No fishing (Entry 168)

I’ve had some nasty virus or other over the last week. It actually stopped me going fishing. It takes a lot for me to not want to go fishing, I can tell you. As I sat here, trying not to think about the fact I should be fishing, I felt the need to do something angling related. So; just what do you do when you can’t get out to the bank?

Check Facebook wall for updates on people who are actually fishing. Maybe even catching. Click the like button many, many times. Start to feel a little depressed. That wasn’t too great an idea. Something else then.

Next stop; YouTube. The thing with YouTube videos is that you can quite quickly end up watching something thats so far removed from fishing, you’re left scratching your head as to just how you ended up where you are. I started watching videos about sturgeon fishing, but was soon trying to hold in the laughter, as a variety of cats become severely startled by stationary cucumbers. I don’t even like cats. Or cucumbers.

Look back at old fishing photos. On the computer and actual printed ones. I still have some tucked away in envelopes now yellowed with age. They’re certainly not very well framed, half of a photo containing nothing but undergrowth, but these are really exciting pictures to me. In many way they are records of the very moments that really cemented a firm love for this pastime. A pound sized chub from the canal caught seemingly from nowhere or a modestly sized tench hooked and held from a weedy canal not far from where my grandparents used to live. Such excitement overflowing, that the photo and what is contained within it, were secondary. The fact that this photo needed to be taken at all was the most important thing. Hence the rushed framing and often blurry results.

Tea breaks. Every half an hour. On the dot. Interspersed with a biscuit or two. A slice of cake mid afternoon. Doesn’t have the same satisfying thirst quenching or stress relieving qualities as it does on the bank though.

Browse eBay, fishing forums, and other such purveyors of fishing bargains, and find tackle deals too good to miss. But don’t buy anything. You really, really don’t need it. You wouldn’t be buying anything if you was out fishing. Would you?

Sort out the tackle boxes. Usually for me it’s the smaller ones that get messy. Hooks get mixed up, link swivels where there should be run rings. You get the idea. It’s quite mundane stuff but sometimes there is pleasure in the simple tasks. Especially ones that are not taxing and keep the hands, and mind, from idling. You may even get some surprises. I completely forgot about this float. Good job I didn’t buy one earlier.  A welcome rediscovery and I think it might get an outing soon. It looks perfect for some caster fishing on the canal this Winter.

Which brings me on to the most important task of all; plan the next fishing trip. Plan a dream fishing trip. Just plan, plan, plan. Make promises that might take years to fulfil. It really doesn’t matter. As long as its fishing related, and provides an escape, then it’s all good. My short term plan is to have some trips to the local canals once the weather turns chilly. Fishing for roach. There used to be some very good fish to be had when I was young and I wonder if there is still the same opportunity. I hope there is. My long term plan would be to visit Canada and fish on the mighty rivers they have there, amongst stunning scenery, with the chance of catching fish of a lifetime.

It should more or less be evening now by now. Time to finish the day off with a few chapters from a good fishing book or journal. A drink of whiskey to warm whilst doing so. Then sleep.

I hope I can get out next week. I’ve never eaten so many biscuits in my life.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

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Moorhens and meltdowns (Entry 167)

Bad runs. There’s nothing unusual about them. Particularly when it’s perch fishing time; my nemesis and unfathomable species. I was lulled into a false sense of security more than a few weeks ago now, by some lovely canal fish, but as time has wore on, so the fishing has become harder and more frustrating. This is the stamp of fish I seem to be limited too at present.

Just a bit too small

No matter what I try or how hard I work, it seems that mostly the ‘reward’ doesn’t really match the ‘effort’. Two weeks disappear, sessions go awry, and those gremlins start to raise their heads. By the third week, I’ve re-thought my strategy (I was doing it wrong, see), and this week it will all come good. A little extra effort on top of the usual amount put into every fishing trip.

But still the same result.

Now, even the wildlife begins to lose its charm, those ducks are not quacking happily anymore, they are actively mocking me. ‘That guy can only catch tiddlers and even then he’s struggling to do so.’ Who knew ducks could be so mean? And don’t even get me started on other water fowl. Moorhens have become tame, so used to my statue-like presence, virtually eating worms from my palm when they feel peckish. Tame moorhens? I wish the perch would pay attention to this. If these normally so timid birds can do it then why, oh why, can’t you?

Tame moorhen

Of course, its times like these when a detox is called for. Fish for fishings sake rather than fishing for a goal. Learn to enjoy just the process of, rather than the outcome, and soon you’ll be smiling once more. For whatever comes along in doing so will be greatly appreciated. Whatever fails to show will remain inconsequential. In my case a waggler fished with casters, rhythmic casting and steady feeding, hypnotic and tranquil. A few beautiful roach banked as a bonus. Thats more like it.

Take a step back

So if you see a glum looking Mancunian this week on the banks of the river, saying he’s in search of perch, and looking quite close to tears; you have my permission to give him a short, sharp shock and to tell him to pull himself together. And if you could direct him to a flyer of a perch swim, that would be great, too.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Cars and zander (Entry 166)

I turned the ignition. Splutter. Then again. Similar thing, a mild coughing, and a flat refusal to kick over. This was not how the day was meant to start. Four o’clock in the morning and already a set back. Typical. I gave the car a few seconds before attempting one last time. An intervention from the angling gods. The car roared (whimpered) to life and was duly left to warm up. Thoughts of pitting my whits against zander for the very first time.

It’s fair to say that I usually don’t travel very far at all in my weekly pursuits, mostly due to being equidistant from a number of great venues, some on the radar and others a little less so. But, I have always wanted to catch a zander, ever since I first saw one in the angling press as a child. They looked incredible and formidable in turn. Subtle colours and sleek lines. Fangs and spikes aplenty. One scary looking fish to a six year old. A sentiment shared by a large chunk of the country at the time too. Since then, thankfully,  more anglers have embraced them as a species that is here to stay, rather than one that needs removing or culling, and long may it continue.

As I walked the towpath for the first time, I knew the day ahead of me was going to be a tough one, a steep learning curve more than anything. If I was to catch just one zander, of any size, then the day will have been a huge success. Although as we all know, sometimes just to be in with a chance of achieving something, is enough. With the boats still sleeping the canal was clear and accordingly I fished to features. Rushes, overhanging trees and of course, any moored up narrowboats. I used a natural coloured shad, one of ruffe or minnow coloration, working it at varying speeds and with different kinds of actions.

The lure to start with

After two hours fishing I had not had any signs. No taps, nips or plucks. Nor had I seen anything follow the lure in. The rain fell and the wind blew but I remained positive and focused. Head down, watching the tip and line, for any subtle signs of interest from this lighting quick predator. In the distance I saw the first of the days boat near the lock. Accordingly the water began to run, pushing from the right to left as the lock was opened. Only a few more minutes left before the clarity would be lost. As soon as this boat passed through, the silt would stir and the fishing, I assumed, would become even more difficult. Closer and closer the boat came, until I found myself wishing the owner good morning, and watching on as clouds of dark orange swirled in front of me.

Impressive dorsal fin

Angling instinct took over. What self respecting predator would not take advantage of this? Small fish, lost and disorientated in a freak, muddy fog. Keen eyes, adept to seeing where prey cannot. Ready to ambush. I thought I’d make it easier for any nearby zander and changed to the most gaudy and obtrusive lure I had with me. I cast out, allowed the jig to sink, brought it back, once, twice, before the most shocking hit vibrated up the line. Just as the lure passed the threshold from clear water into dark.

My first zander

A bit like a wet sack, but with the pronounced head shakes of an eel, the fish pulled back. Rod tip followed, left, right and down. I gave the fish no quarter. It returned the sentiment. Left and right. Clutch clicking. Suddenly its head lunged from the gloom. Black eyes and a toothy snarl. My heart rate increasing dramatically. Zander! A moment to savour as it was drawn over the rim of the net. Dark grey fins, tipped with a pearly white, sprung dramatically from a khaki flank. They really are much more impressive in the flesh than in pictures. And that is saying something. A brilliantly adapted creature.

One final zander memory

For the rest of the day I fished hard but the canal fished harder. I could not find any more fish until the last hour of daylight, when I had multiple follows, though I was unable to get a confident take. I had to accept that the day had already been made, hours before, when I first glanced that primeval grin. What fantastic memories. Time to head home and get warm. Now, would the car start?

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Perch in disguise (Entry 165)

A switch from the unnatural to the very natural this week, as I continued to try to find an elusive, big river perch. The river has been almost at a standstill for the past few weeks, the lack of rain really becoming apparent, affecting not jus the speed of the flow but the clarity. Still, one thing this river does have in its favour is a good depth, which makes spotting fish quite hard but certainly must be in the favour of the angler. If you can’t see the fish then there is a good chance that they can’t see you. Well, less so. The margins would be fished as usual along with a rod further out, in the centre channel, where  fourteen feet of water waited to be explored.

Nightmare!

After just half an hour fishing it became apparent that merely presenting a bait would be a hard task today. Large plumes of Pennywort, disturbed from upstream by workers clearing huge swathes of the stuff, began repeatedly catching the line and pulling any rig well off course. But these things are sent to try us. So are tiny perch, eating worms more than four times their size, snaffling them like a hungry child at a party, not knowing when enough cake is enough cake. Still, it really had turned into a beautiful Autumn day.

Four hours later, the sun slid behind a rather dark and menacing could. I willed the rain to stay up there. Just float on by without drenching me. A peculiar thing then happened. The float went under! And it started to rain. I struck, into solid weight, pleasingly heavy weight. This felt like what I had come to catch. And it felt huge! I played the fish gently, having previously scaling down to a much lighter hooklength and smaller hook, and as a result for long, long seconds the fish had the upper hand. Making it’s way out from the margin, diving down furiously into the deep water beyond, but certainly starting to tire. The lunges were becoming less pronounced with greater intervals in between. At this point I’d still not seen the fish. A few tails swipes later, a golden flash, still feet below the surface, my heart now in overdrive, sank. A chub. A swine of chub, masquerading as a perch, it certainly had me fooled. At nearly four pound it truly was a wonderful chub but it would have made an even more wonderful perch.

A sneaky chub

After that little bit of excitement, the rain stopped, and the sun came back out. I was left to calm down, whilst I drank a few cups of tea, and continued to fish the margin line with renewed optimism. More tiny perch babies followed. Pennywort did it’s best to infuriate. Optimism wained. Until one more confident bob of the float saw my strike met with something a little bigger. Not anywhere near the mass of the earlier chub but certainly better than the young whipper snappers that had been taking my worm for the majority of the day. A pleasing perch. Under a pound but a very welcome addition. A good time to leave the water. I’d say it was a draw. Points shared.

A fine end to the day

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman