Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jack Frost nipping at my maggots.

I popped to Eliburn Reservoir on Sunday for a few hours in the afternoon to relax and fish the waggler. I've not fished there for a while and when I arrived I found that it was almost completely frozen over. Not a good sign and it limited my choice of peg to only four in the small bay on the western side of the venue. I quickly set up my waggler rod and started fishing a single maggot on the bottom. Feeding a few maggots it took just under an hour to start getting bites and after missing a couple I hooked and landed a roach.

All good things to those who wait.

Over the next two hours I patiently watched for my puddle chucker for signs of fish and was rewarded with three more roach before a swan and two signets invaded my swim to eat the maggots that had landed on the ice as I had been feeding the swim. After they moved away again I didn't get any bites for a while and my fingers were getting rather numb so I decided to call it a day.

Pesky birds!

So yet another cold weather session that was fairly hard work. That's just the way things are at this time of year though if you are prepared to brave the cold. Some people might think I'm mad but a I think a few nice roach were worth the effort!

Tight lines, Scott.

A zander! A zander! My kingdom for a zander!

Last year at about this time I fished Rutland Water with my mate Martin and despite some pretty miserable conditions we both managed to catch our first zander. We were keen to have another go for them this year and had planned to head down south again to Grafham Water this time to have a couple of days out in a boat fishing for them with lures. The weather forecast a few days before we left predicted wind speeds into double figures so we changed our plans and decided to head to Warwickshire to fish the Lure Angler Canal Club's stretch of the Grand Union Canal instead. We met up in Carlisle on Monday evening and drove down the M6 arriving at our hotel after a few hours where we sorted out our gear for an early start.

Tuesday morning and over breakfast we discussed our plan of attack on the ten mile section of canal our day ticket covered. I suggested we start at one end and tossed a coin to decide which. Tails it was and off we went. Soon at the canal we started working our way along the towpath. It took us quite a while to locate any fish. Whilst quite cold it was quite a sunny day and perhaps not ideal conditions. The canal is quite shallow and is very coloured too so we elected to use some Mike's Scent in herring and trout flavours on our lures. Yummy. Apart from moored boats though the section we were on had very little structure so we spent more time fishing around locks when we reached them. It was from just below one that I caught the first fish of the day, a small perch. 

Greedy little bugger swallowed a 3" Daiwa D-Fin whole!

Shortly afterwards Martin briefly hooked a small zander that threw the hook whilst he got his net. Encouraged to have found a couple of fish we carried on working our way along a long and pretty featureless stretch for a mile or so and it became quite apparent that we were really struggling to locate any more fish. After a while we decided to fish back along towards the car and head somewhere else. With no sign of any fish on the way once back at the car I had a quick look on Google Maps and found a spot with a few locks that we could park next to and off we went. 

By now the light was beginning to fade which we both agreed could work in our favour. Sure enough I hooked and landed another perch on my first cast. A good start. We headed along towards the first lock, Martin hooked a fish and called along to tell me it was a zander. I ran along the towpath and netted it for him. We carried on slowly working our way along when I thought I had snagged on something on the bottom and began slowly lifting it up. I was quite surprised to see it was a zander! Bizarrely it didn't move at all and it was a bit like a submarine surfacing. As it got near the surface I wasn't sure if it was hooked but as soon as I put a bit more pressure on it spat the lure out of its mouth and swam off. I called to Martin and he came along to where I was. We had a few more casts around the area and Martin soon hooked his second zander of the day. 

A nice fish and it was about the same size as the one I'd just "lost". No way of telling if it was the same one though.

We both thought we'd see a bit more action but despite fishing on into darkness no more fish were caught. 

The next day the weather forecast was for rain and wind. We headed to a spot a mile or two from the other end of the stretch we were permitted to fish. After a few casts I hooked a big perch but it managed to throw the hook whilst Martin came over with the net. A couple of casts later I caught a smaller one and then we decided to start working our way along the canal in search of some zander. After a while the skies opened and it started raining hailstones. We took shelter under a bridge for a bit until it went off again. Martin switched to a Savage Gear Dying Minnow and the resident perch seemed to like it.

The colouration of the resident perch matches their murky home rather well. 

After that it went fairly quiet and we reached a large open area with a lot of boats. Whilst I focused on this area Martin went along the canal to fish around a bridge. It wasn't long before he called me along to say he had just hooked and lost another zander so I joined him there. This area seemed to hold a lot more fish, we both had a few perch and then I hooked a zander which annoyingly managed to throw the hook again. At this point I had a horrible feeling that I wasn't going to land one as we had planned to turn back when we reached the bridge. However, the stretch after it looked quite good being rather shady with a fair amount of overhanging and partially submerged trees on the opposite bank so we started fishing it. It turned out to be a good decision as it was easily the most productive stretch we had discovered so far and soon a few perch were caught. Martin then caught a zander and I finally hooked and landed three zander in fairly quick succession on a 8cm Savage Gear Soft 4-Play fished very slowly on a drop shot rig.

My third zander was a lovely fish in almost perfect condition. For such a streamlined fish with all those huge fins you'd think they would fight hard but they don't unfortunately which is quite odd.

I hooked a forth, larger zander which came off, Martin caught a few more perch, then the sky opened up again and we got a bit of a soaking. This also signalled the end of the action too so we called it a day and headed back to the car to head back up the road. We both really like zander, they are lovely looking fish and we really wish there were some up here. Sadly there isn't though but such is our fondness for them we're tempted to return to fish for them again over the winter at some point! It was great catching up with Martin again, I really enjoy fishing with him, and whilst it was tough finding fish at times, for our first attempt at zander from a canal I think we did ok, despite losing as many as we landed. I'm hoping to meet up with Martin again before the year is out to try and catch some spurdogs from either Loch Etive or Loch Sunart. Something else to look forward to!

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Keep calm and carry on fishing.

For most anglers winter is a difficult time. Usually because the species they choose to target are no longer around or they don't want to fish through the colder months. I also find it pretty tough but I still like to get out and try and catch something and there are still fish around to be caught. During the week I headed down the coast to St Abbs Harbour. At this time of year there are plenty of coalfish around and plenty of fun to be had catching them on ultra light tackle. It's very easy to catch them too so the action can be fast paced. I debarb my hooks to aid unhooking and prevent damaging the fish. On the first night I fished with my current favourite and perhaps the most convenient of baits, raw prawn. On the second night I fished with small lures and mixed it up with some small metals (with the trebles replaced with single hooks), paddletails on jigheads and Gulp! Angleworm and Isome on a dropshot rig. Over the two nights I caught just over one hundred coalfish, most of them only a few ounces but the odd fish about a pound put a good bend in my rod.

The humble coalfish is often overlooked but can give a good scrap on ultra light tackle.

A couple of pollock and a solitary long spined sea scorpion managed to muscle their way through the shoals of ravenous coalfish and in the back of my mind I was hoping that something unusual would turn up but nothing did. Still it was a lot of fun and just goes to show that if you're not too fussy about what you are targeting there are still plenty of fish in the sea and plenty fun to be had catching them!

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

...and the sky is grey.

I hadn't seen my mate Keith for a while so when he told me he had a few days off this week we arranged to meet up. The weather was looking pretty rancid across most of the country so we agreed to go where ever conditions looked most favourable. The night before we checked the forecast and there was no escaping the howling wind. Dunbar was forecast to be overcast but dry at least and the wind was blowing off shore so there would be very little swell to make things even harder so I was confident we could find a sheltered spot or two for some ultra light mini species fun.

First stop was Torness Power Station outflow, Scotland's premier common blenny hotspot. Not a place I really like visiting anymore due to it being a bass nursery area that is sadly frequented by a lot of idiots who take undersized fish. Anyway, as Keith was keen to catch some blennies I made an exception and luckily we had the place to ourselves. Fishing for a couple of hours we had a lot of fun and caught several dozen blennies between us on Gulp! Angleworm and raw prawn. I also caught the smallest corkwing wrasse I've ever seen.

These cheeky little fish always put a smile on my face.
How cute!

It was quite interesting that whilst there were plenty of blennies amongst the large boulders that make up the sea defences they weren't being particularly aggressive but when we tried fishing down the edge of the outflow it was a blenny pretty much every drop. This was probably due to the artificially warm water and a reminder that over the coming months the fishing in saltwater will get quite tough as fish feed less. As it started to get dark we left, popping into Dunbar harbour for an hour to have a even more ultra light fun catching loads of small coalfish before finally heading back up the road.

Good fun on ultra light tackle and plenty of them in the harbour as always.

It was good catching up with Keith and he tells me he'll have a bit more free time next month so no doubt we'll be off fishing and with Keith being a keen fluff chucker I suspect we might try for grayling at some point.

Tight lines, Scott.

Most Wanted : Grayling.

The lady of the stream. Beautiful and elegant. Hard fighting. I'd love to catch one. There's no season for them in Scotland and with things slowing to a crawl on the saltwater front what better way to spend cold winter days than wading in icy cold streams and rivers, frosty air nipping at your fingers trying to catch a grayling?

Lovely looking fish with that large sail like and wonderfully coloured dorsal fin.

I'm not sure if I'll get myself a centrepin reel and try trotting maggots, fish one of the tried and tested grayling fly patterns and hopefully improve my fly casting in the process or perhaps do something different and fish a tiny soft plastic on a jighead using my ultra light gear. Whichever approaches I end up using I'm sure I'll have a lot of fun and the reward will be well worth braving the cold should I manage to catch one.

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Most Wanted : Gilthead Seabream.

Another addition inspired by my recent trip to Crete, the gilthead seabream is a species that can also be targeted in UK waters. Named due to the golden band between their eyes and golden hue on their upper gill plates, this member of the seabream family is renowned as a powerful fish that offers great sport when hooked. The small common pandora, a very similar fish shape wise, that I caught gave me a little bit of an idea what to expect, scrapping well, putting a nice bend in my ultra light gear and taking line in short but powerful little runs. 

All that glitters may not be gold but in this case it is.

With at least one trip to the Mediterranean already on the cards, perhaps a holiday there too and a trip or two to the south coast next summer a distinct possibility as well I'll hopefully get more than one opportunity to have go for them. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Most Wanted : Stargazer.

Having caught four out of the six Mediterranean species on my "Most Wanted" list I'm going to add a few more. Then I can justify more species hunting sessions if I go for a holiday there next year and if I don't I'll just have to go for a fishing trip! I quite like weevers. There's just something about them that I'm drawn to. Perhaps it's their aggressive nature or cunning method of camoflage. I just think they are cool. Stargazers are without doubt my new favourite weever though. Having seen them buried and waiting to pounce I fell in love with their grumpy looking faces in the sand. 

Grumpy but certainly not dopey.
The cunning predator uncovered!

The ones I saw in the aquarium in Hersonisos were all caught in fisherman's nets and my capture of a greater weever at range from a harbour makes me think that stargazers will also be a viable target from the shore too. Weevers being aggressive also suggests to me that locating them will be the hardest part and once I've done that catching one won't be too hard. Local knowledge will no doubt be the key and hopefully I can find some fisherman who are prepared to share it with me!

Tight lines, Scott.