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.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A nice brace of Nene barbel

My third return to the sturgeon water in pursuit of the 50lb fish known to be there saw me land three fish, two of 24lb plus and yet again the 42lb specimen took a fancy to my offering.  It seems that this fish is indeed a hungry type but there were several anglers who were trying without success to get him, perhaps he just likes me.  J


A phone call to Mark Smith, one of the Peterborough and District bailiffs, confirmed my thoughts that the River Nene was low, clear and very little water was flowing along the stretch to be fished.  As always the odd barbel was being caught, it was a struggle but that seems to be the case all over so I decided to at least try.  With those clear and low conditions Mark’s advice was for an early start and the alarm was set for 4am in order to allow me to be fishing by the 6am sort of time.

                                                            River Nene - low and weedy

Along with the low conditions was the amount of weed still in place along the river’s length, this gives a problem both in spying the fish and in landing one if you are fortunate enough to hook your quarry.  In these conditions two factors come into play the most important of which is the tackle needs to be strong and the clutch set to give very little, if any line.  I would be using my normal choice of the Drennan Specialist Barbel rod at 12ft and 1.75lb test.  My main line is 12lb and the hooklink is a combo link of 15lb mono going to 15lb braid.  Using a knotless knot I then have a size 8 Drennan Continental Carp hook with a suitable hair to take whichever bait would be used on the day.  Knowing that a lot of pellet has been used on the length I had decided to use Elips pellets with a 10mm pre-drilled crab pellet has a change bait, both of which would be in the smaller sizes.

                                                    A few free offerings at a time is enough.

The rig used was a straight forward running leger with a two foot tail, two of the 6mm Elips were glued in place either side of the hair and with just half a dozen free offering introduced I made my first cast in the twilight of the morning.  The mist was still swirling round and indeed I had travelled through a few patches of its presence on my way up but that is not unusual for the autumn time of year.  It almost came as a surprise when the rod looped round in response to a barbel take, although I obviously hoped for a fish I’ve had enough blanks of late not to expect one.  Normally I use the baitrunner feature on the reel, but with the amount of weed, both cabbage and pipe stems, I thought it better to lock up tight and hold on.  The fish disagreed and did its best to tangle me in every bit of nearby cover, at one stage I was sure I would loose him as I could feel the heavy weed collecting on the line and with each little movement it got that bit heavier.  In the event I need not have been concerned and my prize finally came into the net along with a collection of different weeds to prove his worth.  If I had included the weed I would have got a far better weight than the 9lb-10oz that came up on the digitals but I’ve seen enough of that type of weighing of late so the weed was left on the bank.

                                                First of the day at 9lb-10oz

As the morning progressed the mist began to rise but the cloud cover stayed and while it was mild it was also quite a grey day though this would probably be an advantage to the fishing.  Anglers came and went; I had seen Mark earlier in the morning as he went about in his bailiff role.  This water is also available on day tickets but poachers and eastern Europeans are always a problem so a tight rein keeps the hassle to a minimum.  We talked for a little while and he had only just left when the crab pellet now in use was taken and yet again a great fight followed.  Once landed I called Mark and he quickly returned to see the fish and help with photos.  By now I already knew it was not the hoped for double but a near match to the first fish this one being 9lb-8oz.   The fight had been even more spectacular and this fooled me into thinking it was bigger than the first fish, but one look at the tail and I could easily see where it got the extra power to fool me.  With two such fish already netted I was hopeful of yet another, but as dusk approached I had a visit from the local otter and that I feel spoiled the chances of further fish so I packed up well pleased with the days result.

                                                 Second of the brace at 9lb-8oz.

In closing I would like to thank Mark’s wife who knowing I was on the fishery gave him a piece of her madeira cake to bring down when he returned following his lunch break, I don’t think too many anglers get that treat but she had recognised me as a true cake lover!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

A nice brace of specimens.

I have had a mixed spell of fishing results over the last week.  A return to the sturgeon lake saw me catch two fish, one of  41lb-14oz which was the same one as last week and a second of 22lb-4oz, a good day’s sport but I still have to try for the 50lb plus fish I’ve seen from there.

                                                 Return of an old friend at 41lb-14oz.

My next effort was 48 hours on the River Wye at Hereford, lots of small chub between 8oz and 3lb but the only barbel I hooked was lost when the braid section of my hooklink broke.  There seemed no reason for this but it was probably a nick taken as the fish bores around on the bed of the river.  I’ll be back there in my attempt to put a few extra ounces on my river best of exactly 10lb.

                                                  The River Wye near Hereford.

Now I decided on a trip to the local River Anker, an easy session since it is only 18 miles rather than the usual 50 miles or so.  My target was barbel, but all I got was quite a number of knocks off the chub, two different swims were fished but I got the same result.  These fish were not hooked by the simple idea of leaving quite a long hair with the bait a good 10mm clear of the bend of the hook, not a problem for the barbel, but chub rarely take the bait that far into the mouth.
With the rain we have been having I still thought the chances of the barbel would be good so I returned to the river yesterday for another attempt.  This time I shortened the hair to put the bait right onto the hook just to see what size chub were knocking, it turned out to be a good idea.  I still got a number of knocks off chub that did not take the bait far enough to be hooked, they are far cannier than barbel when inspecting and taking the bait offered, but at last one was hooked and at first I thought I had a small barbel.  The difference quickly became obvious as this fish sort out the sanctuary of nearby rushes and for a moment I thought he had made it as they bent over under the pressure I had on him but then he came clear and was mine.  As I drew him to the net I thought he looked quite big and at 5lb-12oz he certainly falls into the category for any midland river where 5lb is the normal target.

                                                    A fine specimen at 5lb-12oz.

Less than thirty minutes later he was joined by an almost identical twin of 5lb-11oz, a well battered fish but with room to put on extra weight I’m sure either of these two specimens can make the 6lb mark later in the year.  Both fish fell to a boilie made up for me by a local manufacturer, Quality Baits.  I normally use the Dynamite range of product but they stopped producing the Monster Crab line and although I now use Source and Crave I still have a lot of confidence in the original boilie that put so many barbel on my hook in the past.

                                                 A battered warrior of 5lb-11oz.

Before the session ended I added yet another chub, but this one fell back into the usual range I expect and when weighed he sent the scales to 4lb-5oz, a nice ending to a successful day.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Further bait and wait tactics explained.

I was both surprised and pleased to see the very high number of people that looked in on my last blog and since this suggests a good interest in how to use the bait and wait idea I thought I would expand the topic a little further.  That first blog covers the barest details of the method and anyone approaching this idea thinking it is just a matter of buying bait and you’ll catch loads of barbel is in for a disappointment.  As with most angling technics it takes time and practice to get the best out of the method but once mastered it can be and is a deadly tool for catching a lot of fish.
That last bit mentioned is an important part of the equation, lots of fish.  This is not the method to try for just one fish unless that fish is a particular specimen that you are trying to catch.  Then this can be the tactic to fool that ultra-wary big specimen that refuses to look at all normal pellet/boilie/meat offerings.

                                                 A 15lb-3oz that fell to the method.

Under the best of conditions it can be useful if the initial practice to get familiar with the method can be done on waters where the fish can be seen.   This would give the angler the chance to observe the results of his efforts and then transfer them to the more normal situation where the water is too deep or coloured to be able to see in.

                                                        The artificial caster rig

                                                  Bait for a maggot attack

So what do you need to start with and I would suggest that in an ideal world you begin in a swim you already know or suspect there are a reasonable number of barbel present most of the time.  Now you decide on whether you will use maggot or caster, both can work well though the caster have the advantage of being heavier and hence hold in the swim more easily.  Whichever bait you chose they will be introduced into the swim along with the hemp via the use of a bait dropper.  There are many models on the market and currently I prefer the Dinsmore copy of the older Thamesly version.  These are a small plastic dropper that does not have the weight of the metal modals and hence I find I can cast and control them better.  I do wrap a length of extra lead around the stem in order that they drop through the water more consistently, lighter models can be affected by the flow.  Here it is worth noting the length of the stem is also important, too long and the body of the dropper is too high above the bed of the river and when the particles are released they can be washed well downstream rather than into your swim.  This is especially true for maggots as they are by far the lighter of the two baits.  You have cast the dropper out, it went straight down and opened; now you hold the rod low and just flick the tip in order to encourage the bait still left in the body to come out.  If you lift the rod straight away the particle left in the body will rise into the flow and be washed downstream.  It might be that with perhaps one drop in ten you lift on purpose in order to send some of the feed downstream to leave an extra food trail, this will be added to the scent trail of the hemp that is the main attractor to bring the barbel from downstream.

                                                     Bait for the caster attack.

Now to look at how much bait to use and here is the most difficult aspect of the method to identify.  I could say “how long is a piece of string,” but that would be no good to the reader trying to come to grips with the method so I’ll try to be more expansive.  As always cost must be an important part of the equation, general hemp is not too expensive especially if brought in the 15K sack and cooked yourself.   Expect to pay about £1.5 dry weight and this will near double in weight when it swells and takes on water when cooked.  The maggots and casters are very varied depending on your location but generally casters will be £3 plus per pint.
My normal comment on this point is that the most valuable thing you use on a day’s fishing is your time.  Once that day has gone you cannot get it back, you can replace money so in that sense it is less important.  Of course you need the money in the first place, but surely it is better to do one day fishing with good tactics, than to spend the time and fuel costs going three times with inferior tactics.
So how much bait?  I would suggest that a good day with a reasonable catch rate could be gained with 4 pint of caster or maggots.  I would take extra hemp since it is less expensive and can be frozen if left over.  This is another factor in the caster/maggot choice,  casters need to be used with say one week of purchase if they are looked after, maggots will last for weeks if kept in a bait fridge set about 2C.   That said you can try less caster well mixed into the hemp, say twice the hemp to caster rather than equal parts.  At a push this could be taken to three times hemp to caster but eventually the results will definitely suffer.
Now you have arrived at the swim with enough bait for a full days sport.  No rush to tackle up since this method is the most social system it is possible to try.  Put the bait dropper rod together first and drop out say ten drops of hemp and ten of caster [assuming your using the Dinsmore model].  Now you can go for a walk, read a book, have a chat with your mate a little way back from the river, it does not matter.  There is no set time table for the pattern that follows, experience, practice, gut feeling all play a part and this is where the top lads in the method show their skill.  Many anglers over the years have said that this is just buying you fish, get a gallon of caster and you will bag up, but nothing is further from the truth.  A gallon or even two or three gallon of caster in inexperienced hands will not have fish jumping onto the hook and all they will be doing is feeding the fish.
You need somewhere to start so try and use say 45 minutes as a guide interval between the initial baiting.  Following that first drop you wait the 45 minutes then drop again but this time slightly less, say four droppers of each then wait again.  Following that you can either do a further bait drop and wait, or you can bait drop and follow up with a first cast in straight away.  Either way when you do cast in then be prepared for an early take, often the fish are now well on the feed and even though a dropper has landed between them they will perhaps move away but they quickly return.  If it does not happen like that don’t worry just follow the pattern and watch for the slight movements on your rod tip that would suggest the fish are in the area and feeding.  As a guide if you see this tip movement and you wait a long time before you get the take then maybe you have put too much feed into the swim so when you next bait drop use just two droppers instead.  Whatever the case you do a bait drop after each fish and at least consider resting the swim after three fish are landed.  Complete the drop as normal following the capture but then just leave the swim for thirty minutes or so to give the fish the confidence to return without disturbance.  The days are long and you will definitely reap the rewards of this rest period rather than just catch, catch and so on.

                                                                             The caster rig.

Last, let us look at the tackle, mainly right at the hook end since behind that does not matter too much just as long as it is strong enough.  Much has been written about the hook length to be used for barbel and other than the fact that generally the short hook links used for chub and roach don’t seem to work I would be fairly open minded as to what you would favour.  I use between 12” and 18” and for maggot /caster work I would use a strong size 10 hook, currently I use the Pallatrax pattern but there are many others that will do the job.  I prefer to use about 10” to 12” of 15lb heavy mono to act as a stiff rig and to this I attach my 15lb braid with a loop to loop fixing.  For the loops I use a figure of eight knot and this has not let me down.  The bait is put on a hair and generally I would attach four casters in a torpedo style figure.  This will prove proof against most attacks from the small fish since it just moves out of their way when they try to grab it, should they still prove a problem then just slide one artificial along the hair and superglue two or three naturals to that.  Now if the small fish attack you always have a hook bait that the barbel will pick up.  If possible I will still use casters on the hook even when maggot fishing, the maggots are just too difficult to stop the small fish attacking them and leaving just skins when you reel in.  As a rule once I cast out I will use a straight lead with casters and leave it for 30 minutes or more whilst with maggot fishing I would use a swimfeeder and recast more often say every 5 minutes to start with and going to 10 or 15 minutes intervals later in the session.
There you have it then, catch fish you can use lots of bait, less fish will use less bait, no guarantees but when you get it right the sky is the limit and you can empty a swim of barbel.  Practice makes perfect and trial and effort will give a timetable to suit your situation.

Tight lines until the next blog.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Bait & Wait, the method explained and used.

As part of the Barbel Societies Research & Conservation fund raising activity I offered a day’s guiding as I had done over the previous years.  I’m not too keen on the guiding system since I always worry that my client might catch the monster barbel I’m trying to catch myself.  After all if I do the guiding correctly then the only difference on the day is the he would be holding the rod instead of me.

Still after a delay in arranging a date due to what appeared to be a slow start to the season I finally arranged to meet Chris Childs on the Kennet for what I hoped would be a great day of sport.  Recently the river has been fishing very well with plenty of doubles amongst the numerous fish being caught.  My last visit just a few weeks ago resulted in seven fish to a best of a double; hopefully we could get similar results.
                                                   One of the many Kennet weirs.
The recent hot weather had been forecast to be coming to an end, but it was still hot and sunny here.  A couple of light showers meant we needed the umbrellas just to be on the safe side though all in all it was a nice day to be out fishing.  The method to be used was the caster/hemp bait and wait idea, this had been responsible for most of the catches I was aware of and with lots of doubles up to 13lb plus it was the proof I needed to use it.

We met in the car park at 7:00 am and by 7:30am I had done the initial bait drop of a dozen droppers of caster and a similar amount of hemp.  The swim was a classic; the flow from upstream had been thrown across the river directed under a long line of overhanging bushes.  These bushes were the cover for any fish moving up and down the river and all we needed to do was lay the table to intercept their route with some tasty morsels to cause them to stop their wandering.
                                                         Chris settles in at the start of the day.
As you will probably be aware the name of the method explains the idea, it does what it says on the tin as the saying goes.  You bait, you wait, you bait again and you wait again.  This can be done as many times as you like, I would suggest that the method is only worthwhile if you have at least half of the day to fish and preferably all the day.  For this session I baited four times over a two hour period before a cast was made following the last of those four drops.  The later drops are only top up so they consist of less feed, for my purpose this meant four droppers of each, the caster and hemp.  Once the barbel arrive you can reduce the hemp since its main purpose is to attract the fish in the first place.  If the fishing slows down then increase the hemp element yet again in order to hopefully bring fish from downstream.
                                                           A Kennet first and obviously a pb.
The first cast was made and I advised Chris to hold the rod for a few minutes since quite often the take comes straight away, little did we realise what was to come.  The minutes passed without a take and things settled down to the waiting part on our side, minutes turned to hours and even though I kept the swim refreshed with drops of bait trickled in over the next hours no bites came.  We were well into the afternoon before a bite finally materialised and Chris was playing what was definately a powerful fish.  At one stage he had it directly in front of us, but it refused to come to the surface to let us get a look at its proportions.  Then it shot downstream again and the clutch begrudgingly gave line, at this stage there was no real concern, keep the rod low to avoid those overhanging branches and all would be ok, then the line went slack!  The fish was gone and the line had apparently just broke, new 12lb line loaded the previous evening.  Chris took it stoically but that was probably a new pb for him and just bad luck prevented him getting it.  He went on to land a smaller fish so at least he did not blank on a day where the fish did not respond as hoped.  I did find out the EA were power jetting the gravel beds upstream near the weir and just maybe that put the fish off although I don’t think so.  With an invite back from the fishery manager I’m sure arrangements will be made and Chris will get his hoped for double in the near future.

The following day I was back on the fishery, Chris had planned to stay the second day but family ill health stepped in and he had to return back home cutting his trip short.  For this day I followed exactly the same routine and initially I got exactly the same result.  Yet again it was mid-afternoon before I got a take and that resulted in a hard fighting barbel of 9lb-3oz.  After that, fish came at long intervals giving me a final catch of four barbel with that first fish still the largest.  My friend John Found had joined me for this day and although he only caught one barbel he seemed to have the knack of getting the big ones at the moment and a magnificent pristine 12lb fish joined his growing list of doubles this season.  The method was not shown in its best light over this trip but the other side of the coin was that nobody else that I asked over the two days even caught one fish.
                                                       Best of four on the day.

                                                              A perfect Kennet double.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Monster sturgeon and sunny days.

On Monday I thought a day on the River Nene would be a change even though I knew the conditions were not very favourable, so off I went.  Travelling nowadays usually means I either go early to beat the works traffic or go after 9:00am to allow it to clear, with those poor conditions I decided on the later time and I would fish through to dusk.  It was very hot in the blazing sun such that in the end I had to seek the shade of a nearby tree.  I fished pellet on the one rod and changed between Source and Crave boilies on the other.  Plenty of chub between 0.5lb and 3lb, but the barbel did not show.  I did put a piece about the number of white butterflies about onto Facebook and that got a little bit of reaction, always a sign of poor sport when you resort to that.
                                                      On the Nene backwater just melting.

                                               It might be sunny and hot but these are ready to leave.

Now it is Wednesday and I’ve been thinking of a return trip after the sturgeon, a bit more expensive for the day ticket, but with big fish available there just might be some extra special sport.  These fish look prehistoric and fight like the devil was after them, having said that they do appear to be pretty stupid and it’s not unknown for the same fish to be re-caught very quickly after being put back.  This inevitably causes a gross estimate of how many fish are present, you can definitely half the numbers quoted and it might only be a quarter, still I’m off fishing now.

With the sturgeon running to over 60lb the owner has put a few sensible rules in place and these are strictly enforced, very large unhooking mat, 50” landing net minimum [even that is too small since these fish do not bend or fold into the net as many fish will]. The 15lb minimum main line with fish friendly leaders is to look after the fish whilst it is being played.  You might think this is over the top, but when you hook one of the big ones you will be pleased that your tackle is that little better prepared.  These fish will take almost any bait but I’m going armed with two different meats that have proven their worth on different waters, time will tell here if they are a good choice.  My end rig is the 80lb braid that the eel broke last Saturday, but these fish have no teeth so it should be ok, a size 4 barbless hook will carry the matchbox size bait, sometimes on a hair and at other times directly onto the hook.

Having seen the sturgeon on crystal clear waters I know that their normal action is to continuously be on the move and generally they follow the outside contours of the lake in one never ending circle.  From this seems logical to fish baits within a rod length of the bank, just an underhanded flick to position your offering in their path as they pass, today was to start a little differently and give me a very nice welcome back onto the lake.  I had got up early in order to make the journey across to the venue and I arrived about 7am ready for a day’s sport if luck was with me.  The rods had already been set up so I merely had to put them together and get the bait out.  Here I nearly made a basic mistake in that I put the rods out before assembling the landing net, I use two nets for this, one a 6ft arms model purposely made for sturgeon and the other a 50inch standard net for the smaller fish since it is more easily handled.  I had put the big net together and was just about to deal with the other when my rod indicated action and I was soon playing my first sturgeon, great!  Once landed I left it in the net at the side while I got the scales, camera and that ready, before I could complete that the other rod went off and I was now playing a second fish.  While I could have landed this one in the same large net it would be inviting problems so while playing him I carefully, and with some difficulty, put the second net up so I could safely land him.  Bit of a circus, but I finally got him back to the net and he went in with some disagreement since he was not happy with be hooked.  The smaller of these two looked about 15lb and I did not weigh him having the two together, a quick photo and he was back in the lake to grow bigger.  The second fish proved to be 22lb-10oz and joins a list of over 30 fish of 20lb plus I’ve managed over several different waters, very pleased and I’d pleased even if now more are landed.
                                                 The smaller of the brace at about 15lb.

                                            The larger of the brace a long lean 22lb-10oz.

It soon became apparent that even though I’d caught on the two different baits this was only because I’d caught so quickly and the small fish had not had the chance to attack the softer of the two offerings.  Now when I recast out again I found that it would only last about 5 minutes maximum with the bobbin dancing continuously throughout that time.  When the bobbin stopped moving, the bait was gone.  Fortunately the other bait was tougher and did resist their attention so at least I could carry on fishing.  The sun came up and began to melt me, this time there was no handy tree to offer shelter so I just had to grin and bear it.  Following that quick action it seemed that the lake died on me and the hours passed with little else happening.  I could watch the occasional passing birds or the vapour trails left by planes on their way to exotic places, all the usual pastimes when in this situation.   It was about 4:00pm when I got action again and I struck into a fish that came to the surface almost immediately to show me it's quite large proportions before the hook fell clear and it sank back into the depths leaving me despondent and thinking, ‘what if’.  One of the things you will soon learn with sturgeon is the number of times they will fall off the hooks, I’m convinced that almost without exception this is because they were foul hooked and hence I would prefer not to land them, they don’t count in my eyes since you did not ‘catch’ them.   Perhaps thirty minutes later I had another take and yet again struck into a fish that was obviously one of the bigger ones, would it stay on this time?  The question spun around my head as the fish powered its way about the lake refusing to give in to the pressure I applied on the tackle.  Eventually it came into sight and at last I could breath a little better as I could see the hook link coming from its mouth and not elsewhere on the body.  With the big net in use it was quite easy to get him into its folds first time and yet again I left him at the side whilst I prepared for its welcome.  Fortunately another angler had come round to watch and being a body builder he was better prepared to lift the fish steadily when it came time to weigh him.  A weight of 42lb-8oz was confirmed, my third largest and a very pleasing sight indeed.  Photo were quickly organised and he was allowed to swim off to enjoy a well-earned rest.  Talking afterwards, I did question whether this was the same fish I had seen just thirty minutes earlier, it was certainly a similar size and I had only nicked him with him getting off my tackle at the least resistance.
                                               They can certainly bend a 2.75lb test rod.
                                                                 Best of four on the day at 42lb-8oz.

I settle back into my chair a very happy lad but the day was not finished yet with another fish of 23lb-14oz falling to my traps, with another possible foul hooked fish that did stay on for three or four minutes before coming free.  I had passed some of my successful bait to the lad that had helped and it was pleasing to photograph and 20lb-6oz diamond back for him shortly afterwards, he was on for the night and I would think he would get more fish before the end of his session.
                                                                     Last of the day at 23lb-14oz.
I’m off to the Kennet for Friday and Saturday to do a little guiding with a lad that brought the day on the Barbel Society auction for conservation work.  It will be interesting and hopefully I can help him catch his first ever double figure barbel.
                                        My helper with his 20lb-6oz diamond back specimen.