Chippenham

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Bit breezy but otherwise decent weather again.  Having established that the Belmont rowing course was now a bit past its sell by date, I opted for what is rapidly becoming my overall favourite venue anyway.   And this was a Chub or bust mission, 6 pints of bronze maggot and not a lot else.

My initial thought process was to tackle one of the pegs at the bottom of the line of trees, 38/40/42/43/45/48.  My only concern was the afore-mentioned breeze, so I stopped and had a look at 24 and 25 on the way down.  Both looked inviting, wind was downstream but at least it was off my back, and both pegs are set down and reasonably well sheltered.  In contrast, a quick look down the straight was enough to know that the wind was probably downstream and facing on all of the pegs from the straight down to the scout hut.  I couldn’t see much point in walking 3 times as far to have a battle with the conditions so I opted for 24.  It looked well set up for the waggler, although it was still carrying some colour and pulling off quite hard when the sluice opened.

I set up a 3.5AAA wag and set to work fishing single maggot.  The wind varied from slightly awkward to total wipe-out, even though I was deliberately working from about 2pm to my right downstream to try to improve control.  But I started to pick off some early Chublets and the odd Roach, and sort of on cue, 45 minutes in, Chub#1.  Chub#2 followed 20 minutes later, then #3 at the same interval, but then it noticeably slowed.  A switch to double maggot proved fruitless, but then I removed one and nailed Chub#4 first run down, so single maggot does seem to be more effective there at the moment.

Things were even quieter now and I was about 150 minutes in, so I opted for a short spell on a light stickfloat down the inside, thinking I might pick up a few Roach and possibly even a stray Chub.  In the event, this was a total waste of time, I managed a solid run of Minnows!!  But I’d continued feeding over, so when I went back in on the wag the rest paid off and I nailed Chub#5 pretty much straight away and shortly after Chub#6 which, frustratingly, pulled off.  I then opted to have a look fishing a feeder down the swim, but found that I was getting ragged by Chublets and Minnows.

So the feeder was binned and I reverted to the wag, and picked up Chub#7 and Chub#8.  Noticeably, both of these were down the swim whereas #1-#6 had all taken it up the swim in the feed zone, so they’d obviously dropped back.  It was staring to get cold now and with little or no further response I opted to pack up soon after.

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One of the days objectives (as well as catching a few Chub!!) was to compare hook options.  So Chub#1 and 2 had been on a size 20 B560 with no issues.  Chub#3 and 4 had been on a size 19 B711, again no issues.   Chub#5-8 had all been on a size 20 B520 (shades of Evesham in the 80s!!!).  Chub#6 had pulled but the hook was fine so I have to assume a dodgy hookhold.  Important thing is that none of the hooks straightened or sprung out, so I might switch to B711 or even B520 for this application.  I definitely want to try a smaller size again in B711, i.e. a 21, and also possibly a size 22 in the B520..

So, 7 Chub netted and 1 left in, plus a few pounds of Chublets and odd Roach, even one or two Dace and Bleak, decent big double figures bag to go with a reasonably decent day weather wise.  Things are looking up, must be nearly the Close Season!!!!!!!!

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Belmont

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Sunday 18th of February was always looking like a dead loss.  The Upper Brue Champs was probably the most obvious option but I just couldn’t bring myself to travel that far to fish a 100 peg match on a 10 peg venue.  Upper Stour Champs sounded better but at least 40 minutes further and only 25 pegs or so.  So I decided that I’d be sensible and spend a few hours down Morgans setting up my light feeder rods in preparation for the Larford Silvers Festival.  But when I realised that it was going to rain all day I gave that one a miss and did very little, apart from riddling off some groundbait ready for Larford.

But Monday’s weather forecast was more encouraging, milder and drier, so I thought I’d have one more look at Belmont.  Overall, this Winter season has been disappointing, due to a poisonous combination of a river that had been out of sorts for some extended periods, or even worse out of sorts early week but fining off at the back end when I can’t get there.  And health issues (mine mainly, but also Fflur’s) have got in the way at times.  So I’ve probably had 3 decent sessions but no real red letter days.

Anyway, on to today.  I fancied pegs 91/92/93 but, as usual, I didn’t turn up until about 11.00 am so they were taken.  Didn’t seem to be that much action on them either.  I did consider going up to 85/86/87 but decided to be brave and dropped in on ’94 and a half’.  The river was only a metre on, fairly clear but not gin, and it really felt like it could be a good day for the Chub.  I had a clear run down to the bridge so I set up a 4g No.1 Bolo and fished double maggot over caster and hemp loose feed.  After about 45 minutes and no response I’d come to the conclusion that it was either a waiting game or it was just going to be crap.  Another 45 minutes and the float went under right down the swim in front of peg 96.   Not an unusual event, as that’s where it starts to shallow so the float drags.  But when I lifted I was sure I’d felt the characteristic thump of a fish.  But then it was solid, or at least a very heavy dead weight, so I concluded that I was snagged on (probably) one of the million branches that get swept down every year.  Anyway, I’d pumped this ‘snag’ up about halfway when I started to get a distinct feeling that some form of sentient life, i.e. a fish, was involved.  The first clue was when the ‘snag’ seemed to be moving towards the middle of the river.  A more obvious clue was when the ‘snag’ started pulling back and taking line.  So the ‘snag’ was actually a fish!  But what fish??  Definitely not a Barbel or Carp, if anything it felt like any number of Pike I’ve hooked this season.  Then I managed to bring it up a bit, bloody big Chub!!!   Perhaps now might be a good time to mention that the rig I’d chosen had a size 16 B512 hook, to 0.12 (I think).  way too light really but being both tight and lazy (not a winning combination I have to say) I’d decided to stick with it.  ‘You can always change up if you start bagging………..”

So I’ve got a serious dog Chub on a gossamer finewire hook, and I’ve basically dragged it 30 yards up the swim.  Brilliant!!  And now its giving a decent account of itself, probably because I couldn’t really bully it at all.  Usually I would expect all this to end in tears but, thankfully, I eventually managed to subdue it and slide my net under it.

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It wasn’t obviously a shoal fish, quite the opposite in fact, but I did spend the next 30 minutes on the basis that there could be more Chub to come.  Sadly not, although I fished on for another hour again, trying a waggler to see if that was better in the downstream wind (not really), so that was my only bite in 3 hours angling.

So, based on that and some feedback from Pete Pembridge, that may well be it now for Belmont until next October.  Hopefully my timings will be better and I’ll have a few more chances to bag up big time, the absence or a Riverfest final should help by taking some pressure off the venue.

Oh and my next blog will cover ‘swinging 4Lb+ Chub – the dos and don’ts’

Red Shed update

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No surprises really, battery was U/S.  Fortunately my sometimes travelling partner, Nigel Evans, runs an Auto-Electrical Supply business, so I was able to phone him up and ask if he could recommend anyone honest who’d do me a decent deal on a new battery.  Sadly he couldn’t, so I ended up buying one off him!  To be fair, he did me an attractive deal.  I had been cursing a bit because I had kept the battery off Black Bess I (RIP) but the local tinkers had spotted it and taken the opportunity to lift it while I was out fishing.  But Nigel assured me that it would have been of no use after sitting around discharged for nigh on two years, so the thieving bastards probably did me a favour!

So Monday and Tuesday were a wash-out, as I was disinclined to use Black Bess II again in a non-emergency situation.  But to be honest, as someone noted on FB recently, this has been the coldest, wettest and windiest Winter in recent memory, and certainly since I restarted fishing, so even on the Wednesday when I was mobile again by about 9.30 the prospects were unattractive.  5 Celcius, light rain, breezy and, in the case of Belmont for example, a river that was just dropping off the platforms.  Faced with such appealing conditions I chose another route, and decorated my downstairs toilet instead.  In fact, the only positive resulting from the abysmal weather is that the house is spotlessly clean and is, finally, getting decorated.

Chippenham

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Sunday following Morgans was a scheduled downday as Fflur had a dance show for which she’d been practicing for months.  Then decent looking rivers at the start of the next week were tempered by horrible weather conditions with cold, blustery showers  So I sat it out until the following Sunday and was really looking forward to visiting my favourite Bristol Avon venue again, even though rain at the back end of the week threatened to make life interesting.

So, up at 5.45, quick coffee then load Ruby aka the Red Shed.  Hello, self-unlocking mechanism is a bit sluggish……hmmm, intrerior light is a bit dim.  Hang on, let me just check that it’ll start………Nope, characteristic machine gun rattle of the solenoid, flat battery.  (How!!??  Watch this space, invetigations are ongoing).  Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger.  Now I run a pair of Kia Sedonas as contingency for just this sort of event.  However, I didn’t think I would be having to effect the changeover in 15 minutes flat on the morning of a match!!!   But I did, and Black Bess and I set off for Chippenham, a little delayed but still plenty early enough for an 8.30am draw.

So the day started badly but did improve with a breakfast at The Pheasant (best breakfast on the crircuit!!), but then sort of faded again when I drew peg 69.  Top end peg on Monkton Park, but its so non-descript that nobody has an opinion or any real advice on it, it just never wins anything so there’s no steer on how to fish it etc.  The river was not really waggler friendly in sluice-shut mode, and certainly wasn’t when they opened it!  So I set up a 6 No.4 lignum to fish off my rod end, and a small blackcap to fish over (but not too far over, very shallow right across)

Opening gambit was double maggot on the blockend.  30 minutes of this produced a small Chub and an even smaller Roach, so I dropped inside with maggot on the stick and in 45 minutes I managed 2 further Roach and 2 Bleak plus a few missed bites.  I  did have half a suspicion that there were a few Bleak around but a short spell later on with a shallow 2 x No.4 rig didn’t produce the anticipated Bleak interest.  So I was now at Plan B which was based around a Bream approach with a GB feeder/caster/choppie etc., because they had showed a fortnight earlier 5/6 pegs to my right.

I stepped up to triple maggot initially and managed to strangle a couple of Roach.  A switch to worm (dendra and lobbie) raised no interest at all but I started to feed some choppie anyway (desperation!!) and basically the harder I focussed on Bream the less Roach I caught.  Which would have been OK if I had caught Bream or Skimmers instead, but I didn’t.   As it happened I had the scales, which made a lovely change because I haven’t had scales since my last match, and the time before that was the preceeding match, and ditto (in other words, I’ve drawn scales 4 matches in a row!).  Best weight in my section was a decent on the day 4-11-0, Roach and Perch, followed by a 4-8-0 off peg 71, small Roach plus 2 reasonable Skimmers, then there was a 2Lbs plus.  I opted not to trouble the scalesman (i.e. me!) which allowed me to give the scales and the board to the section winner so that the scalesman (i.e. me!) could get straight off.   I probably just about broke the 1 Lb mark.

So, challenging day and a disappointing outcome.  But Chippenham has been good to me over the past year and a bit.  And I honestly can’t think what I might have done differently, except to fish for Bream from the off.  The ‘problem’ with Bream feeder fishing is that you have to fish as though you are catching even when you aren’t, because if you don’t you never will.  Hope that makes sense.  Anyway, must try harder.

 

Morgans Pool

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Really tempted to go back up on the river Wednesday, Wye running off at a decent level and Chippenham fining off nicely as well.  But cold blustery Westerly winds and showers persuaded me to curtail my plans a bit, so I eventually opted for an afternoon session on Morgans, peg 15.  The Bream have been showing quite strongly in the milder weather although the Bailiff warned me that it was fishing hard (or, in Newport, fishing ‘ard) following some overnight frosts.

But I was undeterred as the main objective was to try out a some new groundbaits in preparation for, hopefully, a place on the Larford Silvers Festival, and also to switch my light feeder rods to braid and get the braid wet in preparation for the same event and in advance of a Close Season campaign on the Gloucester Canal.

So I kicked off with 6 feederfuls of groundbait at 26 yards (   m), did I mention getting used to measuring sticks as well??   First chuck out with double dead red on the hook and the tip pulls round.  Decent Skimmer, get in!   Same again 2 chucks later, then what may have been a liner, then a good 90 minutes of half-hearted dinks etc., which resulted in all of two small Roach.  But just when I was beginning to think it was a serious error of judgement the tip dropped back and I lifted into that satisfying thump of a better Bream.  And I did the same twice more before retreating in the face of the increasing cold.  So 3 Bream, 2 decent Skimmers and 2 Roach.  Good enough for a chilly January afternoon a couple of miles from home.

Belmont

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Sunday saw mw making a special guest appearance for Nomads B on the ABC Winter League.  I was covering for a team regular who had a few issues, but it wasn’t an entirely selfless act as the Wye was the only game in town as far as river matches was concerned (there was a Club match scheduled for Chippenham but I’m not sure if it took place, and there was a knock-up on Evesham Common).

Peter Gosling drew for the team and I ended up on peg 95, under the bridge.  Good peg on its day but when it does fish its usually overshadowed by 96, and this wasn’t going to be its day anyway as it was a big river at about 7′ on, so it was ripping through on the shallower swims.  I set up a blockend feeder, a big stickfloat and a 10g flatfloat rig on my margin pole.  An initial 15 minutes on the stickfloat were enough to convince me that this wasn’t the way forward, so I binned that and went on the feeder a 1/3rd out.  Very snaggy, cost me a few hooks, but after an hour or so I started to get some indications and eventually nailed a decent Dace.  But sport was slow so I switched to the flattie at about 5m out over groundbait.  A missed bite was followed by a Dace which dropped off, then after a while a Roach, so it looked more promising, so much so that I set up a pole feeder to fish over the same line.  But the pole feeder bombed out and I couldn’t get them lined up on the flattie, so eventually I had to bow to the obvious and fished the match out on the tip, taking 5 Roach and 2 Dace altogether, which weighed in at 2-11-0.  This was worth 3 points, as I comfortably beat the two anglers who didn’t turn up!!!  In other words I was last in section, my fault as I could and should have just fished the feeder back to front which would probably have got me a couple of extra points.  And peg 95 is definitely the coldest peg on the Wye!!!

Overall the river fished well with some fish throughout the length, Nomad Martin Challenger capped off a fine campaign with a winning 38Lbs+ off peg 100, taking 3rd league individual place.  Nomads A had an excellent round, 2 section firsts, a second, a third, a fourth and a sixth (61 points!!), with 5 team members picking up on the day and the team cementing its second place overall to Shakespeare.

The river had dropped 6″ or so during the match and was set to drop further, so I returned next day and set up on peg 91.  It had dropped about 18″ and fined off a bit, so I set to it with a big stick for down the side and a 5g WS Bolo for 2 rods out over groundbait.  A couple of early Roach on the bolo, followed by a Dace, held out the promise of a bagful, but in the event I had to work a bit for my fish in a nasty downstream facing wind.  I got my mix a bit wrong at the start and my fish dropped back as a result, but once I sorted that I had a spell where they were right on it, predominantly big Dace now after the earlier run of Roach.  But then I had a run-in with a Pike, settled the fish back down again and promptly had a second run-in with the same fish, and then managed to snap the tip off my bolo so was forced to re-rig.  All of this resulted in 90 minutes where I added very little to my catch, but then they setlled down again and I was catching strongly in the last hour, only one further Pike strike, and I even started picking up Roach again towards the back end.

I ended up somewhere in the mid to high teens, half Dace/half Roach with a solitary Chub and Perch for company.  Decent enough days fishing in the conditions, and I do suspect that there is a bit of a hangover effect early in the week after the matches, because the fish have obviously had a bit of a feast.  Might have another look Wednesday depending on level and weather.

Morgans Pool

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Or to be more strictly accurate, the School Pond end of Morgans.  It seemed like a decent plan, drop in on the Skimmer pegs on School (peg 50), feed some groundbait and joker long, wait for the Skimbobs to rock up and bag a few of them.  And when I first dropped in and caught a small Roach I wasn’t particularly concerned, because the Skimmers would soon show up and take over.  But when I was still catching small Roach an hour later, and the weather was a fair bit worse than the forecast, I started to think that my plan might be flawed.  A decent F1 (yes, a plastic Carp!!  Me!!!   I’m so bad sometimes) livened proceedings up a bit but proved a one off.  And to be honest, I probably killed the swim by overfeeding in a desperate attempt to catch some decent fish.

So, in hindsight, crap plan poorly executed.  I had briefly considered a play around with B&J and a feeder rig, which might have been a better option as Morgans threw up a 31Lb bag of Bream and Skimmers, so they were having it in the right area.   So I ended up wasting some excellent B&J.  But an interesting exercise in bait management.  The Polish joker which had been bubbled were in excellent nick nearly 2 weeks after receipt.  The Russian joker which I had swam twice and riddled was less good.  And the bloodworm was also good with daily water changes and regular riddling.  So I need to set up at least one more tank so I can bubble two lots of joker.