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.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Autumn Leaves and barbel.

With the forecast giving a big drop in temperatures, I decided on a trip north to try and progress my barbel river doubles target.  Currently it stands at 23 different rivers where I caught such a barbel, but why stop there?  I have already tried the River Goyt on a few occasions and have indeed caught some nice barbel from its depths, but not the double, perhaps this time it will reward my effort.
I had seen that Des Taylor would be giving a talk to the local branch of the Barbel Society so I decided I would go up to Stockport early on the Tuesday morning and fish though to about 7:00pm, then I could make my way the couple of miles to the meeting room ready for the8:00pm start.  I would stay in the van overnight ready for another try on the Wednesday and back home late that evening.
                                               The leaves show the crease line quite nicely.

My first choice of swim showed the one thing I had forgotten to allow for, it is autumn and the leaves are falling causing major disruption to any line laying in the flow of the river.  In just a few minutes the line would be clogged to the limit and a recast would be needed, worse was that it often moved the swimfeeder a this invariable found one of the many rocky snags which litter the bed of this particle venue.
I moved to a swim that had a nearside crease and slack water to give a little sanctuary from the pesky problem and it seemed this would work as within moments of my first cast I landed a small barbel.  The leaves still came into the slack but without the push of the flow they were an acceptable problem.  I had bait dropped hemp and casters as is one of my favoured methods and it seemed to have worked, but I thought too soon that my ship had come in.
                                                The first cast and first of many I hoped!
It was now mid-morning and I quickly took a small grayling to give a mixed bag so obviously fish were feeding, maybe that time had come.  It came and went just like that and the constant rebaiting and attention to detail gave me no favours with the 7:00pm deadline coming with no further action to report.
                                                  Alway a welcome fish to my net.
I arrived at the talks venue to find it well attended and Des’s talk went down very well as one would expect from such and angler.  Lots of chance to talk to local lads and friends made over previous trips, and we caught lots of barbel in the room – would the next day work its wonders, I retired for the night and that was my question as I fell asleep.
One big advantage of this period of the year is that dawn comes at a respectable time, around 7am I was making my way to the new choice of swim, again a slack but further down the river and hopefully there would be a resident big fish waiting for my bait to arrive.  I fished hard and even stayed until a bit later, but all to no avail as just one small chub took the bait and it seemed that no one on the river caught barbel – maybe next time when hopefully the leaves will all have fallen and been swept away.
                            The chub lays on a bed of leaves taken out of the slack.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Double figure barbel are always welcome.

With nothing to do I decided on a last minute afternoon trip to the Warwick Avon for the barbel.  The EA river check showed it to be in great condition and a phone call to a couple of friends fishing the river at the time confirmed that to be correct.  I set out and around 3:0pm I was there and looking at perfect barbel water, they must be feeding in these conditions.

Quite quickly I was up and running with my two baits placed in the flow, one alongside a near bank bed of pipe stem rushes, and the other out in the main flow not quite the middle of the river.   Bait choice was one of my usual mixes for these conditions, Elips pellets on the near rod and Monster Crab boilie on the other all I needed now was a fish to show interest.
                                                             Sunset over the Avon
Dusk seems to come early now and by just gone 6:00pm it was well heading into dark with a glorious sunset sky.  Shortly after the darkness fell I got a rattle type bite that I knew was unlikely to be a barbel and so it proved.  A chub approaching 4lb had decided to try the pellets and got hooked up for its foolishness, quickly returned and I was waiting again.
                                                 The first visitor of the evening.
Time seems to stand still when settled in for the night, but my watch showed that my chosen finishing time of 11:00pm was fast approaching and nothing more had happened.  At regular intervals I had recast both rods and refilled the pellet mix I was using in the feeders, soon after my last cast of the night the pellet rod indicated action again.  This time it screamed off and I was not surprised to hit into a barbel though he did appear to have gone into the reed bed and was well stuck.

I tried all the usual tricks, pulled very hard, went as far downstream as I could and tried a pull from there, slack line to see if he would move but none worked and I felt this was a lost fish.  Almost as a last gamble I went along the bank and got a position level with where he appeared to be holding, then with the rod held as far out as possible I tried to lift it directly upwards and almost to my surprise he came free.   A quick few steps back upstream and a very strong battle on a short line followed, no good letting him go back into the rushes and at last he weaken going quietly into the waiting net.
                                                                Always welcome.
The Fox scales flashed between exactly 10lb and the 10lb-1oz mark, but a double no matter what, great result and always welcome.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Three monster sturgeon captured.

I’ve been waiting for some weeks for the day to arrive and finally on Tuesday it did, and along with Merv and Neil Wiggall I set out on a pre-arranged trip after monster fish.  Some time ago I had been told of a water that held carp to 40lb plus, and cats along with sturgeon to very large sizes.   I just had to get the details and book up for a try, now we were on our way for a 48 hours session.  With the three of us in the front seats of the van it was a tight squeeze, but I had intended to arrive about 10:30am and almost to the minute it worked out that way.  We all decided to have a look around the place before beginning to set up tackle, after all we had time enough to land what we all hoped for.  Whilst I would be happy to land a giant carp or catfish my prime aim was a big sturgeon, I’m stuck on 29 over the 20lb mark but it is a 60lb plus that I hope for and this venue to meet that target.
                               My camp at the front with Merv further along.
Not sure why anglers look around lakes since without a method to check the depths it is just a flat sheet of water: but we all do it and in this case we did finally choose swims more for the short walk from the car than any other reason.  Once the choice had been made we were all soon sitting with rods in place and baits positioned in our chosen water section.  Bearing in mind the size of fish I hoped to meet I had increased my gear correspondingly.  My rods were 1oz-4oz Uptide versions along with the old Shimano 6500 baitrunner series, this being a set up I used in Spain and Egypt for the large target fish of that time.  The main line was 80lb Fireline braid and the hook-link was made from 100lb Kevlar going to a size 2:0 Owner Cutting Point hook, this was serious freshwater tackle for whatever took the bait.  With slight variations of strength and make, the other two anglers had similar heavy gear, we came loaded for bear and we could only hope they were hungry.
                                         Just wait for the Roll-Over indicator to move.

A variety of baits would be in use, all of which had succeeded in taking sturgeon from one or another of the three previous waters we had caught these powerhouse specimens from.   Mackerel and herring for fillets, salmon off cuts that accounted for numerous of our specimens were added along with lamprey and sardine, various tinned meats both natural and flavoured, over the 48hrs all would be tried and some would succeed.

The first ninety minutes of my session gave me great hope of success when on three different occasions I had line bites one of which was convincing enough for me to strike.  Along with crucians, the sturgeon must be the most prone of our coarse fish to give line bites.  The crucians will twitch and move your float all over the place and some of the movements must be struck only to either totally miss or often resulting in a foul hooking situation.  Sturgeon seem to be constantly on the move and with those big pelvic fins sticking out either side of a wide body they are just made to catch the line as they go past.  Your line streams off the reel and the resulting strike sometimes hits into a fairly hooked fish, but just as often it is either missed or if hit the fish comes off after a struggle of various lengths of time.  Now I always work on the basic premise that if I lose a fish that comes off the hook during the fight, then it was most probably foul hooked in the first place so it does not matter since I would not count it in my list. 

Not long after this lost fish to me, Mervyn had a similar event where a fish took line off a very tight clutch and almost had him in the lake.   It came off probably some hundred yards away leaving a very unhappy lad, but never the less very excited after the most powerful run from a fish of his 60 year plus angling career.  It was around 3:30 when a call from Neil finally got us to see one of these monsters and by god it was big.  Time and again he got it to the waiting 60inch landing net only to see it power off into the middle of the lake yet again.  As with these things you either eventually land it or lose it and fortunately, he landed it as Merv slipped the net under it only to get absolutely drowned as it trashed about and made a mini tidal wave that encompassed his boots and lower legs.
                                         The waiting net just needs a fish to be complete.

It took all three of us to safely see it onto the waiting unhooking mat.  Then Merv just lay over it whist we sorted out weigh sling and scales ready for the event of seeing just how big this was.  The sling was zeroed against the Ruben Heaton scales hanging on a suitable tripod, and then with the fish safely in it we got it onto the hook where the needle swung round to 85lb.   A new pb for Neil and the biggest fish Merv has seen in the flesh, terrific and now we wanted one!

                                                   The 1st of the monsters at 85lb.
Dark seemed to come quite quickly and by 6:30 we were on torches in a very black night, over the coming hours I had lots of line bites in the form of a short series of bleeps to full blooded runs, but no fish hooked and the Wednesday dawned with all three of still waiting for the next action.  Throughout Tuesday there had been very little action from fish breaking the surface, but now there were carp leaping at regular intervals and other signs of fish movement all over the place.  They might have been showing us they were there but nothing took the baits, and the first 24hrs of our trip passed without another fish coming to the net.  The time was passed in watching the wild life around the lake and the fighter planes passing overhead, difficult to photograph but I had plenty of time and a digital camera take as many failed tries as you need, just delete the ones that miss.

                                           They go past pretty quickly.

Darkness came yet again and as I watched the space-station pass overhead, bright against the very dark background, I wondered if perhaps we would only get that one chance.  It was around 11:00pm when the answer came, and a shout form Merv of ‘I’m in’ brought both Neil and me to his aid as he again struggled against an unseen monster.  A different lever of power than his previous encounter he soon had this under control but even so it was a little time before it was safely in the net and he could celebrate a new pb fish.  Again the needle on the scales went round to very pleasing figures and Merv had a 66lb sturgeon under his belt and we still had some hours to go before we would need to leave.

                                                Merv cradles 66lb of fighting machine.

A fish like that gets the adrenalin going and I was still well awake at 1:00am when the line on my mackerel baited rod went into overdrive and my strike went home.  No need to call as both the other angers were also still awake and heard the commotion as the fish erupted on the water’s surface following my strike.  I’ve had lots of bigger fish while fishing abroad, but this was England and so much more satisfying for that.  A great fight and several minutes later he slipped into the waiting net and I could see he was fairly hooked in the mouth as were both the previous two fish.  Being my capture and in the dark I thought this was going to be bigger than Neil’s 85lb specimen, but the scales told the lie of that thought when it showed 75.5lb, my largest English fish by a considerable margin.

                                                 An English pb at 75.5lb
That was to be the last hooked fish of the trip although we all had other line indications.  It was also noticeable the on the Thursday the surface of the lake again went dead, and when we packed up at 4.00pm the only question to be answered was when do we return since we definitely will!


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Kennet doubles and Test roach.

Last week was quite busy in that following the fishing on the River Severn on Sunday and Tuesday that had produced double figure barbel on both days, I had a trip south planned from Wednesday through to Sunday evening.  The basis for the trip was that I would help John Found with a Barbel Society fish in week-end on the Kennet, and at the same time have a trip on the River Test on the Thursday.  With an early start needed for that Test day I decided I would go down on the afternoon of the Wednesday hence the long session.  I normally only fish maybe four days a week but this would be a comparative marathon that would hopefully produce some interesting fish.

Mid-morning on the Wednesday I set out on the 100 mile journey down to the River Kennet and upon arrival I found the river to be in perfect condition for my barbel attack.  I had made a stop at Lanes tackle shop in Coventry and I picked up bait that I hoped would see my through four days on the Kennet and another day on the test.   Ten pints of casters and a gallon of red maggots – expensive but you only live once and I was sure that this would give me a better chance of success than either boilies or pellets as the main bait to be used.  As always when barbel are the target I had also boiled up a gallon of hemp and this would form the main attraction with the casters keeping the fish occupied once they arrived in the swim.  The maggots were mostly for the Test, where trotting through with maggot is always the approach to be used with great effect.

Well I start at the beginning and relate the Wednesday action; yes there was some which is not always guaranteed on this venue.  Arriving early afternoon I made my way to the river leaving behind my normal boilies and pellets having invested too much cash in the caster to ignore them.  I dropped my tackle off as soon as I reached the river, it seems to get heavier by the day but that is probably just age catching up.  Then I walked most of the length looking at swims and how the venue had changed since I was last here the previous season.  The floods had left their mark in washed out banks and fallen trees lying in the river, it looked quite inviting and certainly good for barbel.  The river appeared to be at what I would call normal winter lever, a little extra water and colour, but not excessive.  I chose a swim with a nice flow under my feet and with the tips passed on by John I knew there would be six foot or more of depth in that position, spot on for bait dropping accurately.  I know I have mentioned this many times but it does stand repeating, accurate bait dropping catches more fish, if you cannot do it then practice until you can since it will pay rewards later.  I mixed two pints of casters into the hemp at about 50/50 and then put about twelve droppers of the mix into the swim perhaps 4ft from the near bank, now I could set the tackle up at my leisure since I was already into the fishing mode and the bait could work its magic.

The day was quite pleasant and it was very nice to be out on the bank with that chance of a big barbel just waiting to be caught.  I am sure you know that feeling and once ready I bait dropped another five droppers before casting a bait into the swim.  Tackle was as I normally use, this being the Drennan 1.75lb test barbel rods with 12lb main line and the usual combo hooklink going to a size 12 Pallatrax hook.  The hair carried three natural casters super glued in torpedo fashion onto the hair, if small fish proved too much hassle I could change to artificial but in the event it was not required.  That was it, and now I cast out ready to wait for the three foot twitch that is so exciting to see, any size fish could be responsible.

I had hoped for a quick response but it was not to be and as I approached the 7.15pm kicking off time I was ready for a blank.  Extra mix had been put into the swim at regular intervals, perhaps in the order of every 45mins or perhaps the hour, but so far nothing had even twitched the tip an inch let alone three foot.  Then at 6.50pm the rod slammed round and I was into a powerful fish that gave the impression of being far larger than it eventually proved to be.  When the scales went to a very pleasing 11lb-2oz I was well happy with the first double off the river this season and I still had three more days to go on the venue.
                                                     11lb-2oz.  It was still light but flash makes it dark.
Day two had an early start and John and I made our way down to the River Test via a very nice full English breakfast.  Once there we passed an hour talking with our host the now famous author and big fish angler Dave Steuart who has the most wonderful front garden you can imagine.  Again the river looked in fine trim though perhaps a little more of the weed had survived than I would have liked.  This of course limited some of the usual swims making trotting extremely difficult, but there were still plenty of other sections that would respond to the tactic.  The day was fine, warm and dry giving both John and I the chance to catch lots of fish, grayling to 1lb-8oz and roach to 1lb-4oz, not the 2lb of either species that are present in the stretch but I did see the big roach.  There are a number of big brown trout in the section since Dave has always insisted on the browns being returned quickly to the water.   To help these fish and for his own pleasure he has made a couple of sections of the bank out of bounds for fishing, it almost goes without saying that this was where I could see half a dozen roach that were the best part of big two’s or possibly even three’s.  With those browns present it was a fair certainty that we would lose the occasion monster on the tackle we employed for the roach, but never the less we did land fish to over 6lb having had a terrific scrap off them.
                                                         Lots of these.

                                                       Some of these.
            Along with a few of these.
                                                   Dave feeds the trout in one of the banned sections.
Day three and I was back on the Kennet again this time on my own since John had other business to attend to.  No problem and there were several other anglers that came on during the day some just for the late afternoon having finished work a little early.  This time I chose a swim a little bit further down the river, a nice smooth glide going past a snaggy section on the opposite bank.  I decided to fish two rods, a maggot feeder fished across to the snags and the caster/hemp down along the nearside bank.  It seemed a long time from my early start until the 5:30pm time when at last I got the first bite of the day to the maggots, again one hell of a fight and yet again the scales showed 11lb-2oz.  A nearby couple of anglers came along for the weighing and to help with photos though I was fairly thoughtful it was the same fish as I had caught on Wednesday.  In actual fact a later look at the photos showed they were definitely different fish, not that important but still a nice touch.

                                             The second double at 11lb-2oz. 
There was the Barbel Society fish in over the next two days but as I left the fishery on Friday evening the rain was just coming in and overnight it chucked it down.  Floodwater is not a problem for barbel but this was absolutely full of rubbish and many swim were impossible to fish.  Five minutes was a long time to keep your tackle in the water before it was swept away with crap on the line and the result was disastrous, two small barbel did get caught but that was the total for the two days.  I retired on Sunday evening happy with the two doubles, but sorry for the missed chances that rain gave me and all the fellow anglers that did not catch.  We did console ourselves with the thought that this is the nature of fishing and we do it because we enjoy it – but!

                                                     At least it was a pretty blank day for me. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A near brace of double figure barbel.

With the rivers still calling, I though another day on the River Severn was in order.  I could go every day, but I learned a long time ago to work on the idea that it is the times you don’t go fishing, that makes the ones that you do so much better.  Anyway, I checked the EA river line and found that the Severn had dropped about another 6ft, no problem in one way but on the Severn a big problem in another.  In a lot of areas of the Lower Severn where you may be fishing on natural banks without the interference of anglers making steps and platforms, the height of the river can be important.  In high flood you can sit on the top and with a long landing net handle still reach fish perhaps 6ft or even 8ft below your position, once the level falls below that you need to go down the bank.  Any angler that fishes spate rivers or those like the Severn with high banks that get covered on a regular basis will know the problem, silt that gives a layer of mud over everything in sight.  On steep banks where footing can be dicey at the best of times this adds an extra danger since falling into a flood river is definitely not recommended.

All this means that I cannot return to my previous choice of venue mentioned in the last blog and instead I chose one where I knew of a few spots that would allow safe access the lower levels down the bank all be it still covered with think mud.  Once at the venue I chose a swim and then from the field behind my choice I managed to collect straw that the combine harvester had missed, then I used that to make the swim just a little bit safer.  It was now mid-afternoon and whilst talking to another angler that had just arrived I made my first cast with a boilie bait and the usual pellet loaded feeder.  The lad went off to get his swim ready and mentioned if I needed a photo just call, He was still cleaning the mud from his pitch when I was there to ask for a photo.  I had been loading pellets into the second feeder and looked up to see the rod just wrapping round in response to the usual violent barbel take, a definite 3ft twitch.  In line with my usual practice I had made the landing net safe to let the barbel recover after the fight before I removed the hook so when I returned with my cameraman we weighed the fish having both suggested a definite double.  Wrong again, and the scales came in at 9lb-15oz a weight that was to deny me the brace of doubles on the session.
                                                          At 9lb-15oz the smaller of the brace.
With a nice fish already in the bag I continued and the next bite produced a different result.  This indication was almost an apology for a bite, just a gentle tug-tug that went on to produce a 7lb-10oz bream one of two that I had before I finished the day.  Normally I am inclined to dismiss the river bream as they will fall between the 1lb and 4lb range, but this one just looked big and only the lack of thickness in the body stopped it going into doubles figures that I so prize off the stillwaters.
                                                Too much hand showing on this 7lb-10oz bream

The afternoon was proceeding quite nicely and I was well pleased with my catch already landed, but then it got even better.  The rod went round and I struck into solid resistance, my first thought was a big fish, but there seemed no thump that you normally get and the pull was getting stronger by the moment.  I had almost convinced myself that I had hooked into a passing log or tree branch when I felt that tell-tale thump and now I got excited – this could be very big.  Following an interesting fight that was totally different to the first barbel in that this fish did not charge round, just solid power, I landed a very pleasing barbel that was to turn the scales to 11lb-10oz.  The photographer was equally impressed and although he had taken a couple of barbel as well they did not need my photography aid being a best of 8lb plus.
                                                               11lb-10oz of power!
It did seem a little strange that these fish had come in daytime and although we both fished until 8pm there was no barbel caught in twilight or darkness as is usually the case on this fishery, maybe next time.