Friday, 29 August 2014

Targets, milestones and a deformed carp

Last season (2013-14) was a good season for me, I reached some targets I had been aiming for, caught fish from new venues and generally enjoyed the winter campaign.

My season though did start off slowly, October was the hardest fishing I had experienced that time of year with just four fish coming my way, a poor return for the effort put in. 
I had become jaded with fishing my same old venues and new ones had to be sought out, and this is where I owe a huge amount of gratitude to both Denis Moules and Jonno Myles let me explain. I had my eye on a drain out in the middle of nowhere for a while, but apart from the odd chuck with a lure I hadn't really fished it, and on the odd occasion I had looked at it, it looked uninspiring with no signs of life. However, after talking to both Den and Jonno, it transpired it was worth fishing, so mid November saw me making my way over for my first proper go on the place.
I had planned to only fish the morning and then go else where in the afternoon. Upon arrival the sun was just starting to creep up and the sky was fire red, it really did look like a scene from lord of the rings. There was a nice breeze blowing down the drain putting a nice ripple on the slightly coloured water, but the drain had been pumped off, still my hopes where high, a quick cast around found 3-4 foot of water, so out went three baits; a sardine, a bluey and a herring.
The first action arrived after about 15 minutes, a bloody swan giving me nice clip out take, after recasting I sat back down only for the recast bait to be on the move again and a low double was the culprit, a good start I thought. Things went quiet then after, so I then slowly moved down the drain, and not long after moving my half bluey was off and a nice, immaculate mid double was landed.

A quick picture was fired off and back she went and I recast, not long after recasting the bluey was away again and upon striking I knew it was a better fish, the fight though was unspectacular and soon a large framed pike was in the net, scrambling up the bank I had a feeling the fish was going to be close to twenty, luckily the scales confirmed she was well over twenty coming in at a shade under 23lbs, pictures done and she was released (more of this fish later), another mid double completed my morning on the drain and |I left knowing I would be back. The afternoon was much quieter but right on darkness a brace of mid doubles completed a fantastic day.

November was a turning point in my season where fish started to come with some regularity and it was nice to get back into catching pike after a summer of carp and bass fishing.

As we edged into December I had a look back through my fishing records, though I only record pike over 10lbs and I noticed that I was getting ever closer to one hundred doubles in 2013 so decided for the rest of the month to push myself to try and achieve this, though numbers are not important to me it is nice to hit little milestones like this. Anyway despite a lot of effort put in, I finished up just short on ninety seven, not that I was complaining, it had been a fantastic year.
At the turn of the year another milestone crept into view, one which I was desperate to reach, as it stood I was on seventeen, twenty pound plus pike and I was thinking that maybe making it to twenty, twenties was a realistic target for the remaining part of the season.
January started off well with a few nice doubles coming my way, including a couple from a new estate lake I tried, I also managed to add another twenty to my list, so it was a case of one down, two more required to reach my goal.
February started off much the same as January, plenty of doubles coming to my rods up to 19lbs, so bloody close I thought but not quite close enough. It was the end of February and I hadn't managed to add another twenty to my list and was starting to think it would be next season that my target was reached, but on my last trip of the month the only run of the day turned out to be my nineteenth twenty, its back on I thought.

March I have always found to be a strange month for piking, sometimes it was be fantastic and at other times it can be dam infuriating, specially if you can see the pike and they steadfastly refuse the bait. Anyway March found me back down the drain where I visited in November, it was bloody cold, the drain was very, very low, my baits sitting in about 2 and a half feet of water, today I had bought a bucket of lives with me and I'm glad I did as the float on my ledgered live bait rod indicated the tell tale sign of a take, line out the clip and a swift strike and I knew it was a big fish, after a lot of plodding up and down the drain the fish was soon beaten and into the net she went, I instantly recognized the fish, it was my twenty from back in November, and it had been only a couple of weeks since I had last seen her on the bank, that time to someone else. I therefore knew she was still over twenty so didn't bother putting her through the stress of weighing or photographing, I unhooked her in the net in the water and then let her go. It then dawned on me I had reached my target, it had been a truly brilliant season.

The river season ended and my mind instantly turned to some gravel pit piking while it was still cold enough, however I only had until the end of March to fish the pit, the wildlife trust where now enforcing the rule that the lake closed to anglers on the last day of March to allow the birds to nest in peace, though they still allowed jet and water skiers on, with the huge wake the create washing away many nests was quite frankly ludicrous, but that was out of my hands.
A few fish came my way upto 17lbs which seems to be about the ceiling weight for the fish in the venue, I was hoping to snare a bigger fish before they spawned, but alas that didn't happen. The end of March came and that was it, a fence was erected to stop anglers accessing the lake and we could only watch on as the jet skiers caused havoc on the place.
April was spent mostly on the north Norfolk coast bass fishing, something that I have started to enjoy, there where a few trips to an estate lake thrown in after the pike but all was quiet on the front and only a low double was caught.

Into May the bass fishing finally started to pick up and a few decent fish started to come my way, fish upto 3lb where caught and though not big by national standards it was a new PB for me, and then a new species of sea fish appeared for me in the shape on both common smoothhound and starry smoothhound, these fish certainly give a good bite, the rod literally folding in half as they move of with the bait and then, once you get them close in really go for it in the breaking waves, you really do have to be aware and I was pulled off balance by them during the fight such is the power they have.

Into June and carp started to occupy my mind so I decided to use my redundancy money to join a new lake just down the road from me in which I had seen some big carp when I had walked around it only a few days before. The first day was roasting hot, I didn't have a lot of confidence, not being a carp angler, not knowing a lot about the lake, and having as it transpired shit bait meant that the odds where firmly stacked against me. Around early afternoon I was thinking of packing in, I hadn't caught, I was getting severely sunburnt and I wasn't enjoying it to much, at that moment my micron screamed off and a carp had been daft enough to hang itself on the end of my rig, due to the weed I had to fish a fairly tight clutch to try and stop the burying itself in the weed, as it happens with the fish that I was attached to it was necessary to fish tight as rather predictably my carp had to be deformed to such an extent I was surprised it could even swim! That explained the lack of fight, I'm sure it spun in the water when I was reeling it in. Still a carp was a carp and at about 16lb it wasn't a bad first fish, later in the day I added another of a similar size, though at least the second one resembled a carp! A few more carp came along over the next few visits, including my bloody deformed one again, but it was starting to get a bit to predictable for my liking, and with the river season just starting my minds was turning to a zed or two.

I hadn't caught a zander off the fens since August 2012, despite putting many hours in for them during the summer and autumn of 2013, runless blank followed runless blank that season and I could work it out, but I started the new season with optimism, the first trip though ended in a blank, as did the second and the third and I was starting to get the feeling of deja vu. On the fourth trip things got off to a bad start, we couldn't catch any bait, and then it tipped it down and we where soaked through immediately, bloody summer showers. We managed to somehow fluke a few skimmers and rudd so off we went, half way to our intended spot I changed my mind, I had a feeling about another spot and after a quick detour and neatly having a head on with a tractor with arrived to find it deserted, good we thought. Out went the baits and that's when it started, beep.....beep.beep....beeeeeeeep.....strike.....fucking eels! Over and over again this happened and my 11.30pm I was sick of it a ready to go home......Beep......Beeep...Beeeeep...fuck sake I thought I was so annoyed I wandered to the rod, line was out of the clip, baitrunner was going in fits and bursts, another bloody bootlace...pick up the rod and start reeling in, I just winched in whatever was on the end, I didn't know what it was until in the glow of the headlight when a large looking zander appeared next to me fe'et, I went into panic mode, the fish was just on one treble right on the end of the mouth, my mate wasn't ready with the net and I was sure it was going to come off, it looked big in the water and I had already accepted its escape. God smiled on me though and the treble somehow stayed in and a quick scoop with the net and she was ours. We gave her a breather in the net and then weighed a photographed her, she came in at just under 9lb but looked all the world like she was bigger, though she was quite empty. We slipped her back and job was done, nearly two years since my last fen zander and I was over the moon.

The last few weeks have been quiet on the fishing front for me, a few more carp have been caught but the zander are playing their usual hard to catch selves, though I didn't fish for them during the really hot spell so trips have been very limited.

Now its just time to start preparing for my winter pike campaign, bait has started to trickle into the freezer, new waters have been marked on maps for exploration and already one new drain has been lure fished and confirmed pike are present, new job started, car bought so now its just waiting for the weather to turn.

Tight lines all for this winter.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Life Changing & New Beginnings

It all started back in the early 90’s at about the age of 8 when I saw some minnows in a small burn in Blantyre where I grew up. Computers to me were nothing more than the old Sagas and the Internet was not even known to us, we climbed trees and went on adventures.

Not knowing anything about fishing and having a pretty useless father who didn’t teach me any of this, I came up with the idea that a bit of old wood and the thinnest bit of gut from an old guitar nailed on to the end would be a good way to start.
Being pretty proud of my accomplishment (I loved making crazy useless crap out of other useless crap I could find as a kid) I headed down to this little burn with my homemade minnow catcher and some bread, I quickly realising I needed hooks.  A quick granny knot on the end with a bit of bread pinched on would have to do, I suppose I thought the knot would act as a sort of gorge rig, not that I knew about gorge rigs but it’s funny how our minds work like that.

I was later gratified by my inventive little mind as a minnow clamped on to the bread and as I lifted it out of the water, still hung on to the bread, but every one of them soon fell off before I could grab it. Still, I was pleased with the result, but soon got bored of it and it wasn’t till a few years later that I saw a white Shakespeare starter kit in a corner shop window. I begged my Mum for it and she eventually gave in a few weeks later.

With the new starter kit in hand and not a scooby of how to use it I headed down to the weir at the David Livingstone memorial park.

I met a few people who gave me pointers, but looking back now I think they knew just about as much as I did at the time. They said “just cast out the trebles the flash from it might get you a pike” so that’s what I did, with no bait I might add.

As expected I did not catch anything and casting out just a single treble attached to what might have been 8lb mono was, well, pathetic to say the least.
Someone told me I needed lead weights which were not included in the starter kit. Now remember I said I like making stuff ?
Well I wouldn’t recommend this even to adults never mind a 10 year old! But I managed to find those balance weights from car tyres, but that wasn’t good enough that I had found them, I didn’t ‘Make them’.
So I went back home, looked in my box of junk and found one of those little metal football keyrings. I pulled it apart and filled one with little pieces of lead and preceded to fire up my Dad’s camping stove.
So now I have a lump of lead, but how do I attach this to the line, I know, I'll hammer a nail through it to make a hole.

The next day I headed out with my lead weight and starter kit with a treble. It wasn’t long before it got snagged and I lost my entire rig. Fed up with that I resorted to catching frogs in one of the stagnant puddles near the weir.

When I got home with my new pet I figured he needed a pond so I dug a hole in the back garden, lined it with bin bags which were held in place around the edge with bricks and filled it with water. My Mum was not pleased at all but she just had to live with it as that’s how I rolled back then.

A few days later I went out to find the frog, but it had gone and my Uncle thought it a good idea to joke that he'd seen him pack his bags and hop away saying he wanted a bigger house, twat.

A week later I was made to tidy the back garden and to my horror found my little frog, disemboweled I assumed by Jock who cut the grass a few days before.
By that time I had totally given up on the fishing until another few years later my Mum thought it was a good idea for my brother to take me down to the Clyde for an overnight camping/fishing session.

Really wishing she hadn’t, as my brother, a teenager now with other ideas on his mind (boozing) as it was, it one of the worst experiences of my life he was so pished he knocked over the stove and frying pan, which saw the sausages rolling all over the sand, no way was I eating that!
I thought it best just to go into the tent and try to make it through to the next morning. Morning came and I was glad to be getting the hell out of there, but before we went home we tried another bit of the river and my brother caught a small eel.
Me being a bit of a weird child took it home, it had died, but that didn’t matter it was a cool looking thing and it stayed in the back garden until my mum got mad and told me to get rid of it.
So that was it, I was scared of fishing for about 10 years thanks to my brother.

In 2000 we moved to Glasgow and at the time it didn’t occur to me to try and fish the Forth & Clyde canal that could be seen from the kitchen window.

With no job prospects I took to keeping myself entertained by drinking, which promptly became a problem. I would drink almost every day and stay on the old yahoo chat rooms annoying people and writing software to interfere with the chat protocol and crash peoples computers, It was crazy, the buzz you would get from making about 40 peoples computer freeze and crash was hilarious, even funnier was seeing them all return wondering what had happened.

By 2005 the drink problem had got considerably worse and the last straw was after drinking two and a half bottles of buckfast and not remembering anything apart from the odd flash back now and again of trashing the house, enough was enough.
I looked out of the kitchen window in deep thought and looked at the canal and thought to myself “I need to get out of this house, I need to do something, these four walls are driving me crazy, if I don’t, I'll end up killing myself."

Armed with the Internet, I searched for information and all the terminology I then found a forum called "Anglersnet", but my first post is laughable at best as I truly didn’t have a clue.
One thing I chuckle about now is this comment I made on my first post “I'm not fussy what fish I catch as long as its not pike”
It was on that forum that I met my best friend and fishing buddy Andrew Macfarlane who kindly offered to accompany me to the Glasgow Angling Centre to get me kitted out and we managed it with £100. Andy picked out a £30 float rod and a £25 reel,  hooks, split shot, floats, 4lb sensor line.
We left the angling centre and headed to the canal, Andy showed me how to setup a basic float rig and I promptly caught my first ever roach of about 2oz and it was named Fred, I'll never forget that little roach.

Many joyful years passed with me and Andy fishing side by side in all conditions and locations. The fishing had changed me so much that I even landed a job in a letting agents which got me through my driving test and got me a car. The fishing opportunities that gave me and Andy were brilliant and we went all over the place. I lost weight and life was looking good.
I slowly progressed my way up the angling ranks to start fishing for pike with Andy as my mentor; this was a big difference from the little roach and perch that I had been catching.
It was a few years, me and Andy had been friends before he felt I was ready for pike and I'm grateful for this and I firmly believe this is how everyone should do it (start small).

At first Andy thought it best to start me off with a spinning outfit and take it from there. He took me to one of the local ressies. I blanked the first few times, but Andy caught a few wee pike and showed me how to handle them.

The funniest memory of this was the first pike he showed me how to chin. It was a jack of about 2lb and Andy was showing me where to put my fingers under the gill plate taking care not to go under the rakers. I asked Andy “so where does yer finger go” and as he pointed in the pike's mouth, it clamped down on Andy’s finger. I could hear him mutter “please don’t move please don’t move” but as can be expected it did move and quite vigorously too leaving his finger in an awful mess.

Stupid cnut.

Not long after, I managed to land my very first pike on my own which fell to a shad, it was only about 10-12lb but my god I was buzzing, I was howling like a nutter with so much adrenaline pumping through my body, this pike was so determined to get away. I'm just glad no one was around to hear me whoopin n hollerin.

I can’t remember now how long it was until we eventually went to one of Andy’s favourite waters for big pike, but by that time I was armed with a 3lb tc rod, alarms, droppers, 50lb braid etc.
It was then that I caught my first 20lb pike. In all fairness I really shouldn’t have caught it as I was meant to be working that day.

Andy had called me the night before saying him and Andy (yes 3 Andy’s) had spent the night there and they had been catching a lot of nice double figure pike and they could really do with something to eat.
I went to Greggs in the morning and got them a ton of rolls, crisps, drinks. I grabbed my rod and pulled a sicky and went to Loch X.

It was about 6 or 7 hours before I got a bite but feck me what a bite. I played this 20lb’er for what felt like an eternity. It didn’t have much depth to play in so all it could do was go straight ahead at full speed, to say it looked like a torpedo was an understatement it fought so hard I could barely keep hold of the rod so Andy suggested I stick the butt on my hip. Eventually it gave up the fight and was banked, weighed, photographed and returned.

This pike has been my crowning achievement and it’s been hard to beat but I’ve come close a few times with a 17 and an 18 from the same water but I doubt my next twenty will ever be as memorable as my first.

I have since fallen away from pike fishing to concentrate more on tench and carp but come this October I’ll be hard at them again and hoping to beat my PB.

In 2012, Andy told me about The Pikers Pit and I thought this sounds right up my street so I registered and kinda fell away from it but then started reading again in 2013 and tried to contribute. It was then that Ben (Forum Father) needed some help moving to the new server and since then I've found myself a new angling family. I was getting fed up of forums where you had to bite your tongue for fear of a ban, but you lot are wonderful and while chat can get heated and strong words spoken, we don’t get all hung up on it.

So to sum things up, angling has given me so much in such a short space of time. It has changed me for the better; it is in my blood, and in my thoughts every waking moment, it gave me back my confidence and made me sociable, it has saved my life and I am grateful.

I have seen some spectacular scenery and awe inspiring events, I remember the 40-60ft high whirl wind sucking up water as it travelled across a loch, fog rolling across the mountains to settle on the surface as the sun rises with intense ambient gold and red.

At times it’s been grim and dangerous such as when Andy got stuck in deep silt at HarelawHenrys Snypes dam and the time the weather has been so horrible you wondered “why” whilst clinging to a brolly soaked to the bone and through all that, I wouldn’t change a thing, I'd do it all over again next year.

If I didn’t have angling I would have nothing. I’am a piscator.

Andrew Croft

Friday, 8 August 2014

Is It Worth It - Tony "Pieater" Balfour

Time is 04-45, The sun is nowhere to be seen, the sky is black as coal, wind is averaging about 60 MPH, and the rain is being driven sideways, I’m looking out my bedroom window and thinking bollocks to this for a game of soldier’s, I’m supposed to be going fishing, Yeh right I am, you wouldn’t turn a dog out
in this, that reminds me. 

I wonder if my mam let the cat in, no bother bloody moggy always seems to find a dry billet somewhere .

Anyway where was I?, oh fishing in this weather is crap, I look again out the window and wonder if it will brighten up any  and then look back towards my bed, I can see her curlers poking out the top of the quilt , if I play my cards right I could be balls deep before she knows what’s happening, there is nowt as nice as catching um with a full bladder in the morning, tell you what I’ll go make a brew before I decide on bank or bed, but i think my mind is already made up.

I suppose I’d better start explaining myself before I get the Mad Mick treatment from my favourite Mod and start getting deleted, so what am I rambling on about? , well if you will bear with me I’ll explain all, I’m an avid reader of anything fishy I can get my hands on, and a while ago I was sat in the throne room doing my unmentionables and flicking through some old fishing diary’s, yes I used to be one of those unfortunates that filled in a diary after every session, at my age now, I can’t be arsed but that’s another tale, and in these said diaries from one of my more successful seasons i noticed quite by chance that most of the better fish that season had come between late morning and mid-afternoon, and when i looked further into this i realized that of my top ten fish only two were caught in this dawn/pre-dawn time of day, with two caught mid-morning one caught at night and FIVE  (that’s 50% or half ) afternoon caught fish.

So what in the name of Torak’s teeth have I been doing getting out my nice warm pit before the sparrows have even farted, by setting the alarm for an hour before I’ve even gone to bed, don’t get me wrong i love this time of day when it seems like everybody and everything is still asleep especially if you get the weather right and watch the weak winter sun climb slowly over the horizon, it’s a magical time of day and anglers usually get to see this because nobody is daft enough to be mooching round the fields and woods at this ungodly time, but my point is, is this really essential in helping you catch fish, fair enough I know you will have your choice of swim and be set ready with your traps out for when its light enough to see,  and these reasons alone may be enough for some of our keener pikers, fishing is a personal thing and you should do what you enjoy doing if that means living out of a bivvy for a few days that’s fine by me , if you only go for a few hours on a Sunday , again fine , do what you do and balls to the rest of um.

For reasons of my own making I’ve done very little fishing over the last couple of years and to be honest I’ve not missed it that much as my heads been well and truly stuck between my buttocks, but finally I can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, so the lumby’s will be dusted off and I might get to wet a line, will I be out at first light?, course I bloody will old habits die hard, but these days if the weather is crap I’m getting back into my flocks, ( go on Mr K , tell um what flocks are ) talking of my bed I’m off before she goes to the bog.