After the recent storms, the rivers I fish were all out of sorts, so Barry and I decided to fish a southern reservoir in the UK.
The preceding week had seen heavy rain, gale force winds, sun and ice, basically most seasons you’d expect throughout the year, never mind a week.
The venue we had decided to visit is a typical dammed reservoir – a river valley flooded years ago to supply water to various nearby towns. It has a decent depth of up to around 30’. There are some great features – some bars, sunken bridges, old roads and loads of errant ropes for some reason which guarantee lost tackle, anyway– you get the picture. The water though, is always pretty murky. Visibility is clouded by the influx from the river that still feeds it. There’s a good head of coarse fish in there too. Our target for the day would be zander and perch. Therefore, we knew with it being cold, extra murk and water coming into the ressie – that we would have to work hard for our fish.
I’m going to briefly take you back to warmer, happier times. A method I have used on this ressie, to deadly effect, has been ‘jig-trolling’ a ned rig, generally a Z-man Ticklerz or TRD. By jig trolling (there is probably a better name for it somewhere, but I know what it means) – I mean going along as slowly as the trolling motor will allow whilst bouncing a ned rig along the bottom – almost right under the boat. Conditions have to be right for it though.
Well yesterday, despite my wind dances, calming prayers and chanting – we were faced with quite a stiff SW breeze in the region of 15-18mph.
Our first drift through I tried the ned rig bouncing method armed with a Zman Ticklerz and missed three bites one after another. Good sign though, instant action, despite no fish landed or hooked. I could see fish active near the bottom on the fish finder so knew we were in the right kind of depth range; 27-30’.
Despite putting on my heaviest ned head, I just could not feel the contact with the bottom. We were drifting too quickly. Next drift we deployed my drogue – it slowed us down a fraction, but the wind was still too strong for the speed I wanted.
Few more drifts with the drogue and we were still going too quickly.
I used the spot-lock on the electric trolling motor (for those that don’t know it’s a GPS anchor, which holds the boat in position) – and we tried casting around some features that had produced for us in the past. We then had problems with a side wind and as we both like to fish there as light as possible, again couldn’t feel the bottom.
I changed tack entirely – we started another drift and I put on an Astrovibe. These are deadly blade baits that come into their own in cold water. They have a great, tight vibration and have some very small ball bearings inside them. They come in a variety of sizes and weights – I opted for the heavier one at 6.5cm and 26g. Paired with my Westin W3 Powershad rod I thumped this downwind towards the dam.
In conditions like this I like to know where my bait is. I knew where the fish were, so I am obviously trying to get the lure near to the fish. I was content when I felt the thump of the lure hitting the bottom of the reservoir.
A lift of the rod tip and you feel the sensation of the vibes come from this tiny piece of metal right up the braid and into your hands. Great. Gaining more confidence now. My lure is working how I want it to and it’s near the fish.
After a lift (actually, more of a quick snap) of about a foot off bottom, I let the Astrovibe just drop back down. Snap it up a foot then drop. Repeat and repeat.
First drift doing this towards the dam – then bang! Fish on. Felt quite good too. I shouted to Barry to get the net and a nice pike surfaced which shocked me – I was targeting zander and perch. But I’ll take it.
On closer inspection the fish didn’t have an eye on its left-hand side. So, this amazing creature had sought out the Astrovibe in murky water, turbid conditions and with one eye. They amaze me they really do.
My mate has really confidence issues fishing purposely for pike in coloured water. I wasn’t targeting the pike here, but it is a great example of how these fish have evolved to use their whole range of senses – not just their sight.
Now I’m not saying you’ll get the same instant reaction on a previously gin clear river that has just gone into flood – but after a few days you might. They must adapt and continue to feed.
Absolutely buoyed by this we put in another drift – again a quick-ish one, but both Barry and I were both now throwing Astrovibes. You might hear some people call these types of baits ‘blade baits’, some even call them ‘metals’ – if you a new to this game, then it all basically means the same thing.
Barry hooked into the smallest zander I have ever seen. I was an absolute picture. But that was now two fish to metals – more specifically, the Astrovibe.
Barry was using the smaller one – a 4.5cm weighing in at 10g – he was throwing his on a Westin W6 Finesse T&C rod rated 5-15g. He was using thinner braid than me too – so he was able to get down with the lighter version.
This method occupied us for a few hours catching fish as we went along.
We were still drifting over some decent amounts of fish – I’d mark their locations on my fish finder, then try and spot lock near or over them.
I then tried an ice jig. These are, a bit like ‘metals’ above, a name used to describe a whole range of lures that were designed originally for vertical jigging under the ice. They are so much more versatile than that though. And if truth be told, a bit of a secret weapon in many lure angler’s armoury.
Like metals they can be fished vertically, but they are also great if cast out and retrieved back.
As we were spot locked I dropped a ‘Clown’ patterned Jigging Rap straight down underneath my rod tip. You can get the lure dancing about with little snaps of the rod tip. I’ve found that letting it drop back down without any interference is the best way to fish it. There are little winglets on the back of the lure that allow it glide from one way to another. Near shoaled fish they are fantastic at getting reactionary bites as they are just so erratic.
I managed a few small zander to this method in quick succession. I've even had bream on them in the past..
I’d got Barry panicked at this stage. We always have a bit of a competition when we’re fishing – the prize being just bragging rights. I’d taken a few and was now in the lead.
That spot died down, so we moved about a bit looking for some action.
Apart from the pike I’d had by the dam, we hadn’t really focused there – so we put some shorter drifts in towards the dam.
Barry had changed over to the smaller of the Nays PRDTR shad at 8.5cm. These are awesome baits – they have a very strong small of garlic about them. They are very popular, and we often have to place many orders to keep up with demand. They also come in a larger size at 12.7cm. Here’s a video I made of this lure last year.
On one drift right near the dam he took three zander one after another.
I quickly had a look in my bag and attached one too – after asking him what jig weight and size he was using of course… didn’t want to let him get too far ahead!
Another drift and he caught a few more. Nothing for me.
I then looked in more detail at how he was fishing these shads.
Barry was putting in a relatively long cast, feeling it down to the bottom and then, as we were drifting, he was either holding still or just pulling slightly towards him. This meant the lure was coming along with us in the drift, but much further away from the boat. Those added pulls he was doing were giving it some added movement. It was working, so I tried it. Bang! I started catching the same way. It was great to look at another slightly different variation on a theme, try it and see it work.
The weather closed in; we had some very heavy showers in the stiffening wind. The conditions really were rubbish. We had sought out some fish – I’d had to change and challenge my approach and it’s good to be always learning and importantly open to learning.
I am sad to report that Barry did catch more than me in the end – despite me having the lead for most of the day. Next time Barry…