From the water’s edge

February 2015 - Muggers and other bottom feeders

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For a while today, we were beaten without even wetting a line. How could we? Having travelled an extra ten miles to our new area, keen to extend the number of productive swims, we couldn’t find any water to wet them in. It didn’t have to be light to see the ice and this place has no moving water to keep it from freezing. We turned straight round and headed back to leaky lock territory, where we were a bit luckier.

Here the water under the bridge was still squishy and wet but better still, it also was on the big bend further along. Something else to remember when we are looking for unfrozen water - lots of ducks. Up to a point they can keep cat ice at bay and the more of them the merrier. They had certainly done us a favour this morning. It still didn’t look that promising to be honest but it was barely ten minutes  before my leopard yellow crayfish provoked an attack. The line flicked, the rod went round and a very nice pound and a half perch was soon in the net.

I do like to get a blank out of the way early doors. It takes  the pressure right off and sets me up for the day. A couple of casts later and a sluggish weight dampened my next turn of the reel handle. I know what that means now. A firm strike and one more pound plus perch was quickly on the bank. Pete on the other hand was still sporting that inglorious badge of inadequacy. I had to call him over and we swapped places. It wasn’t that noble a gesture, I had missed two more tiny bites before calling him, but even so, while I was changing my cray for a different colour, he helped himself to his life-saver. On the leopard yellow of course. He persevered with it for a while but I was already convinced in my own head that it would not work much longer and switched to a bigger 4” red version. I sneaked out another pound perch but that was it. That was it for proper fish anyway. Pete moved on a bit a tried out one of his flies, only to let the side down with what would prove to be the smallest perch of the day at around half a pound.

That cold wind was still cutting and biting, the rings were freezing, making the use of small lures difficult at the very least and takes had disappeared, it was time to move. We found a few more bits of open water but none produced so we headed for the last chance saloon. And glory of glories, the big wide area was ice free. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea, but we never look a gift horse in the mouth.



The static take produced more fish for both of us. Another perch around the pound and a half mark to start with and then I hooked a nice fish which I saw turn in front of me. It was big, maybe nearly a double, had to be a pike, but the glimpse I had of the tail tickled my zander gene.

I was very excited, just in case, but suddenly the fish popped to the top and it had morphed into a pound perch. Had to have been a pike that I had seen then, so glad it never took hold.

Pete had  some more and our total was edging along. Pete’s sub one pound perch was soon joined in the ranks of the average-spoilers by a pound zander for me, but it was becoming obvious that despite chopping and changing baits/colours, takes were drying up. We had both caught, missed and bumped a fish or two, and it was all subsiding nicely towards dinner time.

A last few casts then with the 4” red crayfish, and first chuck over against the boards, I felt the dead weight of a fish sitting on the bait. I struck, the rod bumped a few times and everything was proceeding in an orderly fashion, when the tip just slumped further down and all the life went out of the fight. For all the world, it felt as though the fish had become wrapped up with a big heavy branch, except that it was wandering backwards and forwards all over the canal. I knew what it was, that b***dy pike. I applied steady pressure and lifted it into view. The water today was absolutely gin clear but even so, I thought that this fish would never end. Absolutely, unbelievably massive and as it swung its head from side to side, I could see my perch being flung around next to its jaws.

Now a few weeks back, Pete had an 18 -13 in this very spot and I am utterly convinced that this one was larger. I have caught them to 26 something in Chew and 21 in Pitsford, and I would put this one at nearer 25 than 20. The trouble is, it is so easy to get over-excited and a big fish will look a lot smaller in the open sea of a 200 acre reservoir and a whole heap bigger in the narrow confines of a canal. Even so, this was a beast and sadly one that I would not get to weigh.

It opened its jaws, the rod relaxed and the perch made it safely into my net. It weighed two pounds two ounces which was great but I shan’t forget how small it looked alongside that pike’s head for a long time. The only damage to the perch was a bit missing off of one gillplate. The last six inches of my trace were all curly and quickly replaced. In moments, it might never have happened. So back out with the crayfish, an almost immediate brief flicker of interest and another two pound perch was heading my way, only to spit the hook at the net.

Pete had not been wasting his time either. Using the crayfish again, he had caught a lovely zander which weighed in at 3-14.

The message was getting through now. We were outstaying our welcome. The takes dried up completely and the writing was on the wall, we headed for the car hoping to have another go at the first spot before packing. We did, but apart from two minute takes, it was as a dead as a hammer.

Both of us tried shads and curly tails several times, but nothing that wasn’t hard on the bottom would catch. The water was way too clear for dibbling, so small fish were unlikely to feature, but we were both surprised that we couldn’t even raise a tickle on a moving bait.

Most of the takes on crayfish were just a dead weight when we went to move the lure, the rest mere flickers of the line. These fish were not moving far or fast. Without a doubt a day that produced nine perch between 1-0 and 2-2 and a 3-14 Z, more lost fish and a couple of make-weights would have been a blank not so long ago.

artificial lite



journal 2015.


journal 2015.