Friday, 15 April 2016

The view from above.

For some time now Google maps and Bing maps have played a very active role in my angling. Really, I don't think there's many dinner times go by when I don't at some point have a little looky-loo on one of the two online maps to scope out somewhere I might be planning on fishing. Google maps I find best for just general scrolling in satellite mode and for when I want to have a look over a bridge here or there to see what the cover looks like on a canal. Bing maps is my go to if I want a bit more detail, as it has that rotate option that is sometimes made up of four images taken at different times, which can occasionally offer a gem of an image that makes me go wow! One of the best examples of this was a few years ago when I was scoping out a lake I was about to fish for tench. The Google option was OK, but when I found it using Bing maps and rotated the image a couple of times a view of the small lake came up which had been taken on a calm sunny day when the water was gin clear. Every gravel bar, weed bed and gully was visible. Then a few days later I found myself on the lake opting to fish a gully between two bars where I was sure a week's worth of prevailing wind might have inclined the tench to patrol. The result was me smashing the place up and landing a load of tench all from that one spot at the bottom of the gully.

Back to the point. I was sitting filling my face with couscous, hummus and some rather tangy feta one day last week as I worked my way along the Grand Union canal tow path in Google maps, when I spotted a feature that looked irresistible. Even on the screen from a few hundred feet above it looked the perfect predator holding spot. The only fly in the ointment was that I was already planning a morning on Napton reservoir to see if I could winkle out any perch or pike. A small diversion on route though could give me an hour to check and see if this newly located area might have any mileage predator-wise.

On the day when I arrived the conditions were less than perfect, with wall to wall blue skies and the blazing sun chasing away the cold quickly. The canal was very coloured and the wind whipped down it, keeping the water constantly moving. The movement of the water though actually for once played into my hands, as the feature I was targeting was an opening to a marina on the tow path bank. By fishing it from up-wind side the waters tow drew my dead bait rig perfectly into what, on a river, would be a crease. I suspected that this area at the mouth of the marina might be a magnet to predators wanting to ambush prey fish moving in and out of the opening.

I'd only been casting round a lure for a few minutes before the float which I had set over depth popped up straight, did a couple of bobs and began sliding off into the main canal. After waiting as long I dared I struck into a decent fish which went mental, zooming around the canal before heading back towards me, where I bundled a nice looking zander into the waiting net.

Not a bad first fish from a new spot.
After releasing that zander I got a bait straight back out on the spot and began casting around trying to find something on the lure. Last year I purchased some Diawa duck fin shads whilst in a Angling Direct store and for some reason I had overlooked them ever since. Normally I would have been using a lighter outfit, but as I was going somewhere else I had opted to bring my medium weight rod to try and fish some bigger lures, rather than the smaller ones I generally use on the canals. Having this heavier outfit seemed the perfect time to try out the Duck fin shads. They felt amazing, with the vibrating from the tail of the lure reverberating all the way up the line through the rod. With all the disturbance they cause I knew I would get hit sooner or later, and I did when a pike thumped the lure right under my feet. Somehow after playing it right to the net, the little bugger threw the hook by thrashing around, mouth open. It didn't matter though as three casts later I am sure the same fish struck again as I lifted the shad off the bottom. 

I was pretty chuffed with landing two canal beasties in under half and hour and was sorely tempted to bin off my Napton session and stick around, but I really want to try and unlock the code to the Napton predators as I think it has so much to offer. So I stuck with the plan and opted to return to this spot again soon for a dedicated session, hopped in the van a drove off to my original engagement

If you don't know or haven't fished at Napton reservoir it's a kind of heaven or hell type water. On its best day when the weather is fine and the fish are feeding it's wonderful. Good tench, big perch, savage pike and rare crucians that make your eyes bulge clean out your head. If it's cold and the wind is blowing it can be the worst place on earth and on those occasions even if the fish are feeding it can be near impossible to fish, or to keep warm for that matter.

There was a good wind blowing across both halves of the lake and although on any normal place this wouldn't of been an issue, here the breeze that caused the ripple felt ten times worse than normal. The water did have a slight tinge of colour to which is actually unusual for Napton.

Using a ten gram jig and various colourful lures I worked my way around targeting any features first, followed by covering open water. Even in the normally perch filled spots I couldn't land myself a nice Sargent. I reckon on this occasion the size of the lures I was using might have worked against me and using smaller lures may have incited at least some attention from smaller fish, but really it wasn't small perch I wanted.

Having worked all the more comfortable water with no interest of any kind I had no choice but to fight it out and stand toe to toe with the wind. With the breeze coming straight into my face, any direct casts were cut short by more than half and any angled casts streamed out my braided line in a massive loop. It was hard work in truth, but having caught nothing on more sheltered bits of the lake I hoped there could be something on the windward bank.

With all the rocks that have found their way out into the lake from the bank it can be confusing actually getting a bite. I'd bumped into several convincing rocks with the lure and struck at them before I got another distinct bump, this one however turned into a fish. My first little Napton pike of the year was freezing cold and covered in leeches.

Although it turned out to be the one and only fish of the Napton half of my session, it actually feels pretty good to finally get some predator action from this lake. Maybe now the weather is warming up the perch might once again turn up and you never know, I might even dust off the float fishing gear and have a crack for the tench and dare I say....crucians, later in the year.


  1. I've considered buying a drone :) There are some vids on youtube of them flying over the Saxon Mill and Hatton Locks for example, really gives a great perspective. I'm another Bing maps fan, very good indeed.

  2. Nice to see someone is catching Daniel. I went down to my local canal this morning for the first time this year to see if I could tempt a few perch with my UL lure tackle. I never caught a bean and didn't see any perch in the margins either. I reckon they must be busy spawning still, so I'm gonna leave it until May and then give it another try. I know the canals are usually exempt from the 15th March - 15th June close season, but I always struggle to catch this time of year, so a few more weeks break will hopefully give the fishing time to improve.

  3. Which club will be the first to ban drones ???

  4. I tried one of the marina mouths there recently too Danny as it's one of my usual spring patches and had just one run on a roach head which I didn't connect with. 'Alive with fish though so there must be some decent predators taking advantage of them

    I'm tempted to try a whole roach to see what pike might succumb

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