Spear of des­tiny

Anglers Mail - - Informant The -

HAD my first taste of zan­der fish­ing on a big trout reser­voir the other day. An an­gler who fishes for them reg­u­larly in­vited me to join him be­cause his boat part­ner was laid up in bed with a heavy cold.

I’ve fished our big reser­voirs many times for trout, but skip­ping wet flies across the sur­face for chas­ing rain­bows is a world away from jig­ging lead-headed rub­ber lures on the bot­tom in 60 ft of wa­ter.

My host has all the gear – short, pow­er­ful rods, fish-find­ing equip­ment that shows your lures work­ing, and a hand-held GPS de­vice that bleeps over the ex­act spot that he caught from be­fore.

We roared off to the deep­est part of the reser­voir, and he showed me ex­actly how to work the lures. It re­minded me of wreck fish­ing for cod and ling with heavy pirks more than coarse fish­ing.

I man­aged to hook a fish, and he in­sisted I play it as hard as pos­si­ble, to get it up in the short­est time, which he said was es­sen­tial to help them sur­vive ‘the bends’.

But more sur­prises were to come. After un­hook­ing and a quick tro­phy shot he was adamant that there was only

Ione way to re­turn the fish safely, and it wasn’t hold­ing it in the wa­ter un­til it re­cov­ered and could swim away.

He’s an ad­vo­cate of ‘spear­ing’, which is launch­ing the fish back into the reser­voir from stand­ing height to land nose first, pro­pel­ling it down into the depths.

He says that the shock of re-en­try makes zan­der kick down­wards to­wards the deep wa­ter that they have come from, and the sooner they get back down there, the greater their chances of re­cov­er­ing.

It takes a leap of faith to throw fish back with force, es­pe­cially with an­glers in other boats nearby watch­ing, but he’s the ex­pert.

He even car­ries a sea lead with a big half hook at­tached on a spare rod, to pull them down to the bot­tom if they show signs of gassing up.

He used this on one of the fish that we caught that had those tell­tale bulging eyes that are caused by the big change in depth.

It re­minded me of a wrasse­fish­ing ses­sion I once had on a rocky shore­line in Corn­wall, where the fish took on air and swelled up. We had to nurse them be­fore we could let them go, or they would have floated away, be­ing pecked by seag­ulls.

Back at the lodge at the end of the day I got chat­ting to one of the older fish­ery staff, and I said he must have seen a lot of changes over the past cou­ple of decades.

He said that the main dif­fer­ence was that at one time trout reser­voirs used to net out their coarse fish and move them to other wa­ters, to thin them out.

But the les­son learnt from places such as Blith­field, Llan­degfedd, Bough Beech and Ard­ingly is that if you charge coarse an­glers to fish, they do the job for you.

Play it as hard as pos­si­ble.

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