I’ve just returned from another road trip, though this time I left the UK and headed for the Netherlands. My previous road trip had seen myself and five others tormented by awful weather conditions in the northwest of Scotland. The question was would this trip be more successful?. The fishing was certainly going to be very different, I wasn’t going to require heavy saltwater gear to fish deep water lochs this time around. In fact I didn’t require any saltwater gear at all, this was to be another foray into the mysterious world of freshwater kayak fishing.
The target species for the weekend were Pike and Zander (Snoek and Snoekbaar in Dutch). It’s not my first attempt at catching a Zander, I’d previously fished in the Netherlands in the summer of last year but returned home empty handed. This year would see me fishing a different venue under the guidance of my friend Daniel van der Post. The plan was simple enough, leave home on Friday evening, drive during the night, taking the ferry from Dover at midnight, arriving in Eindhoven at 6am on Saturday. With my wife and children unloaded from the kayak fishing mobile to spend a weekend with her family, I drove an extra hour or so to rendezvous with Daniel.
What were the odds that when burning up the motorway in the early hours that I see Daniel’s car appear in the rear view mirror, getting closer by the minute!. We arrived together and chatted whilst rigging the kayaks. Rigging was quick enough as far less gear was needed compared to a day of bait fishing at anchor somewhere out at sea.
I have to say that the location was stunning, a river system of sorts, freshwater, though tidal due to the effects of sea movement much further away. There was open water, large reed beds as well as large areas of fallen trees and wooded vegetation. The place just screamed fish!!. Though what really caught my eye was the amount of birdlife, geese, waders, divers, woodland birds… the list just goes on. It’s not a well known mark and I’ve been asked to keep its locations to myself, so to the end that photographs that I’ve chosen to use are only a few from the multitude that I took.
The fishing was all to be with the use of lures, and I was presented with a selection of soft baits that I was assured were a choice selection that should work well. They were all rigged onto fairly light jig heads, with some of the larger shads sporting a smaller ‘stinger’ treble towards the tail to hook those fish that may be a little more tentative towards hitting the lure. So I had rigged up two lure rods, one a vertical jigging type rod to handle the larger lures as well as a lighter rod for all other work. My reels were loaded with 30lb Daiwa Tournament braid, all lures were fitted to light wire traces.
There were to be two main methods, trolling and spinning, though the latter was used more sparingly and at somewhat specific locations. Anyway, we headed along the waterway and after a few minutes I was fishing. The first fish of the day was a a nice sized Perch and was caught after only a couple of casts, what a great start!
I honestly cannot remember when I last caught a perch, probably 30 years ago. They are a pretty fish, colourful, spikey and clearly aggressive feeders. All my fish are photographed and measured to enable them to be submitted into the Kayak Wars competition for 2014, hence the measuring board. There was some tidal movement evident on the water, though I was told that this would increase as the flood turned onto the ebb as the morning progressed. We worked our way along the waterways and I tried my hand at trolling, though I was having no success. Though to be honest, I wasn’t at all bothered. It was a new venue, a very scenic one at that, and there was plenty around me to maintain my interest.
It was a good opportunity to play with the Lowrance Elite 7 HDI combo unit and it certainly does a great job of locating and identifying structure on the down imaging (DI). That said, when it comes to identifying fish the broadband does a better job. Fortunately, I can have the best of both worlds be either overlaying broadband and DI data, or by displaying them both side by side. I personally prefer the latter as it offers a little more clarity. I regularly came across shoals of fish which I was told were Bream. In deeper water fish returns on DI are often just dots, though due to the shallow water the fish returns on DI were far clearer, on some returns the fins almost seem visible!.
At times the Bream appeared as short vertical lines on the DI, I guess that’s due the tall, flat profile of a Bream. However, the strong ‘arch’ returns on the broadband sonar were always a clear giveaway of the presence of fish. I was a little concerned as how long my 12aH battery would last for a long session afloat with the backlight on the Elite 7 HDI turned up to a higher setting. As it happened over two days I clocked up around 18 hours of running time with 11.9 volts still being displayed (I started off with 12.8 volts). Clearly the GPS/fish finder unit is fairly frugal with its use of electricity despite having a rather large display.
A couple of hours later Daniel hooked into what was clearly a nice fish and the result was a cracking Pike!
So the fish were clearly about and on the feed, all I had to do was to persevere and hopefully I’d reap the rewards. Ten minutes later Daniel was hooked up again!. I was only metres away and within moments a large Zander was thrashing around on the surface. Ok, it was a little disappointing that it wasn’t on the end of my line, but what a great experience to witness such quality fish being caught.
These fish are most certainly as large as they look, the Pike was somewhere over 90cm ( and much bigger were yet to be caught!), the Zander somewhere very close to 90cm if memory serves me right, stunning fish. Surely it would be my turn next?. We met up with Leo, another keen Dutch kayak angler, he also located Pike and Zander… clearly the knowledge and expertise was all important.
I trolled along various areas of vegetation, drop offs, etc… no Pike or Zander. I ended up spinning at one corner of the waterway and dropped a nice sized Perch close to the kayak. Moral perked up once more and I continued spinning and founded myself hook up into a lively head shaking fish, it just had to be another Perch. Sure enough after a minute or two I netted a rather large fish and bought it aboard for photographing. It was an absolute cracker, measuring in at just over 46cm!
Sadly, despite my best efforts that was to be my last fish of the day. I’d not managed to bag one of the main target species, however, I’d not blanked and had caught a specimen sized Perch. On top of that I’d seen a huge variety of birds, most memorable being three sightings of a Kingfisher, one of those being for a good minute whilst it sat on branch close to the water.
We persevered as the sun went down, hoping that the fading light would encourage the Zander to hit the baits, though it didn’t prove fruitful for me.
We came off the water at around 6pm, that’s a long day afloat. I’d only clocked up a total of six hours sleep over the previous two night and to say that I was tired was an understatement… totally knackered would be closer to the mark!. It had in fact been a struggle from midday and I can honestly say that I’ve never made so many cock-ups during one session, probably a years worth in one day!. I have to say that Daniel was patient and clearly mildly amused despite watching one lure after another be lost to the murky depths.
That was the end of the first day of fishing, the evening was spent talking fishing over a few drinks, despite the lack of Pike and Zander coming aboard my kayak, it’s been a great day afloat.
The plan was to hit the road at 6am, be on the water by 7:30am. We left a few minutes later as Daniel was requiring some extra beauty sleep, though we still managed to hit the water on time (I should state that no speed limits were exceeded in accomplishing that!). Breakfast was enjoyed on the water, my sugar levels most certainly enjoyed the boost!
We were joined on the water by Leo again, with another Dutch chap, Ronald, joining us later as the day progressed. Techniques were the same as before and we worked our way along the waterways once more. Yesterday has been unseasonably warm with the temperature hitting a dizzy 22°C and it was looking like it was going to be another warm day afloat. I wear my dry suit all year round and it never proves to be a real issue. Should I warm up, I just pour some water over the suit and I rapidly cool down. However, at sea I’m far more exposed, there’s always a breeze to keep me cool. Not here, the trees and dykes provide a lot of shelter and I was warming up rather nicely!
Not only was Sunday my second day chasing Piker and Zander, it was my last. The pressure was on and I really wanted to catch that elusive Zander. I’ve caught a Pike from the kayak before so the Zander was top of my wanted list.
As it happened I only had to wait a couple of hours to catch the first of my target species, not a Zander though. I trolled a small soft bait along a mooring wall for recreational boats and was rewarded with a hard hit and a solid hook up. The result was a large Pike, though I nearly lost it next to the kayak. I was going to net it onto the kayak, though decided at the last moment to gill it on. I made the mistake of grabbing the trace as I often do when sea fishing, however the fine braid, thrashing fish and lighter terminal gear gave way. In the blink of an eye the lure flew onto the kayak, the trace was blowing in the breeze and I was holding the Pike by the gill… talk about lucky!. Lessons were learned and such things were not to be repeated.
and another photo…
Despite a deep braid cut and a little ‘Pike rash’ moral soared once more and the hunt continued into the afternoon. I did drag myself out of the water at one stage and grabbed a little rest on the bankside. A young angler came and chatted to Leo and I enjoyed watching his enthusiasm, guess I was just like that once. As the day progressed people around me were catching Pike and Zander, though the action had dried up for me. Daniel landed another cracking Pike, you could easily grow to dislike this chap!
We fished the far end of the waterway for some time and despite it looking very fishy, it failed to produce anything for me. We moved into a sheltered lake that joined the main waterway and the guys took the opportunity to grab some trophy photos. Not of trophy sized fish, but of them holding the winners trophies for the European part of the Kayak Wars 2013 competition. All three of them regularly fish and catch one big fish after another, they most certainly deserved to be the winning team. They’ve also made a great start to the 2014 competition, watch this space.
The sun was quite high by midday and the Zander, being somewhat shy of the sun, were proving to be rather elusive. I felt that my chances of catching a Zander were fading rapidly so I started fishing the few areas of shadow offered by the trees. I trolled one likely looking area once without success, so I passed through it one again and found myself hooked up!. As the fish neared the surface I quickly made out the shape of a Zander and it was netted aboard in record time!. It was no monster, though at 61cm it was respectable, though most importantly it was a Zander!. Typically there was no one around to take a photo, so i kept the fish in the net alongside the kayak and pedalled downstream until I found one of the guys.
So I’d caught a Perch, a Pike and finally the elusive Zander, all boxes had been ticked. We tried a few more areas and apart from missing one hit I had no success. Tiredness was catching up once more, things weren’t helped by my increasing temperature due to wearing a dry suit. I wasn’t HOT, but warm and tired. There was clearly only one sensible solution, pull over and sleep. (thank you Leo for catching me in a deep sleep!).
We travelled along some narrower waterways, very scenic, though the fish weren’t entertaining my efforts. I managed to snag the bottom, snag a tree, get stuck in a tree… interesting moments. I decided it was better to admit defeat and retire back to the wider main waterway.
I trolled a lure on the way along an extensive drop off and experienced a hard hit and a brief hook-up to what felt like a nice sized fish… a monster Zander perhaps?!!. That basically marked the end of that trip and we came off the water at around 5pm, yet another long day afloat. Sunday evening saw myself and Daniel enjoy some very tasty takeout, a few drinks and plenty of fishing chatter, these really are great days afloat, days to remember.
I packed my gear and headed back to Eindhoven on the Monday, and with the family safely aboard we headed back home. That concluded another very good and successful road trip, where will the next one take me?