Artificial

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From the water’s edge

December 2014 - Cold calling

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.

I should have been doing this last week really instead of sitting around, finger inserted, on the south coast watching yet another mild, wet, autumn storm come rolling in off the continent, wiping out yet another sea fishing trip. This autumn has lasted forever and it should be a distant memory really, it is nearly Ch*****as after all.

True the boat traffic has died away, but the leaves are still falling and the sun is still shining. We have had a couple of slight frosts lately, but today was the first of those old-fashioned, chill winter-fishing mornings. It looked good through the car window, it looked good when the sun turned the trees to gold, but all it took was the faintest breath of a breeze to turn angler’s fingers to fish fingers straight from the freezer.

One look at the water confirmed our worst fears, it was like liquid ice. I suppose that technically it was liquid ice thinking about it, but it was so clear and cold, that with my polaroids on, at times it looked like there was no water there. No way were we going to catch a heap of fish in this.

Actually the fishing was steady if not spectacular. I had the first after about ten minutes and that is always as relaxing as the first stiff drink. Straight away things look brighter once the first fish is on the bank. A perch of course, every fish we caught today was. Pete’s first looked a bit like it might be carrying the dreaded perch pox, but although we do occasionally catch one or two like this, it doesn’t seem to be spreading. Maybe the fish are fundamentally healthier and more resistant these days.

Curly tails seemed the obvious choice today. We were expecting perch and difficult ones at that, so we fished them slowly and thoroughly through every swim and concentrated hard to spot those less than obvious cold-water takes. A slight weight on the line when you lifted the lure off the bottom or a subtle grating sensation were the main indications.

Once or twice we just found ourselves playing fish without ever having felt the take at all and the first decent fish of the day fell to me just like this. We weighed it because we needed to prove that the weather wasn’t going to stop us and it weighed 1-11. I was very happy with that.

As usual, we used more restrained colours in the clear water. The orka marmaid (don’t say it!) in salmon and black caught plenty, but my new favourite 1.5” hornet (black, yellow and orange) curly tail was equally as effective and in fact tripped up this lovely fish.

Every time I caught a fish or two, I would whip out a 2” or even 3” shad prepared to step up the pace but it never worked once. I always had to revert to the curlys. I don’t mind, I love fishing them, but there is always that feeling at the back of my mind that better fish are there to be caught on a bigger bait, especially when I am swinging in my third 8 oz perch in as many casts. Fear of missing out, stalks the lure fisherman’s subconscious just as readily as it swells the bank accounts of tackle dealers.

Dibbling was a complete non-starter. Once or twice, a tiny perch would follow it into the side and could be tempted, if we were in the mood, by some extravagant jiggling and twitching under the rod tip, but that isn’t dibbling really.

When it’s clear most fish seem to head out to the darker-bottomed, deeper water in mid channel. Most all of my takes came halfway across today. It couldn’t have been more awkward really. The bottom is covered with leaves, the fish are hiding in and over them, but with many takes coming on the drop and most after I had dropped the lure to the bottom a lot of casts were wasted when the lure picked up rubbish.

It is noticeable that using 2 gram rather than 3.5 gram jigheads reduced this, as did lifting the lure again immediately it hit bottom. The longer it stayed on the bottom, the more likely it was to catch leaves. A shame really because I had a couple of fish pick up the static lure. The lighter jighead also gave a longer fall which was a help.

As the morning wore on, we meandered up and down the towpath sneaking fish out here and there. We finished with our now customary average of two dozen, matching each other fish for fish, but I was secure in the knowledge that just this once I had caught the biggest, and then ..... “This one feels a bit better”

Of course it was. It was a beautiful fish - 2-1and a half if you can believe the digital scales, and I have to because they weighed mine as well. No getout there then, he’d done me again at the death.

Pete’s really on a roll at the moment, that was his third consecutive outing to produce a two pound perch and I’m not even going to mention the z***** and the p*** that he caught a couple of weeks back.

It got me wondering - we have been fishing the canals now for a long time, what else might we see come our way over the next few seasons? What new heights might we conceivably attempt to scale?

Well of course I suppose we both would be happy to catch bigger fish. Three pound canal perch have been thin on the ground for us. I think I have only ever managed one and our two pound fish are virtually all below 2-8. Another season could see that change as the current crop put on a bit more weight, but then we caught a lot two seasons back and they haven’t. At least if they have we haven’t been able to find them.

We feel a bit hard done by on the zander front. Everybody else we meet seems to have caught eight pounders but Pete’s six pounder was the first we have ever seen and we have caught thousands. The law of averages is surely an ass? If it wasn’t for Terry’s big fish I would consider them extinct.

The CRT electro-fished half a dozen twenty pound and one thirty pound pike from the Ashby canal recently. Maybe our baits are too small for those, but the biggest challenge for me will be catching some different species. Surely I could catch some roach and bream on tiny lures tweaked across the bottom. There are loads about, we see them, and one of my regular correspondents has sneaked a few out further north. I think that I may make more of an effort in that direction. Thinking cap on then, cheque book out, back to the drawing board.

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