Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Rivers and canals.

I know the time I can spend fishing is running short with the countdown to our due date ticking steadily away, so I find myself casting lures furiously at both the river and the canals. As result of casting so much my catch rate has tracked upward as well. Maybe a more mathematically inclined angler in a moment of boredom could be able to work out some kind of equation calculating the amount of fish caught relative to casts made.

Back to the point; my transition to fishing on clear flowing water from coloured almost still water has gone well. It didn't take long to get a good grasp of where the action would lie and even given a few slight changes of conditions I am not finding it that hard to get small pike at least residing in the bottom of my net.

As a nice surprise I even managed to catch a small zander on the Hopyards the other day during a chance evening session after dropping JB off for a meal with friends in a nearby restaurant. Although it might seem a small inconsequential catch considering just how many zander I have banked so far this year, but really this zedlet is my first ever river zander caught on a lure, which to me makes it quite important.

Back on the Coventry canal a few days later the fishing was on good form and from the first cast the small zander were on the lures. Contrary to what I was told by a sponsored lure angler a few weeks ago, I find that no matter how big a lure you use even the smallest zander will have a go when it's in the mood, and this tiny fingerling was more than happy to hit a lure more than big enough to fill its mouth.

I have also found with zander that  most of the time they are quite subtle attackers of lures. As a result they never really hit the lure hard and are quite often hooked right on the edge of their mouth. On this occasion even though they still weren't smacking the lure they were really getting right in their mouths.

As I had found a lure which seemed to be working I inevitably ended up losing it and my leader to some unseen snag embedded in the muddy canal bottom. After tying up a new leader I switched to my favorite clown cannibal shad to conserve the single orange koypto remaining in my bag. The change though made no difference and in quick succession I landed two bigger zander.

Half a shoal of zedlets later I hooked something that at first seemed to be holding deep and kiting across the bottom. I did feel a bit of a fool when a tin can popped up attached to my lure, but truthfully I love a comical catch and am more than happy to add this rusty can to my novelty catch list with the boot I caught on the Avon at Saxon mill and the umbrella I dragged out of the Grand union.

Not long after the can was returned unharmed to the canal for someone else to catch, the narrow boats began piling past churning up the water. At that point I went to have a look at a little spillway were a brook enters the canal. Earlier in the year when I fished this area there was always clearer water entering the canal which seemed to hold a shoal of perch. Thinking I was about to do some perch plipping I scaled down my leader, tied on a 2 gram micro jig and hooked up a one inch black curly tail. Keeping the tiny lure on a tight line and short cast I worked the small clear area of water around my own bank. The perch though didn't seem to be home and I soon discovered why when a little pike shot out from the edge of the murky water and smashed into my jig like a train, well like a model train anyway.

The little pike pulled out all the stops jumping out left right and centre. Luckily the tiny jig had caught it right on the outside of mouth well away from those sharp little teeth which would have easily severed the light leader I was now using. The scaled down monster had obviously been hanging around in the clear water as its markings were truly stunning.

It was the perfect fish to end the session on and maybe even start a bit of a break with, as from now on in I think I might be lucky to get another session in before I have to focus my attention on something we've wanted for so long.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Mobys dick.

Every so often one of those moments comes along when you know you have just hooked and lost a true Leviathan. Unfortunately in most cases it ends much the same way, with some bewildered angler staring at a seemingly unending oily swirl on the water caused by the last swish of the escapee's tail, before turning agog to his infernal rod which is obviously to blame for the inexplicable loss. It's hard to put into words exactly how it feels at that moment, though most of us utter few effs and jeff's at the time to ease the transition, the reality is that once the anger has subsided it's quite a hollow feeling, like this was your one and only chance to see and hold something amazing, and you lost it before you even set eyes on it. The unseen nature of these encounters makes them even worse because inevitably the human mind has this knack for filling in spaces and when the average angler has a space to fill, they obviously do it with something three times the size of what it actually probably was.

It by now should be pretty damn obvious where I am going with this, and even though it's clicked, I know everyone likes a yarn about the one that got away so I won't stop here...

It was a pretty normal bright summer morning on the Avon. The sun was beginning to peep through the clouds and the clock was begging to tick on how long I had left on the river before a armada of rowers, day boats and swan masted pedalos beat me into submission and forced me off the river.

Through the morning I had leisurely made my way up river casting heavily weighted soft lures into the deep centre channel of the river, rhythmically retrieving them along the bottom and up the margins into the weed line. My efforts hadn't gone unrewarded and a few sprightly jacks had lashed out at the savage gear soft 4 play roach as it neared the cover.

The entire river was alive with life and I was quite surprised to see a grass snake also hunting along the edge of the river in such a populated area. I watched the little reptile work its way all along my bank peering under the lily pads looking for unsuspecting prey before it tasted the air and detected another larger predator, then crossed the river to continue its hunt in peace.

Not long after losing sight of the little snake I moved into a nice open looking swim that was lined on both sides by matching beds of lily pads. It looked the perfect place for a hunting pike to be holding up ready to attack any passing prey fish that were unaware of the danger looming in the shadows.

After first just bouncing a small orange koypto around under my feet to check for any lingering predators, I cast and covered both obvious haunts. After this I began carefully covering every cast in the swim with a soft 4 play roach, bouncing it up in a random rhythm whilst moving the rod tip from left to right causing it to change direction under water.

As I was retrieving the lure I spotted a large patch of fishy looking bubbles rising up from the margin down to my left. Quite unaware that I was doing so I pulled my lure towards the bubbles. When I saw the lure was on course for the bubbles I switched sides to circumvent them just in case. The lure passed within maybe two feet of the bubbles and literally when I was in line with them ,the rod locked up.

The line was literally solid and my natural assumption was that I had just found a good old fashioned stick fish and that I was about to be parted from my lure. It was then that I got the shock of my life when the line started moving from side to side as if something was shaking its head. My natural reaction then was to give the rod a couple of hard strikes to bed home the hook in any possible hard mouth. The striking only served to antagonize the beast whereupon it shot off sending my little reel from silent to screaming in an instant.

For once though it wasn't one of those times when I was vastly under gunned to fight such a monster, as although the set up might outwardly look a little flimsy, the seven foot rod was rated to chuck lures up to 38 grams, the braid on the reel had a 12lb breaking strain and the fluorocarbon leader at 25lb would take the strain of practically any river fish.

Really and truthfully I felt in control of the situation from the off and although the still unseen monster was giving me some real stick, I felt the tackle would hold up if I was careful. The fish though had other ideas and after several very considerate runs across the river and back decided it was time to head off upstream. This is where the problem occurred by way of a tree which had unfortunately grown right on the edge of the bank and which formed very aggressive corner.

I had no choice but to pile on the pressure and try and turn the fish back down the river. With the fish powering upstream and me desperately trying to stop it, the pressure was too much and the line fell slack. Dazed, I turned the handle of the reel to pick up all the slack line and to my surprise I hadn't been broken off at all the lure had just come free.

Truthfully at the time I was gutted to have lost what had to have been something huge. BUT! I have mulled over this incident again and again and now I am thinking maybe it wasn't such a bad thing. You see I reckon I have narrowed down what the culprit could have been. Firstly there was no way it was a zander, as no zed fights like that and I would have taken pretty much any zed no matter how big on that gear. It didn't hit like a pike at all and again I reckon I could have taken out most pike on that gear. I suppose it might have been a catfish, but that would be real rarity in the Avon. Then I thought maybe a massive eel as the side to side shaking was very eel-like, but the runs were insane and as far as I know eels aren't renowned for their repeated long runs. It was after that the thought of foul hooked fish came to mind. The area in question has got a very extensive reputation for big carp which do like to mooch along the margins. Not just that but a few big barbel have begun to get caught in the area.

So the only options for the identity of the lost beast is either an eel the size of a whales winky, or should I say Mobys dick, or that I foul hooked an unsuspecting carp which once comprehended the side to side movements of its tail did nothing, panicked and began charging round like a nutter till it got free. That last theory is exactly why I am actually OK with losing that fish even though I'd love to know what it was.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Gel caught zander.

Ages ago whilst browsing the AGM products website I came across the lure flavouring page and on what might be considered a whim, made a purchase. Since then I've done quite a lot of reading on flavouring lures and discovered that in both the US and mainland Europe their use is really quite common . Truth be told at first I was a little less than convinced, but once I began looking into it the whole theory kind of makes sense.

Too often we think from the point of view of a bait which generally lays on or off the bottom and relies on the scent drawing fish to it to consume it. Instead though think of your bait actually moving around wafting and dispersing the scent as it does, convincing possibly wary predators that your fake fish has some organic element which it should eat. I suppose it's like casting one of those fake dog toy burgers outside the local pub at closing time. It might not look exactly right, but as long as it smells a bit like food chances are you'll be slipping your landing net under one hundred and eighty four pounds of beer soaked man quite quickly.

For me being a disciple of worm, it was always going to be something wormy and as most of these products come from the US there was a good chance it would therefore be nightcrawler related and that's how I ended up with this stuff.

Up until now I've not really given it that much of a concerted run out, but with the canals developing their rich summer colours, that are not dissimilar to a flooded winter rivers hue, I thought this might help a little to draw some interest. So on my next evening foray down on a bit of canal I slathered my lure in Mike's nightcrawler gel like my dad used Brut back in the day, and bugger me if it seemed to help!

 I went to an area where I knew a large amount of prey fish were held up on a large open run of canal. By my reckoning the little bit of cover at the edge of the open run could be where any predators might be holding up and at the very first tree hanging over metal lined bank I got a hit first cast.

I didn't hook that first fish, but the instant reaction had me thinking maybe I'd been missing a trick with this here gel scent I'd had in my bag and rarely used. So I added more gel scent and cast again close to the tree. You can imagine how I felt when the second cast produced a small zander...

Fanning the area soon found another much smaller fish very quickly; I was beginning to think I might be onto something here.

As if by way of fair experimentation I changed lure from my faithful black curly tail to a chartreuse paddler grub, which I also liberally coated in Magic mikes worm goo. Just as I retrieved that lure in the nearside margin I felt a distinct tap. Being right under the rod tip I carried on vertically jigging the lure and something tore into it violently. After a brief but determined fight I slipped the net under a small but quite mature looking zander.

Now I was really convinced this sticky stinky gel was helping me along, so pushed off down the canal searching for more fish, but the truth of the matter is that I couldn't find any more zander willing to have a go. The perch on the other hand were quite into me dobbing a small pumpkin paddler grub along the margin and several of them hit the lure as it passed in front of them. Just as I approached an area I fancied might hold more zander I got a really hard hit from something that really didn't like the searing sting of my jig. It battered all around the canal right up until it rolled over exposing a big stripy flank, and threw the jig.
I left not long after losing what I was sure that was a proper big perch, so I marked the area in my mind ready to come back to try and search it out.

Three nights later I went back to exact same spot that I'd memorized as being next to a small sapling growing out of the metal piling lining the canal. I coated the lure in Mike's gel scent, dropped the lure in the water a little way off the little tree and worked it along the margin until BANG. Same place as before a fish hit the lure and began powering round the canal. This time it never got away, but also it seemed to have shrunk by at least a half once I'd landed it.

Whether or not it was the same fish I will never know, but what I can say was that it struck in the same square foot as the previous attacker and that does make it certainly look like the lost fish or at least its buddy. I do know that every time I pass this little spot I will certainly be dropping a lure in there just to see if anyone is home.

As for the gel flavouring I am not exactly convinced that it's totally responsible for any of the above captures as their capture might well of occurred if I had gone to that area and not used it. What I can say is that the theory of scented lures makes a lot of sense to me after seeing how effective wiggling worms has been, and I think that methods success is partly down to the juices which leak from the worm. So really the only conclusion I can come to is one based on how much it costs. It costs £3.99 for the bottle I bought and even given that I have probably overused it a bit on the last few sessions, I have hardly used any. Therefore for the tiny cost involved in maybe adding a bit of extra attraction to your lure you might as well give it a go.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Jungle Jacks.

The river had been calling to me since I'd had a wander along it three days prior. Having not made any major commitments to any expensive tickets or sneaky clubs which charge day ticket fees atop their membership I wanted to get a good value club book that would give me the options of a few bits of river conducive to how I am fishing right now. After deliberating all the pros and cons of the local clubs the obvious choice came out as Warwick & District angling society. They have a few different waters that I liked the look of and at £17 it is a bargain. I have been in and out of this club several times and I know the waters quite well, but this was going to be the first time that most of my time would be dedicated to lure fishing on their waters, so I hoped I hadn't made a bad decision.

My arrival at the river coincided with that most classical summer day accompaniments, a torrential down pour. After lingering in the car until the steamy windows began to draw the wrong sort of attention, I eventually and might say begrudgingly, donned my pack away water proof smock. Mix in the unbreathable nature of my water proof top with the near 20c temp, add a already warm man and you have a recipe for some serious sweating. When I eventually hit the path down to the river and got out of the wind the temperature seemed to soar even further. It was so hot and sticky that I half expected Bear Grylls to come hacking his way out of the cowslips with a film crew in tow and a dead otter hanging on his belt looking for fire wood.

Running water until this point has remained the one place I hadn't really put any time into fishing lures on, so this was pretty much virgin territory for me and because of this I opted to begin with exactly what was working for me on the canals. Bar some fine tuning of the jig weight to cope with the greater depths and flow, the only difference in my set up was the leader, which was a scaled up version of the fluorocarbon leader I use on the canal. Previously I was an avid wire trace user, but since I adopted the European favored fluorocarbon approach I have seen the heavier versions are more than capable of dealing with pikes sharp teeth whilst still being incognito enough to fool wary perch. Saying this, on some waters where the pike action is fast and furious I still use wire traces as they take more wear and tear.

I was actually very excited as I stood on the bank and fired the lure across the flow. Keeping the line taught I felt it all the way to the bottom which was quite easily seven or more feet. As I do on any water I fish with lures, I covered each area I fished carefully and in doing so began to mentally map out the underwater topography.

From the first few areas all I managed to incite was two half hearted follows, but once I dropped below a small brook which was pumping dirty water into the river the action really sparked off. Quite a lot of fish were concentrated in the dirtier water and as always prey fish meant predators. Straight away my mini red head fox pro zander shad tempted a rather animated jack pike.

Once that first fish was recovered and released the fishing just got better and better. The lure colour in the slightly discoloured water was definitely white. Having only a couple of the red head pro shads with me and the first one ended up getting torn to bits very quickly so, I soon reverted to the savage gear clown cannibal which I always carry loads of  in my bag. This too seemed irresistible to the hoards of jacks spread all over the river.

In a little over three hours of hectic action I had multiple hits, lost four and landed no less than nine really aggressive summer pike. The catches were topped off by this slightly bigger one which on my 1-10 gram outfit gave me a right old run around. It put on a proper show at the net by tail walking and doing some impressive jumps before giving in.