The troublesome shy bites I'd got from the Zander on my evening session last week had been bugging me over the weekend; why I had received such tentative enquires whilst Andy was getting full on takes had me perplexed. After the early morning action on my weekend barbel foray, I had time to sit back and watch the river whilst I contemplated my quandary. After mulling it over a few times the only logical reason that came to mind was the flow: Andy had all of his runs in a area where the rivers eddy allowed him to have little pressure on his line; I however had been fishing down stream with the entire flow of the river upon my line, thus causing maximum pressure.
We had arranged to meet again to target the same area as the light fell mid week, so my chance to experiment was soon at hand. We fished almost identical spots, arriving well before sun down in readiness for the initial feeding spell.
Our baits were in position well before feeding commenced and luckily for us low lying cloud cover brought dusky conditions a little early this time. The first wave of Zander passed through just as the light went, and I could barely see the top rod without the aid of a tip light. Unlike last time, when I got the first knock I picked the offending rod up holding a tiny amount of tension onto the line by hand, feeling for the fish to move off. Bingo! It worked a treat and my first schoolie sized zed was hooked.
After that first fish, just as I expected the wave of fish hit Andy's rods as they moved upstream and he to landed one of a similar size.
At this point I was thinking it was more than likely that the shoal would carry on upstream and maybe come back later past Andy, and after he got another bite I might get a second shot. I did get a second chance but it came before Andy... A second wave of fish moved through and this time after getting a enquiry I picked up the rod, waited, and finally struck into a slightly bigger fish of around 3lb.
Sure enough Andy was next to land a fish. These zeds were definitely moving upstream in waves hitting our baits in order as they went. And seemed they to be getting bigger!
It was an age before one of my rods went again and this bite was the most timid yet. I held the rod in one hand, line in the other, for ages as this fish dropped the bait time and time again. It kept moving off then stopping and bumping here and there before the line finally started to peel through my fingers.
Instantly I could feel it was a better fish, and the bend in the rod as it plunged into the heavy flow confirmed it was the biggest of the night so far. Once on the bank it weighed in at 6.3lb. If common theory holds true that would make this fish a loner, a graduate of a school of smaller fish. All in all a very satisfying Zed.
As always the best and worst was still to come. My final tap was followed by the most fussy fish ever, toying with my bait for a shocking amount of time. At last it began to move off and I gave it stacks of line before I hit it. Instantly I realised I had just connected with the biggest river Zander I have ever felt.
It just hung in the flow shaking it's head from side to side before moving off as my rod doubled over. After it swung out into the flow by ten or more feet it again shook its head as I held on. Then all went slack just before old bill rolled over in his grave as the worst use of the English language ever echoed over the county of Warwickshire, and lit the night sky blue! Very blue!
Andy's prompting forced me to get a bait back in the area just in case it came back and that cast did return a small bite, but all that came of that was my night light visibly bouncing around in the dark in reply to my shaking hand holding the rod.
There was no more action before we left, but I was happy to observe the Zanders movement up and down the river, which seemed to confirm my theory about their behaviour in this type of environment. Even though I experienced that awful feeling of having lost what was possibly the fish of a lifetime, this was one of those occasions that makes it all worthwhile, and inspires me to cast out again and again.