Still on the subject of Christmas, a pet hate of mine at Christmas time is the annoyingly over priced cracker, call me scrooge but its the whole crap joke and silly hat that does it and the prize inside is never really that great or to put it frank worth having, well that all changed this year after winning a cracker battle i was rewarded with a mini cheese grater! When they say fishing is never really far from an obsessed anglers mind Christmas has had my brain working overtime with ideas of ledgered sprouts for chub to stuffing as a ground bait, come to think of it as i write this right now the thought is "could you actually catch a chub on a Christmas dinner?" A swim feeder packed with mash and vegetables coated put in a open feeder and plugged with sage and onion stuffing down to a ledgered piece of turkey on the hook (glugged in gravy of course) with a pop up sprout as a change bait! Tell you what with the amount of different flavours and concoctions out there i better copyright that idea before it ends up in a boilie! come to think of it another one just came to me crimbo pudding used on the old type method feeder for carp! All 100 percent natural ingredients haha.
Soooo after that slight diversion i will get back to the topic i was getting around to talking about which was the fact i got a cheese grater in a cracker and was given a small food processor before Christmas made me think about knocking up some cheese paste for an upcoming river trip so with that idea a block and blue Stilton cheese went missing from the cheese board and even better was the fact that i got away with it as no one missed it, a few mystery ingredients later and i had something that smelt of cheese and had the consistency of paste not a bad first attempt.
As many of you who follow this blog regular will know both myself and my uncle are people who are out on the bank pretty much every weekend and in all conditions and it was great this week when i posted a thank you and happy new message on a popular forum for me to receive such positive comments as this one below:
"Keep the blogs coming, they're always a good read and often inspire me to get down the local rivers"
I never really think of my fishing adventures and blog as something that inspires people to get out on the bank and i think it is a good time to go over the importance of being well prepared when on the bank in winter. It is all well and good having the dedication and will to get out on the bank in all conditions but you do need to be prepared not only tackle wise but clothing and taking other steps towards staying safe.
I never forget turning up to the river dee early one morning and as normal we plonked our gear down on our pegs and walked the bank to chat to any anglers out of their cars. To set the scene it was the depths of winter and the air temperature was well below freezing and was not due to get above that mark till at least a hour or so after sunrise if at all, regular readers of the blog may remember the update where the net froze solid upside down and the keep net had icicles in it, anyhow we approached this lad and he was really up for the session ahead, he had heard of good fishing and was asking us about techniques as it wash his first ever time river fishing. I admired his enthusiasm and that is when i noticed his hands shaking and my uncle asked if he had any other gear to wear to which he replied no. He was wearing tracksuit bottoms, trainers and a hoodie and needless to say he lasted less than 2 hours before packing in and getting off.
His dedication had to be admired and in my eyes he was lucky to have been on such a area where he was close to his car had he been a good walk from the car down a few farmers fields he might not have been so lucky as the cold can really creep up on you.
I always subscribe to the theory you can take it off if your too warm but you cant get warm if you haven't got the clothes with you and that said on all my winter session i go geared up with Skee Tex thermal boots, Sundridge thermal trousers, jeans, two T-shirts, a sundridge thermal hoodie, my maggot drowners hoodie and then a Berghaus geotex coat and of course a trusty thermal bob hat. This set up will only change if i feel where i am going i may get dirty and then i replace the jeans with a sundridge thermal bib and brace. One lesson i learnt the hard way was the fact some thermal gear can be really good at insulating but rubbish as a defence against the wind and rain and believe me all that thermal gear without the wind shield and waterproof coat is pointless as the wind can cut through it.
With this set up you can be assured that you wont be leaving the bank for any other reason than its time to pack up of the fishing is rubbish i wore this exact set up on a few piking sessions recently and although you get the comments from dog walkers and joggers that you must be mad fishing in such condition i knew i was as snug as i could be and that is so important when fishing in winter. Other tips i can give about fishing in winter on rivers is around the importance of placing a stick in the margin at the exact level of the river, this is even more important if you are fishing rivers that rise quickly with rain as an early indication of the river rising can give you time to get off the low lying ground and to safety, this is a tactic i use a lot on the tiny river dane and did so only this weekend passed.
My last bit of advice and my uncle will tell you that i am not the greatest at taking this advice as i rarely eat or drink on the bank as i am that focused on the fishing is to always take a hot drink with you it will keep your warm and also gives you a great excuse to pick some tips of your fellow fishing companions if their catching haha and it does not have to be as taxing as making a coffee or taking hot water and all the condaments with you it can be like mine and as simple as a hot vimto.
In the last blog update i talked about making the most of this time i had off work over the festive period and although i hoped to get out fishing more i also said i would like to spend time updating the blogs layout and during a wet and windy day last week i took the opportunity with both hands and set about making some of the changes i mentioned. You will notice down the sidebars of the blog that i have added a Twitter feed widget, incorporated a Most popular blog post over the past 30 days widget and also removed a good number of blogs from the blogs i follow list that had not been updated in some time. This action of removing dead links really surprised me as there was so many blogs that people had started and posted once or twice on and not carried on with them. Writing a blog myself i have the up most respect for anyone who puts together a blog with any regularity over a 6 month period, it sounds really easy in theory but just try it for yourselves, you dont even have to publish it and you will realise just how time consuming and thought provoking it can be, great fun but you certainly have times where its hard going but it is such a rewarding thing to do and over time the blog becomes a part of you as a person and personal to yourself. I guess it was the number of these blogs that where on that list that shocked me. I also added another widget that lets you easily select blog posts based on the labels i put on them so if you select say Dace fishing it will bring up every post that has contained the label dace fishing for you to read and so on and so on.
In this day and age where the Internet rules all and many threads on local forums talk of the decline in the numbers of tackle shops in their areas i feel really privileged to not only have four tackle shops in my borough but also to find out on a recent trip to the town centre that we know have a fifth in the Halton Carp Cabin, Situated on Albert road in the town centre it certainly has a stellar location within the town and having so many tackle shops locally the extra competition can only be good for us anglers the consumers. Gazing through the windows the shop looked quite well stocked and although it was a day when the shop was closed when i passed by over the festive period it certainly looked inviting inside.
This coming week i am hoping to release another update after this one, only a short update just recapping over the highs of 2013 and some of the sessions in there on the shortlist i have wrote we will do well to beat in 2014. So keep an eye out for that one in the coming week, fingers crossed i can find time.
Catch up time on the fishing:
As i have said a number of times on this blog angling is a journey and when you are on the bank as much as me and my uncle are you obviously improve as an angler through repetition and practise which can effect your results on sessions but you also see the peaks and troughs in your angling and at the moment i am almost certainly stuck in a tough period in my angling. this is not through any lack of dedication of will power just things are not really happening for me at the moment.
The first trip of the festive period saw us travelling to a local river with the target of us catching a chub and ifg we were lucky a winter barbel, these where our dreams and full of determination and excitement we walked the banks to our chosen swims hoping for the fish to play ball. The bait for the session was to be a few pints of maggot and hemp with a bigger bait of bread flake for an odd trot through if the fish where having it.
We set up further apart than we ever have before on this river hoping this would give us a decent stretch of water each to draw the fish from. We trotted all day with not so much as a sniff, even the minnows on summer had evacuated the area and it was heading towards darkness before one of us connected with a fish, not the target chub, but a greedy trout that was fat on the fruits of this rivers winter larder. It was not till the last knockings of light that my uncle connected with a fish and again it was another trout. We left the river feeling we had not learnt much more about this new river and like most of the trips here we left unsure about this most mysterious of rivers, sometimes she is amazing and others can be soul destroying, one thing was for sure after a whole days trotting for little reward i slept like a log that night.
The next trip to the bank was after Christmas as we went in search of chub again, this time on the River Dane. Walking to bank in the dark we peeked over the fence to see the river was running through at quite some speed after the recent rain fall and we knew that these conditions would make the fishing challenging and to connect with any fish in these conditions was going to be a challenge. Many of our trips we have a back up plan if we arrive at a destination and its not up to scratch but this river is one that is such a distance away that it leaves us little if no waters to really drop onto in close proximity so it was stick or bust for this session.
Walking the bank checking out potential swims we disturbed a cock pheasant from the undergrowth, i tried to capture a decent photo but rather than disturb this beautiful bird we let him go about his morning routine in peace as being a pheasant in such a busy area for shoots it could well be his last before ending up on the table. Creeping down to the bank we checked out a sweeping bend and it was apparent from the prints in the bank side silt we were not the first to be stalking the bank that morning.
I set up on a sweeping bend with a lovely slack on the far side of the current and my uncle set up along a straight where the current slowed enough for a float to be trotted down with vigour. I was armed with a few baits for the session in half half a bread cob for flake and crust, some liquidised bread for the feeder, my festive cheese paste and as a final back up i had half a pint of maggots from a previous session that in fact where mostly castors.
My tactic in this swim was to introduce a few tight balls of liquidised bread in the far side slack and i left it to settle while i set about preparing my rod for the session. My tackle for the session was my Shimano Purist 1.75tc rod teamed with a reel loaded with 8lb line and at the business end was a simple running lead and a hooklength down to a size 10 hook. The bait, a decent piece of cheese paste was introduced to the swim and the rod kept high to reduce the chance of the fast flow moving the lead around. The trap set i lay the line across my finger and sat back and waited for the tell tale pluck of a bite.
Sat in the Dane valley you are always treated to a magnitude of fascinating British wildlife as a flash of electric blue skimming silently above the water surface as a kingfisher set about finding a early breakfast while high above a group of four buzzards seemed to quarrel over air space with the local bullies in a group of crows. when all this commotion calmed down i was treated to a flock of small birds that filled the trees on the far bank it was literally like being sat in a aviary and i just had to take a video.
Lost in a British paradise i almost missed the tip flicking round and had it not been for the pull on the line alerting me i would have certainly missed the bite but thankfully i struck into solid resistance and i was into my first fish of the session, it felt solid like a chub but there was something not right as i could feel a tell tale thudding of a tail which you do not really get with a chub. The fish stayed deep for the initial part of the fight before taking to the air to show itself as a nice trout. What ensued was one of the weirdest fights i have ever had with me having the power with the heavy line but the fish jumping time after time after time meant i had little control of the fish or my laughing, i couldn't help myself as there is something about trout jumping that brings out the john wilson in me.
This proved to be the only fish of the session for me and boy did i try moving from swim to swim during the course of the day with zero else to show for my efforts. My uncle had fared better than me with four trout and a chub which judging by the size of its head could go a lot bigger than the 4lb it weighed on the scales.
The next time i got out on the bank was the very next day and it marked the start of my pike fishing season on the local bridgewater canal. it has been a number of years since i have deadbaited for pike but i was keen to get back at it and i kept it as simple as possible with a simple float ledger set up shown below.
This gives me a perfect excuse to use my new carp rods and on the first session i set up in a spot i had seen pike striking in summer whilst walking my dog. My plan for the session was to spend two hours fishing three spots i had marked for me to try but very early on in this session i saw pike striking at fry a few yards from the float. This really put pay to me moving swims and i worked the whole of this area during the next few hours without so much as a touch on the float, looking back at the session it is easy to say i did the wrong thing staying in the one swim but the other way of thinking is the theory that when you look at the total length of the canal its hard enough to locate fish and i knew in this swim i had fish feeding i could have moved to an area with no pike in it at all, so i feel i did the right thing in staying put.
The next session was new years day and in horrendous conditions i headed off to the the swim i had tried last time but this time i was better prepared as i had two rods set up to try different areas on search the areas more thoroughly and i also set a plan of spending an hour in each of the three swims before moving to the next with a plan to be home for the delicious duck roast my fiance was cooking.
The only thing that stayed dry on this session was the top of my pike floats as they stood proud above the waters surface. In reflection i am again trying a different arm of this wonderful sport but i am going straight in at the deep end in starting on a canal as there is so much water to cover and the fish could be anywhere as opposed to searching out a small lake where you know there are only so many places the fish can be and its easier to find the spots.
Its been a tough few weeks for me on the bank, probably the hardest since i started writing the blog but as i always promised when writing this blog i would show the true sport of angling in this country and it isnt all big fish and wide smiles its a journey of highs and lows and the fact this update is possibly one of the longest ones i have wrote is testament to the promise. Tomorrow is another day, another opportunity and another adventure and i will be out again chasing esox lucious.
till next time tight lines