Sunday, 18 August 2013

Eventful adventure but the target fish escaped us

Yesterday I went out with Woody to a new river, to me at leastanyway. He phoned me mid week to ask if I fancied an adventure. Silly question as I love going new places. He then dropped it to me where it was, and mentioned the zed word, Zander. I don't know what I was more excited about, the brand new river or the chance of a zed. I was a bit giddy for the rest of the week.

I arrived at Woodys house at around 5:20am. It's the first time I'd been to his house and I managed to find it on the second pass, his house is tucked in a little cul-de-sac off the main road. I pulled in to find the road was tiny so I had to spin the car around, half in someone's drive. At least at that time no one would see me. I then struggled to park as the small road was full of cars, plus Woodys car and boat but I found a space next to a fence. his house lights were on and then Woody popped his head out of the front door. He invited me in, we had a quick brew and he also plonked in front of me his iPad and a video of Matt Hayes from Youtube. A great video and it got the juices flowing for certain. We chucked my gear in his car and then I moved mine around to another spot where Woody said it would be better and then we were off. A good couple of hour drive was in front of us, which I don't mind though the only problem with this is it's fishing time wasted. We'd just have to work harder to make the most of our time when we got there. We'd only been on the road an hour when Woody got a call from his missus Becky to tell him that I'd been slagged off on Facebook for parking on a private drive, that I was this far from getting a ticket from the local self proclaimed wannabe traffic warden. Ha ha, some people are sad. They need to get fishing in their lives and chill the feck out! A bit of drama to start with but the day was going to have more events than a few saddos on Facebook. Straight on to drama number two. We were plodding along the motorway when out of the corner of my eye I see a low flying Wood pigeon. They are often a bit slack as it is but this one had decided to low fly across the motorway. At the last second it swerved to miss the car on our outside in the middle lane. It missed the drivers window by a fraction, up and over that car, but the wind and slipstream caused of that just car sucked it back down the other side and then straight in to the drivers window of our car. Of course Woody hadn't seen it and it had him shitting his pants, to my amusement of course. His window was also open about three inches, how funny would it have been if that thing had flown straight in? Me and Woody frantically doing our best to stop Tike from running around the car trying to catch a pigeon, ha ha!

Pulling up to the boat launch we were now excited. But our first thoughts after checking out what the river looked like were that the ramp was a little steep and the funny angle meant there wasn't much room for mistake as if we got it wrong the trailer would run off the edge of a tight angled, steep short ramp. First attempt saw us slightly wrong and so we had to get the car up the ramp again. The wheels span and it didn't look good, arse cheeks squeezed firmly and it was back for another run up. This time we got it right and I shoved the boat off. All aboard and we were all set for our little adventure though we both knew that getting out might be a little tricky especially if we get some rain later in the day.

We had a little troll of the light lures a few hundred meters down to the bottom of this stretch of river. There was a weir and also some lock gates which we wanted to have a jig around and that's where we were heading. I wasn't targeting a zander, the new river was enough excitement for me but I would love to catch one. Woody had zeds on the brain and wanted to get us both in on the fish, obviously any zed for me was a pb and that was his target. We pulled up at a fishy looking spot and got on with tying up the boat. Woody dropped down a kopyto and started to make it dance. There was a knock and his rod tip was bent and he was in to a fish. Is it a zander? We couldn't help but think that way as it's all we'd talked about. I grabbed the net and watched as the fish kept yanking away and putting a bend in the rod. We were in a small area and there wasn't much room so often the fish was under the boat, even the rod was bent under the boat sometimes so we never saw the fish which just added to the excitement. Eventually up it popped,  a small jack. Grrr! We both knew that there was far more chance of us catching our usual prey of pike and perch but you can't help getting excited at the thought of something different. Jigging this spot we picked up a few perch also before moving off thirty yard or so to jig another bit. Again more perch until we moved the next thirty yard where the fish finder showed a mass of black, a ball of fish? This ball seemed to move around so we knew something was here. The something turned in to more perch, they were everywhere. Small ones, half decent ones right up to around ten ounce or so. There must surely be a bigger perch or two here but after half an hour or so it went quiet and we'd not found them.

The plan now was for a steady troll up river to see what was ahead of us. We knew it was a half decent stretch but that we would cover it easily in the time we had so we wanted to get up it, see what fish we could pick up and then target the weir at the other end. There was a very strong flow to the river and this meant it was a bit of a struggle for the boat going up stream. A bit of wind had picked up which added to this but we didn't mind too much as we've fished in worse and caught. It was a little slow but we did keep picking up the odd perch and then every now and again a small pike. We expected to see more anglers on the bank but there was only a handful up to now. They can be a hazard to us trolling as often they are tucked in to some bushes out of sight. We come past trolling out our long lines, they have a couple of rods out and long lines out and then we all end up in a pickle if the lines cross. As we passed one angler, we were sure we were far enough away for this not to happen. But I had a knock which turned out to be nothing other than something on my line that wasn't a fish. As I started to bring my lure in I saw fishing line. I looked across to the bank angler and he wasn't grabbing for his rods at least. I ended up pulling in about sixty yards of strong line with a feeder on the end but no hook link. How the hell this had happened I don't know. The rig looked new and also like it had been done by someone who knew what he was doing. I tied up all the line into a ball and chucked it in my bag to get rid of later.

With the weir in sight, we'd not fared too well and thought we should have had more fish but didn't know why we hadn't. Anyway now we had the lock gates and the weir to have a go at. There were a couple of anglers around which meant we couldn't fish all of the weir but the lock was fair game and this is where we went first. I moored us up and we got to fishing a fast bit of water around the gates, with a couple of slack spots off it including a good slack right at the gates though we weren't quite on that bit yet. Woody was in to a perch in no time which was a bit better than what we'd been having though of nothing of notable size. I too got in to the perch and again a half decent one at that. I got Woody to take a photo since by now I was thinking we were having a slow day and I needed something for the blog at least.

Having given this bit of water some stick we decided to give the gates some hammer but this meant getting up close with the boat and holding in the slack water. Sat afloat just before the lock gates we both looked up and the gates were huge. We passed comment on how we needed to stay sharp and get out of there if we thought there was to be a boat coming our way as we wouldn't want to be there when the gates opened. Jigging around we picked up more perch including a few half decent fish, similar sized as before. There was then a strange noise. I can't actually remember what I heard, a squeal, an alarm, someone banging drums. I can just remember me and Woody looking at each other. I think we both thought, what the fuck? We both also then thought, there's a boat in that lock. I presume most people know why and how a lock gate works but just to highlight on the important bit. We were below the lock gates. If those gates were closed and full of water a boat from upstream can enter, then be lowered and come out our side on the downstream section. However the gates don't just open as that would be thousands of gallons of water being thrown out and a boat riding a massive wave. Instead the water comes out below and lowers the craft gently. Problem being, we were right where the water came out. All of a sudden the water below us started to bubble and boil. We were already getting our rods in at the point we heard the alarm but we were too slow. The boat started to move around and as Woody tried to put the power on and get us out it had little affect. We were riding a massive boil of water, it was churning up at an immense rate and we were in the shit. Apart from panic there wasn't much I could do except panic though I was also watching the back end of the boat to keep an eye out for bubbling water coming up and over the lowest point of the boat. Woody could only panic as he tried to get some control of the boat and some control over himself as he panicked. We finally were out of it after a combination of the boat taking us out and the water forcing us out, though we both know that it was way more the part of the water. You can laugh after an event like that but at the time it was very much arse clenching time. Make note if you are a boat fisherman for future reference.

Very windy day on the river
Next we had a go at the weir. We tried to get as close as was safe, especially with thoughts of our last episode very fresh in our heads. We tried in vain to get in and fish some of the faster water and any slacks but the force was too much and after a while we gave up. We fished plenty of the area with little success to be honest and eventually made our way back downstream, trolling as we went along. We actually started to pick up a few fish and downstream we seemed to be getting more fish than we did coming upstream. We also noted it was far easier to get the lures down than before and that the boat was hardly having to do anything, on minimum revs and we were fishing much better like this. The only thing against us now was the wind from before was now much much worse. In fact we might have been better with a sail than a motor. I took some photos to try and show how bad it actually was but even this picture doesn't look as rough. At least us going with it all instead of against it all was a little easier. We kept on trolling the light lures and as we passed a tree Woody was doing something, I can't quite remember what, maybe getting a sausage roll. He had his rod wedged in his legs to free up his hands. I just managed to look up at the right point as his rod was smacked by something and arched right over. Woody frantically grabbed the rod and it was fish on. Immediately he knew something was different and I wound in my lure and grabbed the net. As the fish came close we both spotted a huge chub. We knew we had a chance of one here and finally we had it. The fish wasn't finished and it wasn't quite ready for the net. I mentioned the current on this river was strong earlier but didn't really say how strong. I also mentioned the wind by now was strong and again hadn't really emphasised the point. We were steadily speedily drifting and as the chub came close it made one last dash, right under the boat and right under the propeller. Woody cut the engine but was fractionally too late and the fish was off and not only that his line was caught in the prop. I dropped anchor so that we could safely sort out the mess but the anchor did little except slow us down, it wouldn't bed in to anything because presumably the river bed was just soft. At one point it held up and we were actually ok but then next time I looked we were off again. We were pushed downstream at an alarming rate, easily a couple hundred meters but at least we weren't right in the middle and there was no other boat traffic about. We got sorted about a hundred metres up from a couple of bank anglers. There wouldn't have been much we could do as we drifted past, trolling the anchor and pulling in their rods!

Getting back to fishing we decided to give a bit of a stretch some stick with a new tactic. By now, even with the strong current and winds Woody had seemingly mastered it to a degree at least. We had some sense of control as we drifted down and our new tactic was to drift and throw jerk baits in all the likely looking weedy spots, under over hangs, slack spots anywhere and everywhere. However this turned out to be pretty fruitless with just one jack to the boat. So back to trolling again we picked up the odd fish and before long we were nearly back at the bottom of the stretch. We'd been back up certain stretches along the way so it wasn't just a straight return trip and so now it was late afternoon. It was time to hit the lock gates we'd had a bit of fun with the perch this morning in the hope something decent might be there.

Mooring up it was to be the same tactics, simply jigging our kopytos. I cast out and slowly started to twitch it back. Typically in perch fashion I felt a nip, then another and then Bang! "I'm in mate" I said and then in no time it turned to "it's a decent perch I reckon." Woody was sorting the net just in case while I had a bit of a battle with something on the other end of the line. As it got close it then went mental and my rod was bent double. Still confident it was a perch by the fight I was now thinking BIG perch. It then came up and gave us a flash of spikes and stripes and we knew it was good. You can now add the usual knee trembling moments you get when you see a big perch on the end of your line. The next time it came up it was in the net, result! Another brute of a perch to the boat after last week when Woody grabbed one just short of three. I didn't think it was quite three but it was a long fish and Woody sorted the scales out while I unhooked and then left it in the net to get some oxygen. It went 2lb 12oz and I was chuffed with that.

After some trophy shots I thought I'd put the fish back in the net to make sure it was fine. As I turned a voice from a moored up canal boat asked "what fish was that?". A lady and he man were sat having a cup of tea on their moored up canal boat and I'd not even noticed them before. With my attention distracted I lost co-ordination somehow and as I went to put the fish in the net I slipped and nearly went in head first. The fish went in the net and I clung to the side of the boat with just half my arm getting wet. Jeez, can we have any more dramas? We told the lady it was a perch and she chuckled at me nearly falling in and then watched on as we put the fish back and then proceeded to catch more perch though none anywhere near as big. Moving on and mooring up in another bit we pretty much chilled out for a bit. We were in a sun trap, out of the raging wind and current and it was actually quit nice now, though just in this corner. We weren't particularly catching much but it was good to just relax a little. I was casting around the kopyto, often you'll bump the bottom and you have to work out if it was the bottom, weed, or a fish. As my kopyto came to the surface it was missing a tail. I must have had a nip from something so I put on a new lure and cast out in hope of a fish. As I did so spotted Tike take a snap at the lure as it swung past his nose. Having watched him do this through the day I was now wondering if it was a fish that had bit my lure in half or the crazy dog. When I asked him him declined to comment. Hmm?

Back to trolling we gave the lower stretch a bit of stick and got a few more fish out. Woody hooked in to something half decent, especially on the light gear which after a good scrap turned out to be a pike of seven or eight pound which was a good way to finish the day. By now the wind was mental and any up stream travel was a little rough and wet. As he turned to make a last attempt for home came the final drama of the day. Woody's cap went flying off as the wind took a hold and before we knew it was drifting off yards away. Coming up behind us was a large canal boat which was actually tramming quite fast and heading for the hat. Woody span the boat and cranked the motor to full speed. I jumped and grabbed the net and we sped off to intercept the hat before the canal boat sent it to the depths. I had to treat this netting job as a 4lb perch or an any sized zander, there had to be no mistake and I had just one shot at it. Get in, as we sped past I scooped it up and Woodys Rapala Cap was saved. We now just had the tricky task of getting the boat back up the ramp. We decided to empty everything out of the boat and leave it to one side to save on weight. Second attempt and we were lined up nicely and we winched on the boat. As Woody let off the clutch, the wheels span briefly but we were off and up. I reckon it was mainly down to me though since I also put my shoulder in to it giving the car a helpful nudge. As most of you will have seen I'm naturally a big lad and it's my natural strength that played the big part. The car was loaded up and we were on our way, with Woodys Cap clamped firmly in the boat's fish finder clamp flapping away to dry off in the breeze as we went. We talked about our day, the positives and the negatives and the lack of zander action which was a pity. We weren't too disappointed but it was a shame as I've never even seen one up close. We might have to do some more homework and go off in search of them again in the near future.

2lb 12oz perch

1 comment:

  1. I want to catch one of those someday, and hold it for a few minutes and take some nice photos and release it to the river again. I always do it when I was on a fishing vacation.