specimen weights but today nothing over a couple of pounds has visited my landing net.
Feeling quite chill and my knee joints beginning to play up, the time came to get my chair out f the car and find a sheltered place to play the waiting game.

Nothing happened for the next couple of hours. Every 20min I would send a small quantity of chopped worm and maggot into the swim always being careful not to overfeed and hoping that the amino acids in the slop may trigger a bite.

I was distracted from the fishing by a pair of red kites circling in the sky above me. Often coming so low that I could see all the markings on the underside of the body. Days like this just seem to add to the enjoyment for me.

Another couple of roach around 3:45pm and I decided to give up for the day. I had some sport and seen some lovely wildlife, plus the geese seemed to want to come in and roost for the night.
So I packed up and took the remainder of my sandwich back to my swim to give to the ducks.

The mallards greedily tucked in to my uneaten crusts, the males looking splendid as they come into their breeding colour. But not as splendid as the chub that came out from near the reeds that I had been sitting next to for the last few hours, opening that huge mouth and taking a lump of bread destined for the ducks.

This left me thinking ….Would my day have been better if I had caught that fish? …..

Hell Yes !!!