Robert has returned form a summer jaunt to the island of Antigua and it's surrounding islands, where he has spent the last few months in search of some very rare reptiles indeed. With him travelling down from the Cotswolds for the weekend visit there was no doubt we would be getting out for a session. We had already discussed the river, which he as well as I, had experienced was not on top form. After knocking a few ideas around we decided to check in on a section of canal that I have not yet visited this year. This perch paradise as far as I am concerned is amazing, and it can normally be relied upon to yield two pound perch or two.
Although I have not spent any time on it so far, the need to check in now and again is always at the back of my mind, as in the next few years I have the feeling that this water will move from amazing to sublime. The only question is how long will it take for those twos to become threes!
For this trip our pairing was to become a trio. Initially the intention had been for a traditional up before light Sunday morning job, but the reports of a weather front coming in heralded a change of plan, and Saturday afternoon spent in the autumn sun seemed far more appropriate. The third musketeer on this occasion was Jacky. Normally her joining us on any fishing trips is reserved for the summer, but the civilised nature of the target area and a bit of gentle persuasion on my part coerced her to come along for the ride.
We stepped onto the tow path in the warm afternoon sun and really it felt like any other late summer day. But today was the autumn equinox and the nights just lately have begun to nip, so plenty of extras layers were stuffed into bags. After I had lead our precession along the canal to a suitable spot, we pitched up and set about business.
No high tech poles here, just powerful float rods and floats capable of suspending whole worms inches off the bottom. I had also brought a dead bait outfit along, to fish in a depression on the normally uniform canal bottom, which has in the past yielded zander.
It did not take long for my float to slide away as the first perch made off with my worm. Small but a perfect miniature of its fore fathers. It certainly stood a chance of becoming a giant too. Rob was next with a good sized perch which fought very hard with the last of its summer vigour.
All I could mange to start with was sub pound fish. But soon enough ripples of attention emanated from the top of my dead bait float which had sat dormant over the depression. A few more bobs and it began moving away towards the opposite side of the canal. When it had submerged fully my swift strike connected a small zander which also fought rather hard zipping around the canal.
There was no doubt the bites today seemed to come in waves for some unknown reason. After nothing floats would suddenly start dancing one after another. After more small perch and a tiny zander which liked the look of my worm, I pondered if the fish were holding close in and venturing out here and there. Dropping my rig close under my feet the float never settled before slipping away attached to my best perch of the day.
That fish back, the dead float again awoke. However my impatience this time got the better of me and all that came of that bite was a bare hook. The zander were in the swim and a couple of dropped runs later hooked a fish that really fancied a ruck.
Even in the net, and as we got a picture it was mean and bristling. As I released it it made a right fuss, thrashing the water as it went off. I would not want to be anything smaller than six inches within a mile of that one.
Again the bites slowed and all that seemed bothered was the odd small perch or zander, until my dead line started travelling side to side. This was no fish, or it was at least no fish with fins. The crayfish had crashed the party and thought my dead roach was the hors d'oeuvres. A new bait bought a fresh run and this fish did not mess around. One bob and the float was gone. I so wanted it to be a good zander, but what we want and what we get are never the same thing. This fish was far too powerful for even a big zander. It was definitely a pike - not massive but still nice to see. Pike as far as I am concerned are the only thing that have suffered from the introduction of zander into our canals. There is no doubt less of them around compared to when I started fishing, but it is nice to see one come out of an area stuffed full of zander
All too soon the sun began to near the horizon and the air began to chill. The warmth of the day was gone, as was the warmth in our toes. Cold and hunger joined forces to shoo us away for the night and we packed up as the last vestiges of light burnt the horizon.
Walking back it seemed a different season entirely. The canal had fallen quite for the day and night beckoned. The sky now glowed a hundred colours; pink, cerise, coral, fuchsia, magenta and indigo. Almost too many to comprehend.
Smoke now curled from the iron chimneys of narrow boats moored along the still water. The wood smoke scented the crisp evening air as the people inside warmed themselves. We would not feel warmth until the car doors blocked the last bird calls of the day.
The journey back was a sight. All three of us were silent, as the amazing sunset stretched out before us. Only when the fluorescent glow of the city robbed us of the night sky did we speak, reality shaking us from our daydream.