Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A leisurely start.

Just lately I've been a little more reserved when out fishing. Previously I would charge forth into the dark, desperate to get on a particular swim to execute my preconceived plan. Now I am in no doubt that this gung-ho attitude has paid me back in spades, but I am also sure that in doing so I have passed a million roses I should have stopped to smell, if you get what I mean. Maybe it's an impending change in my life that has done it, but I have inadvertently begun to appreciate things a little more lately.

This 16th for example was far more sedate than normal and certainly ended up being a little more satisfying than its predecessors. Though I must say that having an entire estate lake to myself might well have added to my Zen-like state as I ambled leisurely along its banks and wandered through its wood pondering a cast here or there.

I've never seen this particular lake in its full June glory and I must admit it was a total shock. Through the autumn and winter the lake itself seems practically barren against the outlandish Gothic back drop. Now though in the summer, the lily festooned pool makes the Capability Brown bridge seem almost dowdy and no angler in their right mind could focus on the stone work, when from beyond peeps siren like lily pads floating on what must be fish laden water.

Even in my relaxed state there was still bit of a fly in my ointment, by way of the poor clarity of this normally gin clear water. The previous weeks deluge had filled the stream that fed the lake full of mucky water and I had the distinct feeling that this would prove detrimental to pulling a few lures around, as the pike in this pool are definitely sight hunters. Even with enough time for the rivers and the stream that feeds this pool to clear, the main body of the lake was stained by the murk suspended in the water. Maybe a week or two later it would have cleared, but for this June 16th at least it would seem I was going to have to make do. But! Saying that it's not that hard to make do with a place like this.

Initially I did actually sit for a while under the leaves of an acorn tree and cast a worm alongside a small patch of lily pads where I'd seen what I was convinced were tench bubbles rising. Two bream and nice roach later, the early cloud had burnt away and with it any chance of hooking a virgin tench. Not long later I sat on a bench which gives an impressive vista of the water and pondered... 

I was not in a rush and not inclined to frantically chase after anything, so instead I sat and watched.  With little more than birds and trees to distract me I watched the water and quickly what was going in the muddy water became clear. Directly in front of me a small predator, either a tiny jack or angry perch was chasing fry in the shallows. Towards the centre of the lake a huge shoal of rudd or roach lipped away at the surface, scattering every time the shadow of a bird passed over. Up at the place where river entered the lake and ran clearer I could see fish scattering every now and again, indicating that pike were held up there and that was probably where I should fish. Time and time again the fish broke the surface, scattering out of the water to try and escape. I must have watched from up the lake for ages before my trance was broken by the wondrous sight of a huge forgotten golden carp leaping from the water. I knew there was carp in this pool, but never suspected them to grow quite so large given its shallow depth.

I stalked round trying to spot that carp in the muddy water, but the lack of visibility hid it very well. In the end I found myself peering into the pads at the top of the lake where loads of pike were hanging under the pads in the shade. First cast with a small silver diving plug and the water erupted as a jack swiped at the lure, missing by inches. Next cast got hit by a different fish which barely weighed more than the lure. After combing around a bit I got a savage hit just as the lure wiggled by a small weed bed. This fish though only a little bigger, went mental, clearing the entire swim of fish as it did. 

I suppose it might sound odd, but at this point I walked away, and by walked away I mean, I went home. Previously on the first day of the season I've been out before sun up and home after sun down and truthfully I have felt burnt out by lunch time. Not on this occasion though! After stopping off to have a look at the river at a few stretches on the way back I went home had a civilized meal, shower and hung out with JB until the sun got low in the sky. Refreshed mentally and physically I then spent the rest of the day catching loads perch on the Oxford canal just to fill my soul with even more first day joy. And as if to end the day on a perfect note a big old Sargent snatched my chartreuse paddler grub as it dropped back to bottom on what was to be my last cast of the first day.

Friday, 19 June 2015

A bit of a huzzah.

Although I will be back very soon I fancied a bit of last huzzah on the canal. It's the opening of the season which inclined me toward one. With time constricting on me quickly with a baby due in four weeks time, I really want to dedicate some of my valuable time to a few lakes and rivers which I want to fish before junior pops out. I suppose it's a bit like that saying of you don't know what you've got till it's gone in a way, but I know what I have got and also know it will be gone or at least hampered quite soon.

If someone said to me I could only fish one last time on a canal before I die, I would chose my secret squirrel hole on the grand union. The big perch seem to have dropped in numbers a bit or maybe they've become clued up or quite possibly they have just moved on. Whatever has happened it is still as far as I am concerned the best canal fishing I know round these parts and I really thought that given I was taking a load of fresh Canadian lob worms and a float rod I stood a good chance of getting into those big perch.

As this blog has pretty much been all lure fishing lately, my change of tactic might seem a little strange. First I suppose I should say that part of my inclination towards lures was born out of the impending arrival in few weeks. My theory is that should any opportunities arise to get out once junior is here, having a simply light bait free set-up ready to go might mean I could be out fishing rather than trying to figure out bait. The other main reason is that as I have discovered since really getting into it, is that it's fun! Though this still doesn't explain why I, as a newly converted lure chucker, was going fishing with a pot rammed full of massive worms.

Well in truth I am developing a distinct feeling that the canal fish aren't feeling that aggressive towards lures right now. I reckon that there's a good chance that with the glut of warm weather there's loads on the menu and unlike the colder months they can frankly eat what they want. Though this was my main angle on this angling session, there also always remains the idea that the big roach might show and they have in the past been a sucker for a lob worm or half. Saying all this that doesn't mean I didn't take a lure rod along with me to the canal just in case and I was lucky I did!

Dug in the tow path way before the boaters began moving, my float settled just over the nearside marginal shelf with the worm settling just right, two inches over depth. A few lob worms were broken up and flicked in to sink to the bottom and serve as subtle yet positive attractors to what I hoped might be patrolling the drop off.

The early part of the morning really turned out to be a real numbers game. I was getting regular attention, but with the sort ungrateful attitude that would make a canal match angler sick with anger, they were all the wrong bloody fish. Turns out my few broken lobs were enough to hold a shoal of skimmer bream for well over forty minutes, in which time I landed no less than eight of them between 10oz and 2lb along with a load of small perch.

Finally I kissed enough frogs and something a bit special showed up. My strike was met by neither inane flopping of a bream or the powering around of a perch, but instead a dogged vibration of a big roach came juddering up the line. Soon enough I slipped the net under a pristine canal roach which looked closer to two pounds than one.

Even after catching such an amazing roach I was still a little perplexed on the whereabouts of the bigger Sergeant's. I had landed quite few up to half a pound, along with the odd near pounder thrown in the mix, but as yet the big ones were certainly rather absent. The boats on the other hand were really getting going and becoming a regular little convoy. Knowing my session would soon be cut short I moved over to the trusty lure rod to see if that could spark them into action.

After trying a variety of small jigs and all of my first choice lures I surmised maybe a bold statement was needed. I often get a bit like this when no smaller lures seem to work and end up coming to the conclusion that I need be at the total opposite end of the spectrum and fish something big.

On this occasion I opted for a three inch AGM crayfish lure that when fished by bouncing back in tiny little hops looks exactly like a scared cray trying to escape. It wasn't until I ran it right alongside the spot where I had been depositing the broken worms that I got some interest. At first I thought I detected a bit of pluck and in response slowed the retrieve and increased the pause in between movements. Sure enough only moments later I never felt the jig hit bottom and instinctively struck thinking I might be in. It was definitely a perch and it was definitely going mental.

These summer perch are long, lean and fight three times harder than they do in the winter. Even living in summer canal that has the clarity of a cup of horlicks it still retained some quite vivid colours. What made this even better and a fitting last fish for this huzzah session was catching on a crayfish lure, especially as I suspect that the crayfish have a lot to do with this sudden increase of perch size on the Midlands canals.

Friday, 12 June 2015

A shock hit.

Something I have come to realise about lure fishing is that is not as easy as some people would have you believe. It is often billed as a simple and fun method where you simply rock up at a bit of water and start firing your brand new lure around and massive predators crawl up your line. In response to that I wonder how many not very old lure outfits end up forgotten under a pile of other rods after their owner has concluded that "they ain't no preds in my local bit of cut, otters probably et em all" and this why I am sure that a lot of the lure rods sold in the last few years are probably state of the art garden canes right now..

Like all aspects of angling the most vital weapon in your arsenal is knowledge, be it learnt or gathered. This is something I have been spending a bit of time on myself lately. Firstly by going to few new stretches, having a go and taking the outcome on the nose be it good or bad, and secondly going back to old venues where I know there used to be good fish and plying my new methods there.

It was on an old venue where I met Mick off of Piscatorial Quagswagging. We had been had trying to get together for a session for a little while to go to a bit of cut which I hold in very high esteem. The bit of canal in question through what I suspect is largely neglect, grows most species quite large and as yet had only received minimal attention on my part with regards to lure fishing.

At first I thought it was going to be a real go'er when whilst waiting for Mick to arrive I had a quick chuck under the bridge near the car park and hooked a nice looking perch first run through with a brown paddler grub. After that I got even more attention working the lure close the concrete edges of the bridge. Beyond that though the sport was a little less than spectacular as we worked our way along the canal. Usual hot spots seemed either devoid of fish or their occupants were reluctant to have a go.

We fished a few different spots before we finally got some interest. The first fish to show was a small zander which found the dead bait I was fishing right in the centre of the channel on my sleeper rod. Then a short while later a second slightly bigger small zander lashed out at my savage gear clown cannibal shad as I hopped up the marginal shelf.

The highlight of the morning came a little later when I received the single hardest hit I have ever had on a lure. Not long after changing over to a 3" white curly tail grub I got the almighty smack as the lure passed the half way point of the canal. It was one of those hits when there seems to be no time between the first moment when you realise something has taken the lure and the rod being bent double, clutch screaming.

Honestly I thought I had latched into a big pike that was soon going to give me a right old turning over, but with the rod bent low I realised this was not the immovable force I first thought it was. Yes, the fish was giving me some stick but it certainly wasn't a massive weight. Then all too soon a familiar sensation came vibrating up the rod and I realised what it might be. Moments later it surfaced and I was proved right! It was an eel and my lure was hanging out its mouth, bold as brass.

This wasn't the end of it as the eel soon dived again and found a snag on the bottom to curl around. Steady resistance put pay to that escape. The second time it dived though I could feel it writhing back up the line as all little eels do and that's when the fight changed. By now Mick was ready with his net (thanks Mick for taking that slimy net).As it went in the net it looked a bit odd and we saw why the fight had changed. The little sod had only managed to unhook itself as it rolled around the snag and in doing so do had forced the hook into its own tail.

I don't think I have ever been so happy to catch a little eel before. But happy as I was with the capture, I wasn't about to get in a right old state trying to get a picture of me and it together so instead opted for a sedate net shot.

Mick though had other ideas and inclined me to make a tit of myself trying to wrangle an angry slimy eel for a couple of trophy shots. I have a bit of form in regards to hilarious eel photos and these ones didn't disappoint. So here I am totally owning the eel trophy shot and showing exactly how to be the boss of eel handling.

The reason though that I am so chuffed with this capture is that it adds another species to the list of fish I have had on a lure this year. Along with all the normal suspects like pike, perch and zander, I have also had bream, chub, roach, flounder, smelt and now an eel. Although not set in stone this is kind of developing in a bit of a personal challenge to see how many species I can rack up before the end of the year. I reckon all I need to do is put the lures in the right places and I think I could provoke some very interesting battles.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Rehabilitation sessions.

It always amazes me how quickly the countryside colours change in the warmer months. Through winter it always looks similar and even in differing light the fields and such are really just different shades of the same faded yellows and brown for months on end. In the summer though you can turn your back and look again to see the same vista looking totally anew.

In two weeks the land that surrounded the vole city stretch of the Oxford canal was nothing more than the new fresh green summer green. Now though as I stumbled along the bank, the waterway was flanked by meadows raging with so many butter cups that the horses walking among them looked like characters from a Doctor Zeus cartoon.

If that wasn't enough, the field opposite had turned from Warwickshire mud red with a hint of green into the dream scene from Ridley Scott's Gladiator. I half expected to see Russell Crowe walking wistfully amongst it fingling the wheat sheaves as he went.

Really I wanted to have returned before now, but nine days ago whilst putting out the bin I twisted in a odd way and something in my back went pop. Ever since then I have been delicately trying to rehabilitate myself from feeling like my top and bottom half of my body were not attached correctly to being able to hobble more than thirty feet in one go.

With only minimal recovery time off work and one very sedate session where I fished within eye shot of the bridge where my car was parked in a stance not that dissimilar to someone who had had an accident in their underpants, I now felt ready to return again. 

We all take walking for granted if you ask me and walking on an uneven tow-path with any element of a bad back basically wheedles out any weakness in your body, trust me. The previously mentioned session I barely got anywhere, and even with four more days of recovery I had only walked a very short way before my altered gate began to tell on my right hip.

Trying to forget any discomfort, I went about casting methodically along the reed lined bank trying to locate any predators lurking along the camouflaging reeds. I have to admit that I was under the impression that with the summers arrival the predatory fish would become vicious weapons of mass consumption and that they would be crawling up my line. The truth I am finding is not quite what I thought it would be! In fact although I do believe the fish are more aggressive, they firstly have more actual prey to become preoccupied with and secondly seem to be quite spread out on the canals. All of which adds up to summer lure fishing on the canal possibly being harder than winter fishing as far see at the moment. Maybe it will get easier as the time passes or maybe it's a case of tuning in to summer feeding fishes habits. 

Whatever the reason for the current state of the fishing I was in no doubt after an hour of casting that I wasn't doing something right, so quickly tied up a drop shot rig and began dobbing the ever reliable Wave tikki monkey along the near side margin and finally got a result by way of a chunky hard fighting perch. 

With the dusk approaching I left vole city and headed down to the spot where I had hobbled to a few days earlier. Although on that occasion I had fallen foul of the blank I did see at least three attacks on what looked like small roach that were taking something of the surface. I knew there were predators present and I hoped that arriving just before the witching hour would let me get the best of the area.

It took some time to come good, but in the furious hour after the sun sank beyond the horizon the small zander of which all the canals seem rife with came out to play. There seemed to be a shoal marauding around the area as every one of the four micro zander I landed and the one I lost were all within an inch of each other in length. The only lure that seemed to interest them was a three inch AGM black curly tail grub, which I suspect was showing up quite well against the clear sky as I bounced it across the bottom. Another hard fighting perch took a fancy to the grub just as I was about lift the lure to cast again and really gave me some stick on the light gear.

It was great to get out on the bank again and somewhere in the melee of action at dusk I actually for the first time in a while forgot about my niggling back. Now I am somewhere near full fitness I need to get back on it, as I have few venues I want to visit before the season opens again and my quickly dwindling time becomes even more stretched.