Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Good proper fun.

The old estate lake I fish is undoubtedly stunning and so off the radar that the angling world has practically forgotten it exists. Maybe the reason it has been forgotten is because it doesn't contain massive carp or double figure tench and is therefore of no interest to people in these target driven times. In fact it is mainly populated by little roach and skimmer bream, none of which grow to any particular size. For me though were the interest lies is with the pike. I mean this pool has far more small pike than it rightfully should, and as a result it is lure fishing heaven on the right day.

As long as there is some visibility then you can normally fill your boots with over aggressive jack pike. Dead baits can be deadly, but quite often you find one area is thick with young essox, and if you're not in that place then it can be slow, so roaming round with lures is generally very effective here. The only problem with fishing lures is the depth of the water and the amount of lillies lining the bottom. Normally it can be a struggle to settle on a lure that is capable of being fished under the water that doesn't snag up on every protruding risome.

On this visit it took a few changes, but in the end I settled on a 13.5cm savage gear 3D bleak in a bright fire tiger pattern to be seen in the slightly coloured water and opted to fish it on a 2/0  three gram jig head with a treble stinger attached. Fishing this lure on such a light jig head enabled it to sink slowly enough for me to flip the bale arm over on the reel and then begin retrieving it slowly with the rod held up to keep it mid depth in less than three feet of water. Retrieving it like this lets the big paddle tail vibrate rhythmically whilst the lure rocks side to side, flashing the lighter coloured belly attractively.

Once we concluded a lot of the pike were held up in the behind the island amongst the now dormant lily pad beds, all hell broke loose and the jacks began attacking all over the place.

None of them were particularly big, but watching these small predators come shooting out of the depths slashing at and exploding out of the water snapping at the lures was brilliant. Sometimes even two fish came after the lure at once and then things got really insane. All down the channel behind the island seemed to be racked out with pike, but it wasn't till we fished into a bit of open water that we got a real shock. First of all I hooked a preposterously greedy perch which hit what to it was a huge lure.

Then further down the bank Rob hooked what we both thought was yet another small pike, but turned out to be a much bigger perch of about 2.7lb

After that stunner it was straight back to business with the jack pike. In the open water they were a lot thinner on the ground and it became more case of combing a good size area just to get one fish here or there. By the old bridge I snagged a very energetic fish which performed as if it were a summer fish, jumping out of the water and tail walking.

Sunset came all too soon though and as the light went, the sport dried up, though I can't say for one moment that anything about this session was disappointing. Rob bagged seven or more pike and that fantastic perch and I ended up with thirteen pike and greedy perch. We had heaps of attacks that never converted and a fair few came off, so all in all we probably had up to fifty different hits through the day that we know of. This lake really is a lure angler's heaven and coming here is good proper fun every time. Best of all is the great sport in such beautiful surroundings.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Nearly enjoyable.

People call football the beautiful game, in my opinion though fishing is the beautiful pastime. I suppose that's because as anglers we so often find ourselves looking out over wonderful scenes of water framed by the resplendent countryside through ever changing seasons. Even the most horrendous urban or industrialized vista has it's moment when the sun rises, mist clings to the water and you can see past the scars of man to feel like you're in the most wondrous place on earth.

I have always tried to see the beauty in what I am doing or where I am fishing, and in most cases even if I am not enjoying my surroundings I will glimpse a moment in nature that satisfies my need for visual romance, even if that's something so small as watching a wren busying about its business along the bank or a rash of seasonal blooms it still makes being out worth it for me. My last session though... well I didn't really feel it.

Not wanting to fall into that age old English tradition of whinging about the weather, I am feeling a little hard done by with this damned incessant avenue of Atlantic weather fronts that seem to endlessly pile in. I know it might seem churlish given that some people have been flooded out for Christmas, but every time I seem to get the opportunity to get out, the weather has either been, or is, crappy and this last session took the biscuit.

To cut a long story short it was cold and raining when I left the house and was so the entire time I was out. Now given my recent proclivity to mobile angling and the fact that the canal was in perfect condition to wang a few lures around, really I should have chucked caution to the wind, manned up and got wet. But I didn't and with still more worms left over from a session a week go I naively came to the conclusion that I could ply them on the canal and catch hopefully a few more zander to get me closer to my target for the year.

I didn't take me long to get pinned down by the rain. Having a chair, umbrella, rod bag, and all the extra tat I seem to take when having a sit down session only served to stop me from moving, even though I was sure other spots would produce. As a result I ended up spending four wasted hours hunkered under my umbrella targeting a patch of bait off the marginal shelf.

Worst of all was the knowledge that my presence under fifty inches of skyline changing of nylon was not helping my cause in the clear water. The result of which was me catching very little from an area full of fish. Literally in the entire time I sat shivering on the tow path I reaped no more than a few mediocre perch which were confident enough to drift onto the bait. To catch those I had to do something that for me is unheard of nowadays and scale down. Anyone who as ever fished with me on the canals knows I am all about the attack and as a result my gear can be described as robust. So dropping from 3.2lb line straight through to a size six hook to 2lb hook links with size 16 hooks is like pulling teeth for me, and it didn't do any real good anyway.

That was until I rolled the dice and chanced one last attack to try and vilify my efforts. After depositing the last of my worm onto the spot just as the first barge of the day passed by, I decided to give it forty-five minutes more. By fishing a lob tail dead depth I suddenly started to get some very subtle dips on the float. It might sound insane but sometimes when fishing worms, especially lob worm, on a light rig I reckon that the worm writhing around or into something has pulled my float under slightly. Not wanting to disturb any would be biters striking at a worm bite I waited until I was sure this was a fish. Turns out it was and after a sprightly scrap large and rather perfect roach was on the bank.

After that I'd had enough of the cold wet weather and packed up and went home. The End

Friday, 11 December 2015

When life gives you lemons...

make lemonade!

Originally a pre-Christmas trip to the river Wye was planned, but by mid week it was running five and half meters higher than normal. That is something that Avon anglers can barely comprehend never mind fish. So plan B came into force and targets changed from barbel to perch. Old Father Thames remained stoical up until the day before, when that too was deemed barely fishable by local sources.

Now, like many I have found myself on the banks of an unfamiliar venue when it's out of sorts and can say with some certainty that it's miserable when you have committed time, money and effort into a trip, and have a torrid time when I should have just left it alone. This one got called before that happend though, and in truth that knocked the wind out of my sails.

Truthfully, I hadn't got round to conceiving a new plan by the time morning came. It was JB who tried to gee me up into getting out and good job she did as I had a large amount of costly bait I'd bought which would only go downhill if stored for another week. Whilst feeding BB sitting on the sofa I weighed up all my options. The Avon like most of the rivers was a bit off colour and dumping a load of worm in the canal didn't seem the best use for all that bait. So after pondering a few pools I opted to head to a commercial venue that in the past had produced some serious perch for me and others.

The one reservation I had about this venue was that it has seen a lot of pressure regarding perch fishing the last few years. As a result I wondered if it had seen its best days. So many of these commercial pools get burnt out once word gets out that a few big perch have been caught. Though why that happens I don't rightly understand. Maybe the fish die off or maybe they just become wiser, I don't know, but either way the sport declines under pressure.

So with a bit of doubt in the back of my mind I squelched my way across the sodden grass towards my chosen peg. After a bit of plumbing around I settled on a slight shelf a little out from the margin where I was sure big perch might patrol. A quarter of a kilo of dendrobena worms were minced and five small handfuls were deposited in a short line running out from the bank above, on and below the shelf so as to hopefully intersect the path of any perch.

To start with I began by using only half a lobworm on the size six hook. The rest of the worm was broken into three smaller pieces and thrown over the chopped worm as bigger freebies. I am a big fan of using Drennan chubbers or bobbers for this type of fishing as they give me multiple options on how to present the heavy baits I like to use, and shotted correctly they offer little resistance to a big perch moving off with the bait. Even with the wind still hacking across the lake, the tip of my bobber held stationary in the lea of some reeds glowing in the sun.

It didn't take long to generate some interest by way of a slew of hungry roach of around half a pound. Then not long after they stopped biting I got a proper bob and slide away bite. A powerful fish ramped around the swim putting a decent bend in my rod. Turned out it was no perch but an unseasonable December tench that come on the feed in warmer weather.

Like a match angler I always keep topping up the baited area, as in these commercial lakes it doesn't take long to get cleaned out when there's shoal of hungry silvers and carp rummaging round the lake bed. Literally you can tell when they have cleaned you out of bait and sometimes this is a good thing, as often I have found the big perch turn up after other fish have gone.

I'd topped up, had a bit of a lull in the action and the roach had been and gone once more before I got another positive bite. This time the float bobbed once and slid off towards the reeds and I struck into a heavy fish. The culprit went zipping down the margin before turning back towards me and bending my light rod in a very awkward angle as it bored under my feet. Luckily it went out into open water under pressure and the rest of the fight was a lot more civilised. That was until a big stripy flank rolled over into the net and the hook lost it's hold. I really wasn't sure it had gone in the net until I lifted the net to see a huge perch's back rise up in the water.

I was really happy to be proved wrong that this pool wasn't done with respect to big perch. I was even happier to see such a nice looking example from such a muddy puddle. So often they can be a bit wishy washy, but this one was quite well coloured and looked a real predator. I am willing to bet many a young carp or roach has been gulped up by that huge mouth.

After releasing that one well away from my swim I topped up with more worm. I reckon a second fish must have been lingering on the bait as not a single roach turned up for a long while before I hooked and lost what I was sure was a second good perch. It was time for a slight change in tactics. Up until now I have persisted in fishing either a half or whole lob worm on the bottom, but sometimes I've found that presenting a whole worm just off the bottom really sparks up some action. Though most of the time I split the worm into two equal sections and hook both by the split ends onto the hook. This gives the bait a very enticing fall on a tight line and does, as it did in this case, bring an instant reaction.

The float had barely settled and the weight of the worm had just sunk the tip a little bit more when it just disappeared under the water in a blink of an eye. This fish fought just as hard as the first but once in the net turned out to be a much younger looking fish around  two pounds, which although smaller and younger looks like it too will one day become a real commercial monster.

After that one no other big perch turned up before I had to go. Interestingly though I did have a run in with two perch right at the opposite end of the size spectrum and I wished I could have got a picture of these two as well. After putting away the float rod I figured it would be interesting to run a worm around the baited area on a drop shot rig by way of one final change to root out a monster Sargent. Quite quickly I felt something tugging at the end of the line and after striking into thin air I cover the same area again only to get the same tugging sensation. After striking at nothing again and again I concluded to just gently lift the rig out upon getting the little tug. This time my rig came out with the lobworm stretched nearly a foot long with a three inch perch greedily holding onto the end of the worm a good eleven inches away from the hook.

It seemed there was shoal of these tiny yearlings in the margin. Their presence certainly confirmed no big predators were around now, but also confirmed that these bigger perch have been breeding. Now given there seems to be just either big parent perch or tiny baby perch in the pool it's not hard to conclude that these little ones are the young of the monsters this pool is renowned for producing. So maybe in a few years time we might see a whole new generation of top predators occupying this commercial banquet, which would be very good to see.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Shun on.

I think I might be pissing in the wind... I may have hit a brick wall... and quite possibly find myself on the edge of failure. Anyone who has spent any time fishing for zander know they can be fickle buggers when they want and right now they want. I think it started just prior to zanderfeast 54 not long after Jeff Hatt sounded the horn of helms deep summoning us all to the dog shit laden banks of the canal.

Stupidly I thought this might be the right time to tally up my zander captures for the year which I have been keeping a rough note of as the months tick away. After initially adding up all the numbers and double checking a couple of times I came to a total of 197, which I was at first a bit disappointed by. But then I sat back and thought about the figures for a while, did a weird calculation (involving adding up sessions through the year and subtracting sessions on venues without zander and sessions not targeting them) and concluded that I have averaged 3.4 zander for every session where I could have caught them. Now, that might not seem a lot of zander per session but given there are blank sessions in there and that zander, as I recently said, have a habit of being a bit fickle, I reckon that average is pretty good in hindsight.

Averages aside, what's bugging me is the total, or more the three I may have caught but not recorded or the three I need to catch to round out 200 for the year. Now I worked this all out on the eve of zanderfeast 54 and really thought that I might have tucked away three measly zeds on a canal stuffed with them. Well, I didn't and neither did any of the locals; in fact only the visitors scored and they caught as nearly many pike as they did zander which shouldn't be the case on a water where zander out number pike 20-1. So I found myself still three zander adrift when I was guzzling down ale at the end of the zed moot.

A week later and now obsessed by catching three zander, I went back to the Coventry canal on a much warmer day only to find the recent rains were creeping into the canal at every entry point, turning it the colour of milky tea. Still though I was up for it as zander love a bit of colour and I was tooled up with lures, dead baits and even some worms for good luck

Turns out not only was I up for it, but the crayfish were too and the unseasonable warmth had kept them active enough to be a bit of a pest. In several spots my little float did that suspicious slow sinking before popping back up out of the water, and every time my dead roach bait came back looking like something with small claws had been picking away at it.

It seemed I might be reliant on fishing either worms or lures to try and scratch away at my target. Normally I would have total confidence in both methods to put a zander or two in hand, but the only type of fish with any inclination to consume anything were perch of about half a pound. I caught quite a lot of them over the few hours I was out and something seemed a bit strange about some of them. Many of the fish I caught had bloody marks on their sides and swollen vents, which made them look like they had been spawning, if that's possible at this time of year.

Sadly by the time I had to get off home all I had managed to land was a load more of these perch which all looked a bit sorry for themselves. Not one single tiny bit of zandery action came my way, not even a missed run. Now, I have never credited zander as being a particularly wily or clever fish, but it seems that one at least may have cottoned on to my intentions and passed the message round the rest, putting the shun on me and avoiding my baits at all cost. So I find myself with a month until the end of the year and I have suddenly set myself a last minute target to achieve and there is this little OCD part of me that won't happy until I have rounded out that number to 200.

God, I hope I can do it for the sake of my own sanity...