Friday, 29 November 2013

Purple heron!

Yesterdays guided walk at Titchwell was one of the most memorable I have led.....

We're just half an hour into the walk, looking at the throng of waders on Thornham Pool when I turn around and see a heron flying towards us from the east.

Raising my bins to check the bird I say to the group "You should always look closely at herons, one day you might get lucky and find a Purple....." stopping mid-sentence, I check the features again, "....PURPLE HERON!!" The bank echoes with my scream!

Fortunately, the bird is fairly close and I manage to get all the folk on the walk (and several passers-by) on to it. A young lad is jumping up and down like he's just scored the winner at Wembley! What a start....

It's not long before we've added a nice barn owl, marsh harrier and had crippling looks at ruff, common snipe, dunlin and black-tailed godwit.

Moving on to Island hide, water rail and yellow-legged gull soon fall along with scope-filling views of more waders and wildfowl. The flock of 2500 golden plovers live up to the translation of their Latin name as they repeatedly take to the air before landing again just like a shower of golden raindops in the weak afternoon sun.

Further along the path, we jam in on a ringtail hen harrier and I get a chance to finish the 'Godwit ID' class with both bar and black-tailed side by side for comparison.

I'd promised Thomas, the young lad on the walk, some divers and sea-duck action on the beach but unusually the sea is quiet and he has to be content with brief and distant views of a single red-throat and a couple of common scoter.

Soon we are back down the path and score again with a handful of late marsh harriers, barn owl and finally two thousand pink-footed geese coming in to roost at Thornham Point.

Not a bad tally for just short of three hours birding!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Back to school....

Preparing to unhook the eleven pounder...
It was The Bishop that first took me out piking at the beginning of 2013 so it was good to be out on the bank with him again yesterday....

Fish welfare is really important to me and I'm always up for improving my pike handling skills, so The Bishop has agreed to give me feedback and let me unhook all the fish today. Its not too long before he has a 6 pounder on the bank. A couple of minutes later and I've got the hooks out, but more importantly have picked up a couple of useful tips on handling feisty pike.

We're just about to move on to the Big Pit when my right hand float goes and after a short scrap I have a nice eleven pounder on the bank. This one is a little bit trickier to unhook, but soon the hooks are out and The Bish declares 'Nothing wrong with how you did that!' It feels like I've passed an O level! ......Yes!

The move on to the Big Pit was a bit of a let down but I make a mental note of the swims Chris says are the best. I fancy my chances in a couple of them next March when the water is a bit warmer.

The final move of the day is to the swim where I caught my very first pike back in January. Our four orange tops remain stationery on the near flat calm surface and thoughts are beginning to turn to home time when my right hand float bobs and then goes sailing away, the result being a nice four pounder.

This is a bit trickier to unhook and I quickly decide to hand over to The Bishop who 'bosses' the pike and then gets the bottom treble out in just a couple of seconds by going through the gill arch. He makes it look far too easy and the fish swims off to fight another day. More useful tips taken on board.

There's just one other bite in the session and it goes to The Bishop but the fish is off almost as soon as it's on but judging by the bow wave, it would probably have been the fish of the day.

It's been a good when is the next??

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Reflections on an autumn day...

Spot the float....
I couldn't stop thinking about the big pike I lost on Tuesday, so yesterday I'm back in the same overgrown swim, rod poking through the same branches waiting to see if she fancies a return match.

Two hours and nothing later I'm about to move pegs and the left hand rod goes... but I mess up the strike. Unknowingly, line had tangled around my rod rest and I'm (mostly) tightening into it rather than the fish. Most unprofessional, I could kick myself for not noticing.

Next peg for an hour - no bites, so I switch on to the adjacent pit. It's a very sheltered corner I haven't fished before and I opt to fish just a rod length out in about twelve feet of water. Soon I have a nice 8 pounder on the bank.

A couple of casts later and I've had one come off but on the next cast I catch a nice jack around three pounds. Then I have another come off - bugger! The Bishop thinks I should change hooks to barbed from semi-barbless and if it carries on like this I think I might!

I hardly lost a fish last season but in the last two sessions I've now had four come off....I'm going to have a think about what - if anything I'm doing differently.

I move to another peg where my orange topped floats blend perfectly with the reflections of the autumn leaves on the flat surface. All too soon it's too dark to see my floats and I pack up, already thinking about the next session.

Today, I deliberately fished one rod with a 49 strand wire trace and the other with a 9 strand trace. All four bites were on the more flexible 49 strand. This wire is actually a different colour as well - bronzey rather than silver colour... interesting...

Driving home, I'm reflecting on the day in my mind.....peace, solitude, still, calm, the reds, browns and golds of autumn, nature... God, I love this pike fishing lark!

Session stats: 1 x 8 pounder lamprey, 1 x 3lb sardine, 3 other missed fish (all sardine) 1045 to 1630hrs. 6C North easterly breezey flat calm later. 11.5 rod hours . No bites on brown trout or roach.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Bigger than my net!

Fed up of blanking on my new club water, I'm off to where I started my pike journey with The Bishop last season.

First cast and 15 minutes later I've landed a six pounder on sardine. It's an old friend identified by it's slightly deformed jaw. A long lean fish, it should probably weigh two or three pounds more. She is unhooked quickly and swims off to fight another day.

No bites in the next two pegs. I decide to poke my rods through a three foot wide gap in the bankside trees. No room to cast, so it's a case of swinging the baits out, and they land barely twenty feet from where I'm stood. After twenty minutes there's a bob on the right hand rod and after another five the float sails away. As I tighten into the fish, the overhanging branches restrict my rod movements...

After a couple of powerful runs, up she comes and she fools me into thinking she's ready to net.

Here goes... wow, that's a BIG broad head... EFFING HELL!!.... she's bigger then my net... must be a TWENTY !! :-))

Within a second she's in the net but in another she's inexplicably out of it! Then a trailing hook catches a submerged branch. For a few seconds I've got the branch and fish on, then the inevitable happens... all goes slack and she's gone.

It was the biggest pike I have ever seen and it takes me a good ten minutes to stop shaking. My nice new net is 36 inches front to back and she was at least this long. What struck me was the size and breadth of her head - so differently proportioned to the pike I have caught so far.

In virtual darkness and after three hours, three more pegs and no bites, I pack up and head home, with plans to go back for 'you know who' in the next week!

Session stats: 1 x 6lb (est) pike sardine in 9 feet  @ 11.00 + 1 lost fish (sardine) @ 13.45. No other bites. Baits used sardine, lamprey, roach, mackerel, smelt. 10.45 to 16.30hrs. 8C Flat calm at first becoming 5mph west. High thin cloud becoming drizzly towards dusk. 11.5 rod hours in 5 pegs (9 to 16 feet) on 3 pits.

Plans for the new piking season

This season I would like to catch a 'twenty' and a fish on a lure. I am also going to blog every session in future and try and put in a few stats on weather, baits, runs etc

Here is a summary of my three piking sessions so far. I've joined a club towards Norwich that has three biggish gravel pits and I intend to do the bulk of my piking on these pits this season. So far I have been three times, for a total of thirty-six rod hours, and only had two bites resulting in two fish. Not an auspicious start!

The pits themselves have lots of underwater features and contours and I'm finding it difficult to know where to fish. Depth varies considerably within a few of the pegs is 22 feet deep half a rod length out!

After my last 12 rod hour blank there I decided to have a session on the water where The Bishop introduced me to pike fishing last season.

See the next blog entry (above) for yesterdays frustrating story...


Dawn at Porthgwarra, the day before the storm.
Yes its pathetic... 6 months without a post.. here is a summary of activity since last May...

LOTS of birding has taken place though I failed to find an 'official' rarity. I did find one or two scarce birds. Highlights incude Bonelli's and yellow-browed warbler, a couple of Leach's petrels, Sabine's gull, more than 200 Sooty shearwaters in a day and several fully spooned Pomarine skuas. The long-eared owl I almost trod on in the dunes was also memorable!

The annual September seawatching pilgrimage to Cornwall was disappointing and despite a perfect storm that promised so much for the fifty of us that assembled at Pendeen lighthouse, no big 'shears' or rare petrels were forthcoming.

On to the fishing....

I broke my chub duck with no less than 20 fish on a club stretch of the Wensum. However, none of the fish topped even half a pound.

An old mate, Chris took me barbel fishing on the Trent near Newark and eventually on my third session I managed to actually land a fish I hooked.... a nice six pounder. On a subsequent session I also managed two more decent barbel and a couple of net sized chub.

Next up was a three day trip to the Wye with R'kid. Three barbel to seven pound, two near five pound chub and a ten pound pike being the result. As life long stillwater men, the fast running Wye was a steep learning curve for us! The trip is sure to become an annual event and plans are already being made for a more efficient assault on this wonderful river for next year.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A mixed bag of birds in the sunshine.

Stonechat at Dersingham Bog
Birding over the bank holiday weekend was quiet despite the glorious weather. A pleasant walk around Dersingham bog produced good views of stonechat and tree pipit but not the hoped for woodlark. There was  plenty of buzzard activity and a few common lizards running around on the sandy tracks. Give it a few more days and the first nighjars should be on site...always a highlight of the summer.

Young shag was on Hunstanton cliffs
Next day saw us taking a walk along the cliffs in the evening sunshine. The beach had quietened down a bit (it had been thronging with folk earlier on) and I was surpised to see seven shags roosting on the cliffs. Shags are a bit like small cormorants and are more typically found on rockier coasts further north or west.

During the winter there had been up to sixty birds roosting on the cliffs, the bulk of these have moved on to their breeding grounds. This bird, panting to keep cool in the heat, is wearing a ring, I'll let you know if I determine it's origin.

Sedge warbler at Titchwell
Male garganey on Patsy's Pool
A trip to Titchwell Marsh yesterday saw me scoping this cracking male garganey and listening to this sedge warbler which was at times doing a passable imitation of several other bird calls  including yellow wagtail, swallow and bearded tit.

The winds are set to turn southerly today with rain. I am hoping for a good morning's migration watching on the cliffs tomorrow........