I was a keen angler right through to my early twenties, however when real life hit (i.e. I had to get a job, get a mortgage and I found my wife) the fishing took a back seat and I all but gave up. Fishing is in the blood and if you have a passion for it at some time in your life, it is a passion that will never die. Even though I sold the majority of my fishing gear (I did keep a couple of rods and reels and a little terminal tackle) every lake, stream or river I come across sparks my interest and I end up looking for fish, potential good fishing spots and how to fish it.
The only time I get to go fishing now is on vacation, and the camping holidays my wife and I enjoy are perfect for this. We pick campsites that have lakes or ponds, or we choose campsites on river banks so I can spend a few hours trying to hook out moby dick whilst my wife catches up on her reading, puzzle solving or whatever else she does whilst I am out on the bank.
With the holiday to the Lake District fast approaching, which means I get the opportunity to spend a few hours fishing I thought it was time to do a bit of research no fishing in Lake Coniston to maximize my chances of pulling out a fish or two. From what I know of Coniston Water, and all the lakes in the Lake District (I admit I don’t know much) is that it is vast, it is deep and it is cold. I am expecting to turn up on the bank of Lake Coniston with my rod and reel in hand and have a huge expanse of water in front of my, which is going to be intimidating to fish.
The obvious place to do a bit of research is the internet and Googling “How to fish Coniston Water” seemed a good place to start. After tapping in and hitting search thing that instantly hit me was the lack of search results. Hmmmm…………. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.
When I go fishing I don’t tackle one particular species of fish, and I am happy with anything. Since I don’t get many opportunities to drown a maggot any fish that graces my landing net puts a smile on my face.
Reading through some of the forums with “How to fish Lake Coniston” posts it appears the species of fish in the lake is minimal. I was expecting there to be several species of fish like roach, rudd, bream, perch, pike, eels, chub, hybrids, brown trout, wild trout, char etc. however all anglers only mention perch, pike and eels, neither of which I am fond of catching and the reasons why are as follows:-
In my experience perch are greedy fish and will find and quickly consume the bait before any other fish can find it. This may sound good, but when perch take the bait they don’t just mouth it (like a carp would), they are ravenous and swallow the bait (and the hook) in a split second. Almost all of the perch I have caught have been deep hooked (i.e. the hook is right down in the back of the throat) and removing the hook is a real chore. I only use barbless hooks (barbed hooks only have a place when the fish are going to be kept for dinner, and not when you release them) and even getting these out of a perch is a mission.
Perch have sharp pectoral fins and a spiky dorsal fin, and during the years I have suffered many flesh wounds handling them. I find handling perch difficult and this adds to the faff of removing the hook from the back of the throat. I have been shown a few times how to “correctly” handle perch, as well as watching clips on youtube, but whenever I handle perch it is the pectoral fins I find difficult to avoid. I know I could use a wet rag, but I don’t like using a cloth or gloves handling any fish I am going to return to the water because I think it damages them, and this is not fair.
Rather than potentially harming a fish because of deep hooking and mishandling I prefer not to catch that species at all. I avoid catching perch by not using maggots or worms as bait. I find that if I use pellets, cheese paste, sweetcorn, luncheon meat paste etc. I can avoid the perch and still catch loads of different species of fish.
Growing up I fished the Norfolk Broads, a water network that is full of eels so I have had the misfortune to catch several of these creatures. Like perch, eels are notoriously greedy and when they take the bait (in a split second) they also swallow the hook right down. When you catch an eel the hook is normally further down than the back of its throat and getting it off the hook is impossible, which means cutting the line as close to the hook as possible, returning the eel and hoping it can pass the hook itself in time. I have to admit that I don’t like doing this as I think it is pretty cruel, but it is the most humane thing to do.
I have seen many fisherman on the Norfolk Broads who try and unhook eels by holding the eel as tight as possible (or even standing on them!) and then tugging at the line to pull the hook out. This type of treatment is totally unacceptable and it makes me angry when I see people doing this. Pulling a hook out of an eel in this way is going to cause internal and external damage and the eel is going to suffer, and potentially die.
Eels are coated in a layer of slime and they are very slippery. Once you get hold of an eel it will writhe and wriggle and often end up wrapping itself around your arm, leaving its slime behind. This protective slime not only stinks but once it dries it is a nightmare to wash out of clothing.
There are some fisherman who specifically target eels, although I have to say that I am not one of them and do everything I can not to catch these fish. Eels are bottom feeders and will horse down maggots and worms without a second thought. In order to avoid the eels I will use any bait other than worms or maggots when ledgering or use a float and use whatever bait I want.
rowing up in the Norfolk Broads you’d think I would be a proficient pike angler, but I am not. I used to dabble in pike fishing when I was younger, and would use small lures (spoons, spinners or plugs) to catch them. I managed to catch some small jack pike, and had no problems at all. All of the pike were hooked just in the lips, I managed to remove the lure easily and I returned the fish to the water using the landing net. I never held any of the pike because they thrashed around a bit and I had a fear of being bitten.
There was one particular pike I caught, which was 18lbs in weight, where I had loads of problems. After an adrenaline fuelled fight I got the pike to the landing net and then discovered the net was slightly too small for it to fit. With the pike half in and half out of the net I got it on the bank, laid it on the unhooking mat and then realized the pike had swallowed the lure right down. This was something I had never experienced before as all the jacks I had caught prior to this didn’t have mouths big enough to actually swallow the lure.
The pike started squirming and flapping around, snapping away and I was intimidated and didn’t really know what to do. I like to return all fish to the water unharmed and I take care with them. There is no need to hurt or harm a fish and I was worried that I was going to do some serious damage to this pike trying to get the lure out and then returning it to the water, and that was when I got a little panicked. Long story short, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was up s**t creek and I had this magnificent fish on the bank that I needed to get back in the water before I ended up damaging it.
Fortunately, there was an experienced pike angle just down the bank who came over to have a look at my “monster” pike who ended up totally taking over. This angler showed me how to hold the pike to unhook it, how to remove the lure, how to weigh it, how to hold it and carry it back to the water and how to release it back to the water. I don’t remember the demonstration and it all washed over me. All I remember is thinking that pike fishing isn’t for me, and I haven’t bothered since that day.
Over the years I have seen many anglers on the Norfolk Broads and rivers catch pike and don’t know what to do with them, just like I didn’t. I have seen anglers dragging the pike along the bank, kneeling on them to restrain them to remove the hook, poke them with bank sticks to move them back to the water (instead of carrying them) etc. etc. I have seen pike on the bank bleeding, damaged and then kicked back in to the water – which simply isn’t on.
From what I read it seems pike is the target fish for most anglers fishing Lake Coniston, which isn’t for me. I did find a couple of posts saying there are trout and char in Lake Coniston, however they are few in numbers and the chances of catching them is pretty remote. The posts went on to say that if you want to try and catch a trout or a char you need a boat (which we don’t have) and you have to be prepared to tour the lake and find the fish rather than letting them come to you. This style of fishing is too much hard work for us - we are on vacation after all.
I have read that it is possible to catch trout on a small lure, which sounds interesting, however using a lure there is always the possibility of hooking a rogue pike, which I don’t want. If there are as few trout in Coniston water as the forums seem to suggest, and most anglers go there for the pike I would think there is a greater chance of catching a pike than a brown trout – so that’s that plan out the window.
Further to my research it seems a total waste of time me even attempting to fish Lake Coniston, which is a shame, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I think I’ll just focus on the photography over the week at Coniston water instead and leave the fishing for the second week at Melverly.