Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Leaping Bream and the Elusive Pumpkinseed

As I had a day off work I decided to visit Tanyard Fishery in Sussex to catch the rare pumpkinseed fish, which are found in numbers at this fishery. The pumpkinseed was first brought into Britain from America as an ornamental fish about 100 years ago and by 1917 there were established colonies in several Sussex stillwaters.

After a conversation with the bailiff I set up on the Carp Free Pool float fishing maggot in the margin and felt confident being told that I should catch several during a day. Twelve hours and 200-300 bream, gudgeon, perch,roach, ruddrudd (golden) and tench later, not one pumpkinseed fish had succumbed! I had fished several swims fishing the margins, alongside trees and marginal reeds. Were the pumpkinseeds spawning or just off the feed?

Have you ever noticed the metallic blue sheen that the gudgeon has, nor had I before now. This species hunt has made me look at and appreciate even the 'tiddlers'. Did you know that the Edwardians had gudgeon parties where ladies fished for and then enjoyed a dish of fried gudgeon cooked whole like whitebait.

I had been told of bream leaping on the end of the line before but dismissed it out of hand, however today I experienced this myself with bream in the 1-2 pound class. They still fight like a wet sack however!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Hound of the Basket Meals

At the base of Hound Tor on Dartmoor is a very upmarket food van called the Hound of the Basket Meals! I had travelled down to West Mersea in Essex hunting a very different hound to the one that reputedly haunts Dartmoor.

I was fishing out of Mersea with Scott Belbin on Galloper. This was to be my first taste of uptiding which was developed in the waters of the blackwater during the 70's. In the shallow water of the blackwater it soon became clear that catches improved when the bait was cast away from the scare zone of the boats hull. Put simply the bait is cast uptide and line let off the reel until it is coming from the tip at right angles to the position the bait was originally cast. This huge bow of line encourages the breakaway lead to grip the sea bed. Bites are indicated by the usual nodding with a decent fish tripping the wires on the lead causing the rodtip to straighten with the line dropping downtide along with the fish. It is no use striking due to the bow in the line, the response is to wind like mad until the weight of the fish is felt before striking.

As only Scott and I were fishing I set up two rods, the first an uptider rod matched to a multiplier filled with 15lb mono. The other rod was a pike rod matched to a baitrunner reel again loaded with 15lb mono. A 6oz breakaway lead was fished running above a four foot 30lb flurocarbon trace with a 4/0 vavivas big mouth hook. Bait was hermit crab the hook being passed through the mouth and then the soft body of the hermit was threaded round the bend.

Our first mark was beyond a wind farm and right from the off we were getting bites. Scott was amused by my request to photograph my first ever Lesser Spotted Dogfish (LSD). Several small smoothounds to 7lb interspersed by LSDs came to the rods. There are two species, the starry and the common smoothound, all the hounds we caught were of the starry variety. As with most creatures  labelled common, common they are not! The power of these hounds is amazing, fish of only 5-7lb taking line.

As Scott's bait bag (and lunch) had been loaded by accident into the wrong charter boat we decided to try and catch some mackerel from our second mark which was along side a wreck. It soon became clear that mackerel were thin on the ground and I was ready to give up when at last I felt the first one take, I jigged the sabiki's a couple more times before reeling in 4 mackerel.

Despite another half hours feathering no more mackerel obliged, however I did catch my first ever cod. Scott managed a slightly larger codling and a pout by baiting his feathers with a tiny slither of mackerel.Mackerel was put out on one rod in the hope of a tope or thornback ray. The pike rod went back to fishing for hounds and the day ended as it began with both of us catching hounds and dogfish.

I bet lunchless Scott would have appreciated the Hound of the Basket Meals!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

The weather man predicted that Sunday would see a low pressure system coming in from the west and that rain could be expected just about anywhere. Ideal conditions for a return visit to Mill Farm in Sussex to hopefully catch a specimen silver bream.

I arrived at 7am to find a cloudless sky and went round to the far bank where the water was still in shade cast by the mature trees behind. I set up in the next swim along from where I was last week with one rod float fishing the margin crucian style and the other with a roach style maggot bolt rig fished further out.

On the float line I decided to feed a pinch of mixed dampened pellet (no groundbait allowed) every ten minutes or so with a 6ml sonubaits S pellet on the hook. This light feeding I hoped would encourage the silver bream and crucians without dragging in carp.

During the course of the morning I caught mainly crucians and small silver bream on the float rod. The maggot feeder attracted mainly "pastie" carp and small silvers to around a pound along with a banana shaped male tench. I have noticed in small waters heavily stocked with carp that the tench lose condition. In contrast the crucians were in perfect condition their beauty enhanced by their buttery yellow colouration.

Then it happened, the cloud built up and it started drizzling. It was like flicking a switch, the catch rate improved for the next couple of hours. On several occasions I had two fish on at once. Quality silvers started feeding topped by fish of 1lb 13oz and 1lb 10oz to the maggot feeder.

Mid afternoon the sky cleared and the big silvers went off the feed. After having the swim completely trashed by a twelve pound common (fun on a 2lb bottom)  I decided to pack up around 6pm and start the long journey home.

I had accounted for around thirty crucians, loads of silvers mainly small, stacks of carp, one tench, one decent roach and the smallest bootlace eel it has ever been my misfortune to catch.

As the saying goes every cloud has a silver (bream) lining!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Another Grand Day Out

I decided to revisit the Grand Union Canal at Cosgrove for an evening session after the elusive ruffe. The bridge swim I fished last time was occupied so I walked downstream to a lock where I hoped ruffe and perch would be lying alongside the brickwork.

Unfortunately I had forgotten the quivertip section to my rod, so I improvised and float legered with a 2BB insert waggler and a small feeder.  Casting tight to the wall on the far bank and alternating redworm and red maggot on the hook, I had a bite most casts, mainly small perch and skimmer bream.  Although born of neccessity I am sure that I connected with a far higher percentage of bites on my "Heath Robinson" float leger than I ever would have done on the quivertip.

In the last hour I caught two decent perch with the larger just an ounce shy of two pounds. I might not be able to catch my target ruffe but I will be back during the winter and early spring after the big perch that undoubtedly reside in the Grand Union Canal.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

In Search of Silver

There are two species of bream in British freshwater, the common bream and the silver bream. To confuse things further the common bream is also known as the bronze bream and the silver bream also goes by the names white or pomeranian bream.

The bronze bream is bronze and the silver bream, silver? Well, no actually the immature bronze bream is silver and in coloured water the adults can be fairly pale in colour and yet almost black in the clear water of some gravel pits. The silver bream is a rare fish in british waters and can be distinguished from its larger relative by both lateral line counts and its large eye. The pelvic and ventral fins also carry a tinge of orange.

Having experienced a cold and drizzly night after the crucians I decided to try and catch my first silver bream. A twenty mile drive from surrey down into sussex saw me arrive at a day ticket fishery Mill Farm early in the afternoon. This complex which last season produced the british record silver bream does not contain the bronze bream so each bream is the real deal. An hour or so wandering round the complex, talking to the locals saw me settle into a swim on the far bank of the mill pond giving me access to open water. Divide and conquer was my approach, so on one rod I set up a feeder rig to fish maggot big roach style, whilst the other I float fished a rod length out crucian style offering pellet or corn on the hook and feeding a few free offerings every ten minutes or so.

The next six hours were frenetic as I was constantly in action catching silver bream in the 12oz class on both approaches, and loads of small carp which just wouldn't leave the maggots alone! The sensitive float tackle also brought me four pristine crucians to just under two pounds. I also missed loads of bites on the feeder rig. The overcast, drizzly weather was perfect for breaming and my final silver was also my biggest at 1lb 2oz. The sun also came out turning the lake surface silver, not bronze in the late evening light.

Friday, 7 May 2010

In Search of Gold

Marsh Farm is currently the premier big crucian fishery in the UK with three pound plus fish being caught most days during the warmer months. The fishery record currently stands at 4lb 4oz. The Marsh Farm complex was developed through lottery funding and is a commercial day ticket fishery run by Godalming Angling Club. The big Crucians were originally stocked from the adjacent Johnsons Fishery. Godalming Angling Club is an all too rare example of a progressive club which actively encourages youngsters to get into fishing through its regular coaching sessions. 

I must confess that Marsh Farm has become one of my favourite fisheries in recent seasons and I look forward to my handful of visits each season. It was nearly dark when I arrived (the curse of the M25) and I was surprised to find only one other angler on Harris lake. 

lthough some anglers choose to catch crucian carp on bolt rigs real crucian fishing is all about float fishing, and as
I would be fishing in the edge alongside the marginal reeds in about two foot of water I set up a 2BB Drennan Insert Waggler. This would enable me to swop the insert for a mini starlight after dark.

Four walnut sized balls of groundbait laced with mini pellets were thrown around the float initially, to be topped up by a further ball every twenty minutes thereafter. I baited up with garlic flavoured meat on a size 18 hook to a copolymer hooklength. 

Before long the float started dancing as crucians picked amongst the groundbait. I imagined them tightly huddled together occasionally brushing against the line. I am sure that no other fish feeds as delicately as the crucian and this explains why so many bites are missed. Every session is diferent, sometimes you need to strike at the slightest movement of the float tand another time you might have to count to three after the float has submerged to connect, frustrating but fun! 

By three o'clock the float was dancing around the swim without any help from the crucians and it was time to reel in and get a couple of hours sleep before dawn. As is usual on here most of the activity comes in the first few hours after dark, by the time I packed up at 8am I had accounted for eight crucians including a couple of three's, the largest 3lb 2oz. I fed some corn to Eric (the Egyptian Goose in the photo) before leaving.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

A Grand Day Out

The building of the Grand Union Canal was first authorised by an act of parliament in 1793, and linked London and Birmingham.

My target today was a ruffe also known as the pope. This mini species is a member of the perch family and research had revealed that ruffe could be found in the canal at Cosgrove.

Mr Crabtree didn't provide any advice on locating daddy ruffe so I sought out the bridges and locks around Cosgrove before setling on a bridge where the canal narrowed.
The gothic style bridge was built in the 1790's at the insistence of the local landowner (the biggins family) and is one of only two ornamental bridges over the canal. Sitting just above the bridge I could cast a small feeder right under the bridge tight in to the bank where I hoped that perch and ruffe were lying.

The first canal boat was not long in coming and neither was my first bite, a small perch. Over the next hour several more canal boats came through the bridge, surprisingly this did not appear to have any detrimental effect on sport and most casts saw the quivertip pull round and the tally of small perch grew. A small bream of perhaps a couple of pounds followed, the first of five skimmer bream. Occasionally I switched from maggot to half a worm which made no difference to the number of bites although the skimmer bream seemed to prefer worm.

A couple of decent perch the largest 1lb 9oz came amongst the smaller fish. Normally in coloured water perch lack the bold stripes and strong colouring of those in clear waters and the colours are washed out but these canal fish defied the norm. A couple of palm sized rudd as the light was fading completed what had been a grand day out.