Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Lure and Dropshot fishing in Somerset
The back end of the season can be tricky round these parts. By the time the waters of the Somerset Levels are in any state to fish, winter is almost over and time is slipping away. I had hoped to find a dropping River Tone, but instead went for early start on the Taunton to Bridgwater Canal with Russ Hilton.
It's not the easiest venue to find the perch. There are at least 11 miles of it, and it can be hard fishing with a lot of walking required. I'm not even about to start telling you specific locations on this blog (sorry), but suffice to say you need to use your feet and find your own fish. But I'm really enjoying catching on the ultralight gear at the moment. You can fit a whole whack of lures into a box no bigger than a backy tin. You can also change setups quickly, and these days I'm doing a lot of drop shotting with the flies too.
There are plenty of features on these canals, but it's funny how often you'll catch a good perch from a fairly innocuous looking spot. If you can find the wider parts and straights where the smaller bleak and roach are massed, you'll see the tiddlers being chased on cool mornings. As often as not, it's a jack pike. But just sometimes you'll find a perch, or even a gang of them.
I like a tiny, minnow-like lure for these weedy canals. I fished a small 2g head and a little Japanese, split-tail lure to start. Sometimes you can even spot the fish- and when it's like this the fly can be even better. But on this occasion, visibility wasn't perfect and the fish seemed to be lurking in the deeper central track and were hard to pick out. I had just the one good knock in the first half hour, and was connected to a fish that felt weighty but only stayed on for perhaps six seconds. Bugger.
Then Russ showed up and we hit another spot, covering a fair bit of ground to get well away from the access point. The obvious, snaggy features didn't produce- and instead it was a featureless straight, a little more coloured water, with the takes coming in the middle.
With experience, you often know it's a good perch quite early in the fight. They don't fly off like the small pike. They plod and turn, but it's still quite tense. Even more so when you missed that first chance. You may not get another.
In late winter, these canal perch are really at their best and fattest. The even more curious thing about lure and fly caught fish is that they tend to push their fins up. It's as if they're still bristling with bad intent, even once you've landed them. This one went 2lbs 10oz and was pictured quickly, before going straight back.
And that was pretty much it for the cut. Next stop, I tried a short session drop shotting on the river. I've been thoroughly enjoying this technique with my own designs for dropshot flies. With a fine rod, you can search all the little slacks and areas close to the bank really accurately.
I rig my flies exactly as you would a standard drop shot soft lure, with a Palomar knot. On this occasion, I quickly stepped up from an 8g to a 12g dropshot weight, just to give a little more control.
Some parts of the river are really mucky and it took some exploration to find the fish. I fooled a couple simply by flicking the fly on the edge of a shopping trolley. Pretty much all the early takers were perch:
That all changed though, with the rig flicked out in a reedy slack. I'd just bumped a perch, when something a lot more solid pulled back. A light lure outfit is less than ideal for an angry pike, but these days you can get a lot of poke even with "toy" kit. A slightly stepped up fluorocarbon leader also helps when there are odd small pike thrown in the mix:
So, the short sessions have been fun and useful, and in fact the only full day out I had was a pretty gruelling session fly fishing on Blagdon Lake. It was meant to be a mild day with Gary Pearson, but he was ill, so instead it was John Garnett I subjected to a breezy day after the trout.
To cut a long story short, bites were hard to come by. We found one point swim where bites occurred, and just after I lost a fish, the old man netted a rainbow on a scruffy but effective home-tied Blob.
We might have caught a few more, had the wind been less brutal. But after a second fish, we just had to find some sanctuary.
We caught up with the others in a more sheltered spot, where the locals were hitting odd fish but the the fishin continued to be tough. Simon from Turrall probably deserves most credit for managing a fish on the buzzer, but there wasn't a great deal else to shout about!
Next stop for me is the West of England Game Fair, where I'll be signing books, tying flies and by midday probably hoping that the bar opens early. Wish me luck and hope to see you on the bank soon.