Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT99 – Blandfordians and Blabbermouths

So as someone looking forward to all things flowing water, a news article popped up the other day which raised ones eyebrows and got me listening. You see maybe getting back to where the water is clean, clear and flowing, might need some more alcohol consumption of the ale variety. 

The early part of every summer for the last four decades has been spoilt for many Blandfordians by the arrival of a fly with a very nasty bite. Yeap apparently it’s making a comeback, the culprit is the black fly. The proper name is Simulium posticatum and the danger period used to be from about 10th May until mid-June, but now it seems to be all summer from those in the know.

You seldom notice it until it’s gone, leaving a spot of blood, then spend the next week nursing anything from an annoying itch to a large incapacitating swelling.

These blood sucking bugs live near areas of water and gives a particularly painful bite.

The Blandford fly's English common name derives from a major outbreak of people being bitten around the town of Blandford Forum in Dorset, in the 1960s and 1970s. 

In a four-week period during the spring of 1972, some 600 people were estimated to have visited their doctors in Blandford to be treated for insect bites.

Now the fly is more prevalent than ever it seems and an outbreak a few years ago in Hereford this led to hundreds of people seeking medical treatment. NHS figures show a 50 per cent rise in hospital admissions for ‘non-venom insect’ bites in the past decade. Many of these will be by black flies.

The male flies of most species collect in huge swarms which, on calm sunny days, dance in the air near trees or buildings, awaiting the arrival of the females. The female flies enter these swarms and are seized by a male before the mating pair falls to the ground. Before or after mating the female flies frequently seek a meal of blood to supplement their diet and assist in the production of eggs. Each of the many species has a preferred host on which it will feed. Hosts include reptiles, birds and mammals such as deer, horses, cattle or sheep. In the case of the Blandford Fly the main host is man. 

Having satisfied its craving for human blood the female must wait for its 200-300 eggs to mature before returning to the river to place them in the desiccation cracks of the steep, shady river bank, well above the summer water levels.

From the mouth of a Zander
The egg laying females crawl deep into the cracks and stick their egg masses to soil particles in moist humid conditions. The eggs are laid in June and July when the weather is warm. They begin to develop at once but when the eyes of the embryo can be seen through the eggshell as little red dots, development stops. Only a spell of cold weather after the onset of winter will trigger the eggs to progress further. 

Probably the most agreeable cure is a beer from the Badger Brewery of Blandford St Mary called Blandford Fly. Folklore has it that only zingibain from ginger can soothe it. This ale therefore includes a generous dollop of ginger in the brewing process to create a subtly spicy character that gives warmth even when served chilled. 

If the zingibain doesn’t work, the alcohol will buy you temporary oblivion.

So anyway back to the fishing, this session was meant to be down at the deep bit for a bit of double dipping. A couple or three biteless hours on the Zed rods despite leapfrogging an extensive section of cover, I was witness to fish movement like I’d never seen before. Bubbles, bubbles and lots of them and also fish existing the water showing that they were bream feeding in the area and lots of them too. 

So one Zander rod and another with a simple small method set-up to at least try and get a bend in the rod. Feeder filled with a little groundbait, micro pellets and bread or sweetcorn for hookbait.

As I was leaving this area last week with rods in hand a biker stopped me and asked what the fishing was like. 

"Errrrrrr, to be honest mate I wouldn't bother"

Ok if he asked me about 5 or 6 weeks earlier than my answer might have been very different, but to be honest would it though ?. The discovery of another good area for Zander I'd rather keeps it under ones hat, so to be fair, the answer would have been the same. Areas where carp reside will also kept under ones radar because those are quite rare to be honest, unlike the anglers that wan't to catch them which can go from none to many if I turned in to a blabbermouth.

I'm keeping this area to myself, ta very much....

So anyway, back to the fishing.

Now as you know I like to plan my sessions well in advance and with the rods set-up I was planning to head straight to the deep bit, but after losing what appeared to be a half decent fish the weekend when the line snapped because of my error I was back to try and see if it were about again. This area has form as well, albeit a few hundred yards away as the fish pictured in my title picture which weighed 8lb 10oz was caught in this vicinity.

That was sometime ago mind you and despite fishing it many a times since I've not had anything like that again. But then maybe the loss of a fish last week was a sign, you never know. The same plan, just a different location as I'd spotted quite a few feeding bream here as well. The only thing I had to change was the landing net and pole, because with the banks the way they are and with an elevated swim, I had to make sure I had enough reach to be able to land a fish.

So anyway, how did I get on....

Well I had a bite within 5 mins of putting a bait out, on a whole small roach. With the fish quickly landed, the float went back out and it didn't stop for an hour or so. I ended up using two rods in the end and ended up with a brace with two runs happening at the same time. After the 6th fish, all went dead and that's how the Zander rods remained. All fish came to whole fish. For the last hour I put out the small method feeder but that was very quiet indeed without even a nudge on the quiver tip.

So I wasn't doing any wrong after all, catch the Zander when they are moving in a pack, you can catch multiple fish, the most around 12 fish down at the deep bit. That's it for this 2018 closed season quest as my mind turns to running water. Maybe if the rivers are in flood I'll have another dabble as I'm sure PT100 won't be that far away. A little more encouraging this year, but I still feel like I'm going backwards despite managing a fish over 5lb again.

The quest will continue however.... 


  1. The OCD in me wants you to crack the double mark on PT100, you’ve got time for one more trip..! If not thanks for the zander quest posts, a great read throughout the closed season.

  2. Believe you me Brian, that has crossed my mind, but I'm trying to contain my canal Zander trips within the closed season and I've run out of time sadly, diary full really before the river season opens, there is a tiny possibility on Friday evening but unlikely to happen as I'm being taken out for dinner and there will be wine involved :).

    Nice that you enjoy my exploits as much as I do though and I'm looking forward to continuation of the quest.

  3. I have to second Brian’s response, we don’t have Zander here, so to hear of ones quest for a species we know very little about is exciting and certainly gets me wanting to give them a fair crack of the whip, just time and money (fuel) to get onto productive Zander areas is challenge. Keep at it and who knows, pt100 may be the very session you achieve a double on!

    Tight lines Zanderman!

    1. Cheers James, I'm sure it will just turn up out the blue one day, as there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of science to it.

  4. If any angler deserves a double Zander,it's you Mick. I too crave such a fish,but with all the time and effort you've spent on the cut,you deserve it much more....and that bloody chub!!

    1. I'm sure the Chub will come this year Mark, got a few more waters to go at this coming season. Zander well, seems to be getting harder and harder but I'm hoping by playing a numbers game, eventually one will turn up.


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