Not Just Teeth: November
This month Mark bemoans the lack of rain – and the lack of fish - and decides that there are lessons to be learned from blanks (which is just as well!)
Where Have all the Fish Gone?
Autumn is usually my most favourite season of the year for fishing; as the water cools so most fish try to make the most of their last opportunities to feed on what little food that there is left and some great sport can be had... but then there has been this autumn.
Over here in the east of the country we are suffering our driest year for 60 years, drier even than the summer of 1976 that most people remember. I can honestly say that I cannot remember the last time we had a full days’ rain, but my guess would be back in the spring. Yes, it really has been that bad. Now if you couple that with some pretty unseasonably mild weather with warm and sunny conditions on top of low and clear rivers then you really have a recipe for crap fishing - and that’s exactly what we have had.
In the midst of all this doom and gloom I had my first guiding trip of the year booked and thankfully Jason Hersey who was coming down for two days was mostly interested in pike and, in particular, how to handle them so that gave us a lot more chance than if zander were going to be the target species. Our first trip was to a local stillwater that had produced a couple of decent fish last year and with Jason almost a complete beginner to piking with a personal best of just into double figures I fancied our chances of upping that at the very least.
Well, we managed to do exactly that on the very first cast! Just a few minutes after casting out Jason’s mackerel was off and as he pulled into the fish and it pulled back I knew that he had something half decent on and, but for it being in early autumn fighting trim, he could have actually landed his first twenty pounder, but at 18lb 8oz it was a great start to proceedings.
Sadly things went downhill from there. The rest of the day was blank and although I spent most of the next day passing on as many tips as I possibly could we managed just one jack and a couple of missed zander runs after dark. As Jason hadn’t ever caught a zander of any size this was sadly another opportunity for a new PB missed, but as he is coming back later in the year I am sure we will be able to put it right then.
So what then of my own fishing? Well my hunt for a monster perch took me to a number of waters, some with a proven track record and some more playing a hunch. Ultimately none were better than any other as they all provided no perch sport whatsoever. This was a bit worrying in at least one instance as previously this water had provided me with numbers of back up fish in the two to three pound range, but now nothing.
Now I can think of many anglers who would be panicking at this point and making all kinds of fanciful and pessimistic claims as to why this should be but in reality with the rivers so out of trim I will leave it until later in the season before I really start to panic.
All that the perch fishing actually produced was one 4lb jack pike which took a fancy to my double lobworm bait! So things have been a bit quiet on the angling front for me but on a serious note what way do you look at blank sessions? For many anglers a blank is seen as a waste of time or a disaster, but should we always consider it so? Personally I don’t think so and here are the reasons why.
If you are concentrating on one species on a single water blanks are, without question, a step along the road to building a complete picture of the species and the water that you are targeting. Knowing, for example, that in early November, or before the species reach winter quarters that certain areas hold no fish will actually save you time in the long run and make your sessions more productive as only a fool makes the same mistake twice.
Where things become more difficult to read is when external forces play their hand. As an example of this one of the spots where I have recently been perch fishing saw a huge number of prey fish gathered by a road bridge. A friend of mine tipped me off that the fish were there and that the perch were there too, smashing into the prey fish. It was here that external factors came to throw a spanner into the works.
I wasn’t able to get down to the swim until the weekend, a few days later, but a lot can happen in those few days. In this case it was a gang of cormorants. Seemingly cormorants have a grapevine that any specialist angler would love because in no time they too found the prey fish and in their efforts to fill their bellies they scattered them to the four winds. When we arrived on the Saturday it was obvious they were no longer there as there were no fish priming, rolling or breaking surface at all, another chance missed!
On the plus side of that disaster was knowing that that section of river was a non starter without the prey fish moving in as that’s a couple of times now that I have suffered the same fate, hmm what was I saying earlier about a fool making the same mistake twice!
Seriously though, taken to a further degree knowing that the fish don’t feed well in a certain set of circumstances means that you can avoid that water in those conditions and head elsewhere where they may suit. Ultimately that’s the aim of any specimen hunter to have a portfolio of waters at your disposal so that you can match everything up and never fail to catch - well it’s a nice theory anyway!
Realistically though we also have, at times, to look inwards for the reasons as to why we haven’t done as well as we might. I am sure there are days when we all just go out for a day where what happens, happens, good or bad and there will be only minimal input on our part. I know that I have the odd day like this but more common is that I will have days where, realistically, I know that one method is more likely to bring results than any other but I will feel like fishing in a different way – perhaps to experiment, perhaps a method I particularly enjoy - and so I do. Funnily enough I find catching in circumstances like this incredibly satisfying and ultimately more enjoyable.
As I have told myself repeatedly this month, there’s more to fishing than catching fish!
By the Same Author
- The Angling Trust, an ‘Unbelievably Weak Governing Body’ - Not Just Teeth: December
- Fishing in Sickness and in Health - Not Just Teeth: November
- Jigging for Zander and Deadbaiting for Pike - Not Just Teeth: October
- Autumn perch and catfish - Not Just Teeth: September
- Catfish, Carp and Kids – Not Just Teeth: August
- Paying your Dues?
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight: Part 3
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight: Part 2
- Sounding Off
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight