Spear of destiny
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.