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?