From the water’s edge

February 2015 - Wide-eyed and clueless

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Dawn found us on the bank of the local canal, bemused and befuddled by yet another totally incorrect weather forecast and as the sun rose, already struggling to make sense of what looked like it should be a productive day but which was proving to be very hard indeed.

The pictures may belie that statement, but the fact remains that in four hours we missed no bites and caught just six fish between us. Personally I tried every deadly lure and never-fail technique at my disposal, but despite having been successful in the past, today they were so utterly ineffective that I couldn’t honestly say why I caught any of my very few fish.

Last night was due to be frosty and as a whole day of sunshine yesterday had failed to thaw the ice on my pond, I was expecting the canal to be rigid. It wasn’t, there wasn’t a fragment of ice worthy of the description left on it and that could only mean one thing, meltwater, and reluctant fish.

Coming to that conclusion was probably the last thing I did today that I was sure of. Cold weather and reluctant fish = small bait fished slow, obviously. For a short while that felt like it might be the correct decision as within ten minutes of starting, the minutest flicker trapped my first fish on a new colour of Orka marmaid (Don’t). That was a good sign. An hour later I was dragging crayfish , fishing 3” shads up in the water, and dibbling 1” ones in the margins - nothing. My fingers might not have been numb, but my brain was.

It was a beautiful day, especially for Pete. He had this lovely perch of around a pound and a quarter on a 4” cray. 4”, that’s my small bait theory down the crapper. First find your fish. We knew from experience that we were on a hot area so we persevered. Half an hour later, Pete was in again. A three pound zander rolled at the net and lobbed his 4” shad up in the air. 4” !! That’s the crapper flushed on my thinking.

So why the hell if they are so reluctant to feed is Pete catching on 4” baits? The answer? He’s not any more and for the next two hours he joins me in the land of no fish. A land in which we fish every known productive area for the next mile without ever catching a glimpse of daylight at the end of this particularly frustrating tunnel. It’s as dead as a hammer.

We have one last card tucked up our sleeves, the locks. A couple of weeks back, this produced an unprecedented 4lbs zander for me, so I wasn’t exactly reluctant when he suggested it. Sometimes it’s good to just meander about enjoying the weather and slagging off the forecaster because the weather’s too nice.

It wasn’t all that more hectic at the locks either. I persevered with the crayfish and almost immediately, the line flicked and I hit a solid fish. That got my pulse racing as I could do little with it. I was excited right up until I noticed it was swimming in circles and the harder I pulled the faster it went round. A schoolie gaffed through the back. Hmmph! Not impressed. Especially as that was it, not another sniff.

So here I am in yet another banker area catching nothing and not even raising any interest. I tried the shads, you know, up in the water, bigger than I ever believed would work and this time I was right. Maybe a small perch or two then, so back in the box, and give that new Orka a run out again.

I decided to try it on a slow sink and draw, up a foot, let it fall, up a foot , let it fall, tic. There it is, a firm strike and a good fish was on, and not whirling around on the end of the line either. It looked and felt reasonably heavy, maybe 3 to 3.5 lbs, but of course my scales were dead as the fishing had been. Hey who cares, that was definitely better. Maybe things were looking up as the morning warmed. Maybe the fishing would too. Guess what?

It’s funny how your back doesn’t hurt when you are catching fish isn’t it? Mine was killing me. Pete came up - “what did that weigh then?” I told him. “ My backs killing me ,” he said, so we set off. Food, garden centre, the last half hour of time team that’s my afternoon in a nutshell.

I love watching time team, they keep digging up old skeletons and they always remind me of somebody. I think it’s the toothy grin and the sealskinz gloves.

Halfway back there is a nice bend. It’s the exact spot where I caught my very first canal zander. On that fateful day, Alan and I stepped into the swim for the first time, cast out and in the next two or three hours had one five pounder, a couple of fours, a handful of threes and some makeweights. They all took 4 and 5” stiff rubber shads fished in exactly the way that I now fish my crays, and we couldn’t believe how good canal fishing was. That was just a first attempt, naively we dared to imagine what we might get on a good day! Back down to earth now and about ten years later I cast in a cray, got a take and landed a one pounder on the second cast, and that was my lot.

I read what I have written here and it doesn’t sound all that bad, but it was. Not so much in that we caught so few fish, but more to do with the fact that neither of us had a clue about what to do to make things better. None of the ideas we have about canal fishing made any difference, it was just plain hard and unfathomable. Every swim that produced was a one shot stop. New swim, one take, nothing else, move on.

Pete has a new hearing aid, it’s crap, I still can’t hear a word he says, but then it’s not his hearing that bothers me. I’m afraid today it was as convincing a display of the blind leading the partially sighted as you could ever wish to see.

artificial lite



journal 2015.


journal 2015.