Sunday, 22 April 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT81 – Ratoons and Rawgabbits

Despite the obvious bankside ‘maintenance’ by the canal and rivers trust or one of their heavy handed contractors the thicket and forna is making a nice recovery, and with the rain and the sun we are having I’m sure the baron towpaths will look nice in a few weeks. The Carp hiding spots which have been on my radar for a while now I’m sure will make a decent recovery and If I ever managed to catch a double figure canal Zander I’m sure they will be my next target come quest completion. With the sun starting to make a much needed appearance they will start to become more active too, long may it continue.



There are some half decent ones to be had too, I witnessed a small group of them with the biggest around 20lb and the smallest probably a double tucked up tight against the far bank cover. To be honest you wouldn’t know they were there, I’ve an advantage however, you see because the amount of time I spend on the canals I’m amazed just what they hold, in-fact one evening last year I noticed a disturbance in the water 200 yards away and the wake was headed my way. It was a group of carp, maybe 20 strong breaking the surface with their back without a care in the world going from A to B.

A sight to behold, it really was….

Now a heavy handed boilie chucking carper who decided to share my trodden path last closed season whom I had a few conversations with, was finding it tough trying to snare one. So much so he questioned whether or not he was wasting his time and also cast doubt on the numbers of fish that the stretch of canal held. A bit of a know it all to be honest so much so I tried to cut the confab’s short and get on my way. For a few sessions I had a sleeper rod out for them whilst targeting Zander, and managed to hook two and lost two, my own lack of single minded approach was the cause of the loss on both occasions as both times, despite the tight clutch and snag rest they snagged me up.



A similar scenario happened a few days ago where a couple of lure anglers I got talking to said after him and his homies had fished for years on the local cut the biggest Zander they could manage was 4lb's and I was wasting my time trying to catch anything bigger as they “know how to fish the canals properly for them” “you using deadbaits ?, is there Pike about then ?”

They were using lures smaller than the hooks I use !!!! better not show them the size of my lures then, they’d think they’d bumped in to someone who needs sectioning.

“Ok chaps thanks for the tips”

Unbeknown to the “street fisherman”, 20 minutes earlier I’d just put back a 5 lber….

I’ll keep doing what I do without the influence of others and I’m going to keep it that way.



So for this morning session which is the last up at the deep bit whilst I give it a rest for a while it was back out with the deadbaits, roach on one smelt on the other. I was hoping to avoid tempt an older curvy Kelly Brook with fins complete with 34FF assets. This about the time they are at the biggest you see and visually the fish are so great to look at (yes really), as a Zander angler there is no better time, like a tubby Perch the proportions are just right, with lumps and bumps in the right places.

Just look at the 8lb 10oz fish I caught sometime ago now, a magnificent looking specimen, if only it were a few inches longer, I would have probably made a double.

Visually front on especially they are boarding on the prehistoric looking and certainly don’t look like they should live in the canal system.

That’s one of the reasons why I’ve grown to love them as a species, a very proud fish that has thrived on adversity, they didn't ask to be put there, but seem to make the best of it, despite being squatters and given a bad reputation.

Good on them I say….

So the first fish caught was an out of condition jack Pike, he probably feels a little outnumbered with all the Zander around but I swiftly put it back. Anyway wow, what a session, well in terms of numbers anyway. I lost count at ten fish and had a couple more maybe till I ran out of deadbait. I only fished 3 swims too, but twice had runs on both floats as the same time. Now two of these swims I'd not caught fish from before with and the furthest away, maybe 300 yards from the proper deep bit.



The best fish 3lb 4oz's, so not the biggest but certainly an enjoyable morning, there were signs of spawning in two swims so I left those alone.

Now this is well away from my usual stomping ground so the next couple of sessions will likely be more where I'm happy with especially as it seems less foot and boat traffic compared to this deep area which is on an entirely different canal system.


And what a lovely day it was too, the morning sun nice and strong, so shirt sleeves rolled up to enjoy the lovely spring say. Now there seems considerable number of Zander he which is encouraging however as the lunkers are well away from the pack or hiding on the background and thinking that maybe I need to spread my wings a little wider.

So I've a session planned with Nic from Avon Angling UK where we plan to fish in to dark at a stretch of canal about as far as I'm prepared to travel. I've fished it before and caught Zander but this area when the boats start moving is not far off unfishable such the flow of the water when a lock is open.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Secret Pool – Snakes and Sycophants

A secret overgrown pool, its whereabouts hidden from view, what lurks beneath its calm uncharted surface?

It’s all a bit of mystery what resides here, till now that is….we tell a lie, me and Danny fished he and I had an Eel, nothing to write home about mind you.

A rejuvenated Sam eager to get back fishing because of the fair weather and also fed up of being eliminated playing Fortnite, would be manning the maggot rod for anything that swims. I had a sleeper rod out baited with lobworms, what could we muster up I wonder ?. 

All I knew was no ten a penny F1 carp to be seen here and there was enough intrigue to take me away from the hallowed canal where a double figure Zander is laying up in his hammock. 



I rarely fish stillwaters these days apart from the odd friendly match here and there, just not my thing, however the appeal of a float going under still whets my appetite, so to be honest, even though he sort of kiboshed my plans it was good to get him back out bankside as this is one of his pastimes after all, and one that he really is getting in to. We need new recruits to this hobby of ours and what better way to get the younger generations involved.



So after rocking up at the pool there was a scum on the surface, not ideal but a quick nose around the lake there were a couple of spots worth trying, the first after an hour with the odd nudge on the lobworm rod and not even a sucked maggot it was time to move. There appeared to be spawning carp in the margins in one spot, so we went to the opposite side of the lake and fished in a gap between two trees.

Sam was getting bored so we needed to do something....

Anyway after feeding maggots and after a few swirls Sam lifted in to a bite and initially I don't think the fish knew it was hooked because Sam said "Dad, I think I have something on" then all of a sudden the fish must have felt the resistance and has carted off to the middle of the pool with the baitrunner screaming. Sam having played half decent Chub before was doing a decent job of controlling it and after a few minutes gaining control of the fish we could see it's flanks, a lovely golden common.



Eventually under control and Sam thinking his arm was going to fall off the fish decided to do one last gasp run to some snags and I had to take over by adjusting the drag to get it away from them. When his escape was abaited it sort of knew his time was up so after giving the rod back to Sam it was netted.

A lovely looking fish, and absolutely mint condition and Sam was chuffed to bits, his first carp, on his own rod as well. Not the biggest at 7lb 8oz but lots of memories, so thank-you carp, it made Sam's day. Not there was a fish that appeared twice this ones size, well certainly a double and bronzer even than this one. Another hour passed, without even interest on maggot again, it was time to call it a day, and a successful one at that, eels, well, hardly any interest in the lobworm but the pool covered in weed so maybe would need some time spent to try and find the clear areas.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT80 – Cockwombles and Cynophiles

It's mind manifesting watching these contrasting florescent green floats against the turbid canal. Now as we know psychedelics are a class of drug whose primary action is to trigger psychedelic experiences via serotonin receptor agonism, causing thought, visual and auditory changes, and the end result a heightened state of consciousness.No need for LSD or psilocybin I tell you, stare at the tips (that's tips !!!!) as much as I do and the towpath does something straight out of Doctor Strange, proper trippy sometimes, and to be honest, quite nice when you get used to it, it becomes addictive.

Yeap another annual pilgrimage trip to Ibiza booked and paid for....

Anyway a shared towpath is usually not for me, but this deep bit I’ve found it demands some extra attention.

The problem you see with this area, is as a solitude seeker, this discovery has a little more foot and boat traffic than I’d like. Having fished it five or so times now, there are others with routines too and familiar faces are established.

Dog walkers, portly big tyred mountain bikers, joggers, mumblers and mountaineers…..

One particular dog walker, brunette and rather attractive, a walk of determination, one of those purposeful strides, big tan high boots and tight leggings, the exercise clearly showing its benefits, as clearly nothing to hide. Our paths crossed a few times with a routine that could be timed by the minute. Unlike the Zander here which are a bit hit and miss. A couple of initial pleasantries, a passing gaze, then eventually proper eye contact with a beaming smile, just what I needed to take my mind away from the motionless floats.


“Hi Ya, fancy seeing you again” She says….

“I could say the same about you; you cannot keep away can you”

“Do you catch much in here then?”

Whips out phone, “look at these beauties”

“Wow, they look big, what are they?”

“Zander….”

“Never heard of them”

“Yeap, most people say the same, they are non-native to this country, but established now”

....continued conversation, appears fascinated most probably bored.

“Anyway got to go, same time next weekend ?”

“Most probably, see you soon” 


If I look at my captures at this section though, the afternoon and beyond have been more productive, so I was back for an evening session hoping paths would cross again, not with the rather engaging lady however, but with a half decent canal Zander.

You see time is running out again for this closed season Zander quest, I'm over that half way hurdle and got to crack on. What is encouraging mind you, is the average stamp of fish at this deep bit are half decent, but also the fact these fish are from an entirely different canal network to my PB of 9lb and a 8lb 10oz fish I’d caught 2 years ago. Ok they are not up there in overall size yet, but I’m sure when I big’un is eventually caught (fingers and toes crossed) it will be a proper lunker.


A change for this session was as I was fishing in to dusk was to fit a proper Zander float on one of the rods, a Dutch classic! A faithful reproduction of the most popular zander float of Dutch Snoekbaars experts. Holds firm in the wind yet indicates even the finest bites from these cautious predators was part of the blurb. Produced from indestructible Rohacell and made in Germany!

It looked a little cumbersome against my usual small zeppler and I'd fish it half cock rather than it was intended on a lake but I'm sure come a Zander bite the erection would be a sight to behold. Fishing in to dusk and lowlight maybe it was just what was needed. 


The towpath is narrow here so rods needs to be positioned parallel to it and also as close to the edge as physically possible. Bail arm open, sit back and wait. Floats are less disruptive than a running ledger for example because depending on what size float you use you can use a small running lead to hold bottom. I use a 10g coffin lead which is around a 1/3 of an ounce and the fish bait makes more of a melee when it enters the water.   

So enough of the preamble, get back to the session I'm probably talking a load of nonsense, but maybe there is method in my quite obvious madness ....

It was officially the hottest April day in 70 years today reaching 27.9 Degrees C, not far off that in my patch either with not a cloud in the sky and reaching something like 26. I could have easily sat in the garden with a G&T but I need to get bankside for a few hours because if I am to catch a double figure fish eventually then I won't do that at home now will I.


A small schoolie was caught quite quickly on the smaller float rod sadly, but then not a jot really, the water temperature was over 15 degrees so I expect the Zander have other things on their minds like guarding the fat females in their nests, they were certainly not interested in deadbaits anyway, or there could just not be any fish in-front of me and I that's more what I'm thinking.

So not quite back to square one with this area, I'm going to give it a couple more goes and then I might give it a little rest for a while, feels a little Groundhog day at the minute I've fished it that many times.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT79 – Vendi, Vidi, Vici

As Julius Caeser once said "I came, I saw, I conquered."

I didn't however, 4 or 5 hours down at the promised land all I could muster up was the smallest Zander I have ever caught...


Back to the drawing board ? I'm hoping it's just a blip on an otherwise successful few weeks.... 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT78 – Potholes and Slowholes

Having returned from a lovely weeks holiday in the land that time forgot (Wales) where for the life of my I couldn't get a half decent pint, dragons, what dragons ? plenty of monsters and trolls mind you. So I was glad to be back to roads full of "Potholes and Slowholes" (Sam misheard the Wife) but where I knew I could get served an ale deserving of a pouring and such clarity George Burton would happily fish in.

At least the weather on the most part was good mind you, which to be honest can be very much hit and miss in this island we live on, but we had a few t-shirt weather days and plenty of fresh sea air because of it. I even managed a little colour on my face which ain't bad for April especially as the winter has been so long.


Generally not hiss and miss however is the life span and also spawning times for Zander. From a bit of research they apparently can live up to 17 years. They usually spawn for the first time at 3-10 years, usually at four. They spawn April-May, but could be late February until July, depending on latitude and altitude.

Now the water temperature needs to reach 10-14°C in spawning grounds as the lowest temperature for egg incubation is 11.5°C. May they can undertake short spawning migrations. Individuals foraging in brackish water in Europe can migrate to freshwater habitats and migrations of up to 250 km have been recorded apparently.


Males are territorial and excavate shallow depressions about 50 cm in diameter and 5-10 cm deep in sand or gravel, or among exposed plant roots on which eggs are deposited, usually in turbid water and at 1-3 m depth. They spawns in pairs, at dawn or night with the Female remaining over the nest while male circles rapidly around, at about 1 metre from nest.

Then the male takes a vertical orientation and both swim around swiftly, and eggs and sperm are released. After all the eggs are released female leaves the nest site. Male defends the nest and fans the eggs with his pectorals. Females spawn once a year. Feeding larvae are positively phototactic and feed on pelagic organisms after they leave the nest for open water. Piscivorous, feeding mostly on gregarious, pelagic fishes.


So I was back for another early morning Zander session, again nothing too tasking, leap frogging a few pegs to try and find some fish worthy of weighing. The water temperature was 8.7 degrees so the water temperature has some way to go for them to start getting jiggy, but with the weather getting warm next week, that won't be far away.

I didn't particularity like the clarity when I got there, less turbid and coloured than I'd have liked, and after an hour and a half without a bite I thought I might be wasting my time. The first barge meandered however, stirred up the bottom and shifted the fish off from their stations because within minutes I had the first bite.


A fish was on, it gave a pretty good fight to be honest and I could see why when it was landed. A very long fish indeed but with the build of someone with arms like knots in cotton. An old warrior though judging by the battle scars but a straw-weight rather than the heavy-weight I wanted. It went 4lb 5oz on the scales so again, I'm fairing a little better with the average weight this closed season, but still a mile off what will bring this challenge to a close.

A small schoolie followed quite quick but with the sun up and the sky blue, it was time to call the session to a close, to be honest I could have easily fished in my t-shirt when I left.

The first on a roach deadbait, the smaller fish on a smelt.



No dragons were found, but the search continues.....

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT77 – Hussies and Hugger-muggers

Having stumbled upon an area by chance over the weekend that produced a couple of nice Zander I was back again to see if I had discovered Abraham’s bosom, an area where the adults wanting a bit of rest, contentment, and peace could lay up their fins before their fate would be decided. There is good reason why their sanctuary could remain just that and would unlikely see an Isham Baggs derived anode or two up the jacksie from the CRT or one of their contractors.

To be honest it wasn’t as if had been staring me in the face all along. You see it wasn’t glaringly obvious even to me as a relatively seasoned Zed head where I can walk miles of canal and pick a few likely holding areas.

It was only when I had to adjust the line stop on my over depth set-up as the floats stood to attention rather laid flat on the surface like they usually do that I discovered it was a quite a bit deeper than the norm. I’m sure with more water covering their backs, the bigger fish would feel more confident and that's why they were held up here.

They were in at the deep end so to speak….

And any feature be it, big or small, hidden or seen, can hold fish....


That wasn’t the only reason mind you, but details I’m not prepared to share to reveal it's location. I’ve spent enough time looking for these swims, which believe you me are few and far between. Fish of that stamp don’t crop up very often and if they do, two over 4lb is a rarity.

Now Mr Jeff Hatt of Idlers Quest fame who used to frequent these dog poo riddled waterways, fished dawn, dusk and dark for canal Zander and the best he managed was 5lb I believe, now a 5lber from the canal ain’t a bad fish, because the humdrum is much smaller believe you me.

It's all about the groundwork and bank time to net something half decent and that don't come easy, then again pure luck has plenty to do with it, because anyone could rock up in theory and may drop the bait in front of a lunker.

It was only when I took a step up the cut ladder 2 years ago when I fished with Danny at a local stretch, when out of the blue I banked a half decent fish of 7lb 6oz’s as I thought,like many, there wasn’t anything other than small fish to caught, and I was wasting my time if I wanted to bank a double figure fish.

I really did think I should take up mud puddle fishing or something, or maybe fish dark sessions and lots of them, which to be honest I'd rather not do and having caught my PB of 9lb and a 8lb 10oz fish in broad daylight and clear skies on a small stretch I realised, nah stick to it, they are there to be caught.


I wasn't in any rush to either, as weirdly I quite enjoy fishing the cut in the closed season and if a double did eventually did turn up I'll have to look in to another quest, such as a 20lb carp or something, I've seen them after all because the amount of time I spend on towpaths.

Now what really got me over thinking about this stretch was I’d only dabbled in a small area of confinement but a short leapfrog away was a really tasty looking area I’m referring to as the green lagoon, such was the similarity.

It was uncannily free from the surface crud that plagued me a leapfrog away, but it also looked bottomless because of position if there was ever such a thing.The more I fish canals I've realised just how shallow they are on the most part, and the reason why my brother didn’t hesitate before throwing himself in to the Cov cut when he had to rescue his battling bathing Bulldog Vinney who got in to trouble, struggling to keep his head above water.


The diary makers put paid to the last session earlier than I'd have liked, however for this one, at least I was better equipped.

It was out with the deeper you see….

I didn’t want to disturb their utopia with a big kapppooooshhhhhhhh !!! on their heads, as I was going to lay a couple of smelt hors d'oeuvres down for them a couple of hour before dusk and give the swim a proper go. Before all that though, just how deep was this uncharted area I'd not even put a bait in yet ?, or was I barking up the wrong tree and it was an optical illusion due to it's position, cover and location.

Inspector Clouseau or Mr Magoo....?


Well to be honest, it was quite a good find I must say, a pat on ones back. A section of canal where tight to cover it was 5 ft deep, but not only that but a good length of it, probably a 100 yards or so in more open water also 5ft. So plenty to go at still, this session was concentrated on 20 yards of it with relatively thick cover. I had to dodge the heavy showers but eventually I could fish the intended swim, away from this area where I could shelter I was biteless.

So with floats positioned not much for half an hour but then the right hand rod starts to bob and is carting left to right and eventually submerges, as I was playing the fish I get a bite on the left hand float and that starts to go in similar fashion, so with the fish quickly landed and unhooked I struck in to the next fish which by this time had dragged the float a good 6 foot.

A bit hectic but two fat ladies 88 in the net....


I didn't weigh them as I wanted to get them back as quickly as possible but the biggest was certainly over four. Despite the floats going back out for another hour no more bites, but certainly encouraging signs for this area, very productive indeed and the fish are bigger than the average stamp, in-fact I'd say out of all the swims I've discovered on my quest, this is the best find yet. Spawning time is not far off I'd say with the water temperature being 10 degrees, another 2 they will be preoccupied.

With one thing and another I won't be able to get out for a bit, probably not a bad thing, but I'm eager to get back this area again to explore some other swims.

Smelt did it again today, what a superb Zander bait, I'm converted I think....   

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT75 – Vagabonds and Vinipotes

With the usual 5.30pm Sunday dinner routine out the window, I was helping the kids with the Easter egg hunting in the Father-In-Laws orchard whilst the Wife was overcooking the veg and sinking the Yorkshire Puddings. To be honest I didn’t mind because a post meal pass out was on the cards and I could have another few hours down the cut.

Unusual for this time of day on a Sunday I wasn’t a few glasses of wine down, I was restrained to the point on being presented with the stuffed bird to carve, the small glass of Fiano was enough to accompany the meal and a glass of water beyond. Even an offer of a Bishops Finger was turned down, such my tunnel vision.

I had a plan (like always) and I was going to stick to it….

Now these big canal Zander appear to be very transitional on the most part and having caught some decent fish now I’m not overly worried about my stomping ground being discovered. Swims I’ve caught decent fish (>5lb) before I’d fished countless times again without even a sniff, let alone the same fish. Pike seem to be a different and not such a vagabond in mind-set.


I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, and I’m planning to act upon specific hunches and information I’ve been kindly shared. But I’m quite happy in my assessment of the situation, I’ve spent enough hours try to work out routes and routines, and still none the wiser.

Like many anglers who have access to miles and miles of the canal system, I’m often looking at Google earth as areas not only I’d not fished before, but areas they look like they hold fish.

I’ve areas I fish that I know I’ve more chance of banking at least a schoolie or two, and there is a good reason for that, which I won’t go in to now.

However this needle in the haystack challenge of mine it’s all very well getting a bend in the rod with a 2lber but that won’t help me moving on to another challenge and target when this one has been settled.

Right time, right place no doubt, as I doubt there is a swim, stretch or area that big Zander call Utopia.

Maybe there is, and I’m up for trying to find it….

So this session was back to two dead bait rods, now talking of deads, the switch from Roach seems to be relatively successful. In-fact when fished side by side it's probably 3 bites to 1.

So it was out with the tinned salmon and cucumber sandwiches, yeap, the small smelt deadbaits I’d been using recently which really do seem to be doing the trick. I bought a frozen job lot before the river season end and they were a really cost effective bait.


I found myself fully awake at 4’Oclock in the morning a few weeks back and separated them out in to session packs with 10 or so fish in zip lock plastic bags to add to the convenience.

Smelt has a strong cucumber pungency if you don’t know, all very odd, but not only that they smell fishy fishy if you get my meaning. Pike love them and Zander appear to as well. The flesh is soft which is a plus point when fishing for Zander as they help with hook holds because there is no hindrance, when the hook needs to engage when leaning in to the fish on the strike.

So with a psybient mix from Zaftra Morgen on the go I was hot footing to an area where I was hoping might be kind. The last decent canal Zander I’ve caught is a decent memory now such was the mediocrity of last closed season quest, and one change I wanted to peruse with this continuation, was to fish not only new areas, but also stray away from the canal system I usually fish.


So to the session….

I wanted to fish an area of cover I didn't mange to fish the other day, there is plenty of feature down this neck of the woods and despite the blank last closed season I knew there were some fish lurking. But canal Zander fishing ain't just rock up and catch them, you need time spent on the bank to get a feel where they will be holding up.

I spotted a fox chase a black cat and within minutes the float was doing some chasing of its own. The bait had only been positioned for minutes and it was on the move. A confident right to left movement, bobbed a few times then the yellow tip a fantastic contrast to the dirty looking canal went under. I struck in to something solid, this felt a decent fish.



It carted off to the right and then surfaced with a sizeable boil, fantastic, something half decent that has been lacking over the many many sessions that have made up this challenge of mine. I was making a bit of a pigs ear of the landing but eventually it was in the net.

5lb on the nose, ok, not a huge Zander in the scheme of things, but still a 5 lb canal fish which is not to be sniffed at. Rested, weighed and returned I managed another fish of 3lb and a bit and missed a bite when I decided to put on a whole smelt rather than a chopped up one.

Certainly encouraging signs for this area, I'll be back.....
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