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 January 2012

Specimen pike bonus.

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that there can be long spells of fishing between the capture of specimen size fish as you would expect.  My January results had been quite disappointing until that pb barbel of 15lb-4oz off the Anker last Saturday and I wondered just how long it would be until the next good fish graced my landing net – now I know – two days!

I needed to go down to Oxford to help a friend on a problem he had, and it had been arranged that I would go on the Monday 23rd January.  With this arrangement being made some weeks ago I was in the hands of the gods as to what weather conditions would be like, but the forecast had showed it to be dry and warm for this time of the year so fishing arrangements were also made.

I knew the problem would only take an hour to sort out and with some reasonable pike fishing to be found in the area I suggested to Mervyn Wilkinson he might like to come along, he agreed and it was arranged we would leave at 6:30am to arrive just after dawn.  The venue was a medium sized gravel pit with plenty of features to attract the angler fishing there.  Previous experience of the piking suggested that they well might be a few fish in one of the bays that lay off the main lake, so we would start there.  The roach were there as well, and in quick time half a dozen 4 inch samples were in the bucket ready to go on as bait.  I had decided to use sea baits as quite often these will select the larger pike although normally they will not catch as many as the live-baits.   Meanwhile Merv would fish one rod on each, live-bait and sea bait.  My tackle was as you would expect for piking with 15lb main line, a wire trace and two size 8 trebles fished Jardine style.  Merv has been trying to avoid the use trebles and he had similar gear, but just a large single hook on the wire trace and he used it to good effect.  Starting right at the back of the bay he was soon playing his first pike and that proved to be a fish of perhaps 6lb and fell to a roach bait.  Within twenty minutes or so another followed that one but this time to his head of mackerel, each fish fairly hooked right in the scissors of the jaw line.  At this stage I left to meet up and sort out the problem that was the reason for the trip returning about an hour later and just missing Merv’s third pike, a long, lean, fish estimated at 15lb.

Shortly after returning I decided on a move and went perhaps 30 yards further along the bank towards the main body of the lake.  As I put my tackle down a pike swirled in front of me, then within minutes another showed just a bit further along the bank.  I quickly went back for the rest of my gear and suggested to Merv that he moved into the next swim along since it appeared the pike might be packed up in the area.  As it turned out even before he passed me in his move I was playing a pike that had taken my sardine bait almost immediately follow my cast in.  He dropped his gear in place and returned to help with the net and by this time I knew it was a reasonable fish.  Netted at the first chance following a good scrap, Merv looked in the net and said, ’about 18lb’ then lifted it out onto the waiting mat.  Now looking at it laying there he quickly revised the estimate to 20lb+ and so it proved to be at 20lb-6oz.  That was the first twenty I’ve had for some years although I’ve not fished for them to any degree, obviously delighted with such a fish caught almost by chance since I would not be here without the other need arising.
                                                            20lb-6oz of superbly marked pike.

The rest of the day passed much the same with Merv’s total ending on 10 pike with four doubles. I had just the two, but with that big fish in the net I think we were both happy with the result.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Dream barbel off the River Anker

Following a dead week for results and with the temperatures rising I went over to a local tackle shop on the River Anker to renew my yearly permit.  I did see photos of big barbel that inspired me to change my mind as to where to fish as it turned out I was already fishing a good length.  Going without a bite of any nature over the last number of visits in previous seasons I had begun to lose heart, and hence I was going to make the move to a new stretch.  As it turned out I blanked yet again, but that is the nature of trying to catch big fish of any species, often they are few and far between.  I packed up about 8:00pm and made my way to another meeting where I obtained a second club ticket ready for my intended more serious attempt for a River Anker double figure barbel.
The next day I had intended to go onto a local commercial after the perch, but when my little widget on the computer showed the local temperature at 12C I changed my mind – go perch fishing when it is down to 6C – barbel today.  Back to the River Anker, but I decided to try the stretch I was going to fish the day before, as you can see I do bounce about in my decisions but I get there in the end.  Still, I arrived at the venue and walked the length to decide on a swim settling in what appeared to be an interesting spot.   I was just putting my tackle in place when a bailiff appeared on the scene and recognised me as an angler who he had requested to be a friend on Facebook on a couple of days previously.  As it turned out he did me a good turn by suggesting a better swim further along the stretch.  Local knowledge is always worth listening to so I moved along with his help to get the tackle into place.

My tackle was the usual mix of open-ended feeders to take out hemp loaded mixed pellets and then Dynamite Monster Crab boilies on the one rod, and elips pellets on the other.  The lad’s name was Mark Turner and he stayed talking about various aspects of the fishing scene for some hours before the boilie bait was taken and the rod bent over quite a way even with the line going out on the baitrunner.  Quickly picking the rod up I struck into the fish and felt the pleasing resistance of a good fish.  ‘Is it big?’ asked Mark, and I could only suggest that although definitely a good fish I did not think it would be that large, might even be one of the medium carp known to frequent the length.     As I played it, I became more thoughtful that it might be bigger than I initially thought; it was not coming to the bank that easily.  Then it surfaced and we could both see that it was a very nice fish, almost certainly well into double figures, it came that little bit closer and Mark netted it first chance and my River Anchor double was safely in the landing net.
                                                             15lb-4oz River Anker double.
I was quite excited at this fish and wondered just how big it would be, soon the weigh sling and scales were ready and once the zero had been confirmed by Mark, I loaded the waiting fish into the sling and hung it on the scale’s hook.  The Fox Digitals hovered between 15lb-4oz and 15lb-5oz so I gratefully settled for the lower figure.  That was the 5th different river where I’ve caught barbel in excess of 15lb, and the 21st different river where I’ve caught a double figure barbel.  I don’t pursue this target as much as previous seasons, but it will always be that little bit of a special occasion when it happens and another river is added to that growing list.  I stayed on into dark and took a little bream but no other fish showed so I retired about 6:30pm and returned home with a smile on my face.
                                                                     Not the same fight off this though!

Sunday 15 January 2012

A trip to the Kennet [part2]

Back at John’s house following my day’s fishing for chub we discussed the possible venues for the following day.  My thoughts were for either perch or chub, while John fancied trying for a shoal of barbel he had recently found, to meet both ambitions was easily done, we went to the river length where the barbel were to be found, and I followed John’s suggestion as to a known chub swim.
                                                           Kennet country.
Although I have a number of club tickets for the Reading -Newbury area we were going to a section where I was not covered and John arranged a day ticket through the club secretary.  All nice and legal, we arrived not long after dawn and walked the length looking at various likely looking swims.  One of the problems with the Kennet is that there are just too many good swims, a big perch or chub could be found almost every 10 yards or so and decisions are so much harder than those lengths were one or two swims look good.  The swim indicated by John was almost one of the classics, a large bush hanging right over the river where the shallows dropped off into deep water.  I did say almost classic, the one slight problem was that the drop from shallow to deep occurred too close to the upstream edge of the bush to allow it to be fished from there.   Anyone who has watched a chub shoal will be aware that they can be amongst the most active of our coarse fish, they are forever drifting around their domain and I was quite confident that these fish would drift down into the pool and away from the overhead bush.  Using the same set-up as yesterday I baited with hemp and maggot as close to the bush as I could and felt it was just time.  One big difference was that there would be no way I could fish the fine line tactics in this swim.  Under the bush on the far bank was a tangle of branch and roots exposed by the low water levels but obviously going well into the water just waiting for the unwary angler to give the chub too much line.  The only concession I would need to make is a change of hook-link to the 4lb Fireline braid tied to the Drennan size 18 hook that I use in this situation.

Meanwhile John, fishing some half a mile downstream of me reported he had caught his first barbel of 2012, not a big fish but a good sign the shoal was still in place and feeding.  His tackle would be similar but with a longer hook-link and heavier rods and line, it is difficult to better maggots or caster in low, clear water conditions.  By 11:00am I was beginning to wonder why I was not getting any action, conditions were good and I was in a known chub swim but it seemed dead.  I bait dropped with hemp and although that method would not be used here too much I felt sure the fish would know the sound was a dinner gong – where were they?

Over the years I have been fishing I have had some very exciting events, battles with big fish and the sight of monsters in my landing net, the next five minutes would easily fit into this list.  The tip indicated a bite with just the lightest quiver; I struck and immediately dropped the rod to water level since if the fish moved upstream as I thought it would, I needed to avoid getting caught in the lower branches trailing in the water.  Sure enough this fish move up and I had the rod bent as far as it would go, past the 90 degree mark and all I could do was clamp down and hold.  This fish tested the tackle to the limit and the fine line would have parted in seconds, the braid seemed to be holding and I could feel the typical pull/ relax, pull/relax so often experienced of a fish trying to reach sanctuary in snags.  This stalemate was kept up for probably 3minutes or even longer and I was convinced that I had hooked one of the Kennet’s big chub.  Seven pound fish are a definite possibility and even an eight could be about – it seemed I had hooked one and as the minutes ticked by I thought I was going to land it!  For all this time I had been unable to reel in line, just hold and wait but now the pressure began to tell and slowly the fish came out and into the pool.  Still out of sight in the deep water my excitement mounted since now I felt sure I would land it, but then it came into sight and it was a barbel!   Talking to John afterwards he did not know of a barbel ever coming from that swim but now I had a fish of maybe 6lb laying in the net and my dream just evaporated.

Meanwhile John had taken another two barbel himself and then a phone call came to say he had hooked a better fish so I made my way down to his swim for a photo, it was not as big as he had thought, but although not a double it still was a pleasing best of the day for him.
                                                                John's best of the day.
Throughout the morning I had noticed that small dust like particles were settling on my line, within five minutes of casting out the line would look like tow-rope and a little shake of the rod was needed to clear it.   About 1:00pm I phoned John to query if he had the same and he said not, but it turned out that shortly after that he began to suffer the same condition and his bites dried up, no more fish were caught.  I moved downstream to another swim but at the end of the day that sole barbel was my result, exciting, but disappointing as well.  Talking afterwards it turns out that there is a trout farm just up from where I was fishing and they had probably released a load of crap into the river.  With normal flow levels this has a limited result, but in these low water conditions it is known to sour the fishing for some time afterwards.  It was just my luck they would do it while I was there.

The last day of my trip we both did a little bit of exploring, it was a stretch that is known to hold big barbel and chub but my only fish of the day, a thin chub of about 4lb was the only sign of life.  I fished through to 6:30pm to allow the traffic to diminish and made my way home.  No big fish but a nice day with the chub and an exciting time with that barbel added to good company, it is always true that there is more to fishing than catching fish, this was such a trip.

Friday 13 January 2012

A trip to the Kennet [ part 1]

It has been a strange start to the New Year and although I got my first 2012 barbel on the second day of the month it was of a moderate size and the other fish I have caught since then have been equally moderate. 
                                                             First barbel of 2012

Blanks on the zander front, perch to 2lb-9oz and the barbel of about 5lb, nice fishing but I had hoped for better.  With the weather forecast for the second week looking very good, that description being dry and double figure day temperatures, I decided on a trip down to fish the Kennet and soon had three days arranged with John Found. 
                                                           One of the 2lb perch caught. 
Generally my plan was to fish for chub the first day, this would be on my own as John had other plans, the following two days I would fish in his company and we would plan where to go, and what for to fish for as the time came.

I arrived to find the river very low and clear as is so often the case of late on many rivers, we need lots of rain desperately if we are to avoid major problems next year.  In actual fact those conditions are quite good for chub fishing with maggot feeders which was my current plan, so not too disappointed on that front.  I had of course brought along plenty of pellet and boilies to cover the chance of the river being high and coloured and they could stay in the van without a problem.  You have probably read the description of my chub gear many times but a quick summary is that it consists of a 12ft Drennan medium feeder rod with a 2.5oz quiver in use to suit the flow rate I’ve seen.  The 6lb reel line is more for casting the feeder than the size of fish, and this line is threaded through a Blackcap feeder, into the hole at one end and out of the ole at the other end.  This gives a very resistance free movement since I will be using quite fine lines for the chub going as low as 2lb if needed.  Experience has shown that using the swivel gives the chub the chance to break the hook link immediately on the take, the snatch bite off a chub can be quite vicious, and the friction through the swivel does not give line freely enough for the job in hand.  The size 18 or 20 Superspade hook will be used with line between 2lb and 3.2lb and kept short, about 2 inch is normally the length used so now I’m ready to fish.

The swim is a steady glide with the main flow running close to the rushbed along the opposite side of the river, I will be fishing close to that, but the chub know it’s there and that might present a difficulty.  I’ve brought along a fair supply of red maggots since I can always take home what I don’t use, fortunately I’ve a separate fridge/freezer for bait so no problem there.  Just as an aside remark, I was fishing on a commercial for the perch recently and as it got close to dusk a nearby fellow angler came along and asked if I wanted the maggots he had left.  There was well over a pint and he explained that his wife would not allow them in the house at all, meaning he had to get them on the morning of his proposed trip, and leave any remainder behind at the end of the day, it did bring home how lucky I am for my freedom at times.  Still, back to fishing and although I don’t need the ‘bait and wait’ tactics for chub I still use the bait dropper throughout the session.  Remember that the hemp is there to attract the fish from downstream and once they are in the swim you can cut down, or eliminate its use.  If the fishing starts to die off then by all means put it back on the menu.  Four drops of maggots are followed by an equal number of drops of hemp, in that order since I don’t want to spook a fish that came straight away to the hemp if that was put in first.  It does not always work like that but believe me I’ve seen chub make a 15yd dash upstream when hemp has been introduced, they don’t do that for the maggots alone.
                                                      Part of the day's chub catch

Throughout the day I took a steady stream of chub coming to net, I dropped four of them into a keep-net just for a photograph although I normally release them immediately.  I did loose one that broke me on a straight pull, he got close to those rushes and I held on, but the tackle was not up to the task and it broke that fine hook length.  I did try going on to my usual back-up plan of a 4lb Fireline hook link, but the bites stopped, these chub were just too canny to take that gear and I had to revert back to the mono again and take my chance.  No big fish landed but probably that was the one that got away – always another day though and I’ll be back to that spot to try again for round two.
                                                        Close of play on the Kennet.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

A year to remember - month by month look at the years results.

Looking through my diary for last year I have decided it was not too bad a 12 month period at all.  I have had better, but that's the name of the game.   I though a look at my pick of the catches for each  month could make interesting blog so here goes.

January.     I'll cheat here and pick a catch from the last days of the previous year since my January results were crap.  It was the 29th of December and I had gone down to the Hampshire Avon for a couple of days.  The first of those days I dropped into a favourite swim which had done 6lb chub fish for me on previous visits - Fishing a maggot feeder it came up trumps with chub of 7lb-3oz and 6lb-14oz.
                                                                7lb-3oz Avon Gem

February-     Following that very cold and snow covered period of the previous month there were a few gaps that gave a chance on the rivers - I took advantage of one of those and came up with a very nice Warwickshire Avon barbel of 13lb-10oz to prove that if the bait's is in the water you can catch.

                                                              13lb-10oz - very nice!

March                      Still variable weather and the end of the river season did not live up to my hopes for a big chub.  I started off a good year for sturgeon though, with a  catch of 5 fish over 23lb with a best of 28lb-11oz.
                                                       Best of 5 at 28lb-11oz

April           With April came better weather, and my usual trips to the Colne Valley gave me double figure bream, and tench to over 8lb, but I thought a bit of variety here so I include an eary catfish of 30lb-11oz.
                                                              Wells Catfish of 30lb-11oz.

May          A few more 20lb sturgeon but May is for tench and although my first choice venue failed - it seemed the big fish probably died in the freeze up of the winter - a local venue came good for the month with a number of tench to a very pleasing 8lb-14oz best of the month.
                                                       A lucky Friday 13th tench of 8lb-14oz.

June.                        With the loss of the big tench I was also at a loss as to where to try for a double, I decided to return to my bream venue since it does occasionally turn up a nice tench - it did, in spades and gave my new pb tench of 11lb-14oz.
Another nice catch for the month was a brace of double figure barbel on the same day off the River Teme which included a new pb for the river at the time of capture. 10lb-2oz and 10lb-7oz.
                                                       Probably my best fish of the year 11lb-14oz.

July                     A funny month is July - sometimes great and at other times it can be a killer.  A couple of notable capture here, first a new all comers lake record for Orchid Lakes with a 55lb-9oz Wells Catfish. Then added to this for the month is a 12lb-1oz barbel off the Warwickshire Avon.
                                                     12lb-1oz Warwickshire Avon
                                                          55lb-9oz lake record.

August                    Probably the best thing that happened in this month was that I finally completed the book and it went off for the finishing touches.  A few more 20lb sturgeon hit the bank, with lots of barbel from the Teme, Avon and Derwent along with another river pb coming off the Derwent.   The best of 6 barbel on the day, and at 11lb-4oz it was over a 1lb increase over my previous best so obviously very pleasing.
                                                                Derwent pb at 11lb-4oz.

September.                  Always a good month and this was no different, still lots of barbel coming to the net, but I do fish a lot of time for them.  A increase on my Teme pb took it to 11lb-6oz to give it the month's honours, but a close second goes to a 10lb3oz zander - my first double for a long time.
                                                        A new Teme pb at 11lb-6oz.

                                                            10lb-3oz the first double for years.
October                  The river Derwent has been good to me this year but now it was really good, a catch of nine barbel includng three doubles of 10lb-8oz, 11lb4oz and another river best at 12lb2oz, it does not come much better than that.
                                                       The season's biggest so far at 12lb-2oz.

November               It makes a real change to trot a river and a trip to the River Test gave me the chance to do just that - when it gave up a 2lb-6oz roach that really made the day.
                                                                River roach are something special.

December     I started this blog by going back into december for a great brace of fish, this year the month has been dead for me.  Roach and perch fishing very quiet.  A two day blank on the Hampshire Avon for chub was disappointing.  I will close the peice with a Boxing Day barbel mentioned in my last blog, always nice to end the year with a reasonable fish.
                                                        Small but perfectly proportioned!

I hope that next year can give as much fun and success to both myself and all of you as well.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Fishing over the Xmas break - success and failier in equal measure.

Well that’s the Xmas break over and lots of anglers are making their sad way back to the workplace.  It has been quite a mix of weather conditions but the start of the break saw very mild weather for late December, and I got out on Boxing Day in the hope of getting a late barbel.  Sitting on the banks of the river it could have been September and I basked in the sunshine waiting for the first indication.  It came as I was talking to one of the lads off a web site I visit on a regular basis, the barbel itself was not particularly big at about 5lb, but at this stage just its capture was very pleasing.  My fishing tackle was the usual arrangement of two rods with the end tackle being open ended feeders carrying mixed pellets and hemp along with a boilie on one, and two 8mm pellets on the other.  This time it had been the boilie that caught the fish, but a few hours later my wait was rewarded with another fighting fish of 6lb or so that took the pellet bait.  It would seem that often the fish just pick up bait that they come across in the wandering travels.
                                                     Boxing Day Barbel

The next day I went to a local lake with Mervyn Wilkinson in the hope of catching a zander, still reasonable weather for December, but decidedly cooler in the quite strong wind.  The bait to be used was a mix of lamprey section on one of the rods and a small 4 inch roach on the other, we had both used leger tactics and similar baits, but whilst I just had a couple of pulls that did not develop, Mervyn caught a fine specimen of 8lb-10oz that had looked to be a certain double.
                                                                                        Merv's prize

With the various thing that come up at this time of year I did not get out again until Xmas eve and I should have stayed at home, the river was right up and lots of rubbish was coming through making the fishing very difficult.  I did try for maybe three hours but in the end I gave up and left very disappointed.

I treated myself to a new pc tower and being a near total novice in these things it took me nearly two days to sort the transfer over from the old system of Windows XP to the new windows 7.  Even now I’ve still got problems with something called Active X and trying to find conversion leads for my traffic camera detector – an essential bit of gear that!  Still, I got out fishing again yesterday, 2-1 -2012.

It had gone quite cold with a near frost overnight and the forecast of a maximum temperature of 5C, but fortunately the wind was more of a gentle breeze so the chill factor was kept to a minimum.  With the sun breaking through the clouds occasionally, it was indeed nice to be on the banks.  It seemed that lots of other anglers had been cooped up for too long as well, and with ten or more people about it was by far the most I had seen on a river bank for a long time.  The river itself had dropped by a couple of foot from those conditions that had beaten me on the Saturday, and once fishing I could confirm that the rubbish had lessened as well.  Still plenty of dead leaves to catch on the line, but at least it was now manageable.

I thought the chance of a barbel was less than 50/50 and reports from other anglers confirmed that the big drop in temperature had indeed caused the fish to retreat to their hidey holes and nothing was being caught.  Today I had resorted to my favourite Dynamite Monster Crab boilie on both rods, heavily glugged I thought that the scent trail would perhaps encourage a fish to at least try, just like the cherry on the cake –irresistible!
As dusk approached I had already made up my mind that I would not stop into dark, the temperature was dropping fast and my hopes of a fish were dropping just as quickly.  I was again talking with a fellow angler when at last that boilie did prove irresistible to a barbel, one of that species had to be responsible for the bend in the rod, and with the fishes own power increased by the additional floodwater I got my days sport in the extra fight the barbel was able to give.  With the slippy banks left by the high water, both the fellow angler who was netting the fish, and me, nearly ended up in the river, but at last it was in the net and safe.  At 8lb-14oz not a monster, but a very pleasing start to 2012 and I retired from the river well pleased with the day – now what will the coming year bring?
                                                                         The first barbel for 2012.