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.



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