Friday, 30 September 2016

Minus Strike

You know when you go for a job interview, and they ask you that really awkward question, usually towards the end of proceedings:
"What are your weaknesses?"
What the hell are you meant to say to that?! Do you say that you have no weaknesses at all, and thus, show yourself to be a right know-it-all? Maybe you are supposed to show your modest side, and admit that you're pretty shit a time-keeping, you can't function without a fag break every twenty minutes, or maybe that you don't actually know what a "CAD package" is, despite the face that your CV states that you are conversant with all of them? It's a fine line between making yourself look like an over-confident twat, or conversely, like a fucking idiot!

In terms of angling, I'm fully aware of my weaknesses, and I've no qualms about letting everyone know what they are. One such weakness was glaringly obvious today: when it comes to striking at lift bites, I am shite. To a lesser extent, it's the same story with drop-back bites on the tip, too. I'll be sat there watching the waggler or pole float, and the damn thing will rise half an inch, and I'll be sat there doing sod all. I know full well that in all probability, a fish has taken the bait, moved up in the water, borne the weight of the last dropper shot, and thus relieved the float of some of its buoyancy duties. My eyes can clearly see what's happening, but it seems to me that one of two things are happening within my brain:
Either it cannot process the information.....

EYES: "Eyes to brain....the float has moved in an un-natural manner.....something has  clearly caused the line, and thus the float, to move in this way.....I repeat, the float  has moved".

BRAIN: "Message received.....just processing information now.....erm.....hang on.....I know  this one.....don't tell me.....erm.....something about moving.....the.....?"

EYES: "Aaagghhh, forget it, it moved back again three seconds ago.....knobhead."

Or maybe the brain can comprehend it, but it's the next process that's at fault?.....

EYES: "Eyes to brain.....the float has moved".

BRAIN: "I'm on it, we need to strike. Arms, you need to take you read me?.....arms?.....ARMS?!.....OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!!"

ARMS: "Hello.....did someone call?"

I was in need of a splodging fix. Not an hour grabbed on the canal after work, a proper sit down session. I'd already booked the day off work to look after my youngest, since her school had chosen today as a teacher training day. She'd since had a better offer, though: bike riding, dog walking, baking and playground shenanigans with a friend, no less. I can't compete with that - we don't have a dog for starters. I could help pack her off to said friend's, chuck some tackle in the car, call in for some bait, and be down at the local pond for 10am-ish - good arrows! The weather forecast was a bit shitty: a drop in temperature compared to the last few days, and a very strong north westerly. Still, beggars can't be choosers, and besides, I know a corner of the dam which is always sheltered, whatever the weather.

As it turned out when I arrived, someone was already sat in the desired spot - bugger! The only other sheltered area was bang opposite on the north bank, so that's where I headed. I couldn't be arsed dragging the seatbox down there (it wouldn't have fitted in the car anyway - bloody saloons), so it was the 30Plus chair that happened to get all manner of brackets, rod rests and rollers attached to it.

The short pole was soon set up, and a generous helping of pellets fed at 8.5m. I was fishing for bits initially - I'm a great believer that a crowd attracts a crowd (as Stewart Bloor often says in his excellent blog) - the idea being that if you can get the small fish feeding, curious larger fish are bound to come and see what the fuss is about at some point. Using a very light setup with single reds on the hook, small roach and perch were forthcoming right from the off.

A step up in hook size and a change to meat brought a skimmer before things went quiet. I remember the local guru (there's always one!) once telling me that fish often backed off here, and that adding a pole section should soon put me in touch with them again. Sure enough, meat continued to do the business at the increased range of 10m, with a steady stream of net roach and skimmers all afternoon until I packed in at 4pm.

A bit of an odd day really, weather wise: the wind was causing all manner of problems early on (and I'm not talking about yesterday's onion bhajis!) although this died down mid-afternoon. It rained briefly, too - they didn't forecast that! And crikey, they don't call this side of the dam the Orbison Bank for nothing - good job I had the polaroids with me. Flippin' sunburn at the end of September!

All in all, a top day down at the local fishery. I'm guessing I probably had close to 10lb of fish in the five hours I was actually fishing - roach to 12oz, skimmers to 1.5lb, a few perch and a gudgeon for good measure. Now, if only I had mastered the (embarrassingly basic) skill of striking at the lift bites, I'm sure that figure would have been closer to 15lb. No matter, it was the first time I had pole fished in a while, and it certainly knocked the cobwebs off.

Predator season soon. I'm sure there must be some monster perch in here, what with all the roach and gudgeon. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?!

Friday, 26 August 2016

Surface Pro

1. Travel light.
2. Locate the fish.
3. Approach them on your eyelashes.
4. Keep things simple.

As the currant bun was out today, basking bream were once again on the agenda. More than likely they'd be well up in the water and making themselves easy to locate, right? Sure enough, they proved to be as predictable as they were slimy. And very obliging they were, too. Slow sinking free-lined bread did the business again - it doesn't get much simpler than that. Five fish in an hour and a half, the largest of which (at 3lb 1oz) putting an alarming bend in my fibreglass travel landing net pole! Who says bream don't feed on the surface?!

Note to self: Barbless hooks are a must when using with this Maver landing net. It is a hook magnet, and I literally had to cut the line (and the mesh!) and re-tie the hook on after every fish. This doesn't happen with my Dinsmore match net!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Change Of Approach Required…..

Well, any approach would be a start! The fact is, I haven’t wet a line in anger since my last blog. A combination of the school holidays, disturbed work patterns, the swapping of cars, general half-arsed lethargy and a garage full of shite have all contributed to my lack of bank time. Whilst all these factors have had some bearing on my inactivity, it is probably the latter which has hindered proceedings the most – the fact that no matter how lightly I aim to travel, I cannot seem to put my hand on the items required.

Maybe I’ll find the required rod, and maybe even the correct reel, but perhaps it will be spooled with too fine a line and the spare spools happen to be buried under the lawn mower and an old bed?!
Perhaps I’ll find all the major items only to be thwarted by the absence of any floats, leads or feeders?
Maybe I could find the missing items if I was to partially empty the garage onto the driveway? Oh wait…..I can’t…..we have an extra car on the drive which wouldn’t normally be there, and it’s dark outside anyway, as I spent the last hours of daylight ferrying the kids around from one place to the next, and fixing / cleaning the afore-mentioned extra car in preparation for its imminent sale!

After a full day at work, plus this extra bollocks, I really cannot generally be arsed. Recently however, the realisation dawned on me: if I am to carry on in this manner, the whole summer will soon have passed, and then autumn and winter would be upon us, bringing with them a whole new list of jobs, obstacles and excuses not to partake in the act of splodging. I would have to make an effort, sooner rather than later, to locate some appropriate tackle and get on the bank. Fridays offer me the opportunity to finish work early, and although I would have to pick the kids up at some point, I was sure that I could sneak an hour or so on the canal situated close to my place of work. Luckily, I had in mind a “shit or bust” method which would require minimum tackle, could be executed in said time frame, and should offer instant results, although it would require favourable conditions (a warm, calm, sunny day). The method in question: surface fishing for bream.

But bream don’t feed from the surface”, I hear you scream.

And they don’t like bright conditions either, you fool”, I hear you mutter.
And they shy away from calm waters, they much prefer a ripple on the water, you bell-end”.
And you would be right (not to mention a cheeky twat); it does seem fanciful that this method would work. However, I have done my research:
I walk the canal fairly often, and on warm sunny days the bream in question can be seen congregated in relatively large shoals of thirty or so fish – most in the 2lb to 3lb bracket. Indeed, I had walked the bank on a couple of occasions earlier in the week, and the shoals of bream had been present both times.

Not my photo by the way - pinched from the internet
These dark slab-sided bream are often accompanied by a few lighter coloured sleeker specimens - fish which I initially assumed to be large roach or rudd until it became apparent that they were too bronzey(!), and had no evidence of red about their fins. It would make sense for them to be hybrids, since these are commonly found in canals such as this where bream and roach spawn at the same time and in the same areas.

I know the whereabouts of four such separate shoals, and they are always in the same place should the conditions be conducive. And while locating is one thing but catching quite another, I am encouraged by my recent findings with regard to whether they can be tempted to feed or not. Experiments with bread have shown that while they will not take a floating crust or flake from the surface (I don’t think they can actually see it for a start, as I don’t believe that bream can see directly above them), they will take a slowly sinking piece as it passes through their field of vision. This is hook-free bread, you understand. Never before have I actually tried to catch these basking bream, but the idea was to try and make a free-lined piece of bread flake (or bread disc, as championed by the excellent Jeff Hatt) sink enticingly before them to see if I could tempt one into taking it. A substantial hook should add enough weight to make the bread sink slowly, but if not, I could always squeeze the bread to varying degrees to adjust the density. A shot could be added if this still didn’t achieve the required effect.

So, armed with a short(ish) soft action rod, and a small reel spooled with 2.9lb line, landing net, a small bag of end tackle and polarised glasses, I set off in search of slabs. Conditions were perfect, and the first shoal was easily located. A few pieces of bread were deposited amongst the shoal, just to see what reaction they would evoke. Worryingly, even the slow sinking offerings were ignored. No matter, I tackled up anyway, but the first cast was a bad one, and on the retrieve I didn't notice that the bread disc had fallen off (a consequence of not buying the Hatt standard Warburton's blue). The result was that I wound in too much line, and the hook became caught in the top ring of the rod.

When I'd figured out what had happened, I inspected the "knot" on the shank of the spade end hook for damage. It was mangled, and the hook pretty much fell off in my hand. Not a great start!

The rig(!)
After re-tying the hook, and temporarily vacating the towpath to let a couple of cyclists through, I noticed a couple of men approaching, and given their general demeanor and their gesturing towards the water, I thought they must be of the splodging persuasion. Sure enough, as they got closer, a Preston Innovations fleece gave one of them away. They too were carrying bread but no tackle, in the same manner as I had earlier in the week. They were clearly locating fish, and I hoped they would be on their way without too much fuss (I'm a solitary angler by rights, and I was pressed for time as it was). They seemed to take an age to reach me, and when they did it was clear that at least one of them was intent on a full blown conversation.

Preston man proceeded to tell me how he had fished this stretch for donkey's years. Caught this, that and the other, won this match, that match and the other. Then, he said something which rocked me slightly:
"Common carp these, mate", he said, pointing to the large shoal of what were clearly bream.
Given his supposed experience, and the fact that he was wearing an item of match fishing gear, and given the fact that the fish in front of us were so obviously not carp, his statement really did leave me speechless for a moment or two.
"Erm, I'm pretty sure they're bream", I said after a while.
 "Nah, nah," he says confidently, "they're definitely not bream. They're too thick across their backs. Bream are really thin, like dinner plates. The tail's the wrong shape, and bream never swim about on the top. They come up and roll, then they go straight back down on the bottom", he says. "Yep, they're definitely common carp. I caught one on here this week", he said, "caught it on the bottom though".
In no mood for an argument, and wanting him to piss off ASAP, I held my tongue. His mate had wondered off by this point, clearly quite embarrassed by the whole conversation, and I'm glad to say that he had the good grace to leave an expectant angler in peace. Not so Preston man, who then proceeded to start throwing bread at the very fish I was about to attempt (since I hadn't even got started by this point!) to catch!

When he eventually buggered off, I was pleased to see that the shoal of bream was still present, so after being bank side for half an hour, I was ready to make my first cast (the previous feeble effort didn't count!). Imagine my horror then, when I looked up and saw a huge barge heading my way.

Boat traffic is very rare here, but this is typical of my luck at the moment. Well, it made a real mess of the swim, churning up the silt and turning the water a milky coffee colour. Bollocks!

It took around ten minutes for signs of life to appear in the swim again, in the form of tiny roach milling about on the surface. The bream were nowhere to be seen though, and I had to move further up the stretch before I caught sight of them. They were visibly deeper than before though, a good foot and a half below the surface. So, shit or bust, a cast was made. After landing above the shoal, the bread disc slowly began to sink - six inches deep, twelve, eighteen. Then it seemed to hang there, but was largely ignored, at least by the bream. Then the tiny roach began to attack it - none big enough to suck in the whole thing complete with size 10, mind. But then a larger shape approached and the bread disappeared. I struck and felt that satisfying resistance through the soft action rod. Fish on, and a bream at that. The landing net and the rest of the gear was some distance along the bank though - d'oh!

After a quick scrap, a fish of around 2lbs was in the net. Probably one of the smaller specimens in the shoal, but a result none the less. Upon closer inspection, it transpired that this bream was actually a bream / roach hybrid. My camera wasn't set up, and for the sake of the fish I took a couple of snaps with the phone and released it.

As you would expect, the commotion spooked the rest of the shoal, and despite giving the swim a fifteen minute rest, they didn't return. No matter, I had (sort of) succeeded in my very specific quest and it was probably time to pack up anyway. As I did, two familiar figures approached, on their way back with an empty bread bag.

"I bet that barge cocked things up for you, didn't it?", said Preston man.
"Yep, but the fish did come back, and I did catch one", I replied.
"Oh", he says, and in seeing the photo on my phone, he says, "Yep, definitely a bream", as if he's been right all along!
"Actually, I think this one's a hybrid - I can see a bit of roach in there", I said.
"Oh yes", says Preston man, "I can definitely see that now. It's the red fins that give it away".

Hybrid complete with red fins?! - should have gone to Specsavers
(that's a water snail by the way, it's not had a rectal prolapse!)

Monday, 4 July 2016


It’s been well over two weeks since the start of the new river season, but until very recently, I haven’t felt the need to wet a line in any of the local rivers. Sure, there was the excitement of the glorious 16th, and several trips to the water’s edge (armed only with polarised gigs and a childish grin) just to see how things looked, and to check out the likely fish-holding spots. The grin was short-lived, as none of the stretches looked particularly inviting. I just wasn’t “feeling it”, especially when I recalled numerous tales of first-day woes from seasons gone by. I know people who religiously book the day off work, sometimes even the whole week, and many of them camp out on the night of the 15th so they can literally make the first cast at the stroke of midnight. Good on them I say. I get it, but it's never been my thing. You hear the odd report of successful first day sessions, but generally I associate the glorious 16th with not-so-glorious results.

Don’t get me wrong: I have been splodging a few times in the last couple of weeks, it’s just that I chose to fish the canal whilst everyone else was out thrashing the rivers.

I’ve always been an awkward chuff!

I promised myself that I would stay away from flowing water until it felt right. I was proved right too, as subsequent reports have shown that only the hordes of nuisance brownies have been feeding with any intent. Brownies serve a specific purpose for me: they’re great in desperate times when I just need a bend in the rod, but generally, unless they’re over 2lb (which they almost always aren’t!) they’re a bleedin’ pain in the arse.

We have a love / hate relationship, brown trout and I. When I rediscovered fishing they were a source of excitement, almost an exotic species to me, as I'd never fished for them during my first stint. They eat pretty much all the traditional baits: maggots, casters, worms, bread, corn, pellets (if pellets can be classed as traditional?!), and they are so aggressive you really can't miss the bites. They fight like hell, often spending more time out of the water than in. So what's the problem? Well, they're too easy to catch for one - daft as that may sound, and I like a bit of a challenge. More importantly though, I resent them, for they seem to have displaced pretty much all the once plentiful coarse fish in the upper reaches of the Don. In reality, they're probably not responsible for this at all, as all species used to co-exist as I recall. It's more likely that the majority of fish got washed downstream in last decade's floods, with only the trout able to make it back to the upper reaches (if there's one thing trout are good at it's travelling upstream!).

Anyways, the back end of last week felt different. “Right”, you might say. On Thursday evening I gathered some stuff together for a short roving session on the off chance that I would “feel it” after work on Friday (you could call it a pre-feeling feeling!). I also formulated a plan to negate the nuisance trout, and I even had a specific stretch of the Don lodged in my mind too. The window of opportunity would be small, though. One hour was going to be all the time I had to locate, fool, net, weigh and possibly kiss (in the style of Rex Hunt – and that’s not rhyming slang!) a sizeable chub or barbel. 

Things looked good right from the off. The weather, warm, overcast and fairly dry, was doing its bit. According to the EA river levels website, the Don was carrying a bit of extra water, but was dropping nicely. I had heard of a few chub being caught the day before, too (thanks, John).

My plan was as follows:
  • Since many recently reported blanks had been “achieved” by presenting a legered bait, I would present a moving one.
  • Since I have never knowingly come across a brown trout with a taste for slugs, I would present the mother of all slugs, figuring that even if a particularly greedy brownie was to take a shine to it, it almost certainly wouldn’t be able to fit it in its mush anyway.
  • Since this mother of all slugs was likely to sink even the largest of proprietary stick floats / chubbers / avons on the market, I would free-line it Mr Crabtree style.

There. I couldn’t possibly fail. So with made-up Avon rod in hand, and waders…erm…on legs(!), I made my way down the footpath beside the Don – straight past the occasionally fished accessible pegs, and into the jungle! Over the hand railing, down the almost sheer overgrown banking (getting nettled all the way), and into the river itself – on foot, I hasten to add, not arse over tit. I waded across to a small island mid-river, and there I parked myself, smug in the knowledge that this particular swim must surely have been fished only a handful of times in recent years, if at all. The swim was just as I imagined it would be: the main flow running over a shallow gravel bar and into deeper water right in front of me. There was (relatively) slack water either side of the customary crease, and at the inaccessible far bank some bushes protruding right over the water’s edge. Perfect chub territory, so it would seem.

The river was carrying a little extra water, and had a nice colour to it – almost perfect, to my mind, for slug fishing. The biggest, blackest slug in my bait box called for at least a size 4 hook, so one was carefully tied to a hooklength of slightly lower breaking strain that the main line (4.6lb vs 5.6lb) so that I could pull for a controlled break should the rig become snagged. First run through showed that some weight needed to be added, as the slug barely sunk a few inches below the surface. A single AAA shot just above the hooklink improved matters, but trundling the rig through the near side slack, and right under a very inviting bush (ooh, matron!) produced nothing. A few more runs through proved that no-one was home on the near side. Lobbing the slug with a load plop into the far side slack also proved disappointingly fruitless too, although the rig was very difficult to control unless I held the rod sky high to keep the line from the crease, and then it was difficult to keep the line out of the bushes.

Then I considered that maybe the slug should be presented right in the crease. After all, the main flow carries the food and debris, and the fish lie in wait in the slacks and eddies, ready to intercept anything that looks edible, right? The slug was slung mid flow with a loud plop, and due to the increased flow, needed a further SSG shot to help it sink. Thereafter, it trundled down the swim nicely. Bail arm off, I was slowing down the flow of line trying to make the slug trip along the river bed. Half way down the run, the pull of line from the spool quickened, and I figured that big old fatty slug had hit a strong current and was being swept along by it. Sensing that the slug must now be some distance downstream, and not wanting to get caught in the streamer weed below, I retrieved the rig and was surprised to see a bare hook. Could the quickening of line being pulled from the spool have been a take?

Maybe a fish had snaffled the slimy black offering and darted downstream with it? The next few runs down the exact same path, at a rather pedestrian pace, proved that it probably was a take! For the next half an hour I tried to encourage another bite, but aside from a few lost hooks owing to snags, it was uneventful. It was now time for me to leave too. Bollocks! 

So in summary: I wasn’t feeling it, then I felt that I might feel it, then actually felt it, and now I felt a right pillock! What if I’d struck at the pull? Surely a nice fat chub would have been the culprit, such was the size of the slug - one that could surely only fit into the cavernous mush of a decent chevin. Or barbel even, that rarest of things on the Sheffield Don? Of course, I didn’t recognise it as a pull at the time, so maybe I can take some small comfort from that. Maybe the pull wasn’t a pull at all, and I’m just convincing myself that something happened in order to make myself feel, bizarrely, a bit better about it?! 

Anyway, one thing I’ve learned over the years is: time on the bank is never time wasted – blank or no blank. I’ll be better prepared next time. And there will be a next time. When I get that feeling.

Friday, 10 June 2016

From Paella & Bolly to Pie & Brolly!

Well, after a week away in the Canary Islands (think bikini clad dolly birds strolling along the palm tree-lined marina) it’s back to the Sheffield & Tinsley cut (think donkey jacket clad fitter scratching his hairy arse on his fag break, tip-toeing around the dog shit as he flicks his fag butt into an altogether different marina).

I did toy with the idea of taking some lure fishing gear over there with me this year, but I really didn’t have the enthusiasm for it. On the odd occasion when I have taken gear abroad I’ve found it a bit of a chore to find suitable fishing spots (especially since you are not allowed to fish the Spanish harbours / marinas these days). In Menorca a few years ago, I woke up at the crack of a sparrow’s fart and went fishing from the rocks on several occasions, but more often than not I found myself 30ft above the water and I ended up losing the equivalent of my own body weight in leads. I was also mindful of Lee Swords’ experiences with broken rods, etc. when he travelled to the Canaries previously (see here), so I didn’t bother. I did still take an interest in the resident fish though, and loved feeding the shoals of mullet in the crystal clear harbour, watching hundreds of them destroying the large chunks of bread we were throwing in.

If it were possible to fish these spots, and if you were somewhat unsporting in your approach, I’m sure you could bag up using something akin to a floating method feeder. I’m not talking about the barbaric multi-hooked contraptions (possibly of eastern European origin) that are occasionally found on the banks in the UK, I’m thinking of an altogether more delicate approach. Anyways, it’s all academic, since it’s 2000 miles away and you’re not allowed to fish there!

So, back to the cut, and in walking the bank during my lunch break, I was surprised to see no fewer than five anglers wetting a line within a 100m stretch.
Over recent weeks I have noticed an increase in the number of splodgers here, initially one or two – three at most, and relatively well spread out at that. Five individuals could suggest that the fishing is shit hot at the moment, or that there’s been a feature shot here by one of the angling publications recently, or it may just be by chance. Whatever, I’m not used to sharing the banks with anyone, so I hoped that by the time I returned after work, they would all have buggered off. They hadn’t.
I headed away from the crowds(!) and down to the narrowing where I “hooked” the sizable perch previously. On the way there I scanned the water for the whole ½ mile or so, and was reminded of the huge numbers of small roach that this stretch holds. As you would imagine, the relatively hot weather brings them up in the water, and with the Polaroids on it’s easy to spot the large shoals milling around, often very close in – something which, again, reinforces my view that this canal could sustain some clonking great stripies.

Nothing happened at the narrowing so I decided to try elsewhere. I have had some success lately targeting perch by sight. This stretch can be very shallow at the near bank and when the water is fairly clear it is possible to see the small groups of juvenile perch down the edge as you approach.
I’ve found that by stopping just short of them and lowering in the drop shot rig a couple of feet away (so as not to spook them), the first perch to see the lure will make a bee line for it, then bang – Bob’s your nanan. My problem today was that the water wasn’t so clear that I could identify the species from the required distance. Time after time I would find a group of “perch”, lower in the rig, and see one or two approach the lure to see what it was. Then a few more would come for a look. Then the whole shoal would arrive before magically turning into roach! If I’d had a small whip with me, a light rig and some brandlings I could have used the same approach and bagged up on them. Maybe next time? Anyways, I did catch enough perch to keep me happy along the way.
The session was most notable for a half hour chat I had with John Lam – a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic angler, and genuinely nice bloke too (check out his Facebook blog here). He very kindly shared some of his findings and confirmed a few stories I had heard about various local venues. He also re-affirmed some theories I had about the Sheffield & Tinsley canal too. I won’t be divulging any of the information here, or anywhere else for that matter!
Like me, he’s itching to get back on the rivers from next week.

Friday, 20 May 2016


Revelation number one: clear evidence of striped monsters lurking within the cut. And in two separate locations, no less. My quarry actually exists, and although seeing is one thing and catching quite another, I at least now know that I’m not targeting them in vain.

I’m talking about large perch, of course. Not large in the Angling Times or Angler’s Mail sense – I’m talking large in relative terms. It would make sense that the canal holds perch of a decent size, as it does currently hold a large head of roach, all the way from fry up to (and probably beyond) 1lb mature specimens. It also has an abundance of features, unlike some other canals which consist of miles and miles of seemingly identical sections. Along its whole length, from its confluence with the Don on the edge of Rotherham to its conclusion in Sheffield city centre, there’s barely a fifty metre stretch without a bend, or a bridge, a turning bay or a basin – it stands to reason that there should be some proper striped lumps in there. The thing is, up until last week, I hadn’t seen any.

Last week, armed with my drop shotting gear, I happened to fish one of the many curious narrowings on this once busy waterway. By narrowings I mean the sections where the canal’s width reduces to that of a single barge – a bit like a lock, but without the actual lock(?!) if you follow what I mean. There seems no obvious purpose for some of these narrowings, but maybe back in the days of coal and steel transportation, these were loading sites? This particular narrowing is a little easier to explain, as quite clearly the reduction in canal width at this point is due to the proximity of a foot bridge. Or maybe the narrowing was already present, and therefore was an ideal position to erect said bridge at a later date?! Anyway, regardless of why they are there, the narrowings do present an excellent habitat for perch. Constructed from large deeply formed steel sheet sides, and often supplemented with wooden piles, overhanging cross beams and buffers, they are the ideal perch hangout from which to ambush the passing roach shoals.

For whatever reason, I’d never seriously targeted this area before. On this particular session though, armed with the perfect setup to exploit the features, I gave it a go. Thinking that any residents would surely be on the larger side, I offered up a three inch long imitation bleak – a much larger lure than I would normally use for drop shotting. Whilst teasing the lure along the steel wall I received an aggressive pull, and all of a sudden I was into something decent. A short fight ensued, and the lure rod took on a nice bend as every lunge and head shake was transmitted through the braid. Then, as my prize reached the surface, things went slack. With my end tackle now emerging from the water, the unmistakable dark profile of a large perch was seen making its way back to the depths. Bugger!

I thought back to a few weeks previous, when a similar thing had happened a mile upstream (if such a term can be used when referring to a canal?). On that occasion I had been fishing down the edge of one of the marina’s high-sided walls beside a bush (which had taken root in one of the mortar lines of the wall and grown, over the years, to quite a size). A take, followed by a short aggressive fight, culminating in a slack line. The difference was, I couldn’t identify the culprit back then – maybe it was a pike, or maybe a large perch? All I know is that the two events bore close resemblance to one another. So, back at the narrowing, I was thinking that maybe the larger than usual lure had adversely affected the hook-size to lure-size ratio. Although it didn’t look particularly “wrong”, the size 10 hook did look appreciably smaller than when planted inside the usual 1.5” Yakimoshikayo-thingy type lure. Maybe the cheeky monkeys had hold of the lure but hadn’t fully “inhaled” it, in the way perch normally do? I was in no position to remedy this, however, having inexplicably left my spare hooks at home – d’oh! I tried the feature again with a succession of smaller lures, but perhaps unsurprisingly, my chance had gone.
However, in moving half a mile upstream (there I go again), I happened upon a small group of juvenile perch right in the edge, in around two feet of very clear water. The fish I could see were surely only of a few ounces in weight, but with a small lure already mounted on the size 10, I decided to see if I could tempt one. As it happened, they were not interested in the slightest, but in the clear conditions I was shocked to see a much larger perch lurking amongst them. It was only a brief sighting, as it turned tail and sped off into the deeper water, but it was quite clearly over a pound in weight, perhaps even approaching two. Who’d have thunk it? After finding no evidence of them at all previously, I had now seen, with my own eyes, two such specimens in one day.
Furthermore, revelation two was about to occur…..

Slightly further down the bank, a juvenile perch could clearly be seen having a right go at my rig. Not at the lure, though. He’d taken a shine to my drop shot weight – “shine” being the operative word! You see, I’m currently using HTO weights which happen to be chrome plated. I think they’re actually polished, not plated, but you get the idea.

In a most uncharacteristic moment of uncheapskatedness some time ago, I had chosen to purchase these rather expensive weights thinking that their quality would surely match their price, therefore ensuring a good prolonged period of sterling service. Indeed, their quality is beyond question, and very nice they look too – maybe too nice, and that is the point! Thinking back, I did wonder at the time of purchase whether they would attract fish in their own right, owing to their splendid shininess. Anyways, stood on the bank, only moments after spotting the second striped monster of the day, the penny had dropped…..

Revelation number two: the monster from the narrowing encountered just one hour previous, the mysterious and substantial fish I had tussled with by the mortar line bush in the marina several weeks since, and probably the well camouflaged jack pike I had unintentionally disturbed down the edge a couple of weeks prior to that – had all engulfed my reassuringly expensive shiny drop shot weight in preference to the lure. All felt as if they were hooked, but upon realising that they were losing the fight, they had simply let go of the weight.
Thinking back to the incident at the narrowing, I distinctly remember seeing the lure emerging from the water whilst still being somehow connected to the substantial lump beneath. How could this possibly be the case if the perch in question was not in the act of scoffing the weight?
Yes, am I now convinced that this has been occurring, and as a progressive splodger of South Yorkshire origin, I now have a heart-braking decision to make: do I discard all three packets of these “reassuringly expensive” supposed investments in the interests of increasing my catch rate (an act, effectively, akin to flushing a crisp tenner down the shitter), or do I take the default stance of, “I’ve paid for the buggers, so I’m bloody well gonna use ‘em”?
Of course, I’ll choose the former – but ye gods, it’ll be through gritted teeth.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Now The Jigs Don't Work.....

Let me start by saying, I’m a newcomer to lure fishing. Well, I say newcomer – I’ve actually just realised in writing this passage that the opening statement is not strictly true. I did, in fact, capture my first lure caught fish over twenty years ago. On that occasion the fish in question happened to be a very stupid Irish pike. I call his intelligence into question not because of his nationality (heaven forbid), but because of the fact that he was caught twice. On the very same spinner. The second capture occurring within thirty seconds of being released back into the gin clear water. I didn’t have the heart to trouble him a third time (he must surely have been a “him” because I’m reliably informed that the female of ANY species is considerably more cleverer that what the males are).
Let me start again then by saying, I’m a RELATIVE newcomer to lure fishing. Let me also say that Sheffield & Tinsley Canal’s pike population seems to bear little resemblance to their Irish cousins in terms of intelligence. As a consequence of this, I have had little success in catching them. I know they are there, as I have seen them with my own eyes. I have also seen evidence of them having been caught, and indeed eaten on the bank (and washed down with eastern European lager judging by the empty tins strewn beside the spent camp fires). My crude initial attempts at luring them with an array of extravagantly coloured plugs usually resulted either in a sobering blank or a lucky dip prize from the pungent silty canal bed (the most memorable of which happened to be a miniature black bag full of dog crap – nice).
A change of plan was needed, and I started to amass a collection of rubber shads.

These were much more natural looking in the water, and due to the upward facing single hooks as opposed to the underslung trebles, I was hauling out fewer lucky dip prizes. I did still lose the odd lure to the snags, and in pulling for a break on one session I did get exactly that…..
That was not as a consequence of using rubber shads though, as I’m sure a plug would have resulted in much the same explosive outcome. Anyways, the main thing was, I started to catch pike. Not very often, mind, and no bigger than 4lb or so, but it was considerably more fun than blanking.
The trouble was I was only catching on every fourth or fifth sitting – not good when four or five short after-work sessions could easily span several weeks. By scaling down to a mini jig outfit I found that I could target the canal’s large population of juvenile perch, and catch several per session – a much better use of my limited bank time.
So there I was. The Perchmaster. Getting jiggy with it, and I couldn’t fail. However, there are only so many 2oz perch you can catch (without really trying) before you start to get bored. It was almost too easy, and as a consequence I sought a new challenge away from the canal.
Fast forward a year or so, and the silty old pterodactyl beckons again – only this time she’s not giving up her striped jewels so easily, the moody cow. Now the jigs don’t work (they just make you worse). I’m made to look cack-handed with the lure rod and I can’t buy a pull, pluck or even a follow.
Times is hard, and as a result, I’ve turned to the absurdly alien method that is drop shotting. Yep, the one whereby you drop a tiny lure in by your feet and try to impart miniscule movements upon it, via a 3ft long rod, by shaking like a shitting dog. I’ve already bought the necessary gear too. Well, all except the seemingly necessary specialised £150 Japanese glorified bomb rod top section with a handle on it. Instead, I chose to splice a 1.5oz glass quiver tip into my light lure rod instead, and very nice it is too. Being around 7ft in length it can also double up as my canal roach light bomb rod too – two birds and all that.
So here I am, a few sessions in with perch on my mind. I’m not after 2oz tiddlers this time, although I’ll happily wade through them if necessary. I’m after something in the pound plus bracket. That might sound like a feeble target to some, but it may be harder than it first appears, seeing as I’ve never actually seen evidence of such a perch in these waters. Plenty of juvenile stripies, loads of jack pike and lots of prey fish too - I just haven’t seen any decent perch. Surely there must be some…..mustn’t there?