From the water’s edge

Artificial

 Lite

March 2013 - Long time, no see

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artificial lite

The early signs were good. The weather was mild and dry, DB had a new album out - free download on iTunes, a take first cast missed and a fish lost on the second. But, the early activity and the good news evaporated quickly. The perch seemed very coy about taking a lure, as fruitless tap after knock after pluck on the line was replaced by an ominous lack of interest. I went through the box (at least I remembered that this time) to no avail.

Pete moved up past me and was straight in - a right lump hugged the bottom and generally resisted in a sullen mood before turning into a 4 lb pike which was promptly returned to the water to the sound of Pete’s incessant complaining about slimy, toothy fish that poke their noses in where they aren’t wanted. He must have upset it because two minutes later his big brother grabbed the lure and pretended to be a big zander just long enough to convince Pete that a new personal best was on the cards. It didn’t matter, I got it in the net twice but it wouldn’t relax into the bag and slid back out both times as I tried to lift it clear. The second time it left the hook in the net, which was perfect really. It was a good 8 lbs plus, but not really what we wanted.

Hope was briefly revived when a pound perch came to Pete’s rod on a last resort spinner/grub combination and that was our lot. We tried other favourite but fruitless spots before chucking the gear in the back and heading off to another prime location five miles up the road.

Contrast Pete’s misfortune with my skill and technique. Two takes, two pike for him. One take - one umbrella for me. Not just any old brolly either, it was a nicely understated one in green, yellow and red and it fought doggedly all the way to the bank as drogues generally do.

A long walk from the road to a favourite lock was a healthy waste of time as well. What was going on? We assumed that, having got takes straight away, albeit timid ones, the fish were feeding. The pike, we assumed were making them nervous. Move to another area and we should carry on where we left off without interruptions or the need for wire. Maybe the water was too clear we wondered, but at this new area it was less so. Perfect conditions all round - no takes and no useful ideas of what to do about it. Dibbling should not have been necessary on a day like this, but we tried it, unsuccessfully anyway before heading back up the flight to the last chance lock prior to a much anticipated visit to the last chance saloon bar.

That bit of cloudiness in the water had me thinking in terms of zander and this spot has reluctantly coughed up a couple of small ones in the past. Yellow in less than clear water works well for me, but I went up to 3” in the hope that this might be more visible and more tempting to the Zs. I went through the card again before turning in despair to - you’ve probably already guessed it - the 2” yellow kopyto.

First cast - donk - missed. Second cast - donk - zander - matchbox-sized, beautiful and very, very welcome.

Next cast was a longer one diagonally across the canal toward an overhanging alder. I always catch the line with my finger as the bait hits the water and put the bail arm over by hand. On small reels, there is not enough leverage on the handle and snapping it over by turning the handle will wear them out in no time.

I learned the technique of catching the line instantly on the chub of the Coventry canal. There they hit hard and fast; faster than you can get the bail arm over. Catch the line immediately, catch the fish is a plan learned the hard way. Today it paid off for a zander which hit the bait as it fell through the water. I saw the bow flick, felt nothing at all, but struck into a second, noticeably bigger fish, of maybe a pound and a half. Another couple of casts and - tap - there was the third. A much better fish and very dogged in its resistance. Zander just don’t do fighting really. The two largest fought the same way, a couple of short dashes and then up on the top and thrash the head from side to side like a teenager on speed.

It was like trying to land a swimming cat, but it was all over in seconds and an absolute minter it was. Fin and scale perfect with a tail like a shovel. I am sorry if I have made that sound like a low double but at a bit over 4 lbs it was my largest for a while from a stretch with few in it. I really like zander and this was such a beautiful specimen. It knocked my “2” shads are a bit small for zander” theory into the long grass though.

It was clearly payback time and Pete was soon standing in my footprints and quickly lost one, before hooking and landing a pound and a half perch, heavily in spawn. He quickly followed that up with another rather lightly coloured specimen of a similar size. It was an attractive golden-olive colour with colourful fins and barely discernible stripes. Within twenty minutes, our day had gone from a struggle to a very satisfying one and we left the water with two pike, three perch and three zander to our collective credit which we felt was none too shabby.

I have heard people say that perch and zander don’t mix, that zander kill everything and yet these all came one after the other from the same swim. It is often said that zander compete with pike for food and I suppose that is un-arguable, but I do believe that they have far more in common with perch. Both are far more omnivorous than pike and will eat lots of insects and smaller fry than pike might bother with and yet here they are existing alongside each other with some success. These perch aren’t starving. I wonder what all the doomsayers think that these fish are thriving on if the zander have eaten everything??

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