Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.120 – Jobbernoles and Jumbleguts

I've never been great with altitude or even heights, I was persuaded to take a trip up the Aiguille du Midi cable car in Chamonix. Now that features the worlds highest vertical ascent cable, which when you reach the top provides some unbelievable panoramic scenes of the Alps and at 12,605ft, literally takes your breath away.

Once ones body and mind got used to just how high I was, I could navigate around the Central Piton terraces without issue but, but the reality is heights are not for me, unlike these fruit loops that scaled the Shanghai Tower like they were scaling a playground climbing frame.

Now the last time I went to Shanghai and went up the World Financial Center Skyscraper  (looks like a bottle opener) they had nearly completed the larger towers construction which was another hundred odd meters higher still. It is beyond my comprehension just how the human mind can accept what you are about to put yourself through is a good idea and allow you to do it.

You only have to look at YouTube though to see similar videos though. People get off on this stuff, whatever floats your boat I suppose, unless you die on the job of cause,as that will certainly put a stop to your subscribers. then again life is about experiences, not just sitting on ones derriere watching TV, drinking beer and eating bags of chips.

Luckily I've got both ones feet firmly on the ground for this quest of mine. You see the reality is, it's a challenge that I took on that, I began to realise it might not be that easy to bring it to a conclusion. I've continued on with it though because every now and them the humdrum shoolie turns in to something remarkable, something that's gets me reaching for the scales.

An area sheltered from the biting wind with Zed’s tucked up tight against the cover, one fish caught, one lost, and 2 further bites. Out of nowhere this area appeared on one’s radar. To be honest it screamed Zander but with an area further up also producing it was a stretch largely forgotten till I was staring at a blank, and I needed to act fast.

It deserved another go before the waters would warm, the fish up off the bottom….

So I back once more for this short after work session to cover the whole section of thick cover, not just the aforementioned swim . Now with the evenings getting lighter my Zander Quest will be stepped up a gear if that was possible. You see I will soon start fishing evenings in to dark after having ones tea first. Last time I was here I had to leave to appease the clock-watchers despite stumbling on the blank saver at the last minute, me cursing what could have been.

To be fair after getting back the Wife said “You could have stayed you know, you could have got yourself a bag of chips on the way home “

I don’t need to worry about that if I’d already eaten now do I !!!!

So anyway back on track, I’ve a whole section of cover to well yeah, cover .

I love this sort of fishing for Zander, it’s a relatively narrow bit of canal here, so a dainty underarm cast the deadbait is hugging the overgrown, the float easy to see.

Close quarters fishing and when fishing with a sensitive float set-up you can see every little murmur, every little nibble.

It’s a great way to fish for canal Zeds and when that bite eventually comes, can it get any more exciting. You could be attached to a 1lber or a 9lber, it’s only when you’ve felt the first pull, you’ll know.

What amazes me how shallow the canal is on the most part and yet with the surface still, the surface covered in crud, you wouldn’t know beneath the waterline there are beasts (it’s all relative) to be had.

The bigger fish can turn up anywhere as well, my biggest came from some shallow open water, the second biggest in a deeper swim with thick cover. Cover is always a good place to start if you’re a novice and want some tips.

Bait as tight as possible to it as well, the closer the better in my experience !!!!

If you’ve not had a bite within ten or fifteen minutes, it’s time to leapfrog to the next bit of cover.

….and repeat over and over again till you find the fish.

It’s been cold of late hence why Sam hasn't been that interested in tagging along on my usual morning sessions. Despite the milder afternoons and evenings, I'm penning this, up till now I’ve not seen any signs of spawning.

They will be not far off mind you as the weather is starting to get milder, the water likely to be going 12 degrees and beyond in the week following this blog post. I've got a weeks family break planned which may scupper my plans for a proper big one, but I will keep plugging away when I'm back.

Now these Zeds, even the small'uns can cram more food in than you'd imagine, a little like Sam with a bolognese, eyes bigger then their bellies, so even when they are full, they'd give it another go. But then you can also get dainty bites and pinky in the air efforts like older brother Ben when trying to make his ice-cream last.

I feel that time is running out for a proper lunker, but I suspect they are still laying up waiting to be found. One’s carpet bombing approach having rewarded me with plenty of canal Zander over 5lb now, two 7's, an 8 and the best going 9 lb. The 10lber has eluded me thus far, but they are there to be caught, that I know for a fact hence why I'm continuing on with this needle in a haystack quest of mine.

So why are canals largely forgotten about I wonder, I rarely bump in to any other anglers. The Zander may be top dog but there are still plenty of fish to be caught if things with teeth are not your thing. But then look at the fishing weekly’s, pages given over to match fisherman harbouring too many post match fried breakfasts and pictures of bulging keepnets appeasing those that like it easy and given to on a plate.

Canals are not like that for sure, and have changed from days gone by, but come on,they have lots going for them, at least they have character in abundance. There is the intrigue too, what will be on the end of the line, a hot-spot that only you know about, those carp swims you’ve found for next time, that bream swim that was a bite a chuck. Heck, you might even get a bit of exercise as well, and you can even leave your trolley at home.

Banks deserted, waters to myself, yeah, better keep ones mouth shut hadn't I. Anyway way to the session, I just couldn't get settled properly for this session. The length of cover looked great for Zander but after a boat went through quite early on, the water was moving and bouncing all over the shop. The floats were often dragged out of position because of the amount of crud and debris on the surface that was being collected on the line.

Even elevating the rods to keep the line off the surface didn't really help, nor did trying to sink the link and putting the rod tips under the water. Eventually I had a small fish which actually took the bait as it was being dragged along the bottom. To be honest I'd not really experienced the water movement as bad as this before. Even a good 2 hours after the boat went through initially it was still 'flowing'

I decided in the end to finish the session early and give the Zander sessions a rest for a bit. The water temperature was 10.2 degrees and that will rise significantly from next week onward, so with other things on their mind than eating ones deadbaits, I'll have a think about where and when I'm going to start my post tea in to dusk sessions.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.119 – Cropsticks and Cundums’s

The working week come to an end, some contemplation, good music, a couple of fishing outings and a couple of large Kirk and Sweeney’s kept one’s mind from straying off the yellow brick road on to the uncertain. Now luckily for me those simple life’s pleasures can get ones mind back on track, and that is generally all that is needed without requiring the lockawayables.

Now the bit of news I enjoyed reading this week was that astronomers managed to take the first ever image of a black hole, which is located in a distant galaxy. Apparently it measures 40 billion km across, is three million times the size of the Earth and has been described by scientists as "a monster". The black hole is 500 million trillion km away and was photographed by a network of eight telescopes across the world.

Try and get your head round that !!!! shame it's not a bit closer to the Houses of Parliament.

Now on a slightly different scale, canal bridges and tunnels can often be inherently spooky places to begin with. Dark, claustrophobic, often damp, moldy, and old, there is a certain innate sense of foreboding and an unsettling atmosphere about these places that disturbs us on almost a primal level, and they make perfect locations for scary tales.

These are places where mysteries reign and where we feel somehow out of place and alone no matter who we may be with.

While wandering under these head covering features of the waterways,where you go from light to gloomy, or gloomy to pitch black may invoke images of ghosts and monsters, it was a tale given to me by a passing towpath cyclist and fellow angler (carper) who recalled a story of sometime massive surfacing and causing a wake of gargantuan proportions.

His finger pointed, area identified, the half empty 3ltr bottle of cider strapped to his rucksack in clear view !!!!

Now these structures, especially the big’uns may already seem unwelcoming and forbidding enough, there are on occasion reports that allow them to live up to their full potential of eeriness, and here I had an account that seemed to suggest something prowling about there in the inky black of these enclosed spaces, lurking and waiting there in the eternal gloom.

Now I thought carp to begin with, but I’ve not seen carp here such the locale, as it seems more suited to the fish with spikey fins and even sharper teeth.

Oddly though, this area hadn’t really jumped out at me as big Zed habitat, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, so with the tough conditions as they are at the minute I wanted to fish not only within shade of the bridge, but also leapfrog a section of cover around 500 metres long I’d not fished in anger before.

My initial findings were not up to scratch, but when you clutching at those schoolie straws, as I am of late, I need to think outside of the box a little to try and invoke a bite from something bigger than I’ve been catching over the last few sessions. So for this morning session the usual armoury, 2 dead bait rods, overdepth floats, smelt and roach, you know the drill.

It was a very cold morning indeed, a frost on the windscreen I was probably on to a loser straight away. Water temperature down to 9 degrees but fishing for Zander in these tough conditions couldn't be simpler. You need to drop a bait right in from of a fishes noggin. Leapfrog swims and give ten minutes, or maybe twenty max in each.

I covered a good section of the cover and with only one small tentative pull in nearly 3 hours I was staring at a blank. Now right by a bridge was was a section of cover to my left and after 3 boats through in ten minutes I was nearly ready to pack up, but I decided to give a little more because it looked like a fish would be holding up there.

Sure enough the first proper bite and I had to be quick with winding in to the fish because it was heading under some thick cover.Not a huge fish but they are proper aggressive at this of year, so they are great sport when you do catch one.

Only a 3lber but a specimen for a shad chucker. So a blank saved. Now I had intended to get out in the morning as well, but some thick green gunk sat on my chest probably not a wise idea, feel a little run down also, so will try and cram a couple of sessions in next week after work.

Friday, 12 April 2019

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.118 – Maine Coon’s and Man Traps

A few years ago now fears that a big cat was on the loose near a children's playground in a sleepy rural village not far from my abode had been put to rest.

Clear footage of what looked like either a lynx or a jaguar prowling through fields in Great Alne, Warks, sparked worries that a mystery beast was at large. The beast, which appeared to be about 4ft in length, had a black tail and markings similar to a lynx. It led to a flurry of speculation as to what the creature could be.

The creature, which is thought to be larger than a fox, was reported by a resident to Alcester Police South Safer Neighbourhood Team after a resident managed to capture the beast on film . But residents can now breathe a sigh of relief, because the creature has since been identified after the video went viral as a pet Bengal cat named Hiro.

"I can assure everyone that there is no Big Cat stalking the fields of Great Alne ,at least not this time ,it is just my lovely pet cat Hiro.

With no sense of scale, Hiro did indeed look like some sort of Big Cat as he prowls, shoulders appearing to be rippling with muscle and with his long tail curled up just like a leopard. But a detailed study of the cat in the picture reveals it is like no other Big Cat likely to be roaming wild across the region’s countryside its tail markings in particular being like none other.

But but….

….not long after though not far away, a spa goer has captured footage of what she claims is a 'three foot tall' big cat skulking around a hotel golf course. Now Kate Sanderson, 51, was out strolling with a friend when she spotted the black feline shape stalking through the hotels grounds and filmed the beast as it prowled across the golf course at the Ardencote Manor Hotel in Lye Green, before returning to her room to obviously get back on the gin and tonics.

Even through squinted eyes it was obviously a domestic cat but not sure if it’s just me but I’ve always found cats rather sinister.

I’ve had my own encounter as well, one particular section of canal I fish where there are long term residential moorings for boats a big black cat with the most piercing eyes you’ve ever seen, randomly appears out the blue in different locations and sits and stares, and stares even more.

If I get my hands anywhere near my phone to try and take a photo, he is off quicker than my mate Hilly when it’s his turn to go to the bar.

Ok that doesn’t sound that sinister I know, but there is always an event or episode that happens afterwards that makes me wonder if there is something beyond my control going on.

Now talking about beyond my control, this Zander Quest of mind cannot be concluded on my terms, it will happen when I least expect it I’m sure. When you fish for Canal Zander as much as I do, even the visual bite from fishing an overdepth float cannot be narrowed down to what is likely to be underneath it. My PB came to a bite that could have been a schoolie, the bites vary considerably from really tentative nudges to full on float under bow waves.

Now an area that popped up on the radar recently I’d never really considered even fishing, a featureless area that doesn’t provide what the Zander seek. Well that’s what I thought till I was shared some information that kyboshed that theory out of the window altogether.

But if you think about it, when the water is coloured like it is here, it doesn’t really matter what structure or features it has because in this clarity the Zed will always be top dog. They might as well be invisible.

For this short after work session I wanted to try and tempt a bigger fish that could potentially be waiting in the wings away from the travelling group of fish, that if you stumble on them are determined to plunder your deadbait reserves. A good way to do that is to fish a gobstopper on one rod, and for this session I’d fish a whole smelt and the other rod a good distance apart, I’d fish a snack sized Roach.

Last time I was here I blanked but the wind was causing white tips such the size of the ripple on the surface so I didn’t stick it out long enough to be fair, opting to fish the usual swims I fish. Before I tackled the featureless though there was a swim not far away that was a tangled mass of roots that I didn’t fish last time, but looked idea for a fish to be laying up.

The sun up, the water temperature 9.9 degrees so still cold'ish I knew this would be a tough session, after starting at a bit over cover I'd got my eye on when I was here last, after half an hour without even a nibble I decided to move down to the characterless area, that I would leapfrog. I covered a good 150 yards of it as well and managed two bites, both which didn't develop from the first initial couple of pulls.

The boat and bike traffic were becoming a little annoying by this time and with only twenty minutes left to fish, before I had to head home, I decided to go and fish a section of cover I passed initially. I should have gone with my instinct really, as within minutes of fishing tight to some cover I had the first proper bite. I was premature on the strike and the fish let go of the bait but upon recasting I noticed that the right-hand float was now moving.

It looked like I'd stumbled on a group of fish, damn, if only I started there. The first didn't put up that much of a fight to be fair and it was quickly in the net. A nice dark coloured Zed mind you, so nice all the same. A couple more bites never materialized in to anything and when I got snagged on a hidden branch and lost one of my floats, it was time to head home, me wondering what could have been. A long section of cover I'd not properly fished before, and I'd only fished a tiny bit of it.

Don't worry I'll be back !!!!

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.117 – Earth Baths and Elysian Fields

Towpath mowing carnage, the aftermath all to see, a tent spotted, abandoned, disheveled, dumped , the owner given up on the off grid living? the fishing not going so well, the 4G signal non-existent, the water brown as you like, yeah I wouldn’t bother either. You see this area isn’t for the foolhardy, it deserves some respect, hence it’s seemingly forgotten in the eyes of other. However for me, I was back to where my allegiances lie, where I belong….

….like many of the other places I fish, anglers rare, the Zander stamp high, solitude box ticked.

But that knowledge doesn’t come easy, it’s time on the bank, hours spent, and this, Pt.117 of this ridiculous quest of mine goes to show just how many hours I have been spent to try and catch what is basically a rather large Hen with rather large teeth.

However every now and then something pulls harder than the humdrum and there is a glimpse of light at the end of the rather large tunnel. Now this area is on a completely different canal network to a fish of 9lb and 8lb 10oz’s I’ve managed to bank, so it just goes to show that anywhere can be home to a big canal Zander, and up and till this time last year, it was never even on one’s radar.

3 fish over 5lb, and more recently a fish going 67cm on the tape and 7lb 8oz on the scales, it’s an area that if I continue with my efforts, I’m sure it eventually will come good, and a double will grace ones net.

I had in the back of my mind that Zander populations were in decline in some of the areas I fish because of the amount of fish I’d be catching, and then out of a blue a session goes from good to mad where countless Zeds are banked, some lost, that shows they are here to stay despite the efforts of the electrode wavers and tank filler.

Over the few years I've been fishing for canal Zed's, biomass seems to have changed in some areas though quite significantly. Those bite sized ‘bait’ fish now seemingly sharing the same space with these rather interesting fish with teeth that turned up on mass on their pillaging mission . Now that might be a bit of a curve ball in ones own quest because it could well change the areas I fish yet again, because of the buffet now laid out firmly within the boat tracks table.

Big fish need feeding after all, they have hunger pangs and an appetite to quash. Areas that were off the radar, now back on….

….I’m up for it though, it the offer of solitude that other waters don’t give like some of the canals do it probably why I’m happy for the moment whatever comes along, and if a proper lunker eventually turns up, which I’m sure it will, other species may have to become the quarry. Roach and carp spring to mind. I enjoy fishing canals because others don’t , for those likeminded peace and quiet seekers what’s not to like.

So for this short after work session just short of dusk I was back at the deep bit to try and get among the bigger fish that call this area their home.

Now having fished for Zander as much as I have done I knew straight away just looking at the water it would be tough, the colour not quite right, the temperature low with a biting wind. But you have to get a bait in the water for that hunch to be confirmed. The productive bit of cover for the bigger fish was dead, no bites within an hour or so after leapfrogging the section. It didn't help that two boats had come through at the same time and stirred up the already debris ridden surface.

The water didn't settle after that going back and fourth making fishing difficult. So after moving to an entirely different section of cover, shallower and also where there are some tree roots in the area, I decided to give this 45 minutes or so. If there is a Zander laying up then usually bites come quick and this was no exception, within a couple of minutes the left hand float was being dragged under an overhanging bush. Sadly a small fish I think as it released its grasp on the small roach deadbait.

Nothing more doing in that swim so I decided to fish above the deeper swims right in the track where the surface was clear, hoping to intercept an fish moving through. This decision was well worth it, as a bite came quite quick on smelt and a Zed was on. After the first pull I knew it was a small fish, the smallest for a while I think. Yeap a small schoolie not preoccupied in getting in to the spawning mood like its older relatives. 

I returned to the deep section for the last half an hour and whilst minding my own business a dog walker with a rather large pointer off the lead didn't like that I was there. Some rather loud menacing  barking which for someone who doesn't particularly like dogs and I'm always on the look out for dogs when out in public as my eldest son Ben who has an irrational fear of them, was quite unnerving. A few words were met with an apology and we had an interesting chat after he asked if I was after Zander as he was a fellow fisherman.

A very nice dog with a decent temperament despite the initial introduction but he lived locally and walked the towpath most days. A pair of Otters in residence (there's a suprise) and confirmed also the presence of carp, and some decent ones as well. I ended up getting back later than planned but it meant my baits were out longer than anticipated. Sadly no more bites, it's certainly tough out but I'm back out again Thursday evening to try and drop on a fish like I did today, this time I'm hoping for something much bigger.
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