I’m so tired I’m struggling to get the words out of my head and onto the computer. I’ve just done five nights out of the last seven on the river in search of Zander. Not just any Zander but a double figure Zander. My quest for this elusive fish started 2 years ago and although I’ve caught stacks of Zeds the wait for a double figure fish continued.
The five nights that i’ve done this week have involved getting to the river early evening and staying until the small hours the next day before getting up for work and repeating the process. The drive up and down the motorway was done on autopilot and gave me ample time to chew over where to try next and what tactics to employ on my next trip.
So, the fishing extravaganza started out with catching my second catfish out of the trent earlier in the week. That was quite an evening but the trips after that were hard. I was scratching around for bites culminating in a couple of eels weighing in at 2.14 and 2.12 and three small Zander. Several bites were missed and fish were lost. After each trip I fiddled around with my rigs trying to perfect the hair rig and trying to find a way to stop he hook getting embedded in the bait. I used shrink tube in varying lengths to try and keep the hair as tangle free as possible. I’ve still not perfected it and there has to be a better way to convert the ratio of bites to hookups. When I was chatting to Mr C he was asking whether I thought the fish were picking up the feeder full of chopped up fish instead of the hookbait. I was a bit hesitant because I was still missing bites when using the straight lead.
The Friday night was the hardest night of the lot. I fished the same spot that i’d fished on a previous visit. I’d had a lot of bites previously and felt sure it could do a big fish. It had all the hall marks of classic Zander water. It shelved off into deeper slack water with what bit of current there was going down nicely mid-river. After the long walk to get to the spot I noticed three anglers on the opposite bank carp fishing. They had two dogs, one of which insisted on barking, breaking the peace and serenity that I crave. The good news though was they packed up fairly sharpish. Then not ten minutes later, another angler turned up to fish that spot. I watched him cast out and noticed he was using fish tails on both rods. Hmmmm, another Zander angler. I must admit that spot does look good for a fish or two and in the couple of hours he was there he had two bites that he missed. The trouble is though he was fishing it all wrong in my opinion. Then just before midnight three other anglers turned up and proceeded to make such a racket slamming their car doors and shining their headlights across the river that I knew my chances of catching had gone. I stuck it out until just after midnight and though I had one bite which resulted in an eel lost at the net I struggled all night.
This just left last night to have another crack at the Zeds. I really wanted to fish the spot that everyone else fished last night on the opposite bank. Particularly as that one guy who fished it for Zander had a couple of bites in such a short space of time. I’m sure they were probably small fish but a friend of mine says you have to wade through the small one’s before you get to the big one’s and it does look really fishy. On the way down I couldn’t think of anything else and I was really hoping it was free so when I got there and noticed it was taken by two carp anglers I was a bit gutted. No matter, I had a backup plan and to be honest it was a bit busy down that end of the river so I went further upstream where I never saw another soul. The spot I chose was one I’d fished before and caught on a regular basis but i’d never had anything over a few pounds. It’s comfortable fishing though and allows you to fish the rods low down rather than up in the air.
The right hand rod was cast a third of the way across the river slightly downstream and the left hand rod was cast slightly upstream half way across. I’d chosen to dispense with the swimfeeders tonight and just fished a couple of small running leads. I’d also chose to use a slightly longer hair on the hook to try and avoid the point getting masked by the bait.
It was about an hour before I had my first bite but when they came, they came thick and fast and I managed 4 fish in no time at all. I didn’t even miss any bites which was strange. They were only small but it was nice to get a few fish on the bank but in the back of my head I just kept thinking i’m not going to get a big one if i’ve got a shoal of schoolie’s in front of me. Then followed another period of inactivity before I had a couple of more fish just after 10pm.
It was a beautiful evening but the mozzies were hell. I’d had my best tally of six Zander in a session and the evening wasn’t over. The plan was to fish until midnight as I was knackered from the late nights and early starts. I checked my phone and it was 11:38. Shit!!! Where had the time gone? I quickly adjusted my thinking and decided to stay until 1am instead, after all nothing was happening the next day. I sat there looking up at the stars in the clear sky and in the corner of my eye caught site of a shooting star. Quick as a flash I made a wish that I could catch a double figure Zander. Now i’m not superstitious or religious or any of that clap trap and normally when I see one I wish that I could see my old man one last time. Obviously that’s not going to happen but every now and then I think it would be nice to tell him what i’ve been upto over the last five years.
With no bites forthcoming I altered my time of departure to 1:30 and it really was last chance saloon. It had gotten to just after 1am and I was starting to think about slowly putting things in the car. It really was now or never. I wasn’t going to really get out any nights next week because I had things planned and I really needed to show my face in the office. Then the tip on the right hand rod twitched round. It certainly got my attention as I sat on the edge of my chair anticipating what was going to happen. Was it a bite or just my tired eyes playing tricks on me? It felt like an eternity but the tip pulled round a couple more times and I struck into a heavy fish. It didn’t do a lot in fairness apart from hang there like a big lump. I had to contend with getting over the nearside ledge and the weeds close in and when I got it into the shallows it decided to wake up. It was such a bright evening that I didn’t need my head torch on and as it started to thrash around in the edge I thought it was a Pike as it was such a long fish. At that point I decided to put the head torch on the red light setting just so I could get a proper glimpse in case the fish came off. It was then that the light reflected in the fish’s eye and I realised it was a bloody big Zander. When I got it in the net I knew it was a double and that i’d achieved my target as it was way bigger than my previous best. It was a long fish and as I lifted it out of the water I hazard a guess that it was over 11lb.
I weighed it and it came in at 10.7 which I was a bit shocked at, not that I was disappointed, far from it. It’s just that it was such a long fish and i’m sure that in winter it would be a lot heavier. The moment of elation when I knew i’d achieved my goal is something I can’t describe. I think it’s probably the most satisfying capture i’ve ever had, more than any of the big Perch i’ve had. It’s difficult to explain. After a couple of trophy shots I got into the water to help the fish recover before letting her go. The bottom half of my legs were soaked and my wellies were filled with water but I didn’t care as fish captures go this was my finest to date. Staying that bit longer had paid off for once. That’s not something that I can ever remember happening.
One thing to note, I was fishing with my rods low to the water with a couple of buzzers and bobbins. I’ve done that little experiment before but as the tips pulled round on the bites the buzzers never bipped once and the bobbins never moved. It makes me wonder how many fish you would miss if you didn’t fish the quivertips. I know everyone has their own way of fishing but if conditions dictate I would fish quivertips every time.
So, with that challenge done I guess I need to set myself a new goal. Do I keep fishing for the Zeds and go for an even bigger one or do I try for something else for the remainder of the season. I guess i’ll need a coffee and a cake while I mull over that one.