The Long March – the final part

On one of the days Gareth and Wendy took us to the Zhongshan “Wheel”, similar to the London Eye but smaller although situated alongside the river. Unfortunately the wheel was closed until later in the day for maintenance, undeterred we had a coffee and a walk along the river. Gareth said that he had fished about a kilometer upstream from the wheel and we would have a go one day.

It was particularly noticeable that wherever we walked there were shoals of tilapia stretching from the margins out to about 10m, with occasional swirls as catfish and snakeheads came up to gulp air. We walked for the best part of a mile and the shoals were unbroken and continued for as far as we could see.

The smaller tilapia were sitting just on the surface but occasionally bigger fish would emerge from beneath them before slowly dropping out of view again.

True to his word Gareth took me via a 25minute taxi ride, to a bridge upstream of the wheel. Walking alongside the river there were only two spots to fish – steps down to the river for boats. The first was occupied by a local with nets (more of him later!), the second was unoccupied so we set up with Gareth fishing a worm on a bomb down the margin and me on a waggler. First cast Gareth had a bite that he missed. I proceeded to cast into the shoals of tilapia but despite altering depth and trying different sizes of worm I had six bites and missed them all! However the session was marked by two events, the first is what I later dubbed “That Guy”

At the time we we flummoxed as he didn’t say anything and we couldn’t tell what was in the bag that he deposited in the river. Wendy on seeing the video suggested that someone had died nearby and he was lighting the sticks in memory of them and releasing fish into the river!

An hour later the fisherman we had seen earlier arrived…

He then got into the water and a couple of minutes later…

We gave it another 20minutes after this and then decided to give it a go the other side of the bridge. Now I have to say that we were supposedly upstream of the wheel (which I could see) BUT the water flowed from left to right! When we got the other side of the bridge ie downstream from where we started according to the flow, we found a space behind some bushes which some boat stanchions in the water and lots of catfish topping. However, this time the water flowed right to left!!!!! Despite seeing a mottled snakehead mullet under our feet and dangling a worm right on its nose we ended up with a blank despite fishing on bottom and all areas in between. The weird flow may have been caused by the confluence of a smaller river just down from the bridge but who knows!

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My final session was to be a very short one outside a restaurant where we were having our farewell meal. Very few tilipia in evidence but some largish catfish and snakeheads were constantly topping. No sign of a bite there so Gareth suggested moving down a little to where he had caught fish before- the end of the promenade trotting down to the bridge.

This was shallower than before with about 3 feet of water a rod length out and despite fish topping the closest I came was a bite that I hit under the bridge only for the fish to come off halfway back unseen.

That ended my fishing in China, a really interesting experience (in more ways than one) but that was not the end of it – walking from our hotel to Gareth’s we went passed what can best be described as an open sewer- a drain about 20m wide, which fluctuated by 3feet in depth during the day, with a horrible methane stench usually. Gas bubbles were constantly rising from its depths but on the last morning, crossing the bridge I was shocked to see a fish top- a definite fish! That was perhaps the most surprising event of all!

Operation Zach came to an end so here he is to end this instalment

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The Long March Part 3

One evening Gareth and his wife Wendy took us by taxi to a Vietnamese restaurant in a huge mall called the “Glamour Plaza”. On the way we went down a back road and Gareth pointed out a shop front saying it was a small tackle shop but the owner had a big range of pastes and was considered by locals to be an expert. I mentally made a note and decided to try and find it later that week. ,The meal was good and on exiting Gareth lead us next door to the Hilton and took us up to the top to see the view at night- the highest building in Zhongshan.

Two days later my wife and I set off with the intention of stopping off at the “Holiday Plaza” for a coffee before walking on to the “Glamour” and hopefully finding the Paste Meister’s shop. Drinking our coffee in Starbucks (yes they get everywhere!) we were approached by a Chinese lady who asked if she could take our photos, after much maneuvering she finally got her selfies with us and left happy, with us bemused by our”celebrity” status!

Setting off we managed to find the shop without much difficulty and I had a quick look around as they were having a mid-morning bowl of noodles and decided to buy some paste on the way back. Three hours later we returned and  I got a picture of a bream on my phone and showed it to the guy and pointed at the paste. He nodded and picked out two bags, indicating they needed to be mixed together equally.

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Buoyed by my success I showed him a picture of a carp and he delved down into the shelves of paste emerging with a far larger bag

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As I was paying him he signaled as if he was casting a rod, I nodded and he indicated another pack -to make the mixture stiffer by adding a little (or at least I think that is what he meant!). I left with 4 bags of bream paste mix, one big bag of carp paste and a bag of stiffener all for the princely sum of £3.50, the carp paste amounted to most of that as it was £1.80, the stiffener agent was only £0.20.

All I need to do now is try them out but at that price I can’t really go wrong. Looking at the packets on display it appears that the pastes are categorised into speed of breakdown and tackiness. Most seem to use the slow breakdown or very tacky offerings on the river but revert to the quick breakdown on the commercials. The tacky pastes are very similar to the fibre paste in this country but again they are available in different levels of “tackiness”. The commercials are usually costing around £8 for 4 hours fishing, mainly for F1/carp/carassio and it is whip only on most.

The last installment features two sessions fishing on the main river which was an eye opener in more ways than one.

The Long March Part 2

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If Hong Kong had the potential for death by a thousand umbrellas, Zhongshan had a plague of bikes! There were hire bikes everywhere, plus electric scooters, scooters and motorbikes not to forget the cars! Our hotel was a 10-15 minute walk away from Gareth’s apartment block and entailed us crossing two major road junctions, fortunately there were lights to help us, unfortunately the red light to stop cars also meant that cars turning right could ignore the red light! Added to this electric bikes and scooters did not obey any traffic signs or rules and often weaved in and out crossing intersections diagonally, plus they could ride on the pavement ! A strategy was needed in crossing a road and Gareth’s advise was act and walk confidently! I took it one step further and stared directly at any approaching vehicle to let them know I was aware of them and they had better stop! It worked in 99% of cases with only a top of the range Mercedes driver deciding he could ignore me!

Gareth uses a Chinese form of Uber – DD. Uber tried to get a foothold but gave up as DD undercut them or offered free rides! Taxi fares are very cheap – a 15 minute trip on our first fishing expedition in a premier vehicle(you get free bottles of water) cost 60p. So to the fishing…

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The taxi ride had taken us to a small stream behind a college car park. Accessing to the right of the security cabin  at the bridge we went down a short flight of steps to the “promenade”. The top picture is looking back at where we came in by the bridge with the water only 2 foot deep, the shoal of tilapia and group of carp scattered on our arrival- it was very noticeable how wary the fish were.The middle picture gives you some idea of the width, plus how high we were off the water, the final picture is looking into the distance – the white block you can just make out is a tree with the bottom two foot painted white, this was our spot, under the tree.

I had planned to video the session but could not get it to record (only realising afterwards that this model would not allow you to record while plugged into a power pack, unlike my usual camera!). There was a nice colour to the water and a shoal of tilapia were in attendance when we arrived with carp up to 4lb but mainly around the 2lb mark going back and forth along the far back vegetation. We were about 10 feet off the water and tackle consisted of telescopic rods with a paternoster to a 14 hook and worm as bait. Third cast I had a little rattle and waited only to be told by Gareth that that was it! There were plenty of fish in front of us but it was very slow in terms of bites. I decided to change to a waggler and Gareth advised fishing very shallow- 6inches. So waggler set up, worm on a 14, first 6 casts, 6 bites all missed! I then decided to just put a piece of worm on about an inch in length, result – a tilapia, my first fish in China.

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I let Gareth act as my ghillie and unhook the fish as it is a bit like a perch with spines and sharp edges around the gills but more of them and a lot more muscular. Holding even a small tilapia was difficult as they seemed to have an ability to squirm out of any hold you had on them, leaving you with lacerations! We only had a shortish session of a couple of hours as we were due to go out, but I did manage 4 in that time with Gareth chipping in with a couple also but he had spent most of the time trying to catch a carp off the far bank on paste.

We returned the following day to find the water clearer than previously so after a couple of trots with no interest I changed the depth to about 18inches. Fishing worm pieces I had about 20 tilapia of different sizes but also lost a fish when trying to get it up off the water that looked as if it may have been a bleak variant that Gareth has had before.

You can see in the video how we are off the path and fishing between the branches!

Gareth Tilapia (2)

It was frustrating that the carp would not look at any thing despite rooting around for pellets that Gareth had thrown in.

Next installment we visit the paste meister of Zhongshan.

The Long March Part 1

March saw just one last visit to Bowood before I was off to China, resulting in a disappointing two bites and two roach for 8oz from peg 12. This concluded my season at Bowood as it has retained a close season and I would be away for the remainder of the time it was open. I keep a log of my visits – a total of 57 visits resulting in 32 tench for 125lb, 22 pike for 174lb 2oz but only 8 bream over a pound. Total weight for my visits was 545lb at a cost of £3.33 a visit. Sad that I know these stats, I know!

Operation Zach took over- a visit to see my new grandson in Zhongshan, China where my son works teaching English. The travel arrangements were taxi-bus-coach-plane-ferry-taxi with a couple of days in Hong Kong after the flight to “acclimatise”. Leaving on the Monday we survived death by a thousand umbrellas in the mayhem that is Hong Kong before finally arriving at our hotel in downtown Zhongshan on the Friday. Now Zhongshan is classified as a small city – only 4m population (rising to 6m when you include migrant workers) and has a network of flood drains, streams and rivers that intertwine before flowing into the Pearl river delta.

Saturday saw us visit the local market, a short walk from Gareth’s 15th floor apartment in a gated community. Making our way around the stalls of spices, textiles, live fish in washing-up bowls, fruit and veg we came across one of the permanent stalls – a tackle shop. Rows of paste, whips and accessories together with pots of worms and floats were grabbing my attention.

It was noticeable that the whips were in definite quality order; the lower shelf were the cheap whips (£3-5), middle shelf the slightly more expensive up to £10, while the top shelf was reserved for the competition whips, the most expensive being on the other side of the shop above the paste. Rods were either cheap telescopic or two piece short spinning rods. Accessories such as float stops or running beads were about 30-35p for 10. Floats were bigger than I have seen which may be because of the amount of river fishing available. Worms were in a small tub costing 50p for about 20-30 worms. Interestingly there was no groundbait in sight although Gareth did point out some jars of dyed rice that they seems to use as loose feed plus some “vitamin rice additive”

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Part 2 to follow with the first outings and a visit to the Paste Meister of Zhongshan.

February – really?

First opportunity to get out saw me at peg 12 Bowood, looking at a very muddy, murky water after all the rain. The water was moving faster than the Avon so I decided on a 1.5g Paster that would allow me some control teamed up with an 0.10mm Shogun hooklength to an 18 and double maggot. I decided to attack it (cf the time of year) given the state of the water and put in 4 balls of groundbait laced with a few casters and maggots. The pike rod was rapidly changed by taking the float off the running bead and a lead put on instead – waste of time really as no runs were forthcoming or expected to be honest!

First bite came after 15 minutes, a roach. It then went quiet and an hour later I had a small bream of 2-11 followed by 7 further skimmers and a roach to finish the session off. Bites came when I held back hard against the flow.

 

Two days later I was back and with the water still coloured was hopeful of some fish BUT I packed up after 2 hours as the wind was making it impossible to present the bait in any kind of sensible fashion as the pole was constantly being buffeted by gusts up to 50mph I discovered later!

Sucker for punishment two days alter back at 12 but this time the murky water was very cold so I only introduced one ball of groundbait, ending up with 2 unseasonal rudd and 11 roach but I had to keep swapping and changing combinations of single maggot and double maggot to get bites.

Two days later again I headed off to … No Blacklands, as i wanted to see if Heron Pool had improved, two hours later having fished peg 6 again without a bite, I moved to Stan’s Pool and in the following two hours had seven perch, a gudgeon, fourteen skimmers up to 1-12 and nine roach. I arranged with the office to change the match on Sunday to Stan’s so that at least it would be fairly even!

 

Friday came and I ventured back to peg 12 at Bowood, we had had a bad frost overnight, with bright sun and the temperature rose to 13C, the colour was dropping out of the water again and you could see down to 18 inches or so. The day was spent watching the buzzards and sparrow hawks as I had one bite resulting in one roach. The weather may have been “good” but not for fishing!

 

Sunday sees me running the match at Blacklands on Stan’s. I ended up on peg 7 – the last peg on the left hand bank, opposite the island- not really where I was hoping for. To cut a long story short- it did not fish as I was expecting and I ended up with 15 roach, 3 perch, 4 gudgeon and 2 skimmers for 2-3-8 and last place!

Needing something different I decided to try Pondtail peg 2, but to just take a feeder rod and try to get some more bream. Casting was okay, groundbait was fine but 3 missed bites and then a lost fish meant another blank!

That was my last chance in February as another trip to Birmingham was  needed and then March was upon us. China awaits and the promise of snakeheads and tilapia!

 

 

2019 Begins slowly

First visit of the new year was to Blacklands to test out the venue for the up coming match I was running at the week-end. Peg 9 was my choice and it was nice to see that despite the colder weather (-4C) the water was clear; beginning close to the end of the overflow while letting my pellet swim settle I had a roach followed by a larger fish that turned out to be a bream of about 4lb that shed the hook at the net. Bites slowed down after that as I obviously had spooked the fish. Switching to the pellet line at 10m I had a run of 22 roach, 7 skimmers and 2 perch in my short session with bites not as frequent as usual but I put this down to the conditions.

So the match arrives on Sunday and I draw peg 4 (the pipe swim), starting at 10m I fed a pellet and a worm line with the intention of firing casters over both lines and having the option to go out a further section on caster if needed. After 10 minutes I realised it was going to be hard as I had not had a single bite on the worm, in fact not many people had, and myself, Shedders on 5 and JWB on 6 were all biteless. After an hour I had a small roach, both Shedders and JWB had lost carp and nothing else. I had by now tried my pellet line and had moved to fishing maggot over both lines in the search for something – the something eventually came in the shape of a small tench around the pound mark.  To cut a long match short, it fished awfully with our section being one by Herbie with 6-4, myself and Jamie Richards tied with 3-3, Jaap on peg 3 had 1-14, Shedders had a solitary roach of 4-5oz and chucked back and JWB had 4 small roach and also didn’t weigh. The match was won by Dazza on peg 9 with 10-0 with Mark Kay on 12 second with 9-0. A rare event- Brian (The Pewsey Trawler) Shutler did not weigh. A very disappointing day despite the increase in temperature.

My next outing was mid-week at Bowood, peg 12. Cold weather and no rain meant the water was very clear and I was dubious about catching anything other than pike. Indeed that panned out as I had 3 runs, resulting in two pike of 5-12 and 5-0 and another lost when the sardine was cut in half as if with a knife! No indication at all on the pole.

Sunday sees me back at peg 12 for a blank! No runs, no signs of fish!

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Friday was my next outing and 1 run missed plus three snatches on the retrieve resulted in a 4lb jack that saved the blank. When I tried sink and draw- nothing! A change was needed for my sanity so Sunday saw m,e head to the Pondtail peg 2. I decided to take a feeder rod with the intention of fishing it far to the right about three quarters away across, about a 40-50yard cast, while fishing the pole. Groundbait plug with chopped worm and casters in the feeder, two balls of groundbait on the pole line at 10m. It was slow with a missed bite followed by a roach on the pole after an hour. After about 6 casts on the feeder the tip twitched but I missed it. This was the signal to pack the pole away and concentrate solely on the tip. Two casts later a bite resulted in a hybrid of about a pound and a quarter, the next hour and a half produced a few more bites, some of which I connected with – 2 roach and a bream of 4-1, the first sign of proper bream in the Pondtail apart from the presence of hybrids.

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Mid week saw me head back to Blacklands and peg 6, I wanted to see if the hardship JWB faced was a one off or if there was a reason. Setting up, the groundsman came over for a chat and to get feedback from the match, what he had to say explained everything- during the period when the water was low, remedial work had taken place and some of the very small fish had been removed but they had started to feed the fish with pellet, three times a week as they were concerned over the fact that they were thinner than normal. Unfortunately he had been feeding them in the same place each time- down the other end of the lake – when I told him about the match he immediately said that he would rotate where they were fed in future! Anyway I fished my usual way and could not get a bite on worm but had 10 roach, 2 hybrids and a carp of 4lb when I switched to maggot!. I cut the session very short as the light went at mid day so much that I was having trouble seeing the float,then the snow came in big clumps- I beat a hasty retreat home but at least I had resolved the mystery. Friday I was about to head for Bowood when the phone went and eldest son was on his way to A&E very poorly, quick change, pack a bag and off we went to Birmingham for 11 and a quarter hours in hospital before he was admitted and put on a drip. That was it for January, finally returning home well into February but at least elder son is now okay and out of hospital!

February sees a further match at Blacklands!

 

Where’s Santa?

The last day of November saw me back at peg 12, this time I had a few bites, namely 1 rudd and 13 roach  all small for a 1-2 total, one run on the sardine was missed GRRR!

Two days later, same peg, gloomy conditions for 7 roach and 6 rudd for 1-6 but this time I had 4 runs, missed 3 and on the fourth hit a very large fish that I could do nothing with until the bait came flying back at me. I am now in a quandary, I moved to single hooks because of the constant snagging in the net but have yet to be confident in leaving the bait too long for fear of deep hooking. The evidence suggests I need to adopt a slightly more patient approach!

Another two days pass and I’m back at 12. This time 9 roach and a mini perch for a round 1lb. A pike snapped at the bait on the retrieve and 1 run that the pike mysteriously dropped ended the session. I made a visit to the local Tesco and saw that they had some sardines that were exactly the right size so I bought the entire stock of 16 and bagged them in pairs before depositing them in the freezer!.

Sunday saw me at Peatmoor for the annual Pike Match, it is a rover but I decided to sit put on peg 10 and put a sprat just over the marginal shelf and another out at 10m. After an hour and still biteless I put the 10m rod out to about 20m and had a run after 10minutes, this resulted in a fish of 6-10. While unhooking the fish I somehow managed to lose my grip, the pike flared and blood started coating the net from my thumb! Fortunately the bailiff lives close and went and got a first aid kit and patched me up. Two hours later another run resulted in another pike of exactly 6-10 and that was my lot! 13-4 was good enough for second.

The pike’s revenge three days later!Pike's revenge.jpg

Silly really as I have an unhooking glove that for some reason I didn’t use – that will teach me. I used it for the second one!!

A week passes before I am back at peg 12, more colour in the water, no runs but 3 roach 0-4, 0-8 and 0-14 for 1-10 all on double maggot. Wednesday sees a change, I head off for Blacklands to check how it is fishing in preparation for the match I was running at the start of January.  I settled on the “Bench” peg and decided to use up what worm I had left while priming a micro swim and for fun a short swim with cheese. It proved a stark contrast to Bowood with plenty of bites on both the worm and micro swims plus a bonus 2-14 bream and 1lb perch off the cheese swim! I ended up with 35 roach and 45 skimmers and 2 perch, the other being 1oz! A total of 19lb left me satisfied as  I had spent some of the time trying out various rigs.

My last visit to Bowood before I have to head north for Christmas sees me at – yes, you guessed it- peg 12. This time the water was very coloured and I was not too hopeful but two pike from 2 runs of 4-8 and 10-0 plus bream of 1-7 and 1-10 coupled with roach gave me a pleasant day and a total of 19-2.  Christmas has come and gone and New Year looms. One final visit to peg 12 sees a very frustrating session with one bite on the pole from a 1/2 oz roach, 3 pike runs- the first released the bait just after striking (still not got this sorted), second run was from a fish about 8lb that I lost at the net when the hook pulled and the third was one I actually managed to land of 6lb!

Happy New Year to anyone who reads this and I hope the New Year brings some more consistent sport!