Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Monday 30 May 2022

Canal Zander - The Hallowed II Chronicles Pt.6

One of the biggest problems on the canals towpaths is other people. To the casual wanderer, with nothing better do, the angler is there for the specific purpose of being pestered, chatted up, argued with or borrowed from. Complete strangers think nothing at all of pawing, through all of his personal belongings while rabbiting on about the weather, the state of the economy, the price of fuel, or the futility of an occupation which involves sitting for eight hours drowning worms.

He is approached by screwballs, layabouts, lurkers, peeping Toms, meth drinkers, religious maniacs, vegetarians, bovver boys, and old ladies with strong views on the dreadfulness of it all. Curiously, in my own experience he is seldom approached by a beautiful nymphomaniac heiress whose old man owns a brewery.

Now no matter how far away from human habitation the angler sits, it seldom takes longer than half an hour for a speck to appear on the horizon, homing in with the unerring accuracy of a moonshot. The angler cannot get away. The very immobility which often the pursuit demands (I had a chair with me for this session 😵) makes him the perfect target and gives him no opportunity or excuse for flight. The only defences the verbal squelch. 

Most of us can think of it but only ten minutes after the interrogator has gone. The solution is to rehearse, to have the answers ready before the relationship becomes too involved. To this end, the Piscatorial Quagswagging Institute of Verbal Studies has issued a leaflet which lists the most common approachees. 

'The old boy' who remembers a time on the river that never was (not in his lifetime, anyway) when worms were tipped in by the sack full and Barbel pulled out by the hundredweight, is really too nice to be given the straight brush-off. Even though he may be talking a load of absolute codswallop, he probably believes every word, and it would be a cruelty to disabuse him. 

So you can tell him that you really regret the ‘passing of those marvellous old days, that you are after the only carp left in this canal, and that the next few minutes might see the realisation of 5 years of hoping and dreaming. 

He will understand completely and will sit down, under your direction, in the wettest, windiest, coldest and most uncomfortable place on the bank, just so that he won't be a nuisance or get in the way. After ten minutes his rheumatism and gout will start playing him up and he will suddenly remember that it’s time for his morning coffee back home. 

Am I helping ? more whenever I get bored next. 

Anyway a trip back to the Hallowed cannot be taken lightly because, boy what a variety of fish to be had and predators of Stoltman proportions. For this extended session it was out with a method feeder sleeper rod where I'd fish some pellets with an eye catching band'um wafter for the Tench and fish maggot and groundbait as the main line of attack. 

Rudd, silver bream, roach and whatever else came along on would be nice and naturally the predators wouldn't avoid my attentions and from time to time I'd swap the method feeder rod to a deadbait set-up. To be honest I wanted to try out some small floats I stumbled upon that should be more visible when fishing this much larger venue than I'm used to. 

Anyway best laid plans and all that, what a really odd session, you see when I got there the fish were biting. All silver bream mind you with the odd rudd in-between but once the boat traffic got moving the usually green canal went chocolate brown.

Not only that but the canal was moving one way and then the other. The method feeder rod as well that didn't get any bites whatsoever, not even a pluck, pull or an enquiry.

Once the canal settled down for a while bites again were forthcoming but they came in fits and starts. The tench were nowhere to be seen and oddly the bigger rudd didn't show either.

Eventually some small perch and the odd skimmer, hybrid and proper bream turned up. Nothing like the sort of weights than can be achieved here if the fish are in a feeding mood.

In the end I got a little bored with the lack of bites and decided to go on the rove to try and pick up a predator. The float was certainly a good choice as cast over to the far bank against some cover the float stood out brilliantly. 

Three sections of cover without a bite though even the predators were having an off day. But when the fish are not up for a feed there isn't a fat lot you can do. So with boats every few minutes, 1 out of 5 easing off the gas when they went by, I wasn't enjoying it and decided to call it a day.

I suppose with the schools finished for half-term much of it was holiday traffic but there was also a fuel narrowboat and what looked like a tug of some sort.

Still a few bites initially and all caught on the whip which I've really enjoyed off late. Only 75 grams in weight it's a joy to hold too, just don't Sam as it is his really. Anyway with a busy weekend on the cards where I'd struggle to get out I'm glad I made the effort to come over even if the results were not as expected. 

What I didn't expect either was to see a decent size eel drift on by as I was packing up. Not nice to see. Not a massive one but looked a metre or so long which to be honest would have certainly been a PB eel for me. 

How it died is anyones guess, but boats, otters and all manner of other predators live here as well so it could be any one of those or even natural causes I suppose. To be fair not the first dead one I've seen here, the other by some lock gates, let's hope it's a rare occurrence, anyway on to the next one. 

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Brook Trout - Warwickshire Tenkara Pt.2

There are those among us, brothers, who reckon that game fishing is strictly for the aristocracy, for the plutocrats, for the face-grinding capitalist exploiters of ‘honest’ labour 🤦. That you need a lottery win before you can even think about it, and that we don't want to know, anyway that if the canal was good enough for our dads it's good enough for us. 

A load of old shoemenders, admittedly, if you want to fish the southern chalk rivers or any of the privately owned stretches of Scottish salmon rivers, you do need the numbers to come up. But there are lots of small rivers and streams which are full of trout and cost no more to fish than a coarse river. 

The growth of stillwater trout fishing on specially stocker reservoirs has increased enormously the number of waters. You can reach them now, because you've got a car, which was something your Grandfathers never had. Some of the bigger 4 angling clubs have bought rights on some beautiful salmon and trout waters. 

You can go and fish for those my friends, and still have enough cash left over for a bevvy, or do what I do and go and look on your own doorstep, because its surprising what these forgotten water hold. 

That flay fishin’, my dear old chap, is the only way to catch fish compatible with the dignity of an officer and a gentleman. And if you are a real purist, old chap, you must use the dray flay for trout and nothing else. That the only fish worth pursuing are the salmon and the trout. 

And that the skills of flay fishin’ are infinitely superior to the chuck-and-chance-it methods of those roughnecks on the canal. A bit like an English breakfast, some people get all hot and bothered over the contents, add chips if you want to, who says it's right or wrong ? 

Heck please look away, I've added a hash brown to mine, which I had for a lunch, not breakfast I might add. That's what you need for 3 meetings before 10.00am when the first one is 7.30am with those still locked-down in China. 

Now although dry fly fishing is an extremely beautiful art, every branch of angling has its own skills and merits, anyway trout are thick as two short planks aren't they ?. Trout anglers will argue for hours about which fly he prefers, meanwhile, he's quite happy with an almost lifeless lethargic worm.  

No lifeless lethargic worms for this super short session however though but back out with the tenkara fly rod. You see out in Stratford-Upon-Avon the weekend with the rabble in tow the mayfly were dancing in unison like they were auditioning as ANOTHER dance group in Britain's Got Talent (anyone still watch this guff ?) so I fancied another dabble. 

There had been some rain too and the local stream was so shallow last time any adding to its levels would be welcome as I felt I was on a hiding to nothing. I decided to go waters more familiar mind you where I'd caught trout from before and hoping one would succumb to the dry fly tactic.  

Anyway to the session, well the hatch was clearly evident when I got bankside and trout were rising every 30 seconds or so, a pretty good picture if I so so myself where one was mulling around in the margins and I scooped it up with my net and got Boris to say Hi !!!. Now I'm not talking a boat load of fish rising, just the odd one dotted about the visible stretch.

I was struggling after an hour though without a take, however the move to the next swim it was a different story as after a couple of rises after dibbing the fly up and down where the fish were bumped off sadly, eventually one nailed it big time. Only a nipper as I've caught them far bigger here but a welcome brook trout on the dry fly. After losing another fish that came off after 3 seconds or so my curfew was up and I had to head off back home to look after the wallet raiders whilst the Wife had a well deserved evening out. 

Monday 23 May 2022

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.34

Now blog reader Jon knows I want to try and catch a canal carp before the river season opens and he'd put me on to a very urban stretch of canal where he'd been 'bust' up when fishing for other species.

The carp once hooked shot under the boat and in to the reeds before you had a chance to say "Oh FFS !!". Now you know me, any location tips welcome because some of the best fish I've caught have been as I've been pointed in the right direction. 

Now it was only when I took to Google maps where I realised where it was and to be fair I had fished it a few years ago for Zander and I'd not been back since. Why you would want to fish this sort of stretch is beyond me, because let's be honest, there are far nicer areas to fish where the footfall is nothing like it is here.

So an early one was on the cards and whilst the unwashed masses were adding to their bedsores I for some reason got myself out of a warm bed and a couple of large comforting plump pillows to head to a stretch of canal that is largely out of ones comfort zone. !!!

Obviously it was rude not to have a Zander sleeper rod out and being a quick smash and grab session I'd only fish this one swim. So bread on the dedicated carp rod and a small whole roach on my usual overdepth canal Zed set-up. 

An hour and a half with the bread cast here there and everywhere not a sausage. The first half an hour the bait was tight to the boat with some freebies but nought doing despite it looking like a carp or two could be hiding there. The Zander rod as well, nada !!!

So once the waifs, strays and werewolf decided to surface I decided to up-sticks and move up to the chub swim, pack my carp rod away and get the float rod out.

It didn't take long to for the first bite either, not a chub though but a hard fighting hybrid. Not the biggest but at least it wasn't a blank. No more fish in that swim so I decided to head back to the car and fish a reedy area where I'd caught some small Zander from.

And sure enough there will still milling around, in-fact I caught 4 before I got bored and decided to end the session early.

Encouraging signs though as I said before, I don't usually catch them this small and despite their persecution from certain quarters they are still lovely fish to see from a turbid canal. And that was that, another session on the canal ticked off and still quite a few more to go. 

Sunday 22 May 2022

Canal Zander - The Hallowed II Chronicles Pt.5

I hadn't fished here for a while but this area was back on my radar again after some proper huge fish has been caught by a couple of anglers. To be fair I'd been concentrating on one particular area where eventually the quest concluder turned up but I wanted to have a nose at some of the other areas to try and catch an even bigger canal Zander. 12 and 13lbers, yeap, I want in !!!

It's a nice big open stretch this, the footfall isn't that bad, the boat traffic can be, however. Being in the middle of nowhere though the road noise is also at a minimal. 

It's not just all about the big fish, even though I've been daydreaming of a big'un whilst adding the much needed pennies to the ever diminishing pot, sometimes it's just nice to be out isn't it. 

I'd also fish a whip with maggots whilst the Zander rod was doing its thing, because, well, why not. 

With weekends always to look forward to randomly mostly working from home this week I've got up off my backside, turned up the bluetooth speaker up to the max, and danced around the makeshift home office in the kids playroom, with arms and legs like an octopus on acid.

I cannot do that in the proper office now can I !!!

But lets be honest here any break however small it may be from family, work and life's pressures must be taken whenever it can.No let up is there, where if I was young free and single I'd have contemplated selling up, downsizing, retiring and living the simple life in a tiny house somewhere.

I bet it would have been dooable too if it wasn't for the pocket pilferers that are here to stay.

One's elderly next door neighbour had the right idea, he married a lady quite a bit younger than him and whilst she and I are having to deal with the cost of living crisis, he's having a whale of a time, pottering in the garden sawing, banging and drilling EVERY SINGLE DAY !!!.

Luckily for him away from his self inflicting noise creation he has been enjoying acid house and the like emanating from his up to his neck in work neighbour. 

A musical era that in contrast to today, really couldn't be more different and thankfully I can look back at the good times and even better memories where, the tinnitus despite years of woofer abuse, is a distant memory unlike the repetitive beats which for me are still as mind altering as they ever were. 

But fishing is also one of those psychoactives for many, because as we know it is a pastime that isn't rivalled I don't think. 

In these times fishing can provide escapism in spades, especially when it offers so much variety and can be adapted to suit the time you have available, whether that is two hours, five hours, 24 or even a week or more.
Many anglers like me, do not think about anything whatsoever when fishing, Blank Mind Syndrome almost and it really is quite amazing how the wellbeing improves especially when most of my sessions are short. 

Now I think Buffalo Si (complete with 7 rods) is following me or something because as Sam and I was making are way down to the swim to fish, Si and his mate Neil from the garage had been there ALL DAY and were staring at a blank.

It turned out the swim he'd be fishing was home to his PB pike of 22lb and also a massive Zander of 12lb's and 8 ounces which are such impressive fish for the canal, and as I said, it must be one the best stretches in the country. There is a reason for that though and that is because the place is stuffed full of fish. The predators that swim here really have rich pickings. 

Now fishing groundbait and maggots sport can be quite ridiculous really but it can be patchy sometimes however persevere with the bait going in and bites are usually forthcoming.

Rudd and perch made up the bulk of the fish succumbing to the whip approach with the odd small silver bream in-between. That's the way it goes here, but fortunes can change the following day when bream, bigger rudd, roach, tench and hybrids can make an appearance. 

The biggest fish was a perch around a pound but certainly sport on the 3.5m whip after giving him the run around. The predator rod was out for a few hours and moved around the swim but nothing doing on that whatsoever.

Sam was entertained though especially when Buffalo Si gave us a sneak preview of the video that he will be posting on YouTube soon. Something a bit different to the humdrum fishing channels give them a watch even if it's just for a laugh, as he certainly does seem to enjoy himself. 

As dusk was approaching after a quiet period it was a bite a chuck in the end but after a busy day we both decided to call it a day. The boat traffic here is regular but even after a boat has gone be and stirred up the bottom the colour quickly returns back to normal.

My local canal is nothing like that, once a boat goes by it stays chocolate brown for a good hour or so. I'm sure that helps the fishing as the canal is a lovely green colour and always has some decent visibility. We will be back !!!

Friday 20 May 2022

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.33

The UK's biggest EuroMillions lottery winners have been revealed as a couple from Gloucester who scooped £184m with a lucky dip ticket. Joe and Jess Thwaite won a record-breaking £184,262,899 making them richer than Adele last week.

Mrs Thwaite, 44, who has two children with her 49-year-old husband, said the win will give them "time to dream".

Why the heck would you go public ?

I can only imagine those people coming out the woodwork with the begging bowls !!! Still good luck to them as often winning that sort of money doesn't end well judging by those that have won similar amount in years gone by. 

Quite ridiculous amount of money isn't it, wouldn't it be better with 184 separate winners of a million quid. Not how it works though is it with the probability something like 1 in 140 million 👀 to win the top prize yeap I'm not ready to spend my hard earned money on a ticket just yet. The first thing I'd buy is a new car because I made the mistake of leaving the bream slime riddled landing net in the car overnight and wow, does it pong, in-fact it didn't help the car being sat in the sun till lunchtime as I'm sure that only added to the issue.

Talking about papering over the cracks !!!

Now the probability of catching a canal fish can be increased significantly when fishing maggots, because let's be honest, every fish that swims likes maggots, but bigger baits tend to mean bigger fish ?

I'm sat on the fence with this because the bream I've been catching on the canal have been of similar stamp whether I'm fishing with a single red maggot or a large piece of bread. The Zander too, a larger bait doesn't always mean a larger fish, my PB Zander and also PB pike, 11lb 8oz and 17lb 8oz respectively taken on small sections of roach on baits I wouldn't have contemplated using a few years ago. 

But if bites are required the humble maggot is hard to beat hence why it's one of those baits that has remained in the anglers armoury when other baits have been and gone. Heck even the boilie bungers use them from time to time as an edge ? an edge ? not rocket science surely Shirley.

Bread mind you is also one of my canal go to baits which is what I'd fish for this short post work session, as it is very adaptable indeed. From tiny pieces of punch to gobstoppers for chub but unlike the maggot which catches everything under the sun, bread often does bring the better stamp of fish for me. But then my punches are 35mm not 4mm, not likely to get a small roach on that am I.

There is a reason why bread works well on the canal though and that is because it's such a visible bait and especially the waters I fish , where the waters are almost always coloured anything to help the fish find the bait better is a positive. Anyway I was back after the hybrids and there are a few here, as there are Zander as well so a sleeper rod out for Zander for another one of my double dipping sessions. 

To be honest half an hour in to the session I should have known the outcome because the boat traffic was frankly ridiculous. A couple were first time narrow boat users too because after one of them crashed in to the lock entrance both of them were broadside on the canal soon after that was negotiated and gave the far bank a proper seeing to. 

There is a holiday company you see not far away and this is the first lock they come to so it's always quite funny to watch, as was the boat that passed with 7 half cut women onboard who looked like had already drank the top shelf twice over.

I would have quite happily joined them given the opportunity as they were clearly having a better time than me. The dance moves three of them partaking in wouldn't have looked out of place at a cheesy wedding.

I fully expected a take on the Zander rod but nada and it was only when I ditched the bread and put on a couple of maggots in the margin that I got a bite.

Another Ruffe believe it or not which somehow managed to find the grubs in a chocolate brown canal that was trying its best to mimic a river. In the end I had enough of that area and decided to go to an area that usually produces Zander, usually I say because it didn't for this session and after a boater went through as full throttle without a care for the angler in situ it was time for the off as I wasn't enjoying it. 

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.32

Preparation in my cooking carries over to my fishing where the rods are pre-rigged, the baits are sorted and often the car already loaded prior to the session. It means less dillydallying around in the morning where often I roll out of bed and within 10 minutes after dropping the kids off at the pool I'm on my way. 

I'm sure much of it is my engineering make-up where often planning and preparation is a key part of the job and it's just something I have done since day dot. 

Holiday's like a military operation, the Wife rolling her eyes not getting the reason why I do it, humour me, you needn't get in the way my Dear !!!. 

Now luckily the countdown to river season the time has passed far quicker than I thought because these short and sweet sessions just fishing for bites has thankfully kept me interested.

What has also kept my pecker up has been the word from the street from the likeminded which has been something I wanted in on before the rivers open. 

You see the Hallowed over the last week or so had produced some cracking Zander even bigger than my quest concluder and after listening to the jungle drums beating louder and louder I needed to fit in a session in to ones busy schedule. 

A 13lb'er caught on the lure witnessed by an angler I've shared towpaths with a few times Buffalo Si as he fishes the same waters as me, who not long after witnessing the lure angler putting the fish back caught a double himself, a fish of 12lb and 5 ounces. 

His one session though would take up 5 of mine, but hey it's probably why his numbers came up far quicker than mine did, clearly more resolve but his probability massively reduced when he decided to spend time on a water that didn't appear on my radar until very late in the quest. 

All very encouraging mind you, as in the Midlands we must have one of the best bits of canal for not only variety of fish but also the size of the predators. So before that kick up the backside I need to go and try for an even bigger canal Zander than my 11lb 8oz quest concluder it was back to the grime, back to the slime. 

The last session at the bream and zander swim I'm almost certainly I saw tench roll so to be honest I didn't need much of an excuse to try out the glowing led floats fashioned up by lathe user and blog reader Jon Pinfold.

A tiny CR322 battery provides the power to the LED within the tip and once they are  assembled together the assembly is completed by mating the tip thread to the battery housing thread which is packaged in the main body. 

Ok probably not the type of float I'd used for canal fishing as it's more of a trotting pattern but these are not tackle shy fish, but wild fish in the canal so despite being 5 and a half BB weighted the size of the float didn't bother me.

So an old rod (Middy White Knuckle CX 10ft Waggler Rod) gathering dust in the garage was dusted off and an unused centrepin in need of a service was fitted with 5lb line and I was all ready to go.  

Baits well after balling in some sweetcorn and dead maggot laced groundbait I'd fish a piece of sweetcorn and a worm on a size 12 hook and fish in to dusk and beyond. I much prefer fishing early morning on the canals if I'm honest but maybe I was missing something ?

I'm sure dusk may well throw up the bigger fish so after losing a good zander here and catching a couple of nice fish I'd also fish a zander sleeper rod tight to some reeds over at the far bank. 

A boat had just gone by when I got there a 6.45pm but then there was no boats till I left so the balled bait went out and the swim had a decent amount of time to settle. 

Obviously there was no need to put the battery in the float just yet as dusk was around 3 hours away. The float was shotted in a tall glass with water and that meant without the battery in the float was sitting a little taller than I'd like.

It just meant I had to add a no4 and jobs a good'un. The first bite came quite quick which I missed but soon after a bite developed again a fish taking a liking to the worm corn cocktail.

Unlike the light method which are quick bites that you need to be on it straight away, this couldn't be more different. You could brew a cup of tea and take the first slurp before striking in to the fish. Not a bad thing especially at my age where my reactions are not like they first were.

6 bream succumbed to the tactics and as dusk was approaching I thought it would kick up a notch, oddly though the bites tailed off.

No sign of the tench whatsoever and even the Zander rod remained motionless. There wasn't any fish topping either almost like the fish had gone to sleep or something or put their feet up and donned their smoking jackets. 

Shame really as the illuminated float was doing a cracking job and was so easy to see even in the pitch black.

I illuminated the Zander rod by torchlight and fully expected that to move, but no the Zander were not at home. A little disheartened really, but when a match on a local canal was one with a 1lb, to be honest I shouldn't moan. A few nice fish and the float, well, the picture say it all, good job Jon.  

Sunday 15 May 2022

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.31

A man (_______insert other genders here) who wishes to become a successful horticulturist must first learn how plants grow, what they need for their sustenance, how they are influenced by their environment. He must learn how to get the best from his soil. Similarly, the angler who aspires to become good at his chosen art must learn about fish and about the environment in which they live. 

He must understand that this environment exerts a profound influence upon the feeding habits and growth rates of fish, and that all environments differ to some degree from each other. Canals are no exception. At first sight, they may look featureless. 

The banks often run in an undeviating line for several miles. The water has no distinguishing features of fast and slow water that are so common in rivers, except below the lock gates. It is difficult at first to know where to start and how best to fish. It takes time and experience to get the best from a canal. 

The beginner may have to learn slowly. He cannot make a better start than to walk along its banks, plumb the water, ask questions of those who know it well, and thus equip himself with a basic knowledge of the water upon which he can build his own construction of ideas, methods, baits and tackle. 

The first thing he will learn is that although all canals may look alike they are as different from each other as one member of a family group is from another. Some canals have waters of marvellous clarity, in which you may sometimes see huge shoals of roach and other fish. Other canals such as the ones I fish local to me are murky, greenish-coloured waters in which the fish remain largely in-visible. 

The bottom formation of these canals is often different too, and this difference inevitably leads to a varied reed-growth. In most canals, the deepest part lies roughly down the centre. The fringes of such canals are often thickly lined with emergent reeds. Only the 'boat-road' the channel kept clear by the boat traffic is really fishable.

In some stretches of canal I fish only the tow-path side is shallow and reedy and, the deeper water often found nearer to the far bank and extend roughly two thirds of the way across. Yet other canals have become so silted up, their original outlines blurred. 

Here the water is a tinge of green and close in its shallow, the reed lined far bank shallow too, but a whip length out it is a decent depth and that's why bream like it here.

Find bream and often you will find Zander so for this double dipping session it was out with the Zander deadbait set-up and it was back to maggots again to see what would come along.

Fishmeal groundbait this time though as bream seem to love it and it can often pull fish in to the area to feed when otherwise they would be quite happy milling around. An early start is required here because above and below there are locks and once opened it turns in to a flowing river and the deposited bait you've taken time over to distribute will be no more. 

Anyway back to the fishing, it took a good half an hour for the bream to turn up but in that time I'd seen a rather large fox milling around and also what looked like a tench roll. There is no reason why tench shouldn't be here if I'm honest because when it was non-navigable it was renowned for them. 

Now blog reader Jon Pinfold has designed and knocked up some glowing floats using a small CR322 and they look the dogs danglies and he has kindly given me a couple FOC to try out, so I might return in the week and give them a go as well as fishing for the Zander.

So 5 bream caught in around an hour and a half all of similar stamp which were 3 - 3.5lbs bravely showing their spawning wounds I assume. 

The whip does an admirable job if I'm honest because these are hefty fish especially when the odd one likes to think its transformed in to one of the hybrids what reside here. The first boat came through with Pepper the angler friendly dog onboard (I only realised afterwards) and that's when the Zander started to move around.

Squinting in the sun as I forgot my sunglasses two thought they'd like the roach offering where the 4lber was beaten by this >5lber. What wasn't good though was that I lost the first one at the net and that looked a 8-9 lber 😲 but it wasn't hooked just merely clamped down on the bait which after a head shake ejected it.

I rarely fish here for Zander if I'm honest, but its good to get accustomed to these lovely fish again especially when they are this sort of stamp and fit and strong to give a half decent fight. So yeap I'll be back to try and catch the bigger one that gave me the middle fin. With footfall increased 3 hours was enough and it was time for the off and back for a well deserved cup of coffee, strength 6 naturally.  
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