The first zander of the autumn (zander article and video, entry 274)

Although anglers fish for predators all year round, it is the month of October that we traditionally associate with pike fishing. Many clubs still have the ‘no piking before October’ rule, certainly as far as anything other than casting a lure is concerned. There is a certain amount of tradition involved there but also the valid argument that pike are more likely to wolf the bait down during the summer months, thus making deep hooking more of a problem. Either way, one of the clubs that I am in has the October rule still in place and so I waited until now before I headed for a particular small river that I wanted to spend the day on.

Appreciating the four seasons

I arrived late morning and it was a typical autumnal day. Although we do complain incessantly about the weather here in the British Isles, one thing that we do have is the appreciation of the four seasons. Personally I do enjoy each of the stages of the year but the most important thing for the angler is that we are flexible in regards to our fishing. Matching species and venue to the time of the year ensures that we will get the best from our hobby, particularly if we are specimen anglers when it’s not easy at the best of times.

So whilst it is possible to catch crucian carp and tench in January, if we are to be realistic, then we need to target them during the warmer months and go for the more obliging winter fish when the cold sets in. And that’s where predators such as pike and zander, that will feed all year round, come into their own. And as it happened I split my angling week between the two species!


Piking on a small river

The conditions were against me

I started by fishing a small river for pike. I have been on the river before and not only that but the section and even the peg! And I’ve caught fish pushing 20lb as well from there so I know that it can produce. It’s also a venue that I don’t name either. Call me selfish or whatever, but certainly in these days of ease of information via the internet you do have to be so careful. I try to draw a line, avoiding ultra-secrecy but not becoming the angling version of the town crier either. It’s not always easy to walk what is often a tightrope in terms of getting it right, but I try.


Tip of the week

Particularly if you are a big fish hunter, match the fish to the season.

Stay switched on to what the weather is doing and pitch your target species accordingly.

The river wasn’t in good condition though for piking. It’s quite small and has a decent pace to it at the best of times. But with extra water on it plus lots of weed finding the line in the water, I was having to recast far more than I wanted to. I knew it was going to be hard and although I battled on from lunchtime right through till almost dark, I ended up blanking. I will be back on the river though before the season is out and hopefully I will connect with one of the big fish that resides there. They may not be big in terms of what can be caught elsewhere, but they are specimens for the venue. To get fish well into double figures from a small, shallow river such as that is indicative of the quality of fishing there.


From one extreme to another

After the session on the stream that was less than a metre deep, I headed for the lower Severn where I had almost twenty feet in the margins. It was definitely a case of one extreme to another. I also expanded my target species as well, this time focusing on zander, although casting out during daylight hours I was more than happy to catch a pike. Unless you use sea fish as bait you can’t really separate the two from each other, other than perhaps size of bait..

There was a little colour in the river and as you will hear if you listen to the accompanying video clip, it was looking quite good for barbel. But I had laid my stall out, and was very encouraged once darkness came, to get a run on the right-hand rod that was connected to a roach deadbait positioned a couple of metres off the willow trees that ran downstream from where I sat. Striking into the fish I was a very happy angler indeed as I netted it and brought it back to the top of the bank and placed it on the unhooking mat.


The first zander of the autumn

Beating the predator welfare drum

You may notice from the photographs on the video (not quite so clear on the article shot) that there was a fair bit of blood around. The fish wasn’t deep-hooked and the trebles came out very quickly and cleanly so although the blood makes it look like damage was done to the fish, it wasn’t. One of the hooks released a lot of blood for some reason but the fish was fine and swam back into the deeps with no problem at all. As I intend to do some predator fishing before next March is out, I will be writing plenty about pike and zander welfare and I make no apologies for the fact that I will often repeat myself. The predator welfare drum is one that I am happy to go on beating time and time again.




Click on the icon for this week’s video clip


The week ahead

I mentioned that there was a little colour in the lower Severn. Well heavy rain is being forecast and so that can only mean one thing – get out the barbel gear. So that’s me sorted for the next week anyway.

(Originally published October 2008)

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