03/12/2104 - Another quick zander session

I suppose this mild weather had to end sometime so, with temperatures forecast to plummet, it was back onto the river for another quick zander session after work to test my new rigs. River had dropped and cleared considerably since last visit and with the bright sunshine I thought I could well be in for a struggle. Baited up and dropped the two rigs out on the crease. Wasn't happy with my left hand rod, so picked it up to move it only to find it well and truly snagged - a downside of using trebles! At least I only lost the trace but, having only made up two of the treble rigs to experiment with, it meant I had to replace it with one of my conventional hair rigs. Sod's Law, that was the rod to start nodding about 20 minutes later! Fortunately this one really wanted the bait and set off with it before I'd picked up the rod. After a short fight, I had another fat zander of 6lb 8oz in the net.  

Zed on the hair

As the light dropped the Barn Owl put in another appearance, this time flying backwards and forwards over the river and, at one stage, landing on the fence downstream of me. Unfortunately he couldn't work his magic this time as I didn't have another sniff on either rod. Sky was clear as a bell and consequently it got very cold, very quickly as it got dark. Packed up as the mist started rising off the river and a frost started to form on my damp weigh sling. Wasn't surprised when the car thermometer said it was 1 degree Centigrade. Time to start thinking about some grayling sessions!

28/11/2014 - Short stay zedding

Got a bit stir crazy over the last week - constantly watching the weather forecast and the river levels. A planned trip to the Trent with my mate Tim was aborted after he got stuck in Kings Lynn with work. In the end I decided "you've got to be in it to win it" and threw the gear in the car for another short trip to the River Soar after work instead. Left the office at 1500 hrs on the dot and was at the venue 15 minutes later. The drive over the field was even more perilous than last time, the car sliding all over the place, so I stopped well short of the river. Was therefore nice and warm with the extra walk when I got to my swim to find the river coloured and higher than on any of my previous visits. Still looked good as the increased back eddy had formed a nice crease about two rod lengths out with a little slack on the inside. Soon had two rods out, one with the usual roach and the other with a pre-prepared section from the bloody end of a lamprey. Figured the extra scent trail created would give me an edge if the water was coloured. However, it was the roach that went first about 20 minutes after casting in. Wound down and pulled into a fish that gave a familiar kick. Sure enough, I soon had a reasonable zander on the surface and was just about to net it when.....yep, the hook pulled out! Bit of swearing and a fresh bait later the same rod went off once more. Again, wound down and pulled into a bigger fish. Thankfully this one stayed on, the size 6 Korum S3 lodged firmly in the scissors. Another zander, this one a right fatty and 7lb 9oz on the scales.


Was watching a Barn Owl hunting over the meadow on the far side of the river in the gathering gloom when something finally came knocking on the lamprey rod. Picked it up, letting the line run out between my fingers before winding down to ...nothing! Stayed for another hour into full darkness, but didn't have another sniff, so was back at the car a little over two hours after I arrived. Had something to think about when I got home. Have had plenty of action over the last four, short sessions, but 12 runs have only resulted in 7 hookups and 5 fish (four zander, one pike) on the bank. The two fish lost at the point of netting were particularly galling. Therefore decided to tie up some traces incorporating a small treble to try out next session. 

Let's see how they like these

Much as I like the idea of my hair rigs in that a fish taking the bait has minimal contact with any metalwork, I also like the idea of more fish in the net, so we'll see if it makes a difference next time. 

As a postscript to the above, I came across another blog (jimmysfishing) that mentioned Mr Chub's occasional fondness for deadbaits. Made me think back to a pike session on the Trent near Newark ages ago where I was getting seemingly unmissable runs on lamprey. Eventually hooked a chub about 3lb, just snagged on the bottom treble and with the lamprey section sticking out of its mouth like a bit fat cigar. Could be that some of the runs I'm experiencing on the Soar are chub as well. We'll have to see.  

13/11/2014 - Change of hat, change of fortune.

Had two more sessions after zander this week and it really was a game of two halves. Was hoping to try the River Trent yesterday, but it was carrying a bit too much water, so opted for the section of the Soar where I'd had a successful debut last week instead. However, in contrast, this turned out to be a very frustrating session. Fished exactly the same bait and rigs as last time on a slightly higher, coloured river. Three takes - nod, nod, nod on the rod tip, line pulling through the fingers, wound down to....nothing! Fourth take, wound down to...a snag! Manage to pull out to feel a heavy fish still attached and kicking on the end. Got it right under my feet and was just getting ready with the net  and...the hook pulled out! Sat there for another two hours without another sniff, so I was absolutely gutted when I made my way home. However, didn't spend too much time licking my wounds as I was back there again today for a quick session after work with newly tied rigs and fresh bait. There was a bit more flow and colour on than the previous day, but it still looked pretty good. This time I had to wait all of 10 minutes before the upstream rod started nodding and I wound down to feel another heavy fish. Played it with kid gloves expecting something to go wrong, but on landing it I found the hook well inside the mouth and not going anywhere. Turned out to be an 8lb 1oz zander with a distinctive split rear dorsal, best from the river so far.

Confidence restored!

Didn't have any further interest, so didn't spend fruitless hours this time sat in the dark. Two hours after I started I was back at the car and a lot happier than before. They may have just been a bit finicky and me unlucky with the fish I lost yesterday. However, I put it down to my hat! Couldn't find my favourite "Urban Trout" beanie yesterday, so had to make do with the wife's, which happened to be in the car. Unfortunately I suspect there was some bad karma and payback involved given our "friendly" rivalry when it comes to rugby - me being an England supporter and her following the "Land of my Fathers". 


Hopefully normal service is now resumed!

05/11/2014 - Zander sessions

Back home after a week away and the plan now was to get a few more sessions in after some zeds. One from one of my local rivers was a particular target. However, with a few hours to spare on a Sunday afternoon, the first trip was down to the canal. Conditions looked good. The light rain that started as I arrived soon disappeared and it turned into a nice evening. 

Autumn colours on the cut

Soon had two baits out, hair-rigged roach sections again, and settled down to wait. Thought I'd missed the boat traffic for the day, but had to wind if for one latecomer. A small pike took this as a cue to take the downstream bait, causing a bit of excitement for those on board.  

On the 'ead

A few fish started dimpling as the light faded and there was an air of expectancy that things would soon kick off. However, it wasn't until it was fully dark that the upstream rod rattled off, resulting in a typical schoolie zander.  

Where's your mum?

Was hopeful that a few fish had moved into the swim now. However, despite moving the baits around between the far bank, near bank and mid-channel, I could only muster one more before it was time to pack up and head home. Had a bit of a head scratch after tea and perused a few other blogs to see how others were getting on. Saw that the zander hook debate had been raised by a couple of people. I've always been pretty conservative in terms of hook size, preferring to fish half-baits on a size 4 or 6 Korum S3. I also prefer to hair-rig my baits, as in the top of the picture below. Fish are generally hooked in the scissors, as shown in the two photos above. I've had pike to over 15 lbs on this arrangement so a small hook doesn't seem to be a problem. I do fail to connect with the odd fish, but an experimental session with a mini snap tackle made with size 12 Partridge outbend trebles (in bottom of picture below) suggested that these were mini-zeds that were barely able to get the baits in their mouths. Think it basically comes down to personal preference in the end as there seems to be several hooking arrangements out there that work.

Zander candy

Next session was on a club section of the River Soar that I'd not fished before but one I had already been to have a look at to suss out some likely swims. Arranged to work down in Rothley for the day, leaving at 3 o'clock sharp in order to give myself maximum daylight to sort myself out. Whilst there were a few cars parked up in the field next to the river when I got there, there was nobody at the bottom of the section and I was able to drop into my preferred swim - a deep, wide pool with the flow going past some trees on the far bank. Was trying an alternative approach for this session, fishing with my Drennan Big Feeder rods with 4oz tips and isotopes. Dropped one half bait on the crease near the trees and another down the middle of the river. Didn't have to wait long before the tip on the rod over the far bank started nodding. Unfortunately, there was no resistance when I wound down and I found that the bait had been pulled off the hair. Re-baited and sent it over again. The next time the tip started nodding I was straight on the rod, feeling the line running out between my fingers before I wound down. This time there was something solid on the end - a 5lb 1oz zander to be exact, my first proper "river" fish (drains don't count!).


Popped another bait over in the same spot and soon had another take, unfortunately from an obligatory pike. Stayed quiet after this and into dark apart from a couple of single jabs on the downstream rod. The moon had come up by now, making it ridiculously light but also flippin' cold! Was watching a flotilla of six swans make their way slowly along the far bank and contemplating packing up when the rod over by the tree started nodding again. Wound down to be met with the proverbial "wet sack" that turned into another zander. This went into the net without a whimper despite being bigger than the first at 6lb 3oz. 

Number two!

Packed up after this and made my way back to the car. A mist was rising off the river that, in the moonlight, made the scene more worthy of Halloween rather than Bonfire Night. Wasn't surprised when the car thermometer said zero degrees! Drove home pretty happy with the results of a couple of hours on a new bit of river and already planning the next session.

29/10/2014 - Back in the Dock

Half term saw us heading down to Devon to see friends for a couple of days, then heading west to the in-laws in Pembrokeshire. Threw a few bits in with a view to having a go for a last-minute bass, but with tides not playing ball again it was off to Hobbs Point in Pembroke Dock instead.

On the point
Got there an hour or so before high tide in order to fish through slack water. Dropped a simple two-hook paternoster baited up with bits of ragworm down the side of the ramp and waited to see what would turn up. Didn't have to wait long. In fact it must have been like fish soup down there. Instantly started getting knocks and rattles. The main culprits were rock gobies that were coming up two at a time!
Had a few of these in the bag when the rod tip bent over properly, resulting a little wrasse.
Thought I'd caught the mother of all gobies at one stage only to have a really pretty sea scorpion to pop up at the surface.
Had lost count of the number of gobies I'd actually caught at this stage, so was pleased when wrasse number two turned up instead, a slighter better, darker specimen than the first.
Bit better
Was a big tide today, so wasn't surprised when it started pulling out again less than an hour after high water. However, it seemed to bring a change as species number four appeared - a little pouting.
Had a couple more of these (and more gobies!) before I started to struggle holding bottom with the 2 ounce lead. Dropped down one last time and was rewarded with the best wrasse of the morning.
Best 'til last
Headed back for breakfast after a fish-filled two hours at a venue that's already become a firm favourite after only a couple of visits. Roll on next year!

08/10/2014 - When things go awry

Everyone has a bad run now and then, it's just galling when your fishing time is limited and every session counts. Time to grin and bear it and hope you come out of it on the other side with something spectacular. Well, several sessions later I'm still waiting! First up was a trip after some hungry, back-end brownies, which I thought would be lining up to climb up my line. Made my way through the maize to find the river desperately in need of some rain.

Not quite as high as an elephant's eye..

Bare bones

Apart from where there was enough flow to scour them clean, the stones on the bed of the river were covered in a brown, scummy layer of diatoms. Also, with less dilution, several more ochrous springs were making their presence felt, staining the bed with their bright orange deposits.


Any old iron?

Dropped my nymph into the faster runs to no avail. The fish were there - I could see them shooting off in the clear, shallow water as I made my way upstream! I did find a spectacular bracket fungus, the sulphur polypore, and an old Peck's meat paste jar.  

Chicken of the woods

Er....chicken paste of the woods?

Was beginning to think that this would be my first trout blank of the year when the tip eventually jagged over as a little one finally took my fly. 

Small, but very welcome!

Next was a return trip to a similarly low and clear River Soar. Started off with the float rod as usual and found that, in contrast to the last session in the same spot and despite the constant attention of the micro-chub, the roach were there in good numbers. Trotted away happily, catching roach, chub, dace, bleak and small perch. However, apart from a couple of delicate knocks resulting in a stolen bait, the paternoster rod I put out out for a big stripey stayed ominously quiet. Dropping it next to the bush at last knockings resulted in the inevitable - a violent twang on the rod tip followed by acrobatics from an angry pike. 

Not a perch!

When I got back home and hung out my landing net, I found I'd picked up a hitch hiker. A couple of days in a bait tub with some leaves and he was returned none the worse for wear.

Hey up, little 'un!

Final trip of note (?!) was down to Saunton, where I hoped to better my first and only Devon bass caught on my last visit. I had checked Joel's blog and was encouraged to see that he'd had 25 fish off the estuary the week before. However, that was when conditions were good. Unfortunately my arrival coincided with a change to gloomy, cold, wet weather and a howling gale! 

I think that's the sun??

Flogged away anyway, fishing topwater lures at slack water and then fishing down the tide with soft plastics. Managed one take in about 7 hours fishing.....and that came off. At least I got to see Verity again on the one decent day of the weekend.

Are you looking at my bum?

Oh well, keep calm and carry on as they say - there's a big fish waiting 'round the corner, I know it!

21/09/2014 - Zander time

Fancied a go for the Zeds this weekend, so headed off for a favoured, reliable spot on the canal. Thought there was a bivvy in "the spot" when I arrived, but it turned out to be a cheap tent surrounded by empty cans and bottles. Set up a short distance away so as not to disturb any potentially inebriated inhabitants. However, was collared a short while later by a woman who came marching up the towpath and accused me of "causing a right stink in the village on Facebook". I hadn't got a clue what she was on about until she showed me a post on her iphone ranting about the "tramp's camp". I know my fishing clothes obviously aren't my best, but come on! After I put her straight she went off to confront the true occupants of the tent, only to find it empty. This at least put me more at ease knowing I wouldn't be subject to some drunkard's attentions later in the evening.

Anybody home?

Soon had two baits out and settled down with the smell of stale beer wafting down the towpath. Had to do the hokey cokey with a couple of boats but, as expected, it wasn't until the sun started to drop behind the trees on the far bank that I had any interest from the fish. As the light began to fade a run on the far rod resulted in the first Zed of the autumn on a hair-rigged roach head.


The wind had dropped to nothing by now, turning the surface of the canal into a mirror. 


As the sun disappeared below the horizon the bobbin on the right hand rod starting doing a Michael Flatley, finally resulting in a smaller Zed, again hooked neatly in the scissors by the hair rig.

Had three more runs in the next 15 minutes, but unfortunately managed to miss all of them! I knew from experience that these were likely to be micro-zander and had visions of a pack of them rushing out of the marina opposite me like a bunch of kids leaving school - as quickly as they were there, they were gone. Had to wait until it was fully dark before I had the best of the evening.


By 9 o'clock the sky had completely cleared and it had become distinctly damp and chilly. Had just packed up one rod when the other one stuttered into life adding one final Zed to the tally. Hopefully I'll be on the river next time. With reports of more and more zander coming out of the Soar, it's time to go pioneering.

16/09/2014 - Opportunistic perch

September is usually when I get the predator bug back, with perch and zander in my sights once again. I'd had a walk along one of the sections of the River Soar that I have a club book for last week. Whilst it was quite low, there were absolutely loads of silver fish showing, particularly in the faster water up towards the weir. With some juicy spots nearby that looked as if they should harbour a stripey or two it looked perfect for my trotting/paternoster approach so, after an early finish at work, I was back down at the river. Picked a spot where I could get in the river and trot down a couple of creases, formed where the river came through a reed bed upstream, and where I could drop the paternoster into some deeper water downstream of me.

Here be silvers

After a few trots down it soon became apparent that the swim was completely snided out with little chub about as long as my middle finger. Great news for the future, but a bit of a pain in the present! Popped one out on the paternoster thinking it'd be like a needle in a haystack and just hoping that it was sending out the right signals to any perch nearby. However, didn't have to wait long - a stuttering take resulted in a very greedy little stripey.


The true extent of his gluttony was revealed when I unhooked him and found another tail sticking out of his throat! Missed the next one (forgot to take off the bail arm...), but then had another one similar to the first on the next cast. Rebaited and dropped in again only to have the bait unceremoniously grabbed before I got the line in the run clip. From the head banging I knew this one was much better, a pleasing 2lb 3oz to be exact.

A proper stripey

Carried on trotting and started picking up some better fish, including some bigger chub, some monster bleak and the odd roach. However, didn't get another touch on the paternoster so, when the light began to fade, I packed up the float rod and moved down to a swim that just screamed predators - a large raft formed by a fallen willow extending out into the flow.


Dropped a bait alongside the branches and sat down to wait. Unfortunately it was the wrong predator that snaffled the bait as a sudden smash take signalled the attention of a jack that charged around the swim before I could bundle it into the net. Had just unhooked it and was putting it back when the swim was well and truly knackered by a group of canoeists that appeared 'round the corner and headed up to the weir. They soon found that the water was too shallow for them, prompting loads of shouting and banging of paddles and canoes on rocks. At least they had the decency to stay on the far bank on the way back! Left myself shortly after this fairly happy with having added another 2lber to my tally.  

29/08/2104 - Bass, wrasse and brownies

Not been blogging for a while 'cus.........I've not been fishing for a while! The gloom caused by the uncertainty at work was forgotten temporarily with a much needed holiday to France with friends. Enjoyed plenty of wine, good food, excellent company and logged a couple of hundred more miles on the road bike. Didn't think it was worth taking any fishing gear this time as most things seem to end up in a French cooking pot down there, but did spot a shoal of barbel at a bathing area on the River Charente that would make me re-consider in future. Unfortunately all good things come to an end, but I only had to endure a week at work before we were off again - this time down to Pembrokeshire to see the in-laws. As usual I'd thrown in a few bits and bobs to cover a number of eventualities. However, my opportunities were to be limited by the tide and the weather. It chucked it down with rain and blew a gale most days. The brief interludes of better weather were spent on the beach with the kids and their cousins or on the bike. However, still managed to find a couple of reasonable windows for fishing, albeit with mixed results. First trip down to the estuary for the bass, lure fishing on an incoming tide, was a complete blank. Second trip (having had to scour the county for some fresh ragworm!) was at high tide to another mark in the estuary where I thought there might be the chance of a wrasse.

Rarer than rocking horse poo!

Unfortunately, apart from a few knocks and rattles, that also turned out to be a blank and I was forced home when the tide turned and the estuary coloured up. Not to be outdone I headed out for the final time to a mark near Pembroke Dock - Hobb's Point. Dropped a simple two-hook rig down the side of the ramp that used to serve the car ferry to see what would turn up.

The ramp at Hobb's Point with the toll bridge in the background

Wasn't long before I was getting knocks and rattles. Initially found that I was striking into thin air in my eagerness, but soon learned to wait for the tip to go well over and then just lift into the fish. Was a bit surprised when the first fish to pop up on the surface was a schoolie bass.

Silver bar

The next fish was what I was really after - my first Welsh wrasse - and a right little fatty at that (assumed it was a Ballan, but correct me if wrong!).


Next drop down I had an instant smash hit and briefly bent into a much bigger fish that immediately made for the base of the wall before everything went slack. Found that the hooklink had been neatly severed just above the beads, presumably as a better wrasse had made it back into its snaggy bolthole before I could turn it. Carried on dropping down to the same spot and had couple more wrasse, both of similar size and colour to the first.

Peas in a pod

Unfortunately the last one decided to croak it for no apparent reason, turning belly up when I popped him back in. Luckily I knew somebody who would be very grateful for a fish dinner so, rather than it him drift off for the seagulls, I risked the waves and two wet feet to retrieve it and popped it in the bag for later. By now the tide had started ebbing and pulling strongly along the wall and I was struggling to hold bottom with my light gear, so I was surprised that my last fish was a little rock goby (again, please correct me if I'm wrong with the ID) that had managed to stuff a two inch section of ragworm into its mouth.


Tried the other side of the ramp for a bit, but the water was much shallower and with no more rattles or knocks I headed back homewards. I had got my new Aleka 10 ft #4 fly rod (Aleka Sports) in the boot as I had been hoping to have a go at catching some of the numerous mullet in the estuary. That idea had been knocked on the head as the incessant wind had turned the creeks and inlets into a nice choppy, brown soup that made fish spotting impossible. However, the thought of christening it on a few brownies instead saw me take the turn off to Llawhadden and the River Cleddau. Found the river to be at a reasonable level and still clear despite all of the rain, so quickly set up a three fly cast, pulled on the chesties and dropped in the river at the head of the stretch. Lost a good fish in the faster water under the trees just as a couple in a van pulled up to watch - Sod's Law! Was happy with the rod  though - coupled with a Barrio "Smallstream" fly line (Barrio fly lines) it easily punched a long wet fly cast with a goldhead nymph on the end across the river in the blustery conditions. Carried on working my way downstream, but it wasn't until I reached the deeper water down by the bridge that I had any further interest - four brownies in quick succession, all on the point fly.

Last Pembrokeshire brownie of 2014

Already had a kingfisher and a dipper working the river with me when I happened to glance to my left and spot a trail of bubbles heading for a ledge at the base of the wall below the road. A few seconds later a mink popped out, had a shake, gave me a long stare and then disappeared in a trail of bubbles back from where he came. Had got down to the bridge by now and the end of the "free" section, so called it a day and waded back up to the car. Back at home Angus, the juvenile white tailed sea eagle (Pembrokeshire Falconry), was the grateful recipient of my expired wrasse.

Angus tucks in

I was surprised that, for such a big bird, he is quite a delicate eater - picking off morsels with his massive beak rather then necking it in one as I thought he would do. However, soon all that was left was a few scales. Chickens didn't miss out either - they had the leftover rag!


Hopefully I'll be a bit more regular with the blog come September - with the nights drawing in it'll be time for the perch and zander.

09/07/2014 - Therapy

Had some bad news at the start of last week. Budget cuts in the Environment Agency mean that Environment Officers like myself - the Agency's boots on the ground - have been deemed "unaffordable" (what a delightful way of putting it...), so 5 out of 25 of us have got to go. We now end up being assessed for own own jobs and the unsuccessful ones redeployed or worse. Needless to say the mood at work has been a bit sombre, so today was just about getting away from it for a few hours. My trout gear was to hand, so it was back out to Derbyshire. An early morning mist was rising as I made my way across the maize field, but it was short-lived in the warm, bright sunshine. The lapwings were conspicuous by their absence, so I could only assume that they'd taken the family to pastures new.


Once at the river, there was again no sign of any fish movement, so I started working my way upstream, pitching a nymph into any likely looking spots. Had a few rattles and sharp pulls from small fish early on, but it wasn't until the first deep pool that I had a positive take and struck into a decent fish that gave me the run around in the close confines - a nice, fat brownie just shy of 40 cm.

Spotty I

A bit later and a few pools upstream I had what could have been its brother, which again scrapped hard to get into the tree roots.

Spotty II

Having shown some photos to my Fisheries colleagues at work, I've accepted these are stockies now, rather than wild fish. Whilst our club doesn't put any in, fish are stocked periodically by those upstream and downstream of us, so it is inevitable that some of them make their way from their manicured banks onto our wilder section. Apart from the size, a black line near the outer margin of the fins, particularly the tail, is a give away, i.e. evidence of fin re-growth post-stocking. There are valid arguments against stocking (see Wild Trout Trust stocking position summary), notably that it dilutes the genetic variation of wild populations, but that stocked fish also compete with wild fish for lies and food. Not that I'm complaining at the moment. I've seen plenty of evidence of a healthy, natural population in terms of the numbers of smaller fish and a few bigger stockies certainly provide great sport, especially within a pool no bigger than a dining table! Carried on up the section, but just had the one additional fish. By now the sun was really bright, limiting my chances by lighting up the pools and casting some very obvious shadows!

Spot the angler!

On top of being beaten by the conditions, I have to admit to not actually fishing particularly well. However, today was more about just getting out, enjoying the river and trying to forget about recent developments.