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

 

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Patience, panic, respect, reward (Entry 197)

It certainly was pleasant to be doing something different, in the Autumn sun that beamed down. I thought about the perch I had chosen to ignore this week, the conditions certainly wouldn’t have suited them, which went some way in making my absence from the canal a little easier to justify. Today I was fishing for carp, using a waggler setup, on an intimate and interesting water. It wasn’t just any old carp I was after. Today I was after a carp of the grass variety, though for now I’d had precious little interest from anything at all. Still, the sun continued to warm my back and the fish would turn up, eventually. I was quite sure of that.

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If I do say so myself, I was fishing the waggler pretty damn well. One of those days when it seemed I could do no wrong. There was never any danger of a cast sailing into branch city. No tangles were waiting in the wings. I was able to get into a steady rhythm; cast, feed one or two grains of corn, twitch the rig after a time, leave for a bit longer, then repeat. Really relaxing and super simple. Two hours zoomed by without any sign of a bite, but I felt confident that there was nothing more I needed to do, other than wait. For the sun to swing around and the water to warm. The carp would follow. As predictable as finding a cat in a sun trap.

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As soon as any shadow had been dissolved, I had my first fish. Illuminated by the bright light, I could tell immediately this wasn’t a grass carp, a broad and deep flank flashing in the depths ,as it powered away for the sanctuary of an overhanging tree. A common carp; fin perfect and a very strong fighter. It certainly got my heart racing. The very next cast my cup of celebratory tea was interrupted by another bite, this time from a grass carp, and so began a much more sedate fight. Without much incident, the fish wallowed and lunged near the surface, making it quite easy for me to lead into the landing net. It was a great fish to catch and one I was really pleased with. Less so could be said about my next encounter.

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After releasing the fish, I topped up my half full cup of tea, and settled back down to fish. From the corner of my eye I glanced a mouse, with wings, hovering a few feet away. Except, obviously this wasn’t a mouse. This was the biggest hornet I have ever seen. I thought about screaming and running to the sanctuary of my car. I had visions of it, and hundreds of its friends, in pursuit of an angler, hurriedly heading for the barren fields distant horizon. The product of one too many horror films I dare say. I didn’t know too much about them at the time but the wise words of a friend have since put me right (thanks, Kev)! Turns out they are quite sedate. this one certainly was. It buzzed around for a bit, prospecting for a place to overwinter before eventually, five minutes or so later, flying off over my head and into the surrounding trees. A quite incredible insect really.

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It was now well into the afternoon, and with the sun less fierce, the fishing became much busier. A number of feisty commons found the sweetcorn too tempting. As did a rogue tench and another five grass carp. Today it seemed, the slower the hookbait sank, the better the chance of getting a bite. Bread attracted a smaller stamp of fish and the few pellets I had with me, ones I found stowed in the bait cupboard, didn’t even make it onto the hook. I had a fantastic time catching up with this not so widespread of fish species and I had caught plenty of better known ones along the way. Once you get past their ‘just a little bit off’ kind of look, they’re actually quite a sleek, and attractive fish. Embossed medallions for scales and pearly golden-brown hues. A worthy Autumn adversary, thats for sure.

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A quick note to finish for any perch reading; I have not forgotten about you just yet.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Close, but not yet (Entry 196)

Well, here we go again, down the rabbit hole into perch madness. It’s my yearly grounding. A time to reappraise any notions I have of understanding a specific quarry. In quite a perverse way I do kind of enjoy it. At least for a time, but I’m now at the point where I need to step back, and let a week or two pass. Theres some very good reasons for doing this too. Let me explain whilst I tell you how I faired back once more on the canal.

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I had arrived at a lovely looking stretch, one I had fished before but not for some time, and with memories of big sergeants caught here from yesteryear, I set about my task with renewed enthusiasm. The conditions were far from ideal, bright sunshine, but with only one day to choose from and a very perchy itch that needed relieving, I carried on regardless. I mean, even in this bright light, surely that undercut bank and overhanging tree would hold a few fish?

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Doing something for too long, at least from my point of view, puts you dangerously in the scopes of ‘burning out’ fast, your mojo teeters on the edge, and worst of all, any enjoyment you are clinging onto comes close to being snatched away. A very loud echo seems to be resonating from somewhere, circa October 2015, a familiar voice offers, ‘you’re doing it again, maybe its time for a break’ or something like that.

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I’d been building a swim in the deep water of the boat channel, hoping that in the depth a big perch may be hiding, eyeing up the gudgeon and quite plump roach that were finding red maggot irresistible. Today was going to be a numbers game, keep catching and hope that something large falls foul to one of the the tiny red morsels falling from the sky. A hope that would fade throughout the session whilst ironically the sport did the opposite. I caught over a hundred fish, nothing bigger than 10oz, even when I presented worm instead of the usual maggot. Still, it was more active than ‘sitting it out’ something thats been the backbone of the last few sessions. It was quite enjoyable.

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This change in tactics reminded me that occasionally the best ideas come from the least likely situations. In the shower. Whilst stuck in traffic. That being, thinking passively can sometimes be better than slogging it out, like it’s starting to feel I’ve been doing. Maybe a few trips on the river after dace or a days carp fishing are in needed. They could just spark an idea about these perch, or lack of them, that would otherwise lay dormant if fully focussed. And speaking of laying dormant there was still one thing that needed exploring before I headed home from my session.

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The far bank swim had been untouched all day, slowly fed with worm sections and left alone, for the smells and vibrations to entice any predators nearby. I wondered if anything was waiting for me. It was time to look. For five minutes my lobworm sat pretty. Then a small tremble on the float. Interest that turned into another ten minutes of nervous anticipation. The float then did its most brilliant thing without any further warning and sailed under. On the strike elastic was stripped from the pole. This was certainly a powerful fish but not one carrying any significant weight. It was my target fish though, and quite a looker. Yes, this was a much better term to part company with the canal on. Much better than actually catching a monster. Close, but not yet. I’ll be back.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Ramble on (Entry 195)

12:30pm. This is the week.

2:37pm. Or maybe not. I’m struggling again. The perch are not giving themselves up too easily. A quite annoying pattern is starting to rear its ugly head. I’ve made a good start to the autumn perch fishing, but it is quickly turning into hair pulling frustration, with no recompense in sight. I’m sure there’s some of you out there reading this who think, why the hell don’t you just go to a commercial and have done with it? There’s no doubt there are plenty of big perch swimming around in these types of venues, but for now at least, I really want to catch the wildest perch I can. And that means canal or river.

4:10pm. I’m not taking the high horse in the matter, nor am I derogating anyone who chooses to fish for perch on commercial type venues, hell, I will more than likely do it myself one day and you still have to catch the fish. But for now there is a strange kind of lure over me when it comes to these wild, aqueous veins that divide up our country. A grebe has just swam past me. I can’t ever recall seeing a grebe on a canal before. Earlier a pheasant jumped out from behind the hedge behind me, half scaring me to death. The world our side of the divide neatly providing all the reason I need to keep fishing here, barren session after barren session. There’s no way of knowing just what is going to happen next.

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4:56pm. Fish I caught a few weeks ago may now be miles from where I’m sitting. With no lock gates why wouldn’t they turn into nomads? Following the bait fish. Seeking out more sheltered areas away from a strong tow or endless boat traffic. Equally, a fish that was nowhere near casting range, even just a few hours ago, could now be swimming ever closer to my bait. Ready to make a memory. Good or bad. Just like the gudgeon I caught at the start of this session, in a different league to all the others, almost as long as my hand. A mini canal monster in its own right.

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5:27pm. The pennywort is really starting to get on my nerves. I can hardly put a float in between it. Forever clumping on the line, the float or well, anything in its way. In a week or two it will be leaves doing the annoying but at least they are more colourful and varied. I should stop moaning. Its not that bad, and as soon as the boats ease, the flow will decrease putting an end to this leafy rampage. And at least I have caught a few perch this week. Not the really big one I hoped for but certainly not fish to be sniffed at.

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5:42: A few moments ago the float sprung into life and my heart rate did something similar. I struck into heavy weight. Weight that ran so speedily up to the surface. A new PB. My very first grebe, gudgeon clutched tightly at right angles, in between its dart like beak. Thankfully the hook was not in contact and a short, sharp pull saw the grebe begrudgingly give me back my bait. More proof, I guess, that on the next cast, anything could happen.

7:55pm. But not today.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Washout (Entry 194)

What a difference a day makes. Twenty four little hours. If you are someone who concurs with these lyrics then just think of the difference seven days make. A hell of a lot thats for sure. And this week I have proof. Real (fishing) world, conclusive proof.

With the luxury of two trips to the canal this week, my excitement was sky high, images of perch marauding in its murky waters, crystal clear, at least in my mind. The weather had turned a notch away from summer, with autumnal winds blowing in, a dip in air temperature, it seemed the perfect scenario for my perch plans to play out. I was sure that the smaller fish would start to bunch a little tighter, unwittingly creating tempting opportunities for predators. Find, or attract a shoal of them, and it would only be a matter of time before a big Perch came along. Right?

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Day 1. I arrived mid afternoon and promptly caught some gudgeon for use later on. In the meantime I fished with prawn down the edge. Tight down the edge too. With the canal having good depth, and many, many boats passing through during the day, I’ve found perch of all sizes tend to hold here away from all the disturbance, tucked under any overhang or in between the slightest structure. They may not be in full feeding mode, and they may not all be monsters, but if an opportunity presents itself they usually oblige. Only today they didn’t and dusk was soon knocking on the door. I switched to livebait, cast now toward overhanging brambles, and settled down for the wait. The float twitched nervously. On several occasions it darted evasively as the livebait did its best to escape danger. Unfortunately for me, either the unseen perch was old and blind, or the gudgeon had super powers. It survived the ordeal, and once darkness set in, I resigned to defeat. Even the prawn down the edge survived. Kind of.

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Day 2. Overnight the rain fell, heavy and unrelenting, and I arrived to much more coloured water. To make matters worse, this particular canal also turns river-like after a good bout of rain, and pushed hard from right to left. This did not bode well at all. Certainly not for perch. If you are after the resident roach it’s everything you could hope for, and it did not surprise me that several 10oz examples were taken, whilst I fished with red maggot ‘gudgeon gathering’. I hooked and lost a bream, that I thought for a moment was a big stripey, and was admittedly a little disappointed when its pale bronze side ghosted into view. Even more so when it spat the hook. Thankfully the gudgeon finally fed and I began to prime a second swim in more perch like territory. Lots of chopped worm and red maggot was trickled in at regular intervals, whilst two big dendrobaenas tempted hungry mouths to the hook. A short way away the livebait rod fished itself. Boat traffic was lighter today, but bites were hard to come by, not even the tiny perch seemed to be feeding, and even the roach had gone AWOL. All day the livebait rod sat pretty but not once did it look remotely concerned for its well being. Even the dendrobaenas survived. Kind of.

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I had an enjoyable two days on the banks of the canal, and although it was a little frustrating, I felt relieved to have got the ‘bad session’ out of the way. Time for some positivity. Next week is such a long time away, one hundred and twenty of those ‘little’ hours in fact. Time enough for every detail and nuance to start to align. For my path and a big perchs to begin a journey that will hopefully come to cross.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman