I’ve been fishing the lower Severn for some considerable time now, and yet in all of the years I’ve been on there I have never targeted zander. Not that I haven’t wanted to –far from it – but every time I have been planning a session I invariably get drawn to barbel. However, I have disciplined myself this season so that I will resist the temptation to always fish for the one species.
So, with an overnighter planned I left everything remotely connected with barbel back at home, instead setting off with wire traces, treble hooks and coarse fish dead baits! Not having fished for zander before didn’t present any confidence problems. There is an element of foundational knowledge that will ensure that any experienced angler should be able to switch reasonably well into new areas of fishing.
For someone who has never cast a line before, then obviously any sort of fishing will be difficult, but for the person who has already done a lot of angling, there is a good basic understanding of what it’s all about, which means they aren’t coming in on level one. However, after saying all that, I still blanked! And I even found myself thinking ‘I wish I had my barbel rods’ which wasn’t good as I like to be totally focused.
But not wishing to give up easily I returned to the lower Severn once more, this time for a couple of nights. (A sucker for punishment, yes I know!). I actually ended up with six fish but they were all caught in the day as opposed to the night, with which zander are traditionally associated. They weren’t big ones, but they were all very welcome as they were my first ever zander. The first one in particular will always hold special memories.
Tackle wise I fished with 15lb main line and Drennan wire and treble hooks (sizes 10-6). With minimal flow on the river I was able to use a lead of ¾ ounce which positioned the bait static on the riverbed. For indication I used a bite alarm and a Nash lightweight hanger. I fished through the night with a five-inch rudd but the zander during the daytime came to gudgeon and small roach.
It was certainly a great thrill to hear the bite alarm emit a few bleeps, watch the hanger start to rise and then to strike into a fish. You can understand why they have picked up the name ‘pike-perch’ as they do have physical characteristics of both fish, but they are a species in their own right of course. I guess it must be their teeth, but they do look very fierce and you find yourself sympathising with any small fish that should encounter a hungry zander.
I added another two fish on my next visit to the lower Severn, again just small ones. What I found with the baits fished during the night was that small eels, for which the river in the area I am fishing is famous, instantly attacked them. Almost from the moment that the bait hit the bottom I was subject to a constant bleep alert on the alarm. Not the noise of a big fish taking the bait but rather the constant tap-drip like notification that numerous eels were at work.
If I reeled in after an hour or so, I found that the internal organs, eyes, fins and various degrees of body had all been eaten away! I was still surprised though that a decent zander hadn’t got in on the action. But as it’s all new to me I guess a lot of pieces of the jigsaw will drop into place over the next few months. I know there are some really big zander in the lower Severn and I will certainly be a happy man if I can connect with one of those. I fully appreciate that for many anglers the zander is a species that involves many hours of travel, so to have specimens within an hour’s travel seems almost a sin not to fish for them!
(Originally published September 2006)