Bob Roberts’ diary
My monthly fishing diary...
LAST decidedly month’s nasty spell superbugin hospital curtailedwith a my fishing exploits completely. Fortunately, a few really good mates stepped in to help me out with the diary but I have to say that sitting in a hospital bed editing their copy drove me nuts. I’d have preferred to be fishing with them. Unfortunately, I suffered a relapse shortly after being discharged and was re-admitted for a fifth time in two years. This time I was going to be on intravenous drugs for a whole month. A nurse would administer them each morning, at home, which meant I was free in the afternoons. Having a cannula needle in my forearm that had to be kept surgically clean and not knocked meant I was strapped up in bandages and tapes but at least I was fishing again!
Missing the end of the river season was heart-wrenching. Bad enough that the river levels were dropping back to normal and the weather perfect. It meant my personal closed season will last the thick end of five months during which time most of the fish I like to catch will not be spawning. Ironically, come June 16 when I next get to wet a line on a river, barbel will be just starting or in the throes of spawning. You watch. It’s bonkers!
First venue on the agenda was the local cut, drop shot gear in hand, trying to winkle out a few wasps (perch). Although it was good to be back, I struggled to catch anything. I tried every different lure pattern in the box but it made no difference. I’m no mug at this lure fishing lark but in truth I couldn’t raise a single bite. I went home baffled, convincing myself that the fish weren’t there. Then Brian Skoyles rang to suggest we spent an afternoon at a spot where he’d been catching loads of perch. I was dead eager until he told me he’d been fishing the same place as I had struggled. How could that be? So I agreed, if only to find out what he was doing that was so different to me. Brian was already fishing when I arrived and he was catching steadily. I dropped in a few yards away, cast out a lure and guess what? Not a bite. Meanwhile Brian continued to catch small perch galore. Only when I realised he was using worms and I switched did I start to catch. These perch would not touch an artificial bait. Only the real thing would provoke a bite. Food for thought. How often have I walked down this canal with a lure rod, failing to catch and writing off huge areas as useless in the process? Sometimes it only takes a change of bait.
An urge to catch bream was eating away at me although the lake I fancied was a bit further away than I was up to driving but, when Brian volunteered to chauffeur me, it was game on. A bitter cold wind led us to think the fish might be sheltering on the back of it rather than in the teeth of it. A good theory but an incorrect assumption as it turns out. We never had a bite but we did get to watch carp after carp leaping clear of the water at a range of nearly 200 yards. Unfortunately, the area of activity was equidistant from all four banks, way beyond casting range of any swim. It was as if every fish in the lake had formed a massive shoal and, judging by the activity, they simply had to be feeding had we only been able to reach them. There’s nothing like a blank to make me desperate for bites and where better than a commercial fishery? I’m not a fan of commercial carping but many boast fabulous stocks of roach. One of my favourites is Sykehouse Fisheries, just north of Doncaster. I had hoped to fish what’s known as The Stock Pond but my favourite swims were occupied. The Match Lake fished well all through the winter for silvers but, alas, there was a match on. “Why not have a go on Twin Isles?” suggested the owner. There was only one other angler fishing Twin Isles and he was struggling to catch on Method feeder tactics. Because I was only able to fish the afternoon I’d brought just one pint of red maggots. Sounded like that would be plenty but I was soon beginning to wonder if I’d slipped up. The beauty of pole fishing is you can be ready in no time at all. Two rigs, one set at full depth and one shallow for fishing on the drop came out of the tray and I was away. Starting on the deeper rig I was soon getting bites from roach and rudd but it wasn’t long before I began to see flashes and tell-tale swirls just beneath the surface each time I fed. Clearly very little feed was reaching the deck and it was patently clear I needed to switch to a shallow rig. This was set at around 3ft deep with just four No.13 shots required to cock the float so a mere dimple was visible. By careful feeding it didn’t take long to bring the fish towards me until I was catching on just two sections of pole, swung straight to hand. So long as I fed first and then laid in the rig it was a bite every drop in, mostly from rudd that ranged from an ounce up to half a pound. Simple, brilliant fishing. As the afternoon wore on, the rudd faced a little competition. Clusters of small bubbles began to break on the surface suggesting to me that a few bream had arrived. Switching to full depth failed to find them so I went shallow again and guess what? Those bream were right up in the surface layers with the rudd. I was like a kid in a sweet shop but rapidly running out of bait and daylight. After four hours and a good 40lb of fish I called it quits.
At this time of year I normally get my silverfish head on. Very soon I’ll be switching to carp and tench, maybe bream, then it’ll be barbel and chub, so it’s a case of striking while there’s an opportunity. Although my head said stick with the commercials before the carp wake up properly, my gut was hankering after a canal session. A trip to Stainforth Angling Centre for a pint of casters was necessary and that threw me a bit because a trio of customers were competing to direct me to the best places to target, each fishing really well. Unfortunately, these three hotspots were on three different canals! Tempting as it was, I stuck to my guns and later reflected on whether I’d made the right choice. Despite roach topping everywhere I struggled for bites fishing at 13 metres in 8ft of water. Of course, I should have fished at a more comfortable nine metres and I most definitely should have fished shallow. More a case of wrong tactics than wrong venue. The daft thing is, although I got my tactics wrong, I still had a good 8lb or so of fish although a switched-on canal angler would have caught double that, but I’m not complaining. It was a thoroughly enjoyable session.
It is an absolute privilege to be a consultant for a major tackle company like Daiwa, but the role comes with certain responsibilities, for example attending shows and demonstrating the tackle range. Shows entail travelling to a venue on Friday to set up the stand followed by two days working on the stand before packing everything away afterwards and then driving home. When two major shows fall on back-to-back weekends at opposite ends of the country it wipes out six days and leaves precious little time in between for fishing, but I did sneak in a session at a very special day-ticket water thanks to a contact I made in Manchester. The lake is incredibly well maintained, indeed the owner treats it like his own garden. Although living less than 20 miles away, I’d never even heard of the place. You’ll even struggle to find much about it on the internet and most of what is there can safely dismissed as misinformation designed to put you off the scent. Most regulars target the carp but, when my passion for roach was revealed, the owner fished out his phone and showed me a roach he’d witnessed being caught by a carper. It was a pristine specimen weighing 2lb 12oz. The carper had skimmed it across the surface and was about to return it unweighed and unphotographed! Unfortunately for you, the owner has asked that I don’t name his lake because he feels the place gets just the right amount of pressure from people who have gained his trust, but he was kind enough to invite Brian Skoyles and myself down for a day and, as a special honour, I was allowed to use a keepnet.
With 8ft of water available at four metres dropping away to ten, my swim was crying out for a pole approach. Twenty yards away Brian set off with two rods, each rigged bolt-style with a maggot feeder on bite alarms cast towards a gravel bar. Fifteen minutes later he’d retired one rod because he couldn’t keep up with the sheer number of bites and would be in danger of running out of bait before noon. Being a bit smarter than me, Brian swapped one roach rod for a sleeper carp rod presenting a single white pop-up. That switch paid dividends with a cracking common carp and a linear mirror. We’ll never know how big as neither of us had brought scales, hence I gave his common 19lb 15oz (with a wink), both of us knowing full well it was probably a little bigger. Meanwhile, I had given up trying to fish on the deck as the competing roach came shallower and shallower. Using exactly the same rig that worked so well at Sykehouse, it was a bite every drop. This was possibly the best day’s roach fishing I’ve ever had, not to mention the good hundred smaller fish I returned immediately to prevent overcrowding. So there you have it. Despite being restricted by the time available to me thanks to the need for drugs, needles and bandages, and having to stay fairly local, it just goes to show what’s on our doorsteps if only you go looking for it.
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