My spring fishing started with a couple of trips targeting Zander on the Grand Union Canal. Dad and I were both looking forward to fishing for Zander for the first time this year, but when we arrived for our first afternoon, we bumped in to a local angler who told us it had been electrofished the week before to remove the Zander - not the news we wanted to hear. I did catch a zed on my fifth cast of the session, and another later on, but it wasn't like it used to be. Thankfully a couple of nice Perch put in an appearance and made up for the lack of Zander. Most of our fish were caught on the Fish Snax Mini Fry or Micro Grub.
Once the Pike and Perch had finished spawning and been given a good rest, we had a few trips fishing gravel pits. We’d joined a new venue last year which we hadn’t got around to trying much, so we thought we’d explore this. We’d heard rumours of some very big Perch being caught there accidentally by Carp anglers, so we were keen to give it a try. On our first trip we had very little action, but towards the end of the day my Dad had a very subtle bite whilst his 7cm Zander Pro Shad was falling to the bottom. He struck and hooked at first what we thought was a Pike, but as it came up to the surface we both had quite a shock as it revealed itself to be an enormous Brown Trout! It thrashed about on the surface, and then, disaster - it threw the hook. We were both gutted - it would have been an extremely unusual capture from this particular gravel pit, and we both think it was somewhere around the 10lb mark - if not, bigger.
Over the course of a few trips on the pits, we mixed up our fishing between targeting Perch and Pike (and hoping one of us would hook in to another monster Brown Trout!). Jerk baits are a favourite of ours in late spring and the 7cm, 10cm and 12cm Salmo Sliders and 14cm Salmo Sweeper caught us some nice Pike, fished on a twitch and pause retrieve. The Salmo Hornet also worked well earlier in the year, and has been deadly recently on big reservoirs, which I'll talk about in my next blog post.
As the warmer weather started to finally put in an appearance after what had been a pretty grim winter, we fancied having a couple of trips stalking Carp on the fly. We had our eyes on a small but difficult gravel pit that I’d never fished before, but which my Dad used to regularly fish for Carp - however, he hadn’t fished it for over 25 years! On his very first cast, we couldn’t believe it as a very big Carp came up and took his fly, which we think was over 30lb, but unfortunately, it ran straight over a high gravel bar and cut the leader. Dad was gutted - what a return that would have been! After persevering for another couple of hours, I managed to hook one and bully it away from the bar, which was a nice Common of around 17lb.
We had one more trip flyfishing for Carp, but it was another tough day because of a chilly northerly wind, but Dad did catch a nice 19lb’er.
By mid May it was time to head to one of my favourite reservoirs and flyfish for the Zander. It’s something that my Dad and I always look forward to, and using floating and intermediate lines, we had some great sport fishing around the weedbeds, with one evening producing 19 up to nearly 10lb. At times there were double hookups and Dad managed to capture a shot of when the fish were really switched on, with me playing a Zander and him playing one with the rod in his left hand, whilst holding the camera in the right! A few nice Perch and Pike put in an appearance too.
Over the course of the month, the water temperatures rose and it became what we consider too warm for targeting Zander in the reservoirs. Thankfully, this coincided with June 16th and the opening of the river season, which was perfect timing as we were really looking forward to targeting Chub with some of the Salmo crank baits, especially the Salmo Lil’ Bug. The Lil’ Bug is a small, cylinder-shaped wake bait that looks a lot like a beetle, and I’d heard it had been deadly for Chub for some of the Salmo guys last season, so we could’t wait to give it a swim.
On the morning of June 16th, we came across a shoal of Chub on a gravel run and it was the perfect opportunity. We decided Dad would have the first shot and on his very first cast, as he swum the Lil’ Bug in front of a fish, it came up and absolutely annihilated it!
That was to be the first of many Chub we’d go on to land this summer on the Lil’ Bug, and some of the takes have been awesome to watch! Along with the Lil’ Bug, the 4cm Hornet and 5cm Minnow have also caught us a few rubber lips.
In the summer of 2017, we spent a lot of our fishing time targeting Barbel on lures, which was a huge learning curve for us and a real eye-opener, as we managed to stalk some fantastic fish on creature baits. We were both really keen to replicate our success last summer this summer, although we knew it wouldn’t be easy as Barbel are a lot harder to catch on lures than Chub! We visited some of the stretches of river that were successful for us last season, but this year, the bankside vegetation was extremely thick, and the river was much weedier, which made spotting Barbel difficult. Thankfully, perseverance paid off and after a few unsuccessful trips, we managed to catch two in the same day, both on creature baits.
Whilst targeting the Chub and Barbel with softbaits, we’ve also picked up the occasional bonus species. On one afternoon stalking Chub, I spotted a couple of nice fish and made a cast to them, but this greedy Brownie beat them to the lure! Whilst in the net it coughed up three Minnows, which turned out to be very similar in size and colour to the Micro Grub it had just taken.
On another trip, I spotted a very good Chub under some reeds and made a cast to it. I watched the Chub rush towards the lure, felt a take, then hooked in to what I thought was the Chub, but instead this Perch had beaten it to the lure!
It's surprising how willing a Carp can be to take a lure at times. Over the past few years I've caught them on a variety of different soft baits, and on our last trip targeting Chub and Barbel, I managed to make a good cast to this Common, with the creature bait landing just a few inches in front of it’s nose. Sometimes they spook, but this one tilted down and hoovered up the lure!
I haven’t fished on any rivers since the beginning of September, having concentrated on fishing reservoirs since they opened up on September 1st. Dad and I had a great summer, and although I will miss the warmer weather, there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming months!