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From the water’s edge

April 2014 - Wading through treacle

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.

What a difference a ray makes. One ray of sunshine and the heart lifts. It is easy to be optimistic when the world is warm and comfortable. No matter how many blanks or near-blanks I have had, one glimpse of the sun is enough to make me certain that today will be my day. The trouble is, two casts is all it takes to make the doubts rise to the surface again. It took two casts because Pete had a fish on his first. Yes, yes, they’re on again at last!

Sadly I was wrong on all counts. It took me a good thirty or forty minutes to get a touch, a nice little perch nipped my 2” crayfish  too close to the hook, and the first hurdle was grudgingly behind me. Any idea that today would be as easy as it was sunny turned out to be little more than blind hope. Our first ten takes (from which we landed eight fish, four each) were all on different lures. The days when one take would be smartly followed by the next and lures were only changed when they eventually dried up altogether are long gone.

Anybody out there who wants to know why gentle hands and soft rod tips are essential for successful perch fishing need only look at the ‘shadow’ picture above left. This tiny fish was not struck into, merely lifted gently, straight to hand from the margins directly below my rod tip, yet just look at the mouth damage. Sadly they have a thin fragile membrane behind the jaw-line, which is surely responsible for the larger than average loss of better fish. Something to bear in mind if you are on the perch and in the habit of running wildly up the bank striking like a hyper-active dervish at every little flicker. The difficulty is that, that can be just what you need to hook zander sometimes. Just another imponderable to throw into the mix. For every perch I have lost through striking to hard, I have lost a zander because I didn’t get any pressure on in time.

It may seem that the fishing was good and I suppose it was up to a point, but every take was a struggle. Far from getting easier, the morning got steadily more difficult. It got hotter, the fishing got slower, the boat traffic was nil until ten o clock, and then non-stop. Takes were finicky, sporadic and hard to find.

It was like living life in slow motion, while the mind was racing along, frustrated and stuck in a glue of frustration. We just could not get it going.

The great thing about fishing with somebody else is that days like this pass more quickly. More lures and methods can be tried in the same time, more water covered, ideas and results shared, and although it may sound like a cliche uttered through gritted teeth, results are shared too. On a hard day any fish is a result even if it comes to the other guy’s rod. It’s more of a joint enterprise when the going becomes difficult, so when Pete’s best fish of the day morphed from small zander into a nice perch, it was an enormous relief to us both.

I wonder if our recent lack of results is due to spawning? His first fish was flabby and spawned out, this one was heavy for its size and hard as a rock and the digits flickered briefly before settling at a pound and three quarters. Decent perch are always nice, on a day like this, dragging one from the morass of indecisive takes and heavy boat traffic was a real result. Chuck in a two pound zander and on paper at least it begins to look like a decent morning.

I wonder sometimes if we really appreciate how far we have come with our fishing and if we aren’t becoming arrogant and somewhat complacent. I’ll never forget the day I had at Kingsbury with Alan and Rob. I hadn’t been lure fishing all that long, maybe two years. We had a fantastic day. One of those days that play over and over in your mind for years. Red-letter days they used to be called. Our catch? Three jacks apiece. Nine fish between three of us; such giddy heights indeed. Now I find myself moaning in public because we struggled to catch a dozen which included a nice perch the larger than any I had caught or even seen back then.

Not just complaining, but so under-whelmed that we packed early yet again and went in search of coffee and plants for the garden.

I suppose that is ingratitude, but packing early was a good and reasonable decision. Takes had dried up to the point of non-existence and boats were queueing to go through the locks two at a time.

We have a few more weeks like this to go before we get back on the rivers, so I am inclined to look again at drop-shotting and new dibbling baits.

I spoke to several people at the lure fair last week about drop-shotting. Only two of them had anything interesting to say about it, the majority having found as I have that it is less effective than other methods and feeling that its current popularity is down to hype and novelty.

However those two anglers are ones whose opinions I respect greatly. If Wayne Fletcher and Pete Felstead tell me it is effective, then it surely is. There is always this feeling in the back of my mind that I am not giving it a fair crack of the whip. I hate to feel that I might be missing out on something, so I shall put renewed effort into it for a bit. Maybe I am just bitter because it doesn’t work as well as I had hoped and expected for the purpose I had it in mind for. For me it needs to work when I am struggling or I probably don’t need to fish with such an awkward, messy rig at all.

I’ll say it again, the only new lure or method I need is one that works on better than my usual ones on days like this, days when catching fish from the canal is like wading through treacle in tweeds and flippers.

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