Artificial

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From the water’s edge

January 2015 - Question time

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.

So a new year begins and just like the last one, it tries to inflict an early blank on us, testing our resolve and striving to instil a sense of incompetence in our minds. In my case that’s not difficult. I have mentioned many times that ten minutes without a take wipes ten years of positive results and learning off the blackboard of experience.

All Iast week, I had been looking forward to my next trip. Five gloomy minutes without a flicker, the wind biting my wrists and neck, and it seems so hopeless. Except that I know in my heart of hearts that no matter how impossible it seems, it is never hopeless and that unlike even five years ago when I could go weeks on end without a take, I have learned a trick or two. I know more, I have better methods and more understanding. I can always catch if I put my mind to it, and so can Pete and Terry. The first and golden rule that changed my lure fishing life was when I realised ‘that something always happens’. I might only get one take or one follow, but something always happens and he who snoozes, loses. Not paying attention is what can really cost us fish.

We have all learned a lot over the last year or two and we have learned it all by asking questions. Questions of our approach, of how the fish behave and more importantly react to our lures. The important thing is to never stop asking. Why won’t they take? Why aren’t they here, where are they? How can we put any ideas we come up with to best use? Decide that and then act on it and the chance of a blank will usually, maybe inevitably, recede. No method of fishing offers so many ways to succeed or so many easy ways to react to a difficult situation. No takes? Move, it takes minutes, there is nothing to pack, next to nothing to carry. Take advantage of lure fishing’s unique versatility. Today was in retrospect a classic example of how we make that work for us, even if I didn’t fully appreciate that until I had arrived home and warmed up.

 

It was cold and a bit miserable. We had chosen to meet Terry at a spot we have fished before with a fair amount of success. Unusually for us it is a rural stretch with little or no human activity alongside. No locks, no wharves or moorings, just trees and bushes, reeds and an endless variety of classic looking swims. Fish have come from virtually every inch of it at one time or another but it lacks any hotspots as so many rural stretches do.

Two farm bridges offered us the best hope if things proved tricky, but we fished half a mile of it pretty thoroughly. In all that water, the two bridges produced four small perch between us and if my memory serves me correctly, most of them came from beneath or close to the brickwork. We dibbled for England which caught most of those, but we fished hard with crayfish, grubs and shads. Casting across and along with great perseverance, no success and increasingly little hope.

We asked the questions. Where? Underneath the bridges was the answer. What lure? Small and fished slowly was the answer, but when those questions had run out of answers, when we ran out of bridges and were fed up with straining to spot takes that were not coming, we had to ask the killer question. What the hell can we do next? After all it was only ten am and we had given this area two hours to produce and it wasn’t doing so any more.

The problem to my mind was how could we fish with optimism on such a difficult day in swims that, although they had produced fish on occasions in the past, might well be empty today. On difficult days you HAVE to have hope and concentration. Fail on either front and all is lost, you are now relying entirely on luck. I certainly lose heart very easily if I am not absolutely certain that fish are in front of me to be caught. It is easy enough to start with. The optimism of a day by the water is enough, but if the takes don’t come, then all I can imagine is empty water in front of me.

 

 

Ask the right question and it will answer itself. How can we find some fish to practice upon? Answer - go to a spot that will definitely contain fish. Then you know that every cast is putting your lure in front of fish for them to either take or refuse. Then you have eliminated the ultimate imponderable - are they even there? They are, so with one problem sorted you can move on to the next. How do you get them to take. If they won’t chase, low and slow will probably do it but try everything just in case, although there is little point in not trying the most likely tactics first.

So we set off and walked half a mile back and then another half a mile further on to a spot that always produces. “If we can’t catch here then we won’t catch anywhere”, I told Terry. It didn’t take long. He had three Zs to about three pounds, Pete had a perch and a 3-0 Z and I had a tiny Z. Every one took the same crayfish that had failed us along half a mile of hitherto randomly productive water. The question is, are you fishing in a spot that has produced fish or one that always produces fish? Ask the right question, don’t just put your head down, switch off and go through the motions and you will be rewarded.

It felt at first like a difficult, pretty unsuccessful day, but 24 hours later, I realise that it was quite a significant one in that faced with a dearth of co-operative fish, we wrangled a few reasonable ones out of a cold, miserable and reluctant canal. That will stand us in good stead again in the future and lessons learned today have as always been added to the store of accumulated knowledge that will make hard days easier in the future. Lure angling is a big puzzle and today we fitted another key piece around the edge.

ALL IMAGES ©Terry Mann 2015

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