Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Beating the Winter blues....

Beating the winter blues requires a positive mindset. The shortening of days and tempestuous weather we have of late has been enough to blow the stuffing out of the sturdiest of winter anglers. There were fish to be caught; having said that, December is not my favourite part of the winter season and having to find the motivation is part of the battle. Fortunately this rarely matters as rivers have yet to fall fully into a steady state of winter slumber.

Its times like these I like to look through records and catch data and remind myself that the best is yet to come! I simply love winter Chubbing... but the seasons seem to ever wrestle with universal forces and shifting climatic systems beyond our simple comprehension.  It seems rare to experience those conditions traditionally associated with a winter Chub season proper until well into January!

Jack Daniels induced stupor... dreaming of Chub!
But it is Christmas and it is the time for family! On that note, my Mum and Dad... Missing me... decide it would be nice to drop by and visit me fishing as they are ‘just passing’... Phone rings.... ‘where are you?’..etc.. tell them my precise location... Phone goes a second time ‘where, can’t see you...’ Rod tip folds over, which I respond with a fumbly cock arsed strike – felt the fish solidly on and drop the phone... followed promptly by the fish dropping off... I get a third and final phone call where they decide their foot ware is not really up to the job and they will leave it this time!!! That was my only bite of the day!!!! And I was seeing them all over Christmas!!! AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! I HATE MOBILE PHONES!

On reflection, it has not been a bad start to the winter campaign... December highlights included a hat trick of fours and a later 5lb9oz Chub on banana cheese paste from a rapidly rising river... and what could possibly have been the last Chub of 2013 at 4lb2oz which came out to Cheese paste.

Last roll of the dice.

There is always a sense of urgency towards the end of year.. A few scraps of cheese paste lay festering in the fridge from the day before, not to mention festering on my brain. It was on that thought I felt compelled to prise myself away from the warmth and comfort having practically got set in for the evening... It was a complete spur of the moment thing... an agitation brought about by possibly ideal conditions and the thought of a few fish coming out.

Actually, thinking about it... I think I can be a little more precise about my motivation. I simply adore fishing after dark. If its solitude and internal reflection you seek, night time on the river bank is where you’re going to find it! Senses starved of the blinding stimulus of light are heightened; a cacophony of sounds floods the senses with a blinding crescendo. Small voles come thundering through the undergrowth; unknown giants stalk through undergrowth, branches crackling under foot; a foxes screech scratches through the air. I suddenly feel alive and tuned into a new dimension hidden from those that walk by day.

It was a beautiful star lit evening; a mild breeze fought off any risk of ground frost and despite the occasional bluster it felt quite mild. Early indications were sketchy... I would ask questions of various swims certain to hold Chub – but lacked any feedback or reply as my quiver tip swayed in the occasional gust. In circumstances such as these I like to cover as many swims as possible and rarely stay in one place for more than 20 minutes.

Finally at around 10:15pm... A sharp jab on the tip (does your heart still ‘jolt’ on that first tap?); followed by a steady pull and a feeling of satisfying resistance on the strike. Having cast to the far bank, I was surprised that the Chub had made it so suddenly to the near bank mash of broken reeds taking line off a firmly set clutch. Keeping pressure and winding as I battled towards the spritely fellow, I fought to keep in contact walking downstream to gain purchase. Fortunately the rod signalled a connection with an opponent still determined to Part Company. Finally spent, I scooped my prize. At only 3lb9oz, this tenacious little chub put up a fight putting many larger to shame.

I always plan to leave the evening with a favourite swim. Preferring to not use a bank stick for fear of disturbing any nearby fish, I cast to the far bank and settled in. It’s a good reliable swim; one which owes more in depth than feature as to why it holds a better than average stamp of fish. Despite the fact I would have happily waited it out... a slow pull indicated the presence of a chub within minutes of casting out... striking firmly...the hook came back clean.

The hook was re baited by touch and the paste shaped to ensure a clear hook point. A cast tight to the far bank was judged and ‘feathered’ down. After allowing the bait to settle, I like to draw the bait back a few inches to confirm its sitting on clean river bed. In circumstances where a steady bite has been missed, it really does help to be able to give any following bites more time to develop. I don’t know why, but hitting bites early doesn’t seem to be the answer in these circumstances. Fortunately, after what seemed like an eternity, a second chance! Holding a bow of line in the free hand, line was fed out whilst the rod tip was moved to follow the taking fish. Feeling for the final decisive tug of resistance, a strike was met with a lively chub that was keen to weave around mid river. To be fair, it felt a fraction of its predecessor and quickly began to tire. It was welcomed into the net under a blaze of light from a dulled head lamp bulb. At 5lb6oz, it certainly made a great way to finish the year! A few self take shots and it was lovingly returned... I love seeing them swim away under torch light! It certainly seemed to make a highlight to what has been a terrific year and just goes to show what can come from acting upon these sudden urges! The only trouble is getting to sleep after all that excitement.....
I think I can give it a break now till next year!!! Tight lines for 2014.

December highlights.

4lb9oz HBC 'Big Cheese'/Blue Cheese SAC cheese paste
4lb7oz HBC 'Big Cheese'/Blue cheese SAC cheese paste
4lb5oz HBC 'Big Cheese'/Blue cheese SAC cheese paste
5lb9oz Laguna Banana SAC/HBC Cheese paste
4lb2oz HBC 'Club Tropicana' Cheese paste
5lb6oz Laguna Banana SAC/HBC Cheese paste

Saturday, 7 December 2013

It must be Winter!

Wow, it’s been a tough December... recent events sapping my motivation means going through the motions regarding my fishing.  Its times like these I appreciate the true value of the love and warmth family and friends has on my well being. 

Fishing is a pretty insular pursuit and forms an important part of my make up... I actually crave periods of quiet contemplation and the isolation offered by being in natural places. Perhaps this is why I derive so much pleasure from fishing after dark. Our visual references to the world diminish and a more primeval inner consciousness takes over. But, when it ain’t happening... it ain’t happening.

On a bright note, my son is National GKR Karate champion in his belt/age category, a real highlight gaining a Silver Medal in Kata and Gold... Yes GOLD... for Kumate. It was held in Sheffield and was a highlight that good buddy Lee Swords came down with a few words of encouragement... ‘Ryan, a head butt.... it’s devastating.....’...... Love it!!! 

A few thoughts on Winter Chubbing.

For me, perfect winter conditions coincide when the river runs with that beautiful green tinge with a bit of a push from recent rainfall. Stubbornly, the river is still running very low and clear and there has been little stability in conditions. Swim selection is still limited as the river bed is paved with weed and detritus in places. When it’s like this, it can be a bit like banging your head against a brick wall... Its time like these I know I should be putting some time in on the beach in search of some Winter Cod! But, I do love Chub and ‘you have to be in it, to win it’ as they say!

I know what we really need is consistency! It’s never too cold for Chub... but in colder weather they do take time to acclimatise to sub zero conditions... A warm spell followed by a quick cold snap really seems to knock them off their... um... fins.

Even better, an influx of warm rain after ‘said’ cold snap... fining down after floods.... snow Chub... it’s still all to come! See? How’s that for positivity!!!!!

Hot to trot.
With little chance of fish coming out in daylight, a purchase of maggots seemed a sensible option... It’s a brilliant method and on its day is a killer... I sprayed and prayed, pouching maggots towards a bush just above a dense snag that holds good numbers of Chub for around 25 minutes.... sent my Drennan Puddle chucker loaded wagler... Nothing! The Chub failed to ‘switch on’ and I did not get so much as a dither of a bite...
A few similar attempts at fish holding spots were met with strong oppositional defiance!

It is a method I admire and the artisans who perform their magic on rivers like the Stour are nothing short of remarkable. For whatever reason, I find it a very hit and miss Winter method on Suffolk rivers. It’s probably a number of factors; we do not get the same density of fish to really get them going, we don’t get sufficient flow to carry the maggots when conditions are clear, or I’m crap at trotting.... take your pick! When we do get the right flow and colour, trotted bread is devastating (and much, much cheaper)..... and for me? Summer is the time for maggots.... I like to see what the rascals are getting up to.
Reliably, a switch of tactics to ledgered Cheese paste had a modest sized chub of 3lb11oz grace the net (I do hate blanking) just on darkness.

The magic hour.

It is never more so important to hack it out till the golden hour of last light in Winter. As temperatures plummet and line begins to weld to icy rod rings, this is typically the very moment you are likely to get bites. 

Fishing effectively involves being comfortable in yourself and your equipment functioning correctly. I take a rather old fashioned approach to staying warm. I love my Barbour Jackets; I always feel at home in the countryside wearing them. They do require frequent attention to keep them operating effectively and warm... they are not. I rely on a system of layers to ensure warmth even in the very coldest of conditions. Two hats worn one on top of the other reduces heat loss and my Mum has knitted me a 10ft scarf!!!!!

A warm neck and head really do make a difference. I find if I can keep my core body temperature high, my fingers do not suffer too badly so fingerless mitts are perfectly adequate. My favourite jacket is over 10 years old and wears patches and repairs like long service medals – there are not many modern fabrics which can boast such histories.

Feet? I splashed out for some thermal boots. They really do make life far more comfortable.


Well you wonder what they were for!
Here’s a little trick, I have always used a small twiglet or bit of dead grass to coat and soak rod rings in glycerine. It works pretty well, but when I went into our bathroom cabinet discovered my Son’s interdental brushes for cleaning his brace sometime last year. These are absolutely perfect for applying glycerine into those fine quiver tip eyelets..... The last thing you want is line freezing to rod rings!

Glycerine’s ability to resist freezing is legendary and forms the basis of the Laguna range of SAC juices. Its addition into the cheese paste was in part due to the effects of its ‘anti freeze’ properties as much as its high nutritional make up... The blue cheese SAC juice has more than adequately justified its addition milk protein based cheese paste mixes over the traditional egg binder.

Glycerine is actually quite a complex chemical compound. It’s used as a preservative; an intense sweetener; is added prevents solids from setting too hard; can resist freezing to -46 degrees; acts as a solvent and emulsifier allowing solubility of fats in water and as well as other compounds..... For me, any one or number of those reasons justifies its inclusion in my cheese pastes.

Wham tribute!

George Michael... always had 'Chub' on the brain....
Flavouring cheese paste has been an effective edge that has certainly helped me to plunder the modest Chub populations round these parts far more effectively had I used the same old, same old... time and time again. With that in mind... and bananas on the brain, Darren and the team from Hook Bait Company have put a new trial flavour together creatively called ‘Chub Tropicana’ for now! Blended with the Big Cheese bollie base mix cheese paste, results in November were very encouraging... catching on its first trial trip with chub of 2lb11oz, 3lb11oz and 3lb4oz. Later Chub followed including Chub of 4lb3oz and 4lb4oz bring the total to 77 over four pound this year.
The winter is young and the best is yet to come... There is so much to look forward to. 

I know it won’t be long before the bigger Girls come out to play.. Till then.. Tight lines!

A few highlights from November

November 3rd HBC/SAC Cheese paste
November 7th 4lb5oz HBC/SAC Banana Cheese paste 

November 15th 4lb HBC/SAC Cheese paste
November 17th  4lb3oz HBC Chub Tropicana 
November 20th 4lb4oz HBC Chub tropicana