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From the water’s edge

January 2014 - A course of leeches

I hope that you find my journal interesting and entertaining. If, having read this, you think that I am talking rubbish then at least you have stopped and thought about it long enough to come to that conclusion which is something of a result in my book. If you would like to comment on this article or anything else relating to my website, please feel free to contact me using the adjacent form. Feedback is always greatly appreciated and very helpful when it comes to improving both my site and my angling. Thank you for looking.

We’ve had a difficult week or two really. Obviously the weather has been mild, but the seemingly endless torrent of rain and the relentless gales have taken their toll on our catches. A couple of times now, the kamikaze fish that not so long back seemed to be everywhere have packed their bags and left us. Just their stubborn, uncooperative relatives remain to teach us that lure fishing is not always easy. That lone perch that I caught from the turgid water last week on a crayfish had set the badly worn cogs in my brain grinding slowly round until my head ached, either from the noise or the effort. Either would have done it, but it seemed to me that if the fish weren’t, and hadn’t been for a while, up in the water chasing stuff, then the chances were that they had been resting, nearly comatose on the bottom waiting for whatever it is that makes them feed, to make them feed again.

The fundamental principle that I apply to my lure fishing is to offer them something that might be food wherever they are. If they are active, then great, they will find my lure even if it is only a shadow in the distance, especially in clean water. Otherwise, it is up to me to get it as close to them as I can and leave it there as long as possible, or at least as long as my boredom threshold will allow (rarely more than ten seconds, but never less than two). If they are going to sit in the mud moping, then I consider it my duty to slap them round the face with a bait that looks too easy to turn down. Whether it was my strategy that caught that lonely fish or merely chance matters little. That was my plan and it worked; Sharkey, casting and retrieving never had a touch. If he can’t catch doing that, it is very unlikely that I would have.

The long and the short of it was that I arrived on the bank, crayfish still attached and keen to go through the motions once more. Pete rarely fishes like this, so we would have a good comparison to base any change in approach on.

I find this a hard method to stick with when bites aren’t forthcoming. It tends to find bigger fish and there are less of them but worse still, it’s a bit slow. Actually it’s very slow, but I genuinely feel more pleased with every fish I catch this way than any other. It is truly imitative fishing, and I like to believe that every fish has been persuaded that my lure is what it looks like, a crayfish. When I am fishing it effectively, I watch the line, but in my mind I see my crayfish scooting away from danger, disturbing silt and sodden leaves with every turn of the handle. The moment I stop seeing that in my mind, I stop fishing it effectively. Its a thin tightrope, but today, I couldn’t have fallen off it if I tried.

My first take came after about ten minutes. The bow flicked and the tip knocked and the strike met the sturdy resistance of a 3 lbs plus Z.   

Happy days! It was cool, gloomy and breezy at times but every time my hopes faded, Donk, there was another. I missed a couple and lost a couple particularly early on when I hadn’t tightened the clutch up properly, but every fish seemed to be over three pounds to start with at least. I had six of those, and the biggest was over four.

Nothing to excite the deadbaiters or the more proficient, but in my world 4 lbs Zs are few and far between, so I was very pleased with myself. Pete couldn’t get it to work at all, but he caught well enough on the shads, it was just that they were smaller and all perch. He had nine up to around a pound.

Chuck it out, let it hit bottom, watch the bow fall slack and give the reel a sharp turn. The crayfish scoots backwards, up off the bottom, away from anything nearby, disturbing debris and bumping back down again. Plenty of ‘here I am, eat me’ signals there, but it is the second or two on the bottom that makes this work I reckon. It gives sluggish and unsighted fish a chance to reach the vicinity of the last movement (if they aren’t close enough already) and then the next gives away the exact location. Most takes come on the drop at the end of the wind, some followed it in to the edge and hit there, one or two picked it up while it was stationary. Absolutely fascinating, but I was very lucky. If Pete had been banging them out on shads, I would have lost interest more quickly and been doing the same.

I hit a nice heavy fish that got me all excited but I should have known better. It was a 3 lbs pike. I had a gentle take in the side that turned out to be A 12 oz perch and there was the tryptic, very nice.

I had a bigger pike later on and like the first it came with its own leeches attached. A sure sign that the fish were close to the bottom and a pretty solid clue as to why dredging a lure through the debris had been so effective.

This pretty perch above was one of Pete’s biggest and meant that we finished a 4 hour session in the middle of winter with over twenty fish between us comprising ten perch, ten zander and two pike. You can’t ask for more than that really. My last fish took the dying swan and completely screwed up my average, but we were still getting odd knocks and twitches when we packed.

My biggest regret today was that I wasn’t using my baitcasting outfit for this. The bait is easily heavy enough to cast with it, but mostly I miss that direct contact with the lure through the reel. With a baitcaster the clutch can be set as light as you like for perch, but you still have the ability to lock the spool solid with your thumb for the strike. I reckon, that would have given me another four fish today. Not all of them had the lure right inside and striking the point into the hard bony part at the front of the jaw is more than the little Mitchell can manage.

Tiny reels are not always able to resist letting line go when you strike hard, no matter how tight the clutch is set , but screwing it right down puts too much strain on the hook hold in softer mouthed fishes like perch, especially when you get them close to the net. In case anybody is wondering, despite dragging it slowly across the bed of the canal all  morning, I finished with the same lure that I started with and that is the same one that caught that double figure carp last Christmas time. This really is a very snag free rig. I rarely lose baits mounted this way. The big round shank of the hook beneath the lure works like a skid over rocks and branches. The weight keeps the point upwards and having it barely protruding from the body reduces the amount of twigs and dead leaves that it catches dramatically. The bait being hollow allows the hook to reach out and take hold on the strike, if as I do, you just open the gape enough for it to point out into the fish rather than back into the bait.

I am getting the baitcaster urge again, so the Spro may be resting between jobs for a bit. Probably until I have been out with Terry and Pete again and watched them catch hundreds of perch casting 1” kopytos while I am pointlessly dragging crayfish through the mud and leeches.

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