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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. If this form will not work for you, please e-mail me at editor@ericweight.co.uk
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Clarity of thought

We decided at the last minute to change our chosen venue this week because after two days of almost constant rain, we thought our our original choice might be just too dirty.  We aren’t scared of dirty water in itself, in fact with every season that passes, we find ourselves coping with it better and better. The difference today was that we had intended to fish a new, rural stretch with virtually no history of producing fish for either us or those we know. It seemed just plain silly to test fish a stretch with everything against us at the start.

The full irony of that choice became clear in every sense of the word when, thanks to an unexpected lock closure, we found ourselves casting into water of almost supernatural clarity. Clear as opposed to clean water is almost unheard of on the canals around our way and was not what we expected when we set off. In fact, we have only once before found this particular canal as clear as this and then we blanked comprehensively.

Way back when I first started luring on the canals, my local section was invariably brick red in colour. One day, in the bleak midwinter, I turned up to find it gin clear and that morning I emptied the place. I lost count of the number of perch I caught, they were everywhere, but until that day , I had only ever caught the odd one. From then on I went out of my way to fish when the locks were shut for repair and the water would become almost of drinking quality. I never did as well again, in fact since that fateful morning I have found very clear canals to be particularly difficult. Not impossible by any means but tricky to catch in. I can certainly remember more blanks than epic results in such conditions.

Just to add some spice to the mix, this has been a weird sort of autumn really, never very cold , mostly dry, but very, very wet when we have had rain. Some trees are still green, some have no leaves left at all, and some are passing through the various colours in the autumn palette. As a gardener, I am struggling to get the leaves up because we never had those strong October gales that clear the trees in one go. Instead, week after week the leaves pile up and clearing them seems to be a never ending job but hey, it pays for my diesel.

Just lately I can’t seem to catch a fish on the bottom, my crayfish and ned rigged baits appear useless, everything is coming on the retrieve or in fact more often, on the drop. That may have something to do with the amount of decomposing leaves down there. Two and two and a half inch kopytos are working well however and today was no different. We have both been catching plenty, but unfortunately in my case I have been hooking big fish and losing them. The last two weeks have seen potential three pound perch and PB zander spit in my eye and my language has been deteriorating steadily.

I still haven’t taken the pole back out yet. I keep meaning to, but I am probably the most disorganised angler ever. My gear gets chucked in the corner when I get home and forgotten about until it’s too late to put things right before I set off again. The pole needs a new elastic and my pole threader is in hiding. Last week I was sort of glad because that big zander would have been well out of reach. This week, it was a different story. I caught quite a lot of fish, mostly small, but one nice perch of a pound and a quarter perhaps, well maybe a pound, who cares. I had to net it anyway. The takes, although one or two were nice solid knocks on the retrieve, were mostly incredibly subtle and a couple of times I made a determined effort to knock the fish off by flicking the rod tip thinking they were leaves on the line.

 

Did I mention the leaves? With the pole I can lower the bait through them and work it easily and stealthily. Not so with a short rod and a cast bait. I was struggling for bites until it dawned on me that the leaves might be the problem. After that it got a lot easier. By the way I am not so sure that the pole is at its best in clear water either because it is right over the fish’s heads when I am working the lure and I am sure that puts them off

Fish are prey for many birds and animals and, in the main, the threat from those comes from above, consequently when water that is normally heavily coloured becomes clear they feel very vulnerable. I can give you a good example of this. Many years ago I would occasionally use livebaits to fish for pike. Somebody gave me permission to catch some roach from his pond to use for this purpose. Back then it was common practice to take fish with you although these days it is frowned upon at the least and most probably illegal anyway.

I put the first few fish into a white plastic fermenting bucket and within minutes they were all belly up. I couldn’t see why, they were all liphooked and undamaged, but when I watched the next couple to go in, I got quite a shock. They just went berserk, bashing into the sides and bottom of the bucket and then gave up the ghost. They were dying, indirectly I assume, of fear because they felt so vulnerable over the white base of the bucket. Lining the bucket with a black bin liner cured the problem immediately, they felt safer over dark ground.

The problem I was facing this week was that leaves were constantly catching the line. No matter how carefully I tried to free the line it would cause disturbance on the water’s surface. Why wouldn’t a fish be scared by that? Well I was a bit slow on the uptake because, like many other anglers I suspect, I was initially only concerned that it was spoiling the presentation of the lure. How many of us really consider what the fish think when a leaf goes sailing past two feet beneath the surface while all the others are stationary? Assuming that fish are too stupid to be scared to a greater or lesser extent by unnatural events like that doesn’t make us look very clever when we can’t catch them does it?

Anyway, the long and the short of it was that I concentrated my efforts on fishing only in areas with fewer leaves and stopped wasting my time in spots where I couldn’t present a bait without scaring them. Where the leaves were thinner on the ground, (eh?) I mean on the surface, I took great care to work the line around them and while it took a lot of concentration, it paid off. Takes were still very tentative, sometimes a dragging sensation, the occasional flicker on the drop, even the odd wandering line type. Pretty much all of them could have been caused by those pesky leaves, but I learned long ago that at least fifty per cent of the indications that I once thought were snags were actually fish. It costs nothing to strike even if you aren’t certain and it certainly pays off.

One other thing that I like to do at regular intervals is test the retrieve speed of the individual lure I have on my leader, by working it at the surface along the margins. I like to get a steady retrieve that works the lure correctly and not all the lures in a batch are the same. Not only that, but the speed required to make that lure work seductively can change from day to day depending on water temperature. It may be my imagination but they don’t seem as flexible in cold water which counter intuitively can mean that in order to get the best action you may have to retrieve faster just when you would prefer to slow everything up. In those circumstances a lure that is normally a bit stiffer anyway is the last one you want on the line. I am sure that we occasionally decide that for example, yellow is the best colour when it may just be that your retrieve speed is suiting that particular bait better.

I have been using 2.5” kopytos a lot lately and I find that at the right speed, they have a sinuous wriggle on my 2 gram jigheads, whereas if I retrieve a little too slowly, the body doesn’t flex and the tail hardly moves. Speed it up a little too much and the action is all in the tail. While similar baits are all roughly the same, some are better than others. People will laugh at me for worrying about things like this. How many times have I been told, “it makes no difference, I have caught loads on shads that hadn’t even got tails left on them”. My response is always the same, “ why don’t you cut all the tails off of your new baits then?” The answer is obvious, I don’t want a lure that just works, I want the lure to work as well as it possibly can and so do the doubters really, otherwise they would cut those tails off. If it isn’t as good as it can be, then it isn’t good enough.

Of course it may be that a vigorous tail action is better than a sinuous wriggle and if that is your considered opinion then by all means retrieve it faster, but do it for a reason. Unless you test retrieve the lure where you can see it, you will never know, and the other day I had a zander smash my lure while I was doing just that, so I guess I had it about right just then. It is also worth bearing in mind that over the course of a morning your retrieve speed will change. Getting bites always seems to lead me into retrieving faster. Some kind of subconscious trick suggests that the quicker I get it back, the sooner I can catch a fish or recast. Every so often I have to take stock and slow myself back up if takes have disappeared.

Once my concentration goes, the same thing happens, I find myself retrieving faster and faster, takes disappear and my concentration slackens still further. It is a downward spiral thatis easily excused by convincing myself that they have stopped feeding. Have they? Really? Or is it me losing focus that is affecting my catches when that happens. I am convinced that it very often is just that.

I caught plenty of fish this week, but Lord, did I have a headache by dinnertime. By about eleven o clock, I realised I wasn’t concentrating anymore and sure enough bites dried up completely. Actually I wouldn’t mind betting that they hadn’t disappeared at all, I just wasn’t detecting them any more, and I don’t suppose I was retrieving at the optimum speed either. Still by the time we had packed up and walked the last half a mile back to the car, it would be opening time. What’s not to like about that?

 

artificial lite