Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Friday 29 May 2015

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.14 – Commander-in-Teeth

A change of plan for this session, I had planned to fish the Stratford canal but a mate Simon decided to join me last minute with some left over maggots he had from a mid-week session in overstocked Shrewley Pools. So this particular area of the Grand Union I’ve lost a couple of decent Zander at the net, potential PB beaters too, so all very frustrating. What is weird though is that these bigger fish are amongst the schoolies and the pattern has always been the same, catch a few smaller fish from the same swim and then, wham a much bigger fish turns up. It’s like the Commander sends in his troops for a reccy and then he joins them at the battlefield. I’ve found the morning for some reason far better than an evening session, not sure why but it just is.

The problem I’ve had here is one of the swims is quite elevated so the angle of rod to line is very acute and for some reason the bigger fish have managed to lose the hook once they shook their heads in anger. The acuteness is emphasised by the short 6ft rod, maybe that doesn’t help, it’s certainly having an effect that’s for sure, even when the tried and trusted mustad ultimate bass hook is used. (with barb crushed)

The water is properly thick and coloured so the fish respond best to deadbait than lures so for this short session I dumped the lure rod and rigged up another running rig for an all out headless roach sortie. The smaller rod was positioned within the deeper boat channel at the entrance to some gates and the larger rod in the hotspot near some reeds.

Within ten minutes I had a little scrapper on the bank, and more or less every fifteen minutes I had another 6 further schoolies. A proper savage bite with an hour to go the bobbin hit the butt ring but sadly didn’t connect to a fish. I’ve found the more aggressive the bobbin movement it’s usually a smaller fish, the larger fish are nice and steady. The last fish was a better fat near 3lber but the lure of a pint of ale sadly was too much so with the new river season not far away I will return here again for a last gasp morning session.

Oh and Simon caught naff all.......

Monday 25 May 2015

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.13 – Grime Suspect

I still wanted to know what caused the huge surface disturbance from one of my previous sessions down the cut. I’d fished this 2 mile stretch a few times previously and up until the last session here I blanked every time. I did eventually stumble upon some fish though but again despite catching plenty of Zander and even a Perch they were well short of a double. The scene of the crime despite being the opposite end to where I caught the fish just looked like it would be home to decent Zander. The four visits proved just that as a decent fish went for the lure and inadvertently revealed itself.

The area is a trek, that’s the issue and it’s by far the furthest stretch of the Grand Union I fish. Another problem is when the boats start moving the otherwise static water turns in to a flowing river, I’d not seen anything like it. You’d need a lead weight the size of an apple to hold your keepnet from washing away.

I intend to come back here in the summer months and fish a couple of times in to dusk but for this session I decided to rock up early fish for a couple of hours in the potential quest achiever swim and then fish a stretch a bit further down from where I’d caught before. The water is some of the murkiest and gloomiest I frequent however it’s also has the largest expanse of water, a bit like looking for a black cat in a coal cellar.

But as I've said on many occasions I didn't expect this Zander Quest to be easy...

Nearly 2.5 hours and 4 different swims not a sign from the Zander, I did manage a small Perch on the lure but as soon as the first boater came past I got back in the car and went to the other end of the stretch. I eventually managed a few fish on the deadbait, again, nothing to write home about with the biggest not quite 2 lb.

Friday 22 May 2015

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.12 – The Pack of Beyond

So 70 or so hours in to my quest for a cut double and I’m no nearer to catching a one, I’ve probably fished well over double that amount of time since I’ve started fishing for Zander on canals. Patience is a virtue and I’m learning patience, it’s a tough lesson. Talking of lessons, my youngest Sam has just turned 4 and can name and recognise nearly all the coarse fishing species. He has taken a keen interest in piscatorial pursuits and it won’t be long before I take him. All in good time though, don’t want to rush these things as I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and must needed ‘me’ time.

Zander really do feed on and off like a switch, I’ve found you could go hour after hour in a swim that you know contains Zander without even an indication and then when they are in a feeding mood and go on the hunt, you can catch quite a few in quick succession. Before photographing and weighing the fish (if it’s a decent one) get another bait out quick sharpish and you might be surprised just how quick you get another bite.. They don’t appear to be swayed in to taking a lure or bait either; they seem rigidly stuck in a routine. A seemingly baron stretch may well contain fish but if they ain’t on it, they ain’t on it, you’d be none the wiser and pooh-pooh the area for a future session. That’s the issue with cut Zander fishing; it needs bank time and lots of it. I’ve only caught the chubby ones from the pack thus far. I need some luck as I don’t want the pack schoolie, I want the teacher.

Anyway back on track, it was pastures new for this short evening session on Warwickshire’s Grand Union….

The area was a bit of trek by foot, away from civilisation and parking but it looked like it had some decent far bank cover and over hanging trees, not only that but it was sandwiched right in the middle of a couple of lock gates. The oxygenated water around the gates have been good to me in the past when targeting Zander so the plan was to fish in and around them for 45 minutes each and then to fish near a feature in the middle of the stretch for the remaining hour. With the deadbait fridge restocked the sleeper was baited with a 5” Roach to try and tempt a better stamp of fish, I also swapped my usual lure rod for my toxic float set-up as if there was half decent cover I wanted to get a bait tight against it.

Was there a specimen hiding here…..?

A nice sunny evening and a mate Simon joined had joined me for a natter and within 15 minutes I had a schoolie on the bank, something like a pound or so. I had another small fish before I upped sticks and moved to some cover at the middle of the stretch. Again another 2 schoolies took a fancy to the dead roach. With 45 minutes left I moved to the other lock gates and as I was about to pack up I had a run but didn’t connect. I quickly had the bait out again and the fish must have took it on the drop as the bobbin wouldn’t settle so I struck in to the fish, a bit better at 3lb 9oz but still not what I was after.

Another session down, albeit a short one and I’m yet to find the bigger fish….

Next session planned is again on the Grand Union but 20 miles from here.

Monday 18 May 2015

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.11 – Cornfused

I fished this same small stretch of the a few days before and I could believe just how alive the surface became when the gnats came out and the light started to go. These were not small fish either; some half decent fish were making a considerable surface disturbance. I had a dilemma I had thought about fishing the reservoir for the crucians but with some deadbait turning up earlier than expected I decided to again take to the cut to not only try for a decent Zander which live here but also to see what else was residing amongst the gloom.

As a point accumulator I need more cut points before getting back to what I know and love best, the flowing water of the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries …..God I’ve missed it and the new season cannot come soon enough. The cut has been enjoyable but it ain’t a substitute. 

A bit like an extra-marital affair with the fit buxom secretary, different and fun whilst it lasted but it’s good to get back to the familiar….

Before I started on the Zander challenge I knew it was needle in the haystack stuff but I’ve enjoyed it all the same. I’ve not finished yet as I want to take a trip one last time to the furthest stretch I fished. I know it a bit better now and hoping the knowledge gained over a few sessions will result in a better fish. I want to better 5lb 4oz.

Anyway back to the fishing, the deadbait rod was to be used as a sleeper and it was baited with a gobstopper of a headless Roach. Not cricket I know but as the swim was large, to reach where I wanted to fish the other set-up I decided on was a small flat method feeder, swim stim green with a few pellets and with corn on a 4” hair. The excellent little 8ft TFG rod was ideal for this job and it’s a set-up I also use on commercials from time to time. Corn should cover all bases as it’s loved by most fish. Bream, Tench and Carp especially. I did consider pre-baiting with some groundbait the evening before but as it’s an enclosed swim the fish shouldn’t venture too far and I know they are here anyway. If it was a baron 1 mile stretch I might have tackled it differently. 

Weirdly despite the odd tap and pull round on the quiver the only fish I caught were Zander, I ran out of deadbait too, so I managed 8 Zander, lost two (one looked a potential PB beater) with the biggest landed a tubby 4lb 9oz'er. The area I saw the fish was shallow so I’m wondering if they were Zander on the hunt, who knows but as a point accumulator it was an epic fail… Back to the drawing board.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.10 – Stone the Crows !!!!

Well I didn’t expect that !!!!!!!, I rocked up at a series of locks I intend to fish and whilst mooching about to see where I’d fish first an almighty splash turned my head quick sharpish and I saw a fish clear of the water. It was Pike or Zander shaped, certainly not a carp, but left in the rather large wake was a bedraggled moorhen chick and its mother so I can only assume a fish fancied a starter before it intended to search out my dead roach main course. I’ve never even had a mere sniff from a Pike during my Zander cut fishing exploits so it had to have been a Zander. A one off, or any of the bloggers seen anything like that? I remember reading this news article about an agressive Zander that was biting swimmers.

Better get a bait in quick…..

Again a short evening session amongst the diesel, grime and crud. It’s weird this stretch, one day it looks clean, the next, even a wallowing pig would think twice. Zander thrive in this habitat though, their big eyes give a massive advantage over the other dwellers, they love it here. I’m scraping the barrel where deadbait is concerned and all I have left is some tiny (Zander Pack) roach to be used on the running sleeper set-up and the tried and trusted firetiger shad on the lure rod.

It didn’t take long to catch my first Zander, it took the lure on the drop with a proper bang. I didn’t bother to weigh it but looked 2lb or so. The swim then went quiet for a bit but as soon as the light started to drop and the gnats started moving the surface of the canal came alive. Some half decent fish were moving about too looking at the disturbance in the water. Maybe I’m missing a trick on the bloggers challenge and should also have a rod out for the bream or carp. The deadbait sleeper rod started to get interest so I swopped the lure over and fished a manky Roach quiver-tip style and sure enough within 20 minutes or so, bang, bang on the tip and I was in to a fish. It was hugging the bottom and felt half decent. When it eventually came to the surface it looked a potential PB beater sadly it was foul hooked in the flank and after a last gasp spirited fight as it was reaching the net it managed to lose the hook.


I fished for another half hour or so and managed another small schoolie. The kamikaze bats were now out and I called it a day. I’ve said before, find yourself a murky bit of canal where Zander reside and you can fish in bright sun and still catch them. They don’t mind and to be honest I’ve had less success in low light than I have during the day. I suspect a clear river is the reverse.

I've still a couple more Zander sessions to go, but this single minded approach ain't scoring me points in the bloggers challenge. 

Monday 11 May 2015

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.9 – Double Bubble

I was running low on deadbait, with probably only enough for a couple of sessions at a push, but then luckily I stumbled upon some small Roach I’d stored in the main freezer next to some Packington trout and a Tiger Prawn Sagwala. Great, that’s another couple of Zander trips sorted. From information I received this area of the Grand Union could potentially throw up a decent carp as well as decent Zander so as a potential bloggers challenge point accumulator as well as my running headless roach rig and lure rod I also brought some bread and dog biscuits so I could easily adapt the running rig to effectively fish freeline style.

I spotted a surfacing carp last weekend so they are definitely having a mooch about.

Hopefully, Double Bubble……

Sadly, just a pipe dream...

6 or 7 swims fished with just two tiny Zander to show for it, there were no signs of Carp either. Judging by the state of the banks It looked like recently lots and lots of the cover had been cut back, maybe that didn't help. I need to come back for an evening session when it's a bit warmer. I know the stretch now so I can plan the session a bit better.

Friday 8 May 2015

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.8 – Scores on the Doors

Having trodden miles and miles of dog poop riddled towpath in this quest for a double figure canal Zander, I’ve come to the conclusion I cannot see the appeal of living or even holidaying in a narrowboat. I suppose it might well be an option for some, the nomadic, the retired, the brassic the fleeced divorcee or simply those that have made the lifestyle choice to take to the water. A large percentage of them however seem to be neglected much like the dishevelled owners. The broken aerials, the rusty bikes, the rubbish that litter the roofs, the peeling paint, the manky flower pots and stained curtains that have seen better days. The well cared for ones however look fantastic, colourful, vibrant and adorned with spring blooming flower pots and a welcoming Jack Russell. I’d like to see more of them, please; it is a / your home after all.

Space is obviously cat swinging restrictive, but then there is the privacy with people like me peering through your windows, the pumping out of the poo holding tank, the filling of the water tank, finding moorings etc. Oh and the cold, that has to the biggest issue surely, Shirley. I know it would be me that would be chopping the wood for the stove too; the Wife would chip her nails. Toilet duties?, let’s not go there. The lovely Wife wouldn’t even have a clue where the tank was. I’m sure the kids would probably see it as a novelty at first but I expect it would wear off pretty quickly, when they cannot play Lego Star Wars on the ‘big screen’. If I was single and kidless maybe I’d think differently. They don’t appear to be that cheap either after a Google, a permanent mooring at a decent marina can be £3k a year, £500 for yearly bottom blacking, £600 quid for a British Waterways licence, £200 quid insurance then add in the variable cost of fuel, heating cooking and maintenance. It adds up, that’s for sure.

To be fair a 11ft wide one might be doable, but has one big disadvantage as it would restrict canals that you could visit, but 6ft wide internally? A bit like the Japanese ‘capsule’ hotels, I’d expect my largely dormant claustrophobia to kick in big time. Maybe to escape the rat race a big cruiser on the Norfolk Broads might make it more palatable, more space, no locks, plenty of pubs and bigger fish for us angler’s. So fair play to those that manage to live somewhere along the 3000 miles of Britain’s canal system, a big thumbs up.

Anyway back to the fishing…

For this short evening session I returned to the Grand Union in an all out deadbait attack. I know this 2 mile stretch reasonably well and they do respond better to deads than lures, in-fact they go mad for a headless Roach. This particular stretch I’d not fished before but was one to cross off the ever increasing list. I decided to up my bait size to see if that would attract the larger fish if there were any amongst the probable schoolies. I was hoping a potential gobstopper might put the smaller fish off.

For 2 hours not a touch even after positioning and refreshing the bait a few times. My mate Simon was in tow who was joining me for a pint, so nice to have a natter whilst for the last hour the roach sections were positioned in the flow. A couple of bleeps on the bite alarm and with fish topping it was only a matter of time.As expected the bobbin started to give it some and a fish was on. Not a huge fish at 4lb 8oz but a decent chunky canal fish all the same and a half decent score on the door for the bloggers challenge.

I'm running out of deadbait now and with the river season not far away I'm planning a couple of session for the Zander and then might give the Crucian carp a go at the reservoir. 

Monday 4 May 2015

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.7 – Crocus Pocus

After six trips to the Grand Union I decided to switch my attention to the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. I’ve fished it a few times before, once at Bearley where I blanked but found a dead Zander, at Bishopton Lane where I was targeting the reputed Tench in the stretch, I managed a tiddler but got fed up of the boat traffic and vowed never to return and then lastly Lapworth Kingswood Junction where my lure didn’t even get a nibble, zilch.

I’m lucky to be fishing here as In the late 1950’s Warwickshire County Council sought to obtain legal abandonment of the canal, as much of it was un-navigable by boat, silted up and even dry in places. It would have closed the canal however supporters campaigned to keep it open, a campaign which had a far bigger impact. Eventually the National Trust took it on and with many of its volunteers took responsibility for the restoration and maintenance of the southern section. The canal was fully navigable and was officially re-opened by the Queen and Queen Mother July 1964.

To be commended, and in these times probably not appreciated……

It’s a narrow stretch in most parts, not much wider than a couple of barges but it’s interesting to me as it has lots of feature. I wanted to cover as much towpath as I could so I decided to fish a roach section on my stumpy 6ft Wychwood Extricator sleeper running set-up and use a lure rod to try and find some fish. Using the tried and tested leapfrog method it’s surprising how much towpath can be covered in a few hours.

It can get stupidly busy here with boats and as I wanted to cover an in-between pub 2 mile stretch I started early, just gone 6.00am in fact. Luckily being less than ten minutes away and with a knackered body clock, not a huge problem, but also by 11.00am I wanted to be finished and tucking in to a bacon and sarnie.

A fellow fisherman who was lure fishing had just caught a large eel, considering the size of his landing net and the eel within in, it must have been half decent. I covered lots of ground and fished quite a few swims for the odd knock and a small perch when I bumped in to another angler who was float fishing small deadbaits. He had a fish of a couple of pound and whilst I was there chatting he had a take when he was retrieving his bait. I decided to fish a little further down and after a few casts a fish took the lure on the drop, it was putting up a half decent fish too, when, bang it was off. I assume it wasn't hooked properly, damn. Despite fishing plenty of fish looking swims I came away with naff all, even the roach sections didn't have a touch.

I've an evening session planned midweek, this time back on the Grand Union.

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