Monday, 8 June 2015

One off the top

It had been a long and tiresome week at work for Sam, and Friday couldn't come soon enough. In the back of his mind was a calm stillness, and an image of a peaceful retreat he was going to visit just as soon as the last task of the day was complete at the office.

It didn't matter where he was now. It's where he was going to be. 

For Sam, the excitement of a fishing trip had been building all week. This wasn't going be a long weekend of fishing. With so many commitments, a weekend of fishing isn't something time will allow for. This was a chance to escape for a few hours on a Friday evening after work. A short session, but a welcome opportunity to fish into sunset.

Fishing is a chance to appreciate nature at its finest

"I usually let the weather dictate how and what I'm going to fish for" Sam explains, "and this was certainly a day when carp are likely to be making their way to the surface layers of the water".

Sam had prepared the night before and packed a couple of setups for different scenarios in his car. "I like to be prepared for all situations, just in case!" It was very likely that the warm sun and stillness of the wind would encourage the carp to venture to the surface.

Driving to any fishing destination is exciting, and even more so when everything seems to be going your way. "There wasn't even any traffic to slow me down" Sam recalls. "It's as if the fishing gods were clearing me a pathway to the lake without any delays!"

After a hard week at work, there isn't anything better than arriving at your beloved carp lake to find an empty car park! "It was too good to be true, and I hadn't even started fishing yet".

Sam quickly got dressed into something more fitting for an angler, set up a simple surface fishing rig on his favourite "stalking" carp rod and made his way to the lake; armed with trusty dog biscuits and some pop up boilies.

Take your time to explore before making your first cast

It was now time to explore some likely swims. There was a gentle breeze that made the newly revived reeds gently sway. It's as if the plants were dancing to nature's own rhythm. The trees were also alive with the natter of birds, probably getting ready to roost.

"For me, this is what completes the fishing experience" explains Sam. "Being out surrounded by nature and its mystery. Nature is constantly talking to us, we just need to tune in to our surroundings and learn to listen."

It wasn't long before there was a sign from the carp. Sam crept to a narrow point which stuck out in the middle. This gave him access to cast in almost any direction of the lake. He quickly noted the wind direction and noticed where nature's own banquet was being blown for the fish to eat. There was movement on the surface and that all familiar site of carp shadows gliding like ghosts in the surface layer.

Fishing is an emotional roller coaster 

"I began to throw in some loose offerings into the area, not directly at the fish but just past them. I tend to fire upwards with a steep angle, to make sure the dog biscuits land with maximum impact and a lout 'plop' in the water. To me, this mimics the noise of natural food that falls from trees, bird droppings, and for any carp reared in a commercial fishery, the sound of dinner bells."

After some time, Sam still hadn't cast a line. "I like to build up their confidence" he explains. "Give them a false sense of security and just enough free bait to keep them competitive. This tactic seems to work for me, specially when time is short".

Sam decided to make his first cast. Three or four fish were confidently taking food with that all familiar slurp. Some were even racing each other in battles to see who could take the bait. This is the time when everything around you seems to disappear. It's just you and the fish. A battle of wit and patience. You have to make it happen. Somehow.

Fishing into darkness certainly awakens the senses 

Surface fishing is about as exciting as carp fishing gets, and is by far Sam's favourite way to fish for the species. After several missed takes and a tangle round a bush, it was beginning to feel like an emotional roller-coaster ride. Maximum excitement brought on by the anticipation followed by maximum frustration.

Time was running out, as was the visibility. "This is the time when doubt starts to creep in, and you start to question your ability, and when its that bad, you even question why you are here!"

Sam let frustration get the better of him, and misjudged cast. Badly tangled in a nearby tree, he had to set up all over again. He decided to keep things even simpler than they already were. "My only option with such limited time and visibility was to freeline the bait."

He hooked on the biscuit and with a gentle underarm cast, it was back out amongst a handful of free offerings, barely visible in the gloomy distance. It's as if the water was playing tricks in the way the fading light was shining off the surface and creating illusions of monster carp. He now had to rely on sound as well as the limited vision to make sense of what was happening.

The fish were still in the area, and some were still feeding. Out of the silent stillness, came an all familiar loud slurp that broke the silence. This was quickly followed by an almighty crash on the lake's surface.

Finally, a fish in the net

Sam's reaction was to strike, and it was more of a reflex reaction than a tactical one. It was also more luck than judgement when he felt something pull back on the line. "Finally!" he thought. "Don't lose it now!"

The fish seemed to be just as surprised at being caught as the angler who caught it, and fought hard to resist the net. The sound of the reel drag, the tension on the line and the mighty head shakes all added to the adrenaline filled excitement of catching carp on the surface.

After a worthy fight, the fish came gently into the net having spent it's energy doing all it could to resist.

Proof that persistence and a bit of luck does pay off

The mission was accomplished. The excitement had reached its dramatic end, and Sam was once again a happy angler. For now.

"I encourage anyone who hasn't tried surface fishing for carp to do so. Ask a friend who has done it, speak to your local tackle shop for advice. You won't regret it, and you'll certainly be back for more."

If you're getting the Fishing Bug back and want some help and advice feel free to post a question on our Facebook Page

For a great range of fishing tackle to get you started in your fishing adventures visit Fishing Hut

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Bristol Channel Blondes

It had been nearly four and a half years since Kevin had been sea fishing from a boat. "It feels like it was just yesterday" he thought to himself. It was definitely time to hit the salt water again.

Soon enough, a charter boat and Skipper were found and three people booked on. The date was set; Sunday 24th May 2015, and the venue was to be the Bristol Channel.

The Friday before the trip, Kevin headed to the local tackle shop to stock up on supplies. He felt lost looking at the vast array of sea fishing tackle. It had been a while since he had visited this section. It didn't take too long to figure out what was needed.

The best quality 60lb hook length, strong 5/0 & 6/0 hooks and some solid swivels. Now for something to get it to the sea bed fast enough. There they were, 10oz gripper leads. The thing with the Bristol Channel, if you don't have a monster lead then you won't be holding bottom. The current is like nothing Kevin has experienced elsewhere.

With the business end sorted, Kevin placed an order for 1lb of ragworm, a 5lb box of squid and a few packs of smelly Mackerel. Within an hour of being home from the tackle shop, Kevin had 10 x 60lb Pennell traces prepared. The traps were ready. The excitement was setting in.

Tied with care and attention, the business end was ready
The following day Kevin needed to blow the dust off his sea tackle and check it was still functional.

Saturday morning and after emptying the whole shed to get at his sea tackle Kevin unveiled the tools for the trip. After a clean down with WD40 and a quick check over they were ready for action.

The weapons prepared for battle
With all the tackle prepared, it was time to collect the bait.

Kevin returned from the tackle shop with over 6lb of bait. Some might say a little over the top but when sea fishing it's a case of waste not, catch not. 5lb of squid, 1lb of ragworm and mackerel to tip the rig. 

Waste not, catch not
Finally, it was the day of the trip. Within an hour of waking up Kevin was on the boat in the lock waiting for those huge gates to open. All the preparation and excitement came down to this. Like ships going to battle, the boats patiently waited to be unleashed to the mercy of the sea!

The boats poised for action
There was a mixture of tension and excitement in the air as the boats prepared for the off. The iron clad lock gates creaked open and the chorus of engines fired up. This was it. The journey to the spot is always as exciting as it has ever been. "I hope I haven't forgotten anything!" Kevin thought.

And they're off!
The boat, a pretty high powered fishing Cat, had the six fisherman and their skipper out to the mark in no time.

Clear of the slow zone, the other boats were left standing
The bait; squid stuffed with mackerel and ragworm trimmings sounds almost like a posh starter at a seafood restaurant. It actually looked good enough to eat; until Kevin injected it with Pilchard oil. The smell was pungent enough to make Bear Grylls vomit!

Seafood kebab
The baits were out and the wait was on!
It wasn't long and Kevin's rod started to tap. After a swift strike, it was clear that something had taken a liking to the beautiful sea food kebab, but what was it?

Minutes later the skipper was into a good fish. It was a ray holding tight to the bottom. His rod was thundering off!

Wayne The Skipper struggles to hold deck.

As he battled the beast from the depths it found the weakest point in his 30lb mono and snapped him!

The action had begun! 

Minutes later Kevin's rod gently tapped then screamed into action. It felt like a ray coming in wings against the tide. It was almost dragging Kevin along the slippery deck!

Kevin's in!
Kevin slowly gained ground on what felt like a good fish! "I was really struggling to get it to the surface", he recalled. 

After a five minute fight, Kevin's expletives could be heard from the shore when he saw a little ray coming in backwards. It had somehow managed to get hooked then wrap its tail around the line. 

Kevin posing with a young blonde!
Safely on board the little fella was photographed and released unharmed. The adrenaline was pumping and the confidence was certainly being boosted. 

A few dogfish later Kevin's rod indicated another bite. Strike! He was onto another fish.

It felt like a better fish but it was difficult to tell with the current flowing exceptionally fast. A few minutes later the skipper burst into action with the landing net shouting "it's a good Blonde!"

The hooks were out and as it lay there on the deck Kevin could tell it was a double figure fish. 

Another beautiful blonde ray
The skipper suggested weighing it and it came in at 12.25lb. Not a monster but it was not to be sniffed at! After a quick photo pose Kevin sent her back to the deeps unharmed.

Kevin admiring his double figure blonde!
The traps were quickly reset and pumped full of Pilchard oil before being sent back to the depths. 

After 20 minutes of no bites the skipper decided to move.

At the new location Kevin decided to inject some more oil into his bait and broke his syringe! "I felt my confidence and competitive edge also broke with that syringe!"  He couldn't inject any more baits. How would this affect Kevin's chances?

Nevertheless the lines went back. No sooner it hit the bottom, that little tap tap returned. This time a much smaller Ray quickly surfaced. A thorn back this time. Kevin was happy to still be catching despite thinking he somehow lost his edge. "It really goes to show that you have to just believe in yourself and keep trying no matter what".

Kevin trying not to get spiked by a Thorn Back Ray
After a quick picture pose the thorny was laid on the deck to admire it's pattern and spikes. They are strange looking creatures, perfectly camouflaged and adapted for life on the sea bed.

A close encounter with the thorny kind
After a minute of having a camera in its face the thorn back was sent back to find its home some 55 feet below.

The fish were getting smaller, with mini conger eels, dogfish and saucer sized thorn back rays eating baits longer than they were! It was still fun to be catching.

Kevin's father, Alan, tried to avoid being photographed with his little ray so that he wouldn't be laughed out of the local club. No such luck here. Say cheeeese!

Kevin's dad reluctantly posing with the smallest Ray of the day 
As the micro Ray was being returned the skipper's rod started bouncing. He was in again! 

There was something at the end of the line but it wasn't clear what. As Kevin reached for the net he heard groans of confusion from the skipper. It was a smooth hound. But it came in without a fight!

For those of you who have caught smooth hound before you will know it is like hooking a moving train but this came in like a wet sock.

Safely in the net the fish finally realised what was going on and woke up a little. 

 Steve wrestling the Skipper's Smooth Hound
After posing for a quick picture with Steve it was sent back into the recently turned outgoing tide.

This hound is definitely looking suspicious
By this time the tide was building up speed. The boat was slipping anchor and the 10oz gripper weights were struggling to hold bottom. The fish must have been taking cover. Only one small cod was caught while the tide was tearing through. 

Just the pull of the tide on the line has this 224g uptider bent over!

The powerful current testing Kevin's Uptider 
After about two and a half hours the tide started to slow and the dogfish plague began even on huge baits. It was a sign that the feed had begun.

A couple of small Rays and mini Conger Eels were showing and then Kevin noticed his rod tip signalling another bite . "Not another doggy please" he thought. 

He started winding into it and realised it was definitely not a dogfish. After a short battle another little ray came to the surface. 

Kevin with his last Ray of the day
After posing for a quick snap it went back to the depths.

Only one more ray came out after this before the skipper called time!

The homeward view of the hunting grounds
Heading back to shore and reflecting on the day; no leviathans were caught but it was a thoroughly enjoyable day with a good mix of species and quite a few fish in total. 

Fish aside, it's great to spend time in good company sharing ideas and tips to help each other get better at what we do. 

After over a four year break from boat fishing, Kevin was drained, sun burned but completely relaxed.

Cardiff Barrage Lock filling fast, signifying the end of a great trip
While sat in the lock at Cardiff barrage the skipper filleted the one fish of the boat that was taken for the table. Its captor, a first time sea fisherman from Birmingham was smiling from ear to ear with his cod.

Everything else was returned to fight another day.

If you're getting the Fishing Bug back and want some help and advice feel free to post a question on our Facebook Page

For a great range of fishing tackle to get you started in your fishing adventures visit Fishing Hut

Sunday, 24 May 2015

An Unplanned Red Letter Day

Last Saturday, Kevin travelled to the Midlands ahead of Sunday's British Lure Angling Championship Qualifier at Warwick. 

It was meant to be a day spent with the family and friends, but something unexpected happened....

"I recalled the night before Sam had posted on a Facebook page that he was thinking of going perch fishing after he had seen some huge perch at a local canal stretch which had him all excited!"

The temptation was too much for Kevin! The thought of a few hours spent on the canal with Sam chasing the elusive spikey dorsal stripey beasts was on the cards. It's not often that long time childhood fiends Kev and Sam get to fish together, and every opportunity nowadays is just as exciting as it was 15 years ago.

Kevin trying every feature that is likely to hold a perch
"I messaged Sam on the way up and planted the seed in his mind, and before I knew it we were heading down the steps to the canal next to a bridge."

Sam was keen to take Kevin straight to his perch hot spot, but eagle eyed Kevin had other plans.

"I saw a few movements under the bridge', explained Kevin, not wanting to miss a likely opportunity. "I really fancied trying here before we headed further."

Kevin's first cast the drop shot lure was attacked! But the hook didn't set. It was a mixture of excitement and frustration. There's nothing that charges the adrenaline more than a bite on your first cast.

As Kevin finished cursing to himself, Sam stuck gold! The first perch was hooked, and quickly followed by another...and another. He landed on a shoal of perch one end of the bridge. A rare and momentous occasion!

Kevin persisted the other end of the bridge, moving stealthily and casting around likely features. It wasn't long before a "tap tap BANG" disturbed his peace. Kevin had found his own shoal of perch and reached a personal milestone.

"Only a tiddler, but I had just landed my first ever drop shot caught perch!!!" 

Kevin with his first drop shot caught perch
 "There were bigger fish in the swim." Kevin explained, "I had seen them chasing my lure. I persisted in the same spot. I was looking on while Sam was picking off the small perch. One after another!"

Kevin under armed his lure back in and began to twitch, mimicking the movements of an injured fish that could barely swim. Out of the murky lair, a chunky little warrior of a perch darted out and engulfed his lure. "It played like slow motion", Kevin recalled. "It's like the fish came out of nowhere, then BANG!" 

The fight was great fight on scaled down lure tackle. At about a pound and a half, Kevin was one happy perch angler. After some posing in front of the camera, the perch was returned to its shadowy lair.

Persistence and intuition pays off with a magnificent perch 
After a couple more smaller perch, Kevin and Sam moved on. It had gone quiet. All the activity must have spooked them.

The pair hit a few spots along the way as they walked down the canal. Kevin was teased by a big perch that he enticed from under the cover of a bramble bush. Frustratingly, the perch must have been wise to anger's games, as it nosed the lure and swam off. A short while later,

Sam caught another little perch and pointed out that Kevin had been hogging all of the photos. It was definitely his turn to show off a catch, however small!

Sam getting slapped by a perch that decided to let itself back
"We walked on along some of the most beautiful canal stretches I've ever seen", said Kevin. "You guys that live in the Midlands are spoiled for choice with miles of canal to fish."

The lads stopped for a short while, fishing around a canal junction. "We couldn't tempt any fish" Kevin recalls, "but it didn't matter. The lovely scenery and being out enjoying the nature made up for it."

Kevin and Sam continued trying around inlets, boats and other features. But to no avail. Now that dusk was setting, they decided to head back to the first bridge which produced good sport at the start of the session.

"There had to be more perch there" Kevin thought. 

After a long trudge back time was not on their side. Darkness was creeping in but the canal began to boil with fish activity. It was that magical moment at dusk when predators came out of their liars, using darkness to creep up on unsuspecting prey fish. 

When they finally reached the bridge, Sam was on a mission for a bigger perch, and was methodically putting his lure in every likely feature a fish might be hiding.

The race was on to catch before darkness 
"We retreated under the bridge as it got darker and colder. We must have said those infamous words "last cast" at least 20 times!"

It was almost completely dark and Sam was yet again catching smaller fish, almost every cast! Relentlessly he kept going repeating "last cast now, last cast" after every cast. At this point Kevin kept himself entertained by watching bats that had woken up for their evening shift.  

Several casts later, Sam's rod arced round, and he shouted the famous words "FISH ON!". After a short but thunderous fight in the darkness, the fish succumbed to the net in Kevin's hand.

Finally, another nice perch just in the nick of time 
A short but very chunky pound plus fish ended an immensely enjoyable short session that was completely unplanned!

The unplanned ones are always the best!

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