Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Old haunts

I’ve spent my last three or four winters doing pretty much the same thing at the same places so this season I’ve decided to mix things up a bit. I’ll be fishing places that I haven’t looked at in decades and at some point I might even fish for things that don’t have teeth, we’ll see. The same old story, too many fish and not enough time.

So at the weekend I visited a couple of places I haven’t fished for many years. I had a lazy start and didn’t reach the first venue till late in the morning. Sadly this piece of water is sad to see nowadays, a once vibrant, pulsing fishery has changed drastically over the decades I’ve known it. A wise, experienced local angler pointed out the water is reverting to the form nature and geography intended for it. (He didn’t say it like that but I don’t want to give the game away). I had intended to travel light but inevitably took too much gear. First glance told me I should have left the deadbait kit in the car, the water was low and gin clear. I stuck a deadbait in a likely spot then cast a wagtail around on the lure rod. After a few casts a jack grabbed hold and the rod took on a curve. Sometimes when I’m lure fishing I just know a fish is going to drop off. This was one of those occasions and sadly I was right. I persevered and persuaded the fish to follow again but it wouldn’t take despite going through a few of my carefully selected lures. Nothing else occurred here so I slowly made my way along the bank, dropping a deadbait here and casting a lure there. Nothing happened. I didn’t even see a silver fish top let alone anything substantial. Needless to say I was the only one fishing. Nature may well be the cause of many of the changes to this fishery but I have absolutely no doubt that predation from both Cormorants and Otters are equally to blame. What can be done? Sadly nothing.

Before heading back to the car I dropped back into the first spot to see if that Pike was still about. Casting a ½ oz Spinnerbait it was no surprise to see the jack come speeding into the margins but I’d run out of room. Remembering something I’d read, (probably on the ‘Pike pit’ or its predecessor) I let the lure sink to the bottom and sure enough the Pike crept slowly towards it. After staring at the stationary spinnerbait for a while it flared its gills and sucked it up, disturbing the sediment and clouding the water so I couldn’t see what was going on. I decided I better strike just in case, the lure shot out into thin air. I waited for the silt to clear. The Pike was still there so I flicked the lure out passed it and retrieved. The fish pivoted and watched the lure pass by, I let it flutter to the bottom and once again the fish slowly closed on it. It was only inches away but this time didn’t look like it was going to pick it up, stalemate. I twitched the lure slightly and the Jack tensed, flared and closed in… but still didn’t take. I twitched again, the fish struck and so did I. The Pike was on for a second or two but again threw the lure after a couple of seconds. This fish didn’t want to play anymore, I hadn’t managed to catch it but that didn’t matter at all. I’ve caught some cracking fish from this place in the past, not just decent Pike but Tench, big Roach and even a surprise Chub when I was a kid. If I return to this water at some point for Pike, and I have a feeling I will, I must remember to leave the deadbaits at home.

I do very little lure fishing these days and had let myself forget that there are times and places where a lure will out fish baits. A decade ago when I was doing loads of lure fishing, I couldn’t see the wood through the trees and really over complicated things. I thought that mastering the next new lure would solve the puzzle and I’d catch loads of fish. I read loads about lure fishing, some very good advice and some just salesmen selling. Eventually, after picking the brains of good lure anglers, my friend Giles to name one of a few, I managed to simplify things. Break the water down into depth zones, top third, middle and bottom. Learn to use a few lures that work at each depth at different speeds, some lures work nice and slow, others need a faster retrieve. There are only four types of colour for lures. Natural, bright, black and white (arguably). Does colour matter? Probably. Wiser people than me recommend natural colours for clear water and brighter lures if it’s more coloured. In my box today; two springdawgs (different colours), a wagtail, a professor spoon, two spinnerbaits (different sizes), a shad, a curly tail jig and a replicant. This time, these places I figured I had all bases covered. If I had to pick just one lure, at any time of year, at any water it would undoubtedly be a 1oz spinnerbait.

Moving on, it was now well into the afternoon and time for another fishery. I found myself in a spot I hadn’t fished since the late eighties, this too had changed but counting down a springdawg is a great way to refresh memories on the topography of the place. First cast I found weed so cranked the lure back briskly. Weed didn’t deter a nice Pike from cruising up to investigate the lure, it turned away and disappeared, a fish I probably wouldn’t have known about without the sunglasses. I wasn’t checking the depths now I was trying to catch a Pike and after a couple of casts the fish appeared again but didn’t look like taking. My selections from the lure box didn’t tempt it or any others so time for a change of plan. I found two nice places to drop deadbaits and settled back with a brew. Let things settle down for a while then try again with the lure rod.

With the tea warm inside me I picked up the lure rod again and had a few more casts. I was just about to sit down again when I noticed a float on the move. This has happened very many times over the years, casting a lure may not catch me a fish but it often leads to a deadbait being taken. Unfortunately I picked up the rod and wound into absolutely nothing, bait gone. Half an hour later I was watching that same float when It plunged under water at speed, as I stood up I could see the float clearly a couple of feet down. It then slowly rose to the surface and once again the fish had dropped my bait. It was going to be one of those days.

A little move along the bank brought more of the same on the lure rod, a small fish following but not taking. This time the deadbaits weren’t touched. After a while here and with the sun beginning to sink I decided to try the original swim again. I kept my eye on the float and this time when it began to move I was on it quickly and set the hooks. The fight was one sided and she was netted very quickly which is just as well, by the time I put it on the mat the hooks were already in the mesh. With one rod left fishing and the light fading quickly it was time to pack up, one fish banked but loads learnt. Two hours later I was in the pub with my whole family, a pint of Adnams and a plate of food. Happy birthday Dad!

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