Bloggers Challenge – Aiming for Europe

While Leicester continue to confound expectations in the Premier League, I don’t think it’s any surprise to see James Dennison running away with the Bloggers Challenge 15/16. A very good angler indeed.

I think Russell and George have second and third place tied up respectively, but beyond that I think there are Champions League and Europa League places up for grabs!

I’m quite pleased with my current seventh place position. And I’ll try and squeeze in two or three more short trips before the 1st May in an effort to find a few more points.

My one shot at real glory came a few weeks back on the Wye. A tricky day came to life as dusk arrived and I hooked a succession of good fish on worms. A surprise 1lbs 8oz roach / bream hybrid had me convinced I’d hooked a special roach in the gloom (and earned me an invaluable ten challenge points) and was accompanied by a number of good perch to 2lbs exactly.

Tintern gulls
Tintern gulls
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A nice perch of two pounds - how I wish I'd landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!
A nice perch of two pounds – how I wish I’d landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!

But the last fish I hooked was, I’m 99% sure, a very special perch indeed. I never got a glimpse of it, but having had the two pounder just previously on the same gear, this fish felt easily twice as heavy, with my 6lbs line and medium feeder rod at times feeling seriously under-gunned. I finally steered it away from the nasty snags downstream, got it to the relative safety of the near bank and out of the flow, only for it to do me on a totally innocuous looking twig right under my feet.

I went back for a couple of hours at dusk a week later – but the river had dropped and was cold and lifeless.

I finished the river season in traditional fashion – at the wonderful Britford fishery with my friend, Mike. Mike’s getting hitched this summer, so we had a mini stag-do of sorts, fishing followed by beers in Salisbury.

It wasn’t easy, but a couple of swims on the old river produced the goods. I was hoping for a decent grayling for the challenge points, but also as I’d not had one in a few years. I think third trot down I had a lovely fish around a pound, followed by one a shade bigger at 1lbs 1oz.

A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
An Avon perch
An Avon perch

We had dace, trout, perch and minnows – all great fun on the float. After a good few beers in town and an overnight stay, we awoke to the most horrid weather. Very wet, very windy and bitingly cold. ‘Orrible. We put it off for as long as we could, but eventually trudged down at 1pm. The river was rising rapidly and to be honest we toyed with the idea of heading straight home. Still, at least it hadn’t burst its banks – yet. We headed to the sluice to hide in there for a bit, have a coffee and see if things might improve.

We decided to flick out big baits from the sluice and see if a suicidal trout or chub might oblige. None did, so Mike went wondering and I set up a maggot feeder and began casting from the sluice again. Half an hour later I had, during the briefest of lulls in the wind, a subtle pluck. Next cast and I was in. I just presumed it’d be a small chub or trout, so when a big roach rolled on the surface I eased right off!

It was a stunner of 1lbs 9oz and a best of the season for me. Neither of us had another bite, but it’d been a good couple of days in great company.

1lb 9oz Avon roach
1lb 9oz Avon roach
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike braving the elements!
Mike braving the elements!
Couldn't resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.
Couldn’t resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.
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“I’m just off to meet some blokes from the internet by a canal in Coventry”

Well it raised a few guffaws from my work colleagues, but the missus greeted my description with a roll of the eyes and a trio of jobs before I could even think about heading north.

I hit the road at 11am, bound for the centre of the angling blogging universe – Coventry.

It was Jeff’s Zedvember the 54th birthday, blogging and zander fish-in you see, my first attendance at the event.

I was pleasantly surprised to pull into the car park by the Coventry canal just an hour and a half later. And making my way along the canal I was greeted by a quite attractive, feature filled stretch of water – no wonder Jeff enjoys spending time here.

Broken chimp

Coventry canal

I soon caught up with Brian, James and Keith. Just up from them were Russell and Beth, who I tagged along with for most of the afternoon. It was great catching up with everyone and I had a good chinwag with most of the lads on the day. Soon enough Jeff and Keith popped by on their way for a refreshment pit-stop. They tipped us off about the hotdogs available outside the pub and it didn’t take long for Russell, Beth, Mick and I to get in on the action. I washed mine down with a nice drop of mild.

The fishing was tough though. But of course it was never going to be the sole focus of the day, fortunately. Russell did get a nice mid-double (ozs) pike and a lovely PB zander fishing tiny roach deadbaits. Brian had a good pike and perch and James a zander too. Well-in.

Russell with a nice double figure pike...
Russell with a nice double figure pike…

Me? One bite that never materialized into something worth striking at. It was a fun day and great to meet so many of the bloggers I’ve been conversing with over the last few years. And as an added bonus I made it out alive, after meeting a bunch of blokes from the internet by a canal in Coventry.

dusk canal

Canal Rudd – A Small Spark

It was by total chance that I found the shoal. In fact, I thought they were plump roach when I found them. But an unlikely gang of canal rudd is what has finally sparked a bit of interest in me going out fishing again.

It’s been an odd one, this summer. There’s nothing specific I can really point too that made me feel quite so indifferent about going fishing. Even when I had the odd chance to get out I simply couldn’t be bothered with the whole process.

And one evening, after some rain, I prepared the gear, psyched myself up and went out. I knew I’d catch barbel and I did. And while I was there, in the moment, I enjoyed the process and the fish and the session – but I didn’t even look at the pictures until weeks after. However, with the arrival of Autumn, the dipping temperatures and shorter days, my enthusiasm feels sharpened and refreshed.

A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye
A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye

One warm, early autumn afternoon we took the boys over to the canal to enjoy the sunshine, a picnic and mooch around the Gloucestershire edgelands.

The edgelands...
The edgelands…

My local canal is an interesting, neglected and slightly unusual place. I’ve never seen any fish of note here. The odd tiny roach and mini jack pike. It suffered a bad pollution a few years back and much of it is thick with weed and algae.

A couple of lads were trying for pike, without luck, and had resorted to catapulting maggots anywhere but the water. They assured me there were pike, roach and perch in the canal.
As the sun began to dip, we made our way back to the car. My youngest wanted to look at a boat tied up close to the bank.

We went over and that’s when I spotted a decent shoal of plump and deep bodied sliver fish. I can’t deny I thought they were roach. But there were a few decent ones in amongst the sprats. And one fish, sat deeper than the others really did look a fish worth catching – maybe not 2lbs but, perhaps, not far off…

As I sat watching Match of the Day later that night, while my eyes were watching some infernal 0-0 it was that shoal of fish that were on my mind. How big was the biggest I saw? Were bigger fish were lurking under the boats? Would a bread or maggot approach work? Were they roach or, perhaps, were they rudd?

The next morning I arrived at dawn with a float rod, reel, net and a few bits and bobs and a loaf.

Just after dawn on the canal.
Just after dawn on the canal.

I decided to fish a small waggler close in – one of my favourite methods. 3lbs line direct to a size 16 and a pinch of flake.
I baited with some mash and set-up, excitedly.

Bites soon came, but they were frustrating. The float was dancing around but trying to hit the wonky, wavy and frankly weird bites was proving tricky. I shallowed up a touch and soon enough I hooked into a deep bodied silver fish that thumped satisfyingly in the deep, green water.

The depth of it suggested rudd – but on closer inspection looked like a bream hybrid of some sort. I think it may be a silver bream x rudd hybrid? I’d love to hear what people think.

Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?
Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?

Having that fish extracted from the shoal spooked them a touch and the bites slowed. I tried a mere fleck of flake and the next bite was just a touch more positive. A sparkling rudd this time of 1lbs exactly was the result. I was enjoying this. All too soon the dog walkers arrived and the boats started chugging but not before I’d added a couple more rudd of a similar stamp.

A lovely canal rudd of one pound.
A lovely canal rudd of one pound.

I returned a week later, but on a much cooler, overcast morning. The bites were quick to arrive but even more frustrating this time. Just as I was thinking about trying something different – perhaps a pellet or corn – I hooked a beautiful roach. Then another before another decent rudd made an appearance.

The bites tailed right off. I had a few old maggots with me, so tried a couple. A feisty, darting fish was hooked on the drop – a rare canal trout! And I added two small canal dace as well as more small roach before the sunshine arrived and the canal reverted back to appearing lifeless…

A canal trout!
A canal trout!

So, while these fishes will never set the world alight, they have at least sparked some real interest in me.

Back on the Wye

Isn’t it nice to be back on the rivers? I tend to leave the Wye alone for the opening week or two, just to let things settle down a bit. My first session of the new season was spent on a stunning part of the river, fishing a short evening session for barbel and chub. It took a while for them to switch on, but on dusk they duly arrived. Great fun. Rod tips 2 web 6lbs 8oz barbel web 4lbs 8oz chub 2 web

Sunday Evening Breaming

I couldn’t help but notice I was sliding down the Bloggers Challenge list quicker than this Championship season’s big bottlers, Derby County… (Good luck at Newcastle Shteeve!)

So, with literally two hours free on Sunday evening I went out in the hope of picking up some much needed Stillwater points before the rivers open.

The venue I’d decided on – a club water with a massive stock of bream of all sizes and varying numbers of most other common stillwater species – is an attractive place to spend an early summers evening, float fishing for whatever comes along.

Fishing a float next to some lily pads - a fine way to spend a summer evening
Fishing a float next to some lily pads – a fine way to spend a summer evening

I knew I’d tempt roach and slabs, and indeed by the end of the evening I was getting a lovely, solid bream every cast on the float, almost under my feet. I was hoping one of the venues big, old cruicians might show up – but they never did.

Still, a nice way to spend a couple of hours and earn a few points…

South Wales slab
South Wales slab
Dusk by the pool
Dusk by the pool

Bloggers Challenge – Tench Time

So, the great Fishing Blogger’s Challenge of 2015/16 is underway! Big-up Russell, Jeff and George for setting it all up.

I think it’ll help me focus on looking for some of the more obscure point scoring opportunities through the year; encourage me to explore a bit beyond what I already know; and perhaps even force me to get out on the bank a little more. I’m looking forward to it.

My efforts began on bank holiday Monday in search of tench. My local venue is just starting to produce a few green beauties and there’s always the chance of a (locally) big fish – I had one of 8lbs 1oz this time last year.

I arrived around 6.30am, with a view to fishing until 9.30 or 10. It was calm and sunny and patches of pin-prick bubbles could be seen erupting sporadically around the deep, clear lake, showing the tench were indeed on the feed.

My plan was to float fish close-in. Nothing complicated – the old John Wilson Avon rod, 6lbs line and corn or pellet on a short hair fished over regular, golf ball sized nuggets of micro pellet laced groundbait.

The plan was to float fish - but the wind made it hard to do so.
The plan was to float fish – but the wind made it hard to do so.

I swear it was on the first cast that the wind started to filter down the lake, and after an hour or so it became virtually impossible to float fish effectively. To compound my frustration, when the wind did drop a touch I could see patches of bubbles emanating from where my groundbait was.

Time for a rethink. I switched over to a straight lead and simply watched the tip of the Avon rod.

It really was no more than a couple of minutes before the tip whacked round and I was in. After a reasonable tussle a bloody huge eel presented itself on the surface – I was already thinking of the challenge points when it found the hole in my landing net and went straight through. I tried, and failed, with a kind of reverse landing technique, swore a bit before applying brute force in an effort to land the thing. I almost didn’t mind when the hooklink parted.

I introduced some more groundbait and flicked out the bait again. The wind was really driving down the lake by this point and although the sun was warm, the wind chill made it a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately another bite and really good tussle saw my first tench of the day in the net. I forgot about the cold wind instantly. A short stocky male tench of 4lbs 1oz was my reward and I was again reminded how much I enjoy fishing for these beautiful fish. I always find clear water tench far more stunning than their murky water dwelling cousins, taking on that wonderful deep green/yellow belly combination.

Off the mark - a lovely 4lbs 1oz male tench.
Off the mark – a lovely 4lbs 1oz male tench.

I added another female fish of around three pounds to complete the brace before heading home for a bank holiday breakfast, very happy.