I’ve had a couple of efforts at zander. Once on a river that in the end had me chasing everything else but zander and then an effort on a reservoir which after lots of jigging, ended up with me catching a few pike instead. I get easily side tracked and go back to catching pike if the zander fishing isn’t working. I needed to go back to basics, or should I say I needed to start at the basics. I needed to focus on just zander and to do that I needed somewhere with a half decent head of them, I didn’t care what size I just needed to get in among some. There’s no zander in my part of the world so I knew I had to head south, but where? Talking to Ady about it and we decided the best thing to do was to get out with someone who catches a few and Ady knew a man. We met up with two brothers, Rob and Shayne Walker, who took us to a canal where they said we had a very good chance of catching a few. Might be nothing massive in size but for me, a zander virgin, I didn’t care one bit how big it was. I just wanted my first, I would settle at one and so long as I knew that I was fishing the right place and in the right style I would be happy.
But what is the right style for zander fishing? I think i found in my couple of previous attempts that I’m too much of a fast action pike angler and every time I was meant to be slowly jigging I would end up twitching and jerking and trying to make something happen when I should have been taking it nice and steady, low and slow and so on. The zander are more of a bottom feeder for the majority, there are exceptions and they do chase or come up in the water but often you need to get your lure down there, keep it there and also sometimes try not to do too much. That can feel like waiting for paint dry for me at times but this time I was kind of in the zone and I didn’t really think too much about pike, especially after Rob explained that he had hardly ever even caught any pike here. I’d chosen to use my Favorite rod rated 1-8g so that I could use small lures and also have a nice bit of sensitivity to feel what my lure is doing down there. I didn’t have any idea what a zander hit would be like. Would it be a few nibbles, a great big thump? Hopefully I would find out at some point in the day.
I’ve seen a few people catching them on all sorts of softies, simple shads ranging in size from about 2 inch up to 6 inch. Drop shot works, TRDs work and so do little creature baits dragged along the bottom. I didn’t have too many fancy lures with me but Ady had a shad on so I went with the Zman TRD to be different in the hope a bit of variety between us we could figure out what they wanted. Rob and Shayne were on a combination of small creature baits and shads and as the first hour went on we all had a little play with lures to try and get the first fish. I was confident my lure would work, which ever lure it was i had on so i just kept at it. Really slow retrieve, just moving the lure along the bottom a bit at a time. Sometimes flicking it, but making sure i didn’t do it too much and that i kept the lure down there. The water was the colour of mud, so much cloudy silt in it that it looked like nothing could live in it. The boats coming by every now and again did nothing to help this and as they came by they just churned up more silt. Had I been pike or perch fishing in my usual style this would have been an off putting sight and I’d have jacked it in and gone elsewhere. But I’ve heard and I’m told that with zander it isn’t a problem and that too much clarity can be a bad thing. Their big beady eyes mean they like to find somewhere a bit dark and dingy and so that had me casting at every shadow on the near or far bank.
Rob and Shayne were first off the mark with perch and also the target species of zander and so that gave me even more confidence that we were in the right spot and doing the right things. It was just a matter of keeping at it, working the swims and the lures and staying focused on keeping the lure down there, and stopping myself from pike fishing. You have to find the right balance with your tackle I found. Rob and Shayne already had it sorted since they were doing this often. But for me I reckon I needed some lighter braid than the 10lb Bushido braid I was using. I was using 3g Zman Shroomz jig heads and I wanted my line to cut the water easier. Something about 5lb would have been ideal I reckon and that’s exactly what Rob had on his reel. You want to keep your lure down there and if your braid isn’t cutting the water easy enough, all you end up doing is bringing your lure back up off the bottom. It wasn’t so bad it was manageable though i had to work at it, luckily the canal wasn’t too deep. Had that been the case and on top of that a bit of wind or flow and it would make it really difficult. If pike or perch fishing I would just stick a heavier jig head on. It would help cut through the water and keep the braid tight if there was a bit of a breeze but also that usually means you end up working the lure a bit faster too and I wanted a really low and slow approach.
Everyone had a few fish, though it was slow at times and the bites didn’t really come thick and fast, it was just the odd fish here and there. Clear blue skies was good because it meant we had an excuse bagged early in case we didn’t catch any or many at all, but then as I said before I only really wanted the one anyway. Rob was leading the way with his super ultra light finesse tactics and dare I say it, drop shot tactics helping him manage three species on the day with a bream hooked fair and square in the chops. The little creature baits he was using were perfect for crawling along the bottom nice and slow and on his really thin braid it meant he had great control of them and feel of what is happening. A note there for anyone looking at having a go at this or struggling with a set up too heavy. Of course 10lb braid isn’t exactly heavy but it can make all the difference. Then on the other hand, if you cast like a donkey and are in the trees all the time or if your canal is snaggy then you will spend more time tying on new lures or worse still for us northerners, more money replacing lost lures. So I guess it’s a balancing act and every person will have to figure out what suits them best. I know for my northern canal fishing going too light is a bloody nightmare most of the time at least.
Ady went for more of a gung ho kind of approach with a massive 2.5inch shad. Standard lure for us chasing perch and we bag plenty in all sizes, plus pike. He went for those due to a couple of reasons. It’s a trusted lure for him for many species, he’s caught zander on them before and he’s a tight arse and hasn’t bought any lures for years so pretty much all he has left. I noticed he kept having a look in Robs collection and it wouldn’t surprise me if he came home with a couple of extra lures in his pocket plus a wire trace or two, he’s like that you know. Anyway it was good to have variety between us, on some days you will find all predators can be different in what they want. Some days they want big lures and other days tiny lures. We had it all covered anyway. Ady had some perch and his zander with a couple of better fish hit and missed which was a shame.
As for me, I found the buggers a bit tricky to be honest. I found out what the hits were like. No little tippy tapps like a pack of perch or harassing trout. They just seem to dart out and whack the lure. You get a proper little thud on your rod. When you have been fishing hard and concentrating like mad and then that happens out of no where it’s not easy to hook them. I think a big factor is having ultra sharp, thin gauge hooks to help. I was find on the TRD but on some of my softies I didn’t really have what I wanted and I reckon I missed a couple of hits just because my hooks weren’t as sharp as they should have been. A couple of hits came on bigger lures and I saw the tell tale tooth marks of the zander on my brand new Realistic shad lure, but the little bugger had bit behind the hook. I had a proper thud at one point from a zander that might have been a whacker in these parts but didn’t hook in to it. But I bagged a couple in the end and my very first zander. A great little learning curve and loads picked up from Rob and Shayne. Pleased as punch to get off the mark with a couple and finally lose my zander virginity. They are super cool little creatures, those eyes are amazing and the colours along their body really are beautiful. I can see why people might fall in love with these little things and when they get bigger, wow what a fish they must be. Big thanks to Rob and Shayne for the day, really enjoyed it, cheers boys.
Ever caught a duck mid flight while fishing? I just did.
Recently Ady and myself took a short trip to Ireland in search of some pike. Ady has been before previously but it was some years ago now and for me it was to be my first time there though not my last. It is always exciting fishing somewhere new and when it’s somewhere as special as Ireland it can only promise to be fantastic. As usual, the cameras were rolling, and so begins our adventure. Join us in the first part of four episodes, where we are on our journey to meet up with Stephen and Gary McGarvey.
Please note. Any purchases from the riverpiker shop between 20th-25th April will be posted after the 25th as I am going pike fishing. Sorry for any inconvenience.
A bit of pike fishing. My last crack at the river pike before the season ended and I decided I didn’t fancy hiking miles and miles of river with the lures so just had a steady few hours with some livos out.
With the river season, and with it the traditional pike season, coming to an end. Ady decides to book a few days off work and give it one last shot.
With the river season over, Ady and myself often switch off from the pike fishing and turn our attentions to other things. This usually means a mixture of species and mostly on lighter gear. We still may have the odd dabble for pike but mostly for the next few months at least, it will be light lure fishing. It makes a nice relaxing change from the hard graft of pike fishing. Actually it’s not always relaxing as we go a bit hard no matter what we do, and I will explain our approach to perch later in this post.
So first thing up was for us both to sort a new outfit. We get a few offers now and again and we are lucky enough to be able to have a play about with bits of kit. First off a new rod was on the cards. Something with a bit of sensitivity but also a bit of back bone so you could give the fish a bit of hammer or so it would handle the pike we would still no doubt catch. My buddy Martin at Lurelounge suggested we have a look at the Favorite rods he had coming in and we both opted for the Bluebird. At 1.5g-8g it seemed perfect for jigging, should be fine for the smaller trout lures but also importantly for us, be able to handle casting the 5cm Rapala jointed shad rap and X rap shad that we use for big perch.
I switched my new Daiwa Legalis 1500 on to my rod and Ady pulled out an old Shimano Aernos for his, though he soon realized that he needs to treat himself to a new reel as his shimmy has seen better days. Now I’d spooled up my reel with 8lb Suffix nanobraid a few months ago. I’m positive I spooled it up right, but the braid seemed to always be twisting and tangles would arise. On top of that I felt it seemed to break too easily, not anywhere near the 8lb mark. I’ve always pretty much used Power Pro because i’ve never had any issues. Usually I’m reluctant to try new braids and so I thought about putting some Power Pro on the Legalis until I spoke to Gary at American Tackle who suggested I try the Bushido combat braid, so I did.
So that’s the gear sorted, we are ready to fish. For you, well it’s a bit of a guide, you don’t need to have the exact combos, but it gives you an idea of where you want to be. We’ve had umpteen combos over the years, some perfect some a bit of a bodge job but the important thing is to get yourself fishing first and upgrade later or fine tune your gear to suit your preferred way of fishing. The only other bits of kit i’ve not spoken about, a wire trace. I was using knot2kinky wire which you can easily tie by hand and make a trace to suit your set up. I won’t get in to the wire versus fluorocarbon debate and whether wire puts off perch or not. I think the article itself will answer that question as you read on. As for lures, whatever floats your boat really. A selection of soft plastics in sizes that a big perch might want. Say 2 inch up to about 4 inch is good. Yeah 4 inch, you are chasing big perch aren’t you? Not the little wasps, that’s a different ball game all together. All though the approach for most people chasing big perch is soft plastics, for us, they are only there as an option. Our preferred lures are crank baits and as most already know we love to use the Rapalas, jointed shad rap and X rap shad are a great option. Now if you want, you can fill four lure boxes up with a massive selection of softies and hard baits and you can lug them around all day, swapping and changing in an attempt to figure out that one lure they want. Or, you can trust that with just a couple of lures, you have it all covered. You have enough variety to catch fish in various situations and you can trust that it’s not so much about what brand of lure they want but more that you know your lures work and you need to find that big hungry perch, and that if you find that big hungry perch, any of your lures will do the job. I reckon that between me and Ady we had around six or seven different lures and probably twenty lures between us. Let’s go find those perch.
So without trying to seem like I’m having a pop at anyone here, everyone these days seems to go out fishing and have super glue on their feet. How many times do I bump in to people on the bank who have been in the same spot for ages, I can even go off and fish for a couple of hours and come back and they are still there. Some days i see lines of four or five lure anglers covering fifty meters of bank, cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. Dip in to the four tier lure bag and pull out another lure. Cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. Now that method is fine if you are catching, but if you are not, why do they carry on at it for the next hour? Unless you are in a well known spot then that is a waste of time, fish do swim about, one minute they are there the next they have moved fifty meters, hundred meters and more. This is probably where the superstar anglers are ready to jump in and tell me that grinding a spot is a great way of catching big perch. Grinding a well known spot with a few fancy techniques and trying to lure that magical stripey to take your lure. Yes it does work, especially if all you ever do is fish those same spots day in and day out, raping the shit out of them. Well done pal, you’re a lure angling superstar. Why don’t you write me an article explaining that it was all down to that special brand of soft lure you’ve attached yourself to that made all the difference? These poor newcomers to the sport are so filled with shite by some of you that they think the only answer to their problems is to go out and buy your lures, cos you said so. >insert rolling eyes emoji<
Ady and myself prefer to stay away from the crowds/circus and as a consequence we have to work our socks off for a fish. That’s why we travel light, because we will cover some amount of canal in search of our fish. Location is key, not all canals will produce the big fish but I do have to say, that every single canal that I have ever fished has produced a perch of 2lb plus and who knows else what lurks? Get out and give them a go for yourself and see what shows up. They don’t come easy and they aren’t as numerous as the little wasps and angry teenage perch that always seem to be everywhere. You’re fishing for one or two small pods of big perch and you have to work out where they might be, or get lucky. The canal we chose we hadn’t even fished for a year. We know it has some nice fish in, but we were aware that the recent rise in popularity of lure fishing means that it will no doubt have been fished most days for that last year. This can mean that the bagging up spots might have moved and the fish broken up, it might mean the perch have moved far away from the features or it might mean that the fish have seen it all. Every combination of lure flying past their noses and we now have a bunch of perch that are lure shy. This could be hard work.
We were joined on our session by a buddy, Drew. We’ve fished a few times together but shifts and such mean organizing a session isn’t always easy. Last time out we were trout fishing and we managed to help him break his pb in spectacular fashion with a proper lump of a brown trout. He already has a superb pb perch under his belt, a couple of notches over the 3lb mark but we quietly whispered to him that there was every chance he could beat that today, if we could find those perch. On these sessions you can easily fish all day and catch nothing and that is the risk you take. Our approach is the slightly larger lures, the noisy cranks and this approach is a searching method and one that will mostly rule out the larger shoals of perch. We’re chasing one fish today but it could be a whacker!
We actually had a bit of a late start, crack of dawn had been and gone and it was well after 8am before we even got to the water. Bit of traveling involved but sometimes you need to have a change of scenery or the fishing can become boring. Canals aren’t my favourite to be honest but early doors in the closed season I’m quite up for it. By about May I’m pulling my hair out and thinking about the rivers again. But the canal is where we were heading and if a few fish are caught then there is a chance that one of us at least will be smiling. Rolling up to the car park, surprisingly not another angler in sight. I wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or a sign that the fishing on here had been poor recently. Only one way to find out. We all grabbed our gear and had a few chucks in the first spot. Casting around, this bridge used to throw up loads of fun size perch and the chance of something bigger if you were lucky. While the fun size perch were not our intended target it would have been nice to have caught a few here. It didn’t happen, not a nibble or a pluck. Sure sign that this spot has been fished recently and probably hammered over the last twelve months. No bother, we didn’t intend on standing here jigging and drop shotting all day anyway. So off we went, a handful of lures and our trusty feet to help us find some perch.
We explained to Drew that the idea is to leap frog each other, covering loads of water and using noisy cranks to grab the attention of the fish. Hopefully we could cover loads of water between us and find a pod or two of large stripey spikey things. The clarity of the water was ok, enough visibility to see a following perch and enough murkiness to give us some cover and give the perch the confidence to hit the lures rather than just follow. All we had to do is fan cast the water in front of us, and then move on. Quietly leap frogging along the bank, casting up along the edge first and then covering the water in front of us. The plan is a good one, it has worked for me and Ady in the past and we were quietly confident that it would work again. The first canal session I am always switched on, ready for a few fish and the thought of a potential long hard blank don’t really enter my head so much. But that could easily happen.
Drew asked Ady which lure to stick on and after a quick glance in Drew’s lure box, he spotted a Jointed shad rap in hot tiger, “that one pal” he said. Ady put on a smaller 4cm jointed shad rap because he’d brought the wrong bloody lure box and instead of the perch lures he had his trout lures. I stuck on a small Ujka lure thinking we would have a bit of variety between us. After a hundred meters, I could see Ady wasn’t happy as his 4cm lure wasn’t getting down the required depths. He had me digging out my lure box and offering him up a few choices, and he went for one of his favourites, the Rapala X rap shad. Not too much later I was making a switch myself and since Drew had a nice bright shad rap on i went for a more natural looking pattern, an old Walleye pattern. not really natural for these parts but you get the idea. At least me and Ady were happy now, confident in our lures again, that they were getting down to the right depths and we knew we just had to stick to the plan. After about an hour of this and not a fish to be seen, I’m not so sure Drew was happy with our plan. Stick with it, we explained. The fish can come from anywhere. They are not always in the most obvious spots and we have to work and find them. You see this method of fishing isn’t for everyone.
Often in lure fishing you role up to a fishy spot, start off small, catch a few fish and you are enjoying yourself and a bit of sport. The sport dries up, so you change lures, methods or spots and you start to catch some fun size perch again. Nice bit of sport and some good fun. Before you know it, time is ticking on and you’ve caught plenty. But often you do this, and nothing of note shows up. No big stripeys to show for all your effort and when the fishing is tough, you resort to finesse tactics to try and tempt a fish or two. The drop shot comes out, tinniest of movements on the rod tip, keeping the lure in their faces and eventually a fish. But for us, it’s the opposite. Stick to the larger lures, stick to keeping mobile and just keep fishing, moving and hammering away trying to find that one fish. Go big or go home.
Three hours have gone past now and we’ve not had a sniff. We come to a canal narrowing and then finally I manage to catch the first fish of the day, a fun size perch. We’ve kind of reached the wall now, where the enthusiasm is nearly gone and all excitement at the prospect of a big perch are practically gone. So the tiny lures come out and we’re jigging around like loonies for fun size perch. Luckily, i managed to come to my senses and snapped at the lads to pack this in and get moving. “We can catch these anywhere lads, we haven’t come for these” and so off we toddle, plodding on along the canal in our search for the biggest fish of them all.
Within about ten minutes of moving I get the first hit of something decent. A couple of violent shakes and I shout to the lads I have a fish. My heart racing as the rod is bent double and the tell tale fight of a large perch, or so I first thought. The fight changes and the short sudden lunges tell me this is no perch but in fact a pike and by the time the lads get to me we all know it’s a pesky pike. I do love pike, but they are a bugger when you’re heart has just been racing at the thought of a huge perch. At least its a fish and Drew kindly slides his net under and then quickly takes me a photo.
Another couple hundred meters of water covered and I think we are nearing four hours of fishing without a single sighting of a chunky perch. Drew is blanking and is starting to doubt there are even any bloody perch in this canal. This kind of fishing is really tough on the body and the mind, its draining and it’s hard to keep your head on the target. You start to doubt your tactics and your mind starts to wonder. You want to try other tactics, you need to catch a fish, you have a bag full of lures and surely there is one in there that will do you a job. We reach a bridge and have a cast around with the softies, but for me and Ady it’s a quick few flicks around and after not so much as a bump we are confident that nothing is here that we want and so off we move yet again. A quick few words from Ady and Drew is back on track, putting the trusty jointed shad rap back on and again we are off leap frogging. We passed a couple of spots where we have previously caught nice perch in the past. The initial excitement of the chance for a large perch comes and then quickly goes and before long we have covered another few hundred meters of water and again, nothing.
The good thing about these days fishing with others is that when the going gets really tough, at least you can still take the piss out of each other. That itself gives you a little bit of an energy boost, raises the spirits and enables you to conquer those nagging thoughts in your head. Soldier on we must and soldier on we will. In front of us is another, boring featureless bit of canal. Nothing to target and nothing standing out that says anything special or points to the potential of a perch holding spot. Though we have to remember that while all above water may not scream fish, we really don’t know what is down there and there could be something somewhere here that holds a few fish. As Ady passes me, casting up the canal I stand just off his shoulder, ready to cast. “I’m going to cast right behind you hear pal when you hook this perch” I explained. We’d explained to Drew before that if one guy catches a perch, first priority is to get that one in the net but then the other lads need to be fishing in the same spot. So often the big perch hang around in small groups and when one large perch is caught, it is the perfect opportunity to bag a couple more. A few cranks of the handle and a few twitches of the X rap later and Ady is calling out, he has a big perch on. The typical jagged fight of a big stripey and I can see his rod rattling away as the perch keeps darting for the bottom. Ady gains control and Drew quickly slips the net under while I’m already casting at the spot where the perch came from. Ady instructs Drew to do the same and we are both casting around, hoping and praying that we can bag another one. Ady unhooks the perch and leaves it to rest safely in the net before joining us casting around the area to try and bag another, and he did. “I’m in” he shouts and again Drew is quick to net the second fish for Ady. Two lovely fish in two casts and finally Drew starts to believe that this method might actually bag him a fish.
Ady and myself set about sorting the fish out and getting some photos while we instruct Drew to keep fishing to see if anything else will show. The immediate area in front of us and where the perch came from doesn’t throw up any more and before long Drew has made his way a little further down the canal away from where the action took place. A few photos are taken and me and Ady have a little chat, full of enthusiasm again and happy that we have managed to bag a couple of nice fish. Ady is beaming with his double capture and i’m just happy one of us has at least caught. These days are tough and if we all blank its a bit of a downer but so long as at least one of us bags a good fish, then it is a result. Drew is a good sixty meters from us now, fishing hard. We ponder on what is going through his head right now. Excited that Ady has caught but at the same time gutted he’s still not had a good fish. “At least they both came to you pal and not one each to both of us mate” I said. That one would be tough on Drew we thought. It’s bad enough not getting in on the fish but if everyone else but you has caught a big perch it’s even tougher. No soon as we have said that, there’s a shout from sixty meters away. “I’m in, I’m in. Get the net, get the net!” Camera still in my hands I set off running down the bank towards Drew. I look up and see his rod bent double, and on the floor at his feet, there lays his own net. but Drew is just too drawn to the huge perch he has on that he doesn’t even realize the net is beside him. I can’t run and talk cos I’m belting down the bank faster than Usain Bolt. Just as I bend down to pick up the net I get my first glimpse of the fish, and its a good un. I slide the net under and Drew is jumping for joy. “What’s your pb again pal?” I ask.
With the two perch in the net, plus Drews super pb 3lb 10oz perch we set about getting a few photos. I think Drew is in shock and just can’t believe he’s just bagged such a superb fish. This method of lure fishing takes you from rock bottom to being on top of the world, and all in an instant. From feeling like you are never going to catch, doubting everything you are doing, out of no where it happens and you are left quivering like a little baby at the sight of something magical darting around in front of you. When you lift the thing out of the net it grows again and you just can’t believe what you are seeing. These perch are just something special.
There’s a spring in the step of everyone now and what was turning in to a long hard day is now a splendid result for everyone, except me of course. Ha ha, but that’s the way it is sometimes and to be honest I wasn’t that fussed. These are special moments and next time it will be me with the fish and someone else missing out. Me and Ady have had days where he’s bagged up and i’ve blanked and likewise the other way around. Luckily those days where one of us misses out are rare and usually we both get at least something from the day, even if one of us catches slightly more. Drew suggests now that the only thing missing from the day to make it perfect is for me to get one. “Don’t say that mate” explains Ady, “the spawny bastard will probably bag a bigger one”.
Next cast, a few cranks of the handle, a few twitches and my lure is smacked. Big fish! Ady is next to me with the net and we see this thing coming up and then going back down. “Net this quick Ady” I say in a panicked voice. This thing is massive, deep bellied and potentially a massive fish. Rod bent, i turn the fish and as it comes up Ady slides the net under. “This is huge” he says as I leap for joy. The scales swing round and drop short of the magical figure, but who really cares. At 3lb 15oz it is the biggest of the day and a tremendous fish, truly tremendous.
I think by now we are all happy with the result and even though we soldier on for a little while longer, deep down i think we were all ready for a bit of food and drink and a chill out in the car. We fished for a good half an hour or so, leap frogging our way on the trusty method and trying to catch another big perch. Drew is in front and Ady feels it is time to pull a prank. He whispers to me and says, “watch this” then proceeds to wait for the perfect moment and as Drew is winding in his lure he taps the end of his rod butt section. Instinct kicks in as Drew feels the hit, or so he thinks, and he yanks in to thin air nearly pulling his arm out of joint. Ady and myself are chuckling away like little kids at the back, Drew unaware of what just happened and thinking he just missed another big perch is gutted. Again, he gets a twang and quickly reacts “I’m in” he shouts. Wait a minute, Ady didn’t do it a second time. He’s bloody in to a perch again, ha, marvelous. As Ady nets the perch he’s explaining to Drew what the hell just went on and claiming that this 2lb 13oz perch is part his capture too. Super end to the day and another cracking capture.
So there you have it. A little insight in to how we go about targeting the big perch. It’s not an easy method and as described earlier, can be really draining and especially so if you don’t manage to catch one of the dream fish. There are other ways to do it and on other waters this might not work and standard jigging is more suited. We could have jigged for perch but since we didn’t even know where they were we had to go find them. If you are hammering a spot that has perch you can roll up with fancy techniques and try something different to wangle a fish out but to do all that on here would mean you wouldn’t have even got within a mile of the spot we found the perch and you certainly wouldn’t walk the couple of miles to target such a featureless open bit of water with softies.
As for our new combos, we ll we both love the new rod. Really great bit of kit and handled the fish really well. Perfect for the 5cm shad raps and sensitive enough to fish small softies too. I have used one inch lures and 3g jigs to have a bit of sport on the fun size perch already so I know it will do me a good job with those not just chasing the big ones. My reel is bang on though I already knew that as i’ve been using it a few months now. Ady on the other hand is on the lookout for a new shiny reel, no doubt he wants a blue one to match the rod. First impressions of the Bushido braid is really good. It’s silky smooth from the start and doesn’t need three weeks to bed in or soften up like some braids do and we were able to cast a fair distance too. So we are really pleased with our new bits of kit, looking forward to giving them some more time on the bank and catching a few more fish on them.
How many times have you passed by or over a small, shallow, rock filled stream or the upper reaches of a river and peered in only to convince your self that it wouldn’t be home to target-able populations of fish, let alone anything of any size? Well, as they say, never judge a book by its cover as these type of waters can offer some cracking sport to the light lure angler.
Of course were talking mainly trout. Wild, naturally occurring populations of these hard fighting fish thrive in this sort of environment. They are spreading at a frantic pace and it hasn’t taken anglers long to realise it as they are fast gaining popularity. No longer just a target of the game fly angler, lure anglers are now getting in on the act with spectacular results and fish of between four and six pounds are regularly been reported.
Within half an hour of home I have four rivers that offer good trout sport. A couple of them are quite large, the other two are a lot smaller and one of those you would definitely call a stream in places although it does open up in parts and more so from the middle sections of its length. There are still good trout to be had but chub, perch and the odd pike also show in these parts. However, it’s these smaller, more intimate waters that interest me the most.
So, what is it you may wonder that attracts me to such small, overgrown places? Well, it’s the feeling of been at one with nature, like you belong there and somehow become a part of it. As you slowly and carefully make your way upstream, waist deep in clear water you see and here things you wouldn’t normally see while trudging along the banks snapping sticks as you inevitably step on them and forcing your way through head high brambles and nettles. And, if your careful, nature doesn’t see you. King fishers zip past so close and fast that you feel the wind off of their wings. Moore hens will stare at you like statues as you pass their nests and if your lucky you can creep up on the fish, watch and study their behaviour before making your move. And of course the hard fighting and stunningly marked fish.
On larger rivers you can quite easily bank fish, wandering along flicking lures out all day. However, on these small waters waders are a must. The banks are generally much more over grown and you will simply not see or even fish the little pools and holes that the fish are laid up in standing on the bank as you are unable to cast to them. It also makes playing and landing fish so much easier. I use a Cortland fly fishing net clipped to the strap of my lure bag as I’m in the water and do not require a handle as such. It’s also great for resting the fish.
Whilst on the subject of resting fish here’s a quick note about handling trout too, something which was brought to my attention by a fly fishing friend. DO NOT squeeze trout behind the head as the fishes organs are located right up there and it leads to death once released and you will not even know. They fight like hell too and I always make sure I rest and release the bigger ones just like I would with barbel, holding them head up in the flow or rested in the net and only letting them go once they are fighting me to go. Again, early release will see them shoot off only to go belly and get washed away later.
Wading and fishing upstream is an absolute must if you don’t want to spook the fish and ruin your chances before even putting a lure in the water. Fish sit facing upstream so you don’t need me to tell you that it’s better to sneak up on them from behind. Every footstep you take will produce a sound, which will of course be carried by the current so let the current take it away from where your fishing. This goes for any sediment or weed which you might disturb too, you don’t want it been washed down into a nice pool where a big trout might be sat.
Trout also like to sit on the bottom looking upstream for flies and insects been washed towards them in the current so let your lure do just this by casting upstream and working it back towards you. Of course if fishing from the bank this doesn’t matter quite so much but I do still have far better results casting upstream and working the lures back towards me with the current. The only time I cast downstream is when fishing too a feature that has some sort of obstruction like a fence or bridge preventing me from casting too it from below.
Right then, lets move on. You might now be wandering what sort of gear you would need to fish these small rivers and streams and, if you haven’t yet sampled light lure trouting what you need to actually catch them. Chances are that most of you will already have an outfit suitable with maybe a minor tweak or addition. A 6 or 7 foot light casting rod around 10 to 20 gram will do but nothing too soft otherwise you will struggle to pull better sized fish out of fast water.
I use a 7ft Drennan Spincast which isn’t actually casting weight rated but marked up at 1.25lb test curve for some strange reason. It might sound a bit on the heavy side but I find it works very well. Don’t be tempted to go for a rod much over 7 feet in length though as you will find it becomes a hindrance in and around bushes and overhanging trees. Reel wise, any small reliable fixed spool to balance your chosen rod will suffice and I currently use a 2500 Shimano Catana.
For main line I use mono and this may come as a surprise to a lot of modern lure anglers but let me explain. When I first started to target trout I was loosing and missing more fish than I caught and at times I felt like pulling my hair out. Trout like to live in fast water, sometimes very fast meaning they only have a split second to decide if your lure is food or not. This means they hit hard and fight hard! Quite often they will go airborne right after the hit and its not uncommon for them to do so 3 or 4 times simultaneously. Other times they will thrash about on the surface especially as you are about to net them. Mono absorbs a lot of this, cushioning the hook hold where as braid, with its lack of stretch just leads to hook pull after hook pull.
After a bit of playing around with various brands and breaking strains I settled on 8lb Daiwa Sensor. Its light enough to not hinder casts, its robust enough to withstand a bit of hammer from rubbing on rocks and tree branches and is more than strong enough to turn trout when they make a run for tree roots. Just be sure to periodically check the last few feet for wear and tear especially if like me you stick a few wayward casts in the trees or the stretch of river you’re fishing is particularly rocky.
The only disadvantage I have found to using light mono is when snagging lures as 8lb will fail to bend most lure hook out. However, this is negated by the fact your wading shallow water and can simply walk over to your lure and remove it from the offending object in most cases.
Leader wise, I don’t bother and just tie a small swivel snap direct to the end of the main line. It’s not going to gain you any advantage as the fish hardly have time to study it in the fast water anyway. But, if it gives you more confidence an 8 or 10lb fluro leader wouldn’t hurt. Lower down stream though where I’m more likely to encounter pike I do use wire. Like a lot of people use on their lighter hard lure outfit I use 18lb K2K. It doesn’t seem to put the trout off. The only detrimental aspect has been to the action of very small lures.
This brings us nicely to the next part, lures and hooks. Trout will for the most part, given half a chance take just about any small lure. There are though times and conditions when a little more thought is required and I’ll cover the various lures and scenarios when I would choose each one after a quick look at hooks.
Trout, unlike other predators have quite small, delicate mouths and treble hooks are not required. Just ask any fly angler for a look in his fly box and you are very unlikely to find anything with a hook much bigger than a size 14. With this in mind, and after a bit of playing around and talking to other anglers I swapped all the hooks on my trout lures for VMC predator inline’s. The majority size 6’s with the odd bigger lure carrying 4’s. And on smaller lures I find a single size 8 is ample. Using singles in conjunction with mono has lead to a massive drop in missed takes and lost fish. The hook holds are superb and it’s so much easier to pop a single out than risk damaging the fishes mouth trying to remove trebles.
So then, which lures do I favour? Minnows, little dumpy cranks around 4 or 5cm, similar sized wake/surface baits and spinners all come into their own. Unless your choosing surface baits you will find that sinking lures are far superior. As I said before, trout love to live in fast water and trying to fish such spots with a floating diving crank can be neigh on impossible as the lure simply will not dive due to the water pressure pushing against it and killing the action. Sinking lures get down past the worst of the boiling, swirling water on the surface and stay down.
A killer tactic, especially for wary fish is to play around with lures of different weights and sink rates until you find one that will suspend as the flow holds it up. Then, rather than wind you can cast it out and just twitch it as it is carried downstream. It’s particularly effective too for working under cover and places you can not cast to. Cast upstream and let the flow work your lure under the cover for you, then hold on tight as a fish shoots out from under the cover and smashes your lure.
Unless I’m targeting an area I know very well, or a certain swim 9 times out of 10 my starting lure is a 5cm Salmo minnow in either trout or minnow pattern. These are effective in anything from a foot of fast water to 3 or 4 feet of steadier water and are good for exploring new areas where you are unsure of the depths. They are also a good lure for the twitching method I mentioned earlier.
For bomb holes (my pet name for a certain type of spot which I’ll explain later) and deeper runs I go for something with a bigger lip like a Salmo hornet or Yogi, both 4cm. In normal use these would dive well over 5 foot but in the flow, with the rod tip up a bit or in fast holes they don’t go so deep and work well.
You will be surprised at how little water trout will sit in and 6in is more than enough even for fish of over a pound. Quite often you can find fish sat in little holes 8 or 10in deep when the surrounding area is little more than a trickle. To target very shallow sections, or when bottom weed is a problem I reach for some custom designed minnow baits that I had made by Mark Houghton. They are around 6cm and sink but they only run at around 6in deep on the retrieve. They also have just the one hook in the rear and when fitted with an upward facing single they can be run across gravel and over the top of weedy areas without fouling and getting stuck.
Next up are surface baits, these are quite possibly the most enjoyable to use for me. As you creep along the river keep watching for signs of fish taking flies and insects from the surface. When you find some stick on a little wake bait, something like a Mark Houghton Tadpole, Crank ‘n Bean or Salmo bug, cast well upstream past the fish and gently twitch it as it comes down with the flow. Takes are generally instant.
And last but not least, the good old spinner. It’s so easy to catch trout on these that I rarely bother now as its just no fun and offers no sense of achievement for me personally. However, that’s not to say they do not play a part in this kind of fishing. Neither is it a guarantee to catch fish. If your new to this sort kind of fishing or if you just want to catch a few trout or even let the kids sample something new then I fully recommend spinners.
Number 2 Mepps or Ondex in silver, gold or copper will all catch fish. The Rotex spinners from Savage Gear are also pretty good and, in fact, the number one rotex is actually a good lure to target grayling with. Now there’s a challenge for you. The only time I do opt for spinners though is if the rivers are up a little and carrying colour. When everything else fails I found that an orange Vibrax spinner will winkle out a few fish.
On to location now then and you will find trout are so predictable and easy to catch yet at other times so annoyingly unpredictable. Smaller trout, and to some extent bigger ones can be located in just about any sort of water but then the very next day they are like hen’s teeth. I have no idea where they disappear to, presumably they just took them selves away tight to the bank and under stones and bushes. These small ‘shoal’ fish can be found in good numbers in long, smooth glides with even bottoms although they will also be found in smaller, faster spots too. One thing trout don’t seem to like is mud or silt and my results have been very poor in such areas.
There are though a few spots to keep an eye out for while working your way along the river, spots that in general hold numbers of bigger fish. I’m not talking swims here or, like on bigger rivers a nice big slack on a bend. I’m talking something the size of maybe half a coffee table and even smaller that might hold just 3 or 4 fish. One thing to note though is that you are very unlikely to get more than one fish from such spots as once hooked the fish will spook the rest of the group and they will scatter.
Big trout I find are quite solitary beasts and equally territorial. They can turn up out of the blue just about anywhere but they do tend to have a favoured spot to sit in on the bottom and lay in wait for passing food. Anything that stands out like a small undercut bank, steep drop off or a deep hole behind a large boulder are all good places to locate bigger fish. Been territorial means that should you miss or loose one, return at a later date and you will more than likely find it waiting for you in the same spot.
In general trout like fast water and if your unsure as to weather its too fast or not then it’s probably not!
Don’t be afraid to have a chuck in the fastest of fast bits as they normally throw up a surprise or two. Any spot with fast water, faster than the surrounding areas all hold fish and the well oxygenated parts are the ones to run your lure through. Below rapids and weirs are prime examples. Creases, confluences, bridge supports, in fact any sort of feature you would normally look out for will all hold trout of various sizes.
Lastly is my favourite feature, the ‘Bomb Hole’. So called because it looks like a bomb or grenade has gone off creating a crater in the river bed. Actually it’s created by soft rock been worn away by fast water directly below rapids. Just like a waterfall plunge pool only on a much smaller scale. A word of warning though, NEVER attempt to wade through these holes as even in small rivers and streams they can easily be deep enough to go over chest waders.
And there you have it, my take on lure fishing for trout in small rivers. If you haven’t tried it yet get out and have some fun. The fight you get from some of these fish just have to be experienced. Before I go there’s just a couple more things to note. If you didn’t already know trout have differing seasons depending on which area of the country you live in. Generally covering the traditional closed season and on into October but its advised to check your local by laws.
Lastly, they may look tasty and it may be perfectly legal but lets leave them to grow into 6 pound fighting machines and let them all go, they are readily available on the fish counter after all.
New video up.
It’s been a while but we’re back and in this video i set about catching some pike from a spot where they have been a little tricky to catch recently.
Bit of a nudge for any of you lot snooping around the site. I have some custom Burts back in stock in a couple of colours which are not readily available elsewhere. On top of that i’ve just had a bit of a re-stock of Godfather jerks and there is a limited availability of the rather cool Piranha pattern. If you miss out this time on the Piranhas send me a mail as pre -orders will be taken.
In this video i have a crack at a river which is on the run off after a bit of a flood. Often this can be a good time to get on it. I set off along a stretch looking for fish holding spots and pass on a few tips on how I approach them.
Quick video to announce the winner of the Cruelbaits Godfather jerk.
Thanks to everyone for entering.
A fantastic video showing you how to go about catching a few perch in really tough conditions, murky canal water after floods and really cold weather. For many people this is a nailed on blank but with a few little tweaks to your fishing style you can still catch loads of perch. Special thanks to my Perch Pro buddy Dave Binns for coming out and giving us some tips and showing us exactly what he does to keep on having some fun. A must watch video, simple as that.
I have a few custom re-weighted Burts in stock. I can’t put this on Facebook as I will get inundated with requests for burts and I simply haven’t got enough. Colours available are the popular perch and very rare 9 Dollar Bass.
A short video explaining a few things to think about when looking to get your pike set up sorted. for one guy it’s go all out, big baitcaster, heavy jerks and the rest. For another, there’s always other options.
Short story here. I’ve got some lures to sell.
Buy Phantom jerks
So the longer version. I’m often getting asked by you guys about the Cobbs jerk baits we use. Jack Cobbs no longer makes these lures. I think the last place I knew that had any in the UK was Chico who might have sold out/have the odd one left. You can find them in a few shops around Europe if you look hard enough but it will cost you £30 a lure plus postage last time I checked. Worth it to be honest if you love a nice jerk and are lucky enough never to lose it to a snag.
So the next question I get is, what other good jerk baits are there? Well in my quest to feed my own lure addiction, which you guys will end up with if you haven’t already, I’m often buying lures and usually jerk baits. I’ve got some ok, some crap and some good. Then I randomly bought a couple to try. The package turned up and I had about 20 minutes of day light to test them out and see how they ran. I wasn’t even wanting to catch a fish I just wanted to play with my new toys.
I had four lures. Two six inch and two seven inch lures, both sizes I had a standard jerk and a soft tail version. I bought one of each because i’ve found in the past, with some lures a change in size means a change in lure if they don’t get it right. One works, and the other is crap. So I chucked the first one out, a six inch standard. Couple of taps and it’s gliding perfect. Couple of cranks of the handle and it’s gliding perfect. I play about and it just keep gliding perfect. Slow to steady sink rate with a nice body wobble. Happy with that, it’ll catch for sure. So I stick on the seven inch and it’s like an exact copy, works like a dream. Larger lure with three trebles and possible wider glide, or is it that it looks wider because it’s bigger? No, I think it does glide a little wider. Bloody hell, if two of my lures out of four work I’m chuffed to bits.
So next i get the smaller soft tail out. Couple of taps and it’s gliding perfect. Couple of cranks of the handle and it’s gliding perfect. I play about and it just keep gliding perfect. Slow to steady sink rate with a nice body wobble. Obviously this one with the added bonus of the curly tail wiggling away behind. I also noted a slow retrieve (not jerking) had the lure coming in with a slight S shape action and body wobble, with tail wiggling away it looked ace, great for shallower clear waters. So yeah the seven inch goes on and you know the rest. They are bloody magical. An easy to use jerk bait, great glide and a perfect lure for anyone new to jerkbaits. Twenty minutes casting and all four are tested and I’m happy. A few days later I get out and fish seriously. I used lots of lures that day from soft lures, to burts to jerks and ended up with five pike landed. Three pike came on the seven inch soft tail, one on a four play and one on a burt. I’m well happy happy, it glides and it catches fish.
Next I do a bit of research in to the Phantom lures. I’ve seen them about before but they are US based so again not easy to get hold of. Looks like the ones I had might be an older model as the new ones looked to have more colours and also an option to add screw in weights. Also noted the price is high and importing them would be a nightmare for small time shops like me. They’re not made of wood and aren’t custom made, they are produced using some modern fancy resin stuff or whatever, I’ve no idea what. Anyway, by now I just want to get hold of some for the shop so I order a load from a guy who was selling them off cheap and here they are. Limited availability, what you see is what I have for sale, though I’ve probably kept a few for me and Ady and you can’t have them. If you want a jerkbait that works, these are what you want. After that, you’re on your own like me, taking a risk on a lure and then finding out if it’s any good or not. I can’t help you with the addiction, in fact I’m probably making it worse, sorry.
If you wanted a Cobbs but can’t find one, get one of these instead.
To celebrate hitting eight thousand Youtube subscribers i am going to give away a fantastic lure made by Cruelbaits, the Godfather jerk. To enter, simply watch the video below and follow the instructions.
Check out the latest video and have yourself a laugh at my expense.
New video is up on the channel and this time its a bit of dead bait pike fishing with some handy tips on using drop off and pop up rigs.
Cruelbaits Godfather jerks are back in stock. The only place to buy these awesome lures in the UK is right here on riverpiker.com.
Here’s a video to help you when you are buying that shiny new rod. Marty of WVA Custom Rods gives us a bit of his time and explains some of the things which will help you notice the little bits of quality on rods, custom made or shop bought.
Lots of people have been asking me to do one and I’ve finally got it done. Probably the first of a few. When I find time to get out and play i’ll do something else with the jerks too. I hope this helps a few of you discover the joy of using jerk baits.
Check it out, our massive Black Friday Sale is here. Don’t you just love a super sale and here at riverpiker.com we do too.
Pay for any three Ujka lures and get those three Ujka lures. We have a super, buy one get one, deal on any Rapala lure. Also we have a special, buy now pay now, deal on any official Riverpiker merchandise.
Just a quick note. The Godfather Jerks are selling out fast, but not to worry we will have work on a new batch soon. If you want any specific colour or sinking style email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and i will add yours to the production. Be quick though as work starts on them this sunday 20th november.
Recently I was sent a couple of samples of some truly stunning, handmade glide baits from Cruelbaits of Hungary. They are a medium sized glide bait, around 35g and just over 10cm, and they are just ace. I had a quick chuck in the margin and loved the action on them immediately. They cast like bullets and the action is really good since the weighting of these lures is spot on in my opinion. I was immediately sold on them and I just had to get a few for my shop. So here we are, Cruelbaits have now hit the UK!
For those of you unlucky/lucky enough to have come to the Northern lure bash here’s a little video showing what happened on the day. Once again a massive thank you to everyone who helped out, everyone who came and all the sponsors who stumped up some prizes.