Like most of us, the winter time is a chance to reflect on a good or bad season, refine our approach, and top up on lost tackle, but for me, Autumn/Winter 2005, was my chance to have a serious look at moon phases, rise and set times, and then compare them with my seasons results, and then get somewhat baffled by it all!!!
But then I found Chris Lyons site called Moonstrike, ( there is a direct link to his site from the links page ), and read through the various articles he has written, and the fact that Chris is the creator of a serious theory, who has spent the last ten years looking into it, and also has the results to prove it. So having read up on Chris's theory and armed with my own catch results, I've set about producing a few charts to see if my captures fit the moon theory, and the early results are shown on the next few pages. Chris also does a 12 month chart showing what he calls the 'Grim', 'Good' and 'Excellent' days for a fiver, so I've bought one and used it through the 2006 season. All you need to do is find the moon rise and set times, the high and low points, have favourable weather and pick the right spot or stretch and give it a go. His site is well worth a visit as there are things that he mentions that I now realise I have noticed myself on the Dove, but I didn't realise the significance, ie everything seems OK, but why is it so dead. I have also checked through Chris's forecast for Good, Grim and Excellent days to June 2005 to see what he predicted on days that I actually went, and yes some Grim days were Grim, but then some Excellent
days were actually Grim and vice versa, but then you find the jewel in the crown that might just explain why an eleven pounder took at 8.05pm on a warm sunny June evening, with the river running pretty clear and a swim only two feet deep, but it was forecast as an Excellent day. Moon rise wasn't until 8.80pm, so 8.05pm would have been in line within the rise feeding spell. A second fish turned up at 11pm, but again within the next feeding spell. By October 2005 I was beginning to predict to within minutes when I would expect to catch, and I was actually talking to a mate on the phone when one of my predicted moon times came true at 9.18pm on what was forecast as a Grim day. I found that I was going fishing for just a few hours on the Trent, and saying " I probably won't get anything until about 6.30pm" and by 6.33 I was in to a fish I was into a fish. This happened on two or three occasions, and follows the idea that you really can time your captures or at least make sure that you are in place and fishing before a 'hot time'. Now that I have an understanding of what Chris is saying, and armed with my own results, I intend to fish a lot closer to moon phase rather than just those 'nice' evenings, which makes me think I'm in for a few soakings. Even so, things can only get better.
TRYING TO GRASP THE IDEA.
If you have studied the Dove and Trent charts you will have seen that my results very closely fit in with the feeding spells chart. The only thing I would say is that, perhaps instead of fishing Chris's timescale around the rise and set times, I think it would be better to work on the basis that this time frame should be more like an hour minimum before and after the rise and set times for the Dove and the Trent, to make sure that you are giving yourself the maximum chance. The charts themselves are based on Chris's timescale so that there a few lines that fall just outside of a yellow rise or set zone, because my actual capture time was either + or - an hour of the moons rise or set time. There also seems to be a pattern emerging that suggests that the best time on the Dove is prior to moonrise through to the end of the highpoint feeding spell, whereas the Trent is from the beginning of the highpoint spell through to the end of the moon set spell. Next season I intend to vary the spells a little more that I fish to try and spread out the results, so that I can try and locate the consistently better spells every time on both rivers. I may well need a few seasons at it, but by choosing an excellent period to maximise chances, results will hopefully come sooner rather than later. But a few anomalies have shown in my results .
If you look again at the Dove results you will see three blue lines in a white zone. ( 11pm position ) Two of these fish were caught on an overnight session. The white area is called a dead spell when the Barbel are less likely to feed. However it was a warm August evening and forecast to be Excellent. Perhaps things were so right that the barbel became suicidal and weren't bothered about feeding spells. Moonrise was at 8.50pm and the first fish took at 10pm, so well after the end of the first feeding spell. The others came at 10.15pm, 11.00pm, 12.05am and 2.30am, meaning three fish during a dead spell and two in the highpoint spell, all during one session. After that the mist got up and it went completely dead, ( another factor Chris explains ).
Something that really alters their feeding cycle is coloured high water. On the Trent results chart, there are three red lines in a dead spell ( 8pm position ). The Trent was up about fifteen inches and coloured, and it was forecast as excellent. I lost the first one fifteen minutes after casting in, and the last two over the next half an hour. I knew the fish would be there waiting, but not that they would feed so early. Perhaps if the river had been lower, they would have fed on time and I would have had to wait an hour before the first one showed. Interestingly, Archie Braddock fished the same night on the Trent, from 5-9pm and never caught a thing. My sport ended at 4:05pm, and I packed in just after 5pm. Having spoken to Archie about this session, it seems fishing on the new moon is better in the daytime, rather than the evening after the moon has gone down. But now we are into the realms of peak times, and this is something else Chris explains very well on his site.
One major point about about the moons cycle is duration. The amount of time that the moon spends in the sky, day or night, varies depending upon the phase. It may only be up for about seven hours from rise to set, or it may be up for fourteen hours. What this means is, that the length of the feeding spells may stay the same, but the dead spells will be larger or smaller, depending on the duration. So if you started fishing mid-afternoon, say two hours before moonrise and didn't get a bite through the first spell because it was hot and sunny, you may well have already fished for four hours, and have to wait another 3-4 hours just until the start of the next feeding spell. You then pack up just before the start of the highpoint spell, say 11pm, because you've had enough, could this theory explain why we say to people, " I sat there for 8 hours without so much as a sniff ". I know I've done it, and another hour could of made all the difference, but then not starting until 9pm might mean a late night, but less fruitless hours spent each season sitting in the darkness or daylight, and catching nothing.
The 2006 and 2007 seasons have both been eye-openers, as I have found more consistent feeding spells and slots to within minutes, even on what Chris would call GRIM days. Sometimes though the fish don't want to play at all, and we have blanked when I was positive we would catch. But that's fishing for you. A mate had a three day trip planned on the Wye back in October 2006, so I gave him some feeding spells to work to, and all that he managed was two chub in the three days. With the river having about an extra three feet of water on, he really felt it would be feast not famine. I fished the Trent on one of those feeding spells, and had two and lost one in an hour which included a low double. But it proved my recording methods work, certainly for the Dove and the Trent, and that I am finding the information that a lot of anglers would love to get their hands on. Leyton joined the DRAC back in August 2006, and asked me to put him on a spot on the Dove for his first foray. I actually gave him a time slot to work to as well, saying don't pack up before 20:45pm as he had a very good chance of a fish between 20:40 and 20:45pm if he hadn't caught anything. He text me to say that after several bite less hours, his rod went round at 20:38, but that he eventually lost his first Dove barbel. Even so, he was amazed at my prediction.
I have always read in Archie Braddocks diary about the barbel rolling on the surface, and have been amazed at how many times we have seen this happen around certain parts of the moons cycle. We now know that once the barbel start this spectacle, there is no chance of a bite. Sometimes it only lasts an hour or so, but there have been occassions when its gone on for four or five hours, and then we have packed up totally defeated knowing there was no chance of a fish. But it has been great to see that we were on top of the fish, even if we didn't catch. There are a lot of things that we don't understand about our quarry, and probably never will, and a lot of other variables that we have absolutely no control over, like air-pressure, air and water temperature's, but I think the idea of fishing to moon phase will go a long way towards reducing those blank sessions, by trying to present them a bait when they should be hungry. I still expect there to be some blanks, but assuming that everything else is perfect, the only challenge will be to offer them something that they actually want, which pellet wise I have already found.