Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A perfect moment of good froggy fun.

My nose wrinkled up as I paused on the old bridge at the head of the lake and my inner monologue became an outer one even though no one was in the car to hear it. "Ah shit!"
It is literally amazing the carnage a flock of Canadian geese can cause. The flock of thirty or more which were currently ripping up the lawn beside the little forgotten lake had churned what should have been a clear shallow estate lake into something that resembled a run of the mill commercial pond, with their mindless munching. Still though I would persist as it was a warm late summer afternoon, I practically had the whole pool to myself and the thought of a hot blooded jack pike chasing down my lure was all I could think of.

I'd already walked from under the drooping ancient willow near the bridge all along the lawn and crossed the stagnant feeder stream at the head of the lake. For all my nosing and staring all I had seen was a shoal of ten small roach lipping tit bits that had collected along the dying lily pads at the mouth of the stream. Now I was walking slowly along in the darkness on the old path under the trees behind the island. Two months ago you couldn't even see the water for all lily pads that had sprouted in the shallow water. Now though autumn was only days away and the once tough round green leaves that hid the lake had lost their buoyancy and rotted, half sunk in the turbid water. 

Bar two perplexed looking ducks and a panicky Moorhen, the water behind the island seemed devoid of life until I passed behind a hawthorn tree which sprouted from the edge of the path. Stopping just in the realm of cover I peeped round into the weed. This was perfect two Jack pike floated still as stone, head to tail in a clearing in the half dead pads.

If one pike floating in the weeds was a prospect, I was sure this was a cert. Before I moved back behind the tree my mind ran an inventory of the lures in my back pack. Third box down...top row...in the forth section from the left. That was it, the only thing I had which I could pull through even dying weed without getting snarled up. Sure enough the amphibian equivalent of the eighty's sex doll, the weed free frog lure lay hidden under a small tangled mess of plugs in the exact section I predicted. Not wanting to lose this opportunity I dived straight in grabbing the whole section load of lures as gently as I could and feeling several sharp pricks of trebles as I did. Moments of violent shaking soon loosened the lures and the single frog fell onto the floor. As fake as it was I knew that this was all I had that stood a chance of attracting those torpid pike out of their trance.

Trying not to rush, I threaded the frog onto the clip and set the clever wire weed guard into place. Leaving my bag leaning against the tree, I pushed my net across the floor towards the edge of the lake, without  stepping out from behind the tree I leaned out with the rod. I knew casting such a light lure from high up the bank was a risk, but I also knew any movements could send the pike darting away in an instant.

With a determined flick the less than aerodynamic frog arched through the air, landing a good ten feet past the little pikes. Gently I tightened up on the line lifting it off the surface and began steering the frog on course towards the gap in the weed. Using some gentle lifts of the rod I, in my clumsy way, tried to imitate the movement of a frog as best I could. Three inches at I a time I dragged the frog closer and closer until eventually it rested on a pad at the edge of the clearing.

This was it I took a deep breath and pulled the lure into the kill zone. At first it was all real time slow motion as the smaller of the two fish just tipped forward and sank like a submarine out of sight. For a moment I thought it had all gone bad but then I tugged the frog again and the second jack turned slowly towards it. I pulled again, sure it would strike, but the fish paused as the frog stopped. So I pulled again and the water erupted as the pike attacked.

I'd hardly had chance to strike before my yellow line cut across the shallow water cutting through every lily pad as the pike ran away and I tightened down on it. The fight was never going to be a glorious one and even after we laid waste to a large ecosystem and the pike was in the net, I knew the most satisfying part of this capture was by far the strike.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Lure fishing microcosm.

Since beginning my lure fishing journey I have learnt that the world of lure fishing is just as, if not more than, as expansive as all the other fishing genres I have come across before. It's not just the array of millions of lures, the vast colours that they come in and the different sizes that I am referring to either; every lure can be used in so many different ways and different situations.

One particular facet I have been intrigued by lately is micro jigging. I love casting jigs anyway and already had some tiny jig heads and tiny lures which I had not really had any great success with until recently.

I actually started messing around with this technique a little while ago, but it was only the other day that I went out to specifically concentrate on doing it. At first when I had a go a while back I made the mistake of actually casting the tiny jigs out into the canal, it was then that I concluded that beyond a rod length out you really lose all contact and control of the lure. Between under a rod length out to right under your feet they are deadly. Having the lure on a constant tight line and using a light rod means you can impart some pretty damn sexy movements on the lure with the slightest flick of the wrist. Fishing like this also changes the way you look at a canal, and all the normal distracting far bank features fail to register as you concentrate on the four feet from the bank which is now your microcosm. Doing so turns what to most seems like a small gap between two boats into the micro jigging equivalent of a ten acre lake.

Tiny is the order of the day and this Crazy Fish cruel leech mounted on a size 8 two gram jig head worked perfectly to compensate against the slight yet disruptive tow on this occasion. The little black lure wiggles like a hula girl with the very slightest of rod movements.

Although I only had a few hours to fish, my micro attack proved to work perfectly. I had to work along a bit of tow path until I found a concentration of fish holding tight to the concrete lined margin, but once I found them it was one fish after another with perch making up the majority of the captures.

What has surprised me was how many fish you could catch from one area. In a normal casting situation I have found you easily spook fish out of spot by hooking a few of their mates. Fishing these light lures into a shoal seemed to have little effect until I'd had hooked loads of them and been hit by even more.

The zander too seemed to be hanging out in the shoals of perch, although these young immaculate hunters seemed to prefer the lure to be moving further and quicker than the perch which seemed more attracted to a gentle off the bottom wiggling lure.

I have to say I really like this micro margin jigging, but to balance the tackle and make everything move naturally I was having to fish some very light fluorocarbon leaders of around 4lb in breaking strain which would be OK if a big perch turned up. A better zander though could make mince meat out of such delicate tackle so really even if you see an opportunity of a bigger zed or jack pike the whole leader would have to be changed in order to reduce the risk getting cut off. Saying that, I reckon some of the lures I have been using are so small they might well not register on a big predators radar and given that most of the waters I am fishing are the colour of milky tea I'd probably never know if a big fish was hiding right under my feet.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Dragons, swans and flipping flamingos.

Resplendent, that's the best word I could come up with to describe how the Avon looked on a sunny Saturday morning. We do a lot of walks now we have a child, as I suspect most people do. Anyway having exhausted just about every civilized park close to home we headed over to Warwick to have a amble around St Nicholas park which just happens to be opposite the Myton road stretch I can fish on with my Warwick angling association book.

I kind of thought there was a chance the river would still be holding a little tinge of colour after the recent rain, but I was quite far off the mark with that theory. The water was clear, sparkling and full of lovely wriggly fishes. Quite literally the weed laden margins were swarming with roach. Huge shoals drifted in and out of the streamer weed moving in perfect unison. All over the empty river, random fish topped pulling my eyes to every circular ripple. Every now and again the threat of unseen predators would send fish scattering for safety out of the water. It was one of those times when, my God, you would sell your right testicle for a fishing rod, but nut or not I was rod less standing next to what looked like a perfect river.

There was no doubt I was going back the next day as with so many tasty tit bits flitting around the pike had to be close by. So less than twenty four hours later I found myself standing on the first peg right at the bottom of the Myton road stretch. The river looked amazing and the view of the ancient Warwick castle under the old bridge wasn't too shabby either.

I was hoping to be a bit of clever git and had rigged up a Texas rig so as I could fish a weed less lure right through the streamer weed to try and tempt a few jacks out. The weed density and probably my inexperience in using this new rig meant things didn't work out too well. I was deed keen to get going and straight away punched a zander pro shad across to the edge of the weed lining the far bank. The first and subsequent twenty casts all came back laden with rotting streamer weed. Whether it was to do with me fishing the lure too far into the weed or the late summer weed being too soft and dense I couldn't fathom, but either way it got the better of me.

In the end I resorted back to bouncing a five gram jig head loaded up with a Savage gear soft 4play roach around the weed. This had its limits as I knew the pike were using that weed as cover and I wasn't fishing in the cover. I'd thrashed half the stretch into foam before I got any interest and strangely I got a hard hit mid-river from an unusual suspect. I really thought a small pike or a good perch had nobbled the lure, but when I saw a small zander in the clear water I was surprised. Avon zander can be very condition specific in my opinion and on a bright sunny day and a clear river is about the worst time to try and get one by my reckoning. This one though had really engulfed my Savage gear roach imitation.

My day wasn't going to get any easier after that, and when I got a few pegs further up and found group of box jockeys having a unofficial knock up, the rest of the stretch was off the cards for me. My only option was to drop back to the bottom of the stretch and cover all the river I had already fished a second time. Time was not on my side and just as I reached the first spot opposite the boat hire shop the first family laden swan pedalo hit the water. After that they started coming as thick and fast as I have ever seen them. Two dragons and few flamingos later and the river looked like a scene from a Dr Seuss story.

Finally it was my conscience that drove me off the river. I couldn't with any good conscience continue casting even small lures into a river filled with families enjoying the last bit of summer afloat just in case an errant cast should find a boat. Ironically I did get a bit of tug just before I left the river which makes me think that all the activity might have forced the pike out of the shallows and into the deeper channel in the centre of the river. I actually think this will be really great section of river once the weed dies back a bit and the boat rental shop shuts down for the winter, so I will definitely be back especially as I know there are zander around as well.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Back on track with a triple.

I don't think I have ever seen the Midlands canals so full of small predators as they are right now. Yes it is possible that my view is a little skewed as predators have been my target of choice for the past god knows how long, but even taking that into consideration there's still loads of them. The bottom of most canals is paved with small perch all of the time, but right now the small zander are catching up and never before have I caught so many jack pike in the canals. Up until this year I was beginning to think the common canal pike of my youth might be an endangered species, but this lure lark has set me right on that matter.

My first prolonged session since becoming a parent seemed the perfect opportunity to check out a section of canal which I used to fish as a child which has recently popped onto my radar again. It's weird because I have been fishing sections either side of the section in question quite a lot this year. A few weeks ago some wonderful tow path info was dribbled into my ears like honey and that tit bit contained my most favourite of phrases 'Big perch'.

Apparently the area in question is very heavily populated with both prey fish and crayfish and after a few enquiries it turned out the area did seem to be producing some nice fish over 2lbs. At another time of the year when the boats were a bit less of a hindrance I would have just gone down toting nothing more than my lure rod, but recent experiences reminded me that if I wanted to be fishing later than nine in the morning a bit of bait might be a good idea.

So with a few worms and a float rod as well as a lure rod, I hit the tow path early hoping to confirm a few rumors were true. I arrived to see the centre canal alive with silver fish and given the dense cover hanging far out over the water all along the far margins, it was hard to pick any particular feature. Luckily I had a spot I fancied might make a good starting point.

Before digging in I had a quick search around with a tiny lure just in case, but that produced nothing but a wind knot in my braid. With so many fish topping I felt sure I would get some serious interest in the worm and quickly plumbed up and baited a spot just off the nearside shelf. Interest I did get, but not from any big perch. Hordes of tiny perch quickly found my broken worms and even a few micro zander turned up as well.

When the water erupted with scattering silver fish, which is unusual on the canals, I was instantly reaching for my lure little Sonik lure rod. Whilst watching the float I'd stripped out the wind knot and tied on a larger 3gram jig and in no time at all I cast my favourite cannibal shad tight into the cover. Two bounces of the lure later something hit it and shot out into the canal. After a spirited fight predator number one, a little pike went in the net.

Straight away after taking a photo and releasing the small pike I cast again tight into the cover about three feet further down the bushes. This time the lure made it into the trench before I felt a sharp tug and struck into predator number two which turned out to be a small zander of a couple of pounds. 

I already had a mind to try for the triple and when the third cast into the bushes produced a subtle but definite fishy vibration, I was elated to swing a small but very greedy third predator to hand.

It kind of made sense that after landing three different predators and making a right old fuss that the swim went dead. So I moved down to another nice looking spot to try the worm. Things didn't go that well as the boats soon began ploughing past, but saying that over the next hour or so I did root out four more tiny little zander fishing half a worm just on the edge of the trench.

Honestly I have never seen as much activity on a section of canal and it does seem to help confirm that this could be a good area for big perch. But I have noticed as I have fished on the canal so much that large populations of both predators and prey fish can actually move from one section to another with the changes in the seasons. Both sections either side of the one I fished on this occasion aren't fishing particularly well at the moment, whereas in the winter both were very reliable. So I reckon if I want to track down these big perch in this area I will have to get back quite soon before all the prey fish that have probably attracted them filter off into other areas.