Tuesday, 26 November 2013

New - Pike article. Catch pike on popped up baits.

Popping baits up for pike.
Duncan Charman – The thinking angler.
Written for German magazine in 2013.

The more I think about presenting a deadbait to a pike the more I think about popped-up or critically balanced baits. Small jack pike feed primarily on small live fish; their aerodynamic body shape, large fins and mouth are designed perfectly for this. However as they grow bigger they become slower and have to adapt at picking up dead or dying fish directly of the bottom. Although they can do this, it’s probably not the simplest task, so if an angler can help make this easier, surely it has to be advantageous. Another reason for learning how to produce a slow sinking or popped-up bait is when the angler is faced with weed in a lake or needs to present a bait over a silty, soft bottom. Obviously casting a standard frozen deadbait out into a weedy lake using a standard running ledger rig will only see the bait being pulled into the weed, masked and completely out of sight and inaccessible to a hungry pike, so rigs need to be looked at here, ones that will allow the bait to sink and rest on top of it.
Before looking at critically balanced deadbaits (something I will cover in a follow up article), lets run through the easier task of presenting a popped-up bait. Most anglers achieve this by simply using foam poppers which lifts the bait directly above the lead. This method certainly works and produced my personal best pike weighing 31lb 10oz many years ago, yet this came from an un-pressured lake and had probably never been caught before. The reason I decided to pop-up my baits on this venue was because every evening a shoal of small fish would move through a channel between two lakes, returning around midnight. What I wanted to do was try a mimic one of these fish and after thinking carefully about my rigs, changed from a standard bottom bait to a pop-up, a decision that was to see my catch rate go through the roof! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not obsessed with popped-up baits; they seem to work better on some lakes than other, so when approaching a new venue I will always start with a bottom bait, one that sinks slowly along with one popped-up, either a few inches or directly of the lead. Once I know what the pike prefer then both rods will be swapped over so they are both fishing the most effective method. My problem with placing big bright foam poppers next to a deadbait, especially on pressured water where pike have seen it all, is how it looks. Some anglers add a couple of bait savers, even a few brightly coloured beads and before you know it the fish looks more like a Christmas tree than a deadbait! On these waters I prefer to place a buoyant balsa stick within the fish, however most venues you will see an upturn in your catch rate just by using a visual red popper. A couple of bait savers probably work in the anglers favour as they make a sea deadbait look more like a natural fish, such as a roach, yet if I’m allowed then a roach deadbait will be my preferred bait when using a pop-up.
Presenting a pop-up is relatively easy on a clean, hard bottom and a simple running lead will do, however instead of placing the lead directly on the main line, I tie this onto a short length of 10lb mono which has a run-ring attached. There are a number of reasons why I do this, one is if the lead becomes snagged then the mono will break instead of my 40lb braided mainline, releasing the rig and avoiding leaving a baited rig in the water. Another is I rarely fish over a hard bottom like gravel as these areas are cold in the winter; hold very little, if any food for fry, so I see no reason why a pike should be in these areas. Areas of silt, bloodworm beds, dead weed or leaves creates cover not just for the pike but fry, offering food for both, yet a lead directly on the mainline will sink into this causing a loss in resistance, something that a pike will notice and if so probably drop the bait. Using a short link will allow the lead to sink into whatever the bottom is made up off, leaving the rig resistance free. If I’m fishing over dead or dying weed I try to find out just how far of the bottom this grows. If I feel it’s around two-feet then the length of mono between lead and run-ring will be lengthened to two-feet. A word of warning here is when casting, watch the rig in the air and just before it hits the surface, feather the line. This will throw the bait out in front of the lead and avoid the rig tangling.
The great thing about using popped-up baits is runs are usually, what I call ‘short screamers’. The reason for this is when a pike finds the bait it will stealthily approach it, then using its body shape and explosive acceleration produced from its tail hit the bait hard as it thinks the bait is alive. I see very little advantage using drop of indicators when fishing baits popped-up and prefer to use carp style bobbins, simply tightening up to the rig, dropping the rod tips down under the water and as close to the bottom as possible before slackening the baitrunners right off. Runs will see a few yards of line ripping from the spool, usually followed by the line going slack. This is when the pike has the bait in its mouth and has stopped to swallow it, so quickly wind down until the fish is felt and strike.
Moving on to a more technical rig is the ‘Hinge-Rig’ which presents the bait a few inches of bottom, right in the eye line of a pike. It’s a rig that is producing some fantastic results for me at the moment but does take some getting use too. The photo shows the components to this rig but basically a swivel splits the wire trace creating a hinge effect. Onto the swivel tungsten putty is moulded so it slowly sinks the bait, leaving it to sit just of bottom. It’s a fantastic rig, especially on pressured waters where the pike have seen it all. Very, if any angler will be using this and it’s a rig that gives me an edge over others.
Another very important point that I would like to point out is the use of braid as a mainline. I have to admit, in the past I’ve never been a great lover of braid but since converting to it during my eel fishing, have bought it into my pike fishing and can’t see me ever reverting back to mono. The benefits of braid is not just being able to spot bites much quicker, due to its lack of stretch, but when a pick up occurs, a short sharp strike will see the bait being struck off and the hooks being set. If you’re suffering from missed runs or pike shedding the hooks during a fight, then it might be time you tried braid, yet before doing so make sure you know how to tie a Grinner or Palomar Knot as a standard Six Turn Blood Knot will let you down. A quick look on the internet will give you a step-by-step visual demonstration of how to tie these.
Next time I will be looking at Slow-Sinking or Critically Balance baits, far fiddlier, far more technical, but without a doubt well worth the effort.

Product of the week - Gardner Barbel/Specialist Pan Net - £19.99

Voted as the ultimate barbel spoon style landing net in a quick comparison test carried out for Anglers Mail, now having one I have to agree.
This net isn’t just big, big enough to land whatever barbel you hook its shape allows it to be steered easily in fast flowing water, and measures 88cm in length, and 65cm in width. Yet it’s the depth of the fish friendly super soft, knot-free mesh that I'm impressed with, 60cm to be precise which is great for allowing barbel to recover fully after capture, however another use is for landing big eels as the metal frame allows for a sharp lift once the eel’s snout has reached the spreader block. No more lifting to see the draw string of a triangular net sink and the eel slide out backwards.
The quality frame and spreader block offers excellent strength and unlike other manufactures models that tend to come apart or even break this net has been designed to last, yet what else would you expect from Gardner!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

What the hell is going on? - Weekly report starting Sat Nov 9th 2013

Before progressing on just how disastrous the last two weeks fishing have been I have to try and pinpoint the reasons for it. I personally still think that the long cold spring and the short summer is too blame as the rivers that have usually had a good flush through, uprooting the dead weed are still riddled with the stuff. Looking at the trees it’s coming to the end of the month and plenty of trees are still holding leaves. This autumnal drop usually is far quicker, a couple of frosts, then a good blow and they are gone, yet the storm a couple of weeks ago that should have cleaned these didn’t so this years drop is far slower and all the time leaves are falling into the rivers decaying and then poisoning them is just not conducive for good angling. Its not just the rivers that are suffering, its stillwaters too, all you have to do is look at the bottom, they are covered in leaves and with the water temperature slowly dropping due to the nightime frost over the last few weeks, trying to catch is almost impossible, in fact getting a bite on some sessions would be classified as a result. To be honest during this period I should have taken the foot of the peddle and taken the easier option, visiting either overstocked day ticket venues or simply targeting species such as chub, dace and grayling. I did do this to a certain point the first week, yet last week continued to track down species that haven’t settled. The older we get the wiser we get, it’s true to a point yet we also get stubborn and that’s exactly what I have been!

Let’s take a look at the first week -

After last weeks continuous ‘head banging against a brick wall’ targeting barbel I was somewhat relieved to have the week off, yet if you think I can go more than a couple of days without wetting a line, you’re wrong, but before doing so I was somewhat relieved to know that it wasn’t just myself that’s been struggling to catch. In fact here are a couple of words taken from emails that I received – ‘I’m desperate for a change of scene, found the Loddon ridiculously tough the last couple of weeks’ – ‘Not a touch, I think its an epidemic’!
A change of scenery is indeed sometimes what’s needed and taking the foot of tracking down big fish needs to be addressed especially when confidence is dwindling and needs to be boosted. Going back to basics, relaxing and just getting the rod bending often does the trick and that’s exactly what my brother and I did for a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoon and whilst doing so uncovered a potential gold mind.
Wednesday evening after more Christmas shopping I managed to sneak half a bottle of red into my fishing shed that’s been in need of tidying for a while. The wine was needed to make the depressing sight slightly more manageable, yet after two hours of organising I was able to move around as well as making plenty of bench space and close the door feeling that I had achieved something.
Thursday morning and with the girlfriend watching Christmas movies I spent a couple of hours tying up loads of short hooklinks which will make life so much easier as my eyesight isn’t very good and tying these up after dark is almost impossible now. I also started to organise different tackle boxes for different species, those being zander, perch, pike and roach, all species that will be in need of my time over the next few months. I was also hoping to get out with the girlfriend for a couple of hours into darkness but time got the better of us and with the air temperature plummeting away thought better of it, yet come Saturday evening the temperature going to be slightly more tolerable so we have decided to leave it till then.
Saturday seemed far more comfortable and with overcast skies and the temperature slightly warmer we headed out late afternoon all wrapped up as we were going to fish into darkness. The lake was empty and calm and come 7pm not so much as a bleep had come our way. Although I was hopeful, to be honest after at least two very hard ground frost the chances of catching were slim, yet it was good to get out and start acclimatising to the cooling weather.
Monday arrived earlier for me than most as the girlfriend was starting work at 5am so after a 4am start I managed to get a couple of hours in bed before hitting the yearly accounts come 8am, yet by 11am I had to knock this on the head as I had a couple of customers booked in hoping to catch their first ever zander. Meeting at 1pm we headed to my favoured area, up next to the old oaks along the long bank and were surprised to see just four other anglers fishing. After going through tactics, tackle and bait we cast out in hope of some action before darkness arrived as it was overcast and mild, perfect for zander, or so we thought. As darkness descended the bleeps started and we were all thinking the switch would be hit at anytime, yet come 9pm all we had to show for our efforts was one zander of 5lb 4oz which at least gave Tim his third personal best with me over the last two sessions. As we left the lake the temperature started to drop and the cloud disperse and looking up their it was a full moon and the reason why the fishing was so slow.
The rest of the week was all about feature writing and by its end I had written three articles, one for Coarse Angling Today and two for European magazines on catching winter carp using PVA and targeting eels on running water. I also have to admit to having a desire to cast a line, yet although I’m far from a fair weather angler, one thing I cant stand is wind, rain and low temperatures and Wednesday was just that, however all was not lost as I did venture out, not with my rods but with my eyes and as dusk fell I watched as fish after fish rolled in front of me. It was only three degrees, yet I looked up and thanked the fishing god as I will be back to fill my net, or so I thought as on Thursday evening I sat watching motionless indicators and questioning my sanity.
Friday dawned frosty, again yet this time I had perch in mind, headed to a local day ticket venue and blanked almost for four hours. A couple of roach, one that was cast out in the hope of a perch, the other a net one saved the day, yet on the arrival of three youngsters who continuously cast lures around the tiny lake I headed home, grabbed some different kit, headed to the lake where earlier in the week id seen fish showing and yep, you guessed it blanked!

A new direction
I’m going to be very honest here. October and November have been one of the hardest in my angling lifetime. I’m not sure if I’m pushing myself to hard and in the wrong direction targeting crucians in October and trying to catch a barbel of monstrous proportions on one of the hardest stretches of river in the south, so instead of boring you with my poor results, I would much rather, when one is caught bring you news of what my efforts behind the scenes have delivered so this will be my last weekly report.
Instead though and after seeing such huge hits on my website regarding my recent features on fishing the Method/Groundbait lead feel that my audience would much rather see features on how to catch certain species, so each week I will be visiting a venue accessible to all and then reporting back on my results. These articles won’t just be directed at catching specimen fish but will be more about just about catching and getting the best from a day out, something we all strive to achieve. Yes, most of the waters that I’ll be visiting will have the outside chance of catching a fish of a lifetime and on occasions they will include methods to do just that, yet I feel that its time to get the real reason we all go fishing for, to enjoy the surroundings, relax and put the net under a few modest size fish. This different approach will not only allow me to get a much needed new library of images, something I’m in need of for features but will also take the stress of consistently catching for my blog, something that’s I have known for a very long time has been a distraction on my specimen fishing.

Don’t think you will be getting less updates on my website, you wont as on top of these four ‘in-session with Duncan Charman’, you will get other articles as they are published within magazines as well as at the end of the month a monthly report, something that I already do for Nash Peg One site and Anglers Net so this wont mean any extra work for me.

Remember the saying, wherever theirs a famine their will be a feast, just keep at it and make the most of it when you find the fish in an obliging mood.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

A thought provoking week - Weekly report starting Sat 2nd Nov 2013.

It’s the lady’s weekend off so not much fishing related jobs completed but plenty of Christmas shopping, joy!
Monday was spent, as most Mondays are, feature writing and one completed was a CAT Nash ‘Think-Tank’ where new recruit Jake Curry relates his thoughts after a strange session at Godalming’s Broadwater where PVA bags strangely won against The-Method. I also made time to clean up my email database as I’ve seemed to have neglected this of late. I also managed to secure some after dark Zander fishing at Old Bury Hill so if anyone is interested joining me then get in touch, this might be our last chance! With barbel firmly fixed in my brain I decided to do something that I rarely do, fish into darkness. This is more because the after dark crucian sessions have been knocked on the head so facing my fears once again I headed to the river which was high after the rain on Sunday night. One thing I have noticed with the Loddon this autumn is even when the river rises after rain it isn’t colouring up, why I just don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t fill me with confidence on arrival. Fortunately there was only one angler on the stretch which I knew so after a quick chat headed to the first of three barbel swims that I had in mind. An hour was spent in each, longer than what I normally give but with loads of debris coming down and having to repeatedly clear the line felt this was necessary, however come the end of the three hour session all that I had to show for my efforts was one missed chub bite. I was trying a new bait, so all wasn’t lost and although in the past I haven’t looked forward to such a session, strangely enjoyed it!
Tuesday morning I was back this time guiding an angler who was looking to up a couple of personal bests, chub and barbel. Knowing the river would still be up I took the decision to fish for barbel as this often produces the odd big chub and first look at the river I thought it was the right decision as although it had dropped from the previous night, it did seem to be more coloured. The first swim showed signs of fish, yet these were chub and clever ones at that. Without going into too much detail we fished nine swims throughout the day yet apart from the odd pull and a crayfish the fireworks we were looking for failed to arrive. Two other anglers I knew were also struggling and come the end of the day the colour had dropped right out of the river and the height was almost back to normal. I think this has to be the hardest day I have ever spent on the river, without a doubt down to the changing conditions, yet with a no bite return policy, Tony will be accompanying me once again very soon.
The following day I headed back to the river once it started to rain as for once I was hoping to get the river rising, yet the heavy rain forecasted turned out to be fine drizzle and the river was still falling. I tried nine swims in four hours, trying to find a hungry mouth yet apart from one chub rattle that I ignored returned home again fishless. Chris fished after dark that evening and managed a modest barbel for the stretch at 6lb 12oz.
With things getting personal I decided to fish into darkness the next day, what ‘s considered the best time for barbel, this time spending more time in known big fish areas, yet once again apart from an ignored chub rattle it wasn’t too be. Fortunately it seems every other angler that I speak to is faring the same so although its frustrating its just a sign of the time of year when the rivers are up, down, clear, coloured, fast, slow, carrying debris, you name it, basically just extremely difficult.
Friday was an early one, 4.45am in fact and with perch the target I met my customer in the early hours before heading south to a day ticket water. Although cold at just 5 degrees conditions looked perfect yet the perch had other things on their mind as everything we tried failed to produce the desired three-pound plus specimen. Tench and roach did take a liking to our prawn and lobworm offering, in fact the bobbins hardly stayed still for more than a few seconds, yet time after time, frustratingly thin air was struck. We even feed maggots and prawns under a tree only to have the swim boiling with good rudd and roach, yet the big perch we hoped that was attracted and lurking below just failed to show, yet if I had set out to catch silver fish then I reckon ten pound an hour would be easily achievable, but without distraction we stuck to our guns, twitching baits constantly in the hope of a big stripy, yet just two showed, one around 8oz the other around 1oz! The only heart stopping moment was when I tried Tony’s drop shotting rod only to hook a very big fish. Thoughts of a five pound perch flashed through my mind, yet after a few minutes the tail of a big carp surfaced and in the shallow water netting was almost impossible and finally the hook pulled. Even fishing two hours in torrential rain I would have thought the Fish-God’ would provide us with something to smile about on the way home yet it wasn’t to be.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Limited availability for after dark zander fishing at OBH

Zander fishing at Old Bury Hill
I have been granted permission limited access to fish Old Bury Hill after dark for zander this winter. The cost of these sessions is just £75 per person and includes an afternoon and evening ticket for the venue plus bait and terminal tackle, plus the hire of rods, reels, alarms and indicators if needed.
These sessions start at 1pm where I will provide an introduction to zander fishing which includes bait application, bite indication, terminal rigs and unhooking before the dusk and into dark feeding spree happens. The session will last until 9pm.

If you are interested then its worth contacting myself as soon as possible as availability is limited.
Email preferred – duncancharman@me.com
Telephone 01252 315271
Mobile 07928 617006   

Monday, 4 November 2013

Product of the week - Winge of the week

Am I right in saying that nowadays a journey of more than ten miles cannot be completed without coming across a road closure? I except that work has to be done to maintain these yet most times I pass one of these, it seems that their are very few if any workmen trying to get the job done quickly to avoid what can only be described at times, as a frustrating situation. I try my very best to plan my route and this means tapping the post code into my Sat-Nav as this gives me a time in which the journey takes. Usually, especially on dual carriageways or motorways a few minutes can be cut of this journey, yet since the start of the summer, any journey which involves travelling along less main roads need time added due to what seems an excessive amount of road closures.
I recently tried to get to the river Thames near Wargrave in Berkshire, yet I came across not one but two road closures on route one which gave no diversion signs.
Luckily I had my Sat Nav programmed in which rerouted me every time I came across one of these annoying closures, however if it wasn’t for having a Sat Nav what would I have done, gone mad probably.
I have had a Sat Nav for around three-years and now wonder how the hell I ever found my way around, yet although these devices are a god send, they don’t always send us in the right direction, that’s why I still take a look at each new route so I know basically where I’m going then leave the Sat Nav to guide me to my destination when I’m literally on top of it.  

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Calm before the Storm - Weekly report starting Saturday 26th October

A session arranged with Andy Ford and Mick Brais from Sky Sports finally arrived and on a damp and windy morning we met on the banks of the river Loddon just as dawn was breaking.
Fortunately the saying ‘rain before seven, gone by eleven’ proved right and as the day progressed things became slightly more comfortable. We were hoping that a barbel may turn up, yet with one of the worst storms for five years forecasted to hit the country on Sunday night we found that the water level had been lowered some eighteen inches. Having exhausted the swims that gave us the best chance of a barbel it was obvious they weren’t in an obliging mood yet both anglers missed what were obviously chub bites on the pellet with Andy finally connecting with one that weighed around 4lb. Our next approach was to try for perch on the lobworms and soon Mick found a shoal taking maybe a dozen to 1lb 9oz. Somehow Andy managed to pinch Mick’s swim and take perch to 1lb 15oz before setting up a float and enjoyed some consistent sport on the maggot with roach, dace, minnows and perch to 2lb 6oz obliging. He even threw a lure around later in the day and caught a pike and a perch so it was an eventful, contrasting and enjoyable day for all.
Before the storm hit Sunday night I managed to get the tackle cleaned and dry then sorted everything out for a busy midweek period guiding before doing the usual Sunday afternoon visit to the parents.
With the weather forecasters edging on the side of caution with regards to the severity of the storm and the extent of damage I decided to do the sensible thing come Monday and stay inside writing up articles and getting the week’s paperwork sorted.
After dropping the lady of at work Tuesday I headed over to the parents as I was meeting young Jake for a day on the river. We were hoping to tempt a good barbel, maybe a modest chub, even a sizeable perch yet after trying a number of approaches for just one small perch and chub it was obvious that the fish weren’t happy with the sluice gates open and with the river neither coloured or clear we decided to grab the float gear, a pint of maggots and head to the river Wey in Farnham for a couple of hours trotting. The river here looked far better with a slight tinge of colour and after priming the swim with maggots whilst the rod was set up he made his first cast. As expected the float sailed away and a net dace dropped in the net, followed by another, yet a string of pesky minnows followed, a sign of just how mild it is as these usually disappear after a couple of frosts. After exhausting a pint of maggots over the next two hours we finally finished with a dozen good dace to 8oz plus four wild brown trout, yet it was probably one proper fish to ten minnows, frustrating or what.

Tapping the barometer at 5am Wednesday morning I was shocked to see that the pressure had risen from 990mb on Monday morning to 1020mb. Such a sudden increase was what I call ‘the kiss of death’ and if the river had been hard over the last few days then today was what was going to be classified as almost impossible. Coupled with this as I tried to clear the mist of the windscreen in the drive before heading off to meet a new customer it froze, joy! Meeting Lee at dawn I tried to cover up my thoughts on how the day would progress, yet Lee is an accomplished, experience angler and knew things wouldn’t be easy, yet we both agreed that all the time a line is in the water then there’s a chance so with optimism we crunched our way across frost covered fields. There was also another problem, we weren’t the first anglers on the stretch as another had beaten us to it and was settled in what I would classify as my banker swim for a bite, albeit normally from a chub. Undeterred we worked our way through a number of other potential swims yet apart from one very strange vibrating like bite, one that could be hit had eluded us. Grabbing a coffee and a sandwich in the car park we headed to another stretch and with two good swims on my mind we continued with optimism. Before progressing Lee had never fished a river before having spent many an hour carp fishing on the lakes around Chichester but was wanting to progress on to running water, so catching wasn’t the main objective of the day. What was more important was knowing how to read a swim and learn a couple of tactics that he could return with, yet anyone that knows me will agree catching is very important. Settling in the first swim I knew if Lee was to get a bite then it would be from a barbel, yet once again it didn’t happen so moving upstream we settled in a swim that hadn’t failed me for a bite all year and probably after ten minutes the tip tapped then slowly pulled round. To say I was relieved when the rod bent round is an understatement however the hooked fish caught us by surprise shooting upstream and becoming what can only be described as well and truly snagged. After maybe five minutes we both agreed that the fish was gone so all Lee could do was point the rod at the snag and walk back, yet amazingly something moved, however even more surprising was this wasn’t a barbel but a chub and not a monster at that, yet having never caught a chub at 3lb 15oz it was a personal best. A few more swims were tried before agreeing to call it a day at 4pm yet moments before reeling in the tip pulled a few inches forward before dropping back. It was certainly a liner but with the light fading and time pressing we had to throw in the towel, certainly not beaten, but certainly wanting a return trip to get the better of the river. Having fished the river hard from dawn to dusk for just one bite I felt it only fair to invite Lee back, to fish with me in November and with a date set we are looking forward to getting the better of the Loddon barbel.
Thursday morning was another early one, 6am to be precise and after dropping the lady of at work I returned home to sort out the carp gear so that myself and Jake could head to Broadwater to shot a feature for CAT on whether or not PVA is needed. Without going into to much detail the session was a success but to say the script was written completely the opposite way to how I would have written it is how it went, a real question provoking few hours, yet with the article needed for a Nash Think Tank it will certainly get the old grey matter turning over.
Friday was my first chance of a lay-in, yet my old cat Georgina had other ideas and was as usual winging in my ear at 6am. Rising far earlier than I wanted I did at least get more paperwork completed than expected and knowing that my brother was fishing Broadwater with Rodger, a friend that we had grown up with as neighbours when we were really young, headed back to see how it was fishing. As soon as I pulled up I knew the carp were feeding as they were jumping all over the place and sure enough the mats were wet. A couple of other friends, Brian and Tony were also enjoying rod bending action and although I only stayed an hour and a half plenty of carp graced their nets. Kevin text me later to say that Rodger had taken nineteen carp to his seven, even Dad who popped down later managed to grab Kevin’s rod and drop a high teen in the net! I was hoping that knowing Broadwater had switched on; Enton would be doing the same, yet after arriving with fishing buddy Chris at dusk to target the crucians and fishing till 8.30pm without even a bleep decided that it was time to give these up till next year.
November has now been dedicated to barbel, let’s see what happens?