Sometimes there is nothing worse than having a preconceived idea of how a fishing session will go. Last week I ended my session on the fish. By that I mean I was lure fishing, had located fish and was getting hits even though I wasn't converting them. Time though ran out on me and I had to walk away from fish which were up for attacking what I was offering. So for days prior to getting out all I could think of was getting back and finding that shoal of zander and trying pick up where I'd left off.
I was convinced that they would still be in the area as they seemed to be lingering off the edge of a collection of flotsam pushed into a bend by the wind, and given conditions had been consistent, I was sure it would still be there with the shoal of zander somewhere nearby.
On the tow path again I headed straight for the area and began exactly as I had left off, bouncing a two inch orange koypto shad slowly across the bottom. But the zander it seemed had been replaced by snags. Quite honestly the week before I had not found a single snag in the vicinity, today though every other cast found one. I'd sacrificed two brand new lures and leaders to the canal before I eventually moved off.
After a little explore I found myself fishing right alongside the debris littering the surface on the bend, whilst trying desperately to not stand in any of the hundreds of dog turds that litter the bank. Still though I couldn't raise any attention after two hours had elapsed. By now I'd been through most of my A-team of lures using various speeds of retrieve. The really worrying thing was that last time the little perch had also been up for it and this time like the zander they seemed to be very absent, which seemed to indicate nothing at all was on the hunt.
It was the faithful black curly tail grub which broke the stalemate in the end and found a small zander under the rubbish. That first one came off but a few casts later I snagged its bristling and angry shoal mate.
I really thought that was it and now I had located them it would all kick off, but before it had begun it just fizzled out and I couldn't find another willing fish. So we decided to move on to another stretch a car drive closer to home on the same canal to see if we would fare any better there. The area we arrived at had been very reliable over the colder months and I hoped it would be on this occasion too. In truth, it too was off form and after well and truly thrashing the water to a foam, I was elated to hook a sprightly micro jack which was hanging around just on the marginal shelf.
The next day I was planning to fish the same canal in a different area, but the lack of interest had me thinking that zander and perch were not responding to lures very well at all at the moment. Not wanting to write it off I decided to still go ahead with the session but rather than just commit everything to the lure fishing, I'd take a light dead bait outfit along to see if they might be interested in a static bait rather than a moving lure.
My worries that I wouldn't get much response on the lures were well founded. Once again I worked hard to wring anything out of all the areas I fished, but no matter what changes I made I could not fathom out what it was going to take get these fish to actually lash out at a lure.
On the other hand every swim I cast a dead bait into was populated by something interested in eating the small roach on my line. As with many waterways the signal crayfish seems to be making a big impact on the midland canal network. Undoubtedly their spreading population is contributing to larger fish sizes, but the little beggars are a proper pest when you're dead baiting. Although I was lucky and didn't lose any gear I did have to pry my hook from down a few crayfish burrows throughout the morning.
By midday the sun was out and I had just about had it! I'd been casting and moving constantly since early morning and had nothing at all to show for my efforts. Having travelled so far along the canal I had actually come close to a swim I used to fish many moons ago that had good record for holding perch. Thinking this would be my last chance to break the blank, I decided to fish one last area just in case.
After dropping the dead bait on the far bank to my left I went about working the swim over using a tiny green koypto that has scratched me a few bites in the past. I'd hooked and removed a couple of minor snags and had not long dispatched one of them behind me when my float began moving as if something with claws was dragging it off. I watched it thinking I would have to sort that out before it got dragged away, when the float did a single large bob and the culprit quickly went from crayfish to small zander in my head. I've seen enough little zander picking up baits to think this was definitely one. Crouching down by the rod I waited as the float did that little circular movement they so often down when a schoolie is farting around with the bait. I waited and waited for it to actually run before I struck and then as the float slid off I struck low and hard.
The tightening braided line instantly drove the hook home and the fish shot off. I've had loads of zander do this when hooked; they shoot off in a moment of panic and run about ten feet or so generally in the direction the float was travelling and it's really hard to keep a tight line. This one headed straight towards me on my right hand side. Luckily the reel picked up the line quickly as and the rod bent over. For a moment I was being a bit blase, but then I saw a huge white flash in the murky canal water and the fish went from schoolie to monster.
The bite was awful, fight wasn't epic but my panicking excitement made up for that, especially when the fish came to the surface shaking its head trying its best to discard the hook. It was then it really hit home what I had on the end of my line. With the thoughts of a hundreds zander getting away I was desperate to get this one into the net. With only a fleeting moment of worry when it seemed reluctant to cross the cord, the fish was in the net. Resting in the edge it looked huge from above and then on the bank it seemed even bigger.
It was absolutely fighting fit and perfect in every way apart from the top of it tail being missing. Looking closely, the wound was perfectly healed and looked to be from a boat propeller or possibly an otter attack. Either way it had healed up well and judging from the condition of this magnificent fish, it wasn't effected by the missing bit of tail.
I knew how heavy I thought it was going to be before I even put it on the scales or maybe how heavy I wanted it to be, but it didn't quite make it. It was two ounces off what I so wanted it to be, but was still I very happy with 9.14lb and it truly made walking that little bit extra and giving one last spot a go before chucking in the towel worth it.