Saturday, March 15, 2014

When the fishing gets tough...

The Friday before last I headed down south with my mate Martin for a long weekend of lure fishing targeting freshwater predators, but primarily a favourite of ours, the zander. We also wanted to meet up with some fellow anglers at the Gloucester and Sharpness Zander Bumble on the Sunday. This was organised by local angler Kev Pugh. On the way down to Gloucester though we broke the drive up with a stop at Kingsdown Flash in Abram to spend the afternoon drowning maggots. This water apparently holds a good head of bitterling, a fairly recent addition to my "Most Wanted" species list. Being fairly early in the year I wasn't confident about catching one but was keen to try anyway and if nothing else it was a good opportunity to have a look at the venue for a return in the summer. 

As I've said, I knew it would probably be tough trying to catch a bitterling but I thought we'd perhaps catch a few roach or perch in the process. Action however was non existent apart from a few carp splashing about on the surface, getting ready to spawn. Bites just didn't materialise and after about two hours of patiently staring at my float and feeding a few pinkies I spotted something hanging from a nearby branch and took my eye of the waggler to go and investigate. It turned out to be a bright red artificial maggot but when I turned back to return to my seatbox I did so just in time to see my rod heading towards the water! Luckily I managed to grab it and had a fish on. It felt like a small carp or tench but sadly it came off after about thirty seconds. Sods law but at least I'd had a bite. Another hour or so passed with no more bites though so we decided to move. This did not improve our fortunes so we moved again one last time. This saw Martin being broken off by a fish after his attention was distracted by a carp surfacing nearby. A fish had grabbed his bait and shot off, he didn't see his float go, the first he knew about it was the the fish nearly wrenching the rod from his hand before his very light hooklength went. Probably a carp we suspected. Soon afterwards Martin's float slowly went under and he quickly landed the first predator of the trip.

Martin's monster perch. 
For those with poor eyesight. 

He then caught a roach slightly bigger than the perch, I had two tiny fish throw the hook on me fishing in the margin and resigned myself to ending the session on a blank, packing up and trudging back to the car. I didn't see what they were and Martin wound me up by suggested they were bitterling. The swine! Anyway, it was a fairly disappointing start to the trip and we both hoped things would be more productive during the weekend's predator sessions.

Fairly early on Saturday morning we headed to the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Bumble organiser Kev had suggested a spot for us to try when on the phone to Martin the night before and that's where we started. Fishing soft plastics on drop shot rigs we slowly worked our way along the canal but after about four hours my efforts had attracted no interest whatsoever and Martin had only had a couple of knocks. We had been told beforehand that the venue could be a notoriously tough place to fish but the lack of activity was very frustrating. We were both glad when Kev called, we headed off to meet him and we decided to head north to the Grand Union Canal to fish for the afternoon where Martin and I had fished before with some success.

A short drive later and we were at Kev's chosen stretch, one he had a few fish from recently. Martin was first to get his lure in the water and hooked a fish almost straight away but soon lost it, much to his digust. A good sign we all thought though but it didn't prove to be the case as the fishing was very tough. After quite a while Kev finally had some interest and hooked a zander. It was carefully netted by Martin and Kev was quite pleased with it and informed us it was probably a new PB, a fact quickly confirmed by his scales.

At 2lb 6oz it was indeed a new PB zander for a rather pleased Kev. 

Again encouraged by some action we soldiered on but the canal seemed to be pretty devoid of active fish. After a while I had tried numerous lures and had also switched to bottom bouncing a weedless jighead all with no reward whatsoever. After a short break and a sit down to set up a drop shot rig I decided to stick with this method and fished with one lure, a Daiwa D'Fin. We then doubled back and by the time we had passed the starting point light was starting to fade and Martin had headed a fair distance off ahead, obviously desperate to find some fish. I have to be honest and say I had almost resigned myself to another blank by this point and was chatting away to Kev about drop shotting. As we chatted he pulled his lure back out from some branches on the far bank he had cast into and a fish grabbed his lure as it dropped into the water about half way across the canal. Unfortunately it wasn't on long and spat the hook when it came to the surface. On my next cast I felt a very aggressive take and soon brought the culprit to the canal's edge. I wasn't going to mess around trying to get the net out so I quickly lifted it out to hand. It was a fairly small zander but I didn't care, it was an enormous relief to finally get a fish!

A most welcome little fish. Maybe the same one Kev had just lost.

Martin then came back to meet us and I told him my good news. Sadly Martin had nothing similar to report. We fished our way back to the car but the only things our hooks found were a few branches and there was no further contact with the resident fish.

On Sunday morning we headed to the meeting point for the bumble. It was good to meet up with some people I've met before and also introduce myself to some people who I've chatted to on forums but hadn't met in person. After we had our fill of bacon and sausage rolls we all jumped into our cars and headed to a stretch of canal south of Gloucester. Given our experiences of the day before I think Martin and I had quite low expectations. It was however a beautiful day and the stretch of canal we were on was out of town and much nicer as a result. A much wider section too so at least there was a lot of water to cover and hopefully it would have a few fish in it. I decided to stick with one lure all day and fished it on a drop shot rig about 15cm up from the lead.

Martin enjoys the sun. 

My lure for the day. The one that caught me my only fish of the trip so far, the Daiwa D'Fin. 

After a while Martin hooked a fish after getting a few bumps. It was a small fiesty jack and taking no chances I netted it for him. A good start to the day and he was no doubt pleased to get off the mark after blanking the day before.

Jack goes back. 

We worked our way along the towpath chatting to other anglers as we went. It was good to hear that a few fish had been caught including a single zander. Unfortunately Martin and I were struggling again and just before lunchtime made the decision to start our journey back up the road. We headed along the canal and found Kev and thanked him for his hospitality and apologised for not being able to stay all day. Back in the car we headed north and decided to break up the drive by popping into Warwick to fish the Grand Union Canal for an hour or so.

We headed to a spot we've had success at before but unfortunately British Waterways had been along and  had removed all the overhanging trees from the far bank that had provided some excellent cover for predators to hide in. With nothing happening we went for a wander along the canal and soon spotted a few moored boats. Martin cast into a long gap between two and hooked a nice fish. Net duty for me again and after a spirited fight from the fish a nice looking zander was on the unhooking mat. It turned out to be Martin's best Zander to date at 60cm, probably around 5lb.

A nice fish and a new PB for Martin. 

We carried on fishing for a bit longer but it was soon time to hit the road again and I was dissapointed to end the trip with a second blank.

So we had experienced some very tough and at times quite frustrating fishing too. Probably the toughest fishing trip I've ever been on with a lot of effort put in for very little reward. Driving up the road I was just glad to have caught the small zander late on Staurday so that I didn't end the entire trip fishless! Great company as always though and it was great to see Kev and Martin get new PB zander. I think next year I'll try and get down for the bumble, stay for the whole day and the post event meal too.  Don't think I can wait a year for another zander though so Martin and I may try and get another zander fix later in the year. Hopefully next time it won't be so tough to find some!

Tight lines, Scott.

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