Wednesday, 31 December 2014

I want to believe.

My mind and all possible senses screamed to me that the fish I hooked on the drop shot just in front of that platform has to have been a carp! After all it surged off across the wind-whipped commercial pool like a marlin, and perch just don't do that do they? But there remains this niggle in my mind,  fed by the sight of two regurgitated prawns spiralling slowly into the depths moments after the hook was thrown. I mean in all my years of fishing and catching literally thousands of the dammed things, I can never once recall seeing a carp vomit up food in a fight. Perch though... I can't count the amount of times I've seen worm and maggot floating around in swirled waters when playing perch. That's what is killing me, the sight of two sinking prawns, and the thought that if it was a perch on my line it was by far the biggest, heaviest and hardest fighting one I've ever encountered.

Really this was to be my last look at this pool. I'd fished it several times and apart from the plethora of mid to high twos, I'd only seen a glimpse of what I thought was a bigger fish. Sure, the rumour mills spat out stories of loads of threes and the odd four but in reality if that was the case one should have turned up by now, with me catching so many twos. Soon enough the New year would roll in and with it would arrive sheets of ice and hard frosts so I'd be off dace or pike fishing and I'd already made the decision to not come back.

So there I was on my last go in a new swim not getting any bites. I was the only angler fishing the big reed lined bay even though there were three others perch fishing up in the ever popular area by the island over the pool. Having never fished this area before I was drawn to it by the wind hammering into the bank where I was pitched up. But so far my hunch to fish this end of the lake was proving fruitless.

With my float motionless under the tree to my right it seemed the perfect time to begin exploring the open bay with the drop shot. After fan casting back and forth a few times over the bay I began to feel like I might be pissing in the wind trying to catch what was probably only handful of perch amongst a trillion other fish. It was around then that I spotted my float do a bob. Rod in hand I waited as the float sank away under the clear water. Satisfyingly my strike was met by head shaking not the dull mindless power of a winter carp and  moments later a well marked long mid two perch lay on my unhooking mat.

That was one of only two bits of action I got all day. Sure the roach finally homed in on my severed worm but the random pecks translated to little more than ripples emanating from my chubber.  I did still have my drop shot rod set up and even though I had little confidence in it actually hooking a fish after seeing how covered in leeches the perch was, I still endeavoured to make the effort and fish it as a second option.

With the wind beginning to cut through my layers of clothing I had retreated largely into my coat. As I watched the float bobbing in the ripple I held my drop shot on a shot line and bounced it up and down right in front of me. I really wasn't concentrating and that's why it took a while to process the hard thump that reverberated up my line. When I did figure out it was a fish I lifted the rod and whatever it was stripped easily thirty feet of line from the spool. Getting a handle on the situation and the fish, I applied pressure which turned the powerful fish around and got the upper hand. Then it shot towards the only other possible snag in the swim; my line! That was hauled out quick sharp as I tried to stop the fish going into some tree roots. Before I knew it the fish was back literally exactly where I hooked it where it banged around and threw my rig flying out of the water. I watched in horror as the water swirled in all directions and fish got away unseen. The only thing that remained was the sight of two prawns swirling down to the bottom after being ejected by the fish, just like my hook.

Sitting back on my seat I looked at the hook for signs of some fault by way of answer, but couldn't find one. After feeling such power I reasoned to myself that it had to have been a carp from the way it surged off. Those prawns though just didn't seem right... It couldn't have been could it... A massive perch... No, it had to be a carp. Please let it have been a carp...

Friday, 19 December 2014

Puffed up power rangers.

Less than a week ago I regaled a tome where I fished on a perfectly beautiful English estate lake. This write up was to be assigned to equally beautiful but much wilder waterway, but the afore mentioned wildness is partly the reason why it is not about the trip I so much wanted to make.

The hope was to be writing about fishing a winter shrouded river Wye set deep in a frosty valley for naive barbel on a private salmon beat, or angling after pike so big and mean they would deter even the most confident Jack Russell’s from paddling, evaporated in the days of peaky weather that preceded our intended departure.

We watched as the clouds drove in off the west coast and after spilling over the hills of Wales depositing their contents in a sweeping motion, covering the most of the west of the country including the Wye catchment basin. Knowing full well what was about to happen I watched in resigned horror as the Environment Agency’s river levels web page indicated the river constantly swelling. If this depth increase was to happen on my native Avon then a large part of Warwickshire’s population would have quickly become snorkel dependent, but on the Wye a rise from 0.63m to 3.96m is seen as a mere spot of extra water. It did however put paid to any barbel fishing whilst submerging our banker predator spot and leading ultimately to the cancellation of our much anticipated session.

The local river went much the same way and with me trying my hardest to leave the canals alone, this cajoled me into once again thinking about how big I suspect the perch on a target commercial lake could possibly grow. Up until now the temperature had proven prohibitive as the pools resident carp were far too keen to feed on in the mild weather. However with the rains accompanying the sub-zero flush of cold, the commercial seemed the best use of my time.

To say it was a culture shock going from a picture postcard Estate Lake nestled in a deer park, to a comparatively juvenile puddle that was half inhabited by match anglers all wearing matching clobber that made them rather reminiscent of a bunch of rowdy puffed up power rangers, is a bit of an understatement. I was lucky when I arrived and found the area I fancied was not only free of ice but was also free of the match that was assigned to fish the much more uniformed opposite bank. So I set about quickly digging in and baiting up close to a bank side reed bed.

My morning did not go well at all. After settling in I waited and waited for even the slightest movement of my float, which never came I should say. Whilst I waited the match arrived and after ranting and raving about the ice from the car park they did eventually make their way to the pegs where after bashing the just-a-bit-too-thick ice with all sorts of devices, took it in turns to throw what looked like a chunk of metal tied to a rope through the ice and into the shallow water.

It took half an hour for the carnage to end, ten minutes for the ghostly creaking of ice to subside and the ripple to settle. After such a stealthy display I watched slack jawed as my compadres began the banter at the top of their voices over the lake. It was about then that I realised that if I thought I was going to catch a giant stripy in these conditions I was as deluded as my puffed up power ranger friends over the lake and that if I paid for the honour of fishing on this pool on this day I was a full blown idiot. Needless to say five minutes later I was in the car with the heater on maximum rubbing my lip with a make shift comforter and Classic Fm soothing me as I drove away. For a moment I did ponder another pool but the idea of more ice and possibly more people went some way to the shelving of that idea. So sitting thawing in the extreme heat of the car I concluded my only option to put a bend in rod was to ignore my previous statement and head back to a local bit of canal.

With nothing more than my rucksack, a net and my trusty light lure outfit I trudged the tow path of a very heavily coloured section of canal, and straight away I felt comfortable and a lot more confident. Even with water like hot chocolate in front of me I just picked out the gaudiest offering in my bag and went with it. What do you know the ever faithful canal never let me down…

Even as cold as the water was the resident perch were in the mood and no matter how small they could not resist a tiny fluorescent pink shad fished on a 1gram jig head being bounced all over the trench. I even removed a large amount of the snags from the stretch which will be good for when I return in the future.

After moving further down the canal and out of the wind the zander made an appearance. First a trio of zedlets ripped into my tiny lure before zigg zagging off in a fury as they seem to always do and eventually I got a much bigger thump when I contacted a bigger and far more vigorous, yet very leach covered, example.

I think in the end I was just glad to be in the solitude of the canal after such an awful hour or so back on a commercial. Although I know I have to go back after that monster predator I know lurks in this popular pond, I get the feeling I might well be checking with the owner before I grace its banks again to make sure there is at least no puffed up power ranger matches on when I plan to go again as quite honestly mine and their ideas of a good mornings fishing is definitely two different things.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Lured by man made water.

Time is my enemy at the moment or lack of to be more specific. I mean I could fill every day between now and Christmas just fishing all the stretches of canal I want to go drop shotting on never mind everything else. But like most people I don't have the even one seventh of the free time every week I'd like to have to go fishing as earning a crust kind of gets in the way. Hence as we all have to I have prioritize what I want to do with my valuable fishing time. The canals of late have been the dominant target venues, but I know other things are on the horizon so for now they will have to be left alone. Though saying that, I did squeeze in one last day of canal drop shotting in on a stretch I used to fish years ago and the results were quite promising.

From the off, fishing round structure and features proved to be the order of the day. First chuck in and my Fox spiky shad got nobbled by a small zander and on the second cast the lure got literally ripped off the hook. After a few fish hitting in a frenzy, the zeds shut up shop. A quick change to a slow moving actual worm soon rooted out a nice perch which was lingering tight to the concrete margins.

It was the same story all day as I worked along the canal; I'd find a tasty looking spot fish it, get a few hits and maybe a fish or two then off I'd go on to the next one. The only thing was the general stamp of the fish was a little small considering the amount I caught. I landed easily ten or more zander and twice as many perch, but the all the zander were between 1-2lb and the perch were all 6oz-1lb. Now there isn't anything wrong with having a load of fun and a stack of action, but really I would have expected something bigger to have shown up somewhere in amongst that many fish and worryingly I know there are bigger specimens of both on this stretch so maybe I am doing something wrong...

That was it though for the canals for a little while as I had so many different types of venue I wanted to get on and the next was a real classical corker, and boy oh boy did I want to chuck a lure or two into this predator haven. A few years ago I fished a little known estate lake hidden deep in the Warwickshire countryside that as it turned out was stuffed with Jack pike. That first time I quite literally ran out of bait chucking dead fish around, so this time went back with nothing more than a light lure rod and enough lures to choke half the pike in the county.

It was a perfect winter's day to fish such wonderful venue. As we the crossed the rusting old fence into the ageing estate gardens and walked down through ankle deep leaves towards the lake the woods were alive with gaudy pheasants foraging under the alien pines. The cloud was clearing and the sun lit up the house atop the lawn over the lake. Bar the hundred or so Canadian geese ripping the well manicured lawn up over the water and a family of swans it seemed that we would be honoured, and have this wondrous lake to ourselves for the day.

We actually circumvented the lake and followed a small feeder stream through the trees to begin our fishing on an acute bend where a few hundred years of steady water flow have carved a bend into a deep holding spot. The water as predicted by my accomplice Rob was sluggish and slow with a large mat of debris collected where the branches of the ash that dominates the bend dipped into the stream. The sight of that bend alone would make any perch angler go weak at the knees. It had to be fate that I was here and I still had a drop shot rig set up ready to drag a worm down to its doom. It took the slightest of a flick to send my rig within inches of the debris and joyfully I watched as the braid spilled endlessly from my reel and informing me of how perfectly deep this swim was.

I couldn't have twitched that worm more than a hand full of times before something had it off the hook in a flash. The second cast was much the same apart from I did feel the tell tale vibration of a small stripy for a moment. After a fruitless retrieve I found that the inside line directly under my feet was even deeper than the outside of the bend. I could even feel some tree roots in one area which I did my best to avoid but target if that makes sense. It was whilst doing so that the first of a trio of small but perfectly formed perch zipped out and smashed my worm. Even convinced that there must be a bigger perch lingering in the shade of the tree roots somewhere I had an entire estate lake calling to me like a siren, so I reluctantly left the bend in the river thinking I might return at the end of the day.

The water of the main lake very clear as I expected it might be and I had always known it was going to be a case of going through half the lure box to find which fake folly might spur the pike to strike. In hindsight it was totally the wrong decision to chuck out a drop shot rig into this pike infested water. On the very first cast my line suddenly began moving in a very odd angle after something grabbed my lure. After the line fell slack I retrieved nothing more than two thirds of my leader and the hook. The lure and the weight as well as the other third of the leader were all long gone. Rob got the next bit of action as he retrieved a vigorous little roach he caught on a pinch of bread and the water not far from the bank erupted. I rushed to tie on a trace and rummaged around in my box to find something that would float and could work around mid water.

After settling on a small plug I raised three strikes and good hit before playing a excitable Jack into the edge before it threw the lure back at me by thrashing around in the edge. But that was just the start of things for the day. As we worked away around the lake I went through a whole variety of different colours and patterns before settling on a top three productive lures for the day.

The old school but ever reliable silver spinner worked best in the sun flashing away on a fast retrieve mid water and drew quite a bit of attention from some really tiny pike. I had hoped that it might attract a monster perch but they proved very absent through the day. The floating and super bright perch pattern mini fat plug seemed to wind the fish up into a frenzied attack, but as much as they went for that they seemed to miss it most times. The real winner and number one lure was actually a bit of bastard combination in the end. I had picked up a pack of E-sox paddle tails in the ubiquitous pearl and red pattern, and although they are designed to be fished on a drop shot rig I found they were much more productive at hooking these jacks fished on a 10gm jig head whilst being lifted and dropped on the retrieve.

As the day drew to a close we focused on an area where we had seen prey fish topping and it was here that the pike went into overdrive hitting my lure every other cast. In fact in a mad fifteen minutes I had three fish and six hits in as many casts. Although there was nothing bigger than five or six pounds all day these little predators were great fun on my light lure outfit.

I did in the end follow that stream back up to the bend as the sun dipped behind the woods. Before leaving I had dumped some left over chopped worm alongside the old ash's roots. The thought of what might have been drawn in by or whose appetite might have been peaked by the oozing worms had played on my mind all day.

Leaning against the trunk I flicked the rod sending a newly tied drop shot rig half way across the river. Nothing seemed to notice it fluttering across the flow and into the depths below the tree, so I began to bounce it round temptingly around in front of the roots in a figure of eight. The thump that got sent back up the tight line was epic and it really got my heart beating, but whatever did it seemed not to hold onto the bait. Not knowing what had happened I reeled up a ruined worm which looked as if it had been through a mangle. With a fresh one hooked I wasted no time casting and instead dropped it back on the spot. The next and identical hit came on the drop and also resulted into no fish. All became clear though when I once again retrieved the worm for checking and a pike of about five pounds followed the worm up like a Polaris missile before turning in a splash back to its haunt under the tree.

It was then I figured my attempts to lure one type of predator had not been as precise as I hoped and the likelihood of hooking and keeping on any big perch might be a little hampered. Carrying on though, I did again hook the pike which after smashing up the entire swim threw the hook directly up into the bows of the tree and ended my session. I will however be back to have another go after a monster estate lake stripy as we have it on good authority that there are some true beasts lurking in this lake and apparently they are rather partial to a spinner just as I suspected the might be.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Unpredictable as ever.

The image of an angry zander flaring its gills and surging away attached to my line fed my mind for a week as my body operated on auto pilot completing five days of work drudgery. I couldn't wait to get back onto the Coventry to jiggle some half worms around and try to entice some more of those over-keen silver predators, and why shouldn't I! After all, what could change in a week...

The answer to that previous statement is, a lot! A lot can change in week or more specifically how a canal is fishing can change a lot in a week. I went round to Jeff's on my way to the cut and as luck would have it he too was on his way out after zander. He though had fished the canal for two days prior and was full of bad tidings and woe, for his efforts on the previous two days he had returned exactly nothing. He had however watched a chap getting bites in one swim and that was where he was heading. 

Although others areas called me I went with Jeff's local knowledge and whilst he offered a couple of dead baits on the far bank, I baited a spot in the margin and went about repeatedly lifting my rod gently so as to send my gyrating worm into a hypnotic dance not unlike that of a miniature hula girl. Not long in I got a quick tug I suspected was down to a small perch. It took a fair old bit of work and time before I finally hit into a fish by way of a nice pound plus perch. Then not long later, a second slightly smaller shoal mate obliged me.

The zander though were conspicuous by their absence. As I made clear to Jeff on the bank I have seen definitive evidence that small roaming zander are particularly susceptible to this worm wiggling and if I haven't caught any of them it seemed quite likely that the entire zander population could be on an off day. So we moved on driven by the hope that it was just this area that wasn't fishing. After fishing another swim where I caught only a micro perch we pushed onto a banker of a spot, and on the way I did bait a couple of spots as insurance should we draw a blank at the banker.

I think we both had a gut feeling that the even the banker wouldn't pay off on this session and after a long walk and not much fishing we turned back. One of the spots I had baited previously was the area me and Rob used to fish years ago and I was keen to give it a whirl as the sun sank off the water. I worked the area over well for a while as I chatted to Jeff with nothing to show for my effort. That was until I put my rod down on the bank with the bait still on the spot whilst I looked for something in my rucksack.

More intent on trying to find something deep in the overstuffed bag I missed the first few twitches in the slack braided line. It took a real twitch for me to catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye. Luckily the rod was right beside me on the floor and before the line went tight I struck. I do remember half laughing and thinking some silly little perch had eaten this nub of worm hanging off some really stiff fluorocarbon. That was until I spotted a big silver flank in the murky water. If you’re thinking I had finally caught a zander then you would be quite wrong as I had managed to land my second decent roach on a drop shot rig. Although this one at least didn't take a moving bait like the last one.

It was by sheer persistence that Jeff managed to scratch not two runs by fishing far closer to the far bank than I am sure most pole anglers would have felt comfortable with. The first tepid movement of his float fizzled into nothing, then a definite run came to nothing before his float did a proper dally across the surface towards a snag, which did result in the one and only zander of the session.

Now I know it could've been said that it might have just been a case of us not giving the zander exactly what they wanted on the day, but in reality I don't think that was the case on this occasion. Both me and Jeff with literally thousands of hours of canal zander fishing experience could barely raise more than a couple of half-hearted moments of interest by fishing two proven methods in what weren't really bad conditions. Now if I hadn't of had any interest from the perch I would have said that the entire fish population had shut down, but that wasn't the case, it was definitely just the zeds that had gone off the feed. So now I suppose it becomes a question of what is it that zander are so sensitive to that everything else isn't? It would be only too easy to point the finger at the light levels, if it wasn't the fact light levels on the canal seem to not really apply as the water on canals is so heavily coloured year round. The temp too I suppose could be a suspect if it wasn't that air temperature changes take prolonged periods of time to effect change on water temps and we hadn't seen any prolonged periods of cold. 

Now I could probably go through every possible effecting factor and rabbit on for pages about wind, barometric pressure, moon phases, rainfall, feeding cycles, the lot. But in truth after fishing for canal zander for well over ten years, my experienced opinion on what happened on this past week is this; as with all aspects of zander fishing and zander feeding there are literally no hard and fast rules and the damn things are the most unpredictable fish in the canal as far as I am concerned. It's quite likely that next time I go back to this spot they might well be feeding on the surface in clear water on a bright sunny day taking bloody bread. So I suppose the only thing I can do when I go pack a few slices of bread.