New Rods – Making Moves

I expect most keen coarse anglers own a rod or two dedicated to fairly specialist tasks – perhaps a crisp, fast action float rod, designed solely with long trotting pacy rivers in mind; an ultra-light lure rod that brings to life the most tiny little jigs; or even one of the legendary Drennan Tench Float rods, designed for, erm…

However, it’s usually the most versatile kit that’s first in the bag. I’ve used the same Shimano Aero 2 ¼ lbs test curve rods for years – mainly for barbel fishing on the Wye, using the ubiquitous feeder and pellet approach, but also for light carp and pike fishing, distance bream fishing with alarms, and even for lobbing ragworms into the sea!

But for the heavier aspects of carp fishing that I find myself more and more engaged with – PVA bags, snag fishing and distance casting on larger waters – I have found myself under-gunned on more than one occasion.

So I was really excited to receive three brand-new, Fox Warrior + rods, together with a Warrior + S&M (Spod & Marker) rod and Warrior + net and handle from the great guys at Tackle Fanatics a couple of weeks ago. These models are exclusive to Tackle Fanatics and are a brilliant, modern update on the all-time classic Fox Warrior range of rods.

The 3 ¼ lbs test curve and 12ft length means distance work is a doddle and chucking a 3oz lead a long way or big PVA bag is no hassle.  The rods feature full cork handles and lovely slim, low-profile blanks. I knew straight away the rods would be up to the tasks mentioned, but I was still keen to make sure they’d be subtle enough to deal with lively, double figure carp close-in.

Being able to nip out after dinner for a couple of hours carp fishing really is a lovely thing to do at this time of year. I tend to travel light at the best of times, but for these super-short sessions I just have the rods, net, and everything else is tucked away inside a zip up sling mat. I tend to move around a lot and sometimes even do away with the buzzers and fish slack lines with the rods on the floor.

Making moves – I had this lovely common carp on a small piece of bread fished just sub-surface

What I really like about my favourite local pool is the variety of carp that live there – I’ve had dark, scaly mirrors, chunky commons and even some ancient looking carp – they’re all characters. One lean mirror carp I hooked close-in on a little white pop-up gave an explosive take and quickly took line from a tightly set clutch, making it quite far under some dense trees that weave extensively into the water. But by applying some hefty pressure and dunking the tip of the rod right down into the water, I turned the fish and eventually got it in the net. The rod was right up to the job, showing lovely progressive power and in that instance and I’m convinced I’d have lost that fish with the lighter rod.

A lean, powerful mirror carp that really tested the new gear

I’ve been really impressed with the Warrior + 42 inch net too. I brought a pricier net made by another well-known brand and while the net itself was fine, the handle was poor with the thread loose and poorly attached to the handle.

The Warrior + net is really strong, but subtle and light too, perfect for moving around easily. I’ve used it to push into a really tight, snaggy swim to net a long, angry common and its deep profile means it’s perfect to rest a fish quickly in the margins after a tiring scrap. The handle is as lovely and solid too and with a properly attached, sturdy thread. It’s a bargain at under £40 and, again, they’re exclusive to Tackle Fanatics.

Success! One in the net…

I’m really looking forward to testing the rods on a larger water I’ll be trying soon that requires a serious chuck and heavy baiting at range. They also look perfect for some of the heavier Wye tactics that come into play when there’s a bit of extra water on – conditions I love!

Tackle Fanatics currently have a top deal on three Fox Warrior +, full cork handle rods for just £209.99 down from the RRP of £519.99 – absolutely brilliant value for what is a superb, high-spec rod. Get them here!

 

 

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Second Wind

It was the barely-there breeze one evening that told me a break in the relentless heat was finally on the way. By the next morning the wind had really whipped up and it was a relief to feel cooler air at last. I hoped it may have the same rejuvenating effect on the Wye’s barbel population, because tonight I was going fishing.

I drove over to a favourite stretch straight after work. The wind was now being funneled down the river, dramatically pushing against the flow, and causing the huge beds of streamer weed to churn and drift relentlessly. There had also been an algal bloom and the river was a murky brown colour, despite being low. I knew by now it wasn’t going to be plain sailing.

It was a wild and windy evening in the Wye valley

And for the first two or three hours it was very difficult. I had to abandon my two rod, feeder approach as huge patches of the ranunculus weed were constantly breaking free and drifting into the lines. I lost feeders and leads. Hooks and line. Bloody fishing.

Fortunately I had a plan B – big pieces of Spam fished with just a SSG shot on the line and cast just a few feet out and to a deeper hole in the river. A tree reaching into the water upstream would collect the weed in its branches and leave the spot relatively clear. Barbel would be drifting into the hole in search of supper. I’d timed it perfectly, surely!

After the fifth eel and another trashed rig I muttered a series of expletives about fishing in general and considered loping off with tail firmly between legs.

But after I tackled up again, the eel activity had suddenly abated. And I felt that second wind kick in at last…

Spring Carp – Rain or Shine

As another Great British Summer (TM) slowly but surely lumbers into our collective consciousness, its traditions, old and new, shape those precious few weeks when everything feels different.

Seaside. Silly Season. Fish & Chips. Camping. Cricket. Mr Whippy. BBQs. Brexit. Wasps. Lager. Pub Gardens. Headlines. Headaches. Nostalgia. Knees. Festivals. FA Cup Final. Music. Mud. Sweltering public transport. Traffic. Tennis. Trump. Shorts. Shades. Sunburn… Rain.

Tenby, West Wales. Great British Summer 2016

And as spring turns to summer, even that big burning ball in the sky makes an appearance a bit more regularly. And with it, carp return to the upper layers of the water, searching for food items on the surface.

After a sweltering day in the office, an evening by the lake, quietly floater fishing for carp, offers the ideal tonic.

I’ve spent a couple of evenings trying for carp on my local lake recently, most recently under a clear blue sky and warm sunshine, but the first in torrential rain. And I caught some lovely carp on both occasions. I really enjoy the simplicity of it all, a rod, a net, some bait.

Just the essentials…

The carp here aren’t big – in the grand scheme of things – but the lake is peaceful, the fish are a challenge and landing one feels like an achievement. The common carp pictured below would drift in and casually take a mixer or two that I’d been feeding right under my feet, before ambling back into the middle of the lake, refusing to even consider the hookbait maybe a dozen times.

Finally, as dusk approached – I stopped feeding mixers and trying to chase fish around the swim and tore off a large crust, lowering it just past the reeds under my feet. The common had it straight away.

12lbs mirror web

Canal Tench – A World Away

I’m sure most coarse anglers have a strong affinity with tench. For all the ‘misty dawn’ clichés, they really are an exciting species to fish for and there aren’t many more satisfying angling experiences than slowly building a tench swim and watching those small clusters of pin-prick bubbles begin to move around the baited area.

I’ve fished many different venues for tench, but for me it’s the more natural venues, with clear water and plentiful weed growth that offer both the most authentic experience and best looking fish.

Stillwaters in their many forms, from ponds to meres and gravel pits to reservoirs, are the most prolific environments in which to find the species. Canals and, particularly, rivers are generally considered to be a world away from the type of places tench would be likely to thrive. And yet, a favourite tench fishery of my youth was the Suffolk Stour, just outside Sudbury. I had fish of over six pounds from the Stour and bags of two or three fish over a short session were common. Float fishing, either early morning or late evening, was the best tactic.

Six pounds two ounces Suffolk Stour tench
A 6lbs 2ozs Suffolk Stour tench

I’ve enjoyed reading Russell Hilton’s South West canal tench fishing exploits over the years. The rich, clear, weedy and often secluded canal venues Russ has blogged about have always reminded me of my old stomping grounds on the Stour. And in appearance, they’ve always looked a world away from the cold, sparse and featureless characteristics I’ve (wrongly) long associated with canals.

The canal, just after dawn

After inviting myself along for a canal tench trip, Russ had kindly identified a suitable looking area, raked it and introduced some bait a couple of days before we fished.

It was interesting to note Russell’s sparing, particle-based baiting approach with light scatterings of hemp and maggot forming the basis of our loosefeed. Again, this approach mirrored how I used to fish on the Stour. I always found heavily baiting for tench – particularly with groundbait – highly detrimental.

The session was hugely enjoyable and we had to work hard to finally get our reward – a brace of chunky green tench each. It took a while to coax the tench from their weedy sanctuary a few yards below our spot and bites mainly came around mid-morning as opposed to early on.

Russ had good numbers of rudd and the odd perch too, while I managed a solitary rudd of just over a pound – my best in some time and a lovely fish. But it was a very powerful five pound tench that really made my morning, and I was glad I’d opted to use a six pound line straight through to the hook as opposed to the four pound line I’d spooled on the previous evening.

5lbs Canal Tench April 2017 web

 

Welsh Carp Challenge

From Jeff’s canal carp quest to Mick’s hunt for a canal double figure zander; James’ search for giant chub or finding tench in the Kent marshlands – the idiosyncratic angling blogger challenges often make for really interesting, and at times gripping, reading.

Personally, targeting and catching a few bigger perch became a campaign of sorts, I had a very half-hearted go for a local canal carp and the first bloggers challenge was great fun – but I’m just not single minded enough to set myself a dedicated and sustained fishing mission.

However, I really enjoyed getting back into carp fishing last summer. The gnarly old mirror carp I had from the Grand Union Canal near Hemel Hempstead with my old mate Rob was a real highlight, but I enjoyed stalking carp on floating baits from a local pool just as much.

Returning a memorable canal carp.

I’m certainly not ready to ditch fishing for other species yet and become a full on bivvy dweller, but I can see myself doing a bit more carping this year.

So I’m going to create my own little challenge – catching a carp from as many open access Welsh waters as possible. I’m planning to include all the venues I’ve caught carp from previously in the challenge, which gives me an excuse to get out and fish some new venues if nothing else. I’m determined to find a few from places slightly off the beaten track, as well as from more established venues.

The only rules are that the waters must be in Wales and open access (ie anyone can get a ticket or fish for free). And of course the carp must be, erm, #carpy.

I almost certainly won’t be doing nights or fishing windswept, sparsely stocked mega lakes in search of uncaught monsters. I probably won’t use chods or spods and I definitely won’t be extolling the virtues of the latest wonder boilie. But hopefully I’ll have a bit of fun and catch a few fish from some interesting new places. I’ll record what I’ve been up to here.

Winding down on the Wye

I invited Russell up to try for chub and barbel on the Wye just before the close season.

It was an odd day. We arrived to find someone playing a nice barbel in the first swim we passed, and I honestly thought we’d have a decent session after the prolonged spell of mild weather.

However it was tough and between us we only had a few bites through the day, with no pronounced feeding spell ever materialising.

But there aren’t many more scenic places to wind down another river season. We’ll be back for the next one.

 

Wye Perch – Gatecrashers

The Wye has been well up over the last fortnight after remaining very low and clear through the winter. In the low conditions the fish tend to shoal up tightly and even productive stretches can become very ‘peggy’.

The extra water sees the fish spread out and with the water warming up I expect some really good fish to be caught before the close season.

I ventured out for an afternoon last week on a warm, sunny day as the river was beginning to fine down. Armed with maggots, worms and meat, the plan was to try the float or maggot feeder and get a few bites before switching to worm at dusk in the hope of a perch.

I had a few dace and a chublet over the first couple of hours, but it was quiet and I wasn’t getting many bites. I decided to flick out a chunk of spam while I enjoyed a late lunch in the sunshine. Just as I was about to tuck into a Kit Kat, the rod flung round and I found myself attached to an angry barbel – the first of the day’s gatecrashers!

The afternoon was very quiet and as is so often the case on the Wye, I knew dusk would offer the best chance of a perch.

I’d tried a few swims without luck, and with the light fading fast I was starting to think it wasn’t going to happen. However a final move saw me connect with a perch first cast, to a worm presented tight under a tree. And it was one a chuck. Until it went quiet. I selected the largest lob and flicked it to the zone.

The bite came and I thought I’d hooked a giant perch at first. But then it absolutely tore off into the middle of the river and I presumed it was a barbel. But then it started coming up in the water and I thought it may be a nice pike… For a while an odd kind of stalemate ensued with the fish holding mid river, me not giving any line and the rod stuck in a dramatic curve. Slowly but surely I managed to get the fish closer and it wasn’t too long until I got a glimpse of an enormous trout or salmon.

I got it just a few inches from the net before it bolted down to my left and bit through the line. Damn. I think it was certainly seven pounds, maybe bigger, and though I’m rubbish at identifying game species, I think it was a very big trout. Still it made for an exciting end to the session and I suppose you can’t rely on gatecrashers to behave as you’d like them to!