Monday, 17 September 2018

To meander after zander.

There's a distinctive hint of a smell in the air and I for one love those first whiffs I get. The sweet smell of summer has begun to fade as the plant life detects the impending season in those chilly nights. Autumn is afoot and hints of decay are happening. After a resplendent summer of unmitigated growth in the suns life giving rays, the huge maple under which I park my car is showing a streak of red and gold on its eastern exposure and the beastly thing has finally ceased spitting sap all over Doreen, my faithful Ford Focus.

If there is one thing I know, it's that if I am detecting the change of the seasons, those more in touch, i.e. fish, have long ago detected it and that ingrained instinct to stock up for winter has sparked into life. I love this time of year as everything gets moving after months of torpidity; this is the time of plenty when the predators really get focused. This is exactly the time I have waited for to begin searching for river zander, it's still a bit early to chase pike but zander, they seem to love this time of year on the Avon.

I didn't feel I did very well last year on a new section of the Avon I was targeting. Though I did pin point a few areas to focus on I don't feel I followed up on these spots quickly enough as I was distracted by the bloggers challenge. This year however, I have more time to give to this endeavour, so all I needed to do was check again that my info was good before taking aim.

Lure fishing has become my go to method for locating zander. The problem is with this bit of the Warks Avon is it all looks very zanderey and therefore given the length of the section in question, I could find myself having to fish lots of spots for a decent amount of time with baits before locating good areas. By lure fishing each area briefly and seeing which ones throw up zander to the lures, I can cross check that info with last year's similar sessions and see if any throw up multiple fish.

First trip out was perfect! The temperature had dropped and the sky was overcast. There was such a chill in the air that I had to don my hoodie for the first time since spring. This session could not have gone any better. I had some of the new Fox rage pro grubs to try out and I was very confident these large life like curly tails were the perfect zander candy to fling in the river. It turned out I was right to be confident as the lure soon tempted a couple of micro pike before any small zander struck the lure hard in an area I hoped would produce.

For the sake of continuity I continued to work the lures hard even in areas I didn't think I would catch fish from and strangely it was satisfying to find myself correct even though I caught no fish. When I did finally get into an area I was hoping to get a result from I was overjoyed to catch another better zander of maybe four pounds which was so aggressive I thought I'd been hit by a big pike as I saw a big flash when the fish struck at the edge of a weed bed.

I was of two minds after this session. On one hand I could repeat that session a few times again as time allowed to get more data or I could take the small amount of data and add it to last year's and go on that. It wasn't until I double checked the spots with last years info that I found the capture of both fish came from exactly the same spots as last year. So as not to waste a valuable session I concluded to go with it and not bother with any more prospecting, just to hit the two target areas as soon as possible.

A week long holiday to the east coast later and I was back with a whole different set up of kit. A pair two  and half pound rods, buzzers and the lightest bobbins I could find. The water was so sluggish in the section when I arrived that the brisk wind blowing upstream seemed too have stalled the Avon in her tracks. The water was still a bit clear for my liking but the over cast sky and depth of water had me confident I could garner some action and wasn't just pissing in the wind.

The still present weed proved problematic as the line of lilies emanated a good six feet from the bank and then a few feet of streamer weed lay rotting on the surface just before the water dropped away to ten or more feet in depth. All this meant I had to elevate the rods skyward to keep the line out of the weed, which I didn't want to interfere with my bite detection. Really, I would have preferred to point the rod tips at the rigs to help reduce resistance, but hopefully the zander wouldn't be that fussy at this early point in the season.

Knowing full well how snaggy the opposite side of the river was, I was careful to keep away from those awful snags which we had the local rowing club to thank for after they chopped down loads of overhanging branches last year and just dropped them directly into the river. So one bait was placed mid river and the second just off the marginal shelf. Hilariously, I had only just cast out the second rod when the first one was away. I don't mind admitting that in a bit of a flap, I managed to get the bobbin wrapped around the line somehow and for few arse twitching moments I found myself trying to untangle cord from line as something tugged hard on the end. I really thought it was something good when I was playing the fish deep down in the water and it thumped away bending the rod right over. But as it rose up in the water it seemed to get smaller and smaller until I found myself looking down at a jack pike, thinking this thing must be on steroids.

Not long after my rod had been dormant for a good few hours and my flask of tea had run dry, the grey sky began to look thin and blue patches started to show through. Before I knew it the days wall to wall cloud weather prediction had become a bit too sunny for my liking. It was about then that I suspected that the zander weren't going to play ball but with another three hours at hand to fish, I wasn't going to pack up just in case they did feel an impromptu zander dead bait picnic would be nice on a sunny day. I thought my luck was in as well, when the downstream rod indicated a slow steady run, but it turned out to be an overzealous perch with eyes bigger than his belly that had picked up my small roach dead bait.

Next was another small pike which sent the bite alarm into meltdown. After overconfidently winding it towards the net it did that thing pike occasionally do when they just open their mouth and the bait just flies out and you realise it never hooked at all but was just holding on out of hunger or sheer belligerence. The session ended on the capture of yet another small jack pike that was basically about the same size as the previous two. Instead of yet another little pike picture I took a different shot of my favorite; pike view. I love seeing them in or out of the water like this as I always intrigued by their markings on their backs for some reason.

I don't actually think I did anything wrong on this session and I have confidence that this and the other area I have pinpointed to focus on will produce zander of any size. Simply put I think with the current clear water and sunny weather I was really just a little on the wrong side of them feeding. Once we get a bit of colour in the water and some more conducive conditions hopefully I can get to see the true potential of this section of the Warks Avon.

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