Monday 10 June 2019

Top water fun.

With the summer just about here and the plethora of lure matches drying up I can feel the weed festooned lakes calling me. Soon I will able to think of nothing but tench and crucian carp but before it gets too hot I really want to do some surface fishing for pike. Since diving head first into the world of lure fishing I have become somewhat obsessed by that exhilarating moment of the hit. Unlike the slow motion moments of excitement when a float comes to life, the shear savageness and raw anger of a hard hit as a predator falls for your rouse is truly exciting. Take that moment when an unseen fish hits your lure and add to it a fleeting moment of chase with the visual stimulation of a wake appearing behind your bait as something follows to attack and you realise this is even more exciting that the hit. Surface lure fishing is, if you will, hit plus or hit turbo, whatever you chose to call thrill served with a side of excitement.

I am lucky enough to be able to fish a lake festooned as much with Jack pike as it is with lilies. The water is shallow and clear. The pike love to linger amongst those pads locked and coiled to attack and prey that drops it guard. And for my part I have a box full of tricks I hope to use to trigger attack from pike that think my fakery is a panicked duckling seeking its mother, a struggling frog desperate to climb atop a pad, wet rat heading for its burrow, or an injured fish struggling on the surface.

Theory and practice as always are two very different things. After arriving early amongst the pines flanking the country estate I worked several fruitless areas where I was sure pike would be hanging out and all I had to show for it was a few puffs of silt where some bog eyed jack had gone off half cocked, missing the lure by metres rather than feet. Things weren't looking good until I followed the wind to a long line of pads emanating from an island, where all hell broke loose. My first cast sailed right over and the rubber frog attached splashed into the ripple beyond. A few turns of the handle and two Jacks burst from their layers charging in for attack. The first one missed but the second smashed so hard into my lure that it literally tore through the rubber skin. A head shake and it was gone... but this was just the start. It took several casts and multiple hits before the hook bit home in one of the teeth filled mouths. From what I could tell they actually seemed to be targeting the lures legs, shaking the lure from side to side and my strikes were pulling the lure from their grasp. All it took was a slower strike and they were soon getting hooked.

Weirdly of all this massive old lake they could be in, most of the resident pike seemed to be focused on this one quiet corner. Of all the possible explanations for this I think the most likely is that combination of prey following the wind and the thick cover had combined to switch the resident pike into feeding mode. The area probably held no more predators that any other tennis court size section of water, it's just that these were in feeding mode and others probably weren't. Whatever the reason the for their aggression they repeatedly attacked in various different ways from bursting out of the shadows to oddly almost sucking the lure of the surface.

None of the fish on this occasion were particularly large as ninety percent of the pike in this lake are sub six pounds but what they lack in size they make up for in eagerness. The savage gear 3D reaction frog turned out to be the lure dujour and even full of holes and sinking at the end it still got the interest of these sharp eyed little predators.

I had so much fun flinging these surface lures around that I can't wait to try this out on a host of other waters including the rivers once they are open and when the weather conditions are favourable and the pike are ready to strike!

Friday 31 May 2019

Romanian Angling Club UK spring predator race - Hawksbury junction

I was really looking forward to this match being put on by the Romanian Angling Club. Along with the Polish anglers I see regularly on the local lure circuit, the Romanians are brilliant lure anglers and therefore there is so much you can learn from fishing with and against them. Knowing how good they are I suspected that this match was going to a really competitive event but once again all the people involved were the most friendly bunch I have had the pleasure of fishing with.

My only concern was the late start of the match as I knew from previous visits that Hawksbury junction is getting very busy and once that boat traffic started thumping the fishing would only get harder. Luckily with all the rules covered and everyone registered the organizers let us off early and anglers shot off in every conceivable direction.

With competitors lining the banks as far as the eye could see my early priority was to try and find some space in which to fish. It was on my way to find said space that I happened on my friend Ian Whittaker, who was in the process of landing a large section of plywood that was easily over the 15cm limit but sadly not on the capture list for the day.

I had it in mind to try and get the pike box ticked as I theorized that that my best chance to do this was early on whilst the canal still had some clarity. For once I did the right thing and not long in I hooked a big pike which held deep in the deep water before turning and powering off, where upon my line parted. Knowing they were about, I quickly tackle up again and began searching; luckily I found a nice 51cm jack hiding under some lily pads. One cast of my J.M Soft baits grubby shads and it attacked.

From then on though things were very tough. As I expected the sheer volume of anglers was making things harder but by working some cover I routed out a pair of under sized perch which were both only just under the 15cm size limit. With the canal quickly coloured I began targeting known zander spots and a few in I hooked a nice little zander of 29cm.

With the hard work done I figured my best bet was to scale down and try to bag a perch over the size limit. If I could just get one I would get the 50cm bonus and then any other captures would be extras. I don't think I have ever worked so hard for a single small perch in my entire life. I switched to fishing the dropshot and micro lures down the edge and after a couple of timid attacks and walking an entire length of canal I found just what I was looking for hiding close to my own feet.

Total = 95cm + 50cm multi species bonus 145cm

After waiting round for the all the sheets to be handed in, the chaps from the club began calling out the winners. How gutted was I to miss out on 3rd place by a mere 2cm. I could have kicked myself as I spent the last hour fishing bigger lures whereas had I stuck with the dropshot I feel sure I could have scratched at least one more perch to push me into the top three. Oh well hind sight is a fine thing, but everyone including myself had a great time and its a match I will certainly look to fish in the future. Well done to the Romanian Angling Club UK for organizing such a great event.

Friday 17 May 2019

Tusses Spro Freestyle League round 2 (Lure Witches)

The second round of the Tusses Spro Freestyle was soon upon us and considering I had made the decision that I couldn't commit to fishing as part of a dedicated team, I was still fishing. At the end of the first match where I had filled in for Greg Bafia on the Realistic Shad team I was recruited to fill in for Bethan Sedgewick Miles on the Lure Witches team fishing with Joanna Davies, AKA Asia. I have met Asia here and there on a couple of other matches but had never fished with her as a partner though she seemed over the moon to have someone along to help her compete on this unfamiliar venue. Saying that, my experience of this stretch was limited to a single practice session where the canal became very murky quickly once the boats began moving.

After meeting up with Asia in the Pub car park and discussing a rough plan of action we were keen to get going. With Asia pulling the number two card out at registration we were buoyed up with our early position and once the off was sounded we went with our plan to do a decent walk out to an area which had fished well in practice, then work our way back and things went very well indeed!

After missing a couple of early fish Asia scored first with a small perch to take away the early jitters. After getting hit hard and my lure losing its tail to a good pike, I too put some points on paper with a nice sized zander from exactly the same spot.

With more competitors now flooding past us we actually went against the tide and began moving back along the stretch; running a lure close to the edge I found a bonus baby pike which although diminutive added vital species bonus points.

Our next flurry of action came when Asia hooked a very nice perch close to some cover whilst we were touching base with my good friends, Dave Mutton and Ian Whittaker, from Specimen fishing UK team who had just had a small zander. A few moments after releasing Asia's perch I nabbed us another small zander before Asia lost a similar one.

By late morning things were dire all round. The boat had churned up the silt and any early clarity was long gone. Add to that the now hot sun and most people were struggling. The news on the grapevine was that a couple of teams were building up some better lengths targeting small fish for our part we agreed to just grind it out and push on back towards the start. Somewhere in amongst the thousands of casts we made, Asia hooked and landed a computer tower and I heaved out an old portable TV both of which validated our excellent knot tying skills.

With an hour to go we headed down into the other half of the stretch to fish water that we were convinced had already been thrashed senseless. Knowing what had already been chucked at any fish in the area, I opted for a big change and began casting a creature bait tight into any cover I could find and BOOM! My gamble paid off when I hooked a powerful and very angry zander which turned out to be our biggest fish of the day, much to Asia's joy.

Total 205cm  + 3 x species bonus @ 25cm per species = 280cm

1st Place = 'No Wasps Here' Steve Wilson/Derek Holmes (435cm)

2nd Place = 'Lures and Oatcakes' Chris Milllward/Mark carter (306cm)

3rd Place 'Lure Witches' Joanna Davies/Daniel Everitt (280cm)

Biggest pike = Silviu Stoica (56cm)

Biggest Zander = Daniel Everitt (55cm)

Biggest Perch = Stenescu Cristian/Greg Bafia (38cm)
Well what can I say... A third place finish and the biggest zander of the match for me was a great result. We scooped some prizes and our brilliant performance gave the Lure Witches team a fantastic 30 points towards their overall score. I think everyone who fished it would agree it wasn't an easy match, but all those who take part in these league matches seems to have a great time and there is a great vibe on the bank. I suppose all that remains to say is...
"Who needs a substitute for round three"

Thursday 9 May 2019

Practice sessions (Coventry)

I reckon every lure angler in the country has been waiting for the predators to get out of their spawning funk which seems rather prolonged this year by the up and down weather. I for one have really been looking forward to them getting back on the feed as I have recently freshened up my lure selection with an injection of custom lures from John Maher @ J.M Soft Baits and I have been gagging to throw them at some proper hungry fish. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that custom lures would be within my grasp until one of my fellow England CRT team members put me in touch with John who has produced for me a whole load of Grubby shads in special colours that look amazing and just have to catch fish!

With the upcoming League competition section now out of bounds for a pre-match rest I opted to stick on the Coventry but have a practice for the up coming Romanian Angling Associations spring predator race which I intend to fish in a few weeks time. This seemed the perfect opportunity to road test Mr Mahers handy work..

Venue = Coventry canal @ Hawksbury

Total = 277cm

Well it turned out to be one of those sessions where you drive home looking like you've taken some kind of smile inducing drug. From the outset I knew it was going to be a good session. I arrived early and the water was in perfect condition. I was instantly into fish with an early zander which I followed up with a hard fighting spawned out perch. Things though were going to go from good to brilliant quickly when I moved into an area I rarely fish. On my second cast I watched as the lure dropped through the layers in the deeper than average area. Suddenly the drooping line tightened and I reactively struck into a big fish which after a suitably epic fight turned out to be chunky 65cm zed. The zeds were back on the feed in a big way and after following up the big one with another chunky 52cm zed I plundered the shoals of little zeds where I could find them All in all it was a great practice session and the mixture of species, large and small fish was very pleasing to see and really left me feeling very buoyant for the upcoming matches.

Thursday 2 May 2019

Practice sessions (Coventry)

With the second round of the Tusses freestyle league fast approaching and me being a substitute for the Lure Witches team I felt I needed to get in a bit of practice so as to hopefully be of more value than just making up the numbers. Considering how well I know the Coventry canal from the city centre basin through to Hawksbury and beyond into bandit country (Bedworth), I really know very little of it beyond the border into Nuneaton. As a result this was really going to be a venture into the unknown for me to get an idea of where and what possibly, I should be doing once the match commences.

On this outing I joined up with Ashley Dixon from the Boinging Baggies team as he too wanted to familiarize himself with the water. I think we both knew it wasn't exactly going to be a fish fest and that the reality of the situation was pinning down areas that held fish...any fish.

Venue = Coventry canal/Hartsill area

Total = 100cm est

After initially deciding to venture in one direction from the starting point we eventually began fishing in some very fishy looking water and early on I pulled up a small sub 20cm zander which let go of the lure once at the surface. We worked that area hard with little to show but a few plucks to Ashley's rod and looking back probably spent a little to much time working the area. Once we moved on though, things changed when a few casts into a new spot a very large pike engulfed my lure and tore of savagely before severing my leader. A little way down the stretch Ash landed a very nice spawned out perch over 30cm and after leap frogging him I rooted out a long lean pike easily over 65cm. Bar few more fruitless hits we didn't land anything else in that productive area.

Our next bit of action came when Ashley began getting some interest off some tiny zander fishing a marginal feature. By this time though the boats had begun moving and any water clarity we had early on soon went as the shallow canal became more turbid. With the sun high and hot and the water conditionings deteriorating we had to change tactics to stand hope of catching any more fish. Going onto an old faithful lure helped me land another zander this time over 30cm for my final fish of the foray.

As expected this was a hard session with some of the fish still preoccupied by reproduction. Happily though it seems like little by little the predator spawning is coming to an end and with some ideas of fish holding areas this might mean the upcoming league match might not be as torrid as the last one.

Thursday 18 April 2019

Stuttering spring sessions.

I am not big on making excuses for not catching, but even I have to admit that the lure fishing round these parts is total rubbish at the moment. The pike I am sure have spawned by now, but both the perch and zander seem too have ended up in some kind of limbo due to the temperature first increasing and then dropping again. Literally, I have caught perch that haven't spawned and seen ribbons of eggs clinging to snags. Some zander to are being caught off nests whilst others are still bulging with spawn. I had hoped that after a week away at tropical Burnham-on-Sea I might return to post spawn predators going on the munch but that turned out to be wishful thinking as the low temps and frosty mornings have meant the limbo has persisted even further into April.

The day after returning from the seaside I was on the bank with my old mate Mick, off of Picatorial Quagswagging to check out the zander potential of a semi urban stretch we had both pondered but never fished. It was a great looking bit of canal which I am sure holds its fair share of zander but sadly we were never going to see anywhere near its potential...

For my part in this adventure I caught very little apart from several substantial branches, a few poo bags and a little zander of 45cm, which I assume was a little male as it showed no signs of spawn or having spawned. Mind Mick caught only two other smaller ones which gave both us very limited information on whether this area was worth a return visit.

I had to wait ages for my next session and when my chance came I nearly wasted it after going out for a curry with some mates and not crawling into bed until two in the morning. Lucky for me the family were receptive to me re-jigging our plans for the day and chipping off for a short evening session on a shallow water I know is rife with pike.

Two ideas came to mind re this trip; firstly I wanted to fish some surface/subsurface lures for the pike, secondly I wanted to have my first go fishing the reverse dropshot rig for the huge perch in this water. As this water is painfully shallow I was convinced both the perch and pike should have done with spawning by now and that after a few weeks with little rain the water would be gin clear and those pike couldn't fail to detect the noisy top water lures.

Sadly the wind was freezing and even after seeing the lake was gin clear I concluded to just fish a subsurface 3D Rad lure which attached by the lower split ring position runs a maximum of a foot under the surface

Casting the Rad about in the perfectly clear water turned out to be some of the most exciting fishing I've done for years. The little pike although out-sized by the lure would repeatedly charge after it as if they were about to attack, before turning off at the last minute once there realized exactly how much of a mouthful the lure was. It wasn't too long before I cracked out the drop shot rod to fish some highly buoyant worm style lures a foot and half off the weedy bottom. In doing so I quickly found a shoal of small greedy perch were hell bent on eating lures the same length as themselves and bigger.

Unfortunately the fuss caused by the writhing perch all too quickly got the attention of the hungry jack pike and after stealing a couple of captures I hooked one of the vicious attackers and on my light dropshot outfit in that shallow water, it sent my reel into meltdown. Lucky for me the hook was right in the corner of the cheeky jacks mouth and smashing up the shallows into a muddy soup I netted the hungry little fellow and grabbed myself one last hazy selfie due to my cracked phone screen.

I do hope the canals and all the other stuttering venues come back into form with the approaching warm temperatures, as I have plenty of practising to do for a couple of up and coming matches and I wouldn't mind actually catching a few of those hungry jacks off the top once their blood boils up and they grow even more savage.

Thursday 28 March 2019

Practice and Tusses Freestyle league round one.

Earlier on in the year when I first heard Tusses Lure Division would be running a league on my local waters I was very keen to take part. However it wasn't until I started looking at the calender and at the upcoming matches I wanted to fish combined with other fishing targets for the year that I concluded it was going to be too much of a commitment for me to make. But even though I was unable to commit I decided that I would still like to be involved even in a much smaller capacity if possible. So I put it out amongst the people I knew that were fishing that I would be more than happy to be a substitute if anyone needed one. Low and behold it turned out that Greg Bafia from Team Realistic shad was going to miss the first match and his partner, my old friend David Warren, soon asked me to fill in.

Considering I live very close to the stretch this first match was to be on I really don't fish it at all. This is largely to do with it being a bit of a rough urban stretch that is notoriously clear and snaggy. I have done a little bit though here and there and already knew this was by no means going to be an easy event. With little time available my only chance to get out for a practice was for a very short pre-work session the week before the match and surprisingly things went very well...

 Practice - 1 Hour Basin match stretch

30cm (est)
Total =95cm

The basin itself proved rather fruitless for me even though it did look good for a few hits, but it wasn't until I went walkies outside it that I found myself a couple of hungry predators. The first was a spawned out young female pike which I found lurking close to the edge and the second was a nice match sized zander which was lingering close to a brick wall. Ninety five centimetres in under and hour was a bit of a shock to be honest, but things would be very different in the match with thirty plus other lure anglers jockeying for position.

Tusses Freestyle League round one.

The morning of the match the car park on Leicester row near the basin was full of anglers when I arrived. I recognised most of them from various competitions and events and seeing them all, knowing this stretch to be a hard water thought this was going be a beast of an urban competition. Myself and David had already discussed a rough plan and after the complimentary bacon butties were eaten the event began with a staggered start. Even though we had drawn an early number we were the last team off as David was officiating and that meant we were the last ones away.

As predicted it was a torridly hard affair and we searched so much water in vain, catching very little for our efforts. The fish were very cagey all round; the few small perch we winkled out were really on the small side, the bigger ones near impossible to catch as they were still to spawn. My idea to gamble on taking a pike outfit turned out to be a bad decision as the only pike our team encountered came to David's rod, biting him off in an instant and as for my heavy rig, it pulled nothing but large branches out of the canal. Along with that pike bite off I had one better perch follow my lure right to the surface before turning off and we had handful of very unfruitful nibbles.

The saviour of our match had to be David's spectacular final capture where he dropped a lure straight onto what was obviously a nesting zander which in a savage act of defence tore into the lure and proceeded to jump out of the water like a tarpon. Once landed it was the most magnificent dark fish you're likely to see.

At 44cm this fish was very close to turning the biggest zed prize into a three way tie. Even missing out on that it still served to add vital species points to our score just before the sheets had to be handed in.

Total + species bonuses = 138cm  

1st place - Steve Wilson and Derek Homes (No wasps) = 277cm
2nd place - Phil Kenny and Jacob Stone (Bennett Pred pro team) = 258cm 
3rd place - Slawomir Mikolajczak and Daniel Osinski = 254cm
As for us... we were unlucky to finish in 11th place in this first match just outside the points. Literally one tiny perch could have made the difference for us in this one.

Personally I think I made a big mistake in taking along that second rod as I feel it distracted me far too much and should I have levelled that concentration on just fishing the light outfit I feel sure we could have added a couple of valuable fish to the score which may have made quite a difference to Team realistic shad rankings (Sorry David and Greg). However I already may have my opportunity at redemption in the Freestyle league after being recruited straight away to fill in for another team in round two - the all female Lure Witches team.