As we lugged the pile of camping and fishing gear across the meadow the clouds were looking ominous, the kids began fishing (bait catching), with a whip while I quickly threw the tent up as the first spits of rain were whipped in on a fresh south westerly wind. From then on the weather was wet, windy and generally horrible; i.e. typical British summertime. I worried that the kids, the young ones in particular, would be miserable in the grotty weather but no! When the rain was really heavy they sheltered under the brolly and took turns with the bait catching. When the rain eased to a monsoon they enjoyed their usual routine of running around in the meadow, adding the sports of ‘getting soaked and covered in mud’ to their program. Luckily I packed spare clothes for them. Actually it pleased me to see the kids were not afraid to get damp and dirty and were still able to enjoy themselves despite the weather.
A week of heavy rain in these parts had the river looking spot on, it had risen, carried a touch of colour and extra pace. The kids had no problem filling a net with bait fish; Bream, Roach, Rudd, Bleak and Perch. However the feeder rods we had put out for the bigger Bream were totally unsuccessful. Fishing for Bream like this serves two purposes, obviously its nice to catch some decent Bream and there are good numbers of these in this river. Secondly, I like to get plenty of groundbait and feed into the swim on the theory that this will attract bait fish such as Bream, Roach etc. I believe that this in turn will attract the predators that I am fishing for. As I will be sitting in one place for around twelve hours I want to stack the odds in my favour and do everything I can to draw the fish I’m after to me.
As the light (?!) began to fade I was very confident that the Zander would be feeding as the river looked just right. Our evening meal was a traditional dish consisting of lots of sausages and bacon all expertly fried by Shantel and known as “vegetarian’s nightmare”. After that it was time to get the proper fishing started. I fished two rods, a ledgered livebait with a bait popper attached was cast upstream, in the middle of the river while a running Paternostered livebait was fished downstream. Josh and Dale fished one rod each and stuck to ledger rigs for simplicity.
The Paternoster had only been in place for about ten minutes before it started moving purposefully upstream. I wound into the first Zander of the night, a schoolie but a fish all the same. Ten minutes after the recast, the same rod was away again, the result was another Zander slightly larger than the first. This was a good start but that was the end of the action, for a while at least. In previous seasons, successful Zander sessions had followed a pattern; the smaller fish feed at dusk and dawn while the bigger fish appear in the early hours of the morning. I really hoped that this trip would follow that pattern. The water in this river is usually pretty clear compared to many fenland venues and consequently the Zander are a very vivid gold colour. The bigger fish are really impressive beasts and I hoped one of them would put in an appearance.
The night time was considerably more comfortable than the afternoon had been as the wind had dropped and the rain had dwindled to the odd light shower. We sat around, laughing, we drank tea, tried in vain to get the kids to share their sweets, and Dale and I even had the occasional can of beer, shock horror! For a while the sky even cleared enough for a spot of star gazing. The Zander however were not showing up but as I said earlier this was not unexpected. Between 1:30 & 3:30am was the time, that’s what I assured my companions. As midnight approached, the kids had retired to their tent and I sat dozing in my chair. I thought it would be a good idea to put fresh livebaits on……but then the next thing I knew I woke up and it was 4 o’clock in the morning. I dozed through the ‘hot’ time without so much as a touch. To make things worse, I checked the rods and found both were without baits, bugger!! Had I missed the chance of a big Zander? We’ll never know.
I put fresh baits on and drifted in and out of a dream which included “Girls aloud” and chocolate sauce, before I knew it the sun was up and the kids were stirring. The day dawned bright and clear but the fresh wind remained which made conditions ideal for drying the tent out. As I tidied up the kids caught a few more fish on the whip and tried to get Bream going on the feeder. At 0630 I picked up the upstream ledger rod, turned the handle and was highly surprised to find something fairly large on the end. After a bit of splashing and swirling we had a nice Zander of about six pounds in the net. It was hooked just inside the mouth so whether it had been holding on to my bait some time, or hit it when I began to wind in, who knows?
That was the fishing over with for another weekend; lots of muddy tackle, damp clothing and empty cool bags were loaded back into the car along with four tired kids. Will we be doing it all again next week? I hope so!