Keeping Records and Learning Lessons: The Doc Spot
This month Paul Garner is thinking about his fishing, really thinking...
How much do you think about your fishing? I don’t mean things like ‘where should I go this Saturday’, or ‘what should I have in my sarnies’, but more fundamental questions, such as ‘why is that swim fishing’, or ‘why did that fish eat that bait’? Amongst many other things, it was Richard Walker who really brought to prominence this more analytical type of angling, and whilst some might consider it sterile, and removing the ‘magic’ from fishing, it certainly suits my own mindset, and much of my fondest angling moments are when I think I have pieced together at least part of the jigsaw and worked out how the fish are behaving.
Now, given that I think of myself as being fairly analytical, you might imagine that I keep good records of my fishing, or at least a diary, but I am afraid you would be well wide of the mark, in fact I struggle most of the time to know what day it is! This is compounded even more by the fact that my memory is absolutely shocking. The only way that I can remember my wedding anniversary is that it is the day before my birthday. Or is it the day after?!
What really brought home to me the need to try and keep better records was that for Christmas I treated myself to a nice flatbed scanner, so that I could digitise my back catalogue of fishing slides and negatives. I spent a few lovely evenings sitting in my office with the scanner whirring away in the background looking at a much younger Garner posing with various fish. You know what though, although I could recall most of the fish, the circumstances of their capture eluded me. Perhaps I am getting to an age where being able to remember the past is becoming more important, because I have enough of a past to draw on, but it struck me as being sad that so many memories had faded away.
The second reason for trying to keep better records is much more pragmatic. I have a hankering to write another book over the next couple of years and without giving too much away I want to really get under the skin of my fishing to try and draw some factual conclusions, rather than just flights of fancy, and for that I need hard data.
So, have I purchased a shiny new diary and diligently started writing every detail of every trip in it. Well, no. Having tried numerous times before (and having a stack of nearly new diaries to prove it) I know that is a waste of time. What I am going to do though is to try to approach my fishing in a slightly more analytical manner and start to look at some aspects of what I do.
The first thing to be put under the microscope has been to look at pike attraction and whether using oils, chopped fish and feeders can make a difference to my catches. Now unfortunately, even with four days on Chew Valley and a few assorted days on other pike venues to play with in February I can’t even begin to draw any conclusions, simply because I caught bugger all on any method. Still, I expected it to probably take six months to a year before I would have enough captures to start making any meaningful conclusions anyway and so the current pike famine means nothing in the larger scheme.
The more astute of you will have picked up the mention of four days on Chew with nothing to show for it. Well, my sum total for those days was a single jack weighing probably a couple of pounds. Many people shared the same fate, but several, through hard work, divine inspiration and even a bit of luck caught the fish of their dreams. We do seem to get a bit carried away with reservoir fishing and how allegedly easy it is. Well, yes it can be, when your numbers come up, but even on what is surely the best pike water that there has ever been the blanks will outnumber the red letter days by a massive margin.
By the end of my last day on Chew it was something of a relief to get back to some bank fishing after a long winter afloat, and with some high pressure conditions forecast I decided it was time to just get out and put a bend in the rods. One of my local bolt holes are Brockamin Pools, owned by one of the best tackle shops I know, Alan’s of Worcester. With no rain and some bright sunny weather forecast for a change it was time to chillax and bag a few February carp. Tactics were simple, short braided rigs baited with pellet shaped NashBait Amber Strawberry boilies placed in a PVA bag filled with tiny micro pellets and finely ground boilies.
The line bites started almost immediately and before long a rod fished along the deep margin was away and I was bent into a feisty double figure common. A few more followed during the day, in-between cups of coffee and bacon butties. It was the type of day where it was lovely to be out on the bank drinking in the sunshine, and getting the rod bent.
Sunny days mean cold nights, and with a distinct lack of rain for a few days it was looking like a day on the river would be a distinct possibility. The choice was between chub or grayling, and as a good fly fishing friend of mine, Paul, was to join me then grayling it would be. Rather than head for the southern chalk streams we headed north west and after a leisurely start arrived on the rather urban banks of the upper River Severn.
Even with a layer of expensive thermals you could feel just how cold the water was as we waded out to take up our fishing positions. Paul with his Czech nymphing gear and me with a trotting rod and supply of maggots. It really was a bitterly cold day, although strangely we had no problem with the line freezing in the rings. Every few minutes we would change position, leap-frogging down the pool in search of a fish or two. Paul was the first to strike, taking a stunning 8oz grayling from the deep water below a fast run. More fish followed, all of a very similar stamp, and although we were enjoying the sport, with only a few hours of daylight we decided to move on.
By the end of the day we had fished three stretches, spread over about ten miles of river and had caught more than enough fish, although anything over a pound eluded us. It was interesting not only because we were fishing a new river, but also because Paul proved the effectiveness of his artificials over my maggots.
Now, if I were a betting man, I would have put money on the grubs outscoring his imitations, but in reality the reverse was true and I was well and truly beaten. And that became the biggest lesson learnt in February. Ignore artificial baits, and especially fly tactics at your peril. Thinking of all the miles of grayling water that can only be fished with fly tackle my mind has since been racing with ideas for next winter. For sure a 10 foot 4-weight rod and box of flies have gone straight to the top of my shopping list!
By the Same Author
- Late Autumn Barbel and Pike: Dr Paul Garner.
- Roach and Reflections: The Doc Spot
- Grayling, Zander and Pike: The Doc Spot
- A Hard Month: The Doc Spot
- Reservoir Ramblings: The Doc Spot
- Back on the Big Ponds: The Doc Spot
- Planning for Big Barbel: The Doc Spot
- Opportunity Knocks: The Doc Spot
- Flaminâ€™ June: The Doc Spot
- Carp of all Sizes: The Doc Spot