My last October trip to Bury Hill chasing zeds and I was joined by fellow zander newbie, James. Arriving just after dawn we were quickly set up and were getting knocks, I'm going to call them knocks as although they were fish then definitely were not runs.
The first positive run was to James and resulted in the zander above, about 12oz - the smallest in the lake? No, the next proper run was mine and the mini zander below was winched in - very cute and still a zander!
The rest of the morning and afternoon was punctuated with the odd knock here and there and only one decent run to me resulting in a beautiful zander about 2½lb (below). They really weren't on the feed today, but that didn't matter - we had a plan.
Afternoon turned into evening and we sat it out into the dark. Zander love hunting in the dark, right? Nearly four hours fishing in zed prime-time and even the knocks dried up. Only one real run materialised out of the darkness, and that was to James' rod. A new PB for James but I'll leave that to his blog.
Four 'runs' - four fish. A couple of other zeds were caught on the lake but most anglers turned in a blank. They are not an easy fish to catch!
A history of zander and their UK distribution by Bob Roberts can be found here.
And an interesting article on zander rigs and hooks by Jeff Hatt (Idler's Quest) can be found here.
I'm very lucky, I enjoy my job - drawing cartoons, making animations and games - but when a parcel arrived for me in the office yesterday my day dragged on. It was my new ultra light 8' spinning rod and tiny fixed spool, front drag Mitchell - and it would be nearly 24 hours before I got to play with it.
A second trip to Bury Hill, this time accompanied by Richard, and the aim was to try and get a few more zander in the bag before I hit running water, quiz Richard on all things zander and to hopefully find my five.
On the bank before sunrise and once a ledgered roach section was cast out on one rod it was time to try and christian my new rod. I had to wait for my third retrieve before something slammed into the lure. Proper slam and great fight - and a 4lb 4oz zander, that's the way to do it!
A couple of casts later a pike hit the lure but shook the hook free. Richard was next into the action steadily gaining line on what looked like a better zander - until the hook pulled, something that was going to become a bit of a theme.
My ledger rod was away and it felt like a better fish and after putting up a good account of itself a 5lb 10oz zander was in the net. Got my five pounder - fantastic!
The morning feeding frenzy continued and we both lost a fish each to hook pulls - then the sun came up.
The cloudless sky and bright conditions saw the runs dry up and the whole day was punctuated with a dropped run for Richard and me hooking into a fish that was on long enough for us to think the hook would hold before the line went slack - crap!
Photo above is of Richard snoozing on his unhooking mat. Yeah, unhooking mat! No harm in thinking big!
It wasn't until the day was heading towards close and the sky got darker that a run on Richard's rod signaled they might have switched on again. A careful fight and Richard's prize was in the net, a 5lb 14oz zander. Great, we'd both caught and both caught a five!
They had switched back on and a few dropped runs and hook pulls later I connected the this scrappy zed of about 2lb, another zander in the books.
And Richard wrapped things up with this 4lb 8oz fish. We really didn't want to leave! A tough trip and the conditions were against us most of the day - but 5 zander between us and a five pounder each - I call that a result!
Notes To Self
Lure that caught was a 4" Storm Shad fished very slowly. All others were caught on ledgered roach section, with the tail proving to be the best on the day. Bait stops (elastic band) weren't needed.
Thank you to everyone who gave advise after the last report, very much appreciated.
Last minute day off work and all the predator kit and bait was ready to go, only one thing for it - try and track down my first zander!
Bury Hill was the destination and the plan was to cycle to the station, get the train then cycle to the venue. As I sat on my bike in the morning - the back tyre popped - my leisurely cycle ride to the train station became a sprint on foot. And the journey the other end became a 3 mile uphill walk.
But when I got to the lake it looked perfect; dark, misty and murky, the clouds weren't going to shift all day and there was rain forecast for the afternoon - everything a zander likes (or so I've read).
I settled into my swim and about an hour later a ten pence piece bouncing off a bait box signaled my first run of the day. An instant strike met with resistance - was it a pike or my first zander - that wasn't a pike's head I saw through the murky water...
My first zander was in the net - mission accomplished! Then my bad luck was back, first the scales were stuck solid, then the camera wouldn't focus or bleep it's self-timer countdown. I didn't want to mess the fish about so I estimated it was about 4lb and settled for the blurry photo above.
I freed the scales and reset the camera and soon had two more missed runs before a couple of hours wait saw me connecting to another fish, another zander. And a weight, 4lb 6oz, a personal best to better, and a decent photo.
The afternoon saw lots of missed / dropped runs. Hit them instantly and they haven't got the hook in their mouths - give them a few seconds and they will find something wrong with it and spit it out. I guess it a case of getting some more experience.
The next fish I connected to was the 3lb 14oz zander above. Soon after I landed one about 1lb 8oz below. And on the last cast I connected to a fish that managed to shed the hook - the only one I hooked and bumped all day.
What a fantastic day's fishing, I will be back trying to beat my new PB zander, and I'd also like to have a blast at some wild river / canal zeds. Brilliant fish!
*Walking back through the twilight woodland I saw a couple of badgers wandering about looking for food and stopped to watch them for a few minutes (I would have spooked them with a photo) - something I wouldn't have seen if I'd been on a bike. Fighting stags and now foraging badgers - nature watch!
Notes To Self
All fish landed came to roach sections fished on a running ledger, the top two pieces were bait, the rest was chum. Seems like an expensive way to do it but it converted 4 small roach into 4 zander.
Head seemed to be the best bait (even reused), fished on a size 4 barbless hook to soft multi-strand wire (piece of elastic band to hold it in place).
Open bail alarm with a 10p on the spool over the bait box seems to make a good resistance free bite alarm. Heavy ledger and hard bead before trace makes sure there are no drop-backs. Difficult on running water.
On the second rod I fished a slice of rainbow trout about 6 inches off the bottom, under a chubber float. Only two tentative enquiries all day. Bait or technique? More research required.
My postponed first predator trip of the autumn, and perch were the target. Meeting up with James & Richard the plan was to travel light and cover as much water as possible...
And we covered some water; three lakes, two rivers and a relief channel - my legs are tired! And I blame the bright conditions for the lack of perch - still a jack just over a pound saved the blank.
It was great to explore some new water and I'll be back in more favorable conditions - thanks to James and Richard for sharing some of their haunts.
But the best part of the day was when a stag appeared on one side of the lake and issued a challenge. Soon a second stag appeared on the opposite bank and answered it. After a bit of posturing there was only one thing for it...
They waded into the lake for a fight...
Come on then...
Fight, fight, fight...
And for the loser, the long walk of shame (the winner had other duties).
Seriously though, what a spectacular sight, lasting about 5 minutes I feel privileged to have witnessed it. Fishing isn't just about catching fish and I love these moments.