Inca style crucian fishing (Entry 147)

Along the bank I walked, briskly making my way toward a possible peg, though grass and beds of daisies, the session ahead playing out in my mind. I hoped that by the end of the day a crucian or two would have joined me on the bank. I have become a little obsessed with them of late, but sometimes I feel its better to let things run their course, than to try and stop them.

A metallic ‘thunk’ interrupted my thoughts. Then a scratchy, sliding sound. In the corner of my eye I saw a shiny, silver mouse scurrying toward the water. A silver mouse? That must be wrong. Sure enough it wasn’t a robotic example of the mammal but my iPod. In the most frustrating of all motions, one slow enough to see every detail but fast enough not to be able to do anything about it, it met the water, fluttering down into the depths and out of sight. I stood perplexed. Seven years of it being my time source when out fishing (I don’t like wearing a watch) and it has never fallen from my pocket. I guess whatever can happen will happen. Eventually. I took a deep breathe and let out a sigh. The lake had received my offering. I hoped it would repay me in some way during the next few hours. Silver for gold.

The first crucian of the dayAfter fifteen minutes fishing it appeared that the lake had indeed begun to reimburse me. A stocky and furious crucian was already in the net. A fat two pounder that didn’t take too kindly to being swept away from the banquet it had found. I have caught a fair few of them during the past few weeks but I never get tired of just how terrifically they fight. Plunging down powerfully every time they are teased closer to the surface.

A formidable paddleI caught five crucians over the next hour. Usually so delicate and frustrating, today they fed with abandon, the float vanishing confidently and never once did I feel a bite would be missed. A bumper catch was on the cards and I planned on relishing every second. Feeding after every fish seemed to be the key. After two hours I had caught eleven crucians, all bar one over two pound, a truly ridiculous amount of quality crucians. I needed to take stock of what was happening. I needed a cup of tea. A mistake in hindsight.

Another 2lb crucian on the matFor in the interim, as I enjoyed Lady Greys finest, a shoal of tiny fish moved into my swim and I found it pretty much impossible to get a bait past them. At least a bait that the crucians wanted. A bigger bait evaded the hungry horde but was not attractive enough to tempt the cunning crucians. It was a small bait or nothing. The lake had turned against me. Maybe it had looked through my iPod and was less than impressed with the music on offer. Kraftwerk, seriously? Send this guy a shoal of tiny fry fish. For a frustrating two hours I couldn’t catch a crucian. Nor the tiny fish; too small too hook but large enough to steal my bait. Swines! Agonisingly the crucians were still present, sending up bubbles, and rolling in the late afternoon sun.

The business end

As the sun sank and the shadows lengthened, eventually and now much needed – if only to save my sanity – the shoal of tiddlers edged away. I was able to get my bait back into the crucian zone. Instantly, and a little cruelly, I caught one straight away, and then another, before latching into a memorable brace. Like peas in a pod their weights were identical. Two 2lb 14oz crucians on the bank takes some beating. Not quite a brace of three’s but I simply didn’t care. In the end I totalled 16 crucians, 15 of which were over 2lb in weight. How many more could have been caught if it weren’t for the dreaded shoal of fry halting progress is anyones guess. What a truly amazing few hours. The lake had certainly compensated me handsomely.A brace of big cruciansThanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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A narrow victory (Entry 146)

Bright green elastic melted from the pole tip. I eased the fish away from the tree roots to my left. At least I tried to; the fish hell bent on finding sanctuary. In the end I had no need to panic as suddenly my opponent changed direction and surged straight toward me. I can’t recall ever shipping a pole in so quickly. What was this fish? A supercharged genetically modified catfish? No, it was more likely just a carp, but playing any fish on tackle lighter than is necessary will always make them feel like a force to be reckoned with. I had been enjoying catching hand sized brown goldfish hybrids before the party was crashed by this outsized intruder.

Brown goldfish

I had unshipped, maybe prematurely, at the top kit. The fish now plodding around in the margin in front of me. With every swipe of its tail the waters surface broke into vortexes and I finally caught a brief glimpse as to the identity of this battler. A creamy back flashed tantalisingly for a second before the fish, that I would now confidently say was a ghost common, bolted on another terrifying run at such speed I could do nothing but plunge the pole tip underwater and grit my teeth. What was that about unshipping prematurely?

Up close

I was fishing in a kind of point swim. Water to my left, straight out in front of me and behind me, too. The fish had arched around full circle and was now running parallel to my shipped back and unattached pole sections. Oh dear. It had made for the far margin but the elastic had began to take effect. Quite how my two pound line had not snapped at this point I had no answer. Once more the fish arched under the pressure and in slow motion, headed straight into a small, overhanging tree. Disaster! I thought the surprise tench I had hooked mid way through the session fought well. This fight was something else.

The first bonus fish of the session

For a few seconds I stood in disbelief. I felt totally outwitted and outmanoeuvred. Though the fish had wedged itself in the snag, I could still feel it kicking. It didn’t feel a solid snag more like a bed of weed than the tree itself. I felt sure that if I could change the angle of pressure the fish would come free. How not to play a fish 101. I held the top kit in between my knees and proceeded to ship out the unused pole sections. In the confined swim, I had to perform a kind of three point turn to orientate the pole in the direction I needed it to be, but eventually the top kit was married to the bulk of the pole sections and shipped out. Once the angle had been changed I increased the pressure on the fish and hoped this hook would hold. Quite incredibly, the fish suddenly popped out from the snag and, sulking all the way, swam back slowly toward me.

Hardly a mark on it

I was amazed to be in with a chance of landing this fish. I had been totally out played by this fish and felt I in no way deserved to land it. But I wasn’t going to give up now. On tenterhooks I once more shipped down to the top kit. This time the fish felt much less like a coiled spring. I reached for the landing net and teased the fish to the surface. On the first time of asking a solid ghost common reluctantly admitted defeat. Much like the brown goldfish had been doing for much of the session. Their brutish, jagging fights tame in comparison.

One of the better brown goldfish

What a beautiful fish it was. Toned and bristling with attitude. A real wily fish and a tremendous encounter. One that I will remember for a long time. As I took a few pictures I pondered how the fish was not lost. On two pound line and a small size 18 hook, after a more than fleeting brush with a formidable snag, the fish was beaten. That last statement doesn’t quite seem true. It was I who was beaten. A few occasions at least. But or some reason the fishing gods were smiling on me and the hook didn’t pull. That sharp edged tree root narrowly missed the delicate line. The fish decided on the first attempt at netting it to succumb and not bolt off for a third time. For all the times in the passed where I had lost fish, be it my own fault or an unforeseen reason, I accepted the victory. It didn’t stop it feeling like a hollow one though.

The ghost common

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Crucian excess or intimacy amplified (Entry 145)

I tried to head somewhere different this week. Really, I did, but the lure of the crucian water  won easily over any other. It’s not just the crucians that reside there that ultimately swung the decision. The style of angling involved in their capture was just as important. Quite simply I love fishing with delicate floats, fine lines and small hooks. Fights that really could go either way. Squinting at the tiniest of orange specks, trying to decide if that movement was indeed, a bite. In a swim so close to my feet that it seems implausible to get a bite there at all. Details otherwise unnoticed now take centre stage. Intimacy amplified.

A quality tench to keep me entertained

In true angling fashion though, the day couldn’t have been much worse for this type of intimate and delicate fishing. The wind gusted, swirling in from different directions, a hazard not just for me but the birds attempting to fly in it. For periods of time the water was split into segments. Big ripples hit the bank, like the ranks of a marching army, ploughing onward with monotonous repetition. This in turn created a strong undertow, making presentation difficult, and more buoyancy was needed in the float to overcome the conditions. It was clear I had to forgo a little sensitivity. I hoped it wouldn’t make too much of a difference. Somewhere inside, experience grimaced, knowing it would.

A perfect crucian

For the first two or three hours the fishing was a nightmare and I struggled, apart from a solitary tench, to get (or see) any bites from crucians. After my fourth cup of tea, a heavy shower blew in, and out again, as quickly as it came. Behind it was the most magnificent of gifts. Respite from the gusting wind. So much so in fact that I was able to change from the bigger, more buoyant float I’d been forced into using, back to the tiny float I so dearly wanted to see sinking from sight.A big two pounderQuite laughably, two casts later, I hooked into my first crucian of the day. A big two pounder and great fish to catch. Another soon followed, a smaller example this time, but just as appreciated, fighting every inch to the net. By ringing the changes, the hookbait in most cases, I was able to string a procession of crucians together over the next two hours. Only the onset of darkness stopped my fishing. I quietly cursed refusing that extra helping of carrots midweek and accepted that my time was up.

Posing for the camera

It had been an interesting lesson. On two very different counts. The first in sensitivity; these curious fish will certainly not tolerate any lack of it. Then changing to a finer float bringing almost instant results. Of course, it could have been just a happy coincidence, as a group of fish finally found my fee offerings. Maybe the undertow lessened or the fading light boosted their confidence. Maybe it was the rain shower, sprinkling magic from its clouds, instead of the usual rain. My changing of floats a unnecessary tweak before a number of factors suddenly just clicked. Which leads me on to the the second count; we as anglers have to accept never really knowing. We must be satisfied with making a number of judgements and clumping them together to form our very own ‘anglers hypothesis’. Where they will forever remain just that. An idea. There is no way to prove anything. Nor should there be. Once angling loses its mystery it no longer has any soul.

In the fading light, another crucian

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A golden session (Entry 144)

The fish jagged aggressively for the deeper water further out. It was most definitely a crucian; my first of the day. I’d been fishing since dawn, waiting patiently for those first signs of activity in the swim, a bubble perhaps or an amber flank rolling. Instead, it was a gentle tremor that, because I was now so tightly coiled in anticipation, saw me strike far too soon and miss the bite. If you could even call it a bite, that is. In keeping with the traits of my quarry, that tiny, minuscule movement most certainly fell under the ‘bite’ category. I’ve said it before; they are frustrating to angle for. An archetypal fish, perhaps. Everything required to be an angler can be tested on a trip after crucians. At least the way I like to fish for them, on float tackle.

The first crucian of a memorable session

Seconds passed as the determined fighter struggled to find sanctuary. My landing net swept him up and onto the bank. A time to enjoy his beautiful shape and form in the diffused early morning light. A dinner plate of golden scales. Once admired, the fish was carefully released in the next swim. I was fishing so very close in that it would have been unwise to release him in my own. He would surely go and tell his friends that the feast they were starting to enjoy had a sting in its tail. I resumed fishing, at the same time enjoying a large cup of tea and slice of malt loaf for breakfast, but before I had a chance to finish my snack, the float sank again. Quite confidently, for a change, and another fight commenced. A crucian once more, this one that much angrier than the first. Or maybe a little bigger? It certainly took longer to net and was nearly lost in the reeds several times, but somehow made it onto the bank; a fine two pounder.

The first of five two pound crucians

Once more I fed the swim, a chance to finish my now ‘optimal drinking temperature’ tea undisturbed, and a perfect opportunity to let any fish in the swim graze undisturbed. I watched several brightly coloured finches barter over some food source or other, fed the resident mallards’ young a few grains of sweetcorn, and almost forgot that waiting in the margin, picking delicately at the particles I had laid down, lurked big crucians. My next cast resulted in a missed bite. Then another. Each strike into nothingness more disappointing and frustrating than the last. So much for winning their confidence. You’re just spooking them, I told myself, and they’re spooky enough already. A deep breath and one last mouthful of tea to calm my nerves before the rig was sent back out. I sat, poised, and hoped.

Tense minutes passed by, maybe fifteen or more, and I grew increasingly convinced I’d spoilt the fishing. Too many missed bites. I teased the rig a little, moving the hookbait slowly, in an attempt to induce a bite. To my absolute delight it worked, as the float sank from sight. No fussy eating this time, just a confident sail away bite, one that even the Kid from ‘Pinball Wizard’ could have made contact with. It was a crucian yet again, steadier and less feisty than the previous two, plodding up and down just over the margin. I took my time, after all, this fish felt like the biggest crucian I had ever hooked. And although not the factor influencing my fishing for them, it would be a fantastic bonus. An eternity seemed to pass. Begrudgingly the fish came up to the surface. It’s head and broad shoulders rose out squarely from the divide between our world and theirs. That all important gulp of air stopped the fish from fighting, and to my delight, the crucian was beaten.

What a sight!

Through squinted eyes, I cautiously took a look at her in the landing net. Incredible depth, almost equal to her length. As I carefully hoisted the fish onto the mat it became apparent how big she was. I’m not just talking about her weight but her presence. Strange to think of a relatively small fish of having presence. A marked difference between the two pounder I caught before and I thought that fish looked impressive. At 3lb 1oz she was indeed a fish I have dreamt of catching, ever since I first sat on that farm pond, almost 25 years ago. Never once did I think I was in with a chance of achieving it as I set out at an ungodly hour that morning.

My first 3lb crucian and a new PB

I could have looked at that fish for a long time. It really was a beautiful and rare creature. But the time had come to let her go. For some other lucky angler to have an encounter with and hopefully appreciate as much as I. The session itself offered a few more fish, and I ended up with seven crucians, six fish over two pound, topped by my first ever over the three pound barrier. It was a day to remember and it had only just passed eleven o’clock. With my bait in short supply and the bites now few and far between, home seemed the best option. My expectations already far, far exceeded. What a fantastic experience. They don’t come along that often and I for one am glad they don’t. It makes them all the more precious when they do.

Returning a beautiful crucian

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NorthwestFisherman