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:


Thursday, 15 September 2011

I Loves Perch.

Whilst the Warwickshire Avon continues to give me a sound kicking on the barbel front the bright sun that is Autumn perch fishing has risen and is pulling me inexorably in.

One less blank I gotta worry about.

I just can't help but love perch fishing. Fishing with a float and a big worm on the hook, trickling in maggots over the top and waiting for the whole thing to waddle off sideways or under if you're lucky when a perch finds the bait. I find the bite rate of around one every hour is just enough to keep my interest up, especially when a four pounder might be at stake.

Last Friday I accompanied Jeff on a trip to Weston Lawns and despite fishing adjacent pegs we had different fortunes. If truth be told I would have fished where he was given the choice. The owner was working his way around with a strimmer in preparation for a match the following day (to remove some silver fish) and just happened to cut Jeff the perfect peg in a reed-lined bay as we were contemplating where to settle.

As it transpired I hooked three perch across the evening and landed two, with the best being two pounds fourteen ounces whilst Jeff just couldn't get amongst the bigger fish. Trust me - he was doing absolutely nothing wrong.

2.14 Perch.

2.14 Perch.

I returned after work on the off-chance earlier this week to try again and had an unusual Autumn brace: a two pound three ounce perch and a sturgeon!

The Perch is 2lb 3ozs.
 This was part of three perch and two sturgeon caught on the night.

Thinking about perch I had a brief visit to Ryton Pools this week to finish off some unused maggots. The first thing to report is the number of rudd in there after their stocking last year. They've exploded in number with hundreds of yearlings topping across the surface at dusk. This is good news for a number of reasons. Firstly the Pike will benefit, secondly the perch will benefit and thirdly and not least the whole pool will benefit from this quality stock in years to come. Where else can you find good rudd fishing in the Midlands I ask? Keep your eye on Ryton Pools.

A Ryton Pool Skimmer - Very Welcome.
I ventured out to an uncharted perch water the other day but found there was a match on the whole pool when I arrived. I walked around and had a chat with a few of the anglers, slightly disappointed at not being able to fish myself. One of them said he'd had a good perch and me being me I asked if I could see it. Pulling up his keepnet revealed a fin perfect and chunky perch of well over three pounds. I'll let you know how I get on.


Keith .J

Thursday, 8 September 2011

About Time Too.

So here it is, my quarterly blog update. At this rate you will soon be seeing my biannual posts at best.

I can't put my finger on any single reason for the above, I've still been out fishing, and quite a lot at times. In fact in June I think I nearly overdosed and had to take a two week break to recover. An accumulation of little reasons is the best I can conjure as a reason for absence.

I hate to reaffirm a cliche but you actually can 'have too much of a good thing', and when that good thing is trying relentlessly to catch even a single barbel at my usual haunts and repeatedly failing a timeout was required.

You see here's the thing - I used to be able to catch barbel at the places I fished on the Avon. Down at Lucy's Mill I'd say I'd expect one every three trips, and on the upper Avon I'd expect one every two trips etc. etc. In fact as I drove home from Stratford with Jeff Hatt last March after the capture of his splendid twelve pounder I recall him saying, "I know a double figure barbel's not going to trouble you". And do you know what? I smiled wryly as if to say, "a double is no problem mate". Little did I know then that it would take me until 21st August to even catch my first barbel of the season, and never mind a double it weighed in at 3lb 12ozs!

Welcome relief.
Talking to others on the bank this is certainly not going to be a vintage year for barbel however the likes of Phil, Lee, and others who write on here have had their share so they do still exist.

Minus four challenge competitors in one charge.....
Our bloggers outing to the Avon sticks in my mind as a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. I'd been out in London the night before and so didn't arrive until late afternoon and then took it upon myself to start on the beers again forthwith. The fishing wasn't amazing but it was hot, low and clear at the time and so to land a pike at dusk was a good enough reward for three casts. Not half as entertaining as harassing Danny by setting up within a beards breadth of him and casting dangerously close to his lines though. Not to worry, I was soon tucked up in bed under the rotating stars and leaving him in peace.

On the same evening as my first barbel I also had a decent zander of 5lbs 3oz on the other rod. Before this I'd been cycling down to Coombe Abbey at least once a week in the hope of a zed from there. All I had was jack pike though. I met renowned Coombe angler Bob Moreton a couple of times and as a regular he regaled stories and tips I hope to put to good use in the future.

I had a fun evening after the big stillwater chub at Jubilee pools too, waggler fishing shallow with a mixture of soft and hard pellet and maggots. Although I didn't hook a chub I had plenty of quality roach up in the water  and also landed a few bream and a carp.

On the upper Avon maggots ruled for chub in the clear water.

A 4lb 8oz Avon tench, my first ever river tench.

At least 50lb of bream to a feeder angler at Lucy's Mill.
As the seasons turn I'm already thinking about big perch. I enjoyed fishing for them so much at the start of this year I'm looking forward to engaging with them once again. I have a few untapped places in mind which I think may hold a magical four.

Some good fish continue to be posted on our bloggers challenge board, here are the scores this evening: