At last, the ice age comes to an end (perch article and video, entry 288)

At last, the ice age comes to an end

With all the local canals, pools and ponds frozen solid, it looked like the ice age was never going to come to an end. But just as in life itself, no matter how bleak things may be, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. And that glimmer of brightness started when I saw the first signs of change on its way, albeit from a weather forecast on a computer screen. After the good perch that I lost on the canal prior to the thaw, I was very eager to get back on and continue where I had left off. Although the weather was still very cold, and if I was thinking objectively I would have left it a further few days before venturing out, the truth is my heart ruled my heart and so I went anyway.


The thermometer goes into freefall

Starting the walk along the canal I soon realised that the Arctic conditions were still holding on and were not going to be beaten that easily. Much of the canal was still ice-bound, and even if the ice wasn’t as thick as it was a week before, nevertheless fishing was impossible in many places. But I found a spot that had thawed and plonked my gear on the towpath. Although the day was very pleasant I was very aware that the water temperature would be a different story. And so it was, as the digital readout went into freefall until it settled at 1.5C.

A lot of anglers aren’t as switched on as they should be to the fact that water and air temperatures, although they generally move in the same direction, are still very individual and shouldn’t be viewed as if they are synchronised swimmers, following each other like twin shadows. In fact I had passed an angler on the towpath whop made the comment that the fish would be so hungry that they will eat anything. And I imagine he had thrown in bait according to that assumption as well, which would have been the kiss of death for sure. On my journey back he had disappeared, no doubt with the excuse that ‘there must be a pike in the swim’ as to why he hadn’t caught on such a perfect day. The pike often becomes the scapegoat for poor angling.


The thermometer goes into freefall


A good job I was well layered

Although it was cold I did have a hot experience as I poured from my new flask, with the cup delicately balanced between my legs. Unlike my previous flask (which I broke even though it was stainless steel) it has two screwing points and I had somehow loosened the other one. The result? As I poured, I ended up covered in boiling hot water. But fortunately I was wearing my Sundridge all-in-one suit and several layers of clothing, otherwise it would have been a very nasty experience indeed.

The fishing itself proved very hard going and I had to battle with sheets of ice that moved up and down the canal with the water flow from the locks. So the two small roach that I caught were pretty good considering the conditions. With the weather improving slowly but surely, leaving it a couple of days before venturing out again also saw my confidence on the rise as well. And the water temperature was up by 100%, which sounds great as a statistic but the hard facts were that it had gone from 1.5C to 3C. Not that good when you look at it like that, but the trend was upward and so I drew inspiration anyway.

Mr Clumsy strikes again






Tip of the week


Don’t assume that because the air feels mild that the water will be the same, particularly if a cold spell is being left behind.

Overfeeding a swim at this time of the year is the kiss of death.

However for the rest of the week I had no idea what the water temperature was doing as I kicked the thermometer in the canal and it died on me. I took it home and loving tried to resuscitate it (well you would at almost £30 a go wouldn’t you) but I’m afraid to say that in spite of being nursed by a warm fire, the death certificate was issued and it was duly buried, in the dustbin. The canal was now ice free though and the fish were feeding better with a small pike, a small perch plus a number of roach and gudgeon to show for my efforts. But I was still lacking something that I could pose in front of a camera with.

Although I left it late, the third session of the week gave me just that. I caught a gudgeon first cast on the maggot fished on the waggler rod and putting this on the livebait set-up I immediately had a take. It wasn’t the perch that I was really after but a pike that had hit the small fish suspended below the bob float. Space is running out in this article but I will share more about my rigs next week, as I intend to get back to the canal again. But the big dilemma that I face is the choice of hooklength/trace and also what level of tackle to pitch in at, ie how light or heavy. But suffice it to say that this particular fish was landed safely and quickly on perch gear.



It all comes good with a nice pike

Fishing for pleasure and fun

I caught another small pike on livebait and a couple of small perch, roach and numerous gudgeon on the maggot rod, but the reality was that the best fish had come within the first few minutes and so from a specimen perspective it was all downhill from there. Of course it wasn’t really as although I always set my stall to catch something above average, I enjoy fishing regardless of even whether I catch or not. Our happiness barometer shouldn’t be linked to what we have in the landing net when we have been out. For sure, a big fish will make us happy, of course it will. But the point I am really making is that a small fish shouldn’t make us sad. Ultimately fishing is – or ought to be – about pleasure and fun. Life’s hard enough as it is without taking our burdens to the water’s edge.


Click on the icon for this week’s video clip


The week ahead

Now that the ice age has finally come to an end I’m going to be hitting the canal over the next week. Although I am setting my stall out for perch I’ve had more pike, but in the conditions that’s been understandable. But now the weather is improving I am hoping to redress the balance.

(Originally published January 2009)

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