30 Minute Vampire Hunt – My First Zander

Flashback to 2002, as a 12 year old Ben Bassett was just learning about the zander. A fish that had been introduced to the Fenlands, where I was living at the time, many years before. Since then I have always been fascinated by this vampire fanged cousin of the perch. On a recent trip away from the sea, I found myself with 30 minutes to try and catch my first ever Zed.

The fangs I was hoping to find…

I had been given a spot to try, generously by Matt Barnsley – a trade for me putting him onto a topknot in the Big Lerf weekend. It’s not what you know but who you know sometimes! Matt is an excellent lure angler and I trusted his advice completely. Being on a long weekend away with my partner Abi, meant I wasn’t really on a fishing trip. Abi clearly sensed how much I wanted to fish though and we both agreed I could sneak half an hour in.

We approached the spot and it was hardly picturesque! Lorries passed the car every few minutes on their way to an industrial estate. The rain was smattering on the windscreen. This certainly wasn’t the picturesque Fenlands of my youth. I can’t say I was feeling optimistic, but I am a fishermen and I will never turn down the opportunity to wet a line (even if it means getting soaked myself!). Leaving Abi to read in the car, it was time to make the most of the thirty minutes I had.

The Majorcraft N-One – find my review here – https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/11/11/rod-review-majorcraft-n-one-nsl-s662h-aji-0-8-12g/

One benefit this spot had was a large and busy bridge above it. The rain did mute the sound of traffic quite effectively, so despite it’s urban location, this mark was oddly peaceful. The bridge traversed a large and murky canal. The cloudy coffee coloured water gave nothing away, no sense of features, weed or fish. Without the advice of Matt floating around in my head, I would not have felt confident, but I had faith in his experience.

I had rigged on a two inch Keitech Easy Shiner in Sight Flash onto a Spro 2.7g Tungsten jighead. Matt’s advice, which I’m happy to pass on here; was to fish slow, letting the paddletail sink to the bottom, pause, then lift it up, a couple of turns of the reel and let it sink back down again. I was awaiting the hits on the way down. I have to say just having the potential of catching my first ever zander, no matter how small, made every cast exhilarating.

The 2 inch Keitech Easy Shiner, a superb paddletail.

As excited as I was, with each cast and patient retrieve that went untaken, my mood dampened like the weather. The rain poured down, creating a wall of water between the underworld of the bridge and the outside world. Here in this underworld, I hoped vampires dwelled. The margin in front of me was monster free, with not a hint of a take. Time was ticking on…

I decided to focus on the opposite side, casting across and managing to land the lure inches from the bank. I let the lure sink down towards the silty bottom, tail waggling seductively as it sank. I briefly let it reside on the canal bed, I then flicked the rod tip up, turning the reel handle twice. The lure then made it’s way back down but was stopped in it’s tracks! The rod tip thumped with a hefty hit, so I struck into an energetic fish.

I dared to think this is something different, could it be?

The fish twisted and turned, ticking line from the reel steadily if not spectacularly. I bullied it a little as I nervously brought it closer. A flash of gold through the gloomy water, it was a zander! No monster but I netted it like it was one. To an audience of no one I shouted out a massive ‘YES!’ which echoed around the concrete underworld in victory. My very own vampire.

SUCCESS!

A fanged, elongated perch like fish, I could see why they call it the ‘pike-perch’. A modest size but a species I had spent nearly 20 years coveting. Matt had come up with the goods, on the stroke of 30 minutes I sent him the message of success. I gave it a quick photoshoot, appreciating the spotted, spiked dorsal fin, the large eyes and armour plated head. I lowered the fish back into the gloomy canal, the living Dracula returning to take the blood from it’s victims once more.

A catch 20 years in the making, now to catch a bigger one!

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