Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Good proper fun.

The old estate lake I fish is undoubtedly stunning and so off the radar that the angling world has practically forgotten it exists. Maybe the reason it has been forgotten is because it doesn't contain massive carp or double figure tench and is therefore of no interest to people in these target driven times. In fact it is mainly populated by little roach and skimmer bream, none of which grow to any particular size. For me though were the interest lies is with the pike. I mean this pool has far more small pike than it rightfully should, and as a result it is lure fishing heaven on the right day.

As long as there is some visibility then you can normally fill your boots with over aggressive jack pike. Dead baits can be deadly, but quite often you find one area is thick with young essox, and if you're not in that place then it can be slow, so roaming round with lures is generally very effective here. The only problem with fishing lures is the depth of the water and the amount of lillies lining the bottom. Normally it can be a struggle to settle on a lure that is capable of being fished under the water that doesn't snag up on every protruding risome.

On this visit it took a few changes, but in the end I settled on a 13.5cm savage gear 3D bleak in a bright fire tiger pattern to be seen in the slightly coloured water and opted to fish it on a 2/0  three gram jig head with a treble stinger attached. Fishing this lure on such a light jig head enabled it to sink slowly enough for me to flip the bale arm over on the reel and then begin retrieving it slowly with the rod held up to keep it mid depth in less than three feet of water. Retrieving it like this lets the big paddle tail vibrate rhythmically whilst the lure rocks side to side, flashing the lighter coloured belly attractively.

Once we concluded a lot of the pike were held up in the behind the island amongst the now dormant lily pad beds, all hell broke loose and the jacks began attacking all over the place.

None of them were particularly big, but watching these small predators come shooting out of the depths slashing at and exploding out of the water snapping at the lures was brilliant. Sometimes even two fish came after the lure at once and then things got really insane. All down the channel behind the island seemed to be racked out with pike, but it wasn't till we fished into a bit of open water that we got a real shock. First of all I hooked a preposterously greedy perch which hit what to it was a huge lure.

Then further down the bank Rob hooked what we both thought was yet another small pike, but turned out to be a much bigger perch of about 2.7lb

After that stunner it was straight back to business with the jack pike. In the open water they were a lot thinner on the ground and it became more case of combing a good size area just to get one fish here or there. By the old bridge I snagged a very energetic fish which performed as if it were a summer fish, jumping out of the water and tail walking.

Sunset came all too soon though and as the light went, the sport dried up, though I can't say for one moment that anything about this session was disappointing. Rob bagged seven or more pike and that fantastic perch and I ended up with thirteen pike and greedy perch. We had heaps of attacks that never converted and a fair few came off, so all in all we probably had up to fifty different hits through the day that we know of. This lake really is a lure angler's heaven and coming here is good proper fun every time. Best of all is the great sport in such beautiful surroundings.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Nearly enjoyable.

People call football the beautiful game, in my opinion though fishing is the beautiful pastime. I suppose that's because as anglers we so often find ourselves looking out over wonderful scenes of water framed by the resplendent countryside through ever changing seasons. Even the most horrendous urban or industrialized vista has it's moment when the sun rises, mist clings to the water and you can see past the scars of man to feel like you're in the most wondrous place on earth.

I have always tried to see the beauty in what I am doing or where I am fishing, and in most cases even if I am not enjoying my surroundings I will glimpse a moment in nature that satisfies my need for visual romance, even if that's something so small as watching a wren busying about its business along the bank or a rash of seasonal blooms it still makes being out worth it for me. My last session though... well I didn't really feel it.

Not wanting to fall into that age old English tradition of whinging about the weather, I am feeling a little hard done by with this damned incessant avenue of Atlantic weather fronts that seem to endlessly pile in. I know it might seem churlish given that some people have been flooded out for Christmas, but every time I seem to get the opportunity to get out, the weather has either been, or is, crappy and this last session took the biscuit.

To cut a long story short it was cold and raining when I left the house and was so the entire time I was out. Now given my recent proclivity to mobile angling and the fact that the canal was in perfect condition to wang a few lures around, really I should have chucked caution to the wind, manned up and got wet. But I didn't and with still more worms left over from a session a week go I naively came to the conclusion that I could ply them on the canal and catch hopefully a few more zander to get me closer to my target for the year.

I didn't take me long to get pinned down by the rain. Having a chair, umbrella, rod bag, and all the extra tat I seem to take when having a sit down session only served to stop me from moving, even though I was sure other spots would produce. As a result I ended up spending four wasted hours hunkered under my umbrella targeting a patch of bait off the marginal shelf.

Worst of all was the knowledge that my presence under fifty inches of skyline changing of nylon was not helping my cause in the clear water. The result of which was me catching very little from an area full of fish. Literally in the entire time I sat shivering on the tow path I reaped no more than a few mediocre perch which were confident enough to drift onto the bait. To catch those I had to do something that for me is unheard of nowadays and scale down. Anyone who as ever fished with me on the canals knows I am all about the attack and as a result my gear can be described as robust. So dropping from 3.2lb line straight through to a size six hook to 2lb hook links with size 16 hooks is like pulling teeth for me, and it didn't do any real good anyway.

That was until I rolled the dice and chanced one last attack to try and vilify my efforts. After depositing the last of my worm onto the spot just as the first barge of the day passed by, I decided to give it forty-five minutes more. By fishing a lob tail dead depth I suddenly started to get some very subtle dips on the float. It might sound insane but sometimes when fishing worms, especially lob worm, on a light rig I reckon that the worm writhing around or into something has pulled my float under slightly. Not wanting to disturb any would be biters striking at a worm bite I waited until I was sure this was a fish. Turns out it was and after a sprightly scrap large and rather perfect roach was on the bank.

After that I'd had enough of the cold wet weather and packed up and went home. The End

Friday, 11 December 2015

When life gives you lemons...

make lemonade!

Originally a pre-Christmas trip to the river Wye was planned, but by mid week it was running five and half meters higher than normal. That is something that Avon anglers can barely comprehend never mind fish. So plan B came into force and targets changed from barbel to perch. Old Father Thames remained stoical up until the day before, when that too was deemed barely fishable by local sources.

Now, like many I have found myself on the banks of an unfamiliar venue when it's out of sorts and can say with some certainty that it's miserable when you have committed time, money and effort into a trip, and have a torrid time when I should have just left it alone. This one got called before that happend though, and in truth that knocked the wind out of my sails.

Truthfully, I hadn't got round to conceiving a new plan by the time morning came. It was JB who tried to gee me up into getting out and good job she did as I had a large amount of costly bait I'd bought which would only go downhill if stored for another week. Whilst feeding BB sitting on the sofa I weighed up all my options. The Avon like most of the rivers was a bit off colour and dumping a load of worm in the canal didn't seem the best use for all that bait. So after pondering a few pools I opted to head to a commercial venue that in the past had produced some serious perch for me and others.

The one reservation I had about this venue was that it has seen a lot of pressure regarding perch fishing the last few years. As a result I wondered if it had seen its best days. So many of these commercial pools get burnt out once word gets out that a few big perch have been caught. Though why that happens I don't rightly understand. Maybe the fish die off or maybe they just become wiser, I don't know, but either way the sport declines under pressure.

So with a bit of doubt in the back of my mind I squelched my way across the sodden grass towards my chosen peg. After a bit of plumbing around I settled on a slight shelf a little out from the margin where I was sure big perch might patrol. A quarter of a kilo of dendrobena worms were minced and five small handfuls were deposited in a short line running out from the bank above, on and below the shelf so as to hopefully intersect the path of any perch.

To start with I began by using only half a lobworm on the size six hook. The rest of the worm was broken into three smaller pieces and thrown over the chopped worm as bigger freebies. I am a big fan of using Drennan chubbers or bobbers for this type of fishing as they give me multiple options on how to present the heavy baits I like to use, and shotted correctly they offer little resistance to a big perch moving off with the bait. Even with the wind still hacking across the lake, the tip of my bobber held stationary in the lea of some reeds glowing in the sun.

It didn't take long to generate some interest by way of a slew of hungry roach of around half a pound. Then not long after they stopped biting I got a proper bob and slide away bite. A powerful fish ramped around the swim putting a decent bend in my rod. Turned out it was no perch but an unseasonable December tench that come on the feed in warmer weather.

Like a match angler I always keep topping up the baited area, as in these commercial lakes it doesn't take long to get cleaned out when there's shoal of hungry silvers and carp rummaging round the lake bed. Literally you can tell when they have cleaned you out of bait and sometimes this is a good thing, as often I have found the big perch turn up after other fish have gone.

I'd topped up, had a bit of a lull in the action and the roach had been and gone once more before I got another positive bite. This time the float bobbed once and slid off towards the reeds and I struck into a heavy fish. The culprit went zipping down the margin before turning back towards me and bending my light rod in a very awkward angle as it bored under my feet. Luckily it went out into open water under pressure and the rest of the fight was a lot more civilised. That was until a big stripy flank rolled over into the net and the hook lost it's hold. I really wasn't sure it had gone in the net until I lifted the net to see a huge perch's back rise up in the water.

I was really happy to be proved wrong that this pool wasn't done with respect to big perch. I was even happier to see such a nice looking example from such a muddy puddle. So often they can be a bit wishy washy, but this one was quite well coloured and looked a real predator. I am willing to bet many a young carp or roach has been gulped up by that huge mouth.

After releasing that one well away from my swim I topped up with more worm. I reckon a second fish must have been lingering on the bait as not a single roach turned up for a long while before I hooked and lost what I was sure was a second good perch. It was time for a slight change in tactics. Up until now I have persisted in fishing either a half or whole lob worm on the bottom, but sometimes I've found that presenting a whole worm just off the bottom really sparks up some action. Though most of the time I split the worm into two equal sections and hook both by the split ends onto the hook. This gives the bait a very enticing fall on a tight line and does, as it did in this case, bring an instant reaction.

The float had barely settled and the weight of the worm had just sunk the tip a little bit more when it just disappeared under the water in a blink of an eye. This fish fought just as hard as the first but once in the net turned out to be a much younger looking fish around  two pounds, which although smaller and younger looks like it too will one day become a real commercial monster.

After that one no other big perch turned up before I had to go. Interestingly though I did have a run in with two perch right at the opposite end of the size spectrum and I wished I could have got a picture of these two as well. After putting away the float rod I figured it would be interesting to run a worm around the baited area on a drop shot rig by way of one final change to root out a monster Sargent. Quite quickly I felt something tugging at the end of the line and after striking into thin air I cover the same area again only to get the same tugging sensation. After striking at nothing again and again I concluded to just gently lift the rig out upon getting the little tug. This time my rig came out with the lobworm stretched nearly a foot long with a three inch perch greedily holding onto the end of the worm a good eleven inches away from the hook.

It seemed there was shoal of these tiny yearlings in the margin. Their presence certainly confirmed no big predators were around now, but also confirmed that these bigger perch have been breeding. Now given there seems to be just either big parent perch or tiny baby perch in the pool it's not hard to conclude that these little ones are the young of the monsters this pool is renowned for producing. So maybe in a few years time we might see a whole new generation of top predators occupying this commercial banquet, which would be very good to see.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Shun on.

I think I might be pissing in the wind... I may have hit a brick wall... and quite possibly find myself on the edge of failure. Anyone who has spent any time fishing for zander know they can be fickle buggers when they want and right now they want. I think it started just prior to zanderfeast 54 not long after Jeff Hatt sounded the horn of helms deep summoning us all to the dog shit laden banks of the canal.

Stupidly I thought this might be the right time to tally up my zander captures for the year which I have been keeping a rough note of as the months tick away. After initially adding up all the numbers and double checking a couple of times I came to a total of 197, which I was at first a bit disappointed by. But then I sat back and thought about the figures for a while, did a weird calculation (involving adding up sessions through the year and subtracting sessions on venues without zander and sessions not targeting them) and concluded that I have averaged 3.4 zander for every session where I could have caught them. Now, that might not seem a lot of zander per session but given there are blank sessions in there and that zander, as I recently said, have a habit of being a bit fickle, I reckon that average is pretty good in hindsight.

Averages aside, what's bugging me is the total, or more the three I may have caught but not recorded or the three I need to catch to round out 200 for the year. Now I worked this all out on the eve of zanderfeast 54 and really thought that I might have tucked away three measly zeds on a canal stuffed with them. Well, I didn't and neither did any of the locals; in fact only the visitors scored and they caught as nearly many pike as they did zander which shouldn't be the case on a water where zander out number pike 20-1. So I found myself still three zander adrift when I was guzzling down ale at the end of the zed moot.

A week later and now obsessed by catching three zander, I went back to the Coventry canal on a much warmer day only to find the recent rains were creeping into the canal at every entry point, turning it the colour of milky tea. Still though I was up for it as zander love a bit of colour and I was tooled up with lures, dead baits and even some worms for good luck

Turns out not only was I up for it, but the crayfish were too and the unseasonable warmth had kept them active enough to be a bit of a pest. In several spots my little float did that suspicious slow sinking before popping back up out of the water, and every time my dead roach bait came back looking like something with small claws had been picking away at it.

It seemed I might be reliant on fishing either worms or lures to try and scratch away at my target. Normally I would have total confidence in both methods to put a zander or two in hand, but the only type of fish with any inclination to consume anything were perch of about half a pound. I caught quite a lot of them over the few hours I was out and something seemed a bit strange about some of them. Many of the fish I caught had bloody marks on their sides and swollen vents, which made them look like they had been spawning, if that's possible at this time of year.

Sadly by the time I had to get off home all I had managed to land was a load more of these perch which all looked a bit sorry for themselves. Not one single tiny bit of zandery action came my way, not even a missed run. Now, I have never credited zander as being a particularly wily or clever fish, but it seems that one at least may have cottoned on to my intentions and passed the message round the rest, putting the shun on me and avoiding my baits at all cost. So I find myself with a month until the end of the year and I have suddenly set myself a last minute target to achieve and there is this little OCD part of me that won't happy until I have rounded out that number to 200.

God, I hope I can do it for the sake of my own sanity...

Thursday, 19 November 2015

I do love a bit of sexy rubber.

From the moment I first clapped eyes on the Fox rage spikey shad I knew it would be good lure for me. In my mind, all those nobbly spikes that make it look like a bedroom novelty set it apart from the other shad-type lures on the market. The spikes are designed to create extra disturbance as it wobbles through the water and attract more fish. Whether that is actually the case or not is by the by, as its the fact that I think it will catch fish and therefore use it more that actually makes it work.

There was one fly in the ointment with this pattern for me, and that was the size of it. At 9cm in the smallest size it might not seem a massive lure, but straight away when using them I always felt a smaller version would be deadly on the canals. In fact I can even remember saying as much to Andy when we were using them at first. But beyond cutting them down and using a modified one (which never worked) they have found themselves resigned to the lure box until the other day.

Whilst rummaging my way around the lure section in Lanes, I looked down at the bottom shelf and straight into a box load of the new 6cm versions in one of my all time favourite patterns. I had totally forgotten the Youtube video I'd seen about them a while ago and now here they were, all shiny and chrome at my feet. A quick Gollum moment crouching over them muttering something about them being 'precious' and I was taking a hand full to the till and thrusting my debit card to big Wayne behind the counter. 

Side by side they look even more a perfect lure and my reason for thinking this is simple... Perch! The 9cm version is just a little too big for the average canal perch to get in its greedy mouth. You see I am of the opinion that for every zander in the canal there is a hundred or more perch, therefore whilst you are trying to catch one zander you can send your confidence soaring by catching a load of aggressive perch. But if the lure you're using is too big then these little confidence builders won't attack. So if you use a lure which should catch both then god damn it you should be on for a good session, right!

And I was correct... I went down the Coventry and for the first time this year I left the small storage box of alternatives in my back pack. Bold as brass, I fished with just the new 6cm spikey shad red head and perch of all shapes and sizes loved them.

Small but aggressive.

In just about every spot I fished that morning I caught perch on the spikey and it soon just became a matter of time before the zander turned up, which they did. Casting tight into the cover routed out a couple of micro zeds before I hooked a slightly bigger one of about a pound. 

Though on this occasion there didn't seem to be any bigger zander around, I did finish off this first outing with some sexy new rubber by catching a very cute, but very angry micro jack pike.

All in all it was a great first trip out using a great new lure; I have to say it is kind of validating to know that I can see a lure and think, yes, that is going to work in this situation and turn out to be right. In fact I am so happy with them I have already asked when some other colour patterns in the new size will be coming in the tackle shop, because I can't wait to get out and use them again on the canals and the rivers.

Friday, 13 November 2015

A success or not?

Really I am struggling on whether to label my most recent sessions a success or not. Time and weather conspired to limit my bank time, and with only a fleeting amount of hours fishing in what should have been ideal conditions I can't decide whether what I did was perfectly pure or just a total failure.

I had it in my mind that the river with a deluge of rain would be in good condition to try and target zander on the lure in the slacks around Warwick. In truth upon seeing the water lapping at the wooden platforms when I arrived I felt I might have got this a bit wrong. Still though I persisted and endeavoured to chuck a few dark heavily vibrating soft lures in the eddies behind several fallen trees.

Maybe I might have stood a chance if I hadn't underestimated how heavy a jig head I needed to pull a six inch shad down in a turbulent river. Even the slightest of flow would catch the under weighted rubber lure and send it five feet left or right for every foot it dropped. As an experiment I punched the lure over the flow and literally in twelve feet of water it made it back to my own bank before hitting the bottom.

Luckily the rain and wind saved me from persisting any longer than an hour and a half, because I know if it hadn't I would have stuck it out probably to no avail till God only knows when. Though I still reckon fishing lures for zander on coloured rivers on warm days has some mileage, I do now realise that waiting for the river to start dropping might be the course to take in the future.

Now that outing alone would have easily marked these sessions as a flop, but the night before I snatched an impromptu few hours back on the Oxford canal. This session too returned little by the way of fish, and after losing a small zander not long after hooking it, it too looked to be a pretty shitty out come. That was until dusk fell! Like all anglers I probably stay a bit too long and make far too many last casts when really I should have been driving home.

Somewhere in the falling light, around that point when you lose sight of the orange of a float I was retrieving my ever faithful clown cannibal shad slowly across the trench of the canal using a short lifts followed by long pauses. Not far from my own bank I lowered the lure on a tight line to the bottom and felt a hard thump. Next thing I know I've struck and the rod is bent double.

The fight on my light lure outfit was sporting, with the unseen culprit stripping line from the spool and me retrieving it. The fish made powerful runs, but declined to come thrashing open mouthed to the surface which confirmed this was no zander. Even with hardly any light I spotted a big spiky fin piercing a bit of reflection on the canals surface beyond my net, just before a big perch was engulfed in the nets folds.

This fish was immaculate from nose to tail, and it's with a hint of confidence that I say it is very unlikely that it has ever been caught before, as the stretch of canal I was fishing is really out there, overgrown and the one resident that lives there says he has never seen another angler bar myself fishing thereabouts for many years.

And this is what brings me to my quandary! For whatever effort you might apply, is one possibly never before caught, picture perfect perch around two pounds, enough to make your time a success. Because weirdly I feel right now that this was one of the purest captures I have made in a long time. Saying that, it may have felt different if I hadn't have walked away immediately after the capture due to the lack of light. I dare say I would have greedily thrashed the water to foam to probably catch one a quarter of its size if had had only another half an hour of light.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Autumn sunset.

All summer long I have walked the canals and if I was truthful, bar a few stand out occasions, it's been largely a case of wading through thousands of micro zander. Whilst wading though I have been taking note of interesting features both above and below the surface. Lure fishing I have found has a great by-product whilst searching for hits, in that you are essentially leading around as a carp angler would to find hidden features. Now having a lure slowing your weighted hook negates the thump you get with a bare lead, but watching your bright braid as the lure descends then slacken as it hits bottom, you easily gauge how deep somewhere is.

Finding an extra foot here and there might seem inconsequential to most people, but a five foot deep bit of canal round these parts is a rare thing that surely will prove a focus point for fish in the winter months. Not only have I found deeper areas but sheltered ones too and now I think I have ear marked several generally nondescript spots which I think will become productive in the colder months. Saying that though, it's been quite warm lately and even with the canal full of leaves it's definitely feeling like it could be a drawn out autumn. Even with the unseasonable warmth I thought it might be good to go and check out a couple of these spots to see if there might be some predators moving in before the sun sets on this warmish weather.

Having only a few hours of an afternoon free I zipped over to the closest of my ear marked spots and found the Oxford was heavily coloured from the still active boats. An hour or more of casting brought zero action and I soon moved on empty handed, though I am still confident this first area will certainly come into its own once the temperature drops properly.

A long walk later and I arrived at a new spot which has had its moments already this year, producing some really big perch. Today it was more the zander I was casting for, but a big fat perch wouldn't go a miss though. I began casting round with a new Berkley Havoc sick fish in clear bream colour, which I bought from a lure event held at Specimen Fishing UK at the canal basin, and after a while I thought I could feel the occasional tug. After persisting for a while I changed to small savage gear 3D bleak and that to seemed to garner a few enquires, but nothing was really having a proper pop. Still convinced it was fish grabbing at the lures, I abandoned the real fish replicas, dived into the lure box and changed to a Fox lemon tiger zander shad. A few casts with that and I got a proper hit from a little zander.

Lucky for me it had only taken three lures to crack the code on this occasion. Other times I have spent hours going through what seems like hundreds of lures to find the pattern the fish are into. Now I had found a lure that was the right combination of bright and wiggly I worked up and down the section. It seemed like most of the fish were holding tight to the bottom of the far marginal shelf.

After landing two more small zander and a very keen half pound perch which practically swallowed the quite large lure, I moved into what at first seemed to be a barren area. Thinking there was little around I wasn't really being that diligent in covering the water and I was about to move on again. That was until I made a shorter cast which landed five feet short of the cover. I was watching the line for it to fall slack when the lure made bottom, but braid jerked tight quickly and I struck. Something grabbed it on the drop and my strike had sent it firing out across the canal.

The fish felt quite weighty and given the snatching take I suspected I'd hooked a pike. All too soon the fish went from hugging the bottom to trashing open mouthed on the surface. I could see the jig hooked right in the corner of a decent zander's mouth and quickly put some pressure on it to bundle it into the net.

Just as the sun was setting on a lovely autumn day, the Oxford canal and one of my new spots had come good and proved to me that there certainly are a few better zander kicking around on a canal that I've not had a lot of confidence in up until now. I certainly will be coming back to these deeper sections over the colder months as I think they could really become a focus point for all kinds of prey and predators when the temperature drops.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Hard conditions and bastard bass.

The autumn warmth is a wonderful thing. It's like a special illicit treat when rightfully the damp of winter should be creeping in. Piles of rustling dry leaves and early morning chill you know will seep away as the sun rises. As far as I am concerned it's been a slow start to autumn and as we travelled east the hedgerows reflected as much. Surprisingly only the odd tree here and there showed signs of change, and the hopes of a late warm break beside a lake were perfectly valid. Little did we know that something moved to meet us in a few days time...

Rightfully being wired the way I currently am, I should have been in heaven, with hundreds of moored boats, spread over several marinas on a lake which, at times, is paved with so many perch you could be forgiven for thinking the bottom is striped.  Add to that its previous form for big perch and you could understand my inclination to take just two lure rods and an array of lures every colour of the rainbow.

But on that first trip out and after much probing of every nook and cranny I found my dropshot and micro jig tactics reaped nothing from thousands of casts. This was concerning as in these very same marinas I have caught one perch, unhooked it and just dropped a hook with a hulled maggot still attached in the edge and caught another. Then repeated the same debacle again and again until I suspect it's the same fish again and again.

I've never really just concentrated on lure fishing here and at first I didn't want to over react to the lack of hits at first, so took the inactivity in my stride. Another short session with zero hits though scratched away at my confidence somewhat. It wasn't until the following outing that I hooked a powerful little jack pike bouncing a 7.5cm salt and pepper zander shad along the side of a boat that I clawed confidence back a little.

There was certainly the odd fish around but where were the masses of perch? I ruminated over this as I continued casting. The one thing I kept coming back to was the clarity of the water. Though perfect for sight feeding predators, the clear water offered little cover to anything and with the array of bigger predators, that kind of made sense to me. If we think we have it bad with cormorants inland then around the coast they have it horrendous. Literally of a morning it's not unusual to see twenty or more on this Broad and otters are quite common as well. It often amazes me that there is still a viable population of fish in the Broads considering how hard it must be to maintain those levels under the circumstances.

Still, in the belief that the fish were present, I decided to go a bit more subtle to see if there was fish that weren't in an aggressive enough state to hit a lure but might take a bait. So a few worms were procured in order to see if a slow moving natural bait might sort a few fish out. Whether it was the worms or the more favorable conditions on the day, but walking the worm did put a few more fish on the bank. Only one marina which unlike all the others had an open side to the rest of the Broad instead of an entrance, seemed to have fish moving in and out of it and produced. Along with a whole mess of tiny and even tinier little Sargeants I did manage to sort out one decent perch by gyrating a worm along just off the bottom at a snail's pace.

From the corner vantage point where I could cast all around the marina, I figured the perch were collected close to pair of cruisers that looked like they hadn't been out of the marina in years. As I looked for possible other shoals I hooked into a fish that went insane and turned out to be a roach bream hybrid that had taken a shine to my split dendrobena hook bait.

Weirdly, once I had established the presence of fish I again switched to the lures for the following outings around the marinas. But not long after this the weather turned decidedly worse as the wind which had been blowing from the north east strengthened and pulled in some showers.

Somewhere in the breaks in the weather I snuck out back to the open sided marina and managed to find another little pike, which went like a rocket on my 1-8g outfit. The wind though kept my options very limited as white horses now danced across the lake and reduced the fishable area by half.

It wasn't literally until the day before we were due to leave that I got out again. For probably the first time all week I was able to actually get on and fish from a trio of stages outside the marinas. Up until now the wind had prohibited any casting from these areas as the waves and gust had made casting and retrieving impossible.

Lo and behold first cast, my three gram jig sailed out across the now still Broad; I felt it drop maybe ten or more feet to the bottom and a few lifts of the rod later I felt small yet distinct vibration come back up the line. Turns out the masses of perch were held up about fifty feet out into the water. Literally I couldn't go wrong as cast after cast brought me another little perch. They might have been small but I can honestly say I was truly glad to get into those little predators in the end and prove that if it weren't for that evil north easterly I might have been playing a numbers game to find a big one amongst the hordes of little ones.

Bastard Bass

Lake Loathing was full of juvenile mullet, bass and what not. I'd done a few circuits of the fishing spots searching for anything that might fancy a little rubber snack, like a tubby flounder or even a wary whiting, but only had a couple nibbles of interest from some unseen tiddler. Now though I was casting under huge concrete supports that supported a road over head. Years ago I am sure I saw a small cuckoo wrasse lingering in the shadows and that thought always made me cast into that area.

Watching half an Isome worm dance back a foot off the bottom leading a few tiny fish along was amusing, but when those fish scattered my vision opened up and I spotted something bigger move in and turn off quickly. Halting the retrieve and keeping the red worm moving brought it back in sight. Three times that fish went off and came back and when it passed into the half shaded water I got a perfect view of a mint bass of maybe three pounds.

Position, lure and tack were changed again and again, and in doing so I discovered that bass wasn't alone! Four or five similar sized fish repeatedly circled the concrete supports and after watching them for long enough it became clear they were interested in the shoals of juvenile fish. Luckily or unluckily I had a pretty good match for the fry in a small, random blue and silver shad someone had given me.

This where the frustration began; Moving the random shad around like a wounded fish would easily get the attention of the bass, which would fire in very quickly, but every time no matter how close, they would fall short and turn off as if they knew something was wrong. Two days this went on for and around the same state of tide those few fish would turn up and maraud around, sending the fry panicking whilst clocking my lure every time.

In the end those frustrating fish drove me to bait fishing. A pack of costly peeler crab was purchased and I set a trap. I knew where they seemed to patrol into the structure from and at the end of that route I cast my bait. I even used a sneaky fresh water running rig on fluorocarbon line so as not to alert those wary blighter's to my rouse. And what happened might you ask... well those bastard bass never turned up that day did they!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Drop dead dumb Jig.

I don't think there was any doubt in my mind that I would be going back to the newly discovered honey hole on the canal. I'd tried to hook up with Jeff but he had prior arrangements for a date with Martin on the river. This though did open up the door for me to go back and use some slightly different tactics. With so many predators in the area I really wanted to have a go on the lures, but I think this is a very disruptive method and repeatedly casting around is just not fair if someone is float fishing, so going alone was perfect.

Luckily I had a couple of mornings free and decided to use both to try and plunder the stretch. Not wanting to possibly ruin my chances, I decided to go softly softly at it and on the first day went back to fish the drop shot in conjunction with dead baits and the results were brilliant...

The previous session I figured out there were a few snags on the far bank, so kept well away from them and targeted the trench and near margin using some black and white fox micro fry Mick off of Piscatorial Quagswagging had kindly given me. The water again looked quite clear and I felt everything looked right for a few hits, and I was right for once. First cast working the tiny lure back across the trench and I got hit really hard by a average sized canal zander.

After releasing that one I began working the lure along the bottom of the near side shelf. I hadn't gone ten feet before I found myself playing a nice perch.

I am religious about taking perch well away from where I have caught them and after returning that one a really good walk away from where I was fishing, I made my way back to start again. Not knowing it at the time, something weird happened next. I had carried on working the line I'd caught the last perch on and gone quite a way before I hit a second pristine perch which fought equally as hard the first.

It wasn't until I looked at the picture on the computer that the similarities between those first two fish became clear. Then I looked closer and saw a tiny red spot just above the anal fin and it dawned on me that it was definitely the same fish and not just that, but it had fallen for the same lure on the same line probably back on its way back to its holding spot. So either my technique was pretty spot on or I had caught the dumbest perch in the Midlands.

After adding a further four more nice perch and bucket load of micro zander to my tally I finished off with a perfect finale. I was happily playing quite a big perch with my little Sonik lighttec bent double into the canal when my dormant dead bait line sprang to life. A bit of extra pressure got the perch in the net and then after grabbing the other rod I was playing a small zander. It was the perfect brace to end another brilliant session and also helped to prove that these predators were just as up for attacking lures as they were for eating worms.

The second day proved just as fruitful; only this time I went back aggressively and swapped the micro drop shot rig for a much bigger jigging rig just to see how up for it they were. In short, fishing a 7cm salt and pepper Fox zander shad did the business in the again clear water and I quickly tricked a trio of predators into my net. 

Worryingly as the morning wore on the ubiquitous micro zander turned up and the better fish seemed to disappear. Once these tiny terrors switched and started nipping at the lures the fishing became quite frustrating. Moving put me back on the perch, but the ones further away from the holding area were literally a quarter of the size of the previous days fish.

To most people it might seem insane for me to say that's it for me and the honey hole spot, but that is the case! Now I have had a confirmed recapture I am beginning to suspect there could have been others and it makes me realize that even though I suspect there could be bigger fish around or even move into the spot, that there is not an infinite amount of fish in the area. Having to recapture them again and again just on a hunch to wheedle out the mother of them all would just take shine away from them in my eyes and ultimately be detrimental to them.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Peering through the mist, I trudged on looking for the shape of a man on the tow path. It looked a perfect morning for a spot of perch fishing, but first I needed to locate my companion for the session. Jeff had been mysterious about his instructions and said little more than "walk down the canal". He was right in saying this spot was a bit out there, as I'd been walking for what seemed like ages along the tow path and was getting worried I may soon arrive in Oxford.

Finally, what looked like a hunched figure appeared in the mist sitting on the edge of a bend. As always the banker swim looked exactly like every other bit of canal you ever see, tow path, twenty four inches of patchy dog shit infested grass, sixteen meters of questionable water and a hawthorn covered far bank. The only difference between this spot and any other was the presence of Jeff and as he like me is a avid canal lingerer, it must mean there was a reason for him being here setting up his fishing pole.

It's weird seeing Jeff pole fishing! I am far more used to him sitting behind rods pondering the water whilst twiddling his moustache, rather than him sitting upright staring down a pole waiting for whisp of a pole float to dip momentarily. I suppose the best comparison I can make to seeing him pole fishing is it's like seeing a donkey smoke a cigar. Saying that after watching him do it for a couple of hours I can't deny thinking he has really taken to it, so much so that I can picture him clad head to toe in matching sponsors clothing, sitting atop a fishing box not dissimilar to the Tardis wielding five grands worth of carbon fibre; then again there's probably more chance of Jeff becoming the next Doctor Who than turning into a match man.

Bar Jeff starting to put a match winning weight together and me catching a very cute little ruffe, the banker swim was not really producing any dividends. Once I got itchy feet it wasn't hard talking Jeff into a move and after a short jaunt we found a little bit of far bank cover we both fancied.

A pot of worm chopped fish heroin later and the session turned into a blur. I remember thinking Jeff was in the hot spot when he instantly hooked a skimmer followed by two big perch off the hull of a moored boat, but then the square meter I was concentrating on sparked into life.

I've fished my own secret perch squirrel hole enough to know when you've struck gold and this was gold, pure gold. I quickly realized it wasn't the odd nugget either when I hooked a really chunky near two pounder.

Then followed it with another...

This area was alive with big perch and amazingly none of them seemed to be small at all. Quickly it became a case of adding more bait, waiting a while and then another hard fighting perch came along. Then somewhere amongst the perch insanity the zander turned up to the party and the bulbous zeppler float toddled off along the canal.

We had only been in this new spot for an hour or more and we both looked like we were in shock. Probably the only thing that was more shocking that the amount of action we were getting would be what the underwater scene must have looked like, with big perch mooching everywhere and a shoal of zander marauding around. No wonder we weren't getting any small fish with that lot down there, as anything less half a pound with half a brain was far away from this predator orgy. As long as we had worm to hold them the perch just kept coming.

With barely a feed worth of worm left I got myself in a right old mess. I'd had a very fast run where the float was literally shooting across the surface of the canal. After connecting with a spirited zander and fighting it for only seconds the hook had pulled, sending my float back onto the bank along with a load of line. As I tried to make sense of the mess the trace and hook found their way into my lap. Draped in line I noticed the float on my perch line spring to life. I struck out of instinct but was still trying to clear the line from around me and as I did somehow pulled the hook right into the groin of my trousers. Still playing a fish covered in line with a hook uncomfortably close to my genitals I did my best to keep my cool. But when a huge stripy flank rolled mid water I panicked. Luckily Jeff had also seen the fish and was already grabbing for my net. After a short but careful fight a big perch skimmed over the cord of the net. It turned out to be the biggest of the day at 2.6lb and given its young appearance it won't be long before it's a three.

A couple of hours over our allotted knock off time we both ran out of worm and not long after that the capture of a sub pound fish heralded the end of this enlightening adventure. I finished with seven perch between just under two pounds and a bit over. Jeff had four by my count bringing our tally to eleven good perch. Add into that a few lost fish and it ended up a pretty special session. The only question that remains in my mind now is how big do they grow, if on my first session this was the average stamp of fish in the area. I know the thought of all those perch is etched into both mine and Jeff's minds now, but I also know the next time we go back those amazing fish might well be like ghosts.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A perfect moment of good froggy fun.

My nose wrinkled up as I paused on the old bridge at the head of the lake and my inner monologue became an outer one even though no one was in the car to hear it. "Ah shit!"
It is literally amazing the carnage a flock of Canadian geese can cause. The flock of thirty or more which were currently ripping up the lawn beside the little forgotten lake had churned what should have been a clear shallow estate lake into something that resembled a run of the mill commercial pond, with their mindless munching. Still though I would persist as it was a warm late summer afternoon, I practically had the whole pool to myself and the thought of a hot blooded jack pike chasing down my lure was all I could think of.

I'd already walked from under the drooping ancient willow near the bridge all along the lawn and crossed the stagnant feeder stream at the head of the lake. For all my nosing and staring all I had seen was a shoal of ten small roach lipping tit bits that had collected along the dying lily pads at the mouth of the stream. Now I was walking slowly along in the darkness on the old path under the trees behind the island. Two months ago you couldn't even see the water for all lily pads that had sprouted in the shallow water. Now though autumn was only days away and the once tough round green leaves that hid the lake had lost their buoyancy and rotted, half sunk in the turbid water. 

Bar two perplexed looking ducks and a panicky Moorhen, the water behind the island seemed devoid of life until I passed behind a hawthorn tree which sprouted from the edge of the path. Stopping just in the realm of cover I peeped round into the weed. This was perfect two Jack pike floated still as stone, head to tail in a clearing in the half dead pads.

If one pike floating in the weeds was a prospect, I was sure this was a cert. Before I moved back behind the tree my mind ran an inventory of the lures in my back pack. Third box down...top row...in the forth section from the left. That was it, the only thing I had which I could pull through even dying weed without getting snarled up. Sure enough the amphibian equivalent of the eighty's sex doll, the weed free frog lure lay hidden under a small tangled mess of plugs in the exact section I predicted. Not wanting to lose this opportunity I dived straight in grabbing the whole section load of lures as gently as I could and feeling several sharp pricks of trebles as I did. Moments of violent shaking soon loosened the lures and the single frog fell onto the floor. As fake as it was I knew that this was all I had that stood a chance of attracting those torpid pike out of their trance.

Trying not to rush, I threaded the frog onto the clip and set the clever wire weed guard into place. Leaving my bag leaning against the tree, I pushed my net across the floor towards the edge of the lake, without  stepping out from behind the tree I leaned out with the rod. I knew casting such a light lure from high up the bank was a risk, but I also knew any movements could send the pike darting away in an instant.

With a determined flick the less than aerodynamic frog arched through the air, landing a good ten feet past the little pikes. Gently I tightened up on the line lifting it off the surface and began steering the frog on course towards the gap in the weed. Using some gentle lifts of the rod I, in my clumsy way, tried to imitate the movement of a frog as best I could. Three inches at I a time I dragged the frog closer and closer until eventually it rested on a pad at the edge of the clearing.

This was it I took a deep breath and pulled the lure into the kill zone. At first it was all real time slow motion as the smaller of the two fish just tipped forward and sank like a submarine out of sight. For a moment I thought it had all gone bad but then I tugged the frog again and the second jack turned slowly towards it. I pulled again, sure it would strike, but the fish paused as the frog stopped. So I pulled again and the water erupted as the pike attacked.

I'd hardly had chance to strike before my yellow line cut across the shallow water cutting through every lily pad as the pike ran away and I tightened down on it. The fight was never going to be a glorious one and even after we laid waste to a large ecosystem and the pike was in the net, I knew the most satisfying part of this capture was by far the strike.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Lure fishing microcosm.

Since beginning my lure fishing journey I have learnt that the world of lure fishing is just as, if not more than, as expansive as all the other fishing genres I have come across before. It's not just the array of millions of lures, the vast colours that they come in and the different sizes that I am referring to either; every lure can be used in so many different ways and different situations.

One particular facet I have been intrigued by lately is micro jigging. I love casting jigs anyway and already had some tiny jig heads and tiny lures which I had not really had any great success with until recently.

I actually started messing around with this technique a little while ago, but it was only the other day that I went out to specifically concentrate on doing it. At first when I had a go a while back I made the mistake of actually casting the tiny jigs out into the canal, it was then that I concluded that beyond a rod length out you really lose all contact and control of the lure. Between under a rod length out to right under your feet they are deadly. Having the lure on a constant tight line and using a light rod means you can impart some pretty damn sexy movements on the lure with the slightest flick of the wrist. Fishing like this also changes the way you look at a canal, and all the normal distracting far bank features fail to register as you concentrate on the four feet from the bank which is now your microcosm. Doing so turns what to most seems like a small gap between two boats into the micro jigging equivalent of a ten acre lake.

Tiny is the order of the day and this Crazy Fish cruel leech mounted on a size 8 two gram jig head worked perfectly to compensate against the slight yet disruptive tow on this occasion. The little black lure wiggles like a hula girl with the very slightest of rod movements.

Although I only had a few hours to fish, my micro attack proved to work perfectly. I had to work along a bit of tow path until I found a concentration of fish holding tight to the concrete lined margin, but once I found them it was one fish after another with perch making up the majority of the captures.

What has surprised me was how many fish you could catch from one area. In a normal casting situation I have found you easily spook fish out of spot by hooking a few of their mates. Fishing these light lures into a shoal seemed to have little effect until I'd had hooked loads of them and been hit by even more.

The zander too seemed to be hanging out in the shoals of perch, although these young immaculate hunters seemed to prefer the lure to be moving further and quicker than the perch which seemed more attracted to a gentle off the bottom wiggling lure.

I have to say I really like this micro margin jigging, but to balance the tackle and make everything move naturally I was having to fish some very light fluorocarbon leaders of around 4lb in breaking strain which would be OK if a big perch turned up. A better zander though could make mince meat out of such delicate tackle so really even if you see an opportunity of a bigger zed or jack pike the whole leader would have to be changed in order to reduce the risk getting cut off. Saying that, I reckon some of the lures I have been using are so small they might well not register on a big predators radar and given that most of the waters I am fishing are the colour of milky tea I'd probably never know if a big fish was hiding right under my feet.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Dragons, swans and flipping flamingos.

Resplendent, that's the best word I could come up with to describe how the Avon looked on a sunny Saturday morning. We do a lot of walks now we have a child, as I suspect most people do. Anyway having exhausted just about every civilized park close to home we headed over to Warwick to have a amble around St Nicholas park which just happens to be opposite the Myton road stretch I can fish on with my Warwick angling association book.

I kind of thought there was a chance the river would still be holding a little tinge of colour after the recent rain, but I was quite far off the mark with that theory. The water was clear, sparkling and full of lovely wriggly fishes. Quite literally the weed laden margins were swarming with roach. Huge shoals drifted in and out of the streamer weed moving in perfect unison. All over the empty river, random fish topped pulling my eyes to every circular ripple. Every now and again the threat of unseen predators would send fish scattering for safety out of the water. It was one of those times when, my God, you would sell your right testicle for a fishing rod, but nut or not I was rod less standing next to what looked like a perfect river.

There was no doubt I was going back the next day as with so many tasty tit bits flitting around the pike had to be close by. So less than twenty four hours later I found myself standing on the first peg right at the bottom of the Myton road stretch. The river looked amazing and the view of the ancient Warwick castle under the old bridge wasn't too shabby either.

I was hoping to be a bit of clever git and had rigged up a Texas rig so as I could fish a weed less lure right through the streamer weed to try and tempt a few jacks out. The weed density and probably my inexperience in using this new rig meant things didn't work out too well. I was deed keen to get going and straight away punched a zander pro shad across to the edge of the weed lining the far bank. The first and subsequent twenty casts all came back laden with rotting streamer weed. Whether it was to do with me fishing the lure too far into the weed or the late summer weed being too soft and dense I couldn't fathom, but either way it got the better of me.

In the end I resorted back to bouncing a five gram jig head loaded up with a Savage gear soft 4play roach around the weed. This had its limits as I knew the pike were using that weed as cover and I wasn't fishing in the cover. I'd thrashed half the stretch into foam before I got any interest and strangely I got a hard hit mid-river from an unusual suspect. I really thought a small pike or a good perch had nobbled the lure, but when I saw a small zander in the clear water I was surprised. Avon zander can be very condition specific in my opinion and on a bright sunny day and a clear river is about the worst time to try and get one by my reckoning. This one though had really engulfed my Savage gear roach imitation.

My day wasn't going to get any easier after that, and when I got a few pegs further up and found group of box jockeys having a unofficial knock up, the rest of the stretch was off the cards for me. My only option was to drop back to the bottom of the stretch and cover all the river I had already fished a second time. Time was not on my side and just as I reached the first spot opposite the boat hire shop the first family laden swan pedalo hit the water. After that they started coming as thick and fast as I have ever seen them. Two dragons and few flamingos later and the river looked like a scene from a Dr Seuss story.

Finally it was my conscience that drove me off the river. I couldn't with any good conscience continue casting even small lures into a river filled with families enjoying the last bit of summer afloat just in case an errant cast should find a boat. Ironically I did get a bit of tug just before I left the river which makes me think that all the activity might have forced the pike out of the shallows and into the deeper channel in the centre of the river. I actually think this will be really great section of river once the weed dies back a bit and the boat rental shop shuts down for the winter, so I will definitely be back especially as I know there are zander around as well.