Wrong turn

Where the wild hogs go is a title of an old croatian TV serial as well as a title that perfectly suits terrains that Robi and I visited, looking for pike somewhere between Okučani and Nova Gradiška. We came a bit too early in season and caught only a few baby pike, but perches forfilled the day big time. That` s why we`re seriously thinking that we rename our ultra light fishing to ultra slit fishing. But, one step at the time. Robi is bothering me to visit these canals for 2-3 years now. As we were driving up the highway, he was talking how pikes attack top water lures, how you can catch fish over 7-8 kilos and so on , all in a channel 7-8 meters wide and 1 meter deep. Yeah, right, I was thinking. Next moment we are getting off the highway at Okučani, then drive down the road and take a wrong turn somewhere. Dude wasn` t here for a couple of years, and of couse he didn´t checked on Google Maps where exactly he went fishing couple years ago. So, it` s early in the morning and here we are, in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely nobody on the road that we could ask for direction. After some dispute and calling names, we decided to get off of the main road and head towards the woods that we saw in the distance. Behind the forest is a Sava river, and forest itself should be transected with canals. At one of them Robert fished for pike before, and logically, if there is pike in one of them, it should be in all of them, more, or less. After 15-20 minutes of driving down the road we hit the first canal.

Given that we do not know where we are, we have no choice but to try a method of attempts and errors, as we say here in Croatia. Couple of minutes later, our gear is arranged and we are ready to kick some pike´s butts. As we came close to water, I realised that it is only 30 cm deep. So I am throwing a lure only formally, without any hope at all. At a third try, nice pike misses my lure, raising a cloud of silt of the bottom! Well, I am thinking, maybe Robert wasn´t talking nonsense during the way here after all. Downstream, canal is unapproachable so we give up of it.

Each of us caught a couple of baby pike in the next canal, so we decided to sit in the car and go deeper into the woods. Gravel road soon turns to dirty path with plenty of muddy holes and my beautiful Mazda is soon unrecognizable. After a few muddy and uncomfortable kilometers on the left side we finally see the canal. First lay-by is ours and a little bit later we are following footsteps of wildlife through the ruined forest down to the water. Thru the entire length of a canal visible to an eye, piles of branches stick out of a water, and literally, some parts of canal contain more trees than water. That´s why Roby is casting a spinnerbait, while I lay my hopes in 85 mm long Slit Shad rigged weedless on a worm hook. Nothing happens for a while, only a buddy of mine is commenting that he feels like something is poking his spinnerbait from time to time.

After a while, I finally have a decent stroke in the mesh of branches and Slit Shad finally lands a 15 cm long perch. I am replacing Slit Shad 85 with one 75 mm long and landing another perch, around 20 centimetres. 25 lb tested wire trace and almost 2 centimeters long snap doesn´t bother them at all. Robi puts 5 centimeters long Slit Shad on, and in next 5 throws lands 5 perches. Ok, that´s it, screw the pike, screw the heavy duty equipment, let` s do some ultra light fishing! In a moment we are back at the car, and next moment we are back on the water with our UL rods. Next few hours we are literally killing ourselves in perches between 20 and 30 centimeters long. Closer to surface fishes are smaller, but when lure comes to the bottom undisturbed, bigger fish hits it. Although water is a bit muddy, even the smallest perch packs whole bait in its mouth. They are flawless! Although we would probably catch bigger fish by increasing jig weight, both of us use 2 gram round head jigs on our hooks so we can control bait better. In really heavy conditions we rig our Slit Shads on a small worm hook weighted with tungsten on a shank of it. This decreases percentage of hook-ups, but we are taking out perches from the spots that would be inaccessible otherwise.

After some time and God knows how many fishes caught and released, I am picking up a spot that it´s almost screaming it´s hiding a decent fish. There is a huge tree in a water after which there is a zone of deeper, calm water with many branches in it. I am coming butt down and on all 4  and taking out 7-8 perches in as many casts. Next cast brings me a porky, humpy fish and I am calling Robert to come and make some photographs. During the shooting, I am joking with Robert by saying I cleaned him a spot from small ones so he can catch a big one. He took me seriously and now he´s aiming the worst cover there is with 5 cm long Slit Shad. After a couple of snags and lost lures, tip of his Game Hunter starts to pump, and Twin Power starts to skid. I know it` s wicked and mean of me, but I really am hoping he hooked a small pike instead of a big perch! But no, life isn´t fair! Little bastard soon lands big perch, 30+ cm long in my own opinion. Superb catch for water this big and I can only congratulate to my friend. A few shots later, nice hubby fish is getting back in a deceptive certainty of a water. After that we caught some more perches in same spot, and than decided it´s enough for today. More than enough. We´ll be back for sure. If we don´t get lost along the way, that is…