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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