Prior to the weekend I spent an inordinately large amount of time trying my best to devise a suitably efficient way to fish using both lures and dead baits. The crux of which has come down to quantity of tackle I want to carry. The reason I want to refine everything is my need to keep as mobile as possible whilst still giving myself options. Having already scaled my general kit down to a backpack, fold up landing net which hooks onto the aforementioned backpack, rods remained the only decision. I was always going to take my super light finesse outfit as it's the method I most wanted to concentrate on. The dead bait rod though was something I needed to review.
I have for the longest time favoured barbel rods of either one and a quarter or one and three quarter pound test curve for my zander fishing and to save having to swap between the two I have always leaned to the heavier end of that spectrum just in case. But lately having seen how well modern short lure rods perform I've been thinking the barbel rods needed reassessing and that after doing so that they wouldn't make the cut for my updated canal kit. Hence I came up with the idea to scale down my zander rigs so as I could fish them on a shorter and lighter general purpose lure rod. This way not only could I use the outfit to fish a small dead bait on a float, but should I want to remove that rig and tie on a trace to fish larger lures I would have that option at my disposal.
With a two week solid block of work in the pipe line I was eager to hit the tow path as soon as possible to try out this new system. Now I should make it clear that given the current weather conditions I knew it was going to be a bit hit and miss in regards to finding unfrozen water and therefore even before I left the house I had the feeling I would be concentrating my efforts on metres of tow path instead of miles of canal.
My first session was a bit of a gamble as I was having to travel with no knowledge of whether the stretch of canal where I was going would be frozen. Luckily for me there was at least some free water when I arrived but it was still thawing, probably reducing the temp of the surrounding water as it did. So undeterred, I picked a starting point and began. In these conditions I knew I was looking to try and find pockets of fish grouped in specific areas and therefore if no indications of interest were forthcoming within half an hour of working and area over I moved on.
The first few spots produced zip, but not long after finding a sheltered area out of the wind where I surmised the sun had been on the water recently, I got a run on my scaled down dead rig which was holding steady just at the bottom of the trench off to my right. The culprit which turned out to be a small zander was very welcome not only to break the blank but as an indicator that other fish might be present.
After returning the micro zed I turned the attentions of my finesse outfit onto the area only to receive a definite snatch as I bounced a small black and chartreuse kopyto shad slowly along the clean bottom. But even after casting the water into a foam I couldn't get anything to really grab the lure. I did go through a few other different soft lures but they to brought no response either.
Knowing there was fish that might be persuaded to attack in the area I was reluctant to leave and so instead changed angles by moving a short distance to my left. I was watching the dead float catching the tow as I once again retrieving the little kopyto shad. As it came up the nearside shelf it went solid as if I'd found a old branch of something on the bottom, but then it moved off zigzagging the line across the water. This little outfit might seem a little frail a first glance but I've quickly realised that once the sensitive tip bends right round the back bone of the rod kicks in and absorbs all the fight. In this case it was a beautiful thick set perch that had grabbed the little green shad.
I was out the very next day on a totally different canal and the conditions were totally different. As on the previous venue there was still ice which was also thawing, but whereas yesterdays stretch had maybe a foot and a half visibility, this one had mere inches. The water was that ubiquitous winter canal tea cup brown and the lures disappeared almost instantly after entering the water. Last visit though I had quite a bit of success using a small black curly tail grub and I still had confidence it would work again.
For once I was right and in just about every area I fished I would locate a shoal of perch somewhere whilst fan casting around the swim. Even as small as they were its very rewarding casting around and regularly getting miniature thumps and hits from these veracious little hunters.
Quite happily I moved along the canal all morning fishing half an hour or more in each area until I felt the bites dried up and moved on. Even catching only small perch I was content knowing that sooner or later with the number of fish I was catching that something bigger might turn up. But I could never have predicted what that bigger fish would be.
There was a group of ducks getting a bit frisky a ways up the canal and truthfully I felt their amorous behaviour had probably spoilt the area they were in. Nevertheless I gave it a go and when I arrived they had shoved off. I flicked a slightly larger Hart M minnow on a 2 gram jig head tight under the far bank cover, felt it down onto the bottom and watched the yellow braid fall slack as it hit the mud. Literally I tightened up and jerked the lure up once, twice then a third time before I felt one of the hardest bangs I've ever had on a lure.
Obviously I had hooked something of a much larger size and straight away it was powering around the swim as I stood on the opposite bank desperately trying to steer it away from the snaggy far margin. Having only caught perch so far my first thoughts were of a big perch, or maybe that was just hope. Sense though soon prevailed and my theory changed from perch to zander. The fight though went on far too long for a zander and then the obvious culprit became a pike of possibly some size.
The fish though seemed to not be satisfied with just powering around in the centre of the canal as I would of expected a pike to do. Then all too soon things got a bit dirty as the still unseen fish began charging towards any bit of cover on my own bank. Finally it came to the surface and I spotted a very un-pike like flank roll. Then a few more charges and turns later it surface properly and it's true identity was reviled by a pair big rubbery lips that framed a mouth big enough to throw a golf ball down. I had landed certainly my biggest canal chub and even better I had done it on a finesse lure outfit.
Lying in the soft grass on my net which it was nearly as long as. Next to my tiny rod and reel, it almost seemed comical that I landed it on this light gear.
After a couple of pictures that were hastily taken by a very excited me I slipped it back a good way away from the swim. It was on the way back to the scene of the capture that I remembered years ago I caught a couple of albeit much smaller chub from this stretch fishing worms for perch. I did hazard a few more casts but really I knew that the epic fight had ruined the swim and that any other chub would have done one after the pair of us caused such a commotion. One thing I can say is that I will be going back to this stretch again and again as the year progresses and that I am already concocting some surface lure plans in my head to try and nab one off the top once it's warmed up.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that even thought the dead bait line produced only one fish amongst many I was actually satisfied enough with how it worked out to think that this will for now be how I will be fishing this second rod in conjunction with my new super mobile approach.