Friday, 8 September 2017

Dual purpose fishing.

So far this season I have made very efficient use of my time I think. Not only do my captures reflect as much but my standing in the current fishing challenge does as well. In the latter case I find myself slipstreaming the leading group with an eye to challenge the top three over the colder months when the sport moves towards advantageous species for me. And considering I can't get out fishing nearly as much as the people ahead of me, then I think I am doing well really.

Retaining this efficient vibe I needed to do some reccy work on a section of the Warks Avon that I'd specifically joined a club to fish, and what better way of clocking out a venue than to actually lure fish it, which I was itching to get back at anyway. You see a lot of people just see lure fishing as a great way to catch predatory fish, which it is... But I like to treat it as leading around (as carp anglers do) as well as trying to catch predators. I've said this before but it's worth saying again that you can figure out loads of information about a venue by slinging out lures; by throwing jigs depth, type of bottom, weed bed location and snags are all discovered. Whilst throwing lures around I always keep my eyes open for fishy activity and this not only helps locate predators but other target fish too.

I actually went to this section of river to have a lure session very early in the summer but on that occasion the temperature was so high that it felt like I was in a sauna outside. On that occasion I abandoned my attempts to fish that section and instead sought the deep shade of a lower section where I found a few jack pike lingering amongst the summer rushes, and filled my brain with information about the section that has produced some nice barbel last month for me.

On this session the summer seemed a distant memory with heavily over cast skies and impending rain soon to arrive. The river though looked slightly coloured in the deep weir pool I began on. Looking into the margins revealed the truth though, that the Avon's waters were very clear indeed with three or four feet of visibility. I felt sure this would actually work in my favour so as any predators couldn't fail to see my lures. I began by targeting the slower parts of the weir pool using a natural coloured shad style baits on a ten gram jig heads to send it quickly down to the bottom. Quickly I was building a picture in my mind of where the gravelly areas were and location of any snags. My first bit of interest came when I bounced the lure through a large eddy on the opposite side of the weir and the rod buckled over as something snatched the falling lure. It felt like a very good fish as it kept low down in the foaming water. Unfortunately the hook let go of its hold as the fish fought away on the depths. As the line fell slack and reeled to get back control the lure the fish actually hit it again shaking its head before letting go again. An inspection of the rubber lure showed slashes along its side which more than likely meant a nice pike had just got away.

After moving above the weir I concluded to actually walk along the stretch as far as I felt I could before working my way back down fishing alternative pegs as I went. I like to do this as when I cast lures on these pegged out sections of water as I find myself casting quite far upstream and downstream, therefore large areas of water get covered from adjoining swims and because of it being a big stretch of water I can cover more water than if I was fishing every swim. Saying all this though, if there's something that perks my interest I will just go into that swim and fish anyway. Which was exactly the case with the swim I began in.

How could I resist a close to fifty foot long stretch of willows hanging right out over the water. From what it looked like the water under them was deep, dark and the perfect resting or ambush point. The lure went in and dropped easily fifteen feet on a soft bottom. I systematically worked the lure back before firing it back close to the overhanging leaves. I'd covered maybe a third of the feature when I got hit hard as the lure crossed the centre of the river. I don't know if the fish had followed the lure out of the cover or if it had crossed its path in the main flow, but whichever way, it wanted it and was now connected to my rod. It shot down stream as I reeled down on it and tried to keep it from diving straight into the pads in the margins of my bank. The fish did get into those weeds but softening autumn weed and braid aren't good bedfellows and soon the round pads were off downstream and I had a nice looking zander bundled into my net.

The colouration of the fish indicated the light was getting down to the bottom but surprisingly they were still up for a feed. Maybe the depth was a factor here and it inclines them to feed even though the water was clear. This definitely seemed the case when I got a second hit from further down in the same swim. This one though got off from either a bad hook set or maybe it just let go. A few swims later the same thing happened, I got a hard thump and a quick head shake before the fish was gone. I am sure both lost fish were zander that had grabbed the lure beyond the hook and I was also sure that all the fish were picked up as the lure crossed their path mid river where I suspect they might have been laying on the bottom.

I had to work through what seemed like a prime area as I went down stream. It had cover on both banks and lots of pads and weed in the margins to conceal any predators. Honestly I thought it was going to be pike city but it turned out to be pretty barren no matter what lures I threw at it. Things didn't change until I moved into a section with a long clean cut reed bed along the opposite bank. Here the river dropped off at the bank into ten feet of water and once again this depth seemed to be a factor as straight away I hooked another zander lingering around the middle of the river. This was smaller than the first one I landed but still fought hard and was reluctant to come up and when it did just gave up rolling into the net.

The pike though were conspicuous by their absence on this session and it wasn't until the river started to shallow up towards the weir that a tiny one shot out and grabbed my falling lure. Though very cleanly hooked, this miniature monster bit the tail off of a brand new that I'd only cast once. Having unhooked it the tail of the lure was hooked up in though band new needle-like teeth. I only tugged at it gently and the tail of the shad was gone, leaving me with useless rubber ornament on my hook.

The river and my time soon ran out and I left it alone not long after that little pike swam away. I did give the weir one last go and covered the water where I'd lost that big fish first thing but that was no avail. I had been a good session on both the fish and the reccy front. I'd figured quite decent overview of the depth of the stretch, I'd found some interesting features in which to target later in the year and also got a few hints that there could be a very good population of good averaged sized zander in the area which I will definitely be targeting once the water is up and coloured and their after an easy meal.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Desperately seeking crucians.

With a title such as that you'd be forgiven for thinking I was in serious need of landing a lovely golden crucian carp. Well, I am and I am not, if that makes any sense. Really with where I live and the waters available to me, I could without shadow of a doubt go out and catch myself a crucian pretty easily, but the truth is that I only have eyes for one sort of crucian and it just happens that those are the hardest sort to catch round these parts as they are basically few and far between.

You see all crucians are not created equal... in my eyes anyway. In his well regarded crucian bible, 'A crock of gold: seeking the crucian carp', Peter Rolfe describes two distinct shapes of crucian carp; one, long and shallow which grows up in a relatively predator free environment and thus survival is not dependant on shape; the other, a classical round shaped crucian variant, that natural selection has determined due to its depth being to great too fit in the predatory perches mouth. The narrow variant is available commonly around the Midlands in quite a few pools including Snitterfield reservoir, which boasts an old population such as the one below and a whole new generation which was stocked few years ago to cement the reservoir as a top crucian venue for years to come.

The more rarer and archetypal variant though is much harder to find no matter where you come from. It is this disc-like crucian that I really wanted to catch this year, as a long time quest to actually catch just one of these special fish from Napton reservoir came to fruition and I landed four in one session last year. I honestly thought having finally done the impossible I might have satiated the urge, but the reality is that catching some has only made my need to catch them even worse. This picture alone has seen me return time and time again this year just for a chance to catch one more.

I have purposely kept away from blogging about the numerous failures to catch one of those golden pixies time and time again, as frankly I would have got very boring by now. Literally, I have spent half of my fishing time sitting on the banks of Napton mornings and evenings watching and waiting. I've spent so much time on there that I can tell some of the ducks apart merely by their demeanour. I've spent so much time sitting in silence that I've noticed that not only does Napton have a very shy population of water voles, but its stony margins are also home to bullheads which dart in and out of the rocks. As I've sat quietly waiting for my float to dip or rise so much as a millimeter I've seen plenty of Napton sunsets and now have developed a very keen appreciation for a good tench roll.

One thing I can say is the pest captures over the summer have really been great. Napton has so much more to offer than I ever thought in the past. The fish I've seen these last few months have honestly blown my mind. So much so in fact that I am already planning to have few sessions back on the venue once the weather cools a bit and the summer species go off the boil. Roach will be the target and why not when I've already caught fish to 1.10lb and pound fish have become very common. The Rudd to have blossomed in here and like their cousins, might continue to feed as the winter approaches. Saying that there does seem to be a few odd hybrids kicking around as well.

The tench sport was always regular this summer, but with the clear weedy conditions it has proved to be hard fishing in daylight hours in the margins at least. Evenings on the other hand have been madness, with catches of five fish one after another being the norm once the light drops and they find my carefully laid crucian traps. The tench have been so keen on my methods that sadly I've had to step up my tackle just to not get destroyed every time one comes along, hence I've fished probably a pound or so heavier gear than I would like to on such a venue. The rewards for that small compromise has been some lovely conditioned tench.

It wasn't until the other day that I strayed away from this crucian quest and with the summer ticking away I felt that sticking one in the net for this year's challenge was quickly passing me by. So with that in mind I did a session on Snitterfield reservoir to tick that box. Though that wasn't as simple as I expected it to be, as where the tench at Napton have proved very susceptible to my method the bream at Snitters were downright mugs for it. I spent a very hot and uncomfortable afternoon working my way through a good twenty of them and a fair few hybrids to conclude to stop feeding bait to encourage them. Half an hour bite-less proved enough quiet for at least one of the original crucians to drift in over the bream polished spot and put a pound and two ounces on my score sheet.

As I sat looking at my year planner at work a few days ago I realised that this little endeavor had consumed a large portion of the year and with a holiday fast approaching I had to draw a line under this crucian quest. So with that in mind I planned a final trip to Napton in search of gold. The only difference between this session and every other one before it was the addition of some very crucian carp looking bubbles emanating from the reed bed close to where I was fishing. They though came to nothing and my vigil ended once again with a streak of hard fighting tench before the sun set on my final attempt to catch those illusive Napton crucians.

Weirdly I don't feel the slightest disappointment in not actually catching one of Napton's bars of gold. I have actually really enjoyed spending all this time trying to pick a needle from a haystack. I can say with some certainty that I saw two crucians roll in a very specific place more than forty feet out from the bank and should I have been inclined I might have set up a feeder rig or something to try and hang one up, but I was not inclined, as doing so just feels little vulgar to me. Seeing those individual bubbles rising round the float and hitting that tiny bite before nervously playing a little circling giant is what I want and should it take me another decade to get that then I am prepared to sit and happily wait amongst Napton's reeds for it to come.