A NEW BOOK NOW OUT. Targets set and achieved.

My third book, 'Targets set and achieved' is now complete and ready for sale. As the title suggests it reflects the past seven years of my fishing. Twenty different rivers where double figure barbel were caught, crucians and roach to near record size, perch, chub, tench and bream to make the mouth water. All will be in the pages and well illustrated with lots of colour photographs.

There is a 1000 copy print run of the hardback edition and a further 40 leather bound copies for the connoisseur.

Copies available from myself just email phlpsmith9@aol.com or ring 07980 394864 for details

Still a limited number of leathers available.

Alternatively use the web page http://www.philsmithangler.co.uk/ where you can order by Paypal or credit/debit card.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A record barbel.

It was cold and frosty when I set out on the barbel trip, I knew the odds were against me, but the call of the river was too much to ignore.  This river, and more particularly the section I was to fish, had produced a very big barbel in recent times and my thoughts were that it just might go over that magical 21lb, but perhaps that was hoping for too much.

My tackle was set as had been used on recent visits, 12lb main line on 1.75lb test rods.  The open-ended oval feeder that would be loaded with a 50/50 mix of small pellet and hemp.  A 12inch hook length had a size 8 hook with two 8mm pellets on a hair and this was cast into the know deep hole where the big fish was sometimes to be seen.

                                                    There are big barbel in small rivers.

Darkness fell and the beta-light glowed in the darkness as the rod itself began to twinkle with the frost that had settled on its surface.  Wild life could be heard all around my fishing position, perhaps a fox or deer went past just behind the swim, an owl hooted its call for a mate, but no answer came to the plaintive cry.  Stars stood out clearly in the blackness of the sky with no light pollution around to dim the effect and I waited – hoping for just that one special bite.

Then out of the blue as is normally the case the rod slammed round as a fish tore off downstream, I stuck and immediately knew that this could be it!  The fight was spectacular to say the very least and several times I thought I had lost him, but after some considerable minutes I looked into the net and there lay the biggest barbel I had ever seen.

I heard a voice behind me and turned to see who had spoken, but no-one was there, then I saw it was daylight through the bedroom window and with a sinking feeling I realised I had been dreaming!

Hopefully over the coming year my dream will come true, but until then I would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas, and may all your dreams come true in 2012.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Dreams of big perch and chub.

I arrived back in Coventry last night from two days fishing in the company of an angling friend, John Found, who lives in the Kennet Valley region.  He retired to the area with fishing in mind, and it paid off in spades with the diversity of chances within comparatively close range of his home.  The Rivers Kennet, Loddon, St Pats Stream and Thames are all within close striking range, and gravel pits galore seem to be just waiting for his arrival to plunder the specimen fish that are there.   At least that’s my view of his situation, but perhaps after this trip I need to reappraise that idea.

                                                      Perch like this lake monster were the target.

The weather had been forecast to improve by several degrees and it seemed an ideal opportunity to go down and try out a venue that John had recently been exploring for perch.  The half dozen trips already made had been split equally, first walking the banks and plumbing depths, whilst the remaining three sessions had produced a few perch to 2lb-12oz.  Talking to anglers already fishing there, normally for carp, suggested the perch fishing could be very good with specimens to 4lb plus amongst numerous 2lb plus back-up fish.  Arrangements were made that we would meet in the car park at 8:00am, I did the 90 miles from my house, whilst John complained that this would be amongst the more distant of his venues at nearly 10 miles, I’m not jealous – much!

As we surveyed the lake it looked perfect, the temperature rise had happened and we basked in double figure numbers on the Celsius scale, water clarity was just tinged with colour and a slight breeze rippled the surface inviting us to get fishing without delay.

I was to fish a leger style approach with lobworm on the hook and dedrabenas along with red maggots to attract the intended large perch targets.  John settled on float fishing tactics with a similar feed pattern, we could not fail!  That last sentence says it all and you already know what’s coming – other than a few small 4oz bits we were both were blown out of the water with the dreams shattered.  To add insult to injury even the single carp angler present on the bank caught two carp with a best of 25lb, so the fish were feeding.  I had fished four different swims, and John did similar, but it was all to no avail, a blank is blank and new plans were now needed.  We had intended that both days would be spent on this water, but now there were having second thoughts and we finally decided on a chub session on the Kennet.

We went to a well-tried section of river where previous trips had given up chub to over 6lb, with the weather holding nicely we were of course hopeful of success.  The only fly in the ointment was that the British Waterways had to spend some money and had decided that this section of river looked too nice.  It must be a condition of employment within the various agencies, that you cannot have any love of nature or its appearance.  They had gone through the section and rip out any bush or tree that might suggest it would, or could, hang over the water giving cover and shelter to wildlife.  Where previously the chub swims were self evident with such cover giving protection from the passing boat traffic, now we had to wonder if the fish had stayed in the area or moved to those sections left alone.

This time we were to use identical tactics, maggot feeders with a little hemp as an attractor for the chub.  Short hook links of 2.5lb strain and size 20 hooks and a single maggot should have been irresistible to these fish, but in my case it did not work and they resisted very successfully.  Meanwhile John did manage to convince a couple of chub that they should attack his feeder and hookbait taking a best of just under 5lb.  A barbel of similar size had the heart rate going for a little while in the thought it might just have been one of the bigger chub, but the truth soon became obvious. 
                                                               John's near 5lb chub.
That was my two day break done with not a single worthwhile fish landed, I’ll return in the new year and hopefully we will both have better luck – perhaps a quick trip down to the Avon or Stour could bring that big chub or even one of the large roach that seem to be making a comeback around various different rivers.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Winter has arrived.

It seems amazing that just ten days ago I sat by a river fishing for barbel until gone 11:00pm without a coat on and did not get cold.  Now the wind goes through my heavy-duty clothing and reminds me that I should not stay out too long.

Since that warm night I’ve been zander fishing on a gravel pit as mentioned in the last blog – blank.   Then a couple of trips onto local pits in the search for a nice perch, caught a few smaller samples of less than a pound but still looking for the big one.

                                                  Zander fishing on a local gravel pit.

                                                   Roll Over bite indicators, just the job for open bail-arm fishing.  finely adjustable to give no resistance to the taking fish.

A trip to the south and the Hampshire Avon was meant to improve the catches with big chub the target, but then I should have known better.  The Avon, like many other rivers and waterways is desperately low and the weed is still quite prolific in the very low flow rates.  Add to this the fact that the locals were reporting very poor fishing returns when I went into the two local tackle shops in Ringwood, and the writing was on the wall.  I was feeder fishing with hemp, maggot and casters, almost infallible when after chub, but that one word made the difference, ‘almost.’   For two days I did my best but even with maggots on the hook the minnows did not make an appearance, now that is really unusual.   Travelling back the 160 miles to home I ran over all the things I did and might have done, and I don’t think I could have done it different – that’s fishing, sometimes you blank.

                                             I fished the perfect swim at the rainbows end on the Hampshire Avon.

Yesterday I went again for the perch and I was surprised to find ice over part of the lake, apparently it had formed overnight and would suggest that the water is very near to freezing since it did not go that cold for very much of the dark hours.  A couple of fish, a roach and a perch had a go at my small bit of lobworm tail on a size 18 hook, but yet again I was reminded that the winter has arrived.

It rained heavy overnight and at last some of the rivers are showing signs of being flushed through taking some of the dead stuff away, the forecast is for wind and rain whilst staying quite cold, but given a rise in temperatures I could be back in business again

Time is running out for that Xmas box present of  'Target set and Achieved' -  get yours ordered at http://www.philsmithangler.com/.  

Monday, 5 December 2011

Winter fishing trips

Now it is quite obvious that we all go fishing in order to catch fish, but if you fail in that task is it the end of the day?  Yesterday I was zander fishing on a lake with doubles availble, and good bait to attract the fish, but they would not play and I blanked, what did save my day was a sight I had not seen before.

Probably the best part of 100 yards away I noticed a number of flashes of bright red amongst the trees, robins was the first thought that came to mind, but that was quickly dismissed -they hate each other at times outside of the Springtime.  As I watch I became more and more interested, not being able to decide what I was watching.   With no binoculars to use I took the next best thing which was my camera with its 20X zoom lens and Image Stabiliser to make it possible in the hand held mode to take photos with maximum zoom in play.  It can be quite a problem looking through the camera with that zoom working to find just exactly what you are trying to find.  Even when I found the flash of red a number of the shots just showed the birds behind a branch or some awkward postion that was of no use.  Digital photography is brilliant in that you can take as many shots as you like - it does not matter as you delete the bad ones later, but here the first photo shows the image as captured, while the second is close cropped to identify the bird - a male bulfinch.
                                              Original shot at about 100 yrds.

                         One of several male bulfinches present.

Normally these birds are shy, retiring birds and you only get a fleeting glance as they move away from your presence, to see this flock at play, well it made up for the blank - almost!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Barbel river and the end of the warm weather.

A bit slow on completed this blog as I have been quite busy on other things like the article for the Coarse Angling Today magazine, and a chapter for a proposed Tenchfishers Book.  The last week has been a mixed bag of perch fishing, with a dash of barbel chasing thrown in for good measure.  The water that seemed to offer the best chance of a 4lb perch last season seems to have lost its potential with the larger fish all apparently gone, this yet again reinforces the view I’ve often expressed of ‘make the best of it today since you don’t know what tomorrow may bring.’   Not sure what happened, but it seemed the fish were there in February [four known 4lb perch] but gone by the end of March.   So I’m back on the search trail again and a couple of trips in the week to a water that seems to have potential only produced two fair perch with maybe 1lb-8oz for the best one.  It will be a long winter so still plenty of time to find a water to concentrate on come next spring when they will reach peak weights.

When the forecast showed the colder weather coming into the area for the end of the week I decided to get one last trip to the Derwent for barbel.  I took a float rod along with me with a few lobworms to have a little try for the perch along the edge of the rushes, but that ended in failure as a hooked fish that would almost certainly have been a nice perch [the alternative could have been chub but it did not try to get into the rushes] threw the hook before I could get it to leave the river bed to enable me to get a look at what I had hooked.

I had taken hemp and casters along for the session and with this mix I laid a nice bed of feed in mid-river then fished casters over the top with a swimfeeder in play as well.  Lots of knocks and taps off small fish with a few of them hooked, but none of the larger fish showed.  As it got dark the temperature dropped a little, but it was still quite mild so I determined to stay on for a while.  An hour into dark I changed rigs to the open-ended feeders and 8mm pellets that have worked so well this season and I did get two barbel, one of 6lb plus and another of 10lb-7oz to give a fine ending to the day.  Will there be another chance before Xmas? – we wait and will see.

                                                    10lb-7oz on the last day of November.

That brings me up to date and still making plans for the next week though I’ve arranged a zander trip for Sunday, be interesting to see if that can work.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Lake Perch - The last days of Autumn means big perch.

Autumn is officially defined by the met office as the months of September, October and November so with winter almost on us I cannot be too surprised that the fog and frosts have finally arrived.  At the start of the week I had decided to visit the zander lake in the hope of contacting one of the many double fish that seem to be being caught at present.  Curtis was up and ready at the 6:30am arranged pick-up time and we slowly made our way over the 40 odd miles through the patchy fog that was about.  Going along the motorway at 35-40 mph it seems amazing that these lads with x-ray eyes can flash past into quite thick fog at incredible speeds – accidents waiting to happen.

We set up our tackle and with a section of lamprey on one of the rods and a 4 inch roach on the other, with Curtis fishing the same I was reasonable confident that at the very least our offering would be acceptable to the zander, or even pike should they wish to make an appearance.  For most of the morning the fog hung about and although voices could be heard coming over the lake it was all a mystery as to who, or where, other anglers were placed.  Although the afternoon brightened up quite nicely, the fish refused to play and the bailiff suggested that only one 16lb pike had been caught on the complex, disappointing but that’s fishing.

Although it rained quite heavily over Monday night I thought the barbel fishing could suffer a double whammy.  One, the drop in temperatures, but more the case was that with the lack of floods the weed would move and make fishing quite a hit and miss affair.  Time for a bit of perch fishing so with tackle ready I set out for a local carp commercial that should offer the chance of a 3lb perch or even bigger.  Although I do use leger tactics for the perch, I prefer to float fish just so I can watch that red tip as it dips and slides away in response to a take.  My bait was the trusty lobworm and I intended to spray red maggots into the swim just to attract the silver fish along with the perch into the area.  I’ve found that on these commercials it can pay dividends to fish close into the side, it is noticeable that the match lads often do exactly the same.  This might be the side where you’re fishing, or the side of one of the islands that invariably are present, either seems to work that little bit better than open water.

                                                                  2lb-4oz best of 9

Arriving at midday I only had about 4hr or 5hr to fish, but the first perch came quite quickly to show they were present in the chosen swim.  I am not sure about putting perch back into the water where you are catching them, so to be on the safe side I walk them two swims away before returning them to their watery home.  Keep nets are banned unless in an organised match, not sure why that would be different, but it does stop that photo shot of a few nicely marked fish.  With nine perch from 8oz to 2lb-4oz caught in the remaining time before dusk I was well pleased, and a return trip is well on the cards for tomorrow - that big fish is just waiting to be caught.

                                              Sunset can be a good time for perch fishing

My book ‘Target set and achieved’ sales are going well and I would thank all who have sent for a copy for their confidence that my writings are worth reading.  With Xmas coming on quite quickly it might be an idea to give yourself a real treat with a leather bound copy of this book that I’m sure will prove to be an investment.  With just 40 individually numbered copies, bound in high quality goatskin in a shade of ‘antique burgundy’ to the very highest of standards I am well pleased with the finished article.  I recently saw a leather copy of Magic Moments sold at £350, this edition sold at just £125 in 2004.  I appreciate that at £175 this edition is more than many can afford in these trying times, hence the fact that there are copies left; but give me a call on 07980 394864 to ensure there is still one left for you and I’ll reserve it with your name against the sale.
                                                                Your Xmas box?

http://www.philsmithangler.co.uk/ for a standard edition.

Friday, 18 November 2011

River Roach - Another trip south with a grand reward of big roach.

Anticipation is a wonderful experience; it allows you to dream that anything is possible and with the three days planned this week that was certainly true.  As I mentioned within the last blog update, I would have days on the River Kennet, then the Roach Lake and the last day on the River Test, all venues able to supply a dream fish.

At almost exactly the arranged moment of time at 8.00am I drove into the venue car park to meet up with John Found, not bad timing over the near on 100 miles through traffic.  Although the day was forecast to be quite mild it was cool to say the least, and a fairly strong east wind bit into any exposed skin.  Wrap up warm since it is the middle of November and set off down the bank.  John allowed me to choose what appeared to be the going swim at the moment and his local knowledge definitely helped in this choice as the day was to show.

We had agreed that with the fairly noticeable drop in air temperatures over the weekend it was possible the fishing could suffer and it was to be a case of slowly does it with the baiting approach.  We were both set on a caster and hemp attack, arguably the best option for the low and clear river conditions we had in front of us.  The Kennet rarely shows the effect of floods but now it was getting into a shallow levels rarely seen in modern times, rain is urgently required.  The low water itself is not too much of a problem, but combined with a good drop in temperature the writing was on the wall.

Not a double but welcome on a cold day.

Sure enough the fishing proved to be tough, I did manage three barbel to a best weight of near 8lb, but John suffered his first blank of the season on this section of river following a lot of trips with numerous double figure fish under his belt.  Driving to his house where I would be staying I could only think that at least the roach would not be so temperature dependant.

Bright and early next morning we were making our way even further south to the roach pit.  That bright and early bit was in fact misleading, there was a heavy mist about and we did not leave the house until 8:00am since the roach fishing seems to improve as the day wears on.  Arriving at the lake the mist had gone and just three overnight stay carp anglers were present so no problems in getting a swim.  Purely for comfort we chose to have the slight breeze off our backs, again the wind had an edge to it so why not be as comfortable as possible?   I had contemplated the use of a float rod, but experience here suggests that the quivertip approach would produce far better results.  Short hook-link on a helicopter style rig, size 18 hooks to 3lb line and a small swimfeeder was soon set up, and I cast into the shadow of a tree to give me a constant target for the day ahead.  Red maggots were the bait this time and with the use of a small catapult I sent out a pouch of maggots and the same of hemp hoping to get the attention of any roach in the area.  It did not take too long before a positive pull on the tip resulted in the first roach of the day for me and at 1lb-14oz it was to end up as my best weight for the day as well. 
                                               First roach of the day at 1lb-14oz

The fishing was certainly slower than previously experienced, but slowly the total built up, and John laid the marker for the day with a fish of 1lb-15oz followed soon afterwards with a 1lb-12oz specimen.  No matter how many times I see a large roach caught I still get that grand feeling of having seen such a wondrous looking fish, deep of body and steel blue in colour, it is little wonder that they are many anglers favourite species.  We made our way back to the house thinking perhaps a few more fish would have been nice but at the same time we had a good result for November with pleasing to weight specimens for both of us.

                                                John with the 1lb-15oz best of the day.

It was now time for the trip I looked forward to with most anticipation, which was to the River Test.  I am fortunate enough to get the occasional invite to fish in the grounds belonging to Dave Steuart of salmon fishing fame.  He lives on the banks of the river and looks out of his dinning room window to watch salmon leap and roach roll just a few yards away.  My target was a 2lb plus roach and trotting was the order of the day with maggots as bait.  John was to try a slight variation in that he would use casters to see if that would produce a better class of fish.

                                              Dave will sometimes move to the riverside to watch the fish

Again the day began with mist and slight drizzle, but after stopping for a very welcome full English breakfast, it was now looking quite good, and the forecast was dry and fine.  Setting up the trotting gear I used a 2.5 SSG chubber float, the bulk shot set 18 inches above the hook using the AAA size with just a BB as a tell tale shot about 6 inch above the size 18 hook.  The rod was the usual Drennan 14ft Ultralight that has landed so many of my roach and chub specimens without too much worry.   On this venue the order of the day is lots of bites from small grayling up to perhaps a maximum of 1.5lb; add to this a good mix of brown trout with possible double figure specimens to be caught.  A few chub and dace are there and of course the roach.  These might go up to the 3lb mark although none of that weight have been taken in recent times, a 2lb specimen is there, but again not too many and it remains a very challenging target for the visiting angler.

The morning session had us both worried with very poor results to the point that John said it was definitely the worse he has experienced there over a good number of years.  As could be expected with the lack of rain the river was very low with a flow that was slow compared to that normally experienced.  There was also a lot of suspended matter that Dave suggested was coming from a trout farm just upstream of our location, tons of crap going into the river on low conditions certainly cannot be good.  I wondered about trying different swims but my result stayed similar, a few grayling and just one brown trout of about 4lb, not what the doctor ordered.

John had taken a couple of roach amongst very few fish, but at 1lb-9oz and 1lb-12oz they looked very good, now having been to the bottom of the stretch available, I returned to a swim below John’s position.  It was now early afternoon and my first dozen trots through the swim [previously fished without success] I caught a grayling on each run through.  Things were looking up although nothing seemed different to me, same weather and the river had not changed never the less the next trot down saw the float disappear and the strike met that ‘thump-thump’ that suggests and roach.  A couple of those grayling had dropped off the hook as I tried to bring them to the net, when I saw this roach I prayed pretty hard for it to stay on and it did.

Lifting it out I could see it would easily be the 2lb target I had in mind and the digital scales soon confirmed that with a weight of 2lb-6oz, brilliant!  John quickly got the photos done and the fish was returned to continue on its way to that 3lb weight, hopefully I could be about to catch it.  That improvement in the catch rate continued for both of us and a good number of 1lb plus roach came to the nets though none beat the 1lb12oz for John, and of course the 2lb 6oz specimen for me.

                                                          2lb-6oz River Test roach.

There it is then, three days in the south, different venues and good fish caught with that last gem for myself.  Plans are already being made for a return and this time it may well be the Hampshire Avon and those big chub that are the target, I’ll let you know.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lake Roach and River barbel - a great mix of fishing styles

Going towards the south of the country is always exciting, although there are good fishing areas around the midlands and north of the country, the southern lads have it made for specimen fishing.  I have three days planned in the company of John Found, two on the river Kennet, and one going to the roach pit in the search for a 2lb plus specimen.   For November the weather could not have been better and pulling into the car park on the Kennet venue just after dawn the temperature was around 11C, the other side of the coin was that the river was still extremely low as the odd bit off rain had had no effect at all.

                                                    River Kennet - big barbel live here.

Today both John and I were to try a maggot approach and I had a good supply of both maggot and hemp to meet any eventuality, the amount being used depends a great deal on the response of the fish.  Once the swim had been decided I bait dropped ten droppers of maggot and six of hemp; then I went for a walk.  Generally when using maggot or caster as the main line of attack it is not to catch just one fish, rather the approach is to encourage the fish to get pre-occupied, and thereby allowing you to take a number of fish from the swim without disturbing the others present.
                                                         Just add water and fish for a perfect mix

The plan was perfect, but at the end of the day we retired from the river with just a small 4lb barbel falling to John’s attempt, I blanked!  It is not the first time I’ve seen the effort and time spent on the method fail, but then it will not be the last.  There seemed to be no reason for the lack of response as definitely there were fish in both swims, but that is what makes fishing unpredictable.

It was now Wednesday and the forecast was for an even warmer day and possibly a sight of the sun making an appearance.  The lake we were to fish has done roach to near, or even over 3lb, but my best is one of 2lb-4oz caught in the Spring, but not sure what to expect at this time of the year.  I suppose the roach will be at their normal good condition weights without spawn, so take 4oz-6oz off the spring weights where spawn is a factor and it would be a fair guess.
                                                    Equal best of the day at 1lb-13oz

Although I would prefer to float fish for these silver gems we had found that the short hook link on a helicopter style rig was deadly and hence that was the method we would use.   I was first away with a fish of 1lb-10oz; a pleasing start and I commented to John that I would be quite happy if that stayed the best for the day.  Following a few smaller bits another big fish came and at 1lb-13oz it was getting close to that 2lb target we both had in mind.  Now I noticed John’s rod bent over in a nice battle curve, and following an exciting scrap he netted a fish that was to prove to be exactly 2lb on the digital scales.
                                                 Heart stopping moments when a big fish is seen.

  There are few fish that can match the look of a large pristine roach and we both mentioned it would be nice to meet up with that fish in the Spring.  I ended the day with four weighed roach, their weights being 1lb-8oz, 1lb-10oz and two at 1lb-13oz, but John took the honours with that 2lb specimen.
                                                        The best of the day at 2lb exactly.

Throughout the day a kingfisher played hide and seek just along the bank from my fishing position using a small willow as his cover.  I tried to get into a better position for the photo, but the slightest move away from of the small willow between us had him flying to a safer position. 
                                                                      Hide and seek.

Thursday we were back on the Kennet not to be beaten.  Weather was still tremendous for early November but would the barbel play today, time would tell.  We were using casters this time and John soon had a fish of 7lb or so in the net to give us hope that they were feeding.  Quite quickly after that he added another barbel of 9lb-15oz-8drm, the digitals flashed between the two numbers to indicate the 8drm figure but they just would not settle on the 10lb mark.
                                                John with the first of his big 9's

  Then with another fish of 6lb or so, he was beginning to leave me behind but then I got a barbel also in the 6lb range so at least I would not blank.  All the time I was gently introducing a mix of hemp and caster hoping the barbel would find it irresistible.  I went through a spell of perhaps 30 minutes where the rod top would slowly pull round then spring back again, a sure sign of barbel in the swim; it was only a matter of time.  Then at last I got the bite and following a very good scrap I landed what was clearly a big fish.  This time the scales hovered between 10lb and 10lb-1oz so I clearly had my hoped for Kennet double.  John went on to get yet another fish just short of the 10lb mark, it could have been a twin of the first barbel just short of that 10lb mark, but a careful check showed no hook marks so clearly a different fish to either of the other two.
                                                  A 10lb Kennet beauty.

I fished into dark and started packing up at 6:30pm just to avoid the traffic on the 100-mile trip home.  No indications in that extra time but I did get a clear run home following three different, but exciting days.  With slight variations I will be repeating the break next week, I'll let you know the result.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Stories of River barbel, zander and sturgeon, success and failier.

It has been yet another interesting, but frustrating week in the search for specimen fish of different species.  The beginning of the week saw me take the trip to the River Severn in the continuing search for those monster zander that swim throughout the whole length of the river from Worcester to Tewksbury.  A nice, fine day, considering it was now the end of October, it was cool in the strong wind that was blowing but I managed to get down the bank out of its effects, and there I felt quite warm.  The river was still very low with the flow almost at a stop, a 1oz lead held way out towards the middle of the river without a problem.  With roach section on one rod, and a chunk of lamprey on the other, I knew at the very least the baits would be acceptable to any zander in the area.  That was probably true, but it was only the pike that found it and I retired a couple of hours after dark without sight of my target species.

Mid-week saw me on the way back up to the River Dove, it was slightly up from my last trip and the colour had certainly improved with just a tinge of chocolate that I felt should encourage the barbel to feed.  I bait dropped a few droppers of hemp and almost certainly I disturbed a fish, I felt it hit the line as I went to retrieve the dropper after one of the hemps loads had emptied.  Unfortunately that was the only sign of a fish that I, and others I spoke to had before I retired from the river about 11:00pm, better luck next time I hope.

On the Saturday I went to the Tenchfishers AGM, usually attendance at any of these agm’s is quite boring but this one went well.  Discussions on the forth-coming Tenchfishers book and a very interesting talk by Dai Gribble, this involved photographs of numerous very large fish and these in turn had my mind wandering  ‘could I catch that?’  A big bonus for me was that there seemed to be a very good call for copies of my book and probably a third of the sixty or more of the anglers present brought one – hope that continues.
                                                                        25lb- 7oz for me

                                                            25lb-8oz for Curtis.
On the Sunday I was booked in for the last visit of the year to the sturgeon water I been trying this year.  I nearly got the photograph of the big one last time, but as reported in the blog at probably over 60lb it went through the landing net my friend was using as he went to lift it from the water, no photo and not weighed.  This trip saw both Curtis and I get our hooks into sturgeon of 25lb plus but it was almost dark when Simon, another friend warned that a fish he had hooked was heading towards our end of the lake with him in very little control.  As previously mentioned these sturgeon fight like no other English species, we may argue about their place in our waters but one cannot argue their fighting spirit.  When they get as big as this one eventually proved to be, then you really are in for a scrap where most of the time you come a poor second.  At 62lb-3oz it really was a monster but unfortunately it also proved to be foul-hooked in the pectoral fin and as Simon made the comment “Just 8 inches away from total success.”
                                                                     62lb-3oz for simon.

Just a note to end in order to remind you that the 'Targets set and Achieved' book is available and there are still a couple of leather copies waiting to be grabbed with both hands, details on the web page.  http://www.philsmithangler.co.uk/

Saturday, 29 October 2011

River barbel & Lake zander - If at first you don't succeed .....

It has been an interesting week, three afternoon/ evening sessions on the canal after the elusive zander that went a long way to prove they are still elusive.  Nine zander sessions spread over different lake, river and canal venues has resulted in just three fish, one of 10lb-3oz from the lakes, one of 5lb from the canals, and one maybe 5lb from the river.  I am definitely not setting the zander world alight with my results.

                                                                Best zander so far this season.

Almost everybody I've spoken to with reference to fishing the River Severn for zander has related how the river is alive with them.  Drop a bait in, and a zander will attach itself in no time, after all my years experience I should have known better than to accept these statements at face value, but I did get good information on a recent evenings slide show.

Arranged by the Birmingham region of the PAC, it was a talk by Dilip Sarker on the zander in the River Severn, well I had to go to that didn’t I?   Over the course of a couple of hours Dilip showed the development of the Severn as a premier zander venue.  He also gave ample evidence of the success both he, and a small group of friends, have achieved with fish to over 20lb being taken.  The other side of the equation was that he also identified the amount of time and effort that went into getting those results, definitely not easy.  Find a feeding pack of them and you can catch but that can take time.  I’m sure that this talk will appear elsewhere on the circuit and I would recommend you make the attempt to see it.

Of course I could not let a week go by without a visit to the river for barbel.  With all that rain on Thursday I thought the rivers would respond with a raise in levels and colour, so off I went to the Dove only to find it still at the bottom end of its summer level.  We drastically need rain and lots of it!   I fished from 2:00pm through to 10:30pm and my result was just one dropped fish.  It was still light when for the second time my rod tip on the pellet bait gave a tap-tap-tap type of bite.  I had struck and missed the first occurrence, but follow this strike a powerful fish shot downstream taking line off the clutch.  It had only gone about 10yds-15yds when the hook came free and I was left to ponder what had happened.  My conclusion was that the fish was browsing over the loose feed from the swim-feeder and my strike had resulted in a foul-hooked fish.  Most times I feel that if the hook comes free early on in the fight with any fish it is probable that it was not fairly hooked, then as soon as the line angle to the hook-hold allows, it will come free.  Not very scientific but it allows me to rationalise the loss of a potentially good fish!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Canal zander - The cost of fuel and effect on fishing.

Yesterday I had a choice of fishing venues to try, not fixed in stone, but the three choices I was considering were, the River Severn at Worcester for zander, the River Derwent for chub and perch, then lastly the local canals for zander.

Both the Derwent and Severn involve a round trip of about 100 miles, the travelling does not bother me, but fishing a number of times each week as I do the cost of that trip at near £20 needs to be taken into account.

The Derwent might provide a perch of near or even over 4lb, then the chance of possibly a 7lb chub, both of these weights being the top end of the day dream, but there to be caught.  The Severn already holds the zander record and it is quite possible that another fish swims there to beat that figure again, certainly a fish to beat my best of 16lb-5oz is in the waters I am fishing.  The canals cannot compete with this, and the target sights have to be lowered considerably.  Realistically my dream canal fish would be a double, 10lb or more of zander from a canal would be as big an achievement as the 15lb plus specimen from the Severn, maybe even better than that!

Decision made, I went to the canal with minimal tackle to allow a very mobile approach.  Two rods, landing net, tackle bag and chair, I was ready.  My bait would be lamprey on one of the rods and small 4 inch roach on the other, a small float set slightly overdepth would give bite indication and the rods would be laid along side the tow-path with the bait runner set to give line, just in case.

I was not alone, 100 boats and 200 dog walkers passed me by as I leap-frogged along the canal, it can be surprising how far you travel in this way, ten minutes in a spot and move, another ten minutes move again.  There are very few features so the move is done more by distance than to a particular spot, no worry the zander don't seem to be packed in any definate area, probably being on the search for food all the time.

                                                           Not big but pleasing to catch.
A warm day, though the wind did get up to quite a blow, I had just one take from a medium size zander, but pleasing to have avoided the blank.  Next trip out will be to more distant locations, no doubt that 50 mile run somewhere will come into the equation but that's my fishing life.


Sunday, 23 October 2011

River barbel - Lows and highs of Autumn.

As with all normal fishing it has been a week of highs and lows for me, low on the fishing front, but a high on the entertainment side.  Following the great session on the Derwent last week it almost had to be downhill, and sure enough it was.  Early on in this week I went to the Severn after those big zander again, fished 2pm to 9pm with only a munched up end to a lamprey bait to show for the effort, probably an eel.
Mid-week I went to try a new sturgeon venue, it looks good but although I saw a sturgeon of about 10lb caught my result was a biteless few hours, those fish managed to ignore my meat and salmon offerings without any effort, but I'll be back to try there again.

Then a return trip to the Severn for the zander, but this time I edged my bets.  With the usual two rods in action I had one out with a small roach deadbait for zander, and the other was fishing with a monster crab boilie for the barbel.  The barbel rod won 1-0 with a fish of about 6lb.

Then came the highlight in that the annual Milton Keynes Specimen Group had their yearly function, this one to celebrate 25 years since they began.  With 80 or more like minded anglers it got a bit crowded by the time the guest speaker - Mick Brown - began his talk.  He opened with the comment that with so many anglers in the crowded into the room we had about 20 minutes of air left before we all lapsed into unconsciousness.  Fortunately although we did not need any central heating on, the air conditioning was just sufficient to keep us alive and attentive to the talk.

Mick talked us through a lifetime of dedicated angling where he managed that rare achievement of earning his living for the last 20 years from angling alone.  Many aspire to this, but very few succeed, and Mick did highlight the sacrifices made, as well as those many highlights he has had.  A very good talk with photographs of the highest quality to show off tremendous specimen fish.
                                              Mick signing books - The wide angle lens did not do justice to the crowded room.

Books sales went well, and you can get your copies from http://www.philsmithangling.co.uk/

Sunday, 16 October 2011

River Barbel bonaza

Sometimes the Gods smile just a little bit more than usual, I had said that a return to the River Derwent was in order since I felt my result on Thursday, with just one barbel, was below what I thought it should have been, well I returned.

Arriving early in the afternoon, I spoke with a regular visitor who had been there from 8am, he related that his car had been frozen over before he left home, and the field was white over when he arrived. Not a good start for a barbel fishing session, if you add in the totally clear, blue, sky that hung above us like a big blue blanket then things looked bad. Unlike a blanket though, this sky effect just threatened yet another cold night to come.

I settled into my swim and cast out the two pellet loaded feeders, one with the usual 8mm pellets on the hair, and this went across towards the far bank. The other carried a 15mm well glugged Monster Crab boilie, and this went downstream and perhaps a third of the way across. The afternoon passed but nothing disturbed the rods and the regular visitor faired the same, he decided he had fished long enough by the 4pm sort of time and left to avoid the football crowds, leaving me on my own. It must be a sign of the times when I can be on a good section of river, on a Saturday, and have no-one else there, recession or just a sign of falling interest in rivers, I'm not sure, but the old adage of use of  "Use it or lose it" comes to mind.

Around 6pm another angler appeared and dropped into the swim vacated by the previous chap, just like musical chairs, but when it happens we don't know by who, or when our chosen swim was occupied prior to our arrival. Often when poor results are attained this could be the cause, the previous angler could have already given the fish a hammering, or loaded his bait in when he left, you never know.

Darkness fell and still no fish, but I hoped that the warmth of the day would have beaten that cold start, sometimes the early frosts of the season are not too detrimental. About 7pm I finally got my barbel bite and went on to land a fish of about 6lb, this was followed by others of 7lb odd and 8lb odd with a nice fat 9lb-8oz fish coming between them.

It was now just after 8pm, and although my original thought was to pack up at 8pm I had now decided that with the fish feeding I would stay until 9pm.  It turned out this was a good decision as I then landed a fine barbel of 11lb-4oz to equal my river pb.

                                                               11lb-4oz Derwent double
It was even better when a 10lb-8oz fish soon followed.


That 10lb fish came just after the 9pm mark, but by then I had already decided on 10pm to finish - you must take advantage of the good days to make up for all those bad ones. The sport slowed down now and it was near to my deadline time when I caught yet another barbel of 9lb-6oz. I was tempted to call it a day but with seven barbel along with a couple of small chub already landed I thought of the possible long cold spell that might hit and decided that 11pm did not sound that late after all.

It was getting quite chilly, but the adrenalin was keeping me warm as the minutes went past with just the occasional knock on the rod tip to suggest fish were still out there. As that 11pm time approached I hovered over the rods, pack up or not, time to decide. Then the pellet baited rod sprang to life and I was playing a good fish yet again. Great fun, and exciting, but then while this was going on the boilie bait on the other rod was taken, all I could do was strike and make the rod safe, leaving it way back on the rod rests while I landed the first fish. After one hell of a tussle I ended up with two barbel, both still hooked and laying in the net to recover. I could see that the first of these was a very good fish, and when I finally got the smaller of the two unhooked and released, I got round to checking it properly. I had put it back in the water while I sorted out the bits and tackle laying around, but when I got him out and weighed him I got the great surprise of looking at a figure of 12lb-2oz for a new river personal best again, life can be good at times.

                                                       New river personal best 12lb-2oz.
As a matter of interest the fish fell fairly evenly between the two different baits, it seems they were ready for a munch, and I was there to provide it.!

Friday, 14 October 2011

River Barbel conditions at last!

After another blank session on the River Severn after zander, well, one take off an eel to be fair, I decided to try the Derwent again.  The weather is holding quite well, and those very high temperatures of a few weeks ago are just a distant memory that is better forgotten.  I arrived at the river early afternoon and found what looked to be perfect conditions for barbel fishing.  River up about one foot and falling, but a nice amount of colour rather than the tap water effect that has been the normal of late.  I had the usual array of bait, and started the session with the open-ended feeders loaded with a 50/50 mix of pellet and hemp that has produced so many barbel for me this season.  The hook-bait on the one-rod was a Monster Crab boilie, and on the other rod the bait was the usual 8mm pellet.

With five anglers spread out along the length of river I was fishing, it certainly suggested that everyone thought the fish would be on the munch, but the hours passed and the rod-tips did not move, either for me or them.  As dusk approached a couple of fish were landed and that at least gave hope, but it was just 15 minutes before my self-imposed deadline of 9.00pm before my rod indicated action. 

This barbel had taken the well glugged boilie, plenty of flavour for the coloured river, and when landed it proved to be a nice fat barbel of 10lb-6oz.  If I was destined to only get one fish it is nice that it was a double.  I’ll be back soon on this river since I’m sure it should have fished better in those conditions.

                                                             Derwent double.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The search for monster Pike and Sturgeon.

Each season I take the chance of a visit to one of the many trout reservoirs in the attempt to catch a 30lb pike, I say 30lb but in reality a 20lb fish would have done almost as well.  Over the years I have seen many good fish caught, though most of them fell to live-bait both legal and illegal.  I’ve kept to the rules and although not the only reason for my failure, it certainly it did not help my attempts with the result that I still await my first 20lb plus pike from those venues.

This trip I was fishing at Chew Valley with a few friends from the Orchid Lakes region and my boat companion would be John George, good company since I fished the same venue with him last year, though other than some small pike on that trip we blanked.  Unfortunately this year followed the same track, we took a few jack-pike again, but our group of four anglers blanked yet once more with regards to the bigger fish.  John did manage a nice brown trout that gave him a new personal best for the species, but I will have to wait for next year to get that hoped for 30lb specimen, maybe!

                                            John with his near double brown trout.

Following two long days sitting in a boat the last thing I really wanted to do was go fishing the next day.  Unfortunately when I booked up the days for the sturgeon trips I over-looked the pike trip so I was committed to go.  The fortunate thing is that when the alarm clock woke me at 5:00am that Sunday morning I was eager to go, there is a 60lb plus sturgeon with my name on it and I find this fishing quite exhilarating, even the 20’s can go like a bat out of hell.

Along with my four companions, different ones to the pike trip, we arrived before dawn and it was a case of waiting for the light levels to be sufficient to see the floats once they were cast out.  Just before 7:00am that time came, and out went my float fished salmon chunks, nothing but the best for these fish, and I did not wait long before the float dipped and I struck into a hard fighting fish.  With its power I was forced to travel down the lake and finally landed him some 50 yards or so away from my original swim.  During the final stages of the battle I could see I had hooked one of the big fish known to exceed 60lb, problem was the hook was not in its mouth; not the same but I looked forward to weighing and getting a photo of him as a record of a great scrap.  Simon had recently purchased a 60inch landing net from the Catmasters site, and with this to enfold the fish there seemed little to worry about, but I was totally wrong on that point.

Once the fish was in the net I shot off to get the weighing gear and camera from my tackle-bag, but as I went to return the call came that the fish had escaped through the bottom of the net.  Of course I thought this was a wind-up but then the net was held up high to confirm the deadly truth – he was gone without being weighed and no photos would be taken.  The near brand new net had a 12inch hole in its base where Simon had attempted to lift the fish onto the bank only to see it slide away to safety.  Surely a 60inch net should be made to take the weight of a big fish, this one certainly was not so take heed when you look for such equipment.  The rest of the day passed quite pleasantly, I took another fish of 27lb, and the other lads caught more 20lb plus fish to a best of 27lb-11oz.  Lots of good sport, but I must wait for the next chance in November and hope one of those big fish put in another appearance – this time into a better landing net!
                                                      Nice specimen but not the target!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Too hot for fishing!

With the temperatures reaching record heights of near 30C it was quite comfortable sitting in the Conference Centre at Kettering.  It was the Pike Angler's Club  annual get-together, and hundreds of pike lovers decended on the venue in their droves.  With the air conditioning going at full blast this definately beat being on the bank somewhere, melting in that blazing sun.  For those that did attend there were plenty of attractions, both in the form of talks being given by prominant pike anglers, and a large array of stalls selling everything, this was of course including myself trying to convince a pike angler that there are other worthwhile fish out there.  Fortunately there are still enough all round fishermen to make the day a success, I think that most of those attending will have found something to please them and they will leave following a great day.
                                       Thanks to Tom Balaam for the shot of me signing his book.

I also took the chance to get a bit of tackle, and Monday evening I will be trying it out the those River Severn zander followed by two days boat fishing on Chew Valley Res next week-end. - I'll let you know if it works.