August 2013 - The lost tribes

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From the water’s edge



artificial lite

Where have they all gone?? The perch that is. And the anglers, and the water.

Last Wednesday, the level was the highest we have fished this season. This Wednesday it was the lowest. I know which I prefer. When the level rises, new slacks are created; when it falls they all disappear. Those dark interesting holes that have produced fish after fish all summer are ten inches deep and fishless. The sun beating down leaves the fish feeling exposed as soon as it gets over the trees and they retire to the densest weed and play hard to get.

It started well. Another packet of lures arrived from AGM just in time to play and we started how we meant to continue only it didn’t quite work out that way as usual. Pete hooked a nice pike within ten minutes of starting on a panic minnow. What an excellent looking bait that is, I am sure when the fish are feeding harder we will catch lots on that. I thought that the long tail would have a wide lazy action but it didn’t. The tail action was tight and high frequency, just how I like it for perch. The pike seemed to agree and as usual this one zoomed about a bit on Pete’s ultra light rod, before he netted it.

I could see the bottom all over my first swim except for an area right at my feet. Sure enough as I worked my dropshot in the darkness, I experienced my first ever, proper - unseen - take. The rod tip just pulled down and a nice perch was on. It took a 4” agm fluke and while it wouldn’t quite have made a pound it had to be a good sign. Actually it was a sign that after just fifteen minutes things were going to go downhill.

We fished on until lunchtime and caught just one more small perch apiece in all that time. As soon as the sun came out the fish went in. Those tribes of perch that on previous visits had followed, molested, savaged and taken our little lures had melted away. We saw fish. Small ones that hadn’t learned the value of caution were zipping about on the surface, but that was about all.

I once had permission to fish a small pool in somebody’s extensive garden. It was full of goldfish which bred prodigiously. I would catch them and he would sell them to a garden centre. Any roach that I caught were mine to use as livebait if I so chose.

The first time I needed a couple, I went along with my white plastic bucket and started popping them into it. Within five minutes they were all close to death. It took some time to work out what was happening. I put a black bin liner in, re-filled the bucket and the fish I caught after that lived for days until used or released. Their unavoidable exposure to predatory eyes distressed them so badly they went into rapid decline through shock. It seems to me that when the water is very low and clear, fish are very susceptible to the eyes of predators and they just will not come out to feed. They stay in the deepest darkest places they can find. The remarkable thing is that the water had barely dropped a foot. But there were precious few areas where the bottom was not visible. I am certain that this is what killed it for us

It was an interesting and enjoyable morning followed by an excellent lunch, but all the way home, my mind was working on what had happened. That first take from the perch in the picture was exactly what I have been hoping for. Terry had described his takes from zander on the canals as being just like that one was. I expressed my impatience to Pete about getting back on the cut and giving those lucky Zs an opportunity to look at lures fished this way and he immediately suggested a local lock that nearly always throws up a few small Zs. Not long after dropping him off, I was driving over that exact spot and  the temptation for an addict was too hard to resist. I left the net in the car. Cap, glasses, waistcoat and rod. Two minutes and I was fishing. Five minutes more and the rod pulled down; my first was on its way to the bank. It took the 4” fluke and was followed up by another, ten minutes later. Then the takes became smaller and less decisive. Boats were coming through the lock now, but a change down to 2” live shad garnered more interest. I lost some and caught another before deciding to move up the flight to the next lock. Straight away , I was getting savage takes. The lure would go in, a few gentle movements of the rod tip to get the bait struggling up off the bottom and whack, the tip would stab down and the lure would come back almost removed from the hook. Pulled right around the bend by what I correctly assumed were small fish. A change back to the two inch live shad and a tiddler was on the bank in moments.

I gave it two hours. I caught four, lost about the same and missed a few. This was better than we had done all day. It was in bright sunshine on a busy canal at the busiest part of that canal, but crucially the water was coloured. In fact it was filthy and there were no predators to worry these fish. Except me of course. I packed and walked back to the car with a pleasant chap who had been pole fishing about thirty yards away. He was labouring under a huge weight of kit but he had caught well. A couple of decent perch he reckoned ( I must try there for those) and a good catch of bream. The surface was covered with small roach topping and competing with the ducks for bread. Amazing really the there was no one else fishing. Nobody bothers now because “the zander have wiped the stretch out” - plonkers.

At last I feel that I am getting to grips with this method. I don’t persevere too hard before retrieving the lure. I cast across, work the bait for a while. Until I am bored or I feel that any fish around have had the chance for a taster and then just lift the rod to let it settle a bit closer before repeating; hoping to provoke an attack. Once the lure is back at my feet I work it a bit longer then lift it out slowly and recast. I cover more water. It is less boring and it seems to be working better. This is a notoriously snaggy stretch of canal. But I have still never lost a lead to the bottom. I have lost a couple in far bank brambles, but the lure/hook being a foot above the bottom makes it a lot less susceptible to snagging. I’d still like to settle on baits and hooks a bit more and I get very fed up changing rigs to switch between 2” and 4” baits, so there is work to do there. I am wondering if I might be better off with a shorter shank but larger hook and nose hooking all my lures but there is always that concern over missing tail biters./ can I make the presentation good enough to get them all to wolf the whole bait down? This tiny zander above managed to get a whole 4” fluke right down, so it might work. This is what I go fishing for. Lots of problems to solve. It fascinates me.





journal 2013.



journal 2013.