Thursday, 23 November 2017

A Canterbury tale...

Six hundred odd years ago, when Chaucer was penning his famous lines, little did he know that I would be making the journey from London to Canterbury in just over an hour, or at least it should have been. My tail is not going to run to an excess of 17,000 lines (honest!), and it is not going to be written in Middle English verse or prose. It will be more of my usual waffle, that I am sure nobody will be reading in another six hundred years time.

The weir pool in Canterbury
Fishing trips have been few and far between this year. As the weather has cooled over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about doing a spot of pike fishing. Having never done it before, I have been a little reluctant to dive in half-prepared, so today I decided to play it safe and go jigging/dropshotting for perch.

Making the trip to Canterbury is utterly impractical for just a couple of hours fishing alone, so this outing was combined with a trip to see my elderly mum. At 90 years of age, she is still very active, and indeed today we cannot get to her house before midday as she will be in the local library attending the weekly social gathering, drinking tea and eating cake.

We left home at around 07:30. With the intention of being at the water by 09:00. Even taking into account the time it takes to extricate one car and two people from the clutches of the A205 (AKA The South Circular) an Hour and a half would generally be more than enough time to make the trip. As it turned out, the 'getting out' was not bad at all and we made it out onto the dual carriageway/motorway in good time. By the time we reached the end of the M2, there was a queue to join the A2 to make the last part of the journey to Canterbury. This is usually the easy bit! We got to the roundabout after a painful 10 minute crawl up the slip road only to find the A2 at a standstill. As you join the A2 here, the road is at a high point, and it is possible to see a long way down the dual carriageway and the sight that unfolded before us was not good. Solid traffic as far as the eye could see. There was apparently something very wrong.

By now it was getting very close to 09:00, the time we had planned to be there. Usually, this would not have caused too much stress but I had agreed to meet my mate John there at 09:00 and I knew he only had an hour or so to fish. A misguided decision to skip off the main road and 'slip' through the narrow streets that pass through the village of Dunkirk backfired. It just so happened that a couple of big lorries and a bus were all trying to do the same thing, but in opposite directions, causing gridlock. We eventually arrived at the car park in Canterbury at about 09:35, over two hours after leaving home. Just as we were sorting the gear out from the back of the car, John arrived after deciding to do a spot of shopping first, I assume for bait as he was dead-baiting for pike.

We made our way across the road and past the Miller's Arms into the fenced area that encloses the weir pool. Dropshotting was the order of the day for me so, with Sue in charge of the landing net and extra plastic fish, we made our way over to the curved wall at the far side of the pool, next to the weir. There is some slack water there, and it is renowned for being a bit of a hot spot for perch, my intended target species for the session.

The curved wall where I had started fishing - Now John is not having any luck either
It is not very deep here, so the first rig consisted of a 5g weight and a little soft plastic, 5cm lure that was 'lip' hooked to a No.2 dropshot hook, tied to a 5lb fluorocarbon hook length, on 8lb yellow braid that has been loaded on to the spool of a tiny 1500 size reel. The rod is a 6ft, 6inch dropshotting rod. This tiny gear almost feels toy-like. I think my choice of weight was just a bit too light as I could not feel the bottom, so I replace it with a slightly heaver 7g one, and it felt much better. I like to use the long tube-shaped weights when fishing close in and just letting them touch the bottom and then lay down and stand up again with a minimal movement of the wrist.

After half an hour of fruitless dropshotting all the way along the wall and as close as I dare to the overhanging bushes. Even changing form lures to a lob worm ,from John's pot, did not produce any interest. It was apparent the perch had all gone off Christmas shopping and were not at home.

I had bought a slightly longer rod with me, again fitted with a 1500 size reel filled with 8lb Braid. To this, I attached a wire trace and a home-made rubber-band lure fitted with a loose 2g jig weight. I cast out a few times and tried retrieving it at various speeds, sometimes straight back and other times letting fall and then jerking it back to the surface. Nothing, not even a twitch.

I changed my rubber-band lure for a 75mm shad fitted with a more substantial loose jig weight. This was not showing any signs of success before it was sacrificed to the tree Gods.  When a careless cast into the wind took my line over a branch. I managed to get my line and weight back, but it left the lure and hook in the tree - Grrr!

A nice slack area of water close to the wall and with a few weeds looked like it might give up a perch - It didn't!
Meanwhile, John had been having no luck fishing for pike on the opposite side of the pool so as agreed we swapped positions and had another go. Jigging was not a practical proposition in this small pool, as I would be crossing lines with John or any other anglers that arrived. Instead, I went back to my dropshotting rig. I found a little patch of slack water that had some weed growing in it. The colour was starting to go from the water, after the rainfall we had last night stirred up the sediment upstream, and it was now working its way downstream through the weir. Patiently, I worked my way around the weed, and keeping close to the wall, which has been undercut in several places, I worked my way along the length until I was at the bridge you can see in the header picture. Not a sniff of a fish on the line and apart from a couple of swirls, there was absolutely no sign of any fish at all.

It was not only me. John was after a pike and had the same experience, not a single bite or even a glimpse of a fish. I guess it was just one of those days. We only had a couple of hours to fish and if we had more time I would have moved out of the pool and along the river, if for nothing else than to warm up a bit! For me this late Autumn/winter fishing is all new. Today's experience has not put me off, it has just proved I have a lot to learn about fishing in the colder months.