Plenty of agony but not much ecstasy (zander article, entry 229)

I was looking forward to three nights on the lower Severn after zander, however this ended up as just an overnighter by the time I eventually did my fishing. The first night was sacrificed before I even got there, as work kept me at home longer than I had originally intended. The Protestant work ethic within me means that I can only happily go off fishing once I know that I have fulfilled all my duties and responsibilities. So it was lunchtime on Thursday that saw me driving southbound on the M5.

 There was no evidence whatsoever of recent rainfall on the river, as the level was back down to the lows that have been with us for most of my recent visits. But that suits me very much when fishing for zander, as I can hold bottom with a very light lead and thus ensure that minimum resistance is offered to any fish that picks up the deadbait. On this occasion I had some very small perch with me, and I was confident as I cast both rods out into the river.

 The swim was one I have had zander and pike from before, and I had one bait just off some nearside willows and the other out in midstream. As it is starting to get dark come 4pm, I didn’t have much daylight fishing time, but that’s not an issue as zander feed at night anyway. Once darkness did kick in, resting on my bedchair my heart sank as I noticed a dark shape scurrying around in front of me. The word ‘scurrying’ gives it away, and switching on the headtorch I caught a rat in the beam, before it disappeared over the edge of the bank and into vegetation.


 Funnily enough I had been talking about rats with the farmer on whose land I fish, just a couple of weeks back. He assured me that there were no rats whatsoever anywhere near the river and that in the seventy plus years he has lived there, although he has them at the farm, he’s never seen a single one by the water. And with the land being totally open with no copses or hedges acting as cover, I could see why. And coupled with the fact that the recent floods would have put paid to any burrowing animals, it was about as rat free as you could possibly hope for.

 I’ve had some bad experiences with rats over the years, ranging from having them chew into my bivvie and running round after food in the night to waking up earlier this year with one on the pillow next to me. And the next day I discovered that just ten metres away is a rat hotel, with a dozen or more freshly constructed holes in the ground. I have a new bivvie on order, I am thinking of cancelling it and getting a metal shelter instead. I can’t stand rats!

 The worst thing that happened in the night though wasn’t the rat, or even the fact that I was fishless, but rather the pain I had in my shoulder. It’s been a bit sore recently but it became so intense that I was in absolute agony. I think it’s a trapped nerve, as I had one a few years back, and sleeping on the bedchair didn’t do me any favours. In fact the next morning I was in so much pain that I simply couldn’t face another night out. Hence, three nights became one. As someone who has fished through a hurricane, severe storms and blizzards, if something like this causes me to quit then it must be bad. Not that I want to bore you with my aches and pains, just letting you why I ended up doing just one night.


I decided to fish on till 1.30pm the next day and ended up with small roach livebaits, hoping to avoid a blank. Although I didn’t get any runs, both fish had marks appear on their flanks as if they had been attacked by a predator and so with just half an hour to go to the end of the session, I wasn’t surprised when the indicator started to move on the left rod. Striking into the fish it felt so small I wondered if it was perhaps a perch. But no, it was a zander. A very small one, but nevertheless, as my wife Debby would say, at least you didn’t blank. In fact that’s the exact sentence she used when I got home and she asked me if I had caught anything.

 On one of my Smokey Robinson CD’s, there is a track called ‘The agony and the ecstasy’. Well in my case there had been plenty of agony but not much ecstasy. And I’m hoping that a couple of days at home will bring some relief as I have got a busy week ahead and need to get an early session in rather than my usual end-of-week job. Not sure if it will be pain free though, because even as I type this I am constantly shifting around trying to get some relief.

 (Originally published December 2007)

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