Thursday, 19 November 2015

I do love a bit of sexy rubber.

From the moment I first clapped eyes on the Fox rage spikey shad I knew it would be good lure for me. In my mind, all those nobbly spikes that make it look like a bedroom novelty set it apart from the other shad-type lures on the market. The spikes are designed to create extra disturbance as it wobbles through the water and attract more fish. Whether that is actually the case or not is by the by, as its the fact that I think it will catch fish and therefore use it more that actually makes it work.

There was one fly in the ointment with this pattern for me, and that was the size of it. At 9cm in the smallest size it might not seem a massive lure, but straight away when using them I always felt a smaller version would be deadly on the canals. In fact I can even remember saying as much to Andy when we were using them at first. But beyond cutting them down and using a modified one (which never worked) they have found themselves resigned to the lure box until the other day.

Whilst rummaging my way around the lure section in Lanes, I looked down at the bottom shelf and straight into a box load of the new 6cm versions in one of my all time favourite patterns. I had totally forgotten the Youtube video I'd seen about them a while ago and now here they were, all shiny and chrome at my feet. A quick Gollum moment crouching over them muttering something about them being 'precious' and I was taking a hand full to the till and thrusting my debit card to big Wayne behind the counter. 

Side by side they look even more a perfect lure and my reason for thinking this is simple... Perch! The 9cm version is just a little too big for the average canal perch to get in its greedy mouth. You see I am of the opinion that for every zander in the canal there is a hundred or more perch, therefore whilst you are trying to catch one zander you can send your confidence soaring by catching a load of aggressive perch. But if the lure you're using is too big then these little confidence builders won't attack. So if you use a lure which should catch both then god damn it you should be on for a good session, right!

And I was correct... I went down the Coventry and for the first time this year I left the small storage box of alternatives in my back pack. Bold as brass, I fished with just the new 6cm spikey shad red head and perch of all shapes and sizes loved them.

Small but aggressive.

In just about every spot I fished that morning I caught perch on the spikey and it soon just became a matter of time before the zander turned up, which they did. Casting tight into the cover routed out a couple of micro zeds before I hooked a slightly bigger one of about a pound. 

Though on this occasion there didn't seem to be any bigger zander around, I did finish off this first outing with some sexy new rubber by catching a very cute, but very angry micro jack pike.

All in all it was a great first trip out using a great new lure; I have to say it is kind of validating to know that I can see a lure and think, yes, that is going to work in this situation and turn out to be right. In fact I am so happy with them I have already asked when some other colour patterns in the new size will be coming in the tackle shop, because I can't wait to get out and use them again on the canals and the rivers.

Friday, 13 November 2015

A success or not?

Really I am struggling on whether to label my most recent sessions a success or not. Time and weather conspired to limit my bank time, and with only a fleeting amount of hours fishing in what should have been ideal conditions I can't decide whether what I did was perfectly pure or just a total failure.

I had it in my mind that the river with a deluge of rain would be in good condition to try and target zander on the lure in the slacks around Warwick. In truth upon seeing the water lapping at the wooden platforms when I arrived I felt I might have got this a bit wrong. Still though I persisted and endeavoured to chuck a few dark heavily vibrating soft lures in the eddies behind several fallen trees.

Maybe I might have stood a chance if I hadn't underestimated how heavy a jig head I needed to pull a six inch shad down in a turbulent river. Even the slightest of flow would catch the under weighted rubber lure and send it five feet left or right for every foot it dropped. As an experiment I punched the lure over the flow and literally in twelve feet of water it made it back to my own bank before hitting the bottom.

Luckily the rain and wind saved me from persisting any longer than an hour and a half, because I know if it hadn't I would have stuck it out probably to no avail till God only knows when. Though I still reckon fishing lures for zander on coloured rivers on warm days has some mileage, I do now realise that waiting for the river to start dropping might be the course to take in the future.

Now that outing alone would have easily marked these sessions as a flop, but the night before I snatched an impromptu few hours back on the Oxford canal. This session too returned little by the way of fish, and after losing a small zander not long after hooking it, it too looked to be a pretty shitty out come. That was until dusk fell! Like all anglers I probably stay a bit too long and make far too many last casts when really I should have been driving home.

Somewhere in the falling light, around that point when you lose sight of the orange of a float I was retrieving my ever faithful clown cannibal shad slowly across the trench of the canal using a short lifts followed by long pauses. Not far from my own bank I lowered the lure on a tight line to the bottom and felt a hard thump. Next thing I know I've struck and the rod is bent double.

The fight on my light lure outfit was sporting, with the unseen culprit stripping line from the spool and me retrieving it. The fish made powerful runs, but declined to come thrashing open mouthed to the surface which confirmed this was no zander. Even with hardly any light I spotted a big spiky fin piercing a bit of reflection on the canals surface beyond my net, just before a big perch was engulfed in the nets folds.

This fish was immaculate from nose to tail, and it's with a hint of confidence that I say it is very unlikely that it has ever been caught before, as the stretch of canal I was fishing is really out there, overgrown and the one resident that lives there says he has never seen another angler bar myself fishing thereabouts for many years.

And this is what brings me to my quandary! For whatever effort you might apply, is one possibly never before caught, picture perfect perch around two pounds, enough to make your time a success. Because weirdly I feel right now that this was one of the purest captures I have made in a long time. Saying that, it may have felt different if I hadn't have walked away immediately after the capture due to the lack of light. I dare say I would have greedily thrashed the water to foam to probably catch one a quarter of its size if had had only another half an hour of light.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Autumn sunset.

All summer long I have walked the canals and if I was truthful, bar a few stand out occasions, it's been largely a case of wading through thousands of micro zander. Whilst wading though I have been taking note of interesting features both above and below the surface. Lure fishing I have found has a great by-product whilst searching for hits, in that you are essentially leading around as a carp angler would to find hidden features. Now having a lure slowing your weighted hook negates the thump you get with a bare lead, but watching your bright braid as the lure descends then slacken as it hits bottom, you easily gauge how deep somewhere is.

Finding an extra foot here and there might seem inconsequential to most people, but a five foot deep bit of canal round these parts is a rare thing that surely will prove a focus point for fish in the winter months. Not only have I found deeper areas but sheltered ones too and now I think I have ear marked several generally nondescript spots which I think will become productive in the colder months. Saying that though, it's been quite warm lately and even with the canal full of leaves it's definitely feeling like it could be a drawn out autumn. Even with the unseasonable warmth I thought it might be good to go and check out a couple of these spots to see if there might be some predators moving in before the sun sets on this warmish weather.

Having only a few hours of an afternoon free I zipped over to the closest of my ear marked spots and found the Oxford was heavily coloured from the still active boats. An hour or more of casting brought zero action and I soon moved on empty handed, though I am still confident this first area will certainly come into its own once the temperature drops properly.

A long walk later and I arrived at a new spot which has had its moments already this year, producing some really big perch. Today it was more the zander I was casting for, but a big fat perch wouldn't go a miss though. I began casting round with a new Berkley Havoc sick fish in clear bream colour, which I bought from a lure event held at Specimen Fishing UK at the canal basin, and after a while I thought I could feel the occasional tug. After persisting for a while I changed to small savage gear 3D bleak and that to seemed to garner a few enquires, but nothing was really having a proper pop. Still convinced it was fish grabbing at the lures, I abandoned the real fish replicas, dived into the lure box and changed to a Fox lemon tiger zander shad. A few casts with that and I got a proper hit from a little zander.

Lucky for me it had only taken three lures to crack the code on this occasion. Other times I have spent hours going through what seems like hundreds of lures to find the pattern the fish are into. Now I had found a lure that was the right combination of bright and wiggly I worked up and down the section. It seemed like most of the fish were holding tight to the bottom of the far marginal shelf.

After landing two more small zander and a very keen half pound perch which practically swallowed the quite large lure, I moved into what at first seemed to be a barren area. Thinking there was little around I wasn't really being that diligent in covering the water and I was about to move on again. That was until I made a shorter cast which landed five feet short of the cover. I was watching the line for it to fall slack when the lure made bottom, but braid jerked tight quickly and I struck. Something grabbed it on the drop and my strike had sent it firing out across the canal.

The fish felt quite weighty and given the snatching take I suspected I'd hooked a pike. All too soon the fish went from hugging the bottom to trashing open mouthed on the surface. I could see the jig hooked right in the corner of a decent zander's mouth and quickly put some pressure on it to bundle it into the net.

Just as the sun was setting on a lovely autumn day, the Oxford canal and one of my new spots had come good and proved to me that there certainly are a few better zander kicking around on a canal that I've not had a lot of confidence in up until now. I certainly will be coming back to these deeper sections over the colder months as I think they could really become a focus point for all kinds of prey and predators when the temperature drops.