Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Thursday 28 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.34 – Game of Thrones

So I was in a predicament….

The parasite taken hold big time, the gastroenteritis, kidney punching the infected intestine.

Painful stomach cramps, I’m bent double, sweating like a Barbel, having just seen an Otter.

A canal towpath, the great unwashed, dog walkers, MAMIL’s and Gongoozler’s….

I need to find a toilet quick, I’m desperate to go, but where

The waterway office is closed as is the Cafe…

There doesn’t appear to be anywhere I can get unnoticed, heck a borrowed dog poop bag may have to do.

Bugger it, “excuse me Mr ‘Serendipity’ narrowboat Skipper, “Can I please use your toilet, I’m desperate”

“Of course” “Be my guest”

Zander rods and tackle thrown down,I’ve made my way on to the boat, the toilet at the stern. I clamber through.

The throne has never looked so welcoming, the flock of starlings are now in full flight, the stench overwhelming.

He’s hit by a malodorous wall, the trillions of microorganisms punching the air.

“You ok in there”

“Great now thanks” Exits the boat, mission accomplished, the boat now unsellable.

I woke up laughing….

Luckily all a dream, Paxton and Whitfield finest Stilton as usual giving me another dream to remember.

So on to the session, which was a few hours after work at the Tefal head leapfrogging a section of thick far bank cover. The weather has been very unsettled of late with hard frosts most mornings and the day time temperatures struggling to get in to double figures so I knew it would be tough going.

And it was…its official the fish are off the feed.

There is Zander in numbers here but after 2 hours and biteless the hail started to come down quite thick I was all ready to pack up and go home. As soon as the sun started to go down it was bleeding freezing and watching motionless floats isn’t exactly enjoyable.

I’d packed down one rod when the left hand float had some interest, the vibrations shown quite clearly with ripples in the water. The float began to move and that’s when I tightened in to the fish. A fish was on but I quickly realised it wasn’t exactly going to trouble my set-up.

A small schoolie, the average stamp of Zander I usually catch. I unhooked it without issue and just handling the fish my hands were like ice blocks, I dread to think what the water temperature was. It was f’ing freezing.

I didn’t even bother re-baiting and getting the rods out again, it was back home for a warm brandy.

I’m sure this weekend will be just as difficult.

Monday 25 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.33 – Tough Going

Zander are a pain in the proverbials, just when I thought I’d worked them out I had such a mediocre morning session that if it wasn’t for my knowledge of this stretch I wouldn’t likely return.

All very odd….

I had started down from where I usually fish just to try a few new spots that looked like they had potential but swim after swim the floats were motionless.

It gradually saw more and more foot and bike traffic too which I’m not a fan of, even the visually pleasant female joggers didn't help with my sanity. I like the neglected stretches and the bigger Zander seem to agree with me.

So with an hour and a half left I walked back to where I originally came and leapfrogged a stretch of thick cover where I’d had some Zander before. 

Bugger all, until the very end when I snatched a small greedy scrapper. I’m sure the boat coming through a little earlier helped, sometimes it does.

I’m sure there was an easy explanation, they were just not in a feeding mood and nothing I could do about it. I’ve been a little spoilt of late and should remember they are not that easy these Zander. I’ve been through the blank sessions and walked miles and miles in pursuit of fresh air.

So short and sweet, on to the next session, and back to the lower reaches of the Tefal Head.

Another area I took Danny too is also on the radar but it’s all about the timing, because as soon as a lock opens you’re knackered. Maybe even a rig chop and change as it needs to be fished differently than a relatively light float set-up. Maybe a more anchored approach is the key.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.32 – Sidetracked

4 year old Sam went from his balance bike to his pedal bike without stabilisers within an hour or so…

After his first knee grazing tank slapper I said “Sam, stop being so cocky”

“What’s being cocky mean Dad”

Well Son…

Shame the fishing session I had yesterday hadn’t happened before, as it was the classic case of being cocky.

I’d spotted two big Carp last time at the Tefal Head so armed with a carp sleeper rod I’d fish for my usual Zander quarry and hopefully catch one of them. 

The good weather meant more boat traffic throughout the day and the water was coloured with little or no visibility. You certainly wouldn’t know there was Carp there in the thick cover. I didn’t really until one accidentally showed itself. One was a big’un too, the width of its back suggested maybe even a 20 lber.

Three pieces of extra large corn fixed with a white corn stop were positioned in a gap between the cover, the drag tightened and a snag rest added.

It was a lovely day and for an hour and a half the float remained motionless as did the bobbin, but then when the sun went down and the temperature changed notably a pack of schoolies moved in.

Within ½ an hour I had at least 6 schoolies the biggest around 3lb, I thought I was going to run out of deadbait as they were properly on it.

Then it all went tit’s up….

As I was landing another ravenous Zed, the bite alarm sounds and a Carp had hooked itself via the weight of the lead and was off on a run. I could already see the impending disaster playing out in my mind before I even got to the rod.

Yeap,too late.

It had buried itself right under the cover and stuck fast. A lifting of the rod a whole 6 foot section of the thicket moved up and down.

The fish was still on as I could feel it when thumbing the line. Arhhhhhhhhhhhhh

My own fault for being cocky but despite rigging up an extremely strong set-up the inevitable happened and the fish shook himself loose.

It needs to be one of the other, in-fact if I do catch a double figure Zander then a canal twenty may be another challenge I’d like to get fully in to.

Monday 18 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.31 – Nothing to See Here

Walking along the towpath, pike floats visible….

A roach head on one hook, a chunk of dead on the other….

A boat approaches,

“So what can you catch in here then”, “Gudgeon and that”

“What with these!!!!” (my rods held high)

I wonder if that’s why I hardly ever see another fisherman on my travels, I’m sure many haven’t a clue what lurks beneath. It’s like I’ve got the whole Midlands canal network to myself.

For this early Sunday session to avoid death by mamification, I dragged myself out of bed and I was back at the Tefal Head, I wanted to try a couple of swims I’d not fished before and then mosey on back down the stretch to fish an area of thick cover where I’d had a couple of scrappers.

The day started like a winter’s one, a heavy frost because of the clear skies but the sun was strong and within an hour or so my cold hands were more than comfortable and it was very pleasant to be out in the Warwickshire countryside. 

For half an hour at a lock mouth the floats remained untouched, further up at some cover, again motionless floats. As fisherman we get that feeling don’t we, when we ‘ain’t feeling’ the only option is to up sticks and move.

Two floats were positioned tight against the cover, the surface calm, no debris. It felt much colder here, the sun not quite penetrating the trees and thicket.

It was out with the coffee….

The right hand float is twitching, at last some interest. It’s gone from flat to standing upright and now it’s on the move.

A schoolie, a bigger fish ? you cannot tell from these Zander bites

The floats being dragged from left to right, wait, wait, Rod held flat, the slack taken up, time to lean in to it.

Yeap, Yeap, Yeap

Bloody hell feels a decent fish, its keeping low, feels hefty, It surfaces, and then it wakes up. The rods now bent double, line is being taken.

It’s headed downstream towards a reed bed, right, need to show him who is boss, I apply more pressure. It’s slowly tiring.

One last gasp lunge, the rod tip doing its thing.

Fantastic it’s in the net.

It wasn’t as long as the 9lber, but look at that huge stomach, this fish isn’t shy round the buffet.

Scales out, fish weighed….

Another good fish, 8lb 10oz’s

You beauty, and all before 7.30am, yeap, I am mad. Definitely worth the trip out, don’t you think ?

The more I fish this stretch the move I know why big fish would like it here. There is a double here, there HAS to be. With the swim now disturbed and the left hand float remaining motionless it was time to get on the move again.

Three more swims fished, biteless

Again I’m back at the thick cover and quickly manage a schoolie, a couple of boats have gone through in quick succession so floats back out again for the last half hour.

Hang on a minute, what’s that….

I’ve seen the flanks of a big fish, the strong sun reflecting off its wide back. I stand and watch….

Bloody hell there’s two, one looks twenty pounds. Jesus, canals, remind me again why they are hardly fished…..?

I’m back Tuesday evening to the Land of Giants.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.30 – Dead & Dogged

So for this session I was at pastures new, this is near the top of the stretch I’m concentrating on for the remaining sessions for my quest for a cut double.

As soon as I got here I realised I would have a problem, my landing net is compact and generally ok for fishing the canal towpath but here many of the swims were elevated with near and far bank cover so to land anything decent would be a nightmare.

I didn’t really want to get in to that sort of situation so I had to pick and choose the swims to fish carefully.

It’s very sheltered and again sees little flow or movement apart from the odd passing boat. The water seems almost stagnant…

Over the two hour session I spotted a huge dead rat and weirdly a severed lambs head floating on the water which only added to the lifeless feel about the stretch.

I’m sure the neglected stretches are ideal havens for the larger fish though but with the Zander’s strange feeding patterns and the fact the bigger fish turn up in the most unlikely of places it was out with the deadbaits.

The first boat came through as I was dismantling the roads but I’ve found the disturbance can sometime be more of a help than a hindrance, maybe the predator is after any fish that may have been injured by the boats prop or the extra colour in the water gives them the extra cover they need.

Sure enough the first swim produced 2 fish in quick succession, one a tiny scrapper who took a roach section bigger than its head and the second fish nearly 3 lb or so. With the swim disturbed I moved 200 yards further down to the next tasty looking swim.

Again two more schoolies caught in quick succession, encouraging, good sport, but not what I’m after.

The next section of thick cover I lost a reasonable fish that took the float on a merry dance but eventually managed to head-shake the hook free.

The next swim narrowed past a bridge and was also elevated but luckily there was enough foot hold on the lower bank to be able to land a fish if necessary. I don’t fish the near bank enough but I dropped one of the floats more or less by my feet and that was the first float to move. I could tell this was a tiny fish though as they seem very eager to get the float on the move.

Talking of floats I couldn’t get any Drennan No1 Zepplers so had to settle for the No2 which is 11g if I recall. To be honest the only difference I noticed being larger they are more visible, the float still moves in the exact same way. The rig I’ve chopped and changed over the many session and the hundreds of fish I’ve caught works brilliantly, the sensitivity is excellent and it holds station in most movements of the cut.

The final swim sadly 2 more schoolies, they were definitely on the feed again tonight.

The session planned the weekend, again, is pastures new and another whole area to explore before I start at the bottom all over again.

I’m beginning to realise, this section apart from holding my PB it also holds a huge amount of small fish, I need to wade through the scrappers and get lucky.

Monday 11 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.29 – The Bridge over Troubled Waters

For the final push of my 2016 closed season Zander quest, I’ll be concentrating on a short meandering stretch of the cut from the Laryngeal prominence to the upper reaches, above and beyond the Tefal head.

Feature, cover and character aplenty and judging by the 9lber I caught here, plenty of prey fish to dine on too.

Hopefully the recent capture wasn’t a freak as I’m sure large Zander come here to feast, veritable fish Kaiten-zushi.

The clarity is just right, anglers scarce.

Depending on the time of day narrowboats can be frequent but luckily pass largely inconspicuously as the affect of locks being opened and the repercussions are less of an issue here.

It’s a long stretch to cover though and these fugacious fish are difficult to locate, I’m sure I got lucky. It requires a doggedness and serious-mindedness that is difficult to maintain especially when using the leapfrogging two deadbait method I now use. The lure rod which at least gave some action time to time went back in the bag a few sessions a go.

Static floats and blank sessions are willpower breakers, but that’s been very much part and parcel of this and last year’s quest. It’s the nature of the challenge, and there is no choice but to look forward to the next session, the next stretch of canal, and the next dip of the float that could potentially be attached to a double figure fish.

Why am I bothered about the weight? Why does it have to be a double figure fish?

I like targets you see, I like a purpose to my fishing…

I’m sure this challenge would have ended long ago if I hadn’t

Anyway to the session,

After looking at the cars roof and the frozen rain I had thought about going back to bed but the sun was heading up and hopefully the temperature would rise quickly.

In the swim where I had the 9lber for half an hour the floats remained motionless so I decided to walk to new area I'd not fished before where there was some thick far bank cover where there was also some shady areas.

The first fish came very quick, a small schoolie of around 2lb and then the session took off from there, I've never had so many fish and over a mile or so, I must have had at least 10 fish, in one swim I even had 2 fish take the float under the same time so I had to land one, then the other in the same net.

I lost a bigger fish I think that took a roach head on the retrieve but the hook never got a hold so some quick resistance was met with a huge swirl on the surface and a lost fish.

Encouraging signs, considering its an area I'd neglected I've still lots to explore. Plenty of fish topping and all the fish where in great condition as most were nice and plump.

I still think the swims I'd fished when I fished this stretch first will hold fish so those won't go ignored either.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.28 – Illicit Encounters

A 9lb Canal Zander
A muddy canal towpath, two anglers talking Zed

Two approaching figures

She’s slim with office attire, pencil skirt, fitted blouse and inappropriate footwear

He’s suited and booted, tie and cufflinks

They pass with a coy acknowledgement, a nod of the head

In clear view, he’s scaled the metal fence, beyond the thicket, in to a clearing

Her skirt hitched up, foot on the first rung, then the second,

His hand extended to aid the tricky manoeuvre

Eventually out of sight, out of mind

20 minutes later, they return

Her hair bedraggled, blouse untucked

He red faced, a look of propitiation

I fully expected for this session on my tod for them to return treading the same towpath, but this time lugging a windlass or grasping a punnet of blackberries ?

I didn’t happen….

Perseverance is the key and this stretch I’d fished before quite a few times and I knew it had potential despite the blanks and mediocre results. The larger specimen’s transient fish? Most likely, you just need to work out where they are likely to hold out to see if one has had a short pit stop on its journey through.

For this quick after work session I’d positioned to my left one deadbait next to a moored boat, the other to the right with the rod elevated to avoid the crud on the surface was positioned slap bang in the middle of a relatively shallow but large swim.

The deadbait wasn’t the best, sections of Roach that had been sat in my car and had been defrosted and refrozen a few times. They had that distinctive smell that meant they could do with binning. The more I fish for them I feel it doesn’t matter too much. The pungent smell may even add to the attraction, who knows, they still catch fish.

20 mins in, more or less the duration of the Illicit encounter, the line on the right rod starts to tighten, I thought at first it was a boat upstream heading this way but no, this was a bite. The sensitive float showing every movement, every vibration.

The bite was slow but confident, I reeled in the slack, lifted the rod and leant hard in to the fish….

Fish on….

The first bend of the carbon I realised this was a decent fish, it was taking line like no other Zander has before and I had to tighten the drag to get in control of it.

I turned it and eventually it showed itself with a huge boil on the surface, Jesus, now that’s a good fish.

It must have caught sight of me as now it’s powering off again, very Barbel like as I don’t think this will give up easily. I need to abate its bid for freedom so more pressure was applied to the rod and eventually the fish is turned again and I feel in control.

The landing net was positioned and it’s headed towards the net, but I’m too eager and the short handle not quite long enough to reach the fish so I’ve hit the tightened fluorocarbon instead…Arrrhhhhhh

It’s off on a run again, this time with less vigour, I’ve turned it, another huge boil on the surface but then it’s going to my right, the line slackens and then it launches itself from the murky depths and the whole fish is visible as it violently shakes its head as it tail-walks for a couple of seconds for a last gasp effort. The rod bent double, the line which is now singing, is being lit-up and dazzling in the bright spring sunshine.

I thought this was the time I’d lose it such was the ferocity of the fight, I’d never had a Zander fight like this before.

It’s given it all and eventually I squeeze it in to the net.

Wow, wow, wow

Now that’s why I go Zander fishing, what a scrap…

I rested it in the net before photographing it and weighing it….I couldn’t see any signs of spawn it just felt fat and like it had been getting his head down to feed. I gave it a good rest before returning it safely, awesome.

So 9lb on the nose and shattered my PB again….

I’m now getting somewhere with this Zander lark, now where’s that double.

Monday 4 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.27 – Trotting for Zander….?

DJ’ing, white labels and the love of repetitive beats was big part of my life, not so much these days I might add, well apart from the annual pilgrimage back to Ibiza.

I do remember clearly though Section 63 (1)(b) of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act as it gave police officers the power to remove people from events at which music “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”


My fishing is anything but repetitive, it’s what I love about this past time, however sometimes being repetitive is a must. Having now trodden miles and miles of poo riddled canal towpath in 4 different canals with relatively mediocre results amongst what like seems like hundreds and hundreds of small Zander. Now having caught a half decent one why wouldn’t I concentrate on this area rather than venture to pastures new to most probably back catching the schoolies again.

It would be stupid wouldn’t it….?

If there are some larger lone wanderers here….?

The more I fish for canal Zander I realise they are difficult to work out, the patrol routes, spawning times and feeding times, where they hang out during the day, where the big fish are likely to be, do they like low pressure, high pressure, cloud cover, bright sun. Some days you'll catch, some you won't it's that simple.

It’s all a mystery, one thing I do know is you need to have a bait or lure in the water....

I’m sure to catch a big one, its luck, pure luck.

I can fish a set of lock flights near me and catch Zander no problem, but they are a captive audience, it’s like fishing for them in a commercial fishery, nice to get a bend in the rod but not exactly exciting.

I gave it an hour in ‘Mick’s Bush Swim without a touch before the first boat came through then got back in the car and met up with Danny again to fish a small stretch of water I’d dabbled with a few times with mediocre results, it has always been on my radar though and has plenty of potential.

It was clear from the start it was going to be one of the sessions we have from time to time….

Danny lost a small Pike on the dropshot and caught a small schoolie on a deadbait and I didn’t even manage a fish with two deadbaits leapfrogged along the near and far cover, I lost a small fish right at the death but it was hard work, even a wander to try and find some less turbulent water was fruitless.

The problem is here is prior to the boats coming through you can anchor baits down nicely but as soon as one of the locks is open on the rather large pound of water the flow literally turn in to a river. The floats are dragged out of place with the surface covered in debris, even the lure fishing was difficult.

The water bounces back and forth too so the huge volume of water, is always on the move, left, then right, and repeats over and over again.

To be honest, it was a nightmare....

We even thought about suspending the Roach deadbait under the float rigs and try a bit of trotting for them but a heavier float would be needed as the flow was just too strong. I thought about a running rig with a 3oz bomb and fish with rods high or even with a backlead.

We cut the session short, but it was lesson learnt, and we’ll know for next time.

It was clear either we needed to fish much earlier or fish in to dark when the boats should be less active. Maybe that's what the other Zander anglers are doing because I hardly see another angler over last year and this years challenge on the all the areas I fish.

Where is everybody ?

Friday 1 April 2016

Closed Season Zander Quest Pt.26 – The Ultracrepidarian Poop Picker

Twas mid afternoon, I’m tackle abound and the ultracrepidarian poop picker is seemingly acting like a gate keeper when I approached the bridge over the canals recent hallowed waters.

The poo filled black bag was held aloft and was swinging from his hand like some sort of trophy.

Walking poles, really! My face has bigger contours.

His Boxer puppy didn’t look too impressed either, I’m not sure if was because it was because the bulging bag was shaped like a pair of dogs bollocks and his were about to go walkabout, or the fact his owner was trying to engage me in conversation about fishing.

“you’ll never catch anything decent outta there fella”

“canals, they’re all buggered”

“I stopped fishing them 20 years ago, got fed up of them, nothing like what they used to be”

"Fill a keep-net no problem"

“I only fish commercials now, I often have hundred weight in these conditions, F1’s you see, they are inbred's or something like that”

“I’m retired now so I can fish when I like....a.n.y.w.a...”

Ok,thanks for the letting me know, but I’ll give it a bash. got to go, you never know I might be lucky. !!!!

I should have taken his advice...

5 swims, far bank cover, lock mouth, reed bed, lock mouth and cover again not even a touch.

The boats didn't help to be honest, a precession of them every 10 or 15 minutes or so which meant the baits didn't really have time to settle. The fairly static canal turns in to a torrent very quickly, even the 6 gram drilled bullet was enough to keep the bait anchored.

Zander can be funny feeders at times, get it wrong and you'll go biteless for the session.

There are Zander here I know that but they were having none of it today.

So another blank on the quest for a cut double, on to the next session then.

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