Sunday, 27 February 2011

Big Zander Quest - I found my thrill, at Old Bury Hill (later)

Wandering around a wild water with all my provisions on my back and stalking never before caught fish is my idea of angling heaven, but on the other hand it has to be said that commercial fisheries without proper facilities are a real let down...

Bury Hill from above the clouds. The old lake is the big lake and we were fishing the West bank opposite the island. The boat anglers in the far eastern corner,'The Jungle', are summer tench fishermen

I do like the idea, if you are paying a lot of money for the privilege to fish, of not having to take a dump in the woods but in a warm toilet and being able to purchase a fresh cup of proper tea and a hot bacon sandwich. Bury Hill's facilities, I have to say, are second to none and the tea and sarnies as good as they come. It even boasts a tackle shop to put others to shame so if you do forget to pack something then its there in the shop waiting for you on arrival.

After performing my ablutions and purchasing the meals I returned to my peg and cast out both rods, the left hand fishing trout strip and out about thirty yards or so and the right cast as far as I could, about half way to the island was all the float and lead would allow, and fishing roach section. I must say that I was not at all sure about these little circle hooks (with crushed down barbs) I was using and was considering swapping them for something else even though the hook holds they had created with the morning's brace of pike were as secure as you could ever wish for.

It was the fact that I'd never tried the hooks on the canal zander that was so offputting. Running hook trials up the local cut with its large head of small zander is one thing - you can afford to be experimental under such circumstances, but I was getting a little nervous about the fact that on this lake I could easily miss or lose a huge zander and never know. When the left hand rod developed a run within a few minutes of settling down and the slow and steady strike (that with circle hooks is really just winding up the slack and tightening gradually) connected to a good fish that got off the hook ten seconds later, my doubts and worries began to escalate...

Gamakatsu Inline Octopus circle hook and a bit of old trout

I cast a new trout strip straight back to the spot and tried to put my worries on the back burner till after I'd finished my lunch and then I'd tie up some new traces with straight single hooks so that I could spend the rest of the afternoon in a state of peace, well, I'd barely put the rod down and picked up the quarter eaten sandwich when the same float dipped slightly and then moved almost imperceptibly to the right and stopped dead - a fish was interested...

Now I have found that pike will almost always pull these homemade floats of mine straight under as they move off and I believe this is because of the fact that pike feed by moving along the bottom and either strike at prey fish from below or hoover up dead fish with their scoop like lower mandible, whereas zander do things rather differently. With a zander bite the float will often dibble as the fish picks the bait off the bottom and then either move off fairly rapidly without going under or just wander about almost imperceptibly within an area of just a yard or even less and this is, I believe, because of the way zander feed. I think that they swim in mid-water unlike the pike who moves around on the bottom, and that they grab preyfish straight ahead and pick dead fish off the bottom by upending and return to a position well off the bottom after, and that is why these spherical floats hardly ever go under on a zander bite - because the angles of pike and zander moving away relative to the floats are different - the pikes angle is steep and the zander's shallow.

Mr Spielberg understood this effect perfectly well. Think of Jaws and the shark towing the barrels and then you'll know exactly what I'm driving at and understand why I always float fish for pike and zander. It's bloody exciting, that's why!

This was a typical zander bite. I watched it for a while to see if there was any direction to it and by crouching low I felt it was moving, if anywhere, toward the island and now, slightly to the left. I picked up the rod, wound up the slack and as the float was certainly up to something decided to pull steadily into the fish, the hook found a hold and the fish was on.

The fish was heavy and the fight typically dour but with the occasional zander-like headshake. I fancied it might well be a good zed but was probably just another pike if the history of the day so far was anything to go by, but when I'd hauled the fish to within ten yards of the staging the fight suddenly became a splashy affair, and then, a large whitish tail fin broke surface...


"Oh my Lord, it's a monster!" I mumbled to myself through gritted teeth. Now at this point, with a good fish on in open water without snags of any kind to make things harder than they already are, what else is there to do but hang on and try not to make any mistakes, and what else is there to fear but a hook-pull at the net?


I gingerly teased the fish to within netting distance, pushed the net out over the staging edge and shoved it straight out and under. When I hauled the lot out and up over the staging I could feel it was what I'd come all this way for and when we unwrapped the fish on the waiting unhooking mat we were both astonished at the girth of the thing! It was gigantic...

Even before Martin slung her in the sling and hoist her on the scales I knew that this fish was at least twice the size of any zander I'd ever caught before, and way, way bigger than any I'd ever seen. The scales clunked down and settled out at around an ounce under twelve pounds. Martin gave me eleven pounds fifteen ounces...

Bloody hell. What a fish! Whoohoo!

I simply couldn't fish on after releasing her back to her gentrified home so I wound in the right hand rod and ate my long overdue lunch in a state of euphoric revery. What else is there to do after catching a leviathan? Catch another? No, you must savour the moment, and I did, bending Martin's ear out of shape while I was about it.

An hour later I'd calmed enough to fish again, this time with trout on both rods. Martin put out a trout strip on his waggler rod and was soon into a nice looking seven pound pike that he unhooked and released in the water. Skillful!

And then the bites simply dried up all around the lake and it seemed the feeding frenzy was over for another day. I did get a further run hours later and just into dusk but I missed the fish and then it was time to go home and get into a hot bath as by now I reeked to high heaven...

Of stinky old trout!


  1. Congratulations Jeff, your on fire, What's next?

  2. Fantastic Geoff I suggest you buy a lottery ticket this week.

    On a serious note though good angling mate and you certainly are going to be hard to catch on the percentage board .I may ask Keith to get you barred from Ryton pool so that you don't come and catch the huge carp in there haha.

    All the very best.


  3. and the trophy for 2011 goes to ...
    Absolutley awsome Jeff, proving the simple canal tactics are all that's needed. What a fish!

  4. Great fish Geoff and bonus points for a perfectly laid out egg-n-bacon buttie.

  5. It was a very nice butty, it has to be said, even though I'd just started on it before the bite and got to finish only after returning the fish.

  6. Hi Jeff,

    I was in the swim next door and caught a jack on a lure. Excellent blog with some very useful information, particularly the home made float, good to see an unconventional and innovative approach producing, have you applied for a patent? :)



  7. Hi Keith, I should stick a sonar in it and let it roam around and find the fish for me like your amazing contraption!

    Nice to meet you on the bank mate. Tight lines for the rest of the year