Summer summary

I’ve spent the past few weeks exploring a new stretch of the river. A bland stretch with no discerning features, at least not on the surface. Underneath the surface, it was a different matter as it is littered with snags. Rocks mostly. I’d been working my way downstream trying different pegs trying to build up an image of the river.

Historically, it has done some very big Zander but this was many years ago. Now however, it is hardly ever fished, or at least I don’t think it is. I’ve been going down once or twice a week over July and August and I haven’t seen another angler. No complaints here on that front. The good news is, i’ve caught every time that i’ve been but it’s normally been one fish. I think I did manage two on one particular evening. They have been a reasonable size between 6-8 pounds but nothing to shout about. I had a decent Pike weighing 17.4. A long lean fish that will probably be 20+ all day long when in it’s prime. It’s not often I get Pike when Zander fishing.

I didn’t manage to get to the river last week and I was desperate to get down there so after the boy had gone to his mum’s last night I headed down. By the time I got there, we had lost most of the light. I’d got a pretty good idea of the swim I was fishing. The closest to the car basically due to the time. There was a nice gravel area that i’d found previously and put one rod on there and one close in, a couple of rod lengths out.

I’d got it in my head that I was going to get a quick bite. I’m not sure why but, probably due to the fact it was the witching hour. I settled back with the obligatory coffee and waited to see what would unfold. I’d been fishing about an hour and a half when the rod on the gravel bar started nodding as a fish picked up the bait. I struck into a fairly solid resistance and gradually managed to steer the fish towards me. It hung heavy in the deep water and as it got closer it felt like a very good fish, struggling to get it up in the water.

I turned my head torch on and I couldn’t really see the size of it until it was in the net when I had a bit of a “wow” moment. It looked like a double. I wedged the landing net handle in the undergrowth so I could let the fish rest and get the weigh sling sorted. I then felt something hit me in the back and looked over my shoulder to see my other rod half off the rest. I thought i’d knocked it off until I looked at the tip and noticed it bent fully over as another fish did its best to drag it into the river. I lifted that rod up and felt the heavy thump of another fish. Christ, this was going to make it interesting. Two decent fish on and unhooking them was going to be a mare. I got the fish in and let them both rest in the net, knowing full well the birds nest the lines would be getting into in the meantime.

By this time I was sweating like mad and my glasses were steamed up. I could basically see bugger all. The net weighed a ton as I got it out the water. I cut the hooklinks to make it easier and removed the hooks from both fish. I didn’t even bother weighing the small one which looked around 7lb and released it. The other one looked huge next to it and certainly looked in to double figures. I slipped her on the scales and she went 10.4. A result, although not as big as I thought but I was ecstatic to get another double. Immaculate and spiky as can be seen by the dorsal fin, Zander for me, have to be the best looking fish out there.

After cradling her in the water and releasing her I had a minute and tied on some more rigs. That’s the first time i’d had a double hook up with Zander and I’m hoping it will be the last to be honest. It was just before 9:30 and I sat it out until just after 11pm but no more bites were forthcoming. Shame really but I can’t complain. One thing I will be targetting on this stretch are the Barbel at some point. Over the past couple of months there have been some great fish crashing out and with nobody fishing for them it would be good to see what the average size is.

You can’t make this shit up!!

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I had a window of opportunity to have 3 evenings of consecutive fishing this week and after the success of my last Zander trip, I decided to head back down to the river. Not wanting to put any pressure on the last spot that I fished I decided to try some new swims. My initial thought was to head to the tidal but, I had to be in the office on Friday for the first time in over two years and I didn’t want to be getting home at two in the morning to be up again 4 hours later so decided to stay a bit more local.

After a “discussion” with someone over parking, I headed downstream and setup in what turned out to be an incredibly snaggy swim. I landed one small Zed on my first cast but after that I got tired of snagging up so moved back upstream to a spot that I’ve had my eye on for years but never had the balls to give it a go. It was still light as I was setting up and was cautiously optimistic that this could turn out to be a proper little honey hole. How wrong was I? I stuck it out until half past midnight without a fish from that spot. I did get a couple of bites but I suspect they were probably small chub mouthing the bait. It looks too good a spot not to produce a fish or two and i’ll put it on the back burner to try another time.

The next night was a quick turnaround after getting home from work and then straight back down to the river. I headed to an area that I’ve fished before that has never given me lots of fish but I was lucky to get a double from there a few years ago plus my second Trent catfish. It’s also a really good spot for Eels. Getting to the swim was a tumultuous effort. Four gates to unlock, a walk through an overgrown field to arrive in the swim to basically find it unfishable as it was so overgrown. Good in some respects because I was probably the last person to fish there but bad because I had to cut a swim out in the ridiculous heat even at 8pm. Job done though and I settled back waiting for darkness to fall. A couple of small Zander, and I mean small, probably around a pound and a half. As darkness fell I started to get a few more plucks which were more Eel related than anything else. The bites became more savage when it was fully dark and I landed several Eels upto 3.6 before deciding to call it a night just after 1am. Unfortunately, no decent Zander but I suspect they couldn’t get a look in due to the Eels being on the bait as soon as I cast in.

Last night, I wasn’t really feeling it but sometimes they turn out to be the nights that are the best. I knew the area that I wanted to fish and knowing no one ever fishes there, I was hopeful I could settle in and remain undisturbed. No one on the whole stretch until I got to the peg I wanted to fish and there was a bunch of sodding carpers there. What are the odds? Not even proper carpers either by the looks of it. Annoyed beyond all comprehension I continued down river to fish an area that i’ve fished a couple of times before but never caught from. It did look a really good area but the river is wide there and incredibly deep. Too deep for my liking. I set up and cast the rods out close in. I’d got a couple of hours before it was dark and didn’t expect any action until then. The quiver tips against the sunset were beautiful but I was really hoping for one to bang round. I kept exploring the swim and got a couple of tentative bites but again nothing that made me think they were Zander. Then, on dark, the left hand rod rattled away and I was into another Eel. Not a decent one and to be honest I was worried that I was going to get plagued by them again. I needn’t have worried though because all was quiet after that. I kept searching the area with fresh baits and regular casting and decided to put the right hand rod way out towards the middle of the river and the left hand rod about a third of the way across. They had been out there about half an hour and I was just thinking of freshening things up when the right hand rod had a tentative pluck and then just pulled over. Striking, I felt the jag-jag which had me thinking it was another Eel, then it went a bit heavier and lifeless which then made me think “this could be a big Zander”. It came in relatively close with me gaining line on it before it went heavier again and went on a powerful run which made me think “i’ve hooked a double decker bus”. All jokes aside, it was at this point that I realised that i’d hooked another Trent catfish. This thing was beasting me. Every time I get it close it went on another surging run. The quiver tip rod was ‘flat rodded’ all the time and although I wasn’t worried about it breaking me, I was worried in case I got cut off on any rocks under water. If I was to get cut off I hoped I would get to see the fish just to satisfy my curiosity. By now, the fish was close in but because it was so deep I struggled to get it up in the water. Then it just went solid. Shit, it had snagged me or so I thought. I applied more pressure and it started to come up. Clearly, it wanted a breather and it decided to just sit there to get it’s breath. Eventually, I caught a glimpse of it and my intial thought was, “oh my god, how am I going to get that in my net?” First time, it went over the net but wouldn’t fit before it flat rodded me again. Second time, in it went head first and I managed to curl it in like a good little kitty. To say euphoria kicked in was an understatement and I just stood there laughing my head off at the ridiculousness of it all. I couldn’t work out how big it was in the net. Darkness and head torches have a strange way of distorting size. I let it rest while I got the camera setup along with the ridiculously undersized unhooking mat and weigh sling for this occasion.

As I lifted it out of the water, the weight of it took me completely by surprise. It was heavy!! At this point, I wondered if my 40lb Reubens were going to be adequate enough. My thoughts and emotions were a complete blur at this point and I just remember thinking the hook looked so small in it’s mouth. I managed to curl her into the weigh sling and hoisted her up and tried to get an accurate weight. The scales pulled down to 38lb and ounces so I settled on 38lb. Seriously, my third cat from the Trent and I was staring at a 38lb fish. The condition of it was immaculate as you would expect and it was a solid lump of fish. Trying to get some decent photo’s while trying to hold it was a battle in itself. It’s times like this, that I wish I had big flapping hands like a goalkeeper so I could hold it easily. I did manage to get a couple of decent shots though.

To get one cat from the river seems crazy, but to now have three just blows my mind even if they weren’t caught by design. I carried her back to the river and let her rest in the net before she swam straight back down in to the deep water. I took a few seconds to gather myself, standing there with my clothes wrecked from all the slime with rods, cameras and tackle all over the place and decided that this would be a good point at which to pack up. Fishing on seemed trivial, as it always does in these situations. Checking the time is was getting on for 1am and I would have been packing up soon anyway. I took one last last look at the river, said my thank you’s and headed home.

On reflection, it’s been a mad three evenings fishing. Not because of the amount of fish caught but because of circumstances and what it can lead to.

What a start!

I know, it’s been a while. Sessions have been hit and miss. A couple more Roach sessions early in the year resulted in lots of fish over the pound mark but no two’s. Due to the distances involved in driving, I gave up my ticket only to be contacted a couple of weeks later by a fellow Roach angler to be told he’d had several 2’s and a couple of 3’s in an overnight session. My one and only Bream session on a low stock water resulted in a blank. A couple of weeks back I went to my cat water. It turned out to be a really good session. Four fish all mid to upper 20’s. No photo’s as i’ve decided it really is too messy and faff to photograph fish that size in the middle of the night. If they had been 30’s then it would have been a different story.

Now, we’re up to date, I took my first trip out on the rivers after Zander. I love the Summer evenings but they are loooooong. Even getting there at 7pm you’re sat around for hours waiting for darkness to fall. I arrived at the swim and was shocked at how overgrown it was. I know it’s a long walk, which is good because no one can be arsed to go up there, but it took me a good 20 minutes to clear a swim out so I could get my rods and chair in.

I put the first rod in and tightened up to put it in the rest but noticed it had taken on a healthy curve and feeling the rod being pulled downwards in my hand I realised that the bait had been taken on the drop. Lifting up, the fish went mental and for a while thought it might be a Pike until up popped a cracking Zed as black as coal. I know I bang on about it but, Zander really do scrap hard when using balanced tackle. I let the fish rest in the net for about ten minutes while I got myself sorted. Popping it on the scales it went 7.1 and what a cracking start to the session. If I didn’t catch another it wouldn’t have mattered.

Eventually, I managed to get two rods in the water and sat back to get my breath. It took a while but eventually, I got a second bite. This one was a lot more finicky than the rod-wrenching Zander bites and I pretty much knew who the culprit was and lo and behold, a small Pike about three pounds came splashing to the net.

I spent the rest of the evening casting around the swim in the hope of picking up a fish. If there are Zander in the area they are pretty much on the bait as soon as it hits the water but despite this, it remained quiet with the exception of the odd little knock which I took to be from small perch playing with the bait.

Night time eventually came and it wasn’t long into dark before I had the next bite. Totally out of the blue, the left hand rod just yanked over without warning and I was tussling with what felt like a really good fish. No zooming around, the fish just hung deep and gave the odd violent head shake. I knew it was a good un from the off and I was really hoping it wasn’t a Pike. As the fish got closer, I still hadn’t caught sight of it and it wasn’t until it was right under the rod tip did I manage to get some leverage on it to get it up in the water. What appeared was a really big Zander but at this point, I couldn’t tell how big but I just knew, that I had to get it in the net. After a couple of head shakes, she was in but I still had no idea on the size until I shone the head torch in the net. My god, I was staring down at a double and I knew it was going to be a new PB.

After resting the fish for ten minutes, while I set the camera up, I lifted the net from the water to feel the shear weight. At this point I guessed about 12lb and she came in at 11.1 and that’s in Summer. In Winter she would be even heavier. Words can’t do it justice. There is nothing more impressive than a big Zander in my opinion and this one was as close to perfection as can be. After a couple of photos I stood staring at her in the net for five minutes before releasing her wondering whether she had ever been caught or would be caught again. Probably not, as they seem so nomadic.

Debating whether to pack up and go home or continue fishing, I decided to stick another bait on, cast out to the same spot and decided to give it a bit longer. I didn’t expect another bite anytime soon so was surprised to see the rod tip jag round a couple of times. Typical Eel bite, so left it to develop before it pulled round again and I struck in to that familiar fight that an Eel gives. Fortunately, this one was lip hooked so it was easy to unhook and put back. Knowing what Eel’s have to go through to survive I really do like to make sure that they are handled with care despite getting frustrated when they corkscrew when trying to unhook them.

After that Eel I decided not to recast but head home instead. It was still comparatively early at half eleven and although I had plenty of bait left I really couldn’t see any point in continuing. My mojo is well and truly back and I can’t wait to get on the river again.

Zander on the rise

With the mild weather, rain and rivers on the rise, I decided to head out in search of Zander. I love a rising river for pretty much any species but particularly for Zander as the bait fish are getting pushed around by the extra water it seems to really put the Zeds in a much more aggressive feeding mood.

I got down there just after 5:30pm and there was just enough light to get a bait on and the plan was to give it a few hours until about midnight or maybe early morning. The river was up a couple of feet, which is fine for Zander fishing. They will feed very happily in coloured water and i’ve always done well in these conditions as the fish are very active in search of prey.

I chose an area of steady flow and put two rods out in to the current. I fired out a few small chunks of deadbait just as an added attraction and settled back waiting for the first bite. The first one didn’t actually come for getting on for two hours and when it did arrive it was a fish of around six pounds that looked like it had been through a mincer. The scales all down one side had been scraped off and there were a couple of deep gashes down one side. Almost as if it had been hit by a boat propellor, which it could well have done I suppose. A short time later the other rod was away with a slightly smaller fish and then all hell broke loose. I literally couldn’t put a bait in the water without it being away. In the space of around half an hour I had five fish upto 8.2.

Of the six bites in that period I landed five of them and by this time both rods were out of the water. After resting the fish and releasing it I got both rods back out but the fish had wised up or gone as I didn’t get another bite for a bit. I should have got the rods out quicker and tried to pick another couple off but i’d got stuff all over the place.

My bait, by now, was getting low as I like to change my baits regularly and i’d fired some more chunks in. Around 9:30pm I got another bite on the right hand rod. It was a mint conditioned fish around four and a half pounds I guess and i’d run out of bait. It had been a great four hours fishing resulting in six fish.

Job Done!

With the Autumn kicking in proper now, I headed back down to the Roach water that I joined this year. Well, I should say Carp water that has some big Roach in it. My search for a two pounder has been a hard slog over the last couple of years. I’d been targeting the local gravel pits more on here-say than on any hard evidence of big Roach but ultimately, if you want to achieve a target then you have to go to a proven water not matter how much of a bitch it is to get to.

Arriving on Thursday I was amazed to see no cars in the car park. Walking up on to the dam wall I was nearly blown off my feet due to the strong winds. This place is quite high and really catches the wind and I wanted to fish off the dam wall straight into the wind and with rain due, it was going to be an uncomfortable session.

Quickly I got the bivvy up so I could take shelter, and got three rods out. There were plenty of fish topping and it was about an hour before I got my first bite. It was an immaculate Roach getting on for a pound and another soon followed. Quickly though, I started to get Skimmers and despite only fishing with a small pva bag on the hook they outmuscled the Roach to everything. They really were a pain in the arse. I ended up casting longer to get away from them which worked but the Roach weren’t there either. As darkness arrived I brought the rods closer in and hoped the Skimmers had buggered off. It got to about 10pm and I had a drop back on one of the rods which turned out to be a Bream about 7lb. I quickly had a couple more and was getting frustrated that I couldn’t get through to the Roach. The mild windy weather was perfect conditions for Bream, in fact they were perfect for all species.

At one minute past midnight I hooked into a fish that shook it’s head like a decent Roach but came in a bit like a Skimmer. In the head torch I couldn’t make out clearly what it was. In fact it wasn’t until it was in the net that I let out “It’s a bloody big Roach”. I kept looking at to confirm that it was a Roach. It was a gnarly old thing unlike the pristine 3.2 that I photographed for someone last time I was there but, I wasn’t complaining. It looked big, well over 2 but when I lifted it up it felt light. On the scales it went 2.8, not a fraction under, not a fraction over but, bang on and was a new PB. To say I was over the moon would be an understatement.

A couple more bites in the night were met with the familiar heavy nodding of Bream and I had to wait until about lunchtime before I had another Roach. Again, a pristine fish but not the size I was after. The fishing was really hard. The good news though was any bites I did have generally resulted with a fish in the net.

Thankfully, the rain and wind had abated by mid-afternoon to be replaced by bright sunshine. The clear skies meant that the night was cold. The night sky was amazing though and I was treated to a few shooting stars. Just after 11pm I got a bite that wasn’t Bream related and I slipped the net under another quality Roach. It looked close to the magical two pound mark but it fell just short at 1.14. I took two more fish in the next hour and weirdly they both weighed 1.14 each aswell.

I finally managed to get some sleep in between the Bream before I woke up again to a screaming bite. The rod tip was bouncing round as I got to it. I lifted up into thin air. It never ceases to amaze me how that happens. I put a fresh bait on and pva bag and headed back to bed.

I woke up at daybreak and poked my head out of the bivvy to what can only described as an armada of Carp anglers on the banks. I went to bed and there was one other angler on there and I woke up and there were 11 people on there, 12 if you include me. I looked to my right and there was someone setting up fifteen yards aways. The last thing I need was 11 anglers spombing the shit out of the place while i’m trying to stay quiet and pick fish off.

I really wanted to stay but I didn’t want to stay in those circumstances. I think if I had spent a third night on there I might have been in with a shout of another decent fish but between the number of anglers and getting pestered by Skimmers/Bream I decided to have a slow packup and head home. I put the kettle on to make a coffee while packing my stuff away at which point somewhere came up to me and asked if I was leaving. When I said “yes” he then brought all his stuff round and proceeded to setup in my swim while I was packing away so what was meant to be a slow packup over a coffee, ended up being a fast packup over a cold coffee.

All in all though, it was good to finally get the Roach monkey off my back. I’ll probably wait until the New Year now before I go back. The water should be quieter then and the Bream should have backed off the feed a bit. Here’s hoping anyway.