Thursday, 24 March 2016

Unexplored areas and canal trolling

My young son BB and his growing teeth have no respect for my fishing plans as yet. I was all keen to get out for a decent session after a few poorly executed trips prior to this. The day before I had diligently readied my kit for an early start and went to bed anticipating going to a far off spot that has form for better than average fish. Needless to say after spending most of the night taking it in turns getting up to settle our disturbed little one, both me and JB looked much as we did on the way back from Glastonbury festival in ninety seven, only without having any of the fun.

By the time I had grabbed enough unbroken sleep and done the decent thing and got the now radiant little munchkin up, dressed and fed there seemed little point travelling half way across the county to find the dog walkers had taken all the parking spots at the initial venue. So still half dazed I settled to instead go and check out a bit of the Grand union canal I haven't fished before above Hatton locks.

It's weird but I've done a fair bit of zander fishing on the locks themselves and below them, but have never once been above them. I must have crossed the bridge to go to Hatton country world a hundred times and it's always looked nice. A few friends have fished it and said it's not bad up there, but for some reason I've not yet been. So this seemed a perfect opportunity for a bit of an explore.

Even though I am not big on paying to park when fishing, the paltry £1.20 is a bargain and I happily left my car there whilst I tabbed off up the lock flight. It was on my way up that I came across something I've never seen before first hand. Someone had left  the upper gate of one of the locks open and with the ubiquitous leak the lower gates seem to have, most of the water had leaked from the pound, draining it down to the small pool at the bottom of the picture which was being kept topped up by the leaking gate above. Gravity and a night of flowing water passing over it had carved the soft silt quickly down to a nice gravel run into the open gate at the top of the picture.

I could have spent all day just peering into the drained pound at the various detritus collected and at the topography of the bottom. There must have been a few thousand snails on the marginal shelf alone, never mind on the huge silt bank at the back of the pound. I had my suspicions that the pool at my feet contained any other residents of the pound and tempting as it was to have a poke around in there, I left well alone knowing full and well how stressed any occupants of the little left water would be.

Once I actually got fishing I quickly caught a couple of small zander casting small salt and pepper zander shads around above the first lock in the brown tinted clear water.

Once a local barge enthusiast came reversing into the area I was fishing a little too enthusiastically, I decided it was time to get off and explore the new to me tow path.

Canal trolling

Features play an important part in all types of fishing and personally I have always tried to find something that might attract predators and me alike when I am fishing for them. The unseen underwater features are obviously problematic to locate, but the obvious ones like good far bank cover or big reed beds are always the first targets on new waters and a good starting place. 

These tempting target spots can sometimes be spaced out and the travelling between them has always felt a little of a waste of fishing time to me. So I recently concluded to do a bit of canal trolling as I was travelling down the tow path between spots. When I was a kid we used to do this to little avail using shiny silver spinners, now though having a few years and a lot more experience under my belt I realize that I was doing it all wrong. 

As a kid I naively thought a pike would chase any lure fished in the canal. Now I know that sometimes you have to drag it right across their noses in many cases to provoke a response. So after a bit of fine tuning and figuring how much line to pay out I have begun trolling baits along the marginal shelf as I walk between spots. This enables me to fish whilst travelling and why not, as a lot of fish lie up on the nearside shelf and I reckon I might find a few nice surprises by using this time a bit better.

It was as I passed under a bridge and past a row of barges on the far bank that my rod which was sticking out over the canal bent round. Either I'd found another branch lingering on the shelf or something had grabbed the white shad as it passed by. It turned out to be the latter as the line shot out into the centre trench. This wasn't a perch or even a zander, this was something much bigger and rarer than those spiky finned culprits.
My light lure rod was bent alarmingly over as the yellow braided line cut across the surface towards the boats. It had to be a pike which had snatched the trolled lure as it went by, as not much else bar a carp would pull my string this hard. Praying my fluro leader would hold, I followed the fish off up the canal hoping it wouldn't bite me off. I must have played it for five minutes before I caught a glimpse of a dull spotted tail in the boil in the centre of the canal. It wasn't a humongous pike but it certainly looked like it could be around ten pounds. I really thought I was getting the better of the fish and was fumbling to open up my folded net went the fish came up and turned back in a massive boil and sent my lure flying through the air.

That one experience with a decent canal pike has proved my theory valid enough to certainly continue this practice whenever I find myself travelling between fishing features on the canal, and given the stature of this validating fish I feel I might well have to give some shallow running plugs a run out along with a wire trace just in case.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Daffodils, pike and more pike.

Although my time of late has been largely dedicated to the canals I have to say some of that has not been my choice. I had planned to spend quite a bit of my winter fishing on a few selected seasonal spots on both running and still water, but the weather being what it has the last few months, most of my targets have been out of sorts. Really I have felt like I have been waiting for some item of fruit to ripen before I pick it with these venues. Should I be currently into barbel or chub fishing then with the warm coloured conditions I would have been out waiting for a rod tip to wrap over making the most of the conditions. But I am not, and waiting for any kind of winter clarity to appear has been nothing more than torture. Having got to the stage where free fishing time and good conditions seem as likely to coincide as my winning the lottery, I took a chance and booked a day off in the week on what seemed to be a quiet bit of upcoming weather.

Well bugger me if the gamble didn't pay off and little by little the rivers dropped and cleared. Now the only problem was not trying to cram to much into one session with all the options I had. In the end I headed over to Warwick to fish the Myton road stretch of the Avon. In short it was pure week day winter fishing heaven with a distinct lack of boat wankers and impromptu matches cluttering up the river. The water was clear and I leisurely worked my way along the stretch casting savage gear 3D bleak and fox zander shads on 10gram jigs across the flow and bouncing them back slowly to try and entice a strike.

My first hit came relatively soon on, and the hard fight deceived me into thinking it was a much bigger pike than it turned out to be and surprisingly was also the only one of the entire outing. 

The only other taker on this enjoyable return to running water was the greediest perch in Warwickshire, who at the end of a retrieve when I was fastidiously bringing the lure right up tight to the bank, shot out and engulfed my 12cm red head zander shad like it was little more than a tiny minnow.

Now although I found my return to the river most enjoyable, my next session was to the old estate lake which also finds itself at the mercy of the bad weather. Being a classical stream fed sort of lake and given that much of the small stream which feeds life into it runs through farm land, it swells easily with any mucky run off from the fields. Only once over the winter have I dared to make the efforts to walk its banks and then I caught it half way clear and still very shrouded by winter.

This time when I stepped onto the estate it was a riot of yellow with every tree, wall and road framed by yellow daffodils in bloom.

The pike were hungry and very aggressive in the now clear water and after establishing that they were spread out all over the lake waiting in ambush amongst the submerged lilies which were beginning to sprout the new year's growth, it was just a case of figuring how best to provoke them. On this occasion it seemed working a floating jerk bait half depth in the shallows proved stimulating enough to bring a slew of aggressive jack pike thrashing at my lure.

Catching two or three small pike in each swim quickly covered half the lake and I soon found myself looking towards the deeper stream entrance to target fish. For this I reverted back to the ever faithful jig and zander shad combo which instantly got a reaction.

Even the strength of my gear and knots was validated when I snagged up on a serious lily rhizome. The new 0.18mm power pro super 8 slick braid I am using along with a 30lb wire trance and a Palomar knot all held fast as I yanked a large chunk of rhizome off the bottom in the stream entrance.

On this occasion every area I seemed to fish held loads of little pike which were very keen to attack. I can't imagine any fish in this lake ever feels secure given the amount of predators swimming around under the water. In the end I caught so many the savage little critters were beginning to look quite cute to me. 

Towards the end of the session I got a very different hit! Whilst covering a slightly deeper area where I suspect the streams flow scours away the silt, I was bouncing the zander shad slowly into the trench by lifting the rods slowly and then leaving a longish pause as the lure rested on the bottom. As the lure dropped once again I saw the yellow braid tighten and I struck. The line instantly changed direction as something shot off to my right. The fight was much different to the all the pike I had already caught, so I suspected a big perch may have crashed the party. The still unseen fish was really hammering me and when I saw a deep dark flank roll deep down in the clear water my heart began pounding and the thought of a massive estate lake Sargent looked to be a reality. 

To say I was shocked when a bream surfaced would be an understatement. Obviously this bream had never heard that it was meant to fight like a wet sack or that bream don't take lures either. Really I can't quite figure out what happened here. Was this bream attracted to investigate the strange lure moving past and take it in its mouth, or was it simply docilely sucking at the bottom when my lure smashed it full in the mouth.

Rightly I can't decide, so in the loosest possible way I am going to mark it down as a genuine hit. But saying all that, what a perch that would have made!