A fine line between (Entry 193)

The fish did its best to find some sanctuary. Out over the nearside ledge and down into the depths of the boat channel. A hand sized perch soon found its way back toward the towpath via some gentle persuasion and swift netting. A lovely fish, and a good start to the day, although I anticipated I would have to wait a little longer for its bigger brothers and sisters to show up. At least until the boat traffic decreased and the evening gloom drew in.

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I was on a different stretch to last week and had found the fish to be holding very close in, not the just the perch, but the gudgeon and roach that had already entertained me for an hour or two. Of course a few of these fish were kept back for fishing into dusk with; the perfect snack for a big canal stripey. I didn’t want to waste these fish, and it was clear that no brutes were present as yet, so instead of casting straight back out I poured a cup of tea and waited. A heron landed in a tree a short way down from me. They do look ungainly in trees. There’s something about a bird that big and gangly, wreaking havoc in the branches, that always amuses me.

A short time later another cast was made, actually it was just inches from my own bank, so more a drop in than a cast. I had to wait mere seconds for the float to be snatched under. On the other end a heavy fish. It plodded out and down, into the deeper water, just as its smaller cousin had done a short while earlier. This fish however, made best its escape, the line giving was a short way above the hook. Pike, I told myself, but I didn’t truly believe so. I re-rigged, noticing I had just one hook left in the packet, and cursing my lack of preparation, cast once more. Within minutes I had hooked another heavy fish. It too headed out into the deep, lunging and boring, before before coming off also. I was gutted! Even more so because this time I saw the fish. It was indeed a perch, a very, very big perch. It’s head was colossal and, upon coming to the surface, shook its head violently. The rod catapulted back and the line hung limply between the eyes. Time for the examination. A short way above the hook the line had given way. A line I had so much faith in. A faulty spool perhaps*? Either way, with just one bait left and no hooks in the size I wanted, I had to make do and mend. On went a tiny hook tied to a different hooklength material; a last gasp attempt at saving the session.

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It was a good job I was fishing close in as by now the light had all but gone. One last bite developed and I cautiously connected with another angry, plodding fish. It fought in the same way as the others but dare I say didn’t feel quite as big. As it surfaced I could see it was a good sized perch, and I was very relieved when it slid over the frame of the net, though I couldn’t help feeling that the fish I’d lost previously could have eaten it for dinner.

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Still, it was another two pound canal fish, very long, but quite lean and empty. In really lovely condition otherwise. It’s great to have found a few areas with a good fish present. I hope they stick around over the coming months, and gorge on the prey fish that live here in abundance. Pile on the ounces, don’t do your daily exercise, it’s really not necessary. I insist.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

* On closer inspection it seems that the spool of line (with less than ten metres left), was indeed compromised, at roughly five inch intervals. Typical. 

Swimming in shadow (Entry 192)

I had another go on the ‘crayfish canal’ during the week, travelling light with lures this time, as I’d promised myself. For twenty minutes everything was going well. That was until all hell broke lose. Sadly it wasn’t on the fish front but simply because it seemed every single barge in the UK had decided to descend the locks. All at the same time. They must have got wind of me being there. It made lure fishing in an already coloured canal pretty much pointless. So instead, I resigned to simply walking the banks and taking things in, waiting for the sun to set and the air to cool. In quite lovely surroundings, all thoughts of the perch I wanted to catch became distant. There would always be next time.

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That next time was a few days later, on a different canal this time, but one with a similar coloured quality. After looking at one or two stretches I returned to more familiar grounds. My plan was to build a swim, fish with worm, and try to pick up a big perch whilst waiting for the sun to sink behind the trees. That is when plan B could begin, when the section I sat on became veiled in shadow, and I had a handful of gudgeon in the net.

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Its funny how doing one thing can highlight a situation that would otherwise go unnoticed. Whilst scaling down to catch the bait for plan B, I landed numerous sunbleak, a non-native species currently on the ‘invasive’ list. They’re tiny bleak-like fish and can cause damage to fisheries by competing with the young of any native species such as roach. Once you tune into their existence, you soon realise that there are thousands of them, dimpling the surface, in this case snatching maggot after maggot meant for gudgeon. Different canal, similar problem. Sunbleak. Crayfish. Zebra mussels and mitten crabs. It really is a worrying time for the UK and its habitats.

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The time soon came to put the worms into retirement and switch to paternostered gudgeon. Plumbing up at the base of the nearside shelf would position the gudgeon in a great location from which an ambush predator could strike from; a sharp depth change. The rig had been in position for roughly fifteen minutes when the float began to dance franticly. For a few seconds this continued before it solidly plunged under and held true. I struck quickly and decisively. The rod lurched into a pleasant arch. A powerful fish ran to my right, along the line of the shelf, keeping deep. A few snarly head shakes were thrown in for good measure. I had an inkling this was more perch than jack pike, but even so when that deep flank and spiked dorsal fin came into view, all attitude and anger, I couldn’t help but breathe a little easier. It’s fulfilling when a plan comes together.

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Thankfully the fish came the way of the landing net on the first attempt. A beautifully marked fish lay resting in the margin, hooked perfectly just inside the top lip, a fish that would set my new PB. A photo was taken as a lasting reminder, for the days when my mind can’t quite recall the details, and then it was back to its murky and shadowy home.

Go and chomp on some sunbleak, friend.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Swimming in milk (Entry 191)

A grey sky turned dark, toward rich blue, the ambient light depleting with every subtle colour change and passing second. I was fishing at close range now, just a few feet from the metal pilings at my feet, but previously I had been casting to the far side. The float could not be seen at this range anymore. Not for the last twenty minutes. So here I sat, a last ditch effort to land a big perch, mere inches from where I had been returning all the fish I’d caught over the past few hours. Two big dendrobaenas were wriggling beneath my float in the murky, boat churned water. Vibrations and tempting smells being sent out. It would appear, however, that the fish in the vicinity were blind, anosmic, or perhaps it would be far easier just to say, absolutely senseless. A bit like the angler sat in the gloom, miles from anyone, a little lost in just what it was he was doing.

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I had caught plenty of fish in the few hours I’d been here, little baby perch, ruffe, and even the odd skimmer but the bigger perch had evaded me. Twelve ounces or so seemed to be the limit. How often I’ve been in this situation before. I had caught some peculiar coloured perch though. These fish intrigued me. Their ventral fins, usually burning with orange and red had been replaced, by ones of white with only the merest a hint of warmth. Like koi carp swimming in milk. The colour was not washed out due to environmental factors more than it was simply absent. And I had caught two like this. One of half a pound and one of an ounce. I wondered if they were related.

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One thing I had no problems catching had been crayfish. Some big ones too. An explosion of the swines meant that anything with the slightest hint of smell saw cursed words following the stuttered movements of my float. They really are a pain and cannot be good for the canal in the longterm. Sadly, they’re here to stay and the only benefit is that when the bigger perch learn that they are tasty and filling, there should be some brutish perch in the making. Ones that may help in keeping the crayfish numbers at bay. Maybe, just maybe.

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By now I had packed away, even at a few feet I could not see the float tip, and didn’t really fancy my chances anymore. A big perch had not came my way. I mused on the matter whilst I made sure I’d not left anything in the darkness. The fish are probably quite localised so it will be best for me to go to them rather than wait for them to come to me. Next time I will pack the lure rod and cover a few miles. I’ll avoid the crayfish at least. Maybe I’ll pack the crayfish imitations. If you can’t beat the join them. Or something like that.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman