Stags, Festivals and Tench

May has been fairly hectic all-round, yet I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of short early morning trips on my local tench pool this month.

Spring dawn - tench time
Spring dawn – tench time

The first session right at the beginning of May was fantastic – a number of big, lumpy tench fell to simple float fishing tactics using three dead red over loose fed dead maggots.

4lbs 2oz web

4lbs 12oz tench web

The silkweed in this clear, deep venue is really thick and carpets the bottom, so the dead maggot approach works well as they don’t crawl away and they’re light enough to not sink into the weed too deeply – plus the tench love ‘em!

Unfortunately so do the great big eels that live here and the second session was tench free – despite the swim, at times, absolutely bubbling away – it was only a couple of big snakes that took the hookbait.

eel web

Still, in terms of enjoyment, I can’t think of many things to rival sitting in the early morning sun catching big and wild fish on the float from a lily fringed pool, all before the world wakes up.

We also went along to the latter stages of the annual Wye River Festival that takes place along much of the river through spring.

The 2016 festival programme saw all sorts of activities, performances and locations – including a sound installation at Redbrook and torchlight procession at Llandogo. It was good fun and you can’t help but embrace the distinctly pagan undertones running through much of the festival.

The overarching theme was: Celebrating of the outstanding landscape of the Wye and our complex and universal relationship with water – undoubtedly something all anglers can relate to!

fish

crowd

These gentle activities were in complete contrast to my mate Joe’s stag-do over in Dusseldorf, also this month. A brilliant city and great people, we had a blast. A real highlight was heading over to Cologne to take in a third tier (3. Liga) match between SC Fortuna Koln and FC Erzgebirge Aue.

We’d timed it to perfection as Erzgebirge Aue needed a win to secure promotion, which they duly did. A full on pitch invasion took place on the final whistle which we all got involved in! Both sets of fans were great and it was a real party atmosphere. Good fun.

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SC Fortuna Koln vs FC Ezgebirge Aue

Fishing For Fun in the Afternoon Sun

The sun’s warming afternoon rays had enticed the great British public out to the beach in search of some traditional Easter holiday fun. Sand and sea. Shells and ice creams. Picnics and pints.

Sunset over the beach
Sunset over the beach

Shell web

While mooching around the beach, I knew the sunshine would be having a similar effect on the local carp population.

And so, a few days later, I decided to head out to a local, shallow pool for a few hours fishing for fun in the afternoon sun.

The carp here aren’t big, in the grand scheme of things, but after a winter of roach fishing a carp getting on for double figures looks bloody huge!

Common carp web

And I had a blast, waggler fishing under the rod tip, 4lbs line to a size 16 and double maggot as bait.

Despite the warmth, it had snowed up in the valleys a couple of days previously and I wondered if this spring fed pool may be feeling the effects of that. So I opted for maggots as bait and it proved a wise move.

As well as a number of lumpy carp I had four tench, each of which had me wondering if I’d hooked one of the pool’s ultra-rare monster perch.

There was no mistaking those carp though, as they tore off on those intital thirty or forty yard runs. Great fun.

One in the net!
One in the net!
A chunky mirror carp
A chunky mirror carp
Macro shot of a stunning, heavily plated mirror carp
Macro shot of a stunning, heavily plated mirror carp

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.

Perch and Portman Road

It was my birthday just recently. And as it was my birthday and because I really do enjoy float fishing for perch more than any other type of fishing at the moment, I went float fishing for perch.

I decided on my usual short session and arrived just after lunch. The lake was clear of ice, even if the water was extremely cold. I tacked up my new Drennan Red Range 13ft silver fish float rod (a brilliant tool, by the way – slim, responsive and a pleasure to use and only fifty quid or so!) with an insert waggler, three pound mainline and a two-and-three-quarter pound hooklink and finished with a size 18 hook. I had a feeling a maggot approach would pay off with the water so cold, so I started off feeding just ten or so every cast and used a double red offering on the hook.

A few small roach came quickly before it all went ominously quiet. But it was for good reason that those little roach disappeared as no more than 30 or 40 minutes into the session, I had the bite I was hoping for. Upon striking the solid resistance and firm, angry headshakes told me a big perch had arrived early. And she was a beauty – 2lbs 5ozs of stripy perfection.

After such a quick result, I was hoping there may be a few other perch around, but by the time I’d cast back out the small roach had returned and the perch had gone. I had plenty of roach, skimmers and even a pretty little linear mirror carp, but by about three o’clock it all switched off and I never had another bite – I expect the fish are feeding in patches during the warmest part of the day.

A big cold water perch.
A big cold water perch.

Then on Saturday I travelled back to see the folks. I was thinking of sneaking in a couple hours on the Suffolk Stour after a chub, but the sleet put me off to be honest. And anyway I had more important matters to attend to – Ipswich vs Wigan with the old man. Terrible game, but it was fantastic being back at Portman Road. We had season tickets for years, but being in London and now out West as well as having a young family has limited the opportunities I get to go and see them.

Great to be back at Portman Road with the old man.
Great to be back at Portman Road with the old man.

McCarthy has worked wonders and we’re finally seeing a bit of positivity around the club after the dark days of Keane and, particularly, Jewell. It was great to see young Tyrone Mings in action too. Always a split second ahead of the others on the pitch, he is genuinely comfortable on the ball – unlike the majority playing on Saturday who when they received a pass simply wanted rid as soon as possible – and incredibly strong, yet graceful. Things didn’t always work out for him on the day, but he got over it quickly and moved on without fuss. A class act, I’m sure he’ll go far.

The close season is looming. Lots of ideas and plans – another crack at the perch, a trotting trip or two and maybe another go for a big pike – quite which of those I’ll get around to before the 15th remains to be seen.

Perch and Pikeels

I went to try and catch a big perch from a local pond at the weekend. During my last visit in September, I sat in a t-shirt and had probably two dozen feisty perch to over a pound and a half in weight. So confidence was high as I arrived for an afternoon session on a colder, overcast afternoon. The plan was to see if any bigger perch were around.

We’d had a good bit of rain on the days prior to my visit and on arrival the water colour told me everything I needed to know – it was going to be a struggle. A feeder stream had emptied thousands of gallons of tea coloured water into the lake, turning it 50 shades of Pantone 7412 C.

Pantone 7412 C - not a shade to instil confidence...
Pantone 7412 C – not a shade to instil confidence…

It was frustrating as the weather has already seen off two perch trips this autumn – the rain doing for a planned day with Monty and Hurricane Gonzalo halting the other scheduled trip on the Grand Union with my mate Rob, who’s quietly been getting amongst some good fish this year.

Oh well. I decided to stick it out, but I knew deep down it wasn’t going to happen. I did get some nice roach in the end, but even they disappeared after a couple of hours.

An iridescent lake roach
An iridescent lake roach

I hope the rain doesn’t completely finish off any chances of some decent winter river fishing, but it’s not looking good. Still, winter commercial perch fishing is something I enjoy a lot, so it’s something to fall back on.

Daggertooth pike conger
Dear old Matt Hayes. He gets a bit of stick on the forums and social media, but I think he comes across as a decent chap. He certainly takes a good photo. He recently posted an image on Twitter – don’t think it was one of his – of a Japanese pike eel. Now there’s something I’d never seen before. A quick Google brings up all sorts about these fish and what must be either the same species or a close relation, the Daggertooth pike conger. The stuff of nightmares!

Japanese pike eel
Japanese pike eel

Autumn perch

They may be at their heaviest right at the very beginning of spring, but come the autumn, I can’t resist fishing for perch.

Autumn leaves
Autumn leaves

Dropping something wriggly, suspended beneath a bulbous float, into deep, slack water, preferably close to cover, is the only way to fish for them in my eyes – real boys own stuff.

A river perch lair
A river perch lair

I had a succession of stunning perch last week from both the river and a local pool. While the river is low, they make for a far more enthusiastic target than the chub and barbel.

A perfect Wye perch
A perfect Wye perch
A decent river perch from a deep pool
A decent river perch from a deep pool
A chunky pond perch
A chunky pond perch

Heart over head

I ventured out on Saturday afternoon for my first, much anticipated pike trip of the year. With time at a premium, I decided to head to a stretch of the Wye not too far from home with the plan to rove around in an effort to find some near bank slacks in which to submerge a sprat.

With the river fining down after a prolonged spell of high water, the weather overcast, calm and relatively mild I was confident of making contact with a pike. By the time I’d picked up a bag of big, silvery, fresh looking sprats from the insanity that is Tesco on a Saturday afternoon I was itching to get on the river.

Silver sprats - what pike could resist?
Silver sprats – what pike could resist?

My route up the Wye takes me through the Forest of Dean. I love going into the forest at any time of the year – but in the dank autumnal gloom it takes on an especially atmospheric personality.

A few minutes before I was due to reach the river I passed an old pool that I’d heard held pike. It’s an under fished, secluded water that is gin clear and moody. I stopped the car there and then, turned around in a lay-by and parked up by the pool.

Anglers often talk of these sudden instinctive moments – moments when we change our pre-planned course in some way. Perhaps as anglers – folks who generally spend a lot longer out in the wild than the average individual – we are more in tune with the environment and can ‘feel’ these things – a sixth sense of sorts… or perhaps that’s a serious load of bollox!

Either way – I really fancied the pool and as I made my way down to the water I was already playing out the scenario of watching a pig pike charge from the near bank cover to grab my bait.

Pike pool?
Pike pool?

I rigged up my favourite, rather battered old Drennan pike slider float – one I’ve had for years – and cast out a sprat, before slowly twitching it back across a weedy bay. I honestly thought I’d get one first cast…

Three hours, seven or eight swims and no bites later and I realised my gut feeling wasn’t going to pay off today.

I waited for the pike to emerge from their snaggy home in search of an easy meal - but they never did...
I waited for the pike to emerge from their snaggy home in search of an easy meal – but they never did…

Keeping it local – Highway to Hemel

My mate Rob relocated to the ‘new’ town of Hemel Hempstead a little while ago. After he travelled over to stay with me last year, spending an action packed couple of days on the Wye, this time I headed over to Hemel to sample some of the good variety of local fishing he now has on his doorstep.

I really enjoy our fishing trips together as the emphasis is on enjoying a bit of a social, exploring new venues and trying a few different methods in search of whatever comes along . Pure pleasure fishing.

We started on a stretch of the Grand Union canal close to Rob’s home. He’s found a few nomadic carp that he’s been targeting – without success thus far – and as we arrived in the hot afternoon sun, they were moving around enjoying the warm weather, but they were wary too and clearly used to being fished for.

A pair of canal carp - the one on the right was a big fish!
A pair of canal carp – the one on the right was a big fish!

I’m a complete canal fishing novice. The last time I fished a proper canal was the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation sometime in the mid 90’s – time spent basically trying to stay alive on a freezing December day that produced a total of two micro roach.

The Grand Union felt a lot different. The surroundings were pleasant and the weather warm. And there were clearly a few fish around.

I began feeding a few pellets by an overhanging tree and delayed setting up in an effort to encourage carp into the swim and feed. Rob went off to see if he could persuade one to take a floating crust.

It was a hot day, but the wind was swirling and it felt like change was in the air. The carp were certainly responding to the weather, charging around and generally making a show of themselves. I was confident they’d get their heads down. Indeed, it wasn’t long until clouds of silt were wafting up intermittently from my pre baited swim and I couldn’t resist getting a bait out. I started with a small chunk of spam, freelined, with just a couple of large shot a few feet up the line to keep it pinned down.

My classic canal swim
My classic, suburban canal swim

Rob, meanwhile, had found a trio of nice carp a little down from where I was. It just felt like something was going to happen…

And it soon did. Rob called to say he’d got one! A lovely, lean golden common carp of 10lbs. It was a smashing fish and I was chuffed he’d achieved his target and was there to share it with him.

Rob's canal common carp
Rob’s canal common carp

It was also the point when the carp simply vanished. We never saw a trace of those carp again for the rest of our time on the canal, it was amazing. They went from being quite visible, moving around in small groups to melting away completely.

I returned to my swim, which by now was really being stirred up. At the time I thought it was carp and upon flicking the bait out again I was expecting a savage bite any minute. But instead a series of finicky pulls and plucks suggested it wasn’t a group of carp in my swim.

I sat it out for a while and Rob went off stalking again, all to no avail. I decided to set up Rob’s new pole, feeding hemp and caster into the same swim I’d been carp fishing in. It was great fun and despite the fact I’d not used a proper pole in ages, I soon got into the swing of things. We ended up taking it in turns and soon put together a nice bag of mainly perch, the odd roach and one nice bream – great fun.

Rob 'shipping out'
Rob ‘shipping out’

Our plan was to head over to a stretch of the upper Lea in the evening and after a fish and chip supper, we headed over to the river.

The river was very low and clear and I thought things may be tricky. But fishing the last couple of hours of the day into darkness is usually productive on the Lea, and I fancied one of us would get a chance of a chub or barbel.

But we didn’t. In hindsight I think a roving approach would have been worth a try but instead a static bait and wait approach yielded only the dreaded crays for both of us.

The Lea was looking the part, if a little low and clear, but nothing turned up
The Lea was looking the part, if a little low and clear, but nothing turned up

****

Our plan for the second day was to head over to a quiet, mature gravel pit that Rob had discovered held a great head of roach, good tench and a few nice carp.

As we stumbled out of the door at dawn, the nip in the air and the fine rain indicated clearly that the weather had taken a definite turn. Heavy and grey clouds, now visible in the half-light, filled the sky as we pulled into what was clearly an attractive, tree lined still water with plenty of good features to fish too.

We were immediately greeted with patches of bubbles emanating from various areas across the lake –more than enough encouragement to make us get set up as quickly as possible.

We both opted for light waggler tactics and while Rob’s baiting strategy focused on loose feeding hemp and caster, I opted to introduce some groundbait laced with hemp, caster and pellet. We both opted for maggot hookbaits initially.

We were soon into roach – not big – but plentiful. Rob then tried a small cube of spam and immediately had a much better fish of 12ozs or so. Next cast, the same result and it didn’t take much persuasion on Rob’s behalf for me to ditch the size 18, tie on a size 14 and try meat. The response wasn’t quite as dramatic as Rob’s change, but soon I was netting a solid 12oz roach myself. It was a switch to corn though that really got through to the better roach for me. Throughout the day we had absolutely loads of them. All immaculate, solid fish between 6ozs up to one Rob had at 1lbs 5ozs. I managed a couple of a pound or so and the sheer number of fish we had around the 12ozs mark was amazing. Spectacular roach fishing.

Another cracking gravel pit roach
Another cracking gravel pit roach

We chatted to the friendly bailiff who informed us the lake offers good perch fishing, and some really big rudd, though sadly we never made contact with the latter or the big tench that inhabit the water.

I did go for a wander mid afternoon with a rod, net and bag of bits and bait and tempted a lovely, plump perch of 1lbs 14ozs from a classic snaggy, perchy looking area.

A super summer perch
A super summer perch

All too soon the prospect of the M4 began to creep into my thoughts and it was time to round up what had been another great couple of days with Rob, exploring the fishing opportunities on his local patch.

Fishing in the Forest – Tearaway Tench

I’ve become a bit obsessed by the wonderful pools scattered around the Forest of Dean.

Online information about the various waters in and around the forest is fairly limited and clues to the stock levels and species living in these often under-fished venues have generally come via word-of-mouth from the odd person I’ve spoken to on the bank or in the tackle shop.

One place I discovered on a family outing recently was one of the most undisturbed, pretty little tree-lined pools I’ve come across in some time. Alas, further research revealed it was also off-limits as far as fishing was concerned.

The other afternoon I paid a visit to another intimate pool I’d heard held plenty of tench, my target species, as well as crucians and some good roach and rudd. My target is a relatively modest tench of 5lbs and the two people I’d previously quizzed about the lake had passed on conflicting reports – one suggested a fish of this size as a possibility, while the other said not a chance!

Fishing corn on a light float rig over small balls of ground bait soon had the tench fizzing and after a succession of roach, rudd and little, bronze bream I managed six or seven tench, the best probably all of two pounds in weight. Great fun, but I think a ‘five’ is unlikely.

A little tearaway
A little tearaway

Now it’s finally warmed up and the tench are feeding, I’m really in two minds as to whether I’ll fish a river for my next session or explore another of the wonderful forest pools in search of a tearaway tench.