Friday, 15 November 2013

Chubbin..... at your age?

"I walked across an empty land,
I knew pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet,
Sat by the river and it made me complete"

A warm welcome to this weeks blog update and I am sure we have all heard or been involved in a conversation about the song that the lyrics above were taken from.  It is of course the Christmas John Lewis advert about the Bear and the Hare, a very sad video and one that does tug on the heartstrings but it was the very first verse of the song, shown above, that stuck in my heart and there is a lot of truth in it for myself as when you are sat beside that river with the sight and sounds that go with such a scene you can sit back, look around, and the worries that go with life drift away like the very leaves passing down the river in front of your eyes, fishing offers so much more than the thrill of catching a fish sometimes.

The River Dane Valley on Sunday, i was all alone, the only one on the bank, perfect time for peace, quiet, relaxation, reflection and contemplation. 

Drifting slowly away from that sombre opening we move onto a subject that was posted on the River Dee facebook page this week which caught my eye, the Welsh Dee Salmon Conservation Fund.  The Fund is trying to raise funds for a Scientific investigation into the current and historical release patterns of water from Llyn Celyn.  The conservation believe that these unnatural releases of water are partly to blame for the decline of salmon spawning in the upper reaches of the River Dee area, an area it is suggested that should be the breeding area for 15-20% of the total breeding stock of salmon in the river dee system.  Money raised for this fund will go towards undertaking studies into the effects of these releases and see if they are in some part to blame for the decline.

You can check the Fund out on the link below and maybe purchase a raffle ticket to help towards this cause.

Last weeks Fishy Fact of Fiction drew some great comments both in the comments section on here, Blogs Facebook and Twitter Page and on Maggot Drowners Forum where i have been posting this subject up.  The most funny comment of the week has to go to one of the people who commented on Facebook, Andy Wareham (said you would be in haha) who commented the following to the debate and i quote "Nope, there as thick as s$$t, but smarter than a lot of the anglers that fish for em" Not the most scientific of comments that was posted in relation to this subject this week but the certainly the only one that saw me spewing out a gob full of nescafe gold blend. 

on to this weeks fishy Fact or Fiction:

 "The introduction of Commercial Fisheries Ruined Fishing"

  Commercial fisheries are now firmly part and parcel of our fishing world, like it or not the truth is that you are now normally no more than a few miles away from a heavily stocked pond, snake lake, canal or arena, its the current angling world we live in.  But has the introduction of these fisheries improved or damage fishing?  First of all lets look at the positives that commercials have brought to angling.

There is no doubt that commercial fisheries offer older anglers a chance to go fishing till a much older age the comfort of parking behind your peg so you can literally park behind your peg and your fishing and the same can be said for any disabled anglers out there are some of these fisheries have exceptional fishing platforms and facilities.  The angling industry has dramatically benefited financially from these commercials as well just look at the wide variety of tackle that has exploded thanks to these commercial fisheries, walk in any tackle shop these days and the shelves are stacked with all manner of pellets and infinite gadgets a gizmo's to get that bait into your swim not to mention the money generated by the countless poles on the market.  There is no doubting that had commercials not come about you would not have seen as many poles aimed at carp fishing with extra strong carbon fibre and power kits to tackle the large carp in these pools.  The fishing industry are not the only ones to benefit financially from the angling worlds lust for easy access fishing with plenty of bites, its safe to say the Farming industry has seen great financial benefits from building fishing ponds on their land and the very one i fish, Flushing Meadows, is exactly that, set up by a farmer to supplement their income during what has been a terrible time for farming in this country, these ventures have saved a lot of farms from going under. 

These commercial fisheries also serve as a great place to introduce youngsters and new people to the sport.  The pools are generally stocked to over the recommended level suggested by the EA meaning, in the summer at least, catching is guaranteed, if you can put a rod with a maggot in the water you will catch a fish and this showed when we fished flushing this year when Ricky, who had never ever fished before came along and left catching countless silvers and a few carp.  The bottom of these commercials are generally of the same mould with 3ft margin shelves dropping down to 8-9ft then back up to a shelf on the far bank so they make for quite simple fishing meaning they are a great place for new people to the sport to start and the fact they catch fish can hook them for life.  Many think they offer invaluable places to test out new methods and to learn new techniques but as you will read in a bit i do not necessarily agree with this.  The boom in these fisheries has also seen increased revenue for fish farms that are paid to stock fish into these ventures.  In summary i feel that commercials offer quite a lot of good into our sport both financially and into the grass roots levels.

Of course there are always two sides to the story and i have to say for the good that commercial fisheries have done for angling the bad damage they have done is just as dramatic.  Pre the rise of commercial fisheries the banks of the local rivers where well populated with anglers, my very own local canal the Bridgewater regularly held open matches being fished by a 100 plus anglers, a sight you no linger see.  The river Dee had matches and anglers all along its lengths where now there is no sign they were there at all as nature has completely reclaimed to pegs they made and gaps in the trees that once where there are now thick with shrubs and new trees.  This exodus of people from canal and rivers is definitely down to the rise of commercial fishing, no doubt in my mind about that, as just look at it this way why would anyone, on a cold, wet and overcast day want to walk two or three farmers fields to fish a river or lug their gear along a canal bank where they may only catch 10lb of silver fish when they can pull up at their local commercial, pay 6 quid, park behind their peg and be certain to catch double maybe triple the weight of fish they would have done.  As a country, over the past 20 or so years, have become very lazy look at the introduction of cars now and how people get in a car to go the local shop rather than walk and the same can be said for angling with the introduction of these commercials, walk fields or roll out of your car, many choose the easy option, and on some days who can blame them.  So i would certainly say commercials have had a devastating effect on river fishing in this country and i only think things will improve once people get fed up with the repetitive nature of the different commercial fisheries. 

The general findings are that most commercial fisheries are stocked to around 25% more than what the Environment Agency state is suitable for a water and the only reason this is allowed id the fact that the anglers bait going in regular provides enough food for these fish to survive at such a population, but is this right? should fish be forced to feed so willingly that they lose their natural fear because the need to feed.  Earlier on in the piece i suggested that commercial fisheries offer great places for people to learn fishing and that is correct but what they do not do is teach people anything about proper fishing in this country away from commercials, these people who have only ever learnt to fish a commercial go to a local canal and feed it the same as they would the commercial and soon find the fish away from commercials are not so easy to catch and a lot soon lose interest where as if they learnt the sport the other way round, i.e learnt to fish on a canal they would find that they were a lot more successful in their commercial fishing.  These commercials teach people how to fish but not how to catch fish in my opinion. 

On the final note and this has nothing to do with financial gains to the fishing world, its more personal and emotional to me than that and its the fact that commercials have created this aura that if you are not catching carp on these commercials then its a bad day and the measure of how good a day is going is by how many carp you have caught.  Match weights in this arena of anglers displaying like peacocks are not worth mentioning unless they are over 100lb in weight and they do create a feeling amongst young anglers that silver fish are a nuisance i see it all the time of flushing meadows, a kid gets a bite, strikes and pulls in a big roach approaching a pound, a cracking fish! yet why does he look so upset with this capture? its because its not the carp he was after, meanwhile i am sat there getting funny looks as i am hurriedly looking for my camera to photograph a roach half the size, its a sad sight to see and it kills me every time i see it to the point i feel like going over and taking the lad to a canal to teach him to appreciate all he catches.

Well there is is, more writing than you will probably see in your weekly fishing rag and i haven't even got onto my fishing yet haha.  Over to you guys what do you think?? 

I did have something else to talk about but that will have to wait, on to this weeks fishing:

Saturday 9th November 2013 - Canal Roulette

Speaking to my uncle on the phone late on Friday night as i walked to the local shop i had a fear inside that our panned trip to the canal the next day could well be a tough encounter.  A glance up to the sky revealed a dark blanket of deep blue speckled with all the stars of the solar system in full display, there was not a cloud in sight, this could only mean one thing if it continued into the late evening, an over night frost.   Frosts are a welcome sight for myself as it means the fishing in our rivers is about to come into its own but an over night frost just before a session on a canal is a killer.  Frosts and still water fishing generally follow a set way of thinking that the day after the first frost will be really poor fishing wise but if that frosts continues and the temperature remains low for a few days the fish do get used to it and you can have some really good days fishing once the low temperatures have settled, our session would be the first day after a hard frost, not good.

Our chosen canal was the Sankey Canal in Widnes, we chose this purely because of its depth, it is a lot deeper in general than the Bridgewater and we hoped this would improve our chances of the frost not effecting the fishing.  Walking down the path to our chosen area of the canal the sun rose over the Mersey estuary illuminating it in a warm red glow that turned the sky a deep red colour which was reflected in the rivers watery surface providing us both with a beautiful scene across the estuary.  Most of the country was still in bed and did not knew what they were missing, i have to say that when the day comes that i can no longer get out and wet a line it wont be the fishing i will miss be the beautiful scenery and atmospheres i have experienced during the early morning, it was a privilege to have witnessed such a lovely sunrise.

As we examined our chosen swims we were both amazed by how clear the water was, it was in stark contrast to our trips a few weeks ago where you could not see the bottom clearly at all but now snags and rises in the bottom where plain for all to see and worryingly there was little sign of any fish.  I set up two lines, one straight down the middle and another against the far reeds and to my amazement the depths where very similar, surely there had to be fish holding in water this deep.  My uncle had set up a short distance down the canal but between us there was a whole bank of white crunchy grass that bore the evidence that we had in fact experienced a hard frost.

I fed the swim as lightly as a dared and only introduced a small amount of bait, my ground bait mixed as slop to produce a cloud and colour the water up to try and give the fish confidence to feed but with no substance in the ground bait slop to feed the fish at all.  the bait was a humble white maggot, a sign of the times again was that the local tackle shop did not have and pinkies or squats for sale on Friday.  The short story about this is the only action either of our swims saw was the sight of two swans passing through and in fact i think as one passed through it might of been the only time the top of my float threatened to get wet.

Three hours in and neither of us had had as much as a knock, it was time to stick or twist, stay and maybe the the fishing would pick up or twist and head of straight away to the stretch of the bridgewater we fished last week where we had both caught a decent weight of fish.  We both decided that it was highly unlikely that the fishing where we where was going to improve so we decided to pack up and head off to the Bridgewater Canal.

Its safe to say that autumn is definitely slowly giving way to winter and almost all the trees are know a mixture of the colours of the fall and it was amazing to see such the colours of the end of autumn in the trees on the far bank of the canal when we arrived.  We are on the banks every week and it really does put you in situations where you can see the seasons change and i must say even the most famous of artists can not compare to natures vast palette.

the trees of late autumn, beautiful.

trees pic

The fishing here started off like a house on fire with 3 instant bites and i thought, yes! here we go but the reality was that this brief early flurry would make up the majority of the action as i tinkered and searched around for the remaining few hours picking up another one or two fish.  The two nets from this week and last week put side by side shows just how much a frost effects the fishing, i have no doubt the fish where still there but where just not feeding. I guess that is fishing for you, one week 10lb next week 10 fish.

Sunday 10th November - Chubbin' your age?

The cold still tingling in my finger tips i woke early on Sunday with one intention and that was to get out on a river.  Rivers run cold all year and as the fish are constantly swimming against the flow they are not effected as much by the frosts, in fact on some rivers the frosts are actually the start of the really good fishing.  There are of course fish , like barbel, that's metabolism slows down as the weather cools but I had my heart set on a fish who's veracious appetite is as large as their mouths, the gregarious Chub.

There River Dane was my destination a river that i have not fished as much as i would like to over the past year but as it one of the small rivers i began fishing when i started fishing rivers it holds a special place in my heart.  As i turned off the motorway and start passing along the back roads my heart begins to beat that little bit faster in anticipation of that first glimpse of the Dane Valley.

Arriving at the car park i had the minimum of tackle with me, a ruck sack with my bait and tackle box, feeder rod, trotting rod, landing net, rod rest and a unhooking mat that would double up as something to sit on.  I walked straight to the nearest point i could find where i could see the river and like i had thought she was carrying a good bit of extra water and was really pushing through at some speed but the one thing that that i did notice in this early look at her was that the colour was dropping nicely and the river had that almost tea colour to it, it was not going to be easy but i was in with a shout if i used my head and read the river correctly.

To my amazement, on such a fantastic morning, the car park was empty, i was the only angler and i had the whole two fields to explore.  I was a man with a plan and i quickly set in my mind 4 swims across the two fields that i wanted to fish.  I knew from experience where the different pockets of chub would be so it would be a case of reading the river to work out where i thought they would be in the conditions i was faced with.

I started off in a swim where i have caught many chub in the past its an area with plenty of cover where the main flow kisses some nice snags as it moves through. Normally this is a swim i would trot a float through but that was certainly out of the question today as the float would be in and out in a matter of seconds, it was going to be a day on the feeder for sure.  The rig I use has developed over time and i must say my time chasing carp on the blogs carp quest has seen me develop my rig from a simple running lead stopped by a shot to the rig in the picture below.

my rig

The rig itself is still the simple rig i used when i first started in its principle and the additions are there to improve the functionality and reliability of the rig.  I never add something to a rig if it does not add something substantial for me and every aspect of this rig does.  The lead clip system not only allows me to quickly change the weight of the lead i am using quickly but it is also free running and the reason for this is when the fish takes the bait it feels no resistance from the lead as the line pulls straight through the lead clip yet i get a lot of reaction on the tip as the chub is pulling directly on the tip and not against a fixed lead.  The rig sleeve below the swivel is something that come from the carping and helps to kick the line away from the lead to reduce the chances of the rig tangling as lets face it you do not want to be sitting there watching a tip if below the water your rig is not fishing so this aides that and the quick change link allows me to quickly change the length of my hook length with east should i need too.  You may also notice the hook has no hair rig on it, in my experience chub and hair rigs do not go together all bait for my chub fishing goes directly on the hook which in this case is a size 10 and of course the line is Maxima, old school till the end.

I purchased a bait dropper a few months ago for my fishing on the River dee when the fish are coming up in the water and i feel no bait is getting down so i can introduce some bait on the bottom and get the fish feeding where i want them.  I have since found this to be a invaluable tool in my fishing on smaller rivers, i used it on the session i caught the chub and barbel on another river earlier on in the year to great effect.  It is safe to say my fishing style on these rivers has changed dramatically since i first started out, as my knowledge of rivers has built up i have developed a new found patience, years ago i could not wait to get a bait in the water but time has taught me differently and with that i introduced two bait droppers of maggot, corn and my secret chub bait into the area i thought the chub would be in and i sat back, poured myself a warming cup of hot vimto and admired the beautiful, crisp cold morning as the world around me woke up.

Chub are not really a fish you are going to see topping to give their presence in the swim away and unless it is really clear and you can see the fish in the swim, you have to trust to your judgement that you are doing the right thing.  I lowered my rig into position as to not spook any fish that may have been attracted by the bait, placed the rod on the rod rest and laid the line across my finger waiting for that unmistakable pluck on the tip.  I was confident and sure i was doing the right thing and for once there was no doubts in my head, had read the river and this is where i thought the chub would be.

The river in front of me continued to plough through and along its continuous conveyor belt was an endless stream of autumnal leaves, yellows, browns and reds all fluttering through the swim with the odd one plucking the line as it moved through but to strike at these would be foolish no matter how violent the pulls where they were no chub bite.  When i am roaming the river i normally only give each swim around 30 minutes but i had around 5 hours of fishing time today and as the swim i was in was a swim i knew held a good number of chub i decided early on to give this swim the more time than the others.

The tip danced as the odd bit of extra flow boiled along the crease in the river almost as if it was dancing to the rivers beat and it was just after one of these flows in the rod tip i felt a sharp pluck across my finger and the tip wrap round, it all happens in a split second and to be honest you never really remember the sight of the wrap on your tip as the instinct to strike takes over and you feel the vibrations through the carbon rod.  i struck and was met with solid resistance as the chub held its ground for a split second before making a lunge for the cover, no room for niceties here its time to trust in your knots and keep the rod low and your finger on the spool to not let the fish take any line, if you do its over as if the fish makes the labyrinth of tree roots and branches for sure.  The rod, a drennan heavy feeder was working a treat as it cushioned the lunges really well whilst having the back bone to turn the fish.  The fish in the middle of the river now presented me with another problem and that was moving the fish up to the net against the almighty torrent it was tough going with the fish now beaten and on the top but with my new long handled landing net i was able to net the fish quite far into the river so this really eased the problem and with the fish now resting in the landing net i took a second to catch my breath before wetting the unhooking mat and unhooking the fish.

The fish went 5lb 5oz on the sclales but the net weight 1lb 8oz so that makes this chub 3lb 13oz.

The pictures done and weight taken it was back into the landing net to be fully rested in a slack before releasing the fish back.  I must add here i do normally carry a keep net with me as putting chub back into a swim, if you intend to fish on, is not the best idea as it does spook the shoal  but today i did not want any extra weight to carry that would make me think twice about moving, i wanted to be mobile.

The fish returned i introduced another bait dropper of bait and celebrated my chub with another hot vimto as although i was fully prepared for the cold conditions with my thermal bib and brace, two T shirts, a thick hoodie and my skee tex thermal boots you still need that warm drink inside you.  Testament to how cold it was during the morning was the fact that after these chub pictures where taken my phone had 70% battery, not long after its return i wanted to take a picture of the rig on the box for the blog and i was met with a blank screen and the picture for me to plug my phone into to charge before i could use it again!! The phone made its way into my fleece lined pockets to warm her up whilst i warmed my inside with some good old vimto and after that chub it tasted as sweet as could be.

I spent the next hour or so in this swim with only a tiny grayling as reward for my perseverance although it was a fin perfect example of the species and does show the grayling are breeding in this area, which is good news.

Eventually my expectations for this swim dwindled and the inner explorer in me was itching to try the next swim and my hope was that the fish would be ready and waiting as i had nipped along all the swims with a dropper of bait before fishing.  This next swim was  a tough swim to fish as the area i wanted to fish was on the other side of the flow but i knew it just had to hold a chub or two.  Over went my rig and the rod rest was held high to keep all the line out to the main flow.  This next bit shows the importance of having your finger on the line as it was while i was not looking at the rod tip and replying to Mr Munro's comment on the blogs Facebook page i felt that tell take pluck on my finger tip and instinct took over as i dropped the phone and struck into the fish, had i just been watching the tip and looked away i would of missed the bite for sure.

The fight from this fish was weird to say the least as it did not feel like a chub at all in fact the fight felt more like a roach as it zigged and zagged in the swim.  It had the weight of a nice fish and i did wonder if it was a big trout or grayling at one point but then the fish dropped down into the flow and with it being quite shallow here i could see the tell take big white rubber lips that only chub posses silhouetted against the sandstone bottom of the river.  Again the flow provided me with a problem but the long landing net pole again helped me out.

The chub went 5lb 2oz on the scales so slightly smaller than the previous one.

It is worth mentioning here a bit about safety on the bank and especially on the river banks.  I was alone on the river on Sunday but i had told two members of my family the exact stretch of river i was going and i had made plans to get home for the football in the afternoon so they knew what time to expect me back home.  Safety on the bank is also important, especially when you are alone, as although the river may be shallow enough that if you did go in you would be able to stand up in most places, you turn your ankle on the way down or worse break a leg and you are in serious trouble, those heavy thermals that are there to keep you warm, when wet become your undoing.  One bit of kit, apart from a mobile phone of course, that i have found invaluable on the rivers is my long handled landing net as the picture shows below i could land the fish and rest it in the margins all from the top of the high bank without ever having to go down the bank to land the fish, be safe out there.

This swim and the remaining two swims produced no bites at all for myself but it was not through want of trying i feel i gave every swim my all and maybe the only thing i may have done better was to not have spent as much time on the first swim as i dad and maybe i would have been able to get around a few more swims.  I left one happy angler i really felt i had read the river, in tough conditions and user my watercraft to find the fish, i have no doubt had i been fishing this a year or two ago i would have blanked as i would have gone for the same places i normally fish and not where the fish are.  The dane really is a great river to learn about creases, undercuts and slacks, i am sure the river will be in fine fettle this weekend so why not give it a go and let me know how you got on.

One thing i did notice on my way back to the car was this shallow pond that has been filled by the recent rains.  I remember passing it and having a chuckle to myself as i thought please god do not let Warrington  Anglers committee see this pool as they will have it stocked with 3lb carp in no time at all!! On the upside at least it will mean the road down to the stretch will be kept in pristine condition, maybe we should dig one on the Dee at Worthenbury haha.

Well that is the blog for another week i do hope you enjoy reading about my adventures on the bank.

till next time

Tight lines


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