From the water’s edge

February 2014 - Dry run

It can’t be great all the time, life just isn’t like that. The last time we fished here, we absolutely cleaned up. Fish were everywhere and it was a real eye-opener. Today dawned bright and clear and calm, just how I like it after this miserable gloomy winter and it was hard to see why anything should have changed. The water was clean enough, it looked good, and to be fair, by lunchtime it had turned out to be not a bad day at all. It just took a long time to get going again, much the same as last week. It was an ordinary day.

We walked a mile or so to the end of the stretch and started to fish our way back, but takes were really thin on the ground. After about 45 minutes fishing, Pete missed a couple of flickers, nothing more, and soon afterwards I felt the magic bump on the line. It was nothing to write home about, but a small Z was netbound and in that moment, my blank was a distant memory. Just the way I like blanks to be.

In that first spell, I had been through my top three fail-proof lures, testing for tactics. Should I be dibbling, are there a lot of small perch about - 1” yellow kopyto, dibbled and retrieved. Are they up in the water chasing? 2” yellow kopyto, 3” black and copper hammer to test that. Are they moribund and sulking in the mud, twitching a cray will check that out. So, in three fifteen minute spells, I have searched the water column from canal bed to the top third. I have offered them bright colours and dark, fast retrieves and slow ones, 1”, 2” and 3” baits. All I am doing is testing the opposition before I decide how to play. I was twitching the crayfish about when Pete had those two knocks on a green tailed Quantum battle shad. The nearest thing to that in my box was a fluo yellow tailed hammer shad and sure enough that did just what I needed it to.

What was a bit surprising was that despite fishing hard with every colour of lure we carried we never raised another fish in that spot. It was just one, out of the blue chance, and that turned out to be the pattern for the majority of the morning.

After another two hundred yards of utterly fruitless effort, a pretty ten ounce perch hit the same lure on the drop. Even going down to 2” and then 1” baits failed to provoke any further interest. Then the boats started which was a bit of a shame, but we pressed on, eventually arriving at the big bend that often produces. Out went the hammer shad, in came another small Z. Back out - whack - a fierce hit missed and it just looked as though we might get one or two    

It was not to be, I turned to cast again, but a barge was just ploughing straight through the exact spot that both takes had come from. Another half an hour’s effort was wasted trying to find them again, but it was not to be.

We decided to head for the locks, pausing only to fish the two or three best spots en route, Sure enough the second of those produced Pete’s blank-saver and a couple of insignificant takes before dying a death.

It had been a strange sort of day so far, but we still had that lock-full of small Zs to come. Next stop, can’t-fail, tiddler country. We failed, you’ll not be surprised to hear and after half an hour’s fruitless casting decided on one last move up to the second lock. We had walked this far after all, it would have been silly not to. Our first good decision of the day.

“If the rest of the day is anything to go by, you’ll catch first chuck”, says Pete. How very astute, the line flicked on cue and a small Z was heading for the world of men, jaws firmly clamped around the only lure I had caught on all day, the yellow-tailed 3” hammer shad. Pete had moved a bit closer to the lock and was getting a few hits, one of which produced this really nice pound perch which spewed up a Miller’s thumb in the net. Neither of us have seen any Bullheads for donkey’s years. I used to catch them all the time when I was a kid living in London, but Pete has fished the Oxford regularly for, we calculated, nigh on 60 years and couldn’t remember ever having seen one in there. Pete had a perch recently that threw up a a small zander. He thinks that is pretty clever, I think it shows that they just feel sick when they look up from the net and see who they have been out-witted by.

By now I was getting quite a lot of really difficult-to-hit takes. Some even quite hard, many pulling the lure down the hook, but not kissing the metal. I changed down to a 2” yellow kopyto and it just carried on. If anything, the takes were a bit more violent, but I still couldn’t hook them. I put the 3” back on and threw it across onto the shallows by a permanently moored barge. When I picked the line up a fish started jagging violently on the end, pulling hard and diving deeper and faster than anything else I had caught so far. I can usually tell what I have hooked, but this one was a bit strange and in fact turned out to be a two pound plus chub. I’ve been fishing this pound with lures for for ten years now and never even seen one here before. A new arrival? An incompetent lure angler? I’ve a good idea.

With time running out and the rain sleeting down, I moved up next to Pete for a few casts in the hope of finding another perch of the sort of size he had caught, and was reminded of a technique that I had been promising myself to try. After seeing my friend James tempting recalcitrant perch out to play on the savage four-play, I had rigged a couple of these lake fork drop-shotting lures on small 1 gm jigheads, intending to twitch them violently around in mid water. By slitting the top of the lure and hiding most of the small hook, I hoped it would double up for fishing Wadey’s gherkin method, dragged through the silt. It was silly really, trying to cover so many bases in one go, but it worked really well and as the morning wound down, I got a lot of takes mostly from perch, most of which fell off as I swung them out. All the same, I will be using this a lot in the future I suspect. I chucked the lure right across, and let it hit bottom. It took a fair while as there was little weight in this bait. Then, I just started reeling in very slowly. Every time the reel took up the slack, I flicked the rod tip sharply about a foot. This generated enough slack for a single turn to recover whereupon, I would give it another sharp flick. Takes were all the same. When I flicked the rod tip, the fish was already there.

To me this is a hybrid technique, with a lot of options and the perch loved it. There is some of Footy’s Bonkers style, Wadey’s gherkin, the dying swan and my standard crayfish retrieve. The lure can be dragged slowly through the mud or moved sharply in jerks so that it hops across the bottom. If that fails, the lure acts really spectacularly up in the water. Flicking and flapping the rod tip around makes it move in a most alluring manner and of course bouncing it under the rod tip is sure to be a valuable addition to the dibbling technique.

An ordinary lure fishing day then. Some sun, some rain, some fish some questions, even some answers. Nothing spectacular, but lots to think about. Now let’s have a look in the odd jigheads box for something that will do the job a bit better.

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.

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journal 2014.





journal 2014.

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