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.

Sunday 2 February 2020

A Redtail Adventure.

Having travelled to both Guyana and Suriname in South America on several occasions I had decided that it was becoming much the same and I would no longer be going there.    Then a new remote area of Suriname appeared on the radar where the fish market anglers had not raided the wild stocks since it was too remote to be financially viable.   Although the Lau-Lau catfish were not present there were reports of very large Redtail catfish being present with an outside chance of one over 100lb.

My best Redtail was 64lb so it immediately got my attention and plans were made with my usual companion on these overseas trips, Joe Taylor.   Joe already had a trip planned with three other lads going for a couple of weeks and himself staying on for a further three weeks to maximise his chances.   It worked in spades with him taking the lion’s share of the fish landing three over 100lb to a real giant of 127lb.  To back these fish up the were six or seven 90lb plus fish as well, so things looked good to beat my 64lb Guyana fish.
3.00am start and a taxi to Birmingham airport.  A short flight to Holland and from there to Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname.    Another taxi ride and I arrive at the flat to meet Joe and get ready for the start next day.    The air condition blasting away gives me a good night’s sleep and I begin to get use to the minus 3hrs time difference to England.   Again a taxi ride to the local airport and we jump on a small plane for the one hour or so trip across Suriname to its border with Guyana.  As well as crossing the country we also travelled well inland to a tiny village of about twenty persons, two of who will be our guides.

Transport is in the form of a 30ft long tree trunk that has been hollowed out to form a canoe type craft.    It seemed a little unstable but after a few rapids we got used to its rolling action.    We would be stopping in two locations with access to very deep water, the majority of the river is more in the region of up to ten foot and the piranhas are a nightmare in anything less the twenty metres, even there they can cause problems.   The camps are just an area that has been cleared in the jungle with long tree poles supporting large waterproof tarpaulins.   Beds are hammocks slung between trees and a mossi netting in place over the top, quite comfortable once you’re in them.

                                                            The boat was well loaded

                                                          The water could be wild.

Finally in place and settled in the camp we got out to start out fish adventure.     Heavy rods are being used in the 30lb-50lb class combined with big multiplier reels loaded with 130lb braid.    Piranhas are a major problem and heavy wire is needed to avoid being bitten off, I was using 130b Lotitude Wire and would recommend this as a very flexible wire even in the higher strains, obtained from Amazon.   The trace was made from two hooks, the top hook being a single size 10:0 and the bottom hook a 5x strong size 2:0 tin plated treble.  These trebles are comparatively fine wire, extra sharp and very strong, available from USA though quite expensive.

Fishing 30M holes is quite an experience when you cast out and wait for the 6oz lead to hit bottom, you feel you could have a cup of tea in between.   The main fish we encounter are the Redtail Catfish, Tiger Shovelnose Catfish and occasional, even at that depth, the piranha.  Using sections of small silver fish or piranha we each caught a smaller Redtail about 20lb or so on this first session though events were to prove that it was not going to be easy...   The rest of the stay at this camp proved quite challenging with just a tiger shovelnose cat and another small Redtail cat coming for our efforts.  Hence it was time to move to what was always intended as the main camps since it gave access to more deep water than the first site.

                                          Not a good pose but the lad didnt advise me.
                                                      Tiger Shovelnose Catfish

We had a try for the wolfish and although the piranhas proved to be a right pain I did catch one of about 5lb and thinking more would follow it were quickly returned.  That proved to be the only one for this effort though.   We were doing two sessions in the boat, the first from 7.30am to 12.30pm and the out again at 4.40pm until 8.00pm.    Once back at the camp we put out the buoys.    This is where a large water container acts as a well anchored base out in the flow, a weak leak of 15lb line with a simple clip comes off that.   The baited line is run out to the buoy and the bait dropped downstream of it, then the line is clipped into the weak link with a simple peg to stop it coming back though the clip.    The rod is placed vertically in a rest and the line is tightened to the buoy taking the line off the water.  Now when the fish takes the bait it breaks the weak link and you are able to strike and play the fish.

On the second day in the evening session I finally got my chance with a tearaway take.  The strike was made and once the anchor had been lifted we could follow the fish that had still not stopped its initial run.   Well over 30 minutes later with aching arms I finally got my prize to the surface and both Joe and Winell said that could be your 100lb fish.   The river we were fishing forms the border between Suriname and Guyana and having been on the Suriname bank we took the photos on the Guyana side since there are very few spots where you can land.    It is good to be in the company of anglers who know what they are doing and the fish was quickly weighed in a weigh sling that is self draining to avoid weighing water and to my delight a weight of 102lb was finally announced.  Joe was on one camera and Winell on mine so suitable photos were soon in the bag with the fish released to fight another day.

                                                      A new personal best at 102lb.

The next major adventure was a jungle trail to the top of one of the creeks that had been left high and dry in its lower reaches.  Wolfish was the target but the walk was something else.    45 minutes of not being able to walk in a straight line for more the four yards, climbing over fallen trees or ducking under them, uphill and down into gullies.    In one such gully we found the remains of a red leg tortoise, the bottom of the shell completely missing and it appears this was the work of a jaguar.   Another gulley had a small mud bath that it seems the local armadillo visit to have a dip.   With birds singing and flowers blooming truly a different experience.    That said by the time we got to the creek I was knackered.   Wolfish love snags and the locals take snag fishing to a different level to anything I would have tried.   Clutch clamped tight they cast into the middle of a fallen wood pile and once they have the bite its heave, no playing just pull it clear.   We had a bit of this but fortunately we also had some in more open water.   Joe and I took turns on catching a fish and after three each in the range of about 6lb we packed up and left them for another group perhaps.

                                              He's fishing in the middle of that lot.
                                                         Wolfish, all teeth and attitude.

                                                                     Peacock Bass
Each day began with the search for bait, either spinning for peacock bass or bait fishing with bits of crab for the pacu that lived in the fast water of the many waterfalls.   In the main this fell to the guides and their expertise showed in how quickly they could catch compared to our efforts. 

                                                   The head guide using crab in the fast water.
                              A sweep round one of the many falls on this river system

Following one such morning trip for bait we settled in to one of the deep holes and before too long Joe’s rod was singing to the sound of a fast take.   Pick up the rod, strike and follow as quickly as possible.   As with the lau-lau the power of these fish swimming in the heavy flow of perhaps a hundred foot of water is something else that cannot be forgotten.   Well over the half hour later we were looking at another giant  Redtail Catfish and we made our was to the side where rocks gave somewhere to settle.   The weighing was the usual case of guessing and this time the scales showed a near miss at 97lb, Joe’s already had three over 100lb on previous trips so it did not worry him.

By and large that was it, a few fish in the 40lb to 50lb range, an odd Shovelnose Cat though far less than we hope for.   An adventure for me when the usual toilet visit to the wood resulted in my meeting a 300lb tapir about 25 foot away.   He just appeared, I stopped and he stopped neither of us sure what to do.  He cracked first and bolted back into the woods to my relief.

These trips take a lot of local organising and we are fortunate that we came across Paul De Boer.  He has a Facebook page and if interested in a visit it is probably best to contact him is though Joe Taylor, he almost lives out there now.:)

Thursday 9 February 2017

A Suriname Adventure.

Each January for the past several years I have travelled to South America along with Joe Taylor and other likeminded anglers.  Joe is the linchpin having spent almost half of each year in his travels, a combination of family based along with his fishing trips.  Similar to my challenge of trying for different river barbel doubles, Joe likes to try new rivers and his list of countries and rivers within each of them that he has fished is truly extensive.

This year’s trip to Suriname would be unusual in that it was intended we would travel over five different rivers in a large loop and although the start and finish points would be a couple of hours by road apart the river distance would be twelve days.  With three anglers, Joe and I would be joined by Steve Bartrum, and three native helpers the pontoon would be fairly full and it is essential that the people get on and make allowances for the odd difficulty that will always occur in such a confined space.

The pontoon is moved by means of being pushed by one of the smaller boats with a 15hp engine when the tide is favourable, it cannot move against the tide and hence that is a serious controlling factor.  Most of the time you are looking at seven hours on an incoming tide, and five hours on the outgoing tide.  There is perhaps one hour difference as you move up river away from the estuary.    This then gives us our fishing pattern, move to the next location, be that a deep hole, anything up to one hundred foot, or at the mouth of a creek which normally would also be a deep hole as well.   The deep holes have the advantage that the prolific piranha do not go into the deep water so we escape their veracious attention.

The tackle we use is suitable for playing and landing fish that potentially can go to over 250lb, in the case of the arapaima they could be 500lb.  30ln-50lb class boat rods combined with 150lb or 200lb mainline.  Hook link material is 100K braid and a single size 10:0 hook is used along with a size 1.0 treble.   Bait is generally whole fish, live or dead, in a range from 0.5lb to 3lb depending on what is caught in the nets positioned at high tide and checked at low tide.  We use one rod each and the drag is set such that you cannot pull line of by hand, when the fish takes, it is as though you did not set it.  I us a Penn Squall 60 LH reel with lever drag.   When waiting for a bite the lever is set to just beat the river flow, once you have a take you push the lever up to the strike position and hang on.  The larger fish will flat rod you at this point and the reel is screaming as you attempt to get into the smaller boat in order to go after it.  The pressure on the rod is really heavy and the fish at the other end is trying its best to take the rod out of your hands.  Winel, the main guide on the trip makes his way to the engine, one of the other lads makes sure you are safe and will not fall from the rocking boat and get safely sat down, you can now reel like hell to regain the line the fish has taken.  Exciting does not cover this time, and the adrenalin flows by the gallon.

Steve and I stayed at a hotel the first night and were picked up at 8:30am ready for the 4hr trip to our starting point at a town called Nickeri, our first river also called the Nickeri River.   Joe had come out to suriname some days earlier and had travelled up from Boss Camp where the pontoon is normally based.  He had fished along the route but had made the trip in quick time travelling at every opportunity to arrive and meet up.  Although they had made good time it did not stop them from catch and again 100lb plus fish were caught at regular interval with two of these around the 200lb mark.  Joe has caught so many lau-lau now that he enjoys just being there and since it would be Steve’s first trip he was letting Steve have the fish on his rod for most of the trip.

The first afternoon/night we were fishing the mouth of the Maratacka River and although Joe had caught well on this spot on a previous visit we did no good.  During the night the tide turned and the lads took the pontoon to the other side of the mouth but it did no good and we left the spot a little disappointed since out hopes had been high of a fish or two.   We moved up river for about 5hours and again anchored of the mouth of a small creek.  We only had dead bait but the lads went bait fishing and soon caught what we called ‘squeaky cats’, a small catfish of about 8oz with sharp spines on both the dorsal and plectral fins.  As the name suggests they squeak all the time but we know the Lau love them and as darkness fell we put them on each of the rods.

There had been nothing during the daylight hours but just into dark I had a take that stopped before I could reach it.  Not unusual and at least it showed there was a fish about.  It was some time later when the rod again went into action and that adrenalin rush I mentioned kicked in as in apparently no time I was out in the river playing a big fish.  We travel large distances and pay quite a lot of money for this experience but words cannot describe it, just pure power of something at the other end of your line giving one hell of a battle.   The fish eventually came to the top and Winel gave a loud cry of ‘that’s big’ while I could only wonder how big?
One of the difficulties of these trips is that of both weighing and photographing the very large fish.  We now rarely, if ever weigh a fish since both Joe and Winel have shown in the past that their estimates are quite accurate.   Joe had come up to my boat which was now some hundreds of yards downstream of the pontoon, between them they put an estimate of between 220lb and 230lb so I called it 225lb and a new pb by a few lb.   Some years previous to this Joe and I had managed to get a Spanish Wells Cat into our boat, it was a struggle but helped by the fact that as we tried to lift the fish, the boat tilted down until it was almost filling with water.  We went to the side for photos of a fish that proved to be 208lb and found the fault with our thinking; we now could not lift it out since the boat no longer tilted.    Fortunately there was a nearby angler looking after his tackle and he had the strength to get it out safely.  Lesson learned.

                                                 Not quite sinking the boat.

                                                         225lb specimen lau.

It’s difficult to get a good photo of a big fish still in the water, but Joe did a good job, though I nearly filled the boat with river water while trying to lift the fish’s head just that little bit more.  You can see in the photo how near that was but fortunately the warning came in time.  First fish of the trip and a new pb, I was over the moon and told Steve he was on all the rods until he got his 100lb plus specimen.

The next move was blank but the following move on the tide change took us to yet another creek and although our first position did no good we moved to the other side in time for darkness and here Steve finally struck gold.  His first fish went a very creditable 175lb and not satisfied with that he took a second fish of 60lb later in the night.  We were both off the mark with good fish and the rest of the trip would be a bonus.

                                                 Steve well pleased with a 175lb fish

The wildlife, both animals and birds are amazing, the flowers grow wild and the colours go through the spectrum to give a panorama that just has to be seen.   Over the years I’ve taken the photos but being Steve’s first trip he became a proper David Bailie.  It’s a good job he was using a digital camera he could have doubled the cost of his trip paying for the old roll type film and later development of the photos.  Numerous manatees, giant otters, macaws and parrots, toucans and three different sizes of kingfishers and other colourful birds. 


                                                               Giant otters.
                                                       Colourful flowers and humming birds.

We were to leave the Nickeri River and travel along the Arara River which joins the Nickeri to the Wyambo but there was something to see further up the river so a decision was made to travel up and stay another tide on the river.  That something was electric eels and they proved to be quite fascinating.     The ones we saw were gathered at the mouth of a small, but fast flowing creek and they show themselves at regular intervals being air breathers.  They also proved quite easy to hook, but not so easy to unhook and Steve got quite a belt when the rubber handles on the pliers were not good enough for the job.  He just did not know Joe good enough,  he was enticing him to have a go and I knew something was amiss, sure enough he nearly threw the plies away when a high voltage charge went up his arm.    There were lots of the fish in the 4lb-6lb range and one was definitely over 10lb and probably over 12lb, you did not want a kick off that one.  Joe tried to convince Steve that the small ones did not have a charge but he was not that daft.
The trip had by now settled into a routine, move on the tide then fish and move again.   We had to keep moving with very little choice because of the distance to be covered.  This is not as bad as might sound since experience had shown it was not much good staying in a spot once you had caught the fish.  Generally if you didn’t catch it was because they were not at home so move on.  We caught steadily and Joe joined in with a 190lb specimen, we do not catch a wide variety of fish though sea cats and even a stingray came to the boat to give a little change.

                                                      Steve with a 150lb specimen
                                               Steve caught dinner - peacock bass

By the end of the 12 days we had caught 40 lau with 11 over the 100lb mark.   My last fish came off the Tabiti River and went 170lb giving me a new river catch and four of the rivers with 100lb plus fish on this trip.   Subject to a few things that Joe needs to sort out I might be going back to Guyana with him in September, but wherever the next rip might be it will be exciting.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Southern rivers chubbing.

A trip down south can always be that little bit special since both the Hampshire Avon and Dorset Stour hold specimen chub to make the mouth water.  The weather forecast looked good and time was running out for this year so plans were made, tackle and grub laid out and the alarm set for 4.30am ready for the off.

Although busy the roads at this time are not too bad and I get down to Ringwood area just before dawn and I’m soon making my way along the bank to the swim I had chosen for today.   A deep water run with a long line of bushes and trees along the opposite bank to give perfect cover for the chub that would be my target today.   I’m down for two days and have brought six pints of red maggots; I can always get more from the local tackle shops in Ringwood if needed.  My first task is to bait drop six droppers of maggots across to the head of the swim, that done I can take my time in tackling up the rod and preparing for the day.   My tackle is the same as I’ve used for several years while after chub.  A 12ft Drennan IM8 Feeder Rod is paired up with a Mitchell 300 reel loaded with 6lb line.   I will use a running Blackcap feeder setup and the 3” hook link is 4lb Fireline going to a size 18 Drennan Superspade hook.

Casting across the fast flow under my own bank gives two potential problems, the first is the amount of debris coming down the flow in the form of dying rush and streamer weed.  This at least ensures that a regular recasting takes place which can be all to the good especially when the minnows are about.   At the moment it seems that the grayling have also had a successful time and these can be a problem as well.  The second problem with that fast water is that of netting the fish once hooked.  This trip, as with so many others in the past the hook holds were right on the outside edge of the lips where the fish were very cautious, but could not resist the maggots.  Constant casting and the occasion top up with the feeder kept a stream of maggots going down under the bushes and I hoped that the chub would eventually respond.  They did and my first fish was almost at my target 7lb weight but fell short at a very pleasing 6lb-10oz, my largest for a couple of seasons.  The Avon is a magical river being crystal clear most of the time but seeing a monster fish fighting on that light tackle can give heart stopping moments.

                                                           Avon chub of 6lb-10oz.

That was my only action off the chub and I was sure that there must be others in the swim, to that end I changed my plans and determined to return next day to take advantage of the feed already placed in the swim.   One of the question marks you always have when you go fishing is that of whether somebody fished the previous day and hammered the fish?  I at least knew the answer and with just the one fish caught I also knew it was worth a return.

The morning was wet with drizzle coming down for most of the time.  With maggot fishing it just means you need to take extra care to keep them dry, the slightest sign of damp and they can crawl even upside down and around the lid.  With the same tactics as the previous day I soon had a few taps that indicated that the fish were there though nervous.  It took time but eventually one made the mistake of just taking the maggot too close and he was lightly pricked though enough for me to land him.   This fish of about 4lb was soon followed by one 4lb-10oz but then the next one slipped the hook which was almost expected so not too disappointing.

It went quiet after that but then I hooked an obvious big fish, it might have been a barbel but the fight suggested a large chub since it tried to get to the branches.  I thought I was going to land him and was well down from my starting point having followed him a little way downstream.  He held in the middle of the river though too deep to see and then he made a dive for the far side trees again.  I allowed a little way but then stopped him and my hook link broke.   Pete suggested it could have been a seatrout with their serrated jaw, it makes sense but I’m still wondering.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Autumn Blues with a few gems included.

It’s tough out there, the last six weeks have been a bit up and down, but too much down to be honest!  Following the 28th river double I had hoped to get a reasonable chance to go to the Ribble in an attempt for the next river, the cold weather and timing did not allow that but it’s still there to be done.
One success was an attempt to catch a large roach from the Linear complex.  I seem to remember that when I was fishing on Willow Pool for the large roach there was another big 3lb plus specimen reported from Smith’s/Hardwick on Linear.  Now word had come that good roach were again being caught so plans were made for a few visits since roach are always a favourite.
The Linear Complex covers a number of lakes but it seems the Brassnose 1 and 2 offer the best chance so I made my way with John Found for a days fishing to check out the lay of the land on Brassnose 2 [B2 in most conversations here].  Having studied the aerial maps like Google Earth I could see a good number of bars on the western bank and thought these could be a good starting point though conversations with the bailiff suggested the opposite bank seemed a better bet.  We both blanked the day but the groundwork was not wasted and no doubt on its day fish could be caught along this bank.

The next trip we took the advice and although I blanked John did catch a nice roach though still under our 2lb target weight.   Our methods were similar being the standard helicopter rig with a maggot feeder and maggots as bait.  The rods were 13ft Drennan Feeders and main line of 6lb went to a hook link of 3lb with a size 14 hook.  Over the following visits I would vary this tackle to try and find the most successful, though at this stage I am assuming these fish are not the educated in finer tackle since most of what they see is for carp and they sometimes get caught on that gear.
On my next visit the weed was less of a problem and I fished a little further out.  I checked for features but there appeared to be very little variation.  There seemed to be just a slight change in depth so with my marker float out in place I marked my fishing rods for distance with rubber and using a spod I put out a bit of hemp, pellet and maggot for feed.   This possibly proved to be and error since over the session I hooked into four carp that gave me very little chance on the light gear.  I did land one of about 10lb but the others were too powerful.  On the brighter side I also landed my first B2 roach at a very pleasing 2lb-7oz.  Fortunately the bailiff had just arrived as I landed it so I also got better photos by the waterside.

                                                     2lb-7oz Linear roach

Further trips are planned an less feed and perhaps a sweetcorn variation of bait will be tried since in Spain that is by far our most successful bait, with that in mind my next trip is to Spain after roach.
Although Mequineza is mainly known for the catfish and carp that grow to large sizes I prefer to go after the roach having already caught enough of the others to be happy with that choice.  Of course this does not mean I will not try for them and indeed I had a days fishing after the carp while on a previous roach trip that gave me a 44lb-14oz common, very pleasing.

                                                                    44lb-14oz Spanish Gold

My regular companions on these Spanish roach trips are John Found and Pete Reading.   On a previous trip in the spring that I had missed Pete had caught the fish we had hoped would be there and at 3lb-10oz it made a truly worthy target.   Now in the November of the year we were fortunate that the weather was holding quite nicely, last year we had to contend with major floods that made fishing very difficult.  Following several trips for roach here we now have a good working knowledge of places to fish both on the River Ebro and on its tributary the Segre and on the first morning we set about trying the first spot this time on the tributary.   Our tackle is similar to that used on the Linear Fishery already described, the only real difference here is we use sweetcorn as the first choice of bait with pellet as a back.
The stock of roach here is vast and it seems they are spread far and wide, as a result of this if we have not had significant indications of fish being present within the first couple of hours we move on to another place.  This proved to be the case this time and so we moved to the so called Mines area.  This is a manmade area of flat, built up bank that is often used as a local match venue and gives access to the 40ft depths of the Ebro.   This time we got the expected action and caught a good number of roach to well in excess of the 2lb mark. 

                                                       My best at 2lb-9oz

                                                        Pete's best at 2lb-7oz

                                                       John's 3lb Gem.

Over the following days we moved around and caught the roach in each place we tried following the first failure.  The total of 2lb’s increased and then in the dying hours of the last day as John hit the jackpot amongst the other fish being caught.  Exactly 3lb and a real gem to end the trip on.  With 17 roach over 2lb and another 5 at 1lb-15oz it now remains for me to get that final target fish.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Target set and Achieved - 28th river double.

This seasons targets for further barbel river doubles included the River Itchen and the Ribble, one down and one to go.   A trip earlier this season to the north after the Ribble fish did not succeed with a very low river just giving up a couple of smaller fish for my efforts.

                                                           River Itchen at dusk.

Now after five nights spent on the River Itchen I have finally caught my target double from that river, not by much but a double is a double.  I went with the intention of using the caster/hemp ’bait and wait’ method that has proven its worth when looking at a shoal of fish.   My tackle is fairly standard and consists of a Drennan 12ft 1.75lb test barbel rod combined with a Shimano RE5000 baitrunner reel loaded with 15lb main line.  I had increased my line from the normal 12lb I used since I knew there were possible snags in the area and I would need to put the anchors on to avoid losing the fish.  A single buoyant rubber caster was placed on the hair along with a size 10 hook, I would then superglue a further two or three natural casters to this as the day progressed.

                                                     Rig making gear.

Starting about 8am I did a bait drop with about 10 or 12 droppers of a 50/50 mix of hemp and caster and then went for a walk to look and see if I could spot any other fish, unfortunately I could not but it passes the time anyway.   Another angler turned up named Robin Sewell, he had hoped to fish the same swim having had previous success there.  In the following conversation he did say the he had on two previous occasions caught a fish first cast by gently introducing a baited hook with a pellet and had an almost immediate take.  Something for me to note that I could well of missed a trick in not doing that before I baited up, never mind another day I will certainly try it.
As the morning wore on I would occasionally top up the bait mix and sit back, but eventually I did cast and hoped that in the normal fashion of this method I would get an early bite.  It was not to be and I had to wonder if previous pressure, perhaps even the day before, had made the fish even more nervous than usual.  Still I continued to bait up and spend time away from the swim; lines and movement on the bank will be detected so it helps to keep these to a minimum.  On infrequent times I would carefully look into the swim using a tree trunk to hopefully disguise my outline.   It was well into the afternoon before I finally saw barbel appear from wherever they were hiding and although they appeared small they were a welcome sight.
Shortly after their appearance I got my first tap, a sign that they were still about after my small lead had landed in their mist.  I was using a 3ft tail so the actual baited hook was well away from the lead and although I never sure as to the reason it does sometimes seem to work over my more normal 12in to 15in length.  Not long after that tap I got the more normal, and expected, three foot twitch, the strike was firm and good and I hooked into my first fish of the day.  This would be only my second Itchen barbel, I had caught a 6lb type of fish on my first trip, though I was not fooled having been told that the Itchen fish were hard come by.

                                            First of the day, quick phone shot and back.

The swim I was in was very confined with tree trunks either side of my position and braches overhead making lifting the rod tip a delicate operation.  With the snag just downstream of the swim it was quite a game but eventually the fish went into the waiting net and although it was again perhaps 6lb it was very welcome.  I did another bait drop and again left the swim to recover, a check had shown the barbel had all disappeared again but I was hopeful the lure of the casters would bring them back.
On a couple of these times away from my swim I had spoken with Robin who had settled in another swim further upstream.   He had been unfortunate in foul hooking a nice fish that would certainly have been a double, but he also went on to land a small 2lb fish and one in the 9lb range so all was not lost.  Similar to me he had travelled so good distance to sample the Itchen fishing, like many of the local anglers I’ve met here they all seem friendly and willing to pass on information whilst chatting on the bank.
The day was cloudy with sunny breaks though there was a distinct nip in the air as autumn definitely had arrived.  I did wonder how much this had affected the fishing as I think we all know that the changeover period from summer to autumn can make the fishing very patchy.  Still I’m here and at least some fish are feeding so back to the swim and I was pleased to see a few barbel had returned to feed and one of them looked a little larger than the rest.
I had been trying to leave the bait out as long as possible but drifting weed was causing quite a problem.  Sometimes it would be just a few minutes before the rod would bend around as a large bed of weed came downstream and caught on the tackle this time it seemed I got a break and it stayed clear for a little longer and it was enough time for a bite to develop.  The strike and following lunge from the hooked fish showed this would be bigger and with the rod top 2ft under the surface I fought to keep him from the snag.   As fortune favours the brave I was still playing the fish as Robin appeared behind me and he quickly agreed to help in netting this fish.  With that help it was so much more easily accomplished and as he came ashore I wondered if he would make the grade of a double.

Having made our was out of the tight confines of the swim we could check the fish properly, I thought a 9lb size but Robin said he thought better, the scales showed him to be right when they settled on 10lb-3oz, my 28th river target met.  I fished on until dusk but no more action developed though it did not concern me at all and although I may never return to this river it will stay in the memory as a good time with good company.

                                                  10lb-3oz Itchen double.  Target met.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Canadian Sturgeon

A trip to the Fraser River in Canada is on the bucket list of many anglers.  The sturgeons grow very big and if it takes your fancy the salmon run in the river is counted in the millions.  This year I returned again with good friends John Found and David Cook for a 6 days on the boat trip.  We would again be using Cascade Fishing Adventures with Marc Laynes in charge.  Working out of Chilliwack on the west coast of the country they organise everything, hotel, lift to and from the Vancouver Airport and of course the guided boat trips with all tackle and bait supplied.

We arrived to be told by anglers just finishing the break that the fishing was slow but with 17 sturgeon landed and a number of others lost to hook pulls, snags and foul hooking, it seemed quite good to us.  My best was an 8ft 300lb specimen and both John and Dave had 7ft 200lb fish although the largest fish hooked fell to John.  This fish probably about 9ft leapt well clear to give us and excellent view of her spender and after thirty minutes of more of the fight she found a snag and was lost, very disappointing.  My best fight or at least the most powerful came from a probable 7ft fish hooked in the tail, quickly released from the barbless hooks being used it swam off without a problem leaving quite a memory.

I’ll put up a series of photos that I’m sure will give a feel of the trip but if you get the chance then go.

                              My 8ft specimen.  Advised not to lift the head clear of the water.

                                         Dave's big fish   200lb +

                                            John's best fish  200+

                                                 They are not all big.

                                           John tries his best to lift a big one off the bed.

                                            Quite a backdrop for a days fishing.

                                                          A good fighting bend for Dave.

                                                 Waiting for the next bite.

Whilst travelling the bank we also saw bear, deer, coyote, and a wide range of eagles, vultures, and other species of strange birds.   Add to that the longest trains, John counted 150 trucks on one that passed.


Monday 20 June 2016

A new season begins.

The last week has been an improvement in as much as I’ve finally started to catch fish again, that said I lose them as well, it went like this.
My tench fishing had all but been a total failure and I had decided that with the rivers opening on the Thursday I would miss the 100 mile trip to the tench lake and go after the sturgeon instead, at least that was less millage.   My previous visits had always been just for the day and I had had considerable success with fish to over 40lb but I knew there was larger sturgeon to be had.  Also many of the fish come out at night so a 24hr session was planned for Tuesday into Wednesday.
My tackle is similar to that used for pike, 2,75lb test rods with 15lb line going to a Safe zone leader that the fishery owner insists on.  A size 4 hook is tied with a suitable hair rig to take one of the many types of bait that are acceptable to the sturgeon.  Bacon Grill, Chopped Ham with Pork, luncheon Meat, Salmon chunks or liver, the list goes on.
As you will no doubt be aware the midlands and the south of the country had a fair bit of rain over the week and I got wet more than once.  Fortunately it did not affect the fishing and shortly after I arrived I landed my first fish, a beluga sturgeon of about 18lb, shortly after it was followed by a diamond back sturgeon of about 25lb.    These fish fight with a power that has to be felt, I put them as the best battle pound for pound of any of our coarse fish, I’ve landed a good number of them as mentioned and no longer weigh those that appear to be in the 10lb to 20lb+ range.  The next strike I hit into something different and this fish had the real power that left me standing.   
This went straight out and I realised my mistake in swim choice, there were two islands in the lake and My swim choice gave the fish the chance of going between them and then I would be in real trouble.   Tightening the clutch I applied severe pressure and managed to turn the fish and he proceeded to come back towards me then he went off to the left.  Here I made my second mistake and I continued to play him from my current position.  In hindsight, which is always perfect, I should have followed him to a position at the end of the lake, as it was he came back and again headed across between the islands.    This time when I clamped up with the fish already past the left hand island the 15lb line snapped with a crack that could have been heard several hundred yards away and my hoped for prize had mad his escape.   Without a doubt that was the near 80lb fish known to be in the lake and even with over 50 years experience I had mad those two fatal mistakes, but I will not make them again and possibly this blog will help you avoid making the same mistake as well.
I went into the dark with those three chances and shortly after the full darkness came I was playing another good fish although not in the same class as the one lost.  Eventually the net went under a beluga sturgeon that proved to be 44lb-6oz.  My thanks go to the two lads fishing just along from my position that came and helped with the weighing.  An hour later I was back asking for help again and one of the lads came down and we got a weight of 46lb-10oz a very pleasing brace of fish.  I got photos of the first 40lb but with it raining I decided to release this one straight away.   About 3.00am I got my last fish with another 20lb+ diamond back sturgeon to round off a very successful session only spoiled by the lost chance, but I’ll be back!

                                                         44lb-6oz Sturgeon

                                                                    20lb+ sturgeon.

Then the rivers were open again and it was time to get a barbell fix.   I had been making swims on a section of the syndicate Upper Avon and I chose one of these for the first day.  The river itself looked perfect, about 3ft up and a light grey in colour with perhaps 1ft of visibility.
The day was mild but very wet, showers were going through at regular intervals and some of these were very heavy.  The end result was a disappointing blank though I’ve had many of those before.  The following day I was back again but this time I went onto a lower section of the river since there was a new member travelling up from Devon for a few days and I thought it would be good to meet up.   The river level was dropping and I felt it was still perfect for barbell fishing and I dropped into a swim that had produced for me over the Christmas period.
The river was showing a very different look to it’s winter dress in that there were numerous rush beds all along the length.  My chosen swim was clear immediately in front of my position but a long line of the rushes ran along the bank just downstream.  As usual I had two rods in action, one bait down the inside line, this being MAD baits Pandemic, the second rod went out into the middle of the river and this carried a Dynamite Crave self life boilie.  I bait dropped an amount of hemp on each line along with a few sample baits in the hope the flavour trail would draw the barbel upstream.
The day’s weather was a repeat of that experienced yesterday, showers with some heavy, of course when the barbel bite finally came it was right in the middle of one of those heavy spells.  This was a very powerful fish and with the extra help of the flooded river he had got alongside the rush bed and this gave me considerable problems.  The outside edge of the rushes was some 15ft or so away from the bank and the fish would not leave the rushes so I was constantly pulling in a direction that got him snagged on the rush.  I tried various tricks including slack line and pulling from a position level with him in the hope he would move out, all to no avail.   By now I looked like a drowned rat and that gave me the clue, I couldn’t get much wetter so I stripped off to underpants, put my shoes back on and went into the river.
Unless you have a fair idea of the depth this is definitely not recommended, I did, and I also allowed for the extra water the river was carrying.   Using the landing net handle I slowly went into the water, unfortunately this meant going through a bed of stinging nettles, with bare legs that gave me problems well into the following day.   Slowly I made my way to a point where the water was heading towards my chin and there I stopped.  Now with the rod held straight out the line was being pulled away from the rushes and I was in better control.   It’s not easy to use a landing net that is level with your face but eventually I saw a large barbel slide over the rim into its waiting embrace.   Now it was just a case of getting back to the bank and up onto the top section; not an easy task bringing the net and rod along with me, but eventually with the help of grabbing the stems of big bunches of stingers I got out, then I made the fish safe still in the landing net but in clear water.

                                                   13lb-4oz  Nice way to open the season.

I gave a quick phone call to Brian fishing just along from my swim to ask if he would come up for photos once the rain stopped, then a quick dry off and a change of clothes.  The fish was obviously a double but it would wait being quite safe in its current position.   Eventually Brian turned up and we got the fish out having already got the scales and camera ready, I said ‘definitely over 11lb’ but Brian just said ‘look at the shoulders, it’s bigger than that’.   As Brian lifted the scales I looked over his shoulder and saw that the reading was at 13lb-4oz, a great start to the new season.