From the water’s edge

Artificial

 Lite

March 2013 - Testing times

Taking advantage of previously hard-earned knowledge is all well and good, but you can’t let the natural desire to fill your boots, ruin your future fishing success. As I have mentioned many times before, lure fishing is a self-destructive technique. However heavily populated with predators a stretch might be, sooner rather than later, it will die a death. Results will wane and the inevitable aspersions will be cast at foreigners, otters, cormorants and electro-fishing. The truth is the culprit is holding your fishing rod.

Pete and I are well aware of this conundrum and try very hard to keep searching for new areas. Lure fishing is a pretty instant method. If the fish are feeding, then as often as not, a take will come from the first two or three casts in a new swim. This, we put to good use by splitting our mornings up whenever a new stretch comes on the radar. Two or three hours max is the ideal for an exploratory trip. Not catching anything means nothing, so it is important to leave before despondency sets in and dissuades us from making a second attempt at a likely looking area.  

Today we chose a rural area to look at with lots of bends and moorings to try out, but it wasn’t exactly busy. Restricting ourselves to a short effort paid off though, because after an hour and a half of absolutely nothing, a firm pluck on the line produced this pound and three quarter perch. What a perfect result. Although we never had another take of any description, we know that this perch will not be the only one in the area and to be of such a size means that when we return next week for round two, we will at least be optimistic.  

With an ice-breaker under our belts and a much better, even enthusiastic idea of what the new stretch might have to offer we quit while we were winning and headed for a favourite stretch.

For some time it has seemed to me that I catch more perch and less zander on 2” baits. Then, quite out of the blue two weeks ago, I had three zander, which having refused my 3” baits all took the 2” ones.

Working on the theory that no theory can be right all the time, I decided to try for them again with three inch baits, but it wasn’t looking good when a quarter of an hour passed with no takes at all.

We steadily worked our way along the canal for a while before I had two missed bites.

One of my favourite patterns of hammer shads is pearl with a fluo yellow tail and a grey back. It is effective but I have found that on difficult days, the fish target the yellow tail and stop short of the hooks. The tell tale sign is when you retrieve the lure to hand to find it half way round the bend of the hook. I went back to the box for a ferret around and chose a rarely used, ‘you won’t ever catch on that’ bubble gum pink version. Out it went right under the far bank into a foot of water. Two turns and - thump - there we go. A nice fish boring away in the middle of the cut. I thought it was going to be a wretched pike, but then the line started zig-zagging rapidly from side to side and a big golden flash confirmed that zander still like 3” baits after all. Even better than the one I had last time, it went just over four and a half pounds and I was a happy lad. Changing to a black and copper version tricked another couple as well and I finished very happily on three Zs and the decent perch from earlier on.

Last time we fished this area, we narrowed the takes down to a single quite tight spot. I had three zander and Pete had three perch. Bizarrely, exactly the same thing happened today. Pete had three perch, the smallest and prettiest of which you see at the bottom of the page. His best was around a pound and a half.

All of these fish came within half an hour as soon as we reached the spot, and I can’t help feeling that there were more to be had, but over the weeks, I have narrowed my options too much.

Many lure anglers when they start out carry too many baits and become stuck in the two pack epoxy glue of manufacturers hype and some vague notion that there is a magic lure that they just don’t know about yet.

I was exactly the same. Catch a fish, buy more of those lures. Mate catches fish - buy plenty of those too. Six colours of each, diving to different depths and my lure box was starting to look like a carp barrow might be my next purchase. Oh yes, I couldn’t catch more than the occasional fish to save my life.

Gradually however, I changed my approach and it has paid off handsomely. For years now, I have played the percentages. I found a good lure and stuck with it, using it for 80-90% of the time. Initially that was a small home made spinnerbait and I caught lots of fish in lots of waters on it. All my effort went not into chopping and changing lures for no good reason beyond desperation, but into casting it into the right place and fishing it effectively. Slow and low, just chopping the blade over nicely. Catches soared.

Every time I went out I would carry something that had been recommended to me by someone else as being their favourite bait, and once I was catching on mine, I would try theirs.

Eventually, my bait of choice became the shads that you see me using on here all the time. Today, I just felt that I had run out of options. We have been fishing this area a bit too much, methinks. Everything in my box has caught plenty of fish around here, and I found myself desperately wanting to clip on a crankbait or a spinnerbait or a larger shad, just to see what would happen. Fish were there, fish were feeding, but I have this nagging feeling that with this many decent perch and zander a better fish might be on the cards and a bait I haven’t tried here might just tip the scales in my favour. Back up in the loft tonight then, rooting through a few ex-favourites. Every so often I get the urge to use a bait just for its own sake and crankbaits do this to me more than any other. I know they are less successful than anything else I ever carry but they can work and they are fun to use. I think I may be digging some out again and this time I shall be reducing the hook count on them. It’s the one aspect of these lures that I really don’t like. I can’t remember the last time I used a treble hook - I hate them.  

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