Friday, 28 October 2011
A long leap from recent drain hopping days, Llangorse Lake in south Wales is a beast of a water. A test of not only tackle and tactics, but resolve and wet weather gear. When the bites arrive here, you sense that anything might happen; during other long, fruitless hours spent bobbing around in the drizzle it can suck the very marrow out of you. Like the lakes of Ireland, the only consistent feature here seems to be rain.
Still weed choked around the edges, myself and Seb Nowosiad made our way around the drop offs, daydreaming about monsters. After a little jack that took a spoon on perhaps only my fifth cast of the day, things were decidedly slow. In the course of two days we seemingly tried every trick in the book to earn takes: lures and flies, static and trolled baits, herrings and roach. In the green tinged water I even tried some brightly dyed baits to eke out a response.
Even the purist would be well advised to take a fish finder on a Llangorse adventure. The place feels like an endless chasm of nothing-much-in-particular when the action is slow, but gradually we found that the pockets of fish seemed to favour those banks quickly dropping away to three or four metres. Predictably enough, one of Seb's Kopyto shads was eventually mauled by a gold dashed seven pounder.
The sky had been threatening a bit of a punch up for a while, and once we'd set up camp for the night the rain came- and the drizzle never stopped from then until we left. Planning our counter attack we kept our hopes up with cups of brandy spiked "pirate tea" and dodgy jokes. In the morning light you could hardly make out the hills, and by lunch we were sodden, grudgingly accepting that damp feeling like you're sitting on a pile of used tea bags.
Eventually we also found something of a hot spot, with several takes to float fished roach and something big which shook its head and parted company with my lure. Still, when you've been wiping rain off your face all day any fish feels like a gift and we added another four pike, all in the five to six pound bracket.
The other great spectacle was a swarm of several thousand starlings wheeling overhead. This was absolutely fantastic, until they flew right over the boat and discharged an almighty volley of bird shit all over the water. By pure fluke, neither of us was hit. Great sight all the same, to cap off a testing trip. Sadly my top notch camera was kept out of the drizzle in the safety of the car for this spectacle, but I did get a nice shot of one of the lake's rocket powered pike giving Seb the runaround:
Saturday, 22 October 2011
Lure fishing doesn't get much cuter than an ultra light outfit and a box of pint-sized special lures. The little works of art certainly catch anglers as well as fish- but when it comes to tempting a wider range of species such as chub, perch and trout, besides the usual pike, these little devils really come into their own. I had been meaning to grab the camera for a trip with Ian Nadin for a while now to capture the fun of an ultralight session.
The handmade Polish specials he imports (above) are about as appetising as they come. For my money they just cried out to be used for chub and so he took up the challenge of a bash at the River Tone on the outskirts of Taunton. In many ways it is perfect ultralight territory here: narrow, clear waters with a good number of chub in the 1-3lbs bracket, as well as other surprises in the form of pike, perch and even trout. It's rather urban looking, but in some places if you squinted you might fancy yourself out on a little chub stream in the sticks; until you spot the shopping trolleys and the concrete bypass that is.
You could run a stick float through much of this and catch all day, but somehow lure fishing -like casting a fly- offers visual kicks and a special thrill. The big issue with small lures is always how the heck you cast them and do them justice. The only answer for little plugs and spinners that might weigh only a couple of grams is to use a fine, tippy rod and light braid of around 10lbs strength. You do wonder if you might catch more without one, but with jack pike present a light wire trace is essential.
In the streamy, cold waters it proved real cat and mouse stuff. The chub are certainly interested in lures, but painfully easy to spook. A little Mepps earned some action with smaller chub, but the better ones seemed to favour the dive and wiggle of a baby plug on this occasion. It was totally absorbing watching the fish tailing the lures- often switching on when a little burst of movement was added. Is this a feeding response or pure aggression? Like Ian, I believe it to be more a mean streak than a feeding response. After several near misses and spooked fish, a lean two pounder gave Ian's little lure a mouthy response and his 1-5g rated rod smashed over.
Conspicuous by their absence were the pike however, although Ian later added a pretty jack. Aside from this we saw all sorts- nosey perch, a trout, roach, dace and even the odd grayling. Perhaps the strangest happening was Ian's capture of a minnow however, hooked fairly in the lips on a tiny spinner! A predatory minnow- what next? The fish may not have been big, but I could happily spend every weekend fish spotting and casting a lure when the fun is so instant and so visual. Chucking about small lures in clear water is basically pure play -as fishing should be. For those curious about Ian's devilishly cute little lures and ultra light lure tackle, take a look at his site (www.microbaits.co.uk) or see the links section at www.dgfishing.co.uk
And on the subject of exciting, visual fishing I hope some of you can join us on Tuesday for the PAC meet at 7pm, Mill on Exe. I'm doing the first talk, and the focus will be exactly this- the thrill of close quarters fishing with a special emphasis on flies. Besides the actual fish, I spend much of my time trying to capture inspiring images and I hope to share plenty of unseen highlights on the night.
Back to the fishing itself, apart from a lost pike on the canal, the only other action of late has been at Exe Valley Fishery. The fishing was funny- slow in much of the lake, but absolute dynamite in one or two "hotspots". Along with four solid rainbows, I also took a grayling of about a pound on a buzzer! I'm not in the habit of cooking them, but this tasted pretty good.
Thursday, 13 October 2011
A long slog over the last two days have left me with creaking legs and aching shoulders, but plenty of enjoyable fishing. The Somerset Levels have been especially beautiful, in their own muddy kind of way. I might make loose plans with fishing and writing, but so often it's the little detours that entertain most. As is the case on the fish filled, "flat as piss on a plate" Levels, the more you look, the more you find. Supplying sketchy directions and even sketchier banter was Bridgwater's own piking Pole, Seb Nowosiad (who is also popular with cows).
I've often teased him in the past about his dogmatic loyalty to fishing his special jigs to the exclusion of other lures, but on this occasion I also learned the danger of letting him dip into my own box. Armed with a Kuusamo spoon, the bugger proceeded to hook and land three pike in the first forty minutes of the day! Not bad going.
We began by drain hopping then, but things only got really exciting as we approached a little, unnamed channel however. It was certainly pretty; one of those many, cute and weedy little culverts, just like somebody dug a boggy channel, chucked a load of fish in it and then time forgot it even existed. What started as a cheeky cast quickly became an adventure in it's own right. The first encouraging signs were clouds of fry, amongst sporadic weed growth and no more than three feet of water. I decided to get revenge and poach one of Seb's lures and on the very first cast, a little jack pike walloped it from under the far bank.
The next hour or so was utter havoc- pike bulging everywhere in the shallow water, slashing at the lures, missing the lures, sucking in the lures, cartwheeling clear of the water. The biggest of the lot from this Lilliput sized drain was probably not much more than four pounds, but I can't remember the last day I had so much fun.
There's just something special about shallow, clear water that makes everything a little more thrilling, more direct. The fish can't plunge deep when hooked, and so simply fly off along the bank, shaking and jumping like maniacs. You also notice the difference when fish are seldom bothered by anglers- unlike the "one hit wonders" of pressured waters, these critters will attack repeatedly. In the course of just one cast and retrieve I watched one jack grab at Seb's lure just after it landed, then nip it again, before following another few metres for an epic final grab, destroying the thing in a blur of gills and teeth!
We finished the day exhausted from about six miles of mud, hundreds of casts and a stack of trigger happy pike. The stand out lure of the day by a Somerset mile was a Kuusamo Fat Professor spoon, which has a beautifully lazy wobble, finishing the day rather more toothmarked than at the start of play.
If only other types of fishing were as guaranteed to quicken the pulse- but alas, it was not to be with my other trip, in search of a late season salmon, on the Lynher. My brother Ben is well and truly addicted, but I can't make my mind up yet: is life too short to fish for salmon, or too short not to fish for salmon? A bit of rain should have helped us, but only one fish was spotted, a grilse of around 5lbs which was unimpressed when we turned up, both flies and spinners drawing a big fat blank.
In spite of their idiosyncrasies, pike really are comfortingly predictable by comparison and I'm looking forward to the winter, with night fishing a current area of interest- if only to squeeze the odd session in around other commitments. Organisation is a must in the dark though, and bite indication can be tricky- hence I've been testing some of Greys LED Nite Floats- I'm no tackle tart, but these are great fun to watch.
I've been enjoying playing with the camera for dusk photos as much as the actual fishing of late- and a "Pike Fishing by Lamp Light" style Angling Times feature is on the way soon.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
A great place for the pike angler, a bad place to bring a full wallet- such is the annual PAC Convention. This was my first ever trip to the event, a real Alladin's cave of lures, books, artwork, flies, but most of all a meeting place for that singular breed, the pike angler. When not on sales duty I had a grand time looking around and meeting so many great people. Indeed, beyond new things to cram into tackle boxes and bookshelves, it seems an event all about the fun and friendship the sport brings. As well as the wares of established companies like ET Tackle and Fox, it's always great to meet those smaller but highly individual companies that make fishing what it is. Such is the case with Alex Prouse at Zoota Lures, who makes hand poured soft jerkbaits with alluring titles such as Gangsters and Wobbly Bobs. I can't wait to try out a couple of his Wagtails (like the jack version below) in the coming weeks.
Definitely a place to grab those hard to find items then, as well as those hard to grab anglers and the event was like a who's who of pike fishing. I couldn't resist dipping into the kitty for signed copies of work from John Watson and Graham Booth- and also grabbed a brilliantly moody pike print by Karen Sakar to ponder whilst I tie more flies this winter, one of a gallery of great works:
There are too many great things to list here- I had to virtually tie my hands behind my back around all the lures, and some of the more unusual detours such as the sub zero fishing equipment on display from "Esox on Ice" also caught the eye. Keep an eye on my links page at the usual site (www.dgfishing.co.uk) where I hope to add a range of highlights shortly. As for my own stall, it was a case of unexpected success, with the Finnish soft pike quickly selling out! For those who missed them, I hope to get more stock later in the year.
In the midst of a hectic week before I was also pleased to make a successful return to the Somerset Levels. Accompanied by Seb Nowosiad, it was a fun day hopping between the canal, the rivers and the drains. It started with some nice roach and rudd. The fish were quite spooky in the bright conditions, but still catchable on a small buzzer or spider.
Perhaps the best sport of the day however came on a weed choked stretch of water little bigger than a ditch. Seb was first into the action, catching a really classic looking perch just shy of 2lbs. Predictably enough, it fell for his usual choice of lure: a Kopyto Relax shad. I still tease him about staying glued to just one lure type, but when it works this well why switch?
It felt stupidly hot for summer, and after another detour we stopped for a cold pint, the barman taking pity on our tired faces and combined total of £5.33 to provide two pints of ice cold beer. Better refreshed, I quickly ditched the four weight and spent the last part of the day slinging small pike flies about on a heavier outfit, losing a a good fish but managing to get amongst the jacks. For all they lacked in size, each one was happy enough to give the fly a smash and go like the proverbial shit off a shovel.
What will the new season bring? I have no idea, but if each day out is as much fun as this we're in for a ball- as well as many, many soggy miles walked.