From the water’s edge



March 2013 - Minor tactics - The dying swan

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I think I may start a series on here of minor tactics that I use from time to time. Over the years, my approach and my favourite lures have changed, not as you might think, because of something new that has come on the market; to be honest I am not that interested. I use lures that fulfil some particular requirement that I have decide in my wisdom might improve my results or at least prove interesting to use. Some of these lures turn out to be successful, some don’t. Some do, but are superseded by others that appear to be more productive. My recent use of the method I refer to as dibbling is a fine example. I was shown the basic technique by my good friend Andy Horwood, and have run with it, altering my technique as I have had more success. It remains in my armoury for days when the conditions and my frame of mind are right. This is another of those minor tactics, and I think of it as the dying swan method. I used it today for the first time in a couple of years because I was looking for something that these fish hadn’t seen before and as you can see it worked pretty well.

It is the technique that I actually started my zander fishing career with and back then, Alan Smith and I were using old fashioned, basic plastic shads made by the now-defunct soft bait shop. We mounted them, un-weighted, on large singles but however we set them up they always fished hook point downwards for all the obvious reasons. Changing to storm split tail shads was the solution that simultaneously made them fish more effectively and less prone to snagging. They were rigged as you see this bait, using the hook in the packet but since then I have used any slim bait of this type that I have found to be cheap and readily available.

All that matters is that the bait is slim and the hook of the style shown so that a lot of curved shank is visible beneath the bait. It helps if the bait is slit but it is not essential. I often cut them about so that the hook moves through them more freely if I feel the need, but you may be surprised if I tell you that I rarely miss takes on this rig. It is basically the same as the one I use for my crayfish lures. One thing that I am careful to do is to open up the gape so that the hook is pointing slightly away from the body of the lure. This will ensure that when you strike (and you should strike hard at anything you feel no matter how insignificant), the point goes into the fish and not back into the lure. I fish them the same way as the crayfish too, but the difference is that these work as glide baits and are un-weighted so they swoop up and from side to side on each turn of the handle. I let them glide to the bottom before giving a couple of brisk turns which makes them loop, swoop, spin and slide around like a dying fish. Letting them fall to the bottom emphasises their distress and the retrieve mimics a vain struggle to get back upright and swimming. The way that they behave in the water always puts me in mind of a ballerina swooning around like the proverbial dying swan from one side of the stage to the other and back again. Perch are fascinated by them and in the past I have seen some very big ones follow them to the side.


This northland bait that I found in the loft from way back is 4” long but it tempted a 1 lbs perch on its second cast. This was after two fruitless hours messing about at other spots with my usual baits. To be fair, I am certain that it was the spot that made the difference as using shads also produced a fish or two, like this interloper of around 6-7 lbs. The bream was just Pete harking back to his match-fishing days. He must have been good, because he had two today, Both gaffed in the back as usual. My second fish on the method was a zander and after a faltering start I found that casting to my right produced zander and to the left, perch. I never moved spots, I just had a few casts to one side and then some to the other.

Takes were as usual with my favourite methods, subtle. Because these lures are light, they sink slowly and there is always a bow in the line. It takes a while to learn what line behaviour is caused by the lure. Once you have, everything else is a fish. Some takes were just un-felt, flicks of the line, others were just there when I went to move the lure again. Once or twice, the line never fell completely slack. I admit to missing a couple because I was a bit rusty, but finished with four perch and four zander, all the same. Best perch was this 2-3 specimen below, and the first was the smallest at around a pound, so this is an effective fish catcher by my standards.

Pete clocked up five today if you count the bream. He had a zander of around 3 lbs and a couple of perch either side of one and a half, so yet again, we dropped on. We seem to be finding good fish everywhere we go at the moment, despite the limitations imposed on us by the weather. I would imagine that as the boat traffic increases it will get a lot harder. It is then when having a variety of tricks up your sleeve can be a real bonus.

Out of interest, the largest fish I have ever seen hooked in a canal took a lure fished like this as well. Alan Smith was just having a last cast on the Oxford canal one evening. I had broken off and stopped to watch him when his lure was stopped dead in mid canal. At first we both thought, assumed, it was the bottom, but slowly, ever so slowly, the line moved to his left and the rod tip pulled down. His clutch gave line at with a ponderous, un-hurried tick - tick - tick, until the fish was twenty yards to his left.

Then it stopped and he was able to recover line as it moved slowly back towards him, but as it went past the tip pulled down again and that eerie tick - tocking clutch started giving line again. I have never seen a fish move so slowly, but he could make no impression on it. It was dark and a little intimidating I have to say. He was using a fox 30gm jigmaster loaded with 30 lbs braid and 25 lb wire, so he was putting as much pressure on as anybody could have hoped to, but it made no difference. Then the line went slack and the hook had come out.

I found the whole episode totally out side of my entire lifetime’s fishing experience. Alan simply said that one day somebody was going to get a big surprise in that spot. That was the second time it had happened to him there.

One week later he rung me up to tell me that he had landed a 30 lbs 10 oz carp from that spot. Weighed, witnessed and fairly hooked in the mouth on a 2” storm goldfish-coloured shad. It fought in exactly the same way apparently, so I guess that particularly mystery counts as solved, but it still freaked me out all the same.

artificial lite




journal 2013.



journal 2013.