Sunday, 18 December 2016

Lure Fishing for Pike and Perch in Coloured Water



The Shropshire union canal main line is a very busy canal, it forms part of what boaters call the ‘Cheshire loop’ which is a route they can take around the counties canal system. It’s a very popular route for boaters and holiday makers but it’s a nightmare for anglers and lure anglers in particular. The constant boat traffic churns up the bottom of the canal and as a result, the water is permanently the colour of a bar of cadbury’s dairy milk chocolate.

Lure Fishing for Pike and Perch in Coloured Water, Click to Watch.

Because of the muddy water and lack of sight, most lure anglers look at the venue and give it a wide birth, it’s human nature to do this, a fishes eyesight is at least as good as ours and we can’t see in that environment so it stands to reason the fish can’t either. It’s rare to see anyone on the canal with a lure rod but dismissing the canal because of the water colour is a big mistake. This widely accepted train of thought that lure fishing is no good in coloured water assumes that fish have no other senses besides their eyes, but they do!. They also have their lateral line system which they use to detect vibrations and tiny changes in water currents around them, this system is so sensitive a predator like a pike or perch can still hunt prey fish despite not being able to see in the muddy water. Knowing this, we can specifically select lures that offer vibration and sound to attract bites.

Sight...Think fish not human, this pike hit my kopyto lure after picking up vibrations from the paddle tail

The canal is quite featureless, the biggest attraction for the angler is the margins and the vertical walls that form the canal itself. Canal boats generally travel up the middle of the canal and it’s here the water is churned worst of all. As a result, fish will often sit close in to the bank, not only does the canal wall offer somewhere for the fish to hang out, the muddy coloured water means they can’t be seen in the edge and this is a help to us anglers too because the muddy water means they can’t see us either.

They can't see us either, a perch caught dibbling under my feet

I have a few lures I use for lure fishing in coloured water, which one I choose depends on the target species, for pike my number one lure is a Rapala Jointed Shad Rap in firetiger. This particular lure is superb in coloured water, there are a couple of ball bearings inside the lure that provide a big rattling sound and the lure itself is constructed so it rips from side to side really aggressively. When you work a Rapala Jointed Shad Rap you can actually see and feel your rod tip vibrate as the lure moves along and working it under a bridge will give you an idea of just how much sound and vibration comes off this lure, you will actually hear it echoing off the brickwork of the bridge. Fan casting to search the canal with one of these rapala’s you will soon know if there are any pike in residence, I usually give it 10-15 casts in a fan shape but I expect a hit within 5 or 6 casts if the pike are in the mood. You can also work them up and down the canal margin to search long stretches of the canal and this is one of my favourite ways of using this outstanding pike lure.

Rapala Jointed Shad Rap in Firetiger, an outstanding pike lure for coloured water

Most of my canal lure fishing is done with perch as the main target and my best lure for this species is a small Relax Kopyto Shad. I use the brightest colours I can find for lure fishing in coloured water, although the fish can’t see very well I reason that a bright colour can’t do any harm and may help if there is slight visibility close up as a fish strikes the lure. I tend to favour lures that are white or ‘chartreuse’, which is a kind of luminous green type of colour.
For my perch fishing with the Relax Kopyto Shad I tend to favour working with a ‘sphere of detection’. The kopyto has a lovely rubber paddle tail which hammers away and creates vibration when you retrieve it through the water, if the lure comes within 12 inches (30cms) of a fish, that fish will sense the lure is there even though it can’t see it. When you put this ‘sphere of detection’ into use and put it together with the fish liking the canal wall you can work lures close in to the bank with a method which has become known as ‘dibbling’. Basically it entails dropping the lure off the end of your Rod tip and keeping the lure working close to the bottom and within 12 inches (30cms) of the canal wall, anything that comes within the sphere of the lure can detect it’s presence so that’s any fish within 2ft of the wall (remember it’s a sphere so it’s 12ins in all directions). In the case of coming close to a predator like a pike or a perch, a strike will often follow. It’s a deadly method for fishing canals where visibility is near zero and as you can see from the accompanying video above. If you fish this way, you can get bites when lure fishing for pike and perch in coloured water.

Relax Kopyto Shad, a great perch lure in coloured water

I’ve also just started using a Crazy Fish Vibro Worm, this lure too has a paddle tail for generating vibrations in the water but it also has a few extras. The worm is ‘ribbed’ all the way along which helps displace more water and create more vibration when you work the lure. On top of the vibro worms whole body helping create vibration the lure also has a squid flavour impregnated into it so we are bringing into play the senses of smell and taste too. I had a feeling the vibro worm might be worth a look so I bought a pack of white ones which were 2” (50mm) long. I set one of these Crazy Fish Vibro Worm up on a 3 gram Jig Head with a size 4 hook and as you can see, if you watch the film above to the end, first time out it’s caught me a small pike which is an encouraging start for this lure.

Crazy Fish Vibro Worm, the latest addition to my coloured water lures

So that’s it for lure fishing for pike and perch in coloured water, think fish not human is the big message I’d like to get across. Play to the senses fish use to detect their food and hunt with and you will catch fish on lures from waters like the Shropshire union canal main line, believe me canals don’t come much busier than this one and as far as lure fishing venues go it’s a tough one, but it’s not impossible with the right approach.

Until next time.

Tight lines.

Mark.



Saturday, 19 November 2016

Lure Fishing for Beginners



I thought long and hard about the title for this blog entry and accompanying short film, lure fishing for beginners seemed to be the most appropriate way to describe a look at my lure fishing tackle and the gear I use, after all, if you’re reading this and watching the film then you’re probably looking to get into lure fishing yourself or you’re looking for ideas on lures to add to your own lure boxes. As someone who takes a camera fishing with them, this look at my gear is long overdue. One thing you will notice is that my gear is basic starter stuff that a lure fishing beginner would use, I don’t believe in spending any more than necessary when it comes to kitting yourself out and I’m not waving round a £300 plus rod and reel combination whilst telling you to ‘buy cheap’, I do actually use the cheap stuff myself as you are about to see.

A look at my lure fishing tackle, click to watch

HTO Rockfish L LRF Lure Rod
This is the lure rod I use, it’s an 'LRF' or 'light rock fishing' rod that's actually meant for bass fishing off the rocks but being so light it lends itself perfectly to light lure fishing for perch. The rod has a nice white tip for spotting bites and is weight rated for lures in the 3-12g weight range. The rod in general is well made and light, just what you need for a day on the canal and at a cost of around £35 it won’t break the bank. The rod itself was recommended to me by an angling coach friend of mine and I have to say he was spot on (thanks kev), it’s a quality rod but without the ‘lure fishing’ price tag of some makes.

Shimano Catana 2500FC Reel
This is the reel I’ve paired with my rockfish rod, it’s one of the smallest reels in the shimano range but it still has a lovely clutch, being only a ‘1000’ size reel its nice and light and at under or around £30 it’s a great starter reel for lure fishing.

My lure fishing setup for beginners, a HTO Rockfish LRF Rod and a Shimano Catana Reel

Savage Gear Bushwhacker Lure Rod 20-60g
My second lure rod is an out and out pike rod, this is one of the bigger savage gear lure rods at 8ft 6ins and its weight rated for lures weighing 20-60g so it will easily cope with lures over 2oz in weight, this is a lovely rod, very well made and powerful enough to cope with the biggest of pike. This one cost me £60 at the time but I’d spotted a bargain on ebay so expect to pay a bit more today.

Abu Ambassadeur 5601 Baitcaster Reel
My Abu baitcaster is a lovely reel, its light and balances very well with the savage gear bushwhacker rod, Abu have a really good name when it comes to baitcaster reels, they are far from cheap and vary in price from £60 up to £200 plus, fortunately I was given mine (thankyou Garry) but expect to pay around £80 for one of these.

Power Pro Braid
Both of my reels are loaded with power pro braid, 30lb for the pike setup and 18lb for the ultralite setup, 18lb was the lowest breaking strain I could find at the time but I’d be happy to drop it down to 10lb braid and I will in future. Braid is an absolute must for lure fishing, no stretch means you can feel every little pluck and pull and it shows up bites really well. Power pro is one of the market leaders in braided line, I’d been using it for years in my carp fishing so it was an obvious choice when it came to my lure fishing tackle.

Savage Gear Lure Net
I carry the larger of the two savage gear lure nets, this net is made with rubber mesh so it’s very lure friendly which is just what you want when you have a lively pike and treble hooks on show, extracting your lure from one of these nets is so easy, they fold up well and I can’t recommend them highly enough. The large net is quite a size and will easily take a big pike, I also use mine for my Barbel Fishing so it’s a duel purpose landing net for me. If you just want one for lure fishing I’d recommend the smaller of the two savage gear nets, it will cope with everything and it’s a tenner cheaper than the large one I have.

Unhooking Mat
You never know when you’re going to need an unhooking mat or landing net when you’re lure fishing, I’ve used a mat from my carp fishing so I’ve yet to go shopping for one exclusively for lure fishing, if I did I’d want a smaller and lighter mat, the small ones that roll up look ideal, remember you’ll be on your feet walking and casting a lot so keep it small and light.

Nash H-Gun Rucksack
My Nash H-Gun rucksack isn’t strictly lure fishing kit, I’ve borrowed it from my carp fishing and made do. I don’t see the point in shelling out for stuff you might not need, if you have a spare fishing bag, use that instead. The rucksack itself is well made and has loads of room, as you can see in the film, I’ve made good use of the spare pockets and it takes more than enough tackle for a days fishing.

Lure Boxes
Lure boxes come in all different shapes and sizes, I’ve long held the view that these type of plastic boxes cost less if they are for DIY rather than fishing, the storage boxes for screws and rawl plugs are the same thing but put fishing in front of the box and the price goes through the roof!, any flat DIY storage container that looks not unlike a tackle box will do and that’s what I use.

Knot 2 Kinky Trace Wire
My chosen trace wire is the new nickel titanium wire known as knot 2 kinky, you can tie knots in it and I like to use the clinch knot that’s demonstrated on the back of the packet. It’s a very good trace wire but not the only one I carry, I also use Fox Easy Twist and Drennan 7 Strand but the k2k is my current favourite.

Relax Kopyto Shad
One of my lure boxes is dedicated to these relax kopyto shads, they are tremendous lures and I’ve caught a lot of pike and perch on them, the characteristic paddle tail on these lures really makes them work well, straight retrieve or work them erratically they will do the business. I have them in various colors, white and chartreuse are particularly good in coloured water. Every lure angler should have some of these shads in their lure box.

Relax Kopyto Shad, a great lure for Perch and Pike

Savage Gear Real Eel
I’m a big fan of the savage gear real eel, work them with a straight retrieve and the tail waves nicely behind the lure, hungry pike find this lure hard to resist, they literally do look like a real eel in the water and they will produce pike when all else fails. I like to rig mine on the jig head that’s provided in the pack but I also add a Stinger to increase hook-ups. A word of warning about these lures and rubber lures in general, always have a tube of superglue in your box for repairs, a pikes teeth will easily slice through the rubber but you can glue the lure and carry on fishing with it.

Savage Gear 4 Play Lures
Another favourite in my lure box is the savage gear 4 play rubber lures. Like the real eel they are very life like and you can fish them on a straight or erratic retrieve. I’ve got them in small and medium sizes for pike and perch and they rig nicely on a savage gear jig head or with a savage gear lip skull.

Rapala Shad Rap Lures
I have quite a few rapala shad rap lures and they are undoubtedly one of my very favourite lures. I like the firetiger version for coloured water and a blue coloured one for clearer venues. I also have a few rapala x-rap lures in my box too. Again they are all different sizes, some small enough for perch, others big enough for pike, rapala lures really are superb fish catchers and every angler should have a few in their lure box.

Rapala Shad Rap Lures, one of the best pike lures in the world today

Mepps Comet Spinners
Some anglers overlook spinners these days but again I think every angler should have a few of these lures in their tackle box. The mepps comet has long been one of the very best, in larger sizes they are great pike lures and in the smaller sizes they produce lots of perch. I like to have size 2’s in my box for perch and size 5’s for pike, fish them with a slow and steady retrieve and see what bites. Also, I prefer my mepps comet with red dots rather than blue, the red version has always caught me more fish.

Curly Tail Grubs
Another fantastic lure that should be in everyone’s lure box. Curly tails grubs work really well, they are fished on a jig head and again you can do a straight retrieve or work them erratically, the curly tail on the grubs waves enticingly in the water and these grubs are irresistible to perch and pike, I carry these lures in various colours and in sizes from 1 to 3 inches along with the corresponding size jig heads. If you haven’t already, get some of these, you won’t be disappointed.

Abu Toby Spoon
Another lure you don’t see used very much these days, spoons seem to have fallen out of fashion but it’s worth having one or two in your lure box. I’ve had an Abu Toby Spoon in my box for many years, it’s done well for me in clear water on the River Dee, the spoon flutters in the current as you retrieve it and the pike seem to like this, if I didn’t have a roach imitation I’d have a plain copper spoon instead, both work really well.

Unhooking Tools
I have several tools for removing hooks from pike, standard Forceps, long nosed forceps, Wire Cutters, Long Nosed Pliers and a device called a Hook Out, they all help in the right circumstances, all I will say is make sure you’ve got the longer tools if nothing else, you need to be able to get deep into a pikes throat without risk of your fingers getting cut on those razor sharp teeth and you should have the option of being able to cut through a hook itself if necessary.

Jig Heads
I have a wide selection of jig heads, I carry different hook size and weight combinations so I can cover whatever situation I’m presented with, I try to use the lightest jig head I can get away with and the jigs I use most are under 5g which is well within the weight rating of my HTO Rockfish Rod.

So that’s it for my lure fishing tackle, its good lure fishing kit for beginners and it does me. I’ve pinched some items from my carp kit to keep costs down and I’m firmly of the opinion that what I’ve got is good enough to do the job. Lure fishing can get very expensive but it doesn’t have to be, the fish don't know the price of your rod and reel, putting your lure in the right place and working it enticingly enough to provoke a strike is what counts and you don’t need to spend loads of money to do that.

Until next time

Tight Lines

Mark.



Sunday, 25 September 2016

Barbel Fishing on the River Severn



June isn’t exactly the best month for carp fishing, the carp have spawned, they are down in weight and quite often looking a bit tatty after their yearly nuptials. This isn’t the condition I want them in when I catch them so I tend to take a break from carp and switch to barbel fishing for a month or two until they’ve recovered some weight and condition. This year was no exception so once June 16th passed and the rivers opened again I put the carp rods away and started visiting the River Severn at Ironbridge in search of some barbel. I chose a slightly deeper and slower section of river that looked perfect. It had fast runs at the top and bottom of the stretch with nice steady paced water in the middle. River Severn barbel are known to prefer the faster and shallower runs early in the season so you may be wondering why I was fishing in the middle of a deeper and slower section?. Well the answer to that is quite simple, at heart I’m a carp angler and the deeper/slower sections of the River Severn are the areas I’ve a chance of striking it lucky and finding the equivalent of the holy grail, a River Severn carp. Sadly I didn’t find any carp in this stretch although they have been seen in the area previously so I live in hope that one day I’ll hit the jackpot and find them. Apart from having one eye on finding carp, the faster run above would deposit food into this slower stretch I'm fishing and it would act as a decent holding area for barbel and chub.

Barbel Fishing on the River Severn, Rigs, baits, tips and tackle..Click to watch

The steady paced flow on this stretch looked perfect and I was sure I’d find both barbel and chub on my short evening sessions. My tactics were to mix up a Bait Box full of Dynamite Marine Halibut Method Mix and lace it heavily with mixed sized Trout Pellets. I introduced this groundbait via a 2oz Guru Gripper Feeder, it was summer and the river was running quite low with very little rain so a 2oz feeder was more than enough to hold bottom. It took 20-30 casts of the feeder to introduce my groundbait and pellets to the swim, once this was done I sat down to rest the swim, tie a couple of rigs and mix a fresh batch of groundbait ready for the evenings fishing.

Dynamite Marine Halibut Method Mix, meant for carp but great for River Severn Barbel

The dynamite marine halibut method mix is a great attractor and why my groundbait was working it’s magic I tied up a couple of barbel rigs. This year I was using fluorocarbon line for my River Severn barbel rigs. Drennan Supplex in 10lb breaking strain was my chosen fluorocarbon line, to this I tied a size 10 Drennan Super Specialist Hook knotless knot/hair rig style and at the other end of my fluorocarbon hooklength was a Korda Kwik Clip to allow easy change of my rigs. My fluorocarbon severn barbel rig was 4ft long from hook to feeder, the reason for the long rig was to reduce the chance of spooking any barbel that came in to feed on my groundbait and pellets. Where the main line comes up from the river bed to the rod tip is what I regard as the ‘spook point’ and if the fish realise the line is there they may back off and be more cautious. By having the pellet hookbait 4ft downstream of the feeder I could avoid this problem and give myself a decent chance of a multiple catch of barbel and chub, on top of this, fluorocarbon line is virtually invisible in water so I had an outstanding stealth rig which I’m sure would get me bites on my short evening/daylight sessions. (The groundbait and the rig are both in the video above).

I baited my rigs with pellets Superglued either side of the hair, one rig I hooked over my Rod Rest ready for a quick change when needed, the other was clipped onto the swivel on my line and the Guru Gripper Feeder was free running on the main line. I loaded my feeder with groundbait and did an underarm cast onto the same spot I’d fed twenty minutes before. With a baited rig now in the water I set my Korum Twin Tip+ barbel rod on the rest and engaged the bait runner on my Shimano Reel, now I’d put in the bait it was time to wait.

It was an hour and a half later when the rod tip went over, it was a vicious bite typical of a River Severn barbel but the culprit was no barbel this time, to my surprise a 3lb 12oz chub found its way into my Savage Gear Landing Net.

First fish of the session, a River Severn Chub weighing 3lb 12oz

That was a good start, usually I expect the last hour to be bite time so I was well ahead of the game. I reloaded my cage feeder with more of my dynamite marine halibut method mix and trout pellets then dropped it back on the spot. Twenty minutes later I had one of those famous four foot barbel twitches when the rod pulled right over and this time line poored from the spool as an angry fish shot off downsteam. I disengaged the baitrunner and straight away the fish pulled line off the clutch as it went on a long run. I brought the fish to a halt and it stayed deep as it came up the middle of the river, by now I knew it was a decent barbel and as the runs got shorter and shorter I caught sight of my prize, a decent fish indeed and after a brief scare when the fish actually went into the net then bolted out of it before I could lift it up, I netted my first barbel of the session.

First River Severn Barbel of the session, exactly 7lb.

On the Scales I got 7lb exactly, a nice fish that was maybe slightly bigger than your average shoal sized severn barbel. I got some footage then put the fish back in the net and left it in the margins to recover for 5 minutes, only when the barbel had recovered it’s strength did I return it to the river. Remember barbel give everything during the fight and they need plenty of recovery time before they go back to the river, if you release them with little recovery time you may find your fish has no strength and can’t cope with the flow, often they can go belly up and die without you even knowing so please give them lots of recovery time in the net before you put them back.

I’d already reloaded my feeder and I was fishing again when my first barbel went back, twenty minutes later it was déjà vu as another severn barbel ripped off. When I struck this one I got the impression it was bigger than the 7lber I’d just put back, this fish ran almost thirty yards before I managed to bring it to a halt, the fight was slow and dogged with the barbel staying close to the bottom and making a few long runs, I won out in the end though and a decent fish finally found its way into my net. Over a few trips I’d been catching 7lb fish every session but I was happy to see this one break the 8lb barrier, in fact it weighed 8lb 8oz and was my best barbel of the year so far.

River Severn Barbel, my best of the year so far at 8lb 8oz.

Things went a little quiet after this fish but as we headed towards dusk and the last hour I was away again with a third barbel, much like the previous two this one gave me the run around but I won in the end and I weighed in yet another seven from the Severn, 7lb 8oz this time. I had time for one more bite after this fish and as the light faded I finished my session just as I’d started it, with another chub, I didn’t weight it as I was packing up at the time but my last chub was roughly the same size as the first one so it was well over 3lb and probably near 4lb but who’s counting?.

All in all I had a productive few hours, baiting with the dynamite marine halibut method mix and trout pellets proved to be very good tactics and my fluorocarbon severn barbel rig proved to be as stealthy as I expected as I picked up both chub and barbel in bright daylight conditions that you wouldn’t normally expect to catch in. Over a short evening session of 4hrs I had a hatrick of barbel weighing 7lb, 7lb 8oz and 8lb 8oz plus a couple of decent chub and that's good quality fishing for the River Severn these days.

Barbel Rig from the above film, Barbel Rigs don't come much better!, click to watch again

Until next time, tight lines and be lucky.

Mark.




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