Friday, 29 April 2011

A Royal Wedding with a Difference

What were you doing on royal wedding day? I joined a party of individuals for a days fishing aboard My Way skippered by Gethyn Owen out of Holyhead.

My Way was bedecked with bunting, a rod strapped to the stern supporting a row of union jacks blowing in the breeze. There was a party atmosphere on board and today the fishing was almost secondary.

A force 5-6 north-easterly restricted us to inshore waters, the Holyhead Deeps and its big huss, spurdog and tope would have to wait for another day. Today we would be fishing for a mixed bag using three hook flowing rigs baited with ragworm, lugworm, mackerel, sandeel and squid.

During the day a variety of marks were fished and fish came regularly to the boat. As usual LSDs were a nuisance and double or triple shots were not unusual. Plenty of small codling were interspersed with the odd coalfish, pollack, huss, plaice, whiting and dabs were landed along with a solitary spotted ray.

Top angler was Kev who landed the spotted ray and a decent coalfish. I managed to add a bullhuss (they are normally a lot bigger than this) to my species challenge.

The highlight of the day had to be the buffet lunch. Geth put on a spread that would have done any street party proud. The bait trays were moved to make room for the sandwiches and nibbles. It's not every day that you have fresh strawberries and cream on a charter boat!

Thanks Geth for a most enjoyable day despite the weather being against us.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

An American Brook Trout in Wales

Back in the 1970s the American brook trout (more correctly brook char) was stocked into a number of fisheries ,including that big trout mecca Avington. Now only two trout farmers produce this fish, and they are only found in a handful of waters across Britain.

My quest took me to Chirk in the county of Wrexham in North Wales. It was Chirk Trout Farm that first imported the brook trout from America, and they are still reared here and stocked into Chirk fishery.
The fishery consists of two clearwater lakes in a scenic welsh valley, stocked with browns, rainbows including golden and blue trout, brook and tiger trout (a hybrid between the brown and brook trout).

I was lucky enough to have the fishery to myself until lunchtime and trout of all varieties could be seen in the clear water. After an unsuccessful hour fishing buzzers and bloodworm imitations I changed over to an intermediate line and my favourite fly, the nomad.
After a couple of small rainbows including a blue (a colour variant) I watched as a brook trout chased and finally grabbed my black nomad. Although only three quarters of a pound in weight it was really quite striking in appearance, the green flanks covered in yellow and red spots, the fins edged with orange and white, and the underside a pale orange.

During the remainder of the day I caught twenty-four trout, all bar two were returned. Most of the fish were around a pound with a handful of larger fish including a beautifully proportioned rainbow of around four pounds.

I could easily have caught thirty, or even forty trout, as I missed loads of takes including a couple of brookies and a particularly strikingly marked tiger. By moving regularly and ringing the changes with both the retrieve and the colour of nomad the takes kept on coming. Only once did I get a follow from a golden trout which unfortunately veered off at the last moment.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Chirk and the fishery has a laid back club like feel to it. Although the majority of the fish are small, they are pristine slim fish with huge tails and so fight like demons. The fly life is good and there was a hatch of grannom, however my fly box was replete of dry sedges and I couldn't persuade them to take my alternative selections. Fish were also grubbing on the bottom in the margins, possibly for shrimp.

I had a long conversation with the fishery owner who advised that brook trout were particularly suitable for stocking in acid waters. Although they have grown them to around six pounds in the past, the larger fish become very dark in colour and prone to fungal infections so they only stock brook trout to around a pound and a half.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

It took longer to bait up than to catch!

The sunbleak is an alien invasive species that has been present in Somerset for over twenty years.

The alternative name for the sunbleak is the motherless minnow. The Environment Agency claim that motherless minnows can spawn up to twenty or thirty times a summer and that large populations can appear "from nowhere" in a single season.

I had decided to return to Peterborough via the Viaduct Fishery in Somerset which contains a huge head of these fish.

A couple of the local match anglers were both intrigued and amused why someone would want to deliberately target these fish. I was told that if I fished a pinkie a foot deep under a small float I should catch one within a minute. It probably took me a minute to bait up the tiny size 24 hook!

To cut a long story short I had loads of motherless minnows and they are by far the smallest and least interesting species that I have caught in the challenge to date. Apologies, even after employing the macro function on my camera the distinct short lateral line (the distinguishing feature of the species), is not visible in the photo.

With such a head of small fish it is no surprise that viaduct produces huge perch. Maybe one day I will return to explore the predator potential of this attractive little fishery.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Supernova to the Rescue

The mussel beds and shambles bank off Weymouth are nationally famous for the quality of the flatty fishing they offer. I had two days fishing on Supernova with Lyle Stantiford, Weymouth's youngest skipper. The crew on the first day included a great bunch of lads with whom I had spent an unsuccessful wrecking trip a couple of weeks earlier on another boat. We headed west to feather up some fresh mackerel for bait and the Simon landed a herring and a launce as well as mackerel.

I rigged up a 6lb class rod and attached a delta spoon two feet away from the lead slider with a short 18 inch hooklength below the spoon. A dozen green and black beads added the bling, apparently the plaice mistake them for pea mussels. Taking advice I added a swanshot to keep the hooklength pinned to the deck, in future I would replace one the the beads with a black drilled bullet lead. It is important to present a big bait in a long line, so I threaded a black lug up the line and added three or four ragworm with a thin strip of squid hanging down from the hook point.

The skipper sets up the drift and the baits are dragged along the bottom, the lead and spoon kicking up sand which attracts the inquisitive plaice. Bites are a sharp rattle which can be difficult to identify as the rod tip is constantly rattling from the lead going over the mussels. On feeling a bite line is paid to the fish for ten seconds before winding down and lifting, not striking into the fish.

When the tide increased we moved onto the shambles where we drifted unsuccessfully for turbot. As the tide slackened we returned to the mussel beds for plaice. At the end of the day the crew had accounted for 21 plaice with 7 to my rod.

The fishing followed a similar pattern the following day with a couple of larger fish thrown in, I had four to my best to date at 2lb 12oz and another angler managed a beauty of 3lb 12oz. Most of the plaice were returned. The shambles produced three small turbot, unfortunately not to my rod.
We had some free entertainment on the return trip as Supernova went to the aid of a boat that was struggling to keep itself from being thrown against the rocky breakwater inside Portland Harbour, the lifeboat RIB arrived in the nick of time and towed the craft to safety.

In a separate incident we returned to Portland Harbour where we towed a speedboat back into Weymouth Harbour. The coastguard were waiting ready to question the speedboat skipper.

Portland Coastguard is one of 10 stations that is due to close as part of the Government's cuts. How bonkers is that!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Arctic Char in a Heatwave

Arctic char are normally found in the glacial lakes of Scotland, the Lake District and North Wales and prefer cold water.

A Hampshire fish farmer has recently gained consent to stock arctic char. Woodington Trout Fishery near Romsey was the first to stock this rare fish.

The weatherman forecasted the warmest day of the year, bright sunshine with temperatures more akin to July than April. I arrived at 7am, the fishery opening time as I expected sport to be over by mid morning.

The lake where the char have been stocked is the Spring Lake, my problem was to locate the outnumbered char and avoid the rainbow trout. At least the bright sunshine meant that visibility was good in the clear water,  I soon found a group of twelve char in a corner of the lake, sheltering under a mat of algae.

I managed to lose three fish in a row as they threw the hook, one was definitely a rainbow. The next cast produced a solid take and my first char of 2lb 10oz was soon on the bank. After resting the swim and enjoying a brew whilst watching a buzzard circling overhead,  I returned to the cor
ner for a slightly smaller fish. A cats whisker nomad fished deep on a steady retrieve accounted for both char.

My ticket allowed me to catch and release on the other lakes but my heart wasn't really in it, so after limited success on nymphs and dry fly I packed up after a late lunch.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Diamonds are Forever

I decided on a return visit to the little Warwickshire pool I first visited last month. Last time I was told that the pool also contained another species, the diamond back sturgeon. The coloured water would not allow me to select individual fish so I would have to trust to luck.

Remembering my Sheringham, I set about cultivating my luck. It didn't work as I managed to somehow break the top joint of one of my carp rods whilst setting up, doh!

This heavily coloured pool set in a fold in the hills, surrounded by trees is a wildlife haven. Today it was just me and the wildlife.  I have to confess that I spent a significant proportion of the day just watching nature. Hares lollopped around the field behind me and opposite pheasants strutted around safe in the knowledge that the shooting season was months away. Behind the dam I discovered a badger set at the edge of the woods. 

Knowing that frogs have already spawned, that croaking could only be the common toad. On investigation cables of toad spawn could be seen amongst the emergent reed stems and water plantain, mating toads could be seen in ones, twos, threes and lets not go there......Frogspawn was also present and the resultant tadpoles will provide a rich harvest for the resident carp and sturgeon over the next few months.

Using one rod does focus the mind somewhat, and so I decided to set up a float as I would be margin fishing.

The fishing followed the same pattern as last time, mid morning the float sank from sight and I struck into a diamond back sturgeon which immediately came up through ten feet of water and half threw itself onto the bank. After  thrashing around on the surface and leaping I guided the fish over the net, the fight lasted no more than thirty seconds

As I packed up "burley chassis" was belting out Diamonds are Forever (on the radio) which seemed somewhat appropriate.