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First of all let me take this opportunity to wish you a wonderful, prosperous, and of course, fish-filled 2012. This will be the 10th calendar year that will see Angling Journal entries from me, and when you consider that I have updated weekly since its conception in 2003, that’s a lot of words, photos and fish along the way. But the last thing it has been is a bind. In fact a labour of love springs to mind more than anything else. I love fishing and I love writing about it. So my Angling Journal is a happy marriage that continues to plod along in harmony and joy. And so, while it’s a great pleasure to be writing the first week in January 2012, in reality it’s no different to any other week.
This first entry of the year sees me targeting stillwater roach and a number of sessions on a venue that can be tricky, but at the same time throw up some decent fish. And as an angler that prefers quality over quantity that suits me fine. Fishing at distance and into dark I went for a cage feeder approach (photo 1). The advantage over a traditional swimfeeder is that the open ends means it is easier to get the contents on the bed of the lake. With maggots packed in with ground bait, they will certainly work their way out plus once the feeder hits the deck I give it a slight pull back to help that process on its way.
The key is to ensure that the groundbait is mixed just right. Too firm and it’s not going anywhere as the maggots will just excavate a burrow as they vacate. But too sloppy and you’ll lose it even before the feeder hits the water. It’s about aiming for the right consistency that stays in on the cast but then comes out where it should, on the bed of the lake and next to the hook bait. It’s not difficult to master though with a bit of practice. The groundbait mix itself (photo 2) was one I put together myself consisting of 2 parts brown crumb to 1 part nitro method mix corn. Added to the water at the venue was whisky link. This was to give the mix a ‘zing’.
It certainly worked on session 1 and that’s the outing featured in the accompanying video. Apart from a nocturnal perch, the action was from my target species. They weren’t monster fish as in 2lb’ers, but as I conclude in the video, fish of this calibre aren’t exactly queuing up to be caught. If you’re going to get amongst fish of that stamp then you need to be dedicated. You can see the first roach I caught (photo 3), which was actually the smallest of the session. But the first fish of the first Angling Journal entry of a new year has to be captured on camera. Not that the fish itself appreciates just how special it is, in fact was oblivious to that fact. Upon release, rather than go and brag to its fellows, it simply wanted to get away from the hand that set it free.
My second visit to the lake was on a wet, windy and miserable afternoon. It was one of those days where it seems to get dark an hour earlier than normal. The sort of day where normal people stay indoors, but when the going gets tough, the insane go roach fishing. And I wasn’t on my own either, as a couple of other fishermen were already on the venue, albeit packing away as I arrived. I tried a new peg but the approach was still the same. You can see my bite indication set-up (photo 4) that consists of the basic Fox Micron M and a Nash Featherlite hanger devoid of any lead just the minimal weight of the plastic.
Casting out the 20g feeder I let it settle and then gently tightened before clipping the line on the hanger. There wasn’t as much activity as on the first outing but I still managed to land a couple of fish, not massive as you can see (photo 5 and 6) but nevertheless I avoided a blank again. Both fish landed were confident takes and actually took line from the reel as the spool gently moved. I use the word gently deliberately as well, at no point did I think I had hooked a carp or similar sized fish! But nevertheless it’s good to see a roach taking line. As well as the roach I also had encounters with another species. The brown rat.
The moment darkness descended, cue rodent time. They were all over the place and I found myself continually switching my head torch on just to send them scurrying back into the undergrowth. Then a few seconds later they would be back out, eventually not even fleeing at the intrusion of the light but using it to seek out bits of bait on the ground more effectively. I even had them trying to get in my bait bucket and sitting on the lid as I was forced to cover anything edible. While waiting for the roach to bite I decided to have see if I could trap something else!
I dropped some bait in the centre of my landing net, waited for a rat to get to it and then lifted suddenly, trapping the creature in the mesh. And in case you’re wondering what I did with my prizes (I caught two) I let them go. I don’t like rats but erred on the side of mercy. Session three saw a serious downturn in the weather, and combined with the visit being brief, I ended with a blank. There was one other angler on the venue, who had also been after roach and hadn’t had a single touch all day long. When one day you are watching bees in flight and the next you have minus overnight temperatures, it’s hardly surprising that the sudden change affects the fish.
But you have to be in it to win it, and I was back again for a fourth trip to the lake. This time I fished a single rod and with an isotope on the end had a session watching that rather than waiting for the alarm to go. Fishing at a good 50 metres I opted to go for the 1lb test curve straight through as opposed to a quiver tip insert. I needed the power of the former to ensure I could do a solid chuck. Plus I wanted a firm connection, and with any bites likely to be finicky, I needed to hit them straight away and keep as tight a line between the fish and me as possible.
In addition I added Drennan float stops either side of the cage feeder and the 5mm bead ( photo 7) so as to create a bolt rig effect with the cage I did have to add a size 6 shot though to the line as the stops themselves weren’t able to deal with the power of the cast. My change in tactics wasn’t to get more bites, just to be more effective in terms of hooking the ones I got. But you still have to get them in the first place and while I did have a couple of slight taps, in reality the fish hadn’t adjusted to the serious drop in the conditions. But I persevered and my next outing was my third afternoon in a row on the lake. Do my work in the day then get down to the lake for dusk and into darkness – making the most of life and maximising time.
It was a cold afternoon, that developed into an even colder evening. Loading the car outside my house a passer – by asked me if I was going or coming. I guessed he was an angler, not only from his question and the way it was worded, but because he was wearing a Realtree hat! I asked him if he had been recently and got the reply that he was finished now until next spring. That’s the beauty of angling it can be what we want it to be for each one of us. As for me, the weather is irrelevant, I just get on with it!
Back to two rods, I continued with the Drennan stops on the line rig as per the previous session but was back to the bite alarms and bank sticks approach.. I had a few very short bursts on the alarms but basically it was hard going again. However I was in one of those I’m-not-going-home-till-I-catch-one moods, and I pushed on beyond the time that I was intending to fish till. Then I had a take and found myself playing a roach. I had it on for 50 metres then a rod length out I had a hook pull.
I persevered though, and I know you can’t but I was almost willing some action. I had the belief, in other words, that it would come right, and in time it did just that. A solid beep, a solid red light and a solid feel on the end as I lifted the rod. It wasn’t a big fish as you can see (photo 8) but it had saved me from a third blank on the trot, so I was more than grateful. It’s not all about big, sometimes because of the conditions we just have to lower our expectation levels a little, and realise that anything is a result.
My final session was again a late evening and into dark one. Not only is it good for roach fishing, it suits me and allows me to get extra outings in, pretty much a ‘work in the day and fish in the night’ routine. After a few cold days this one was the most severe to date. But that didn’t bother me, having caught roach this time last year at minus 20. Fishing the two rods again I had a drop-back first cast, that although I missed, I didn’t blank as several roach were caught during the outing (photos 9,10)
It was so cold that when I picked up my landing net up it had not only welded itself to the ground but looked like it had been severely starched. I had to put it in the water to defrost. That’s the irony of this time of the year. The water temperature is usually higher than the air, which is why I often tweet that if you’re cold then go and throw yourself in your local lake. Anyway, as this is the first Angling Journal entry of 2012, let me conclude by again wishing you a wonderful fish-filled year and may your piscatorial dreams all come true. As for me, I don’t do new year resolutions. I’m just going down the same road as I do every January 1 – enjoy the next 12 months, make the most of every day and go fishing as much as I can. That’s me sorted! (Published January 1 2012)