Canada, small rivers and just why the hell do we bother? (Entry 218)

Did you know that the UK is on the same latitude as some places in Canada? If it wasn’t for the gulf stream we would be literally up to our necks in the white stuff. Wow. Then we would truly be cold. And there’d be precious little chub fishing to look forward to. A frightening thought.

Even though I’m fully aware of this ‘other reality’, I can’t help thinking that we are having some really horrible weather conditions at the moment. Ones even less condusive for catching fish in. Cold, strong winds, unsettled weather patterns, and for the river angler, rain, rain, and more rain. Water levels up and down like the undergarments of a certain worldly type of person. It really is testing at the moment. Still, though, we must go out and try. Even though we know, with a strange kind of certainty, that our chance of catching will be slim to nil.

My plan this week was to head to one such small river and wander between swims. The cold water that ran in a few days before put pay to that, raising the rivers level, and making fishing there pretty much a no-go. So I didn’t go. I mean, I did go to the river, just to confirm my suspicions, that little nagging doubt of ‘what if’ spurring me on to at least take a look. There was no ‘what if’. The next day I headed to a stillwater, with half a pint of red maggots, and a few worms. I fished a simple waggler set up for anything that cared to come along. I’ve never seen a commercial water with such clarity. I could see the bottom for two thirds of the way across, and in the strong wind that circulated around the venue, it made for a very cold and bite-less few hours. No amount of layers were fully impervious to its biting nature. Oh, and the sleet came, and soaked everything. It was utterly grim.

When I was sat there, freezing my unmentionables off, I’m going to be honest; I really thought that I might get a bite in the end. Even though my brain was screaming at me to pay attention to it, and leave, I just couldn’t. There was this other voice you see, weaker and more distant, coming from somewhere else within, that made any ideas of an early dash for warmth simply not an option. The most annoying and eternal conflict rattling around inside any angler. One of logic versus hope.

I really can’t wait for the day that I am no longer able to hear that little voice anymore. Though, I have a feeling it wont be for a very long time yet, however. I suppose I’m glad about that. I think. Ask me next time I can barely move my fingers enough to pour a warm drink.

See you in two weeks,

NorthwestFisherman

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Classics are classics (Entry 204)

Over the past season I have, like a lot of people, really saw the benefits of light lure fishing. Now, I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have found out that if you find where the fish are and put something they want in front of them its surprising just how instant the action can be. Being relatively new to this however, I don’t have may lure patterns to choose from, soft lures mainly, and there are days when I am unsure they are what the fish really want.

That’s where these lures make their entrance. Made by Theseus, the Pred-X range is brilliant for people staring their journey into lure fishing, just like me. Good quality, and more importantly, plenty of variety. Spinners, spoons, worm baits with tiny propellors, curly tail soft lures, there is all sorts! I Primarily fish for perch when lure fishing, so I was keen to get down to the river and try out these spinners, and in the slower, deeper areas some soft lures. The only problem was that on arrival, the normally sedate river was angry and rising.

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A change of venue meant that it was once again the canal I targeted. I was sure a tough day was ahead of me. First up was the spinners. Straight from the packet the first thing I inspected was the hooks. Plenty sharp enough for me. Something all to readily skimped on, sadly, but not the case here. Then the not so simple choice of what to choose. In the end, and expecting to cycle through many during the next few hours, I chose what I thought would suit the depth which in my case was a just a few feet. I was amazed at the vibration that I could feel emanating up the braid and through the rod blank. Any predators in the area would certainly know the spinner was there, perch, pike, and even big chub.

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Having such a collection, I became aware of casting into areas I would normally deem ‘to dangerous’ with only a handful of lures. But as I remember a great chub angler saying once, if you don’t lose a few hooks on a days chub fishing you are not casting into the right places. I think the same could be said about lure fishing. More than impressed with the spinners, though less than impressed with the fact the fish were not playing ball, I thought it best to seek out some deeper areas for the next hour or so. It had been a cold night after all and perhaps the small fish were laying up in such places. An opportunity not to be missed by hungry predators.

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The LRF soft lure selection worked a treat here. Plenty of small perch made an appearance. The imagined the hypnotic action of the curly tail was just too much to resist for these tiddlers. On a tough day I was very happy to have had a little action. The smallest, yellow coloured lure worked best, and even though the fish were struggling to top a few ounces, I was always ready for a big fish to engulf the lure on the next cast. One of the most exciting aspects of light lure fishing. From 3oz to 3lb in a heartbeat.

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By now I had only an hour left, the best hour admittedly, that being the end of day into dusk. For it, I changed to the small spoons, the only lure I had not yet given a try. My thinking was that if the fish were going to give chase, and it seemed they were not really up for it, they might just change their mind if that mouthful looked more like five mouthfuls. For such simple lures, I was impressed with the versatility of the spoons. I could retrieve them quickly and high in the water, or deeper down and more slowly, even stop retrieving altogether and let if flutter temptingly in the flow, near outlets and run offs. They also had a red bait flag at the hook end, which added colour, and vibration. A great touch.

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If you are looking to expand your collection, but don’t want to spend the earth, these lures will offer plenty of variety. Classic are classics for a reason, after all. I really should have put some of these in my lure bag months ago. And now I have, I cant wait to get out on the river when conditions are more favourable. Confidence and flexibility really are the keys to catching.

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning some of these lures, then simply head over to my Facebook page, and enter the draw. There will be three bundles up for grabs and all the details on how to enter are there. Good luck!

Here is link to the Fishing Republic website where the lures are available.

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

Perca-inept (Entry 199)

I decided to spend the day before Haloween trying to catch some of our more sinister species of fish. A trinity of predators would have been perfect, but having relatively little chance of a zander, I settled for pike and perch. The river I chose, to give me best chance of achieving this, was in dire condition. Sluggish, sulking, and very low. It’s visibility was good though but the bait fish seemed to be aware of this. No movement from anything whatsoever. Devoid of life somehow. It took me the best part of two hours to catch three little roach to use as bait. I never invisiged that happening. This water is absolutely full of them. Alarms bells began to sound.

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Whilst fishing for the bait, I had flung a worm bait down the edge, where the water was deep and dark. I thought I would be able to tick off the perch quite quickly doing this. Why do I never learn? Two hours later, but now with roach in hand, I moved on to another swim, more oxygenated and with more pronounced depth change. A further hour passed without a bite, both on the roach and the worm, so another move was observed. To a back water this time, tree lined and reed fringed, with margins deep and menacing. Here, at last, not too long later, a little success came my way. A small pike around five pounds, taking not the roach bait but the worm, seconds after it hit the surface. You couldn’t make it up.

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So what about the perch? Well, we all know what the perch do when I try to catch them. I’ve finally figured it out. They start a mass migration to the furthest point away from me they can possibly get to. Some have even been known to reach the sea. I have no proof of this yet but it seems to be the most viable reason as to why I cannot catch them. Without resorting to the unthinkable; that being I am perca-inept. But quiet, I will never admit that. Not just yet.

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The day ended with just the one pike to my name. One last throw of the dice was in order. The next day, now Haloween itself, I took a lure rod and walked the canal. It didn’t go to plan, of course. The leaves were an absolute pain, clumped in swathes on the surface, and picked up on the line and hookpoint with frustrating regularity. My right boot began to let in water. Squelch, crunch, squelch, crunch, as I plugged and plugged away (or jigged and jigged). And just as it was yesterday, it was as if the whole canal was devoid of life. Nothing hit the surface, even at dusk, and I didn’t have so much as a nip from anything predatory all day. One bemused angler began the journey home, a little after five o’clcock, as a thick mist swallowed the hills beyond.

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Time for some more familair beats for the next month or so. I can’t take the failure anymore. I can’t remember the last time I fished for chub, you know. That sounds like a good plan. Chevin hunting, the odd grayling thrown in for good measure and steps from yesteryear re-traced.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Supercharged / superforgetful (Entry 190)

What a turn around the river had made; a red-brown torrent streamed. Down the centre of the river, foam from an upstream rapid section collected, a white stripe where the current flowed its most fierce. The place where I sat last week was out of view and off limits, drowning under at least three feet of extra water. In front of me, deep water eddied creating a slack section, central to the bank I stood upon and the main flow. In these types of conditions its such places I like to look for. Havens for barbel to take a few moments refuge. Chub too. I’ve caught some big chub from similar swims in the past. Today though, I’d set my sights on barbel, a safer bet in flooded conditions.

Boilies for the win!

The rig was different to last week. As was the bait choice. Heavy line and a strong hook would be paramount in helping to land a hard fighting barbel in the strong flow, and bait needed to be heavier and less round. I halved some old boilies that I’d had hanging around for months. I needed to get rid of them more than anything and this seemed an opportune time. Everything would be fed via a PVA bag, and a paste wrap around the boilie hookbait would finish everything off. Half an hour passed and in that time I made three casts, the first two were ended by debris collecting and dislodging the ledger, whilst on the third the rod hooped over. My first barbel of the day and it fought like a madman.

The first barbel of the day

The next cast and another barbel decided that my hookbait was the new must have snack. The same brute strength and ferocious speed as the first. I rested each fish I caught for at least fifteen minutes before returning them. It’s always important to make sure barbel have recovered but even more so with increased flow. Especially given how hard these particular fish were fighting. A lull in activity then ensued, giving me plenty of time to watch the wildlife; A pair of kingfishers and a grey heron. Even a little owl fleetingly made a daylight appearance. Two hours passed without any further fish. The river dropped over a foot and a half in that time, and I found that casting a little further out, chasing that ‘walking pace’ water as the flow decreased helped to get my next bite.

And the last barbel of the dayThough I did miss it and the next one. Chub more than likely. I convinced myself they were the smallest chub in the river just to make my failure easier to stomach. Then the weather took a turn for the worse. The rain came, the wind blew, the landscape became that of slate but another two barbel made all that secondary. The last fish stripped twenty yards off the reel with ease. I thought I’d hooked a salmon. These fish are so healthy. My plan was to stay into dark and I probably should have done but with an hour to go, my flask drained, sandwiches still in the fridge at home (I’m getting so forgetful – might be time to start doing Sudoku’s), I retreated and left the barbel in peace. Happy of course. Very happy indeed. And I’d got rid of the boilies.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Something a little different (Entry 189)

It must be getting on for a year since I last fished a river. A staggering statistic considering they are, without doubt, my favourite type of water to fish. Big or small, low and clear or up and coloured, I just love the challenge flowing water brings. Their ever changing quality and the fact there is no way of knowing just what fish are in front of you. They are certainly intriguing places. I arrived at midday to a low, clear river, but I still felt quite confident of a bite or two. Maybe enthusiasm was masking better judgement. Fellow anglers were thin on the ground, and the ones that were there, all talking of how tricky the river was fishing. I really hoped they were wrong.

Their thoughts and opinions were not ignored however and whilst I tackled up, just one rod to make my presence less intrusive, I opted to fish fine and cautiously. Barbel would still be my target but the tactics would be less ‘heavy’ than usual. It would be interesting to see if this softly-softly approach worked and what would be tempted in amongst the barbel. I rigged up a light bomb rig, just capable of holding position in the faster water, three quarters of the way across the river. Instead of feeding with a feeder or suchlike, I would feed the small pellets with a catapult, little and often, just like I was trotting a float. My plan was to cast more frequently too, searching the swim for pockets of fish, instead of sitting idly for periods of time and simply waiting.

A barbel to start

It didn’t take long to get that first bite. Twenty minutes or so since my first pouch of bait settled, the rod tip lurched over in a most familiar way, a barbel had to be the culprit. My light rod soaked up the fishes lunges, which instead of powerful, surging runs, were moderate nods and head shakes. Dare I say, more of bream, than barbel. I calmly led the fish into the shallower margin of my own bank, and here the fish made a few runs, ones that were easily cushioned by the rod blank. At the end of one such run a moderate sized whiskery head popped above the surface. Under controlled strain I rolled the fish backwards and over the net. That will do just fine!

A 'choach' amongst the chub

After the barbel, I had a run of small chub, nothing bigger than two pound, but it was great to see so many smaller fish present. Mixed in with them I had a roach/chub hybrid that, when still a distance from the bank, had me nervous for a time as I thought I had hooked a big roach. Not so, but a beautiful fish, a little under two pounds. After a small lull in activity some very fast, hard to hit bites plagued me. A shoal of dace, attacking the bait on the drop and after one or two of them were caught, a small brown trout made an appearance. Five species and counting. I couldn’t stay until dusk today, so come early evening, I made my last cast. The reward was another bottom feeding ‘monster’ of the river; a two ounce gudgeon. Four barbules to start with and two to end.

A gudgeon to finishThanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Or nearest offer (Entry 175)

The door bell sounded. Instinctively, and much like some Pavlovian subject, I rushed from my seat to the door without hesitation. A quick glance through the ‘peep hole’ revealed the face of a man in his mid forties, distorted by the glass, and appearing as he would do in the back of a spoon. I opened the door to a more normal looking person, no doubt excited about the acquisition about to take place. Letting me know he was here about the fishing tackle I ushered him inside and proceeded to show him the bounty; a well loved and versatile float rod.

It had been mine for more than a few years now and had caught me many different species from a multitude of venues. I recalled first using it late one summer, fishing the waggler with caster for tench on a Cheshire mere. The day had been tough, not many fish were being caught, and around dinnertime the ashen sky began to darken. Brooding in the distance a thunderstorm. Umbrella put up just in time as the first heavy drops of rain fell from the sky. Over the next forty minutes the rig was reeled in. The rain so heavy it simply sank the float. Forked lightning streaked earthbound and the audible reply of the thunder vibrated, both in my ears and my chest, seconds later. It was disconcerting to say the least but also an amazing spectacle. Nature truly a powerful force. Once the storm subsided, I landed a lovely four pound tench on the very next cast, with two others following in quick succession. It christened the rod and cemented a memorable day firmly in my brain.

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“Yes, it will handle small carp and tench, perfect for lazy summer days,” I exalted, “but it has enough sensitivity in the tip to hit finicky roach, dace or crucian bites.” I wasn’t kidding either.

Cut to a particularly cold December morning on the local river. We were here at my Dads suggestion. The canals would be frozen over for sure, and although he expected it to be a slow day, he was confident of a bite or two from the resident chub. Again, I fished caster, trotting a light stick float down a lovely length of intimate river. I spent most of the morning in that beautiful swim but had no fish. It was time for a change. I climbed up the high bank behind me and walked downstream. The sound of the weir became louder; like someone turning the volume up on a television playing static. Once I passed the sill, where violent and turbulent currents lashed, the volume began to decrease and where the white, foamy water started to break apart and steady somewhat, I decided to fish. The current pushed my float very close to the near bank but it was ok. There was good depth here, eight feet or so, and I fed the swim with a generous helping of casters, waiting as long as I could before running through. I might have made it to two minutes. First cast and a six ounce dace was swung to hand. Next cast another dace of a similar size. Brilliant! For the next hour and a half I caught around thirty of these dace along with a few better chub mixed in for good measure. It really opened my eyes to the merits of roving on rivers and the pleasure of fishing with balanced tackle. A most enjoyable day with a stunning sunset to end with.

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“Well, it sounds like it’ll cover everything I need,” the man said, “I’m just a beginner so this should be perfect.” He handed over the rod tokens, all ten of them, and with a smile said goodbye.

On closing the door I suddenly felt hollow. That would be regret raising its head, I guessed. I realised I’d made a mistake. I felt like opening the door and running after him. Why had I just sold this rod? One that had been with me through the many trials and tribulations of my formative years. The rod who’s carbon had not just a few light scratches etched into it, but also a myriad of memories, successes and failures. A rod who’s handle had collected the oil and dirt of ten years spent nurturing a love and fascination for this most diverse and rewarding pastime. Maybe I shouldn’t have sold an old friend so readily.

There was one consolation though. All I could hope now was that it did the same for its new owner as it had done for its old.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman