Thursday, 16 February 2017

Legering for Grayling, the Twig Rig and the Senses.

'Legering for Grayling'?   Some of you are probably now recoiling in horror.  And I  largely agree with you.  It is not really the way of the enlightened, the path of the Ninja.  One of my clubs actually bans legering in their river beats, and I agree entirely with their decision.   But elsewhere there are many swims that simply cannot be fished with fly or float.  Depths, varying, or too deep, snags, trees and everything else imaginable, can render civilized grayling fishing quite impossible.  So what of those swims?  Are they to be ignored?     The grayling ( and other species) certainly do not ignore them.  So we can either treat them as sanctuaries or in some cases, maybe they can be legered.

But what is the problem with legering for grayling?   Apart from the aesthetics of  it, the grayling is a fish that can be very prone to taking the hookbait deep into its mouth, often so deep as to leave the hook out of sight.   Float fishing and fly fishing tends to lead to the fish being lip hooked most of the time.  Legering though, can result in 50% of fish, maybe more, being hooked in disgorger territory.  Contrary to the strength of their wriggles, as you try to extract the hook, probing deeply into a grayling's digestive tract is fraught with danger to the fish.  Even using a slammo disgorger is no guarantee that an unseen hook, deep down, can be extracted.  The more caring angler would cut the line sooner rather than later, and pray that the barbless hook he should be using will be dealt with and disposed of naturally by the fish.  I do not know how often fish actually dispose of hooks. I don't know how often they die as a consequence of deep hooking.

I do not wish to deep hook fish. and have usually avoided the leger for grayling.  In the same way many years ago I stopped fishing for pike when the Jardine snap tackle was ubiquitous, and the advice was to 'strike on the second run'.  I did not like the surgical operation needed to extract barbed trebles from deep inside a pike.  And at the time no-one had invented the method of slipping the hand into the gill slit to aid and abet unhooking of the fish.  Pike fishing is far more acceptable these days with modern methods now in place, and almost all of my pike these days are hooked such that the hook shank is visible outside of the jaw.  My pike fishing has become a lot friendlier to the fish, and I enjoy it more.  

But could there also be a better method of fishing for grayling?   ...and for chub, roach etc of course. In my youth I used to fish for big bream with a paternoster rig.  Not the usual rig but a rather extreme version.  From the T junction of the paternoster line, one arm was a couple of feet or more of line, with an Arlesey bomb attached to the end of it.  Tied on, not sliding.  The other T was only an inch or so long, and lead to the hook.  This gave a very direct route from hook to bite indicator should a fish swim away from me.    I had already concluded that there was nothing to gain from a sliding lead if a fish swam back towards me, the lead would move back towards me at half the speed of the fish, and could easily totally mask out any bite indication at the rod. It worked well for me. It was possibly even working as a bolt rig, something that had not been invented at the time. Hooks then were not nearly as sharp, so that bolt effect may not have been quite so frequently the case.  Such a paternoster style was also completely tangle free,  and certainly caught fish in stillwaters.

Would such a rig work for grayling, and why would it be an advantage?   Well, the line between lead and rod is under a small amount of tension, and only that inch long hooklink is free to move, free to be sucked in by the fish. The tension in the main line to the lead would prevent any of the main line from being sucked into the mouth of the fish. So my theory was that the fish could therefore not take the bait any deeper than an inch into its mouth.   Any fish hooked inside the mouth, at only an inch deep is no problem for a disgorger.  But would it work, would it catch fish?  Yes it did, and to date I have not hooked a single fish deeply when fishing in this way.   Was it as efficient a way to catch fish?  That I cannot answer easily, and so the conclusion is that it remains a definite maybe.   The current and angle of the main line could easily lift the bait off the bottom, although that could be counteracted by a shot somewhere near the T.  The method works for both up and downstream legering.   I even used it fishing with a maggot feeder for chub, fishing downstream. My bait being a foot upstream of the feeder did not seem to concern the chub, the trail of maggots below the feeder attracted the chub sufficiently close, that they were then able to find my baited hook some distance above the feeder.
A second problem is that the fish might prefer a long length of line, allowing the bait to flow and meander more freely up and down in the current.  Clearly the paternoster method is not going to provide that.  So here, for the first time in print, I will present to you the JayZS Twig Rig...the result of five minutes of idle thinking during a boring morning when few fish were feeding.      Designed for downstream legering for grayling, allowing a longer flowing link and yet, in theory, still preventing deep hooking. 

The details:
Set up your leger rig, with your long flowing link, in any way you would normally prefer.  Simple running lead,  a link leger, or a couple of swan shot directly on the line two feet above the hook.  It does not matter: the Twig Rig  just redefines the last inch or two.  Find, on the bank, a bit of thin twig. Cut it down to about an inch of so, and then remembering your DIB, DIB, DIB, or maybe your DOB, DOB, DOB, make a clove hitch in your line very near to the hook, and put the twig through its loops. Add an extra half hitch for security, and you now have a twiggy crossbar, an inch or so above the hook, sitting sideways across the line.  The theory here is that the fish can engulf the bait, but the crossbar will prevent the bait from progressing very far down the throat of the fish. Its lips and limited mouth gape stop the crossbar from entering its mouth. My initial thoughts were that the twig would put the fish off, and I did not know whether I would catch anything at all by using it.  But the twig is very natural, so why should a fish be suspicious of it?   And does it work?  Limited testing to date, due to recent bad river conditions that have not been ideal for a grayling hunt.

Caught on a Twig Rig.
   But some fish have already taken a bait on this rig, including my best grayling of the winter so far: a nice male of 1-14.   The jury is still out on the method, but they left the dock with smiles on their faces.  

Both methods rely on being able to prevent a fish taking a bait down deep. Both seem to work, and I have not yet had a deep hooked fish on either method. Only a dozen or so fish into the experiments, but with ordinary legering techniques, several of those would have certainly been hooked deeply.

I bought a Berlingo van.  For fishing.   Something I had promised myself for many years, but four years ago, having had a Saxo written off, I flunked it, and bought a Ford Fusion instead.   Worked just fine as a fishing car, but I was always worried that anything inside the car could be seen.  So finally I splashed out on a van.  Not had a van for many years.  Had an HA Bedford ( MK 1 Viva) van and a couple of minivans many years ago, but they were very different.  Smaller, and much easier to drive.   The new van has no rear windows, and so for the first time I am dependent on the wing mirrors.   Had it long enough now to be ignoring the interior mirror, but have no idea why one has been fitted to a vehicle with no rear windows, and which also has a bulkhead immediately behind the driver, doubly blocking the view. Mind you I was still more surprised by a transit van I followed last week.    It too had no rear windows, but was fitted with a pair of rear screen wipers.  They were both switched on....and it wasn't even raining.  They have probably been cleaning the rear paintwork for years, with the driver completely unaware they were switched on.    I also need to point out that my van is NOT white.   So the "white van man" epithet will not work.    I feel I am seated very high up driving it, and it seems huge, although only about 9 inches longer than the Fusion.  That said, it feels more secure for stowing the few bits of tackle that I am not carrying as I walk to my swim. Parking is a little more difficult to accomplish with style, without a functional rear view mirror, and some non right-angle junctions can be difficult, there being limited views at 45 degrees to the rear and left of the van.   Narrow roads, single track,   just the sort of tracks I need to drive down to reach the river will also be problematic at times.   Having to reverse, on meeting another vehicle, will be interesting for I cannot now see if there is another car close behind me.  Thinking in advance has become more necessary.    Maybe I need some sort of 6th sense, to alert me to problems behind me.

But could I trust that 6th sense?  Any more than the other senses can be trusted? 

Take vision.    When watching a stationary float on a lake, with a crosswind, and therefore ripples passing sideways in front of you, something very odd can happen when you look away.  Look at vegetation on the bank and it seems to be moving, creeping towards the water, yet getting no closer to the lake.   The brain must  be filtering out some of the left to right, or right to left, ripple movement whilst watching the float.  And it must be doing this by adding in a component of virtual movement automatically. The brain sets up this background moving picture, which it then adds to the real scene.  Changing it for God only knows what reason.   So, when you stop looking at the ripples, the added on bit of the scene, that generated by the brain, remains for a while, and seemingly causes stationery objects to appear as if moving, trees drifting down the bank.   All very strange.

But this added component is not confined to vision.   Take hearing.   I live a hundred yards or so from a main line railway. It runs in a deep cutting but that is not so deep as to be able to mask out the noise from a Manchester-London Virgin express train, nor even that from the local services.   Yet I do not notice them at all, I hear nothing. Not unless I try specifically  to hear them.  The brain appears to be able to ignore these intermittent chunks of noise, selectively, in the background, only alerting me to them if I am specifically wanting to hear them.   Amazing.

Next smell:      Houses each have a particular smell.  Go into someone else's house and it is often both apparent and detectable.  This applies to your own home too.  But you smell nothing when you enter it. Again the brain seems to filter out that which it expects.  This, I guess, allows it to more readily determine any slight differences from the norm.  Useful in this modern age where we have gas fires and the like, all of which might imply danger of some sort.  ( I once came home from work and could smell gas in the house. So could the emergency gasman, although his sniffer device failed to find any signs of gas. It turned out that next door had had a visiting plumber, who had completed the job, and left the property, leaving an open gas pipe, and then turned the gas back on.  Next door's house was a bomb, waiting for a spark before exploding. Smell saved my property, if not my life.)  In the distant past a change of background smell probably also warned of danger or perhaps the nearness of food.   Not really a sense we have had to rely on too much, or else evolution might have given us the same sensitivity to smell as it has given to dogs, bears fish and other creatures.  Taste is very closely related to smell, and although I guess the brain can detect and ignore a "background" taste, I cannot recall any examples.

Touch, the fifth sense is also intriguing.  Sit on a sofa or a chair and you have a large area in contact with the seating.  Yet you can largely ignore it,  it is not constantly firing messages at you, at least not once the nerves have transmitted those messages to the brain.  They are once more ignored.  Yet it only takes a minor disturbance to the norm, say, sitting on a sofa with a stray split shot on it, and it immediately tells you, and causes you grief until you remove the shot.   Once more the background is being ignored.  The unusual being amplified.  And I suspect that, like vision, background 'feel' gets ignored by the brain, in that it creates a "negative" of what it feels, thus cancelling out everyday feeling.  To support this I recall years when I spent a whole week on a punt, fishing for tench at the start of the coarse fish close season.   Even with the punt lashed to some stakes, there was still a small amount of swell, with wave action constantly rocking the boat.   It did not take long to ignore, to not notice this rocking motion.  I believe that it was ignored by means of the brain generating the inverse of the motion, making the sum total of the rocking experienced by the conscious brain to be effectively zero.   How do I justify this statement?   Quite simple really.   At the end of the week, tired, and fairly happy with my catches, I went home to sleep.   And for several hours the bed seemed to be rocking with a wave action.   This must have been the brain being quite slow to switch off its compensatory  signals.  The effect was very noticeable though.   Quite astonishing what the unconscious brain is capable of: from diluting the senses, thus ignoring the irrelevant, to solving a sticky crossword clue in the background.  Yet it has one hell of a time remembering where I have put my car keys, just moments earlier.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Disaster: A Grayling on the First Cast!

Indeed, a catastrophe on the first cast. I hooked a grayling with moments of the float hitting the water...and in a swim where bites are normally rare.  But more of that later perhaps.

When I am not fishing, I like to take moderately long walks.  I stay local, usually. No point in going walking with the car when there is so much I have never seen within a few miles of home.  If I remembered all I see I should by now have an encyclopedic knowledge of the local area.  But my memory prevents that. I retain far less than I should like, and sometimes less than I need.  I see it and move on.   A fair bit of my walking is alongside the local rivers and streams, and it is not easy to forget the effect that floods can have on them.  They are spate rivers, and about 3 weeks ago ( 3 weeks from when I first started to write this) we had rain, heavy rain overnight.  Some parts of nearby towns were flooded. The rivers are spate rivers, but that flood was more of a flash flood than a spate, and viewing the EA water levels websites shows a truly astonishingly rapid increase and decrease of depth.   I measured an increase of ten feet at one spot I visit.  Not the highest I have seen it there, which was 13 feet.  On that day I calculated, having made some rough estimates of flow speed, that the river was carrying about 100 times its usual  flow rate.  Visually it was terrifying.  In any major flood the river carries a tremendous about of debris, from sand grains all the way up to fully grown trees. All are swept downstream with apparent ease.  An astonishing amount of sand and gravel is transported at each flood, and the river changes its looks at some spots, every time we have such storms.  Unfortunately, with the natural material transport, is carried a mass of human detritus too.  From raw sewage as the local sewage farms fail to cope, to sanitary towels, old tyres, supermarket trolleys, plastic bags etc. On my last fishing trip I decided to count the sanitary towels caught up in the vegetation within 10 feet of me.  The total was 34. It would have been higher had I been fishing near any of the bankside trees. I once caught 6 towels in 6 casts: a river record.  So much rubbish is strewn along the banks that it really is probably pointless my taking my own litter home.   But I will continue to do so, as I know I would feel guilty if I didn't.  Luckily there is no club rule about cleaning up other peoples rubbish from the peg before fishing.  It would just not be a practical proposition: far too much stuff.
Grayling Swim  ;-(
Trout Swim  ;-)

On the  left, debris left after the flood in just one spot.   On the right, normal summer level a short distance further downstream.  You make think your rivers are bad,  but I feel fairly confident that you have probably seen nothing compared to this.  And there are always footballs.   Rather like in another scenario, there are always carrots.

Football Swim
It is intensely annoying that, after the Herculean attempts of the EA and others to clean up the water quality, to allow the rivers to show some life again, that the locals continue to use the rivers as dumping grounds. Not just annoying, but disgusting.   The unusually steep banks make any sort of access exceedingly dangerous, and so I know that this muck is never going to be cleaned up.  The post industrial era has left another mark on the stream beds: they are extensively paved with bricks and other dressed stonework.  The residue of riverside industrial era buildings, long abandoned and crumbling.  That which has not already fallen into the rivers, is, or will be, swept into them as flood after flood courses through what remains of the archaeology. 

P.S. If you didn't understand carrots, think "pavement pizza", or the old schoolkid joke. "Mummy, Mummy, Johnny has been sick and Susie is getting all the big bits." I cannot tell you how long I have waited to re-use that joke.  I love the term "pavement pizza". Although very much a slang term, it is so visually descriptive that it fully deserves an OED inclusion. Rather like "arse over tit", another great expression.  There is much, good, entertaining slang, but also slang that I find intensely annoying.  "Innit?", at the end of a sentence as a confirmatory expression, regardless of whether it should be  "won't it?", or "can't I?" etc, drives me crazy.  Even the better brought up kids merely tidy it up as "isn't it?" How did this usage become so pervasive? And so quickly?

Why, oh why, did I have to hook a grayling first cast.   So annoying. The world was against me, Almost as annoying as the fact that I had nearly finished this blog entry when I must have hit the wrong key and deleted it all save for the letters "ybe".  The letters are the latter part of the word "maybe" which I was typing at the time.  Maybe I hit a wrong key, maybe not. It may be that the program just had a hiccup.  Either way I lost all my input, photos included.   Not happy!  

I had two or three trips to an area of another river, catching a few grayling as usual, the odd decent trout muscling in, out of season.  A lady walking her dog has promised to talk to them daily, until mid-March to try and make them recognize and remember when they are to be caught, and when not.  More pleasingly a few chub have been added to the mix, about a dozen, most between 2 and three pounds, short solid fish that fought better than I remember chub scrapping in the past.  Best fish was 3-10, one of three that took simple float fished maggots trotted downstream. Some interesting birds: a dabchick that I spotted once before it did the usual dab disappearing chick trick. And one of the peregrines was doing the occasional fly past.  Jays too in profusion, arguing the toss with the magpies.

One day last week, I chose to fish another swim, one in which I have never had any success. I once lost a good fish, probably a chub, unseen, but that was the sum total of my lack of success there.  A difficult swim both to fish and to sit in.  Amidst a bankload of freshly deposited sand, it was a little precarious to say the very least.  I didn't slip in, but was worried a couple of times.   The river was proving as
Surprisingly Hard Fighting Chub
unproductive as ever, and 40 trots down I had seen not one bite.  But the swim looked so good, and on the 41st ( approx) run down of the float, it disappeared. I was on a light trotting rod, fishing with 3 pound line, which for me is very light indeed.   The fish fought magnificently, and from initially suspecting a good chub, my mind wandered through trout, and even a good bream kiting sideways in the current.  The bream idea soon evaporated as the fish made its way upstream against a fairly heavy current, and passed me, still unseen, and by this time I was playing it very carefully indeed.  It surfaced, a chub, and looked to be 5 pound plus, but once on the scales it made 4-8.  A good fish for the river, and indeed one of only two chub , small or large, that I have had from the river in the last two years. They used to be somewhat more common, although never prolific.  It was a while before the next fish, a couple of grayling, which were to complete the day's catch.   But as I reeled in one of them, a massive swirl was  immediately confirmed to be a fairly good Esox  making an attack.  A pike for the very few of you that might not know the term Esox.  It missed the fish, and sat there lurking, a foot from my foot, looking up at me rather like a robin begging for maggots. An oddly, it had a little 1/2 inch red something on its head.  Christmas decoration?  I have no idea. I returned the grayling behind it, and told the pike that I would see it again the day after.

I don't know why I even took the grayling rod with me.  In retrospect it was plain stupidity.  I should never have cast in at all, but I had been seduced by that four and a half pound chub the day before.  It was  a plot, in which the characters, chub, grayling and pike were all in collusion.

Now I try to always keep my promises, and having told old Esox that I would return , I arrived the next day, determined to find out what the red thing was. In short, I intended to catch that pike.  As I tackled up, 4 birds flew across the river. My immediate thought, looking at one of them was that it was a kestrel.  But there were four, and the tail was too long and thin.  They were parakeets I concluded, and probably green in colour had they not been seen in silhouette. The first such birds I have seen, apart from a large flock in London a few years ago.  At about the same time a female mink stole along the far bank. I had seen a bankside disturbance a bit further downstream, but did not have the foresight to ready the camera.  I still have no good shots of a mink.

 The pike bait went in, and was ignored.  After ten minutes I tackled up the float rod, intending to see if another chub might show itself.  No of course, but a grayling did:  On that first cast I hooked a grayling.  And that  was the mistake that all the red text has been wittering on about. How could I have been so stupid?  For as I reeled the grayling in, the pike grabbed it, grabbed it when it was no more than 18 inches form my pike bait, which was a dead rudd, suspended and fluttering about in the current. After a short tug of war, the barbless hook came away. Although there might well be no such thing as a free lunch, a free breakfast is another thing entirely.    And having stuffed himself with a foot long grayling at my expense, it was inevitable that the pike would not be interested in my 5 inch dead rudd.  And it wasn't.    So I gave the pike a couple of days to digest its hearty breakfast, and then went back with yet another rudd.  There was a swirl within moments of my first cast, but the bait remained untaken.  Two minutes later I provoked a second large swirl, but not a take.  And that was it: no more interest from Mr Pike.  But it had done just enough to thumb its nose at me, and confirm it was still there, sniggering at me.

 3 -nil to the pike. 

But it all makes the chase that bit more interesting, and maybe in a week or so I shall be back, risking all on a 45 degree sloping sand pit.  This story is NOT yet finished.

But it is finished for the moment, the river being in a constant state of "a bit too much water for me".

And here endeth the blog entry.   Taking far  too much time to write, so I am publishing this regardless of it seeming, to me,  to be incomplete.

P.S.  Diet still progressing well. A pound short of losing 4 stones to date.  My stomach has changed from looking as if I was carrying one of those horrible bloated mirror carp under my T-shirt, to looking as if I only have a pound and a half chub flopping about in front of my belly.  Those carrots help again. They add bulk and longevity in the gut, without adding greatly to the calorie intake.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016


Autumn....probably winter by the time I get to publish this, and all the colours are muted to dull browns, greens and greys. But there is still great beauty to be see if you look for it. These fungi

caught my eye one damp morning.  And there is always colour in my maple tree once it red shifts into autumn. The brilliant red on the tree does not last long, being at its best for no more than a couple of days.  But the leaves then fall into my pond, providing an extension to the scarlet, not shrivelling up on the ground.

I usually find that Autumnal fishing is not as rewarding as I might wish.   The grayling continue to be co-operative of course, at least until the rain arrives and colours the water too much. Many fish, especially those in stillwaters, become lethargic, without the enthusiasm to feed.    There are exceptions of course, predatory fish will still usually feed, and the clear waters of Autumn probably help them to see their lunch.

So I decided to try something new: drop shotting.  From a boat. On a very large reservoir, supposedly noted for large predatory fish, perch of 2-3 pounds being common, and good pike present to keep the stocks of trout in check.  Two days: on a boat with an outboard, on a huge reservoir. "Avoid the direct line out from the stone tower", I was told, and so I did, keeping a good ten yards away from that line.  Forty feet of water and I jigged and dropped the whole of the first day to no effect, enticing just one trout which turned on the lure right at the surface, and which was missed.   The second day went far better, a dozen perch taking the lure, in somewhat shallower water, maybe about 24 feet or so.   None of the perch topped 3/4 of a pound, which ordinarily would not bother me too much.  But drop shotting on a huge reservoir has to be about the most boring fishing I have ever done in my lifetime.
Big Reservoir.  Nothing to See Here at All. 

When the fish are not biting there is nothing of interest to look at.   Another boat 100 yards away. The odd gull, and a solitary grebe that once ventured just about close enough to be seen.   There was little to look at, nothing to see, and it made the days dreary beyond compare.   The promised 2 or 3 pound perch would hardly have made up for the mind numbing sameness of the day.   The most exciting time was when I came to lift up the anchor at the end of the first day.   Ten yards was apparently not far enough away from the banned line.  I was unable to lift the anchor up, it became progressively heavier as I hauled it nearer the surface.   I had, I was told, hooked an underwater airline with the anchor fluke.   Try as I might I could not dislodge it, and I figured that the only thing I could do was to leave the anchor where it was, and to rely on the attached float to show its position, so it could be retrieved later.   Good plan, but one which failed, failed miserably.  As the pipeline returned to the bottom, it had somehow tangled the line, causing the float to disappear as well.   In theory the anchors had enough attached line to work in any swim on the reservoir, leaving the float on the surface.  In practice the tangle thwarted that idea, and I could see the float some 8 or 10 feet below the surface.   I am in no rush to get back there to see if the fishing improves.

So, after a few more grayling and a solitary canal pike of maybe eight or nine pounds, I headed for the River Severn, in order to try for the zander.   A new venue for me, with zander as the target species, and so I decided to fish two days and nights.   A poor choice of dates left me sitting on the bank during the two coldest nights of the year so far.   But I was prepared.   I don't have a bivvy,  but a brolly with side panels would suffice, especially with a length of black cloth draped over the open front, leaving me just enough space to leap out at the first sign of a bite.  The river was low and clear, slow and easy, and my legered rudd deadbaits remained where I cast them, with few drifting leaves to catch the line.   Few fish to disturb them either.  On the first night a missed run, a very finicky sort of run.  Then nothing for a good while. A second similar run.  I was fairly warm, having taken a butane gas heater into the encampment.   I had found two lengths of the black cloth near the river a few days before, and the second length was draped over my legs.   At the onset of the bite, I cast off the cloth and tottered out into the cold, my legs stiff from inactivity, clotted with pins and needles, and I was as unstable as hell.   I came close to falling into some ten feet of cold Severn slack water.  But I hit the fish and reeled it in.   An eel of about two pounds.  We never had eels near home when I was a young angler, and so my first experience of one was during a match on the Witham.  The 15 inch bootlace wriggled and wrapped itself about the line, and I struggled to control it.  Even putting my boot over its neck failed to subdue the thing, and eventually it wriggled into the grass backwards, taking my hook with it.   The Severn fish was larger, maybe a couple of pounds of pure muscle.  It did not want to be unhooked, and as I struggled with the fish, my stiff legs and the dark, I suddenly noticed how misty it was.   It became apparent that the mist was at its most concentrated near to my brolly encampment.   It was the flames and the smell of smoke that convinced me there was nothing misty about the scene at all.  I had cast off the leg warming cloth rather too near to the gas heater, and it had caught fire. A few moments of panic later, the fire was out, and the eel was finally subdued and returned.    Eels!   And I had two more of the damn things the next night.    The daytime was a little better, three or four small chub, a daddy ruffe and a perch were landed, before something else took the rudd.   A pike, long and slim, tending towards thin.
River Severn Pike
 But a scrapper that just dragged the scales past the ten pound mark.   Nicely hooked in the scissors with the single hook.   Once fit and fat I might have expected this fish to weigh a good three pounds more.  I concluded though, that the fish in general, and the zander in particular were doing no more than they needed to remain in the river and alive.  Cold-bloodedness can be advantageous, especially when you do not want to get caught by a passing angler. The fish were not wasting calories by chasing about the swim, and were thus able to be economical with the tooth. (Sorry!...Am I really sorry?...Of course can all suffer that one.).   In stillwater fish can be very static, moving about very little.  Pond keepers are actually advised not to feed their fish during the colder months, and so fish can survive in stillwater for months without feeding at all.   In rivers they might have to flick the odd fin, and so need a little more sustenance, but a fish is a very efficient machine and can get by, eating very little.

These river fish were using just enough calories to exist, to remain alive. And it reminded me that I too, am on (yet another) diet.  So this next section is about dieting, and is neither compulsory, nor compulsive reading. It doesn't quite qualify as a rant. So feel free to take a tea break here.  Not too many biscuits though! It is intended to remind me to keep the weight reduction going, and to allow myself to throw stones and jeer if I fail to get down to the weight I want to be. Feel free to join in if I fail.  

I had been finding some fishing trips quite heavy going of late, especially those involving climbing back up the steep valley sides after fishing the river.  But as of about 14 weeks ago I had lost two stones: 28 pounds, following a series of successes and failures spread across two years.  Another stone or so has gone in the last 3 months.  I told my wife I was worried about getting a six pack, and have no idea why she laughed. To succeed I find I need targets, and I need to keep it interesting, as my aim, should I hit that target, is to shed a further three stones, getting me back to the weight I was whilst frittering away my time at university. Looking down at my trimmer figure, I cannot see where the extra is going to come from. Losing weight is not easy.

So firstly, I needed some information. As ever, the internet provides it in abundance.  Someone my age, height and weight needs 1650 calories a day... 1650 just to survive and remain at a constant weight.  Moving about, getting out of bed, and other inadvisable activities add to that total.  For a moderately active person, of similar build to myself, add on 600 calories per day, for a total of 2250.  At this point the scientist in me reminds you that one food calorie is equivalent to 1000 real scientific calories.  I guess chefs, and dietitians are none too good with big numbers and someone simplified it all for them.  I really need 2,250,000 calories per day, but I won't dwell on that too much.

So: to lose weight there are two choices  1) exercise more or 2) eat less.   I decided to go for option 3), which is a bit of both.

Using another bit of internet data, a pound of human fat, as eaten by your nearest cannibal, contains 3500 calories.   Enough to feed him and one small kid for a day.  But it allows a calculation:   eat 500 calories each day less than that 2250, and I should lose a pound a week. Astonishingly, to me at least, that formula seems to be pretty accurate. I have, to add some of that necessary interest, been totalling up my calorie deficit over the last couple of months or three, and my predicted loss is matching the theoretical loss very very closely.   There are blips in the process, such as one period of two weeks, during which my weight stayed absolutely constant, despite sticking rigidly to the "rules".  I cannot explain that at the moment. 

So what of exercise?   Another schoolboy physics calculation produced the figure of 6.5 calories used, if I run up to the top room in my house, some 30 steps up,  ( allowing for the accepted figure, one that we all know of course: that the body is about 20% efficient). So twice up all those stairs, 60 steps, should use and lose the calorific equivalent of one Trebor mint.  It says on the packet that one mint = 13 calories.  So there is a way of having a sweet treat.   A reward without the guilt. Run up and down twice and have a sweet.   Of course a more relevant bit of data, is the number of times it would take, running up those stairs, to lose a pound in weight.       The keener types amongst you will no doubt have already worked that out in your head as being 538.46 times, leaving me exhausted one step below the first floor.  This is totally ridiculous, and so any form of extreme exercise has been banished from the weight loss program.   Even walking uses very little.  About 25 miles to lose a pound.  And then I would have to walk back again.  So short walks, a few miles on those days I do not go fishing, is as much exercise as I shall include.     25 miles!     Looking up the calorific value of petrol, enabled me to make yet another daft calculation.   Were I able to run on petrol, I would be getting about 220 miles per gallon.  I think.   I did that calculation a few days ago and have forgotten the exact result.

So food has become different.  I find myself looking at the calorie count of food on the supermarket shelves.  There is not much labelled as being specifically for the dieter.   A few weight watchers bits and pieces.   Now I must say, here and now, that Heinz weight watchers soups are not for the faint hearted, nor for the weak of stomach.  They have all the attractive looks and taste of a bush tucker trial.   Look it up! I never thought that anything could have all the look, smell, taste and texture as the remnants in my sink, just after doing the washing up following a vegetarian party. Oh my God, if that soup were the only option, I would have given up ages ago.  I had bought four cans.   I hope the recycling plant doesn't want all the tins to be empty.  There are a few meals rated at about 350 calories.  So in theory I could actually eat six of them in a day without weight gain!   Three therefore should see the pounds fall off. 

The reduction in food intake, especially with exercise, does occasionally lead to a lack of energy. But my son, now a doctor, has banned me from drinking Red Bull: not good for me, he says,  I know it is good for me when those two blondes drive a huge can of it past as I walk down the road though. But all is not lost: there are diet energy drinks out there now.   But read the labels on them.   How can a can of diet, berry flavoured, energy drink, actually give anyone a boost, when it clearly states on the label that a full can contains only 17 calories?   Barely enough in a can to get me to the top of our stairs.   Advertising standards really need to look at this.   

Whilst talking about advertising, I returned one of those "bags for life" to Sainsbury's yesterday.  It had become badly damaged, and my "only 311 calories" ASDA meals were falling out of it.   They were reluctant at first to swap it for me.  Then I pointed out to them that they were getting all this free advertising from me, a walking billboard, every time I went shopping with it at Tesco or Aldi.   That worked and they swapped it.   I chuckled to myself as I left the store.  They obviously had completely missed that I was having a major laugh at their expense (and I really mean their expense) with that reasoning.   It will come to them in a couple of days.  Maybe.

P.S. I lost another three pounds whilst writing this.  Going for a curry.   Bye.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Whatever Floats Your Float...and Why Your Scales Always Lie.

I wasn't sure today, whether to write about the increasingly ridiculous new "record" 70 pound carp situation or about float fishing. Both offer the opportunity to indulge in a bit of prolixity, but although dealing with the carp might have been fun, I'll leave that to others for the moment, and instead I'll add a sunrise photo I took last week just as I reached the lake.   The photo has absolutely no relevance to the blog content that follows, but I rather like it, and it is straight as it came out of the camera, not tweaked in any way. I just stopped, enthralled,  and watched the scene develop and fade.

Regular readers may remember that I once, as a teenager, took Billy Lane, world match angling champion to task, about a statement he had made about floats in "Fishing" magazine.  The only significant advance he could envisage in float design would be a float the size of a matchstick that could carry two or three swan shot. I forget his exact words but that was the gist of it  More recently another angler I have a lot of respect for was fishing in a match, using a sliding float in about twenty five feet of water. I was watching him fish, picking up tips, and he was using a large sliding float, one carrying 3 or 4 SSG shot set some distance from the bait, in order to make casting easy. The float had a long thin antenna at the top, and he said that the single number 8 shot, placed near to the hook would provide a tell-tale and the float would rise several inches when the fish lifted the tell tale.  Which was indeed completely true....BUT... well,  I'll deal with that "BUT" later.    I invoked good old Archimedes when rebuffing the Billy Lane statement.  Billy was a truly great match angler but certainly no scientist.   Archimedes's principle has much to impact on float design and their use, and it will feature in what follows.  Now there will, of course, be some of you who will say "Screw Archimedes, I have been float fishing for years."  And so you have.  What follows is not mandatory reading, but I hope some of it  may make you think, or actually be of use.   However if you are reading this in the bath I ask you to stop now.  I will not be held responsible should you be caught running damp and naked down the street, a laptop in one hand, a slippery bar of soap in the other, shrieking "Eureka" at all and sundry.     

I'll try not to get TOO technical, but will, as I have said, invoke Archimedian principles, together with a bit of Newton, in order to try and explain how floats really work.  There should be nothing that should overtax anyone who has studied GCSE science or physics, regardless of whether they passed or failed the subject. But I will be going into some detail.   I shall try to be precise about word usage, but may occasionally slip up, at times intentionally.

Why Your Scales Always Lie

The words mass and weight are easily confused, but the difference between them is important. Consider a carp with a mass of exactly 20 pounds.  Your scales will record a weight of 20 pounds...or will they?  No!   They will actually record a weight of fractionally less than 20 pounds.  Things can float in air. Balloons can float and actually rise up in air.  This is because the air is pushing them upwards.  Balloons filled with helium are lighter than air, and so the air can push them skywards. If you made a balloon the same size and shape as your carp, then the air would push up on your carp with the same force as on your carp shaped balloon.   So the air is pushing upwards on that carp, causing the scales to record a weight ever so slightly less than that 20 pounds.    If whilst dangling that carp from your scales, you were to lower the carp into the lake, then the scales will record a smaller weight, a weight that will become zero once the carp is fully submerged.  The carp still has a mass of twenty pounds, but its weight has been precisely balanced by the force with which water is pushing upwards on the carp.      Does it therefore weigh zero?  No. It still weighs 20 pounds, because weight is defined as the force acting on the carp due to gravity.  Gravity is pulling down on that carp, with a force of twenty pounds, if its mass is twenty pounds.  Your scales are recorded the force of gravity on the carp, minus the force pushing upwards due to whatever the carp is submerged it submerged in water...or in air.

The weight recorded by your scales can never be completely accurate, unless you are weighing the carp in a vacuum, which will be rather less healthy for the carp than your  average pond.   But there is an upside:   In air the weight recorded will always be a teensy bit too low.   So if you catch that special fish and the scales show  49 pounds 15 ounces and 15 drams, then it probably actually tops 50.   To get an accurate value, you really need to account for the force exerted by the air on your fish, and add that on.  You can calculate this extra amount quite easily, but I am not going to tell you how.  Work it out for yourself the next time you catch a carp of 49-15-15.

I do not intend to make much comment about river fishing, the odd line or two, but most of this analysis is directed at stillwater fishing with a float.  Such can be conveniently divided into four distinct categories:
1) Surface fishing
2) Midwater fishing
3) Bottom fishing
4) Fishing on the drop.

In surface fishing, although the float may be used to spot the bites, its main use is as a weight to aid casting, in order to achieve the distance and improve accuracy.  There is little more I would wish to add, save that a float made of very light materials might be appropriate, because it will tend to land quite gently on the surface with far less of a splash than a much heavier one.

Like wise I will not mumble much about 'on the drop' fishing or midwater techniques.   

No: instead I intend to concentrate on bottom fishing, although some of what is said may well apply to others of the four categories listed above.   Further, to enable me to discuss in the most detail, I choose to concentrate on the lift method, a method that is probably the hardest to set up and use properly. I have seen it written that Fred J Taylor was the person who first described lift method fishing. I cannot verify that, but have no reason to doubt it, Fred was, after all, a damned good angler.  But even before his time anglers would have seen lifted or flat float bites at times.   What Fred did was to intentionally set up a rig designed to produce such bites more often.    


Why did I spout all that garbage about scales that lie?  Well, it all comes down to buoyancy.  What is a float?   Merely a device to provide some buoyancy in water.  Floats have weight, drop one and it falls to the ground. Drop one in water and it rises to the surface, because it has buoyancy.  The reason it rises is because the water is pushing the float upwards with a force greater than the weight of the float.   Water pushes upwards onto anything  placed into it, even onto objects that sink, like say the Titanic.  And the force that pushes upwards can be easily calculated.   If an object occupies 10 cubic centimetres and is fully submerged, then there will be a force exerted by the water which is equal to the weight of 10 ccs of water.   Water, rather conveniently weighs one gram per cc.  ( or millilitre).  So the upward force would be 10 grams.   Incidentally, you probably know that one cubic centimeter is the same volume as one millilitre.  The only difference is that millilitres are  suitable to measuring the volumes of liquids, whereas ccs are more useful for solids.

Why did the Titanic sink?  It sank because the weight of the ship and its contents overcame the ships buoyancy.  Its mass increased as water replaced the air inside it, and eventually the sea was not able to push the ship up with sufficient force to keep it afloat. Even though, as it sank deeper, the sea tried its level best to keep pushing up with more and more force.  So it sank.  Nothing to do with icebergs at all.

So lets say that your float has a volume of 10ccs  but weighs 5 grams.   It will float, because it weighs less than 10 grams, i.e. less than the weight of 10 ccs of water.  But also when floating, it is stationary, neither rising nor falling. So the forces on it must cancel out. The water therefore must be giving an upthrust of 5 grams.  And the float will be half submerged. The float therefore has 5 grams of unused "spare buoyancy". So it will carry 5 grams of lead shot, which will sink it to its tip. ( It will actually be able to carry very slightly more, because the water will also be exerting a small upward force on the lead shot you have added.  This effect is small, and the volume of the shot and the upthrust on it can, and will be, largely ignored in what follows. The weight of the shot is what is important.)

What can we do with buoyancy, how can we use it to our advantage?
We can move it, we can reposition the main source of buoyancy within the float.   We can have a float with most of its volume at the top end.    We could have the most buoyant part in the middle of the float, or low down.  I cannot think of a good reason to have most of the buoyancy in the middle of a float.

We can also vary its magnitude and have floats with more  buoyancy, or with less. This can be achieved by simply changing the size of the float. Changing the materials of which the float is made does not affect its buoyancy, but does alter how much shot it can carry.  The heavier the materials used, the less shot a float of a specific size and shape will be able to carry.  Simples.

The Lift Method

So what is the lift method? and when might it be best used? Its primary use is to detect bites that might otherwise not be seen with a more conventional float set up. Shy bites.    But it can also be used just for fun, for there is no doubt that to see a float lift two or three inches, or to lay completely flat is quite dramatic. Fishing for early season tench, where bites are usually very positive is perhaps better suited to a laying on approach.

I looked up a couple of articles, to see how others described the lift method, and was surprised to see wide variations in the descriptions given, with some descriptions being plain wrong, and others restricted, or far from complete. One wrote about there needing to be two SSGs, and a swivel with three to twelve inches of hooklength.  Twelve inches between the hook and shot is an excellent way of avoiding lift bites!  An Angling Times article said it was essential to shot the float down to within a midge's of disappearing completely.  I shall comment on that later.  Elsewhere it is claimed to be a method for the margins alone.  Once again: wrong!

Whilst all of these methods can give rise to lift bites, none are an accurate description of how I would define the lift method, and how it used to appear in articles many years ago. the simplest implementation is probably a single SSG set a couple of inches from the hook, below a length of peacock quill with the depth set very accurately. I have caught early season tench like this, a short float usually laying flat when the bites came.  Fish over depth and you are laying on, and with lift method there is no need to use large shot, and no need for ALL the shot to be down near the hook. Using more shot higher up allows you to fish at greater distances, whilst retaining full sensitivity to lift bites.

The crux of lift method, its central feature, is that you use tell-tale shot or shots, just touching the bottom, and close to the hook. But as much of the weight of that shot as possible should still be supported by the float. This means that the line between float and shot will be completely vertical.  The original descriptions of lift method depicted a fish swimming along, seeing the bait, and dipping down to take it.  It then returned to an even keel, and as it did so, it lifted the shot off the bottom. You will see some explanations that say the fish lifted the float...incorrect. The float lifted because it was no longer supporting as much shot. It lifts until it once more is in equilibrium with the remaining shot ( if any).  This makes it ideal for catching crucian carp, whose deep body necessitates then "bending down" to take the bait, thus lifting the shot as they return to the horizontal.  I don't think crucians are shy biters, just lazy fish, that usually  cannot be bothered to swim off with a bait.

At this point we might discuss suitable floats.  Whilst self cocking floats could be used, they are far
Irwell Stick Float and a Grayling
from ideal, and would never lie flat.  A float with most of its buoyancy near the top, one that is quite wide bodied at the water surface is ideal for rivers and trotting. The river has swirling currents, is a very dynamic environment, changing yard by yard, and the effect is that the "pull" of the line on the float is variable.  A wide topped float is able to override these effects, not dipping or rising very much, and also remain visible at long distances. Adding an extra small shot would make little difference to how such a float sits in the stream. On the other hand a thin tip to a float in a river would be constantly misbehaving, dipping, going under, dipping and rising, and would prevent  easy detection of a true bite. The photo shows one of "Purple Peanut"'s hand made stick floats which I used to catch some grayling last week. It has a metal stem, which helps stability and a broad top, ideal for river fishing.
A fine tipped float is, however, perfect for a lift method float.
Kitchen Sink Experiment

I have added a table below, which can be used to show how much shot a float might carry. The table shows the weights of some common shot sizes, and by how much the addition of such shot will sink or lift an antenna float ( the main body of the float remaining sub surface ). The values in bold were measured using a simple kitchen sink experiment. Values are therefore approximate.  The non-bold values were interpolated from the  measured results, but some I couldn't be bothered with doing at all and remain blank.  You can see though that a No 4 shot, which weighs 0.2 grams could sink a float having a 2mm wide antenna by 8cms (or rather more than three inches). The last column shows shot added to a Peanut stick float, demonstrating that it sits very stable, and is not easily messed with by the current..

When in actual use for lift method, these values should be considered as the maximums... reason: some of the shot's weight will be resting on the bottom of the lake.   But it can be seen that a fish lifting even a single shot of these sizes, with a suitable float,  can give quite a significant bite "length".

A long fine antenna float has a number of other advantages.  Its main body will be some distance below the surface, well away from being significantly disturbed by waves, and being thin, the wind will not have too great an effect on it either.  The other advantage is far more subtle.  One problem you may envisage is that it can be difficult to establish the depth very accurately, mainly because the bottom of most waters will vary somewhat in depth. Make your next cast 6 inches away and the depth could be an inch or so deeper, or shallower.  The long thin antenna float can compensate significantly for this depth variation, in that the shot will pull it down until it just hits bottom.  This could leave you with either a half inch of float protruding, or two inches, perhaps even more.  But because that shot, let's say the BB on a 2 mm antenna, will pull the float down up to 16 centimetres, you will still have an effective lift set up, just one with a little more float sticking above the water. Still plenty to play with.   And if you don't want it so high, just reel in a fraction.   A point to note is that the material from which the antenna is made, has no effect on the values in this table.  It is only the volume (or cross section area) that matters. Steel or balsa, it will make no difference if the dimensions are the same.

An important point that you may have missed is that, using a lift method, you can use quite a large float, with a fair shot load, enabling you to cast and fish at distance, yet, because the fish only feels the tell-tale, you can still fish very sensitively.

Shot             Weight             1  mm wide antenna      2 mm wide antenna    Peanut Stick Float

SSG             1.6 grams                      -                                   -                                  4 cm
AAA            0.8 grams                      -                               32 cm                             2 cm
BB               0.4 grams                    64 cm                        16 cm                              1 cm
No 4            0.2 grams                    32 cm                         8 cm                               5 mm
No 6            0.1 grams                    16 cm                         4 cm                               2.5 mm 
No 8            0.06 grams                   9 cm                          2.3 cm                               -

That "BUT".

We have to not only consider Archimedes, and we have, but also Newton. So let's go back to that slider float, carrying 4 SSG and a single tell-tale number 8 shot. If we assume the float had a one millimetre antenna, then a fish lifting that shot would cause the float to lift by as much as 9 centimetres, a bit over three inches. We don't only have to consider how much the float will lift, but how fast it will rise, how long it will take for the bite to be seen.  Once that shot has been lifted, the float, shot and line are acted upon by the "spare buoyancy" that the float now has.  That is in effect a force of 0.06 grams, not very much at all. If we assume the float weighs a couple of grams, then once we add in the weight of those SSGs, that small force has to act on a total of 8.4 grams.  Newton's equation states that force = mass x acceleration.  I am not going to go into the calculations now, but the float is going to accelerate upwards very slowly.  It will also be hindered by the drag caused by the water on the line, shot and float, slowing its rise yet more.  In the first second or so it will have lifted far less than one centimetre, let alone nine.  The tell-tale shot size needs to be matched to the total size if the tackle ( in practice matched to the total volume of the float, which defines how big the total weight of float and shot will be).  So Phil, ditch that number 8 shot and replace it with a BB!   ;-) Only if I fish a very small antenna float would I personally use a shot smaller than a BB.

Whilst on the subject of split shot, isn't is completely disgraceful how much they cost these days? Buy one of those multi-compartmentalized circular dispensers and I get a lot of sizes I never use, and very few of the sizes I do use: SSG, AAA and BB.   The Chairman Mao little red boxes contain so few that it almost breaks the bank to buy one.  I had just 7 SSG in one box. The guy with 4 SSG suspended below his slider has to be one of the super rich.   I have been returning shot to the boxes after use, but they only last so long before they fail to grip, although I usually drop them into long grass well before they become useless. I have only found one source for bulk lead shot, in China. They were so hard that it took pliers to close the split, almost a vice. they were causing far too much damage to the line. But I think I have a solution, as to how I might reduce the costs of my most usual sizes, AAA and BB by a factor of about twenty.  I'll trial it this next week and see how it goes before mentioning it further in here. If it fails I shall keep quiet and go away and hide.
Taking it From the Theoretical to the Lakeside.

Last week I took all this theory to a practical extreme: the float in the photograph is fully 15 inches long, with a one millimetre wide tip, definitely an antenna float and then some.  It took five BBs to just sink it, so I attached the float by a JayZS rig, otherwise setting up the lift method exactly as described above, putting two BBs just a couple of inches from the hook (at times I go as close as an inch), the other three shot being a good foot higher up.  The float sat with great stability in the swim, 10 or 12 yards out, with either an inch or two of the antenna visible, reflecting the slight depth differences it encountered from one cast to the next.

Antenna nicely visible, as are a number of bubbles from feeding fish. A few seconds later the float lifted a good four inches as a fish lifted the two tell-tale shot. It was still lifting as I struck into the fish.

And a good crucian is drawn towards the net following a spirited fight. Note the two shot, set very close to the hook, no more than two inches away.

The result: a crucian of over two pounds, one of several, all over two pounds, to be taken during the session.  Note that the float is longer than any of the fish.

Another crucian is safely returned to the water.

Micro Dotting Your Float...Or Not?

One thing that has always intrigued me is why some anglers, and certainly most pole anglers, always shot their floats down, such that only the merest pin prick shows above the surface.  Sensitivity I hear you all shout, and indeed such a float, shotted down to within a millimetre of being drowned, will pick up the minutest touch, whether from a bite, or from the close passage of a fish, waving the odd fin as it slips past.   But is it necessary to seek such a delicate presentation?  My answer would be that it is neither necessary, nor desirable.   Such floats are invariably small, with a tiny diameter antenna at the top.   Those of you who have kept up with the above will see that, a small diameter antenna, has very little volume in its tip, and therefore very little buoyancy, and therefore it takes very little effort to sink it...even if it protrudes above the surface by a full inch or so.  If the reflections on the water surface are such ( and they usually are) that you cannot see the section of float underneath the water, then with a micro dotted float, you have no idea what is happening after the float has moved that first millimetre downwards. The float has simply vanished.   With an inch, or even half an inch sticking up, you are much better able to judge the progress of a bite and therefore whether to strike at it. And the fish will almost certainly not feel any difference.   All IMHO of course.

Sight Bobs.

Antennae floats have one significant problem.  Visibility. A very thin sliver of material can be very difficult to see at distance, regardless of how you might colour it.  One solution is to add a sight bob to the tip.  If the bob is made of light material, it will not significantly add to the total weight of the float.  It will add marginally to the total buoyancy, but when still above the water a small bob will have little effect upon how the float performs, although it will sit a mite lower for the same shot load, and will be somewhat more affected by the wind than would a pure antenna. If you have an inch of your antenna protruding above the surface, with the sight bob above that, then the performance of the float will be otherwise little changed.  A fish lifting that one tell-tale shot will cause the float to lift by exactly the same amount as if the bob were not there. The only difference will be that the float is ever so slightly heavier, and so will accelerate upwards a  teensy bit more slowly. So the lighter the bob material the better.  A simple bob can be made from a cotton bud at almost zero cost. It comes with a ready made tube attached, which can be cut to length and slid over the antenna, and it is lightweight.  It just needs colouring and/or a varnish spray to suit.  If the tube is a little too large in diameter it can be part filled with anything that comes to hand, a bit of line, grass stem, whatever, such that it successfully jams atop the antenna. Alternatively a kink made in the tube might allow it to grip on its own. Or use glue for a more permanent bob. There is very little to lose by adding a sight bob, and it should enable you to fish very sensitively at much greater distance.

One? Two? A Couple of Hundred?

Lastly, how many floats do you own?  If you have done any amount of float fishing at all, the answer is probably far, far too many.   A float has to be learned, so study how it reacts in still, calm water, in rougher, choppier surfaces, in winds. Be at one with your float.  To do this you really need to restrict how many different types of floats you use.   Let's face it, most of those in your tackle box have never yet seen water. So next time you see that ten year old kid, his one and only float stuck high above his head in that hawthorn tree, give him a few of yours...and then, next time you are on the water check the tree again to see how many more he has lost.   But losing floats is not something just the kids do.  We lose some too.  That bad cast, that risky chuck too near to that overhanging tree, the fish that sheds the hook under tension, causing your float, shot and hook to rocket up into that oak tree directly above your head, lost forever, or at least until the autumnal leaf fall.  So buy several of each type that you use regularly, in maybe a couple of different sizes.  It is unlikely that you have need for more than a dozen different float styles.  So have a few of each pattern, and then a loss of one will not leave you needing to fish differently, just dip into your tackle bag, and there, lo and behold,  is an identical float.    

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Selling My Soul...and Size Thirteen Hooks.

Warning!  This blog entry contains a bait review, and I know some people do not like to bother reading reviews....but I hope there is sufficient other content to remain interesting. Am I selling my soul?

I was surprised a short while ago, yet pleased, that someone asked me whether I might write the occasional review of a product or two in my blog.  I admit that I was initially unsure.  A lot of anglers these days seem to endorse products, especially baits.   I don't read the angling comics much, never buy them, but might be seen browsing their front pages occasionally in a newsagents or in Tesco's magazine racks, Articles in these papers are, in the main, written by the editorial team, well known anglers ( or their ghost writers) , and often seem to ram home the trade names in every other sentence. I do sometimes wonder whether there is any financial relationship between big tackle and bait companies, and the number of times their logo or name appears in an article.  I see many a news item that spends a deal of time describing bait and tackle, naming the manufacturer etc etc.  Often as much attention seems to be given to the manufacturer's named product as to the fish and the capture itself.
    "I caught my magnificent eight and a half ounce bottlenosed gudgeon on two Qualitex elephant dung boilies,  using FFS fortified cat litter groundbait and a size 13 specialist octobarbed, colour coded hook from Stickemup Tackle Co"...Ltd.

Size 13 Hooks
 I actually have a packet of size 13 hooks, (not octobarbed and colour coded), but for those who might have spent an eternity looking for a hook mid-way, between 12 and 14, I am sorry to disappoint you. We all know that hook sizes vary a little from one manufacturer, and one model, to the next, but surely this divergence is going a little too far from the agreed standard?  But I will certainly use one the next time I target bottle nosed gudgeon.

I don't ever have my catches published  in the angling papers, and never did in the past when far more of my fish could have made those pages.  I see so many anglers who want to get their names in the papers as often as possible.  Some have admitted to actively seeking to become a sponsored angler.  I assume it is for the free bait that some of them consequentially get.  Sponsored anglers HAVE to perform of course. They need to justify sponsorship, and to product place the name of whatever it is they are using as often as they may. They have to be seen to be using their sponsored items, and to be using them successfully to catch a succession of good fish. So that, in itself, dictates where they must fish: mainly recent big fish capture sites and commercials. Commercials give them more or less a guarantee that they are near a "saleable" fish capture. I would worry as a sponsored angler that I should really be fishing their way. I still like to do my own thing.  I like to decide where I fish, when I fish, how I fish, which bait I use, and what I fish for.    When I finally figure out WHY I go fishing then it too will have been for my own reasons.

So when offered a pack of carp bait to "test", at a time when I did not want to fish for carp (something I seldom do), I replied that I rarely sought carp these days, but would be prepared to give the bait a go for other species, and fully expected that they would decline. But no, they accepted.  And  I had nothing to lose, and maybe the bait would indeed be brilliant.   For, if you think about it, why would anyone risk having a bait reviewed if it were not very good? Obviously I would truthfully tell it as it is with respect to results. For unlike a sponsored angler, I have no need to maintain any status. If my words exclude me from further products to try out, then so be it. I would probably never have bought the bait myself, for, never treading any of those angling publications, I am not personally and constantly bombarded with "buy me", "get this" , "use that", and other such adverts.   Therein lie advantages, but also disadvantages: I might never get to try a really superb new bait, and not even know of its existence.

So a pack of bait from "Sticky Baits" arrived on my doorstep, supplied by Keen’s Tackle and Guns.  It contained products from their "Manilla" range. Which was quite a coincidence because my wife was taking a flight to Manila later that same day.  I have two free months in which to play and make the house untidy. Reading the blurb on the Manilla packets, it has a peanut extract base.   This of course sent me off into imagination mode.  I visualized myself throwing in a handful of bait, and then moments later seeing half the lake's fish population  gasping for breath and calling out for ambulances as they suffered anaphylaxis due to a peanut allergy. Coming back to reality I did wonder whether any other species, apart from Homo sapiens, would be vulnerable to a peanut allergy.  And might some of those be fish?

And why has the line spacing in this blog article suddenly changed? I have no idea.  More inexplicable reaction to the peanut word?  Bugger it, I am not messing about changing it back.

So what did happen when I threw in my first handful of the bait?  Nothing.  Nothing for a full five minutes, at which time a good crucian carp splashed over  the groundbait.  More were to splash in the area. None were splashing anywhere else in the lake. It would be unrealistic not to have associated the fish activity with the bait I had chucked in.   On a second trip a crucian splashed within a minute of throwing in the bait.  I did catch a few fish too.     Mainly crucians, but a late evening tench took the bait on both days.  The first I lost, after a good scrap.  It dived  bankside a couple of yards to my right and became solidly snagged.  There was nothing I could do on my crucian tackle. Even with heavier line, I might still have lost the fish, for no-one has yet invented a line that allows me to push a fish further out.  All I can do is to pull it nearer, or at best try to make it deviate a little from its intended course.   Knowing the snag was there on day one might not have helped me much at all. All these tackle dealers, and manufacturers, and not a single one has come up with a push me/pull me line!  Nor even a conductive line, allowing the angler to Taser an uncooperative fish were it to get too close to known snags. But perhaps that would be cheating? The tench on the second day swam into the same snag.  But it was myself with the lucky break this time, and a tench of about five pounds was duly landed.  One good factor, which I liked, was that I was still able to catch fish in the swim, using baits unrelated to the groundbait.  This is important to me, I don't like to see fish that will only take one specific type of bait.

As a scientific thinker, I should have to say that two instances are hardly statistical proof of how effective a bait is, but as an angler I cannot ignore what seems to be an indisputable fact: the bait stirred some fish into action, and did it very quickly. It seems highly likely that they were feeding on the free bait I threw in almost immediately.   Back into scientific mode and I have to ask: "Would any other brand of bait have had the same effect on those mornings?"   Answer: I don't know.  In angling it is almost impossible to make any direct comparison between products.  Far too many other factors involved: factors that cannot be excluded. In the laboratory, such tests are easy to set up, where only one factor can possibly have any effect, anything else being systematically excluded.   Get two anglers in adjacent swims, one catching, the other not, and there are a myriad of variations to consider.  Starting with skill levels at one end of the rod, down to whether or not a pike was idling away its time a foot from one  angler's bait at the other end of the line. Impossible to make a viable comparison. So it comes down to: Will I buy some more of this bait, when my supply runs out?  I would have to say yes, even though to me it smells very much like the popcorn that people inexplicably must eat in cinemas, the smell of which I quite detest.   I might have to just use this bait downwind.

The splashing crucians are worth another mention.  The splashing certainly seems to be related to feeding.  They seem to dash straight up, vertically, to the surface,  and then descend equally vertically.  This is certainly the case in deeper water, as it is possible to see the expelled bubbles rise up to the surface, betraying the path the fish has taken on its way back to the lake bed.   In shallower swims the fish may have dashed back down, and then swam along the bottom, still expelling air.  Why they do it remains a mystery to me.  Another endearing quirk of the crucian carp.

I had intended to take a friend after grayling the other day. He has never caught one. Damned line spacing has jumped again!!   But rain made the river unsuitable for the capture of that species.  So to while away some time I headed for a little local pond, and cast in with the crucian set up,   light line that was still threaded through the rod rings.  I had some of the bait left, so cast in the float, and laid the rod on the ground whilst I put the lid back onto the bait.  Mistake!   I nearly lost the rod, together with my favourite centrepin, as a carp grabbed the bait almost before the float settled.  The rod was headed pondwise at speed.   I lunged and saved the rod, but too late: the carp was already deeply buried in a rather impenetrable grangly type of floating weed.    Superb for crucians, the size 12 hook proved unsuitable for a snagged carp, and came back straightened.   That is as much as I can say about how suitable the bait is for carp. One unexpected  carp was rather overenthusiastic about it.  

In short, I should have liked to have been able to be more scientific about how good the bait was. The practicality is though, that a single angler could never give a statistically valid analysis.  Too many variables, too little time to experiment.   So I have had to fall back on a less rigorous approach and just say that it worked for me, on those days I used it.    Hmmm...the peanuts appear to have forgiven me and allowed my usual line spacing to return.  Weird. And the text size in the published article is different from that in this draft. There is another odd thing about this blogging site. I still have occasional troubles where I have to enter into physical combat with the blog, in order to persuade it NOT to rotate one of my photographs through 90 degrees. It can take me several attempts, messing about with the detail, to get the photograph aligned as I wish it.

Half Tail Crucian
Returning to recent pond trips, and coincidences.  One crucian had a half tail,  somewhat spoiling its looks.   Two days later, on the same water, but well  over a hundred yards away in another swim, I caught the same fish.  I compared the tail, and various blemishes in the scale patterns and it was very definitely the same fish.  It had also gained 2 ounces, just scraping over two pounds on the second capture.  Probably the difference between a full stomach and an empty one, rather than any real growth.   I had another half tail crucian on a different water much earlier in the year.  It came from a water in which I have only caught two crucians, the first being two years earlier, and from the same swim.  Both of those had half a tail, and I suspect they also were the same fish.  I must re-examine the photographs. If I can be bothered. The second capture had also gained two ounces, up from 2-7 to 2-9!  Coincidence again?   

But the coincidences kept coming.   A couple of years ago a certain big fish angler made contact with me through facebook. He mention that a friend of his knew and respected me as an angler from way back. We discussed various things, before, after about six months of chatting, we realized that our sons knew each other well,  both  being brilliant jugglers, and having met frequently at juggling conventions.   Back now to the pond where I nearly lost the rod.  I was fishing it for only the second time in about four years.  As evening approached, it was beginning to drizzle.  I was getting no bites from the target crucians,  the intensity of rain was slowly increasing, and I was travelling light,  minus brolly, so I was considering packing up.  As that thought entered my head, a couple strolled onto the pond.  The guy engaged me in conversation and we discussed initially crucian carp, and then we moved onto angling history. He spoke of many of those anglers I knew well in the past.   After about thirty minutes he suddenly asked me my name, and we realized that he and I had both served on the NASG (National Association of Specimen Groups) committee nearly 50 years ago. He was up from the Midlands visiting his ladyfriend.   And I then twigged that I knew her too:  my usual B&Q checkout lady. Meantime the rain increased yet more, and all three of us became Rattus wettus.  Veryus Rattus wettus. A long way past damp, we soared past wet and substantially got well into drenched. I remained on the water a few minutes after the two of them had departed.  Just long enough to be sure he didn't see me abandoning my post because of the rain, and I left with my reputation reputation as an idiot?    Coincidences abounded.   And a few days later I discovered that he was also the very friend that my facebook contact had talked of two years ago!    I feel I dare not leave the house now in case I bump into my old grammar school English teacher in the street.  I detested him and would probably still do so.  He probably still carries that cane. Coincidences happen to everyone in life. Some people inexplicably call them miracles.  Others accept them as an occasional fact of life.   I am getting more than my fair share of them recently.   But the statistical "rules" of coincidence do say that some people will have far more than their fair share.   

I had a two day trip to the Trent recently, ostensibly chasing a barbel or two.   A couple of factors were against that stated intent.  Firstly the river was quite low and very clear.   Otherwise not too much weed flowing down so as to snag and drag the end tackle.  But low water was against me catching a barbel. Then, the locals told me that the stretch has relatively few barbel in any case, being in the upper river.  I have not fished the upper stretches much at all, but am informed the fish live in very small shoals, shoals of maybe 4 or 5 fish, often separated by long distances to the next shoal.  Makes it all a bit hit and miss, but I was not really set up for a roving approach on the day. 
Long Lean Four Pound Chub
  I'll know a little better next time.   I did net a few chub, best about four pounds, a long lean fish, that at other  times of the year must weigh far more.  I hit all the good bites, but on the last morning noticed a few chub plucks. Failed when trying to hook them, but had I held the rod more and tried to hit those for the full duration of the session, I may have had far more chub.  Holding the rod constantly though, on a two day session?   I chose just to hit the good bites. I also spent some time chasing
Trent Perch
perch,  and in one, three hour spell had about fifteen.  No monsters though, with the largest about a pound and a quarter.   I am sure bigger are present.  More reasons to be mobile I guess. I did see an otter: crossing the river until it dived. It was some 80 or 90 yards downstream of me, and as it dived it silhouetted a good foot or so of tail against the bright water, leaving just a ring of ripples in its wake.  Only the second wild otter I have seen in the UK, the first encounter with one being far, far better, one of those to treasure forever.  This Trent otter, on reaching the near bank disturbed a moorhen, which scuttered its way across to the far bank in an evident state of panic.   I still have no confirmed, or rather, 
trusted, reports of otters near to my home.  Rumours of the odd one supposedly sighted about 15 miles away in a couple of different directions.  But so many people misidentify mink, that I cannot  yet take any report as being true.  I wouldn't mind the presence of an odd local otter or two.
Trent Sunset

En route back from the Trent, I hit on another club water, one previously unseen, never mind unfished.   Suggestions of there being crucians present, and an unwillingness to return home during the rush hour, caused me to stop and fish.   And there were indeed some crucians.  Three over a pound and a half being landed, amongst a ruck of tench to five and the odd little roach rudd and perch.  This has been a good crucian season for me, but the lack of small ones in all waters, save one which I may mention in the next post, is rather worrying.   Crucians do not do well in the presence of predators, especially pike, and my only catching larger individuals suggests strongly that the crucian potential of these waters is one of a limited lifespan. I think that angling clubs have almost a duty to try to encourage the species.  A great species for kids to catch, and as I tend  to be a big kid myself at times....