Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Seasons merge

As I write this is now the middle of May and I'm wondering where the rivers closed season has gone! It doesn't seem like five minutes since I was chub fishing on the dove but I realise now it's been nearly two months! Winter has given away firmly to spring and now daytime temperatures are right up we find ourselves on the cusp of summer and the angling delights it brings.

Since my last post lure fishing has absolutely dominated my time on the bank culminating in a pretty significant event in my angling career, more of which I will come onto later.

In these days of being able to fish lakes and canals in the closed season it doesn't seem quite so 'closed ' anymore and, although I long to fish running water, there are still opportunities to be had all over the place.

Towards the end of March I started doing the odd evening session after work on a local canal and it quickly became apparent that the perch were still well grouped up for spawning. There would be long stretches seemingly devoid of anything until suddenly a pocket of fish would be found and several would be caught in quick succession. More often than not these fish would be fit to burst with eggs which was the obvious clue as to why they were shoaling. One memorable evening gave me several half decent fish up to a very creditable 3lb2oz which, for the canal in question, was a true specimen!

I also dabbled in a little bait fishing in an attempt to catch a big perch from a commercial I'd been told about. Sadly, although I caught several small(and spawnbound) perch, the big ones weren't forthcoming and I had to make do with several nice carp and Tench instead. They really pulled the string so I wasn't complaining.

As the weather warmed slightly through April I noticed a lot of nice Trout suddenly appearing on the timelines of some of my lure fishing Facebook friends so naturally I wanted a piece of the action. I wasn't at all sure about the legalities of it all and after a few enquiries I managed to get permission to fish a small stretch of Derbyshire Dove.

If your reading this and fancy some trout action yourself, please note that all angling clubs are different in their rules regarding trout fishing during the closed season with most either being fly only or not allowing it whatsoever so it's worth asking the question before rocking up to the river and starting to chuck lures everywhere. You could save yourself from being banned or ending up in court!

It was an overcast day with a biting wind and the river was carrying slightly but it was good to be back fishing running water again albeit in a somewhat limited way. I started the day fishing tiny jigheads with creature type lures such as micro shrimps and crayfish with little success other than a few gentle taps. As lunchtime approached I switched to a dropshot setup and caught a small browny straight away and I really thought I'd found the method of the day, how wrong I was!

Nothing else happened for an hour or so so I decided to change to a tiny crankbait I had in my bag. It was a mega cheap thing I'd ordered on eBay for about £1.50 and to be honest I'd only brought it along to see what action, if any, it had. As you can imagine I was somewhat shocked when my first cast resulted in a savage thump and a lost fish!


Over the next hour I hooked several Trout and the takes were properly violent. I missed several good thumps in various swims but still ended up landing five fish so the day turned out to be a good one after all!

Since the back end of April the lure match calendar has really begun to kick in and my first one for a while was the 1st round of the LACC pairs league which was held at knowle locks on the GUC.

After an initial gamble didn't pay off, myself and partner in crime Carl had to think on our feet as we were seriously trailing behind the leaders at the halfway point. Eventually we managed to find a few tiny Perch to amass a total length of 2.38m for a hard earned 4th place overall which gives us some decent points to build on throughout the rest of the series. 11 points puts us in 5th place leaguewise at the moment but it's tight so still all to play for!

My most recent match was the International lure challenge run by the CRT and angling trust building bridges initiative. Teams from England, Poland, Romania and Lithuania were to battle it out on the GUC at leamington with prizes for both team and individual glory.

To be honest I wasn't sure about this one as my only previous dealings with Eastern European anglers was from a bailiffs point of view if you know what I mean! The point of the match was integration with a competitive edge and Each competitor had to team up with a member of one of the opposing teams and in my case I drew a Polish guy called Robert who turned out to be a really nice chap as it happened. There was over 70 anglers on an 8mile stretch of canal, the weather was set to be a sunny scorcher and the boats were out in force before the match even started,this was going to be tough! To add to the difficulty there was minimum size limits on qualifying fish, 20cm for Perch, 25cm for Zander and 45cm for Pike, anything under these sizes wouldn't count.


Fortunately we were drawn 4th or 5th out of the bag and got an early start. Seeing as the stretch was so long the organisers allowed driving so I persuaded Robert to head straight to the car and we headed straight to a spot I knew would hold a few. Great minds think alike because my SHUK teammate Carl and his Romanian partner were already at the spot when we arrived!

The size limits meant that wasp fishing was out of the question so my opening gambit was to be dropshotting 3inch plus lures in an attempt to find some Zander. 90% of the opposition seemed to be using 2-5inch shads on jigheads so I figured the different presentation of a dropshot approach might make the difference especially with the bright sunshine. The lure up off the bottom creates more of a profile in the murk for the fish to see, that was my thinking anyway.

I hooked on my lure as I approached the canal, dropped it in and had a sharp pluck within seconds which resulted in a 22cm Perch, a great start I couldn't believe it! Next spot I tried was a similar story and 37cm Zander was hurriedly netted and quickly followed by a 25cm fish! 30mins into the match and my length was up to 84cm already. Our team was keeping in touch via Facebook and it was quickly apparent that very little else was being caught.


As I expected with the boat traffic the canal got very coloured very quickly and the fishing became mega tough all round. I was keen to build on my early good start however and kept plugging away at it. Over the next four hours I had just 4 bites which, fortunately resulted in 3 more qualifying Perch included 2 over 30cm.

At 7hours the match was a long one and with 2 hours to go I was on 1.74m total length. The towpath was exceptionally busy with walkers and cyclists and by mid afternoon the fish had all but switched off, I really couldn't buy a bite and dispondancy was setting in a little. I knew I had a good total as the information which was creeping in was telling me that most were struggling badly. A Romanian guy had found some Zander though apparently as had a polish chap who had jumped in my original spot and camped there. I was kicking myself for leaving it but I had found fish elsewhere so couldn't be too upset about it, a look at his total gave him 1.63m so I was just in front! A 69cm Zander was reported as I headed back to base but I was quietly confident of a top 10 result.

As people rolled in it turned out that one or two people had a few fish but many more had really struggled and even blanked. I started to get twitchy as several people reported multiple Zander catches. I tried to sit back and relax with a beer as we all waited for the results to be announced but it was no good, people kept telling me I was in the lead and the tension was killing me!

Finally, after a few group photos, the individual results were announced. Third place with 1.63m is ............... Blimey! I was Second! .........second place with 1.66m is ........ Bloody hell! Bloody hell!!! ..... First place with 1.74m is ........ I was already in a daze and My teammates were already shaking my hand as they announced my name, I don't even remember walking up to accept my prize I just remember standing there grinning like a moron with a certificate and the best part of £300 in my hand, speechless was an understatement!

So there it was, my first ever match win! The only comparable feelings I've had before in my fishing was when I caught my first 30lb carp and my first 4lb Perch!

Despite my win and Carl managing a fantastic 4th place overall the English team was beaten back to third place behind Poland and Romania in the team event. Everybody had a laugh and an enjoyable day out of it however and I would certainly attend next years event if given the opportunity again. In the meantime I have new rods to buy .......... :-D


Saturday, 9 April 2016

Streetfishing - Amsterdam style

I have been fishing a fair bit since my last post on here and to be honest its been much of a muchness, lots of canal fishing and not enough river action due to some pretty evil conditions. Rather than boring you with the mundane details of that instead I will tell you a bit about a recent trip to holland.

Back in the autumn I was offered the chance to go and fish the open street event on the canals of Amsterdam at the back end of February. I didn't need asking twice and travel and hotel arrangements were quickly made. After that I pretty much forgot about it until the week before when the realisation that I might need to get some stuff ready finally hit me

Not knowing exactly what to expect saw me pack two rods, a light dropshot and a medium jigging setup as I had been advised it was fishing very hard and even the locals were struggling. Seeing as we were flying out there I was limited due to weight restrictions so I had to scale things back as much as I could. A small bag, my rods/reels and landing net was all I took tacklewise and my partner in crime,Potto, took the same. We manage to shoehorn both lots of gear into one suitcase and a flight tube which was pretty good going I thought!

Eventually the big day arrived and, after an infeasibly early start, myself and travelling companions Potto, Steve and Nick all found ourselves stood outside schiphol airport awaiting our pickup. Local angler And event organiser Frans soon arrived with his van and we all piled in and headed to his tackle shop. There we met other locals Gab, Richard and Leo and, after a quick coffee and sorting out some licenses we wasted no time getting tackled up and heading out onto the streets for some practice!


Although I have carp fished in holland before I was still struck by the sheer amount of water to go at out there, every corner turned presented us with a new canal and some were truly huge. The size of the boats motoring up and down them put our poxy little narrow boats to shame!


We started in an area on the northern bank of the river Amstel and the fishing proved to be very tough as we expected. Steve had a tiny perch first cast and Gab managed to nail a jack but the rest of us remained biteless despite our best efforts.


There was so much structure to fish to it was difficult to pick out fish holding areas. It all looked good but due, I think, to the size of the venue, the fish were massively spread out and only a few of these spots actually contained fish.

We're not the only ones with cormorant issues!

After the early start I was feeling somewhat jaded and struggling to concentrate and I think that feeling was shared with the others so we decided to have breakfast at a local cafe before continuing our quest on the much busier south side of the river.

It certainly was much busier too and as we disembarked from the ferry outside Amsterdam Central station and nearly got wiped out by several mopeds and pushbikes I knew to keep my wits about me!


We started around the boats outside the station and the sheer depth was the defining feature here, it must have been 30ft at least under the rod tip! After an hour or so with no bites between us we decided to head through the station and into the streets beyond.


Moving through the crowds was impossible with the rods made up so breaking them down was the only option. Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid at these weirdos walking amongst them with fishing tackle, it was certainly not like the UK where people look at you like you've got two heads!


Dropping in off the first bridge we came to yielded a nice perch and zander to our group which lifted our spirits and we thought we'd found a few fish but after another fishless half hour we moved on into the red light district.



Here the canals were a lot smaller, shallow and more intimate and although I missed a couple of plucks I still never caught a thing. We didn't give it much longer after that before heading to another tackle shop to get some lures and then onwards to the hotel.

The following day after a good nights sleep, our group split up and did our thing. There was a canal Imediately behind the hotel which potto and I decided to try for a bit but the sun was very bright and not surprisingly we blanked.


From there we walked into Amsterdam town which was much further than we anticipated but there was plenty of water to try on the way, all of it barren it seemed! We wanted to concentrate on the area where the match was going to be and seeing as it was so tough the object was to just find some fish!


We found some cracking looking spots but with it being Saturday everywhere was crazy busy with boat traffic and people. I got run over twice by people on pushbikes so we decided to head to a quieter area in the suburbs. On the map there appeared to be a nice looking loop around the back of the cities zoo so we headed over there.


It was indeed a lot quieter and the water was much less coloured too, for the first time since the morning I was actually quite confident. By now it was late afternoon and we didn't have long before darkness fell. I changed my lure to a little reins number remarking to potto that it was my top zander catcher and within a couple of casts I hit a pluck which turned out to be my first and very welcome Dutch zander!


We fished on for a short while afterwards before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the evenings shenannigans. Four other lads from the UK had come over for the match and we were already overdue to meet up with them in town.

Ahem, Fast forward to the following morning and everybody was late getting up, in fact by the time we assembled in the hotel lobby there was only around 30minutes of registration time left before the match started and we still had to get halfway across the city! Despite certain members of our party being somewhat worse for wear and dealing with a stroppy taxi driver we made it by the skin of our teeth and registered with less than five minutes to spare.

After the group photo the shout went up and everybody set forth across the city. Potto was still a bit worse for wear from the previous evening so we headed the opposite direction to the bulk of the crowds and after a ten minute walk we found our bearings and came upon a spot we had fished a day previously.

I was surprised to get a tap first put in and I reeled in a tiny perch which dropped off as I lifted it out of the water, I wasn't too worried though as it was way undersize for the match and it was a good sign. A couple of casts later and I hooked another tiddler which proved to be an unexpected oddity in the form of a Goby!

One of the Dutch lads informed me that these are quite common around Amsterdam as are other saltwater fish such as flounder and mullet as the water has a quite a brackish content in it.

I fished on in the spot for another 45mins, losing another fish and missing a couple of bites before we decided to move on to pastures new. Ideally we would've liked to fish back on the loop behind the zoo where I caught the Zander the previous day but we weren't 100percent sure how far away it was from where we were or how to get there.

As we fished I made a note of the nearest ferry movements and they all seemed to converge on Amsterdam central so we headed across the river. A few other lads were already working the whole area around there and , unsurprisingly, potto and I failed to trouble the scoresheet.


Back over the river and we continued to blank, the icy cold wind was picking up and to be honest I'd kind of lost interest in the fishing. The previous couple of days exertions had finally caught up with me and I was pretty fed up with dropping into superb looking spots and getting no reward whatsoever. Upon our return to the cafe noorderlicht a few other anglers had already returned with nothing to report. In fact by the time everybody returned it was apparent that 90percent of the field had blanked! The lads that won and placed all did so with a handful of Zander between them so it was certainly a tough one!

We departed from the venue and went straight to the airport and I eventually walked through my front door six long hours later. I was knackered but despite the hard fishing I had really enjoyed myself, potto was great company and it was interesting doing something outside my normal fishing boundaries. Would I do it again? Maybe if the fishing was slightly better next time!




Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Canals, some observations

Aside from my dalliances with the competition side of things I also managed to get in plenty of other trips during the latter weeks of 2015. As is now usual for me these days it was all lure orientated and involved walking many many miles of the midland canal network. I'm in it for bites these days, the fun aspect far outweighs the pursuit of specimens for me at the moment which is why I've been scouring as many stretches of canal as possible, searching out those elusive hotspots.


Until the last few months I never realised just how interesting and diverse canals are for angling opportunities. On the face of it they are much of a muchness, very samey, often quite bleak looking and it can be difficult to know where to start. I don't profess to be an expert myself but not a single session has passed where I haven't taken something at least from it and learnt something new.


So far for me, bridges have been far and away the most consistent spots in terms of fish attracting features. Most offer slightly deeper water in the margins which, on shallow canals, can make a huge difference. Small perch abound tight to the concrete and brick walls whilst the middle track beneath bridges often throws up some better quality fish. The width of the bridge can be a crucial factor too, the small brick built types often found on rural stretches are usually home to perch and maybe the odd small zander whereas the wider, darker concrete ones spanning main roads in towns for example are more reliable for better zander and bigger perch. Tunnels and railway bridges are zander hotspots and most rarely fail to produce an enquiry or two.


Locks and lock pounds, whilst very attractive to anglers, can be very hit and miss from what I've found, a prime example being flights of locks where you have several sets over a very short distance. Some pounds in these flights are invariably barren of fish life whilst the next pound along may be stuffed to the gunnels. This is mostly,I feel, down to inconsiderate or inexperienced boaters draining the pounds down to nothing by leaving sluices open or gates slightly ajar. As an example, There's a 13 lock flight just outside Northampton and after fishing it several times now I can confirm that at least nine of the pounds are pretty much devoid of fish, in fact last time out, 2 pounds were almost empty of water. I've seen similar things at Stockton and Hatton aswell in recent weeks so in 2016 I will be avoiding such areas like the plague!


Single locks with long stretches of canal either side can be good for a few bites but they are absolute magnets for other lure anglers and it's very easy to tell if somebody has been through prior to ones visit because the fish can be very cagey and hard to tempt. I find the fish often move away from them once the first boat of the day has been through too, often moving back in just before dark after the last boat.


Moored boats are always worth a cast or two with permanently moored ones worthy of extra attention for sure. Areas with reeds in the margins are generally quite silted up and shallow and have not been good areas for me so far so I tend to avoid unless I find at least 2ft+ of water next to them. Rural tree lined areas are also often very shallow beneath the trees and in these spots I find the middle track to be most productive . These swims are often quite snaggy too with loads of twigs and branches scattered around on the bottom.


Stretches with metal shuttering or concrete banks are usually deeper than natural banks and I spend a lot of time working the margins in such spots. Bends and junctions again are good areas to head for as the flow and the the boat traffic tend to scour the bottom out that little bit more. One thing I do look for on any canal is the deeper areas because in fish holding terms the difference between 2ft deep and 3ft deep can make a massive difference.


I find it amazing how long, straight and boring looking stretches seemingly hold next to nothing as you work along them then suddenly you'll hit the jackpot and catch several from a particular spot even though it looks no different from the rest of the area. A return to the same swim the following week often turns up nothing as the fish have obviously moved on.



As I've often mentioned in previous posts, the colour of the water has always been a major thing for me as I've really struggled to get my head around how the fish can find the lure in heavily coloured conditions. Thankfully my recent trips to the grand union in particular are really helping my confidence on this front and I've found that by spending more time in each spot and slowing things down bites will come. Don't ask me how they locate the lure but they certainly manage somehow and the takes can often be really violent.


To the uninitiated, canals with their muddy water, rubbish, boats, dog muck, chavs and cyclists may seem a nightmare place to wet a line. To the enlightened however they offer some very interesting sport and you never quite know what your going to catch next. For me, I have a long long way to go before I truly understand such venues and how to get the most from them but it will be an enjoyable journey that's for sure!
















Saturday, 2 January 2016

Match time!

Seeing as it's been a while since my last post and we are now into 2016 I think I need to start bringing this blog up to date a little!

Carrying on from where my last entry left off, my next trip out after grafham was the Lure Anglers Canal Club pairs match in Warwick. This was to be my first ever canal match and it was on a stretch I'd only fished once before so I was somewhat nervous as I entered the carpark and saw all the other competitors getting their kit sorted. There was 28 pairs fishing but I soon spotted a couple of familiar faces including my partner in crime Carl so It wasn't long before I managed to settle into game mode.

Carl and I drew number 17 out of the bag which meant seeing as Teams were to be set off at 10 second intervals we would be 17th in the que. Not a great start as it meant there was 16 teams in front of us to get to the hotspots first!


The teams set forth.......


Our plan was to try and slot in somewhere around the hire boatyard as this was a known hotspot and hopefully snag a couple of fish before moving on. By the time we got there two teams were already in residence and there was at least three further along the moored boats nearby. We managed to squeeze in further along but it was a less than explosive start for us as we both struggled to get a bite. Teams either side of us had landed fish but more teams were incoming along the canal too so we moved on slightly further to some fresh water.

Carl having a stare down with a cat


Within minutes Carl had a decent 30cm+ perch and we were off the mark! Buoyed by the success we fished on through the area but no more bites were forthcoming, damn this was tough! I spotted another competitor catch one and a real sense of pressure began to set in. We walked further along to a spot near a bridge which two other anglers had just vacated. Second cast I felt a very slight tap which seemed fishy and this was confirmed on my next cast when I landed my first of the match, another half decent perch.


Every little helps!


By this point we realised that we needed to find fresh unfished water as we felt a lot of the fish were being spooked by the sheer amount of rubber being thrown past them. Fortunately by now there was only a couple of teams in front of us and, knowing there was at least three bridges beyond them we resolved to get to them first as bridges are like fish magnets on every canal we've ever fished so hopefully we'd get a chance or two.

We soon overtook the last team and ten minutes of walking later everybody else was out of sight. Unfortunately the first bridge wasn't what we'd hoped for and was fairly small but high, not offering much cover for any lurking predators. Neither of us had a bite there so off we went to the next which looked way more appealing. It was quite a long bridge and pretty dark under there, perfect!

We setup either side of it and fished intensively. Half a dozen casts in I had a couple of taps which I missed before getting a proper thump on my next cast. The rod hooped over and I knew I'd hooked the zander we so badly needed. A decent looking fish flashed just below the surface just before disaster struck and the hook pulled! Talk about gutted, what a time to lose one! Minutes later however Carl landed the biggest perch so far which softened the blow a little! We fished on for no more bites and another team overtook us so off we went again.

Fortunately the other team got waylaid by some moored boats and we headed on to the next bridge which turned out to be a monster with a main road going over it and pigeons roosting beneath it right in the town center.

I went straight in with my heavier setup in case the zander were about. A sharp tug on my third cast told me they were and a couple of casts later I struck into and landed our first zed of the match, what a relief that was I tell you!


Never before has a small zander meant so much!


Carl too had a couple of pulls before netting another decent Perch, things were looking up! We gave it another 20 mins or so before deciding to head back. We had to be back at the start point by 3pm otherwise we would be disqualified so time management was paramount. We were at least 45mins away so we only had chance to put some time into probably another two spots at most.

Passing a few other teams on the way back it became apparent that most were struggling, either that or they were playing their best poker faces! We stopped at a viaduct which seemed to be twice as deep as the area around it so it had to be worth a look. After around 20mins I recieved a tiny tiny tap which was barely noticeable but instinct told me to strike and I soon had another chunky perch on the mat.


It's girth was bigger than it length!


We dropped in a couple of other spots with no more fish to show for it and soon enough the finish was in sight. A couple of other teams had reported catching a few but we were pleased with what we'd caught as we had fished hard and fished well.

Our five perch and solitary zander totalled 239cm with species bonuses added and we were hoping to scrape into a top ten finish. Considering the quality of the anglers in some of the other teams and the fact we were unfamiliar with the stretch compared to some of these guys we were over the moon when our meagre catch put us in 6th place overall. As you can see, 1st place aside, it was pretty tight at the top so we didn't do too badly at all for our first match.




A couple of weeks later It was time for our inaugural Facebook group lure match entitled " Annual Novelty Altogether Length championship" or A.N.A.L championship 2015 as it was so called! Ten of us descended upon a stretch of the grand union near Milton Keynes to thrash it out to see who was the best lure angler amongst our number (or something like that). Obviously it wasn't taken too seriously and much banter ensued, the fishing itself wasn't great but we all caught a few . In the event Jamie (potto) absolutely smashed the competition with over 4m of fish, I came second with 2.3m narrowly beating Carls 2.2m, my 10cm micro zed making all the difference :-)

As with all of our group jollies to date it proved to be a great day out and a proper laugh, hopefully we can sort out plenty more for 2016! Here's some pics from the day........


Phil started off seriously.....
As did Carl.......
Mike no so but Baz did for a little while at least!
Mike trying Nate for size
Even at lunchtime Potto was on it!
Perch w**kers!
The only snag on the stretch!
A popular swim for sure!
They came in all sizes
Yeah cheers Nate :-)
My score card, nice name change on there (mike)
In the end there could only be one winner, well done Potto!