For this canal session I was really in two minds as to what I wanted to fish for balanced against what I was likely to catch. The weather was still cold and the water likewise and I am a great believer that part of the skill in angling is in deciding the species that will be targeted in any particular conditions. I was also aware that my friend Mick has fished for zander the previous day and managed only on schoolie from a usually productive stretch.
My two main aims for this closed season canal fishing were a decent roach and zander. I am not one for pounds and ounces and had no intention of putting figures on the size of the fish I wanted to catch but rather let my satisfaction or frustration be the judge as to whether I had been successful.
My indecision won out and I decided a bit of both was the order of the day. I would take the zander rods and deadbaits but also some bread, maggots and a float rod replete with centrepin, but still travelling light enough to be very mobile.
Next decision to be made would be where to fish. I discounted many areas I had fished last year and had been totally unproductive when fishing for silvers. No point in taking the float rod and fishing barren stretches. However my head had been turned on several occasions by a beautiful area of canal, right off the beaten track, which looked absolutely perfect for roach. Although I had never got round to fishing it last year it was not too far from an area where I had caught bream, roach and hybrids previously so I could hedge my bets somewhat. I had never caught a zander from this area either but if it held roach, and my gamble was that it did, then the zander would surely be there also.
I walked to the far end of the stretch, as is my usual way, with the intention of working my way back towards the car as dusk fell. I intended to fish into dark but exactly what time I would finish depended on how quickly the action came.
The most prominent feature on this stretch was a tree whose branches reached into the water providing a sanctuary which I was sure would hold zander. With that in mind a smelt was attached to the first rod and it was swung to the cover. No sooner as it had hit the water and the float settled I put the rod on the ground, only to look up to see it bobbing and moving sideways. Blimey! That didn't take long. Fab.
After a short tussle a schoolie of a pound or two was wallowing in the landing net. What a great start.
After the initial action the tree proved to be fruitless so I moved on. A couple of further interesting areas were tried but with no interest from the zander.
I was now in the heart of what looked prime roach real-estate so it was time for a change. The deadbait rods were exchanged for the float and pin, although one of the zander outfits was dropped in to the middle of the boat channel "just in case" and positioned a few metres away where I was able to easily keep an eye on it whilst concentrating on the more delicate approach required if I was to bank a redfin or two.
I deployed a little groundbait, consisting of liquidised bread mixed with a generous helping of a proprietary brand which has a lovey aroma. Five or so maggots were also flick into the water at regular intervals around the orange tipped float that was now settled in the water. I had decided to fish the lift method, something which I haven't done for over twenty years but the technique quickly came back and and I was surprised and chuffed as the float rose through the surface after having been in the water for only a few moments.
A strike produced nothing so another piece of Warburtons finest was attached to the hook and swung out. After a few minutes of inactivity I decided to change to red maggots, thinking it may be small fish in the area that were packing at the bread but not taking it properly but it would be nice to see what was there. I was treated to a bite almost immediately and this time the strike connected and a lovely roach was soon nestling in the landing net. What a great start. I was over the moon. Another similarly proportioned roach soon joined his companion.
I tried bread again and this time connected with a very positive bite and as soon as I did so I knew this was no roach. It charged left and right through the swim and I got it's head up to reveal a hybrid in the murkey water. Not a surprise with the fight it had given. These hybrids really do scrap. However it unfortunately found a way to dislodge the hook before it could be landed and not surprisingly the swim died for twenty minutes or so.
Just as I was thinking of calling time on the roach fishing the float rose once more from the water and a strike connected with what would be the largest of the trio of redfins. I was both chuffed and elated that I had got location and tactics right first time and things had all dropped into place.
After another fifteen minutes of inactivity I decided to move on. As I reeled in the waggler I looked over to the zander float to be pleasantly surprised to see it give a couple of bobs and then skate sideways across the surface. I quickly wound down to the fish and the rod hooped over. This was no schoolie and even took line from the Shimano a couple of times. However it was soon subdued and resting in the net. Definitely my pb from the canal although I didn't feel the need to weigh it as it wasn't a leviathan but it was certainly much bigger than any previous cut captures. What a session it was turning out to be.
I fished into dusk and slightly beyond and was joined by my friend James who had intended to fish but was late leaving work so didn't arrive in time to do so. We had a chin-wag anyway and made a few plans to get together in the next few weeks.
I called time on the session just as it had got properly dark, well, as there was just enough light to see the early risers of the bat world silhouetted against the sky. I reeled in the first of the two zander rods, detaching the float and weight and folding it down, when I looked up to the one remaining float whose orange top now glowed in the light of my head torch. James pointed out that it had cocked, having until a moment before been lying flat on the surface. It then proceeded to twitch, bob and move across the water. Talk about last knockings! A spirited scrap ensued before another beautiful zander graced the landing net, James doing the honours for me.
What a great session it had turned out to be and this angler drove home a very happy chappy.