Wednesday, 31 December 2014

I want to believe.

My mind and all possible senses screamed to me that the fish I hooked on the drop shot just in front of that platform has to have been a carp! After all it surged off across the wind-whipped commercial pool like a marlin, and perch just don't do that do they? But there remains this niggle in my mind,  fed by the sight of two regurgitated prawns spiralling slowly into the depths moments after the hook was thrown. I mean in all my years of fishing and catching literally thousands of the dammed things, I can never once recall seeing a carp vomit up food in a fight. Perch though... I can't count the amount of times I've seen worm and maggot floating around in swirled waters when playing perch. That's what is killing me, the sight of two sinking prawns, and the thought that if it was a perch on my line it was by far the biggest, heaviest and hardest fighting one I've ever encountered.

Really this was to be my last look at this pool. I'd fished it several times and apart from the plethora of mid to high twos, I'd only seen a glimpse of what I thought was a bigger fish. Sure, the rumour mills spat out stories of loads of threes and the odd four but in reality if that was the case one should have turned up by now, with me catching so many twos. Soon enough the New year would roll in and with it would arrive sheets of ice and hard frosts so I'd be off dace or pike fishing and I'd already made the decision to not come back.

So there I was on my last go in a new swim not getting any bites. I was the only angler fishing the big reed lined bay even though there were three others perch fishing up in the ever popular area by the island over the pool. Having never fished this area before I was drawn to it by the wind hammering into the bank where I was pitched up. But so far my hunch to fish this end of the lake was proving fruitless.

With my float motionless under the tree to my right it seemed the perfect time to begin exploring the open bay with the drop shot. After fan casting back and forth a few times over the bay I began to feel like I might be pissing in the wind trying to catch what was probably only handful of perch amongst a trillion other fish. It was around then that I spotted my float do a bob. Rod in hand I waited as the float sank away under the clear water. Satisfyingly my strike was met by head shaking not the dull mindless power of a winter carp and  moments later a well marked long mid two perch lay on my unhooking mat.

That was one of only two bits of action I got all day. Sure the roach finally homed in on my severed worm but the random pecks translated to little more than ripples emanating from my chubber.  I did still have my drop shot rod set up and even though I had little confidence in it actually hooking a fish after seeing how covered in leeches the perch was, I still endeavoured to make the effort and fish it as a second option.

With the wind beginning to cut through my layers of clothing I had retreated largely into my coat. As I watched the float bobbing in the ripple I held my drop shot on a shot line and bounced it up and down right in front of me. I really wasn't concentrating and that's why it took a while to process the hard thump that reverberated up my line. When I did figure out it was a fish I lifted the rod and whatever it was stripped easily thirty feet of line from the spool. Getting a handle on the situation and the fish, I applied pressure which turned the powerful fish around and got the upper hand. Then it shot towards the only other possible snag in the swim; my line! That was hauled out quick sharp as I tried to stop the fish going into some tree roots. Before I knew it the fish was back literally exactly where I hooked it where it banged around and threw my rig flying out of the water. I watched in horror as the water swirled in all directions and fish got away unseen. The only thing that remained was the sight of two prawns swirling down to the bottom after being ejected by the fish, just like my hook.

Sitting back on my seat I looked at the hook for signs of some fault by way of answer, but couldn't find one. After feeling such power I reasoned to myself that it had to have been a carp from the way it surged off. Those prawns though just didn't seem right... It couldn't have been could it... A massive perch... No, it had to be a carp. Please let it have been a carp...

Friday, 19 December 2014

Puffed up power rangers.

Less than a week ago I regaled a tome where I fished on a perfectly beautiful English estate lake. This write up was to be assigned to equally beautiful but much wilder waterway, but the afore mentioned wildness is partly the reason why it is not about the trip I so much wanted to make.

The hope was to be writing about fishing a winter shrouded river Wye set deep in a frosty valley for naive barbel on a private salmon beat, or angling after pike so big and mean they would deter even the most confident Jack Russell’s from paddling, evaporated in the days of peaky weather that preceded our intended departure.

We watched as the clouds drove in off the west coast and after spilling over the hills of Wales depositing their contents in a sweeping motion, covering the most of the west of the country including the Wye catchment basin. Knowing full well what was about to happen I watched in resigned horror as the Environment Agency’s river levels web page indicated the river constantly swelling. If this depth increase was to happen on my native Avon then a large part of Warwickshire’s population would have quickly become snorkel dependent, but on the Wye a rise from 0.63m to 3.96m is seen as a mere spot of extra water. It did however put paid to any barbel fishing whilst submerging our banker predator spot and leading ultimately to the cancellation of our much anticipated session.

The local river went much the same way and with me trying my hardest to leave the canals alone, this cajoled me into once again thinking about how big I suspect the perch on a target commercial lake could possibly grow. Up until now the temperature had proven prohibitive as the pools resident carp were far too keen to feed on in the mild weather. However with the rains accompanying the sub-zero flush of cold, the commercial seemed the best use of my time.

To say it was a culture shock going from a picture postcard Estate Lake nestled in a deer park, to a comparatively juvenile puddle that was half inhabited by match anglers all wearing matching clobber that made them rather reminiscent of a bunch of rowdy puffed up power rangers, is a bit of an understatement. I was lucky when I arrived and found the area I fancied was not only free of ice but was also free of the match that was assigned to fish the much more uniformed opposite bank. So I set about quickly digging in and baiting up close to a bank side reed bed.

My morning did not go well at all. After settling in I waited and waited for even the slightest movement of my float, which never came I should say. Whilst I waited the match arrived and after ranting and raving about the ice from the car park they did eventually make their way to the pegs where after bashing the just-a-bit-too-thick ice with all sorts of devices, took it in turns to throw what looked like a chunk of metal tied to a rope through the ice and into the shallow water.

It took half an hour for the carnage to end, ten minutes for the ghostly creaking of ice to subside and the ripple to settle. After such a stealthy display I watched slack jawed as my compadres began the banter at the top of their voices over the lake. It was about then that I realised that if I thought I was going to catch a giant stripy in these conditions I was as deluded as my puffed up power ranger friends over the lake and that if I paid for the honour of fishing on this pool on this day I was a full blown idiot. Needless to say five minutes later I was in the car with the heater on maximum rubbing my lip with a make shift comforter and Classic Fm soothing me as I drove away. For a moment I did ponder another pool but the idea of more ice and possibly more people went some way to the shelving of that idea. So sitting thawing in the extreme heat of the car I concluded my only option to put a bend in rod was to ignore my previous statement and head back to a local bit of canal.

With nothing more than my rucksack, a net and my trusty light lure outfit I trudged the tow path of a very heavily coloured section of canal, and straight away I felt comfortable and a lot more confident. Even with water like hot chocolate in front of me I just picked out the gaudiest offering in my bag and went with it. What do you know the ever faithful canal never let me down…

Even as cold as the water was the resident perch were in the mood and no matter how small they could not resist a tiny fluorescent pink shad fished on a 1gram jig head being bounced all over the trench. I even removed a large amount of the snags from the stretch which will be good for when I return in the future.

After moving further down the canal and out of the wind the zander made an appearance. First a trio of zedlets ripped into my tiny lure before zigg zagging off in a fury as they seem to always do and eventually I got a much bigger thump when I contacted a bigger and far more vigorous, yet very leach covered, example.

I think in the end I was just glad to be in the solitude of the canal after such an awful hour or so back on a commercial. Although I know I have to go back after that monster predator I know lurks in this popular pond, I get the feeling I might well be checking with the owner before I grace its banks again to make sure there is at least no puffed up power ranger matches on when I plan to go again as quite honestly mine and their ideas of a good mornings fishing is definitely two different things.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Lured by man made water.

Time is my enemy at the moment or lack of to be more specific. I mean I could fill every day between now and Christmas just fishing all the stretches of canal I want to go drop shotting on never mind everything else. But like most people I don't have the even one seventh of the free time every week I'd like to have to go fishing as earning a crust kind of gets in the way. Hence as we all have to I have prioritize what I want to do with my valuable fishing time. The canals of late have been the dominant target venues, but I know other things are on the horizon so for now they will have to be left alone. Though saying that, I did squeeze in one last day of canal drop shotting in on a stretch I used to fish years ago and the results were quite promising.

From the off, fishing round structure and features proved to be the order of the day. First chuck in and my Fox spiky shad got nobbled by a small zander and on the second cast the lure got literally ripped off the hook. After a few fish hitting in a frenzy, the zeds shut up shop. A quick change to a slow moving actual worm soon rooted out a nice perch which was lingering tight to the concrete margins.

It was the same story all day as I worked along the canal; I'd find a tasty looking spot fish it, get a few hits and maybe a fish or two then off I'd go on to the next one. The only thing was the general stamp of the fish was a little small considering the amount I caught. I landed easily ten or more zander and twice as many perch, but the all the zander were between 1-2lb and the perch were all 6oz-1lb. Now there isn't anything wrong with having a load of fun and a stack of action, but really I would have expected something bigger to have shown up somewhere in amongst that many fish and worryingly I know there are bigger specimens of both on this stretch so maybe I am doing something wrong...

That was it though for the canals for a little while as I had so many different types of venue I wanted to get on and the next was a real classical corker, and boy oh boy did I want to chuck a lure or two into this predator haven. A few years ago I fished a little known estate lake hidden deep in the Warwickshire countryside that as it turned out was stuffed with Jack pike. That first time I quite literally ran out of bait chucking dead fish around, so this time went back with nothing more than a light lure rod and enough lures to choke half the pike in the county.

It was a perfect winter's day to fish such wonderful venue. As we the crossed the rusting old fence into the ageing estate gardens and walked down through ankle deep leaves towards the lake the woods were alive with gaudy pheasants foraging under the alien pines. The cloud was clearing and the sun lit up the house atop the lawn over the lake. Bar the hundred or so Canadian geese ripping the well manicured lawn up over the water and a family of swans it seemed that we would be honoured, and have this wondrous lake to ourselves for the day.

We actually circumvented the lake and followed a small feeder stream through the trees to begin our fishing on an acute bend where a few hundred years of steady water flow have carved a bend into a deep holding spot. The water as predicted by my accomplice Rob was sluggish and slow with a large mat of debris collected where the branches of the ash that dominates the bend dipped into the stream. The sight of that bend alone would make any perch angler go weak at the knees. It had to be fate that I was here and I still had a drop shot rig set up ready to drag a worm down to its doom. It took the slightest of a flick to send my rig within inches of the debris and joyfully I watched as the braid spilled endlessly from my reel and informing me of how perfectly deep this swim was.

I couldn't have twitched that worm more than a hand full of times before something had it off the hook in a flash. The second cast was much the same apart from I did feel the tell tale vibration of a small stripy for a moment. After a fruitless retrieve I found that the inside line directly under my feet was even deeper than the outside of the bend. I could even feel some tree roots in one area which I did my best to avoid but target if that makes sense. It was whilst doing so that the first of a trio of small but perfectly formed perch zipped out and smashed my worm. Even convinced that there must be a bigger perch lingering in the shade of the tree roots somewhere I had an entire estate lake calling to me like a siren, so I reluctantly left the bend in the river thinking I might return at the end of the day.

The water of the main lake very clear as I expected it might be and I had always known it was going to be a case of going through half the lure box to find which fake folly might spur the pike to strike. In hindsight it was totally the wrong decision to chuck out a drop shot rig into this pike infested water. On the very first cast my line suddenly began moving in a very odd angle after something grabbed my lure. After the line fell slack I retrieved nothing more than two thirds of my leader and the hook. The lure and the weight as well as the other third of the leader were all long gone. Rob got the next bit of action as he retrieved a vigorous little roach he caught on a pinch of bread and the water not far from the bank erupted. I rushed to tie on a trace and rummaged around in my box to find something that would float and could work around mid water.

After settling on a small plug I raised three strikes and good hit before playing a excitable Jack into the edge before it threw the lure back at me by thrashing around in the edge. But that was just the start of things for the day. As we worked away around the lake I went through a whole variety of different colours and patterns before settling on a top three productive lures for the day.

The old school but ever reliable silver spinner worked best in the sun flashing away on a fast retrieve mid water and drew quite a bit of attention from some really tiny pike. I had hoped that it might attract a monster perch but they proved very absent through the day. The floating and super bright perch pattern mini fat plug seemed to wind the fish up into a frenzied attack, but as much as they went for that they seemed to miss it most times. The real winner and number one lure was actually a bit of bastard combination in the end. I had picked up a pack of E-sox paddle tails in the ubiquitous pearl and red pattern, and although they are designed to be fished on a drop shot rig I found they were much more productive at hooking these jacks fished on a 10gm jig head whilst being lifted and dropped on the retrieve.

As the day drew to a close we focused on an area where we had seen prey fish topping and it was here that the pike went into overdrive hitting my lure every other cast. In fact in a mad fifteen minutes I had three fish and six hits in as many casts. Although there was nothing bigger than five or six pounds all day these little predators were great fun on my light lure outfit.

I did in the end follow that stream back up to the bend as the sun dipped behind the woods. Before leaving I had dumped some left over chopped worm alongside the old ash's roots. The thought of what might have been drawn in by or whose appetite might have been peaked by the oozing worms had played on my mind all day.

Leaning against the trunk I flicked the rod sending a newly tied drop shot rig half way across the river. Nothing seemed to notice it fluttering across the flow and into the depths below the tree, so I began to bounce it round temptingly around in front of the roots in a figure of eight. The thump that got sent back up the tight line was epic and it really got my heart beating, but whatever did it seemed not to hold onto the bait. Not knowing what had happened I reeled up a ruined worm which looked as if it had been through a mangle. With a fresh one hooked I wasted no time casting and instead dropped it back on the spot. The next and identical hit came on the drop and also resulted into no fish. All became clear though when I once again retrieved the worm for checking and a pike of about five pounds followed the worm up like a Polaris missile before turning in a splash back to its haunt under the tree.

It was then I figured my attempts to lure one type of predator had not been as precise as I hoped and the likelihood of hooking and keeping on any big perch might be a little hampered. Carrying on though, I did again hook the pike which after smashing up the entire swim threw the hook directly up into the bows of the tree and ended my session. I will however be back to have another go after a monster estate lake stripy as we have it on good authority that there are some true beasts lurking in this lake and apparently they are rather partial to a spinner just as I suspected the might be.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Unpredictable as ever.

The image of an angry zander flaring its gills and surging away attached to my line fed my mind for a week as my body operated on auto pilot completing five days of work drudgery. I couldn't wait to get back onto the Coventry to jiggle some half worms around and try to entice some more of those over-keen silver predators, and why shouldn't I! After all, what could change in a week...

The answer to that previous statement is, a lot! A lot can change in week or more specifically how a canal is fishing can change a lot in a week. I went round to Jeff's on my way to the cut and as luck would have it he too was on his way out after zander. He though had fished the canal for two days prior and was full of bad tidings and woe, for his efforts on the previous two days he had returned exactly nothing. He had however watched a chap getting bites in one swim and that was where he was heading. 

Although others areas called me I went with Jeff's local knowledge and whilst he offered a couple of dead baits on the far bank, I baited a spot in the margin and went about repeatedly lifting my rod gently so as to send my gyrating worm into a hypnotic dance not unlike that of a miniature hula girl. Not long in I got a quick tug I suspected was down to a small perch. It took a fair old bit of work and time before I finally hit into a fish by way of a nice pound plus perch. Then not long later, a second slightly smaller shoal mate obliged me.

The zander though were conspicuous by their absence. As I made clear to Jeff on the bank I have seen definitive evidence that small roaming zander are particularly susceptible to this worm wiggling and if I haven't caught any of them it seemed quite likely that the entire zander population could be on an off day. So we moved on driven by the hope that it was just this area that wasn't fishing. After fishing another swim where I caught only a micro perch we pushed onto a banker of a spot, and on the way I did bait a couple of spots as insurance should we draw a blank at the banker.

I think we both had a gut feeling that the even the banker wouldn't pay off on this session and after a long walk and not much fishing we turned back. One of the spots I had baited previously was the area me and Rob used to fish years ago and I was keen to give it a whirl as the sun sank off the water. I worked the area over well for a while as I chatted to Jeff with nothing to show for my effort. That was until I put my rod down on the bank with the bait still on the spot whilst I looked for something in my rucksack.

More intent on trying to find something deep in the overstuffed bag I missed the first few twitches in the slack braided line. It took a real twitch for me to catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye. Luckily the rod was right beside me on the floor and before the line went tight I struck. I do remember half laughing and thinking some silly little perch had eaten this nub of worm hanging off some really stiff fluorocarbon. That was until I spotted a big silver flank in the murky water. If you’re thinking I had finally caught a zander then you would be quite wrong as I had managed to land my second decent roach on a drop shot rig. Although this one at least didn't take a moving bait like the last one.

It was by sheer persistence that Jeff managed to scratch not two runs by fishing far closer to the far bank than I am sure most pole anglers would have felt comfortable with. The first tepid movement of his float fizzled into nothing, then a definite run came to nothing before his float did a proper dally across the surface towards a snag, which did result in the one and only zander of the session.

Now I know it could've been said that it might have just been a case of us not giving the zander exactly what they wanted on the day, but in reality I don't think that was the case on this occasion. Both me and Jeff with literally thousands of hours of canal zander fishing experience could barely raise more than a couple of half-hearted moments of interest by fishing two proven methods in what weren't really bad conditions. Now if I hadn't of had any interest from the perch I would have said that the entire fish population had shut down, but that wasn't the case, it was definitely just the zeds that had gone off the feed. So now I suppose it becomes a question of what is it that zander are so sensitive to that everything else isn't? It would be only too easy to point the finger at the light levels, if it wasn't the fact light levels on the canal seem to not really apply as the water on canals is so heavily coloured year round. The temp too I suppose could be a suspect if it wasn't that air temperature changes take prolonged periods of time to effect change on water temps and we hadn't seen any prolonged periods of cold. 

Now I could probably go through every possible effecting factor and rabbit on for pages about wind, barometric pressure, moon phases, rainfall, feeding cycles, the lot. But in truth after fishing for canal zander for well over ten years, my experienced opinion on what happened on this past week is this; as with all aspects of zander fishing and zander feeding there are literally no hard and fast rules and the damn things are the most unpredictable fish in the canal as far as I am concerned. It's quite likely that next time I go back to this spot they might well be feeding on the surface in clear water on a bright sunny day taking bloody bread. So I suppose the only thing I can do when I go pack a few slices of bread.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Zanderfest 53.

What is there to say that hasn't already been said or should that be what is there you can write that hasn't been written.  It's always going to be the case when you get get a gathering of angling bloggers all fishing together in one place, on one day, for one species, in honour of one chaps entrance into this world that you get several different perspectives on the day. Personally, I for one love to read all these different aspects of a session as it gives different perspectives. It's like eating a great meal repeatedly over and over again and discovering something new each time.

I think although we were gathered for one main reason everyone had their individual aspirations for the day. For some of the lads who had travelled quite far it was a chance to fish for a species which is not normally that accessible to them. For others they just wanted to get into the zeds on a new bit of cut. For me though being both native to the area and regularly fishing it for the species in question, it was more of a chance to meet up with people whose blogs I follow avidly and have a good old chin wag whilst maybe catching a zander or two. It was a bit of a trip up memory lane as well for me as I not only grew up fishing just down the canal a bit, but also reacquainted myself with rod and line again here after a five year break from fishing when snogging girls was more appealing than sitting on a dog turd riddled tow path. 

After arriving a little early I took the opportunity to have a wander down to a place where me and my old pal pinky used to get sun burnt, blank and occasionally even catch a few fish. It was on my way back that I came across Mick also looking wistfully at the water wanting to get going. Soon enough the muster began as friends old and new arrived. As I have experienced before I got a bit of a surprise when meeting some of the people whose blogs I've been following. Brian from Pike Blog was at least two feet taller than I ever thought he was and James from James' Angling Adventures seemed somewhat scaled down in real life. This isn't the first time I have encountered this strange blog-related size distortion. I thought Lee Fletcher from This Angling Life was a giant until we first met and I realized has most certainly was not the giant I expected (sorry Lee). Now this angling blog size distortion phenomenon has me reassessing how big everyone whose blog I read is and thinking truly how big is the Sweet Corn Kid? Or is Dave Burr really the Viking I expect him to be?

We did eventually form up and trickle out after the handshakes and hellos were done knowing there would be time for chatting on the bank and in the pub once cold and dark had forced a retreat. We filtered out in all directions rods in hand and the hope of submerging floats in our hearts. Actually although I did have a back up dead bait rod with me I thought this was a perfect opportunity to see how my method of the moment, walking the worm on a drop shot rig, stood up against an array of dead baits being fished all over the area.

I ended up heading down the Coventry with Keith as generally for some odd reason I don't really get on with the Oxford canal, that and I had been fishing on the Coventry cut the last few weeks and I knew that the clarity was good for what I wanted to do. My first swim was a narrowing point by a huge reed bed and after depositing a few broken worms onto a spot and jiggling the worm around over them for half an hour I struck into a small zander of maybe half a pound. Another half an hour later and a missed run on the float fished dead bait and I was on the move back towards Keith. In my next spot I was rewarded with a small perch then after constantly working the area I got the strange urge to go back my first spot and I was glad I did.

First drop in and I barely had chance to lift the rod a couple of times before I hooked a decent fish which powered angrily around under the bent rod. I don't know whether it was the good visibility in the water or my position over the fish but I got a real treat by way of a full view of a very angry zander fighting me under the water. Really and truthfully the fish looked so cool flaring its gills, shaking its head and zig zagging around that I know that memory will stay with me forever. After a bit of a fuss where I realized my net was at the opposite end of a moored boat and assistance was needed, the fish eventually found itself in the folds of the net where it was no less angry than it was in the water.

Not long after that I moved again up close to Joe Chatterton of Joe Chatterton's Angling Diary and after seeking permission to linger on the edge of his swim fishing the margin I dug in until dusk. My dead bait did absolutely nothing, but thank god I persisted in constantly walking the worm round on a area I kept topped up with chopped up worms. In the few hours that I stood chatting to Joe I landed another three small zander, bumped off a couple more and lost what both me and James thought was a big perch.

Knowing the temperature was always going to fall dramatically combined with the knowledge of a open fire in the Greyhound pub always meant there was going to be a rather strong force pulling us back down the tow path. For my part the novelty of having a pint of Bass in one hand and a drop shot rod in the other only lasted as long as the pint of beer did and all too soon myself, Keith and Joe were slinging tackle in cars and heading in from the dark.

Everyone else soon arrived in spits and spats lured back to the warmth of the pub and cold beer. It was high spirits all round as the beer flowed and laughter emanated from our boisterous bar blocking group. It was really great seeing friends I haven't seen in a while and meeting some new ones and happily we landed a few zander between us which after all was at least half the point of the gathering. As for the other I wasn't sure if I actually congratulated Jeff on his what I think was his fifty-third birthday, so if not the perfect way to end this is by saying congratulations, Happy Birthday Jeff and I can't wait for zanderfest 54 next year..

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Strange but true.

Gagging! That is a good way to describe it. I was gagging to get back to the rediscovered feature I had found previously. My mind had been working overtime in the few days that had passed since I had fished it, all the information collected both past and present had bubbled away and distilled in the cauldron that is my mind; the result as far I was concerned, was nothing less than endless possibilities.

The dark and its ability to coerce the shy to feed attracted me so I was always going to do a short night session, and what better accessory to lurk in the bank of the Coventry cut with on a weekday night than a Jeff Hatt. I mean what self respecting canal angler is seen on the Coventry without a Jeff Hatt nowadays.

It was mid-week before I was back and I'd been through the mill thinking how I wanted to fish it again. There was no doubt worms would be involved as well as dead baits, but how to fish those worms was the quandary. The reason for my confusion was the confirmation of the presence of that relative canal rarity the chub, and big ones from what I'd heard on the tribal drums. I didn't fancy fishing a light float rig at night and the thought of using an alarm to try and catch a canal chub left me feeling a little dirty. In the end it just seemed perversely logical to fish a river method on a canal. So I cracked out the Avon quiver and set up a small link ledger rig and strapped on the old tip light.

We hadn't even got to the spot in the dark before I dropped a clanger. As we left the parked car a man passed us eating a bag of chips. Walking at a brisk pace keen to get fishing we caught him up as he turned onto the canal. I kind of forgot he was walking in front of us as we tracked the wet tow path and I spotted a row of moored narrow boats. Spontaneously I broke in a serious bout of verbal diarrhoea proclaiming that I bet one of these darn boats was parked right in front of the spot. I carried on spewing  profanities all the way down the tow path working myself into a slight fervour as I did. Then when I spotted a boat in the distance I really went for it. It was about then that the now forgotten man who wasn't far in front of me turned and in a slightly annoyed tone proclaimed it was his boat! eep...

Luckily for all parties he wasn't moored exactly on the spot and after settling right at the bow of his boat he went about choking us with diesel fumes and we went about fishing. Both me and Jeff had our little moments in the dark trying to ready rigs. Soon enough though we had lit up floats bobbing around on the canal and illuminated tips floating in the air.

Put in simple terms it went mental from the off! Jeff barely had his ledger rod out before my tip got yanked round. I was flapping round playing what felt like decent fish in the dark. It wasn't battering me like I thought a chub would but I did get a glimpse of subtle gold in the dark. Jeff got it in the net in the light of his head light and we both peered into the net to see a relatively large roach bream hybrid.

More roach than bream I think.

Then on the way back from releasing my capture away from our swim Jeff informed me of my dancing dead bait float, from then on out it went mental. I landed a decent schoolie zander and by the time I'd unhooked and relocated it, Jeff's swim had erupted in a flurry of runs.

Honestly I thought this was going to be the zander session of a lifetime for us both and that it would work its way into some sort of magnificent crescendo involving at least one personal best for one of us. That was until the arse fell out of the session when the rumble of the narrow boats engines stopped and the runs evaporated. It did take a while for us to associate the two together, but after it had sunk in the strange theory that the fishes feeding was somehow intertwined with the rumble of the diesel powered combustion engine did seem correct.

The session went so bad that after an hour or two of lip flapping and chin wagging we called an end to it as we really did seem to be lurking around in the dark for nothing and I for one who had come straight from work, was starving.

My next strange encounter came a few days later. After possibly the most productive Saturday ever, where I not only completed a shopping trip with JB, visited a garden centre and traversed a large proportion of Warwickshire to complete a couple of chores from my Nan I found myself thinking that I could eek out a little more of the day and snatch a witching hour session on a nearby bit of canal.

Fifteen minutes later I was pulling into a secluded canal car park hoping not to have to interact with any doggers that might be out for a bit of Saturday night amusement. Truly I don't know why  had gone back to this section of cut as it has about as good a reputation for predator fishing as the average puddle in the street. Why it should be so bad is beyond me as it's got loads of prey fish, plenty of cover and a growing population of crayfish as well. 

Anyway I keep trying here now and again in a vain hope it might come good and this short session seemed the perfect trip to waste on such an endeavour. I only had my drop shot rod, net and back pack with me so as I could keep on the move. My plan, if I had one, was to keep myself in good vantage points of the canal as dusk crept in and that if I saw any topping prey fish I would home in on them thinking that any predator might also do so.

Sure enough it worked, in a way... Quite early on I spotted three fish top in one area, then as I approached, two more flickered above the water sending ripples across the flat surface. I concentrated flicking some new micro glow in the dark lures all around the canal working the area systemically as all the books say you should. 

Soon enough the dark was not far off and I made a snap decision to switch over to walking the worm. I thought the added scent of the broken worm might become key as the visibility dwindled. So I slowly began creeping a large worm around the trench of the canal. I must of been at it for half an hour before I got any reaction. By now it was totally dark, and I mean countryside dark not that close to the city dark, so I could barely see a thing. I was trying to pinpoint the location of a warbling pheasant in the trees over the canal when I felt a definite tap come back up the braided line. I slowed the retrieve down and kept the bait moving and sure enough I got a second tap. But nothing took the bait after that so I swung the rig along the approximate line of the last cast and began again. I felt another tap and was itching to strike when I hit the forth.

The fish shot around in the dark and naturally I attributed this keen fight to a small zander. I even saw a flash of silver when I flicked my head torch on to land it. When I finally stooped to net the fish I got the shock of my life as I was confronted not by a juvenile zander but instead by a big old roach with my huge drop shot hook undoubtedly hooked through its top lip.

I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing as I laid what looked like a possibly a pound of roach down on the long damp grass. It wasn't a youngster either as far as I could tell from the general wear and tear on its body, so naivety was no explanation for it grabbing my moving worm. This dog of an old roach had in no uncertain term attacked my drop shot fished lob worm.

Ever since catching that fish I've tried to reason and explain what happened there, and about the best I can come up with was that it was a one off where me fishing what is favourite roach bait on a snail pace retrieve, combined with the dark related over confidence and hunger, caused that fish to think 'I ain't letting that big old juicy worm get away!'. I have to think this or I will feel that all those hours I've spent reading about the delicate feeding roach were a total waste of my time.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Forgotten features.

At a quarter to eight I opened my crusty eyes and reached for my next to useless mobile phone. Even though it was quite light by now the sight of the glaring screen forced my eyelids back down. After scrolling through the various screens I arrived at the alarms page to see all the helpful little green alarm clock shaped symbols which indicated a set alarm still staring back at me. This must be the thirtieth damn time this has happened and maybe the fifth when I was meant to be going fishing. If I was drunk and didn't actually need the stupid thing I would have throw it in a rage across the room.

It was strange though that this should happen on this morning, as the night before I had said to JB that I hadn't made my mind up where to go as yet and intended to do so in the morning. Now I found myself lying under a warm duvet pondering where I should go with three hours scratched off my session. Turns out the noise of me thinking roused my other half, who after repositioning herself, chatted to me in sleepy tones. In these situations I am never normally that receptive to suggestions, but when JB suggested maybe I should just head to a nearby canal I remembered I have for the longest time intended to scout out a section of cut I haven't fished in years.

I was generally quite upbeat and excited even though I was on my way to a bit of a back up session. This canal when I fished it years ago really had its poignant moments and I was hoping it would once again live up to my expectations, then seeing it again the banks held a forgotten familiarity. It might have been bit of a gamble but I intended again fish the drop shot rig and walk the worm around so as I could cover maximum ground, mapping the topography of the bottom for future reference if I was going to return.

My starting point was going to be a spot that always produced some nice perch. Disappointingly the old tree that used to hang low over the cut was long gone and with it the perch that resided in its shade. There was still plenty of far bank cover though and two hours were easily consumed bouncing baits back and forth all over the canal. I couldn't buy a bite for love nor money until I arrived opposite an odd feature on the far bank. First cast at it and a few flicks of the rod and I felt something snatch at the worm which was followed by the rod bending over. After zipping around in the muddy water, a small zander of two pounds thrashed shaking it's head angrily into my net. I was sure there would be others around so rather than mess around I slipped the little zed back away from where I was fishing and quickly cast again. But that was it for that spot, even after thrashing the surface into a foam I could buy another bite.

If I thought that first feature was odd the second one I found could only be described as rare as hen's teeth. In all my years of lingering on canals I have never seen such a prominent, attractive and yet probably over looked feature as this. It's rare that I am one hundred percent convinced that will catch in a spot, sure I like to think I can spot a good swim, but I am never totally convinced. Yet here I was looking at this one, knowing that it would produce.

I picked the biggest, juiciest worm out of the tub, hooked it up and swung it out across the canal. That first retrieve revealed a clean and smooth run back to the bank. The second confirmed fish were present and the on the third a small vicious zander mullered the worm.

After releasing that first fish and going in again I couldn't seem to go wrong wherever I cast. There were perch and small zander all over the area and every cast I could feel them nipping at my worm as it danced enticingly among them, until one engulfed the whole bait and the rod juddered over. It was great fun just catching all those little predators, but as always I soon enough I began to wonder where the bigger ones might be.

In an hour or more of fishing I had figured there was a central concentration of fish in front of the feature, so it wasn't too much to theorize that any bigger predators might be close by but not in the shoal. So I began casting around the hot spot looking for something a bit bigger. Low and behold I was proved right when I felt a really hard hit shoot back up the tight line. The rod instantly bent and the clutch gave line straight away. I have already noted whilst walking the worm that you seem to get a harder fight out of zander when they have actively hit a moving target. This fish was really giving it some and when I saw a flash of white under a big boil I thought I had contacted with the mother of all canal zander. The fight though soon became far to protracted for any zander no matter how aggressive a fish it could be. Then when it came up again I saw a different tail to that of a zander and the mystery was solved.

Twice the long lean little pike tail walked as I got it close to the net. It even thrashed on the surface with it's mouth wide open a few times before it went in the net. Then once in the net it was like a timid little kitten and just lay there looking meek. I have to say that I have never seen such an immaculate canal pike ever; it was literally perfect from head to tail.

After that I knew it was time to leave, but I know I will be going back that spot as soon as reasonably possible, as after seeing what is attracted to that very rare feature and knowing what fish this canal contains, I suspect there is something very, very special that at least visits this spot now and again.

I felt a bit stupid walking back to the car as I've known of this places existence for donkeys years and for one reason or another I've never been back to check it out. Now I am kicking myself for not following my instincts and going back sooner to rediscover this forgotten feature.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Taking my worms out for walkies.

I will start by saying that it's been an uneasy transition from bait to lure for me. The idea of drop shot fishing really appeals, but the physical evidence that bait can out-fish a lure nine times out of ten dampens my enthusiasm. A possible answer came from a video I watched online of Des Taylor. He was fishing a drop shot rig but instead of using a bit of rubber to entice a hit he was using an actual worm. I was aware he did this before now but never typed it into google before, and when I did find and watch the YouTube video I was sold. It just seemed perfect for me to try as I can't quite commit totally to fake fish and yet I have absolute confidence in worms, as after all they are my first choice bait when asked the question 'if you could only ever use one bait again in your life what would it be?'.

So with a bait box full of various size worms nestled next to a box full of state of the art rubber, I hit the tow path. Even though my main intent was to dropshot I couldn't resist adding a little more weight to my light roving kit by way of a dead bait rod rigged up with a small float set up and a pack of dead roach in my back pack. Really I don't know why I haven't been taking this out whenever I go out lure fishing, as just I know flicking out a dead in the margins or down the cut quite often brings a few bonus fish. Lucky I did bring it along for the walk as after spending a good hour working over a section of canal I'd had exactly zero hits on the drop shot rod.

I knew a shoal of zander had turned up in the area when the float began tootling off across the canal surface. I missed that one but after casting the roach tail straight onto the spot again the float went straight under. The single o'shanassy hook took hold well on the strike and soon a little schoolie was in the net.

I persisted casting the rubber lures around all afternoon as I made my way down the tow path. Every now and again I was getting taps which I suspected might have been tiny perch. After making a few adjustments to the rig I spotted a tiny zander of no more than six inches long turn off at the surface as I lifted my lure. Straight away I slowed the retrieve down from a tortoise pace to a snail pace and bang I hooked one up. By fishing this way I managed to start hooking up with the veracious little critters but still the bigger fish were eluding me.

The change came when I switched over to fishing the worm or should I say walking the worm. With an hour to go before the light began to fade I swapped over. I did continue to really crawl the baits around and straight away exactly what I needed to happen, happened. As I dropped the worm something grabbed it, my incessant jiggling of the rig smacked the hook home and a nice two pounder surged angrily off down the canal.

This was just what I needed to instil some proper confidence into the method for me. Not ten feet and three casts later it happened again as I worked the tempting worm up onto the marginal shelf. This time though the water erupted and a nice size zander did a rather shocking jump before really kicking off in the margin. I've always thought zander don't fight that hard, this one though went berserk after that razor sharp hook bit hard into the scissors of it's mouth.

Now I was really buzzing after hooking two good fish in succession and it didn't stop there either. As the dark began to creep into the sky the perch really turned on the feed. Every cast I could feel them nipping at the worm shortening it down to a nub by the time I'd reeled it back. I was going through worms at an alarming rate, but I did land a few more pound plus fish for my efforts.

The last area I fished was one that has in the past been very good to me. I know there's a deep hole in the centre of the canal where the bottom drops away an extra two feet for some unknown reason. Straight away I knew I was going to hook something as I felt a juddering bang as the bait was hit as it sank on a tight line. Strangely it took quite a few more casts for me to hit a fish, but when I did finally hook one I knew it was proper old perch. 

It hit me as lifted the rod and like the others, it did not like it's dinner fighting back one bit. It really had me going with my little drop shot rod arching down into the water as it surged for freedom again and again. I felt every bang and shake of its head reverberate all the way back up the braided line and along the rod, and even though it wasn't the biggest perch I've ever caught I really didn't want to lose this one. Finally the hook held and in the quickly fading light I netted a lovely hump back Autumn perch. 

What this session has done for my confidence in drop shotting is unbelievable. I know that generally the method is orientated around lures, but for an stalwart worm angler, walking the worm really forms a very useful and reliable way to transition to the world of drop shotting. Now though I've opened up a whole new can of worms, if you will excuse the pun, as I am just thinking of all the venues and spots I wanted to fish this winter where I will be torn on whether to walk the worm or watch the float.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Is this just maddness.

It's said that necessity is the mother of invention. Well if that is so the father of what I am about to tell you about may well be madness. You see like everyone does now and again, I've recently found myself in that position where other things in life become dominate forces in what consumes my time and thus I was struggling to get out fishing as much as I would like to. Add to this the recent, and let me say archaic, practice of day light saving taking place the weekend just passed and I am feeling rather hampered. Anyway back to the subject I've recently been partaking of more than my normal amount of lure fishing. I find it very convenient in a way that I can just have a light lure fishing set ready to go at all times and with the lack of need of perishable bait required it fits in quite well with my current predicament.

So the other day I was perusing the soft lure selection in the local tackle emporium when I spied a box of lovely new Fox zander shads. The moment I set eyes on them the rusty old cogs in my head ground squeaking into action, my eyes went blank and a cockamamie idea began to fruit. The shads and some 10 gram jig heads were purchased ready to experiment one night in the week.

The night before going out I sat down with a few choice tools to modify what I am sure Fox consider was an already perfect design. Put crudely I cut the lure a new ass hole and digestive tract! In civilized terms, after carefully making a small incision where on most fish there would be a vent I gently forced a narrow and rounded shaft of wood into the body of the shad trying not to pierce it. The result I must say came out perfectly leaving a visible cavity that would tightly hold onto the glow stick I intended to shove in there.

With only a small amount of lubrication to help it along, the glow stick went in with minimal fuss and once fully inserted only the slight bulge in the belly of the shad indicated it was even present in the light!

A crack and a few vigorous shakes and it became a whole new beast in the dark!

So the next night I found myself getting into the car and driving round to the lake where the only light at that time of night was the glow of the distant city. I knew it wasn't the perfect venue to test out my folly but it was convenient and I knew there was supposedly a large amount of prey fish in an area of weed free water that I knew relatively well.

It's one thing going and setting up camp by a sheet of water with a couple of rods on indicators, but it's totally different and strange feeling to be wandering round along the bank in the pitch black in autumn with little unseen creatures rustling round in the leaf litter. The owls were already at it hooting to one another across the lake and every time I made a noise in a new swim, hidden water birds would bolt from their roosts in the reeds beside it. Other than that it was an enjoyable experience all in all. From the first cast I was smitten with the sight of this green projectile arching out from the bank over the lake like tracer fire. Just watching the light show was amusing enough to me, but add to that the excitement that I really thought I stood a small chance of a predator taking a swipe at it and I was practically twitching with excitement.

How many casts I made in the next three hours I couldn't say. What I could say was that it was a miracle that somehow I never once got that lure snagged on anything, stuck it in a tree or even tangled it on the cast. Sadly though I didn't raise any attention with my gaudy offering. Though I am sure I did get at least one follow from something. It happened just around that point when food and beer were beginning to appeal more than lure fishing in the dark. I'd punted the lure out into the void and been slowly bouncing back just off the bottom. Most of the lake was hidden in the black of the shadow of the woods opposite me, apart from the last quarter of the lakes surface which was lighter shade of black reflecting only the night sky. It was in that lighter water that I spotted a bow wave cutting across the surface. I did think maybe I'd dragged in some weed on the main line until it did a forty-five degree turn off as the lure came closer to the edge. I repeated that cast so many more times in the vain hope that the fish might have still been in the area but no it came to nothing. Now after my initial little experiment I find myself thinking has this glow in the dark lure fishing got any mileage or is it madness to think anything would attack something so obvious in the pitch black and am I just wasting my time?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Ghosts and freaks.

The cooling wind felt heavenly as it whipped along the valley across the pool and straight into my face. Every gust that broke over me helped towards clearing the fuzz from my head that had developed in the four hours preceding dawn where I'd flitted in and out of consciousness. Still though I was only half awake, not that it made much difference as the fish hadn't turned up onto my bait as yet, so I just sat in a trance looking at the float but not looking, if you know what I mean. I was however about to get the waking up I needed to kick start my morning...

My florescent orange tipped pole float did a little pirouette and rose from the water showing it's shoulder a little as if some of the shot had just fallen off the line. Anyone looking would have seen a visibly perplexed twist to my face, but that wasn't really my fault as my brain wasn't totally in gear as yet. In my fuddled state it never occurred to me that the reason my float seemed to be looking like a three year old had shot it was that something big was below lifting it up. Still dazed and confused I watched it move a foot left to right before lifting the pole clumsily straight up. But the only thing that happened was the expensive elastic pulled out in resistance to what I thought was the bottom.

"Ahh F#^*!.......Oh F#^*! it's moving"

Truly I never expect there to be any particularity big fish swimming around in commercial lakes. I know when the owner pitches them to prospective customers there's always a thirty that ain't been caught since it went in, or plenty of twenty's if you can catch them, but  I always take this information with a pinch of salt. Mind you when you're fishing for big perch and not carp anything becomes a bother in light gear and the fish I was attached to was, in my opinion, a little bit on the big side for pole fishing.

There was no heroic playing of an unseen beast on my part; it was more like a hung over giant gnome clinging onto five meters of pole whilst a couple of meters of high-tech hydro elastic did all the work. Mind, the fish wasn't giving it the big one either; it too seemed to be in just as much as a daze as me and just plodded around like a huge wet sack. For a while I wondered if I might have have hooked a galactic record bream of fifty pounds or more, until I saw something in the water which indicated the fish was commonly weird.

It was a bit of a squeeze to force it into my net but it did just fit. Looking down into the net I was now fully awake, my head was clear but my eyes were struggling to comprehend what was the whitest carp I have ever seen. Turned out the camera couldn't comprehend it either in the early morning light as on every attempt to do a self take using the auto timer my camera went into full metal spastic. I could actually hear the lens focusing in and out unable to decide on where to stop. After a few attempts the fish was not having any of it, and after ending up with an upside down white ghost koi slapping me in the face I wanted no more of it either. This was the best of a bad bunch but it certainly gets across exactly how white this weirdo was.

I should have know there and then as I slipped back that double figure ghost that it was going to be one of those days where the perch wouldn't get a look in, and why shouldn't it have been one either? The previous weeks drop in temperature had been reversed and even with that bit of wind it was hovering into mid teens even early in the morning. This was probably a day when I should have gone barbel fishing, but honestly right now I don't feel inclined that way. So here I was, sitting on the edge of a lake capable of producing huge nets of carp, trying to catch big perch in conditions when every instinct is telling the carp that now is the time to fill up ready for winter. Six roach and few skimmers later I caught myself that most ubiquitous of summer fish, a crucian, and further proved the point.

After that I should have gone home I think. But instead I thought maybe, just maybe, I could buck the trend or fish through the numbers and sort out a monster perch. No, no, no; I was very wrong. Feeding harder just brought the carp on the feed and holding off on the bait after they had mopped up just meant no bites, so I found myself in a difficult place. With only a hour or more left to fish I conceded to just have a good time with the time I had left and took on the guise of a match angler feeding regularly and striking all bites. It paid off and in that last hour I put five more carp on the bank along with a mess of good roach and two small tench. 

The last and final fish of the day was quite nearly as freaky as the first. This would have literally been one of the best looking fish I have ever caught if it wasn't for the bulging set of bug eyes it had. Other than that it was stunning with its complete covering of apple slice mirror scales and rich golden flanks. What this stunner was doing in a man made hole in the ground was anyone's guess. 

I think I would like to see a few more frosts adorning my car before I go rushing back to fish this venue after perch again, as it will be a while before all those freaky carps get the message from mother nature to slow down and rest up till next year.

Friday, 17 October 2014

To drop shot or not to drop shot, that is the question.

The cynical element of my personality grows proportionately larger with age. By that I mean I grow ever more suspicious of those who pedal shiny things in relation to those who are attracted to and purchase shiny things. I may not be making myself totally clear here so some clarification or specifics may well be in order.

This autumn/winter/spring I fancy having me a proper big perch campaign once again, with the aim of a new PB as the ultimate target. As always, this will entail catching copious amounts of perch of all sizes in order to sort out some top of the pyramid type beasts. I have been mulling and planning this for a while and in doing so have concluded that refining my methods and adding new ones  might be in order. The refining I will get to as time goes by but it's the new methods, or method, I am alluding to now; as I already float fish and ledger for perch this really only leaves lure fishing as the "legal" and "sporting" method to add to my armory and to help attain my target.

Those of you who may read of my earlier exploits with lures will already be aware that I am a sucker for a bright shiny lure and although I have dabbled before with them I have never felt truly comfortable slinging plastic at my quarry, largely because I've always felt it to be a little disruptive to fish in conjunction with my more favored and reliable methods. But then the in vogue drop shot method caught my eye and I now have found myself thinking this more subtle form of fakery might be a little more conducive to how I fish. But, and there's always a but, when you're growing cynical with age, how efficient is this method? and are those sneaky chaps at the popular angling rags pulling out their fish eye lenses to snap piccies of little perch with the latest line of CAD designed fish imitations hanging from their mouths in order to placate their wage paying overlords, sorry I mean advertisers, or does this method really sort out some big billies?

So, recently I obtained a reasonably priced but fairly high quality rod which I matched up with a two thousand size reel filled with light braid, to try my hand at drop shotting. I have always thought there was a lot more to lure fishing than just chucking out a lure retrieving it and hoping something is stupid enough to hit it. Hence the last few weeks I have whenever possible been throwing various bits of rubber into any-where I can and success or not I really feel doing so has taught me a lot  more about lure fishing. But! And there's that but again, even though I can, hand on heart, say I really enjoy strolling around the world shooting lures here there and everywhere, I still remain unconvinced of the true efficiency of this method compared to bait fishing and that's what I am hoping to try a discover a bit more about over the next few months.

I had two opportunities for sessions this past weekend and with my previous statement in mind the thought of trying to catch some big perch drove me firstly to a commercial pool that contains some kippers and has been rather obliging to me in the past.

Now, having not visited this venue for a good long time I set out my stall as per normal using float and worm tactics in order to ascertain if the perch were in the mood and that the carp which I was worried were still a little to active might be slowing down. The bites came on line very quickly after I'd baited up and after landing a string of rudd, roach and skimmers I finally struck into a big and much more determined fish. Happily it turned out to be what I was after; having not visited this lake for the whole summer it was good to see a nice but lean two pounder in the bottom of my net which confirmed this was still going to be a viable venue for this campaign.

More feed went in straight after that fish which in turn attracted more silver fish. I actually tracked the approach of a carp as it came bumbling through the swim truffling up the bottom sending up puffs of silt. Being a bit cheeky I tried to avoid it by removing my hook bait from the water and hoping it might move on, but that was in vain. I watched sipping a cup of tea, as the carp single handily mopped up all of my expensive chopped worm. Then when I thought it was gone I baited up and the bubbling started all over again. I had no choice but to try and fish it out of the swim, which took all of about a minute to initiate and ten minutes to end on the light gear I was fishing.

With the nuisance carp relocated a few pegs away I topped up and resumed trying to pick perch from the shoals of hungry silvers determined to peck my hook baits to pieces. I did eventually hook into another hard fighting perch which after really having a go found its way into the net. Although certainly related to the first this one was in slightly better condition which was reflected by it having six ounces on the first. 

I was over the moon with the performance of this little pool. The fishing went just as I suspected it might, with the perch beginning to get on the feed and the carp slowing down. Given that in just over four hours I picked out a couple of nice fish I think it bodes well for more sessions on here as the temperatures drop and hopefully I can find that bigger fish I know lives in this pool.

The next day I took a trip to the canal that has in the past has been so good to me. Now in all honesty I feel this sacred bit of navi dug water way has been a bit off colour of late fishing wise. Whether it's the change in seasons or some seasonal glut available that is keeping the perch catches low I couldn't say. Something that is for certain is the bloom of small zander on this bit of canal is unreal with the savage little blighter's turning up a lot more regularly that the perch I am after.

Even knowing the seeming state of affairs I found myself walking the tow path in the half light and setting up on a quite mist shrouded bend in the canal. Turned out I was exactly right and the bites were hard to come by. Annoyingly when I did get a little spell of action I bumped off three perch on the trot. Two of them weren't much to write home about but one was infuriatingly a definite mid two.

After scratching out a couple more small ones I made the decision to up sticks and try a second spot that has in the past been quite productive. In this area I was at least I was getting bites even if they were from the wrong fish. A small shoal of tiny fingerling sized zander turned up attracted by the free offerings and would not leave my bait alone. I was catching them at a ratio of three bites to one zed until a bigger perch stormed in and seemingly sent them packing. After the perch though it went dead as door nail until I had a very fast bite. Finally I thought I was hooked up to a good sized perch and after knocking those few off I took things very carefully. Then the fish rolled on the top and my hopes of a big Sargent were dashed. It looked like one of the big hybrids that I've caught in this area before so I turned up the pressure to get the damn thing in the net.

It was as it lay in the net and I lifted it towards me that I realized how rash I'd been. The sun caught its fins and I knew this was no roach bream hybrid at all. Two inches thick, well over a foot long, with massive silvery white scales and orange red fins it looked to be a massive roach.

I don't mind admitting that I did get Jeff to have a look at the photos before I would fully let myself believe it was what I hoped it was, but after multiple checks counts and comparisons he confirmed that yes, it was defiantly a big roach. Beyond that happy bit of information the only pill in this catch was the weight. On my digital scales in the lightest of carrier bags the display flickered back and forth between 1.15 and 2lb refusing to settle on that most magic of numbers. At best all I can figure is that with my scales not showing drams this fish was within a maggot's weight of being a very special fish indeed.

Drops shotting!!!

You may of noticed that even though the title of this post is in direct relation to the afore mentioned method I have not written a single word about partaking of this endeavor in this blog, This is not because I didn't do it, because I did and I did it quite a lot as well. In fact on the commercial I actually spent well over two hours searching out plenty of free water that has been very productive in the past. And on the canal I spent most my time alternating between a float road and a drop shot rod. But on both venues the result was exactly the same! On waters with loads of big perch and one stuffed with zander I failed to raise a single hit! Now I know that this method works on at least one of the venues as I have caught and seen others catch both perch and zander. But the result of this little experiment already has me leaning to what I kind of thought, and that is that although fun and en vogue right now lure fishing, or more specifically drop shotting, seems to not be as efficient as good old fashioned bait fishing.

I won't however be removing my drop shot rod from my quiver right away. Like all methods I think it will have its day and in the right circumstance I might well out fish the float or ledger. But right now I suspect those days when it works might well be when fishing a gin clear venue when you can't buy a bite on bait for love nor money, and that's when I feel sure I can have some real fun whilst getting the most out of this method.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Ruffe redux 3.0

If you said you were getting excited about going on holiday and doing some serious fishing I think most anglers would probably assume you were heading off for a week long carp session at Masion de lac bleu after humongous carp or flying of to Canada to fish the Fraser river for white sturgeon so large they give you a hernia just thinking about them. For me though that means something totally different and certainly something of smaller scale, or with smaller scales. So with the leaves on the trees about to turn and the UK enjoying the hint of an Indian summer I was excited to be off east again hoping to chase down this little Herbert for a week or so.

Day 1

My beer glass was still sitting on the table of the bench where I'd sat drinking it. Barely enough time had passed for a wasp to hover down into it to sup at the dregs before I was out having a few casts just to see how the fishing was. From the very moment the worm that hid my hook fluttered down onto the bottom amongst the patch of chopped worm, my float had been bobbing on and sinking under the surface. Quite quickly this toe dipping session had turned into an Osaka fish concern job. By that I mean the fishing was like this... Worm a'goes in, a'fish comes out, that what the Osaka fish concern is all about (
If every one of the fish caught was a target fish it would have been pure heaven, but they weren't and it seemed that there was certainly a queue of these diminutive perch waiting for the next worm to fall.

Day 2

Prior to a hotly anticipated luncheon I spent three hours getting smacked up by the perch once again. Even after changing spots and keeping away from the previous night's area I couldn't seem to get away from the incessant little predators. Already I doubted whether I had got things right by bringing the near hundred weight of worms I had, which had last time enticed some nice ruffe.

A shower, a defiantly over loaded plate of carvery and a stroll along the sea front of the nearest coastal town later and I was fishing again. This time I had a companion in tow by the way of a newly licensed JB. It was always going to be a case of sods law that me who wanted to target a specific species using a tried and tested specific approach would wash out, whilst my companion who was let me just say baiting generally and liberally with maggots and didn't care what she caught actually hooked a small ruffe in between slapping me in the head with writhing roach that were attached to her Banzai tele whip.

The cold or maybe boredom sent JB off whilst I stuck it out a little while longer as the dark drew in. That last hour as the chilly scent of autumn washed across the broad the fish responded well. I caught everything but what I wanted. Perch, roach, skimmers and all manner of mixes of the latter graced my net and the session and day was aptly ended on a right old dog of a roach which despite having obviously having had rough up bringing had survived and grown quite large.

Day 3

The next morning it seemed right to have a look on the previous nights spot. I dumped a bit of leftover bait in when I left and even though I knew it was gone, the niggling thought that maybe some little scroungers might still be around persisted. Without putting so much as a free maggot in I swung out a split red worm. The tide had pushed the surface up by another two feet. Not long after the float cocked, it drifted sideways and dipped a little. I smiled before even striking knowing full and well the culprit was a ruffe, albeit a small one.

In my excitement I didn't check the scales were set to pounds and ounces
rather than kilos and grams. Converted this one weighed six drams. 
The spot came good again a little later in the day when I nabbed a second slightly larger one on an evening session. If finally catching one ruffe myself wasn't a relief enough catching two on one day certainly was and proved to cement the area I was fishing as the new hot spot and main target area for the next few days.

Day 4

Having earlier this year concentrated much of my efforts on specific spots on the massive lake for tench and seen the rewards that could be returned from doing so I scaled down my previous experiences and applied it to what I was doing here; straight away it seemed to be a good decision. I concentrated all efforts onto a square meter that was for accuracy sake one and a half rod lengths out. Before leaving the previous night  I put out half a pint of chopped worm, maggots and soil and it seemed to pay off  by way of and early and much chunkier ruffe not long after casting out.

I returned later in the day to fish once again on the spot and happily caught another ruffe. Although I must make it clear that this one was accompanied by a large amount of perch that were in no way oblivious to all the tasty worm sludge I was concentrating on the area.

Day 5

The morning of day five was a ruffe wash out! I was now considering whether my pre baiting was becoming detrimental. I was getting tons of action but got the distinct feeling that the ruffe were possibly not getting the chance to find my bait as the gangs of small perch were definitely dominant. I made the decision to therefore not bait up at the start of any of my next sessions and instead bait up before I left, hoping the perch might have shoved off by the time I returned and the scrounging ruffe might still be around.

Validation wasn't long coming when after plumbing up and recording the depth on the rod I cast out and hooked a target fish first chuck!

Then after patiently waiting on the second cast for a while the next bite proved to be another one as well! 

I was concerned that maybe, just maybe, the first little ruffe had, after being released in the edge, gone straight back onto the spot and found my bait again, as it weighed exactly the same as the first. After I did what we obsessive's do best and stared at the photos for ages. I quickly concluded that even though certainly related they were definitely two different ruffe as their skin patterns are totally different 

Day 6

Five minutes was all the time I could spend sitting on the hot spot this morning. The sky was wall to wall azure from the moment the dark dispersed. Frankly it might have been enjoyable if it wasn't for the east facing nature of the swim. Fearing for my retinas I fished another area that has in the past proved fruitful. As per normal the bottom seemed paved in tiny perch. A moment of madness drove me to try and feed them off as I had quite bit of bait to spare on my last day of fishing. But the more food I put in the bigger the queue of perch became and in the end I reeled my neck in on that decision. It took a good two hours for the swim to calm down and it was around then that my float began to toddle off as if old Mr pope had found my section of worm. It wasn't so though! What was on the end of my line felt very strange and I had to get a closer look at it to be sure it was what it seemed to be. It was by far the smallest eel I have ever caught. I mean this thing was so small it couldn't even be called a boot lace, as you couldn't lace an espadrille with it, it was that small.

With my final session at hand I for the last time headed to the pre baited hot spot to try and add to my tally. As I watched the float in the ripple I pondered the weeks fishing. Although I hadn't landed any real monsters this time I truly could say I wasn't disappointed with my results. I had after all landed six ruffe which in most places seem to becoming rarer and one of those at least was over an ounce in weight. Most of all I really enjoyed fishing for these forgotten fish and I know I will come back again and again to try and beat my PB.

It would barely be worth saying that I again was plagued by perch if it wasn't for the fact that I finally hooked into one of the bigger fish that get caught on this Broad at this time of year. The bite was like any other and it took a 10mm section of lob worm much like every other fish I had caught before it. The only difference was this fish put up a real battle ploughing the whole place up and drawing a lot of attention as it did. 

I am quite used to seeing two plus perch but it was surprising to hear how big some of the others who were fishing thought it was. I wasn't going to bother with weighing it but to prove my point it was only a mid two I slid it into the bag and put it on the scales. I was pretty much right when the dial pulled round to 2.10 and the three chaps who were watching seemed almost disappointed it wasn't as they said well over three. Truth be told I would have loved it to be a three, but three or not it was a perfect fish to finish my latest ruffe hunt in Suffolk.

That wasn't the end of it though! Even with my wonderful beloved giving me that look and questioning whether I thought a week of fishing wasn't enough, I still slipped of to the canal Sunday morning under the guise of testing out a newly acquired and elasticised pole Id bought for commercial perch fishing. And you will never guess what the first fish I caught was...

A little Tommy ruffe!