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.
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!