Monday, 10 December 2018

Practice sessions (Coventry)

With little more than seven days to go before the LACC pairs match I really wanted to sharpen up. It's hard to explain this to non lure anglers but I will try my best to explain. Unlike say with float fishing where you watch a float in anticipation of some kind of movement that indicates a biting fish under it, with lure fishing and more specifically light lure fishing, you feel for the bite or hit. Now at its most savage a hit can mean the rod literally torn from your hands, but when the fish are not really in a very aggressive mood a hit can vary from a solid feeling, to a tug on the line, to the very extreme tiniest tap. As far as I can figure these tiny hits are quite often fish taking the lure into their mouth before spitting it out again, so striking at any suspicious tap can often result in a hooked fish. This is why sensitive rods and non stretch lines are vital to the capture of fish in this light lure world. But no matter how super sensitive your gear is, it means nothing if you're not dialed into hitting those tiny indications and by sharpening up I mean being on the ball and striking those tiny hits quickly enough to convert a half chance into a fish. Rather than use this practice opportunity to try and find fish I instead went to a known hotspot to try a tune up my reaction times.

Venue = Coventry canal - 4hrs

The canal when I walked down the tow path was a state and I very nearly turned tail and went to another venue as the entire surface for miles was littered with oak leaves. What stopped me was the thought if this canal was like it then any other would be as well and it could be that on the Grand union in a week's time I would have to compete with lots of leaf debris, so I pushed on and battled it out.

Total =181cm

This wasn't an easy session by any means. Literally I barely made any actual casts and in the end resorted to simply fishing under the rod tip down the edge as the floating leaves were ruining any casts I made. After covering quite a large section of canal with no results I found the fish tightly shoaled up and random section with no discernible features. I had to work very hard for 181cm of perch and small zander, though the capture of a 51cm jack pike was a very nice way to kick off the action especially on a super light 1-7gram outfit and 4lb line. The hardness of this session was almost a blessing as the lack of action really focused me on hitting every possible chance of a bite and literally I only lost one small zander and a tiny perch all morning.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Practice session (GU - Leamington Spa) - A case of cat and mouse.

With the LACC pairs open quickly approaching I was in desperate need to tune into the Grand Union canal where it was going to be held. The only problem was that competitors were asked to keep off the canal for a good period before to let the venue have a rest before it got smashed to pieces by sixty odd anglers thrashing the living hell out of it. So this in mind I opted to fish the same canal just off the match stretch so as I could try and tune into the conditions and methods ready for the upcoming match. Why it is that I have never fished this stretch of canal is beyond me as I live a very short journey away. Anyway with a short session available the weekend prior to the match I headed down to the very urban Leamington town section to try a get myself in sync with this unknown bit of water.

Venue = Grand union - Leamington Spa town sections - 3hrs

perch 22cm
perch 26cm
perch 18cm
perch 28cm
Total = 94cm

As the catch for the LACC pairs comp is only four perch and four zander I only included the four best perch that I caught. I did actually catch quite a few more though which leads me to the conclusion that the perch quota of the catch for the competition should be easy enough to fill. The zander on the other hand I feel will be the key to this match. Firstly I struggled to find them in the clear leaf filled water and the two I did encounter on this occasion were small and not that into attacking judging from the way they were just holding onto the tail of the lures.
As for what I learned about the Grand union canal in urban Leamington it pretty simple, it's clear, its lined with dog shit, it used by the local addicts to shoot up, there's loads of cool graffiti on and it's not a place to take the family for a walk after Sunday lunch.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Practice sessions (Ashby).

With the lure fishing match season well under way I really wanted to start focusing on pinpointing some good areas on the local canals for any upcoming matches in the near future. Hopefully by keeping abreast of the areas that are more prevalent I can save time on searching out good areas and concentrate on catching fish instead on the match day. With this in mind I went to the Ashby canal for a practice session to try and confirm if it has any potential. I should say at this point that I have actively avoided the Ashby as it's a local focus point of the ill founded attempts to stem the spread the local zander population (something you will see is totally pointless later).

Venue = Ashby canal - Marston junction up - 4hrs

Total = 278cm

This little foray was very surprising to me. Certainly there was distinct lack of zander on this heavily persecuted SSSI area, but what it lacked in zander it certainly made up for in quality perch and on a searching foray I was over the moon with nearly three meters of fish. It has definitely given me a few areas to target and a bit more concentration on those areas in the future could make some very nice lengths in the future. As for the zander zapping you can see I caught one little zander and I should mention two other similar size one came adrift before I had chance to land them and given that those three are probably just the tip of the ice berg, you can see how little effect culling them has as this area was supposedly cleared less than a year ago.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Late season catch up.

Ah, alas once again I find myself writing a catch up blog to bridge some of the larger gaps that have appeared in this fishing diary of late. The reason for catch up is simple yet sad, as I have felt little like writing after the passing of a dearly loved family member has left me feeling somewhat introspective. Although throughout this difficult time I have continued to fish, the fact remains that the ripples caused by this period in my life have taken a long time to dissipate, but now the waters of life are settling and I once again feel the need to leave behind civilian life and re-enter the fishing blogosphere and fill in the blanks in my tome.

The silver incident!
I've tried quite a few times over the years to try and catch a silver bream by design, only to basically fall flat on my face into a mire of roach, bream and hybrids. This year was no different and early season forays achieved little more than me stinking like a bream. Then a while ago I was out dropshotting for predators trying to locate some hotspots on a local canal when I struck into what I naturally assumed would be a average perch as I was using a small black leech intimation. This perch soon turned into a hybrid then in my net and on the bank it became clear I had actually caught my first silver bream of the year on a lure and therefore not by design... 

Maybe next spring I will save some time and just go out after them using lures as this is the second one I've caught on the dropshot on the same section of canal.

A trip to the Wye.
It's been a few years since I've trod the banks of the Wye and normally I'd head over to a friend's private beat, which was initially the plan when my good friend Martin Oxley asked if I fancied going. Unfortunately though our friends beat became unavailable when the late running croy repairs were rescheduled for when our trip was organized. After a panic to try and find another venue we settled on the Letton Court fishery which has three beats available to day ticket anglers along with a very interesting oxbow lake.

The river as always was stunning but beautiful as it was, the fishing was hard. Recent rains and the lack of weed meant we were faced with a fast and potent Wye that I don't mind admitting I struggled to cope with.

We choose to fish the middle beat where the river dropped away in depth after a field length run of riffles. I was hopeful that even with the cold temperatures and clear water that we might be lucky enough to find a few barbel laying up in this sort of area. Even after nearly losing my rod once to my single savage bite I was unable to return anything for my efforts on the river. Martin faired a little better and winkled out some chub.

All too soon my feet started to itch and after mooching the entire available length of the river I discovered little to move for as the other three chaps on the upper and lower beats had nothing whatsoever to show for their efforts. Now the oxbow lake that flanked the river started to seem rather appealing to me as I had brought along a medium weight lure outfit and as sure ducks like bread, I knew that lake had to have a few pike in it.

What met me when I began snooping around the lake was shocking to say the least. The bank that divided the river from the lake was at least six meters high and as I walked along the bank I could see that the recent flood water had left debris hung all over the trees surrounding the lake; thus the Wye had actually gone up more than six meters and filled the lake with dirty cold river water which left the lake murky with sediment. All that aside a single turn up and down the bank resulted in a couple of follows from some jacks and one hard hit from a tiny pike. The highlight had to be when I offered Martin my rod for a few casts whilst I went down to try and find a path through the trees, only to go back and find Martin with the rod doubled over and a huge pike thrashing around in the margins. Sadly though the monster came off just before it was ready for the net, much to our disappointment.

So simply put this was all I caught on that trip to the Wye...

Return to the CRT match stretch.
During the recent CRT match there was a few decent zander caught and the areas of these captures were duly noted and filed away for a return visit in the company of the equally zander mad Mick off of Piscatorial Quagswagging. Once we finally got a date we could both make we met up early doors at the parking area just off the canal.

Armed with a pair of dead bait rods, Mick chose to wait it out whilst I fished a single dead bait and a lure rod as well to try and find the fish as my bait rod stewed away. Early on we thought we'd struck gold when Mick connected with a good fish after a stuttering run. The bend in the rod had both of our arses squeaking until what we hoped was a big zander morphed into a better than average canal pike.
For my part my incessant working of a gaudy lure up and down the trench soon rooted out a small zander which threw the hook, but was followed by one which nailed the lure so hard it was never coming off.

Myself and Mick are very much of the same mind when it comes to zander fishing and after more than the average amount of time in the first swim we were off searching for active fish. This actually works brilliantly for me as not only is my bait rod always fishing in fresh spots but I always have new areas to work lures. We struggled to find zander but the occasional perch took umbridge to my rhythmical gyrating of rubber and through the deteriorating morning I scratched a few stripys here and there.

Those beast zander never did turn up and I will sure as hell be back to have another go. Interestingly I took note of the rough sizes of the few fish on caught on this occasion back on the rock hard section where the CRT match was held just to see how I might have fared with this nominal catch. Surprisingly The rough 80cm+ catch would have put me somewhere 13th or 14th out of 125 odd anglers which would have still been a decent score in that very hard match.

Friday, 12 October 2018

A competitive foray #3

Match day

When I walked out the door into the dark at six in the morning I was met by the sight of sparkling cars reflecting the street lights. I knew it had been cold but this seemed a bit more than a sharp frost. Sitting there as the ice melted from the car window screen I was nervous, this was a big event I was going to and it had been playing on my mind for a few days now that this was only my third ever lure fishing match and frankly I didn't want to make a fool of myself. To sooth my nerves I just kept repeating over and over again in my head my mantra of the day 'just get something on the sheet'. Soon enough though I was speeding through the frosty countryside headed to the McDonalds on the A45 near rugby where Dave Mutton, the team captain, had called us for a team meeting and breakfast.

If I had felt a little out of my depth before I left then now I felt worse. Most of my team mates were seasoned competitors and the mix of lure branded kit indicated they did this regularly or a manufacturer had faith in them. There was me in my bobbly fishing hoody and hat looking like I was going flipping paint balling not fishing. A few of them I knew from the Tusses match a few weeks prior, a couple I knew via Facebook but for most they were all new to me, happily though we all spoke the same language of fishing. Talking about our practices and sharing snippets of knowledge served to settle me and soon enough Dave stood up and began his captains talk. He went through the does and don'ts and ultimately made it clear this was first of all a team event and thus helping out each other was paramount to the general effort, which made a lot of sense.

On the road again the sun was now rising and I was bleeding lost like an idiot! Some of the team had come half way across the country and here I was travelling through my own county lost looking for a village I have driven through hundreds of times this year alone. Soon enough I was back on track and found myself queuing to drive onto a half frozen half fallow field filling with keen rubber chuckers of various nationalities

It seemed to take ages to get ready to be set free by the CRT chaps in charge and people were getting very impatient to be off after registration. After discussing plans with many of my team mates I had just about decided on where to go. Of the three sections the match stretch could be divided into I liked the look of the middle heavily featured lock section or the more distant top section. The bottom section from the start down to the welsh road bridge held no appeal at all as I knew this section was a royal pain in the arse once the locks opened and I wanted no part of that. From what I could see there were a lot of people intending to hit the locks so I made the decision to go for space over features and head up to the top in order to have more water to fish. This in mind I never took my gear out of the car and instead lingered on the periphery of the crowds looking for my pre-assigned Bulgarian partner for the day, Svetoslav Ognyanov, whom I had already contacted via Facebook. With the initial parings officially brought together they gave the milling crowed some final instructions before they cut us all loose to fish. As we had previously agreed I headed back to my car, partner in tow, to zoom up to the top of the match stretch and get fishing...

The CRT international friendly

Venue = The Grand Union Canal bridges 18-30

The first hour was hard! The colour had dropped out of the water overnight with the cold and visibility was good, but this made the fish nervous to begin with. I had several slight enquiries early on fishing tight to features but nothing was prepared to commit. To make matters worse I saw some of the other competitors catching, which made me panicky. It wasn't till we all started spreading out along the stretch that I caught my first small perch just off the shelf which served to settle me down. All I needed was another one and a few zeds and that would do.

Quickly me and my partner developed a method of working together. I continually moved at a snail's pace working the inside hard as he picked spots he liked the look of and fished them before catching me up, either choosing a spot in front or behind of me to cast across the canal. For quite a while I felt like we were in a fishless void and was wondering if I had made a mistake coming up the top.

Pluck...I was sure something snatched at my lure then bang! I was into a fish which was straight away pulling line off my lightly set clutch. I have never been so scared of a fish coming off as I was this one. My heart was beating fast; I was fumbling with the net. This had to be a good zander I thought just before a mottled head broke the surface. At the first opportunity I salmon scooped it up and was proper on the board now with this 57cm pike...

Reports were now coming in via the whatsApp group that things were very hard all over and everyone was experiencing the same with odd fish here and there. Myself and my partner pushed on until we came across one of my Team mates, Gary Coulson, and his polish partner who were dug in hard on a spot where Gary's partner had caught two zander. Although invited to jump in quite close the spot produced nothing for us and we carried on up the stretch. Literally we covered probably half a mile before I snagged a small zander in the lea of a bridge which brought me so close to a metre of fish.

With that metre score now in sight I was working harder than ever making sure I had every chance to get another fish. After heading to the top of the match stretch and coming back again I doubled my efforts to cover the area where I'd had the small zander from, but the spot now seemed barren. With lots of other competitors all around us all the features were getting hammered. A quick chat and myself and Svetoslav agreed to work our way back to the car, stopping at any spots that had produced fish. Not long after, as my partner fished a very fishy looking reed bed feature, I hooked a second small perch tight to the edge which came up in tandem with a copy of itself. At 17cm I knew I was over the metre with this valuable little gem.

A change of tack...
On the way back up the stretch we again came across Gary and his partner who were still holding firm on the spot that had produced now three zander. As I chatted to Gary he hooked a zander on a jig in the centre of the trench. It was then that it occurred to me changing tack might bring me those few zander I now wanted so much. I'd already covered all the margin I was about to fish with the dropshot on the way down, so why not change things just a bit to see if it might work. The micro jig was moving much quicker than I had worked the dropshot and as a few boats were now chugging down the canal I opted to work the lure off the marginal shelf just on the edge of the trench and this plan worked perfectly, producing my best zander of the day by way of a very pleasing 42cm fish to top off my catch.

Having a decent length on the sheet I was mindful to get back with plenty of time to hand in my score; I was sure under the difficult conditions of the match I had done pretty well and being late back would be a stupid thing to do with a good score. Soon enough we pulled back into the field with all the other cars to find out how things had gone. With my sheet handed in and my length added up by an official and double checked by myself I was happy to confirm I had attained a little more than my target of 150cm with a satisfying 154cm. I then went about locating some team mates to try and figure how we had done. It seemed I had done well as had a few others in our team, but most of all it seemed as a team we had just about all caught fish.

I had it half in mind that I might have been in the running for the biggest fish with my 57cm pike but news of a few bigger fish soon came in. One chap had caught a 70cm zander on his first cast, rolling the dice with a humongous lure and one of my team mates was rumoured to of had a 68cm zander as well. From what I could tell only Jacob Stone had scored over a metre with 155cm, so I was chuffed to be up there with him.

After a long wait the officials finally had the results ready to announce, the team was all together and we were hopeful that we had done well. Dave, our captain, was just about ready to explode with nerves. They first announced the biggest fish was, as we suspected, the Romanian competitor with a huge 70cm zander then they quickly moved onto the individual winners. When the third place winner was called out as Daniel Everitt with 154cm I could hardly believe it was me. Then they called out Jacob Stone with 155cm was second, much to his amazement, and not long after that Richard Haines with 165cm was first. We could barely believe it at all, we had done a clean sweep of first, second and third, and better was still to come. We all thought it and a few mumbled it, we had to have won if we'd done all the top places. And when the called out that the England team had won the overall competition we all went bonkers! Dave the captain was beaming as the bottle of champagne was sprayed all over him. What a result for team England on such a hard venue in competition with some really great teams. As for me, I still can barely believe that all my hard work paid off and on my third ever lure match I was lucky enough to get my hands on some silverware!

Total Length = 154cm

Finish position = 3rd
Team finish position = England 1st with 1435 point and an average legnth per angler of 57.4cm

Me and my new friend and brilliant partner, Svetoslav Ognyanov.
Dave couldn't stop smiling after such a brilliant victory.
and neither could this lot!

Well done again chaps on a great overall performance and victory. I had a brilliant day and made loads of new friends that I hope to fish with again and again in the future.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

A competitive foray #2

With a week to go till the CRT event I really wanted to get out to further sharpen my skills and try and put some theories to the test. After stewing for a few days over the performance I had put in on the match stretch along with some other performances team mates had put in on the venue as well, it was clear this was going to be a hard match. Add to that 124 other anglers all being on the same bit of water and this was starting to look like a real challenge. The best option for practice seemed for me to go and fish the same canal only just off the now out of bounds match section; hopefully it would be similar in performance and get me more in tune with the fish populations of the canal, rather than say fishing the Coventry, which is fishing much better it would seem.

Practice  for the CRT International

Venue = LACC sections Radford bottom lock - Fosse way bridge

Total Length = 230cm

Best two perch for CRT quota = 48cm
Three of the four zander for CRT quota = 76cm
Score for CRT =  124cm

First of all my hook up rate increased massively once again fishing the dropshot rig. Of thirteen fish hooked I landed eleven which worked out to be an 85% conversion rate of hits to fish. That figure just served to further boost my confidence in the change of hook pattern I had made. As explanation I should say that I changed from an Owner mosquito hook which has a beaked point, to a kamasan B420 sedge hook which is exactly the same shape as a dropshot hook apart from having a straight point instead of beaked, which I believe offers a quicker hook purchase in the bony predators mouth and less chance of skidding along before gaining purchase. Secondly, after this practice something really clicked in my mind as to what I would be looking for to do well in this up coming CRT match and that was...

2 x 25cm perch for 50cm
4 x 25cm  Zander for 100cm
0 x pike (As there are so few pike I felt it was pointless targeting them)
Total = 150cm

This I felt was an obtainable score under very hard circumstances on an already hard venue given the fish populations. But this was just a theoretical target, achieving it was another thing...