28/03/2015 - Close season project

Had cut some hazel shanks when I was in Wales last winter with a view to having a go at making some wading staffs. After 12 months seasoning in my garage they are ready to go. Had a look on the web for some design ideas for my first attempt. The picture below shows the result.

Finished article

Got most of the bits I needed off eBay - EVA rod grip for the handle, 5mm paracord, two sizes of shrink wrap, carabiner clip and a rubber walking stick ferrule.

Handle with thumb notch sanded into the top of the shank

I also scrounged some lead flashing off a friend from work to weight the end to stop the staff floating away when you let go of it.

1lb of lead shrink wrapped to the end

I left the bark on the shank as I liked the effect, just cutting off any nodules and giving it a light sanding. I've also oiled it rather than varnishing it, again because it brought out the natural patterns. Will just need oiling every so often to maintain the protection. This first one was actually meant to be a fiftieth birthday present for a friend to take on his annual sewin and salmon fishing trips to the River Teifi. However, I think I might keep it!  

12/03/2015 - End of season zed

Had a quick after work zander session on the Soar earlier in the week. Conditions had seemed perfect - dull, overcast and mild - and my chosen swim was nicely sheltered from the wind. However, apart from a jack and the usual bother from the chub, there was nothing to write home about. Second (and last) chance for and end-of-season zander therefore came this evening when I met Tim on the River Trent. When we got to our chosen area we found a chap fishing in our first choice swim, so we both squeezed into the next one upstream. Looked a bit of a snag pit to me, but Tim assured me it would be okay.

In the snag pit

We soon had the dead bait rods out, one each to the snags to our respective left and right and the other two out into open water. We both had some interest early on, presumably from chub messing about, but the baits were either dropped or stolen without hooking up. After a bit a few small fish started topping and jumping close in, so Tim wound in temporarily and got his dropshot rod out. He'd just made a cast out into open water near my left hand bait when the rod tip knocked a couple of times and the bobbin dropped off. Picked up the rod and felt the line whizzing off between my fingers. Wound down and hit a fish that didn't put up too much fuss, allowing me to guide it straight in between the snags. Was convinced it was a chub until I caught a glimpse of it as Tim swept it into the net. Turned out to be a nice, broad, fat zander of 8lb 15oz - my biggest of the year and an ounce off my personal best. 


Carried on for a bit longer but apart from a few more twitches, that was it. Doubt if I'll have time to go out over the next two days, so that's also the end of the river season for me. We'll have to see what the stillwaters can bring now.

14/03/15 - Postscript

Did my usual 40+ mile ride out into South Derbyshire on the road bike this afternoon. Aside from the biting, cold wind I was surprised when I crossed the Trent at Swarkestone Bridge and then the Derwent at Borrowash to see them both up and coloured. Respect therefore to anybody who was out on what was probably a difficult last day!    

11/03/2015 - Another bumper session on the Soar

Had today lined up for another pike session on the River Soar for a while now. However, when I went out to the car at 0530 hrs there was a frost on the windscreen and the clear sky promised a bright, sunny morning to come - not ideal I thought for dead baiting. Needn't have worried! Got to the venue to find I was first there, so wandered up past the frost-covered reed beds to the usual starting point. Planned to put both baits in the near margin to begin with while it was quiet. Had just put the upstream rod in and turned 'round to pick up the other when the micron started beeping straight away. Wound down and felt a fish briefly before it came adrift - unlike the still-frozen mackerel, which was still firmly attached to the hooks! Managed to get both rods out after this, but it wasn't long before the downstream float waddled off. Got this one in the net where it promptly coughed up somebody else's manky herring. 

Errr....you can keep that!

Just carried on from there as they were really having it. First hour and a bit was bonkers - had a fish grab the bait on the drop and another take a bait seconds after it had hit the deck. Didn't land either of these, again probably because I was trying to strike hooks out of frozen baits. Then had a double pick-up, which I didn't convert into a brace unfortunately, but did land a 9lber with a really long head on it.


Did try a bait over the far side, which resulted in a couple of small ones, but it was soon obvious that most of the fish were coming from close in to the near bank, so both rods went down the margin after that. And the runs kept coming....

Action stations!

Had just landed another pike on the upstream rod, when the downstream rod went off. Left him in the net, wound down the other rod and felt the fish for a couple of seconds, but then everything fell slack. Winding in I found that braid had been severed and I'd not only lost the fish, but also the end tackle. Wasn't happy at that stage to leave hooks in a fish, but more on that later. Had a couple more out of that spot before I moved down to the next swim. Upstream rod went first. This one felt and then looked a bit better when I got it in the net. However, didn't have a chance to admire it because the micron on the downstream rod burst into life, so it was a case of again leaving him in the net to deal with the other rod. This time I did manage to convert the brace!

Two at once

The bigger fish went 11lb 6oz and when I came to unhook him I found he'd got my missing trace (still with lamprey attached), somebody else's treble and a size 16 to nylon all in his gob! My trace had about three feet of braid attached, so I can only assume it had been cut on a snag rather than bitten off.

Lucky for me and the pike!

Took me a while to sort out the resulting mess, but I was actually grateful for the breather. Eventually got the rods out again and had another couple of smaller fish, before landing what turned out to be the biggest of the session at 12lb 2oz. 

Biggest of the morning

By about 1000 hrs the action had slowed considerably. Just as well as I was running out of baits! I'd even tied up a kebab rig with some off-cuts from my lamprey sections just in case. As it turned out the weather changed from bright, warm and sunny, to overcast and windy. This seemed to knock the action on the head altogether as I had nothing in the following hour. Finished the session having had 17 runs, resulting in 12 fish. Went home for lunch with grazed, bloodied fingers and stinking of fish.

06/03/2015 - Nuisance species - love 'em!

Fancied a perch to go with those pike, so late afternoon I headed out to the Derwent. Figured I'd have about an hour and a half by the time I got there and was set up - plenty of time to catch a stripey if I chose the right spot. There was nobody in the car park when I arrived, so I quickly headed off downstream. Unfortunately the wind was blowing straight into my first choice swim. I probably could have coped with it, but quite a fierce and unpredictable back eddy flowing under the tree I'd intended to fish up to was the clincher. I just didn't feel confident looking at the swim, so yomped back upstream past the car park and on to another area I had fancied, paying homage to one of the local idols as I did so (strange people in Draycott!).

What the...?

Settled in the new spot, putting out a mixture of chopped worms and dead maggots off the end of a bush before dropping two, link-legered dendra's on a size 6 over the top. As it started to get dark an hour later I'd only had one cursory twitch and it looked like a blank was on the cards. However, the quiver tip finally jerked to life and I struck into a heavy weight. Some head-banging early on lead me to believe I'd hooked my target species. However, this soon gave way to sullen resistance and the glimpse of a brassy scaled flank as the fish rolled on the surface confirmed its identity. It wasn't until I lifted the net that I realised that it was a flippin' good fish, broad-shouldered and pigeon-chested, going 5lb 5oz on the scales.


Had to happy with that - my first 5lb chub for quite a while and definitely not bad for a "nuisance species".

05/03/2015 - A piker's perseverance

I hadn't seen a piker's dawn in a while so, as I stood next to the car breathing in the frosty air and watching the sun peek over the horizon, it was a bit of a shock to the senses. I'd been watching the weather forecast and river levels like a hawk waiting for this particular morning. Most importantly, the incessant wind we've been experiencing (seemingly forever!) was due to ease off a bit and it certainly seemed the case as I looked upstream. The river looked good - nice level with a slight tinge of colour - and I was soon heading up the towpath to my starting point. The rods were already set up, so it just a case of sticking a joey on one and a lamprey section on the other. One rod went down the margin and the other behind the houseboat on the far bank. 

Spot the float #1

The margin rod went first after about half an hour - a long, skinny fish, but I was off the mark. Had two more runs on this near rod in quick succession, a jack and one of 9lb 8oz. 

Getting there...

I was just about to pop the last one back when a matchman came past pushing a trolley loaded up to the gunnels (I thought carpers had a lot of gear!). After we'd exchanged pleasantries he mentioned that he was down to practice for a big European competition at the weekend, but that he was heading upstream so wouldn't "spoil my fun". Unfortunately, judging by the number of vans that had suddenly appeared on the lane, he wasn't going to be the only one. A group of lads had just started to walk up the towpath towards me when the far rod rattled off. This felt much better and turned out to be a short, but incredibly fat fish of 12lb 10oz. 

Who ate all the pies?

One of the lads was kind enough to take a photo for me, but then told me that the whole section had been booked for the match practice (not true as I learned later). Vans and cars were now stretching back along the lane as far as I could see, so I had a choice - carry on fishing until I got booted off, or get out while I could still move my car. Whilst I was loathed to leave as the session was building up nicely, I chose the latter option. Rather wisely as it turned out as another 5 minutes would have been too late and I would have been there for the day! Chucked the gear in the car and headed to Kegworth to my second choice venue. Headed to an area that I'd not pike-fished properly before, but where I'd had a few whilst perching. Sent a bait over the far bank into a slack behind a tree and it was off before I'd even picked up the other rod. Just a jack this time. 

Spot the float #2

Had another next cast, then lost a couple - one coming adrift mid-river and the other going straight into a sunken branch, which I managed to retrieve minus fish. Went a bit quiet after this, so I moved downstream. Initially popped both baits over into a bay upstream of a houseboat. However, when the resident left soon afterwards with a suitcase, I took this as an invitation to fish the most obvious feature! Put one bait off the back of the houseboat, finding a slightly deeper hole scoured out by a land drain, and the other down the side. It was the one off the back that went first. Thought it would scrape double figures as it had a big head and gob on it, but made do with 9lb 13oz.


All of the rest of my fish came on the other rod after this. Had three more on that one, taking my tally up to ten fish for the morning - not bad for a disrupted session and some amends for being forced to move.  Packed up after the last fish, my rumbling stomach and a dwindling bait supply getting the better of me, and headed home for lunch.