Thursday, 23 October 2014

Fishing frustration and food for thought

I managed a couple of trips to the bankside this week the first being a session on my local soar chasing Pike. The area I fished is one which has rapidly become a favourite pike spot of mine being fairly prolific with the chance of a big fish thrown in for good measure. It was Saturday morning and I was surprised to find I had the whole stretch to myself so I headed straight for my favourite spot.

The river was still pretty coloured from the rain of the previous week but having caught from the stretch in the past in even more turbid conditions I was fairly confident of some action. It didn't take long to get a couple of sardines into position and it took even less time to put a fish on the bank because, almost Imediately, I had a bite and duly landed a feisty jack of about 5-6lb.

Half an hour later I managed a second fish and was hopeful of a good day, that is until the rowing boats from the boat club upstream started coming through. I've fished the area a good few times now and even though many boats have come past me during that time I've never had an issue with them until this time around. One pair came past so close they actually clipped my rod tips with their oars! Another half a dozen came by and decided that the water in front of me would be a good place to turn their flotilla around and have a good shouty chat. Needless to say I soon moved!


The new swim was right in the teeth of the prevailing wind but was much wider and offered some distance between me and any passing rowers. Unfortunately my time there was short lived as several bleeps and pulls on the line alerted me to some heavy crayfish activity. This was proved when the first rod I reeled in had nothing but a fish skeleton on the end and the the second rod had one of the pesky crustaceans still hanging onto it!


Another move was called for and again this was to be short lived aswell. A lovely cast between two boats next to a willow tree was ruined when a chap in a rowing dinghy decided to pull into the gap to carry out some noisy boat maintenance right on top of my bait. A couple of minutes later a narrowboat came up along the nearside bank so close it wiped both my rods out. This was getting ridiculous!


Seeing the rowing boats from the club had all but disappeared by now I headed back up to my original area just in time to see another narrowboat minus it's crew come drifting aimlessly around the corner upstream. The crew of the boat were running along the bank desperately trying to snare it as they had obviously all jumped off and forgotten to tie it up! A chap from a nearby boatyard managed to secure it in the end using his own boat as an impromptu boom across the river which enabled the crew to get back on board their runaway vessel.


All this took place about 50 yards upstream of my spot so as you can imagine I wasn't confident of any action! Seeing as I'd been dropped off I had no choice but to fish on until my lift arrived and after another hour or so it seemed things had calmed down a bit. This was to be proved right when my upstream rod signalled a last gasp take just before i packed up and I duly landed another pike, this one a little bit bigger than the others from earlier.


My plans for the Sunday changed suddenly and I found myself with an extra chance to go fishing. I wasn't sure what to go for or where to fish so I rang my old mukka Phil to see what he was up to. It turned out he was headed over to the canal to try for a net of silvers and to be honest, after the boat experiences of the previous day, I really didn't fancy going through it again on a cut which is even busier than the river! With a lack of better ideas though on my part he managed to twist my arm by mentioning the immortal words "big Perch". Dammit, resistance was futile!

Now I'd never fished there with lobworms before to target the Perch and this was going to be a bit a leap into the unknown as the place has no track record of big perch because pretty much nobody fishes it (certainly not in the area we headed for) so nobody knows!

I'd managed to collect a few lobs over the previous damp evenings and certainly had a sessions-worth at my disposal. A pint of red maggots completed the bait arsenal and soon enough I was setting up in a likely spot. Pretty much the whole far bank looked the same so I picked a swim which didn't look too snaggy and gave me an easy cast to an overhanging elderberry bush which might offer some shelter to a big stripey or two.

The floating leaves looked a nightmare for float fishing so I opted for a light quivertip and began to get pulls and knocks right from the first cast. Within minutes I landed the first of a succession of small perch between 6-12oz, at least there was a few fish about which was good news anyway.

The boats on the canal were a stark contrast to those on the river on my last trip. Every one,without exception, was courteous and mindful of the fact we were fishing, staying to the middle track and slowing down for us. Most said hello and we even shared a bit of light-hearted banter, if only all boaters could be like those on the Trent and Mersey!

Anyway back to the fishing and after a couple of hours things had slowed to a standstill so I decided to try twitching the worm every couple of minutes. This had an instant effect and soon I hooked a perch of slightly more substantial proportions. At 2lb2oz it was no monster but for me it was quite a significant fish as it told me that there might be considerably more to the canal than meets the eye, certainly from a Perching perspective anyway.

After that bites on the tip became even harder to come by so decided to try a Floatfished lob along my nearside margin. Again it was slow but a couple of knocks and dips on the float told me there was a few about. After missing a couple of proper bites I managed to connect with what I'm almost certain was a nice silver bream getting on for a pound. I've since counted the scales along the lateral line and checked several other tell-tale features and am satisfied it's a true 'silver'.

I managed another identical sample shortly afterwards so it wasn't a fluke and got me thinking about what the canal could offer in terms of these little fish aswell as the Perch? Another half decent perch put in an appearance after that last bream then the spot went stone dead. I couldn't raise so much as a twitch for a good twenty minutes before eventually the float slid away. This time I found myself walking along the bank to keep up with what was obviously a sizeable fish that was hellbent on getting around the corner into Phils swim! I gave it some real pressure to turn it and managed to get a good look it in the process, it looked to be a nice mid-double mirror carp. Unfortunately my 4lb hooklink wasn't really up to the task and soon I was left cursing as the fish made good it's escape.

I packed up shortly afterwards as I could no longer see my float but this session had really brought home the possibilities of what the venue could offer in the future and to be honest I can't wait to get back down there!



Thursday, 9 October 2014

Rutland adventure

This was a trip I'd been looking forward to for a good while, a few of us from the specimen hunting UK group on Facebook had organised a get together fishing for predators on the mighty Rutland water.

Having grown up in the nearby town of MeltonMowbray I had often visited Rutland on school trips and the like and I remember always wondering what it's vast and mysterious depths might contain. Little snippets in the angling press over the years told of huge Pike and Perch but more recently Zander seem to have come to the fore with large catches commonplace.

I've mentioned several times on this blog over the years that I really wanted to catch a Zed on a lure and with Rutlands pedigree I couldn't think of a place which would give me a better chance. Fishing such a huge expanse of freshwater would take me completely out of my comfort zone and I realised that I would have to learn fast. Boat control, fishing on the drift with a drogue and Techniques like vertical jigging are completely new to me so much research ensued.

I watched videos on youtube, read articles and asked for advice from anybody with previous experience of the place. I even went out and purchased a fishfinder and drogue especially for the occasion. Lurewise, i planned to use shads and another type of lure called a Kogut which comes from Poland and is basically a kind of jighead with feathers whipped onto it. Koguts are used very successfully on the continent to catch Zander and arnt available commercially in this country, fortunately I managed to acquire some through a Polish friend who knows a guy that makes them.


Kogut lures
The big day finally arrived and I pulled into the carpark at the fishing lodge to meet up with the lads. After a quick chat we bought our tickets and loaded the boats up. It was around 9am by the time myself and boat partner Phil found ourselves motoring out onto the lake and boy was it busy! Aswell as all the fishing boats being out there, we had sailing boats by the hundred and canoes aplenty, it was like an aquatic Version of the M1!

Phil at the helm, boats in the background were just the tip of the iceberg!
A couple of hundred yards out we decided to tackle up and setup the fishfinder. All went well and we were both surprised at the depth readings of 60-odd feet, this was gonna be like deep sea wreck fishing! We had a few casts to get used to working the lures in the deep water and we then upped sticks and headed out into the main bowl to hopefully find some fish and begin our first drift. After a few minutes we came across a huge plume of oxygen bubbles coming from the depths, obviously some kind of aerator perhaps to combat the blue-green algae I suspect.

A mammoth sized aerator for a mammoth sized lake!
The fishfinder showed a mind blowing 85ft but more importantly we had several fish signals on there so this was as good a spot as any to try. We quickly established that the drift in this area was pushing towards the dam wall end so we setup on the opposite side of the aerator to the dam and began our first pass.
I dropped the kogut in and around 30seconds later it finally hit the bottom. I twitched it gently up and down with a pause of a few seconds between each pull. After a couple of minutes I felt a gentle pluck and struck, the rod bent over for all of two seconds and the fish was gone. I cursed my luck but it was a good sign, at least we'd found a fish or two. This was confirmed when a minute later Phil bent into a fish which had taken his shad.

Phil in action
Although it was only maybe 2lb it proved to be Phils first Zander and set our confidence sky high! After finishing the drift we motored back around and setup for another. I managed to lose another fish and it wasn't until the third run that I finally caught one, a tiny fish of about a pound, I wasn't complaining though!
We tried a couple of other areas and although it was proving to be quite tough we still had a few pulls. It was soon apparent that catching fish from such great depths wasn't without its issues. I'd read about the bulging eyes and blown up swimbladders on the internet but seeing it in the flesh was actually quite disturbing. Torpedoing the fish back in was also something that was completely unnatural to me but it definately seemed to work as the fish invariably swam straight downwards. Not all the fish had these problems not by a long shot but of those that did I can't help wondering what the mortality rate of them is.

Average size on the day

Bulgy eyes, not nice :-(
At around lunchtime we were experiencing a bit of a lean spell and after a ring around the other boats it was apparent we weren't doing too badly as they seemed to be struggling to find the fish aswell.
We headed up the north arm towards the tower as it seemed a bit quieter boatwise. After a short while we heard a cheer come from another boat nearby and were surprised to see a huge perch being hoisted aloft for photos, after a quick conversation with the two lads afterwards they told us it was over 4lb, nice!
We couldn't buy a bite in that area ourselves so we headed to the mouth of the north arm to try the shallower margins in the hope of maybe a pike or two. In the event, no pike were forthcoming but Phil did manage a lovely brown trout of around 3-4lb.
Shortly after that we had a phone call from Andy on one of the other boats to say that they'd found a stack of fish around a plateau further up the north arm. We didn't need telling twice and within minutes we were over there setting up a drift. Andy and Dave were bending into fish seemingly every five minutes! The finder showed an initial depth of 60-66ft which shallowed to 45-50ft over a very short distance before deepening off again to 60ft+. On top of the plateau there was fish signals everywhere.

Found ya!
We started getting pulls and taps straight away, my problem was keeping them hooked. I had several drop off before I managed to land one, Phil on the other hand was fishing shads still and his hookup to fish landed rate was far better than mine for some reason. I stuck with the koguts though as I had great confidence in them.

More kogut success
Eventually though all good things must come to an end and darkness soon began to descend, it was time to head in. I was amazed at how long it took us to get back, we weren't that far up the north arm yet it still took a good twenty minutes to get back to the lodge even with the motor on full bore.
Overall it was a real day to remember, certainly very different to my normal fishing and I really quite enjoyed it. Many thanks to my boat partner Phil for helping to make the day what it was, I shall certainly return to Rutland at some point without a doubt.