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.


  1. the season has ended with a blank, much the way it has been since before Christmas and not Ione Fenland Zander this last season. never mind there's always next season. eKep the articles coming. I intend to do some trout fishing, can't be doing with carp puddles. John

    1. Hmmmm, where have they all gone then ? any theory's ?

    2. I'll be out walking the drains with the two jack Russells doing some 'visual' fishing when the ice goes. There is a remarkable absence of bait sized fish but thousands and thousands of small fry that are half the length of your little finger, certainly less. than an inch. I'll keep you posted. John

  2. Already on the Zeds Mick, no keeping you down! May a double slip up soon? I'd be keen to see it! tight lines.

    1. Yeah, back on them James, hopefully catch something of note soon, crossed fingers...

  3. Welcome back Mick, looks like I missed you by 3 days.

    1. Hi John, keep me informed on how you're getting on, I enjoy the updates....

    2. Its been tough going since christmas, probably had more blanks than fish, don't think they've woken up properly yet though. Went tuesday not expecting zander as had a date with my nemesis pike but thought it was a bit too coloured. I know you probably prefer it like that, had just bought some new dead roach so maybe they were a bit too fresh if you get the drift, anyway good luck on the 10lb fish.


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