Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Thursday 31 May 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT95 – Bruisers and Battle-Axe’s

An article in the press the other day caught my eye, as I'd seen the miserable looking face somewhere else, I was sure of it. A Russian woman was claiming to be the oldest person in the world, but says her upcoming 129th birthday is nothing but 'punishment'. Koku Istambulova, from Chechnya, says she has not had a single happy day in her entire life, and has no idea how she has managed to live this long. Istambulova, who shuns meat but loves fermented milk, believes it simply is 'God's will' that she will live to see 129 next month.

There were uncanny similarities with someone I crossed paths with at a local hostelry you see. Educated at the Nora Batty School of Customer Service, the not so welcoming front of house at the pub that’s a stone throw away from this Zander sanctuary passed her NVQ with distinction. 
To be honest it’s had past form this place, when we as a family had turned up after finding our local closed for some reason, we couldn’t just buy two kids meals and just drinks for ourselves, we had to buy at least one adult meal, yes really !!!!.

Now if it wasn’t for the fact that the kids were hungry and autistic and restless Ben was expecting to be eating on the usual dinner bell, we’d have up-sticks and gone somewhere else, however we decided to put up with the "sorry no can do attitude" and vowed to never eat there again.

How this place is still open is beyond me because serving mediocre cheap food and the couldn't give two hoots service with a frowning miserable approach is not the norm round these parts.

You only have to look an TripAdvisor where the mixed grill looks like its been on the floor a couple of times after been retrieved from the mouth of a hungry mongrel and the salad pictured looked like a 2 year could have presented it better.

Luckily there are plenty of other establishments in the area that value their customers and want them coming back. I’m sure they only survive because it sees lots of foot traffic because of the location on the main road and it’s got a large beer garden.

You see, me and Martin arranged to meet up here not long after that experience  and I couldn't even get the fishing tackle out the back of my car, before the battle-axe was straight on the attack after storming out from within the pub. 
“YOU cannot park here !!!”

Looks at empty car park, “What not even if I buy a couple of pints ?”

“Well you’ve been here 20 minutes already and you’ve not been in yet”

“Errrr, I’ve only just parked my car"

She storms off, a red wrinkled face of thunder….

With a striking resemblance to hatchet holder and activist Carrie Nation, if only she could be educated in her customer facing skills, then this pub is missing a trick.

Hey here’s an idea, what about welcoming the angler with open arms....

“Hey chaps, if you’re thirsty, we’ve some nice ales on tap if you want to come in and try some” “We can do you some food as well and bring it out to you, if you want to stay by your rods”

So this pub will be getting no more of my hard earned money even if it was the hottest day and a pint of cider would sure to quell ones thirst.

So this evening session I would be fishing with Nic from Avon Angling UK again, now Nic has a Vlog on YouTube and fishes many of the rivers and canals I do as he lives just down the road.

Luckily parking elsewhere isn’t an issue because of the time so conflict is luckily avoided as don’t want to upset this 'lady' of tyrannical appetite again so she can jump off that high horse or hers that she obviously revels in.

I’d be fishing for Zander with smelt as per the norm and with boats moored up here, it provides a good roof over the Zeds heads. To be honest my results down here haven’t been brilliant, a lure caught bream and a few small schoolies that’s about it. But others have caught much bigger fish here in the past, hence why it’s always remained on ones radar, and many others because of the attention it's received.

The session was 3 hours and quite early on it was evident that things could be tough, the water temperature was 18 degrees which as someone who has fished for canal Zander countless times now catch rate is down compared to when the water is cold. If you think about it, the fish are moving around much more and probably picking and choosing their prey. Once full which could happen in a small feeding spell, job done for the day. As Dan said, that could well be during the night not in the daylight hours I fish.

There were fewer boats here too because it's half term, so that leaving the fish more exposed than they are used to, so maybe as well they have moved down to a newly created habitat that cannot be accessed by the general public. After leapfrogging a few swims nothing was doing so we moved down to an area of cover by a bridge where I'd caught Zander before. After half an hour with Nic receiving a tentative bite that never materialised in to anything we moved back to where we started.

Dusk and a little bit beyond, zilch, so it was time to call it a day, especially after the loud lady owner of another disobedient dog was starting to get on my wick . Who knows the fish might have started moving in the middle of the night but I can count on one hand the amount of fishing in to dark I've done for Zeds. Maybe in next closed season challenge if there is one, I'll fish beyond sun down in these warm conditions just to see if that makes the difference.

Pondering !!!

Only a couple of weeks left of the closed season and it's gone pretty fast to be honest, and because of the mediocre recent results I'm counting the days.

Sunday 27 May 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT94 – Stonkers and Stench-trenches

Down the hill, through the ever steepening cutting, the containment and claustrophobic feeling on the rise, the towpath narrowing, the banks getting higher, eventually the swim is sought. One big problem though, sometimes the smell here can be overpowering, hydrogen sulfide the most likely culprit, but no obvious signs of its source. Maybe a nearby septic tank with a leak, an overflowing drain, a trumping cow, who knows, but it stinks I tell thee.

The other weekend Sam managed 10 minutes before he wanted to move from it last time, which is a shame because it’s an area that produces some decent Zander from time to time, I’m talking proper’uns , not the prepubescent plebeians.

Luckily for this session Sam,

“We won’t be fishing in the stinky swim” “we are fishing an area much much further away”

“Rrrrrrrrrhhhhhhh, is it a long walk…?”

“Errrrr, whose carrying all the tackle….?”

“Oh yeah”

I’d stumbled upon a carp hideout you see, but not only that it was an area that looked like it had some Zed potential. Some nice looking section of cover where the carp were occasionally revealing themselves when they transitioned from one area to the next. I managed to catch the runt of the litter, which looked like it had more surgery than Katie Price if that is at all possible. The fish were not that big to be fair, but to try and entertain a 7 year old on a canal is seemingly getting harder and harder, so much so, I am having to use creative licence in order to make the fishing more appealing for the little scallywag.

We were in pursuit of a canal carp I spotted here you see, a carp of brobdingnagian proportions that needed to be ‘seen to be believed’. So for this session it was a bit of double dipping, so in the quiver, a floater rod, and also bolt-rig and zander set-ups to at least try and winkle something out. Sam even had his float set-up with some maggots we had to use it, that lot, should in theory, get us a bite. I’d a big tub of sweetcorn, hemp and small feed pellets that were a little past their best, so I’d feed a few marginal swims as well to try and get fish feeding to allow them to give the game away.

Well best laid plans and all that, because after catching a small perch quite quickly and a dropped take on the carp rod it was clear after the third boat went through we were wasting our time. We decided to move to a couple of oxygenated areas to try to at least catch a Zander but after watching a motionless float for a while and bored kid starting to dip the landing net it was time to call it a day.

Now Sam doesn't want to fish canals anymore he wants to wait till we can fish the rivers, so I've a few last carpet bombing sessions to try and get back on the Zander track. So I've a session planned with Nic next week and then a few session planned where I'm sure there is a big fish still lurking.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT93 – Giglets and Gundiguts

If I look back at my past ventures down to this neck of the woods my results have been average to just ok. Nothing really that would get me coming back every week to peruse that seemingly impossible dream of mine, yeap a 10lb canal Zander. This area you see if very much off my radar being nearly 19 miles from door to door, now that doesn’t sound like a hardship to many, it would only take half an hour for starters. But it’s the fact that most of the stretches I’d caught Zed’s over 5lb from, I could almost walk to them if necessary.

Many moons ago on a stag do I was shared some information from the brother of a friend of mine who is one of the country’s best known seat box frequenters. As a match angler he is up there with the best and has luckily worked within the industry and made a living out of it. Obviously being in the trade it means he comes in to contact with the like-minded, not only that but despite having to move further south for work this area was once his stomping ground and he’d still kept in touch with anglers who fished it waters.

To be honest, that was some time ago now and targeting these transitional fish is very difficult indeed but sometimes, a little like the ‘deep bit’ I’ve found areas hold fish because of one feature or another. Fish seem to gravitate to and feel comfortable in these areas and rarely stray from it. These areas are very very rare indeed in my experience, but it was the potential here that it’s always stayed at the back of my mind.

Lots of my Zander fishing is fished tight to cover which is where they appear to like to lay up, because if you think about it, the thicker the cover and the further it stretches in to the water the deeper it is likely to be. This 150 yard or so stretch has some of the thickest cover I’ve fished, it’s not just the density but also the amount it extends out in the canal, that sets it apart from the norm.

There are big frolicking females here, there has to be….

Not only that another reason why the Zander should in theory be large here, is because a club stocked the section with lots of Zed bite sized fish, which I thought initially was a little mad but then again, for someone that enjoys catching Zander I should pay my respects to their death sentence.

Now, one big issue, and a BIG’one at that, this usually calm canal has a hidden agenda, you see it turns in to a raging torrent where you just cannot hold bottom with a deadbait. As soon as a lock is opened it really does turn in to a river and causes such frustration that I found I had to fish it ridiculously early and then bugger off as soon as the first boat came through. In all the areas I’ve fished, there really is nothing like it.

So only one thing for it, an evening session when the boaters are moored up with their cup of teas, sat on chemical toilets. Now frequenting a canal towpath in the dark is not my idea of fun but for this session Nic of Avon Angling UK would be joining me in to dusk and beyond. Nic like me has been fishing the river close season on his local canals and after our paths crossed after I put him on to an area with Zander in residence, we hatched a plan.

There was no rush either, meet at 6.30pm, mosey on down to the cover and set the rods up whilst having a natter. Unusually for me, the overdepth floats would be dumped and I’d fish running rigs on bite alarms. I’d found apart from one losing concentration starring at motionless floats, isotopes can get tiresome to watch particularly as distance, so it was a no brainer really if we were fishing in to dark. My river Zander rods were already set-up but they were fitted with wire so I swapped them for freshly made fluro hook-links instead which is my preference if there are no pike present.

The theory I had being the fish would be laid up tucked up behind the cover and once the light went a little like Barbel on the river, the bigger fish would then start to move station and look for food. It’s definitely clearer here than I’d like and that was another deciding factor fishing here at sun down, I’m sure it would be the best time to fish it no question.

Bait, well smelt on one rod and a small roach on the other….

Now Nic was fishing a float rod with maggot as well and he was soon picking up a few small fish, roach, rudd and perch but the Zander rods were suspiciously quiet throughout the session. After a natter we leapfrogged the cover with Nic going left and I went right. I'd caught Zander here before, albeit I haven't fished it for a while. I had also lost a proper good fish on the lure so I know they were here.

Heading in to dusk and beyond we both set our stall out, Nic had a few pulls on the left hand deadbait rod but nothing that materialised in to a proper bite.I was surprised there we no interest from Eels either, all very weird. But then maybe not so weird, because a big splosh in the water to our left a bow wave and then it reenters the canal and resurfaces more or less opposite is. Yeap an Otter most likely, could well explain being biteless. If I venture down here again I'll be more mobile and fish a bit more of the feature laden swims down here.

Thursday 24 May 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT92 – Azaleas and Asshats

The Wife unlike oneself is not a lover of electronica and anything with repetitive beats and couldn't think of anything worse in accompanying me to the annual pilgrimage to Ibiza. However a lovely Sunday afternoon sat in the sun listening to Fluid Dynamics – 4hr Chill Out Mix she ended up sitting back, enjoying the good food and excellent wine and putting her feet up for once. Even the kids seemed to be happy in entertaining themselves once the homework was done. It’s not all about ‘banging beats’ this musical genre, it can nurture anyone neurones if they are open their mind to the sounds it can encompass and the mindfulness that can be achieve from something quite simple.

Now the Azalea is in full bloom at and such is its vibrancy at the moment it attracts some of the biggest bees I’ve ever seen recently which with the Wife with an irrational fear of anything wasp or bee related this isn’t a good thing, despite her, like me, admiring the plant at this time of year. If you don’t know Azaleas are not good for bees and us humans, not good at all because if you didn’t know….

Azaleas are weapons of war….

Visit the remote mountainside towns in Turkey’s Black Sea region during springtime and you may witness beekeepers hauling their hives upslope, until they reach vast fields of cream and magenta rhododendron flowers. Here, they unleash their bees, which pollinate the blossoms and make a kind of honey from them so potent, it’s been used in conflict.

The dark, reddish, 'mad honey,' known as deli bal in Turkey, contains an ingredient from rhododendron nectar called grayanotoxin, a natural neurotoxin that, even in small quantities, brings on light-headedness and sometimes, hallucinations. In the 1700s, the Black Sea region traded this potent produce with Europe, where the honey was infused with drinks to give boozers a greater high than alcohol could deliver.

The bees go a little doolally for a while, but then don’t we all from time to time….

The honey would be left in the path of invading legions; the soldiers would eat the sweet treat and end up vomiting and dizzy from the toxin in the honey. The effects rarely prove fatal to humans but would have halted or slowed down armies for a while. The grayanotoxin is the plant’s defence against herbivore attack.

When over-imbibed, however, the honey can cause low blood pressure and irregularities in the heartbeat that bring on nausea, numbness, blurred vision, fainting, potent hallucinations, seizures, and even death, in rare cases. Nowadays, cases of mad honey poisoning crop up every few years oftentimes in travelers who have visited Turkey. Apparently the honey is taken in small amounts, sometimes boiled in milk, and consumed typically just before breakfast, so it’s not slathered on toast or stirred generously into tea the way normal honey would be.

Where can I buy some, answers on a postcard please….?

As a towpath frequenter where hazards are usually dog poo related, over the last couple of weeks the amount of unruly and disobedient namesakes is beginning to get on my wick. Dogs off the lead appearing out of nowhere having what seems like a bag of Haribos for breakfast hell-bent on rummaging through ones tackle seeing what they can scavenge . The last incident the weekend just gone, having spoken to the owner in a mild manner that "maybe the dog should be put on a lead if he is that disobedient" as he completely ignored his owners shouts and annoying whistles whilst causing some bankside havoc, because not everyone likes dogs Mr. For some reason he didn’t appreciate the advice until Sam held up a pint of maggots and said “he’s been eating these”.

Now this is the same owner that dumps poo bags on the towpath and then collects them on his return an hour later FFS and seems happy that’s he doing nothing wrong. You’ve signed up for a dog, now deal with it, rather than having your head firmly up your backside, the towpaths are not just for you, they are for everybody.

Oh I do love a good moan....

The deep bit because of the access can be a bit overbearing at times because as a solitude seeker it’s by far the busiest stretch I fish. It’s fine on the most part as I’ve bumped in to some nice people ,but it can be frustrating sometimes as many are not as courteous as me. A mountain biker on a UK speed record attempt, a boater with a stuck throttle, a shirtless salad dodging tiller holding coffin dodger. But it’s got me coming back though to its hallowed waters because there are some decent Zander to be had here and I’m sure a big one is lurking in the side-lines.

So this was a quick after work session and a short one to, a scraper two hours if that, both rods set-up with smelt deads without their tails chopped to try and attract a bigger fish rather than a schoolie. Sometimes if I get a run but the fish falls off it's usually a small Zed with a mouth bigger than his belly, but if a bite is on the cards then the best way to bank a least a fish is reduce the bait to a couple of inches max. This seems to do the trick and to be honest I've not had an issue with once a run has been aborted or a fish drops off they usually take the bait again.

I fished two swims, the first, not even a nudge on the float despite there being fish in the area but then having moved to the more secluded swim because the skies were clear and it quite bright within 15 minutes or so I had a run. The right hand float starts to go from left to right and a fish is trying to get under the cover. I knew as soon as I lent in to the fish it wasn't a big'un despite giving a good account for itself. So a typical Zander fair, a scraper 3lber with a distinctive split fin.

Hmmm, having had good results here for a few initial sessions, it's certainly gone off a bit. The water is ridiculously warm at the minute, great for the carp, but in my experience you cannot say the same for Zander. There is an area I want to try where I caught the carp the other day as it has some character and I've caught Zander before where I've seen carp, so hopefully that will throw up something more suitable for my landing net.

Before that session, I'm off in to dusk and beyond to the furthest most reaches of my stomping ground.

Sunday 20 May 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT91 – Face-palms and Flappers

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you'll know that free-to-play survival game Fortnite is taking the gaming world by storm. Played on PS4, Xbox One and the like, the Battle Royale version of the game which has hooked so many people features up to 100 online players who must attempt to be the last person standing by either killing or evading all other players.

Add to that scavenging for weapons and armour plus a construction element which enables players to build forts to keep them alive, and you've got yourself a recipe for a pretty addictive game. Popular why, well its popularity is down to its sense of humour apparently, including dancing, which has gained huge participation

Players can pull a wide variety of dance moves, which have crossed from the virtual stratosphere into real life.

Kids in primary schools can often be seen doing "the floss", "the flappers" ,"the turk", "the Carlton" or that old classic, "the robot", heck I’ve even seen parents who should know better, participate too.

There is also controversy, guided missiles have just been pulled from the game by Fortnite's makers, Epic Games as it’s a game played by pre-teens so yeah maybe not a good idea.

Now I’m not a gamer, but a huge percentage of the population, especially the younger generation are, breeding a nation of telly addicts and delinquents? to be honest as a kid I used to be too, from handheld Donkey king, Atari, ZX Spectrum and then on to the Commodore 64, I cannot be one to preach but as long as there are other interests and hobbies like I used to have I don’t see it as an issue, you just need time limits.

So where are all the kids fishing with their Dads then ? I’m an advocate, so where are the rest I wonder.

Even frequenting the mud puddles from time to time I can count on one hand the amount of under tens I’ve seen fishing over the last few years, we need more recruits we really do otherwise this pastime of ours will start to die.

One particular element of the game has got fans talking more than anything else: dancing. It may seem random, but people can't get enough of boogieing their way around the game - with many real-life moves inspiring the various dances. Now as someone who uses VR (virtual reality) from time to time in my line of work and seeing the technology improving I can see where it's all heading….

….maybe we are missing a trick !!!! ?

I can see a scenario in the future after you’ve lost out to the great white shark who’s just bitten through your line again in the latest VR fishing game, you’ve picked up ‘actual’ your rods, given Dad a shout and gone down your local canal to try and catch a proper living fish.

Anyway Mick, back to the fishing please….

Having started this closed season quest of mine 3 years ago, where I would attempt to try and catch a canal double figure Zed, the area I refer to as the Laryngeal Prominence was once home to my PB of 9lb on the noggin. That was caught 2 years ago more or less to the day and since that fish, a lunker of 8lb 10oz’s was caught a couple of miles away up at the Tefal head and I thought I was on to a winner and something ever bigger would turn up and close this seemingly impossible dream of mine.

You see it’s beginning to feel that way I must admit, the preverbal needle in the haystack which to be honest I know it would be. Certainly at this rate the quest will span in the fourth year as my results have levelled off and starting to dip. The Gloucester and Sharpness could well be the answer in 2019 but to be honest, I’d rather catch one on my patch in Warwickshire. The turbid canals I fish Zeds can be caught throughout the day, even with the blue skies and the sun at their strongest but maybe a big Zander has feeding patterns like maybe fish seem to do.

Barbel for example, fish the river all day and zilch, nada but then as the light goes the fish start moving and you could time the bite on the button. That’s why my sessions in the summer months are short, very short indeed if targeting them. Finish work, tea, tackle in the car, rock up an hour before dusk and pack up just after it, usually with a fish in the net.

So in 2019 during the closed season (if there is one that is) I’ll be changing my ways a little, I’m sure the large fish that frequented this stretch of canal are still here, they must be, but if they are fasting during the day and feeding come sundown, maybe it’s worth fishing in to dark just to think outside the box a little, try something I’d not done before.

I’ve a trial run with Nic from Avon Angling UK planned very soon, so that I’m sure will be a good introduction in to the tactics especially when at the venue as soon as the boats start to move it’s practically unfishable.

So this session was back to where is all started, oddly last year the results here were mediocre to say the least, it fished like a different water, schoolies thin on the ground and bigger fish even more elusive than ever. The reality is unless I put up with the blanks that will likely happen here I’m not going to know whether there are some lumps still hanging around from where I’ve had them before. Now in my experience they are very transient indeed, so it’s just a matter of fishing as much as possible and putting the hours in and eventually something decent will turn up.

Dead only for this morning session where I’d be leapfrogging cover or fishing likely holding areas.

After a dropped run eventually a schoolie decided that he would like my smelt bait and that's where the excitement ended because despite a number of swims no more bites were forthcoming. With the sun out and clear blue skies the carp were clear to be seen on the top in a few different spots, the problem was they were not interested in feeding on the small bit of bread I had with me at all.

Encouraging signs mind you, as they were in areas I know hold fish that. The boats movement didn't help and after the 7 or 8 boats went through it was time to call it a day.

So another mediocre session but hey, that's Zander fishing for you. To be honest it's one of the reasons why I like it, because many are put of because of the dire results and hence why the banks are generally quiet.

What is worrying though is the lack of fish in an area that usually is very productive, even a couple of banker swims didn't produce. I do catch more Zander when it's cold though, so maybe that's the issue. They just were not up for feeding. A familiar story mind you,

Heck even the Zed's are shedding a tear for my recent results....

Friday 18 May 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT90 – Jodrell’s and Juganauts

A local trade directory dropped through ones letterbox, ideal, you see, as we had a large laurel hedge needed cropping, some ivy removed, a stump ground down, a bit of tidying, a simple job you would think, but after the first tradesman couldn’t even be bothered to return or call, we rang a second one. Now he actually turned up and gave us a quote there and then, and we agreed in principle that we were happy with the price quoted and, yeap, go for it, just give us a date to put in out diaries. “No problem, I’ll ring you back and let you know”, said Bill and Ben's Tree Services Ltd.

Then yeap, you guessed it radio silence, and we haven’t heard from him since, despite the Wife chasing him a couple of times and leaving messages on the phone they rang us on. To be honest we both had doubt’s the clipboard holder could scale a ladder as the front door was acting like a go no go gauge and the visible struggle he seemed to have in walking.

So maybe not a bad thing after all, especially as we have no real easy access despite being a detached house, so lots of entering and exiting of the house would be required and I'm sure that was the issue he couldn't be arsed to face. You're a big enough man FFS, could have told us there and then you wasn't interested or a common courtesy call back would suffice to confirm that you're cherry picking the jobs.

So on to the next tradesman then who is coming over to give us a quote next Thursday, heck, I might even have to tackle it myself if no one can be bothered. If I conducted myself like that in my business I’d be quickly on the streets and rightly so.

Now Please, take my MONEY !!!!!!!!!

Talking of radio silence these Zander have been off the radar of late, well they have been preoccupied haven’t they, reproducing on their minds, that’s why….

200,000 eggs per kilo of body weight, these female zander don’t mess around, they appear to have a higher reproduction potential than pike and when full of spawn they are a sight to behold.

Now data from UK waters show that these ripe females are fit to burst in April or May and it is dependant or water temperature when they do.

The eggs, which are whitish-yellow in colour and approximately 1.3mm in diameter, are laid in clumps amongst weed or roots exposed in a ‘nest’ prepared by the male ready to do what he’s been wanting to do for a long time. The eggs take approximately 10 – 15 days to hatch, during which time they are actively protected by both parents.

The mortality rate of fry during the first year is very high, giving rise to a relatively small recruitment to the population.

I rarely fish with just a lure rod but for this Friday lunctime session I fancied trying something a little different. This deep bit I’ve discovered also had some other areas a short walk away where I’m sure would hold Zander but results on deadbaits have been mediocre I’d concentrated on just a couple or three areas. Casting a lure is a great way of exploring a huge expanse of waters that these canals are to not only search out fish, but to also discover any deep areas where larger fish could well be in hiding.

I witnessed them spawning a couple of weeks ago you see, so to catch a Zed with its bouncer attire on, now is the time they are at their most aggressive, will in theory anyway, I’m sure there is method in ones madness. Zander are predators after all and they act on this inbuilt aggression of theirs and a lure especially a visual one, put it from of them they have no choice but to have a ‘go’. Now I’m not a ‘wasper’ using small or micro lures as I don’t want to catch lots of 3” perch, well not unless I’m after some livebaits, as I use big lures, very big ones indeed.

Lure big enough to raise eyebrows of fellow lure fishing dog poo riddled towpath frequenters, them thinking I’m after a shark or someat’….

If you haven’t caught a Zander, they can be proper angry fish once out the water with snapping jaws and proud and prominent fins. I just love catching them, because they really don’t like to be caught with the boisterous manner of theirs.

One lure that had has caught decent Zed’s recently on both river and canal is the 15cm Savage Gear Real Eel. The action in the water really is superb, and put that in front one it turns heads like a large bosomed female in Shanghai to me and thee, yeap, proper neck jerkers and something you don’t see every day. They cannot help but act on their instinct and you get proper savage takes because of it, hook-ups don’t seem to be a problem either because despite the lures length, they properly nail it.

I thought a stinger treble might have been required but that’s just not the case, probably a good thing really as less chance of snagging bottom and they ain’t that cheap to buy, as you don’t want to lose too many if you can help it.

So back to the session, it was a bright sunny day so also a good opportunity to spot a few carp and to be honest it was a good decision well made. You see apart from the odd nibble on the lure I didn't manage any fish. I walked a good mile or so and after trying some likely looking shady cover where fish could be hiding after initially trying the deep bit the Zander remained very elusive indeed. Eventually though I spotted a few car milling around tight to some cover and stood an watched for a good half an hour to try and not spook them.

There looked a small pack of around 6 or 7 fish over a length of around 50 metres, so quite spread out to be honest, but intriguing all the same.

I keep some fake floating bread for opportunities such as this and after removing the lure and replacing it was a large hook, the fake bread was positioned in an area where I'd seen them surface a couple of times and within ten minutes or so the silhouette of a fish was easily seen in the relatively clear water and it quickly homed in on the bait. I didn't really have to strike either as it properly engulfed it and it was on.

It gave a reasonable scrap too on my 7ft Korum snapper rod but eventually it was in the net, not a bad fish either but shame it wasn't a Zander as it weighed 7lb 6oz. It looked like it had been in the wars though, various bloody marks, and it didn't look like its eyesight was the best either, but it was it's tail that had the most damage, with not much of it left. Hmmm not good, and I didn't help spoiling his day either.

With the fish rested and returned the other fish seemed to have vanished but a boat had disturbed them not long after it went back so maybe that was the issue. I retraced my steps but again, apart from the odd pluck and nibble from small fish I blanked for Zander. Still an enjoyable trip mind you as the fish was a PB so if I do ever catch a canal double, then maybe a canal 20lber could well be my next challenge. 

Thursday 17 May 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT89 – Goosegogs and Growlers

The death of the British gooseberry is nigh. The heritage gooseberry is set to follow the loganberry into oblivion. You see the gooseberry is in danger of disappearing from UK grocers for good, it has emerged recently, as demand for the soft fruit reaches its lowest level ever.

The green fruit, which had its heyday in the early 1900s, is now grown by just a handful of UK farms, down from more than 100 in 1990. The gooseberry was one of the first fruits ever cultivated commercially in this country. The first farms began growing the fruit in the 1600s when there were 2,000 different varieties in the UK. Apparently now there are only around 20 varieties of gooseberry grown on these lands and only seven are cultivated by commercial farms.

Many varieties of British gooseberry were destroyed by a disease known as American Gooseberry Mildew, which was spread when infected American fruit imported at the beginning of the 20th century.

For 8 or 9 years now the gooseberry I planted in the garden has been the barer of some good fruit, and the yearly harvest that varies its prime picking month year by year was nearly ready for me to battle the thorns and fill a basket. I’ve made all manner of things from, jams, fools to pies, even a liqueur with poitin . The bush doesn’t need much maintenance either, in-fact, care for a not at all interested gardener like me is merely a trim of ones bush from time to time.

Preparation once picked is quite easy as well, rinse the gooseberries thoroughly in cold water before top and tailing the ends with scissors. Most recipe ideas use gooseberry compote, a mixture of gooseberries and sugar reduced down with a splash of water till soft and pulpy. Gooseberries vary wildly in sweetness so the ratio really depends on personal taste. Start with two parts gooseberry to one part sugar and adapt to suit your palate. 

Now the other day at the corner of my eye whilst butchering and trying to spatchcock a chicken, a bleeding cat had entered my garden,and had its backside skyward and tail raised, and to my horror it was spraying his pee all over my fruit-filled bush.

Obviously as someone proud of his harvest, but now urine tainted it wouldn’t have had the same appeal, so I was quickly up and out of the patio door.

The crazy cat didn’t bat an eyelid either, it merely stood its ground with its feline hackles up and began to growl loudly like something that size shouldn’t. He shouldn’t have messed with me though as the hosepipe already set to soak was already unraveled from its reel and was ready for action.

Talking of Gooseberries, a nice dry white to try is the Devil's Creek Sauvignon Blanc, I discovered it in a local village shop the other day for £9.99, liked it so much sent the Wife back out to buy 6 bottles for £6.99 each from the local Majestic. A roast pork Sunday dinner with all the trimmings, life doesn't get better than this, oh yes.

I’m sure the thought of his pride being shattered was enough to get him shifted and sure enough it got out of their quick sharpish. To be honest I was lucky to have seen him do it as I’m sure if I hadn’t had immediately hosed off his territory tainter, my Ribes uva-crispa would be fruitless the following the year because of this vindictive chemical attack.

With crisis avoided It brought an area of the canal I fished on commencement of this challenge from the back of my mind to the front and I had a premonition, hey, I’ve not fished the Tefal Head for a while.

Now the Tefal Head used to be on my radar for some time especially when the second biggest canal Zander I caught was from this short stretch.

You see a further walk away, the Laryngeal prominence and opposite the Jörmungand was always less productive in Zed numbers and size so it was usually a wasted effort and I was often leaving with my tail between my legs, dreaming what could have been. Of late though the Tefal Head really has gone off good and proper, limited fish caught and nothing like the quality of fish banked that exhibited here before.

All very weird considering this was always my first port of call to at least get a bite or two other than the schoolie humdrum….

I noticed a significant predation increase on the rivers the season just gone so maybe this area has had the kibosh on it as well. It’s quite turbid here most days though, so for a sight feeder like a cormorant or otter it’s not ideal habitat. However when the boat traffic less prevalent and the weather cold it takes on an altogether different appearance, as does the water clarity, so maybe after watching their back for a while maybe moving to waters a little less perilous and the invertebrates they feed on in abundance.

For me targeting the larger fish in seemingly difficult waters though, I don’t mind a few blanks because if there is a decent fish to be still had here, it in theory, it should be a big’un. A Zed large enough to say “COME ON THEN, IF YOU THINK YOU’RE HARD ENOUGH !!!!” with palms up and fins folded. Carp (did) live in this area as well, but then being a ponderous beast, they are a little easier to corner and pin down, and so they might well have scarpered for their own safety, but I suppose only one way to find out.

So for this after work evening session it was some double dipping a rod out for Zander and one for Carp, smelt under my overdepth float set-up and a pink pop up on a ‘D rig’ (whatever that is), with some freebie feed pellets. The water is well in to double figures now and I’ve seen and heard carp on the move in other areas so they should be moving here as well.

A little like a commercial fishery carp in the past here often respond to the dinner bell, so you could be watching Zander floats like a hawk come dusk but often ended up being distracted by the movement of the waters when the mud sifters get on the move.

I fed the carp swim with some pellets and then went down to a section of cover to try and winkle out a Zander or to first. After having a natter to couple of interested dog walkers wondering what I've been catching upon their return I had a bite on the right hand rod. They had more anticipation then I did and were shocked something was living in the canal but the float went under like a submarine and a fish was on.

It was a schoolie around 2 lb or so and the couple whipped out their phone and took a couple of snaps. "Oh yeah, just look at those teeth". That bite came after about an hour or so fishing a few swims so I decided to move back up the stretch to the carp hideout and fish the remaining of the session in to dusk there, the carp rig tight to cover, and a Zander rod smack bang in the middle of the track.

A boat came through 10 minutes after I'd just managed the perfect cast, and the water went from brown and turbid to chocolate and stayed that way till I left.

Eventually a tiny schoolie manged to engulf nearly a whole smelt but apart from the odd bleep, the carp rod remained biteless. Not exactly what I was after, but this area has past form and I'm sure there are still some bigger fish hanging around. With a month or so remaining of the quest I want to get to at least PT100 of the quest before it's over for 2018, so plenty still to go at. Maybe concentrating my efforts down at the 'deep bit' is the way to go, as the average stamp of Zander caught there are high.

I've a window of opportunity on Friday afternoon so I might do a 'big' lure only session as I'm sure there are swims that have potential that a lure would be the best way to discover them.
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