Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Big Grafham zander - How's your luck!

Sunday the 21st of October

A couple of months ago Adam Perna was kind enough to invite me to share a boat on Grafham water with zander in mind and I jumped at the chance. To be honest it wasn't a venue that I had ever considered before but as a zander was on this year's wish list it sounded good, plus I'd never previously been out boat fishing inland and fancied a go. I started to do a bit of digging about for info on the internet and a couple of lads very kindly went out of their way to offer advice for which I was very grateful

I was told that vertical jigging was the way to go and Adam kindly offered to lend me a suitable rod and reel combo but I had to sort out some suitable lures having never done anything like it before. I was really looking forward to this trip but me being me I didn't get start to think about sorting out the lures out until a week before the trip. Now my lure box generally consists of Mepps spinners and a few other odds and sods I wasn't really prepared for the huge variety that faced me once I started to browse the web, blimey it's no wonder people end up with a huge collection is it. A couple of hours of perusing left me a good few quid lighter and I only hoped that my goodies would arrive in time which thankfully they did. Adam also suggested that we take a rod apiece rigged for bait fishing as apparently quite a few zander get caught on the tactic, only sea deads are permitted and my perception was that zander weren't partial to such things, not so I was told, take some mackerel. Once again my lack of organisation left me scouring the local market less than twenty four hours before I was to be afloat only to find that mackerel were an endangered species in downtown Loughborough, the supermarkets didn't help me out either and when Adam rang in the evening I confessed to be baitless My only hope was to dredge the bait freezer for whatever might lurk within, that idea didn't come to fruition either as I couldn't even get the deadbait drawer open, it was frozen solid, oops!

Grafham is only a few miles away from the Grenville carp syndicate that I used to fish and so the route was very familiar and I expected to arrive within not much more than an hour of leaving home. That plan was scuppered as soon as I opened the front door to be faced with a blanket of fog which hung over me for half of the trip, the urge to put my foot down had to be resisted until I was well up the A14 when thankfully the sky cleared with dawn's arrival. More by luck than judgement I found myself back on track time wise and pulled into the services for a coffee and to catch up on a last minute change of meeting place. Twenty minutes later and after completely ignoring the directions I had been given I pulled up behind a queue of cars all waiting for the gates to open and met up with Adam.

As we stood near the jetty waiting for the shop to open to book in very little of the water was visible through a blanket of heavy mist, the wind was from the north by some degree or other and it was far from warm, I knew it was going to feel colder still out on the water so an extra layer of clothing was stuffed into my bag. The lack of visibility added to the mystery of visiting a new water and it was only as we motored out from the bank that the murk started to lift and reveal the true extent of the water, I was certainly pleased to be afloat with someone who had an idea of the topography as for a first timer fishing blind it would be some task to get any kind of idea as to the depths and features.

We started out towards the upwind bank and began our first drift over something like 60ft of water, the wind was initially light and the braid was descending from the rod tip reasonably close to the vertical which I had been told was essential for good presentation and which makes sense if you want that lure to be fished very close to the bottom. After a couple of drifts the wind began to pick up and we shipped out the drogue, that worked well and I guess we made eight or so passes over the area but without any sign of a bite which seemed to be the same result that the other nearby anglers were suffering. On the last couple of passes the wind increased considerably and it was impossible to keep a vertical line, in the end I had a 48 gram jig on plus a 28 gram ball lead rigged drop shot style just to try and keep contact with the bottom but it was no use, we were simply moving too quickly. Frustratingly I had my electric trolling motor in the van for use on the drift to slow the boat down but didn't realise that you weren't allowed to use them without a battery box on Grafham so that put paid to that idea, it would have been a great help. 
We decided on a change of area and headed over towards the dam wall, where it seemed most other boats were lingering too. Several more drifts were made but again presentation was suffering and I can't say that I argued when at 1pm Adam suggested that we up sticks and move to try some fishing in shallower water on the anchor.

Fifteen minutes of motoring later saw us in a much more civilised spot where I was assured the anchor would reach the bottom in a mere twenty five feet of water. We both sent out a float ledgered deadbait, mine very kindly donated by Ad, while flicking jigs about too but it remained quiet, another boat in the area was getting amongst a few zander though which was encouraging and was certainly more action than we had seen elsewhere during the day. For bait fishing I was using a 9ft rod that I had built myself a few winters back with carp stalking in mind, in its previous life it was a Daiwa Whisker Kevlar 12ft 2 3/4 test carp rod but I chopped the butt section in half, stuck on a new handle and re-rung it. Despite using it for quite a bit of carping I had never caught anything decent while using it and always had a hankering to do simply because I had created it, it was about to get a treat!

I suppose it was about 3pm when I noticed Adam's float baited with a sardine was on the move, he bent into something on the strike but only briefly and the bait returned intact, a little while later the same thing happened again which was pretty frustrating but also raised our interest in the bait rods considerably. At 4pm my float sank just below the surface and moved away from me steadily, I wound down quickly and struck hard, thankfully making good contact. By no stretch of the imagination can what followed be called a fight, I simply kept winding and whatever was on the other end ended up under the boat, we both peered over the side and down below in the depths appeared a bar of silver. Not knowing how far down the fish was when I first saw it made it tricky to guess how big it was but as it came up in the water it was quite clear that it was a good fish. The fishery supply two nets for the anglers use, one is a great big round pike job and the other is more a big trout net, Adam had the smaller one in his hand as I believe we were actually standing on the big one underneath the unhooking mat. The zander went head first into the net and came to a halt with its back end hanging out quite precariously, in fact it started to slip back into the water and Adam only just managed to twist the net and net it to drop into place.

Events then went into fast forward, we were both well aware that the faster we got the fish back the better the change of it recovering from the rapid change in depth and hence water pressure that it had just encountered. I got the weighing and camera kit ready as Adam unhooked it, remarking that it was only just snared and that the incident with the net could have ended very badly had luck not been on or side. Quickly into the sling and up on the scales it went pulling the dial round to 12lb 14oz, blimey, what a jammy so and so, a double for my first zander! We fired off a few pictures and then I got my first try at zander javelin! The best way to return the fish in deep water is to spear them into the drink hard, it sounds brutal and holding the best part of 13lb of fish in the knowledge that I was about to propel it head first into the water at great speed is one of the most bizarre things I have experienced in angling. There was no time to ponder on the process though and back she went with a splash, a flick of the tail and down into the depths it went.

Well what could I say to that then other than I was chuffed to bits. I've always said that it's good to gradually increase pb's in angling, you enjoy the journey in that way and always have something to aim for, however of course you can't control what takes your bait and we all know that a lucky novice can sometimes catch a bigger specimen than someone who has been chasing such a fish for a lifetime, that's fishing for you. That is the only time in my fishing life that I have fallen so lucky with a big fish early on, if I look simply at my limited time trying for zander it seems almost unfair, then if I think of the hundreds, no in fact thousands, of hours that I have spent over the years working hard at my fishing without result I realise that it does in fact balance out and I feel less guilty. What I did feel a bit bad about though was the fact that Adam had been fishing the water hard for quite some time without the big fish that he undoubtedly deserved, that wasn't helped by the fact that his boat partner of two days previous had nailed a monster of 15lb's plus, again that's fishing for you and Adam's hard work will pay off for him I know.

With mission accomplished and the jigs obviously not doing the job on the day I left that rod to one side and sat back watching the pair of floats seemingly swing back and forth next to the boat. Half an hour after returning the double I was away again and this fella though smaller did put up a little tussle just to prove that he could, at about 6lb's or so it was of course very welcome and this time Adam insisted on providing the somersault that sent it back to the bottom, big kid!

The weather started to close in on us and the last hour or so was pretty damp and nasty making me think how lucky we were not to have had a full day of it. Despite trying his hardest Adam ended the day without a fish but each blank is just a trip closer to the next result and I have to say that without his knowledge of the water, the bait he gave me and in fact even the invite in the first place I wouldn't have caught what I did so he has to take the credit for that, thanks a lot mate it was a great day.

Post note -

I was chuffed to bits to hear that Adam had banked the one he was after this past weekend with a cracking zander of 12lb 7oz, he's now after a bigger one, go get 'em mate.


  1. Get in - what a corking fish!

  2. Brilliant Rob, knew you would get a nice Zed, well in.

  3. Nice one Rob well done, sometimes it's "better to be lucky than good".
    They're a very impressive fish aren't they, especially at that size.

  4. Well Done Rob, some nice fish.

  5. Cheers gents, yes very impressive creatures, with it being a rush to get them back safely I didn't really study them as closely as I would have liked while in the boat

  6. What a way to open your account mate ,I nearly choked on a carrot Tuesday night when I saw you in the paper ......and a certain other poster.

    Good angling.

    Bazal Peck

  7. Ah, Leo does tend to have that choking effect on people lol!

    Thank you kindly sir