Friday, 25 November 2016

Walking on battered ground.

I can't deny the River Leam has got me intrigued at the moment. It's one of those places I always thought not really worth bothering with, but earlier visits in the year have got me thinking otherwise. The sections below and up into Leamington Spa have up until now been the focus of my attention, but the sections leading out have so far been ignored.

A text from my old mate Andy Lewis prompted me to arrange a hook up with him to go and have a short prospecting afternoon session on these new upper town sections. Ironically I have been round the parks surrounding these stretches of river many times and I cross the bridges that run through them all the time when passing through Leamington Spa, but hand on heart I have never seen a single soul fishing on the Leam. So I was bit shocked when we arrived at a mint looking river to see that it was very obviously heavily fished.

We worked our way along the Mill Gardens section covering every square inch of water with all kinds of lures fished in every way we could think of, but all we had to show for our efforts was a single small jack which I nailed very early on, casting a savage gear 4play fungus roach swim bait on a five gram jig and working it very erratically along the bottom.

After thrashing the living shit out of Mill Gardens we crossed the road to check out Welches Meadow which leads out of the town. This bit of the Leam is a stunning bit of water to look at but worryingly seemed almost lifeless. Again the both of us worked really hard covering every angle, casting at every possible haunt, spot and feature. We'd been through at least half the stretch before I hooked into my second and last fish of the day, a nice perch which took a fancy to a large red head fox spiky shad I'd been working steadily along the margins.

That was it for my action. After fishing our way all the way along the meadow and back again we crossed back over the road to see if the quickly approaching darkness might spur a little action, just as the conditions became that bit more favourable for the predators. Andy wheedled out a similar sized perch to the one I'd had earlier on a white Eco gear bug ant, but that was it for the session.

Thinking about it now, two things bother me about these upper sections of the Leam. Firstly they are obviously fished quite a bit and from the look of the spots that are fished it's not anglers sitting for long periods of time, as there is little evidence of worn patches on the grass, signs of fishing boxes or bank stick holes. It's not hard to assume that lure anglers are going in and out of the swims, and that probably means the fish have seen their fair share of action and could have got a bit clued up already. Secondly, there was hardly any fish movement at all; both me and my companion for this session are very tuned into looking for topping fish and the like, and we saw only two signs of fish all afternoon. Given we fished right till dark, I would've thought we would have seen a decent bit of movement at the end of the day. The lack of fish activity has me thinking that maybe the larger part of the prey fish population might be holed up somewhere and with them  could be most of the predators.

 I reckon if I go back to these upper sections that I will really have to try and pin down the prey fish before casting something. I think it might actually be worth doing, as I keep hearing rumours of some big pike round these top sections. Even though I think they might be a bit pressured, I really like the idea of the challenge of searching out something decent from these town waters over the winter to come.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Ungrateful days.

For a long time now I've felt that being a bit specimen inclined has left me ungrateful in the face of a simple good days fishing. When I was a young novice scratching around on the Cov cut with my 1/4 pint of maggots, a handful of deep hooked perch would have been a great day and catching a roach, perch and gudgeon in one session was a red letter day. Fast forward twenty six years and my eyes have grown bigger with my stomach. Now unless any fish caught is not over a certain size then if I am honest...I ain't that bothered. It's this ungratefulness that reared its ugly head on my last outing when I had a session of my childhood dreams that in my adult mindset was a wasted day.

I am constantly looking for new areas of canal that tick certain criteria for big fish. One spot in particular I came across a while ago has been studied and to all intents and purposes seems like a perfect big fish holding spot. It has great cover, deep and shallow areas, shelter from seasonal highs and lows, good numbers of prey fish, crayfish are present and it's a bit out-there so it probably doesn't get that much attention. As the warmer months have ticked away this special area has festered in my mind and as it's done so, it's big fish potential seems even more obvious.

After mulling how to approach this potential honey hole several hundred times, I concluded that the best way to get a good picture of the fish population was to go and bait fish it with lob worms and dendrobenas on one rod and fish dead bait on a second line. So many times in the past this combination has routed out hidden gems of all species. Though having decided to just bait fish I did pack my drop shot rod and some appropriate lures just in case. 

Finally the time came to drop by for an early morning session to try and see if this spot actually has much potential. I arrived on the tow path just as the sun came up and was soon tabbing full steam along the edge of the canal. I'd hoped that arriving early and having to walk a decent distance along the section might have meant I'd see a few rising fish, but worryingly there was zero fish evidence as far as the eye could see. Soon enough the feature I was heading for appeared way off down the canal. 

The huge tow path side reed bed that I had thought about so much was still very green considering the time of year, but as always it looked to be the perfect fish holding spot. So with no other target areas on my mind I pitched up next to it, did a quick bit of plumbing up and settled on fishing right on the corner of the reeds in the hope that once the canal started towing under the influence of the far off locks, the chopped worm I was going to deposit would draw any fish to my end of the reed bed. 

Now I am not so deluded as to think that the first fish that comes along is going to be what I am looking for. I was fully expecting to have to give this a full mornings attention and try and catch a good sample so as I could get a decent picture of the general population. This plan really went perfectly in truth and from the off my chopped worms were doing the business drawing in fish. Considering no boats had been through and the water was initially very clear, the float never sat still for very long at all.

The perch were here and on the feed and it quickly became just a matter of keeping the spot topped up with freebies, releasing any captures off away from the area. The whole time I was working the inside line a dead bait I had cast onto the far margin lingered in the shadows waiting for something to find it. Through the course of the morning the float above that dead bait only moved once when a small jack pike found the half a roach and got itself a free meal. The float zipped off, I struck and played the little pike all the way to my own bank before seeing the fish with the bait just in the front of its mouth before it let go.

The perch though kept coming all day and I maintained my concentration the whole morning, fishing like a match angler trying to play the numbers game. I was convinced that if I kept the feed going in and the fish coming out that it would soon just be a numbers game before something bigger came along. This was not the case though and after nearly five hours of working the spot hard I had caught close to fifty perch between two and eight ounces, but nothing bigger had shown at all and no other species either.

After the session I did some rough calculations and working on a 3oz average fish weight and that I caught around fifty fish, it works out that in the morning I had put together a near ten pound bag of perch. Now any match angler fishing a match on any canal in the country would snap your hand off for a peg that could produce that off a single line. But that same match angler would also know that catching those numbers of fish from one spot should have turned up a bigger fish if it was there. For me as a canal specimen chaser that is awful results as I ideally want to be fishing areas that not just hold one big fish but multiple big fish; those areas do exist it's just that this might not be one of them.

I suppose I could put the lack of big fish down to conditions as the canal was very clear and the sun ended up being very bright all morning. But the reality is that this spot which I have built up in my mind really needed to offer me something back quite quickly for me to bother returning in the future and giving it any more of my valuable time. Sadly though with not a lot other than small perch and a single jack pike turning up when I was offering top notch fish fodder, the specimen angler in me has been left not very impressed whilst in reality I did actually have a good days fishing!

My ungrateful bugger

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Not sticking to the rules thank god.

A full day of boats moving round a busy junction of the Grand union canal and the water is going to be pretty murky, right! Well that's what I thought and I was totally wrong. I ventured a out a few days ago for a short session on a primo bit of the GU and basically ended up having a weird arse about face session where everything I thought would be the case was not.

Big perch were what I was after and as it was to be an afternoon into dark affair I figured, as I mentioned before, that the boats which are prevalent in this area would have ploughed the canal turbid by the time I arrived. Hence I had armed myself with a float rod and generous amount of worms to attract the fish in the poor visibility. I always do this 'peering over the edge' thing when I walk onto a canal to get an impression of the water conditions. On this occasion my initial peering was followed by a head shake, an eye rubbing and a second peering. Good god it was well past dinner time and I could see two bricks sitting on the shallow margin. The water did have a tinge of green to it, but shockingly the visibility was easily fifteen inches or more.

Even with the less than ideal conditions I pushed on with my plan and went in search of cover to target. Without too much elaboration, the plying of worms onto the canal was a total waste of time. The perch had no intention of moving out of wherever they were hiding to eat in the open. My only hope for this session was the drop shot rod I'd bought along just in case. Maybe, just maybe, by working lures close cover I could persuade any would-be attackers to burst out and hit the lure in the clearer than normal conditions. This is where it really goes against mores supposed rules.

Considering the perch were reluctant to feed I really thought the low light loving zander would never be switched on in such clear water. So how surprised was I when I manoeuvred a small Savage gear 3D bleak close to a moored boat and straight away something snatched it, I was even more surprised when the culprit turned out to be a zander.

I thought maybe that one zander was just some rogue fish that hadn't read the zander rule book, but when a few jiggles of the lure later a second smaller one hit, it began to look like the zander were actually on the feed in the clear water.  By the time I'd notched up three more little zander which all went for the drop shot fished 3D bleak fished six inches off bottom, I was convinced they were really up for it.

Although my original perch plan was well and truly out the window, it turned out that I was out and fishing on one of the wondrous occasions when the fish are hungry, the conditions were apparently perfect and I was using the right lure/technique. The random flitting and dropping of the very life like bleak lure seemed to draw the zander in like moths to a flame and every one which went for the lure got hooked perfectly in top of the mouth before zipping off like a torpedo.

It wasn't just the tiny ones that were up for it either; there were better fish moving around as well. Most were in that half a pound to two pound range and I quickly figured they weren't just tight to the cover. Fishing the nearside shelf brought me a few fish and even a random cast into the centre of the trench brought a hint of interest.

The perch though were just not around or if they were they were well off the feed, which possibly had something to do with the change in temperature. By the end of the short session the sun had long disappeared, the sky was glowing wintry pink as the last rays disappeared, smoke rose from every chimney of every narrow boat that lined the canal and the surface of the canal was like a mirror. 

Although I hadn't come anywhere near catching what I intended to, I had actually had a great session catching quite a few little zander on the drop shot. Had it not been for those zander feeding when they normally wouldn't there was a good chance I would have just frozen half to death whilst blanking. Once the weather has settled down I know for sure I will be back to try for the big perch again and I certainly will be bringing the dropshot rod and those lures along as well.