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Early Season Tench

After all the preparation of the past couple of weeks, I finally got to get the rods out for my first overnight tench session at the weekend. Although the weather has been perking up in the past ten days it had still been chilly through the nights and venue selection was based on this. I know a lot of the deeper lakes I fish do not wake up too quickly, so a water with a history of early season tench was on the cards.

My fishing pal Craig Murphy had got a head start on me, venturing out on the Thursday afternoon and he reported that although the fishing wasn’t hectic, bites were coming in fits and bursts. That news was all I needed to hear and plans were made to make the trip to the midlands and hook up for his second night there late on Friday evening.

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Being the brilliantly organised fellow I am, there was not too much preparation needed and I had the car packed in no time and was on the road for 7pm excited with the prospect of latching into my first tinca of the year. The forecast for the night wasn’t too special for camping with heavy rain expected along with a biting east wind, but temperatures were to stay steady enough for the fish to hopefully get their feeding heads on. The expected rain would also give me a chance to see if the new brolly would stand up to the elements and justify my decision to banish my bivvy to the back of the shed except for some long haul sessions or family outings.

On arrival at the venue, Craig said things had been a bit quiet in the past few hours and this sometimes happens on the lake, so it at least gave me time to get the kit out and rods in. I decided to vary the approach and went with an inline maggot feeder on one rod and a large korda method feeder on the other. My method mix was made up in advance and consisted of some Pallatrax maggot and bloodworm crush bulked out with a mix of Vde’s – Beet and a crushed hemp method mix. Into this I popped some particles, micro pellets and dead red maggot and castor. Hookbaits were simple enough to start off with and I stuck with the Enterprise red maggots on one and some pop-up white corn on the other. I had a whole host of other baits with me but thought I would start with the tried and tested and if the fish were on the feed then I could try out a few different hook samples and rigs as that’s half the fun.

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I managed to get the rods out before dark and settled into my first tench session of the spring with an extra strong coffee followed by a very welcome jumbo-size kebab which was delivered to the swim. Thanks Glen you’re a legend, even though I think I got more of the kebab on my face and clothes than down my belly. The swim stayed eerily quiet for the next few hours and there wasn’t much movement or sounds from the lake, but it’s always good to catch up with mates and chew the cud whilst waiting for the first run of the evening, however it never came..

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Past experience told us that the fish were likely to come on at some stage during the night, so instead of sitting up and waiting for them, we decided to grab a few hours shut-eye and hopefully get woken at some stage to the sound of our buzzers screaming off. The Fox Supa brolly did all it was meant to do and easily took my bed chair and tackle. With the mozzi infill, it felt pretty much like being in the bivvy except I felt that bit closer to my surroundings and not cocooned away. You can buy the brolly system, but for my needs, I just don’t see the point. The mozzi mesh gives me enough protection from anything that buzzes and bites, plus they are a damn slight cheaper with Dublin Angling Centre doing them for around €45.

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I thought I had only dozed off when I heard my left hand delkim give a couple of bleeps. I checked my watch thinking it was a liner and it said 3am, so I must have been in the land of nod for a while. The next minute I got a full-blown run and was straight into my first fish of the session. I was using my Harrison 2lb tench rods which have softened up over the years and they give me the perfect balance for bullying tench from underwater nasties and yet have a nice through action curve so you can enjoy the fight from even modest sized tench. After a spirited fight a nice 4lb tinca lay in my landing net mesh just as the heavens opened and the anticipated rain started to fall.

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There is nothing better than lying in your bedchair with a stench of tench slime off you, enjoying a smoke after your first one of the year listening to the rain patter off the brolly above your head. Some people must think us anglers are mad, my wife certainly does, but until you experience it yourself, then you can’t really relate to it.

The expected rush of bites never materialised and it wasn’t until a couple of hours later when the sun was just poking its head through the misty morning that the other rod went off again and I was battling with another tench. This one was slightly larger and had decided the method mix combo was to its liking. In between these fish Craig as usual was getting his fair quota of runs and adding to his already impressive tally of tench. As the morning rain finally abetted and we managed to sit out from under our bivvies and brollies to enjoy some coffee and change round our baits and rigs.

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I had decided a few days previously that I wanted to try out some of the pastes I had, so had come up with a rig that I thought would work. With the lake having a fair bit of silt I thought it would be best to try and balance out the heavy paste somehow. The first idea was to wrap it round a pop-up boilie but I wanted to keep the paste size down to 8-10mm. So I decided on using some small wire bait coils I found in my tackle box and fix this onto the end of my hair rig. I then opened up the coil and inserted some wittled down cork ball. When I wrapped the paste round the coil, the bait wouldn’t pop up, but balance itself out and sit nicely in the upper layers of the silt. I don’t know if there is a name for this rig so we decided to call it the CP rig or critical paste rig. When tested in the margins they seemed to work, so it was just a matter of whether the tench liked the paste.

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One rod got the strawberry paste and the other coil was wrapped in the pungent smelling crave. 20 minutes passed and I was just thinking about the breakdown times of the pastes when the crave rod ripped off and I winkled out another fine early season tench. None of the fish were going to break records but were super fish to catch in the 3-5lb bracket. After not getting any joy on the strawberry paste, I switched over to the scopex flavour and this resulted in another couple of fish for me. Craig had a mess around with some of the flavours and managed a fish or two on the crave. I have had some great results fishing some homemade paste on the float last year and although it might not be my first choice bait, it is always nice to have something in your armoury to switch to when things aren’t happening and also have a method which you know will at least work.

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The morning continued with a few more fish but as always happens the session comes to a halt way before you want it to. I am a devil for ‘one last cast syndrome’ however the little one at home had to be at a birthday party so with her relying on me I had to call it a day. The beauty of not having the cumbersome bivvy with me was the relative ease the whole packing up process took and I had my minimal amount of gear back in the car in no time at all. My final tally for the session was a respectable ten tench with Craig having more than double that for his couple of nights on the bank. So with a successful first session under the belt it looks like the tench season is under way but with other species on the feed at the moment too, its decision time on what to go for next. Not a bad dilemma to have I must say. Till next time…

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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Double Trouble

Well it’s been a grueller of a couple of weeks with a succession on blanks on the pike front. They say effort equals reward and if that was the case I should have a volley of big fish to my name, but that’s the mystery of fishing for you and if it was easy it definitely would not be fun.

I have been fishing a variety of waters in search of some decent fish which goes against my new found mantra after my tench fishing this year. I promised I would pick a decent water and stick with it, but with various invitations and opportunities arising I have been galavanting around various counties.

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On one hand I suppose it breaks up the monotony of blanking when you are doing it on different venues but am I really learning anything about these waters when making fleeting visits ? I suppose you do learn something when you fish a lake even the once, be it plotting depths and finding swims, to noting feeding times and of course through conversations with other anglers.

I have been teaming up with angling buddy Craig Murphy quite a lot this winter and although things have been slow the fishing has been eventful, be it smashing rods or injuring myself. The couple of times he has been out on his own, he has managed to get a few fish making me conclude I must have had some piking curse bestowed on me.

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Luckily my piking hoodoo lifted yesterday when I made an early morning visit to another lake I have had on the radar for a number of years. During a recent visit to Dublin with the family I did my back in badly, so my venue options were restricted to an easy access lake with little or no walking with my tackle. This spot conveniently had waterside parking, so with heat patches on my back and a couple of painkillers I made the short enough journey to Mayo to see if I could winkle one out.

I am not a big fan of lakes that have easy access as they tend to attract lazy anglers who don’t know what bins or black sacks were made for. Because these places are naturally busy places for anglers of all sorts, the fishing can be a hit and miss affair too for a variety of reasons, so my expectations were not too high. However on arrival at the lake and a recci along all the fishable spots I was pleasantly surprised to find little or no rubbish which always gives you heart. Either the anglers that had been fishing there use some sort of common sense or it hadn’t been getting much attention at all. Either way the day had started on a positive note.

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My bait selection was pretty poor to be honest, comprising of 90% sea baits as I hadn’t had a chance to replenish my freezer. I did have a packet of pollan though which is a good all round bait to try on a new venue as they are highly visual and of course pop up naturally if they are packed properly. Sadly mine didn’t pop up so I used a trick Craig showed me of bait flossing the gills and just above the anal cavity to make an air tight chamber and then injected the culprit with air to give it some buoyancy. The other rod was sent out with a fresh half herring which was also popped up with a polyball a foot or so of the clean lake bed.

With the baits out I got the coffee on and settled down for another blank. On the subject of coffee, I find it a godsend on cold mornings when pike fishing and the stronger the better. It may sound like over kill but I nick the percolator from the kitchen while she is still in bed so I can make a decent brew. I came across a new coffee (to me) in the local supermarket recently and it certainly keeps you alert when you have only had a couple of hours sleep prior to a session. When I noticed it was numbered 6++ on the ‘coffeeometer’, it went straight into the basket and then onto the bank.

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Another reason to bring the percolator is it takes that bit more effort and time to make the coffee and invariably it’s when you are in the process of doing so that a run usually occurs. I don’t know how many times the aptly named ‘sandwich trick’ has saved a blank session. My dad and I came up with the name when we used to fish the canals and things would be quiet. Once you opened up your sandwich the fish would see this and nab the maggots and you would strike whilst your lunch ended up in the water. A great trick that used to have my poor mother busy making the heaps of sandwiches needed to get a good net together, but was well worth it.

As I was pouring my first cup of the day, right on cue the delk gave a couple of bleeps on the pollan and I struck into my first pike in what seemed like an eternity. After a couple of head shakes the fish came in easily enough and my hoodoo had been broken. Never had I been so happy to see a jack pike.

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I have been using quick links to attach my traces this year as I find it is easier to just un-clip it from the mainline to deal with the fish and to also attach another baited trace to the rod to get your bait out again quickly. When pike fishing, I find you may only get one or two feeding windows in a day and if you are not prepared correctly, you may miss out on another bite, faffing about with rebaiting traces and such. Any fish landed though, no matter how small should never play second fiddle, so always make sure you have dealt with any pike with hooks in their mouth before you’re looking to catch another.

After returning the jack my rod was back out on the same spot in double quick time with another arse injected pollan and I returned to my colder than hoped coffee with renewed optimism. Within a minute my alarm let out another couple of bleeps and I thought it was just settling. Another beep and I was onto the rod to see it nearly getting pulled in as I had forgotten to open the bail arm. So much for pike not liking resistance.

The fish gave the same few head shakes and I thought another jack until it got to the margins and she thundered up and down the swim for a minute or two. Slipping the net under my first double of the season more than made up for the long line of blanks of previous weeks.

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She was hooked nicely in the scissors and went back strong after a couple of quick self takes on the camera. Sadly the pictures didn’t come out as well as I had hoped due to the light and angle of the camera. A workman and his tools etc etc.

By the time I got back to my coffee it was stone cold but there was plenty more in the packet and things were looking good for the day. The session was cut short though when I got a text from the wife telling me the little one and her had woken up with chest infections. The gear was packed up quick smart so I could get home to look after the girls, but with a couple of fish and the curse lifted I was happy with my mornings work.

With the recent rain, I have been mainly fishing lakes as the rivers have been high and dirty and only as I write this are they fining down and probably in perfect fishing condition. The plan is another visit to a lake in the morning as the feeling is the pike should feed up before this forecast cold front. When the weather does strike, I am going to turn to the rivers for a week or so as I don’t find they are as effected by severe drops in temperature as lakes are.

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Hopefully my next blog will bring more words on catching fish rather than pontificating about the positives of blanking. It would also be a bit special if my first 20 of the season was a hard fighting lady of the river. We live in hope.

On another note, I have set up a facebook page for this blog and you can find it at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wet-Dreams-Fishing-Blog/415013608599359

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.

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.

nice perch

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.

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.

Sligo Salmon

Well after spending the past 6 weeks moving house and waiting what felt like forever for broadband to be installed, I can finally write a another blog about all things fishy down this end of the country. One of the plus sides to the new house is the great Salmon River that flows 15 yards from my front door. The river in question is called the Ballisodare, and for its length of 4 miles, it meanders through pasture land and woods before hitting the town and cascading for half a kilometre down a series of magnificent waterfalls more akin to somewhere like the Zambezi than a limestone river in Ireland.

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 The river is a true phenomenon and seems to be doing the exact opposite of most  other fisheries in this country. Before 1846, there were no Salmon running the river  as the falls at Ballisodare were impassable. Then the Cooper estate who owned the  rights to the river stepped in and developed Europe’s first fish ladders and seeded the  headwaters with brood stock from the Rhine and Moy among other rivers. The rest is  history as they say, and the river today is enjoying some of the best Salmon fishing in  Europe.

 The river is allowed to open for spring salmon fishing in February, but over the years  the forward thinking club have held back opening day to May to let the early fish  get into the river system. For the past couple of years it opened on April 1  day for some but for the lucky anglers who made the journey this year, they were  rewarded with 12 fresh run spring Salmon. The first fish of the season on the fishery  was caught by local angler John Connolly, weighing 6lbs 9oz and was taken on a  worm. The first fish caught on the fly was hooked by visiting angler Dennis Barrett,

 N.Ireland, who took the fish of 6lbs 6oz on a Willie Gunn. The heaviest catch of the  day was a fine 13lbs 1oz salmon caught by Francis Kearns, while the second heaviest  was taken by Richie Watters and weighed 12lbs for the spring run. In the past week  alone there has been a further 30 Salmon have been recorded, with nearly half of these  returned.

 The second Saturday of April saw myself get a chance to fish this wonderful river.  With most of my tackle geared towards coarse and carp angling, a bit of research had  to be done on fly patterns and to sort a suitable worm rod if the fly failed. I thought  I would have been competing with a lot of anglers seeing as it was Easter weekend,  but I was lucky enough to have a lovely stretch of river just below the town to myself  for most of the day, and what a fantastic looking place it is. Being just a couple of hundred yards from the sea, fresh fish arrive with each tide, so you always have a chance.

 The day in question had a severe north wind channelling right up the river which tested my limited fly casting skills. The club on the river promote catch and release, but this is only really possible when fishing the fly, as salmon do tend to swallow the bait when fishing the worm, therefore if you do catch one on this method your days fishing is over as to protect stocks. My plan for the day was to brave the elements with the fly even though I was having a torrid time trying to present my cascade shrimp imitation correctly with a 6# rod. I wanted to have as much time there as possible, even if that meant I might not catch a fish.

 After a while of thrashing the water to foam, thankfully the watchful eyes of the river staff and manager of Ballisodare fishing club Dermot Glennon came down to put me right with my casting and showed me where one of these spring fish might be lying and ready to have a nip at my fly.  5 hours came and passed all to quickly and with a prior engagement with fiancé and child looming, I set up one of my Harrison 2lb test rods, usually used for bolt-rigging for tench, with a couple of light bullets and a size 8 hook that looked like medusa’s head after I had crammed as many worms on as possible.

 Not 5 minutes of flicking the worms into a nice looking pool a sharp pull of a fish got the line whizzing from the clutch on my reel and tench rod doubled over. I have caught a few salmon over the years, but the strength of this fish in the fast flowing water was as thrilling as hooking any carp. A couple of minutes of heroic acrobatics

 from the fish and she was coolly netted by Dermot. At just a shade over 5lb it was one  of the smaller fish to be caught recently, but a fine fresh one with sea lice on its flanks  and a bar of silver. With tags inserted and pictures taken I sat down with the lads in  the hut for a cuppa tea and some talk of the river.

spring salmon ballisodare

Over the past few seasons, the short river has been producing well over 2000 fish a year and the numbers going through the fish counter are exceeding expectations.Although the river gets a great run of spring fish, it is the massive grilse run that starts in June that really has anglers flocking from far and wide. With the grilse averaging between 3-7lb, the sport can be hectic when the main run has started with multiple catches possible.

The fishing on the river is divided into two sections, the first being the butt of the falls, which is run on two sessions a day, from 6am to 2pm and from 2pm to 10pm, sunlight permitting. Above the main falls you have some lovely streamy water for  ½ kilometre up to the town then the river widens and flows with a more laid back  character, slower water with riffles, glides and some nice deep pools. The fishing  here extends upstream to where the Owenmore and Unshin river join to form the  Ballisodare river. Fishing here is from 7am to 10pm and you can fish right through  the system bar below the falls. Living so close I wish I could fish everyday there, but I  don’t think the family would be too impressed with me disappearing everytime I see a  Salmon jump from the bedroom window. So a stroll down the river in the evenings is enough to keep me happy when I am not casting for a any fish.

pippa salmon