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, 29 June 2013

A monster tench and a new pb.

It has been a strange month with fish difficult to catch, not just by me it would seem the reports were a similar result on many different venues.  Once I had found the Johnson’s crucians had spawned, I turned my attention to the tench and I decided at that point that with the cold Spring I would stay on the tench until they spawned as well.  Of course I would drop the occasional river trip in once the season opened, but tench was to be the main target.  It was expected that the London venue I fish would be difficult, it always is, but I did not expect the local tench water that was so good to me last season to be almost as hard.  All the regular anglers on the lake reported the same; blanks became the normal result with just an occasional fish coming to the net.  It seemed the rivers had similar results with a few good catches as always, but many were struggling though that is not unusual at the start of the season.  Once a couple of weeks had passed and the picture was the same it did give cause to wonder just what the weather and fish were doing to each other. 
                                                 Opening day on the River Tame. 

I had a couple of evenings on the River Tame at Tamworth but other than a couple of knocks on the rod tip nothing happened and I returned to the tench.  Just looking at my diary for June and I can see that my day’s tench fishing were adding up, five days on the local water where nights are not allowed, and eight nights giving 10 days on the Bream/eel/tench water.  I fish for the bream and eels overnight and change to the tench at dawn, bit of a compromise but it seems to have worked over the previous seasons.  I think the bream are disappearing fast and both last season and this I have struggled to catch, previously I would make quite big multiple catches on a regular basis but that is no longer the case.  My best bream from this water is 14lb-2oz but I sure there will be 15lb + fish and maybe even the 16’s or 17’s left as the shoal dies off, all I’ve got to do is catch one of them.

This week I decided on one last trip on the local tench lake, that was Monday and I blanked.  Tuesday I got the gear together and at 6.00pm I left for London with a view to being on the lake ready for the dawn start on Wednesday. A friend had advised he had seen tench although they were on the least accessible section of the lake and it would be quite a job to get the tackle to the swim.  A public footpath passes right by the swims on this section so all the tackle needs to go in one hit if you are fishing on your own.  Leaving some in the swim and going back to the car would be asking to loose part or all of it!  Even with a barrow this trip near knackered me and I took three stops on the way, many years ago I would have done it in one and maybe run part of the way.  With method feed, maggots, worms, swimfeeders and flatbed methods, six rods [spomb and marker rods, three bream/ tench rods, and an eel rod] brolly camp, water and the other odd bits you need like cooking gear and food, it’s a wonder I survived.
                                                      Dinner time for the fish - I hope!
Once at the swim I quickly set up the marker rod and had a bit of a chuck round to see if I could find any features, I found a small bar about 30 yards straight in front of my position, about 5ft deep, off to the left it dropped off into a gulley at about 7.5ft, two rods in the shallow section and the third in the deeper water, job done and I left the marker on top of the bar.  Now it was a simple matter to cast out the Spomb to the marker and clip up ready for putting out my feed.  I now cast the tench rods out to the marker as well so I could put a little power gum on to the line as a marker for length giving the confidence that my bait would always be in the baited area.  Since I would fish both swims at the same distance I could now reel the marker in and start baiting up using the skyline marks I had taken to show where I would be fishing.  The method feed was based on crushed Vitalin with added Dynamite Silver Explosive X mix to give a guaranteed breakup of the mix once it landed.  To the mix I added hempseed, 10mm Source boilies, sweetcorn and casters along with a few glugs of molasses.  Using the large Spomb I find that it will take about my maximum handful of feed each load with it piled high before I snap it closed, I put eight of these out to each swim in turn and I was ready for the rods.
                                                      Rubber casters on an inline feeder.

                                                            Successful rig and bits to make it.
I started with three different hook arrangements, one on rubber casters, one on a maggot feeder and the last on a combination variation to that shown previously on the blog.  With a bait band tied on to the end of the hook link I slide a piece of artificial corn up next to it and then use a knotless knot to tie the size 14 hook on the rig to finish it off.  Leaving about 4 inches length I ties a figure of eight loop and attach a swivel, then I could place a 10mm Source boilie into the bait band and job done and ready to fish.

At dawn I reeled the eel rod in with the lobworm bait still perfect and untouched, now it was just a case of recasting each bait back out, two in front of me and the other to the left hand swim.  Two of the rods could be left for an hour but the swimfeeder rig needs working and this was recast at regular intervals.  The good thing was that the tench did roll, not at dawn but an hour or so later and they kept it up for about an hour before the activity almost stopped.  Then just an odd fish would show but no bites came to either me or my friend fishing the next swim along from me, very frustrating.

By the time that 10:30am came about I was being to wonder about the weed I was fishing in, perhaps that was masking the baits so a change was needed.  The artificial casters were already being fished popped-up but the other two rigs were on the deck so I set about lifting those as well.  A buoyant maggot lifted the swimfeeder bait and then for the combination rig I placed a slice of foam between the corn and boilie, now all the baits would lift the full 4 inch of the hook link and just maybe be showing above the gossamery silkweed that covered the bar.  Maybe one hour later I got my first positive bite on the water this season and struck into solid resistance, weed was my thought and I expected to need to bring the fish back through solid weed beds.  Taking my time I just gave a steady pull with the 1.25lb test rod wrapped round but no indication of a fish, no thumps or any other encouragement that the fish was out of the weed.  I began to worry since all too often the weed will take the fish off the hook and it is lost, but then I noticed it had kited to the left!  Weeded fish don’t kite – this was obviously just big and heavy and that suggested a nice fat female out there resisting my attempts with steady power.  When it came into sight the size 14 hook took on a whole new meaning and I wished it was more in the size 6 sort of category, but I need not have worried as the tench went into the net.
                                                                      Superb Tench

Just occasionally you look into the landing net and wonder just how big your latest fish would be; this was obviously very big but with the depth of its body just one inch either way in length would make pounds difference in weight.  All fish in this state so close to spawning need extra care and I took my time getting scales etc ready to make her time on the bank as minimum as possible.  First I weighed and use a tape measure to get the statistics, then she was returned to water to rest before I took a couple of photographs.  12lb-1oz with a length of 25.25 inch and a girth of 25.75 inch, a new pb and a real monster that compares very well with any of my other species pb’s.  I caught my first 6lb plus tench in the 1972/3 season and that went 6lb-10oz a real monster in its day, now I had nearly doubled that figure to get a real monster for these modern times.  When I caught that first six I did not think I could reasonably expect to improve it, time showed I was wrong, but can I improve this one, well that’s an open question though it will be very difficult.
                                                A perfect capture of 12lb-1oz tench

                                                       This shows the thickness of the body.

As a matter of interest it fell for the Source boilie rig and I soon changed the second rod over to the same set up but it was to be my only bite.  Fate or luck, call it what you like but with ten days on a 100 acre lake and just one bite and it’s the big one.  I chose this water to concentrate on because I knew that could happen, but how often does the plan work; most times you are on a blank and dreaming of what might have been.


Friday, 21 June 2013

Tench, bream, barbel and eels but only one of them caught.

My poor catch returns continue, but to some degree they are self-imposed in that I choose the venues to catch a fish I want to catch rather than just catching for the sake of it.  At the moment it seems that our sport is generally at a low ebb, of course some of the thousands of anglers that have been out will catch good fish, but a tremendous number did not with me amongst them.   As the Glorious 16th approached I considered if I would have a go on the rivers, there are many to choose from and some offer a better chance of catching than others.  Probably if just catching a barbel was my criteria then I should go to the Trent, but I wanted to catch a fish that would mean something to me so I went to possibly the worse choice I could make – the River Tame at  Tamworth.
                                                 My swim on the River Tame
I have yet to catch a barbel off this river though I know they are there all be it in very low numbers, at least where I fish.  This season I would hope to increase the number of rivers where I’ve caught a double figure barbel from, currently at 23 rivers I am going to target four more, the Tame, Nene, Ribble and Goyt.  I could catch on the first trip to each or totally fail on all of them, but that is the challenge and the fun of my quest.  With just a few knocks off chub the first trip was the first of many blanks I shall probably experience, but the satisfaction of success should it come will be far greater than just catching another barbel for the sake of it.

My tench / bream efforts suffered another blank as well, again the choice is more for quality than quantity but even the local tench venue is not doing too well at the moment going by reports I’ve had.  Along with most of the lakes in the Colne Valley my current choice does contain the potential for very big ells and this year I will be trying to improve my 6lb-10oz pb.  With a third rod out just in front of the marginal rushes I did manage my first eel of the season, at 3lb-9oz not a monster but a start.
                                                A pointed head on a worm eating 3lb-9oz eel.
                                                      What's in a photograph?
They say a photo is worth a thousand words, and the photo above needs a few to explain just what you are looking at.  The photo is a shot of my swim on the London Lake and I’m fishing three rods, two for tench and a third for eels.  The swim itself in a bay off the main lake which is about 100 acres in extent and my thoughts were that the tench and bream might have moved in ready for spawning, if they did the eels would follow for the feast on their eggs.

The water surface is covered with willow herb seed heads, a pain in the backside in that they are very difficult to remove off your line and can in extreme conditions jam the line when trying to reel in.  A good reason to use rods with large rod rings at this time of the year, a quivertip or match rod would not survive an hour of this.  My torch can be seen hanging off the back of the rod rest, though I normally sleep with one around my neck as well ready for action in the depths of darkness.  The second torch is just in case the first fails which I’ve had happen so I cover the possibility of it happening again.  You might have noticed the catapult laying on the floor and thought this was for putting out bait, but it’s not, a closer look will show a few pebbles lying next to it.  A family of coots had found my nearby baited area with easy pickings and they were making my life difficult.  I am not worried about the little amount of food they might gather but more that I would eventually hook one of them and the ensuing problems.

The blue bowl covers my method mix and groundbait against both possible rain and little creatures that might have come during the night, the maggots tub has casters in water ready to go into the swim at regular intervals and the smaller container has hookbait for the second rod, a mix of corn, pellet and 10mm boilies so I can ring the changes over the three days I’ll be here.

The more observant of you might have noticed the two handles in the photo without apparent use, one on the right going into the reed bed and one on the left going out of picture.  These are in fact the two landing nets.  I try to avoid leaving a net where a rat or such like can get trapped in it and usually bite their way out.  This means leaving the head of it held in a nearby tree or rushes.   The net on the left is one of 50inch and its next to the eel rod,   Eels are sods that only need the tip of their tail to be outside the net and they are back out again in no time.  The other net is more like 40 inch and it is much more manageable for the smaller and more cooperative tench and bream.  Lastly the unhooking mat still folded up tells its own tale; I had blanked up to this point.    Quite a few words to cover a simple photo just imagine if I had included the camp in the shot. 
                                                  Holiday makers set off into the sunset.

                                   Sunset over the main lake - no photoshop just sun and cloud

Friday, 14 June 2013

Tench or barbel? That is the question.

What a cr*p week of fishing  I’ve had, two days on my local tench venue and 48 hours over two nights on the London venue without a bite!  Although I read of the occasional good catch of tench it does seem that many tench anglers are struggling the same as myself, we can only hope that things are going to change.
                                          Very large bream and tench out there somewhere.
I did get the chance to look around the lake over the days I spent down London way and at least Spring seems to be setting in at last, the water birds are nesting and the waterside flowers are coming into full bloom, all we need are the fish to feed on our baits.
                                               Great crested grebe sitting on eggs.

                                                  Lot of colour on the bankside

                                                      The coot watching me watching her.

For me it is always a tossup at this time of the year as to whether to leave the still waters and go onto the rivers as soon as the season starts.  With the late season we have experienced I’m of a mind to continue for the tench, at least until the start of next month.  Of course I’ll drop in the odd river trip, but the main effort will stay on tench while I hope for those elusive doubles.
                                               Target double achieved from last season.

I have already begun to sort out bait for the rivers and I’ve decided on a three prong attack when using boilies.  With Dynamite Baits, www.dynamitebaits.com  dropping my favourite Monster Crab from their range I will change over to their very successful Crave boilie for the effort on some of the rivers I intend to fish.  Meanwhile I approached my local bait maker, Quality Baits, www.qualitybaits.co.uk where he will make up your own choice of flavour and base mix at a very moderate price of say £6 kilo for 15mm and £7.50 for 9mm.  I had him make a supply of a slight variation of the Monster Crab baits in both of these sizes which again I will used over a number of venues.  Last but not least, I picked up a supply of bait at the Barbel Society Conference based on a variation of the Teme Seven Lamprey mix.  This will be used on just one local very lightly fish river to see if prebaiting can work, being a bit closer to my home I can get there two or three times a week to put just a hand full of the bait in and perhaps attract a fish or two to like it.  This change of baits might seem strange, but I do fish a lot of different rivers and spend a lot of time after barbel, it will be interesting to see the different results.

With that mention of the Conference I would be remise if I failed to mention that the committee of the Society awarded the annual Gordon Scott Award for services to the Society and barbel in general to me.  With twelve previous names on the plaques around the base I am well pleased to be amongst such celebrated company.
                                       I've had a bigger brace of barbel but none more welcome.
Last, but not in the least to be ignored, is an invite I received at the conference from the couple that run the Angling Heritage site, http://www.anglingheritage.org/ to take part in an interview along with Peter Wheat discussing our life in fishing.  This would be part of a series under the title of ‘Recollections.’  The content of the interview would then be compiled into a high quality and very limited edition book along with cd discs of the discussion to complete what one would hope would be an interesting piece of history.  This will be the sixth book within the series, the previous versions being Fred Buller/Fred Taylor, Barry Rickards/Des Taylor, Len Arbery/Bob Buteux, Bob Church/ Dave Steuart and John Goddard with Brian Clarke.  I look forward to this effort with great interest although I’m told it does take a considerable time from the interview to the book being produced.

                                                          Boxed delux presentation set.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Big tench and the early worm.

I have been up well before 4:00am over the last two days in order to get the early worm [ they look like tench where I search ], it seems that the fish have all but stop feeding by 9:00am and with the sun beating down I don’t blame them.  The longer I fish the more I’m convinced we know nothing about fish behaviour, why they have changed from feeding all day, even if it was spasmodically, to this almost black and white situation is an unknown factor, at least to me it is.
                                             The dawn just tinges the trees opposite with colour.

                                          A nesting Oyster Catches looking for the eary worm
The water was coloured about a month ago, it went total clear and now it is coloured again, probably a brown algae.  As mentioned in the last blog the insect life is prolific but very few fish are seen on the surface, even that dawn activity seems to be missing.  All that aside I did manage four fish on both days before they shut off.  Each day it was two 6lb plus fish and other two in the 5lb and 4lb range.  Pleasing fish to catch but I am hoping for a couple of the bigger fish that are there.
                                                  6lb plus tench are always welcome.

I have been trying to compare the results on two different approaches, one of rubber casters fished over a bed of casters and method feed, the other using a corn/pellet combination bait fished again over a bed of corn and method feed both fished with short hook links and a flatbed method feeder.  So far over the very limited sample caught it is five three to the caster being on top.  Effectively that is only one fish difference since if one of the five caster caught fish had been on corn the totals would be even and I must note that corn and pellet is a lot less expensive than casters and when not used they keep better as well.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Spring means specimen tench and crucians.

Spring is a great time for the serious specimen fisherman and although it arrived late this year it did come and the big fish have come with it.  As a general rule we measure our success by the weight of the fish we catch and the location the fish is caught from, I’m lucky in that I can afford both the time and the money to travel to distant places others have to fish locally and hence catch mostly smaller sizes of fish.  It is an undeniable fact that to succeed in catching specimen size species across the range to need to travel.  Lots of anglers are fortunate in that they live near to venues that hold big fish but even these will need to travel since it is unlikely that there are more than two or three of the species locally that are of specimen size.  Of course living in the south of the country gives the angler a big advantage over those in the north both in the general size of fish available and the number of venues holding each of the different species.  That is not to say that they are not available in the north but there will certainly be less of them. 

If I could move to say the western end of Kent or into the Colne valley area, the Kennet region or the Ringwood area it would be perfect.  All these would reduce my need to travel and put venues with specimen fish local to me that I could fish for a few hours in the evening without breaking the bank to get there.  I would still need to travel since many of my chosen venues would lie outside those areas, but the difference would be significant.  I now class anything less than 50 miles as local and rarely fish at less than 20miles.  Many anglers never travel more than 15 miles and even at that they feel they have gone a long way, suggest 50 mile to them and they think you have gone mad.  Unfortunately that is how it is so I travelled the 125 miles down to the Johnson’s Lake on the Marsh Farm complex yet again to try for the elusive 4lb crucian that is one of the targets for this year. 
                                                          Spawned out but still 3lb-10oz.

With the late spring it appears the tench fishing is way behind and I think I still have the chance of the very big tench for some weeks.  Unfortunately I’m sure that, one of my crucian catches on the last trip was a repeat capture after spawning, 3lb-5oz the first time and 3lb-1oz the second but that fish had definitely spawned.  This trip was a gamble, we had very nice and sunny weather over the previous weekend, it was almost certain that the fish will have spawned but just maybe one or more of them will still have the weight and will be that little bit behind, I thought it worth a chance.
                                     Willow herb off the trees just begining to cause problems.
I arrived to find the bank empty where previously it had been packed out with expectant anglers, there was just one angler on another bank and he seemed to be catching tench, lots of them and they had not spawned.  By now it was about 10:00am and by 11:00am I was in place with rods out fishing ready for the next fifty hours or so although I had already got it in mind that I could pack up early if things were not going right.  I mixed up some method and send out a few Spomb loads to give a feed area for the fish and I did not wait long before the first tench was heading to the net.  Although the venue can do a nice fish of 8lb or 9lb they are very rare and the majority are between 2lb and 5lb, this one was perhaps 5lb and in good shape, not yet ready for the spawning effort soon to come.  Not long after that I got my first crucian and it was spawned out but at 3lb-10oz it left me wondering just how big it had been the previous week.  With the damage on the tail you may recognise it as one of your captures, let me know if it is.
                                                    7lb-3oz tench the best of 17 over the session.

As the day went past the bank filled up with arriving anglers and I continued to catch both tench and crucians to specimen sizes.  By midday on the following day I had quite a catch with a 30 fish total, 17 tench and 13 crucians with five of the crucian over 3lb.  Included in the catch was two tench over 7lb the first of that weight I’ve had from the venue so a pleasing result but still not what I was after.   With the best three crucians at 3lb-10oz, 3lb-9oz and 3lb-6oz they were fish I was very pleased to catch, but they were all spawned out and I felt my chance of the 4lb fish had gone so as strange as some might think I decided to leave and go after the big tench elsewhere.  For me just catching fish is not enough, I need to feel the extra big fish is available and that bit of the equation had gone on this venue for the moment, but I’ll be back in the autumn when they will be back to their normal weight and a 4lb fish is a possible yet again.
                                                        3lb-9oz second largest weight.

                                               The best photo of the crucians and 3lb-6oz.
Returning home meant I could go to the local tench water, just over 30 miles away, and try for the big tench.  Here ‘big’ means 9lb plus with a very slight chance that if I could catch the right fish on the right day it might be a double, but on the way to that target I could hope for a couple of 7lb or 8lb fish.  It appeared that they had at last turned on and sport seemed a bit more consistent compared to that of late.  I fished for the day and ended with two tench and a bream, none of which went over 5lb but even though I know I would have caught bigger tench at Johnson’s I still enjoyed this session more that I would have there. 
A perfect Spring photo of a medium tench
                                         Sunshine brings out hatching fly life in numbers
Two things can spoil the enjoyment of fishing for me.  The first is it becoming too easy, the other is where there is no chance of my target fish on that venue.  I have packed up when catching big fish on a number of occasions when it became obvious that I had found the killing method at that time on that venue and the fishing was easy.  I could guarantee the next fish and the one after that, so to me it was no longer sport.  The other point is just my quirk – I want to catch nationally big fish and although I will fish waters where I’m not sure they hold such fish I prefer at least an outside chance that such a fish is present.  Just as an idea I’ll mention some of the weights that I need to feel that there is at least the chance of catching, double figure bream, barbel, and zander, 2lb roach and 3lb perch, 3lb crucian and 20lb pike, 50lb catfish and 30lb sturgeon though I like to think even bigger for this species. I don’t fish for carp but I’m pleased to catch the occasional 20lb specimen on finer gear intended for smaller species.

This blog has rambled a little but I would be interested in your thoughts on what I’ve said, how does it reflect your ideas and fishing?