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.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Monster eels come to the net again.

When I paid a fair amount of money to join a carp syndicate to fish for eels it was a bit of a gamble as I had only one report of eels being caught in error and that is not really a good sample.  Of course as regular readers of this blog will know it was proven a good decision on my first visit with eels of 6lb-4oz and 4lb-3oz being caught, even though I did balls up the photos big time.  Following that night I began to wonder whether it was a flash in the pan since the next nine nights only produced two eels in the 2lb range and those are almost of bootlace standard.  Then I returned last night!

I had slipped whilst descending the stairs while bringing tackle down for this eel session, for a time I wondered whether to go since my back was giving me quite a bit of agro, but in the end I decided it would hurt either at home or fishing so I left for the lake.  My eel fishing has been quite social in that I arrive at the venue about 8:30pm and can be set up fishing by 9:15pm well in time for the dusk to descend and the eels to begin their nightly wandering.  With the very hot weather we have had this was far more comfortable than fishing through the day and melting in the sun.   I decided to fish the same swim as the previous night since it was the most convenient to fish from the van, normally I would try a different area but the back said make it easy so this swim it was.   I park the van right next to the lake and have one rod directly in front of my position and then a rod about six yards or so either side of that.  Previously I had been fishing the margins and this time I had decided to fish just little bit further out into the lake, perhaps 15 yards or so.  At the same time I increased the length of the hook link to about 3ft and dropped the hook size down to a size 6.  These changes were an attempt to try and beat the missed runs that had been happen with all too frequent regularity.  With two good size lobworms on each rig I soon had the baits out and it was just a case of waiting which fortunately did not take too long.  I got a good run and struck into a fish, unfortunately it was a little perch which I had thought would have been responsible for many of the daylight indications, but now we went into proper darkness and the next run I struck into something much stronger.

Eels have a very distinctive fight where they pull and then you get what can only be described as a shudder where I believe they are trying to swim backwards away from the angler.  It is also an indication of their fight that they rarely kite to either side during the fight, just straight towards you or directly away from your position.  This fish was classic and after a nice scrap I could see the eel undulating in the torch light and I could see it was a very good fish.  I know from previous experience that it is very easy to overestimate the size of an eel while it is still in the water, both the dorsal and anal fins are extended and this increases its appearance quite considerably but I had allowed for this and it was big.  The next worry is the size of the landing net though at 50 inch it did prove satisfactory and the eel was soon engulfed in its folds.
                                                45" long and 5lb-10oz in weight, happy days
I lifted the fish out of the water and took it well away from the water; this one was definitely not going to escape.  The hook was placed right at the front of his jaw and could be removed with any effort, if it had been out of sight I would cut the line as close as possible since it does not help to muck about with eels too much as many of the organs are towards the head end of their body and can easily be damaged.   The weight came in at 5lb-10oz and when measured later on it showed figures of 45inch long and 8.25inch girth.  This made it the longest eel I have caught although the girth is well down on the largest which went gave 10.75inch for one of my sixes.
                                                   Second of the night at 4lb-9oz
Already a great night’s reward but an hour later I was playing another eel the proved to be 4lb-9oz and 39” x 8.25” and a terrific follow up.  The time was now about midnight and nothing happened until just after 2am when yet again I played and landed an eel of 4lb-2oz with dimensions of  38” X 8.0.“
                                                Last of the three at 4lb-2oz.
With the many twitches and false runs I had there was very little sleep this night and when Baz Fisher came round to help with the photos I was well ready to leave and get a few hours in bed knowing the dreams would be of even bigger eels I hope are waiting to be caught over the coming weeks.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Return to the rivers and barbel.

This has certainly been the longest break without an update to the blog that I’ve had though that only suggests my lack of results and different things to write about.  As can be seen on the previous blog entry I had begun an eel campaign and then with the very high temperatures we have had over the last few weeks I stayed on that effort for longer than previously intended.  Following the first nights results with a 6lb and 4lb eel I thought I had stuck gold and indeed with those results I had, but disappointment was to follow.   I have now completed nine overnight sessions and have fished off three of the four banks available using different swims along each bank.  The depth has ranged from 10ft to 2ft, though in the main I have only fished the relative margins, perhaps 20ft from the bank maximum. 
                                                    Eels, on your marks, get set, go!
The problem with eel fishing is the tackle is very basic, a running leger with a size 6 hook and a single worm for bait.  I put a pva bag of maggots on the hook and cast out having checked the bottom contours with a casting depth sounder [very useful bit of gear].  This has been my fishing from the last blog until this report and with just two eels between 2lb and 3lb there was not much to write about.  Hot – blank – not really an interesting write up.
                                                Small but perfectly formed.
Now with a bit of rain about I decided to try the barbel again, so I set out for the River Nene to chase yet another river double figure specimen.  The Nene is definitely a river with two distinct faces in the lower reaches that I was going to be concentrating on.  The main river is wide and generally slow and being deep quite difficult to read and locate barbel swims.  The saving grace from my point of view is the large number of backwaters, narrow with fast flows with lots of character in the form of rush beds and bends along with variations in depth, perfect for locating barbel swims.
                                                 One of the many back waters on the Nene.
Not wishing to fish under the blazing sun I arrived late in the afternoon, still very hot but at least the sun would be losing some of its strength by the time I was fishing.  I had taken a variety of options but my main effort would be with castors and hemp so the first job was to bait drop a couple of pints of these two ingredients mixed together.  I could then sit back in the shade a wait for the fish to hopefully appear which I pleased to say they did.  Not with mad abandon that I have seen at times but at least it did show the swim held barbel and I was confident I would catch my first one off this river.  When I eventually cast out with three artificial casters on the hair rig I was hopeful of a take in fairly quick order but I was to be disappointed, nothing happened and it continued not to happen for an hour or two.  With an hour to go until dusk I decided to change ships and on went on to a pellet rig with two Elips pellets for bait.  It was noticeable that I started to get taps off the small fish but that is expected since they leave the artificial casters alone once they have tried them.  As the minutes ticked past the indications got more and more as chub moved in, I had left the hair quite long on purpose to lessen the chance of a chub hook up and it seemed to be working.  Then at long last I got the long awaited wrap round and I was playing my first barbel on this new river.  The fight was impressive and I certainly expected a larger fish than the 4lb-15oz bronze fighting machine that finally came to the net.
                                    It was actually light but the flash gives it dark  4lb-15oz.
These fish will equal the scrap off the well names Teme Tigers and when a second fish fell to the same bait just minutes later I was well pleased with the session.  At 5lb-9oz this was slightly larger than the first but I was sure that over the next few trips I would get my chance of the double so I left well happy.
                                               Second of the brace at 5lb-9oz.

Monday 8 July 2013

Monster eels - the highs and lows of their capture.

With this current heat wave and the long awaited arrival of a ticket for an intended eel fishing venue I though the Gods of Angling were sending a message, get out after those eels Phil!  One advantage of this intended session is that it was just overnight and I could avoid being out in this blazing sun through the day.  I left home late in the evening in order to arrive about 8:00pm, plenty of time to set up since the rods and rigs were already prepared and just needed to be unfolded.  I would be using simple rigs with a free running lead to present either worm or fish heads as bait.

Since this would be my first visit to the venue I chose the swim purely on its comfort, I could park my van behind  position and sit in the side doorway just waiting for action.  I started with worm on each of two rods and a fish head on the third, the worms would also have an additional pva bag of maggots just hung on the hook as an extra attraction to any passing eels.
                                                          Eel time on a new venue.
Once it got dark the swim came alive and the worm rods gave lots of indications of fish being present, mostly just one or two bleeps but on several occasions the line just screamed out and I struck into nothing.  Then just after midnight I struck an indication and this time the rod buckled over with a fish hooked.  At first I thought it would be small, just that typical shudder that comes from the eel as it swims backward with its undulating action.  Then as it came more right in front of me it decided not to come and I felt the full power of a big eel, exciting does not do it justice.  I was using a 50 inch landing net, but even that was too small and I had one hell of a game getting it to go in and stay in.  I had forgotten just how active a big eel can be and this was to prove disastrous later in the session.  With only the smallest amount of its tail still over the drawstring it was back out of the net and I was fortunate not to foul of the hook as the head went back out.  Eventually I succeeded and I was certainly glad of the heavy tackle being used, 15lb main line and more like 80lb braid hooklink to a size 4 hook. 

I got the eel into a zip up sack having zeroed the scales before doing so and the weight showed I had caught my target fish with the first one off the water, 6lb-4oz my sixth over that magic 6lb weight and I hope for the 7lb specimen over the next season or two.  My intent was never to try to get photos in the dark and I placed the sack safely into the water checking the eel could move freely within it.

The rest of the dark hours passed quite quickly and the adrenalin kept me awake without any effort.  Then as dawn came the same rod went again and this time I landed a good eel of 4lb-3oz which I just unhooked and weighed, then I  left him in the landing net to wait the hour or so before the light would be ok for photos.

In the 1970’s when I last made a serious assault on eels I had found out about a treatment as used by the fishery people at Liverpool university to calm fish whilst they did their study work.  It is called Sandos MS222 and a small amount is dissolved into water and the fish is then immersed into the mix.  This does indeed have an amazing effect of making the eel easy to handle and once returned to fresh water they quickly recover and swim off.   Since the packet I have has an expiry date of early 2012 I thought I would check if it still had the required effect on the smaller eel first and it did.  I got the photos and measurements 37”X8” and put the eel back in the landing net to recover.
                                                              Second best at 4lb-3oz

I had prepared the mix and checked the effect on the eel at the top of the bank away from the water, but once that was done I took it down to the water’s edge to take the photos.  Now I lifted the bigger eel out of the water and placed him into the mix while still in the sack.  Having allowed what I thought was enough time I unzipped the sack and tipped him into the bin I was using but then disaster!  The mix had not worked enough to disable him and with his tail just over the edge towards the water I was as in the blink of an eye he quickly disappeared back out of the bin and into the nearby water’s edge.  I stood the dumbfounded and cursed how I could have been as stupid as to play with a big eel near the water.  I have the satisfaction of having landed him and at least I got the weight, but no photos or measurements I will have to catch another one for that.

I returned the following night but it was chalk and cheese, a few twitches and I moved swims about 11:30pm but no real action, maybe next time.


Sunday 7 July 2013

Barbel days in the sun

Following the high point of landing that 12lb tench last week, I took a few days off where normally I would have gone fishing.  I just did not feel that urge to travel to any of the many venues that came to mind so a short break was in order.  After almost a week though I needed to get out so a trip to the Warwickshire Avon was in quickly planned and I went to a swim that has previously been kind to me in the past.  This was only ever going to be a short session, arrive about 2pm gone by 7pm, but if the god’s smile that can be enough to get a fish, and if they don’t then it’s nice to be out.

At this time of the year one of the problems is the weed and in this swim it’s even worse than is often the case.  The that the nearside half of the river is full of cabbage type weeds, quite unforgiving to tackle and playing a fish carefully.  Just one rod today, my trusty Drennan 12ft 1.75lb Specialist loaded with a Shimano 5000RE carrying 12lb line.  Hook link is as usually used, 10 inch of 15lb Pro Gold with 4 inch of braid to a size 8 Drennan Continental Carp hook.  Hookbait on this occasion is a couple of Elips pellets glued either side of the hair rig and a swimfeeder loaded with my usual mixed pellets dampened down with liberal amounts of hemp.

With the sun blazing down now that summer has arrived for a brief stay I sat there waiting for a sign of fish being present.  This time, as so often the case, there was no previous sign of fish just a screaming reel as the fish took off with my bait in its mouth.  With the conditions in the swim I knew it would be a hit and hold job, but even then there were moments over the next five minutes where I was convinced the fish would be lost.  The tackle would go solid and no amount of pulling seem to make any difference, but I opened the bail arm and waited and although there seemed no difference and no line was taken, when I tried again he came free and moved onto the next piece of cabbage that took his fancy.  This happened three or four times, but then he obviously weaken and came more towards the surface where constant pressure kept him coming to the waiting net.
                                                      First barbel of the season 2013/14
I left him resting for several minutes before I attempted to remove the hook and weigh him eventually getting a very pleasing figure of 10lb-2oz for my first barbel of the new season.  Back in the water for a short break, then two photos and before being released to swim away into the cabbage cover.

The next day I was on my way to Peterborough where a very helpful bailiff had agreed to show me the location of various venues.  It does seem amazing how often clubs assume the travelling angler is familiar with local landmarks to identify their waters.  This was such a case and the written word in the club book gave very few clues to my distant brain, fortunately Mark Smith soon sorted that out and took me all over the club’s waters so I would find as many different venues as I could possibly want.

That took the best part of four hours and whilst Mark went home with my grateful thanks I got down to returning to one of the sections to at least make a start in my search for a River Nene double figure barbel.  The sun was even hotter than the previous day and I thought my chances would be limited.  Still it was nice to be out and the stinging nettles right next to me held a pleasant surprise in the form of lots of dark, hairy caterpillars that would eventually turn into the beautiful peacock butterfly.  Dragonflies and damsel flies were out in force along with a pair of young crows that screamed for food almost continuously from the opposite bank of the river.  It is often said that there is more to fishing than just catching fish and sitting in the sun I could only endorse the statement.
                                                       Peacock caterpillars on nettles.

                                                A mighty preditor of the insect world.

                                                A delicate beauty on a sunny day.

I did not get the hoped for first barbel off this river, that will have to wait for another day, but I had a small chub of about 1lb taken by a pike about 5lb.  He obviously thought the chub was his and at first he refused to let go, it was some minutes of shaking the rod before he conceded his loss and swam off.  Other that bit of excitement I just had a spawned out bream of 5lb-14oz before I packed up at 9pm to made my way home quite pleased with the way the day had gone and looking forward to the next visit.
                                                          A Nene bream of 5lb-14oz.