Friday, 19 February 2016

Canal grubbing.

Quite simply my latest outing on the tow path was an unmitigated disaster. Really I probably should have ventured to the river, but I was guilty of waiting for what I thought would be optimum conditions (which might not come at this rate). So I headed to the Coventry canal to see if I could try and pin down any groups of zander or perch in the area.

The moment I laid eyes on the canal I should have got back in the car and gone to another stretch. Probably being a bit pig-headed I thought I could root something out, but the conditions were against me with a big drop in temperature. The section I was on is very susceptible to a north wind battering which seemed to have stirred up the sediment as well, leaving the section where I was very coloured whilst reports that it was clear on sheltered areas northward.

As I mooched the tow path persevering, I came across something interesting though. The canals with their infestation of crayfish have really begun to suffer with collapsing banks. I never thought it was that much of an issue until I spoke to a chap on a work party a few years ago. He explained to me that the crayfishes burrowing was speeding up the erosion rates on sections that aren't lined with metal pilings. Anyway, the interesting thing I came across was that a large section of collapsed tow path had recently had new metal pilings installed and that behind them it had all been back filled. Given the lack of accessibility where I was, it doesn't seem likely they could have transported the material in to use to fill behind the piling. So more than likely I must have been sediment dug from the canal onto the bank.

This stuff was a treasure trove! As well as a of a couple hundred years of accumulated silt there was remnants of broken bottles, from the classic Budweiser bottle right back to vintage square pharmaceutical bottles, none of which were intact sadly. Along with bits of plastics and crisp packets dating back to my child hood was a lost or dumped American express card which went out of date fifteen years ago. But what interested me were the signs of aquatic life. Literally everywhere was peppered with shells. The amount of swan mussels alone was shocking, but they were outnumbered fifty to one by some kind of clam which it would seem at some point were very prevalent in this area.

I must've grubbed around kicking about in the newly exposed soil for a good three quarters of an hour hoping to find something good and in doing so began to see evidence that the soil was certainly from the canal bed. Weirdly though I had a little plumb around to see if the excavations had changed the depth, only to find little difference at all to what I would expect to find anywhere on the canal.

In the end I left and continued down the tow path and to maybe even find a fish or two. At the next spot I was trying to be a bit of a smart ass and began targeting a large half sunken branch which I thought might be a good holding area. First cast and my jig found a hold of the snag! Turns out my outfit and knots were capable of a bit more than I thought. The 8lb braid and 6lb fluro leader all held firm under pressure and just as I thought the line would give, the snag slowly moved towards me. With gentle pressure and my braid bedding down badly into the spool, I managed to drag that dammed snag all the way across the canal and right to the edge under me feet. The moment I grabbed hold of the stinking silt covered branch I wondered if there might be a lure or two hooked on it, and there was. Along with a few manky rubber lures was a shiny gem!

Whoever threw this into the Coventry cut needs their head looking at! From the shape of it I had an inkling of what it was, but if that wasn't enough it had the manufacturer printed on its back. It was Yo-zuri floating minnow which retails for around ten quid in the shops and it didn't look like it had been in the water long either. 

Finding that made a bad session a little easier to take, I can tell you. The rubbish/snag infested nature of the Coventry especially is the reason why I find myself reluctant to cast expensive lures into it. I myself have had days when I will lose three to five jig heads plus the accompanying rubber lures and losing them can total up to £10. Lose five top of the range hard lures and you could be looking at more like £50 or more.

In the end though the session came to naught really and even though it was interesting grubbing along the tow path and retrieving that lure was a plus point, I really should have followed my instincts and gone somewhere else on this occasion.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Does size really matter?

There is absolutely no doubt that light lure fishing has grown astronomically in popularity across the UK in the last few years and right now has to be one of the biggest growth areas of UK angling. I too have been swept up in this wave and find myself addicted to lure chucking. Though I must say for me a large part of its attraction lays in convenience rather than fashion, as it enables me to be out fishing with very little gear very quickly, which suits me with my little boy BB at home.

I have always prided myself on having a questioning mind and over fifteen months of cultivating my lure fishing experience a question has been growing in my mind. Does size really matter? Or more specifically does lure size really matter when it comes to zander? 

Pike and perch for now can be struck from this equation as I regularly see pike and perch attack lures that many would consider are either too small or too big to be eaten by either species. With zander though there does seem to be a ceiling size/weight that you can to catch using lighter lure tactics. Both first hand and second hand via social media I see loads of zander captures on lures of between a few ounces and four pounds. I myself have caught hundreds up to three and half pounds, with only two being over four.

Now, I know that as they get bigger, zander get rarer and this could be a large factor in this. But beyond that I am starting to wonder if a lot of smaller lures fail to register as a worthwhile meal for a bigger zed. I myself use a 1-10gram outfit for most of my canal fishing; as an example I generally use a 3-5 gram jig head with a rubber lure of 40-70mm in length. Now this as representation of a prey fish is actually a very small which leads me to the following question: is that too small of a fish for a bigger zed to bother chasing. It is a well known fact in pike at least, that what they need to grow truly big is a ready supply of big prey like bream or trout, hence the reason the Broads and trout waters produce so many big pike. Maybe that's true of zander too. In relative size terms maybe bigger zander need to be looking for something bigger than the average roach or perch, more along the size of a skimmer bream

Now I would never goes as so far as to say that to catch a bigger zander on a lure that you must use a big one, as a few examples of where a 'mates, cousins, dad had one on a micro lure' always crop up and I know better than making blanket statements about fishing. But surely using a bigger lure increases your chance of your lure, if it passes by a big fish, registering as a viable meal.

Obviously I would have to begin putting this theory into practice to stand any chance of finding out if a bigger lure might have any relative effect on the size of the zander caught. So with the river and other waters I want to fish out of sorts, I headed to a very reliable section of canal which holds healthy stock of zander. It also seemed a great opportunity to have a go with a new medium weight Shimano yasei ax player rod I acquired recently. Now although I got this rod with more plugs and jerk baits in mind, it is listed as an all round lure rod and it's weight rating of 10-30 grams means it should be perfectly able to handle my scaled up jig tactics.

Now I really didn't want to go over the top to start with and knowing what sort of condition the canal would probably be in I opted to scale up what had already been a very successful winter zander lure for me. Normally on my light outfit I would fish a 2.5" curly tailed grub on a 3 gram jig which gives you an overall weight of just under 5 grams. Not having any massive curly tail grubs at my disposal I opted for a 4" twin tail on a 10 gram jig head, which gave an overall weight of 14 grams. Now I know this might not seem a massive scaling up, but the smaller option is half of what can be cast on my light rod and the scaled up also is just about half of what can be cast on the medium rod. Also I didn't want to go from a tiny lure to a humongous one and fail at the first hurdle, so my hope was that a subtle increase in size would act as good steeping stone from small to large. 

I was quite up for it when I got to the canal, but the state of the water was ten times worse than I expected. On the way I was thinking it might be a bit coloured. When I got there its water has turned into milky strong tea. I didn't have a back up venue though so it was always going to be a case of fighting through it and doing the best I could. On the bright side though the zander, with the very turbid water and mid teen temperature, should have been on the feed.

After two hours casting at every feature from every possible angle a few hundred times, I thought I was way off with this theory and that it was just going to be total a wash out. Then out of the blue I felt a hint of hit as the lure dropped and the line changed angles. I was into a fish and lo and behold, it was a small zander. 

With the blank avoided it did relieve a little of the pressure I was putting on myself, which in turn boosted my confidence to continue casting. It took probably close to another fifty casts to find a second small zed tight to my own bank on top of the marginal shelf, and this one was even smaller than the first one.

After this one though I couldn't find another taker as dusk set in and I found myself casting all the way into dark thinking I might just get one last take.

It wasn't exactly any kind of result as I only caught two small zander using the bigger lure and not catching anything near the realms of a bigger zander. But I think this is definitely a theory that I should continue to try through the year to get any real evidence that bigger lures might equal bigger zander. One thing I do feel a little stupid for is not doing this a bit sooner, as it might seem that the smaller zander will take a bigger lure anyway. So if I had been throwing some slightly bigger lures round this past year at least, then the chances are I could have still caught a lot of the fish I have whilst standing a better chance of rousing a big one to have pop at my lure.

Now though a second question has come to mind: how big of a lure will these smaller zeds take before they get put off thinking it's too big to eat?