Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Spring Into Action

With out a doubt spring has well and truly arrived here in Suffolk. The birds are singing in the trees, the weather is getting warmer and the buds are starting to appear on the trees. This is without doubt one of my favorite times to be out on the bank chubbing and looking back through my records the end of the season can be one of the most rewarding with regards to fish on the bank. I think this may have something to do with slightly warmer water and air temperatures and its like the fish can sense this change in the weather, this in turn usually turns the chub onto a feeding frenzy after the cold winter. This gluttonous feeding especially if combined with a falling river level after a flood can produce tremendous sport and many's a day when a steady procession of chub have visited the landing net.

We have been out on the bank a few times in the last couple of weeks but although the fish have been feeding well its only a large number smaller chub between 2-3lb we have caught with the exception of the 5lb 1oz I caught in the last blog entry and a fish of 4lb 8oz falling to dad's rod. While the smaller chub are happy to feed the larger fish of 6lb are certainly proving hard to track down and with time running out until the end of the season it will be no easy task to catch a big one. One thing that most of the local chub anglers agree on though is that somebody must catch a real biggie before the end. From which part of the Waveney it will come from is unknown as the bigger chub in river seem very nomadic in their nature but occasionally one or two of the larger fish do become resident fish in certain stretches of river as certain time of year.

4lb 8oz for Dad
The first day session started well enough with bites a plenty and by midday we had caught a brace of smaller fish each, but mid afternoon the heavens opened and the rain came down by the bucketful. Thank goodness for our two piece suits and we were safe and dry on them to sit it out in any weather without the need and inconvenience of carrying a large and bulky brolly around. In situations like that you just have to ride the storm out and let it pass.

The second session was more of a guiding/tuition day for me and Dad as we were joined by a couple guests who came along with us for our chubbing trip, René Baptiste and his son Jordan, in order to see if we could improve their pb's and we certainly succeeded as the Waveney produced the goods. First René had a super chub of 5lb 5oz, then one of 4lb. Jordan also chipped in with a fish of 2lb 15oz. Today wasn't about me and dad catching and under our tuition both angler's caught new personal best fish. The smiles say it all really. I get my greatest pleasure helping other people to catch and its certainly something I'd like to do a little bit more of in the future. Earlier in the day I'd managed to catch a small chub of 3lb 1oz from a swim I hadn't fished before but had walked by many times in the past. It just goes to show that you should never discount a swim based purely on the way it looks. You could be missing out on some good fishing.

René Baptiste -  A Waveney of chub 5lb 5oz and a new PB
René and Jordan were great people to fish with with René having some experience of chubbing on the river Stort in Essex where is used to live nearby but this was some years ago. He certainly knew how to play the fish when he hooked one and looked like he'd never been away from the bank. Jordan on the other hand had only caught small chub in the past up to a pound but I was pretty confident that he would catch a fish bigger than that if he did get one. It took us a while but he did indeed catch one of 2lb 15oz. Not the biggest chub in the world but he was very pleased with it. During the day we discussed baits, rigs, and tackle, and as we moved to different swims, we also taught them watercraft. We explained the reasons why we fished each swim and also how and why we prepared swims by pre-baiting. I think that the day was a real eye opener for both of them and they learned a lot. It was so nice to share our experience with like minded people who were eager to learn. I'm sure we have lit a fire for chub fishing in them and come next season they will be out on the bank a lot more if possible.

The Last Hurrah!
Due to family commitments, today (the 11th of March) was mine and dad's last day out on the bank before the end of the season. The weather turned out to be lovely and the sun even came out
making the day one of the best of the year to be out on the bank. Apart from a cold northerly wind the day could almost be described as balmy. One minute you needed a coat on when fishing in the wind and the next minute you had to take it off because you were sweating!
The day started off in a pretty uneventful fashion - our first couple of swims produced not so much as a nick for me but dad had a few bites but missed them both. The morning was drawing on and despite my best efforts I couldn't get a bite, despite altering hook size, and bait, amount of shot etc. We moved downstream to some other swims in between a footbridge which passed over the river and a wooded area. This was one of those sections that we had tried many times in the past but apart from a few knocks had never caught many fish from except in the summer. Both of us cast over to far bank cover in the shape of trees overhanging the water. Before I had even had a chance to mold my cheese paste round my size six hook and cast out, I heard the whirl of dad's clutch as a chub battled for freedom in the entanglement of branches. I rushed up to bank to do the honors with the net and could see that it was a good fish from the bend in his rod. The fish was tiring but it still had some fight left in it before managed to get it safely in the net. As I went to unhook the fish for dad I could see the hook in the corner of the chubs mouth and low and behold the hook just about fell out as I touched it. I always said the old man has a pair of large round golden things in his trousers and this only went further to prove my point! After a few photographs the fish was weighed and dad was more than pleased when the dial went round to 4lb 13oz. So close to the his goal of a 5lb chub this season but no cigar.

4lb 13oz for Dad
After that fish dad deposited a few more bits of paste in the swim and then we walked further downstream. I was at this point still trying for my first bite of the day and was literally pulling my hair out wondering what I had to do to get a fish. I fished hard for the rest of the day, trying as many different spots as possible in the vain hope to just get that merest touch on the tip but it was ending up looking like I was going to blank and my confidence was waning fast. One swim which I hadn't fished since last season though looked a dead cert - a small hawthorn bush, complete with flood raft immediately after a bend. I knew from fishing this stretch for the whole of last season that the under the bush was slightly deeper than the surrounding water. Also because of the floods it might have scoured the bottom out even more making it a better swim. As I had pre baited this swim earlier in the day with half a dozen lumps of our highly effective cheese paste, I knew that if there was a chub in residence it wouldn't belong before a bite was forthcoming. In this respect I was right on the money and a couple of minutes later I was into my first fish of the day. The chub put up a great fight in the flow and initially I thought it was a big fish as it kept very low in the water. Dad came up the bank to see what all the commotion was about but by the time he had got there I had got the fish safely in the net. Quickly I got the fish out onto the bank and it was a little bigger than I thought it was and when weighed the scales went round to smack on 4lb. Not the biggest chub in the world but at least I hadn't blanked on my last day out on the bank this season and that was alright by me.

At 4lb I hadn't blanked!

We both fished hard for the rest of the day. Again I couldn't get another bite for love nor money but dad on the other hand was getting bites a plenty, the only trouble was he just couldn't connect with any of them. Well that's fishing for you eh? We next moved to a swim where dad has had some good fish from in past, especially in the summer but one that he hasn't fished much in the winter. He cast out and it couldn't have been more than a few minutes when his rod was literally dragged in. If he hadn't been near his rod and managed to grab the butt I firmly believe that was the last we would have seen of it. There was no need for dad to strike as it was clear the fish had hooked itself. Trouble was though that the fish shot upstream instead of downstream in to a tangled mass of rubbish and timber from overhanging trees on the far bank. Dad rushed downstream but the fish was well into the jungle by now and we both thought he would have to pull for a break but through gentle and steady pressure he managed to coax the fish out, taking his time and not rushing things. It worked and the fish from extracted from it lair. This fish was tired now and soon a big white cavernous mouth and pair of lips broke the surface ready to be netted by yours truly. I could tell when I went to lift the fish out it had some weight to to it and it wasn't until it was on the bank that the true scale of it was realized. Although not a long fish it was incredibly deep and thick set in almost mint condition. I was thinking it might even be a good five but once we weighed it the scales registered a weight of exactly 5lb. Dad was over the moon - he had been after a 5lb fish all winter and now he had done it on the last day we had on the bank.

Last fish of the season for Dad - a Waveney 5lber

As you can see from the shots above it was a beautiful fish and one that any anglers would love to catch.
Well that's it for this season and although this blog is primarily aimed at winter chub I will be doing a few articles in the summer based on planning for your winter campaign and a few surprise features so please watch this space. If you enjoy this blog then please feel free to comment, and don't forget to follow the blog.

Tight lines and all the best for next season. Peter Hayes.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Return To The Stream

"On the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.…"

Does the above quote sound familiar? This quote from the Bible (Genesis 7:11) describes the floods that were sent down by God to destroy the earth in the story of Noah. Well I would say that in the last few weeks the weather has been nothing short of biblical!

 The state of my local river Waveney has been nothing short of appalling over the last few weeks. High over the banks one minute and then back down to normal level, it was like the river couldn't make its mind up. Even the roads were impassable in places earlier in the week which made my frustration even worse. We had planned a couple of mid week trips but all of these had to called off due to the flood water. The ground is so saturated with rain water and the river so swollen with flood water, its been very difficult to gain access to certain parts I've wanted to fish. The banks have also become treacherous and slippery and care has to be taken otherwise it could have been so easy to slip into the river at some inopportune moment. The windows of opportunity to fish have been very slim indeed and its been very frustrating sitting at home wondering if I'd ever get back out the bank again to catch a few chub. One good thing about all these floods it that the river is free of rubbish and the bottom has been scoured clean of weed making presentation easier. 

Fortunately the rain has stopped (at least for a while!) and in this time the river level decreased to a much more fishable condition. It was certainly good to get out on the banks again after mother nature put a halt to the proceedings for a while. We again headed for the little side stream that we fished in our last session as I'm sure its very possible that it holds much bigger fish than those we had caught so far. I think the potential for these small and rarely fished places is enormous especially as its one of those places most chub anglers wouldn't even give a look. Its also an ideal place for those bigger fish to live a more sheltered life away from the competition on the main river even when its in flood. The chub in these types of side streams are rarely fished for meaning you can get away with stronger and cruder tackle than you would normally use, so long as you don't spook them in the first place . Most swims are also those of the hit and hold type with little room for maneuvers once a fish is hooked so it pays to use sensible tackle.

Tackle was my favorite 11ft 6inch, 1lb 2oz, quiver tip rod coupled with my faithful Shimano 4010 GTM reel loaded with my now usual 8lb or 6lb Bass Pro Excel mainline. Terminal tackle is a small link swivel to which a couple of swan shot are attached via a loop of line. The link swivel is then trapped between three float stops (one behind the link and two below it), terminating in a size 10, 8, 6, or 4 hook. I use two float stops below the link so I can easily slide one down nearer the hook which means I can mold a small amount of heavy metal type putty around if needed to counterbalance buoyant baits like crust, or a pop-up Squab.

For my loose feed I finely liquidized a fresh loaf ot two of white bread and add a good amount of crushed hemp plus some crumbled up Lone Angler/Pallatrax Cheese Feast Sticks. This creates an enticing cloud in the water to attract the chub from a long way down stream but there is little in the way of food items to fill them up. The last thing I want to do, especially when the weather, is cold is to fill the fish up - I want to attract them not feed them! If I had some Cheese Feast Overspray available to me at this time I would certainly have liked to dampened this bread mixture with it and you can be sure its something I will be doing in the future. All this is best done at home before you go fishing.

With my little concoction all ready to go was then a simple matter of pre-baiting each likely looking swim as I made my way up the river. It was then a case of working my way back down the stretch fishing each swim in turn for no more than ten to twenty minutes but bites can (and usually do) occur within minutes of casting in. It was a very good feeling knowing that each swim I would be fishing had been pre-baited. I compressed the liquidized bread into golf ball sized amounts as hard as I could with my hands so that they didn't break up as soon as it hit the waters surface. Its also important to note here that you should throw the ball of liquidized bread further upstream than normal as it takes a lot longer for it to sink than it would if you were using mashed bread. If you don't put it in upstream then it has the potential to spread the fish out further as they chase the bread particles downstream. I could of course use a small feeder but I feel that the negatives outweigh the positives on such a small and intimate river from the commotion of the feeder continually hitting the water.

Today, because of the lower and much clearer water level I decided to go with a smaller hook bait than normal - a size 6 hook barely covered with a blob of cheese paste. I spent around ten minutes in each swim reasoning that if there were any fish present then they would be on the hook bait straight away and a fish in the net would undoubtedly come on the first cast provided it was in the right place. The first couple of swims didn't produce a single indication on the tip so me and Dad moved downstream to a couple more swims we had baited previously. I sat back and drank a nice hot cup of coffee while Dad made his first cast in this previously unfished swim. It can't have been more than a few minutes when his tip went round. He duly struck into the fish and was rewarded with a chunky little chub of 2lb 10oz.

Deciding to chance his arm he had a second cast into the swim hoping that he hadn't spooked the fish by missing the bite. Again a repeat of the first bite but this time his rod hooped over alarmingly and stayed there, bent round to the butt. Something BIG had taken a fancy to his cheese paste offering. What ever it was stayed deep and hugged the bottom, using its sheer weight and power moving very slowly. The rod creaked under the pressure until it could bend no more, then suddenly, everything went slack. It had snapped it 6lb line like cotton! With all the floods we have had and fish escaping from lakes along the Waveney valley, I rather suspect that a big carp may have been the culprit. Dad has had encounters with river carp before chubbing and whatever this was behaved in exactly the same way. If it wasn't a carp it might have been a large pike, or possibly even a rare barbel. We shall never know but it certainly got the heart pumping quickly!

We then decided to move further down stream still on the side stream. I still couldn't buy a bite for love nor money and i was hoping some of Dad's luck might rub off on me. I fished two more swims but wasn't really "feeling it" if you know what I mean. It just didn't feel right to me anymore and I was feeling less confident as the minutes ticked by. Dad on the other hand had another fish of 3lb 4oz, an immaculate little stunner as you can see from the picture above.We then decided to move onto the main river in hope of finding some bigger specimens. It felt much more exposed on the main river as the wind swept across the fields but certain areas were sheltered from the wind more than others and it was these we targeted. Again various swims were tried but it wasn't until midday that I got my first bite - a lovely slow draw on the tip and the characteristic "thump thump" as a big chub battled for freedom. It fought like its life depended on it and I was glad I had loaded my reel with 8lb Bass Pro Excel as this chub got me snagged twice in marginal rushes which involved a tug of war of epic proportions to free it. As soon as it was free from the snags it powered upstream and I saw a shimmer of silver as it shook its head from side to side trying to rid itself of my hook. With one final effort I managed to get into the net as a big pair of rubbery white lips broke the surface.
Quickly weighed the fish went just over the magical five pound mark at at very pleasing 5lb 1oz. A very pleasing fish from any river and one I'm sure many people would love to catch.

An old warrior of 5lb 1oz river Waveney chub
After that we decided to pack up and head home for tea and medals, our hunger for chub satisfied for the moment, until the river called out to us again, a call that is answered by all anglers.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Small Stream Action

"I remember thinking at the time that I would never get warm again. Despite two t-shirts, hoody, fleece, two piece thermal suit, thermal wellies, and hat, the cold had some how managed to creep under my clothes and my fingers ached with it. It seemed to congeal my blood and the very marrow of my bones. At one point in the day the weak sun pierced the heavily overcast sky and to feel its warmth penetrating one's chilled bones is something beyond my power to describe.
To add to the cold the wind once again seemed to strip the life from the bleak and inhospitable landscape, as the harsh cold air did its best to suck the life out of me as I drew every breath."
The above piece can only partly describe what today's weather felt like. Today was one of those days when most people would have been tucked up at home in front of a nice warm fire with a whiskey for company, watching the telly, but we all know that you don't catch many chub sitting at home. Cold weather and chub go hand in hand and if you really want to catch chub then you have to prepared to put up with this kind of discomfort.

The weather was bleak today
Again a quick check of the river levels the days leading up to our trip has seen the same story that has been repeated all over the country recently -  one minute over the banks and in the fields, the next its dropped again. These 'yo-yo' water levels appear to be the kiss for most species but in particular chub that seem to take anything up to three or four days to re adjust depending on the how prolonged the flooding has been. There appears to be no happy medium at the moment as the windows of opportunity to get a session in have been so narrow its been vitally important to check both weather and water level on an almost daily basis.

In the car on the way to the river the thermometer in the car registered a rather displeasing minus one degrees but as soon as we arrived it felt much colder due to the wind chill factor. We quickly got the gear out of the car and as we walked to our usual stretch of river I pulled my new Lone Angler beanie hat down low over my head to shield as much of the wind from my head as possible. My fingers felt numb already - time to break the gloves out!

On arrival at the river it all looked good but this doesn't necessarily mean that a good days port is on the cards. The main river still looked like it could do with dropping a bit more despite the green colored tinge the water was carrying. For this reason we decided to fish a very small and unassuming back water that lead from the main river. Many anglers would dismiss such a piece of water immediately, based purely on the size alone, yet experience over the years has taught me that no river or side stream is never to small to hold a big chub. Funny today that we decided to fish this side stream which at normal level is no more than a couple of foot deep in places but with the extra water in the river the shallow places are no longer shallow. Its was one of those places that I've always been meaning to give some attention but never got round to. Today a gut feeling, instinct, call it what you will, told me to fish this normally sedate and quiet spot.

Virgin chub territory?
It quickly became obvious from observation of the bank that nobody had been fishing along here. I've certainly never seen anyone fishing it in all my time so it could well be that this little bit of side stream is practically virgin chub territory, a rare occurrence in this day most rivers. This was really pioneering at its best but we could only do so much - the rest would be up to the chub.  
Its a good reason to keep on the move when its cold and not only does it keep you warm it also keeps you searching for the fish. Good enough reason to spend no more than fifteen to twenty in a swim which is my usual time limit. In the end what it comes down to is that if the fish are there and hungry, the will be ready and waiting to take your bait within that time scale. Its all too easy to sit it out in your favorite spot hoping for a bite when you would be far better searching for the fish even if it means walking two or three miles in a day.

As we walked further and further it was obvious that there was no lack of feature swims to fish. Around each corner overhanging trees, deep bends, and long glides greeted us at, and this was only the tip of the iceberg. This is chub fishing a its purest and to be presented with such a stretch of river to go at I was in seventh heaven, The only problem was where to start. I quickly selected a lovely looking swim with an overhanging tree below me while dad positioned himself a little further upstream in an almost identical swim. We quickly set up and soon had our baits in position when I heard that all too familiar shout from down the bank signifying that dad was into his first fish of the day. I walked down to dad to do the netting duties for him but just before I got there there was another shout and the fish had thrown the hook. Cursing his luck dad describe the brief fight the fish had given him - it had stayed down deep, giving those unmistakable thumps on the rod, as it moved upstream. I've written about this before in other blog entry's but this fighting style seems very characteristic of the bigger fish so you get a feel for the bigger ones when you do eventually hook into one.

I was having less luck in my swim having not so much as a bite, so after fifteen minutes it was time to move. My second swim was again immediately upstream of a large overhanging tree but this time the flow was much stronger. I had previously put a few small bits of paste in so I was hoping there was a fish there waiting for my cheese paste over sprayed with Lone Angler sausage sizzle flavor  hook bait. I was right as after approximately five minutes my tip trembled and then slammed round as a very angry chub did its best to dive into the nearest snag. The fight though was never in doubt even with the strong flow as it quickly tired. With the fish in the net, and then unhooked, it was time for the all important weighing routine. At only two pounds and five ounces it wasn't the biggest chub I've ever caught but it was in absolute pristine condition.

Freshly minted
All this caused a bit of a commotion in this little swim so it was time for a move. We fished plenty of more swims throughout the rest of the day with nothing else to show for our efforts. We even tried a section of the main river for a change but this proved to worse than useless so we returned to the side stream. As when fishing the main river the scenario with the side stream was practically the same - taking one fish from each swim and then moving on. It was very rare to get a second bite of the cherry so to speak and a missed bite often resulted in the fish becoming spooked.

Later on in the afternoon the wind was getting stronger as it gusted and howled like a banshee through the trees that creaked and groaned under the strain. At times it was farcical watching the quiver tip dancing around in front of our eyes so we had no choice but to resort to touch ledgering for bite indication. It was getting much colder by now but we carried on regardless, and as the sky became ominously black we ensconced ourselves into our last swims of the day. Dad had found a lovely looking slack under the near bank and he soon trundled his cheese paste hook bait into position where it hardly had time to settle before being gulped down by a greedy chub. His poor little rod was nearly bent double as the fish made some spirited escape attempts for freedom in the powerful flow. Luckily there were no snags nearby and his six pound mainline held fast. I was on standby to do the netting duties once again and got the fish into the net. As you can see from the picture below the fish was in the absolutely prime winter condition and it was a little bigger than my best effort of the day at three pounds and four ounces.

Beautifully conditioned fish off 3lb 4oz
Now I know this fish may not be the biggest but it certainly goes to show what smaller side streams can throw up particularly when the main river is carrying plenty of extra water. Ignore them at your peril - you may missing out on potentially some very good sport.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Team Lone Angler - The Future

A lot has happened in terms of my fishing since the last blog entry was made and its all been very good!
Firstly of all I'm very proud to announce I have joined Team Lone Angler. To have my name associated with some of the most respected and talented names in angling that have been an absolute inspiration to me and countless others over the years and will continue to do so for many more, is a great honor indeed. As previously mentioned in earlier blog entry's I've used their flavors since their first inception when they were sold under the Action Bait's banner and then sold by Double T. I have to admit that over the years I strayed to what I've thought were better products, but in the end I always kept coming back to Action Baits/Double T, and now Lone Angler products. Products that continue to produce the goods over and over again.

During my chub fishing career of over twenty years I've always tried to put quality before quantity when it comes to my bait and tackle and that's exactly what Lone Angler delivers on every level.
From their bait and terminal tackle, to their rods and clothing, expect nothing but the very best.
Lone Angler is in fact a sister company of Pallatrax but it is not owned by Pallatrax. Simon Pomeroy is now the MD of both Pallatrax and Lone Angler, but Pallatrax make all of Lone Anglers bait. Cotswold Aquarius make Lone Angler's luggage and Harrison the rods.
As Lone Angler is spear headed by Trefor West, undoubtedly the UK's finest barbel angler of all time, you can be safe in the knowledge that every single item  has been thoroughly tested out on the bank, and that's what I like about Lone Angler - products designed by anglers, made for anglers, and used by anglers.
At this point I'd really like to express my thanks to Rob Swindells, Trefor West, Simon Pomeroy, Jez Brown, and Mike O'Neill, for giving me this chance. I'm looking forward to working closely with all of you. Thanks you all once again

I've also purchased a new camera to replace my aging compact. The camera I decided to purchase was a Canon S5 IS after a recommendation by that great chub angler himself Iain Nairn. As usual Iain's advice was spot on and I'm very pleased with the camera. Although the camera is now getting on in digital camera technology terms as it was released in 2006 and is 8mp, there is no doubt that it will serve me very well for a long time to come.
People seem to get obsessed by how many mega pixels a camera has these days but its not like I'm going to be blowing up pictures to a large size so its perfectly adequate for my needs. It all looked a bit daunting with all the buttons everywhere but it didn't take me long to get to grips with. I even took a few practice shots with it of my daughter which came out very well! I currently trying to get a decent shot of my boy as well but as he is only 17 months old he doesn't sit still long enough!
I particularly like the large flip out and twist LCD screen which I imagine will come in very useful in the future should I find myself alone on the bank in the middle of nowhere. It should make self takes a doddle!
There are also plenty of accessories available as well which means that this camera is also very versatile. 

Brief of Canon S5 IS Specifications
Powered by Canon’s DIGIC III image processor, Face Detection Technology improves focus, exposure and flash output for people shots while the new Red-Eye Correction feature effectively solves red-eye problems in captured photos. An increased sensitivity range of ISO 80-1600 complements the optical IS system for extended low light performance.
Other key advancements include a larger, higher resolution 2.5” vari-angle LCD, additional shooting modes and extended video recording. The compact design incorporates a new hot shoe that provides compatibility with selected Canon EX Speedlite external flashes, adding to an accessory list that includes Wide, Tele and Close-up converter lenses.
Features at a glance:
  • 12x optical zoom lens with Ultrasonic Motor (USM) and UD lens
  • Optical Image Stabilizer
  • 8.0 Megapixel CCD
  • DIGIC III with advanced Noise Reduction technology and Face Detection for stills and movies
  • Red-Eye Correction in playback
  • 2.5” high-resolution vari-angle LCD
  • Long-play VGA movies with stereo sound and Photo in Movie
  • 22 shooting modes including full manual control and 0cm Super Macro
  • High ISO 1600 and Auto ISO Shift
  • Compatible with Wide/Tele/Close-up converter lenses and Canon EX Speedlite flashes
Precision Optics
Benefiting from Canon’s 70 year heritage in optics, the 12x optical zoom lens (f/2.7 – f/3.5, 36-432mm) incorporates the same leading technologies used in professional EF lenses:
  • Optical Image Stabilizer (IS) technology suppresses blur when taking stills and minimises image shake when shooting video footage. Canon’s lens-shift type IS allows photographers to shoot at shutter speeds up to 3 stops slower with no perceptible increase in image blur.
  • An Ultra-Sonic Motor (USM) delivers rapid, responsive zooming with virtually silent operation, reducing the risk of sound interference on movies and or when shooting wildlife subjects.
  • An Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) lens element curbs chromatic aberrations at longer focal lengths to ensure faithful colour reproduction and sharp definition.
Optional Wide and Tele converter lenses extend the focal length from wide 27mm to super-tele 648mm (35mm film equivalent). A Super Macro mode with 0cm shooting distance and optional Close-Up lens 500D (58mm) allow for detailed macro photography. Safety Zoom allows users to extend the camera's zoom range without interpolation affecting image quality - images can be captured at up to 24x zoom with enough resolution for lab-quality postcard (10 x 15cm) prints. Photographers can also enable the Digital Tele-Converter3 feature for added telephoto reach (1.6x or 2.0x) on every shot, without the reduction in aperture typically caused by optical tele-converters.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

In Frosty Footsteps

Over here in East Anglia we have had our first real frost of the year just over a week ago, as temperatures over night plummeted beneath a clear and starry sky, the water level dropped, and the clarity of the water became crystal clear. But that was last week and in fishing terms a lot can happen in a week with regards to weather and water conditions, and now the river had again risen and the temperature was hovering around the minus one mark, making the chances of catching swinging firmly in the fishes favor and not the angler. With all this said and done there is still one species that you can almost guarantee a bite from when your back is firmly up against the wall - chub.

It was a cold day on the bank...
The path (if you can call it that) down to the river was interesting to say the least. The thick and glutenous morass of mud cloyed at our feet making every step an effort as we slipped and slid along looking forward to today's prospects. A heavy flog blanketed the Waveney valley, which only added to the atmosphere that could only be summed up as electric.

Upon arrival at the river the cold crisp air took my breath away, and as I wandered along the bank from swim to swim with my bucket of mashed bread in tow, I paused to savor the situation. As I did so I took in a deep breath of satisfaction, at the same time inhaling a couple of lungfuls of pungent Lone Anglers Sausage Sizzle flavour which was wafting up from my bread mash bucket. It suddenly struck me that it was one of those moments in life when you were just glad to be alive, and to be a fisherman at this time, and in this place, was the proverbial icing on the cake. It has often been said that to experience the English countryside at its best you also have to experience it at its worst, but for me its in winter that I feel the most comfortable whether its snow, sleet, sun, or rain. To many it may seem strange that I have such an affinity with winter but if you are a chub fisherman you will know exactly how I feel, and its this passion and enthusiasm that I try to convey in my writing. 

I started this session in the time honored chubbing tradition of pre-baiting my selected swims. Each swim I came to received a couple of small handfuls of mashed bread and a few hook bait samples of cheese paste with the two fold objective of keeping the fish that were there in the area, and also attracting others from downstream with the flavour trail that was emanating from this most classic of chub ground baits. My plan was to to fish either bread or cheese paste on the hook, depending on the water which was looking colored, cold, and hostile. To pep the flake up a little I gave it a quick spray with some Sausage Sizzle overspray before casting out to give it some instant appeal, and hopefully something for the chub to hone in on.

Dad meanwhile had been addressing the problem of the missed bites he has been experiencing so much in the last few weeks and came up with a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a fox! Instead of fishing downstream and across as normal instead he decided to do the opposite and upstream ledger.Normal downstream ledgering by casting downstream and across for chub produced  either full wrap around bites on the quiver or very sharp plucks and taps. In both cases striking resulted in the occasional fish being hooked but still the problem persisted and many bites were missed. My theory was that in both scenarios the chub were either feeling resistance from the shot or that they were feeling the resistance from the water pressure even on a light 1 1/2oz quiver tip, and dropping the bait almost immediately. Obviously the more this continued and with the continual re-casting the spookier the chub were getting and in the end bites tailed off completely.

First attempt at upstream ledgering resulted in this fine fish of 4lb 12oz for Dad
The trick to upstream ledgering is to judge how much weight is going to hold bottom, which may be up to a couple of ounces or more depending on the strength of the flow. You ideally need just enough weight to hold bottom and put a bend in the quiver tip, ideally anything from 1-4 inches.
The next step is to let out a few extra yards of line to allow the line to bow, with the rod tip held as high as possible. This prevents the lead being dragged downstream by the flow as the angle of line from the lead goes more or less straight downstream, not across as would happen with a tight line. The high rod tip ensures the minimum amount of line is being pulled by the current. Hopefully your lead and bait remain in position and a maybe a chub or two will take the bait. Despite the extra line out the bite will register very positively, usually as a sharp drop-back as the fish dislodges the lead which comes downstream towards you.

With a few exploratory casts upstream to get everything balanced nicely, Dad sat back and alert waiting for his first bite. In actual fact he didn't have to wait long and the the bite was a classic drop back. Dad described it as "a short sharp tremble followed by a massive drop-back as the weight shifted position. It was like somebody had cut the line!"
Dad' sweeping strike met with fierce resistance as the fish went deep and slow, making its way up stream against the flow. This common fighting style of the larger chub has become very noticeable since I started chubbing many years ago. There was no doubt that this was a big chub but it was not until a big rubbery pair of white lips and huge cavernous mouth broke the surface that we saw how good a fish it was. I though it could possible edge over five pound but the scale soon revealed its true weight of four pounds and twelve ounces.  It was a great fish for a freezing cold January morning and I was more than pleased that this new style of ledgering had worked for Dad at almost his first cast.

Back with me I spied a small area that immediately caught my eye -  a slack area very close into the bank. Even though the water level was high the only clue that gave away this swim was the presence of a few reed stems that poked above the surface of the water. I had discovered this swim on a session a few weeks ago when the water level was much lower but now that the river was carrying extra water the slack this died back mass of reeds had created was much more pronounced. To the uneducated eye this small slack may seem of little consequence but experience over the years has shown me that these types of swim can hold good numbers of fish when the conditions are right as the fish seek refuge from the powerful flow. This swim I planned to fish later in the day as I made my way back up the river as the day wore on. Knowing that swims would be pre-baited before I fished them always gives me great confidence.

Classic looking chub swim
A brisk walk further downstream and I soon arrived at my next swim. Overhanging branches reached down to the waters surface like some skeletal hand stripped bare of flesh by winters wrath, beckoning me to cast as close to them without becoming entangled. I introduced a few small balls of mashed bread and some little lumps of cheese paste which laid out the menu for any unsuspecting chub that may have been lying in residence. As I sipped gently from a cup of steaming hot coffee, I hoped that it may light a fire in my soul, if not in my stomach. After ten minutes I deftly flicked out a nugget of cheese paste and awaited action. The two swan ledger had hardly time to settle on the bottom as the tip lurched over and I was into my first fish of the day. The fish put up a good account of itself in the flow as I had to run downstream with rod and landing net in hand to avoid it ensnaring me in the snags that ran along the far bank. It wasn't long before the fish was in the net but this was only an average fish for the Waveney at three pounds twelve ounces, not that it matters as fish of this quality and finesse are in their prime at this time of year.

Minter of 3lb 12oz
My next few swims produced nothing in the way of bites, but with me also practicing upstream ledgering it was apparent that every snag, change in depth, and weed bed could be located. In other swims it was just not practical as there was still a hell of a lot of flow in the often more sedate spots. Still on the move I positioned myself along a reed fringed near bank slack and threw in a few more small lumps of paste. A quick cast in and before I had time to finish off my cheese and picalli sandwich a massive wrap around on the tip met with a super charged fish that certainly had been on steroids as it tried to rid itself of my hook. With the fish fighting its socks of and with the extra flow I had to use all the power of my rod and eight pound line to stop it reaching the tangle of reeds at my feet. Still the fish showed no signs of tiring and I just pulled and pulled. I really had to 'give it some wellie' in a John Wilson style to get it under control. This time I though I had hooked a monster but alas, it was not to be. With the fish tiring I bundled it into the net and got it out onto the bank and was rather surprised to see yet another small fish for my efforts. I quickly identified the fish as one dad had caught from this stretch of river earlier this winter at four pound and two ounces . The give away was most of the top of the tail fin was missing and an orange spot on its belly, (this was confirmed by looking at the previous picture for reference), but this fish now weighed in at three pounds fourteen ounces.

An old friend pays a visit to the bank again....
This time at 3lb 14oz
I'm sad to say there was no further action today and with a heavy heart, tired legs, and my landing net stiff with frost it was again time to make my way home.
I can think of no better way to end this blog entry than with a small excerpt from Ted Hughes' poem 'The Morning Before Christmas' which so perfectly conjures up the English countryside in winter -

Buds fur-gloved with frost. Everything had come to a standstill
In a brand new stillness.
The river-trees, in a blue haze,
Were fractured domes of spun ghost.
Wheel-ruts frost fixed. Mid-morning, slowly
The sun pushed dark spokes of melt and sparkle
Across the fields of hoar. And the river steamed...

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Cold Water Crust

I've often neglected bread as a hook bait for chub in the past simply because I find cheese so supremely effective as bait on the Waveney. Quite why this was I don't know because in my early years serving my chubbing apprentice when I fished the Nene, I used it almost exclusively and caught a lot of fish on it. In these days of modern paste concoctions and boilies, I'm now finding myself returning to it as I feel that on some days, especially when the river is low, cold, and clear, that I'm potentially missing out on fish that I should be catching.
I suppose my lack of confidence in fishing with bread, and especially crust is that I never knew whether I was fishing with a bare hook ten minutes after casting out because the bread had come off, so I was constantly reeling in to check. I needed to gain more confidence with bread again and by using this bait more its slowly all coming back to me. Sometimes in fishing you have to go backwards to move forwards. It would have been foolish of me to ignore one of the most successful chub baits of all time, and certainly one of the most versatile. Looking back through the records I have available to me of five pound plus chub that have been caught from the Waveney since 1987, it appears that crust or crust critically balanced with cheese paste, have accounted for a large proportion of the fish caught especially in the winter months.

Tesco crusty white sandwich loaf makes great crust
Bread flake wasn't so much of a problem for me to start using again and I soon reaffirmed my faith in this using Warburtons Medium Sliced White, but the biggest problem for me was the crust (when I'm talking crust here I'm talking about ledgered crust). Now it may sound strange to some people but I've been fishing for chub for nearly twenty years now and I'd never caught a single chub on crust simply because all the types of bread crust I tried didn't stay on the hook long enough for me so therefore I had no confidence in using it. Silly really I know, but recently this problem has been overcome, not by myself but my dad. He discovered a superb crusty loaf made by Tesco called the Crusty White Sandwich Loaf that didn't even need to be left in the bag a couple of days to go rubbery like many people recommended to me, but rather it could be used straight from the wrapper. It stayed on the hook remarkably well, and was super tough and rubbery, not like a lot of the other loaves I've used in the past. In fact we tested it out not long ago and found that it stayed on the hook for anything up to one hour which is very useful where long waits are expected between bites.

Although plain old crust is perfectly good enough to use on its own I have to say I really am one for using flavors and always have been since I started chubbing. I like to think that it makes my crust different and stands out from the rest of the crowd, and this gives me much needed confidence. There are of course many different flavors out there on the market to choose from but my advice would be to pick one that the chub are fond of. I've used many different flavors in the past but I'm currently using Lone Anglers Sausage Sizzle flavor on a variety of different baits including bread and its certainly one that the chub seem to approve of.

Crust is easy to flavor with a spray like this.
Luckily Sausage Sizzle is provided in a handy spray form which makes it very convenient and quick to use. For example it can be used to quickly give your bread flake hook baits a boost of extra attraction before casting out, or simply sprayed on crust which can then be frozen, so it becomes firmly impregnated with flavor. I also had a little ball of cheese paste on standby just in case the chub weren't interested in my crust offering. Well we all know how picky chub can be at times! Another ruse of mine is to tear my crust in pieces roughly the same size of a fifty pence piece. I feel that these irregular shapes are much more natural than cubes in exactly the same way that torn pieces of meat appear to be much more natural than buts with straight sides. It may only be a little thing but sometimes little things can make a big difference.

I'm determined to catch at least one chub on crust before this season ends so its no surprise to regular readers that I've been back at it again down the river, inspired by Martin James's blog that makes for some great reading on chub fishing. The river certainly looked in much better condition than it did a couple of days ago - still fining down, but this time with a greenish tinge instead of the brown color of strong tea that its been like for so long. Well that's a start I suppose. At least its not on the rise again as we have had little rain over here in East Anglia  recently unlike most parts of the country. I'm very lucky that I've been able to get out on the bank so my thoughts go out to other fisherman who can't even get near their local rivers because of the floods.

There was a decidedly wintery and chilly feel to today's proceedings with little but a cup of steaming coffee to warm me up as I tackled up in my first choice swim. I decided to use a big size 4 hook with a chunk of crust stopped a couple of inches from my two swan shot to begin with. Usually the distance of the shot from the bait is dictated by the weather - the colder it is the nearer the shot is to the hook. By subtracting shot, and even going down to a single AA or less, I could alter the amount of buoyancy the rig had, so that on each cast the crust was washed further downstream, and in effect using the current to my advantage, progressively searching the swim.
My first tentative cast landed inches from the trailing far bank branches, as the crust slowly settled into place on the bottom, letting out a bow of line so that if the bait did move, it would travel downstream in a straight line, acting naturally. It was at this point I was in no doubt that a bite could not be far away. It was one of those rare moments in fishing when everything just seem to be right with the world, and in particular, the atmosphere. That mixture of in trepidation, excitement, and a tinge of nervousness was intoxicating.  Its that feeling that will always keep me fishing for chub and keeps me coming back.

Having momentarily retreated into my own secluded daydream, I suddenly caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. A shiver on the line, and then the tip pulled round very slightly followed by everything going slack. A drop back bite! A chub had taken interest in my popped up crust. I struck quickly but it was to no avail. Well at least I'd had a bite on the crust, so I was getting somewhere which was a start. I recast again but this time not so far out and once again waited for another bite. Twenty minutes past by, yet nothing else happened. Time for a change so off came the crust which was replaced by a big blob of cheese paste. This time I had to wait literally minutes for my next bite, which was savage and unrelenting. My strike was met by sudden and urgent resistance as a good sized chub fled for the branches and the water exploded as a very angry fished tried to rid itself of the hook, but I was having none of it, my rod now bent into a very pleasing curve as I applied side strain to put the breaks on.

A lovely 4lb 5oz fish. A good start to the day...
 The fish began to tire quickly but not before it made one last mad dash into the reeds at my feet. Luckily I was in control and the fish was in the net before it knew what I was up to. It was a nice chub to be sure, not as big as I would have liked but then fishing the Waveney for chub is not about size, its more about enjoying fishing for chub for what it is. The chub weighed in at four pounds and five ounces and was a absolute minter. There were no hook marks in its mouth and there is every probability that this fish may have never been caught before. They are all jewels in the crown of the river.

After baiting the swim with a few more bits of paste for a return visit later in the day, it was time to get on the move and search out some more likely looking areas that would hold a few fish. By this time the sun had started to poke itself out from behind the clouds that had so far this day been ever present yet the wind remained a very cold easterly which seemed to get colder by the minute. The rest of the morning me and dad drifted from swim to swim again but although the river looked great the chub didn't seem that obliging. Dad had a massive wrap around bite in another swim but this was again missed. At lunch we both settled down in a favorite swim of Dad's which has always produced a bite for him even in the worst of conditions. I was tucking into my sausage roll while dad fished and it wasn't long before his cheese paste was gobbled up. Another classic bite and and this time Dad hooked it. It was a sprightly fish to say the least which put up a nice fight on his Shimano Twin Power Light/Medium feeder rod, but it soon got him snagged in some near bank reeds. It wasn't coming out in a hurry. In the end I had to poke around with landing net handle to free the fish and soon a big white mouth could be seen as the fish wallowed on the surface. I got the fish in net for Dad and I lifted it out on the bank. It was another mint condition fish. Fin perfect in every way and I don't think my accompanying picture below does it justice. At three pounds and three ounces it was perfection in minature.

After that fish we walked further down the river, much further than we had walked before. We had to particularly careful as we crossed some ditches and dykes that still contained a good deal of water in them from the recent flooding. There was still a lot of water in the ground and at times this made the going hard. We came to a very nice series of deeps bends which looked sure to hold a few chub or two so while dad baited with some cheese my first cast was made with a small bit of crust. It just held bottom in the more powerful flow as the small curve in the tip indicated. I waited and waited again but received no indications. After half an hour passed and so I then decided that a bit of cheese paste might provoke a response again. I was right in minutes I had a small shiver on the tip again followed by the tip sailing round, and my second fish of the day was on. Again it was only a small fish but on a cold day like today any fish was welcome. Into the net, up onto the bank and quickly weighed, it was another fish of similar sized to dad's at three pounds and three ounces.

After that fish we decided to return to our original swims which were right back at the top of the beat and that is some walk I can tell you. By the time we had walked back we were both soaked in sweat and the the sun had decided to hide itself behind the nearest clouds for the rest of the afternoon, as the wind ripped across the bleak landscape. We both fished on until the light was going but by this time we had both had enough and we still had to walk back to the car and negotiate all manner of obstacles in our path before reaching the safety of the car. We were both exhausted when we reached the car but as I remember Matt Hayes once said - a good chub fisherman will not only put himself out, but will also tire himself out.

I shall of course be continuing to use the Sausaage Sizzle crust even though it didn't produce any fish for me this time around. I can imagine that when the weather turns cold and the river low and clear, that flake and crust will come into their own. I can also see myself flavoring more crust and perhaps even dog biscuits in the summer for surface feeding chub. It certainly had a myriad of uses which is only limited by your imagination.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Floody Hell!

The river level has been up and down like a yo-yo in a lift over the last week or so and in the couple of sessions I've had down the river in the last week conditions have been far from perfect. The country has yet again been subjected to monsoon like proportions of wind and rain, yet I'm still chasing those big chub that I know are lurking in the Waveney somewhere. It was 2010 when I last caught a six from the river Ivel in Bedfordshire, but I know the Waveney has a reputation for big chub, the trouble is that one could pop up almost anywhere along its length and at any time, but I'm not to be deterred. I know it has to happen to me one day and I'll keep on going until it happens.

I've been waiting for the river to get back to some kind acceptable level, and have been keeping a careful eye on the conditions which saw me checking the Environment Agency website religiously every day. A small window of opportunity presented itself to me mid week and I couldn't wait to get back out on the bank, especially as the water level would be very similar to my last trip when bites came thick and fast throughout the day. With the river hopefully river fining down a touch after the flood, an overcast day, and warm air temperatures, it was about as perfect a day for chubbing as it could be.

I treated myself to some late Christmas presents which arrived this week from Lone Angler in the form of some Sausage Sizzle flavour, Sausage Sizzle Overspray,  and 8lb Bass Pro Excel line. I also received a copy of Terry Lampard's wonderful dvd 'Lampard's Way With Chub' from Martin Bowler's web site.
I first used Sausage Sizzle and other the flavours when they were originally released in 1999 under the Action Baits banner, and then ordering direct from Trefor when he ran Double T in conjunction with Tony Miles.

As I unscrewed the top off the Sausage Sizzle I inhaled a deep lungful of this pungent attractor and a million memory's came flooding back from yesteryear of my younger days spent on the bank in my pursuit of chub. It was like being reunited with an old and trusted friend and my confidence was at an all time high to have such an effective flavour back in my armoury.
Sausage Sizzle is extremely effective for flavouring spam and bread. The spray make it very easy and convenient to flavor bread crust and flake. Flavoring crust is easy - all you need to do is cut up your crust into a size to suit your hook, then place in a plastic bag, spray with sausage sizzle, seal the bag then put it in the freezer until needed. All you do then take is to take it out of the freezer the night before going fishing so it has time to thaw. Simples!

This first session saw me again on my local stretch of river and one which I have fished extensively over this years winter chubbing campaign. Bait choice for both of the sessions was Spam flavoured with Sausage Sizzle and a big ball of cheese paste, my reel loaded with new 8lb Bass Pro Excel line. Incidentally I've stepped up to 8lb line because although the river I fish is not large, nor is the average size of the chub exceptional, I have in the last few years, lost some very good sized fish in some very snag infested swims. Even 6lb Fox Soft Steel has let me down on occasion so I need more strength to bully them and haul them away as quickly as possible. I do so hate to lose fish! Hopefully the situation will now be remedied.   

The river had about a foot more water in it than last time (more than I would have liked), and so I stepped up my quiver tip to 2oz to cope with the extra flow, although the level showed no sign of decreasing. The wind was also one of cut through you to the bone. Quite how I would have coped without my modern clothing is anyone's guess! I love fishing for chub when the river is like this as they are usually hard on the feed after even a relatively short period of flood water which suits me fine. High water conditions often keep other anglers at home as they can't cope with brown, dirty water but I've fished for chub in flood water since I was a kid so it holds no fears for me because I've learned to adapt and more importantly know where to fish. It simply comes down to watercraft and knowing your river. Me and Dad had learned from our last trip out on a flooded Waveney that the deeper swims certainly seemed to hold better numbers of fish that the shallower kind when the river is in flood.

Luckily no more rain had be forecast for today so I could take confidence in knowing that I would at least stay dry for the day. Arriving in my first swim I carefully placed some cheese paste far upstream so that it would reach the bottom in the right place on the river bed. The swim had changed somewhat since I'd last been there - a large branch than spanned over the river, half in and half out of the water, was gone, but the far bank tree still looked very inviting for a bite or two. This swim has been good to me since I started fishing it with all fish from it between four and a half pounds to over five. I've since christened it the 'dog swim' because somebody always walks there dog along the far bank while I'm fishing there. I know, its strange that we anglers name swims like we do but I suppose it sounds better and easier to remember 'the old gnarled stump' or 'the big bush' swim than it does than 'that bit of river with the tree on the right, a bit of weed to the left and some deep water in front'!

Like all best laid plans this one not exactly go according to plan as I failed to get a bite in my usual banker swim yet dad on the other hand was into a fish immediately, as his cheese paste hardly had time to touch the bottom before it was chomped down by a sprightly two pound chub, proving that his location was spot on. 

The rest of the day was spent roaming from swim to swim in search of our elusive quarry. Every little bit of slack water was searched in an attempt to get at least one bite. Dad found a cracker of a swim and proceeded to have a succession of bites all of which he somehow managed to miss. Quite why this happened again in the same swim is a mystery despite altering amount of shot, length of hook length, size of hook, and size of bait used, it was no good.You can be in no doubt that Dad won't be beaten by such things and will be back there as soon as possible to have another crack at them.

I has to wait until just before midday before I got my first bite and it a right clonker as they say. The bait was cast right down the edge under a canopy of died back rosebay willow herb, with minimal shot so that the flow took the cheese paste in the lair. It can't have been more than a few minutes before I had the bite. The chub although not a big one put up a hell of a fight in the strong flow and punched far above is weight. It did exactly as I though it would and immediately tried to get me into raft of rubbish at my feet. I was glad I had a stronger line on than normal as I had no option but to apply as much pressure as I dared  to keep it from the snags under my feet. I just had to keep the rod bent and haul the thing in! I had it in the net in double quick time and was more than pleased with the fish under such conditions. At only three pounds and nine ounces it wasn't going to break any records any time soon  but at least I hadn't blanked.

Not big but very welcome from a flooded river
Up close and personal. 3lb 9oz in the net.
That was it really apart from a half hearted pull late in the afternoon which resulted in nothing more than a strike into thin air. Ah well there will always be next time. Hope your all enjoying the blog and feel free to comment or make suggestions. Guest articles and pieces are also very welcome.