Artificial

 Lite

From the water’s edge

January 2015 - It’s elemental my dear Watson.

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

You don’t have to be Bob Nudd to understand that fish behaviour is affected by the weather, but understanding how and by what aspects of it they are affected takes up an inordinate proportion of our thinking. Why can’t we get a take, why are the takes so vague or hard to detect and what are we going to do to get round that and put a few fish on the bank? I hope nobody is reading this looking for answers, I have none, and if Pete does, then he’s keeping them to himself. All I can offer is a few observations and some ideas that may help. That those ideas are valid may be apparent, after all we caught a dozen and a half fish today when they really weren’t giving themselves up, but that doesn’t mean they are wholly correct.

Snow they said, 2-4” deep they said. A pity they were wrong, it always makes for plenty of nice pictures. We had a sprinkling and in fact things looked better than we had expected when we arrived at a favourite spot, another one of those that is fading badly but which I was keen to try again. The fact that a shad was wrapped around the electricity wires above us may be a clue as to why it is a shadow of its former self. Lure angling pressure against results is a very predictable graph. As the former increases, so the other goes down the pan. Pity, but still don’t we have methods at our disposal to deal with that? Not really, not yet.

It was never going to be easy today and before I set off, I finally made the effort to reverse the line on the reel. It’s a bit of a pain for an idle soul like me, but if you have three reels or three spools it’s easy enough. My reels for canal fishing only carry about thirty or forty yards of line and the colour fades pretty quickly from the first twenty. Reversing it gave me back the highly visible fluoro yellow that I value so highly for seeing those tiny, tiny bites. It was a long overdue job and doing it paid off today.

It felt mild to start with, but within fifteen minutes my fingers were numb. There was no visible wind ruffling the surface, but the freezing cold breath of the afterworld was creeping down our necks and across the back of our hands. This would not be easy and despite Pete catching on his first or second put in, it was to prove desperately difficult. If it’s cold, the fish are unlikely to be haring about. It’s obvious I suppose, but not always true. Water is much slower to cool down than the air, so the first day or two can be unaffected. In my experience, once it has been cold for a while they will feed better, but not up in the water. There is a definite period where the cold finally seeps through the water and affects the fishing quite badly and I think that this is where we are at the moment.

We fished up and down the stretch, among the barges, across the wider water, all those spots that have been so reliable in the past, but all we managed between us was another small perch for Pete, dibbling small curlys along the margin. Even then he hadn’t missed anything so it wasn’t looking good. Even worse I still had the blank monkey on my back telling me that it was all pointless, that I was useless and had no idea what to do.

As things stand, I only have two methods that work for me in these conditions. I work a crayfish across the bottom or I dibble the margin. Both techniques rely on putting the bait on, almost literally, the fish’s nose. When it’s cold and hard and unforthcoming, they will not move to take the lure, or at  least not far anyway. It makes hunting these fish down a slow old game and is as much a matter of luck than judgement. All we can do is play the odds; go where we know there are always fish, concentrate hard and fish slowly and very thoroughly over every square inch of the canal bed. If we do catch, then I will try up in the water for a while just in case, otherwise it is more of the same.

 

It’s not just fish that are affected by the weather either. I most definitely am and so when I discovered a nice sheltered stretch further along the canal, I decided to gather my wits and fish there for a bit. It was about half a mile of straight canal with thick snowberry overhanging the far bank along its entire length. I’ve always fancied it but rarely tried so I thought I could play here awhile looking for something else that might work in what turned out in this sheltered refuge to be beautiful mild weather under a warm winter sun. All the cold was clearly in the wind and I suspect that a cooling breeze like that will chill a water faster than any other conditions. Maybe that’s why we were struggling so much.

I settled for small lures, 1” and 2” shads and curly tails fished as slowly as possible across the canal. By holding the rod upwards at about 10 o clock and lifting it gently to 11, I would pluck the lure almost vertically from the canal bed and then let it swing back down. Effectively it was sink and draw, up a foot, swing down, take up some slack and repeat. Slowly, gently, patiently and thoroughly, with plenty of concentration, it worked. The vertical lift kept the lure pretty-well debris free and the takes started to come. They were very hard to get to grips with though. On lifting, it would just feel like there was a leaf on the line. Flick the rod tip and see if it starts wriggling. Sometimes it did and slowly I gathered a haul of perch from 8 oz down to minute. Pete joined me and before very long we had fished the whole stretch. Now we were back at one of our favourite spots for better fish. Here it was wider and more exposed. Hopping those small baits about is a perfect method for narrow, sheltered sections; it is almost unusable in wind or on a long cast because the angle of lift is so shallow that the lure is constantly dragged through the muck instead of up, out of, and over it.

Gloves on again then and head down for a spell persevering with the crayfish. Sure enough after about fifteen minutes, the slack shot out and a half decent zander was quickly in the net. Pete caught one as well, fishing a 4” shad on a weighted, weedless hook slowly back through the mud. Things were looking up, but it was nearly dinner time before we found anything else. Once more, the crayfish generated a decent hit in another favoured spot and my second 3 pounder was in the side. I cast back out, let the lure hit bottom and stopped to chat with Pete. A couple of minutes later I wound in the slack and was immediately playing another nice fish, although this one fell off, probably because I had been too surprised to strike. Never mind, the pub was open, and the fire was roaring. We gave it another fifteen minutes just to be sure that this really was a ravenous pack of two and it was time to head off with another snippet of experience filed away for a hard day. Probably next week if this weather continues.

 

I would imagine that most lure anglers would, as I used to, choose their lures on the basis of whether they were good for perch, or pike, zander or chub. Even today, I suspect that most casual lure anglers just cast and retrieve, and when that doesn't produce, merely change lures and continue as before. If they consider the weather or water conditions at all, they might spend more time fishing the slacks when a river is in flood, in deeper water or using a slower retrieve when it is cold. These are all valid considerations with an element of truth in them. Pike in particular will sit in slack water dashing out into the quick stuff to snatch a meal. Perch can be partial to quiet water although they are not obsessed with it. Deeper water is always worth trying in the cold, especially on our shallow canal network. These standards of fishing history are not the whole truth however, many fish will cope easily with fast flood water and shallow water in the cold. Pete’s zander today took in eighteen inches of water on the far side of a wide bend. The most important delusion that we all suffer from is that our slow retrieves are slow. Lure speed is too often judged at our scale and by the speed we turn the handle, taking no account of gearing or how little a fish’s natural food actually travels. To us a foot is a small distance, to a 3” perch it is four times its body length, 24 ft in human terms, and a damselfly nymph would have covered 12 times its body length in that time, a staggering 72 feet in our world. Even prey species that can move like lightening don’t do it for thirty yards at all, never mind without stopping or slowing down at any stage.

After ten years of lure fishing, we have worked out what lures will work and choose which lure to use almost entirely based on how we expect the fish to be behaving and hopefully feeding. If we judge that they are unlikely to feed, then we need to change their minds, simply relying on them to take the lure because it is marketed for perch fishing won't do. If we have a plan, it is to persuade them to take our lures, not to expect them to. I know that many anglers equate persuading them to take with making the lure louder in colour or vibration believing that fish will come running (swimming?). There is no doubt in my mind that it is far more important in cold, hard or difficult conditions to get the lure close to the fish and leave it there long enough for them to locate it precisely and take it without having to flash about wasting energy.

  

It happens very occasionally, but it is very rare for them to refuse some food if eating it requires little energy and once we realised that, blanks became notable for their absence.  I tend nowadays to have baits for cold weather, warm weather, strong winds, bright sunshine and dirty water; I don’t have perch lures or zander lures. it’s not rocket science. Fishing with regard to the elements is elementary.

artificial lite
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