Monday, 3 June 2013

Afore Ye Go — One in a Million

We arrived outside the locked gates long before opening time having calculated and allowed for the M25 but found it flowing along smoothly. It had been raining for days and was still falling now but predicted to break and clear around midday leaving us a dry afternoon but would remain overcast the whole day which we all agreed was what we wanted hoping it might extend the morning feeding spell and keep it going right through till closing time. Come 7:00 AM open they swung as a club member arrived so we followed on behind not to fish but for a speculative first look at the water in question — Harris Lake.

What we saw was not exactly what we'd bargained for, in fact it was something that would condition the entire day and change all our plans radically because the lake today was not what I'd become accustomed to fishing. Where before it had always been stirred by the activities of feeding fish to the colour of weak milk tea, to our genuine horror and dismay, it was absolutely gin clear...

I thought the rains may have fed the stream-fed lake with so much new water that it had all but replaced its entire volume and coming in cold it may have put the fish down to the point where they'd stopped moving and feeding. The bed of the entire margin of the lake was visible up to three feet down. Despite the warm air it may as well have been mid-winter the way it looked so we'd have to fish fine & far off because there'd be no fishing tight to the reeds today.

Martin chose to ledger over a large bed of spodded in bait from the Railway Bank while Danny Everitt and I walked around to the opposite bank in search of signs of fish that were eventually found when we spotted a few small patches of bubbles arising in the swims below the big silver birch at the island gap. Having seen nothing anywhere else this had to be the place to be, though given the conditions I thought things would be all but impossible even for the relatively easy tench let alone the tricky crucian carp.

For a while it remained calm so bite registration was fairly easy at three rods lengths distance and first cast over a handful of bait my float rose slightly and slipped under for the first fish of the day who at first might just have been the target when I saw a flash of gold...

"Dan, crucian! "

... but within ten seconds clearly wasn't when it began to take line and create problems close up where the only advantage the clarity would lend us became apparent when I realised tench could be netted early by guiding them straight into the easily visible meshes of a deeply submerged long handled net waiting right at the bed of the lake and without having to tire and surface them first.

A plump golden tench slipped back to gin clear water...

It wasn't long before Dan had one too, so at least we'd chosen something like a good place to be but then the wind picked up creating a ripple through our swims that looked as if it would persist the whole day long making things even tougher than they were already. We'd both discovering a cut off point beyond which fish would not venture but that point just happened to be just a little too far off for comfort and that combined with the ripple proved to be the most immediately trying and eventually tiring thing imaginable when wanting to strike at small indications on the float tip. It was just very difficult to discern them at the best of times and when it was at its worst, almost impossible to see anything less decisive than a huge lift or complete absence of red tip above water.

Under the circumstances, for the first time in my life I really wished I had a very long and expensive pole to fish with rather than a rod because that would have been at least half the answer... 

The resident tern entertains me expertly picking floating casters from the surface. Conditions may not seem half as bad as I make out here, but the camera is zoomed right in, the float is miles off and this is as calm as it ever was 

The worst thing was that crucians began to prime here and there proving they were feeding too but seemed impossible to catch. There was nothing to do but persist and put up with it because at least they were there to be caught if only we could work out a way to beat the conditions. I could imagine my entire rig — shot, line, float, hook and all — visible between surface and bed and though a tench came by now and then and tripped up in greed...

I couldn't imagine crucians falling for it.

We both went as fine as we dared. Danny abandoned his waggler and went over to the lift method employing an old windbeater onion float with a long antennae and after a while stopped playing with all other baits but caster feeding a constant trickle and with a single on the hook. I stayed with my usual rig but tied on a much finer hooklength, moved the bulk up as far as possible without ruining the presentation and stuck with a tiny prawn section fished over regular but sparing caster feed.

Small, but a hard nut...
By noon I'd banked a three more tench up to five pounds but I'd a case of impending eye strain so went up the leeward end where the water was flat calm for a well earned break.

Again fishing far off, at least I could see bites there and they came along soon enough. Even at ten rod lengths  small movements could be made out and eventually the float rose in the water half an inch when I struck into not the hoped for crucian but yet another tench. 

Martin who was nearby came over when he saw what a struggle I had with it! A tremendous fight and for a while I believed I'd hooked a big girl well over six-pounds only to be confronted with the smallest yet. You have to respect tench when they fight as hard as they do even if they're a bit of a trial when after something less difficult to bank but far harder to hook. 

After that the bites vanished and all was still. The sun came out briefly and it was warm and bright for a while. Then Baz Peck suddenly turned up at my side down London way on work but dropping by to see us there. As we chatted my phone rang, Danny calling to announce the best possible news after nigh on six hours of struggle...

"Jeff, a big crucian...!"

As I mentioned in the preamble to this blog post, if and when you catch a crucian at this venue and given enough hard work you certainly will then it is bound to be your new personal best so hours of effort are amply rewarded. Sure enough this fish was Danny's best by a good margin and a great looker too. 

Handshakes and back slaps all round then!

Needless to say I had no choice then but go back around and resume battle against the wind abandoning what after initial promise had become a very comfortably pleasant but totally unproductive peg that I knew full well wouldn't improve.

Martin persisting on the Railway bank had yet to bank a fish and though he was plagued by line bites wasn't hooking up to true ones if indeed he was getting any. He too reported crucians topping and bubbles appearing but despite visible signs was having a very hard time of it. 

As soon as I resumed I'd yet another tench to contend with... 

They are lovely fish and in great condition too but at Harris there's a point where you begin to believe that's all you will ever catch. After my seventh at a steady rate of one per hour I began running experiments in desperation having little to lose by them and hopefully something to gain.

Despite my rig's normal propensity toward showing alarming two, three and even four inch lifts of the antennae, even tench were not producing them today. Yet Danny's crucian bite when it finally came was a big decisive lift on what was actually a very similar set up.  

Fish were acting cagily over bait, knew there was something decidedly iffy about it because they could see it so easily, and taking it gingerly if they even bothered to try so I slid the trigger shot from its usual position an inch from the hook right down to the top of the spade end. It looked silly but first bite was a nice big lift!

"Ahh! ... not another bloody tench"

A golden near five pounder

On Birch Bank (it's about time someone named it!) we finished the day beaten up by the strain of watching far off floats but Danny took a further two small crucians amongst the tench for his day-long and is it transpired correct strategy of fine line, meagre feed and tiny bait, whilst Martin over on Railway Bank did manage a tench or two by his heavy-duty approach, in the end.

It was absolutely knackering!
I caught tench and only tench. Not even a roach, rudd or bream came by for me and that I thought unusual because they do usually. It was so desperate that if Martin had had a rake and rope in the boot of the car I wouldn't have hesitated to go fetch it, chuck it out, stir things up and tip the balance in my favour. I even considered chucking soil in but looking about the green sward couldn't see enough of it to make the required difference unless I started digging up the banks!

I guess the conditions we faced were highly unusual ones for what is almost mid-summer on a lake usually coloured enough by now to fish right under the staging in two feet of water or even less and certain should you be quiet enough that the fish won't know you're there at all. And that was sufficient to put the whole trip out of kilter.

I'll wind up with this thought for you to contend with should you be considering a visit soon ~

Because not a single crucian besides Danny's hard-earned trio was caught between twenty skilled anglers fishing all kinds of various baits, methods and approaches for what stacked up on the day to a grand total of no less than 260 man hours of solid concentrated fishing, from the opening of the fishery gates at dawn till their final closing at dusk — that's just one crucian in every eighty six and half, or if you'd like it explained in really horrifying terms, every 5,200 man minutes or 312,000 man seconds. But, if Danny had wound up with just the one rather than a trio then the decisive bite would have occurred within a fraction of one second out of very nearly a million! 

It was long way to travel for tench of a size I can catch from my local canal and where such a stamp is quite remarkable, not ordinary, but not a long way to go for great big crucians because it's one of the only options available in the country and though the numbers can tough to beat even when you're getting it half right, they're simply appalling otherwise.

So, don't make our mistake — phone and seek assurances that the water on Harris Lake is well-coloured... 

Afore Ye Go!

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up Jeff,when I was down the week before last,it was gin clear.And we struggled like many have.

    It's only half an hour down the road for us,still a nice place to visit.