Friday, 21 October 2016

Zed heads.

The weekend started with a wander down the Coventry to try out a new rod I've just bought. You see I've become a bit obsessed with finding the perfect rod to suit my canal lure fishing. By that I mean a rod that feels right and can perform multiple tasks, as I've been looking for a lure rod that can function both as a dropshot rod and light lure rod. The Sonik lightec I've been using for a while is an outstanding light lure rod for small hard lures and soft lures, but is a bit soft in the top section, which means it doesn't transfer much information back up the blank when fishing the dropshot with it. 

Its actually proved a hard task, as rod manufacturers would prefer you actually bought a rod for each discipline and so don't make an all round lure rod from what I can see. In any case this has led me to actually look for a rod which I think will be capable of multitasking even if it is labeled as something specific. A mistake I think I'd been making for a while though is only looking at light lure rods and thinking they could work as a dropshot rod, but then I saw a review of a dropshot rod on-line that said it worked well with small soft lures as well and realized maybe I'd been looking at the problem this the wrong way round. Once I'd handled several different dropshot rods I settled on Wychwood agitator dropshot rod in the 7ft version which is rated to cast 3-18 grams and I was dying to get out and have a go with it.

Unusually for me there was no real specific target for this little outing. Literally I just wanted to see how this new rod performed fishing both drop shot and small jigs. So I dropped on a section of the Coventry that is generally well populated with predators and began by using a super light dropshot rig to target any fishy looking structure. Straight away I could feel small perch plucking at the tiny pink shirasu lure I was using. After quickly landing a few small perch a little zander zipped off with the lure after hammering it close to some brick work on my bank.

A few stops later I switched over to fishing a 3 gram jig in conjunction with one of my favourite cannibal shads. The rod worked perfectly with this light rig and the stiff dropshot rod actually transfers so much information back up the blank. Literally as I lifted the lure off the bottom at any distance I could feel the paddle tail vibrating away. Happily the local perch were being obliging and quickly they were snatching the little lure as it dropped to the bottom, really engulfing the lure as they attacked.

So far so good with the Wychwood agitator dropshot rod; it does seem to be able to perform both as described as a dropshot rod and as a general purpose light lure rod. This hopefully should enable me to only carry the one rod and switch methods when I need whilst having confidence that the rod is doing a good job in any scenario.

A couple of days later I arranged to meet up with a fellow zed head Mick Newey to fish the Avon at night for zander. But a trip to Stratford with the JB and BB gave me a glimpse of the condition of the Avon and all confidence drained away after seeing it was very low and incredibly clear. On this occasion sense prevailed and we rearranged to instead have a session on a bit of canal that has produced some big fish quite consistently. I was almost tempted to take the new rod along, but as this bit of cut has such good form with big zeds I wanted to gamble and go big, taking instead a medium sized outfit so as to fish bigger lures.

We met up before first light miles away from anywhere and just as I arrived the rain began to fall gently in the half light. By the time we'd fished one known haunt, the rain began to pick up pace. By the time we were at the third spot it was torrential. We had no choice but to just shelter as best we could under some trees, Mick in his water proof jacket and me in the poncho that I always carry in my bag.  As we sheltered I had little choice but to abandon the lure rod which Id been casting repeatedly all morning, and this left me staring intently through the rain at my float rig. Nothing whatsoever happened whilst it was raining which was a bit perplexing as the dank conditions looked perfect for the zander to be feeding. Eventually the rain abated and once my soaking hat was rung out and abandoned it seemed like we could happily get out from under the trees and restart the session.

Not long after the rain stopped dimpling the surface, the canal seemed to spark into life once again. Fish were rolling up and down the canal and after persisting in one spot as I was convinced it held fish, a zander finally hit the 90mm spiky red head shad I was working along the bottom. After waiting it out in that chilly rain that little zander really put a smile back on my face.

With the weather now a bit more conducive to fishing, we both switched into proper zander fishing mode. With three dead bait lines and a lure rod on the go, we worked over every area we fancied for a maximum of thirty minutes before moving onto the next. This is the great thing about fishing with other zed heads, they fully appreciate the need to constantly keep moving to find feeding fish. So many times before I have just kept moving all day until I hit a sweet spot and the action just goes off instantly. On this occasion I don't think there was ever going to be a sweet spot though.

We both worked hard moving constantly and covering each swim we targeted well by moving baits round,  in my case covering every square inch with lures. Luckily for me I found another similar sized fish to the first close to an overhanging bush and then later in another swim a boat went through and that seemed to get a few inactive fish moving, in turn sparking a missed run for each of us.

The final fish of the morning sniffed out my dead bait in the now chocolate coloured water in  exactly the same spot as where I'd had the missed run and turned out to be yet another similar sized zander.

Time soon caught up with us and even though we could have gone on and on looking for more spots and scratched a few fish out of them, prior engagements called us away from the canal. With one Mick landed early on and the three I scratched out after the rain stopped it might not seem a bad result, but on this canal this was a bad days zander fishing. On any other canal in these conditions this would have been a blank I am sure. On some occasions on this canal I've had four out of a swim in under half an hour and it's not uncommon the get some action every swim you fish. But whatever the case it was good to catch up with fellow zed Mick and put a bend in the rod, and we are already planning going back once we've had a few frosts.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Change of plan.

It's not that often that I walk away from a venue before I've even started fishing, but that was the case the other day! I'd dropped off both JB and BB and made my way to a predetermined section of canal for what I had planned as a day of light lure fishing and roving off into the Warwickshire countryside. Admittedly I was a bit on the late side arriving. But after I did eventually arrive I got the gear out of the car, walked the short distance to the canal and peered at the water to see the boats had been at it for hours and done their worst. Literally, I reckon moles would have been more at home in that water than fish. Any love for the venue evaporated quickly and left me feeling rather flaccid about the whole session.

It took me a while to go through the local venues to choose an alternative that was in reasonable proximity to where I was and where I needed to be. As all I had was a very light lure outfit, the choices narrowed quickly and rather than go to another section of the same dirty canal I opted to head over to Leamington Spa to have a session on the Leam town waters again. The torpid Leam I surmised might be a good candidate for some light lure fishing and having been there a while ago I knew the waters running through the Victorian parks  held a few nice fish amongst all the bank side cover.

I reckon I'd been fishing all of ten minutes before I figured I'd made the right decision to move venues. The Leam it turns out is rammed to the reeds with small perch, and those small perch loved the tiny lures I was casting into the river and hopping slowly across the current. Literally every cast was getting some kind of  hit and in many cases multiple hits. There must have been groups of these tiny little predators chasing the lure back to the bank, gobbling it up and spitting it out until one got caught out.

All the perch activity raised the attention of the pike as well. Several small perch got chased around in the first swim until the naughty jack in question saw my lure and had a go itself, ending up getting hooked close to my bank after thinking its quarry was about to get away and engulfing it with a flare of its gills.

The fun went on all day and catching huge numbers of tiny perch meant it was only a matter of time before I located some bigger ones. In the shadow of a huge white building the far bank cover ended at a brick wall. Just where the cover ended, the wall began seemed to hold some different sized perch. At first it was just ones half as long again as the wasp average, but with the odd half pounder here and there. Someowhere amongst the multiple plucks from the smaller fish came a hard thump as something bigger hit the small spiky shad I was retrieving. The little fish and the small pike had proved sporty enough on my 1-7 gram outfit; this fish though was really having it. After playing it out in the flow in the middle of the river initially, it moved into the shallower clear waters close to my bank and I saw one chunky perch with my lure hanging out of its mouth being tracked by its identical twin. The second fish disappeared at the sight of my net in the water but the hooked fish went in good as gold.

I ran out of fish-able bank by mid afternoon and after a quiet break for lunch on a park bench in the sun, I turned around and worked my way all the way back down the stretch. Amazingly even after casting hundreds of times into the already fished swims, the stripy hordes were still well up for attacking the tiny lures as they skipped across the bottom. By the time I reached the end of the stretch, the river was in shade and the sun was heading towards the horizon. How many of those tiny perch I caught through the course of the day was impossible to calculate, but what I do know is the Leam where it runs through Leamington Spa is a brilliant venue for light lure fishing, and I will definitely be back for another go before winter sets in.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The return, the wow and the exit!

I reckon it's safe to say that we have actually been enjoying a bit of an Indian summer this year. The leaves cling stoically to the trees and only now as we reach October are we beginning to feel that night time nip. As for me, I've been waiting for autumn to arrive so as to begin fishing the canals again after what seems like a long summer absence. This late heat has held me off for a while, as the lack of bad weather means the canal system is still rife with boats and there are only so many smiling boaters bidding me good day as they steam through my swim I can take.

Turns out it was an unplanned session that sent me back to the tow path though. I have been trying to align the all the stars correctly so as I could fish one last time for tench at Napton on a warm day, but every time I get a chance a fly lands in my ointment. This time it was a heavy downpour of overnight rain that got me thinking today was not the day. Lying in bed questioning what four hours of heavy cool rain might have done to the fishes feeding, I concluded a change of tack was in order. That decided an inventory of available bait was taken. The casters I had purchased might well compliment the worms I always keep around just in case, and if I am plying chopped worm and caster I may as well do it for big perch, and as I know a big perch honey hole on the canal I might as well take some dead baits and fish for zander!

So off to the perch honey hole I went with a bit of bait, my 9ft Shakespeare wand and a dead bait rod for good measure. The area I was heading to does seem to attract boats to moor up there for some unknown reason, so as I walked the tow path I was hoping it would be free, as fifty foot of narrow boat can really ruin this swim. Luckily even though there were boats moored up overnight in the area, the spot was clear and free, so I located myself dead centre of the sweet area and quickly baited up just off the shelf with a couple of pots of chopped worm and caster.

As the free bait stewed, sending its oozing scent off to draw in customers I set up the dead bait rod and placed the rig down the wind from the bait. Zander I know love worms and even though the bigger ones might not be concerned with rooting out small baits like worms as they did when they were smaller, they are still attracted by the smell, and a well placed dead bait in the scent trail is always a good place to start I reckon.

The rig I began with on the worm line was very unlike the normal rig I use in these situations. This was because with the brighter than normal conditions I felt I needed even the slightest edge, so the chubber float was done away with and replaced by a sensitive pole float. Normally I fish the three pound mainline direct to the large hook, but today a fine fluro hook link and fine wire size fourteen finished off the final foot. Even my bait was scaled back on this occasion and my normal split lobworm was replaced by a much smaller dendrobena.

Without blowing my own trumpet. Paaaaaaaaarp! My scaling down was pure genius! The thin red tip sent out the tiniest of ripples followed by a hint of a dip. Then after settling a moment it sank half way and I needed no second signal to strike. The rod took on a bend instantly and the standoff between man and fish was reached with the float out of the water only halfway up its carbon stem. There was a pause, with the float just hanging still above the turbid water... then the fish whipped off banging away for freedom. The well set clutch gave line perfectly and I just held as the rod absorbed the fishes power. It was a powerful fish and judging by the swirling water its might matched its size. I was almost disappointed when no spiny fin appeared and what looked like a decent hybrid rolled over. But then in the sexiest turn ever, she came up on the surface all silver with red dazzling fins and a face of a true thoroughbred canal roach.

What can I say of such a stunning fish, other than is there any better way to return to the canal in autumn than by catching a perfect and massive roach. Even more shocking is this is my third canal roach over 1.14lb. Surely this year a two has to come my way.

I was pretty stunned after that start and had a almost involuntary smile on my face when the zander exploded onto the scene. The first tiny one took a worm as I dropped it gently back onto the baited spot. As I released that one, out the corner of my eye I watched the small float tootling off under the water as another made off with the roach head dead bait.

After that they were like buses tracking up the wind to my bait. Simply put, every time I got the bait perfectly placed at the edge of the trench another zander would locate it in minutes. The average size was nice as well, with most of them being over three pounds and a couple closer to four.

Throughout the flurry of zander runs I was barely able to keep the worm line active in the water, though somewhere in the mess of dead baits, teeth and spines I had thought to keep the bait going in on the worm spot. When the runs eventually dried up I once again deployed the pole float rig and my attention to it. First drop in and the float never cocked properly. I struck just in case and was immediately playing yet another small but rather aggressive zander that had the biggest tail I have ever seen on a zander.

The swim eventually went quiet and it seemed the perfect time to try and top it back up with more worm and caster. The worm was topped up with one large shot and this time I held back on the casters flicking out six or so every ten minutes, until finally the swim sparked back into action. Finally a small but well proportioned perch turned up with a mouth full of casters. That single perch heralded the arrival of the striped crew. A few more small but good looking perch snaffled my worm before an unwanted crayfish made off with my bait and got a heel to the head for its trouble. The crayfish's corpse had barely made bottom before I had checked, re-baited and recast the rig onto the spot. The next bite was very confident, with one good dip before the float sailed off and I was finally playing a decent sized perch. A huge humped back and spiky fin was seen just as the net slipped under it.

The big perch had finally arrived after the little ones had led the way. I had another one of this near two pound stamp and several smaller ones of 10oz - 1lb before disaster struck. There had been boats passing me all morning and so far I had kept cool and calm fishing on the inside away from their track. The problem occurred when I spotted two narrow boats moving towards me from both sides. It didn't take long to figure they looked as if they might cross right in front of me. All I could do was watch as they slowly plodded towards me, as if in an old disaster movie where it takes ages for the punch to arrive. When they did finally cross things went even worse than I could have expected; one the boats was a rental and the inexperienced pilot cracked just as he crossed bows with the second boat. In a panic filled moment reverse gear was engaged and the tiller was pushed hard over for some unknown reason before forward thrust was re-engaged with extreme prejudice. In the blink of an eye my carefully prepared spot was decimated back further than it was than before I started.

My silent response to the boater's apology I think was more than enough to convey my anger. As tons of metal and wood chugged away from my swim the water swirled like the Severn in full spate. Rather than scream into the sky I quickly concluded it had already been a brilliant session, and rather than stick around to try and rebuild I opted to quickly pack up and disappear like a magician whilst the cloudy water hid my exit. As I walked away I tallied up seven zander and ten plus perch with a couple of near twos among them; good for relatively short session, but add in that superb roach and it adds up to an amazing return to the canal which really has me looking forward to future canal sessions and what surprises they could bring.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Toddler holiday fishing.

Before I became a parent I stupidly thought that having a baby would be the most demanding aspect of parenthood. Well that was until that helpless little gurgling bundle of joy turned into a toddler. Jesus shit Christ how naive was I!!! Since mobility has been achieved I quickly realized babies are piss easy when they're just lying around and staring. Toddlers on the other hand still have the same needs as babies but with the added fear and danger that comes from them exploring the lethal world we live in with overkeen abandon; it sends shivers down my spine just writing it. Literally just a week ago, BB learnt that the world was not two dimensional and is in fact three dimensional and in the spark of a thought everything over twelve inches high suddenly became as dangerous as a nitroglycerine filled jack in the box.

The reason I write this is because when BB learnt this wondrous new climbing ability we were on our first ever toddler holiday. From the moment we arrived at our destination, literally within spitting distance of the sea, it became quickly evident that our excited toddler was going to need even more looking after in his new jungle gym caravan environment than he would in the confines of our baby proofed home. This in mind it dawned on me quickly that what for many years had been holidays where myself and JB had just relaxed, done what we want when we wanted, were now all about BB and my selfish desire to fulfill my fishing needs were going to be taking the quiet back seat of a family man..

Knowing I'd be within a very short walk of water I had however packed a rod, a few rigs, breakaway leads and acquired a small amount of bait so as to seize any time I could on the beach. The first opportunity came the day after arriving when after feeding young BB, I shot off for a few hours on the beach. The sea was almost dormant, which was perfect as I'd only brought a 3.5lb test curve Chub outcast carp rod along to use. A two hook wire boomed rig was generously baited with vicious rag worm and cast out towards the misty horizon.

Late summer can be a funny fishing time in land, but on the sea I reckon it's worse. The summer species are thinking about drifting out to deeper water and the winter species haven't yet arrived. The only thing that seemed to be on the feed was the ever present horde of shore crabs which were quickly finding my baited hooks and devouring the expensive bait that adorned them. Straight away I knew this was not going to be a bagging holiday and that it was going to taking some serious working out to be able to get on the fish.

The morning sessions weren't working out at all from the off. With my friendly little alarm clock waking up at 5.45am most mornings and quickly taking over our time it just didn't seem right to leave JB alone to bear the brunt of a fourteen month olds onslaught, so any fishing soon became an after dinner affair with me slipping off at dusk to fish into the dark on the eerie east coast moonlit beach.

First trip out it seemed a different world to the arid fishless days. Yes, the crabs were still feeding hard, but in between the crab knocks on the rod tips came a few hard twangs which set the night light lit tip of my rod dancing. At first I'd forgotten that you have to let bites develop when beach fishing and after a few fruitless strikes I finally began catching a few smooth hound pups in between the crabs stripping my hooks clean.

The next couple of short evening sessions were much the same, with me sneaking away as the little one went to bed and fishing into dark for little more reward than a pup here and there. Although enjoyable being on the beach in the dark, my head light had given up the ghost on the first night and I repeatedly forgot to obtain more batteries which left me fishing by the light of the moon. If trying to thread nippy king rag on a hook in the dark isn't hard enough, try untangling angry crabs from tangle prone rigs in silhouette against the moon for fun.

A change in the weather came just before we left, when for the first time in five days I looked out the caravan window and it wasn't wall to wall blue sky. Luckily I'd had the foresight to refresh my bait after the local weather had predicted overcast conditions. Fresh bait in the bag and rod in hand, I did my duties and nipped off for a few hours. The sea was a bit more active with an off shore wind and my makeshift beach rod was only just coping with the added tide and waves. But scaling up just a bit in lead weight I was able to target a sandy bank I'd found a few days before when the sea was clearer.

Really, the fish I had been hoping to catch in this area were the sole that are reputed to reside in the area and although they are predominately a night feeding species from what I've heard the overcast sky could mean they might have a feed in daylight. The crabs seemed to be a bit less active in the more turbulent water and when I got a couple of sharp jags on the rod tip I was keen to reel in what had found my bait. There was definitely a fish on the hook as I could feel it occasionally thump on the way in and when I saw a flash of white in the surf I thought I may have caught a small flat fish like a dab. As the rig came out of the surf I watched something small flipping on the shingle and I was about to swing what I now suspected was a tiny whiting to hand, but aborted grabbing it at the last minute as I realized its real identity.

Trust me to catch the one poisonous species of fish which swim in our seas! If you hadn't already identified it, the culprit was a weaver fish which can, if grabbed or stood on, inflict a very painful sting from the small spiny dorsal fin on its back. These nasty little monsters linger buried in the sand waiting for prey to pass by whereupon they shoot out and snatch it in it wide opening teeth lined mouth. Apparently the sting is very painful and can be so for up to two weeks.

My hopes of finishing in a flourish of flatties never came to fruit. In fact the only other fish that took the bait was a second smaller weaver fish which, same as the first, I unhooked using a set of forceps and was taken back to the sea by the waves. That was it for my holiday fishing on this occasion and although I know from this adventure that my holiday fishing might be taking a bit of a back seat I can't help looking forward to a few years time when I might have a little partner in crime along for some holiday fishing fun.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Back from injury yet again.

"Go easy! We've got all day", she said as I stood two feet below ground level with a large Japanese maple draped around me, in the hole where our nature pond used to be. But as I am a man and we're not known for heeding our other halves warnings I carried on like a man possessed. And possessed I was at reclaiming the hundred pound or more of pea gravel that I'd used as a leveling agent under the hard plastic pond years ago. I'd tried a shovel and a spade but neither seemed to be making a dent in the ever shifting gravel, the only thing that seemed to be making an impact was a terracotta plant pot as big as my head. On my knees sweating like a pig in barbecue season, I repeatedly scooped up pots full of gravel and tossed it up onto the ground around the pond. Bar being filthy and sweaty all was well until one particularly awkward twist prompted an almost audible twang accompanied by a dull stabbing pain in the right side of my lower back.

That was two weeks ago when I had specifically booked some time off work to clear my vegetable patch which has languished terribly since BB's arrival. We'd even sent the little fellow off for a day with the grandparents so as be free of the hindrance of childcare, and there I was two hours in with a developing back pain, starting to do the old Charlie Chaplin walk.

Not only did that end the gardening but it also shot down three shorts sessions I had been planning in my head. The kit and caboodle came out to nurse the strained back, but still it's taken well over a week to get back to anywhere near close to being able to get out fishing again.

I didn't think sitting on the old chair for a session would be beneficial for my first time out so I grabbed the crazy cranker and shot over to Napton for a lure session, hoping the perch might be on the feed as they have proved to be in the past in late summer. With all the perch that I've caught in Napton bait fishing, I have a suspicion that somewhere in those moody depths hides some real monsters. So I went at it with a range of small to medium sized lures to try and sort out something bigger if that was possible.

Over the last two years I have lure fished Napton a fair bit, and on every single trip it has been a case of feast or famine. I reckon it's just one of those waters where the fish are either on or off. I chatted to a few anglers just generally fishing before I started to see how the day was going and all bar one were struggling to get bites from any species. After hearing the fish seemed off the feed I quickly nipped back to the car to pick up a couple of extras boxes of lures I bought along just in case, and boy was I glad I did!

The perch were not in the mood to attack what so ever and after covering the smaller half of the water I put away the small soft baits which I'd been working slowly along the bottom. Out game the shallow running hard baits and surface baits to try and lure any waiting pike in the shallows to attack. Not long after I began casting a shallow running Yozuri lure along the reeds I watched and undeceive pike of maybe five pounds follow it all the way to the bank before thinking better of attacking. A few casts later a tiny jack pike shot out from the edge not five feet from where I was standing the bank and smashed the lure without even a moments consideration.

It was undoubtedly going to be a hard session but the fact I'd had one follow and one fish kept me going with the knowledge that it was a case of covering water to find pike rather than perch. The only problem was that the pike did seem to be holding in the shallow water, which on Napton is largely inaccessible. This in mind I headed down to the weedy shallow end at the head of the lake which most anglers avoid.

With the wind coming off my back I began casting slow sinking Sizmic toads tight against the reeds and reeling them quickly back just under the water but above the weed. Straight away another small pike slashed after the lure twice before disappearing. A lot of casting later I found a second fish which bow waved after the lure making me think it was a better fish before it hit the lure and turned into a second tiny jack.

After covering the whole shallow area at the top the lake and not finding any more fish I moved round working different diving hard baits trying to locate fish. Although I had no more takers I did spot a very large carp drifting over the weed with seemingly not a care in the world. The last modicum of action came when yet another small jack shot out from the nearside reeds after my little plug only to stop a foot off the lure with a look in its eye like it had just clocked the rouse.

In the past I might of said it was a bit of a disappointing session, but since I've been lure fishing I've figured that expectations are different from when bait fishing. Strikes and follows are seemingly as much as a prize as catching the fish in some cases, and when you can get one chasing the lure just under the water that I find is just as exciting as watching float lift up amongst a fizz of tench bubbles. My session in fact was made by that tiny jack snaffling the toad lure after following it for at least twenty feet before smashing so hard it sent the lure right up the trace over the clip and swivel. So even as hard a Napton has proved to be in the past I know I will be back in the future and maybe the perch might be a bit more obliging then.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Poor relations #2

I've never been particularly inclined to spend much time at Leamington Angling Association Jubilee pools. I think the reason for this solely lies in the hands of the constant melee that rolls over daily on the larger island pool. I have fished there in the past but truthfully, the incessant spodding and casting of the resident carp anglers proves very distracting to me. The result is I have never been enamoured with the island pool or its poor relation, horseshoe pool, either. But saying that, the possibility of a decent rudd lured me back to check out the smaller horseshoe pool which nestles amongst the trees behind the island pool.

As far as I can remember I have only ventured onto this pool once many years ago and on that occasion I caught one single fish which just turned out to be one of the largest carp in the pool. Since then though it's been totally off my radar, until I started looking for rudd.

When I had a wander round a few weeks ago on the way home from another session, it looked a lot better than I remembered. Shrouded almost entirely with trees, the water was clear and weed beds could be easily seen. It took a little while for me to get round to going back but when I did I was back with a float rod and a load of casters, corn and ground bait.

My plan was to begin by finding a clear spot and initially bait up with a couple of balls of ground bait. Then I would regularly feed casters and corn over the top to try and draw fish in then up in the water, with the ultimate aim to try and catch the rudd shallow as the hook bait dropped through the water. Well that was the plan anyway...

If there's any fish that's going to distract me from a plan its tench, and my swim was paved with them. I never even bothered trying to bring the fish up in water, the tench fishing was that good. Literally in just under three hours that I had to fish, I caught over thirty tench ranging from two pounds up to five.

It was a bit of a shock really because I never knew this was such an exceptional tench water. Every single fish I caught was in perfect condition and fought so hard that I quickly had to scale up hook link to prevent breakages. I have chased tench all over the Midlands for a fair old amount of time now and I reckon I know a good tench water when I see one. So it is the absolute truth when I say that given the environment and the condition of the tench in this pool, I think that in the next five years horseshoe pool at Jubilee will be one the best tench venues in the Midlands. 

Something that did not go unnoticed as I was hoiking out tench after tench was the parade of big carp circling the edge of the pool. It was plain to see that in the middle of the two large bodies of water either side of the spit were large groups of carp being targeted by a few chaps. Those fish though looked to be mainly five to ten pounds with the occasional bigger fish amongst them. In the margins though, the fish were a different stamp altogether; everyone was a double or bigger, and some of them were proper wide back grey submarines.

A little known secret I like to keep under wraps is that I am a closet carper. It's something I keep under tight control as I know should I give into my carper urges then I'd find myself going full blown carp crazy, and I  have neither time nor money to follow such an endeavour, so its best kept on the back burner. Very occasionally though I give in to my carpy urges and pull out a carp rod just to satisfy it, and seeing those big old submarines on such close quarters seemed the perfect opportunity.

So a few days later I came back to again fish for the tench again, but this time I brought along my nine foot Nash dwarf rod to fish in the clear spots peppering the margins for those carp. Before even setting out my stall I baited a perfect looking clear spot to the left of my swim with a few pellets and a handful of corn which I'd pepped up with a dusting of krill powder. Next I carefully placed an in line bolt rig with a short fluro carbon hook link baited with three grains of corn on the spot, before delicately sinking the line along the edge of the marginal bushes so as not to spook any fish over the spot. Then I set the rod up on an bite alarm with the line hanging slack.

I'd no sooner turned around to sort out my gear when the alarm beeped quietly, the rod bent round and a carp shot out into the pool sending the reel into overdrive. The fight was savage and I knew this was not one of the little fish from the middle of the lake. It took a bit of subduing but the little 2.25lb dwarf rod took everything the carp could throw at, even when it repeatedly dived under a bush to the right of the swim. In the end a long lean common went into the net. It didn't look that big in the water but when I lifted it up onto the mat I realised it was basically the same length as my large fox predator spoon net and a low double.

After such an instant reaction from the circling carp I quickly concluded that putting out the tench rod might prove prohibitive. So I decided to concentrate on just keeping back away from the edge of the swim whilst fishing the single margin rod, which already had more carp back on the spot. I waited for the current residents to move off before repositioning my re baited rig on the hard gravel and then topped up the area with a handful of pellets and corn. Every so often more carp would drift in and dip down to suck up a few free offerings. When two carp moved in side by side I was sure I was going to get a take. Both were commons though one was much smaller than the other and in that situation I knew the smaller of the two would end up hooked. Saying that, after a crazy run and really hard fight, the smaller fish which had taken my bait still turned out to be a scraper double.

The last fish had caused quite a disturbance so it took some time for the swim to calm down. In that quiet time the tench drifted in over the weed and sank down to clear out the spot. I watched five fish around two to three pounds clear up nearly all the freebies whilst mockingly eating around my bait. It wasn't until they too drifted away that a single much larger tench ghosted in, instantly saw my lone bait and sucked it in before rocking back, where the full weight of the lead pulled the hook into its bottom lip and it instantly shot off in panic.

The clear spot was now devoid of bait and fish of any species, but I was sure topping it back up with more free offerings would soon draw more attention quickly. So once again I repositioned the rig and scattered more pellets and corn over the top. It did take a while, but soon I spotted a large dark grey fish lingering in under the cover of the bank side bushes. The first time it passed over the spot only slowing a little to acknowledge the bait,  and then I watched it drift out and circle back under the bush. This fish kept very tight to the cover and I could barely see its head peeping out, but I could see the clear water clouding up as it sucked in mouthfuls and blew out unwanted gravel. I knew the run was coming and it quickly did as the fish felt the prick of the hook and bolted in panic out from the margin.

This one was a much different fish altogether. After the initial panic and charge it turned into a heavy a plodding fight. It kept well away from the margins and the snags and circled around deep down out in the open water. My little nine foot dwarf rod was bent right over under the pressure but slowly the fish tired and little by little I came towards the waiting net. When I first saw it I knew it was stunning apple slice mirror.

How I would have loved a trophy shot of this lovely near twenty pounder, but as this was a bit of an impromptu carp session and I only had a small unhooking mat and with no one to help out I decided to play it safe and think of the fishes safety, so I just got a quick mat shot on this occasion.

A couple of days later I dropped back for a couple of hours after work and baited the same spot and three others along the same bank. This time I was fully kitted out with a proper sized unhooking mat and a 36" landing net. This time I didn't bother with the bit e alarm as I wanted to move between swims constantly. The weather had cooled a little and the carp seemed to be a little further out than on previous sessions. I kept moving carefully in and out of the swims checking the baited areas for feeding carp until I noticed the first of the spots I'd baited was now occupied.

Once again I watched until the fish drifted off and then I carefully placed my rig at the edge of the clear baited area and scattered a few more freebies around it. I sat back behind some cover on top of my mat with the rod lying on the ground next to me. Through my polaroids I watched a few fish move in and out quickly from the left hand side of the swim. After they disappeared I turned to see a long common moving intently in from the right had side. It never paused for a moment before dipping down and starting to tear up the bottom. Only a moment later the rod skidded across the ground with the free spool spinning. The initial run was as savage as ever but the weight of the fish seemed heavy, like the apple slice mirror of a few days before. This one fought for ages though not giving me an inch all the way to the cord of the net. It turned out to be another fish just less than twenty pounds and this one had a tail bigger than my hand which helped to explain its crazy power.

That fish released, I spent the next two or so hours chasing fish around the swims. I had a few dropped runs and plenty of spooked of fish in the shallower swims I'd baited. The session ended on a frustrating note though when I located a pair of very nice fish feeding on some bait I'd put tight to a weed bed. I patiently waited for them to move off long enough for me to get the rig in the water, but it never happened. Soon some smaller fish clocked what was going on and moved in. In no time at all there were ten or more smaller carp tearing the spot up and churning up the bottom until the entire swim was clouded. I did try putting a bait in amongst them, but there was actually to many fish in the swim bumping into the line. The final view was kind of good though, when one of the fish felt the line catch in its fin or something and it shot off sending every fish in the swim off in all directions like a star burst of panicked carp. Now with all the baited spots cleaned out and the carp gone it seemed the perfect end to the session, and I headed for home satisfied with another fun carp stalking session on Horseshoe pool.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Poor relations #1

I've always thought the Leam to be the poor relation of the Warks Avon. This isn't a theory I have formulated out of thin air, it's based on hard evidence collected by myself and others. Literally there has always seemed to be smaller quantities of smaller fish in it than the Avon. I know all rivers aren't equal in fish populations and that there is probably a million ecological and geographic reasons why this should be so. Any reasons aside though, the fact is that you just don't ever hear anything to tempt you to fish the Leam and I think the lack of angling attention itself doesn't help its reputation.

Saying all that the other day I drove over the river in my van, looked out the window and my fishing senses went wild, it looked that good. As far as the eye could see the sloth-like Leam was lined with Lily pads and it looked just up my street for a spot of summer lure fishing. So early in the morning I headed down with a bag full of lures and my new Diawa crazy cranker lure rod to see for myself if there might be any good sport to be had amongst those beautiful dense beds of lily pads.

I parked in the free car park above Princes Drive weir, grabbed my kit and headed straight for the weir itself. It was quite an odd experience walking out along the stepped wall of the weir to the centre of the river with the entire mass of the Leam sluggishly crawling towards you. Sadly though there were signs that not only was this popular spot frequented by the local colour, but also by possibly our eastern European friends. Along with the empty packets of cheap spinner lures discarded in the bushes were innumerable empty cans of Tyskie and the like.

The weir didn't produce Jack and really I wasn't surprised at all given its location and obvious popularity, so I crossed the road and began searching the snaggy waters in the park itself. Initially I was using shallow running roach like plugs and slow sinking weed free lures. The hope was that the predators might be hanging out under the pads lining the banks and that I could entice a strike as the lure either sank close to or passed by the cover.

My initial approach though wasn't working so I changed over to a light jig head with a large hook so as to fish some rubber lures slowly in the near still water. It proved to be the right move and a couple of tiny jack pike later it seemed the fish were a lot closer to the bottom than I assumed they were.

Weirdly, the water of the Leam in this area had quite a bit more colour than I expected it to, but with my polaroids on I could see small groups of roach just under the surface as well as my lure as it came closer to my own bank. I persisted with the jig tactics as I moved through the park and managed to search out a nice perch from the shadows of some over hanging trees which came as a nice surprise and might indicate the presence of some decent perch sport.

After fishing several more openings in the bank side bushes, I was thinking that most of the fish populations were held up in the lower area which I had already passed through, as I couldn't find or see any fish anywhere. The river here seemed to shallow up as I could make out a few ancient snags protruding off the bottom covered in debris. It was after casting beyond one of the snags and attempting to steer my lure around it that everything went solid. I thought I'd found a trailing branch and my lure was done for, until the snag began moving upstream and it clicked that I'd hooked a better fish that was probably unaware of its predicament. Needless to say when it did realize something wasn't right, it went insane and attempted to get into every weed bed it passed by.

In the end though I did keep it under control long enough to slip the net under a very nice example of a Leam pike in its full summer finery. It wasn't until I lifted the fish out of the water and put it on the mat that I saw half the kids in the park had been attracted over by the sight of an angler actually catching something. Certainly they had never seen anything bigger than a roach caught out of the river and they were over the moon when I opened up its mouth to show them all its teeth.

I called it quits shortly after releasing the pike as I could see a number of canoes moving down the river. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the mornings fishing and by what I had seen of the Leams fish populations. Now I find myself wondering if I may have sold the Leam short thinking it the poor relation of the Avon; certainly as a predator venue it looks like it might have some mileage for a session here and there later in the year.