Sunday, 18 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT69 – Nimby’s and Ninnycocks

I felt like having a pothole protest all of my own, a big almighty crash where the suspension must have bottomed out on the bump-stops and there wasn’t anything I could do about it either. The road was narrow, just enough for two cars, a school mum up my backside I had to enter the unknown.

It was waterlogged you see, so I couldn’t gauge the depth. The bang was that loud I got out my car soon after to check out the condition of the wheels and tyres that I’ve sort of regretted adding as an option now. 

The tyres profile way too small, the alloy wheel too big, they look good though, design over function and all that, roads as flat as a witches ****, fine, the best Warwickshire can muster Nah !!.

Luckily all seemed to be in order, I need a rethink….

In contrast the other day I took the Wife’s Tiguan down the track to the deep bit of the Avon through huge potholes and undulations and the large side walled squidgy tyres soaked up the rough terrain without an issue.

I think I need a new car, well something more suited to our rubbish roads and for what I use it for….

Answers on a postcard….

For this session I was back at a handy area that has showed promise in the past, the loss of a big fish here got me coming back as usually the schoolies caught here were among the smallest I’d caught, the reception class so to speak.

Another plus point of this area was with a high bank front and rear I could shelter from the wind and drifting snow that was forecast for this morning session. Mad ? what a stupid question.

At 7.00am all the roads leading up to the destination was snow covered, grit, what grit, but nice to be out though, despite the bite of the wind.

An area of leapfroggable cover, with plenty of kids mucking about, the occasional teacher. 

The thing is with canals and Zander, if one area isn’t producing the bites, then you need to get moving. Otherwise you’d be left thinking, is there really Zed’s in this canal. Luckily here, a 10 or 15 minute walk there is another area that usually has fish laying up, ready for the bell to be rung. They really do control the territory too and don’t like anyone stomping on their patch, so bites can come quick, the little bullies.

They can be absent in lots of areas and that’s why I like the challenge, not only does it help with the fitness but many are put off with the lack of results they are getting. Stick with it, yes there will be blanks but that’s part of the appeal for me anyway. Don’t want it that easy, the banks are quiet and I like that.

So to no surprise there were no boats moving during this session, the foot traffic, well one dog walker and an elderly fella with oversized boots that looked like he was about to have a heart attack. The leapfrogging in progress, 10-15 minutes, move one rod, 10-15 minutes the other, eventually I managed a bite, the water temperature 5 degrees so the fish wouldn't be moving much so I must have dropped the bait on it's head. The fight was quite a surprise for a small fish, especially as it a scrawny little thing that I didn't bother weighing.

The last swim it was out with the big guns, a 4" section of lamprey which has been a productive bait for me in the past. It still amazes me how something so small contains so much blood. I'm not sure if Zander sense blood like Pike seem to, but they happily feed on it no problem even though it looks nothing like what they feed on.

The smelt did the trick earlier and that was on the other rod.

The wind was picking up and the cold starting to get to ones neck, despite the winter gear I was wearing. This winter is one of the longest I can remember, hopefully the milder weather will get the fish moving because the fish seem few and far between at the moment.

Sadly 25 minutes, motionless floats, so 4 hours, 6 or 7 swims, one bite one fish.

Blank avoided....

Friday, 16 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT68 - Daffodils and Dunderheads

It can be very much groundhog day this Zander lark especially the way I fish for them. Part 68 of this quest of mine for a cut double it was back with the drudgery. I say drudgery because last closed season was a bit of a damp squib.

I did think I was getting somewhere having banked a few decent fish, 7, 8’s and eventually a 9 lber the season before, but after schoolie after schoolie, I think the best I mustered was a nats nadger over 5lb. A waspers dream no question, but for me I was going backwards, and fast, so continue on my quest, I’m probably rather stupid.

For this first session of 2018 when the river are closed and the daffodils are emerging I wanted to try smelt out with my over depth float method, in an area where can be productive in numbers and also in size. I’d read an article you see, that praised the use of smelt for Zander and the author Barry Rickards used them in preference over anything else.

The pungent cucumber smell maybe give an advantage over a chunk of Roach and not only that but being softer maybe the hook-ups would be improve, because the hook would pull out of the bait easier.

I’d tried sardines for Zander before and had runs and a couple of fish, so I had confidence in using sea baits, but that didn’t factor in my decision. It was more the fact I could see why smelt would be well worth a try.

Any edge I need, I tell thee….

I’ve got no choice but to give them a proper go, because as the moment, my bait freezer doesn’t contain anything else.

So other changes for this season, well, one particular 3 mile stretch will command the most attention and there is also an area I’ve been told about where I know one resides because I’ve seen the pics where I want to give a bash.

Now usually I wouldn’t bother fishing in known swims because in my experience canal Zander especially the bigun’s are very transient indeed. I’ve fished the same swim(s) countless times where my PB and other good fish have come from and never had anything other than the humdrum. Maybe this fish was different though because a chance conversation with said fellow barbel chaser who turned out to be a Zed head just like me, he had caught this fish twice out of the same swim.

The problem though, it would be at the outer reaches of my target area, which for someone who has to maximise their time on the bank, I’m not sure I could justify the extra miles just to pursue a fish that may well not be there. So the plan when I get a chance is to take a day of work and fish it from dawn to dusk to see if I could intercept one of its feeding times.

That’s not me really, not the way I fish and how I get enjoyment out of fishing but sometimes maybe I should take notes of the snippets of information I get know and then and take advantage of it. Heck, it’s how some anglers fish all the time, they have made careers out of it. Nothing will get in the way of a big fish, you hear the namesakes say, and we all know who they are, they've made forgettable careers out of it.

Oddly considering the amount of different species I fish for, by far the biggest email traffic I get is “where do you fish for Zander”. To be honest the default answer is, “everywhere” and to be honest that’s not far from the truth. Bank time is the key if you want a big-un, it’s a numbers game and pure luck, there is no rocket science in it. Sometime ago though I dumped the lure fishing off, I still do it from time to time, but I’ve far better success sticking to the leapfrogging technique I’ve honed over the obscene amount of time I’ve been fishing for canal Zander.

In the early days, a light running rig on an alarm as a sleeper and a lure rod used to be my approach, but leapfrogging allows you to cover plenty of water and that’s what is needed for success. Travelling light is therefore the key so there was no need for faff and furniture. I quickly learnt deadbaiting is the key to bigger fish so to combine something more visual than watching a bobbin or listening to an alarm was the order of the day. So inline dumpy pike floats were the answer.

For us maggots drowners there is nothing like watching a float go under or move when a fish is attached to ones bait. It’s that visual part of angling that is hard to tire from. Eventually I came up with a set-up that worked for me very well indeed, it took a bit of tinkering mind you, and I’m still tinkering with it now, more of that later.

From top to bottom float stop, white bead, sliding Zeppler, bead, coffin lead (new for 2018) quick change bead,30cm fluorocarbon hooklink with offset Sakuma Manta Size 1. Fish over depth and the float sits nicely on the surface, the sensitivity is ridiculous. Bites, well they can go from the odd nudge to a full on submarine in seconds, the bite are so visual and varied I don’t think I could fish for them any other way.

So the coffin lead change for this season was to try and keep the float in position when a lock gate has been opened or the water ‘bouncing’ like it does, going left to right as it sometimes can. I used to use a drilled bullet or an olivette but I was hoping a coffin lead would offer more resistance to being pulled off line because of the extra surface area. Sometimes that wasn’t a problem though because a bait moved out of a position could provoke a Zander is to snatching at the bait on the way past, they are predators after all, but it's good to tinker as an angler.

I will fish lures from time to time, especially when fishing new waters and Sam who will accompany me on the odd session will be using a rod all of his own.

Anyway enough of the preamble, to kick of the challenge again this session was at an area I call the 'Tefal Head' it has featured quite a bit in my Zander fishing in recent times and can produce decent fish from time to time. I rarely blank so hence it would be good to get the scores on the door and see if there were fish still around.

The first swim 20 minutes, nothing, the sun was out though and quite a pleasant day, the water not as turbid as I'd like, hmmmm. So a wander was on the cards. There is a nice section of cover probably 200 meters or so, great for leapfrogging and it didn't take long for the first bite either. The float going from right to left. The fish came up in the water once I lent in to the fish but it was nibbling at the bait, only a small fish but nice to know there are still around. Zander can be tricky to hook, and it's exactly that, they use their mouths like finger tips, so another few runs came pretty quick and the fourth attempt, yes really as fish was banked.

So a fish banked, 2lb 11oz's and nice to open the challenge with a fish.

There was obviously a few fish tucked away under the cover, hence the frequency of the bites...

The last 20 minutes in to dusk in an area where I had the 8lb 10oz fish as shown in the blog header picture, no interest. For this 2.5 hour session, no boats either. So nice to be back and see the floats moving as they do, so I'll be back over the weekend if the weather is kind to us.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Donnybrooks and Dimmets

There was a melee in this swim prior to dusk the other week, things with fins holding up their knives and forks banging on the dinner table expecting to be fed. And fed they were, sadly there wasn’t a thank you in return and I left not only with a load of deadbaits consumed but despite the service I provided they left without giving me a tip, the tight gits.

I wasn’t going to be as accommodating for this session though because I only had one rod for starters, and that rod would have a sting(er) in its tail. You see the runs I left unhindered with fish taking line when the rod was lifted, the line through fingers going taught and line being taken, as soon as resistance was felt I could actually feel the fish (assume Zander) actually dropping the bait, frustrating indeed especially when club rules dictated the finish time just when it was getting interesting.

Single hooks usually work well with Zander but I was hoping a little rig modification would allow me to see what was feeding on the free meal I provided.

I’m not a food bank after all, unlike the other mouths I feed, I wanted something in return this time. So a couple of traces were made up with a small treble hook a couple of inches from the large single to help snare the deadbait ejectors.

With the temperatures and recent snow melt, rivers doing what they are doing, I wasn't expecting much.

The possibility of river eel, carp and a tench went as soon as that happened so the end to the season has all been a bit meeehhhhh !!! to be honest, shame really as I was getting out on the bank as much as I could of late, but even I've been put off with the recent weather, which has been some of the worst I've know, especially the artic winds which have been ridiculously cold even for me to put up with.

Were these small schoolies nibbling the bait or a wise and conditioned big'un that was good at bait nicking ?

Now best laid plans and all that, and you know how much I pre plan because the river had risen Saturday and was over its banks on some of the stretch. So the swim I wanted to fish unfishable I had to move downstream a couple of pegs and fish for what would likely be biting. So it was out with a Barbel rod as well, the river was well up and chocolate brown so a big piece of garlic spam one one rod a roach dead on the other.

The amount of debris bombing down was bordering on the ridiculous so I was casting every ten minutes or so but eventually all hell breaks loose after 3 hours in to the 4 hour session a fish has picked up the bait. It gave me a cracking scrap too in the flow and it was trying to get under the sunken platform. Eventually landed though and a welcome 6lb 8oz Barbus. The two other anglers bankside were biteless when I left. Certainly tough conditions and no more bites came.

The water was 7.1 degrees when I left and with the river starting to fall its going to be good conditions for Barbel for sure when the season comes to a close. Probably the toughest and hardest winter I've fished and to be honest mediocre results too.

I've fished more than ever though, and so may it continue.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Shot-Clogs and Stamp-Crabs

Snow, snow and lots of it, to be honest I think we survived the worst of it in the Midlands looking at some of the other areas around the country had been affected. Still enough to prevent me getting in to work on the Friday mind you. I’m out the door at 5.40am you see and the main road in parts was blocked due to the drifting snow from the boarding fields.The drive back on the Thursday evening took twice as long due to the conditions of the roads, so no surprise really.

So back to bed it was, mulling over when I would manage to get out again. Not so much the cold because not got a problem with that, I've got the gear, but the juggle of time with the diary makers.

A drive out later we’d caught the tail end of the clean-up and boy, we’d certainly had a decent amount. It seemed very localised though and in small pockets because other area fared better, some much worse. The artic temperatures had put a nice surface layer of ice at the above weir section of the Alne at Wotton Wawen. So certainly a tough end to the season for use fisherman. With the big melt starting on Sunday realistically with some rain and also milder (relative) temperatures Friday looked a reasonable day to try and fish for something.

So where then, I had considered going back to the Blythe for a go as the Chub seemed to be in decent numbers there the first time I went to it, but not so much the second, but then the draw of my usual Chub haunt was pulling on my fishing strings and I just HAD to give it another bash. 

You see despite the results of mine and others for Chevin down here being mediocre of late, because of the fish watching their backs from predation most likely with a little more colour in the water, maybe it was worth another go. "Yes Mick but we hear those stories all the time, it's usually a load of wives tales and waffle" I've seen those with fir and feathers with my own eyes this season though and the capture of a fish with a big raw chunk out of it, why would they hang around....?

The swim looked cock on....

Talking about giving it another go, the match Anglers didn't fancy it down the Ivel as I saw this the other day. Hmmmmm all very familiar.

The Ivel Winter Open, which takes place annually on the River Ivel at Biggleswade, has been cancelled because organiser the Ivel Protection Agency says stocks are too low to guarantee anglers who pay fees to take part will catch many fish. The decision was made after a recent pairs match during which only five minnows were caught.

Graham Inwood, the IPA’s vice president, told the Comet: “When you’re asking people to pay £10 or £12 entry fees and then shell out money for bait, you need to expect that two-thirds of them will catch something, but at the event the other day only about four out of 14 people caught something.

“The Ivel isn’t a match river anymore. We used to run events up here 25 years ago with 250 people taking part but we might get 20 people turning up for this festival.

“You can still catch bigger fish in the river but it’s the silver fish like roach that have gone.”

Mr Inwood says he puts the decline in fish stocks down to an increasing population of cormorants and otters which prey on them. He said: “It’s not the quality of the water, that’s probably better than it was, but the cormorants are very protected and whilst the otters are a good looking animal, they are predators” 

So simple tactics as per usual here for this session, a roving approach and simple drop and plop the cheesepaste. The sort of fishing I love to be honest, but then you know that don't you if you're familiar with this blog of mine.

Were the Chub going to play ball or would I be returning to my car with tail between ones legs again.
The drive there the roads really were waterlogged so a decent amount of rain overnight meant I knew it would be tough.

The little brook was motoring through and chocolate brown. This eventually ends in the river but even upstream of the exit it was just as coloured. It's just a matter of finding some slack spots though, leaving the bait for 15 minutes and then move on. The river was rising whilst I was there, in-fact it must have come up nearly a foot in the 3 hours I was there. The water temperature was on the increase though, 6 to 6.3 degrees so I'm changing my plans for tomorrow.

Barbel it be, so after 3 swims without a bite I returned to a swim I fished first but this time left the bait a little longer and sure enough a proper good bite and a fish is on. I knew it wasn't the stamp I was after straight away, but a welcome fish all the same in testing conditions.

3.8oz and shows that there are still some reasonable Chub here, just maybe not the quantity.
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