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 back...is pack a few slices of bread.