Thursday, 4 June 2020

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.162 - Houghmagandy and Heebeegeebees

An area of thick cover with a towpath well trodden, in the daylight an escape from the modern world. The 18th century deep cutting and mature trees providing shade from sunlight, and a natural passageway to the open area beyond.

When it was constructed an engineer at the time said the works were far bigger than it needed to be, the waterway almost lost within its surroundings. It is also a spawning area for a few species, so you have to wait till the ravenous proceedings are over and they are on the munchies post copulation.

Luckily for me it's an area of sanctuary for predators to lay in wait, Zander, yeap, plenty of them hiding up here, I've caught some carbon benders for sure, but is it....

....The Lair of the Giant Zander.... ?


....maybe, one problem though, in the evenings when the tiller twisters, dog walkers, bikers and joggers have long gone, this area takes on an altogether different appearance.

The issue is here, unlike others areas of the canal I fish I don't particularly enjoy spending time here, certainly not in to dusk as beyond. Even during the day, huge nettles and sticky weed, this is a path that provides an over-shoulder look in more ways than one.


It's very eerie, very eerie indeed and a few times here I've felt like I'm being watched. Out the corner of ones eye a premonition , a shadow, a presence that once you turn your head and try to focus on whatever it is I appear to be sharing the towpath with, it's there and gone in a flash.



I don't usually have an anxiety issues at all fishing in the dark, even in areas which are more built up, but here is different, it's almost like I'm going to encounter something, each and every time I go.

Still, got to battle on with the needle in a haystack quest, no rest for the wicked and all that...

The Zander seem very aggressive down here as well, when I've fished it with a lure they have no problem engulfing a 15cm Savage Gear Real Eel.

Some of the hardest hitters for sure.

As yet though I've not encountered the size I'm after, but with a busy start to the week at work I was back here again to fish in to dusk to see if there was a big Zed willing to grace ones landing net.

Only a short session this, but back to my leap frogging roving approach which works so well. I wanted to at least give me the best chance of catching a decent post COVID-19 Zed before the river season starts and my allegiances switch to all things flowing.


2 rods, both baited with smelt, ten to fifteen minutes in each swim and then move on to the next bit of cover to try and drop on a big Zed laying up in wait. These scavengers won't turn down a free meal when it's laid out in front of them on a plate.

Anyway enough of the preamble, how did I get on ?

Well I started at the top of the stretch and worked my way down, leapfrogging sections of cover. There had been rain overnight and the morning started with heavy cloud and it continued that way. It looked perfect for a bite though, the whole length ideal for Zander no matter where the float was positioned.


The kraa-kra of crows deafening hear and the fact you cannot see the birds half the time can be a little unnerving, well certainly not peaceful. The more I worked myself down the length of the canal though this lessened in decibels. After a good 5 sections of thick cover giving the floats 15 minutes to settle each time I was wondering what the heck was going on, however that was about to change.

Before I up-sticks and go on to the next bit of cover I flick the deadbaits a nadger in this case smelt because they are predators after-all. It was a tip Sean Downing gave me when he fishes for Pike. It can bring a reactionary response if a fish laying up is thinking twice to take the bait or not. It something I've been doing for a while now and works very well when bites are hard to come by.


I can work automatically as well, when their is tow after a lock has been open or if there is bounce between locks the float and its bait can be pulled off line and out of position. That movement when the bait is being dragged along the bottom can bring a bite. Anyway a nice section of cover where underneath was pitch black a couple of nudges within seconds the right hand float starts to bob and move.

It then starts move confidently deeper under the cover when I lift the rod and lean in to the fish. I'm so confident in my set-up now that I rarely don't connect to a fish and this felt solid. It carted towards me like a chub at first and I had to loosen the tension on the clutch because it was becoming overwhelmed with the carbon bent double.


I knew straight away it wasn't my target but it's surprising just how spirited these canal Zander fight. It was soon in the net though and sadly certainly not a weigher.  Around 4lb I'd say, still it was a fish and I'd nearly an hour and a half of the session left. Another bite came quick this time a small schoolie in perfect nick.

As expected the towpath was dead I had it to myself however with deadbaits positioned in the last swim ready to go in to dusk and slightly beyond I heard a loud rustling in the thicket behind me. It continued for a while so I lifted my landing net and whacked it a couple of times, the last time a huge rat in a split second mad its escape, legged it over the towpath and straight in to the drink, Splossshhhh !!!.


I'm not sure where it went after that, it was almost dark and difficult to see. Anyway the focusing torch positioned stand and wait. 15 minutes went by and nothing, heck I'm here now, might as well stay a little longer. Another 15 minutes nada and then a feint rumbling gradually gets louder, a bleeding narrowboat appears from the gloam, no light on it either, so it would have been a struggle to navigate I'd imagine.

 I let it go past, I think they were shocked to see an angler on the bank at this time, anyway with the swim disturbed sometimes it can move them up off the bottom but sadly in the case it didn't happen. Still I quite enjoyed the session, not a blank anyway and it's nice not having disobedient dog walkers and pedal pushers to contend with. I'll back before the 16th, there is something large here I'm sure of it.

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