Having never been to the Lake District before, expectations were high for my impending kayak fishing trip to Coniston water. Friday finally arrived, and the weather was awful – blowing a gale and pouring with rain in Bristol… What the hell was it going to be like up North ?!!
Given the weather, I decided against an ultra early start, instead I made my way up at a leisurely pace. I was just starting to congratulate myself on a quick journey, when only half a mile from the cottage, the road was closed. I got out of the car and spoke to a couple of hairy arsed builders, who told me that the only way to the house, was a detour of some 40 minutes ! All I can say, is thank god for SatNav, and at least the views were good….
Met up with John, Helen, MarcJ, Simon (FFF), Ben and Martin (Eggbert) and then quickly set up the kayak in explorer mode – full GPS, side imaging sonar, no fishing rods. Launched at the Brown Howe picnic spot with Simon. It soon became clear that there was a good deal of variation in depth throughout the lake – some areas were shallow ie. less than 15 feet deep – but then there were alot of areas very close to the bank which quickly dropped off to depths of 30 to 100 feet. One thing which was immediately clear, was that the deeper areas were featureless – and there were no fish returns there. So this set the tone – I decided on a number of passes up and down the lake recording the side imaging footage as close to the bank drop-off as possible.
Returned to the house (parked the kayak in the lake at the end of the garden – how cool is that !) just before it got dark. MarcJ had earlier caught a pike, and celebrated by cooking us one of his fantastic meat pasta dishes. Later we had a “few” drinks, before snacking on a couple of the pizzas I had brought down. Good times. I also loaded the side imaging footage onto the laptop and scrolled though it, to look for some likely marks the next day. Found alot of areas of dense weed – some of the weed was growing up to 15 feet from the bottom of the lake. Also found a few “bait balls” – small fish which were tightly shoaled up in relatively small localised areas. We were guessing that these were small perch. So I decided to mark the areas where the bait fish were (my thinking was that find the baitfish and the pike would not be far behind) – this turned out to be a mistake as you will see later. The GPS coordinates were marked using the Humviewer package and then downloaded from the laptop to my handheld Garmin GPS.
The next day saw most (!) getting up early – some got more sleep than others (I was glad of my earplugs !).John did a great breakfast – proper fry-up – the works – I could feel my arteries furring just with the smell – fantastic ! We went out on the water again, this time I took my fishing rods – one set up for lures, the other set up for trolling dead-baits. I used the GPS to visit the bait fish marks from the previous day and run over them with the side imaging switched on to see if the baitfish were still there. I had 10 marks to visit – all widely spaced out around the banks of Coniston. One by one I visited each one – but there were no baitfish present. By the time I had finished, time was moving on, and I met up with Simon and Helen. I managed to speak to Martin on the radio – he had 3 consecutive takes in 3 drifts whilst trolling hi deadbaits close in (One was a low to mid double). He also told us that Ben had caught a mid double to his large perch shad which we had been joking about that morning. A great story – he got 2 bank anglers to weigh it for him – they had blanked – and they were not impressed !
We paddled over to Martin – and I scanned the area where he had the pike with the SI fishfinder. It was immediately obvious that the fish must be hiding in the dense banks of weed which abounded in the small bay. So my tactic of searching out the baitfish was a bit flawed – I would have been better off searching for the areas of weed instead. Plugged another couple of coordinates into the GPS and FF and then myself, Martin, Helen and Simon all paddled North to the Coniston end of the lake. Just before we reached the end – I spotted a likely looking spot on the side imaging – I stayed behind to try a couple of drifts whilst the others carried on. I then went back to the area where Martin had his 3 fish and tried in vain to catch some pike – I called it a day, but not before ading a load of groundbait into the swim – hoping to return the next day.
That afternoon, Simon (Dorado) also joined us. The highlight of the evening had to be the roast dinner (Beef) with all the trimmings, which John cooked for everyone – thanks John – it filled a rather large gap ! A pattern had now built up about where (and when) the fish tended to feed. I was already planning a new approach for the following day – but then the cider intervened and that was that for the evening !
The following day (Sunday), I passed on the breakfast, and launched early. The goal was simple – avoid a blank ! The tactics were also now obvious. The fishfinder was left behind (no need) – and the lure rod was also consiged to the car. Two dead bait rods – one straight ledger and the other float ledgered. Just used the GPS to find the spot from the previous day – I made a couple of initial drifts to see if there were any fish (there were not !) and work out which way the kayak was drifting, then located my spot and stayed put using the mudweights which Steve (Lureman) had sent me. The water was only 15 to 20 feet deep and the weed came to within a couple of feet of the surface – it was very thick. With this in mind, I used bluefish (pacific saury) on the straight ledgered rod – but popped the bait up using foam sticks and an injector. The theory being that the bait would lift up above the dense weed on the bottom.
A few hours later, Martin and Marc arrived, followed by SImon (Dorado). The weather was great and we were all enjoying the sun on our backs. Simon was chucking his pike flies here there and everywhere – that man can cast.
Around the time that Martin had his pike the day before, I started to get runs from pike - but the fish were dropping the baits. Martin suggested that my baits were too big (I was using whole fish baits) – so I duely cut them down. Within minutes, I had a good run on the ledgered bluefish – a near double pike came to the surface. As I brought it alongside the kayak; the other float ledgered rod lept into action and a pike started to take line. What to do ??? I lifted the first pike onto the kayak and then started to reel in the other rod – this pike (luckily !) was much smaller. I brought it alongside and Martin paddled alongside to help me out.
The smaller pike had an old wire trace trailing from its mouth (someone had obviously snapped off whilst fishing) – so Martin managed to free that at the same time as unhooking my trace. My pike also looked a bit worse for ware – it looked like it had been beadly treated in a past encounter and one of its gill rakers was hanging out (maybe cormorant damage ?). A bit disappointing given our remote location, but both fish were safely released and swam away strongly.
It was a great end to a great weekend. The scenery was stunning, the weather was pretty good and the company was first rate – it doesn’t get much better. And to cap it all off – we took some great shots of a double rainbow – it was very vivid…
Its all in the video……..