Archive for March, 2014

“Lets twist again like we did last summer”….yes I can see them now; twisting and jiving every time they’re hooked.  The best rock and roll group in the lake!  Yes, anyway back to reality.

The unseasonably high temperatures of a few weeks ago have given way to a cold wind, freezing temperatures, hail and even sleet.  A glimpse of a cold, biting winter’s last grasp perhaps.  I’ve been targeting roach at Tricklebrook Fishery, a 4 acre lake nestled in the  heart of Kent’s magnificent countryside.  The lake is primarily a carp water but contains a huge head of pristine roach, which average a really good size and run to well over 2lbs.  These fish are plump, feisty and truly spectacular.

A Quiet Corner

A Quiet Corner

The downside I guess is the sheer numbers of roach that inhabit this lake.  I’ve been using a number of baits to try and identify what works best here.  Hemp and caster will catch you dozens upon dozens of immaculate roach in the 4oz-1lb bracket.  Hemp and sweetcorn keeps away the really small Rudd that inhabit this lake and does seem to sort out a better stamp of roach.  Using small balls of the Pallatrax Bloodworm and maggot crush groundbait and flavouring the caters and sweetcorn with some winter almond also gives me some extra confidence and is at least a little different from the norm.

I like to use a fine tipped antenna Drennan float, shotted down so just the tip is showing.  Sometimes if it’s really windy you have to forgo the delicacy of presentation so you can still see the tip, so no point in over doing it.  Although these roach are lightly fished for they can give unbelievably delicate bites sometimes.  Try and go as delicate as conditions allow.  I match this with 2 outfits.  Firstly my Drennan Matchpro Ultralight, 3lb Drennan Supplex mono, 5BB antenna float and a size 18 or 16 Drennan Silverfish Hook to Nylon.  The second outfit is a Maver Reactorlite 13ft match rod, 4lb mainline, 5BB Antenna float and the same hooks-to-nylon.  I set one rod up to fish the margins and the other for fishing the deeper areas.  This means I can swap around without having to keep plumbing and altering the setting of the depth.

When using hemp and casters it can really be quite intense fishing.  You have to keep the hemp going in constantly.  This gets the fish into a feeding frenzy and a good angler could quite easily put together a 50lb bag of quality roach.  I’m not that focused but still manage up to probably 30lbs.  I actually prefer sweetcorn as a hook bait.  It seems to sort out the better fish.  I combine this with groundbait and loose fed hemp.  Just keep the bait going in and the bites are never far away.  I’m far from an expert at this type of fishing and take whatever advice I can get.  Kevin seems more at home with this style and has taken some good catches of roach from Mote Park.

A Few Accessories

A Few Accessories

So far we have caught a number of nice roach over the 1lb mark and up to 1lb 5oz.  The bigger specimens seemed to have eluded us so far.  Kevin had a rather unfortunate incident and I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing it with you.  He landed a very big roach.  I was just up from him and saw it in the landing net and was very surprised when he said it was a roach, due to the size of the fish.  It looked enormous.  His legs turned to jelly and he immediately rested the fish in the net whilst he sorted out the scales.  The net rested on the platform and the lip of the net was raised out of the water by several inches.    As he grabbed a bag and scales we all heard a splosh.  The fish had jumped out of the net and back into the lake.  It was the Harry Houdini of the roach world.  Kevin was gutted.  I think we all suspected the roach was comfortably over 2lbs.  Geoff’s best roach is 2lb 4oz and he thought Kev’s looked bigger.  Sometimes roach do look bigger than they weigh, however I know both Geoff and I were gutted for Kevin, although not as much a Kev was I’m sure.

My biggest surprise was a recent capture.  On hooking this fish I was sure for just a few seconds I’d hooked the roach I’d been after.  It didn’t take too long to realise this fish wasn’t fighting like a roach and soon a back broke surface to reveal the true culprit.  It turned out to be a big chub.  On lifting it out of the water it looked huge.  It was really thick and long but seemed to have no belly at all.  Still it weighed in at 4lb 10oz and is my biggest stillwater chub, so that can’t be bad.

4lb 10oz Chub

4lb 10oz Chub

We’ll persevere with the roach until the weather warms up and we can start to target tench and those magnificent crucians of Marsh Farm near Godalming.  We just need some warm days and nights to get the water temperature up and the crucians foraging for food.

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With the 15th March looming it was a chance to have a final fling on the rivers.  It’s been a brutal winter not just for fishing but for all of those poor devils that were flooded out over the last few months.  Still the weather has at last calmed down and a far more settled period of dry and mild conditions have dominated in recent weeks.

Geoff, Kevin and I decided to give the Trent a go for the last hurrah.  Arriving late Tuesday afternoon we headed straight down to the river.  We were expecting it to be relatively clear and perhaps up a little.  We were about right and the river was running maybe a foot or so up on the summer level.  Only one other angler was on the banks and we chatted about recent form.  Apparently the fishing has been poor for most of the season, which didn’t bode well.  Still we were here now so needed to make the most of it.

I decided due to the lateness of arrival to fish just the one rod on this first session.  It was around 6pm by now so we needed to get a move on.  We all fished in the same area.  Simple tactics really; a big cage feeder packed with small pellets and groundbait.  I opted to fish a long hooklink of around 3 feet, a Pallatrax weight clip and tail rubber, 12lb mainline and a size 10 The Hook.  Bait was a Winter Almond Squab with matching paste.  In the summer I would look at casting a loaded feeder every few minutes for around an hour to get some bait out into the swim.  During the winter I tend to cut this down a bit and so recast every 8-10 minutes.

It was already turning cold but there was quite a bit of surface activity, with fish rolling.  Some appeared to be roach but one or two were bigger fish, maybe chub or barbel.  I think all three of us managed to tempt fish of some sort with Kevin and I taking the only barbel at one apiece.  Kevin’s was a decent one at 9lb 4oz, mine was around the 6lb mark.  I think we had a few chub and bream too.

The following day started with a hearty breakfast and then off to the river from around 11am.  We are no early birds when it comes to getting on the river, well not when breakfast is involved! We opted to fish the upper reaches of this section which involves quite a lengthy walk.  It’s made all the more arduous by the amount of completely unnecessary tackle taken.  As I write this I’m just wondering why the Hell I didn’t remove the umbrella from the quiver .  No rain was forecast over the few days and so it was totally pointless taking it.  Doh!

It was a murky start to the day with quite thick fog and a tad chilly too, with an over night frost.  Still we were hopeful.  Due to the recent high levels the banks are wet and slippery with a thick coating of silt in places.  At times I felt like a hippo wallowing in mud, although I didn’t enjoy it as much as a hippo would have! Anyway I spent around 3 or 4 hours in a swim that never produced so much as a twitch and so opted to move upstream.  I then put one rod out with maggots and a large blockend feeder.  As always I like to get the maggots Pallatraxed up a bit and add some Winter Almond overspray the night before.  This allows the maggots to absorb the flavouring and I just add a little extra on and off through the session.   I was now using an 8lb Flurocarbon hooklink of around 3 feet and a size 14 The Hook.  I put on around 4 or 5 maggots of varying colours, although red seemed to generate more interest from the fish.  As with all big rivers the feeder is cast upstream and a big bow of line is let out.  This helps to keep the feeder in place and allows a much lighter weight than if you tried to fish a tight line to the feeder.

By 8pm it was getting very foggy and cold, with a frost forming on the unhooking mat.  I’d managed to tempt a few chub and 3 barbel, however once darkness had set in things seemed to go quiet.  All bar one fish fell to the maggots, with one taking a liking to the Winter Almond squabs. Geoff had also managed a barbel and Kevin two I think.  It was no great hardship calling it a day and heading off for some food.  We hoped to be on the river a little earlier in the morning so an early night was in order.

The following morning saw us arrive around 10am and once the fog cleared it was a glorious day.  The sun came out and the warmth it generated was most welcome, it really was like a late spring day.  Sadly the fish didn’t seem impressed.  We had all opted to fish the lower section, where the flow is concentrated to the near bank due to the large sweeping bend above us.  We fished around a rod length out into a deep channel.  Sadly the fish appeared to be on their annual hols somewhere.  Kevin tried further out and soon had a barbel on.  With that, both Geoff and I tried the same tactics and eventually we were fishing 3/4 of the way across.  This seemed to make all the difference and soon we had all caught a barbel or two, plus a few chub.   Again they seemed to favour the maggots and my flavoured ones produced the goods.  I ended up with 5 nice barbel to over 8lbs and a couple of chub to 4lb 12oz, all on maggots.  Geoff managed one barbel and Kevin two.  I ended the few days with 9 barbel and around the same amount of chub and lost 2 barbel.  Geoff I think had 2 barbel and Kevin 4 or 5 and again both taking a number of good chub and bream.

So a tough season comes to an end.  The three musketeers seemed to have struggled this season.  Still, it was an enjoyable finale and as always I’d like to thank both Geoff and Kevin for their good friendship and patience.  My fishing would be poorer without their company.  Also not forgetting a certain Mr Collins for his good company, stories and entertaining tales.  Yes there is so much more to fishing than just catching fish and long may it continue.

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The babbling brooks, streams and rivers that surround us are so mesmerising, so enchanting to anglers that you can find yourself drifting into a reverie just thinking about them.  They are so full of life and shrouded in many a long yarn or stories of magic and myths.  Many of the southern chalk streams are the preserve of the rich and famous, those a tad more fortunate than most.  Of course when you see the idyllic setting of these wondrous rivers , who can blame those that part with the vast sums of money necessary to partake in such a decadent indulgence.  I certainly would if money was no object.

There are a few beats here and there that fortunately can be fished for a fairly modest sum.  There are places on the Itchen, Test, Frome, Kennet and numerous other delightful chalk streams in Southern England that can be fished on a day ticket, coarse fishing syndicate, fishing club or even free fishing in some places.  As always it helps to know the right people and that can make a big difference.

Anyway I digress, I headed to one of Hampshire’s finest accompanied by good mate and Team Pallatrax Manager Jez Brown; the Baron himself.  We were primarily targeting the big roach that can be found in these hallowed waters.  Of course there was also a good chance of some decent grayling, dace and those ever present trout that enjoy the deep pools around the old mill house.

With significant rainfall over the last few months most of the area shows signs of the flooding, with large swaths of land under water.  This is when your dream house overlooking the river can become your worst nightmare.  Fortunately the floods have abated somewhat and the level of this particular chalk stream was perhaps 18-24″ up on its normal level.  It was bombing through of course but the pools looked very fishable and there were a number of very enticing slacks to be found close in amongst the partially submerged marginal trees and bushes.

We headed to our chosen spots and I opted for a cage feeder packed with liquidized bread, 3ft hooklink and a size 10 barbless hook with a decent piece of breadflake on.  We were soon fishing and Jez had some early success with a couple of trout.  However it soon became apparent that the recent good form of this beat had possibly come to an end.  Sadly the bites dried up and neither of us could tempt so much as a twitch.  Jez was experiencing the powers of Nathan ‘Jonah’ Walter first hand.  I seem to posses the uncanny ability to turn even the most productive of swims into a desert this season.

It was time for a change and so I decided to try maggots and changed the cage feeder for a blockend.  This decision paid off immediately, with knocks and decent bites signalling activity.  Soon a number of fish succumbed to the new tactics and I landed some cracking grayling to around a pound and a half, some big trout and a number of nice dace.  Jez decided to run a float through the swim but sadly this produced nothing.  We kept some feed going in and I tried the float after increasing the depth a bit.  This seemed to make all the difference and first trot through produced a fish.  I then returned to the feeder and targeted an area where the pool started to shallow up before running off downstream.


The action started to hot up and each cast produced a fish, with some good grayling.  Jez was also beginning to get a fish a chuck and he took some lovely grayling on the float.  However even this action soon dried up.  Perhaps the heavy frosts of the previous two nights had put the fish down a bit.  It’s been so mild lately that frosts must come as a bit of a shock to the poor old fish!  So it was time for a change, as the afternoon was wearing on.

By mid afternoon the sun was out and it was incredibly warm.  A hint of early spring was in the air and there was no need for any winter thermal clothing for a change.  That constant  gale force south westerly wind that has been so prevalent this winter, had at last abated and we were able to enjoy the warm rays of the sun.  It really was a pleasant day and that was enhanced by being privileged enough to be on one of Hampshire’s finest chalk streams.

Maggots - Pallatrax Style

Maggots – Pallatrax Style

Jez decided it was time he went for a wander, whilst I concentrated on the hot peg.  Well if anyone can freeze hot pegs, it’s me.  Another hour passed by without so much as twitch.  However the move had been the right decision for Jez and he had just landed a pristine 1lb 9oz roach from a marginal slack.  He soon followed that up with a slightly bigger roach.  It was time for me to have a go!  Yes you’ve guessed it; two immediate bites and two fish bumped off!  Bugger…or words to that effect.  With Jez shouting “watch out for the snag” and me shouting “what $%#@ing snag” both fish came adrift.  Still I’ve got used to this type of result this season, if it can go wrong it has, with one cock-up after another.  Still hopefully I’ve had so many cock-ups this season there can’t possibly be any left for next season……!

1lb 9oz

1lb 9oz

So I returned to my original spot whilst Jez worked on his Karma after my disastrous attempt at his swim.  One of the roach I lost was a good fish but these things happen I guess.   As the light faded the rod top started to indicate more action.  I had opted to touch leger for the majority of the day, mainly due to the presence of grayling.  I don’t really like quiver tipping for grayling as they have a habit of swallowing the hook.  If you touch leger and hit the slightest knock the problem is almost eradicated.  Its also a very rewarding way to fish as you feel all of those tiny taps, quivers and trembles on the line.

The rod tip whacked round aggressively and at last the target fish was netted; a beautiful river roach of 1lb 5oz.  By now it was dark and Jez was still downstream.  I wasn’t going to call him up to photograph the fish, if it had been a bit larger I would have.  So I popped her back and carried on.  Almost immediately the tip hammered round again and this time a really chunky grayling was the culprit.  It went 1lb 12oz on the scales and I popped it back as quickly as possible.  A couple of big trout followed and I started to think the action was really hotting up.  Big mistake….it died a death.  Not a touch followed. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Naught.  Well you get the picture.

Jez Brown's Stunning Roach

Jez Brown’s Stunning Roach

I decided with around 15-30 minutes left to go for a wander and find Jez.  He had lost one fish but that was all he’d had since I lost my two fish in his swim.  So after a 10 minute try in a slack, we decided enough was enough.  I was due on the Kennet the following morning, being picked up at 6am.  It was nearly 8pm now and with a 2 hour drive ahead of me it was time to call it a day.  I had thoroughly enjoyed myself, in great company and in a truly magical setting.   Although I hadn’t tempted any of the big roach that call this stretch home, I’d had some cracking sport and some really lovely and pristine conditioned fish.

Hopefully Jez will let me join him again here next season when hopefully the levels are back to normal and maybe we can don the waders and get in and trot a float through some of those glorious gravel runs for some of these enormous roach and grayling.

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