Friday, 22 May 2015

The things you see on the towpath.

What I thought I would see when I turned my head I could not possibly think. Only moments ago the quiet tranquility had been shattered by the single loudest splash I have heard on a canal. Part of me wanted to turn and witness a possible second jump from a wild giant golden carp. Another part of me didn't want to turn my head at all as the splash sounded big enough to be human and as I didn't fancy wading into the canal to try fish anyone out. Knowing my luck as well it was more likely the latter and given there were no walkers or boats around god only knows what had happened.

In the end I forced myself to look just in case I had to do my good Samaritan bit, but all I could see was waves emanating from the opposite bank a few hundred feet away, where it looked like someone had just chucked in a paving slab. Scanning the water I finally spotted a wake of something moving across the canal, what caused it though wasn't clear. Then after pinpointing the beginning of the wake I saw a brown head and instantly I concluded some stupid dog had dived in for some reason only known to stupid dogs. Now I could see me having to go down and try and help some soaking wet writhing dog up over the metal pilings that line this section of canal, as I have seen Jeff have to do every time Moll goes diving in after a coconut or something.

Walking closer my wet dog theory got blown out of the water as the wake turned towards me and I sighted what looked like female Muntjac deer powering along the canal. Any ideas of helping this thing out of the canal were shelved as I didn't fancy getting my teeth kicked in trying to be a Good Samaritan. 

 Instead I kept my eye on it as it swam down the canal till it came to a spot where the piling ended and the soaking doe could scramble up the muddy bank. Where the little deer came from was a bit of a mystery as this new bit of the Coventry canal I was fishing is right on the edge of an urban area. Given that the deer had jumped in on the side it had only meant it had actually come out of the housing estate. Mind you saying that I know the housing estate in question and given a choice between being stuck in there or jumping in the canal I know which I'd choose.

As I mentioned before it was a new or should I say newish bit of canal I was fishing. The last couple of weeks I've been checking out some new areas which as far as I can see are a bit under the radar. The section that for me will forever be known as the deer jump section is an odd one. It is quite a long walk away from any access point and for my part I have walked in from both directions and never quite got on either occasion to this bit. The fishing when I arrived was OK. Not knowing anything I was just trying to locate fish and after finding only two micro zander after fishing a large chunk of it I was thinking I wouldn't be coming back. That was until I fished under a couple of acorn trees hanging over my own bank. The first one I got absolutely turned over by a pike which grabbed an orange koypto in the edge and proceeded to shoot across the canal and bite through the leader. The shadows of the second tree were in feasted with small perch which were a sucker for a two inch curly tail grub being dobbed along the marginal shelf.

A few nights earlier I had done a short evening session on the Oxford on a new spot with some interesting results. With the temps high the surface was buzzing with insects and looking down the stretch I soon spotted lots of small fish lipping and topping. It wasn't hard to surmise the predators wouldn't be far away, which they weren't. A few small zander and perch is enough to give me confidence in the stretch and get me to return again.

Towards the end of the session I found the ever present mega snag with claimed lure leader and hook. I nearly went home at this point but I couldn't waste even ten minutes of light so I rigged up again just in case. Most of the water I had fished had been unusually deep but just as I came into a shallower bit something really smashed into the big wave curly tail I was retrieving. It turned out to be a really nice perch of well over a pound that was hunting in the half light.

Now I feel I have to eat my words, as only the other week I saying how bad I thought the fishing was on the Oxford and now here I am saying that actually there does seem to be a few nice fish about. My only defence is that I think the temperature has played a key role round these parts. Up until now it has seemed quite lifeless, but now I am seeing more and more activity as the temperature rises. Hopefully this might mean that the Oxford round here is more a summer and autumn target rather than a winter or spring one.

The highlight of my session was surprisingly not a fish or anything to do with a fish! On the day when I caught a huge zander a few months ago I got a momentary view of a rare little creature. I'd forgotten all about it in the fuss of the big zed, but what I saw on the Oxford reminded me of it.

Not long into the session I thought I saw something swimming across the canal. The first one I couldn't get a clear view of and the second wasn't much better. The third though seemed quite comfortable with me watching it. Turns out the more time you spend on the canals the more you see and on this occasion I spotted four different water voles busily working along several large reed beds along this new section.

Before anyone says it they were definitely water voles and not rats, as rats swim quicker through the water and have a pointy snout, whereas as the buoyant water vole has no need to swim quickly to prevent itself from sinking as it floats like a cork high in the water and has a blunt snout.

I will certainly be returning to both deer jump and vole city as both of them seem to have oodles of potential for pretty much all species and given enough time over different conditions I reckon one or both might well throw up nice fishy surprises.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Possibly a world first.

I have this feeling that I could settle down very well and be quite happy by the sea. I even suspect I could give in to the salt water and forget about freshwater fishing. Hence I was eager to get quickly back onto the canals rather than mooning around wishing I was still by the sea. Less than twenty four hours after being back as far away from the sea as you can get, I was walking the tow path of the Coventry wondering which of its many moods it might be in on this occasion.

In truth, with it being a bank holiday weekend once again the water was pretty much the same colour of Willy Wonkers chocolate river from the 1971 Gene Wilder film. I got my hopes up that it would fish well after an early hit from a small zander, but three hours later I was fish free and desperate. I could attribute the poor show to anything from water clarity to copious boat traffic, but I had this niggling thought that it was just one of those off days when the Coventry is as moody as a common garden teenager.

As the Coventry has a habit of being a bit like this I'd had the forethought to bring along a tub of lob worms I had been nursing for a few weeks. Some days fake bait or the way I am fishing fake bait just fails to do the job. Wiggling the worm on a drop shot rig though seems to be able to conjure up the goods when all else fails. I suspect that even though it maybe an unnatural movement the worm is doing, the natural sight of it combined with any scents released seems most of the time to get one over on even the wariest predators.

So there I found myself, working a drop shot rigged worm along the margins of the Coventry canal in a figure of eight motion as I covered the entire distance right back to the car at a snail's pace. I'd only walked ten or so feet when I got a pluck, probably from a small perch. Then after covering the water again I got hit again and this time I stuck into the fish sending it firing off like a bullet. It wasn't big and after an initial surge it turned round and came right in close. A flash of silver and it was a zander, until it gave up and came in where it quickly turned into a skimmer. This wouldn't have been the first skimmer I'd had on the drop shot, but it was the first silver bream I 'd had on it! Over sized eye, peachy fins and bigger scales than a skimmer. It was definitely a silver bream and quite possibly a world first on the drop shot rig to boot.

Less than half a day later after calling it on a dismal return I was on the same canal only in a different county. Turned out a night of no boats had increased the visibility from a few inches to a mere half a foot, but that was enough to get the zander on the move and hunting. Quite quickly I located a shoal of fish holding just inside the far margin shelf against some new reed shoots and the highly visible cannibal shad went about doing what it does best and luring them into attacking mode.

They weren't big, but as always what they lacked in size they made up in number. There were loads of vicious little zander holding all along the cover ready to attack. Although the sport I had on this occasion and many others is both enjoyable and rewarding, the small matter of average size has crept into my head. In short, where the hell are all the bigger fish hiding? Earlier in the year I had a few nice sized fish, but of late they don't seem to be showing at all. Whether it's just a natural bloom in the little ones or that the bigger fish aren't interested in going after the lure I am not sure. What I do know is every canal I seem to go to lately is riddled with zander from six ounces to two pounds.

I know it bodes really well for the future as the recruitment in the last few year classes of zander has been phenomenal from what I have seen. Barring any disasters the Midlands canal network could well see a golden age in zander fishing in five years time. For now though I think I either need to increase the size of lure I am fishing to try and deter some of the smaller or fish or possibly try to fish off the edge of such concentrations to try and locate any big old girls hunting the little ones. For now though I think looking to some old haunts that have in the past thrown up some great fish might be a suitable solution for me. If some of those fish have survived they could be very serious zander by now.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Light lure fishing adventures in brine.

I knew well  before I left that what I intended to do was a risk; who in their right mind heads towards the sea to fish with a light lure rod that weighed little more than four and a half ounces. Probably the same person that thought a suitable back rod would be a drop shot rod instead of a beach caster. As risky as it was, I had actually weighed up the pros and cons of what I was about to do and given that I wouldn't be frequenting the north sea beach heads, I felt I could get away with just a light lure set up for it was the ominously named but attractively boat lined Lake Loathing where I would be fishing.

Everything about the place seemed just right for me to spend any free time I could muster casting light lures around the plethora of tasty looking features that line its banks. Literally, it has every possible feature from skeletal hulls of ancient fishing trawlers right through to giant quays capable of berthing huge tugs. For me it was the nooks, crannies and hidey holes around the various walls that are accessible that drew me. 

I have read so much about light rock fishing (LRF) and the associated facets of light lure fishing, that I had almost convinced myself I could make this work in this massive body of brine, even though there are very few rocks to actually fish around. I have seen enough fish in this water to have sufficient confidence to commit to my theory. Not only was I convinced that there were fish present but I was also convinced I had sufficiently attractive micro lures in my lure box that I might well be able to pry out a few matching micro species using them. That's not to say I didn't top up with a few packs of the strangely attractive smelling Marukyu Isome from Agm products before I left.

So tooled up with a back pack full of lures and with nothing more than my now trusty Sonik Light tec rod in hand, I headed out to cement my place light lure fishing on the perilous cliffs faces of east Anglia. The water was clear, and perched atop a wall I could see the bottom with the aid of my Polaroids. I won't lie and say I wasn't a bit unsure on how to start, but close by and in sight seemed to make sense. After diligently working  a drop shot rigged section of Isome along at least fifty feet of wall with nothing more than a tiny little fish shooting out to look a my lure, I concluded to start casting tight to some of the features a little further out to try and get a pull. First retrieve and I was sure as shit is brown, something grabbed my lure. Over keen I cast again to the same spot and got the same reaction but no hook up. I slowed my retrieve next to see if it was a bit of time the culprit needed, but still no proper hit. It took me a few more casts before I spotted it following the lure before tailing off back to the cover. Next cast I drew them up in the water and got a good view of ten or more darting little fish, rather enamoured by the rhythmic movement of the Isome but were unable to get it in their mouth. It must have taken twenty more casts with an ever decreasing sized pieces of lure before I finally hooked one out.

I wasn't exactly sure of what it was at first but after examining the delicate protruding mouth I concluded it had to be a smelt. They seemed to be lingering around any available cover, probably for their own safety in truth. But something I learnt about salt water species a long time ago is that they are all pretty much predators. Straight away I began focusing on working small sections of lure tight under or around any cover I could access and the results were intriguing. After only moments of the lead making bottom a few swift jerks of the rod would draw in a shoal of smelts and then the aggressive little munchers would dart in flashing and nipping at the lure.

My hooking rate was very poor to start with, but after rummaging around in my back pack I found a spool of 4lb fluorocarbon and a packet of size 14 Drennan paste hooks. With my new set up I was banging out smelt like a Trent trotter bagged silvers back in the day. By the time I had caught enough savage little smelts to start a Spanish restaurant I realized that not only was the entirety of this lake paved with smelt, but also that it was going to be impossible to get through them to any other fish.

Next time out I had thought hard about the smelts and concluded to scale up rigs so as to hopefully discriminate against them. Interestingly I actually kept the rig to compare with my new scaled up drop shot rig. Everything went up in size so as to keep the rig balanced and even though I have shown the weights right under the hooks, both rigs were actually fished at between six and ten inches off the bottom.

Next I began targeting slightly more open water. In truth I was looking for any species other than smelt, although I had no idea what might be lurking around. Eventually I got free of the silver savages, but now I was getting literally no bites at all. That was until I cast alongside a fenced off old jetty. Half way through a slow retrieve of a small Hart 2 ball worm I thought I hooked a snag. That was until it powered off to the left! Whatever I had hooked was powerful and on my light lure outfit it felt massive. After really giving me a run around proving how much fun catching sea fish can be on light gear, my first ever drop shot caught flounder came fighting all the way to the surface. 

After a modicum of success I was galvanised to travel up and fish a nice looking area of harbor alongside the local ASDA store. I was really confident that being as close to the sea as I was that the pilings would be racked out with all the common culprits like pouting and whiting. Even hitting it perfectly on hide tide and the slack water I got little more interest from the fish than one slight shuddering hit. On land though my presence had been noted by a different sort of predator. This time it was the plump day glow coated security type who informed me that I was on private property and politely informed me to sling my hook.

Back crawling into every spot I could to cast a lure I did my best to avoid the smelts. Every now and again it was good to get one just to boost my confidence, but the reality is that they are terminally stupid and go belly up very easily when caught, and feeding the seagulls on my catch is not something I find enjoyable.

Eventually whilst fishing a harbor within a harbor I hooked a second better sized flounder whilst casting a bigger rig around and juddering a full Isome over a muddy bank just beyond a bed of bladder wrack, using my Spro drop shot rod.

These flatties fight so hard on this light gear that I can honestly say that even though I have had loads of them in the past fishing from the beach on heavy gear I have never truly appreciated how hard fighting a species they are. The way they hit the lure is amazing; if they see it and want it then there is no two ways about it, it's going in that strange sideways on mouth. The only disappointing thing I can say it that I couldn't find more of them during my time casting into the brine.

It didn't end there though! On my final outing to Lake Loathing I arrived at high tide expecting to see clear water only to find the lake in one area very coloured up. In the back of my mind I had been thinking, why I had not seen any bigger predators mooching around after these smelts. The moment I saw the coloured water I suspected something was afoot. Tentatively working a rig around I scanned the water for any signs of movement. When I looked down towards my rig I watched open mouthed as a bass of two or three pounds causally cruised by. It took only the slightest bit of notice of my worm before melting away into the coloured water. In a panic and flapping I searched my back pack for anything that looked like a smelt and luckily came up with a three inch long shallow diving plug which was soon hanging from my line as I scanned the water for fish.

Eventually they showed twice as far out as I could cast in a shallow bay chasing smelts out of the water. In absolute agony I watched as the moved round the water consistently out of range until they just stopped surfacing; I had a feeling I knew where they might pop out again and I immediately headed to a spot where I might be able to steal a cast at them. I was ten feet above the water scanning the area where I thought they might come into the second bay, but I couldn't see a thing. I was about to go back to the first spot when I looked down and a shoal of sprats moved like a cloud beneath my feet and three good sized bass charged into the cloud. The whole scene moved to my right, I cast in front of them and reeled the small silver plug wobbling under the water towards them. The bass never gave the lure a second look as it passed by them. The smelts soon disappeared and so did the bass. As for me I worked the whole area ragged with that plug hoping that one of those bass might have gone after it but it was to no avail. That was it, my briney light lure adventure was over in a crescendo of failure. I had seen the ultimate UK sport fish hunting and had a chance to try and catch one but it turned out on this occasion there was no substitute for the real thing.

As for whether I would take my light lure gear to the coast again that is a no brainer. A couple of flounder a bucket load of smelt sand a single shot after some bass is a successful first lure fishing trip to the sea as far as I am concerned, and you never know what species will be around later in the year.