Friday, 30 March 2012

DIY fishing videos

While looking for fishing videos on youtube, I stumbled across a series of videos called "Barbel fishing on the Swale". These are filmed and presented by an old guy (would "codger" be the right word?) called Charlie. He has the video camera fixed on a tripod and he gives a little bit of commentary on what he is up to, then is usually seen catching a fish or two. Remarkably, he is up to video number 89 in this series, each about 10 minutes long and covering in total about the last two years fishing.

I think these videos are really good and I have been inspired to dig out our video camera and finally get round to working out how to use it properly. I have just bought a light travel tripod, an upgraded memory card and am about to buy a bigger battery, so I would be able to film about 2 to 3 hours in one set up. For my type of fishing, which is based on fishing spots for about 30 mins each time, this could suit this video set up quite well. So next season I am planning to film my fishing year!

Charlie mainly fishes the style of barbel fishing known as "codding". He typically uses two rods, pointing high in the air, and doesn't bother with quiver tips, just using the standard rod tip and baitrunner reels - so his bites are huge pulls on the tip and line running off the reel - the Stef Horaks approach. He seems to use pellets for most of his fishing. And he has certainly caught some great fish. It would be really good to have somewhere relatively nearby that offered such consistent barbel sport. And wouldn't it have been amazing if I had filmed the capture of my big barbel!

Over the next few days - when I am doing most of the trading while Jerome has his kids for the first part of the holidays - I shall watch a few episodes a day, focusing on learning as much as I can about how he shoots the videos. Excellent stuff. Well done Charlie!

Charlie addressing his fans and with a typical Swale barbel.

First clip on Youtube of Grouper's Violet Replacement

Since Wednesday I have been looking out for a clip of Grouper playing Violet Replacement, the piece performed in Reading. Youtube now has a 15 minute clip from last week of a show in Italy. This performance seems much harsher and denser than Wednesday's, and the background film is different. Other than that, quite representative of what I saw. I would really like to find a clip with the dripping water section on it.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A long walk in the country

I have had a cold for the past week but have finally felt like doing some exercise. The weather has continued to be unseasonably warm and it occured to me that a long walk might make a change from going to the gym. Six miles later, in the very hot midday sun, I might have a different view of this.

So I went down through the village, over Harrowdown Hill to the bottom of the Pickfords stretch on the Thames, then along the Thames path to Chimney and back to Hinton up the farm track that Bernie the crayfisherman uses (and which I'd like to park my car on next winter). Three hares spotted in these fields.

With the fishing closed season now in force, it is rare for me to see the river in its spring glory. Many of my favourite chub swims have trees in blossom on them - quite a change from the bleak mid-winter or even the last week of the fishing season. By June, the river will be lush and green and very different to how it has been. I was also struck by the huge amounts of lilies that were coming through.

I'm not sure if I will fish the Thames in the summer. I might wait until late September / October when the boats have more or less stopped and the vegetation is dying back.

Chub lurk under the raft and by the near-bank reeds
I had my best catch of float-fished chub from this swim, just against the bushes on the far side.
Lilies coming through - or "cabbages" as us fishermen refer to them
The whole of the inside bank will be full of cabbages come the summer.

Liz Harris (Grouper) live in Reading

I nearly didn't make it to this show. I had been working on option mathematics all day, listening to live performances by Liz Harris (Grouper), and was maybe a little Groupered out. Also markets fell and we lost 1.5%, so that took the edge off things a bit. But as often happens, once on my way down to Reading, it was definitely the right idea.

The venue was the South Street Arts Centre - not the biggest venue in the world at about 250 people. Tables were laid out with four or five chairs at each, so I could have a beer and read my book prior to the first support band. They were actually ok - a heavily effects guitar, plus a keyboard / laptop / mixer. Wasn't that struck on the second group, who played a sort of cut up techno - which Liz watched some of from the back of the little room.

Finally, just before 10:00, she appeared. Her set consisted of a live mix of tracks contained on various cassettes she played on a dozen walkmans. The basic track was a series of deep electronic drones, then a small number of slightly more melodic drones were attached on top. Rather slow to get going, but with some really lovely moments within the work. My main criticism was that it wasn't loud enough, so some of the deeper drones were being lost. But I would happily listen to this sort of music for hours. It lasted perhaps 45 minutes, then it was simply cut and she departed quickly. I waited another five minutes or so to see if she came back to sell any mercandise, but she didn't seem to.

Wife was supposed to have attended with me, but has a bit of a cold. She probably wouldn't have liked it as much as I did!

Of all the pieces I have live of Liz Harris, the piece below (titled "Sleep - excerpt") is the one most like last night's show.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

My picture in Angling Times

Following Stewart's enhancements of my barbel photo, I had sent it off to Angling Times in the hope of winning a Drennan Cup hat and badge. It would seem I was slightly late in sending this in as it missed last week's issue but is in this week's instead (which is after the Drennan Cup has finished) So I am immortalised next to a 4lb perch and 7lb chub.

No hat and badge then!

A better picture of my big barbel

When I caught my big barbel, I had only got my mobile phone camera with me, rather than my digital SLR. I sent a rather poor photo to Stewart Moss, the author of the two excellent recent articles on Oxfordshire barbel fishing. It turns out that he is also rather an excellent fishing photographer and he has done some photoshop reprocessing of my original picture. I am very pleased with this, it must be said and a good excuse to show it again!
But the picture below remains my all-time favourite barbel photo - Daughter aged 6 with her personal best barbel of 6-05 caught from the Windrush at Ducklington back in 1995.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Many times I wish I was a mathematician!

For an hour's break each day, I have been watching a documentary from the vast stock of them we have. Today's was a US film about the mathematician Paul Erdos based on the article that eventually became Paul Hoffman's The man who loved only numbers. It is ages since I last read a book on "proper" mathematics (rather than the sort of maths I need for work) and so I had a good look through my library this afternoon, selecting perhaps half a dozen books of interest.

But in the end I actually chose a mathematics-based novel, David Eavitt's The Indian Clerk, about Ramanujan and Hardy.

One of my favourite photos - GH Hardy at an Oxford-Cambridge rugby match when he was 64.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

More option risk management changes

I have acquired a relatively simple option calculator spreadsheet and have been making a number of "enhancements" to it. It was originally designed for US stock options, but can be altered into something that can just about cope with UK equity indices or commodity options. The over-riding aim has been to produce something that would allow relatively quick calculation of the current delta equivalency of a portfolio of options, together with an estimate of where certain other delta equivalency points would be. For instance, that from a sold strangle, in a falling market, current delta equivalency is +8.5 while +10, +15, +20, +25 and so on are at index levels a, b, c, d . . .

Then our day's routine would be one of initally calibrating the day's opening prices, say at 8:15am, calculating current delta equivalency and then adjusting some already-existing hedging trades for when delta equivalency has reached a point of intolerable pain (yet to be defined adequately).

So far, the spreadsheet seems up to the task and generates some rather nice charts of the option greeks over time, and has an analysis page which seems to give the delta points. I have been using the spreadsheet to experiment with my crude oil options hedging overlay idea and am nearly ready to action a first trade in CL. Given our past history of trading crude, there is some trepidation involved in this, but I think the boost to various important stats is worth dipping our toe in the water for.

The main question concerns "regime switches" which for us means a huge jump in implied volatility, usually associated with sharp drops in equity markets. Despite the papers running their usual views that "markets remains volatile" actually they are not at all at the moment - quite the opposite, they are extremely becalmed. So our option trading is quite short term with positions going out about 5 weeks at max at the moment. When vol does rise again, we don't want to hold long dated positions, but instead be able to manage a position with not much time to expiry and then quickly into a new cycle of options which we can sell for vol-enhanced premia. A challenging idea about which I do remain somewhat concerned, yet I hope I am not tested on this too soon.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Philip Glass Documentary & Kepler

I was watching a documentary about Philip Glass on Sky last night - "Glass: A portrait of Philip in 12 parts". Excellent stuff. I saw up to about part 3 where he was out in Nova Scotia in a large collection of cabins which he owns. I was very impressed with this and it has reminded me that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are two places I am very keen to visit still.

At one point in the film, Glass was asked about his working methods and he gave an analogy to fishing

At a certain point in a piece you sort of know what the piece is about and that can happen very close to the end. Does that happen with a film? You'll come to a place and say, Oh, that's what it is. Hopefully it happens before the piece is finished It almost always does. If you've done it for years and years you can be confident, but if you're young, you may not be confident with it and it can be very scary. . . . . It's kind of like you're waiting with a fishing rod in the water, waiting for a bite. It'll come, oh, there it is. But the thing is is that it doesn't come if you're not there waiting for it, you've got to do the work or it doesn't come

Which is quite correct I feel (and exemplified by my barbel capture!)

Later on, looking on Amazon, I was surprised to discover that Glass's "Kepler" is out on CD and DVD. This is the Linz production that I went to see there a couple of years ago. For the first time in ages, there is some music that I have to buy instantly and which I am desperate to receive.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Back to normal after fishing - an impending option expiry

So fishing has finished for a few months and it is time to get back to the focus on day-to-day trading issues. The changes introduced in early Feb and completed by the end of Feb have been very good and our performance has jumped back to something approaching that achieved last summer and autumn. More importantly, it is working in the current very low volatility environment.

But once a month, this results in the stresses associated with option expiries. Delta moves on the open positions to either 100 or 0, while the remaining time value on the 100s stays high right up to the 10:15 expiry. We are not yet fully equipped for this process and tend to take the view that we should let the time value just decay and take any losses from net delta. My work over the next few weeks will be focused on these expiry issues. I have dusted down some hugely mathematical texts on the subject and am slowly working through them. The problem is, of course, the high gamma on ATM options at expiry.

The second issue to consider is whether to expand the new stuff to include some other markets - once again, to Jerome's constination, I am looking at crude oil.

Finally, there is the question of identifying what might be called "regime changes", where it would be better to exit positions and just sit on the sidelines for a short period. Some indicators do work for this but only provide "necessary but not sufficient conditions" i.e. they do identify the problem times but also have some false alarms.

So lots to be thinking about - I feel surprising up for this after the fishing successes.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Last four fishing days - the last day of the season

It would have been very tempting to return to the scene of yesterday's capture, maybe to try the swim where I lost the big fish on Monday. But actually, I decided on a change of venue, returning to Duxford where my 2012 fishing really got started. This is a far more beautiful stretch of the Thames than the one further downstream I have been fishing and I feel this is an important consideration on the last day of the season.

In addition, I had said that one of the last four days would be a chubbing session with bread, so that's today's plan. And a new method for me (or at least one I haven't used for years) - liquidized dry bread fished in a feeder. I have been very impressed by the catches that other anglers have made using this technique. Indeed that occurs today as well.

A guy I met a month or so back, who I now know is Mark from Witney, was fishing that way today, starting at the large bay at the downstream end of the fishery and slowly making his way back upstream dropping in ever likely spot. When we met up late morning he had already had four, including two 5 lbers, and he then caught another 5'er as I sat chatting to him, a 5-11 in fact. He has caught a couple of 6'ers at Duxford and his three fives by lunchtime is better than anything I have managed all year.

My fishing never really got going today. I tried a few new spots and had a couple of fish, but after yesterday, I was mainly just there to pass the time and watch the wildlife. Three deer, two hares, a heron, a kingfisher, and so on today. Lots of owls hooting throughout the day as they do down here. My catch totalled three chub, 4-04, 4-07 and 4-12. And I was off home by 1:30, for a lovely hot bath and an afternoon's work!

So no 6 lber this year - that will be my target for next winter.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Last four fishing days - day 3 - Best fishing day ever?

6:00am finds me tackling up 30 yards upstream of Hawthorns 1, the scene of yesterday's lost fish, which I have now fully convinced myself was a barbel. No new free baits, just a freelined boilie under the Hawthorns by my own bank. 45 minutes fishing produce no bites, so more bait goes in and I had planned to return every few hours to fish this spot again.

Further downstream I added more free bait to swims 3 and 4, before settling in my current "chub banker" swim, which today produces my best chub of the year, a really fat fish of 5-12. I am rather pleased with this although it is not my targeted 6lber and in the next swims are rather content to watch the wildlife for a bit. Swims 5 and 6 are fished with no new bait having been adding, but no bites are forthcoming. They are baited and then its back to Hawthorns 1 and 2, where another 45 minutes in each produced nothing.
A very fat 5-12
It was now about 1:00 and I settled in swim 4, a swim dominated by a fallen tree. I cast to mid river and let the boilie swing round on a light ledger till it settles well under the branches. I planned to leave it there for around 45 minutes, but after 25 minutes or so I got a huge bite that lifts the rod butt off the ground, pivoting on the rod rest. A strike meets very solid resistance and there were a few worried moments as I eased the fish out from under the snags. Soon after, it dawned on me that the fish was hugging the bottom surprisingly easily and I soon saw why - it was my much sort after barbel, which I got a brief sight of before it powered off upstream, thankfully now well away from the major snags. Gradually it came back to me and after a further two or three powerful runs that caused a few worries as line spilled off the reel again - given yesterday's experience, were all my knots ok, etc - it finally allowed me to net it.
Only then then I really realise just what a huge fish it was. In the water I had thought a definite double but it was clearly well above a "mere" double. I had nothing big enough to weigh it in, so it went into the landing net. I'd not zero'ed the scales for the net and my initial weighing was 16-10!! Weighing the net next gave 1-06, so the barbel was 15-04. I re-zeroed the scales with the net attached and re-weighed the fish, this time getting 15-05. But I have stuck with 15-04.
Luckily there is an angler fishing just downstream from me and he took a couple of pictures on my mobile phone. These are never great but it was all I could do. It really was an incredibly fat fish, with the most enormous girth (as shown by the net photo below). It beats my personal best by nearly 3lbs and combined with the 5-12 chub earlier is by far the best brace of fish I have ever taken or are ever likely to in the future.
The fish was returned in the net and took a few minutes to recover, but it swam off strongly settling under a near bank tree for some minutes before powering off.
My most incredible barbel of 15-04!!
Look at the girth!!
Totally amazing!!
I did stay on at the river for another few hours but only fished about half of that, remaining in the same spot in case there were others there. Didn't even bother to try the Hawthorns again. But really I wasn't that fussed. This has been my finest angling day ever, and I doubt any fish would have made it better (unless perhaps I had caught a 7lb chub!).
I wonder what the biggest Thames barbel have been. I suspect that 15-04 is among the biggest ever. I shall resist the temptation to send a picture to the angling press - I wouldn't want to breach any club rules on no media contact!!

Last four fishing days - day 2 - afternoon

So I am back at the river by around 4:00pm. My first cast is into Hawthorns 1, a swim I have never had a bite in but which looks perfect and so I fish it most times. It certainly looked good enough to be one of the six swims baited with hemp and boilies anyway.

About five minutes later, the rod loops round and I am attached to something which it quickly becomes apparent, is the most powerful fish I have hooked all year. The fish sets off across the river away from the Hawthorn bush snags, taking about 5 yards of line, but a few seconds later, as I applied some side strain to begin to bring it back upstream, the line goes slack. Winding in, it turns out that one of the knots on the hooklink gave way - the first time this has happened for years.

What a nightmare! I have prepared beautifully, spending five days baiting six swims, then get a bite in the first one I fish, only to lose it after maybe 15-20 seconds. Of course I can't be certain what the fish was. Sometimes chub can start fights like this, but they then soon give up. It could have been a very large and very fit chub. But I have to say, I think it was more likely to have been a barbel. The type of bite, the power of the run. . . . Or it could have been a carp I suppose. There are some in this stretch I understand. For now I'm sticking with the barbel theory as this supports all the work I've been doing to catch one.

Around 4:30 the sun comes out and soon after, my spirits are lifted somewhat as a barn owl flies slowly up the field opposite.

I wander downstream, putting more bait in swims 3 and 4 and moving down to one of the regular chub swims. I am cheered a little more by taking a 4-15 chub here to add to this mornings tally of chub.
Later, a mist starts to appear in the fields opposite. The stars come out, including Jupiter and Venus which approach very close to each other tonight. Around 6:30, I am back in the first swim after the barbel. Two very large bats are hunting over the river. The mist thickens gradually. I don't get a bite in 45 minutes here so move back down to swim 4. By now the mist is thick my side of the river as well. Stars near the horizon are disappearing and soon I am enveloped in a thick pea souper. This is all rather spooky. When I finally pack up around 8:30, the fog is really thick and I can barely see 10 yards with my head torch on - its like driving in fog with high beams on, everything is just white. It takes an extra 10 minutes to walk back to the car tonight.
The approaching mist.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Last four fishing days - day two - morning

The weather forecasts suggested that today would be like yesterday - really hot from mid morning - but I was somewhat surprised to find at 5:30 that there was a thick, damp fog. If this took time to burn away, fishing could be better today than I was perhaps expecting.

Today's plan has yesterday's FFS2 as today's "Float fishing swim 1" and I have a new FFS2 further downstream. Visibility was just 30 yards or so as I walked across the fields to the downstream end of the fishery. Hemp and corn into the two prospective float fishing swims, hemp and boilies into five others for later.

I had really enjoyed yesterday's float fishing so it was with some excitement that I started this morning where I'd caught the 4-15 yesterday. But for some reason I don't get a bite in the first hour - maybe the two swans that went through the swim as I was pre-baiting the other spots had an adverse effect. So off the FFS2.

This next spot is a far more challenging float fishing proposition. The focus was on a huge raft on the far side of the river. The main flow is about 3/4 across the river, and a cast here should ensure that the float travels just past the raft, maybe just inches away from the trailing branches. Baiting is a bit tricky as the corn tended to disperse in the air and land all over the top of the raft. But there isn't much I can do about this. After half a dozen casts I have worked out how to manouevre the float just past the raft, letting it move down past 10 yards of hanging branches. I am rather impressed by how well I seem to be fishing this. I am even more impressed when I hook a fish about half way down the raft and, after quite a tugging battle on the light-ish tackle, I was rather pleased to land another 5lber on the float. It was quite a short fish, but had a very solid stomach (early spawning?) and went 5-02. No further bites in the next half hour so I thought I would rest the swim and have another go at FFS1, where I blanked again in the next hour.

Back in FFS2, the wind had changed a litle and I could bait a bit better. Not sure how much difference this makes, but after 20 mins or so I had a bite at the downstream end of the swim and landed another chunky fish, this time 4-07. I was thinking of packing up for the morning then as I had to get back to check in with Jerome and in any case I was running low on bait. But I decided to give it another half hour and was rewarded with a third chub from this swim around 10:30. I thought this would also be another 5lber but it was actually4-15. A really nice fish though, in great condition.

So I baited the five swims again and returned home to make some more bait and have some food and drink. I planned to be back around 4:00pm.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Last four fishing days - day one - chub on the float

Up and away from home at 5:30am - even on a Sunday! - loaded down with a large bait tin of sweetcorn, plus the hemp and boilies that I would be pre-baiting with for tomorrow. "Float fish swim 1" is a short walk from the car, a 30 yard glide, though one where the bottom shelves up as you go downstream. I have put in some bait and am tackled up by 6:00. Three roe deer on the opposite bank stand watching me for a few minutes.

Now I am definitely not the world's greatest float fisherman, and rarely fish this way. In the 1970s I once saw ace matchman Ken Giles fishing a match on the Warwickshire Avon where he caught over 50lbs of chub fishing a stick float. It was quite amazing to watch. Or there was the time in the early 1990s when I was fishing the Hale Park stretch of the Hampshire Avon and watched a guy fish a long glide with a centre pin reel. After seeing this I actually bought a centre pin reel and then discovered just how hard it was to fish that way. I don't even own a proper float rod and am using an Avon rod today, my usual Shimano Aero reel with 4 lb line, a 3AAA Avon to a size 14 hook. But this late in the season, it does seem a nice idea to float fish and I did ok the other week.

First casts are critically important in pre-baited swim as you expect fish to be there from the off and already feeding. But this does raise the issue of correct depth and I start with a run down set at about 6 ft. This produces a bite about 10 yards down the swim, and a fish which fights really well but turns out to be a mid-3lber. Was this an impetuous smaller fish, while the bigger ones are down below? I reset the depth by 6 inches and keep adding a little more every second cast till I seem to have located the bottom at about 8 ft.

I then hook a second fish but it falls off when about half way in. This could have finished the swim but I stuck it out for another 45 minutes and got a second fish of 3-15. So an ok start to my short session.

I dropped off my tackle at "float fish swim 2", put in three or four catapults full of corn, and then went for a walk downstream to bait the swims I intend to fish for barbel tomorrow. On the way down I spot something about which anglers have very mixed feeling. An otter is swimming downstream through my first chosen swim. It is nice in some ways that otters are more common but they are killing huge numbers of large barbel, so anglers generally aren't keen to see them in their rivers - still it is the first wild otter I have seen for years.

Back at FFS2 and what a fine float fishing spot it is. Another 30 yard plus glide, but this time of steady depth. The all important first cast produces a bite straight way and this time it is a pretty decent fish of 4-15. I have a second bite two casts later which I missed and then hook and lose a fish at the very far end of the swim. One other curious incident was when I was just starting to wind in and I suddenly seemed to be connected to a fish. However a moiment later it was gone and I wound in to find the hook missing. My guess is that a jack pike took the sweetcorn as I started to wind in, attracted to the surface disturbance. I fish on for another hour but no more bites.

I then spent an hour ledgering in one of the chub raft swims but with no bites. It was very hot by 10:00 and this remains the case for the rest of the day, suggesting a change of plan for next few days. I now plan to fish first thing each day, then come home in the middle of the day, going out again late afternoon.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Preparation for the last few days of the fishing season

I have the chance to fish bits of every day until the end of the season and I've been pondering the various choices. An inventory of bait reveals I have about 4 gallons of prepared hemp, several loaves approaches peak staleness, about 10kg of boilies and six or seven kilos of sweetcorn. So plenty of choices.

Overall, I would like to have at least one session float fishing for chub, at least one using mashed bread for chub and at least one dedicated purely to barbel. So with these in mind I was off to the river this morning at dawn to prep a few swims. I am still focusing on the stretch a few miles downstream from my house rather than Duxford, but might have a trip to Duxford before the season ends?

The first surprise is that the river is already fining down after the rain this week. I had thought it might have stayed up two more days and be fining down on Monday and Tuesday, the days I can fish most. But the colour is fading rapidly and some of the swims I use to test clarity now have visible bottoms. Will that make a difference? Not sure yet.

So I have baited two swims with hemp and sweetcorn for float fishing for chub, and six other swims with hemp and boilies. Tomorrow will be a float fishing session as I only have the morning available. I will also rebait the six swims tomorrow. Monday may well be the barbel day after two days of pre-baiting. Hopefully if there are barbel about, they will have found at least one swim's worth of bait and will recognise it when they see it Monday - if they are there. If not, maybe a big chub would like a boilie.

Nice to be out at dawn before a busy day. Two roe deer, some hares, plenty of birds. Back home by 7:30 as Daughter is home for the weekend and we have sorting out to do for her forthcoming trip to Peru and have nice food to cook throughout the day.

Friday, 9 March 2012

This week I have been mostly listening to . . .

Julia Kent

Zoe KeatingPhilip Jeckand Johann Johannsson

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Blanking after barbel again

My focus for today's fishing was to try and catch a barbel from one of the far downstream swims. Bait was a mix two types of boilie fished over hemp. Arriving at about 2:00pm, I baited four spots, including two that have produced chub in the last couple of weeks. Then I settled in a swim opposite a large raft and fished this for the next hour or so. No touches at all.

A second round of baiting at about 4:00, then a walk to the downstream limit of the fishery for the first time in ages. Three of four very promising chub swim by nearside rafts, and some static bays on the far side - the sort where Thames carp might hang out if you wanted to fish for such things. Another fishless hour spent in one of the swims while I waited for the bait to do its magic - or not.

More baiting, then a move to one of the chub swims. First cast, after just five minutes wait and with no preliminary indications, the rod slammed round. My first thought was that this would far more like a barbel bite than a chub bite. The fish had taken the bait from the top end of a raft and gone downstream so far that it was well under the raft by the time I had struck and got contact. I few hard pulls but then everything went rather solid. Some heaving from several angles at least confirmed the fish was still on. After a minute or so more, I was beginning to think the fish was too well snagged, but then to my surprise, it came free. This also confirmed that it was a chub, not the hoped for barbel, but it was a nice fish of 4-10. Still, now I know that the chub on this stretch will take 14mm seafood flavoured boilies.

No more bites tonight in any of the baited spots, though I fished on till 9:00pm, so the wait for a barbel continues.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Jason Molina news

While looking for something completely different (information on Sinead O'Connor's Black Album), I came across a link to Songs: Ohia, the "band" name for Jason Molina's early records. I haven't heard anything about him for a couple of years and it turns out he has had health problems that caused the cancellation of a tour in 2009 and have curtailed his recording career. He has large medical bills and has an internet appeal out to help him with them. In the meantime, he is working on a farm raising chickens.

I first came across Jason Molina with the track Steve Albini's Blues from his Black Album, which I found on the old (and still lamented) website, Then there is the track Captain Bad'ass, or the whole of Ghost Tropic, or the more recent track Its hard to love a man like you. Astounding stuff.

Wife and I went to see him in concert in a tiny club in Shepherd's Bush some years ago. I know he is also a favourite of Jerome. Sad news indeed.

"There ain't no contest against the final day,
Will rise above us, either way.
We're either greeted by life or its reverse,
Then each day greeted by fortune or its reverse.
Will you stand up for your one chance?
Will you stand up for love?
We get no second chance in this life
We get no second chance in this life
You won't have to think twice if its love you will have"

From Captain Badass, off the album "Axxess & Ace" by Songs: Ohia (Jason Molina) 1999

A poorly thought out fishing trip

I rather messed up today's planned fishing trip. After the rain on Sunday I had been pondering a day targeted at just barbel. Two rods, lots of hemp, pellets on one rod, boilies on the other, and so on. Three swims primed for this, fished from 2:00pm till 10:00pm in 30 minute rotation.

But overnight, there has been a heavy frost. My immediate thought was that this would not be good for barbel and that I should target chub again. So I topped up the mashed bread mix I had left over from a few day's ago - a most beautiful mix of mashed white bread, crumbed white and brown bread, the water from previous hemp boiling, and about 4 pints of hemp. Off to the river with that and a bag of crust, some flavoured with a sweet nectar syrup that I got from a health food shop over the weekend.

However I had forgotten that the river would probably be up from the previous rain. Indeed it was up about 3 inches and the sort of lovely brown colour that barbel anglers love. As expected, the temperature was down a little on Sunday, so it probably wouldn't have been the best for barbel, but the coloured water also suggested that chub might not go for standard bread mash and crust. Instead I should have luncheon meat, or lobworms or cheese paste - but not crust (even super duper flavoured crust)

I did have a single half full bait box of spam and hot dog sausage left over from a week or so ago but this had gone into a rather gooey mix. But that was all I had that might be suitable, so from 2:00 until 6:00 I fished with that in a number of swims without a single bite. By then I had decided I might as well bait a couple of swims with some mashed bread and so I finished the evening like that. The result? One chub that might have scrapped 3 lbs from my single bite (and on plain bread, not the flavoured).

So not good. I am now looking towards Thursday when I might aim to stay till well into the evening. And I might plan for that on Monday and Tuesday next week when I actually plan to stay till midnight both nights. Weather forecast is for more rain, so perhaps barbel will come back into consideration. Perhaps a fining down river on Monday and Tuesday will turn out to be perfect?

Huge drop in equities - a test of our hedging programme

Hedging "short" option components of a trading portfolio is always a tricky question. If you hedge and it is not required, you can lose lots of small amounts, while if you don't hedge at all, you occasionally suffer breath-taking losses (and I do mean breath-taking). The trick is to decide where the pain gets too much, hedge it away when it hits these levels and then exit the hedges later, hoping you don't get hit again after that.

After three or four weeks of trading in a tiny range of about 100 points the FTSE dropped around 2% on Tuesday, and has dropped around 200 pts in the past three days. With less than two weeks till our short position in March options expires, our hedging points were quite close to the market price and three were picked off during the afternoon's fall.

But then a rally gets underway on Wednesday morning, volatility drops and our hedges start making losses. We partially exit the hedge and the market starts to fall again! Such is the fate of the short option trader. Mark to market, our March option position is currently in profit to the tune of 25% of the premium we wrote. Remaining time value decay would take this to about 50% of the premium write. Hedging has cost about 5% so far. So if things remain as they are, we will still make around 45% of the premium write this month. On average we make about 35%, but with a huge variance. Without hedging the numbers vary from about 150% to -300%, translating into a +10% monthly return to -25%. Hedging keeps the worst months to about -5 to -10%. So whenever a hedge costs us money we should remember what can happen when we don't hedge!

But frustrating all the same.

Monday, 5 March 2012

A mobile morning fishing session

For family reasons, only a very short fishing trip is possible first thing today. At 5:30 it was actually raining but I decided it wasn't enough to be overly unpleasant at the river. A different approach for today. No pre-baiting swims, just a piece of crust tried in as many possible spots as I would manage in the 3 hours I had available.

First spot was the swim nearest the road where the other angler was fishing last time. This is an interesting swim with a near bank slack area and a tree in the water at the downstream end and could bear a decent effort. I had a couple of little taps on the tip, but not enough to stick it out longer.

Next stop, the long glide/crease swim. I had intended to skip this swim, but then thought it might be interesting to try and search the swim by upstream ledgering from the downstream end, not an approach I often use, but one which I would like to get better at. I used a 2/3oz weight, which might have been a tiny bit light as the tip deflection was only an inch or so rather than the 2-3 that perhaps it should have been, but the actual technical fishing went ok, and second cast I had the classic slack line bite and landed a chub of about 3lbs. Very pleased with that, given that I rarely fish upstream ledgering.

Inspired by this, I did have a look at a couple of other swims that I would usually have ignored and gave them a cast or two to again test the upstream ledgering idea. If I can get this right, there are quite a few other swims that might respond well to the technique, especially far bank raft swims which can be very good fished this way.

A bite in "Hawthorns 1" which produced another 3 lber, then nothing in "Hawthorns 2" which rather surprised me. I baited one of the top raft swims and the "inside crease", but left them till later, instead moving well downstream to a couple of the deeper swims. It is this stretch far downstream where I really want to put much more effort in the last week or so of the season.

One swim that could be very good is where there is a line of reeds on the near bank, then a raft ten yards further down. This produced a 4-02 today.

By 9:30 or so the rain was getting heavier, though I remained warm and dry. Bernie, the crayfish netting farmer came down and we had a quick chat - rumours of a big barbel caught recently are of great interest, especially with today's rain. I haven't fished for barbel for a week or two - perhaps the rain is a sign I should. But by mid-morning the rain has a heavy sleat component and the overnight forecast is for a mild frost. So maybe barbel aren't on the cards. Maybe Tuesday's trip can be more barbel orientated?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Another five pounder, but what a wait

A damp, misty start to the day and only 1C outside first thing, so I was not absolutely sure I would go fishing today. But during the morning I made up a bucket of bait - mashed bread made with the liquid from my hemp making, plus 4 or 5 pints of hemp and a mix of white and brown crumb. Delicious - what chub could resist? The mist finally cleared around lunchtime and it became a bright sunny day - also not great for fishing, but at least it would be warm out.

First surprise was two cars already parked in the layby. The first angler was fishing in the first swim below the car park. He said he had fished here a lot over the past five years or so and had managed two 6 lbers in that time. He'd had a 5-10 from the swim he was in today on his last visit. We talked for about 20 minutes about prospects for a Thames barbel, how we both disliked commercial stillwater fisheries, and how great the chub fishing now was.

Again my plan was to bait half a dozen swims with my "magic mash" and fish each for 20 minutes or so until well after dark. But in the field where the last two swims were, there was an angler in the far distance, so I went for a wander down to see him, perhaps to keep him away from my baited swims. It turned out that he sort of knew who I was - he was one of the friends of the guy I had met a couple of weekends ago from Windsor. He was fishing in a similar-ish manner to to other guy - extremely mobile, not bothering to bait swims first, no more than 10 minutes in any spot. And he had done pretty well, having had 5 fish - one of exactly 5lbs, 3 other 4s and a 3. He was fishing with a friend who was actually just upstream and who I had not seen when I walked down. We all chatted for another half hour or so about local river fishing - the state of the Cherwell, Evenlode and Windrush - the prospects for a big Thames chub (they have had a few sixes on this stretch and one of them had a 7 a few years back). They were both retired and described themselves as doing more or less nothing other than fish. Apparently they first fished this spot in the 1960s when a 4 lb chub was a great rarity.

So finally I started fishing around 4:00, by which time I was expecting my baiting to have done the trick, despite the fine sunny weather. But for the next couple of hours I was untroubled by fish completely. However by the time the two other anglers were leaving (about 6:00pm), I was starting to get the odd small tap on the quivertip - not enough to strike, but a sign some fish were around. The other two had finished with one extra fish each, for a catch of 9 between them.

Finally, around 7:00, I had a small chub of about 2 1/2lbs from the inside crease swim, so at least I wasn't going to blank. The sky remained clear and with a first quarter moon out it was actually a really nice night to be by the river. Several roe deer had appeared as it got dark, owls were hooting continually, and one flew over the river as I fished.

By 8:00 I was in the deep raft swim at the downstream end of my baiting, casting most of the way across the river and letting the bait swing round full under the raft. A slight tightening over my finger then the classic pull round and a solid resistance on the strike. I suspect that the fish was initially further under the raft than I had thought it would be, as after some heaving I thought I had the fish well clear of the raft, but it surfaced just above the top branches. But no other troubles and I soon had a decent fish in the net. It looked quite a solid fish, but didn't feel particularly so, and scaled 5-02, whereas I would have put it at 5-08. It had some bread mash and hemp in its mouth when I landed it - had it really only just settled on the bait I'd put in? By then there had been three earlier baitings of the swim. Hard to think it had all been ignored until well after dark.

No more fish tonight, but a lovely night to be out. Venus was just setting when I packed up in the top swim around 8:45. Quite cold again by then, and a mist forming as I walked back to the car.

Next time - maybe Sunday - I am planning to go about 5:30 and be there, fully set up, by first light. Then I plan to fish loads of spots with no pre-baiting. Daughter might be home that day so I will only have until 11:00 or so, but I might be able to fish 20 spots in that time. A radical lightening of my kit will be required for this to be effective.