Saturday 15 June 2019

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.140 – Lemures and Lagarfljots

In the North-eastern part of England there is a legend from medieval times about a giant worm that terrorized the region. Now a worm might not seem to be a very interesting creature to build a story of terror about until you realise that the old English form of the word worm (or wyrm) refers to a humongous snake or dragon. Though there are slightly different versions of the tale told all around the area, the basic story is as follows:

A rebellious, young man name John Lambton, heir of the Lambton estate in County Durham, decided to go fishing one Sunday morning, though he was warned by a mysterious old man that no good could come of skipping church.

Lambton is unsuccessful in catching anything out of the local river Wear until he pulls in a strange fish.

The eel-like creature has the head of a salamander and nine holes on either side of its skull. Lambton doesn't like the look of it at all and declares he has caught "the devil." 

On the advice of the old man, he decides not to return it to the river, but instead decides to throw it down a convenient well.

The creature apparently thrives in the underground and grows and grows inside the well, eventually poisoning the water. 

When it finally emerges, it has grown to a humongous size and begins terrorizing the land by eating livestock along with the occasional village child. It also approaches Lambton Manor, where John's father manages to placate it on a daily basis by filling a stone trough outside the building with fresh milk for it to drink. In between assaults on the surrounding countryside, the creature relaxes by wrapping itself around the base of a hill.

Various villagers and knights come to slay the monster but find that slicing off sections of the worm is ineffective as the creature seems to be able to reattach lost parts without much permanent damage. Moreover, anyone who comes too close to the worm finds themselves caught in its coils and slowly squeezed to death.

Young John comes home from the Crusades to find his father's land in ruin from the worm. He vows to destroy the creature and seeks the aid of a local witch. The witch first tells John that he is responsible for the worm's existence by his actions as a boy and this increases his determination to rid the land of it.

The witches' advice is to go to the local blacksmith and have his armour covered with razor-sharp spear points. Then he should catch the worm as he lays wrapped around a great rock down by the river and fight him there. She warns Lambton that if he is successful in his quest, he will be required to kill the first living thing he sees after his victory or the Lambton family will be cursed for nine generations and no heir will die peacefully in his bed.

Brave Sir John takes her suggestions to heart and they prove to be the keys he needs to defeat the beast. When the animal gets a hold of him in its coils, it cannot squeeze him to death as the spear points on his armour will be driven into the creature's body. Because he is fighting the worm on the edge of the river Wear, any parts he cuts off the monster fall off into the water and are swept downstream so the beast cannot heal itself by reattaching them.

A lucky escape !!!!
After a titanic battle, John Lambton is victorious. It has been arranged that at his bugle signal one of his hunting hounds will be released. It will run to him and John will slay it to save his family from the curse. As it happens, however, John's father forgets about the signal and runs out himself to greet his son after the victory. John does not have the heart to kill his father and the family is cursed for nine generations.

The Lambton Worm is a fascinating and colourful legend, I love stories like this, because usually there is some truth in the story somewhere.

Now Nick Duffy from the National Anguilla Club committee over the last few years has shared with me some pictures of eels he’d caught from the canal in and around the areas I fish for Zander, and you wouldn’t believe the size of them caught in these turbid waters. 

Show many a picture such as this one to the left you wouldn’t believe something of that size could live in the cut, let alone thrive in it, yes these canals big creatures live.

Talking with Nick seemingly using deadbaits to catch these fish on the canal is usually a waste of time for them as Zander get in the way of these fascinating creatures, lobworms as bait and often night fishing is the way forward as after all, eels seem to be nocturnal feeders in the main and with the silver fish biomass ever changing on the canal system their diets seems to have changed

What has surprised me though that the tables haven’t really been turned. Considering the amount of deadbaits I’ve fished in the canal I have never ever picked up an eel whilst targeting Zander which I find ridiculous really, why not I wonder? but more about that later, I think I know why.

Friends of friends have caught them in the day for sure, but maybe my preference for small intimate canals rather than large open stretches is the reason why. You see the other day when fishing a really wide and deep area I rarely fish at dusk when I removed my lure and swapped over to simply a hook and a small deadbait which I allowed it to sink to the bottom. The tip was used as a bite indicator and a half an hour after the bait being out a couple of proper bangs on the rod tip and whatever was biting then took off away from me at a rate of knots.

I didn’t have much time to think to be honest and when I lifted the rod I initially felt the weight of the fish which felt really heavy and just by the feel through the braid something other than a Zander. With Zander they are progressive takers of bait, this wasn’t, all very odd. A big eel it could well have been and if I eventually catch a double figure canal Zander maybe I’ll seek advice from Nick and maybe meet up with him on the bank to show me the ins and outs of eel fishing.

With the 2019 / 2019 Bloggers Challenge about to start in anger for me a river Eel will need to be targeted, and yes I’m quite looking forward to that despite the hounding they get from those that accidentally catch them when targeting another species. To be honest I'm surprised I'd not picked up any whilst Zander fishing but I do tend to fish the colder months for them, which probably explains it.

So anyway back to this session, this would be the last before I was back on the river again so I decided to visit pastures relatively new again, which could dictate some session in the next close season. An area where is reputed to hold some nice Zander but not really wet a line in anger. You can see why Zander would like it here though because there are plenty of features.

2 deadbait rods, smelt on one, roach on the other, how did I fair ?

Well a huge tree had fallen down since I was here last and was covering so much of the canal a boat would need to squeeze past.

Features are this hold fish and sure enough within minutes I had the first bite. And those bites didn't stop. I managed 6 fish in quick succession till the bites dried up. Not the biggest of fish and a couple of zedlets within the fish caught but certainly enjoyable sport.

I moved up to another area of thick cover and again the bites came quick, 3 more fish banked quite quickly the biggest nearly 4lb. I love it when you stumble on fish like this, unless you've experienced it you wouldn't believe just how active they become when they are on it.

I was fast running out of deadbaits though so had to use the mashed and mangled smelt as best I could.  It still caught fish though and another 2 fish were banked in an area of cover just up from this other hotspot.

Luckily time called this session to a close as I suspect I could probably have caught all day and would have had to drive home to replenish the bait stocks. So 11 Zander caught, not huge fish for sure but I'm an angler who loves getting bites, this was one of the memorable sessions I'll remember for a while.


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