Friday, 23 October 2015

Hard conditions and bastard bass.

The autumn warmth is a wonderful thing. It's like a special illicit treat when rightfully the damp of winter should be creeping in. Piles of rustling dry leaves and early morning chill you know will seep away as the sun rises. As far as I am concerned it's been a slow start to autumn and as we travelled east the hedgerows reflected as much. Surprisingly only the odd tree here and there showed signs of change, and the hopes of a late warm break beside a lake were perfectly valid. Little did we know that something moved to meet us in a few days time...

Rightfully being wired the way I currently am, I should have been in heaven, with hundreds of moored boats, spread over several marinas on a lake which, at times, is paved with so many perch you could be forgiven for thinking the bottom is striped.  Add to that its previous form for big perch and you could understand my inclination to take just two lure rods and an array of lures every colour of the rainbow.

But on that first trip out and after much probing of every nook and cranny I found my dropshot and micro jig tactics reaped nothing from thousands of casts. This was concerning as in these very same marinas I have caught one perch, unhooked it and just dropped a hook with a hulled maggot still attached in the edge and caught another. Then repeated the same debacle again and again until I suspect it's the same fish again and again.

I've never really just concentrated on lure fishing here and at first I didn't want to over react to the lack of hits at first, so took the inactivity in my stride. Another short session with zero hits though scratched away at my confidence somewhat. It wasn't until the following outing that I hooked a powerful little jack pike bouncing a 7.5cm salt and pepper zander shad along the side of a boat that I clawed confidence back a little.

There was certainly the odd fish around but where were the masses of perch? I ruminated over this as I continued casting. The one thing I kept coming back to was the clarity of the water. Though perfect for sight feeding predators, the clear water offered little cover to anything and with the array of bigger predators, that kind of made sense to me. If we think we have it bad with cormorants inland then around the coast they have it horrendous. Literally of a morning it's not unusual to see twenty or more on this Broad and otters are quite common as well. It often amazes me that there is still a viable population of fish in the Broads considering how hard it must be to maintain those levels under the circumstances.

Still, in the belief that the fish were present, I decided to go a bit more subtle to see if there was fish that weren't in an aggressive enough state to hit a lure but might take a bait. So a few worms were procured in order to see if a slow moving natural bait might sort a few fish out. Whether it was the worms or the more favorable conditions on the day, but walking the worm did put a few more fish on the bank. Only one marina which unlike all the others had an open side to the rest of the Broad instead of an entrance, seemed to have fish moving in and out of it and produced. Along with a whole mess of tiny and even tinier little Sargeants I did manage to sort out one decent perch by gyrating a worm along just off the bottom at a snail's pace.

From the corner vantage point where I could cast all around the marina, I figured the perch were collected close to pair of cruisers that looked like they hadn't been out of the marina in years. As I looked for possible other shoals I hooked into a fish that went insane and turned out to be a roach bream hybrid that had taken a shine to my split dendrobena hook bait.

Weirdly, once I had established the presence of fish I again switched to the lures for the following outings around the marinas. But not long after this the weather turned decidedly worse as the wind which had been blowing from the north east strengthened and pulled in some showers.

Somewhere in the breaks in the weather I snuck out back to the open sided marina and managed to find another little pike, which went like a rocket on my 1-8g outfit. The wind though kept my options very limited as white horses now danced across the lake and reduced the fishable area by half.

It wasn't literally until the day before we were due to leave that I got out again. For probably the first time all week I was able to actually get on and fish from a trio of stages outside the marinas. Up until now the wind had prohibited any casting from these areas as the waves and gust had made casting and retrieving impossible.

Lo and behold first cast, my three gram jig sailed out across the now still Broad; I felt it drop maybe ten or more feet to the bottom and a few lifts of the rod later I felt small yet distinct vibration come back up the line. Turns out the masses of perch were held up about fifty feet out into the water. Literally I couldn't go wrong as cast after cast brought me another little perch. They might have been small but I can honestly say I was truly glad to get into those little predators in the end and prove that if it weren't for that evil north easterly I might have been playing a numbers game to find a big one amongst the hordes of little ones.

Bastard Bass

Lake Loathing was full of juvenile mullet, bass and what not. I'd done a few circuits of the fishing spots searching for anything that might fancy a little rubber snack, like a tubby flounder or even a wary whiting, but only had a couple nibbles of interest from some unseen tiddler. Now though I was casting under huge concrete supports that supported a road over head. Years ago I am sure I saw a small cuckoo wrasse lingering in the shadows and that thought always made me cast into that area.

Watching half an Isome worm dance back a foot off the bottom leading a few tiny fish along was amusing, but when those fish scattered my vision opened up and I spotted something bigger move in and turn off quickly. Halting the retrieve and keeping the red worm moving brought it back in sight. Three times that fish went off and came back and when it passed into the half shaded water I got a perfect view of a mint bass of maybe three pounds.

Position, lure and tack were changed again and again, and in doing so I discovered that bass wasn't alone! Four or five similar sized fish repeatedly circled the concrete supports and after watching them for long enough it became clear they were interested in the shoals of juvenile fish. Luckily or unluckily I had a pretty good match for the fry in a small, random blue and silver shad someone had given me.

This where the frustration began; Moving the random shad around like a wounded fish would easily get the attention of the bass, which would fire in very quickly, but every time no matter how close, they would fall short and turn off as if they knew something was wrong. Two days this went on for and around the same state of tide those few fish would turn up and maraud around, sending the fry panicking whilst clocking my lure every time.

In the end those frustrating fish drove me to bait fishing. A pack of costly peeler crab was purchased and I set a trap. I knew where they seemed to patrol into the structure from and at the end of that route I cast my bait. I even used a sneaky fresh water running rig on fluorocarbon line so as not to alert those wary blighter's to my rouse. And what happened might you ask... well those bastard bass never turned up that day did they!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Drop dead dumb Jig.

I don't think there was any doubt in my mind that I would be going back to the newly discovered honey hole on the canal. I'd tried to hook up with Jeff but he had prior arrangements for a date with Martin on the river. This though did open up the door for me to go back and use some slightly different tactics. With so many predators in the area I really wanted to have a go on the lures, but I think this is a very disruptive method and repeatedly casting around is just not fair if someone is float fishing, so going alone was perfect.

Luckily I had a couple of mornings free and decided to use both to try and plunder the stretch. Not wanting to possibly ruin my chances, I decided to go softly softly at it and on the first day went back to fish the drop shot in conjunction with dead baits and the results were brilliant...

The previous session I figured out there were a few snags on the far bank, so kept well away from them and targeted the trench and near margin using some black and white fox micro fry Mick off of Piscatorial Quagswagging had kindly given me. The water again looked quite clear and I felt everything looked right for a few hits, and I was right for once. First cast working the tiny lure back across the trench and I got hit really hard by a average sized canal zander.

After releasing that one I began working the lure along the bottom of the near side shelf. I hadn't gone ten feet before I found myself playing a nice perch.

I am religious about taking perch well away from where I have caught them and after returning that one a really good walk away from where I was fishing, I made my way back to start again. Not knowing it at the time, something weird happened next. I had carried on working the line I'd caught the last perch on and gone quite a way before I hit a second pristine perch which fought equally as hard the first.

It wasn't until I looked at the picture on the computer that the similarities between those first two fish became clear. Then I looked closer and saw a tiny red spot just above the anal fin and it dawned on me that it was definitely the same fish and not just that, but it had fallen for the same lure on the same line probably back on its way back to its holding spot. So either my technique was pretty spot on or I had caught the dumbest perch in the Midlands.

After adding a further four more nice perch and bucket load of micro zander to my tally I finished off with a perfect finale. I was happily playing quite a big perch with my little Sonik lighttec bent double into the canal when my dormant dead bait line sprang to life. A bit of extra pressure got the perch in the net and then after grabbing the other rod I was playing a small zander. It was the perfect brace to end another brilliant session and also helped to prove that these predators were just as up for attacking lures as they were for eating worms.

The second day proved just as fruitful; only this time I went back aggressively and swapped the micro drop shot rig for a much bigger jigging rig just to see how up for it they were. In short, fishing a 7cm salt and pepper Fox zander shad did the business in the again clear water and I quickly tricked a trio of predators into my net. 

Worryingly as the morning wore on the ubiquitous micro zander turned up and the better fish seemed to disappear. Once these tiny terrors switched and started nipping at the lures the fishing became quite frustrating. Moving put me back on the perch, but the ones further away from the holding area were literally a quarter of the size of the previous days fish.

To most people it might seem insane for me to say that's it for me and the honey hole spot, but that is the case! Now I have had a confirmed recapture I am beginning to suspect there could have been others and it makes me realize that even though I suspect there could be bigger fish around or even move into the spot, that there is not an infinite amount of fish in the area. Having to recapture them again and again just on a hunch to wheedle out the mother of them all would just take shine away from them in my eyes and ultimately be detrimental to them.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Peering through the mist, I trudged on looking for the shape of a man on the tow path. It looked a perfect morning for a spot of perch fishing, but first I needed to locate my companion for the session. Jeff had been mysterious about his instructions and said little more than "walk down the canal". He was right in saying this spot was a bit out there, as I'd been walking for what seemed like ages along the tow path and was getting worried I may soon arrive in Oxford.

Finally, what looked like a hunched figure appeared in the mist sitting on the edge of a bend. As always the banker swim looked exactly like every other bit of canal you ever see, tow path, twenty four inches of patchy dog shit infested grass, sixteen meters of questionable water and a hawthorn covered far bank. The only difference between this spot and any other was the presence of Jeff and as he like me is a avid canal lingerer, it must mean there was a reason for him being here setting up his fishing pole.

It's weird seeing Jeff pole fishing! I am far more used to him sitting behind rods pondering the water whilst twiddling his moustache, rather than him sitting upright staring down a pole waiting for whisp of a pole float to dip momentarily. I suppose the best comparison I can make to seeing him pole fishing is it's like seeing a donkey smoke a cigar. Saying that after watching him do it for a couple of hours I can't deny thinking he has really taken to it, so much so that I can picture him clad head to toe in matching sponsors clothing, sitting atop a fishing box not dissimilar to the Tardis wielding five grands worth of carbon fibre; then again there's probably more chance of Jeff becoming the next Doctor Who than turning into a match man.

Bar Jeff starting to put a match winning weight together and me catching a very cute little ruffe, the banker swim was not really producing any dividends. Once I got itchy feet it wasn't hard talking Jeff into a move and after a short jaunt we found a little bit of far bank cover we both fancied.

A pot of worm chopped fish heroin later and the session turned into a blur. I remember thinking Jeff was in the hot spot when he instantly hooked a skimmer followed by two big perch off the hull of a moored boat, but then the square meter I was concentrating on sparked into life.

I've fished my own secret perch squirrel hole enough to know when you've struck gold and this was gold, pure gold. I quickly realized it wasn't the odd nugget either when I hooked a really chunky near two pounder.

Then followed it with another...

This area was alive with big perch and amazingly none of them seemed to be small at all. Quickly it became a case of adding more bait, waiting a while and then another hard fighting perch came along. Then somewhere amongst the perch insanity the zander turned up to the party and the bulbous zeppler float toddled off along the canal.

We had only been in this new spot for an hour or more and we both looked like we were in shock. Probably the only thing that was more shocking that the amount of action we were getting would be what the underwater scene must have looked like, with big perch mooching everywhere and a shoal of zander marauding around. No wonder we weren't getting any small fish with that lot down there, as anything less half a pound with half a brain was far away from this predator orgy. As long as we had worm to hold them the perch just kept coming.

With barely a feed worth of worm left I got myself in a right old mess. I'd had a very fast run where the float was literally shooting across the surface of the canal. After connecting with a spirited zander and fighting it for only seconds the hook had pulled, sending my float back onto the bank along with a load of line. As I tried to make sense of the mess the trace and hook found their way into my lap. Draped in line I noticed the float on my perch line spring to life. I struck out of instinct but was still trying to clear the line from around me and as I did somehow pulled the hook right into the groin of my trousers. Still playing a fish covered in line with a hook uncomfortably close to my genitals I did my best to keep my cool. But when a huge stripy flank rolled mid water I panicked. Luckily Jeff had also seen the fish and was already grabbing for my net. After a short but careful fight a big perch skimmed over the cord of the net. It turned out to be the biggest of the day at 2.6lb and given its young appearance it won't be long before it's a three.

A couple of hours over our allotted knock off time we both ran out of worm and not long after that the capture of a sub pound fish heralded the end of this enlightening adventure. I finished with seven perch between just under two pounds and a bit over. Jeff had four by my count bringing our tally to eleven good perch. Add into that a few lost fish and it ended up a pretty special session. The only question that remains in my mind now is how big do they grow, if on my first session this was the average stamp of fish in the area. I know the thought of all those perch is etched into both mine and Jeff's minds now, but I also know the next time we go back those amazing fish might well be like ghosts.