To start my final update of the season I'll go back three or four weeks, prior to the capture of my "thirty" which you will already know about if you are a regular reader of my updates.
At the beginning of the winter I set my sights on a big perch from the small lake that I have written about before in this column, but coming towards the end of the season I had still not managed to bag one. So in early February, a noted time for perching, I spent three full day sessions on the water to try and end my blank run. Sadly I didn't see any of a perch, let alone a big one. I even resorted to livebaits alongside my usual "dead cert" maggot tactics. A few days later I was speaking to big perch expert Steve Burke and he and his friends had also struggled to catch over this period. Interesting. Whether it was the pressure system or general weather I do not know, but they were definitely not having it!
After my perch failure I set off for Oxfordshire's tiny River Windrush to try and meet another of my targets, a 2lb roach. Again I put in three trips, this time afternoon into evening sessions, and the river looked in perfect condition each time. I covered several areas and used pretty sound tactics, but again I came unstuck. I caught fish everywhere I fished, but I struggled to avoid dace and small chub. I had a few nice dace of the 10 and 11 ounce stamp, but nothing really special. I did have a few roach but they were about the same size as the dace, which is unusual for roach in the Windrush. The chub were pretty small too, although one fish around 3lb had a distinctive scar on it's back and I'm sure I caught the poor chap on each of my three visits! Talk about covering a lot of water.
I hadn't fished with my dad, Frank, for a long while so we arranged to meet for a day on the Hampshire Avon. Again Roach were the target and again I failed to catch a biggun. Dad also drew a blank, so it's not just me who's doing badly!
On the drive back from the Avon I had a bit of time to reflect on the past few weeks and I realised that I had gone at least seven trips without a decent fish. Now we all have bad patches, but to go that long without a specimen in February, a time when hard work usually pays off, is pretty disappointing. I felt like a change of scene, and after a bit of milder weather I decided to put in my first carp session of the year. The result was a personal best 30lb 12oz mirror carp, which you can see in my previous "Newsflash".
The carp was a real boost for my confidence and with renewed confidence I headed for the Thames, in particular the stretch I had been fishing for chub. It had fallen back within its banks and luckily being a town centre stretch it was still open for fishing despite the foot and mouth crisis, which had just started. I started prebaiting again with the home-made paste I used for my 5lb 3oz fish in the autumn. First trip back was on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon and I sat watching a motionless tip for about 5 hours. Eventually it got too cold and I decided it was time to adjourn to the pub. As I started to throw in the remainder of my paste, the tip heaved round. The strike met with nothing and luckily I had enough paste left to put on the hook for another cast. The tip flicked round again and this time the strike found me attached to a solid fish. Several minutes later, (you have to take your time with 3lb line!), a big chub was in the net. I wasn't surprised when the scales went round to 5lb 8oz. My second personal best in as many sessions and my end of season had turned from a dire one into a scorcher! Again I disappointed myself with the self-timer photographs which were frankly,â€¦. Shit! What is it about personal best chub and photos? If you remember when I had my previous best in the autumn, the photos were also self-take and also terrible. However I returned next day for another go and had chub of 4lb 8oz and 4lb 5oz. Not "fives", but lovely fish all the same.
With the last day fast approaching and the foot and mouth crisis deepening I was faced with a difficult choice. My options were decreasing rapidly. The Windrush and Avon were out of the question, and now the Thames chub stretch had also been closed, despite being a town centre stretch! Grrrrr.
After a lot of thought I settled on a stretch of the Loddon at the bottom of a mates garden! At least I would be fishing a river on the last day, which is more than some of my friends got to do. Barbel were my target, but not knowing the water I had to use a bit of guesswork where tactics and location were concerned. I went for carp-style tactics in a snaggy hole under an overhanging tree, and used my regular carp boilies as bait. For a bit of an edge I dipped them in corn steep liquor, which barbel love, and bait-droppered in lots of hemp and trout pellets, which were also covered in CSL. I started getting line-bites late in the afternoon, and eventually the rod hooped over and a barbel was on. It put up a good fight which made me think it might have been a bit bigger than the 6lb 5oz which it weighed when I got it on the bank. It was good to turn up and catch a lovely looking fish from a river on the last day. I headed home happy.
Since the season finished I haven't done much fishing as I'm going backpacking in Thailand on the 20th of this month and I've been working hard to save up my spending money. It'll be good to get away and see some different cultures as the furthest I've been away until now is a lads holiday in Tenerife!
I have been over to the Crabtree syndicate a few times to try for another carp, but all I seem to catch is tench! Last time I had seven, and needless to say they all came at night, so I didn't get any sleep. They are all about 3 or 4lbs and even go for triple tigernut. Particle baits are probably to blame, but I find I need these to feed off the crayfish. I hate going round in circles! I think when I get back from my travels I will try a different approach and see if I can avoid the tench and crayfish. More on this when I get back!
Until then, tight lines.
2000 - 2001 Season Summary
I always find it useful to look over the season and see which targets I've met, and of course, those I haven't. Hopefully I can see where I've gone wrong and how I can do better next time round.
Looking at unmet targets, I am most disappointed that again I haven't had a 2lb roach. I can't see where I've gone wrong though! The rivers I'm fishing definitely have them, in fact most swims I fish have done 2-pounders. My tactics may be wrong, but I don't think so as I fish similar to my dad who's had literally hundreds of them! I fish at the right times, the evenings, and when the river's in good condition, so answers on a post card please! Seriously though, fishing isn't an equation, and even if you're doing everything correctly sometimes it doesn't still doesn't work out. And at other times you can be fishing quite badly and still put a big one in the net.
Another target was a big perch from the small pond I've been nosing around. All I can say is Perch One - Fred Nil. Maybe there aren't any perch in there? Good excuse that one! I'm not too disappointed though as I had a couple of fours a few seasons ago, and I won't be shelling out for a season ticket again.
Regular readers will know that for the past 2 years I've been trying to conquer the Crabtree Syndicate in Berkshire. It consists of two small, weedy and moody gravel pits. The pit I've targeted holds several 20's and about 5 30's with the record standing at nearly 37lb. The other pit holds less stock but there are a few even bigger carp present! The fish were stocked at around 3lbs a few years after the pits were dug, and have been growing ever since, so watch this space.
The first year of my membership I hardly fished the water, but had a couple of fish to 20lb 4oz (see earlier updates). The next year I fished it slightly more and was rewarded with a 30lb 4oz best. This year I have made an excellent start with the 30lb 12oz fish but have a long way to go. I certainly do not catch on every visit, so I could do better there, but I've got a pretty good average size! Later in the year, when the lakes will reopen following spawning, I shall have another go before I go off to University in September. I'm going to concentrate on single hookbaits after some pretty interesting fish observations a friend made recently. I wont go into too much detail, but basically this carp, weighing about upper 20s, was behaving very strangely over a handful of tiger nuts. The fish would swim over, suck in a particular nut, blow it out straight away and then leave the swim. It would then return, pick up the same nut and blow it out again. It did this several times, with that one nut, before it sucked it in and bolted from the swim! Bear in mind that there was no rig or anglers for hundreds of yards and that my mate had been perfectly still up a tree for about four hours, and you wonder how you ever manage to catch a carp! Weird.
Other highlights of the season have been my trio of 2lb rudd in the summer of 2000. The biggest was a brace at 2lb 8oz, another good result for not much fishing time. Hopefully I'll be able to get back on the lake to have another go this summer!
Another big target of mine was a 5lb chub from the Thames, and despite flooding, arctic weather and foot and mouth disease I managed two! Fish of 5lb 3oz and then recently my 5lb 8oz were good results of my hard work prebaiting, but spoilt somewhat by terrible self-take photos. That is one thing I shall be working on this season, I have bought a new SLR camera, and hopefully my self-photography will get a bit better.
I think you can see that I chop and change my fishing somewhat, trying to catch big fish of several species through the course of a season. Obviously every season there are some targets I don't meet, but this time round I've had six decent personal bests. The drawbacks of this chop and change style of fishing are plentiful however. As I never spend much time on one particular venue it takes me longer to know them intimately and so get better results. Also I need a huge range of tackle to be able to target anything from 10oz dace to 30lb carp, and keeping all the gear in good condition ready for use is a job in itself. As well as tackle I also have to shell out for syndicate and club memberships which is quite a strain on my ever-empty bank account. Add in bait and petrol and you start to wander why I don't just stick to one water and species. Basically I enjoy catching a variety of species and I relish new challenges, so I'm always on the look out for new waters.
That's all for now, hopefully over the next few months I may go travelling so I might not be doing too much fishing, but whatever I'm upto I'll let you know.
Fred - 2001