Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Sunday 31 May 2020

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.161 - Myxomatosis and Mythomania

Some animals are born to be law breakers and the goats that live on Purity Brewery Fam are no exception. Breaking out and breaking the rules are two of Bruno the goat’s favourite past times.

The bleat lets you know he’s coming but no one knows what’s in store for them, from stealing washing off the line to breaking into the Purity brew house, he really is a law unto himself.

Lawless the maverick brew follows the 500- year-old Bavarian brewing law to achieve traditional purity using only four ingredients. We then added a blend of Pilgrim, El Dorado and Styrian Goldings hops.

With Pilsner Malt, Wheat Malt, Caragold, lager yeast and our own mineral rich local water. Coolly lagered for 40 days – oh, and we slipped in a dash of hops, whilst no one was looking for a sharp, citrusy kick.

Give it a go if you can find it, it's a nice drop, in this hot weather a Godsend !!!!

Anyway back to law breakers the wisdom of importing the zander has been debated for some time.

It is said to be a desirable fish for naturalisation in British waters, but, warned Sir Herbert Maxwell, as long ago as 1904, although its flesh is of a high quality, the utmost discretion should be observed in distributing it, for it unites the omnivorous voracity and size of the pike with the defensive armature of the common perch.

Such a formidable creature might work irremediable havoc if it became established in waters tenanted by other game fish.

That learned and sporting baronet would have been even more admonitory if he had known that a Zander lays its eggs a million at a time or more, as against the mere two hundred thousand that is the perch's best.

Both parents guarding them till they hatch, and that, with its perch-like porphropsin-rich eyes giving it good vision in dark, murky waters, it complements the pike as a predator rather than competing with it. 

Now pike like to lie in cover in clear water and dash at their prey, Zander cruise more slowly through dark plant-free waters for choice. Zander were nevertheless introduced early in this century, at first to the lakes of Woburn and Claydon, then in the sixties they were released into the waters of the Great Ouse Relief Channel, from which they have spread to neighbouring rivers. 

He was welcomed by the small band of Zander enthusiasts, who appreciate having something to angle for in winter floodwater, less enthusiasm was felt by the majority of coarse anglers, who felt that roach and bream were meant for better things than Zanderfodder.  

When a small, toothy, odd fish was found in the Trent, loud were the accusations against the Great Ouse River Authority, muted, but not retracted, when the suspect Zander turned out to be a young smelt. 

The rest was history though, however I can offer some consolation to those that didn't fish the canals anyway, but just moan about the state of them. 

Two small Zander meeting head-on will each attempt to swallow the other, and I have seen a photograph of a chain of four of its close American cousin, the walleye, each having partly engulfed the one in front of it. 

Of the million eggs laid, how many are food for the others?

Secondly, big Zander may not be as destructive as they look. Zander in laboratory tanks given access to roach of various sizes cull out the smaller ones, the food of choice for a mature Zander is a roach no bigger than four inches. 

Also, Zander specialists, nope not me, report that dead-bait left lying on the bottom are often better than the catches they can expect to make with live-bait, the fish, for all its fearsome appearance, is a scavenger as much as a predator. Zander have been taken with scales in their stomachs that must have come from bream bigger than themselves, but these were surely taken from fish already dead.

Thirdly, it looks like an excellent subject for biological control. The Russian biologist Gintort, studying the fish of the Kuybyshev reservoirs, found that the carp louse Argulus, which sometimes infects other fishes, is particularly deadly to the Zander; four to eight lice will kill a year-old Zander in six hours, while carp and bream, the other possible hosts, are far more resistant. 

No anode up the jacksie to be seen here !!! then again better keep that under ones hat....

It may not be impossible to devise a sort of piscine myxomatosis to keep Zander down. This may seem far­fetched, and indeed Gintort regarded the Zander's susceptibility as bad news, but then the Russian Zander catch runs into thousands of tons a year.

Anyway enough of that, back to the task in hand, back to what I do best and that is a roving a stretch with the minimum of tackle. What a lovely morning however after fluffing a good take and then losing a fish because it ejected the bait I wondered if I'd actually catch a fish.

I stuck with it though and one section of cover blanketed in thick dark shade produced one of the quickest bites I'd ever had in Zander fishing as I'm sure it took the smelt on the drop. Another quick bite I had two in the net within less than a minute. Not huge fish for me but certainly gave a good fight on relatively light tackle and they don't like the be caught at the minute, all gnashing of teeth and snapping hard shut of jaws. 

Friday 29 May 2020

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.160 - Margaritiferous and Malkintrash

Light at the end of the tunnel ?

Are there signs of improvement in a situation that has been bad for a long time, or signs that a long and difficult piece of work is almost finished ?

Well it doesn't seem that way, seemingly this Double Figure Canal Zander Quest I set myself is getting more and more unlikely to come to a conclusion the more it goes on.

A glimmer of hope though ?

Maybe, you see, two sources now have come up with the same picture of a lump of a Zander caught in an area I'd not previously fished before, an area where the capture over the years has apparently caught the same fish 3 times.

To be fair me and Danny fished the area a couple of times without much success but clearly this area has some form, and a non transient big Zander who acts like a territorial Pike, I want in on it.

It certainly looked a good fish from the picture and you could see why a Zander could live here happily, it has all the features one one want.

Locks, bays and cover, Zander utopia if there ever was one, especially as now the towpaths are quiet here because there are no warm ales to purchase and friends to share some pork scratchings with.

One big issue though, all the fish I've caught over 8lb have all been from the same stretch five minutes drive away, this area is almost five times that.

For someone that has to maximise each and every session and to fit in as much fishing as he can in the small window I've got that's one big hurdle to get over.

Quick results are never that easy in canal Zander fishing unless you've been blessed with pure luck, but anything to help me boost my chances of catching a 10lb canal Zander, must be taken up and fully explored as this lead may well be a quest concluder.

At least if only to say I've been there and got the t-shirt....

Now Nic was with me for this evening session in to dusk and planned to fish similar tactics to me, two deadbait rods in one particular area. The problem was the swim where the Zander had been reputed to come out of a number of times was occupied already.

An elderly fella who by the sounds of it fishes it a lot. The swim isn't exactly peaceful as the overflow means where he was sat, the noise of the water is almost deafening. Still he was quite forward on his fish captures here and some of the species caught were frankly a bit of an eyeopener for a canal.

He had pictures to back up his stories though and he too had caught this Zander, 10lb 1 ounce the tail end of last year. It looked a good fish too. After speaking for a while we headed to another area up from this where there was some nice fish apparently to be had too.

In-fact not long in to the session when we moved after being biteless for half an hour, Nic spotted a huge bream shoal. And what an eyeopener it was, now I don't get excited by bream shoals but this one was frankly quite staggering. We are talking probably >100 fish, and their black silhouettes were big, hard to gauge but certainly 4 or 5 lb.

I stuck to my guns with the Zander but Nic went back to his car and got his float gear to try for one of them. He balled in some groundbait to try and get them feeding and intended to stay in to dusk and beyond as it was an opportunity not to be missed.

I stayed for a biteless hour and chatted with Nic for a while but he couldn't buy a bite until later on that is. The fish were not playing ball despite them moving and topping literally everywhere. With hardly any boat traffic the water is still clear so I suspected when the light starts to fade things should pick up.

I left Nic to it and decided to fish in the same area as the elderly gentleman who was struggling as we were when I started fishing just down from him. He was fishing sweetcorn and was after whatever came along and to be honest it seems lots of different species live here.

There is one thing I don't like about this area and its the footfall, it is constant. Maybe in the winter is the best time to fish it when many would be put off by the cold. It was a lovely evening though and we are still within a sort of lockdown so that could explain it.

Still they seemed a friendly bunch here, in-fact as I was watching the motionless float a man who's house backed on to the canal popped his head over the fence for a natter. He'd lived in the house for 20 years and was a match angler at heart but still likes fishes the more natural waters like what can be found here.

He'd seen the canal change over the years but again had multi species here and some clonkers of fish from any canal, let alone a dirty Warwickshire one. The problem in tacking down this Zander is that from lock to lock, ie the area it has to roam is 1.4 mile long. That is a heck of a piece of water, like a needle and a haystack. So I left when I could barely see the floats and sadly a blank.

The issue I have is the distance here to fish it, it needs some dedication which I couldn't justify. However by the sounds of it because the fish has been caught in the same area, maybe in the winter when it is less likely to roam it could hold up here. I missed the best time for Zander in the close season because of the lockdown but maybe when the rivers are in flood next time I'll come back again for another visit.

To be fair, I might give the 1.4 mile long area more of a look when I can justify a day off. I fancy fishing the whole day and in to dusk just to see what else is about here. It's an area I've largely overlooked and after some interesting chats maybe I should familiarise my self a little more with it.

Tuesday 26 May 2020

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.159 – Gollumpus and Garconanokin

A Zander trip to 'dog pool alley' cannot be taken lightly, here you need to watch where you tread, every step needs consideration before planting, otherwise your footwear will be tainted beyond saving.

Now there is the added problem that some stools can be well hidden, already trodden and sadly not easy ,so before you place that landing net down, check and check again, you'll thank me after.

It's been my pet hate for a while but during our lockdown walks out an about with the Wife and kids, they are firmly on my side, it cannot continue like this, it's getting worse, much of it in plain sight,  those poo bags on display for all to see.

What's all that about, who knows? It's just illogical. By tying 'poo' up in a plastic bag and then hanging it up, it sort of acknowledges responsibility. But the 'poo' takes far longer to biodegrade.

Some sort of modern art thing going on ? or a particular good one done by ones pungent and disease riddled toothpaste squeezer, needs to be proudly exhibited to highlight its near bag breaking almightyness ?

Maybe a poo displayer could explain?

Or is there one group within society where fingers could be pointed.

Could it be the mainly old with weak arms, aiming to sling it onto the ground beyond the trees, clearing the branches, but no longer have either skill or strength to do so, as their Daley Thompson days are over....?

Or could it be the ones that you see only the failures and the majority out of sight of mind....?

Then again I don't think it's that because there is one particular ditch on this stretch where no exaggeration, there are hundreds and hundreds of the poo parcels, different coloured bags too, so one would assume it's not the same (person).

Now it doesn't help to try and avoid being tainted it's dark down this neck of the woods, the banks either side high and therefore the sun rarely penetrates the waters surface. That's one of the reasons why the Zander like it here, their eyesight better than their counterparts, one-upmanship if you will.

So how can the lazy be educated so that we can enjoy public spaces in their best light.

Could there be a solution, an answer to stop all of this ? Some ambient light to help me see ones dipping floats ?

Well humans have used animal dung as fuel since the neolithic period, and have known how to get flammable gas from decaying organic matter since the 17th century. 

Small-scale anaerobic digesters are commonplace in many developing countries, while larger plants producing heat and electricity from animal manure and human sewage have long been used in the west.

Now methane has been used before for light generation but the Malvern Hills had the UK’s first dog poo-powered street lamp, and it is generating light in more ways than one.

Inventer Brian Harper went the whole hog and built his own. The idea seems simple enough, dog walkers after being supplied free paper bags deposit the product of a hearty walk into a hatch and turn a handle to get the process to work.

The contents are then broken down by microorganisms in the anaerobic digester, producing methane to fuel the light, and fertiliser.

Of course, poo from different breeds of dog is suited to powering different types of electric light.

Things Grow Big Down Here
For example, a large poodle is best for a standard lamp, floodlights call for water spaniels, and dalmatian droppings are ideal for spotlights. To safely power a gas lamp though, corgis are always recommended, Or the full lightshow you'll be fine with a Lurcher.

Down here just a couple of sausage dogs would suffice !!!! A mere amber hue would be all it would take to stop doing a double take to quash that premonition that appears to be walking down the towpath.

Talking about an amber hue, for this session apart from smelt on one rod after a delivery of my favourite bait for canal Zander, on the other rod I'd dyed some roach yellow for some added attraction, these were reasonable sized baits too.

Roving to start but then as the light was starting to go I wanted to be positioned in one particular swim which is a man made transitional route takes fish from one area to another. I rarely blank here and some sessions around this area can be quite hectic but there are some good fish to be had hence the nasties that need to be overlooked.

When the rivers were in flood I fished here a couple of times in to dark, but the water was cold then, Zander like some warmth to get them moving unless you drop a bait on their heads of course, then a bite will invariably happen.

Anyway back to to the session, it was very warm in the day reaching 24 degrees in the day ans still warm when I rocked up at 7.00pm.

The first half the session was roving from cover to cover away from the main area I'd target in to dusk.

Here in the past before the cover was thinned back in a couple of sessions I can recall I'd had multi runs and caught multi fish all from the same bit of cover. 12 fish in an hour and a half the best once you drop on a shoal. However two hours in, not even a dropped run.

Down from here though a very sheltered area where sunlight doesn't penetrate so for me having caught some nice Zander from here already, this is where potentially a big'un would be hiding out, it's got that feel about it too.

The boat track has a nice depth as well, deep enough for a good fish to hide. But sadly time passed quickly with motionless floats, dusk hit, bats flying around and with floats difficult to see I decided to end the session with a blank.

Sunday 24 May 2020

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.158 – Lygophilia and Lycraphobia

7.00am 9, yes 9 towpath terrorists seemingly from the same club, were doing a Cummings and ignoring the 'rules. With matching rucksacks and grins to match they appeared when I was on-route to the prebaited swim. They came out of nowhere to spoil the pleasant morning, luckily it could only get better.

Now this stretch in the past had some form, but then the last couple of years I've hardy fished it because you'd blank more often than not, and those banker swims no longer banker swims.

However out of necessity in the lockdown, this being the closest stretch of canal to me, I decided to not only prebait a swim but also to walk and cycle its length to try and spot some carp to see if they were targeting when the barriers were lifted.

The carp are certainly there but as yet I've not spotted any of size. Those spots that held carp when I started to fish it initially for Zander still do now. If only the CRT did their homework they will see a balance has been returned. The huge shoals of roach and fry that live here, are there for all to see, no need for an anode up the Zeds jacksie, they cohabit here quite nicely ta very much.

Now within a few minutes in the prebaited swim the left hand float with a 1/2 a smelt underneath started to bob and cart to my right. That was quick, but then when I lifted in to the fish, I pulled the bait right out of its mouth.

The bait went back out and sure enough after a couple of pulls to lift the bait up in the water, a bite develops again. This time I've firmly hooked in to it and it carts around the swim taking line.

Spot the carp ?, they are swim buddies with the Zander
A decent fight to be fair, not a huge fish around 4lb or so but encouraging signs to maybe give this area more of a go in the future.

Now I thought that could be it bite wise as it's often the case here, but no, the fish were up for a feed. Smelt the order of the day, the best canal Zander bait bar none if you ask me.

5 or 6 fish further fish caught by roving around and with a couple more drop takes too, an enjoyable session whilst the rabble were still tucked up in bed. Usually when the water is as low and clear as this bites are at a premium, but no, this session shows what can be achieved if you do the leg work.

Clear(ish), bright, all conditions you don't expect to catch Zander.

To be fair when you've caught as many as I have done you get an eye for a Zander swim and oddly those swims can change every time you tread the same path. I didn't think I'd fish so much, but with the fish on the feed, it would be rude not to.

These two fish caught in an area that was dark as the sunlight couldn't penetrate it. The branches of an overhanging tree giving an excellent vantage point for a Zander to hunt.

The bigger fish was just landed when the other float started to submarine. When it properly goes under I've found usually it's a spirited small'un, the slow and steady bites, often those that start and stop but then eventually develop in to a run are the ones to be interested in.

Amazing how the colour develops as they get older especially with the sun to apply almost a 'glow'

Saturday 23 May 2020

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.157 – Double-Baggers and Dontopedalogy

Last week I quite enjoyed my session here, the roving never happened, confined to one area. The fishing was hectic too, with run after run. The sleeper carp rod unhindered but hey, there was still a decent bend in the rod.

I crouched on ones knees, or sat myself on the unhooking mat last time, but for this session I fancied chilling out even more and would take my lightweight chair and just enjoy the morning.

The only change for this session would be smelt fished in addition to roach, a most welcome delivery from Online Baits Uk cannot argue with the service I have received over the years either, I can only go on my experience to be fair, but they have been great. 

Not that bad value for money either despite the delivery cost with a small order. The <2 quid bulk 'Zander Bulk Pack' of roach are handy to have in the freezer and are the perfect size to fish whole on the canal.

I like fishing larger baits in the main though, because usually it does better the stamp of fish. Smelt as well has been the mainstay in my Zander fishing, one of my fishing books praised the use of them for Zeds and they work fantastic.

Being soft the hook pulls out of them easily and being on the canal only an underarm chuck is required anyway.

The baits arrive in good nick despite their overnight delivery, insulated polystyrene box and ice-packs mean they never spoil on-route.

That  brings me on to the discovery of  "that smell" in the Newey's garage. The thankfully the source was found yesterday because even I was struggling with its pungency.

At first I thought it was a landing net or unhooking mat that had fish residue on it, but after giving the possible stench sources a good going over, and then once more, it was still lingering and in-fact was getting worse.

In-fact it go so bad that the Wife had to have an extra gin or two, just to enter the wall of fish that hit you as soon as you opened the garage door which resides as the end of the kitchen.

I naturally played down the mackerel matching malodor, but then I would wouldn't it. However as luck would have it, I decided to have a sort through some of my bait containers to find one I could use for cheese paste when upon lifting the lid of a small bait bucket, the manky discovery was made.

Now smelt has two smells, one is there is no denying it's a fish and the other to try and mask that 'fishy' smell cucumber, yes you heard right cucumber.

When I saw it banded around in various predator articles I'd read I really was surprised when it purchased some for the first time just how true that was, it really has a strong cucumber scent.

The problem was this forgotten smelt has turned in to mostly liquid over the time it had been forgotten about and its now unidentifiable origins now left to the crime scene forensic scientists. I knew what it was straight away though.

Now if the bucket was sealed it wouldn't have been so bad I suppose, but I'd used this for worms in the past and the lid had a load of air holes in it allowing the transmission of the fumes to wherever it decided to take itself.

I had to act fast, the bag it was wrapped up in was lifted away from its home and was double bagged in a couple of biodegradable supermarket shopping bags.

Then the container complete with it's liquid was poured down the kitchen sink and I got to work on giving it a thoroughly good clean. Fairy wouldn't budge the smell though, so it was out with the COVID-19 quashing disinfectant and some added bleach to avoid a second attempt.

A good half an hour soaking, rinsed over and over, and then I sat it in the sun to dry and also to remove all traces of this unfortunate incident, I was now back in the good books, the hue of rank fish still in the background, but the Chrismas Febreze which was stuck at the back of the cleaning cupboard now in the foreground.

Not sure which is worse to be honest....

So anyway, back to the session...

The usual overdepth float set-up with smelt on one rod and roach on the other to try and winkle out a Zander or two.

Blue sky, then cloud, then a light sprinkling of rain it was still quite a pleasant session being out, and to be fair it was quite nice sitting and chilling, rather than roving.

They were biting too, 6  in total and a couple of dropped runs, nothing massive, but then sometimes it's just nice to have a bite or two.The clear(ish) water showing their dark backs to best effect. Most of them had leaches so are laying up still but nice to seem them back in numbers again. Smelt counted for the biggest I caught shown here, which was around 4lb.

A passing lure angler had caught a couple of Zedlets and had said he'd spotted carp spawning, there are signs the Zander already have, quite a few marks on half of the fish I caught in this session.

Friday 22 May 2020

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.156 – Malingerors and Maw-Wallops

It’s hard to believe now, but until relatively recently, solitude or the experience of being alone for significant periods of time was treated with a mixture of fear and respect. It tended to be restricted to enclosed religious orders and was thus a privileged experience of a male elite.

Change was only set in motion by the Reformation and the Enlightenment in the early 16th century, when the ideologies of humanism and realism took hold, and solitude slowly became something that anyone could acceptably seek from time to time. 

Most people in the West are now used to some regular form of solitude but the reality of COVID-19 lockdown is making this experience far more extreme.

Now for me as a solitude seeker, those few hours bankside alone is all I need for ones well-being, those 8 weeks without fishing solitude needed to be sought in different ways.

Ben especially because the way he is, can be very noisy, very noisy indeed, sometimes I just need an escape. So the bike was dusted off, the headphones full charged for the next ambient landscape, the stroll down the towpath on my own to bait the Zander swim.

Luckily we are back in business as I was starting to struggle, working thankfully a Godsend during the week, anyway a canalside weekend walk out with the family the weekend just gone was very pleasant indeed, the wind low, sun high.

With the gongoozling done the walk back to the car a shad chucker came in to view but then, forget him, out the corner of ones well trained eye "what's this", a couple of anglers fishing deadbaits.

"Sam can you seen them ?" 4 rods on the go too, one float conventional, three others what look like sea floats standing erect for all to see, hey look at me. To be fair when light levels drop, these look like they could be just the ticket.

Still I rarely see deadbaiting going on for Zander near me, lure fishing the norm, I thought it was confined to the history books, maybe they know something I don't know ?. To be fair this isn't an area I'd chose to fish the footfall more than I'd like. To be fair I've fished quite a bit around here well within reach of a catapult pull mind you and caught nothing of note, a 4lber probably the best if I recall.

"Sam, fancy an evening fishing trip ?"

"Ok Daddy, don't want to fish in to dark though, you know I don't like the dark"

"Dusk then ?"

"Yes, that's fine, I like fishing in to dusk, I get to see all the bats flying about" ,"can I bring my float rod ?"

"If you want, go some worms in the wormery that could do with a day trip"

"You what ?"

"Don't worry, I'll sort everything out, you just turn up"

The weather preceding this session had been frankly ridiculous, the mercury reaching heights of 27 degrees or so, the sun blazing.

The waters warm, fish moving. It's quite open here but my biggest Zander of 9lb came from a similar swim, that was quite shallow and after taking me up and down the towpath the fish was landed.

These sort of spots have been on ones radar for a while though to be fair, oddly I'd not fished this particular one. These anglers may know something though, hence this initial reccy. 

In this stupid quest of mine, I'd rather try grasp on to any glimmer of hope for a quest concluder that double figure canal Zander that is seemingly getting more elusive the more the quest goes on.

The bigger fish seemingly harder to come by, the heyday year a few years ago the best chance I had ?

Who knows, still the passion is still there, I'm sure many would have broken by now and taken away by men in white coats, there is a book in it, I'm sure of it. Then again the Wife thought they would come knocking when I spent ones hard earned money on a new car where when four up you're wondering where you could fit that extra pint of maggots.

I love the Jimny though and with ones rod mount sorted the rods are never off it, 60mph not an issue, like the Zander it has plenty of character and I get enjoyment from every time I turn the key.

It fits my lifestyle, to be fair if it wasn't for the lockdown the back seats (yes there is some) are permanently down. It's a lifestyle vehicle and can now venture where I want to go without some of my previous cars restrictions, great ground clearance and wet, rutty and muddy river banks not an issue.

Anyway back to the fishing in with ones hand faggots polished we were on the road and soon swim side, in the couple of hours we were there at least 6 lure anglers were spotted in and around the vicinity. Now in avoid these sort of areas at all costs, I want fishing on my terms not having to worry about anyone else.

Still we ploughed on and deadbaits were positioned in a passageway from one area to another, the other, a few rod lengths away from it whilst Sam fished his float rod.

After an hour and a half with motionless floats Sam was the only use for the unhooking mat. What didn't help matters what that the grass had been recently cut and much of it had ended up in the canal and it was constantly on the move meaning recasting quite often.

The best time was approaching though and I managed to persuade to stay for one last cast and I was right, soon after the first bat was spotted and dusk was almost here, the left hand float started to bob and weave and a run started.

Sam did the honours and at first I thought it was a tiny Zander but then the stripes showed, yeap another Perch on a roach deadbait, they are like buses.

Then I noticed a stench of weed was drifting down to us from one of the moored boats that looks like it came straight from Steptoes yard.

We won't be back !!!!

Well to be fair I might if the waters become turbid, it was clear'ish today, not ideal for Zander fishing, but it does look like an area that may need attention in the future. 
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