Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Birthday at Blenheim.

It was my 40th birthday last Friday and I'd organised a small flotilla of boats on Blenheim Palace lake.

David, Jeff, Lee, Martin, Pete and I were in attendance and Messrs. pike, perch and tench were all invited along via our baited hooks.

There were some notable aspects to the preparation for this trip. Local specimen angler Merv' Wilkinson had been producing hand-made floats whilst convalescence prevented him from the strains of hauling in big fish. I'd arranged to meet with him prior to our trip and as well as topping up on leads which he makes I acquired some floats suitable for Blenheim. I handed these floats out (and a generous slice of birthday cake)  to each guest before we started fishing in the hope that they might vicariously play a part in the downfall of a decent fish.

Whilst readying my tackle the night before and enjoying a beer, revelling in the anticipation of a whole day afloat, I thought it would be a good idea to add a slug of brandy to my canteen of orange squash. This would later prove to be an unwise move as I'll explain in due course.

To the day then, and let's not beat about the bush, we were all late arriving for one reason or another. Pete was driving me down and we'd planned to call in at Banbury for a MacDonald's breakfast but we missed the motorway turn off in the gloom of dawn. We then tried to gain access to the Palace grounds via various exits as he'd put the wrong postcode into his sat nav. Not to worry, it was barely light once the others arrived just after six.

Fishing reports from Blenheim are thin on the ground and so unsurprisingly we all headed in the direction of the grand bridge to kick off.

View from the bridge at dawn.

 I picked off a couple of pike to my deadbait rod early on which weighed 9lb 9ozs and 7lb 10ozs respectively. 

A Blenheim pike.

The first fish managed to dart around the anchor chain at the back of the boat whilst my attention was diverted, hysterically barking orders at Pete who was trying to assemble the landing net. Luckily I had 18lb line on the reel and managed to pass the whole kit and caboodle around the chain to get back in direct contact. Indirect contact with any fish is an unsettling state of affairs.

Around the chain goes the whole kit and caboodle.

After the first pike and whilst fishing a skimmer deadbait I had a run which I missed. I rebaited with a roach and cast roughly to the same spot and half an hour later had the run which lead to the second pike. Whilst this second fish was resting in the landing net at the side of the boat it coughed up my skimmer bait from the previous cast! Now partially bleached from stomach juices, I never did get round to using it on the hook again. I was using a big barbless single hook on my trace which made unhooking very easy indeed.

Regurgitated skimmer.

Despite these two pike our other float rods sat without a bite and at around nine o'clock we made off up the lake to try and seek out perch and tench.

What followed was six hours of trying here there and everywhere attempting and failing to buy a bite from something other than a crustacean.

Whilst by the lily beds opposite the boathouse we saw a shoal of rudd being hammered a number of times from beneath by an unseen predator. Wobbling a deadbait through the area didn't get any attention.

We saw a shoal of bream rolling out towards the centre of the lake in front of the boathouse in about 14ft of water and so stealthily rowed upwind then let the boat drift down to the edge of the area before gently lowering the mud weights and fishing for them. You guessed it, we didn't see another sign.

By now, with nothing more than cake for breakfast, a very early start to the day and a steady stream of brandy and orange for drink the atmosphere aboard our boat was becoming more ramshackle by the minute. It was only when Lee radioed in reports of bites back up by the bridge that our enthusiasm returned and we cast-off at top speed to try and conjure some action.

That evening spent with three boats moored within hailing distance of each other against the backdrop of the grand bridge went on to provide the most persistent memories of the day. Lee'd had a pike and Jeff a perch by the time we arrived.

Lee's pike aint too happy.
Pete had a nice tench and I landed a third pike of fifteen pounds exactly. My pike fought extremely hard and at one point powered off into bright silvery water as the sun sank low in the sky, tail-walked on the surface throwing the dead bait from it's mouth and assumed a perfect 'S' shape in the spray. Amazing.

Nearly there......

15lb Blenheim pike.
We witnessed Lee catch a tench on a sardine and once again saw a huge shoal of rudd which were sipping at the surface being attacked repeatedly from all directions.

Our float rods were now indicating bites every so often and I hooked a tench on a worm which went on an epic sixty yard first run before I could slowly coax it back to the boat. It was a good fish and when I lifted it out I exclaimed to Pete, "If I'm a lucky boy this is going to be over six". On the tared scales it weighed 7lbs 2ozs which offered an unexpected challenge points return on the day for me.

7lb 2oz Blenheim tench.
Pete and I inexplicably missed a few more bites on the float. I resorted to drinking Kronenberg as it was now the liquid with the lowest alcohol content in the entire boat and then at last light we had a rowing race back to the boathouse. It would appear my middle name is 'Redgrave'.

At eleven pm and after twelve hours afloat the floor of my bath felt like it was moving beneath my feet as I showered away the dregs of the day.

A trip to Blenheim is a long day and not something you'd want to do every week but although I've been only  twice it has never failed to provide good memories which linger much longer than the sea legs and back ache.

Blenheim delivers. Better late than never.

Here are the challenge scores this evening:


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