Artificial

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From the water’s edge

September 2014 - Mind games

If ever a fishing trip demonstrated to me the psychological limitations that affect my catches, it was this one today. A change of venue saw Pete and I wandering down to the Avon backwater that we last fished a couple of months ago. It looked superb, but our catches belied the rosy outlook. We struggled and yet the fish were there. I saw plenty of decent chub, but unlike those I had found on a recent visit to the Waveney with my brother, these were unmoved by our presentation.

Something was radically different today. On the Waveney, as soon as the lure plopped into the water, fish would race after it, today, they just melted away. It seemed and probably was the case, that if we could see them, it was already too late; they had seen us and were on their guard.

The perch were scarcely any more obliging. Although we had about a dozen between us, the vast majority of those that showed sidled over for a look but could not be tempted to try our baits. It was uncanny. In most swims though, even previously inhabited ones there just did not appear to be any fish.

 

 

These swims are typically the ones where my brain stops me catching fish. Even on what we consider to be clean canals, the bottom is unlikely to be visible and neither of us have any problem working a bait thoroughly and repeatedly through likely water or around likely holding features whether they have produced in the past, or not. In a clear river, when the bottom is very visible, two unsuccessful casts and I have itchy feet. It is the only too easy to find myself at the end of the stretch, with little caught, nowhere else to try and a long wait for the pub to open. Clear water with no visible fish is hard work for me and no mistake.

And yet, I did get a few today, all tiddlers, not particularly fulfilling, but an object lesson in perseverance. All of those fish came from clear and apparently empty swims as the lure crossed areas of dark water or more likely dark materials on the riverbed. And those small dark patches were the only ones where I felt any hope of catching at all.

 

Once or twice, fish would appear close the lure in clear, open water demonstrating that whatever my head and my eyes told me, an empty swim is not always empty.

I remember once fishing a shallow, clear, disused and un-fished gravel pit with Lawrence and Alan. Towards the end of the morning we were all standing together on a high bank overlooking a shallow bay. We could see every inch of the bottom, the old cables and quarrying debris scattered about, every stone on the lake bed and there were demonstrably and un-arguably, no fish.

Alan was keen to demonstrate the action of his new homemade spoon and how despite being heavy and streamlined enough to cast a huge distance, he could fish it in only inches of water. Halfway back we all became aware that a mid-double figure pike was ambling along behind it. How it got there or where it came from is still a mystery as was its weight because despite taking the lure, he never got it to the bank. Having witnessed that I have no excuse for my doubts, but I can't shift them. If I can't see fish in clear water, my brain insists I won't catch any and so I can't maintain the optimism necessary to try hard enough.

Once that optimism is missing, I am a beaten man and all that will save me is an un-earned slice of total good fortune. A couple of unexpected hits or a single lucky fish and I expect to catch on every cast thereafter. That wobbly grey blancmange in my head is the key. Get that onside and fishing is easy.

 

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.

I don't think we shall be on the rivers much more this year now. We spent the journey back discussing a move back to the canals, boat traffic and all. We enjoyed the few small Zander that we caught on our last trip out with Terry, much more than the frustrations and lack of worthwhile fishing in our local rivers. It's such a shame, not so long ago, I used to fish the Anker a lot and caught loads of fish, but back then I was on the wire and using bigger baits for pike. Maybe that is the biggest difference of all. The fish I used to catch by accident then are the only ones I am interested in now. And, either I have lost the knack or my current waters are not up to the job. A change is as good as a rest, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, so in the absence of any original or creative writing, cliches will have to do until next time. I would like to concentrate a bit harder on catching some better fish and as usual, that will mean lots of effort with the crayfish. My favourite bait, catching fish on which gives me the most pleasure. I wonder how long my head will let me do that before the 1” baits are out again?

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