Firstly, if the intention was not to return to match fishing, it would need to be engaging as otherwise the couple of false returns I had attempted to the sport would increase to three and that would probably be that
Secondly, it would be intriguing to discover how much canals had changed since my ten to fifteen year canal match angling obsession abruptly ended in burn-out in the 1990's
Thirdly, the prospect of fishing for anything that swam on match-type methods and baits was unattractive and, without the associated competitive element, futile in the extreme
Fourthly, the methods and baits employed would have to sit comfortably with my own beliefs and ethics. Not necessarily traditionalism for its own sake but retaining a reasonable modicum of decorum (too many 'ums).
Finally, having been interested in large match-caught roach during the early 1990's I fancied targeting them more specifically if they could still be caught
How the past four years have evolved has been enthralling, not least due to the magnetic fields that have also drawn me both to the enigmatic yet tiny River Leam and The Stillwater over the past three of those years
On the face of it the attractions of this triumvirate can be put very simply:
■ Canals - mainly to chase roach of over a pound.
■ R. Leam - because it is 10 minutes away; to see if it's glory days continue and pursue a 4 pound Chub from it.
■ The Stillwater because if I had a bite it was likely to be a P. B. and it had contained big roach in the past.
This might look like a thinly-veiled recipe for a specimen hunting 'career'. Indeed by some interpretations that could be the result and that is a question of definition.
To me a specimen hunter is one who seeks to catch the biggest fish of chosen species by design with a view to a record breaking example if at all possible by whatever (legal) rod-caught means
For myself however the challenge is not that. Certainly there is a crossover in that I am intentionally seeking bigger fish than the procession of one to six ounce fish, with the odd bonus, a stick float or waggler and maggot approach might produce but it is simply that which appeals to me - bigger fish
Richard Walker, Peter Stone, et al, championed the possibility that anglers could consistently catch bigger fish before and soon after I was born. Yet as a boy, youth and young man I read very little of their writings as it was Kevin Ashurst and Co., that sparked something in the competitive psyche back then, when I would never have believed that the sheer number of decent fish one can catch if one actively avoids the littl'uns could be possible.
Recently I have invested in some old books by various authors of yesteryear, largely now passed away, to try to understand what it was that made them tick, what methods they used, why and what they sought to achieve. Walker and Stone as well as David Carl Forbes and John Etherington have been scoured and digested leaving one thing clear, they were all able to selectively target larger fish of many species, regularly, if not always to order.
Match fishing taught me that if you were lucky enough to draw a known big fish peg they would not always feed and often, if they did, it would be due either to favourable climatic circumstances or carefully feeding for a number of hours before some of the fish would be tempted (or both). They were also likely to have been fished for two or three times per week by all-comers. Pretty much the first thing to become apparent when seeking those bigger than average fish was when they feed, and match hours of 10am to 3pm or perhaps 9am to 1pm are clearly not conducive to success when those more experienced and therefore reluctant fish are least circumspect at dusk and then dawn. Many of the 'bonus' fish we would have sought, particularly on canals back in the 1980's and '90's, would perhaps have been only four to ten ounces in weight in any event.
Time of day is clearly crucial, as is the deterrent of clear skies and sunny weather, but one thing to stand out as a particularly interesting factor is the (apparent) crudeness of rigs when hunting those cracking fish that might just grace the landing net. The belief that the odd no7 styl or no13 shot and their disposition in relation to the hook could be critical in getting bites in matches is replaced by absolute proof that a BB nailed to the bottom gives better bites from much bigger fish! Temper this with the realisation however that fish under the pressure of match conditions in the middle of the day are not so responsive as at daybreak or sundown and it doesn't take a great deal of concentrated thought to realise that catching fish ain't gonna be easy, so it's fair to say this can't be seen as I direct comparison but it is nevertheless fascinating.
My ever-increasing but still limited experience has already resulted in the realisation that line thickness, amount of lead on the line, hook size, etc., are only relevant as deterrents if they are not suitably balanced with, or against, the chosen bait such that it behaves sufficiently naturally to fool the larger fish in the swim. This is no less evident than when using a chunk of bread crust balanced to slowly sink against a swan shot or two to tempt chub from the stream of course but the porcupine quill, with a single AAA or at least a BB laid-on, can also produce incredibly positive sail-away bites from better fish that would think, or nibble, thirteen times at a pinkie or a squatt on a 26 hook (and then be lost!).
So rigs don't need to delicate at all, they just need to match the intention.
Bloggers Challenge Update:
The Boy Wonder was excited to land his first bream of the season at 1-9-0 from the Grand Union Canal last Sunday. Fishing a tight peg, we ended-up with line wrapped round each others rods in the process!
For my part, I managed my first few silver bream of the campaign the best of which went 0-14-8, a nice example and equivalent of a pound roach in my eyes
An eight ounce roach from The Stillwater added a couple more points midweek.
Yesterday, a cracking Grand Union Canal roach of 1-6-0 (a GUC personal best) followed by one of precisely a pound only added half an ounce and a point.
Whereas a bronze bream of 2-3-0 added precisely four for increasing the species weight by fifteen ounces. So very little progress there.
New species/waters now required I suspect.
Mouse training update:
No respecters of the time you put in training them these rodents. No sooner have you got them literally eating out of your hand than they fall off their wheel all stiff-like.
On the search for a new 'un now.