Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Saturday 31 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT74 – Hyenas and Humgruffins

After last weekends incident of blatant excrement dumping on the towpath by a lowlife dog owning barge dweller and further encounters of sh*t throughout the session, I wasn’t happy.

Is there an answer to this problem, which seems to be getting worse….?

As a kid growing up in the 80’s I could remember quite vividly the white dog poop that occasionally littered the path, when I was trudging my trolley loaded with the stupidly thick freebie Solihull Times during my evidently uphill paperbound.

So why had it largely disappeared now then, in-fact I cannot remember the last time I’d stumbled upon a chalky white turd. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss it, however the amount of dog dumping that appears out of nowhere on the towpaths I’ve been treading, is boarding on the scandalous.

Watch Out !!!!, on a towpath near you.
It is quite frankly disgusting; maybe we need to think outside of the rarely used, poo bags and more the stick and flick approach, not out of sight out of mind, but maybe the opposite.

You see after putting my thermos down on one particularly fresh one the weekend then soon after my landing net handle, maybe we could learn something from the 80’s and the canines diet at the time because at least being white it was a contrast to its resting places and therefore makes it easier to see.

Now this would help the lazy gene meddlers who just cannot be arsed to depose of 'their' dog waster in the right manner.

You own a dog, it eats, it poos, you clean it up, a simple process not adhered to by many….

And you know who you are don’t you, name and shame and say….

Young children like mine are particularly at risk of getting toxocariasis because their play habits make them more likely to come into contact with contaminated soil, being more visible, would help surely Shirley….

Now apparently from the 5 minute lunchtime research I’ve conducted Dog poop turns white because of the calcium phosphate in it. This is generally derived from bone meal in prepared dog food, or from dogs gnawing on bones otherwise. After all the organic matter dries out and washes away, one is left with that block of calcium phosphate.

The bleached-out poop is known as a 'dog pure'. There used to be a class of casual labourer known as a 'pures collector'. They wandered about cities collecting white dog poop to sell to leather tanneries for the calcium phosphate. What the tanneries did with it, I've not a clue. Another quick Google suggests that the 'dog pure' was used to prepare extra-soft, more expensive leather for making ladies' gloves.

An early April fool ? most probably, well let’s hope so….

Chappie dog food, the cause ? apparently it changed its recipe in the early 90's or late 80's. Chappie was and still is widely considered to be the best dog food you can give a mongrel, because they often get the squirts if they are put on Pedigree Chum as it is too rich for them quite often.

Was it something in the Chappie that reacted with the colouring of the poo in warm conditions to whiten the poo which is why you never saw a dog actually laying down white cables, but you may have seen pale brown ones. ? This also conveniently explains why posh pedigree dogs are more commonly associated with the noble dark brown dog's egg.

It’s all a bit of mystery….

Or some friends with dogs residing therein are fed on butcher scraps which consist mainly of pigs' tails, rib ends and whatever. So lots of bone are consumed by the house mutts and many white turds are apparently deposited afterwards. So back to calcium again.

But then another theory the sun had an effect ‘whitening’ to the stool and because it is picked up more these days (must be bolloc*ks) then that’s why we see less of it.

Yeap, a much needed scientific study required if there ever was one….

I did discover a fascinating fact during my ‘extensive’ research, hyenas can produce both white and brown poo, and more significantly can select which at will. A hyena will leave certain messages concerning the boundaries of its territory and its current sexual status by means of poo-ing. The two colours (and presumably the different smells which go along with them) are something to do with the message the hyena is leaving. They can also increase the accuracy of these 'messages' by distending their anus for better aim.

And dog poo powered street lamps I’m not making it up….

So if you’ve managed to read this far, I better get back to the fishing….

The session was at a stretch of canal that I’d only fished once before and blanked big time, there is no reason why reason there wouldn't be any fish here though because it looked just the ticket.Plenty of swims with thick cover, quiet, moored up battered barges and because of the access the foot and boat traffic a little quieter. As a solitude seeker exactly the type of stretch I like.

Especially when I was hoping a larger specimen would be thinking the same as oneself. It was the lack of smaller fish that it remained on my radar, not a bad thing in my book.

So the session would be back to two deadbait rods to try and winkle out something other than the humdrum I’ve been catching up till now.

Now the first couple of hours were uneventful, leapfrogging quite along stretch whilst it was peeing down is not exactly pleasant. So I decided to go and fish the area that is nice and secluded. As I was making my way there a run off was depositing a load of mud from the neighbouring fields straight in to the water as well as providing some more oxygen by the extra volume of water.

So with a bait positioned it didn't take long for the float to get moving. When I leant in to the fish it felt half decent and after giving me a bit of run around it was landed.

A nice fat fish of 4lb 3oz's....

Now despite fishing some really tasty looking swims, cover, moored boats and that sort of thing without even a nudge I decided to go and have a noise at a bay swim I planned to fish Sunday evening. I had to retrace my steps and go beyond from where I came from. So nearly 6 miles covered roving around I was glad to settle in the swim.

One bite one fish, this challenge as after half an hour without a bite it was time to get off home.

Getting bigger, that's encouraging but certainly last closed season and this, in my opinion fish numbers are down. The water temperature was 7 degrees so that's not going to help matter as get to 10 I'm sure they will get a move on, they seem to be laying up at the moment. With a huge body of water to go at, not an easy task this challenge of mine.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT73 – Cacophony and Conduits

The murder of crows I passed nesting in a tree the other day were making a right old racket. The volume was horrendous, a proper raucous pitch with what sounded like a few hundred squawkers despite there only being 20 or so roosting.

The tree was right in front of a dwelling and close proximity to a few narrowboats, so God knows how they sleep at night, probably not very well being the answer. It could certainly drive someone to murder the murder, as it was like something straight out of the Hitchcock movie.

Caw, Kraa, Caw, Kraa, Kraa, Krawwwwwww !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Apart from the regular immersing oneself with load repetitive beats which I have control over, I struggle with dealing with noise, I really do. Fishing largely needs to be on my terms and they usually means on my own and away from others.

 I’d not fished the area before and despite the possibility of a fish holding area because the tree was opposite a few moored boats (they must be hard of hearing) I walked straight on by without wetting a line.

Maybe I’ll bring ear plugs next time….

The thing is my gaff at night is quiet, so quiet in-fact a farting fox or bleating badger is enough to wake the neighbours and have the curtains twitching. 

After staying round the Father-in-Laws house recently where jets taking off in the early hours of the morning would prevent me living in the area, maybe it’s just me as apparently it “We cannot hear it, like you can”

I’m sure the quieter areas you see are where these larger Zed specimens retreat to despite my mediocre results thus far in the 2018 quest for a cut double.

To try to avoid a blank this session was at an area where the fish have no choice but to pass from nightclub door to cloakroom, to seek the solitude a curmudgeon like me requires.

The first half of this short after work session would be under the disco ball to try and put ones arm around a stray biffer, the last hour spent right smack bang in the middle of the attendant’s door.

With the tackle still in the car from Sundays sessions, one rod lure, one rod dead, there is a mosh pit at the far end of the dance floor and who doesn’t like a foam party, the schoolies seem to. Fish any oxygenated water on the canal, there is usually something hanging around even if they are on the fringes waiting for a turn.

I found this 'waspers' lure on the towpath, in complete contrast to the lures I use.
A pleasure angler was passing as he had just finished his session in one of the holding areas and he had one small Zander on worm and a skimmer and that was it, tough going but then it's a canal, you cannot just turn up and start catching fish, you need to do your groundwork like I do, well unless you live in the Somerset Levels that is. (Hi Russ !!!)

As per usual I didn’t have long, but with the waters gradually warming up I was hoping fish would start to get moving more as they are proving hard to find at the minute. At least my fitness levels are improving I suppose and nothing wrong with that.

The first fish came pretty quick on deadbait right where I thought it would be holding up and then soon after another two fish on the lure, the first on the drop.

This Savage Gear lure really does seem to be doing the trick despite the size of it compared to the fish I've caught with it on the last couple of sessions.

I moved from the oxygenated area to the middle of the stretch and within half an hour managed another 3 small fish, two on deadbait, one on the lure.

The last part of the session was uneventful, after foul hooking a schoolie on-route walking the lure in an open body of water I settled in the in the  transitional mouth. where the deadbait rod remained motionless and the lure without hinderance.

One thing I've found on this extensive Zander journey of mine, is just how shallow many of the areas of the cut I fish, even the channel isn't that deep on the most part. The fish obviously don't seem to have an issue with it. Not only that but the bigger fish really don't seem to like the open areas of canal.

The more secluded, quieter areas, or at least areas with some canopy cover, be it fallen trees, far bank cover or the fin stretching turning bays.

On to the next one, hmmm mediocre results up till now, I'm off to explore some more areas.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT72 – Cottontails and Cucumbers

Back in 2015 I had an encounter with what I think was a Wild Boar. The more time I spend in the outdoors during dawn, dusk and dark, these sort of occurrences should in theory be more prevalent.

Bring it on I say....

The blank session last week I spotted a rabbit or hare the size I’d never seen before. Sam could have put a saddle on it and rode it, it was that big, and it was hopping around without a care in the world. I need to get myself a camera with a decent zoom again after the fanned lens buggered up on the last one. All the photos you see on my blog are merely from an Iphone and the zoom on that ain’t the best.

Now talking of giant Hares…. 

Louise Hodgson was convinced she saw a hare the size of a roe deer surrounded by normal-sized hares in a Dorset valley. Louise, who runs sacred site tours in Dorset, said she was on the nearby downs when she met a small group of Romany Gypsies with some lurcher dogs.
She said: "We came to a blind valley and it was early September, so it was an unusual sight for that time of year, but there was a group of 10 to 13 hares with what we thought was a deer.

"But it wasn't, it was a hare the same size as a deer. It was a wonderful experience. It shows there are still some secrets in nature."

Louise said the "magical" experience was in 1976, during a country trek she took from the Cotswolds to Dorset, but the vision has haunted her ever since. She recounted the tale during a question at the annual Occult Conference in Glastonbury Town Hall, in Somerset, which was on the other day.

She said: "Has anyone else come across that?"

Marian, who was explaining about magic in the natural world, replied: "In the countryside many things happen, the 'king' or 'queen' hares are out there. "So are fairies, elemental spirits, or ghosts.

"If you want things to happen, if you let them happen, they can if you are open to it."

Marian had also said fairies and sylphs, small mythological elf-like creatures, were real. "Sylphs, and all living beings, are around us. Some want to speak to us again, connect with us again and we can be oblivious to what is going on around us."

Maybe she was back on the LSD again….

But maybe not....

Because according to Dr Karl Shuker, a cryptozoologist, who is aware of Louise's sighting, it is not the only one, but there have been more sightings of giant rabbits.

Cryptozoologists research the existence of mythical creatures and if extinct species are still alive.

Dr Shuker said there have been two giant rabbit sightings in Banbury, Oxfordshire, and another one in Felton, Northumbria. In a blog post he also said there have been many giant rabbit and hare sightings in Ireland since the 1970s.

However, he is not convinced there is anything supernatural about the sightings.

In a blog post on his website, he said large rabbit sightings are likely to be escaped domesticated large species such as the Flemish Giant, the Continental Giant, which can grow up to 55lbs and the size of a cocker spaniel.

So the plan, a Canon Powershot SX730 unless anyone else had a recommendation. Away from Panasonic I know, but was let down last time.

So anyway, enough of the guff Mick, back to the fishing….

The opportunity arose for an evening of beef, beer and bladderisation in moderation with the Wife it wasn’t something that we could turn down. I planned to stay off the heavy Red’s though as it’s about the only thing that give me hangovers these days, you see only a short drive away from where we were staying I happened upon a section of canal I’d never trodden.

I’d stumbled upon it whilst perusing OS maps online and wondered why I’d not fish it before. I’d fished above it and below it but not this half mile stretch that looked ideal for a big Zed to hide out. Good cover both sides, half a mile in length, unlikely to see ‘that’ much foot traffic such was the location. Now I love the solitude the canal can bring and that’s why I fish the areas that I do. I look for long walks, difficult access and stretches that boat movement wouldn’t be as prevalent as the more popular routes.

This early morning session I’d dump one of the deadbait rods off and also fish a lure rod. The lure in question a 13cm Savage Gear Real Eel jobbie, a head turner that for sure. In-fact the last time I used the lure I banked one the second cast a nice River Zander before it got caught up in a snag and it was lost to the Gods. Usually I’d rig it with a stinger in the tail but that was easily removable as not knowing this stretch I wanted to try and map it out a little first before the stinger got caught up in any snags.

If I felt a take then I’d rig it back up and concentrate on that one area to help the hook-up. I’d used quite big lures in the past and caught fish larger than the average schoolies because of it. A big Zed is more likely to grab at something that would likely fill its stomach rather than chase something that would expend more energy in digestion than calories ingested.

So the baby cucumber was swapped for a potato skin spiral….

The float rod would be used as a sleeper tucked tight against some cover where the bright yellow tip is a great contrast against the cuts water and I’d work the half mile stretch up in sections and then back down it.

So the planning stage was mapped out, how did I get on ?

Well it's all very well having a plan but you have to stick to it, stupidly I forgot the deadbaits for this session and didn't have time to get some more, so just the lure it was.


Having never fished this stretch I could believe how dead it looked, hmmm, maybe not a bad thing as these loners I suspect like to be away from the masses, but after spotting a big bream that had met his maker I made by way up the stretch. The lure picked up quite a bit off the bottom but nothing more than the usual to be honest and I ended the session as I started, the same lure still intact.

I don't do enough lure fishing and working the edge after a couple of hours without even a nibble, a fish properly nailed it with a full on proper vault through the braid the lure has given me confidence again. Especially when it seems to be picking up the fish slightly bigger than the standard schoolies. You only have to see it in the water to see why it's a head turner. Did the trick this morning that's fore sure, I didn't weigh it but was really plump fish, so maybe 3.5lb or so.

One fish one bite again because the last hour was uneventful, it was clearer and shallower than I though it would be which maybe didn't help but not sure I'd rush back here again. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. What I might do is fish deadbaits next time, maybe when the water warms up a little because it was still cold, very cold....

Saturday 24 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT71 – Buckfast and Battlers

For this early morning session I was at the Laryngeal Prominence an area I’d fished quite a few times but it hadn’t really hadn’t lived up to its promise. There were fish here for sure, but the standard schoolies fare can get tiresome after a while but a snippet of information shared it appeared on my radar again. The promise you see often fell flat and as this area sees a little foot traffic from gongoozlers, towpath stompers and black bauble bag swingers it’s not the sort of venue I prefer to frequent.

I like the less trodden areas you see, and the larger specimens I’ve caught seem to share the same utopia as I do. But then from time to time such as my yearly pilgrimage to the White Island to seek those repetitive beats that tickle the dopamines in ones dorsal and ventral striatum’s.

Arouse those neurons, happiness begins, maybe there were a few old swingers like me hanging around to relive a big part of one’s life.

Now talking about dopamine those Buckfast drinkers in Scotland seem to love their fix and its mesolimbic reward pathway and the fact that the caffeine loaded tonic wine tweak the opioid cells that release endorphins. Both produce feelings of joy, pleasure, euphoria, depending on the type of activation. That's why drinking can be so pleasurable, but Buckfast appears to have a rather unwanted side effect, if you believe any of the recent press on the NED juice.

A prominent Scottish Nationalist has urged the BBC to abandon a forthcoming edition of The Antiques Roadshow. Yes, you did read that correctly. The offending broadcast, planned for later this year, will celebrate 1,000 years of Devon’s Buckfast Abbey, which describes itself as a ‘spiritual haven’.

In Scotland, however, the monastery’s eponymous tonic wine is not known for producing serenity: on the contrary, the highly caffeinated alcoholic drink is notorious for having ‘almost supernatural powers of destruction’, not only upon its consumers but also for anyone unfortunate to encounter those under its influence.

Alex Neil if you hadn’t guessed, who looks like he’s had a life time on it, wrote to the director general of the BBC: ‘For many years there has been great concern in Scotland about the sale of Buckfast and its adverse impact on the behaviour of those who drink it . . . a lot of anti-social behaviour is caused by the use of this drink.’

Of that there is little argument: in 2015, the Scottish Prison Service reported that 43 per cent of inmates had consumed Buckfast before their last offence. Given that a high proportion of the consumption is concentrated in a relatively small geographic area knows as the ‘Buckfast Triangle’, this is an extraordinary and scary statistic.

Buckie is a dark brown "tonic wine" created in the 1880s by Benedictine monks who, fleeing persecution in France, came to Buckfast Abbey in Devon. It’s changed somewhat over the years and the modern drink now contains various flavourings, preservatives and a large dose of caffeine. I’ve read claims that it’s the chemicals in Buckfast, sodium glycerophosphate, dipotassium phosphate and disodium phosphate, that cause the special effects.

Now oddly my local village shop has it on the shelf it, yes really, as shop usually frequented by farmers, wags and rich coffin dodgers .

“Bal, you sell much of that Buckfast....?”

“Yes, we do, it’s a quite a good seller”

Hmmm, maybe in safety of ones four walls, I might give it a bash, maybe I’m missing something…..

I've bought a bottle anyway especially after Mike Graham of the Two Mikes drank a bottle of it live on air and praised its effects.

Talking of four walls, well three in fact, the monks sell a sizeable chunk of their brew in the Buckfast Triangle as mentioned above, where whole communities disappear – Coatbridge alone, with its population of 40,000 people, is said to account for 10% of the drink sales.

Drunk by noon and handcuffed by midnight, a drink with unparalleled ability to start fights….

Corner a Zed like you would a Buckied up angry ned, you will provoke a reaction, and that’s why I was here. You see I could now see despite the average results on this section thus far.

There were plenty of angry little whippersnappers ready to do battle and put the world to rights without thought for the elderly who are happy to mosey on around unnoticed as it makes them feel you, but then the wise head is screwed on from time to time, when things get out of hand.

They properly nailed the lure and through the braid it’s a sensation that’s hard to describe. It can be quite addictive you see. Sadly I’ve never banked any canal Zander bigger than 5lb on a lure, not sure what, just the way it is.

So lures had no place here, thankfully it was back out with the deads again….

So the plan as per the usual, leapfrog some thick cover to try and find a voyeuristic specimen holding up to try and put a bag of popcorn right in front of him, so it can get back to the perving.

I need to battle on with the Zander challenge of mine, likely to never succeed….

So it was a bit of a cold miserable day, drizzle and damp and generally not very nice. The first fish came pretty quick, a small fish that thought he was Linford Christie the way it went off after it was hooked, but then despite fishing probably 10 difference swims over a mile and a bit and back again that was the only bite.

Not a blank but certainly tough going....

It didn't end well either, as I was trudging back to the car 3 three barges I passed was now 1. But the first barge I decided to leave me a little present on the towpath.

Thanks, you utter pond life....

Friday 23 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT70 – Brazilians and Braguettes

The long walk back to the car from the last session I stopped for a pit stop. A handful of defrosted deads were deposited next to a 10 yard stretch of thick cover that would have otherwise ended up in the poo bin.

Pre-baiting if you will, nothing to lose, but that wasn’t the only reason, this area was home to a big fat Canal Zander I’d manage to catch that for a while was my PB at 8lb 10oz. It was an area so productive a blank was rarely on the cards. Until the last closed season quest that is, where for some reason the fish were suspicious in their absence.

The bushes and cover had been given a bit of a tidy up though, and to be honest the overzealous hedge trimming operative had given it a proper Brazilian rather than a mere quick once over. Ok it looked nice, I’d admit but it might have buggered up the habitat where the Zed’s were happy to put their feet up and unzip their armoured codpieces without fear of ridicule.

They were more exposed that was the issue I feared, because they are predators after all, and like all hot heads they enjoy lying in wait for any potential hunger quencher to mosey on by.

Unsuspecting no more…

The Brazilian was now more Au Natural though hence why it stopped me in my tracks at the end of the last session, the cover now looked more like it did before. It sort of dictated this short after work session to be honest.

Were there fish back in residence, relaxing with their fins behind their heads ?

Only one way to find out…

Again, the usual Zander fair, this time though, one of the rods I’d use a section of Roach. The cross sectional area giving it mucho bang for buck.

All guts and glory….

To be honest, I don’t think Zander are that fussy when it comes to deads having now caught them on many a different type of dead fish, sea and coarse but sometimes maybe mixing it up a bit can lead to more bites, a washed out 3 inch whole roach or a something that looks a little more palatable maybe could make the difference. It certainly would me, often putting ones nose up to the cheap works birthday donuts but happily gobbling down a few lamb samosa’s.

The last hour would be spent in the aforementioned, the first leap frogging another section a short walk away, this time though, the near margin looked tasty for a fish to be holding up. I like moving around for Zander on the canal, you know if they are there within 20 minutes or so generally so I wanted to fish a few more swims before giving the last swim a go where I was expecting a blank.

So the session, out with the floats, and on the new rods set-up too, more of that in another thread.

So the canal had a bit of a dead feeling about it, I couldn't quite put my finger on it. A canoeist went that stirred up the boredom but before heading to the last swim despite leapfrogging a section of decent looking cover, not a murmur on the floats. Now talking of cover nearly all of my float caught Zander have been tight to cover, many of those swims must have been on the shelf too because it's surprising just how much deeper the channel is and in places the cover isn't that thick.

Maybe I'm missing a trick because as Dan says it's not only easier for a Zander, especially a big one to move about in deeper water but it's easier to hunt too, looking up rather than down.Then depending how thick the cover is, I could be fishing not far off the channel anyway.

If I think about it most of my lure caught Zander have been in said channel, so maybe it's something I'll try later during this closed season, certainly as the light fades and they are likely to go on the hunt. I fish quite turbid waters so light levels may not be not that much of an issue, but definitely worth a try.

Looking at the canal Zander over 7lb I've caught, the biggest and my 9lb PB was caught in the shallow water of a turning bay and the others tight to cover. So shallow water may not be such an issue but the mediocre results last season, I need to try any avenues that may help.

anyway back to the fishing, the last swim, which has been a banker the year before last, not a sausage despite leaving the baits longer than I usually do.

The first blank of this years challenge....

Sunday 18 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT69 – Nimby’s and Ninnycocks

I felt like having a pothole protest all of my own, a big almighty crash where the suspension must have bottomed out on the bump-stops and there wasn’t anything I could do about it either. The road was narrow, just enough for two cars, a school mum up my backside I had to enter the unknown.

It was waterlogged you see, so I couldn’t gauge the depth. The bang was that loud I got out my car soon after to check out the condition of the wheels and tyres that I’ve sort of regretted adding as an option now. 

The tyres profile way too small, the alloy wheel too big, they look good though, design over function and all that, roads as flat as a witches ****, fine, the best Warwickshire can muster Nah !!.

Luckily all seemed to be in order, I need a rethink….

In contrast the other day I took the Wife’s Tiguan down the track to the deep bit of the Avon through huge potholes and undulations and the large side walled squidgy tyres soaked up the rough terrain without an issue.

I think I need a new car, well something more suited to our rubbish roads and for what I use it for….

Answers on a postcard….

For this session I was back at a handy area that has showed promise in the past, the loss of a big fish here got me coming back as usually the schoolies caught here were among the smallest I’d caught, the reception class so to speak.

Another plus point of this area was with a high bank front and rear I could shelter from the wind and drifting snow that was forecast for this morning session. Mad ? what a stupid question.

At 7.00am all the roads leading up to the destination was snow covered, grit, what grit, but nice to be out though, despite the bite of the wind.

An area of leapfroggable cover, with plenty of kids mucking about, the occasional teacher. 

The thing is with canals and Zander, if one area isn’t producing the bites, then you need to get moving. Otherwise you’d be left thinking, is there really Zed’s in this canal. Luckily here, a 10 or 15 minute walk there is another area that usually has fish laying up, ready for the bell to be rung. They really do control the territory too and don’t like anyone stomping on their patch, so bites can come quick, the little bullies.

They can be absent in lots of areas and that’s why I like the challenge, not only does it help with the fitness but many are put off with the lack of results they are getting. Stick with it, yes there will be blanks but that’s part of the appeal for me anyway. Don’t want it that easy, the banks are quiet and I like that.

So to no surprise there were no boats moving during this session, the foot traffic, well one dog walker and an elderly fella with oversized boots that looked like he was about to have a heart attack. The leapfrogging in progress, 10-15 minutes, move one rod, 10-15 minutes the other, eventually I managed a bite, the water temperature 5 degrees so the fish wouldn't be moving much so I must have dropped the bait on it's head. The fight was quite a surprise for a small fish, especially as it a scrawny little thing that I didn't bother weighing.

The last swim it was out with the big guns, a 4" section of lamprey which has been a productive bait for me in the past. It still amazes me how something so small contains so much blood. I'm not sure if Zander sense blood like Pike seem to, but they happily feed on it no problem even though it looks nothing like what they feed on.

The smelt did the trick earlier and that was on the other rod.

The wind was picking up and the cold starting to get to ones neck, despite the winter gear I was wearing. This winter is one of the longest I can remember, hopefully the milder weather will get the fish moving because the fish seem few and far between at the moment.

Sadly 25 minutes, motionless floats, so 4 hours, 6 or 7 swims, one bite one fish.

Blank avoided....

Friday 16 March 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT68 - Daffodils and Dunderheads

It can be very much groundhog day this Zander lark especially the way I fish for them. Part 68 of this quest of mine for a cut double it was back with the drudgery. I say drudgery because last closed season was a bit of a damp squib.

I did think I was getting somewhere having banked a few decent fish, 7, 8’s and eventually a 9 lber the season before, but after schoolie after schoolie, I think the best I mustered was a nats nadger over 5lb. A waspers dream no question, but for me I was going backwards, and fast, so continue on my quest, I’m probably rather stupid.

For this first session of 2018 when the river are closed and the daffodils are emerging I wanted to try smelt out with my over depth float method, in an area where can be productive in numbers and also in size. I’d read an article you see, that praised the use of smelt for Zander and the author Barry Rickards used them in preference over anything else.

The pungent cucumber smell maybe give an advantage over a chunk of Roach and not only that but being softer maybe the hook-ups would be improve, because the hook would pull out of the bait easier.

I’d tried sardines for Zander before and had runs and a couple of fish, so I had confidence in using sea baits, but that didn’t factor in my decision. It was more the fact I could see why smelt would be well worth a try.

Any edge I need, I tell thee….

I’ve got no choice but to give them a proper go, because as the moment, my bait freezer doesn’t contain anything else.

So other changes for this season, well, one particular 3 mile stretch will command the most attention and there is also an area I’ve been told about where I know one resides because I’ve seen the pics where I want to give a bash.

Now usually I wouldn’t bother fishing in known swims because in my experience canal Zander especially the bigun’s are very transient indeed. I’ve fished the same swim(s) countless times where my PB and other good fish have come from and never had anything other than the humdrum. Maybe this fish was different though because a chance conversation with said fellow barbel chaser who turned out to be a Zed head just like me, he had caught this fish twice out of the same swim.

The problem though, it would be at the outer reaches of my target area, which for someone who has to maximise their time on the bank, I’m not sure I could justify the extra miles just to pursue a fish that may well not be there. So the plan when I get a chance is to take a day of work and fish it from dawn to dusk to see if I could intercept one of its feeding times.

That’s not me really, not the way I fish and how I get enjoyment out of fishing but sometimes maybe I should take notes of the snippets of information I get know and then and take advantage of it. Heck, it’s how some anglers fish all the time, they have made careers out of it. Nothing will get in the way of a big fish, you hear the namesakes say, and we all know who they are, they've made forgettable careers out of it.

Oddly considering the amount of different species I fish for, by far the biggest email traffic I get is “where do you fish for Zander”. To be honest the default answer is, “everywhere” and to be honest that’s not far from the truth. Bank time is the key if you want a big-un, it’s a numbers game and pure luck, there is no rocket science in it. Sometime ago though I dumped the lure fishing off, I still do it from time to time, but I’ve far better success sticking to the leapfrogging technique I’ve honed over the obscene amount of time I’ve been fishing for canal Zander.

In the early days, a light running rig on an alarm as a sleeper and a lure rod used to be my approach, but leapfrogging allows you to cover plenty of water and that’s what is needed for success. Travelling light is therefore the key so there was no need for faff and furniture. I quickly learnt deadbaiting is the key to bigger fish so to combine something more visual than watching a bobbin or listening to an alarm was the order of the day. So inline dumpy pike floats were the answer.

For us maggots drowners there is nothing like watching a float go under or move when a fish is attached to ones bait. It’s that visual part of angling that is hard to tire from. Eventually I came up with a set-up that worked for me very well indeed, it took a bit of tinkering mind you, and I’m still tinkering with it now, more of that later.

From top to bottom float stop, white bead, sliding Zeppler, bead, coffin lead (new for 2018) quick change bead,30cm fluorocarbon hooklink with offset Sakuma Manta Size 1. Fish over depth and the float sits nicely on the surface, the sensitivity is ridiculous. Bites, well they can go from the odd nudge to a full on submarine in seconds, the bite are so visual and varied I don’t think I could fish for them any other way.

So the coffin lead change for this season was to try and keep the float in position when a lock gate has been opened or the water ‘bouncing’ like it does, going left to right as it sometimes can. I used to use a drilled bullet or an olivette but I was hoping a coffin lead would offer more resistance to being pulled off line because of the extra surface area. Sometimes that wasn’t a problem though because a bait moved out of a position could provoke a Zander is to snatching at the bait on the way past, they are predators after all, but it's good to tinker as an angler.

I will fish lures from time to time, especially when fishing new waters and Sam who will accompany me on the odd session will be using a rod all of his own.

Anyway enough of the preamble, to kick of the challenge again this session was at an area I call the 'Tefal Head' it has featured quite a bit in my Zander fishing in recent times and can produce decent fish from time to time. I rarely blank so hence it would be good to get the scores on the door and see if there were fish still around.

The first swim 20 minutes, nothing, the sun was out though and quite a pleasant day, the water not as turbid as I'd like, hmmmm. So a wander was on the cards. There is a nice section of cover probably 200 meters or so, great for leapfrogging and it didn't take long for the first bite either. The float going from right to left. The fish came up in the water once I lent in to the fish but it was nibbling at the bait, only a small fish but nice to know there are still around. Zander can be tricky to hook, and it's exactly that, they use their mouths like finger tips, so another few runs came pretty quick and the fourth attempt, yes really as fish was banked.

So a fish banked, 2lb 11oz's and nice to open the challenge with a fish.

There was obviously a few fish tucked away under the cover, hence the frequency of the bites...

The last 20 minutes in to dusk in an area where I had the 8lb 10oz fish as shown in the blog header picture, no interest. For this 2.5 hour session, no boats either. So nice to be back and see the floats moving as they do, so I'll be back over the weekend if the weather is kind to us.
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