Artificial

 Lite

From the water’s edge

February 2014 - Dry run

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.

Something was very wrong here. A peculiar blue haze on the water was beaming back up at me. Oh no! I’ve overslept, dreaming of how it used to be before the rains came. I blinked a couple of times and tried to pull myself together, but there were still snowdrops in the hedge and pale fluffy clouds in the sky. It really had stopped raining. How could we go wrong?? We’ve been frozen, soaked and blown off the water, week in and week out for what seems like months and here we were basking under a positively warmish sun. Wonders will never cease.

Of course they don’t have to cease if they never get started. Thirty minutes in and Pete turns to me and points out that after half an hour’s fishing, we still haven’t had a take of any description. We both laughed at the same time, realising simultaneously how things have changed for us this last year. The very idea that this might be unusual would never have occurred to us a couple of years back.

The 2” kopyto was back in the box, the 1” one had stayed on for a couple of minutes at most and any confidence I might have built up over the last year was driven off like mist under the weak sun of a fool’s spring morning. For two weeks, the fish have been up in the water ignoring my crayfish. Today they were ignoring everything, I would have to knuckle down and dibble up at least a blank-saver and this spot here might just do the trick. This choke point would once have been the footings of a bridge and similar features are often left after the removal railway lines, locks, or were sometimes I believe used as a gauge to assess the size of the barge against the width of an upcoming lock.

Whatever its purpose, a feature like this will act as a venturi, speeding up the flow of water by passing boats, the opening of nearby locks or even driven by the wind. In fact the wind often whistles through the gap, while twenty yards away it is barely discernible. The main advantage for us is that as well as being structure which perch and zander love, this extra water movement scours out the bottom and you will usually find at least an extra two feet of depth here. If they are on the bottom, they do sometimes collect in this haven. Last time, between us,  we took about a dozen fish out of this bottleneck.

It was kind to us today as well. I sneaked out my blank-saver, dibbling a 1” yellow kopyto along the margin, but when I cast across, the line stopped dead and hard. There was no spring in this snag. I tried bouncing the rod against the line, forgot to try the old guitar string trick and pointed the rod down the line and pulled for a break. Suddenly the rod was bumping and grinding to the pull of a heavy fish. I don’t know what happened there, it was rock solid one second and bouncing the next. The fish either pulled it lose or hit it the instant it came loose. I care little, I had the rod up and a heavy swirl framing a flash of blood-red fins was pleasuring my excitement button. In went the net, out came a decent perch and whatever was to happen during the rest of the morning, it was no longer going to be as gloomy as I had feared. It was a bit black, but still pulled the scales down to 1-8 and was more than I deserved to be honest. The 1” yellow life-saver was in line for a medal that’s for sure.

The next feature on the list was just around the corner. Two apparently abandoned barges that have caused a big build up of silt shallowing the canal up to the point where, on most days, the bottom is easily visible and clearly empty. The thing is those barges have the same effect on water flows as the pinch-point we had just fished. This time the venturi is caused by water being forced between the boat and the bed of the canal. This will always scour out a hollow in the silt about eighteen inches to two feet larger all around than the hull is. Given that the water flows past the boat at the same speed all across the underside of the hull, this suggests that there is a mega hidey hole for perch  underneath them as well. We have seen this in practice when we once found a lock pound drained by vandals leaving both paddles open on the lower of two locks. A permanently moored barge was sitting in a perfectly ’cast’ hollow a couple of feet below the level of the canal bed. The problem here was that the only place we could access that scour with a bait was in the one foot wide gap between bank and boat.

Nooks and crannies and perch go together like crispy Pekin duck, dim sum and pancakes. I caught three there and missed a couple more  before takes dried up. All tiddlers, but who cares, it was never going to be a busy day if we didn’t take every chance that was offered.

If they would not take a retrieved bait, then that crayfish really ought to be working better than it had up to now. I put one on and threw it across into a gap on the far bank. Halfway back, the line flicked and a huge sweeping strike just and only just put me in contact with a small fish. A small fish that got bigger as I managed to overtake it by winding on the pressure. By the time I was fully in contact it had grown considerably and was really get me interested. To be sure, it felt heavy enough to be a jack, but once more a big swirl on the top was punctuated with that tell-tale flash of crimson.

Obviously bigger than the first it was very wide. Width is a much better sign of weight than length. A wide fish rarely disappoints the scales and this one certainly didn’t. 2-4 and my biggest for ages. Black again though. Is that spawning colouration or poor condition? This guy looked and fought like a real old warrior. With respect, I knelt at the edge and set myself to record for posterity his gentle release back into the murky canal. With disdain, he kicked out like a mule and landed five feet out, then with the waves rocking against the sheathing he was gone.

I can kind of see why anglers of old used to kill their big fish and set them up. Such a hard sought result is gone in an instant and weeks of effort and concentration is a fading memory before the splash even dies down. At least it would have been before photography became an option.

Nobody reads this blog more than Pete and I do. All our memories are here. I guess not everything was better in the old days.

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