Monday, 18 February 2019

Pike Hunt: Last Roll of the Dice.


 As March approaches and the likelihood of the Pike spawning gets higher I get more weary of targeting them knowing the rigours they are about to go through. That said down here in the south for some reason they seem to spawn later, why? I think it is simply down to the temperatures but I am probably wrong. Brian is most likely the best person to answer that question, knowing I still have a week or two before the females start to gang up in preparation to spawn I decided to give them one more go.

 Having already had a good winter I would really love to catch another twenty from a river, one so far this season is brilliant, the specimen head tells me to keep going and something far more special could end up in the folds of my net. To really know whether I'll get that chance I have to keep at it.

 Bait this last few weeks has been tough to find and my reserves have been depleted. In the knowledge that I have to get bait before I can get out Piking does reduce my time out in search of them. Fast forward four hours I gave up and headed off for Pike, with three unwilling participants I made it to the Esox areas and hoped that something would be feeding. Having walked over a mile to my first port of call I could see plenty of features in the water and having spent a bit of time here this winter I have become quite fond of a few certain spots, this first one is one of my most productive.

 However, it wasn't to be that day (Saturday) as I trotted a bait around for nearly thirty minutes without a sniff and my chublet remained unphased which is always a good hint that theres not much going on. With that I headed on up another 150 yards upstream to a narrower section where I have had a couple of smaller fish from up to around 10lb, this time I could again see plenty of features which screamed Pike, the biggest lure of this particular swim is a sunken tree where the Pike sit alongside and intercept whatever passes them. I only had to drop it in the margins and let the bait do the work....twenty seconds or so later my float went berserk as a decent sized Esox chased and nailed the chub. I allowed a couple of seconds to pass before leaning into the fish and seemed a good hook hold was in place and the fight began.

 A specimen of possibly 14-17lb was charging around in front of me, scaring shoals of fry in the process, it looked a good fish, so I readied the net, albeit a little prematurely as she certainly wasn't finished. The longer the fight went on the more nervous I got, then in the blink of an eye she rolled on the surface and shook her head, which threw my chub clean in the air and off she went. I couldn't believe it.

 As cautiously as I played her I played it back in my mind and don't think I could have done any better, just rotten luck I guess. All I could do was get another bait on and try again. So thats what I did, unfortunately I had to wait a couple of hours before I got another enquiry, I walked and fished many spots that looked likely and just as dusk was approaching my float dipped and thundered off, no mistake in its intention, finally I got my chance.

 And with a slice of luck and good angling I made sure this opportunity didn't pass me by! A peach to boot aswell. My day was complete and on my only remaining livebait too. Days like this are sent to test us but rewards like these are there if we stick to the task. This more than likely will be the last roll of the dice. What a lovely fish to finish on if it is my last Pike trip of the winter.

Made me smile! 16lb 0oz of a riverine powerhouse.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Time For Fat Dace.


 As February the 1st comes along my mind starts to wander from what I have been targeting and slowly the want to target Dace kicks in. They are great summer sport with bags often weighing 10-20lbs can be had on good days with smatterings of Chub and Roach thrown in. Now is the time though for anglers serious in attempting to achieve the dizzy heights of specimens of the pound mark and possibly beyond.

 In my lifetime lady luck has shone brightly as I approach double figures for pound plus specimens (currently eight) and many back up specimens from 13oz and up. It was time for lady to shine once again. It is time once again. This time I want to see if some of my past leviathans can be beaten or will they simply be a memory, to never be beaten. A loaf of Hovis certainly is the sort of bait to winkle them out.

A 6gr avon wire stem, just to keep on the creases.

 I got down fairly late as all the people on the damn roads didn't realise I had fishing to do! inconsiderate people I tell you! After finally battling my way through the hoards the river trundled through in front of me as I parked up. Gin clear but carrying a nice bit of water which wasn't surprising as since 1st of Feb came along we have been catching up on all the rain we should have got from January. It was from recollection the 7th driest since records began and it did seem that way.

 The conditions filled me with hope and not before long my 6gr avon wire stem was hurled out towards the far bank where I hoped Dace would be holding station, just out the flow, hugging the creases. My plan sounded great but the Chub didn't get the memo as I netted one after another, good sport, not the target. Try as I did they would not leave me alone..after the third or fourth run I started to think the Chub were simply in a ravenous mood and that Dace simply wouldn't get there first and I was very nearly right, that was until this cracker turned up. Best of the year so far and hopefully the first of many (If I get the time).

My one and only of the day at 13oz flat.

 Not to cut it short but for the Dace, that one fish was my lot, so much so that I changed target and headed downstream. It wasn't just a big Dace that I'd get my hands on. It took nearly half an hour to start getting bites, hitting them was another problem, the sheer speed that the bait was being hit in the fast pace of the water provided another problem that I had to negotiate, I'm all on for problem solving but I did very nearly give up nearly an hour in until one finally slipped up and it was a lovely Roach of 1lb 7oz, then I had obviously done something different, as I hit another five in the next dozen or so trots, a couple more around the pound mark. The best was to come and just as dusk was settling in too. Oh and this little fella popped along too.

Love a gonk.

 Doing nothing different by this point it was obvious that the bigger fish were switching on as I connected with a ripping pull of the float, in the flow all the fish felt good but this one didn't feel like a Roach at all, such was strength. As she rolled on the surface I could see it was a very good one and looked to be over the magical two-pound mark, the remainder of the fight was played with caution. In she went !

 Excited to see if I had caught my first two pound plus Roach of the season I put her straight on the scales...

 ...One Pound Fourteen ounces...oooooohhhh that was close and if I had lost her I'd have sworn it be a "two". Full of excitement I slipped her in the keepnet and got the bait back out there. Three trots later the float began to reach the end of the run where it shallows up to a weedy/gravel bar, as I began to retrieve the float some 25 yards it dipped and vanished, for a split second I thought it was a little fish as it swam upstream, straight up to me. I didn't think for a second that I'd be connected to yet another Roach of fantastic proportions! This one looked bigger than the fish, not in length but the girth was nothing that I have seen the likes of before! With jelly legs still only just recovering from the first I had its sister in the net! This one felt heavier and again I wasted no time in weighing her.

 One pound fifteen ounces.....oooooooohhhhhh thats even closer :), I didn't know what to do with myself, to know and catch Roach like that is good for the soul, especially where they came from and it's past pedigree is slowly being rediscovered and enjoyed. The light was failing fast and I really wanted to get a couple of pics before the sun set, disaster set however when I had a flat battery which I possibly ran out photographing my Dace earlier on...I must charge them as a matter of habit because its not the first time...

 What a day it was, challenging is certainly a way of describing it, trotting 15-40 yards with 25-30mph cross winds and 6-10 inches of additional water to contend with, not to mention a very achy arm after a day of constant trotting, been a while since I fished that hard and I had to. It was a case of effort equals reward.

 A brace of Roach for 3lb 13oz and a few drams, 13oz Dace, Trout to 3lb+, Gudgeon to 1oz made for an enjoyable trip.

Happy as a pig in....

Friday, 8 February 2019

Not What I Expected.


 Just over a couple of weeks ago I visited one of my ticket lakes in search of Pike. Something that I have swerved most of the season, not that I don't like lake Pike, it's just unlikely to throw up a lump that the rivers are capable of. On this day however the thought of a specimen was not in mind and simply a venture out with a 6ft light lure rod was all I wanted, whether I caught or not again wasn't the be-all and end-all.

 Always nice though isn't it when you do, so...

 ...How about this then!

 A personal best Bream on a lure and arguably the prettiest one to grace my net at approximately 9lb, and those canal Bream that I have recently tapped into take some beating in regards to looks, I feel it has the edge though. Fair and square in the chops and the take wasn't strong either but was enough to keep the single treble of my savage gear 3-D Roach.


  The intended target did also play ball with one at 8lb 2oz and another around 5/6lbs, plus a bonus Chub which took a liking to a Mepps spinner. Pretty varied and the sort of trip I love, that bream...wowza what a peach!


Thursday, 31 January 2019

Pike Hunt: Hole-y Saturday...


 This day was always going to come along at some point. Another day planned in search of Pike and another day spent roving with an eye on the prize of another river twenty. A nice hour and thirty minute drive was punctuated by a series of dreadful roadworks which caused tailbacks of a couple of miles which seemed like it took an eternity to get through, all the while my Pike time was ebbing away and all I could think of was getting on the water.

Dreaming of catching more.

 Finally I reached the river and no time was wasted in getting the rod set up, within two minutes a bait was lobbed out and ready to go. I couldn't wait to get on it and with good reason too. Before dusk a large band of rain was pushing in and a quick drop in pressure meant it was going to get fairly windy too which never bodes well for stalking. Knowing this I pressed on my pursuit and settled for only two or three casts per 20-40 meters and allow the bait to drift through all the little eddy's etc.

 Twenty minutes or so had passed before the first enquiry and my float slipped under in typical jerky fashion, a quick wind down to the fish confirmed a Pike, albeit not a big one it didn't matter. 9lb 13oz, I'll take that. For starters. Back out with a fresh bait and I could see nothing in the run (mind you, I didn't see the one I'd just landed), so I moved on up when I came across a lump sat side by side with a fish fairly smaller, and that was a low to mid double! Was it a twenty? I was dead keen to find out.

Decent start!

 In a frenzied panic I got a bait out near the Pike to arouse a response but it wasn't the response I thought I'd get. As the Chublet approached she backed off then stormed upstream ten yards before slowly dropping back down onto position, I couldn't believe it. Not to be put off by the strange rejection I tried again with a similar reaction. After the second rejection I thought about leaving the swim and trying later, but I couldn't walk away from a fish that looked every bit 17-18lbs, not quite a twenty from what I could see but bloody close.

 Out went the bait again, this time I shallowed up the fishing depth and cast well upstream of her position which allowed the bait to slowly approach the awaiting Pike, all this time she sat on station, almost as if she waiting for the bait to come down again. Which it did. This time the outcome was explosive, at no point was I ever in doubt of her intentions this time. A massive gulp of water encompassed my bait and the rod lurched unhealthily to the river. I was connected to a lump but the battle was something of a damp squib as within a minute or so I had her laying in the net and ready.

 I popped her out to get her weighed and photographed, on the scales she was pretty much what I thought she'd be, all 18lb 9oz and I was well chuffed to have met her acquaintance. I snapped a couple of images off on my iphone to send to Brian and then decided as she had been a minute or so is to get her back in the water to revive...this decision however was to bite me horribly on the backside as I had left her to rest for a couple of minutes she had gained strength and began to show signs of fight. The decision to leave her for another thirty seconds proved to be the nail in the coffin as far as a trophy shot went.

my impromptu shot ended up being the shot!

 With a couple of powerful strokes of the tail she found a small hole in my net and I watched in horror as that hole became a gaping tear for which she swam through and back into the river! I watched in horror and couldn't believe it. That was not in the script and my fifth biggest ever Pike got away...yes I got a mat shot on my phone and knew what she weighed but I was fairly peeved by it. You live and you learn!

 After watching her saunter off into the deep I spent the next twenty minutes stitching up my net with 20lb fishing line so I could continue with my trip. What a palava.

 The fishing after the eighteen went down hill and cast after cast and section after section revealed no action and it wasn't until the light was failing and time running out did the float bob, one last time.

Another stunning river double!

 After negotiating a perilous snag in the margins I slipped my somewhat raggedy net under Pike number three. A beauty to finish off with and I was very pleased with my haul. 2 doubles and 1 just missing out. Not bad at all because just as I made it back to the car the heavens opened with that forecasted rain, perfect timing.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

A Return To The Barbel: The Return.


 Didn't think I was going to get back out for Barbel so soon, the day after that haul I got an unexpected early finish to my day, with not enough time to head down with the boat I choose to get back out in search of Barbel and effectively continue from where I left off, that plan worked a treat as it didn't take too long to get my first enquiry.

 First dip of the float resulted in a mint 3lb Chub which was quickly followed by a lovely 6lb 11oz Barbel, not the biggest but certainly welcome. As I headed upstream I had another shot at a decent Barbel as I run the bait along side a fallen tree which was providing a good amount of cover that screamed Barbel, I wasn't wrong either.

 It did take three trots mind you before I got the hit I was half expecting. Crazy that you expect a fish whilst trotting for Barbel in the winter but I know this river very well and that all the knowledge of this venue comes in very handy when ones angling fix needs quenching with limited time. The size of the Barbel wasn't apparent to begin with as she hung deep in the flow and remaining close to the cover, I had a sneaking suspicion she was of a decent size and after a minute or so she came roughly parallel with me and then I could see all of her.

 Immediately knew it was a good 'un and as she approached the net I thought she maybe another double, two in two days? You bet! On the mat all was revealed and looked every bit ten pound plus.

10lb 3oz and a second double in less than 24 hours.
 That was just the ticket! A couple of photos and she was off back into her watery world, excellent stuff.

 The rest of the afternoon was spent looking but that was all I could muster, not that I cared.

 A couple of days later and in identical conditions, I managed another hour or so on my way home from work which again was a complete success. No double figure Barbel this time but a Barbel all the same! Boy I did miss fishing for these powerful creatures.

A smaller one at 7lb 4oz. Not that I cared of course!
 Most enjoyable indeed. 

Monday, 21 January 2019

A Return To The Barbel.


 It has been a long time since I got the urge to fish for old Bertie and having fended off that urge I finally caved in. Glad I did too! My roving started on very familiar grounds and was shocked at the clarity of the river, I could see every pebble and strand of weed throughout the 1 mile or so that I covered.

 It has to be said I missed this aspect of my fishing as carp and predators have featured heavily at the expense of most other species. Within 40 minutes of arriving on the river and making my first cast I had already slipped the net under three Barbel, one of which was a beautifully conditioned 8lb 10oz fish, no marks or blemishes it was a poster girl for the species.

Second best of a quick fire session, 8lb 10oz

 With that pristine bertie released I fancied another try through the same swim and as my bait approached the same gravel bar a large frame cruised up to it and in a flash the bait was gone and I was locked into battle with another good fish. In the powerful flow I enjoyed every second of the fight as she darted for wintering weed beds and then out into 6 or 7ft of open water, it really was that enjoyable I got a little disheartened as she slowly gave up and coasted in towards the net and with very little resistance she was on the bank. A lovely double to cap off a fantastic hour of fishing!

 10lb 4oz on the digitals and my second biggest of the season, only bettered by an 11lb 2oz fish from the late summer, crazy considering five trips all season for Barbel have been embarked upon. The other two Barbel weighed approx 4½ and 5½lbs.

Awesome way to end what was a very quick trip.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

River Monsters: Twenty No:3.


 For a few sessions on the boat and bank I have had some good luck and hit some fantastic specimens, however there has been something missing, as to what, I'm not entirely sure. Maybe the battle with a monster Pike being that missing piece of my seasons jigsaw?.

 Having spent most of the Christmas period either working or spending it with the family my fishing time has been greatly reduced, however I had managed to get some fresh air on a couple of occasions, one of those occasions was this trip, in search of Pike. A river I am starting to understand just a little more and a river I am very keen to extract the secrets it holds. I have been lucky enough over the last three seasons to catch two twenty pound plus specimens and I feel thats not all and don't feel the job is quite done hence my continued attentions.

 Stealth is part of the game, usually. Not on this session. I arrived to find the river slightly up, only by a couple of inches but running fairly murky and I struggled to make out the bottom even in the margins which is unusual but a new hurdle to tackle. Confidence levels took a hit as I hadn't had to fish in these conditions, nevertheless I was there and looked to make a go of it. I got my self set up, 20lb mono, 25lb Drennan pike wire and a 20g slider float is my usual, I only change the float for something bigger if I'm trotting bigger baits or laying on at distance. As I'm only fishing 20-50 yards its not an issue and the low resistance free running float gives me all the indication I need.

 After five minutes of preparation I got my first trot in and surprise surprise the float remained static in an eddy further downstream without incident. As I slowly retrieved the bait I felt a little pull on the bait, I thought about striking, instead I let it go and allowed the bait to go back on the trot, within seconds the float bobbed and shot under! Confidence was boosted no end in an instant, funny how fishing works! The fight wasn't strong and with my stepped up gear I got the better of a nice clean looking Pike in quick time.


 Happy with that one! Not quite a double but a lovely fish all the same. I couldn't wait to get the bait back out. After releasing that fish downstream some way I decided to give the run another trot to see if anything else was home and on the prowl. I think I was hoping the commotion that one above caused would have bought something else into feeding. Another trot down the same crease yielded no rewards this time, so I decided to go right tight to the far bank, which was quite a cast but the response was almost instant, possibly five seconds between the bait hitting the water and the float vanishing, I swear the float didn't even get to right properly. Just how I like it. 

 Within a few seconds the Pike breached the surface and cleared it by a good half a foot at least before crashing back down with a large splash, acrobatic Pike is something I don't often see and with that show of athleticism I could tell it was bigger than the first, the fight a little more purposeful and stronger too, as the last Pike found out my gear was too much to challenge and soon after she was in the net. Thinking it was an easy double she went on the scales and to my surprise she only just made the mark.

Long, lean and pretty empty.

 In the murky water I was having a bit of success! Effectively three trots and two Pike is the sort of return we can only dream of. I was happy with that and it could of ended there in regards to what I'd caught numbers wise, however I always harbour dreams of finding a big fish as I know its possible, it only takes one bite. 

 Having had joy in that particular area I fancied a move, not far up, maybe 40/50m upstream from the beginning action, it didn't look like much but a bush half way down looked a place for an ambush. I got a bait on and trotted it the length of the run without a touch. Not surprised by that result I deepened up on the float so fish worked slightly deeper, the desired effect was almost instant. Just as the float came level with said bush it slipped under and a powerful but slow charge began which set the tone for the fight, being out of eye shot and murky water I couldn't the fish. I wasn't sure about the size, it didn't feel big, probably no heavier than the last two. 

 With that in mind I was in no rush to get her in and I spent the next 3-4 minutes tackling the tricky lunges into near bank overhanging vegetation. As I gained on her and its frame came into view just under the surface nearly at my feet a large frame was soon apparent, I went from rather cocky to a nervous wreck. The thought of a twenty pounder on the other end was just awesome, by the time she got under my feet the fight was all but done, a half hearted charge was easily thwarted and my net bulged with my best of the season.


 Boom!!!!! Just what I dreamt of and I got one! A real good looking Esox weighing 20lb 8oz and my third river twenty. My confidence may have been lacking upon arrival, an hour later and I couldn't have been more upbeat! What a creature and very well fed too, long, muscular and mouth full of big teeth. After getting a couple of self takes I awaited her to start kicking which didn't take long before dropping the front of the net down and watch her waddle out slowly back into the murk. Special.

 Understandably, I found it tough to regain focus. Knowing that it would be possible to catch another just as big or larger pushed me to crack after I had a little punch of the air in celebration. 

 The next two hours drifted past with no such luck, the float didn't even quiver as I sent it trotting down stream on numerous occasions. It wasn't until the sun began to lose its strength and dusk begin to settle in did I get another chance, with the sun full on my face for the remaining minutes I noticed a Pike close in where I had a little visibility. I could see she was a mid-double and a fish I wanted to catch, as she wafted up in the current effortlessly I trotted a bait down to her and in a split second a set of flaring gills created a flash as pandemonium set in. Pike number four was on. This one decided that she wasn't going to make life easy and on numerous powerful runs to far bank sunken trees she really put my clutch to the test, a couple of times I had to slacken off as I thought she might break me off under the strain, thankfully though that didn't happen and a bit of careful battling another mint river double graced my net. What a day it had been! 

A mint 14lb 6oz specimen to round off proceedings! 

Friday, 11 January 2019

Fish Of A Lifetime, The Book.


 About 2 years ago I was very kindly offered to contribute to a book called "fish of a lifetime", I obviously jumped at the chance and for the next few months I added little by little until my final piece was handed to the editors to weedle out any mistakes, grammatical errors and so on.

 After a while the trail went cold and I thought that the book wasn't going to go to print and although I was honoured to have been given the opportunity I was always thinking about. Then out of the blue, the main man Adam Perna emailed me and attached a draft copy of my piece, all eight pages of it. I was/am still, chuffed.


 So even when it seemed like it wasn't going to happen it did! here is a shot of the cover and the 1st contents page, with yours truly contributing in Chapter Six. To have a piece side by side with some of the most awe inspiring catches of my generation and those before is quite brilliant.

The overall quality is very good.

 Chapters include the detailed catches Keith Berry enjoyed as he went on to achieve the British rod caught record among a string of simply breathtaking specimens, some of which I may never ever witness. Also catches of some very special Carp, Pike, Chub including Rob Youngs incredible insight to the Dorset Stour record brace, Neil Maidments blast at Dever Springs for monster Rainbows and Steve Frosts awesome river Perch. For anyone who wants who would like to purchase a copy of the book, please contact Adam using the details below, cost will also be given upon contact.

12 Rosehill Cresent, Twyford, Buckinghamshire, Bucks, MK184EF

07510150795

or email: adamperna2@hotmail.co.uk

For me, it was a pleasure. I hope you purchase it, you enjoy it.

James.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Esox On The Brain.


 For many seasons now the thought of Pike fishing had excited me to the point that I'd hatch so many plans in order to catch them, so much so that they would be neglected almost entirely every time late-autumn would settle in. I guess as a species they didn't excite me enough. Looking back now it seems absurd, what can I say, other than I really feel that I am making up for lost time. This season has already been my most successful in relation to the amount of trips embarked on.

 For me, rivers are naturally my favourite watercourses to tackle and I am yet to have caught a stillwater pike this season, I suppose one has to fish a stillwater to catch one. I will look to put that right soon enough, however, the river pike fishing I have access to is too good to ignore, the rawness of the stretches that I fish and the ever changing scenarios met on the bank or boat is what keeps me coming back time and time again. Since fishing for Pike a little more frequently I have discovered just how exciting it is, even when you aren't catching. Whilst on the look out for fish in clear waterways like the Wessex trio and rivers a little closer to home it can be an education in itself.

 There is one place that I have Pike fished over the last 3 years that I can't get enough of, access is difficult and the fish are certainly not easy, however once you catch one you are well and truly hooked by the stunning appearances. Armed with some bait and my basic gear I hit the river. With the water being fairly murky on my arrival I hoped that I wouldn't struggle to locate fish and having arrived around 1330 I had just a couple of hours to locate a fish and be successful in catching her.

 That proved to be more difficult than I envisaged as I couldn't find a Pike over 6lb and surely wanted something a little larger to reward me for the effort made to get there. Two hours came and went before I found a nice Pike, mid double from what I could see, tucked up under a far side bush on a narrow part of the river. My task was to get a bait close and the benefit of using small chublet is they love cover and the little tyke made its way straight towards the cover where the Pike lye. I thought it was a foregone conclusion, how wrong was I!

 As my bait got within two-foot of the stationary Pike it spooked and bolted from under the bush and into mid river right in front of me, now by this point the sun was already losing its strength and dusk was not far away, I knew I didn't have long. So I wound my bait in and plopped it upstream of the pikes new holding station and let the bait drift down, again as it got roughly two-foot in front I could see the Pike shudder and in a flash of the flaring gills my bait was gone and the float bombed under, by that point I had already struck and I was battling a decent fish. A couple of powerful runs had line peeling from the spool in spectacular fashion and almost didn't want the fight to end but knew I had to get her in. Thankfully the hook hold was pretty good, right in the scissors and typically when Pike are hooked there they rarely come off, however they butcher the trace so its always a replacement job. However, with a Pike now in the net and on the mat its a small price to pay for such excitement.


 Seeing her in the water I thought she was a little larger, nevertheless I was very happy to cap an afternoons fishing with a 14lb 9oz Esox, in less than ideal conditions! What with the constant soaking and the cloudy river it did make for a tough day, it all ended well!

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Zander Hunt: Waking The Sleeping Dogs.


 Driving home after packing the boat down after another successful trip afloat I couldn't help but think that what had just happened was a messy blur and that my brother for all his moaning came away with a huge fish like that. Never mind, I was very happy for him. That however lit a fire under me and I was in the mood to get straight back out....work however had other ideas, a full schedule of clients I saw no gap where I could get out, the issue is taking the boat out needs time and that wasn't looking likely. As always though I am happy to graft and as each client was satisfied and I'd earned my crust, by midday I was finishing up with my last!

 There was no loitering around, I shot straight home and got the little bits of gear I'd packed away the night before and hot footed it out the door and back on the road, with no time to waste I picked Brian up on the way and with empty roads at my mercy the Zander hunt was back on. It had been just 23 hours since I set my new personal best twice. Typically I would be happy for months afterwards, the simple fact Richard had caught that beast the previous night my competitive side crept through and my focus was attempting to trump him. I was on the hunt. It had been a while since I felt so invigorated to catch fish, I guess that's why I fished quite well as a kid as we used to push each other to succeed in many aspects of childhood.

 Conditions were identical as the previous day and a big tide was expected again, just the recipe I hoped for. Why I was hoping for this I'm not entirely sure but I feel that some of the logic behind it that has bounded around my head may well ring true to a certain extent. The bigger tides obviously seem to move bait fish from their normal haunts and into the more unknown territories where predators lye in wait for an easy meal. Now, having been fairly successful earlier in the previous day I hoped for something similar. So having got close to the mark where I had my two (7.13 & 9.01) a bait was popped down and as we both got comfortable my float bobbed and sailed away, before I could hit it the float came back up and on close inspection a couple of puncture holes were present. A Zander for sure!

 I knew we were in the right place, we had to keep going and not long after I had another dropped take...was I going to rue those dropped runs? It certainly seemed so as after ten minutes and three dropped fish the activity stopped just like the day before and our floats lay lifeless..then, out of nothing, Brian's float danced on the surface momentarily before plunging under the surface, when he put a firm strike in his rod it bent double and we knew a big fish was on the other end, within twenty seconds she came up to the surface and rolled, showing off her massive silvery flanks, as she did that a massive boil came up on the surface and she was gone, I looked to Brian and the look on his face  said it all, it was a big fish! I saw most of it and I knew it was a double.....

 Luck plays a massive part in angling and it was certainly missing there. That was it for well over an hour before anything else happened, a half hearted tug on my float was all that broke up the endless wandering of the float in the flow. We constantly changed the depths that our baits were working at and hoped it would change our fortunes and induce a run or two. Alas, there was no such luck and I was beginning to see the writing on the wall. With such perfect conditions I honestly thought we would have done better.

 Dusk rapidly came and went with only one little bob of the float and Brian had a couple of enquiries before he packed his rod away, the light levels were gone and I could only make out a tiny silhouette of my float, twenty minutes after dark had settled in I could just make out the float vanish from sight and a powerful jolt shot through the rod, whatever it was I struck into it and held on for dear life. Within seconds a powerful surging run sent me into a nervous wreck, I had no idea what I'd hooked and in the dark it was daunting. No torch on board didn't help but that didn't stop Brian from getting ready with the net. About thirty feet from the boat a massive boil opened out on the surface, like something from a horror film! I was trembling with a combination of excitement and fear.

 Seeing the fish roll on the top I was certain it was a Zander, the surging runs Pike make didn't materialise, it could only mean one species. Knowing that, I prayed the treble stayed in place and that I would get the chance to see what I was playing. Three minutes roughly of being in contact with this fish it was finally on its way to the boat, Brian did his best to miss the fish with the net but somehow we coaxed her in! The treble came out in the net!!! How lucky was that?!

 Owing to it being so dark and peering into the net as she along us I couldn't get a decent gauge on it, so whilst I soaked up the glory of a last gasp catch myself and Brian wondered whether it was worth continuing and thought it would but having only just see my float go under it was going to be difficult to continue so with that we folded down the rods and went ashore. Only then, we got a good look at the Zander did it dawn on me I had cracked the double figure barrier and boy, what a specimen it was too! When she came into the net I thought it was roughly the same size as my best from the day before, that thought was banished once I had seen all of her on the mat. The rest was a blur as I knelt posing with one of the most impressive creatures I've had the pleasure of catching!

A new personal best of 11.9.

 To celebrate we went to the pub and rose a couple to the river and its gift.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Zander Hunt: Leviathan Zed.


 Now, I do class my self as bit of an all-rounder, with that said there are a couple of species that I haven't given much time up for, Zander certainly fall within that category as I know exactly how many times I've targeted the species. On a river I have embarked on two trips catching one little fish around 2lb, on canals I have made five trips whilst banking again, just the one. Lake Zander is where I have had the lion share of success, over 6 trips I managed approximately 25 fish to 7lbs exactly. My reasons for not continuing with the lake Zander fishing was for two reasons, its an expensive hobby when you are paying £18 for a one-rod predator ticket for 4-5 hours fishing and also the fact a double was a pipe dream amongst the hungry schooleys.

 Fast forward roughly 3 years since I last made a fist of it and I found myself questioning why don't I target the Thames Zander once again, this time in a boat I'd have a lot more water to search and the chance of a fish or two would be greatly improved. To the drawing board it was then. Having not taken on the challenge properly of catching a Zander by design since my visits to the Surrey Hills I had some work to do.

 Knowing that they hunt the very same fish that the Pike do I toyed with the idea of scaling down, but in the end I resisted the temptation and actually upscaled my treble to a 2/0 as in previous experience I found that you never hooked Zander but more like gripped them, so with a bigger gape single treble I relied on the initial strike to hold firm. So with the heavy detail out of the way I got the boat together and invited my brother Richard to come and join me for a foray on the Thames. I love being afloat, just a great feeling being on the water and giving ourselves every opportunity at success.

 Having set the boat up we got into the first area where I knew a decent drop-off existed and dropped a bait down which trotted around perfectly for ten minutes or so before to my surprise the 20g float bobbed and slipped under, after winding down and making contact the tension went and whatever had picked up my bait was gone. This did fill me with lots of promise and didn't hesitate in getting my bait straight back down. Probably fifteen minutes passed with nothing doing so a quick cast to the other side of boat resulted almost immediately in the float bombing out of sight.

 I waited roughly four or five seconds before hitting this one and straight away it felt like a better connection as a decent fish came up to the surface and rolled, thus showing her entire flank I knew I was connected to a Zander that was likely to be a new PB, with Zeds you can't dream until the net slips under the fish as they have an incredible knack at spitting the treble as they seem ready for the net. Thankfully for me the fight lasted only a couple of minutes and as soon as the fish lay in the net I knew I had struck it lucky.

 So having stopped shaking momentarily I weighed and got my brother to photograph my prize as I gleefully stared at the Zed. That didn't take long!

7lb 13oz! A new PB :)
 Not even half an hour afloat and a new personal best was in the bag! Well, that PB was always going to be threatened knowing what is living in the waters I am fishing, after releasing that fish and punching the air I got myself another bait and inched it out roughly where the last bite came from and before I could check the drag was set properly the float vanished from sight. I was in again and within seconds the fish rolled on the surface just like the first one did, at first glance I couldn't work out if she was larger or of similar size so I played the Zander carefully and after a couple of powerful runs she succumbed to me and inched over the rim of the net, as soon as she did and I released the tension the treble pinged into the air narrowly missing my face!

 My first real search for river Zander was beginning to pay big dividends, this was one even bigger. As I lifted her out the net and into the boat I got a true gauge on the fish and thought I may have my first double figure specimen for the species and another PB to boot. Knowing that Zander do have large frames and often not weighing what their sizes would have you believe she still achieved the dizzy height of 9lb 1oz! I was in dreamland!

The last PB lasted roughly 10 mins...9lb 1oz!
 I left home in the morning dreaming, by 1330 I was wide awake and experiencing that dream!

 By this point I was fishing immersed in euphoria, my float had barely stayed still for 15 minutes and the action didn't stop there as I had a further three takes in a manic half an hour which unfortunately all came off as I suspect the grip of the treble wasn't quite right and the Zander were able to slip away unmolested. Then as if a light had been switched off the feeding spell appeared to have stopped and we set off again in search of more activity. We certainly got that beginning hour of the trip spot on the money, right place, right time, strangely enough Richard didn't have a single bite....

 So as we both scooted around looking for more action we came across a grey seal in search of possibly the same prey but it, just like us wasn't particularly successful with finding the fish again. For around 2 hours we perused the weir pool and surrounding river to no avail, I tried moving the float up and down to hopefully come across feeding fish again. Dusk was rapidly setting in and I thought that if we were to catch another it would be the fifteen minutes either side of sunset and true to assumption Richards float went under which quickly came back up before he could strike, then mine went a minute later which I hooked into and I was locked into battle with what felt like a big fish and in the failing light I could see a large frame top in front of the boat and in an instant the float came hurtling across the surface and with a huge boil my fish was gone...

 I was gutted but I had no time to dwell on that as Richards float quickly vanished and he quickly took up the slack, as he put the pressure on the fish the rod hooped over and fooled us into believing he was actually playing a Pike and the initial lunge certainly suggested that but what surfaced perplexed us both! A mega Zander was thrashing around just 20 foot from the boat and I was shaking just watching Rich play the fish, this was without a doubt the biggest Zed I had ever seen! As dark began to settle in my brother smashed his personal best with this incredible specimen. The final seconds of the fight were a blur as we both remained absolutely calm (shitting it) before I shipped the edge of the net past the incoming animal. She was colossal and weighing in at 13lb 3oz it was just simply an incredible fish. Just to think he was complaining not an hour before that he hadn't had any takes and it was "doing his head in". Sometimes when your lucks in, it is IN!

Holy Sh*t! 
 I was possibly as happy as he was with that! But, that catch left me with a dilemma...that being he had caught a double figure Zed before me and out of my boat! I couldn't let sleeping dogs lye.

 Part Two coming......

Pike Hunt: Last Roll of the Dice.

 As March approaches and the likelihood of the Pike spawning gets higher I get more weary of targeting them knowing the rigours they are a...