I knew the conditions were going to end up a little peaky this past weekend and in all honesty I was actually kind of up for a little challenge. You see I've been pondering the subject of fishing conditions, even more specifically I've been considering canal conditions.
For those normal and non Gongoozlers amongst us the common British canal has one condition, that being the colour of tea with not too much milk added. For those of us who spend more than what is considered a sensible amount of time looking at canal water we know that there is in fact a myriad of different colours and tones. On most weekends a new hue is revealed and I've discovered so many myself that they now just don't seem shocking any more, I just get on with fishing.
In the past and in most facets of fishing I have taken part in, I have always looked for optimum conditions in which to fish, so as I might increase my chance of capturing my target. For example, I would look towards the river to catch a barbel if it was falling and clearing after being in summer flood. But something I've been thinking of late is that to be truly good at one particular area of fishing you have to be able to make it work in the worst conditions. Using the barbel as an example again, I know an angler who shall remain nameless who has the skills to catch barbel in most conditions and this skill is what makes him arguably one of the most accomplished barbel anglers in the country.
Now if I lay it on the table and say that I would like to become an accomplished lure angler, it would then be obvious for me to say to become an accomplished lure angler I would have to try and evolve my lure fishing to the point where I can catch in all conditions, no matter how bad they are. So after a little round about explanation I am back to where this all began and found myself actually wanting to go out lure fishing, knowing full and well that the water would be in a bad way and I would be freezing.
Saturday was my first foray and as predicted it was a bit changeable. The canal was carrying some heavy colour and the sky was made up of a bright azure background punctuated by various black clouds which quickly passed over occasionally depositing their contents. I even made the effort to dip my hand in the water and try to detect any difference in temperature. Simply put, it felt cold but it did feel of a similar temp to the air, which at around three to four degrees sounded about right and made me realize it was going to be a big ask to try and interest fish to attack lures.
In my first spot I went all in and began by chucking a three and a half inch wave Tiki grub into a known zander holding area. I'd only made a few casts before it began to rain which quickly turned to hail. Somewhere in the first twenty casts I was sure I felt something grab the lure, but continued casts brought nothing. I then changed to my finesse outfit and dropped down to a tiny one inch oil coloured kyopto. This bought no interest either so I began working along the canal margins where I eventually received a right old thump as a nice perch of a pound or more engulfed my lure. Stupidly thinking this was just the start and I was about to get into them I never bothered getting a picture.
True to form I never got another hit from a single perch. I did however find a school of tiny zander held up against the hull of a barge which I plundered four striplings from. The quickly setting sun urged me to go and check out a second zander holding spot further down the canal as the dusk came in. This time I ran the day out bouncing a fox spiky shad through the trench where I was sure they were holding. Reluctant to move on I kept covering the water and not long before my time ran out a got a hit right at the end of the retrieve. Unluckily the hook didn't quite hold and after a few head shakes, what I suspect was an alright zander got free.
That was it for that session, but considering the terrible water conditions and the dreadful weather above the surface I actually think that four zander, one OK perch and few other bits of various action was a general result when everything was against me.
If I thought that bit of canal was in a state the bit I dropped onto the following morning was horrendous. Barely a couple of inches visibility, full of twigs were the BW had trimmed a load of cover back and largely frozen. If I wanted a test, this was it! Where I would fish was largely dictated by where didn't have ice and luckily there was a few bits where it hadn't encroached.
Not long in on the first spot bouncing a little grub around I picked up a small yet rather angry perch and by repeating the cast god knows how many times, I got hit twice more, neither of which stayed on for long. After thrashing the water to foam in the first ice free spot I moved onto the next. I’ve never really fancied this area but today it was forced on me a by the lack of other water to fish, and I am kind of glad it was. After working it over for half an hour I moved into a savage snag filled area. Only a few casts in I was feeling my lure down to the bottom with a tight line when I felt a definite tug and a quick strike drove the hook home on a particularly pissed off zander.
Then in the last section of ice free canal I again struck into another zander as it nipped a hold of my tiny grub. I say nipped because I get the impression that zander seem to follow the lure and then just nip onto its tail. Whether I hook them seems purely down to how much of the lure is in their mouth. Weirdly after zig-zagging about a bit I am sure the fish just let go of the lure as there was no head shaking that proceeded the lure coming flying out of the water.
Only one area remained to try and that was one I knew would be ice free. The only problem was it was on the end of a bend where all the sticks had collected so the area was in fact reduced by two thirds. I did get on hit right in the margin, but a hit was all it was and no fish was forthcoming
Now, I am going to mark these sessions as a resounding success because of the considerable amount of interest I managed to generate on the light lures when the canals were basically a load of rubbish. Saying that I must say that I find it a little concerning how many fish hit/grabbed/nipped my lure and got off compared to how many I actually hooked and landed. I know I could attribute it to fussy feeding, but I do suspect it could be something else that I will have to watch out for over the coming sessions.