Canal Zander - First Session Of The New Campaign - A Slow Start - 18/3/19 - 3:45pm

I think it's fair to say that my first experience of the Midlands canals, during the last coarse fishing closed season, did not have me enamoured with their charms or productivity...with a couple of notable exceptional sessions.

I'm sure it may well have been my lack of knowledge of locations or suitable tactics which did little to helps things.  Being a creature of habit I found it difficult to shrug-off my river fishing garb. 

However, help was at hand in the shape of Mick from Piscatorial Quagswagging who has immense experience on these tricky waterways and did his utmost to put me on the right track.  I will be eternally grateful to him for sharing his hard-earned knowledge with a canal novice such as myself. 

I eventually began to get to grips with these murky waterways, but, after the mandatory three months of abstinence from my beloved Avon I could not wait to return to the flowing water on 16th June.

I have not returned to the canals since.
However, 14th March has come and gone again and it is more out of necessity to stave-off the angling cold turkey than love of the canals that has me treading the turd-ridden towpaths again.  This year though I have some experience under my belt and knowledge of what and what not to do (more not what to do in all honesty).

So it was with less trepidation and more focus that I embarked on the first session of this campaign.  My targets were, in the first instance, to be the zander that frequent these waterways.  I love these prehistoric-looking creatures and find I can't leave them alone for too long before the itch becomes unbearable and I have to get after them again.
My second target would be a decent canal roach.  Spurred on by a couple of decent sessions after the roach, bream and hybrids last year and my enjoyment of catching a few modest roach from the small river in the winter I think it's an achievable target.  Help and encouragement came in the form of a youtube video that Mick suggested I watch.  It is a collaboration by local blogger George from Float Flight Flannel and is a wonderful and informative film of his exploits seeking and catching redfins from the canal network.  It brought to mind that fantastic series "A Passion For Angling".  I thoroughly recommend viewing Big Canal Roach In Winter when you have a few minutes.  Being a vlogger myself I can fully appreciate the hours and hours of effort that goes into producing such a fantastic piece of work.

So, onto the first session.

I decided, and I'm not sure exactly why, to start my campaign on a section I had not fished or even walked before.  Google maps being my only source of information but it looked perfect.  Long stretches of tree-lined canal which would provide cover, hopefully holding zander, punctuated by a couple of locks with their associated bypasses and oxygenated water.  I knew before I started that it would be tough going with the water still being cold.  Mick had fished the previous day and had had just one zander replete with leeches which showed the fish were lying up.  I would have to find them.
I walked to the far end of the stretch in the drizzle and began fishing.  Tactics would be two float-legered deadbaits, one smelt and one roach, both of which would be regularly boosted with an injection of smelt oil, something which I have found to be very beneficial on the Avon and I figured there would be no reason it shouldn't do the same on the cut.

I would leap-frog the rods back down the stretch towards the car, flicking the deadbaits into likely fish-holding areas in the hope of dropping on a fish or two who could be tempted from their stupor by the offer of a free lunch.
After two hours the stretch had been walked and every likely looking area covered but I had not had a single bob on the floats, absolutely nothing.  I was back at the bridge where the car was parked just as darkness fell and I begrudgingly lowered my gear over the style, resigned to a blank.

"No, I can't go home just yet.  It's zander'o'clock.  I'd be daft to leave now".  I thought to myself.  Ten more minutes below the bridge in the dark, just with the rods, net and camera...one last cast.

Obviously, being dark now, I would not be able to see the floats, so I have developed a float-leger setup which, within seconds and the minimum of fuss, can be converted to an effective straight leger rig (not quite as easy as just taking off the float) for just this eventuality.  This was done and the rods deployed.  One cast to cover on my left and the other right under the road bridge.  Bite indication would be baitrunners only with the rods pointed directly at the baits.  On these reels they back off so there is literally no resistance.  The rig and lead setup means there would be zero chance of receiving a drop-back bite as heavy leads were being used, therefore, whichever way a taking fish swam line would be taken from the reel, the lead forming a pivot/anchor point. 

This was the first time I had used this set-up and after a couple of hours of previously unproductive fishing with the floats I had no confidence that it would be tested.  Until, from the darkness, and with slight reverb provided by the bridge I heard "click......click...click, click, click".  Wow a take, fantastic.  I lifted the rod and wound down to the fish.  It had indeed moved towards me but the 2.5oz lead had held firm and provided the required anchor point.  A short scrap ensued but the schoolie was soon resting in the landing net.
"He's not down there on his own is he" I thought and the other rod was hastily wound in and flicked under the bridge before I unhooked the mini zed.  Within seconds the unmistakable "click...click" started again.  I chuckled as an image popped into my head.  The sound had my brain recollecting the scene from Jaws when the ratchet on the multiplier made a similar noise.  I lifted into the zander, this one even smaller than the first and barely would have made a toothpick for the Great White but I was happy.

Two in the net, blank avoided and rigs functioning as intended.

I can't wait for the next session later in the week.  Hopefully the big ones will be hungry.

Tight lines,

Nic

Finishing The Season With A Whimper - 11-3-19 - 2:45pm

It was with excitement and anticipation that I arrived at the small river after work.  This was destined to be my final foray to this stretch before time was called on the season so I was hoping for a memorable session roving the mile or so of bends, glides and deep pools.

Well, it certainly was memorable...for the wrong reasons.


The river was carrying a little pace, colour and extra height, pretty much the same water conditions as the previous Friday when I had found it hard going, getting only one bite and landing a lovely conditioned chub from the stretch located a mile further downstream.


I was hoping for a change in fortune from the previous session.  Well, "be careful what you wish for" as the old adage goes.  I got my wish and a change of fortune is what I got....I didn't even get one bite!  Not a knock.  The quiver tip remained lifeless and the float unmolested.

Crazy.  The river looked absolutely perfect.  


I fished my three banker swims too, all of which have never failed to produce fish previously, and decent fish too...roach and chub.  On this occasion however, nothing.  Not even any interest.


I tried trotting, link legering and even the feeder, fishing a dozen likely looking swims with every bait I had at my disposal, bread, maggots, worms, cheesepaste, garlic meat, pellets.  I threw the kitchen sink at them and they stuck two fingers up to me.


Oh well, onwards and upwards.  That's fishing I guess.

One last session is scheduled at the eleventh hour, Thursday evening, which will be on the private stretch of the Avon I have access too.  With the river very high and coloured at the moment I think the only realistic targets are barbel and zander.  However, the former have been conspicuous by their absence here this year so I have no intention of wasting the last few hours of the season pursuing fish that seem no longer to be in residence.

Zander it is then.

Hopefully I haven't already caught my last fish of the season.

Good luck if you are out before the 15th.

Nic     

Small River, Small Fish - 5/3/19 - 3:15pm

I returned to the small river that I have recently become infatuated with in the hope that the previous few days of rain had increased the levels and the fish's appetite.

Slightly different tactics would be employed this time.  The link-leger would be used, of course, but also I had brought along a float rod complete with stick float.  With the evenings lengthening I would have chance to trot a few swims before the darkness made it impossible.

How did things go?  Well, plenty of bites were had but mostly to trotted maggots and all from the smaller residents of the river, minnows, gudgeon and dace.  One submersion of the float did result in a nice sized roach but this slipped the hook as it broke the surface.

I fished on in the wind and showers, very blustery at times, but with only meagre rewards for my efforts.  However, it is great to see the smaller fish are in abundance.  A sure sign that the river is in good health.

I reached to top of the stretch to be greeted by twilight.  Here I did manage to tempt a slightly larger chub with half a lobworm.  This had been intended for the beautiful roach that I know reside in this pool who are suckers for worms but it seemed that they had other ideas today.




So back down the stretch it was, fishing a few swims in the darkness as I made my way back to the car.  However, I didn't receive even one enquiry on the quiver tip.  All very unusual.

The fish here really do respond well to bread usually but not on this occasion.  Well, having said that I have yet to catch a roach from this stretch on bread and I have had a few from here now.  As darkness fell I turned to my banker smelly baits, namely cheesepaste, flavoured luncheon meat and even pellets but to no avail.  In fact I have never had a bite on any of those baits on this stretch at all.  I seem to have discovered chub that don't like cheesepaste and roach that don't like bread...mmm, food for thought.

I enjoyed the session anyway and it was great to try a different tactic here for once and that in itself caused me to fish a few swims I would have usually walked past, one where the nice roach was lost.  That one is logged in the fishing bank for next time.

Nic

Terrible Trotting - 1/3/19 - 3pm

For this session I decided to do some trotting across the road from my home.
My target would be the chub and roach that reside in the straight above the weir.
I was joined by my friend James who decided he'd like to do some jigging in and around the lock and marina, hoping to pick up a nice perch.

The session started well enough with a couple of small roach caught on the first two runs through but then the swim went dead.  Try as I might I couldn't even get a bite after that.  I stuck it out for a while before giving best and switching over to the feeder rod.  Breadflake and maggots were ignored and switching to a lobworm produced a couple of small wasps perch but that was it.

James then gave me a shout, having had a hit on the jig and he'd banked a nice stripey.

A move was in order for me and I opted to fish the run below the weir where the lock cut met the main flow.  It is a lovely spot to do some long trotting and I have had some great sessions there for the chub previously.

However, on this occasion it was not to be.  An hour of feeding and running the float through failed to illicit even one bite.


I moved back up to the marina to join James for the last half hour of light, knowing from experience that I would be able to catch some small roach there.  Even in the toughest conditions the shoals of roach and rudd can be coaxed into biting and a bonus decent sized rudd can often be a welcome reward.


Indeed the roach were there and I managed a few out before the light faded too much for me to see the float.

However, as the light dropped James had a slamming take on his jig and managed a really lovely perch, plump with spawn.


Not the best session for me but it was good to have a social session for once and at least a blank was avoided.

Nic

A New Stretch - 25/2/19 - 3pm

The plan had been for an evening session trotting the Avon over the road from home.  The target being roach, chub...well, and anything else that happened along really.  However, due to the unseasonably warm and sunny weather the family had other ideas for a Sunday afternoon and given the less than conducive weather conditions I was happy to go along with the plan.

I was still keen to get out to the bank so decided Monday afternoon/evening would be a suitable substitute but with weather still remaining fair I decided that the trotting would be best left for more suitable conditions.  That being the case I made my way after work to the small river I've been frequenting recently, albeit to an area I had only fished once before and even then only roving in a few swims.  This time would be different and I would attempt to do the entire stretch.

It is always my preference to walk to the furthest end of the stretch and work my way back towards the car, especially carrying the videoing equipment which is part of my fishing these days, which in itself constitutes about half the weigh of my gear.  Getting the long walk out of the way first to be replaced with a punctuated ramble back is definitely the more enjoyable way to proceed.  So this I did.













Having not even laid eyes on the majority of these swims previously they were a sight to behold for an angler...overhanging trees, rafts of debris, bends, deep glides.  I was in heaven.

The rod was quickly assembled.  Link-leger, bread flake, mashed bread and lobworms would be my mainstay with maggots and pellets at hand as a backup.

Unfortunately all the promise did not come to fruition and I fished 4 or 5 swims without even the merest knock on the quiver tip or any interest in the baits.  I consoled myself that this was to be expected in the blazing sunlight.

I rounded a bend to find a fast moving pool below a shallow section and it was here that the quiver tip finally twitched and after a spirited fight a juvenile chub graced the landing net.  Finally!









By this time the sun was beginning to set and the river came alive, small fish topping seemingly everywhere.



I moved to the next swim where the flow in a deep pool was punctuated by a tree on the far bank.  There was immediate interest in the bread flake here and after a couple of tentative plucks a small chub was banked.  With nothing further for the next five minutes I pressed on.





As twilight slowly took hold I dropped into a swim downstream, flicking a piece of breadflake towards and overhanging tree and raft on my own bank.  Ten minutes was allocated before I was to move on but after only a couple I was distracted by, in my opinion, one of the most wonderful sights in nature.  That of a barn owl hunting over a meadow.  Truly awesome.

A tap on the rod top bought me to my senses but it came to nothing.  A recast was in order and in followed four tiny balls of mashed bread.  Within a few seconds the quiver tip danced into life and the rod arched over as it only does when attached to one of the larger residents of this small waterway.  I was clearly connected to a chub as it made tracks for every snag in the swim but before too long it was subdued.  What a stunning fish it was.
With that I moved on with just about enough light remaining to find my way without the use of a head torch, settling into a tight swim where there was just enough room for an angler, his rod and camera.

With the minimum of light and disturbance a piece of breadflake was flicked into the darkness, followed, once again, by some tiny balls of mashed bread.  I sat there in the gloom, watching my rod tip which was illuminated by a small torch, contemplating how any fish could find a piece of breadflake in the blackness.  Just as this thought crossed my mind the tip twitched and pulled round.  I struck and happily connected to another chub of decent proportions whose fight in the camera light did justice to its stature...however before it could find sanctuary in the maze of tree roots protruding into the water at my feet it was safely ushered into the landing net.

I fished another swim for a few minutes but by this time it was getting very cold and I had stayed longer than intended.  I had really enjoyed a productive session and was happy to make tracks for home.

Tight lines

Nic


Session; Friday - 16/2/19 - 4pm - Infuriating Session All Round & Why I Don't Fish At Weekends

I was a weekend angler for many, many years so I am aware of its limitations and sympathise with the predicament many anglers find themselves in.  Prior to being able to drive at the age of seventeen and subsequently when living too far from a river to make midweek sessions viable (working a nine to five job, Monday to Friday) weekends were my only option.  Often racing to the bank on a Friday night to ensure getting to THE swim before anyone else.

These days I find myself in the very, very fortunate position to live a matter of a hundred metres from the banks of the middle reaches of the Warwickshire Avon and boy do I appreciate it.  The ability to get to the river at a moments notice and fit my fishing in around the weather, water conditions and, of course, my young family.

I am very lucky that I have no need to fish for hours on end, during barren periods of the day, waiting for the most productive time at dusk when the invisible switch is flicked on the fish's appetite.  I can simply pop over the road for a couple of hours before dark, keeping the angling cold turkey at bay at the family happy too.

It is for that reason that I have made it a habit not to fish at weekends.  I value my fishing sessions and, of course, want to catch fish but there are other factors at play too, namely peace, solitude and the feeling of being at one with nature.  Something that is hard to find at the weekend.  I put huge store on these, often to the detriment of catching large or multiple fish.  I would rather catch less on my own terms and on barely trodden banks than join the melee.  I enjoy angling...catching is merely the icing on the cake, not the be-all-and-end-all.

However, for this session I decided to break my own rule.  What a fool.  Things started off badly and got progressively worse.

Saturdays are a busy family day and I can't generally get free until 3pm.  Not too bad with still time to get to the river before dark but on this occasion several holdups saw us not not arrive home until nearer 4pm.  A bit annoying but not the end of the world.  Just before we reach home I am able to see the section of river I have been targeting recently for predators.  As I glanced over on passing I could see a large and not very narrow narrowboat stopped close in to the bank.  Very strange I thought, I hope they haven't broken down.  "They'll be in the way" I chuckled to myself.

A few minutes at home saw me grab the gear and get bankside to find the interlopers gone.  Fantastic.  Oh, hang on a minute.  On closer inspection I could see they had left the vicinity via the bankside vegetation, as far as I could see upstream, churning the water and destroying what was left of the marginal reeds.  The result was a continual conveyor of sticks, branches, reeds, grass, plastic bottles.  You name it, it had been disturbed and was floating past me.

I nearly turned tail and headed for home but I had arranged to meet an occasional fishing mate there and he was travelling a distance so couldn't just abandon him amidst the carnage.  I ploughed on, setting up the rods and minimal gear I take.  Withing a few minutes I was ready to cast.   I turned to the water to see a dog walker on the opposite bank.  Well it is the weekend I guess.  He is, of course, taking no notice of his dog and is typing on his phone.  The black lab, bored from lack of attention now has me in his sights, trembling in excitement on the other bank.  Not a problem as I'm a dog lover and labs are everyone's friend.  Plus he's on the other bank, some forty or so metres away (this is a very wide section of the Avon).

I swing the deadbait to the middle of the river.  No sooner as it hits the water Mr lab launches himself into the drink as if he is going to collect my 2oz lead for me.  Bit irritating but still not a problem I think as he swims towards me.  He keeps coming and keeps coming.  He is now only ten metres from me and is apoplectic with the sight of all these lovely sticks floating down the river, swimming round and round in circles biting at every one he could see.  It is only now that its owner notices what's happening.  What does he do?  Yells at the top of his lungs to the dog, over and over again until finally the lab takes heed and returns to the opposite bank.

So much for my peaceful session.  At least he apologises for the commotion and is on his way.           

By now I've really had enough.  My fishing sessions are too precious to be putting up with this.  I go fishing to enjoy it.  It should not be a chore or graft or something to be endured.  It should be a pleasure.  A few hours to savour.  However home is not an option on this occasion as James's arrival is imminent.

I finally get all the deadbaits into the river, rod tips sunk well under the water to avoid the worst of the flotsam but even then it was proving problematic.

After an hour or so my mood was aleviated by a run.  Brilliant.  I lifted the rod from the rests and let the fish pull line between my fingers, taking the smelt bait downstream.  As suddenly as it starts the line goes limp.  I close the bail arm and slowly wind down to the fish (no striking as I'm using circle hooks for my predator fishing).  Nothing...
Oh well, they are clearly feeding.  Good news.

Half hour later and it's almost dark and I get another run, this time on a roach deadbait.  A much more gentle take this time but I'm paying out line with no resistance and the fish is trundling off.  This time, with the memory of the first take fresh in my mind I wind down to the fish whilst the line is still moving.  Nothing...

ARGH!!!

Things can't get any more infuriating can they.   How wrong I was.

By this time James had given up on his lure fishing, defeated by the constant stream of detritus.  As we stand there chatting at about 7pm through the darkness I noticed that unmistakable shape...an otter swimming upstream in the middle of the river.  It disappears below the surface right over my middle rod. OMG NO!

That's that then I said to James.  Last time I saw the otter here the swim died on its backside instantly.  I was again tempted to knock it on the head (pun intended) and even though James was leaving I decided to give it until seven thirty.  I must be mad.

Seven thirty came and went with not a nibble so I started to pack up.  The rods were placed onto the floor, propped up on the reel handles and baitrunners engaged so the baits could be left out as long as possible in a vain attempt to salvage something from the session.  Soon all the gear was packed up aside from the landing net and rods.  The first rod was wound in, packed away and the end gear stowed.  Nothing from the remaining rods.  Rod two followed in similar fashion.  That was it, time to reel in the last rod.  I walked towards it, tip illuminated in my head torch.  As I bent down to grab the handle I saw the tip twitch.  Once, twice then a steady pull round and the baitrunner started to click.  I rapidly lifted the rod and opened the bail arm.  Line fell from the spool as the fish took line slowly but steadily.  "I'm off the hook" of a blank I thought, "just don't mess it up".  After the evening I've had, the chance for redemption...but when to strike?

When the fish is still moving, when it had stopped?  Dilemma.  I decided to leave the fish.  It seemed from the previous takes that the fish weren't taking the baits with confidence so I opted for a patient approach, safe in the knowledge I was using circle hooks that would wind out of the fish and lodge in the corner of the mouth.  Finally the run stopped and I wound down to the fish...and wound...and would.  Nothing...

My heart sank.
Tail between my legs I trudged home.
It's not over zander...until next time.
Tight lines,
Nic