Sunday, 9 May 2021

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.202 - Cygnets and Cymbiforms

The rain was hammering down as I made this beef massaman curry which is hard to beat when its home cooked, you know exactly what goes in to it for a start and the beef especially, up the quality it's well worth it as is an extra lemongrass stalk in with the curry paste, a extra smidgin of fish sauce oh and use coconut cream rather than coconut milk. 

Now the bird's eye chilli maybe small, but is quite hot and the fruits are very pungent indeed.  It measures around 50,000 - 100,000 Scoville units, which is at the lower half of the range for the hotter habanero, but still much hotter than a common jalapeño. If you're not in to spice I'd avoid these like the plague, as you'd be fridge bound for a pint of milk or a spoonful of yogurt. 

A bivi'd up carper when I got towpath side had braved the wet conditions unlike me and decided to spend the night on the towpath for well, zilch, well no carp anyway, bream had been a problem, but then when you fish the canals for carp the equally greedy bream are up for a bit of food too. 

He'd caught some nice Zander of late and his mate had managed an 8lber at a stretch I'd fished a while ago but I don't want to spread myself too wide again, I've made that mistake before. 


So a simple roving session this, smelt on both rods this time. Its a bait I discovered by accident really but Zander seem to love it. I'm not sure if its the smell or the soft texture but I wouldn't be without smelt in my armoury now. 

I'm sure the fact it's highly visible helps matters because Zander are very visual fish after all. I've been struggling for bites of late but with milder temperatures on the way I'm hoping ones catch rate will improve. 


Still it was pleasant to be about because 24 hours before the washout prevented me going. I don't mind fishing in the rain but it was ALL day and I'd know I wouldn't enjoy it. 

The water had coloured up nicely because despite boats moving around now I have been surprised just how clear it has been. 


The recent banker swim came up trumps as it generally does and after having two bites really quickly and missing them both, then a fish that felt decent dropped off soon in to the fight I thought this wasn't my day.

Cast tight to cover though and swims like this where the fish tend to hold up, even though they are not up for moving much you can winkle out a fish or two. A couple of lure guys I got talking to had been struggling for bites too, it's not just me of late. 



Now a small schoolie eventually succumbed to the smelt offering and then a few minutes after yet another bite and a decent scraper was on.

Not a huge fish but it gave a good account for itself and wasn't happy to be landed with fins and teeth standing to attention. A 60cm fish but streamlined rather than a bruiser so probably 4.5ish at a push. Apart from some damage on his tail a fish in excellent condition, like they all seem to be here.


The swim went dead so I went on the move but despite fishing some tasty looking swims with cover that one swim produced all the bites and all the fish. 

So plans, well with the milder weather and lighter evenings I will make a couple or three trips to the hallowed swim to try and catch the beast that swims there. So I better get my wire traces sorted because no doubt the snot rockets will make an appearance or three.  


The river season cannot come soon enough, as I'm starting to struggle a bit now and my motivation is lacking, there short sessions are perfect though, a whole day fishing for them, no chance. Even Sam who turned 10 today, 6 years as an angler and about the same amount of time I've been after a 10lb canal fish, he's lacking motivation to join me at the minute. 

Still it was nice to take him to the local park to try out his new roller skates because in contrast to the day before it was t-shirt weather and 18.5 degrees. Can we have more of this please !!!!

Friday, 7 May 2021

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.201 - Pomposity and Pogamoggans

Things getting back to normal in the UK ? whatever normal means these days ? well there are encouraging signs so much so I've made up for last years damp social squib already and have booked up three different dance music events. (and still more to come)

So I'll be partying at an outdoor festival in August, having a whole weekend of all things repetitive beatery with the Ibiza Legends and a load of other old gits who want to relive their youth in September and not long after my 49th birthday bouncing with the beats thrown about by one of the worlds most regarded DJ's. 


So something to look forward to, which to be frank about it (who's Frank ?) not something we could have said soon after Santa disappeared back up his COVID chimney. 

Things can go off track though so lets keep ones fingers and toes crossed, you see, this week France had threatened to cut off electricity to Jersey, the largest Channel Island and a Crown dependency. 

Two Royal Navy ships and two French vessels ended up having to patrol near Jersey while about 60 French and Jersey boats are at the island's St Helier port.

French fishermen say their rights are unfairly restricted by licences issued by the island under a new system. 

HMS Severn, which has previously been used to shadow Russian navy warships off the English coast, can be seen from the port, sitting off about a mile from the French boats. HMS Tamar is nearby and both ships are maintaining a socially distancing presence and not making any effort to intervene


Luckily for the cod haulers and the kettle switch pushers a conclusion could well be on the cards because as I type this a high level meeting is taking place and all could be good in their worlds again, shame the same couldn't be said about my Double Figure Canal Zander quest....!!!!

....you see one's motivation to get out fishing for canal Zander has wavered big time this week. The weather is still ridiculously cold overnight and the water temperature after the bought of cold rain that has come with it would like me, probably put the fish off from feeding. (To be fair had dropped but not as bad as I thought)

There is also the fact that the hallowed swim is thirty five minutes drive away and knowing me I'd catch that big pike again rather than a canal double I've been after for neigh on 5 or 6 years now. 

A chance conversation last weekend however from a gongoozler who fishes the river Severn for Zander mentioned a picture displayed in his local tackle shop of a huge Zander caught in an area of containment not far away from here. Luckily it was a place he named without the need for a prodding of the landing net pole. 

What was encouraging about this snippet of information shared was that it wasn't the double that I knew that did exist here at one time but actually another fish that is most likely an entirely different fish altogether. 

Obviously that raised ones eyebrows and got my thinking about more of a local fishing session this week rather than reliving a Zander blank. It's an area that has never thrown up anything decent for me whatsoever but it will always stay on ones radar especially when a confidence inducing conflabs turns up out of the blue like it did recently trudging the towpath. 

The last time I fished here I did manage a small Zander or three if I recall, nothing bigger than two pounds sadly but when I was roving the cover filled stretch above the containment an Otter in almost broad daylight was patrolling up and down the cover without a care in the world. It wasn't bothered at all that I was following his trail of bubbles and his clear pomposity was there to see. 

These Zander are getting it in both barrels at the minute and are always watching their backs from all manner of potential life impactors. The fishing is harder of later most certainly because as someone who has spent many a sessions chasing them the numbers are down as are the chances of me catching a lunker.

Nic's recent capture which I've been kindly been show a preview of the video shows that they are still there to caught and I'm sure my chance will come eventually and most likely when I least expect it. Its all these glimmer of hopes that will remain in the back of my mind till ones turns up then I'll move on to something else most likely. 

What, where, when ? I don't know ? maybe the fish that is reputed to swim in one of the pounds at a series of locks where it seems a little like the Zander it was 're-located' with no fault of its own and had been 'Sent to Coventry' to live out its life. 

A fish that believe or not could well rival ones burbot challenge, but this time for real not just a mediocre April fool.  

So please Fishing Gods can you been kind to me and grant me that trick shot and I can bury that ball in the ever deepening pocket as once again ones resolve is being tested. 200 sessions down this quest of mine doesn't seem to be getting any easier. !!!! Remember my PB of 9lb turned up 28 sessions in 😣, 172 sessions later I'm still at it.

So before conditions improve  and I go back to the hallowed stretch and the other productive stretch I was put on to, for now local is the order of the day till the fish start moving again. Here they can lay up their fins and rest up in relative comfort with a nice canopy over their heads. 

So anyway two rods, two and a bit hours, anything doing ?


Well for an hour and a half nothing happened at all and I did move the bait round a bit but here is usually got for a bite you just need to sit tight.

The bigger fish here who knows but as soon as the light started to go I had the first bite, the fish taking the roach from right to left quite quickly. This usually means a small fish not a pondering beasts and sure enough when I reeled in I could feel me pulling the bait out of the fishes mouth.


A tiny zedlet most certainly but the second bite came quick after the bait went back out but this time the bite was much slower to develop, the odd bob and nudge and then the float jumped in to life.

Quite a hard fighting fish for it's size but not what I was after. Another one of similar size came 10 minutes after but despite fishing well past dusk, that was it.

Monday, 3 May 2021

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.200 - Gators and Galactophagists

A piece of pork fit for a king, the cracking like nothing else I've had recently, the problem was after enjoying the good food and good wine I was in two minds where to fish in the morning. I didn't have long as the weather would change but I just fancied catching a fish, any fish would do. 

So I made the decision with my feet up after consuming my body weight in Yorkshire Puddings and roast potatoes was to use my 14ft float rod rigged with a pole float to see what fish were swimming in these hallowed waters. I'd have a deadbait out in front of me though next to some cover though as there is that double figure Zander to catch that swims here, one BIG problem though, Pike, bleeding Pike. 


Now fish in a school are less vulnerable to predators. All cyprinids, if threatened, bunch together, and the school they form carries out manoeuvres to baffle the enemy. This stretch of canal is quite incredible with numbers of silver fish that swim there, not just fish on the bigger side either, some snack size fish as well. 

If a pike or a perch approaches, the school will keep out of the danger zone in front of the predator's mouth, if it then moves to bring the school into its line of attack, the school will split into two groups, which swim to the left and right of the enemy and re-form behind his tail in safety. 


If the predator darts forward at the school, it explodes outwards in all directions, each small fish sprinting away from the point of impact so as to create an empty space into which the predator snaps. 

These escaping movements are astonishingly fast, I remember a winter day with a crust of drifted ice lying in a side-channel of the Warwickshire Avon forming a layer thick enough to dampen out the wake of a mallard that swam past the ice's edge, and fry beneath it escaping upwards from a pike, so fast that they broke through the ice and lay thrashing on the surface, unable to return. 


It seems that the multitude of quick movements confuses the predator, so that it cannot accurately fix the position of any one victim. Pike and perch in experimental tanks have shown that they can easily capture a solitary dace or bleak, have a little trouble with a small school of eight or ten, and perform much worse against twenty or more. 

It is not just that the predator cannot make up its mind which one to go for, since then there would be strong selection for a predator that chose one victim at random and set its course for that; rather, the predator cannot tell exactly where any one victim is or will be. 


There is an exact parallel here with various anti-aircraft systems, which have worked perfectly in peacetime trials when for reasons of economy they were given only one target at a time, but which when confronted with several hostile aircraft together work out the range of one, the height of another and the bearing of a third and infallibly miss all three. 

This defensive schooling is of course more useful for prey species, which most cyprinids are, than for dominant predators, perch and zander for that matter are unusual in forming aggressive schools. 



These transient larger Zander though are difficult to locate as they are are loners in the main, but find a stretch of canal full of fish, the larger predators won't be far behind.

I was bankside for 6.00am and fished for 3 and a bit hours with breadpunch and maggots with some liquidised bread and roach groundbait. No foot traffic and only one boat in that time, in contrast a few days before I counted 15 boats in a little over an hour.


Still the fish were biting and I managed a nice little net of fish. The bites came in waves and certainly improved after the first boat. I wasn't exactly feeling it though, the weather not exactly brilliant with a cold wind and fits and starts of rain.

The smelt had been out for a few hours when eventually it jumped in to life and I struck in to a solid fish, I knew exactly what it was, yeap a big pike again. A decent scrap and it showed my canal set-up is perfect to tackle a Zander of this size. The same spawned out fish ? I didn't weigh it, but quite possibly.  My face showing the fact it was the wrong double yet again, a quick out of focus photo it was returned to go about its business again. 

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.199 - Scavengers and Schwerpunkts

 I hadn't been to this stretch of the Grand Union for a while, this was an area I concentrated on for a while as upon the discovery of the 'deep bit' which was an area of cover with decent depth, the Zander caught kept on getting bigger.

A 7lber eventually turned up after quite a few 5 pounders but it never quite delivered on the promise of a lunker. 


The 'deep bit' sadly got a number one crew cut from the CRT strimmers and that swim was never the same again. It always throws up the old decent fish though and hence why I decided to return.

There is still cover here luckily and with the suspicion that the Zander are not moving around much and could well be holding up, roving around and fishing tight to cover can throw up a bite or two. 


An eye grabbing smelt was the bait of choice and I've upped the bait size of late after been plagued by zedlets picking up the smaller offerings, where a bite develops and either the small fish is banked or the bait is pulled out from their firm grasp.

The first boat came through around 7.45am probably on a mission to get bacon and some freshly baked rolls to go with it. The problem here is that any boat movement it can turn in to a river almost and with so much debris on the surface the floats are often pulled out of their position. 


I stuck to my guns though and fished quite a few swims before the first bite came which developed when the float was pulled off line and the smelt was being dragged slowly along the bottom.

They are scavengers after all and much like the other predator that swims here the pike its not in their nature to give up a free meal especially as something they possibly haven't seen before. I tightened up to the circle hook but again this was a tiny fish that fell off. 


It didn't take long to get the next bite though, this a perfect cast tight to cover within minutes the float was being dragged from right to left.

This felt much better and was taking me all over the canal but I know from experience these are the spirited teenagers who want to give a good account for themselves. A scraper 3lber but it was a Zander at least as they have been as suspicious in their absence of late. 


That was it though oddly, quite a few swims fished with out even a nibble I decided to ups-ticks and travel a couple of mile way to try and winkle out a Zed in the usual banker swim. It's an oxygenated swim at a lock mouth that usually holds a fish or two, not this session though, and I left the floats a lot longer in-situ than I usually do.

So tail between my legs again, not going well is it !!!!

For the next session it's out with the maggots and a pole float, getting a little tired of all this now....!!!!
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