Monday, 15 January 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Mafficks and Mindhunters

A few months ago now, down at the deep bit, bobbins relatively quiet for a few hours, then out of the blue, a single bleep, then one of the bobbin jumps a little, then the other rod goes off with a one liner with line being taken. It was the start of a mad hour where a shoal of Zander must have moved in to the area apparently to ‘eradicate all within their path’.

They were straight on to the bait as soon as it went out, bites on the drop signaled that as did the amount of runs I had in a bit of a mad spell. I’d experienced the pack mentality at the cut on a number of occasions where they feed in almost celebratory fashion. The mad hour ended up with a few fish banked, multiple runs and sadly the loss of a big fish that do what only Zander seem capable of and that’s free themselves from a hook with relative ease despite them appearing to be well hooked.

After many a hook experiments, trials and tribulations the offset Sakuma Manta in size 1 is what I use exclusively for my Zander fishing and I’m in no rush to change, I’m utterly confident with it and especially when fishing for Zed’s, if you’ve found a hook pattern that works for you, stick with it. It will end you doing your head in, missed runs and hook ups are just part and parcel of the Zed fishing, there is no quick fix as far as I’m concerned.

If you find it, please let me know….

The thing is, it’s a powerful fish and when it exits the water, like they do, mouth wide open, head shaking back and forth, it’s either going to hold or it won’t. Still to this day I’m 50/50 either way and that’s from someone, confident with his end tackle and a banker of hundreds of Zander that frequent the waters from my neck of the woods.

You think you have them sussed, then the loss of a big fish, you’re re-evaluating your approach to the nth degree because you don’t want to lose a fish like that again. Last season I lost what would have easily broken my PB on both river and cut in the same fashion, hooked seemingly well, rod bent double, towards the net, and then head out of the water shaking violently the hook eventually loses its hold, the fish back to its sanctuary.

But then that’s why we like fishing though isn’t it, the one that got away, the one we now know where it lives, the one that will be always be looking over his shoulder. I’ve grown to love the Zander and enjoy it every time I catch one, proper proud looking fish, tough as old boots and considering they were re housed in a dirty Midlands canal or river thriving on their misfortune.

They will still for many though, will always been seen as the waters ways serial killer, the canals are deserted for maggot danglers these days, because the Zander has eaten them all. Nothing to do with the rise of commercial fisheries and the emergence of the lazy angler then, yeah right….

Now talking of 'serial killers' I’ve been watching Netflix's true-crime centric thriller series "Mindhunter" which was inspired by the true story of how the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit began studying psychopaths and serial killers in the late 1970s. While the names of the special agents involved were changed, several of the convicted murderers they interview are pulled straight from history.

One of them for example is Edmund Kemper, the "Co-Ed Killer," who was found guilty of ten counts of murder.

Kemper, who was six-foot-nine and weighed 20 stone, was found guilty of 10 total counts of murder between 1964 and 1973. He confessed to killing his grandparents at age 15. After being incarcerated for those murders and released at 21, Kemper continued to kill. He kidnapped and murdered six young women, all students, in the Santa Cruz area in addition to killing his mother and her friend.

His victims were killed using various methods, shooting, stabbing, or choking, but Kemper confessed to practicing necrophilia with eight of the victim's corpses after separating their heads from the body.

The show goes into Kemper's childhood and abusive mother, but leaves out a couple details from his past. He also killed two cats (one of which he dismembered) when he was a young boy, and also had two near-death experiences at the hands of one of his sisters. Kemper is still alive and incarcerated in California.

Yeap, all very gruesome…

The thing is as someone trying to get in the head of the Zander to bank a cut double the series had some crossover….

Yeap, I’m clutching at straws now, just get on it, if you haven't, it’s a good watch.

The theory that I had that made sense from the last session was that rather than try and chase the Zander over this rather large stretch of the Warwickshire Avon maybe the best way would be to set a trap and then wait for the fish to come to you, they seemingly patrol in packs and can be intercepted as they go about their travelling.

A sting operation if you will….

The problem is they appeared then disappeared in quick succession so the window of opportunity would be over as quickly as it started. So whilst waiting for the bobbins to rise rather than twiddle ones thumbs, get a maggot feeder out to see what else swims within these Zander infested waters.

You never know, something special might turn up….

So to put the theory in to practice a few sessions may well be needed, but I’m up for that, I’m fishing for Zander, and you know me I’m always up for that.

So the first session….

Hmmm, well lets just say it was difficult to put finger to keyboard.

I rocked up at the river at dawn and the conditions looked perfect, the river was up, flat and with a nice colour to the water, there was small fish topping everywhere too. So two deadbaits went out, one in the middle where most of the fish were topping and the other by some far bank cover where I'd hooked and lost a decent fish before.

An hour went by without much action with the lure being cast around as well. Then the boating club that shares this water were on their training drill, sadly with a rotund megaphone user who was also controlling an outboard. The wake was frankly annoying as was his voice.

So I packed up and moved to an area of oxygenated water where I'd lost a sure double and also landed one 8lb 10oz. About ten minutes in the right hand rod was receiving some sharp pulls but not enough to register on the bobbin, upon retrieval the bait had been stripped to the bone.

Crayfish the likely culprit....

Again after an hour nothing much doing, so the last hour was spent in a section of deadwater, again some sharp tugs on one of the rods but no proper bites registered. Why is it so quiet I wonder, usually here, at least one a two jacks give themselves up. So a switch to a Mepps at least my bring something, an sure enough with 15 minutes to go a small Perch took a liking to it.

Back to drawing board, well not just yet, I might leave it for a few weeks for them to properly get used to the conditions again. 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Jackanapes and Juveniles

Chub Heaven, not so it seemed recently because this small haven I’ve fished for quite a few years now they seemed to be far less in numbers. From the 12 or so fishable swims on this section, 4 or 5 of those were guaranteed to hold chub in the winter, a blank was rarely on the cards. 

Admittedly I’d not caught a 5lber, but two fish of 4lb 13oz’s and countless 4lbers for me ain’t a bad stamp of Chub, there were bigger fish here to be had, I’d seen them in the summer albeit they were spooky as hell and never graced my net. This season however I was finding it tough, the banks are rarely trodden in anger over the winter, so where have all the Chevin gone because they had either vanished or laughing at me.

I felt like Trump on a potential visit to modern London with Cockney accents in decline, probably not welcome. Unlike Trump though, I wasn’t planning to cancel my visit, I had ribbons to cut.

Have they now become preoccupied with a certain type of bait because this has been pumped into the river over a period of time by anglers, unlikely because this doesn’t occur on small waters such as this. Chub can certainly associate certain baits with unfortunate experiences though, and then they tend to rocket off at the sight of them and when in low and clear conditions here, I’ve seen fish ignore breadflake like it was a warning beacon with ‘Don’t touch Me’ emblazoned on it.

Natural baits will always help, such as a big fat slug or juicy lobworm, but again some baits have a greater degree of effectiveness only in given areas and will not work everywhere at all times. Even in summer where smaller baits are the way to go usually, you cannot get a lobworm big enough, even on shallow and gin clear waters they still catch fish.

So what was going on here….I’d hooked and lost a fish eventually on cheesepaste so that at least eased my mind a little, the fish were still here.

So maybe something not often seen might be worth a dabble….

I buy the odd vintage (well 1970’s/80’s) fishing magazine from Ebay from time to time and one article from Coarse Fishing Monthly from 1982 got me thinking.

Chub on Whitebait….

Now David Carl Forbes late seventies book titled Rough and Small Stream fishing seemed to mirror said article where he used small fish baits quite effectively, albeit using bullheads, stoneloach, gudgeon and minnow, sometimes outwitting the cutest of Chevin and I thought, “mmmm, certainly worth a dabble” 

The Whitebait article was about fishing clear rivers where fishing was tough using familiar baits but the fish especially the bigger fish were often taking Whitebait on the drop such was the liking for them.

So after mixing with the great unwashed and gene meddlers at a Morrisons in Rubery I was in possession of 600g of frozen whitebait for a princely sum of 4 quid. 

Now whitebait principally refers to the fry of clupeidae fish, young sprats, most commonly herring. It’s a food stuff that has largely fallen out of favour I suppose, it used be on the menu as a starter in many a establishments where they are normally deep-fried, coated in flour or a light batter, and served very hot with sprinkled lemon juice and bread and butter and as I like them with aioli but times change in the culinary world, and nothing wrong with that.

Eaten guts, head, bones and all it tastes nicer than it sounds, but if the fish were not interested I’d be eating them myself, no question. 

I had thought about just lip hooking them but then an illustration in the David Carl Forbes book he used a rubber band or piece of thread wound just above the tail and the hook is merely hooked lightly through the flanks. 

Instead of a boggo elastic band I'd use a modern bait band instead and a banding tool.

What could go wrong, well plenty probably, so that’s why I had some Warburtons blue as back-up.

The session, well it turned about better than expected, 7 fish banked the biggest a nats nadger under 3lb, the took the whitebait confidently too. The wind was a biting one as well so I was only bankside for a few hours, but the whitebait, although didn't single out the bigger fish, turned out to a bit of a revelation.

I had some liquidised bread and each swim was primed with couple of squashed handfuls before fishing a whitebait over the top. Once swim produced three fish in as many casts, the clarity, or lack of it I'm sure helped because you could see the bait flutter to the bottom.

Chub, chub and lots of them.....

If I'm honest, I still think cheese paste is hard to beat, cheap as chips, easy to make and it's a bait that will always catch fish no matter the conditions, and it also gets better with age.

The more I catch Chub, they are getting up there as maybe my favourite species, to be honest a winters days, I couldn't think of anything better fishing wise.

A small bag, a rod, a landing net, a small bait bucket, that's it....

Well apart from roving from swim to swim that is, my kind of fishing. No every swim had Chub but considering I've had a bit of a doing over here recently, encouraging signs. Also encouraging signs is a section not a millions of miles away that I might give a proper go for Chub on Friday if the conditions are favourable.

Whitebait is certainly worth a try if you want to try a different bait for Chub, I've hardly dented the 600g tub, which at the moment are residing in the freezer ready to be eaten, by me or the Chevin.

With another fishing session in the morning, this time I might try for a Zander, Autumn appears to be the best or easiest time that's for sure, but for a big one, the cold does seems to bring the better stamp of fish out.

So it's out with the Roach deadbait and I might throw the lure around too.

If you can get out to the Warwickshire Avon over the next couple or three days, have a crack at the Chub because the conditions are not far off perfect at the minute.

Tight Lines if you do....

Friday, 12 January 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Sloppy Joes and Shepherd’s Pies

Those poor Chub, I thought. What must they be thinking today ? Did Chub dream, and if so, were they torturing themselves with dreams of summer and mild, sunlit waters ? Did the river feel like a razor slicing across their blunt heads, or were they completely numb to all sensations ? Was it right for me to come down to add to their misery ?, because they are constantly watching their backs from the Ron Otters and cormorants, that must be a pain in the proverbials.

I put that question aside when I reminded myself that I'd purposely picked this arctic day to see if I could make something of it. Also to ease my conscience, I also reminded myself that I was as much of part of the landscape as the Chub in the river. The angler and his quarry have known each other far too long, he is in their blood and they are in his, that's why this angler was after Chub.

Didn't I have enough to do though, without coming fishing on such a biting cold day ? there was kids to appease, accounts to complete, the Wife's ample bosom to cosset, mystery's to unravel. Sure, but when you think about it, everything demands attention, it's down to you to pick the right thread for the day, the choice should always be yours.

The trick is not in convincing yourself you can do it, but simply doing it....

So I made up my mind to come fishing on a day when the temperature had lost sight of zero, a hard frost on the car, ground solid. I had to make the best of it or else betray myself I'd not come, by wishing I was still at home by the fire, by thinking it was no wonder no one else was about, only I was crazy enough.

If there is one thing I'm not, it's a moaner about conditions, in fact I'm always flabbergasted when I hear someone getting miserable over the weather. I can never understand how a person can crumple over such an inevitable thing. After all, why make a fuss about something you can do nothing about ? Ride above it, if you don't like it, but never bow to it. Inclement weather upsets people routines and that's always a good for them, it shocks them out of their comfortable torpor.

2 weather testing sessions last weekend, 7 fishing hours, 2 bites, one missed, one lost fish, my resolve being tested.

But I'm back again, but this time with a work time lunchtime winter warmer of daal, roti's, chiken curry with lots of red chilli rather than salad, I was ready to tackle the world. Life's too short for a petrol station sandwich, I like to eat well, you've probably worked that out I suppose.

Then again it sometimes goes out the window, and so it should from time to time. So who doesn’t love cheap mince, a product of advanced meat recovery systems separating meat from the animal leaving small amounts of skeletal tissue of bone and cartridge within the contents that have been detached during the process to add to the water, muscle, connective tissue, blood vessels, peripheral nerve and adipose tissue. 

Doesn’t it sound delicious….

There is the odd chance there is some lean meat in there somewhere but disguised in a Sloppy Joe Sandwich (I had it in the States) with onion, tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce or in Shepherds’s Pie of peas, celery and carrots, topped off with some mashed potato or carrot and swede with a sprinkling of cheese, you’d be none the wiser.

It tastes good after all….

However after defrosting this minced beef I’d had stuck in the freezer for an unknown amount of time it looked like the skin of John Major’s Spitting Image puppet from ones youth, rather grey and washed out.

It certainly wasn’t appealing to the eye let’s put it that way and I’d probably struggle to give it as a freebee to Sweeny Todd so I was river bound, the Chevin who will more or less eat anything if you put it in-front of him, surely wouldn’t refuse this meaty offering. I’ve caught Chub on steak for a few years now, it’s a reliable bait especially on a clear river where they become wary of most baits, steak though, they just seem to nail it.

So for this quick in to dusk session and an hour beyond it was out with the blockend feeder stuffed with mince and steak on the hook. This stretch I can fish in to dark which is nice and having caught some half decent Chub here in the past the venue picked itself.

There was some nice cover to my left but a feeder would have disturbed that swim too much so I fed small balls of mince as soon as I got there and would fish that on my usual light link ledger set-up.

As soon as the piece of steak hit the deck within minutes there was a few tentative plucks and then the quiver tip goes right over, wow that was quick, it felt a decent fish and when it surfaced it looked a good 4lber. Chub give a right good scrap initially but unlike Barbel who never give up, they just seem to sake, oh what the heck, "there you go". That's when their huge mouths exist the water and you know games up.

It went 4lb 7oz on the scales so a couple more points on the bloggers challenge, but still not the 5lber coolest monkey in the jungle jobbie, "oh well maybe next time" Whilst I was weighing it, a couple more balls of mince went it in to try and keep the fish if there were anymore there, occupied.

Another piece of cheapo Irish steak went out and again within minutes another bite, this one fought a little harder and I thought it might have been bigger because of that, but it was 4oz's lighter at 4lb 3oz. Cannot complain though, considering I've had a little drought of late, most welcome.

Two fish banked half an hour before sundown I was expected a little more come dusk and the hour beyond and yet apart from a couple of pulls on the feeder equipped rod, no more fish were banked. This stretch contains many a bait fish hence why there is plenty of Pike around but it looks like it has some nice Chub too.

With the evenings now getting lighter I might take the opportunity in fishing it a little more, maybe next time though, get here a little earlier bait a few swims and then rove around a little before settling in a swim I suspect my contain some Zander. 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Cheese Flingers and Polish Mingers

At eight minutes past eight the 8th of August villagers from Halford near Shipston-Upon-Stour descend on the bridge over the River Stour to throw cheese down to a legendary rat.

The giant Rat of Halford, I’m sure you’ve heard of it….

The Saxon village which lies on the Fosse Way, is said to have suffered terribly from rats attacking its crops around harvest time. Local folklore has it that the beast lurks in the river and Viking warlord called King Hal who in 888 AD founded the village but sadly his reign was brought to an abrupt end when he was killed by the giant rat which had mutated in the river and had grown so big because it lived off dairy products cast in the river during the making of cheese.

In order to try and stop the destruction, it's said villagers decided to offer the rats alternative foods to quell their hunger. So they began to throw cheese to appease the vermin and stop them from coming out to eat the crops.

Whether this worked or not is unclear but in recent years the villagers have resurrected the tradition, held annually at the same time and date in honour of the year the legend first began. Each year more and more people come along to the cheese throwing ceremony and people from as far away as the US travel to Halford to proceed across the bridge by torchlight and throw their cheesy offerings to the rat.

Those who throw their dairy products to the rat don't just satisfy his mythical hunger. The throwers are also said to be blessed with eternal life...well, eternal until the next year's ceremony anyway!

I’m all for British traditions I really am, especially if it has the potential to upset those not likeminded, but hey, if you don’t like it time to get thick-skinned.

Now talking about thick skinned this Polish Morliny Garlic Sausage I buy from Tesco is a bit of a ugly monstrosity in looks and contents it’s not something you’d serve up for a Sunday dinner but scan through the ingredients listed below quickly, and fast forward to the end.

Pork (57%), Water, Pork Fat, Pork Rind, Potato Flour, Salt, Soya Protein, Stabilisers: E451, E452, E261, E326, E508, Pork Collagen Protein, Sugar, Flavour Enhancer: E621, Antioxidant: E316, Garlic Powder (0.5%), Gelling Agent: E407, Glucose, Thickener: E425, Vegetable Extracts, Spice Extracts, Hydrolysed Maize Protein, Flavouring, Smoke Flavouring, Dried Yeast, Yeast Extract, Preservative: E250, Filled into an inedible casing.

Yes apart from containing some fish attracting ingredients such as garlic powder, spice, pork and salt it’s encased in a skin that needs to be removed before eating. I’ve used it successfully before as the skin acts like an anchor for the stop when attached to a hair, so you haven’t that thought in your mind about whether the bait is still on or not. Even a good going over by a chub the bait remains attached.

For this session however and a blank the day before I'd prep these meat baits ready for the following weekend where the conditions look for favourable for a Barbel….

Glug, freeze, glug, freeze and repeat, it really locks in the flavour.

Having been a little bored sat behind motionless roads, this session was to try and snare a decent Chub, the water temperature would have dropped and the clarity improved.

So it was lobworms and cheese paste for this session.....

When I got to to the river after de-icing the car I thought, "Oh Yes !!!" because it had that blue tinge about it, which down here usually means the Chub will be feeding and I'd be in for a good morning.

After the first swim,then the second, the third, the fourth without a bite I was reevaluating that comment, they were clearly not having it.

The river really did look perfect for a fish or two.

The banker swim the 5th to try, is just that, and I cannot remember ever not catching a Chub here in winter if the conditions are right like they seemed to be for this session and sure enough after about 10 minutes after the big lump of cheesepaste was in position, a couple of taps on the quiver then it whoops right over.

I'm in to a decent Chub, it's slack in the inside but the fish has quickly got out in to the main flow which is a fork in the river where the rivers combine and I'm hanging on for dear life with the rod bent double.

I eventually feel in control of it now but then it's got a second wind to try and escape and had managed to get under a raft which is being harbored by a couple of overhanging trees. Then all goes solid, yeap, this hard fighting Chevin has managed to get to the sanctuary of some snags.

I let it go slack, nothing doing, apply as much pressure as I'd like, again nothing doing, then again some slide strain applied, it's out, well the rig that is, the hooks pulled.

Damn !!!!

Some more paste out, no more bites, it's on to the sixth and final swim, again, no bites came.

A really tough session to be honest and it's really a mystery where the Chub have gone, not just here but many areas I fish their presence is lacking, all very odd. I've never seen any cormorants in this locality until this season, so I wonder if that's got anything to do with it. Remember the Chub I caught with large fresh chunk out his flanks ? Otters or Cormorants who knows but one thing is for sure, there must me something go on, because the fish are suspicious in their absence.

In this 6th year of fishing this small stretch for Chub I've never known it so hard going....
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