9 August 2012

Pole position - the appliance of science or pure coincidence?

With a young son wanting an introduction to fishing, I recently found myself in Baileys of Warwick getting to grips with the intricacies of whips and elasticated whips.

Thanks to the expertise on hand, that issue was quickly settled and my boy is now the proud owner of a 4m elasticated whip - no doubt a report will follow soon on its maiden voyage.

The real problem was that the whole exercise left me thinking about all those times when some sort of fishing pole would have been useful in my own fishing - margins, tight swims, windy days and so on. And, as sure as night follows day, that led me back to Baileys for the purchase of my own lightweight lump of carbon fibre.

It would be hard to explain just how crack-handed I felt, and doubtless looked, as I shipped this beast out over the Leam for the first time on Sunday morning. I'd never even watched a pole angler in action, let alone used one myself, and the learning curve was fierce.

I'd tied a couple of river float rigs the night before, and soon had one shotted and plumbed just the way I wanted it. I experimented with various lengths of line between pole tip and float, and tried to work out how the beast could be shipped back and forth across the river with any sort of speed and smoothness (in truth I never really managed this, but the next night I snuck back for an hour and discovered that correct placement of the bag I was using as a roller absolutely transformed the whole process, ensuring smoothness and balance where before there had been nothing but tension and panic).

a typical Leam perch, next to a 25cm pole winder -
not the best fish of the morning, nor the best of photos, but
I'm afraid I had my hands pretty full most of the session!
The whole process felt uncomfortable and alien throughout, but here's the rub: I caught, and caught at levels I have never managed before on the Leam. Sure I lost a few fish to cack-handedness and inexperience, but despite that I caught perch after perch after perch, with plenty of roach in between. Nothing over half a pound, but perhaps 30 fish in all over the three hours I was fishing. Thirty fish! My previous best over a similar period wouldn't have reached double figures. So was this sudden bonanza down to the pole? Or was it pure coincidence?

On the side of coincidence was the fact that I have done a lot more winter fishing on the Leam than summer fishing, so the results would almost inevitably be poorer. Also it's true to say that fishing is prone to erratic results - one day you catch and feel like a fishing god, and the next (and often the next and the next and the next) you are scratching around for a bite wondering what you're suddenly doing wrong.

But there were a couple of factors which suggest the pole may have had a part to play.

For a start I almost certainly wouldn't have fished this swim with my normal 13ft rod and line. There was a lot of vegetation behind and around me that would have made casting difficult, and I was fishing beneath a far bank willow on a line which would have been all but impossible to reach with stick or waggler.

Perhaps most critically of all though, the pole allowed me to hold the float back hard against the flow and inch it through the swim bit by bit, something that would have been impossible at that distance using a rod and float. Since it was generally while holding back that I got the perch bites, I don't know how I'd have got on with either the waggler or stick.

So, was this bumper haul due to the sudden introduction of an 11m lump of carbon fibre to my fishing, or was that just a total coincidence? Only time will tell, but I'm fascinated to find out how it performs next time out on the Leam, as well as on the Grand Union canal and, of course, in those carp-filled stillwater margins for which I really bought it in the first place.

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