After the last few successful trips to the Grand Western Canal near Tiverton, where I’ve succeeded in catching a few small pike on the fly rod, I set out this week to prepare for my next trip by tying a few flies purpose made for the venue one evening after work.
Of course as soon as I’d sat down to start tying the first flies, the inevitable call of “what are you doing dad?” rang out as I was joined at the table by my curious 8 & 9 year olds. Colourful feathers, fibres and thread must of looked like a perfect kids craft session to my daughters! To save myself the hassle of arguing I let them help. They both picked the materials as well as did some of the tying itself on two flies apiece. By gently steering and suggesting ideas to the two terrors, we amazingly ended up with some flies that looked like they might just work! The proof is in the pudding as they say – so Sunday afternoon after a stressful morning at the indoor climbing wall with the little darlings, I found my way to the canal with a couple of hours of daylight left. There’s nothing like an hour or two of fishing to calm the nerves….
Tackle was the same as had seen me through the last couple of trips – #5 rod, #8 floating line, a short fast sinking tapered leader and a wire trace. I started off fishing the Greenway section of the canal near Halberton. The water was pretty clear despite the recent rain and the temperature had dropped dramatically to leave me facing what must be the first proper cold day of autumn. I’d forgotten what it is like to fish with numb fingers!
I tried out both girls flies as I worked my way along the canal. Using one of Rhianna’s flies I had a little jack pike nip at the tail before long. The following cast it raced out of the nearside weed and properly hit the fly with serious aggression and snapped me off! not sure quite what happened but suffice to say I was now down a fly. Seeing as the girls had both tied up two of their respective flies I at least had a backup, so carried on with what seemed to be the successful colour today.
A little later & a bit further along the canal I got chatting to a fellow fly fisherman who was out for a walk. We compared local waters and swapped yarns before saying our goodbyes. The following cast a feisty little pike hammered the fly pretty much as soon as it hit the water and gratifyingly I landed him with the help of the fellow fly fisherman. Always useful to have someone on hand to play cameraman!
After that I did have a few more casts, but with dusk fast approaching and the temperature dropping even more I called it quits. I got home to recount the tale of my fishing prowess to the family and how it’s gratifying to catch a fish on a fly I tied myself, when a little voice piped up and said, “but I tied that one daddy!”….
This time last year I was kicking off my quest for a fly caught pike, which coincided quite nicely with a fishing trip on my birthday. On that particular trip back in 2014, I didn’t manage to catch one and it was in-fact quite some time until I did eventually hook and land a pike on the fly rod. Fast forward 12 months and I find myself wistfully remembering last years disappointment as I slip the net under a small but welcome jack pike. Not just any old pike, but a birthday pike!
I’d booked a day off work and managed to get out in the morning for a quick couple of hours on the Grand Western Canal near Tiverton. I started on the Greenway stretch of the canal just after daybreak and wasn’t filled with great hope considering the weather of late. The last few days had seen gales and plenty of rain, although the water itself looked clear enough to fish, if a little murky. I used my #5 rod and #8 floating line along with a fast sinking tapered leader and wire trace. This combination worked really well a week or so ago so there seemed to be no reason to change things. I started off with a selection of large pike flies, all of which were pretty testing to cast with the light rod. A little jack nipped at the tail of one of the flies right under the rod tip without connecting with the hook, so I switched over to a smaller fly more in keeping with my quarry’s size. I did try a couple of the smaller type flies but after no success I tried out one of the ‘mackerel’ type flies I’d tied for saltwater fishing. I’d caught a pollack on this fly over in the Isles of Scilly this summer but fancied it might fit the bill in this case too – being both the right kind of size as well as nicely visible in the coloured water.
10 minutes later and an enthusiastic little pike devoured my fly whole heartedly, leading to a short but fun scrap. Very gratifying to have success with one of my own flies! What a difference a year makes.
After this bit of fun, and with time running out, I headed along the canal a short distance to the ‘Minnows Caravan’ section, which is shallower and usually clearer. Not this time however.. One cast into the chocolate coloured water was enough to convince me that I would be wasting my time here so I called it a day and headed home feeling content with my efforts.
Today saw the last boat trip of 2015 out of Minehead. In the days leading up to the trip the weather forecast was looking pretty dire, with strong wind and rain forecast. I was therefore somewhat surprised when the night before the call came from Mike that we were going.. On the basis I had been convinced that the trip would be cancelled, I hadn’t bothered buying any bait or preparing any tackle so it was a bit of a rush on Saturday night to get ready for the following day’s fishing, not least because the boat would be leaving harbour at 6:30am..
Our arrival at Minehead in the morning was greeted by strong wind and rain as predicted. We steamed out in the pitch dark and had half an hour fishing in darkness before sunrise.
The skipper as always provided a bucket of squid and locally caught herring, and it wasn’t long before the first dogfish were coming aboard. Mike and I both fished 2 upside rods as usual and whilst sport was steady we weren’t rushed off our feet which was probably for the best as I really wasn’t feeling that enthusiastic. We fishing just of ‘White Mark’ to start with which is generally rough, coral ground. I caught a lovely Bull Huss of 12b on a whole squid along with a couple of smallish conger. We then moved offshore slightly onto the sand banks as the tide slackened off in order to try for the ray.
I switched to using sandeel on one rod and squid on the other to give a bit of variety. Mike did likewise. Between us we had a blonde ray, 3 small-eyed ray and a thornback ray – the real surprise being that whilst a couple of the ray came on the sandal as expected, the rest were caught on whole squid.
The dogfish stayed with us for the rest of the day until the building tide later on forced a move back inshore to avoid the worst of the current at which point even the dogfish were hard to come by for the last hours fishing. After 8 hours of battling the wind, the return to harbour and dry land was not lamented.
Having seen out the last of this years trips, we have 3 months of no boat fishing over the winter. Time to clean the gear, load the reels with new line and generally service and clean everything over the winter in preparation for next years fishing. Role on March! In the meantime, winter means an opportunity to concentrate on other aspect of fishing.. Fly fishing for pike being foremost in my mind at present… So many fish to catch and so little time!
Sunday morning saw me heading to a local coarse fishery with Rhianna. We’d rooted out a few worms from the compost heap and found a can of sweetcorn for bait. We were using Rhianna’s little 4m pole so would be fishing the margins for small stuff. No plans or aspirations for anything big, just hoping for plenty of action to keep a 9 year old entertained for a few hours.
Weather was unusually warm for November – very mild, but still grey & calm. We arrived mid afternoon and set up on Ash Pond. We had the place to ourselves which didn’t bode well. Of the 5 ponds, Ash Pond can usually be relied on to produce plenty of small fish, ranging from carp, skimmers, rudd, perch and the occasional tench.
As it turned out, the fishing was hard. the margins were particularly shallow and my memories of fishing these lakes from days gone by, bore little similarity to the reality. No bites at all on sweetcorn which is unusual for a commercial carp fishery such as this and the only fish we caught were small perch that gobbled up the worms eagerly. Better than nothing but it wasn’t exactly the bite a chuck I’d been hoping for.
It wasn’t that long before both our attentions were wandering and the fishing degenerated into a competition to see who could throw the remaining bait and groundbait nearest the float.