The lake looked perfect. It’s delicate weed reached out to touch the surface. A few more days would see it do so. In the space between, carp cruised, breaking the glassiness only with their tails. I hoped the tench were hidden from view. The swim I would have liked to fish from was occupied already. I could see a figure slumped awkwardly in their chair. I thought I’d have a wander around and see how they were fairing. Making my way through the undergrowth, through knee high thistles and even higher hogweed, my head was drawn up only when I passed a clear spot and possible peg. Each looked as inviting as the previous. As I approached the person, an old man, it became apparent that he was having the session of his dreams. Quite literally. His rod, at rest by his side, and its rig laying redundant in the margin. His gentle snore kept metronomic time and in the dappled sun he looked too comfortable to disturb. If the fish were driving this fellow angler to sleep then I thought it best to head to a different venue altogether. Give the tench and bream a rest. Instead, I went in search of gold.
Ever since I caught my first stunted crucian, from a small farm pond fishing up tight to an overhanging Hawthorn, I have always associated them with the species. What better way then, to be greeted onto the pit, than by a dotting of Hawthorns in bloom. A good omen if ever there was one. I had never fished the venue before and I needed all the help I could get. This wasn’t the classic crucian fishers dawn or balmy, overcast evening. It was the middle of a warm and bright day. I hoped to tempt a bite in spite of this and went about lapping the lake. Twice actually. I chose a swim with plenty of nearside features. It’s overhangs creating little oasis’ of shade. Bait had to be what I had brought with me in readiness for tench. In this case a mix of small pellets and sweetcorn. Not too bad then.
As expected the fishing was slow. On the heavily undulating margin I had found a small area that was more uniform than the rest. It was here I baited. Then waited. For the float to give away a crucians presence. A stutter or tiny dip or those concentric circles, the ones whose sign is the only giveaway that underwater, a masterful crucian has stripped your hook of its bait. Delicate presentation is a must. For this reason I pole fished, using a small float, fine line and tiny hook. Every so often I repositioned the bait in the hope its fluttering through the clear water would attract any nearby crucians to the feast. After around two hours, and quite without warning, the float vanished. A confident take. Yards of elastic peeled from the pole tip as a fish, that was quite obviously not a crucian, surged down into the deeper water beyond. In a heartbeat the rig catapulted back through the water, hitting the top section of my pole with a sharp rattle. So ended that little piece of drama. It wasn’t a crucian though so the disappointment was tempered slightly.
Late afternoon soon snook up on me. Apart from a few palm sized roach I’d had little in the way of action. Not many fish had shown themselves out in open water and the ones that had were rudd, snatching at surface trapped flies with alarming aggression. Less aggressive was the fish that began to nibble my hookbait not too long later. A series of tiny shivers later, the float barely broke the surface. Hardly anything but I had to strike. If only to prove to myself that I wasn’t seeing things. When my strike met with solidity and a thumping lunge, I had confirmation. A crucian at last. The fish skimmed through the water, as if friction had ceased to exist, before halting and thumping once more, diving downward over the marginal shelf.
In typical crucian style, the fish tried this manoeuvre a few times before finally surfacing, and with a gulp of air, simply stopped fighting. All thats was left to do was draw this block of buttery yellow over the landing net. It looked a sure two pounder. Crucians are a stunning fish with a hardy quality that belies their beauty. Able to withstand low oxygen levels, moderate pollution and even the acidification of water. A real survivor. Yet in the next breathe in real danger of disappearing completely due to hybridisation and environmental changes. A cruel paradox. What a shame if this fish was to vanish. Future generations of anglers unable to appreciate both their fighting ability, delicately frustrating feeding habits and deep golden flanks. The species now a distant detail of an anglers tall story.
To catch any crucian on the float is a reward in my opinion so I was more than happy with my tally of just one. I did have a consolation tench just as the sun started to sink. A tremendous fight on light tackle but not the crucian I so hoped to cross paths with. Next time I set out to fish for them will be early in the morning. I’ll feel like I stand a much better chance then. When the mist rolls and the dawn chorus begins, the crucians natural caution might disappear, followed soon after, by my float.
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