Thursday, 30 March 2017

Closed Season Zander Quest PT48 – Lucky8isation

I was in Shanghai when the Beijing Olympic Games kicked off, all very bizarre it was too.

It wasn’t the fact that I was watching it in a tiny corner shop with a tiny cathode ray TV 6,000 miles from home with an inquisitive audience thinking what is this funny looking Westerner doing here, but the opening ceremony began at 8.08pm on the 8th of the 8th 2008.

No 8 is the luckiest number in Chinese culture because 八 sounds like 發 (fa), which means 'wealth', 'fortune', and 'prosper' in Chinese.Multiples of eight are even better, as 88 bears a resemblance to 囍 (shuāng xǐ), or 'double happiness'.

While the Chinese will go to great lengths to avoid 4 in daily life, they will try to incorporate 8 wherever they can.


Now clearing out ones wardrobe the other day I found the few pairs of lucky 8 embroidered boxer shorts and keyring I bought on the said business trip in one of the tourist tat shops along the Bund in downtown Shanghai

It’s a big money earner too, the number plate A88888 went for a bucket load of dosh as did the phone number with all digits being eights, which was bought by Sichuan Airlines in Chengdu for CN¥2.33 million. Also many airlines routes have 8 in their flight routes for obvious reasons.

So with my lucky 8 pants donned and the keyring secured on ones permit holder for this and subsequent fishing trips.


In the quest for a cut double I will need any luck I can get, it really is a needle in a haystack challenge and the more I fish for big Zander on the canal, you need luck and plenty of it.

Now talking of lucky captures, take a butchers at this Barbel, Leamington Anglers Association Bailiff Barry Swain caught from the canal recently, yes you heard right, the bleeding canal.

Now if I caught it I’d want to relocate it back to the river but then I’ve caught a couple of reasonable Barbel out of one of the local pools and they don’t seem to mind being contained within still water looking at their condition. Judging by the large carp that reside in the cut there must be an adequate supply of food and this Barbel must have managed to get its pies from somewhere.


Heck, I bet even an otter doesn't come to visit.

Come first of May if I’d caught that I’d be looking at 10 Brucie bonus points in the bloggers 2017-2018 challenge.

It didn’t quite look like the claimed size if you ask me, but then who am I to judge it was still a decent fish all the same.

I think I know where it was caught from too, Danny fancy a dabble ?

One rod out for Zander the other out for Barbel, who'd have thought it.

This short after work session in to dusk or thereabouts I was at an area that has been quite productive in the past with a proper'un caught and one that got away but with only a couple of hours to dangle ones roach sections I decided to stay put in one swim rather than move around in my usual roving fashion.

I've found they can be here one day, but not the next. All very disheartening, but don't want it too easy now do I.


Now they are coming up to spawning time too, so if there is ever a time to catch a big Zander it's now. Big Zander are females you see, they visit the spawning site quickly and then continue their way back to feeding areas. Male Zander stay to protect their site and they aggressively hit nearly everything that dares to come close them, dare I say it, find a spawning area they can be quite easy to catch.

I want a big female though, don't we all !!!!....

This I'm sure is a good feeding area, in fact out of all the locations I fish this area appears to be very well populated and having spoken to a pleasure angler fishing with maggots, many'a species too.

So it holds fish, so much so, I'm planning to revisit the same time next week.


So the first bite came after an hour and it turned about to be a huge tree stump, but not one to look down on these things, at least it tested the strength of the set-up as dragging that from the bottom wasn't a mean feat.

It was weirdly quite so I decided to up sticks to an area with some cover to see if they were tucked up out the way but after half an hour without even a nudge it was back to the original swim.

On the way back a barge had lost it's front mooring and it was drifting aimlessly around, despite my efforts to get someones attention there was obviously no one on board.

Luckily in 20 minutes a boat came down to the blockage and with the aid of a rope it was sorted.

Hmmmm wonder if salvage rights exist on the cut.

Within minutes of positioning the deadbait rod the floats starts to go and a fish was on.

That's the thing with float fishing for them, the bite doesn't vary that much, you could be connected to a 10lber or a scrapper...



Sadly this was a scrapper, a small schoolie with eyes bigger than its belly. Now on removal of my hook as much lighter hooklink was half way down its gullet, probably someones worm and size 16 hook it took a fancy to. I cut the line as far down as I could so at least it wasn't as tethered as it was before.

With ten minutes to go before my self imposed finishing time the float rod goes again and this was a bigger fish, but still nothing to right home about.

Weirdly nothing on the lure and yet the conditions seemed perfect, clarity about a few inches that was it.


I might try some red predator liquid next time....

now where have all the Zander gone, this area is usually a hotspot.

Lucky 8, well they are getting bigger, I'll give it some time.


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Closed Season Zander Quest PT47 – Up at West Nipple

The mornings indulgence of super thick sliced white bread, three Lincolnshire sausages, two slices of black pudding, tomatoes and brown sauce was sitting like a veritable brick in my stomach, it wasn't particularly pleasant if I'm honest but lucky I'd be able to walk it off come home time.

The bottleneck needed to be shifted....


So for this quick after work session after a decent walk the floats were positioned in the holding water of the West Nipple where my results up to now have been pretty mediocre if I’m honest but there ‘HAD’ to be some big fish lurking here.

It’s good to share information with a fellow Zed head and sometime back now my suspicions were confirmed giving me the incentive I needed to give it more of a go despite the poor results I’d had.

These Zander may well be transient but I’m sure just like the greasy spoons that stations themselves in the nations lay-bys’ from time to time out of the schoolie great unwashed that tuck in to the sausage sandwiches eventually an Ambulocetus would turn up and a second frying pan would have to lit.


Now these Roach deadbaits are ideal as a belly buster as you can cater for every large Zanders palette, think of it like this, as a boob man, the squidgy middle bit would tempt me, the head, someone how likes a pretty face and the tail, well my mate Steveo, he loves a nice posterior.

I’m sure they have a preference….

So these sized baits are easy peasy, chop in to three and you have ideal sized baits to service the requirements of a hungry lunker.


So far the squidgy middle bit seems to be most productive, you just needs to puncture the swim bladder otherwise the bait will float.

The best I’d manage from this area was a 5lber, but what was encouraging was not just the fact that I know for a face bigger fish have been here sometime in the past but also that I’d lost two reasonable fish before I discovered a hook and method that I’ve utter confidence in.


Ok from time to time you lose fish, but hey that’s Zander fishing for you, anyhow, like me and those that fish for them will agree they are the epitome of angling frustration.

You've just got to stick with it, tweaks the rigs and eventually you will hit a sweet spot.

So with blue sky and clear it was going to be a difficult session and indeed it was. It took an hour or so for the first bite but it was a classic schoolie bite and I struck in to thin air.


Re-positioned the float moved again after 10 minutes but this time I connected to a fish, a scrappy little schoolie. I moved North of the West Nipple and positioned the baits in an area of shade and thick cover.

Nothing, zilch before it was time to pick Ben up from school.

If you struggle hooking up with Zander usually it's a schoolie mouthing the bait, so be patient, you're not do anything wrong. Chop the bait in half usually works if you just want to bank a fish.

On to the next one....

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Closed Season Zander Quest PT46 – Gobbler’s Knob

During the 131st celebration of Groundhog Day fat and fury Punxsutawney Phil left his cosy burrow in Pennsylvania's Gobbler's Knob near Pittsburgh, saw his shadow, and broke the news that the locals are doomed to another six weeks of winter weather rather than treated to an early spring. Every Bill Murray fan knows the basics.

Legend has it that Punxsutawney Phil communicates his yearly forecast in the language "grondhogese" to the head of what's known as the Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, who just so happens to be fluent in the ancient, animal tongue. The Inner Circle members actually decide ahead of time.


What a load of balls....then again I’m all for keeping up traditions....

We also like to talk about the weather in the UK also don’t we. Thing is I’m always amazed those that are moaning about the cold weather we are having seem to have forgotten about the season we are in, we have just come out if winter after all.

But then the early 90’s film and namesake Groundhog Day maybe has some similarities to ones fishing you see. Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event finds himself caught in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again.


Maybe that’s where the similarity ends though, as after indulging in hedonism and committing suicide numerous times, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.

I’m not ready to partake in those pastimes just yet, but this pursuit for a ‘Cut Double’ does seem to be very much Ground Hog Day.

You see it can feel very samey and monotonous if you will, especially when retracing ones steps to find the transient lunker when the only returns to grace the hook are the same sized schoolies.

It would be enough to break even the most pertinacious.


Luckily I’m very much pig-headed and nothing thus far has made me stray from this needle in a haystack challenge. Well I say that, looking at the recent Leamington Anglers newsletter where a ‘double’ figure Zander turned up at the canal stretch it’s surprise me how lean the fish looked as all the larger Zander I’ve caught have all been extremely rotund and clearly not shy round the Roach buffet.

It’s the transient nature of canal Zander I’m intrigued with as their river cousins don’t seem to be that way inclined from what I can see.


This early morning session is a new stretch a mile above the Laryngeal Prominence, so before treading a familiar path to start the self inflicted drudgery all over again I decided to see what was about, it certain looked a nice stretch looking at google maps and a few likely holding areas of big Zander.

Now usually I can tell what the session is going to be like by the colour of the water and with the sky clear and the sun coming up I knew it would tough....

The odd small knock on the lure, one schoolie type run on the deadbait it was hard going.


I bet if the boats started moving then I would suspect things my be different and there is plenty of shelter here for fish to hideout so maybe if it's clear when the light start to go they will start moving. What was odd though there was some undertow and the drilled bullets were struggling to keep station so even without boats moving the floats were difficult to keep station.

Maybe a running set-up is the way to go here....

I decided to move down the stretch to an area of cover and after an hour with the baits untouched it was back the starting point.


A foul hooked bream saved a blank but there you go, it's not as easy as you think these Zander.

I'm back to trying to work them out with a bang, but then thats why I love fishing for them.

Don't want it too easy, I could fish a carp filled lake if I wanted that....

Monday, 20 March 2017

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Warwickshire Avon – Big bait, little bait, cardboard box

My youngest Sam was sat stark bollock naked in his large but Sam modified Amazon box just happened to be watching Bob the Builder on his iPad and the ‘Big Fish Little Fish Song’ on YouTube, and it dawned on me having been part of the dance music culture back in my youth that this song mimicked, that I’m not sure he will ever be able to enjoy the sense of freedom I experienced, such is this society of social media.

An overwhelming laissez faire, if you will, and at that moment in time, not a care in the world.

Ok the drug culture helped somewhat but the fact now all we’d see are people with their phones out purposely recording just to see someone mess up. It would never happen back then, people were so out of it and immersed in to the music and repetitive beats that they didn’t care what they danced like, what they looked like, they just wanted to be themselves and have a good time. Do the same thing nowadays it would be uploaded instantly to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the like and go viral in a few hours.


A lifetime of ridicule, career limited, don’t want any of that now do we....

Now talking of ridicule, no I'm not talking about those Barbel captures who are named and shamed on social media because of the suggested weights that are always questioned by the high and mighty, I’m talking as someone who likes to fish very large gobstopper baits for Barbel. You see this stretch of the Warwickshire Avon I have been fishing probably hasn’t seen anything like the 30mm diameter catfish fishmeal baits I’ve been baiting my hair with.

Here small baits and small hooks seem the way to go….

Let’s just say when roving around with rods raised they have raised a few eyebrows....


But for me fishing further downstream on another part of the Warwickshire Avon, out of frustration the Gluttonous Chub Poka-Yoke Rig was born….

I’ve used this method successfully in the past to not only try and avoid catching Chub but also to try and be size selective by banking the biggest fish out the swim if there is more than one in residence. The fish when they find it, mess around with it for a bit but here is the thing, put ones hands under ones backside, ignore the plucks and bangs and wait for the rod to be more or less pulled in with the ratchet going ten to the dozen.

It’s a size of bait a big fish cannot refuse….


For someone who likes a good drink, it’s that food that will quell the hunger pangs.

So for these 3 short sessions nearing the end of the 2016/2017 river season I’d taken a wander down to the Avon where I know where there are some bigger fish hanging around in the quieter areas that exist here and also back to the familiar where I'd managed to bank a few Barbel, recently the best a near double. The plan was to fish a big bait on the downstream rod and the upstream rod a small boilie with a paste wrap with a PVA bag of freebies.

The problem with big pieces of meat I've found is that the method isn't foolproof as the most determined of Barbel or Chub will end up stripping it, the big pellet is a tougher nut to crack so to speak, but Barbel still love meat and it's such an effective bait, it's hard to look past it and the fact of the matter is I’ve never caught that many Chub down here and the coloured water they would be less likely to feed anyway so I'd swap between the two from time to time.


I don't want to give up my big fish selective set-up just yet....

If there was a lunker here I was hoping there was method in my madness and two of the sessions headed in to dusk in that the wrap over would happen and I’d have an end of season Barbel. It has been a frustrating season on the most part on these new to me club waters. There has been the odd high point though, with 2 further PB's so not all was lost.

I’m thinking come the new season I might change tactics depending on how these sessions went and try the smaller bait method.


In fact case in point, last week Martin Roberts banked a cracking 13 lber with the small bait set-up that has proved successful for him for some time now. I suppose it’s all about confidence, why change a method if it keeps on producing. The only problem I could see I likened to the canal Zander challenge, I might need to get through the schoolies before a decent first turned up, I don’t want any old Barbel to be honest, they just haven’t caught my attention like they have many.

Could I fish for them ALL the time, errrr no chance….

Next season I can night fish so that is going to put a different outlook and approach on my fishing altogether and trotting will certainly feature a lot more.


So anyway....

Session 1. 4.30pm - 6.45pm
No fish banked but Chub were particularly active in the swim and the half an hour up to dusk I had to change the meat bait twice as they stripped the big baits from the hair. A change to the large catfish pellet resulted in some outrageous bites but no fish were hooked. The small boilie bait with paste remained largely untouched throughout the session. There must have been a fair few fish in the swim too as the line was brushed quite a few times.

Session 2. 6.00am- 11.00am
Chub and Barbel were suspicious in their absence, a match the day before on the whole stretch might have put them off, who knows. A pike took a boilie bait to top another mediocre session off.


Session 3. 5.15pm - 7.30pm
With Martin giving me a running commentary of his and Joe's all-dayer, (what a cracker Martin ) one was stuck in work thinking maybe I should have done the same. Sadly I'm part of the don't work don't get paid crowd and with a stag do to the super expensive Chamonix the weekend I wanted a few beer tokens so this session was stupidly quick and not exactly convenient .

There would no messing around either, everything prepped, it was just a matter of positioning the baits and wait till I could make my way back the car without torchlight. Well the small sausage sizzle squab received bugger all attention but the big bait did and after many a ridiculous bites a fish hooked itself, sadly a chub of around 3 to 3.5lb. A few big fish topping, bites dried up and time to leave.

Oh well, at least I gave it a decent go. So many more plans in the new season, tactics need to change. rig tweaks, trotting and fishing lighter. Oh and a new club book I can fish in to dusk.

Biggest Barbel 9lb 10oz, not good enough.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Canal Zander – There Are Monsters

I can usually tell now from the clarity of the water what the fishing will be like. I had 2 and a half hours and that was it, luckily it does take me long to drive to many stretches of canal, this canal I’d fished before but not in this particular area.

It’s not a long stretch but over a couple of hundred yards there is plenty of feature, very unlike the norm down here. Reeds either side, even large overhanging trees dropping in the water.

Now when arriving at the water as it was clear, very clear indeed with the bottom of the shallow area easily visible.

Hmmm, not good….


That’s the problem with little boat traffic, Canal Zander like it mucky and then they are more active and you can find them anywhere. So the deeper area would likely hold some fish, as would be the cover so with a couple of deadbait set-ups, it was seek and I shall find.

After an hour without even a nibble the heavens opened and even with the Poncho donned the icy cold rain was starting to grate on me. Not only was the float being battered about but I was too. I needed to seek some shelter.


The bridge will have to do….

Baits refreshed, and back out, look and wait. The lure rod would have been the far better choice thinking about it, but this Zander quest dead seems to sort the men from the boys.

When it’s clear I like to nudge my baits occasionally as sometimes if there is a fish sitting tight then it sometimes twigs their predatory instinct.

With the right-hand rod tight to the support, I nudged it a couple of times and it settled a foot away from. Then within seconds, it’s on the move, from right to left and the float is sailing under. Rod lifted I’m in to a decent fish. It’s powered off down the stretch but with pressure applied I’ve turned the fish.


I can see it fully now, it’s a big Zander, flanks in full view this is a lunker, problem is I can see the bait within its jaws and it’s shaking its head.

I’m waiting for the inevitable,yeap 4 or 5 shakes later, it’s seen me, about turn it, jaws open, it goes back to its lair, I’m cursing and wondering what might have been.

Sometimes put the bait back out in the same spot and the fish will have another go.

Sadly not this one, encouraging signs for the closed season mind you.

I’ll be back….

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Warwickshire Avon – Turmoil & Turbulence

It’s surprising just how quick circumstances change in the ‘jobbing world’ one minute working well with a client and then overnight utter turmoil within the business as a whole and I’m left wondering where the next pint of maggots might come from, but then that’s contracting and consulting for you, it’s part of the territory, it always has been and it always will be.

Anyway I’ll leave it at that….

Now turmoil isn’t good for anyone, and the fish are no different


Rivers up and down, not for them, but consistency and stability is fine whatever the level.

Temperatures changes, nah, just leave that thermostat alone thanks.

The week leading up to this short session has been wet, blustery, cold, icy and changeable, the water from steady to turbulent.

The river on the rise, flooding most likely….


Now the Chub as a species are the Custard Cream of the biscuit dunkers….

(break point in hot tea 125 seconds btw, the ginger nut a mere 22 seconds)

and if any fish would be feeding it would be this tough nut. No matter the weather, no matter the conditions they put on that winter coat, the scarf, and the gloves and just seem to get on with it.

Hazardous debris coming down river, pah, nothing to trouble us….


Bring it on !!!!

But then I thought, hang on a minute, having stumbled upon some reasonable Zander, I fancy another dabble to weasel out a bigger fish if they were there. Not only that but I’d caught a couple of Chub that took a liking to the sections of roach I’d been fishing with.

But then best laid plans and all that because last minute the area I wanted to fish wasn't available to me so it was plan B.


Plan B was to go the bottom of the stretch and fish a few swims till I found the fish.

And there appeared to be none. A big fat blank, I'm not used to that recently.

A smelly bait on one, dead on the other, not even a nibble, battle or a tap over 4 swims.

The water was incredibly cold and debris a pain in the proverbials, Dave had caught a Barbel further upstream the afternoon before so maybe with the river on the rise and an influx of cold water the fish were not up for it.

Hmmm, with the end of the season nearly upon us and the weather hopefully going milder, it might have to be out with the big guns, the tried and trusted.

Now where did I put that spam.


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