Sunday, 30 March 2008

Saturday, 29th.March 2008

Another session back at Bysing Wood trying to catch a double-figure Bream.

I had another reason for going (in what I knew were going to be bad conditions) and that was to try out my new TFG “Stormshell” bivvy. I got this from the TFG site for about £65 which I think is pretty good considering what you get for your money – twin-skin construction, raised anti-mud thingy at the front, zippable mozzie-netting, and see-thru panels in the “door”. Although it’s a one-man bivvy it has quite a large ‘footprint’ and would just about house two bedchairs at a squeeze. All packing up into a small-ish (but heavy) pack:
After a couple of trials in the garden, I found the best way of setting the thing up is to spread it out on the ground in-situ, and then thread the poles through the seams. This is quite a difficult and onerous job as the take-apart poles can get detached from one another. They are also in two different lengths on this model and could do with being colour-coded so you don’t thread the wrong pole through the wrong seam (which is what I did!). manufacturers please note!
I then tried pegging the thing down in each corner to stop gusts of wind blowing it into the trees but this didn’t work very well because they kept pulling out – the best way of erecting it is to then insert the ends of the poles into the metal rings on the ends of the tags. This I imagine could be a bit of a nightmare in a very strong wind but I managed, and put some of the gear inside to hold it down. In actual fact, for the majority of situations, I would think these sorts of bivvies don’t need pegging at all since they have integral ground-sheets which in effect create a fabric ‘box’; put enough weight inside and the whole thing sits where it is without further embellishment. If you are anything like me, having enough weight to go inside to hold it down is certainly not a problem (despite repeatedly trying to reduce the vast quantity of kit I take with me!)
The only difficult thing really was getting the fly-sheet on. Once again, the high wind was a real problem – and it’s important to find the bit at the front which attaches to the sticky-out canopy thing. Again, the manufacturers could do with marking the sheet with a coloured patch of some sort as you can spend ages (as I did) trying it in different positions until you get it right.

Eventually however, I got everything fastened down and tickety-boo.
The peg was in my favourite place – The Beach. From here, you can cover quite a lot of the bottom end of the lake and there are many options from which to choose. The wind (gusting to nearly gale force) was blowing from right to left and from slightly behind so this allowed me to fish my maggot-feeders mid-lake and beyond.

I had a simple link-leger with the maggot feeder tied to six inches of the mainline. A twenty-inch length of 0.11 ‘Powerline’ was Four-Turn Water Knotted to the six pound Daiwa ‘Sensor’ and a size twelve Drennan Carbon Specimen tied on the end.

I kept casting every ten to twenty minutes during the first couple of hours to get as many maggots into the area as possible and within half an hour of starting I began getting little knocks and jerks on the bobbins. I was fully expecting this –bites from the diminutive Roach and was fully prepared for them, leaving the bites alone until they ‘hung’ themselves and self-hooked. As long as most of the maggots were out of the feeder I didn’t mind.

One thing I was keen to do was not concentrate the feed in too tight an area. Although this is fine for a day session when you can hit the spot with a fair degree of accuracy by ‘clipping-up’ and so on, it is virtually impossible in the dark, plus, with so little feed out in the water I wanted the Bream to move around and find little spots of it in the hope they’d eventually move around and find the one with the baited hook.

I think it is not always advisable to concentrate feed in one very small area every time you go fishing. This is the matchman’s accepted strategy – but is not always successful in a speci context. Wise old fish get to know heavy concentrations of feed mean trouble and definitely avoid them; very often the single bait on its own with perhaps one or two free offerings is all that’s needed to give them sufficient confidence to pick a bait up.

I had quite a few small Roach before darkness and find this most encouraging. These Roach were in prime condition and it was good to know the Pike hadn’t managed to get there gnashers round all of them. Just as I was bedding down for the night I had a really positive bite and hooked this Roach.
Although not huge in the grand scheme of things, it was quite a big one for Bysing Wood which is still recovering its silver-fish populations after years of depredation by Cormorants. It might just have weighed a pound but was gloriously coloured. Unfortunately, the image does it no justice and does not show the iridescent blue down its back. This is a most encouraging sign for the future.

As predicted, the Roach went to bed after dark – and were followed by the skimmers. There is currently a year-class of fish around the one-and-a-half pound mark which will gobble a bait if any quantity at all is thrown in; this was another reason for not wanting to put too much bait out. They can certainly stay with you all day if you feed them; better to let them drift away after all the scraps of feed are gone.

Then there was a blank-ish spell during which I had no action of any kind. In truth, I don’t think I would have managed it very well if I’d had because half way through the night the rain (which had been persistent, if not heavy) really started to set in and with a rising wind the session became most uncomfortable. Winter nights can be merely a matter of survival and it was during the middle of a heavy squall I had a positive take to one of the rods……

At first it felt as if I’d hooked one of the lake’s carp as there was a dogged, heavy feeling on the end; then the fish began to move in a series of heavy thumps and I had high hopes I might at last be attached to my target fish – a ten pound Bream! When I got the fish to the net and could make out a great white slab dimly lying dormant I whooped with delight! Hauling the fish up it certainly looked the part – Bream – big Bream, look simply huge. This specimen was covered in spawing tubercles around its head and gill plates and I was convinced I’d finally done it. It had to be ten!
The scales however revealed a massively disappointing eight-six – well short of the target and not for the first I wondered how a fish that looked so big could weigh so little. Maybe it was because it had been such a long time since I’d caught a big Bream I was wildly out with my estimate!

You can’t be disappointed with a fish like this however. It’s made me even more determined to get the double than I was before!

As Arnie says “I’ll be back!”

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008, Bysing Wood

Back again at Bysing for another go after the Bream, Carp, and Tench.

There was a fine drizzle falling when I arrived and I plumped for a convenient swim where I could get everything set up quickly before the rain started to fall. I fished almost opposite where I did last weekend in The House Swim.
Tactics this week were to fish the corn again and a new bait – worm. With the water being so cold still, I figured that there would be no trouble from eels which would make mincemeat of worm or maggot in the summer; this proved to be wrong as I did actually get one – the first time I have ever had an eel during March.

The cage feeders were filled with a mixer of White crumb and a few kernels of sweetcorn and cast as far out as I could manage in the vicinity of the plateau area that lays off the Road Bank.
There was no action of any kind to the double sweetcorn all night and only the odd twitches (and take) from one eel. All in all very disappointing.

Whilst waiting for things to happen, I did work out a new way of attaching hairs to hooks. Using Fox Supersilk braid, I tied a loop in one end of the braid. Then I laid the hair along the shank of the hook and got the length right before passing the end of the braid through the eye of the hook. Then in close turns, I wound the braid up the shank of the hook towards the bend until it was opposite the hook-point. Then, in a series of half-hitches, I worked back down the shank finishing at the eye.
The net effect is very neat I think and does away with the need for pieces of rig-tubing on the shank of the hook which can slide up towards the eye and adds bulk to the knot.

One or two fish moved during the evening and once again, fish moved in front of the Compound swim. This swim has not been fished since the water has been down so low so it’s not surprising the lake’s population of carp have sought sanctuary there. There were odd fish moving on the bar in front of me too and I was confident of a take from something during the night.

We are in the middle of March at the moment and although it is not Spring yet, the catkins on the trees herald its start very soon. The water temperatures are still at winter levels and in every sense, winter conditions persist so I didn’t think it prudent to spod out any feed. I wonder whether this might be the answer though. There was no reaction to the corn which I feel should have at least brought some response from Rudd or Roach during a night when the rain fell continuously. I could have really done with the new bivvy of which I am awaiting delivery next week as conditions were extremely damp and uncomfortable.
I shall go back to The Beach for my next session as I always seem to catch something from there – I’ll be able to target the ‘hot-spot’ in front of the Compound swim where the fish have moving too.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Bysing Wood - Sunday, 9th.March 2008

For me, March marks the beginning of the Spring fishing regardless of weather. Some years it’s just a continuation of wet, cold, dreary conditions – in other years, March has come in mild, cheery, and golden; not so in 2008 however.

I always have plans afoot and this year is no different to any other. The Spring is the period when I am gearing up for a serious assault on Carp, Bream, and Tench at home, and the carp of the River in Picardie in France of which I have several trips planned for the coming months.
I have struggled quite badly at Bysing Wood for the past couple of years, mainly due to lack of time and a reluctance on my part to fish at night (when the majority of fish have been caught by other members). Mistakenly, I thought I could get away with fishing short sessions during afternoons but this just hasn’t worked and at last the penny dropped that I just had to start fishing the place ‘properly’.

I have also been playing around with what I call a ‘Catch-All’ method. I have been looking for an alternative to the bolt-rig-and-boily method that 99% of members use at Bysing Wood not only because I think it offers a better chance of catching the carp – but it would also enable me to target the Bream and Tench which are my priorities. Having caught two fish one ounce short of the magic ten pounds, I know there are large Bream in Bysing and it’s about time I got one!

After expending literally hundreds of pounds on different outfits I feel that at last I’ve got the kit sorted – Shakespeare Mach 2 Barbel rods (lovely, crisp-actioned jobbies with a hefty reserve of power, but light enough to give good sport with lesser fish), matched with Shimano Catana 4000 reels with front drags are the items of choice, but what about the rig end of things?

If there were a poll taken of anglers as to who is the most irritating person on TV angling shows there is no doubt the prize would be taken be John Wilson. I tend to watch with the sound turned down because I simply cannot stand his manic laughter and histrionics when he hooks a fish; he is though, without any shadow of doubt a superb angler who is very good at explaining what he is using and the best way to use it. He has often demonstrated swim feeder rigs for use on stillwater – a length of finer lighter line, attached by a four-turn Water Knot to the main line and a cage feeder tied on one end and a small hook on the other. A very simple rig, but a very effective one – my rig of choice on my first night session of the year –

Few members had turned out when I arrived so there was a good choice of available swims. Conditions were however particularly uncomfortable, a blustery wind was blowing into the Road Bank and with the hint of rain in the air it promised to be a damp and difficult night.
Bysing Wood
I chose one of my favourite spots – The Beach over on the far side. With the wind off that bank there would be shelter should it start to really rain hard and since I was intending to sit out during the night, choice was based as much on where I could fish from effectively, as where I thought the fish were.

With it being so cold still (and temperatures dropping from recent mild levels) feed had to be very parsimonious. I chose a mixture of white crumb with just a few grains of sweetcorn for the cage feeder, partnered with double-sweetcorn on a size ten and six pound line. No feed was introduced other than by the feeder and I didn’t attempt to lay a ‘carpet’ of feed in the swim with water temperatures still being so low.

Encouragingly, a carp moved a few yards down the bank to my right and my first cast plopped the feeder right on top of where it had ‘shown’; the second rod was cast to a mid-lake position out in front, a spot which had yielded me big Bream in the past. Since it was just after lunchtime, I spent the next few hours on the rods re-casting every half-hour or so to get some feed laid down although since it was by the cage feeder only and the chances were that the Roach would clear most of it up it did not amount to a massive amount. Surprisingly however I was not pestered by the normally bothersome Roach and my double-corn baits lay un-inspected all afternoon.
I was delighted to see the Great Crested Grebes had once again returned to the lake. Every March they have come back to nest and perform their charming mating ‘dance’ and to see them back once again was a pleasure. The weather however was not so welcome. Dampness in the air turned to real rain at nightfall and the wind rose in a series of gusts that at one point blew my rod-pod and rods to the ground and whipped up my unhooking mat and blew it into the water! I hate having to batten everything down to stop it blowing away but there we are, such is fishing on exposed gravel pits.

No action occurred for the first part of the night although it was difficult to detect if there was any – the buzzers kept up a constant chatter as the bobbins swayed about in the wind although I thought that once or twice I might have had short pulls of a couple of inches or so. And then the rain really set it, driving in sheets against the bivvy in a series of gusts that would persist for twenty minutes or so – then dying down to a more peaceful roar! It was during one of these periods that I had a take to the mid-lake rod………

I was on it immediately and lifted into solid resistance. As always the first few seconds were key………..what had I got? Was it a Bream? It was certainly heavy – maybe a Tench……….but as it slowly and steadily chugged off I knew a carp had picked up the bait and I let it go against the resistance of the slipping clutch. There were no dramas or undue excitements with this fish – until I got it near the shallow bar that runs across the front of the pitch.

This bar is a matter of only a foot or so deep and shelves steeply either side into deeper water; on top of the bar are many large stones and other debris on which stray parts of rigs habitually hang up. The tell-tale grating through the line was positive indication the line was hung up on the bar and I could feel the carp swimming up and down in front of me with the line caught around something.

There was only one thing to do – give it the old heave-ho and by degrees I managed to gain enough line to get the fish thrashing around on top – and finally over the bar and into the clear water where after a couple of runs up and down the bank I netted it; a fish of around ten pounds or so. Not huge, but a very welcome capture on such a foul night.
I hoped this fish would be the prelude to further catches and when I had another bite soon after re-casting I had high hopes that fish were onto the feed and que-ing up. I connected with the fish which proved to be only a small skimmer Bream – but it was action nonetheless and at last things looked as if they were warming up. No such luck however as this fish proved to be the last. The rest of the night was spent with no action whatsoever.

I was pleased to have caught the carp though – after a long series of sessions during last summer it represented a mini-result.