For a complete and honest picture (Entry 211)

There isn’t going to be a single fish in this weeks blog. There’s not going to be any pictures either. I’ve had a terribly lean spell over the last week or so, and whilst it might not make for riveting reading, I thinks its only fair to acknowledge. I had planned three trips out, two at the weekend, and one mid-week after work on the local canal. But that was for the future. Today was Saturday, and although I really wanted to make the journey to catch crucians, having not done the alternative last year, I decided to go to a different venue and sit it out for a big bream.

I had two days in which to find them, on the first day I found an appealing gravel area to fish, where I introduced a fair amount of bait over the area, and positioned two rods on the near side of this. One I fished with three fake casters and the other I alternated between corn and a 10mm Boilie. Both were presented on helicopter rigs and fished at around 60 yards. It was as far from intimate as you can imagine. In between regular casts I got through a good book, ‘Ghost Story’ by Peter Straub, which didn’t help the hours after dark one bit and I can only conclude it scared the bream off, too. No fish in two days, no line bites, and precious little moving anywhere on the lake.

Wednesday rolled around and after a particularly quiet day at work, I couldn’t wait to walk down the canal, loaf of bread in hand looking for roach and rare chub. I looked for signs of fish topping. There was none. I looked for Crabtree-esque swim. There were precious few now a certain organisation had been through with their loppers. So I went with past experience. Sitting at the end of a run-off about 30 yards downstream from a lock. I’ve taken chub and decent roach from here in the past, and was soon presenting a flake well over depth, and expecting to make contact with a monster. Once again though, the fish did not play ball, though at least I had one bite this time. A bite that I missed. All this in four and a half, picture perfect, hours.

So that was my story for the week. Pretty dull in terms of fish captures. Pretty dull in terms of action. I wanted to include this though as a means to promote the idea that we all go through bad streaks. I’m not saying this in an inflammatory way, that I am somehow better than anyone else, and therefore an authority. Quite the opposite in fact. Merely we all have to concede that no matter what we do, if the fish don’t read the final lines of the script, we will never get to the final curtain.

And that’s a really good job, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

 

Doorstep to doorstep (Entry 206)

I headed to the local canal this week, a place I have had a few attempts at fishing in the past few weeks, simply because it takes minutes to get there. When time is short, I’d rather spend an extra hour fishing than driving an extra hour simply getting somewhere to fish. With a rise in the water temperature I expected that the fish would be willing to feed, but this being a canal, you shouldn’t get too carried away. Fine lines and small hooks are still a must whilst the water still has clarity and forget about piling in bait. Especially when you are after roach.

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Believe it or not, after feeding a palmful of hemp at the start of the session, I fed just three casters every fifteen minutes or after catching a fish, to keep interest without feeding them full. The canal I am fishing has a typical natural venue cycle; the first hour is positive, then the fish become cagey. Then is the time to re-feed and rest the swim, sometimes for half an hour or longer, and this will see the fish return. Today was no different. Using a long crystal waggler, with a foot of line on the bottom, I was able to slow the bait down adequately against the canals natural tow. The bait still moved, but very slowly, something that roach cannot resist at times. In fact, my second cast produced a bite, a small roach to start with at 6oz. My next cast however produced one of a much better stamp.

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This roach was well over a pound, though not quite two, and fought like a tiger. For their size, and on balanced tackle, I can never get over just how hard roach fight. Fooled on a single caster with a size 20 hook buried inside. I was overjoyed. A true gem of the canal in the middle of a bustling city centre. I guess the busy banks do go some way in keeping the cormorants at bay, especially so when said banks are flanked with apartments, dog walkers, or someone having a sneaky cigarette on their balcony. They all help. After that fish I continued to catch 6-8oz fish, over 15 in fact, before losing a roach even bigger than the first. My heart dropped to my shoes. A lull in activity followed, forcing an earlier than intended re-feed of hemp, and the consumption of my sandwich. Time to rest the swim and lick my wounds.

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The gamble paid off, thankfully. Half an hour later, on my second cast, I hooked the second pound plus roach of the day, smaller than the first but still as magnificent. A brace to be proud of. A few small perch then turned up, which I never think is a good sign to be honest, before out of the blue I hooked into another good fish which took the caster on the drop. The rod locked up, the fish jagged hard and ran, before shaking its head where the hook, again, pulled. A silvery flash was my only glimpse of the fish as it swirled down into freedom. I dearly hoped it was a hybrid or a chub. In fact, I know it was. I can’t even begin to consider the alternative. And that is all I am going to say on the matter.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

 

Weekend in two stages (Entry 202)

My first trip out, heading once more to the canal and with perch as my target, came as great relief. Working the previous weekend meant I had gone far too long without wetting a line. To say I was eager to arrive and get fishing would be a massive understatement. The journey seemed to take longer this week, like how places always seem further away when you don’t know the way, only for its true distance become clear on the trip home. When we have no way of visualising the destination it can seem like you have travelled twice the distance. There’s a metaphor for my perch fishing in there somewhere.

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Upon arrival my heart sank. The usually coloured canal, even now during the depths of winer, was much clearer than I ever expected it to be. I hung my head over the bridge. It was very clear. Obviously no boats had been through recently. And no boats meant limited tow. Another nail in the coffin lid. You always need a little tow on this canal. Still, I decided to give it a go, a bad days fishing is better than a good day at work, and all that. I primed two chopped worm lines and had a cup of tea whilst they rested. To my surprise my first put in down the track yielded a four ounce roach. Then another and then a skimmer. I was well and truly shocked.

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Just to satisfy my curiosity, I had a quick look on the far bak line and feeling quite confident now, went over with half a lobworm. An instant response as the float buried before it could fully settle, and a jagging fight that could only be from one culprit. A perch. Not a bad size either, easily over a pound. You could’t make this up. To cut a long story short over the next three hours, I caught another decent perch or two from the far bank line and over sixty roach, skimmers and hybrids from the track. A brilliant days fishing for early December, and although the really big perch didn’t turn up, I didn’t mind one bit. Plenty of bites had kept me warm, the day had flew by, and all from a venue I didn’t fancy one bit.

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My second trip out, miles away from the canal though in similar geographical location, saw me travelling light with a stick float rod and a tub of maggots in the hope of finding some hungry grayling. The weather had turned extremely cold over night, and I was sure that with the canal more than likely having a lid on, the choice of river and species would see me rewarded with plenty more bites. It looked perfect, the water clear, a little down on normal winter level, but still with pace in the glides. The deep pools had a lovely inviting green/blue hue and a sedate amble. I knew they would hold wiry gems. I rushed to set up, eager to send the float down one of them, and let the action to commence.

Except it didn’t. Not one bite came my way. But how could that be? The river looked perfect. If I was asked to pick one venue to catch a fish from in winter, a gun pointed at my head, it would be here and grayling. I fished known swims and respected areas. I fished new ones. I even fished places that have, up until now, never produced a single bite for me. I tried everything but all to soon the watery sun began its descent, drawing a close to this desperate chapter. Dismayed, confused, and more than a little amused, I had to except that this was going to be a blank. All from a venue I really fancied.

The day fishing becomes predictable will certainly be the day I give up.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Distractions (Entry 201)

The day was almost made around four o’clock, just as the temperature noticeably dropped, along with the light. A heavy weight met the strike, one I couldn’t say I had timed well at all, as I hadn’t actually seen the float go under. I had company, you see, a fellow fisherman, debating with himself, but via my ears, just why the canal was fishing so tough today. Amongst other things. I tried my best to continue the conversation for as long as I could, but after thirty minutes, my eyes rarely left the float, hoping firstly I wouldn’t miss any bites and secondly he would in some way get the point. I was all out of conversation.

Now, I am not for one moment ignorant or unapproachable, but I just don’t feel like I concentrate the same when I have someone I don’t know looking over my shoulder. Eventually he bid his farewell, and for some now really annoying reason I had to have one last look at him, just to make sure he was actually leaving. He was. I couldn’t help but smile as I gently shook my head. Seventy minutes! He certainly had some stamina. Little did I know that in those three or four seconds, the entire session was to take its turn for the worse.

I don’t want this to be about the one that got away. Although, of course, it did. A very good fish too. My only bite for five hours. Mistimed and hopeless. The hook barely nicking the very edge of the fishes mouth. A head shake, then another, and a grimace on my part. It was the third head shake that freed the hook, a brute of a perch slowly sinking through the clear water in that way fish do when they have just turned to ghost. Evaporating. Not quite slow motion but certainly not full speed. It almost brought me to tears. But this isn’t about the one that got away, remember.

The day before I had a quick session on the same canal. It fished as hard as it did today. Maybe a little less so because I did have more bites. My concentration levels were high and I fished hard. The bites were slow to come. Mid afternoon came round quickly and I watched two kingfishers, perched next to each other in a tree, just a short way down from me. They looked splendid in their electric feathers. Like alien fruit ready to fall from an over burdened branch. When I glanced back to the float I’d been watching ardently, as you will now have guessed, it wasn’t there. In shock I struck, mistimed and hopeless, into a perch of a pound or so, in just a splendid colour as the kingfishers. I landed the fish, of course.

And that’s when I used up the little slice of luck that would have served me better the next day. Different days, different distractions but distractions none the less. Part and parcel of being out in rich and busy places. So many distractions. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other times that situations like this play out. Some will end in failure but some will make memories.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

How did I end up here? (Entry 200)

I couldn’t let it lie. Sat in my car having just bought a pint of red maggots, half way to the river, I knew full well I wouldn’t get there. No, instead I went back into the shop and purchased a packet of size eight hooks. I had everything else with me that I would need in order to bodge a makeshift paternoster livebait rig. Once more the cursed perch had won over, better judgement had not prevailed, or maybe a sixth sense had taken over.

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The canal looked great today in its rusty Autumn colours. Though it always looks good to me. Thankfully the floating leaves from last week had abated slightly and the water clarity had increased, owing to the cold nights leading up to today. If it was going to be hard to track down one of the big perch I wanted to catch so dearly, then it would be even harder to catch something to tempt them. This canal is notoriously tough when the temperatures cool. I fished fine and with a tiny hook. A single red maggot tempted a two inch roach after twenty minutes of angling. An hour later, my tally had not changed, so off I headed with my one bait. Off to a more perchy area of the canal, where the width narrowed, and beds of rushes on the near bank still cling on to life.

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After a change of rig, and a plumb up, I was ready to make a cast, a foot from the bed of rushes where the water was maybe twice that measurement deep. The roach bait settled quickly. Torpid perhaps. The float sitting still amongst the softness of the reflected grey clouds. Minutes ticked by, before the float abruptly lay flat, though only temporarily. In an instant it was gone, plunging from sight, savagely and definitely. I let a second or two pass before striking, upon which the most pleasant weight pulled the rod tip round. The fish jagged and plodded. It had no speed and simply lumbered under the rod tip. In the depth a flash. A perch, now rising begrudgingly toward the surface, where in a fumbled blur I thrust the net under and claimed the fish on the first time of it breaking the divide. I was over the moon. The perch less so thrashing angrily in its confines.

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A beautifully vibrant two pounder. Icy cold to my, only slightly warmer, hands. After the failures of the last few weeks this really was the most beautiful perch I’dseen. I admired it, taking in its blood red fins and sleek lines, before carefully releasing it a short way from the swim. And although I didn’t know it as I walked back to my chair, the number of perch I caught would not change, for try as I may over the next three hours, until the light faded in fact, I could not catch another small fish. It was a strange turn of events. The canal having total control over proceedings.

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It had already rewarded me I guess, and pretty quickly too, and was not about to allow me to plunder its stocks any further. What other, bigger perch were waiting to be caught that day, couldn’t have been any further from my grasp. The truth is thats the way it should be. Those bigger fish will always be there, lurking in the murky shadows, both of the water and of our minds. If not today then almost certainly tomorrow. Whenever that day comes round.

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In late autumn, the darkness rolls in all too soon, but not before the sun had poked through the clouds for the first time all day, a warm orange glow cast over the valley. Accompanied by a warming cup of tea, I took in this view, and breathed in the now chilly air. The wagglers’ tip dissolved. Blue-black enveloped. At that moment I couldn’t have cared less about the ‘whats’ and ‘ifs’. Only what had been in front of me just a few hours before.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

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

 

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