The Oxford canal has perplexed me for a very long time now. The reason being is its general lack of ability to live up to its potential by way of predator sport; when compared with the other local canals which I also fish it comes dead last behind the overrated Ashby, the moody Coventry and the overachieving Grand Union.
I have been unable to come up with a viable theory, never mind reason why it fishes so badly. As canals go it has all the right features in all the right places for it to have some good predator sport somewhere along the tow path. How somewhere that looks so good can fish so badly is beyond me and worst of all is it's actually the most convenient canal geographically for me.
I once again decided to give the Oxford another look. Even though that I suspected it would be as bad as ever I still committed to actually fish not just once, but three times in succession. Over the three visits I must have walked miles and miles of prime looking canal whilst diligently fishing all kinds of areas. Sadly, as per normal, it was normal service and after some twenty five hours of searching all I had to show for my efforts was an unconnected hit, a scrawny zander which got off at the net and three crayfish on the deads.
Really I don't want to leave it at this, but right now the only thing I can possibly think to do is maybe return in the summer or the autumn to see if possibly it's a seasonal canal. Aside from that I needed to recharge my confidence so headed back to the Coventry for my latest session, to a section I discovered a while ago that seems to be very reliable early in the morning when the sediment has had a night to settle and the water is a bit clearer.
In this clearer water the lure that always seems to work for me is the savage gear clown cannibal shad. It shows up really well in visibility of around two feet and it has so much movement in the tail that I can feel the lure vibrating all the way up the braid and through the rod. Once again it worked a treat and three casts in a small zander could not resist grabbing it.
I was over the moon to get into the fish so quickly, as not only was I out to build my confidence back up, but also to put my new rod to the test. Since beginning to do a lot of lure fishing I have quickly figured out what I want from a rod. Finding that rod has been a real test of patience though. I must have actually held in my hands some thirty different rods from just about every manufacturer making them. What I was actually looking for was a lightweight rod that would yield under pressure but still have a relatively fast action. The reason I was after this holy grail of a rod was mainly to do with zander. Perch and pike I have concluded just smash lures as it's generally a case that they either want them or not. Zander though are buggers for chasing, nipping and hitting in various different ways. It was because I felt that I wasn't converting enough hits from zander into fish landed that I felt I needed a rod that would not only transfer any information of the hit back to me, but could also drive home the hook on these renowned hard-to-hook fish.
Eventually after travelling quite a lot and waggling a lot of rods and disregarding some very highly commended rods, Dave from http://www.specimenfishing-uk.com/ contacted me to inform me he had something I might be interested in. The next day I went over and after only a moment holding the Sonik Light tec 1-8gram spinning rod I was sold. Teamed up with a 1000 size reel it felt perfect and it was just unfortunate that my first few outings with it were on an underperforming venue. Now though I was on the right canal, the zeds were on the hunt and it was the perfect place to see what this rod could do.
As I said before the fish were on the hunt in a big way, and straight from the off the cannibal shad was working. Every five casts I seemed to get some interest and after an hour I had eight fish, although there seemed only to be small schoolies of between a few ounces to two and half pounds around. Even though they were small, most were in great condition and very aggressive.
With me catching so many fish it was only a matter of time before something odd turned up. After the bites dried up in one spot I had just moved up the canal to fish the next. My lure hadn't even hit bottom before something grabbed it and sent a sharp tug back up the line. I struck and the fish shot off. It was a normal spirited zander-like fight until the fish rolled and it almost looked black for a moment. At first I wondered if it was something different but then it surfaced again and I saw it was definitely a zander, though it was a bit weird looking. On the bank it soon became apparent that the reason it looked strange was because it had a blue hue all along its underside. Around the mouth it was just a hint of blue but along the body it darkened until right at the tail it was almost navy blue. Honestly I have never seen a zander like it before! I have seen them from that pale white colour they get in muddy water right through dark green, but never blue.
It's not like it was to do with the area as not long after I caught this one which was green and pale white, and that came on literally the same spot.
You can see it looked to have almost normal colouring on the top, but that underside and fins were definitely blue. Although it's not easy to see, the fins were really accentuated by the blue tint and white edges.
Maybe the strange colouration of this fish was something to do with its environment, but surely I would have seen the same thing in other fish. I am thinking that it's more likely either just a genetic anomaly or maybe an infection. I have seen tench with a red speckling that's caused by a bacterial infection. Either way it wasn't making any difference to the fish as it was in good condition, very aggressive a fought like stink.
The sport continued right through the morning and by the time I seemed to have exhausted the area I was fishing I had landed eighteen small zander and lost three at the net, add to that the numerous hits and the two small perch that got in on the action and all in all I had a great morning. I don't really think there is any need to babble on about the new rod. Literally it felt comfortable using it, I wasn't tired after casting it for six hours none stop and the number of zander I caught alone is testament to how good it is. In fact I can't wait to take out after big perch and small pike in the future as I know it will be just as good playing them as it was with the zander.