Monday, 21 September 2015

Canal Zander — What Freddy Did (pt1)

What with Dominic Garnet up for the PAC conference in Kettering and staying over at my place Saturday night for a roving session on the Coventry Canal early Sunday morning with Martin Roberts joining us for the day, I thought I'd better spend a few hours there on Saturday afternoon to see how the zander were behaving beforehand. I also thought it'd be a good idea to take young Freddy along...

Why ever not? What on earth could go wrong?

He was fine. Just roamed about but never too far off. Without Molly around he was attentive to things, behaving well, and of course every now and then dogs and their keepers passed by so he was in his element. However, he was a little too fond of sliced skimmer bream for comfort, so I kept a tight lid on the bait box.

Casting to usual haunts proved a little slow. Tight against boats, and by 'tight' I mean there's a splash of water up the hull at the waterline, was not productive at all. In winter it can be deadly, but it seemed not so effective in early autumn because the float stayed untroubled all the whiles it sat there 

The gap between moored boats always seems to hold zander. Well, some do and some don't. You just have to drop a bait into each to see which does. When such a gap holds fish it might give a run within five minutes and three or four in twenty minutes if there's a pack in residence. This particular gap provided one zander to the first cast but just a small one. It failed to provide any more.

With plenty of gaps left to explore but the hull line inactive the second bait was placed in the track. Where nothing happened either. The last gaps to try were those between three boats moored right across the widest section of the basin. The casts there were not nearly so easy as those short underarm lobs I'd made down the narrow straight. These requiring full-blooded overarm casts of 60 feet to get the decidedly non-aerodynamic rig and bait out. And when I did get one right on the spot I found it tricky sinking the line and keeping the floats in place. So the small 10mm diameter float I had been giving its first trial was placed slap in the boat track and left to fend for itself while I attempted keeping my usual and well proven 18mm float still.

Within a few minutes the small float bobbed and vanished (a problem that) and but the bite was missed. I struck when I shouldn't have, because I'd clean forgotten that that experimental float also suspended an experimental circle hook rig and you don't strike with 'circles', you just wind down and pull up slowly so it can find a hold in the scissors. Strike and you'll pull the hook straight out the mouth most times.

I decided to bring the large float into the track too. It was off on a run within no time at all and I knew that I'd found today's hotspot, This time a strike was made because this float carried my usual rig and usual hook. A trusted wide gape pattern that has fared well in the past and not failed so often that I'd cause to abandon it, though it had not performed quite so well as the remarkably effective Mustad 'Ultimate Bass' Hook, I have to say.

The fish was hooked and it was a good one too. Heavy, and not a splasher. Nearing the net the hook hold failed and I was left watching a large boil of water dissipate.

Oh well. back to the track.

The circle rig vanished again. Without being able to watch the float run across the surface as the large float always does, I could not see which direction to strike. That's important to know because if a run comes toward you then striking means pulling the hook straight out the front of the mouth where's there's nothing but bone and teeth to catch on. Of course I didn't strike anyhow, this was a circle hook rig after all!

I did hook the fish, and again it felt worth banking, but again it got free.

This was not going at all well...

Experimental zander rig. Light float and circle hook

Whenever a boat passed through I cast straight into the wake of silty water thrown up by the prop. By now a theory was forming. I thought perhaps that the zeds were there because of the chance of a chopped skimmer lunch. I tried further off and nearer by but I could not get a bite elsewhere but in the boat track. And then the small float bobbed, vanished, but for a brief moment reappeared when I could see the direction of movement. Which was along the track and to my right making things straightforward. I lifted slowly and pulled tight gradually. This fish was hooked and stayed hooked, the bait mangled but the hold perfect. And was exactly two-pounds heavier than the first of the day at 3lb 7oz.

What followed was a half-hour lull and then a pack of small fish passed through. When every strike meets nothing in the way of a thud, what you have is a stack of 12 inch juveniles in the swim who cannot hope to get even a two-inch chunk of fish in their mouths let along a whole one but are simply running off with the prize to rip it apart and devour it piecemeal. 

Coventry Canal zander of 4lb 7oz
4lb 7oz of impending disaster

They departed and then there was another lull of an hour or so, when the larger fish returned. I failed to hook the first, lost a couple more and was beginning to believe that all my rigs both experimental and trusted were rubbish. They certainly required looking at back home and in detail because I had not experienced this level of failure in many years. But then the large float was off to the left, the strike was successfully made, and I managed to guide a good fish to the net and bank it. 

The process of unhooking, weighing, and photographing takes a little while, doesn't it? And it takes a lot of busy attention to detail, don't you think?

It was all done and dusted and the fish returned when I noticed Freddy — who'd taken a great deal of interest in this zander — gagging on something. Opening his mouth to remove whatever it was he'd eaten that'd got stuck, I was horrified to find him trying to eject the wire trace trapped beneath his tongue.

Biting it from the line I probed deeper...

But the skimmer section bait and 2/0 hook were nowhere to be seen.


  1. So Freddy's well and truly hooked then!


  2. If only it were so simple, George, then a disgorger could have done the job...

    1. Nightmare, hope it was sorted quickly. I've missed the Zander fishing so looking forward to close season challenge again. The bass hook really did improve my hook ups but I've still lost decent fish, I think I'll use chunks of fish rather than long headless pieces, I'm sure some I've lost didn't properly take the bait, more of a nibble. Another birthday bash this year ?

    2. Well, no hook can hook all the time, can it? I will be getting in supplies of Mustads now I've tried all kinds of other wide gape patterns. They really are the best tool for the job that I've ever come across.

      And yes, why not?