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On Your Pike

December has really crept up on me and if it wasn’t for the decorations sprouting up everywhere, I would have sworn it was still late October. Apart from a brief cold snap a couple of weeks ago, the weather has been unseasonably mild and I am not sure if this has been affecting the pike fishing or not. Well I say pike fishing in general, however some lucky anglers have been getting among the crocs so it has most likely just been me who was back to blank for the past couple of weeks.

After my last catch I thought I could really kick on and get among the fish, but as ever pike fishing has a cruel way of kicking you in the arse and just when you think you have got their number, they turn their nose up to every bait you offer them.  In all likely hood though the truth probably paints a different picture. The last couple of times I have been out the conditions have not been conducive to catching the bigger pike I yearn for.

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Bright cloudless skies with not a breath of fresh air don’t fill me with optimism when I am on the bank, and as I can’t just up sticks and hit the water when the conditions looks right, I have to take what cards the weather man deals me on my free days.

I know it is a cliché, but as I have said in previous blogs, fishing is not all about catching fish it’s about so much more. Each trip is a learning curve and even if I blank, I try to take something positive from the experience. I mentioned my scatterball approach in my last blog and since then I promised myself I would stick it out on a water, try and learn as much as possible about the place and hope that my time on the bank would in turn produce some fish.

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Well you guessed it my following three sessions didn’t produce a single bleep on my alarms, follow on a lure or bob on my float. I did however learn more about the water in question. A few hours plumbing around various swims and finding out the depths helped give me an idea of where the drop offs are and where the fish are likely to hold up at various times of year.

Another clue that helped somewhat was to keep my eyes peeled on the water to watch where shoal fish were topping in the mornings and evenings. Find the prey and the predators should not be too far away. I was also lucky to bump into a local angler known across the land as the ‘bream king’, but who also is a dab hand at tempting big girls from their lairs. He had spent some time on the water in the past and was very helpful in pointing out what he knew about the place. Cheers mate. All these things I find help put the odds in your favour for when you do get a good day to be out and help you make the right decisions on where best to fish.

So following on from the blanks, I got a pass to get out again this week and with things looking better weather wise I felt a lot more confident about my chances of getting a fish. From both experience and reading what the experts write, bigger pike do like to have a munch before a colder front arrives, and with such a system on the way coupled with a new moon, I was out the door this morning quicker than rat up a drain pipe.

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On arriving at the lake a stiff breeze was blowing right in my face and as it was not a cold one I hoped this might bring the silvers with it to my bank. On the downside casting any great distance wasn’t helped by the gusts. However this was not too much of a problem as a lob of thirty to forty yards is all that is needed in this swim to get a nice depth.

I set up two deadbait rods one with a smelt and the other with a roach. These were both popped up off the bottom about 18 inches to try and slow down the crays which can have a field day on your baits. Even though popping them up won’t stop them I find it does keep your baits intact a little longer which is helpful when trying to catch a pike.

Don't mess with the Crays, they'll mess you up

Don’t mess with the Crays, they’ll mess you up

Both baits were in the water by 8am which was pleasing as I feel a lot more confidence piking in the morning than the afternoon at the moment, plus I had an appointment with my three-year old and a Christmas tree at 4pm.  The first few hours went by like the past few sessions without as much as a murmur but I wasn’t too disheartened, as when the bigger fish are on the move the smaller ones sometimes make themselves scarce if they think they are on the menu. Well that was what I was hoping was happening out there. Cheeky 3lbers hiding in the weedbeds as their mothers went out to grab a bite to eat.

One thing I have been finding a lot of at the lake was crushed up crayfish shells and discarded claws on the shoreline. I had wondered if Mr Heron was to blame as I had seen him out on most trips poised silently waiting for a small roach to get within striking distance.

My question was answered in a more abrupt manor however when an otter hoped out of the water and onto the bank next to me with a mini lobster in his mouth. I don’t know who jumped highest as we both looked each in shock not expecting each others company. As quickly and quietly as he had arrived, he dived straight back into the water laughing at the fool on the bank covered in coffee. I know otters are not everyone’s cup of tea for various reasons but in deep rural Ireland on a vast loughs they are a sight to behold up close. I just wish I had my camera to hand at the time.

Back to the fishing and with not much happening I decided to crack out a chicken sandwich salvaged from the roast the night before in an attempt to trick the pike into following my lead. With just one bite left my left hand buzzer on the smelt gave a couple of beeps. Had the fish read the script ? I reached over and felt the faintest of movement on the braid, enough to reel down and strike. Solid resistance was met and it felt decent too, then within a split second the fish must have roared up from 14ft below to crash out of the water letting me know I had hooked a proper one.

battered trace after the fish, and small popped up smelt

battered trace after the fish, and small popped up smelt

The fight was fairly tame until she got within netting distance and started to show off again tailwalking out of the water. I got the net under within a few moments and that was when the real fun started. My 42inch landing net snapped at the spreader block and the fish somehow came out and tore up the bank wiping out my other rod in the process.

I managed to compose myself and kicked my other rod back out of the way whilst trying to lure her back into arms reach so I could chin her.  She had tangled herself in my other line but I managed to  slip the hand under her gill and got her out onto the unhooking mat with braid  wrapped around my feet nearly sending me flying. She was nicely hooked in the scissors and the hooks popped out with ease. On the zeroed scales she went 23lb on the nose and to say I was delighted was an understatement.

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I set up the phone for some self takes instead of the camera as I wanted to try out a new app which lets me shoot 10 shots in 30 seconds. With the phone balanced on my bag they went surprisingly well, apart from some gurning faces when she had a flap in my arms. She went back in the water none the worse for wear from her experience and gave me a soaking with a flick of her tail.

As with most big fish days that was the only bite of the session. If I had stayed on till darkness who knows what could have happened. However, I was more than happy with my mornings work and I drove back home a little earlier than usual so  I could spend a bit of extra time sorting out Christmas matters with my girl. It’s funny how a decent fish can turn a grumpy old sod into a happy chap in the space of a few moments.

 (Self Take – Out-take, don’t drop her)

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Going With The Flow

Kicking Off The Pike Season

I have had a fairly uneventful past week on the fishing front though not through the lack of trying. I have done four half day sessions spread out around the county of Sligo without much return, but it has been most enjoyable searching out some new spots and earmarking some for later in the winter.

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One thing I wanted to do more of this season is river piking as there is quite a bit of running water near me and it’s fairly unexploited apart from the trout and salmon guys. Without much info to go on, the trick is to pack light and travel as much as possible to search out a hidden gem or two. This is never easy for me as I always cram as much gear as I ‘think’ I might need, but in reality a quarter of it is necessary and probably less than that is used on a day session.

So after a trial run on the first day, I slimmed down my gear to the bare essentials and kept luxuries to a minimum. I dumped the chair and substituted it with my unhooking mat. With the changeable weather I wear waders or salopettes so getting damp when sitting on it isn’t a problem. When I am river fishing, I like to keep as busy as possible anyway, so there isn’t much sitting between leap frogging deadbait rods to working pools with a float fished dead to chucking some lures into some likely areas.

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I pack whatever gear I need into a carryall which isnt too bad on the back and is big enough for stuff like my tacklebox, lure box, camera bag, lunch, jacket, bait and scales. The only other thing I have to take then is my rod quiver which can take five rods, but I usually just pack a couple of deadbait rods and and a lure rod. These coupled with bank sticks, a brolly and landing net and I am ready to head off into the wilderness like Bear Grylls.

With nearly all the rivers in Sligo getting a run of migratory fish, these are the favoured quarry by locals, so I don’t hear of much on the pike grapevine, and in a way this is the beauty of the fishing. The couple of stretches I fished over the week really hadn’t had any serious attention from anglers. There were numerous swims where I had to hack my way through the undergrowth to get near the waters edge and a bit more work to make it safe enough to land any possible fish hooked. A boat would be perfect but a lot of the stretches are not navigable, so your only option is to put the miles in.

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When river fishing especially in winter you have to take into account the water levels. Apart from the obvious effects of flood water, like flow, colouration and debris causing obstruction to your fishing, sometimes you just can’t get near the banks to fish at all. This has been the case over the past few winters, so I have been making the best of the opportunity to get out there and test out new swims while the rivers are at near summer levels.

Even though the fishing has been slow, I am happy with what I have found through these reccies and I have some spots that will be fished again throughout the winter when conditions allow and hopefully I will encounter some angry river crocs.

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Another water I tried in the past week was a small lough in Leitrim which I sometimes pop by on my travels. The owners of the lake allow me to do the odd fishing session on it as long as I don’t annoy the sheep to much. I have only fished it really in the winter for the pike but I do know it holds good bream and a couple of other species….. The problem I had when I rocked up last week was that the cold weather had not yet killed off the massive weed population the lake has. In the winter it always had some weed, but this was well over the top and I was forced to fish the few margins that were clear to try and winkle one out.

The outcome was pretty predictable and I didn’t see a fish but I will be back in the new year for a session or two as I know it holds the odd good pike. From doing research with college, I found some old papers dating back to the 60’s of surveys that were carried out on the lake and even then some big girls turned up in the nets. Sadly one fish I caught last year there was quite heavily covered in cancerous tumours on it’s head and mouth which were quite shocking to look at. Hopefully it was just an isolated incident.

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The month has not been a complete disaster though and I have been catching some perch along the way as I hone my skills with the jigs. Although I have not hit any monsters, it has been interesting to see what patterns work in different swims, depths, colours etc and as I keep a fishing diary I can read back and see what worked when. What I also do before I head out on each session is to take a screen grab picture on my iphone of the days weather picture on XCWeather. The picture gives me the hourly weather and I can correlate all the information into my diary when I get back home.

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The rivers have been a lot kinder to my pal Mark Harrigan though this week, who I think I have mentioned in this blog before. The man giant has a knack of winkling out the bigger ones and he continued his hot streak at the weekend with a brace of twenties from the river. The first one of the day took a liking to his popped up roach and hit the scales at 20lb 9ozs. An hour later and his float fished roach sailed away on his other rod and this resulted in a fine 24lb 8oz lady. He narrowly missed out on breaking the 30lb barrier last year with a 29lb+ fish and I have no doubt he will manage it this year if he keeps up this form.

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Tomorrow sees me get my first boat session in for the pike and I will be hitting a lake I have not fished for a couple of years. The water does do some big girls on occasion and although the sport is never hectic, the chance of a better one is on the cards. I have just spooled up two reels with some brand new braid as I hadn’t yet changed it for this season and didn’t have full confidence in my last stuff. I picked up 600 yards of 50lb Berkley Whiplash in green which has a really thin diameter of 0.17mm. The funny thing is I have never used this braid before even though I think it was one of the first ones to come on the market donkeys years ago. I will keep you updated on its performance through the winter. I also grabbed some big cheap as chips high visibility sea floats from the local tackle shop which I prefer to use on big waters as they are less prone to breaking on the cast, and double up as cracking pike floats.

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A chance family outing to the local farmers market on Saturday morning turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The fish monger who travels down from Donegal every weekend for the market liked a bit of pike fishing himself, and after chewing the cud with him for half an hour he did me a great deal on some bulk herring and mackerel. I managed to fill half the freezer for pennies with enough sea baits to keep me going for a while. Now I just have to look after the freshwater side of bait and I should be ok for the forseeable future.

On another note, I was delighted to get an unexpected text from my pal Paul McCreivy who told me I had won an award for my tench from earlier in the season. I would like to thank the guys from the Anglo-Irish Tench Group who have a page on facebook and awarded me the best tench of 2013. They posted me out a certificate and a print out of my picture with the fish which I didn’t have. The funny thing is that I have not been on facebook for a few years so I don’t know how they got the picture, but it is always nice to win something, especially when it’s not expected.

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To keep with the moving times, I have set up a Twitter account for this blog and will be setting up a Facebook page too in the next week so I can post updates. I will also be doing a competition shortly on the blog for a great tackle bundle. To be in with a chance to win the goodies, be sure to check in for further details.

Book Review

Tinca Tinca – The Tenchfishers (Harper Books)

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Well I am at the wrong end of the tench season to be really writing a review for this book, but if you are not keeping busy in the colder months pike fishing, then this is a great book to keep away the tinca blues till the spring. The Tenchfishers if you have not heard of them are a specialist group of like minded anglers who were first founded in 1954 but have been a proper organisation since 1967 and are all about the pursuit and love of tench.

Predominantly a specimen group of anglers, they have regions all around the UK and Ireland much like the PAC (Pike Anglers Club). They have annual fish-ins for members (usually at Horseshoe lake) and produce a couple of magazine bulletins a year which are worth the joining up fee alone.

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Among their members are some of the most renowned tench anglers in the history of the sport with the likes of Len Head, Chris Turnbull, Jim Gibbinson, Bob Church and Phil Jackson having all been involved in some aspect over the years.

There have been many requests for the tenchfishers to produce a book seeing as they already had a mountain of great articles produced through their bulletins and thankfully earlier this year Tinca Tinca came to fruition. The contributors list is like a who’s who of esteemed tench anglers and the book is a mix of articles from the bulletins with an amazing array of new material written especially for the book.

The publishers, Harper Angling seem to have had a knack of producing stunning books over the years including titles like ‘Mammoth Pike’ and its recently released follow-up by Nev Fickling, ‘The Biggest Fish Of All’ by the Perchfishers and ‘Ultimate Pike’ by Dave Horton.

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A common theme with books from Harper is the quality and feel of them and I think they make a real emphasis on producing good looking books. The cover design of Tinca Tinca is no different and features an underwater illustration from David Miller whilst the actual book is close on 400 pages of thick set glossy pages crammed with mouth watering pictures of the main character.

When the book arrived in the post my first port of call was to check out the Irish section in it as we all like to read things we can relate to. The chapter has contributions from Mike ‘Dingle’ Tudor, Keith Berry and Irish record holder Nick Parry along with historic facts and figures from Finbarr Quigley and Bill Brazier amongst others. As expected I wasn’t disappointed, especially reading about the dedication some of the Irish tench anglers apply to their trade. It really made me step up a gear with my own fishing this season. If you are an avid tench angler in Ireland then some of the stories will definitely wet your appetite and show you the rewards that are out there if effort is applied.

From there I found myself jumping around chapters that caught my attention and related to my own fishing. The book gave me a kid running around a sweet shop vibe, flicking from chapter to chapter instead of sitting down and reading from the start. After my higglety pigglety approach, I have now decided to give it another go from the start, like most normal minded anglers most likely have.

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The book covers everything you need to know about tench and how to approach fishing for them be it on wild Irish loughs, low stock UK gravel pits, vast windswept reservoirs or intimate farm ponds. Bait is covered in as much depth as you dare and the variety of different theories are all very helpful as long as you don’t get too bogged down with it all.

Tactically wise it is very interesting reading how times have changed in tench fishing and many fads have come and gone whilst some of the basics have stayed true through the years. The expected domination of boilies in tench fishing was thought to be the way forward for many as they gained prominence in the carp world, only to for them to still play second fiddle to the humble maggot and caster.

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The book does give a lot more than a scientific facts and tactical methods though and if tenchy tales and stories of monsters caught are your thing, you will be happy for sure.

I have read quite a few books related to tench fishing over the years from as far back as Fred J Taylor’s ‘Fishing For Tench’ written in 1979 to the more recent ‘Time For Tench’ by Chris Turnbull, and I have to rate this as the most comprehensive and complete book on old ‘red eye’ out there.

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If you have a love for the species or even enjoy a good fishing book then I would hand on heart recommend it. The tenchfishers have not released it into shops although some have appeared on ebay at quite high prices from some entrepreneurial sellers. If you want a copy you can buy it through the tenchfishers website which I will link at the bottom and it costs £35 plus postage and packaging. It does sound a lot but this is a book that you will look back on time and time again once added to your library. I am not sure how many they have published but I suspect it is a limited amount and once gone that will probably be it.

Link to the Tenchfishers website

http://www.tenchfishers.com/index.html

Link to buy ‘Tinca Tinca’

http://www.tenchfishers.com/tincatinca-buy.html

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Fishing For Big Tench – Ray Webb and Barrie Rickards

Another book I picked up in the spring was Ray Webb’s and Barrie Rickard’s classic, ‘Fishing For Big Tench’. This had to be one of the best deals I have done in a while as I got a mint copy on ebay for 99p plus postage. The one I got was the revised 2nd edition and another great read. For those who don’t know, Ray Webb was the holder of the Irish record tench which weighed 7lb 13ozs and was caught at the famous Lanesborough hotwater stretch on the Shannon back in 1971.

The book has a array of stories relating back to their angling trips to Ireland in the 60’s and 70’s when they spent long months fishing for tench around the inner lakes of Lough Ree and various other noted tench hotspots you may be familiar with. It was written before the explosion of mega tench in the UK, and a time when Ireland was a mecca for big fish enthusiasts and a 5lb fish was a real brute of a creature.

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Some of the tactics and tackle maybe dated, but this book is so much more than that, it is a journey back in time to when specimen tench fishing was just dawning. Although this book was published in 1976, there a few copies knocking about if you have a search on the web and shouldn’t break the bank should you fancy a look.

A Pod For Your Rod

Cygnet Quicklock D/L Pod 26” – 45”

Since I have nothing to report on the fishing front in the past few days, this is the first of many reviews I will be including in my blog over the next while. I aim to give an honest opinion on what I review be it good, bad or damn ugly.

Not far into this season I decided I had to do something about my rod pod situation. It was during a March carp session in horrendous conditions that the true colours of my last pod came to head. Although I was fishing in a mini hurricane Charlie, the fact that I had to take pegs off my bivvy to hold the thing down set the wheels in motion. The final straw was in the middle of the night the whole thing nearly took off across the lake, rods and all.

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I know rod pods are not everyone’s cup of tea, but on a few locations I fish, they are a must as bank sticks just wont cut the cheese. Some of the lakes have jettys and wooden stands and although I have used stage stands before, when I am not settling in for a couple of days, I find a decent pod does the trick. My main criteria was for something very stable, not too heavy, easy to erect and transport.

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After spending a week or two looking at all the options I decided to take a chance on Cygnet. Well chance is not really the word having  had reports from some mates who have all recommended their pods and other tackle. Their new enough range carry a selection of pods aimed at different styles of fishing. The big daddy is the grand sniper which is geared towards the continental carp angler fishing vast waters with a need to keep the rods high up to negate tow or flow on some of Europe’s big waters along with keeping things stable.

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My choice was the less salubrious Quicklock version which seemed to tick all the boxes. I could have written this review a week or two after getting the pod but I really think you need to give your tackle a good work out in all conditions through the season to see if it does what it says on the tin or falls short.

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The pod comes in a handy carry case that is great for protection during transportation and storage and also allows you to keep your alarms set up on the buzz bars. The quicklok name really does carry some weight due to the ease and speed it can be put together. From opening up the case I can realistically have it up on the bank with the rods set up in under two minutes.  This is a definate plus compared to other pods I have owned which are like assembling a flat pack wardrobe with dodgy Chinese instructions and missing screws.

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For my normal fishing I leave the hockey sticks on the buzz bars and this keeps time down too, as I just have to screw on the indicators. I tried the pod out yesterday for a quick pike session and was delighted to find that it is suitable to use for a two rod set-up with drop back indicators which can be attached to the support bars that connect the buzz bars to the main frame.

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My first overnight session with the pod saw the worst that Irish weather has to offer hitting the lake and although it was a wet one, I got the chance to see if the pod was up to the job. The lake in question is fished off wooden stands that leave you a good 20 yards into the lake so you are really exposed to the elements. There was a force 8 gale blowing into my face with waves ripping over the stand and I was somewhat hesitant about leaving my gear perched there for the night while I was snug in my bivvy. I needn’t have worried however as when I got up after a biteless night at 4am my gear was where it was meant to be.

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I have used it in various situations over the summer and thus far it has stood up to everything with no problems. Next up is a season of pike fishing and a winter of Ireland’s finest weather. Although I prefer to use single sticks when pike fishing, there will definitely be situations when the pod will be needed. This is when any weak spots on the pod will show up as when fishing in temperatures up to minus 5c or so, connections and screw points can become brittle in severe cold and I suspect fail.

The pod has adjustable legs so you can have your rods pointed in the air to some extent if you need to and on the other end of the spectrum, have your rods submerged in the water on somewhere like the lough in Cork if you need to keep line away from birdlife.

If I had one gripe it would its length when packed down. The case won’t fit into any luggage I have so it is an extra to carry which can be a pain if traipsing through fields or hiking over hills to remote spots. This is just a personal thing though and not really been a major problem. The powder coated aluminium finish on the pod is good and I have not had too many chips or scratches which can be a defect of similar products out there.

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It is very well priced too for what you get it fits into the market alongside the likes of the Fox X-Pod, Nash 4-play, Gardner Panther and Taska Nanga Pod at €105 or £89 depending where you shop.

It comes in two sizes , the 26in-45in which I picked up and a slightly bigger one to accomadate the increasingly popular 13ft rods which is 32in-57in.

All in all I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is not looking for a long stay blinged up stainless monster of a thing. This is more a practical pod which is handy in so many ways. Whether it will last as long as something like a sod pod is questionable, but from talking to people who got Cygnet’s first Quicklock pod many years ago, they do last which is what you want.

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If you want to check out more of their products, their website is http://www.cygnettackle.co.uk/

Perched On A Pier

I continued my search for some big perch this week. I was planning my first pike session as it is the start of October, but with temperatures in the mid teens, I think it is still just a little early for Esox. A change of venue was also decided but with no boat at the moment, I was restricted to a couple of areas where I could get access to deeper water to fish with jigs.

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Thankfully I have one such area not too far from me that has the potential to do some decent perch. Last year when bream fishing I managed a clonker of 2lb9ozs there on the worm so with that in mind I headed to the Leitrim border full of confidence.

The spot is majestically scenic and if I didn’t hook up with anything, the sights were enough to enjoy the few hours on the bank. The location is an old jetty which I presume was a spot for mooring boats in the past, however I have not seen a boat there in all my years visiting. It also gives me some nice depth close in. With a short enough cast I can find 30ft and being a little bit out in the lake I can cover a fair bit of water. In an ideal world I would be in a boat with an echo sounder finding features that might hold shoals of marauding perch but this was good enough for a few hours entertainment.

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Having not ventured far from Sligo recently, I haven’t had the chance to top up my plastic population, but having already had some success with what I have, I was sure if there were a few stripeys in the area I would be in with a chance.

Another plus of this type of fishing is the lack of equipment you have to bring and the ease of setting up quickly. A rod and reel, net, bag of lures and a mat are all that is needed along with my flask of coffee. This had me casting out a small white maggot jig in no time and it wasn’t long before I was getting the tell tail tap tap of something nibbling but not taking the lure. I might be completely wrong as I have not done any fishing with experienced ‘jiggers’ but through trial and error I found letting it sink to the bottom and then popping it back so it flutters up and sinks back to the bottom the best way to induce a take. If you get some nibbling but not a true take then keeping your cool and continuing the retrieve seems to keep them coming and its 50/50 whether you hook up. On other occasions and usually with the better fish you just get one decent snatch and striking into them usually does the trick.

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Over the first hour things remained slow but I did manage to land a couple of smaller perch but it was hard going and frustrating not being able to cover more water. The lake has minimal areas for bank fishing and even less spots with any depth close to the shore. After going through my less than vast collection of plastics, I found a spinner bait I was lucky enough to win in a competition from http://www.fishingtackleireland.ie. It was part of a selection of baits that Florian Peter kindly posted up from their Sanger range which is proving to be a popular line for them and has accounted for some impressive captures of both pike and perch.

I hooked it up and gave it a whirl. Letting it sink to the depths takes a few seconds and bouncing it off the bottom I got a much stronger take. It felt heavy and although it didn’t have the usual jagging fight that perch usually give, it was moving from left to right and coming up slowly. Thoughts turned to a lethargic pike sulking its way to the bank until it broke the surface and I came face to face with a new pb fruice orange juice bottle with added zebra mussels. Oh well. Getting it onto the unhooking mat I noticed that it wasn’t foul hooked and it had indeed taken in right in the mouth. I did think it was a strange occurence as from past experience in catching bottles, their prefered food was a static worm or maggot hard on the deck. Not being a litter bug, I knocked it on the head and put it into my bag. I do advocate catch and release but taking one for the bin is allowed.

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After a fruitless hour trying various spinners and plugs I went back to the soft jigs to see if any more perch had moved into the area or were passing through. Black and red has always been a favourite combination of mine in spinners and lures and a worm with a black body and red arse was slipped on and cast in anticipation. The change was a good one as I finally got amongst the better perch. It was great sport finally getting amongst the better fish and I had forgotten how well perch scrap on light gear. I didn’t manage any monsters but a couple were approaching the 2lb mark which is a respectable weight for a perch and the benchmark I had been setting myself for each trip.

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I hope to do a day or two from the boat in the coming weeks mixing up some piking with the perch fishing and hopefully will get among the bigger ones. A 3lber is the target and a realistic one too. The minimalistic approach to this method of fishing is appealing to me more and more and if I don’t reach my target, I am definitely learning through each trip and enjoying it too.

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Before I headed out this morning I did a clean out of the freezer too, to see what deadbaits I needed for the coming pike season. A bucket of not so fresh frozen fish was filled to make room for new arrivals and to prime a couple of spots on the lake with some prebait. Exploring a few spots you have never fished before is all part of the enjoyment of fishing and an afternoon doing this armed with just a marker rod is sometimes just as much fun. I did find a new area I was meaning to fish for a few years, but the walk put me off. I plumbed around the secluded headland and found some nice drop offs close enough to the bank which look good for a few sessions. A volley of defrosted baits were put in and I will continue to do so over the coming weeks. I don’t know if it will make that much difference but you have to try and stack the odds in your favour when fishing such a vast water. If the weather dictates and some cooler fronts come across in the coming days I might give it a go. Till next time, cheers.

Getting Jiggy With It

Well Autumn is here and my general tench fishing is slowing down with maybe a couple of short sessions left before I pack it in. I have been trying for the bream on my local water but have not had much over 3lb after a lot of prebaiting and night fishing which is quite disheartening. When I first moved to Sligo five years ago they were so abundant and even fishing in bright sunshine you could still quite easily mount up a 100lb bag if you had put some feed in. Since then I have noticed that the roach have exploded and really made a difference to the make-up of the lough.

quick bream session

The sessions now seem to be dominated with roach and hybrids averaging 1lb and topping out at 3lb or so. This would be fun fishing if you were looking for a relaxing day out but when you are targeting larger specimens, it is frustrating.

This week also saw the family come down with the annual September sniffles so I had to abandon a trip to Leitrim in favour of something local. I have a small lake which is close by and is handy for a spot of rudd bashing and in the winter also gives up reasonable sport for pike. Although I have not had any monsters from it, you will get a run or two over the course of the day with fish to mid doubles which is fun when I fancy popping out for a few hours.

The lake also holds some perch which I have not fished for before so I thought this would be an interesting little exercise for an afternoon. I planned to fish two rods. One was to be set up with a free running feeder set up and the other a light spinning outfit with some rubber plastics to see if that stirred some interest.

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The lake in question is lightly fished as it is on private land and takes quite a bit of work to get to the waters edge let alone make a swim. It is surrounded with tall rushes so a bit of hacking is required to get you close to the very deep margins which slope off to 15ft or so within a foot or two of the reeds. This I thought would suit some jigging and I had ample depth to work some movement into the plastic worms and hopefully invoke a strike from a perch.

I would usually use the ledger set up on a feeder rod but seeing as I was spinning too, I decided to place the rods on the sticks with the lightest bobbin I had in the box coupled with the Delkim set up on the highest sensitivity to register any movement. Groundbait was simple enough crumb with some worm extract mixed into a fluffy consistency and used to plug each end of the feeder filled with chopped worm. I made a couple of casts to get a small bit of feed in just off a point in the rushes then left it there to do it’s work.

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spot the dog

The Spinning rod was cracked out and a selection of worms and grubs were laid out on the mat ready for any chopping and changing. I loaded the rod with the trusty nanofil which I have actually become a fan of over the past few weeks after an initial scepticism. I have some tungsten jig heads which are heavier than your standard ones and looked to be the ticket to get the light plastics out any distance without it looking too gaudy.

First cast sent the jelly out to the depths and a couple of seconds saw it hit the deck. I started to put some action into the worm type jig and straight away the rod hooped over and initial thoughts were weeds until something cruised off away for a few seconds then nothing. If it was a perch it was a damn big one, but reeling in saw a clean break and I kicked myself for not putting on a wire trace.

So I set up again but this time with six inches of wire and worked the swim for a couple of casts to try and search out a hungry shoal of stripeys. Fourth cast and the rod hooped over again but this time the line didn’t part. After a spirited fight I landed a jack of 6-7lb. Popping him on the mat I noticed when opening his mouth my other jig was just inside his lip. Thank god for that, there is nothing worse than leaving a hook in a fish especially from a school boy error. He went back none the worse for his double hook-up and I set out working the jig again.

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Fanning the casts over the bay meant covering as much water as possible. I soon was hitting some small perch which were fun on the light rod but not what I was after. With no action to the sleeper rod I decided to up sticks and move round to make another swim at the far end of the lake.

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When I got round the far bank the first thing I noticed was the ancient old tree which I have bivvyed under in the winter, cracked in half and laying completely horizontal on the bank. The strong winds from the night before had obviously been a hell of a lot heavier than I had noticed and this great tree had bore the brunt. Thank god I wasn’t snoring underneath.

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I set up again with both rods and worked as much of the lake as I could with my double pronged attack. For the next hour the alarm didn’t register a single beep yet bouncing the plastics in the same area produced take after take. Although I didn’t hit any monsters it was a lot of fun and definitely interesting seeing how the perch reacted to different jigs. Without doubt the king of the day was a small maggot like imitation with a tail that fluttered inticingly with every dip and rise of the rod.

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I must have had 20 odd perch and managed another small jack on the jigs with nothing to the real deal on the feeder.

I did wonder why they didn’t take an interest in the natural as I and I am sure all you have been pestered by perch on worms in the past. A comment by Gary Robinson on one of the forums made some sense to me when he advised using some jigs for the perch. He reckoned that they are primarily feeding on fry and small shoal fish in Autumn and his theory certainly seemed to have some weight behind it. Cheers Gar for saving a blank.

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Sadly due to my location in Sligo, I am limited to what tackle and bait I can get my hands on hence my somewhat crap selection of plastics. This is something I hope to rectify in the next week or so and maybe I will find the perfect jig to snare a proper sergeant.

Another trip for the perch so next week as this warmer weather has put a halt to any notions of an early season pike outing. Then again if this Indian summer persists, I may have a dabble for a late tench too… decisions decisions.

Until next time.

In Search of a Seven

If there is one fish that really gets the hackles on my back stirring then it is the Tench. Since I caught my first one aged 7 years old, I have had a love affair which is still as strong today as it ever was. The first time I caught one, it was the shear terror I felt from their awesome power on my little 11ft glass fibre match rod that first got my attention. I was used to catching roach, perch, rudd and maybe the odd skimmer on the canal where I was learning my trade. On this session the pin prick bubbles appeared in my swim, my float dipped, I struck and all hell broke lose. As I tried my best to tame the beast, white with shock, my father watched by with a smile on his face loving my horror as it uprooted lillies and took line as I wildly back wound my trusty Mitchell 300.

When I eventually got it into my landing net and saw the beauty of its smooth scaleless-like body and amusingly small barbules I knew this was the fish for me. Although it was probably no more than 3lb it had faught harder than anything I had ever hooked.

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30 years on and having caught most species that swim in Ireland, it is still the Tench that enters my mind as I lie in bed at night having fishy dreams. Over the years I have caught literally thousands of them and as much as I like a busy session on the water bagging up, I much prefer sitting it out in the hope that when my float or alarm beeps the next time that it is the tench of my dreams.

At the start of the year my target was to pursue some of the bigger tench that swim our waters. In Ireland, 6lb is the benchmark for a specimen, and a 7lb fish is a damn good fish whereas the record stands at 8lb 2oz or so. So 7lb was the target for the year and although there are quite a few waters that hold such fish, they are not all that common to catch, partly due to the small amount of angling pressure they receive in ratio to the amount of water available here in Ireland and also the fact that at times they can become intolerantly moody.

My approach over the years has been to do overnighters at waters as often as possible in the peak times of year to hopefully put the odds in my favour. The reason for doing overnight sessions is due to big fish waters being that bit further from my home to just pop up for evening or morning sessions. The waters I would approach would either be ones I have done well on in the past, others that have a history of bigger fish or in more recent years ones I have done some background research and have a hunch with.

My aim this year was to scrap the scatterball approach of hitting various big fish waters and to concentrate on maybe 2 waters and work them for the season. My feeling is that a lot more waters hold 7lb tench than we think and if you stick at your chosen waters, keep them fed and work hard at them, the rewards are there. From talking to some of the better anglers out there who target big tench, this is definitely their prefered approach.

My season started well and my first proper session with a fishing buddy saw us bag a whopping 200lb plus bag of early season tench. Although the lake in question has done some good fish in the past, all the fish seemed to be quite light as they had only woken up from their winter slumber and we didnt get any much bigger than 5lb. However it certainly blew the winter cobwebs away and was the perfect start to the tench season.

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From there we headed on to another new water earmarked for the season and we planned to just stick it out come what may. Although fishing was a lot slower due to it having a much lower stock density, the hope of latching onto a bigger fish made it all the more enjoyable. Fishing was hot and cold but I got to find out a lot more about the lake and its moods. Factors like what winds they preffered, their feeding times, baits and successful rigs all made the jigsaw come together. Then just when you thought you had a handle on them and things were coming together, you would blank for the next couple of sessions. The joys of tench fishing.

One thing I found about the water was that I was having next to no joy on my ledger tactics and in that I mean the rods on alarms with either a maggot or method feeder or even small pva bags of castor with a couple of fakes on the hair. All my fish were coming to float tactics.

This didn’t put me off though as I do prefer to fish the float as much as possible and the lake although solid with weed was enjoyable to fish with this way. Silver fish would keep me occupied for the most time but you knew when you were in the witching hour when they buggered off and things went quiet. The next bite would invariably be a tench and that would be the way for an hour before it got too dark at night or too bright in the morning.

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The float tactics could not have been simpler with a crude set-up designed to land any fish hooked instead of delicate presentation for more bites. I used good old 8lb Daiwa Sensor mainline straight through to a size 12 Drennan wide gape hook with a bodied waggler set with 4AAA.

As I said previously, the fishing was not hectic but a couple of fish in a session was the norm and the average size was a very respectable 4-5lb. I was even getting quite a few 5lb males which boded well that the water might hold some better females.

One of the enjoyable things about fishing this water was that although I didn’t see much fizzing, they would put on quite a performance of rolling just as feeding time approached . With this activity you could see them at quite close quarters as they nosed out of the water and porpoised before flicking their tails to power down the depths, in doing so showing their approximate size. At first they all looked a decent size but after a few nights of watching this ritual every so often you would catch a glimpse of some much bigger ones and you knew as long as you kept plugging away, you were in with a chance as the were definitely in the area.

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As the season progressed the target fish was still eluding me and my main worry was that the weather was changing with a settled high pressure and prolonged heat wave kicking in causing the fish to start showing signs of getting ready to spawn. On maybe my 8th or 9th visit to the lake I was hearing fishing splashing in the weedbeds and I was sure they were getting down to it. That session a 6lb 8oz fish was caught and it was a long lean fish that I couldn’t be sure had spawned or not. This was not too worrying as if they had and fish of that weight were there then surely a 7lb spawned out fish was possible.

The next overnighter went much the way of the previous sessions and I managed 3 fish that evening to 5lb 10oz, however they were all good stocky fish that didnt look like they had recently been getting down and dirty. That night also saw me lose a good fish which might have been landed if I had not been so hard with it. Obviously I didn’t want to lose them to the weed but I felt I was giving it just a bit to much welly.

The following morning I was up at 3.50am and sat and watched the lake for 20 minutes with a coffee as the sun started to peak over the horizon. Things looked good for a fish or two with some good tench rolling over the baited area. I cast my float out at 4am and although fish were showing we couldn’t buy a bite from either a tench or a silver. I was using a variety of baits on the hook from my usual cocktail of corn and caster, to worm, pellet, red maggots and even bread. By 7am it was starting to heat up and I thought my chance had gone for this session however I said I would not move until I got at least one bite.

My chance came half an hour later when my float baited with a favourite combo of 3 castor and 3 red maggots slid away out of the blue and I struck into what was obviously a decent tench. Remembering my mistake the night before I was a little more gentle with the fish and apart from one or two runs towards the rush beds I was in control of the fight. Into the net she went and at first I thought it might scrape 6lb, however my mate Craig said I was off my rocker and it was a proper lump. It wasn’t until I lifted her from the water that I noticed the frame and weight of it. Surely this wasn’t it.

Craig said will we get her on the scales straight away and I agreed still rambling on about it being a mid 6lber, however he was slagging me saying I was well off and it was well over 7lb. We put her into a bag and onto his calibrated scales that were zeroed and it went down to 7lb 10ozs. I had done it and by quite a bit.

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Over the moon was not the word and only after cradling her in my hands for the pictures did I realise the actual size of her and how lucky I was to have landed such a fish. Her bulk was immense but in proportion to her body with her not being overweight from spawn. The fact that it was only 8 or 9 ounces under the long running record only dawned on me whilst sitting down with a celebratery cigeratte and a coffee ten minutes later. I was literally grinning like a cat for the next few days.

Having read Keith Berry’s insperational article in the Tenchfishers book about catching his impossible tench of 8lb9ozs after setting several targets for himself over the years, I think that have to set my target now towards an 8lb tench no matter how hard it will be. Whether I will ever see let alone catch an Irish 8lb fish is another matter as they are as rare as hens teeth. I know a few people who have achieved it over the years and although it will be difficult, you are always in with a chance if you are fishing a water that contains them. As the saying goes, you can only catch whats in front of you and if you are not on a water that holds fish of this size then no matter how hard you fish you are never going to achieve your goal. So I will continue to fish the lake in the hope that I have not caught the biggest one in there but still savour every moment on the bank no matter how big the tench are I catch.

tench length

One thing I don’t want to do is get blinkered and devalue smaller fish along the way and forget the reason I first fell in love with them in all those years ago.

For the rest of the season I will still be doing some sessions for tench but I also aim to try and get myself a double figure bream and a wily carp or two from one of the relatively unfshed waters I have on my doorstep before the pike season rolls in.

Until next time, tight lines.