Trio (Entry 203)

I suppose it was always going to happen. My first opportunity to go fishing in some time aligning with the weather taking a turn for the worse. Gale force winds chilled the air temperature and made sure it would do well to get above freezing at any point today. Like a madman, I hurtled down the motorway, half my thoughts fixated on that magical first cast to come, whilst the others were strictly keeping the car from being blown onto the hard shoulder.

It wasn’t the canal to which I headed, nor a river, instead I chose the sanctuary of a small, wooded pool. Or at least the sanctuary I hoped it would provide. With me was a meagre helping of ‘weeks old’ worms and a huge flask of tea. The many layers I wore made body movement cumbersome but they were soon appreciated when I took up my position, sat still staring at that beautiful orange tip bobbing amongst the waves and the strong, cold wind. For a few minutes the float did its best to hypnotise me, but just as I started to sink into a trance, the float disappeared without warning and with terrific pace. My strike set the hook and in the deep, clear water, a silver flank flashed.

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A quality roach came to that first cast. Over a pound in weight and scale perfect. A sucker for a small section of worm. The cold seemed to affect me a little less after this instant action. The cup of tea I celebrated with helped to warm even more. So too did the procession of little perch that stole my bait and for a time I was concerned that they were not going to leave me alone. That was until I hooked something bigger. In the deep, clear water, a golden flank flashed.

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I certainly wasn’t expecting that. My first crucian of the year, which like the roach, was superbly conditioned and fighting fit. I really was amazed to catch one in such cold conditions and it just proves that if there is something hungry nearby, you always have a chance, even when the mercury is well below what you would usually associate with a particular species. The little perch made an appearance once more, a dozen or more falling over the next hour, leaving me with little else to do than feed and hope something bigger again moved in. I ate a sandwich and drank more tea in the meantime. Half an hour soon passed and on my second cast in, the float sank away with much more purpose. Once more the hook was set into something that in the deep, clear water, flashed an orange flank.

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Certainly a fish to brighten a dreary day. Colours more at home at a 90’s rave. Talk about Day-Glo. It would be my last fish however, for soon after a bank of sleet blew in and even though my optimism still burned, that was quite enough for me. I was more than happy with my trio of fish cemented between the countless little perch. And content just to be out on the bank again, stealing a precious few hours, getting lost in my thoughts, and the soothing ripples.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Weekend in two stages (Entry 202)

My first trip out, heading once more to the canal and with perch as my target, came as great relief. Working the previous weekend meant I had gone far too long without wetting a line. To say I was eager to arrive and get fishing would be a massive understatement. The journey seemed to take longer this week, like how places always seem further away when you don’t know the way, only for its true distance become clear on the trip home. When we have no way of visualising the destination it can seem like you have travelled twice the distance. There’s a metaphor for my perch fishing in there somewhere.

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Upon arrival my heart sank. The usually coloured canal, even now during the depths of winer, was much clearer than I ever expected it to be. I hung my head over the bridge. It was very clear. Obviously no boats had been through recently. And no boats meant limited tow. Another nail in the coffin lid. You always need a little tow on this canal. Still, I decided to give it a go, a bad days fishing is better than a good day at work, and all that. I primed two chopped worm lines and had a cup of tea whilst they rested. To my surprise my first put in down the track yielded a four ounce roach. Then another and then a skimmer. I was well and truly shocked.

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Just to satisfy my curiosity, I had a quick look on the far bak line and feeling quite confident now, went over with half a lobworm. An instant response as the float buried before it could fully settle, and a jagging fight that could only be from one culprit. A perch. Not a bad size either, easily over a pound. You could’t make this up. To cut a long story short over the next three hours, I caught another decent perch or two from the far bank line and over sixty roach, skimmers and hybrids from the track. A brilliant days fishing for early December, and although the really big perch didn’t turn up, I didn’t mind one bit. Plenty of bites had kept me warm, the day had flew by, and all from a venue I didn’t fancy one bit.

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My second trip out, miles away from the canal though in similar geographical location, saw me travelling light with a stick float rod and a tub of maggots in the hope of finding some hungry grayling. The weather had turned extremely cold over night, and I was sure that with the canal more than likely having a lid on, the choice of river and species would see me rewarded with plenty more bites. It looked perfect, the water clear, a little down on normal winter level, but still with pace in the glides. The deep pools had a lovely inviting green/blue hue and a sedate amble. I knew they would hold wiry gems. I rushed to set up, eager to send the float down one of them, and let the action to commence.

Except it didn’t. Not one bite came my way. But how could that be? The river looked perfect. If I was asked to pick one venue to catch a fish from in winter, a gun pointed at my head, it would be here and grayling. I fished known swims and respected areas. I fished new ones. I even fished places that have, up until now, never produced a single bite for me. I tried everything but all to soon the watery sun began its descent, drawing a close to this desperate chapter. Dismayed, confused, and more than a little amused, I had to except that this was going to be a blank. All from a venue I really fancied.

The day fishing becomes predictable will certainly be the day I give up.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Distractions (Entry 201)

The day was almost made around four o’clock, just as the temperature noticeably dropped, along with the light. A heavy weight met the strike, one I couldn’t say I had timed well at all, as I hadn’t actually seen the float go under. I had company, you see, a fellow fisherman, debating with himself, but via my ears, just why the canal was fishing so tough today. Amongst other things. I tried my best to continue the conversation for as long as I could, but after thirty minutes, my eyes rarely left the float, hoping firstly I wouldn’t miss any bites and secondly he would in some way get the point. I was all out of conversation.

Now, I am not for one moment ignorant or unapproachable, but I just don’t feel like I concentrate the same when I have someone I don’t know looking over my shoulder. Eventually he bid his farewell, and for some now really annoying reason I had to have one last look at him, just to make sure he was actually leaving. He was. I couldn’t help but smile as I gently shook my head. Seventy minutes! He certainly had some stamina. Little did I know that in those three or four seconds, the entire session was to take its turn for the worse.

I don’t want this to be about the one that got away. Although, of course, it did. A very good fish too. My only bite for five hours. Mistimed and hopeless. The hook barely nicking the very edge of the fishes mouth. A head shake, then another, and a grimace on my part. It was the third head shake that freed the hook, a brute of a perch slowly sinking through the clear water in that way fish do when they have just turned to ghost. Evaporating. Not quite slow motion but certainly not full speed. It almost brought me to tears. But this isn’t about the one that got away, remember.

The day before I had a quick session on the same canal. It fished as hard as it did today. Maybe a little less so because I did have more bites. My concentration levels were high and I fished hard. The bites were slow to come. Mid afternoon came round quickly and I watched two kingfishers, perched next to each other in a tree, just a short way down from me. They looked splendid in their electric feathers. Like alien fruit ready to fall from an over burdened branch. When I glanced back to the float I’d been watching ardently, as you will now have guessed, it wasn’t there. In shock I struck, mistimed and hopeless, into a perch of a pound or so, in just a splendid colour as the kingfishers. I landed the fish, of course.

And that’s when I used up the little slice of luck that would have served me better the next day. Different days, different distractions but distractions none the less. Part and parcel of being out in rich and busy places. So many distractions. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other times that situations like this play out. Some will end in failure but some will make memories.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Sequence (Video 3)

Something a bit different to the usual here. Some might call it ‘cerebral’. That’s art speak for ‘a bit rubbish’. A short delve into just what drives and motivates us as anglers. The video is hosted on Youtube. Click on the icon to be taken to it. If you like the video, and want to, consider giving it a share. Here is an upfront thanks just in case you do.

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Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

 

How did I end up here? (Entry 200)

I couldn’t let it lie. Sat in my car having just bought a pint of red maggots, half way to the river, I knew full well I wouldn’t get there. No, instead I went back into the shop and purchased a packet of size eight hooks. I had everything else with me that I would need in order to bodge a makeshift paternoster livebait rig. Once more the cursed perch had won over, better judgement had not prevailed, or maybe a sixth sense had taken over.

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The canal looked great today in its rusty Autumn colours. Though it always looks good to me. Thankfully the floating leaves from last week had abated slightly and the water clarity had increased, owing to the cold nights leading up to today. If it was going to be hard to track down one of the big perch I wanted to catch so dearly, then it would be even harder to catch something to tempt them. This canal is notoriously tough when the temperatures cool. I fished fine and with a tiny hook. A single red maggot tempted a two inch roach after twenty minutes of angling. An hour later, my tally had not changed, so off I headed with my one bait. Off to a more perchy area of the canal, where the width narrowed, and beds of rushes on the near bank still cling on to life.

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After a change of rig, and a plumb up, I was ready to make a cast, a foot from the bed of rushes where the water was maybe twice that measurement deep. The roach bait settled quickly. Torpid perhaps. The float sitting still amongst the softness of the reflected grey clouds. Minutes ticked by, before the float abruptly lay flat, though only temporarily. In an instant it was gone, plunging from sight, savagely and definitely. I let a second or two pass before striking, upon which the most pleasant weight pulled the rod tip round. The fish jagged and plodded. It had no speed and simply lumbered under the rod tip. In the depth a flash. A perch, now rising begrudgingly toward the surface, where in a fumbled blur I thrust the net under and claimed the fish on the first time of it breaking the divide. I was over the moon. The perch less so thrashing angrily in its confines.

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A beautifully vibrant two pounder. Icy cold to my, only slightly warmer, hands. After the failures of the last few weeks this really was the most beautiful perch I’dseen. I admired it, taking in its blood red fins and sleek lines, before carefully releasing it a short way from the swim. And although I didn’t know it as I walked back to my chair, the number of perch I caught would not change, for try as I may over the next three hours, until the light faded in fact, I could not catch another small fish. It was a strange turn of events. The canal having total control over proceedings.

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It had already rewarded me I guess, and pretty quickly too, and was not about to allow me to plunder its stocks any further. What other, bigger perch were waiting to be caught that day, couldn’t have been any further from my grasp. The truth is thats the way it should be. Those bigger fish will always be there, lurking in the murky shadows, both of the water and of our minds. If not today then almost certainly tomorrow. Whenever that day comes round.

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In late autumn, the darkness rolls in all too soon, but not before the sun had poked through the clouds for the first time all day, a warm orange glow cast over the valley. Accompanied by a warming cup of tea, I took in this view, and breathed in the now chilly air. The wagglers’ tip dissolved. Blue-black enveloped. At that moment I couldn’t have cared less about the ‘whats’ and ‘ifs’. Only what had been in front of me just a few hours before.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Perca-inept (Entry 199)

I decided to spend the day before Haloween trying to catch some of our more sinister species of fish. A trinity of predators would have been perfect, but having relatively little chance of a zander, I settled for pike and perch. The river I chose, to give me best chance of achieving this, was in dire condition. Sluggish, sulking, and very low. It’s visibility was good though but the bait fish seemed to be aware of this. No movement from anything whatsoever. Devoid of life somehow. It took me the best part of two hours to catch three little roach to use as bait. I never invisiged that happening. This water is absolutely full of them. Alarms bells began to sound.

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Whilst fishing for the bait, I had flung a worm bait down the edge, where the water was deep and dark. I thought I would be able to tick off the perch quite quickly doing this. Why do I never learn? Two hours later, but now with roach in hand, I moved on to another swim, more oxygenated and with more pronounced depth change. A further hour passed without a bite, both on the roach and the worm, so another move was observed. To a back water this time, tree lined and reed fringed, with margins deep and menacing. Here, at last, not too long later, a little success came my way. A small pike around five pounds, taking not the roach bait but the worm, seconds after it hit the surface. You couldn’t make it up.

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So what about the perch? Well, we all know what the perch do when I try to catch them. I’ve finally figured it out. They start a mass migration to the furthest point away from me they can possibly get to. Some have even been known to reach the sea. I have no proof of this yet but it seems to be the most viable reason as to why I cannot catch them. Without resorting to the unthinkable; that being I am perca-inept. But quiet, I will never admit that. Not just yet.

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The day ended with just the one pike to my name. One last throw of the dice was in order. The next day, now Haloween itself, I took a lure rod and walked the canal. It didn’t go to plan, of course. The leaves were an absolute pain, clumped in swathes on the surface, and picked up on the line and hookpoint with frustrating regularity. My right boot began to let in water. Squelch, crunch, squelch, crunch, as I plugged and plugged away (or jigged and jigged). And just as it was yesterday, it was as if the whole canal was devoid of life. Nothing hit the surface, even at dusk, and I didn’t have so much as a nip from anything predatory all day. One bemused angler began the journey home, a little after five o’clcock, as a thick mist swallowed the hills beyond.

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Time for some more familair beats for the next month or so. I can’t take the failure anymore. I can’t remember the last time I fished for chub, you know. That sounds like a good plan. Chevin hunting, the odd grayling thrown in for good measure and steps from yesteryear re-traced.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Learning lessons (Entry 198)

Five minutes and I had arrived. Five minutes. A local stretch of canal would be my home for the next few hours. In fact not 100 metres from where I first wet a line with my Dad as a nipper. A chance to get right back to basics. Back then, I used a rod, one my dad set up and positioned. He fished, whilst I looked on, until he got the first bite. Then he let me take over. There I was sat on top of his blue shakespeare seatbox, feet in no danger of touching the floor whilst below them, newts surfaced for air. Fishing just off the rod end, and with more than a little help from my old man, it didn’t take long before the float disappeared and I caught my first fish. A three ounce roach. It was huge.

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Today I was fishing in much the same way as I did on that day, just off the rod tip, a small waggler did its glorious thing, whilst over the top I regularly fed three or four maggots. As simple as you can get, but one of the most important things to get to grips with in angling; knowing how to feed. Of course, my first fish wasn’t really caught by me. I may have struck, connected with and somehow managed to reel in the monster, but the hard work had already been done by my dad. Quietly, by my side, and completely ignored by his blinkered little boy. A few years later, I could set up like him, drink tea like him and even on occasion, swear like him but my catches and his were vastly different. That was when I realised just what I had overlooked for too long.

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I caught todays first fish, a nice hand sized roach, after about fifteen minutes before missing a few bites on the drop. Straight away I changed my feeding pattern; more maggots but less regularly. The roach settled on the bottom and I notched up a dozen or more over the next hour. Then the bites stopped. It was time for a judgement call. Anglers intuition on full alert. I had a hunch that this sudden disappearance was because some bigger fish had moved into the area.

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Now I could have gone back to feeding less maggots, but instead I took a risk, and fed a few handfuls in quick succession. Then it was time to exercise another of the skills demonstrated as being of absolute importance by my old man. Having patience. In my head I could hear his words, ‘you’ve made you choice now, so you’ve got to stick to your plan’. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when fifteen minutes later the float slowly sank and the unmistakable lumbering of a big skimmer confirmed my hunch was correct. It was then a case of feeding a good palm of maggots after every bream, something to localise the shoal from the disturbance of catching one of its members, and simply ‘sticking to my plan’. Fourteen skimmers and a perch later, the meagre amount of maggots I had brought with me, had all been fed. It was a brilliant few hours.

Thanks, Dad.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman