What a fish – even if I say so myself!
Fishing is all about enjoyment and I had so much pleasure from last week’s zander session on the lower Severn that this time round was more of the same. With the river still sluggish due to yet another totally dry week, I set up in a new swim that I haven’t fished before. There is always the temptation, particularly if you’ve caught a good fish from a certain peg, to keep returning to the exact spot time after time. But who knows, while doing that we may be neglecting even more prolific swims. Although we can do our homework on a stretch, ultimately you will only ever get to know it properly when you fish as many different spots over a period of time. So it was with a sense of anticipation as to what may happen, as I unloaded my gear from the car in a place I have never fished before.
The first thing I wanted to do was to find out what lay beneath the surface of the water. This side there was a purple willow to the right and a clump of common alders to the left. But what I really wanted to know was not visible with the eye. Tying a lead to the end of the line I made numerous casts around the swim. Allowing the lead to reach the bottom I simply reeled back. The purpose of this was to test for snags. If there were any then I wanted to know where, and if possible what. After a few minutes of casting I knew that I was fishing into a snag-free swim.
Rods just one step from the bivvie
The second thing I did was to slide a float above the lead and tie a power gum stop knot above that. The purpose of this being to find out the depths that lay before me. So by the time I finally cast out my baits, I knew where the bed dropped to 16′ and I knew where it went even deeper to 20′.There are many anglers who will simply turn up and cast out without even bothering to find out what lies before them. Particularly as I was there for two nights I wanted to know as much as I could, so that when I put my baits out, I did so with total confidence knowing that they were in exactly the place where I wanted them to be. If you leave your baits out for prolonged periods of time, as I often do, then the last thing you want to be doing is to have doubts in your mind. On my spring gravel pit sessions for tench and bream I have re-cast several times one after the other until I have been happy.
In addition to the placement of the baits, access to the rods is also a consideration. Based in a bivvie it meant that I couldn’t pitch up next to the water’s edge, which would be ideal. Instead I had to set up on the bank; I had no other option due to space. But I wasn’t happy with the rods being at the bottom of the bank, as the time involved from base to rod was too long. So what I did was to clear the undergrowth and position the rod rests in such a way that I was just one step away from them. I also did them so that whichever rod I had a fish on I could strike and make my way to the water’s edge safely. By the time I cast out I was satisfied that everything was in order, from bait placement to landing procedure.
What a fish – even if I say so myself!
Although it was a tight swim, the sluggish river meant that I could fish two rods easily, with one upstream and the other just into the purple willow that had grown out at 45 degrees due to erosion weakening the root system in the bank. If the river is rising though it will be much more difficult to fish two rods and pretty impossible with the 1.5 ounce leads I was using. But for now I was happy to take advantage of the conditions and to not only spread the baits, but also to fish light. Fishing gudgeon deadbaits, it was all quiet for the few hours of afternoon fishing that I had. But as darkness came I had numerous indications on the alarms that fish were active. I did suspect small eels at first but every time I reeled in there was no sign of nibbling or chewing, which is what happens when eels are active.
I settled on finicky zander being around, and this was confirmed when the right rod started to peel line at a slow and steady rate. Lifting into the fish it was a good feeling to come up against the resistance of a decent fish. But I didn’t quite realise just how big. Even when it broke the surface I initially thought maybe 8lb, but as it neared the net the solid bulk made me think ‘double’. And by the time it was actually in the net and on the unhooking mat, there was no doubt as to whether it would break the magical barrier. The only question was by how much! When the digital read-out showed 10lb 10oz it was a new personal best zander that I was lovingly cradling in the weigh sling. After a few photographs and making sure the fish was ready to return, I first of all telephoned my wife and then secondly wrote on my Twitter site (stewartbloor) ‘YES YES YES. Zander 10lb 10oz‘.
A small pike turns up at first light
The rest of the night was quiet but at first light I had another zander – this one much smaller – and a pike. Both were taken on the right rod and as they were the last of the session it meant that all three fish came to that rod. I was hopeful regarding the other one but it was fruitless. But if I fish the same peg next week, I may catch three on that rod and blank on the other. That’s fishing for you. But it’s also why we have to put time into a swim before we see any sort of pattern developing. And then if we do should find out why. If I have two rods and one regularly out-fishes the other, of course I appreciate the fish it produces, but I want to establish the reasons why. As anglers, an inquisitive and probing mind is essential if we are to learn and develop.
The only time I lifted the rods on the whole of the day, the second night and the following morning was to check on the baits. If I’d have known I could have gone home after my big zed and done something else! But wouldn’t it be boring and unfulfilling if we knew not only what we were going to catch but also when? For me the excitement and the buzz of angling is the unknown. The anticipation of the bite – whether it be a pull round from a barbel, a quiver from a roach, a drop back from a bream or a screamer off a tench – is what keeps us switched on and going back time and time again. And returning to the lower Severn and its zander is something that I will definitely be doing more of over the next few months. So as they say, watch this space. Or better still, follow me on Twitter!
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(Originally published September 2009)