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.

Monday 27 February 2012

Monster fish on light tackle.

I was at a loose end so decided to go down to local canal to try for the silver bream, not had one of that species that I’ve weighed so that is one of the targets this year.  Left home at 1:30pm so obviously it was not going to be a long session, but I could relaxed and take it as it comes.   I would be using my normal tackle for this light fish type of species, roach, crucian and those sort, 14ft Drennan Ultralight rod, with a size 20 hook to 1.5lb hook link.  Single red maggot and loose feed a few of these into the swim every 10 minutes or so.  I had a little of my mixed pellet and hemp left from the previous day on the Derwent so I used it as a light feed, not  too much of that though.

My first fish had me going for a moment but it proved to be a bronze bream of less than 2lb, the next time the float dipped I hit something bigger – a lot bigger!    My mind went through the various options, pike, zander, sizable tench, but that soon was left behind as this fish was too big.  All the time the obvious species was carp, the canals have lots of them and they do grow to a very large size.  Fifteen minutes later I was still in contact with the unseen monster but he was in charge.  Over the next fifteen minutes he lead me a merry chase going all over except directly in front of me.  Slowly I could see that the little pressure I was putting on him was beginning to tell, I saw the float for the first time and then I could keep the float above the surface of the water for most of the time.  I got him in front of my position and he just went round and round in a circle, but then he came within the netting distance and he was mine.
                                                              That tested the tackle to the limit!

Lifting him clear of the water I could only think I was destined to catch him, I had left the usual small pan net in the van and was using my 32 inch chub net, and that 1.5lb hook link had held since he made no long runs.  Merv came along and the scales showed a brilliant 20lb-12oz, my first English twenty for many years, but then I don’t fish for them.  It started to rain so we packed up early, the silver bream will wait for another day.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Red Letter Days in the South

Towards the end of the river season the draw of the mighty Hampshire Avon and Dorset Stour is hard to resist, so I don’t.  My last trip was in conditions that were far from perfect, the chub would have acclimatised to the extreme cold but I had not; still I had caught chub up to a respectable 6lb-4oz and I looked forward to this trip and catching even more of them.

The weather was turning from those extreme cold figures to a forecast of almost summer temperatures at 17C or even 18C by the Thursday; with each day of my intended three day session getting warmer how could I fail?   I started off at 5:00am on Tuesday for the 2.5 hour trip as this beats most of the works traffic though I am always amazed at how many cars are about at that time.  I had arranged to meet up with John Found in the car park on the Hampshire Avon and sure enough he was already in place and changing into his fishing clothing when I pulled up next to him.  Today would be dry but windy with a big chill factor, 10C on the thermometer but 4C on the hands and body exposed to the biting wind.  Following a short discussion as to what swims to fish we were both on our seperate way, the chosen swims were some considerable distance apart but with mobile phones we could keep in touch as to how we were progressing with the attempt to catch these sometimes elusive fish.

I considered using the large pellets mentioned in the last blog for about two seconds and then decided on the usual feeder maggot approach, the splash off those pellets would scare every chub within a hundred yards of my swim.  The river itself is frighteningly low and everybody is extremely concerned about the coming year, how much lower can it go without very serious problems.

I started off in a favourite swim and after the usual wait I landed a 5lb-4oz chub, that seemed to bode well for the coming days but then I had to wait quite some time before the next bite produced a great fish of 6lb-6oz, an improvement on the season’s best.  I was now going into the afternoon and John was having little joy in his swim, plenty of knocks but no fish.  Following the advice of our local expert, Pete Reading, he moved upstream about 15 yards and it proved its worth when he quickly caught his first chub of the day, not big but a starter.  The thought was that he was fishing at the downstream end of the chub’s territory and those knocks could well have been just tail flicks.  As was discussed later at Pete’s house, ‘If you want to meet someone you could stand outside their front door and eventually they will come out.  Go inside the house and they are there most of the time.’   John lost another chub that got into the rushes at his feet, and no more action followed so that was it for day one.
                                                                    6lb-6oz mint specimen

Wednesday the forecast was fairly dire, strong winds and rain for most of the day.  When fishing the Avon there are very few sheltered spots so taking the umbrella was essential.  John had decided to fish the same swim as he ended up in the previous day; I moved to a different section and settled into a swim that had previously giving quite good results although by its very nature the fish could be holding up in any of several spots.  I soon settled into the routine of casting and bait dropping that goes along with this style of fishing.  A couple of droppers of both hemp and maggot to start the day, regular casting to keep fresh maggots going into the flow where they will eventually be washed downstream.  Then just the occasional top up of hemp to hopefully attract fish from even further downstream.  The plan was great but at the end of the day I had just one medium chub for my efforts, the plans don’t always work.  That said, John’s plan did.  Not in his first choice swim, but by 11:00am he had still had no action and decided on a move to a swim a couple of hundred yards away – good move as it turned out!

Following the same routine as I just described he quickly put a 5lb-7oz chub in the net but even better he followed it up with a new river best for him at 6lb-10oz.  This might sound easy but his swim was in major traffic lane for the weed that always seems to be drifting down the river.  It can be a nightmare and your cast can stay in place for seconds or maybe ten minutes, but you will be wiped out.  Rod held high or right down low, even the tip under water and you still catch the drifting rubbish.  On a day like today the wind will dislodge much of this weed rubbish back into the flow making the problem even worse; it is only the potential rewards that keep you going and John got yet another reward in the form of his last chub of the day at 6lb-1oz.  His last fish though was a bonus barbel of 8lb-10oz taken just as the sun was setting to round off a great day’s fishing.
                                                       A new river best at 6lb-10oz.

The next day, Thursday, was the one where the weather forecast looked most favourable.  Possibly 17C, dry with light SW winds, what more could you ask for?  I went into a different swim again and John went back to the swim that had produced such a good result the previous day. I worked on my swim with feeder and dropper up to 1:00pm with just one medium chub again.  There had been a couple of real wrap rounds but these were far more likely to have been a passing salmon or pike, just maybe a barbel but I would have expected a take of him if that was the culprit.  I decided on another move but when I tried the chosen swim all I got was minnows, little demons that jump onto a bait as soon as it enters their area of occupation.  I tried a few casts but all to no avail, moved along to another nearby swim but again they were there.  Although not set in stone there is a fair chance that when the minnows are about in that number then the chub are not present.  The chub could turn up at any moment and the minnows stop but I did not want to waste my time on the bank hoping that this would happen.  Meanwhile it was happening in John’s swim.

He had gone through the morning without a touch, but the weed was far less of a problem and there were no minnows to contend with.  Then out of the blue he got a bite and immediately hooked what he thought was going to be a very good chub, a couple of minutes later he knew it was not a chub but far more likely to be a barbel.  It fortunately had not made any powerful runs downstream, after all John was fishing with chub gear and could probably not have stopped it.  Several long minutes later he drew a large barbel over the waiting landing net and once weighed he had a new personal best barbel for the river at 13lb-8oz.  Fantastic!  He then got a couple more chub though these were of far more moderate size at less than 5lb.  When he phoned to say he would be packing up at 4:00pm to beat the traffic on his way home I did not hesitate to comment I would be there shortly.
                                                           13lb-8oz beast of a fish.

I got round to his swim and found that although I had fished it many times and caught plenty of fish in the past, John was fishing to a different part of the currents than those I would normally chose.  When he began to put his tackle away he was still getting the occasional knock off something, trouble was it could be a dace or roach, you never know.  With two new river personal bests under his belt, both of which were very big fish he left a very happy man well content with his results for the three day break.  Then I began to fish with just under two hours of daylight left and obviously I was more confident of a fish than in my previous two swims for the day.  No bait dropping to be done, John had already done so on a few occasions so I relied on the swim feeder doing the job with the recasting needed following the occasional wipe out by weed.   Just the same as John I had several knocks but could not contact a fish but then at gone 5:00pm I finally hit a good fish that played hard to get in the extra flow of this swim.  I wondered if it was another barbel but then I saw the silver flash of a chub and things got very interesting.  When it finally went over the rim of the net I wondered if I had recaptured John’s 6lb-10oz fish of the previous day but that was not to be.  The scales gave a reading of 7lb-2oz on a near perfect specimen chub, only the fourth over that magic weight that I’ve achieved.  A chap fishing nearby had seen me land the fish and he came across to look at it, this helped in getting photos since he had confirmed that he was quite reasonable at that task and so he proved to be.  Not long after that the minnows moved in as is so often the case at dusk, I packed up but who worried about minnows – not me.
                                                   A 7lb-2oz beauty to round off the session.
In three days fishing John and I had only caught a handful of chub each, but what an average, 6lb-1oz, 6lb-6oz, 6lb-10oz and that 7lb-2oz cheery on the cake.  With John’s 13lb-8oz barbel it went to show just why the Southern rivers have such a draw on me.  The following day I stopped off at the roach lake but I had used up my allocation of luck when just one of the bigger roach fell to my maggot feeder, better luck next time.
                                                             A nice consolation prize.

Sunday 19 February 2012

A new tack for bigger fish.

With my lack of anything like a good result when fishing over the last week I have made a decision.  I had been to the tackle show at the Ricoh ground and whilst there I met up with Simon who runs Quality Baits, www.qualitybaits.co.uk  probably the best local bait company by a long way.  He was showing me his latest offering and tried to convince me that the new pellets were intended for very large carp and catfish, but I saw other possibilities.

Now we all know that big baits equal big fish, this will now be my new approach to barbel and chub.  I know I will not get too many bites, but if I do get a take off a barbel, it will be big, very big.  That said, if nothing happens over the next week or so I could always Superglue two of them together – back to back – same as normally done with the Elips pellets, this in case they missed the one laying on its own.
                                                              Now that's a Pellet!

I like to think this will be a pioneering approach to barbel and chub that has not been tried before, but if you have already done this let me know how you got on.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Three days in the South Part 2.

Friday came as it always does, but as I looked out the window of the bedroom I could see a two or three inch layer of snow freshly settled over the surrounding countryside.  It looked pretty as a picture, but I shivered just with the thought of the cold waiting to meet me outside.  The biggest problem with this type of situation is that you cannot catch fish while sitting in the warm of your room so gritting my teeth I set out on the 10 miles or so to get back up to the Avon Valley and then made my way to the chosen venue for the day.  Yesterday I had a deer stop for a considerable time in the trees opposite my swim, he seem to take little notice of me, but scared off when a dog walker passed some distance away.  Today I could see the foot prints of deer and many other forms of country life left in the snow, unfortunately these included otter prints as well, but they have got everywhere now so that came as no surprise.

The day’s forecast had suggested that the temperature could climb to the dizzy heights of perhaps 3C, but this was some hours into the future and getting the rod set up soon had my fingers frozen as though Findus Foods had been at work in their fish fingers department.   As mentioned in part 1 of this story I was using the same set up as yesterday, but now on the Avon the swim was slightly different.  Although the river level is extremely low it still had a considerable rate of current as it went past my swim, hence an extra sledge weigh was added to the feeder in order to hold station on the far edge of the bushes.  Even then, it still only just held and the slightest pull on the hook bait could dislodge the feeder and encourage the chub to continue downstream with the tiny size 18 hook now pricked into its mouth.  This does give a very characteristic bite where the quivertip just gives a continuous quiver rather than a pull round.

With the very low river level I considered the swim I normally fish when here to be too low for the chub to frequent and hence I moved to a new swim.  At times the chub can be very selective in where they settle down and it remained to be seen if my choice would be the same as they would make.  Again I waited for that first knock to let me know there are fish present and sure enough that tap came after only 30 minutes and it was immediately followed by the tip quivering as previous described.  I stuck and following a short scrap I landed a chub of about 3lb-8oz, not big but with it perhaps being the only one for the day I was very happy to get the snowy picture of its capture.
                                                                  Small but welcome.
Although the river was at a low level there was still plenty of weed coming down on the flow and this seemed to always be on the same section of river that allowed it to catch my line as it entered the water.  While this is a problem it also makes sure I keep up the recasting rate and thereby top up the swim with fresh maggot, it is noticeable that I am not being troubled by minnows and that gives hope that there are more chub in the area.  Those people that do not fish cannot understand why we do it, out in freezing conditions to catch a fish that we immediately return.  That said, how you can explain the excitement of waiting for the bite off a fish that might be a new personal best, but will be welcome whatever its size.  I was just beginning to think that the chub might have been on its own when the tip signalled interest yet again, no preliminaries but a positive indication that resulted in a hooked fish yet again.  This time it fought a lot more strongly and I landed a fish I thought would approach the magic 6lb mark, but yet again the scales showed a figure well below that at 5lb-6oz.  I’m not sure why they should appear so low in weight, the cold might affect their feeding pattern to start with but they should be feeding now.
                                                                5lb-6oz Avon Chub.

Following that capture it was quite a time before I got another bite, but this time I struck into a fish that did not want to leave the trees.  With the rod bent at ninety degrees I held him and thought I was going to win, but that proved to be too early a thought.  Several times he lunged, and several times I got him back, but the last time he broke that fine hook link.  It is never good to lose a fish but especially when it might just be a real specimen, now I had to decide whether to change to a braid hook length.   This is always a problem, accept the braid may well result in less bites but it will not give way under the pressure, or stay on the lower strength mono and take the chance.  I decided on safety first and changed over to my usual back-up for this situation, 4 inches of 4lb Fireline tied to the same size 18 Superspade hook.

It did not take too long before I was pleased with that decision and I was playing a fish that again did not want to leave the tree canopy.  He might not want to but I had better control now and the pressure told bringing him in to the mid river.  It is very exciting paying a big fish until you can get sight of it, then once seen holding your nerve not to relax how you play him.  All too often you can try and play them a little bit more carefully only to lose them because of this action.  No need to worry, I eventually slipped him into the waiting net and once weighed I could see I had got my target fish for the trip at 6lb plus, 6lb-4oz to be precise.
                                                         Best of the day at 6lb-4oz and target met.
There was just one more bite before dusk and that resulted in an immaculate specimen of 5lb-11oz to complete a very enjoyable day and although my hands were totally dead with the cold that was again coming back with a vengeance, once I had packed up I made my way back to the car a very happy angler looking forward to the next trip to the South.
                                                                   Last of the day at 5lb-11oz.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Three days in the South. Part 1

A day on the River Test is always one to look forward to, but with the day’s forecast to be at, or near zero temperature, it was not really my first choice for trotting with a float.  Taking a nice leisurely approach, the start for the day’s fishing was finally made about 10:30 am when the very sharp cold had just moderated slightly to one of being just cold rather than bl**dy cold.  The trouble with trotting is that I cannot do it while wearing gloves so within a very short space of time my fingers were frozen but this was offset by catching fish at very regular intervals.  As could be expected the conditions had made most of the coarse fish reluctant to feed but trout and grayling seem to disregard the cold and were well up to taking the maggots that were drifted past them.  The set up in use was a simple wire stem Avon float of 5AA capacity with the bulk of the shot set 18 inches from the size 18 hook and a single No 1 shot placed just a couple of inches from the hook to act as a tell-tale.  With 4.5lb main line and 2.6lb hook link the scrap off the bigger trout was exciting, then as always grayling of 1lb and 1.5lb gave lots of sport as well.  I had just one medium size chub and a small 8oz roach but just being there with the chance of 2lb roach always makes it interesting.
                                                    1lb-6oz & 1lb-9oz typical grayling on the day

With dozens of fish caught on the day I could make my way down to Bournemouth and contemplate both the success of the sport and the failure to catch those target roach, but that is fishing.   My pans for the next two days were to fish the Dorset Stour on the Thursday and then move up to the Hampshire Avon on the Friday; it was on the way home anyway so it made sense to do it in that order.  Still cold, and there was a slight frost overnight but not too bad so an earlier start was made getting to the venue about 8:30am, and without any surprise finding no one else there.  This can be a double edge sword in that with all the swims available it can be more difficult to make up your mind where to fish.  I’ve not been on this section of river for over a year so I do not know how the swims have fared and in the end I went in the one that gave me my first ever 6lb chub all those many years previously.
                                                                 Dorset Stour in winter.

I would be using the swim feeder maggot approach over both days – too cold to carry on trotting – for me at least – 6lb main line passing through a 50gram Blackcap feeder as previously described within this blog, ending with a 4inch 3.2lb hook link to a size 18 Drennan Superspade hook.  With a Drennan 12ft medium quiver rod carrying a 2.5oz glass quiver I was set for bear and ready to go.  My swim was a smooth glide passing bushes on the other bank which I hoped would give shelter to the odd chub.  They can be quite active even in these cold conditions and since the cold has been around for a couple of weeks they should feed normally – but would they, am I in the right swim? The questions remain to be answered over the coming hours.  I feel the use of hemp is essential on most occasions, but being so cold I will cut its use to a minimum and hence just one dropper of the hemp went into the swim along with three droppers of maggots, that will do for a start and I’ll top the hemp up perhaps every couple of hours.  By regular casting the maggots are automatically kept topped up, and with the feeders being used quite regularly in this area I’m sure the constant sound of it going into the water is like a dinner gong to the fish.
                                                                                          Ready for chub.
As always with this fishing style you are just waiting for that first knock on the tip to show you have fish in the area.  Today the knock came after perhaps an hour but things did not develop as I expected from that point.  I continued to get the occasional indication of fish, but even though two of these were enough for me to strike there was no fish caught, most annoying.  After some hours of this and perhaps six or more positive indications I was beginning to think that perhaps roach or even gudgeon were responsible, but then about 4:00pm I finally hit into a chub and following a very good fight on the light gear I landed a 5lb-12oz chub.  Big enough in its own right, but I had been convinced it would be a medium six when I first looked at it laying in the net so I could not avoid being slightly disappointed at the lower figure.  A better look at its body showed it was definitely light in the thickness and no doubt given another month it will gain those missing ounces when next I might meet it.
                                                                   5lb-12oz Beauty.

That was the last bite of the day and I left the river about 5:45pm well satisfied to have least have caught on a day that was far from perfect conditions.  The forecast did not look good for tomorrow, snow overnight and -6C temperatures, would the Avon fish? Only time would tell.

Saturday 4 February 2012

Catching a fish in today's rivers?

Jeff Hatt, in his blog Idler’s Quest – this can be found on my side bar - writes of a recent trip after chub and raises a few interesting questions.  Within the various comments made in response can be seen a number of interesting thoughts and I feel it was a theme that could be developed to a greater degree than just my own comment on that blog.

It seems that as a general body, anglers always hope for the best and will give numerous reasons why we failed to catch on the day.  Travelling around to numerous venues up and down the country I consistently hear the same type of comments being passed as to the lack of fish on the rivers, less fish - but of course there is no real problem!  Looking to support our moral we know the fish we seek  are there somewhere, maybe upstream or downstream avoiding the one or two anglers that might fish this stretch and put ‘pressure ’on them.  Could be that there is a big shoal of fish under a nearby bush, or hiding elsewhere just waiting for angler to find them.  Yes, there are many excuses offered for our lack of success, but the most obvious is that they are no longer there.

It is an absolute truth that fisheries up and down the country are being decimated by a number of different factors.  High amongst these are the illegal fishing by Eastern Europeans and of course otters with cormorants coming close behind.  It is no coincidence that on many venues you have more chance of catching a specimen fish than landing one of the smaller samples of the species.  I read in this week in the angling press of the vast numbers of assorted fish that are being restocked into the rivers by the EA, but can they keep up with the predation – I doubt it, and the cause should be tackled before the effect.

10 years ago I could have gone out for a short afternoon/evening session and almost guaranteed the capture of a chub - even in today's conditions.  Both the local River Leam and the River Avon offered chances of 4lb fish with an occasional 5lb specimen.  Now I am not even sure of catching a chub even in good conditions.

Today’s rivers are not pressured – there are just not enough anglers fishing on them to give anything approaching pressure.  Match fishing on rivers has almost gone the way of the Dodo - the main reason being they don't catch fish consistently.  30 anglers fishing and 2 or 3 catching is not what they want, but often the smaller fish shoal up as protection against cormorants - safety in numbers so to speak – and of course the angler sitting on one of these shoals catches.

Now when I go onto a river section I am probably the only angler there, if there are several others with me it is usually because of known big fish that live in the section and that in turn comes down to big fish or bust – there are few if any backup fish coming through.  Almost by default those big specimens are old – what happens when they go as they surely will over the coming seasons?
                                     A view of Adam's Mill when monster barbel were common, now probably none left at all!

Thursday 2 February 2012

New gear.

After four or more years of faithful use I finally decided to change my p.c. tower to a new and improved model, the trials and tribulations of that event are detailed in an earlier blog, but there was still one outstanding issue to be dealt with.

My previous system worked on XP and as with most new pc's this one has Windows 7 already loaded and looking quite nice.  Amongst other problems this gave me was in that the scanner I had used for years now became obsolete.  It appears that the Epsom Perfection 640U works on a 32 bit system, whatever that means; Windows 7 uses 64 bit and that means trouble.  I looked for new drivers, but eventually found out that it could not be increased and hence is of no use, a perfectly good scanner that has to be replaced.

Having looked at several new scanners I finally decided on a HP Scanjet G4010 and I have to say that other than a few teething problems I am very pleased with its performance.  For one thing it does appear to complete that task a fair bit quicker and it is also quite user friendly.

Of course I needed to try it out and my first scan was that of the first double figure barbel I ever caught, 12lb-4oz taken in Aug 1996 from Adam's Mill.  Since my first digital camera was brought in 2004 I have plenty of these film based photos to change to digital before I run out of tasks for the unit to complete.
A 12lb-4oz dream at the time of capture.