Thursday, 19 January 2017

Lame Duck & Dumb Luck

The barbers has that humid, shaving foam-perfumed atmosphere about it.

Outside the scene is hardly resplendent in its inundated monochrome state. Punctuated only by the ochre lettering of the art shop and the crimson of the takeaway.

The impenetrable ground lies glistening in the aftermath of the nights rain. Reflecting the drab street scape via myriad mirrored puddles.

A three hundred and sixty degree shearing - all but to the bone - the winter bites that bit more.

The forecast had been wrong. Instead of an increasingly emerging sun it was horizon to backdrop cloud, and rain non-stop soon after arrival.

The ducks feared not. Even the male Tufted that mistook two impaled maggots for wild food and was unceremoniously towed bankside for release. The flotilla of a dozen kept more distant after he got in a flap.

A small red-finned fish and a green and black striped one provided the only other major distraction, excepting the ever present long-tailed tit flock, an apparently starved robin and a frequently perching but never diving kingfisher.

That was then.


Now, two subsequent days of almost unending rain have left the rivers in pre-peak state.

Tomorrow or the day after maybe.

So again I find myself at the reservoir that currently guarantees a few bites and a chance of roach sufficiently grand to make the heart race.

Noting that the fish have been at the source of any ripple on all visits. The casts are made across that line, 30 and 40m distant, but it's tough. Fish again show in the same location relative to the breeze but further off, beyond range.

Eventually a twang and a perch of one pound, one ounce digs it's way to the net for a swift return.

Soon though a gutterally coughing cave dweller arrives and sets-up part of the necessary barrow-load where those roach had topped earlier-on.

Fifteen minutes later the shoal, flushed from their natural intentions, move across the baited traps and both are triggered within seconds of each other...1 hook struck-off in excitement, the second a good roach, the best yet in recent visits at 1.4.6, nestles in the dark mesh...and that was that.

This kind of experience, particularly with roving roach shoals, has been evident a number of times over the years and proves that the possibility of action never disappears if the target is in motion and that tiny fragment of luck can turn disaster to apparent worthy effort.

Commitment, agility of thought, application, skill, planning. They all have their part in narrowing the angles but luck, how does the angler gain control of that factor? Well he or she doesn't of course but it certainly becomes more likely the more thoroughly those first few elements are addressed.

Monday, 9 January 2017

A Climate of Uncertainty

The local climate in the period since Christmas has been so changeable as to make it almost impossible at times to select a suitable location for a few fish. Not so much gradual global warming as continuing local chaos.
The Avon & Leam; Grand Union & Oxford canals and various stillwaters could all have all been on the agenda but for a variety of reasons there have been times when none of these were likely to work-out favourably.
Ice, rain, wind direction, clear water, fluctuating temperatures, etc., detrimentally influenced each in different ways.
Under such circumstances one tends to seek comfort in what one knows best. Usually canals, in these instants.
Anyone who follows these ramblings will realise that in the world of F, F & F eliciting a bite against the odds is of considerably greater value than a guarantee of, for instance, a net full of tame carp from a sold(not to say souled)-out mud puddle.
In stillwater terms it has become increasingly difficult to find naturalised ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Largely a result of the glint of gold that continues to sparkle in eye of certain water owners as lead by CRT.
A couple of birding trips resulted in a very active long-tailed duck and a couple of pairs of red-crested pochard of note. Which, on the one hand, brightened the intermittent angling consternation but, far more importantly, made for a very enjoyable change while The Dog descended this year with his First Lady for a few very happy days indeed
In the immediate aftermath of the festivities, mild, calm conditions prevailed and fish were relatively easy to fool, albeit at their own somewhat steady speed, and to find roach freely topping at dawn at my current reservoir-side haunt put them under potential threat. Catches of between 3 and 8 pounds-odd of fish that peaked at one pound four ounces with a smattering of perch eased the depressingly unbearable burden of being off work for a few days quite nicely.

Roach to 1.4.2
 The GUC managed to cough-up a nice zander of over 3.5lbs, with proportionately the biggest tail you ever did see, when partly frozen. This was highly likely another p.b. (had the scales not been in the garage!) but that will never be confirmed. Following this the combined GUC & Oxford canals produced a 2lb bream and a roach immediately after thawing on a particularly hard birthday session.
The birds have been affected too and as this is being written, long-tailed and blue tits, goldcrest and blackbird devour fat balls, winter flies and fallen apples out of the window, beyond the bridge. Grey squirrel chase and tumble through ivy and hazel while a robin serenades longingly, yet with a hint of resignation, into the still moist air. All dreaming of the hectic spring to come one might surmise.
Today though, the onset of mild weather again lead us back to the canal feeder lake that had offered-forth festive gifts of 5 tench to 5.9, 20-odd roach to 1lb+ and smaller perch two weeks ago.
It was a risk.
It would have been frozen yesterday morning but the likelihood of increased temperatures, cloud & fog meant low light levels and consequently roach in the sought-after bracket of 1lb+ would be possible...if they fed.
The method settled-on over those previous sessions is to fish two rods, one at 25-45m and the other at 60m and while the furthest of those has resulted in the most bites and fish all of the pound plus roach have fallen at around 25 to 30m.
The second roach today was 1.1.14 and an hour or so later a slightly larger version at 1.4.2. A total catch of 8lbs 5ozs comprising 13 fish including 3 perch for good measure was the bag and the confirmation that the bigger roach were closer-in helped in taking-up HonGenSec's idea to fish the float into dark. In fact, had it not been foggy that would have been the method of choice this very day.
The two biggest roach on top
Tomorrow it is then!
Arriving at 2.45 to set-up and get some bait trickling into ten feet of slightly tinged water before dark, the atmosphere had that feel of impending rain about it as the clouds dragged their heels over the broad tree-scattered landscape to the south-west.
The water was calm without a ripple to spoil it other than the tufted duck. A group of six that motored inwards with unstinting confidence at each blast of maggots, and out again once realising that the bait had gone by the time they would have arrived.
HonGenSec had started when we arrived, as is the norm, but pursued a similar method.
The Boy Wonder was to stick with the tried and trusted at 30m.
There is little to add other than despite this list from TBW's necessaries being at home - rods, landing net handle, head-torch - he stole my spare rod and took a 2lb tench (his first) from water just over 4degC while HGS and I blanked with aplomb.
 Kids! (Again)
A barn owl shrieked early evening and remained unseen but it's certainly back to Plan A next time.
Tomorrow it wasn't. However, if you don't ask the question...
The roach in the venue seem very likely go bigger than 1.4. Bigger fish top occasionally, although it is possible they are hybrids as two have been taken 1.8 in this brief period since mid-December but there are another couple of areas to try, as well as The Stillwater to revisit when conditions seem right.
Hope, motivated by good advice and that essential slice of luck, does not shirk from springing eternal and there is plenty of the winter to go at yet
 I would very much like to mark the sad passing of Tony Miles with just a few words.
I did not know Tony well though I had met and exchanged emails with him a number of times in the past two or three years but he was clearly a very open, amiable man with a huge wealth of angling knowledge that he was keen to commit to print in books, blogs and various publications in order to help others.
It is always an immeasurably great loss when such giants of any sport take their knowledge with them and, while he could never convey all of the nuances of his chosen path to his contemporaries and effectual descendants in angling, we can all be thankful that much of his knowledge is not lost through his so eloquently articulated writings.
Certain angling names trip off the tongue in a hallowed cluster:
Richard Walker, Ivan Marks, Chris Yates, and Co. Tony Miles unquestionably falls in that same echelon. Humble yet ground-breaking anglers all. 

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to One and All, here's to a rather more encouraging 2017 than the autumn of 2016 has been.

Yes, and HonGenSec is out there this afternoon. Dedication.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Win Bonus in Tough Times?

The Stillwater is tough. 

So tough that a bite is at the very least a pleasant surprise and, more often in fact, something of a shock.

A couple of weeks ago I felt that floundering feeling when I wasn't enjoying my fishing enough as it seemed to have become directionless and predictable. Too many stretches of canal had turned clear and the banker stretch, although in perfect trim, could only be enthused over so many times.

A decision was made.

Target roach on all venues.

It started with blanks. In fact Monday would have been my sixth consecutive, but no one said it would be easy.

The Stillwater was too still, however I did see some quality fish topping at dawn which gives me future hope, but wind and colour are required.

The hours I whiled away on the banks were exceptional for bird life however and precisely fifty species were listed topped by a fantastic winter visiting firecrest plus a few brief glimpses of an otter bubbling it's way eastward in search of that which I could not find. That tiny bird was the harbinger of what we Burtons call a 'Let's Weep!' moment, such as I last felt when discovering my first ever Dartford warbler in Dorset. Magical.

No bites ensued in two visits and the next thing to make me emotional was meeting a good old friend or two by chance in the tackle shop. About fifteen years they reckon it had been. Cue selfies, tales of days gone by and, I'm told, Facebook may subsequently have been involved, though that is beyond my oldfangledness.

On a tip-off I decided to fine-tune the roach method on another pond where I might get a bite before returning when conditions would be right in search of the prey of palpitations.

As I used to think as a match angler..."You learn nothing if you're not getting any bites".

Arriving before dawn, good fish topped all round with the increasing light and just occasionally some real specimens rolled too.

Fishing two rods at 30m with maggot feeders it was second cast with each rod that the action started and continued unabated until I cut the flavouring from the feeder by way of a reverse experiment and the bites immediately ceased. Amazing proof.

Archie Braddock - you were right, as we're my informal mentors. I was tempted to call them Mentors A & B but that implies a hierarchy so I'm going with Mentor P and Mentor I. I suspect they will become MP and MI in no time...oh, they already have.

Roach, Rudd and a solitary perch completed a lively two hour session with nine pounds of fish which included the golden prize of a rather sneaky p.b. Rudd of 1.2.

Next day the air was a little less welcoming at three degrees but I had a couple more things to try out and so headed to the same peg again. This time for a quarter short of two hours but the hoped-for big roach showed themselves for the first hour of daylight once more.

Second cast again with each rod and two fighters were on the bank. Initially disinterested, but increasingly keen to get away the closer to the bank they came, the unmistakable fight of unseasonal tench was upon us. One could have been lucky, two worthy of comment but to take four up to 5.2.11 was just plain silly. Add to this two roach and three perch, all around ten ounces each and the sixteen pound catch in one and three quarter hours summed-up a commercial-esque(!) session I could never have seen coming.

The second tench, or tenchlet at 1.6, carried festering growths in the roots of its fins and so I slipped it back and thus avoided infecting the keepnet. Photographs are now with the holding club and their experts are on the case to pursue it further. Deer stalkers donned and magnifying lens in hand as I write no doubt.

I think the wind is on the rise in a few days' time, so, having ironed-out a few wrinkles in the method, it's back to The Stillwater to try to tempt the untemptable but until then this alternative is too good to miss for December. Those bigger early-priming roach are there to be had too. The lake is the source of the roach p.b. on stillwaters at 2.1.8 of three decades ago, the best of a magnificent brace and a day when, just minutes later, The Old Duffer nabbed one for himself of 2.0.8 to confirm the venue pedigree.

This morning with, again, very little time to play with, it was back to attempt to tease out those bigger roach that had been active early, a fortunate by-product of this rig-testing industry. It had been a brief frost yesterday evening but, with temperatures due to soar up to 6degC before dawn with some cloud and rain in the early hours, the likelihood of tremulous tench yet ravenous roach became too tempting to ignore.

On arrival it was actually seven degrees but the breeze was biting and I'd forgotten my trousers, or at least my thermal over-trousers, and had to sit like some old(er) boy with a jumper over my thighs looking distinctly as though my carer had cleared-off in search of someone more spritely.

I fancied two options:
A maggot feeder at 30-35m and a flavoured maggot feeder at 60m, both with maggot hook baits.

The result:
4 bites to the flavour in 2.25 hours fishing, all hooked and landed. Zilch on the other. Now there's no doubt that Archie, MI & MP were right.

Encouraging one pound fish to the bank with a slightly over-gunned rod and careful use of the clutch has been interesting in that it has really enabled the identification of the fish by fight characteristics quite easily

So the week ended with a less numerous catch but a nice weight of eight pounds-odd comprising this lovely, yet thermally confused, tench of 5.9:

A probable roach X rudd hybrid of a gnats under a pound:

and two of these chunky footballers:

With an approaching ten days or so to tackle various venues, and the weather looking settled there's genuine optimism in the air, and the water I hope

Monday, 5 December 2016

An Icy Stare

The rivers are running clear again and back at normal level with flow slackening.

The Stillwater would be too still and watery to cope with the cold snap this past week.
The canals had been frozen just a couple of days prior.

So what to do?
A heated aquarium, perhaps.


I hatched a plan via some dubious logic to go to an area where bites would always be minimal thus it would seem no different.

The conjoined Oxford & GUC it was then. Opposite brambles overhanging a naturalised bank.

Bread in front, chopped worm to the right.

Neither area produce so much as a pinhead bubble of action with water temperature just 2.7degC until against all odds the zed float started to trot gently off to the left and I connected with a sedate individual of a couple of pounds that simply couldn’t be bothered to fight

Cut and run to our field on the River Leam. Very clear with the bottom in view where under two feet deep. 
A very tempting swim had formed after the recent high water so confident soared for a perch or two.  

Now you'd guarantee it, would you not?


Where might the canal not be frozen?

Chilly scene
Iced canals fish much better and more consistently than open sections in extreme conditions but the days of heaving interchangeable steel weights and chains on ropes to create that perfectly formed match fishing peg are long gone, even though results would be less buoyant. Besides, playing bigger fish through a hole in the ice is not the wisest of recipes for success.

Protected areas in less exposed landscapes. Close to settlements. Perhaps near boats or where a ripple might form.

It took six bridge visits to find a reasonable option and sadly. It was the same location as yesterday!

A different peg, and more sheltered admittedly, but a worse conclusion. Not a tap.

Deadbait float to left. Worm float to right.
To quit and admit defeat or concoct more hair-brained options?
The latter.

I found myself between a bridge and a lock on the GUC proper. A much better option, albeit the roads were somewhat dodgy in getting there.
A boat had just been through and broken a channel through the ice although where I sat clearly had a crust earlier in the day. It started to recede and as I set-up the floes became less and less daunting.

The cross section of the cut was tapering from shallows across into deeper water nearside of middle extending right into the near bank. Boats would moor here for the lock so it made sense.

With melting ice the subsurface temperature had dropped to 2.5degC but, as is the way of things, confidence was not yet dented, merely pressured.

Again two rods. One with a lob chopped in half and hooked in two sections, flavour oozing. On the other, a roach tail cut from a frozen sample.

The second boat was operated quite efficiently by three girls apart from a little lurch when the controller went back into gear having coasted past me this causing a swirling murklet of canal water to surge right over the square metre my floats occupied. Who'da thunk it?!

No sooner had they gone than students started arriving at the lock cottage for a birthday party (no, I wasn't eavesdropping, they were quite happy to yell the information to each other).

The deadbait float indicated the tiniest of possibilities. Just lowering almost imperceptibly and occasionally moving an inch or two one way or another but, with the canal water still rocking back and forth after the lock activity, I thought little of it and it settled to nought.

A few minutes later I decided to recast as the whole weekend had been littered with leaf issues and the baits could have been concealed.

Something told me to ease into the rig rather than just lift and as I did I sensed a tightening and then some solid though far from urgent digs. This rig was alive.

As I continued to engage with the quarry I was alert to the possibility that any slack could be disastrous and pressure was continually applied. I saw a zander shape under the surface as it kited around and then burst through the surface, it's gills flaring up at me like a can-can dancers skirt. It thrashed itself straight into the net as it peaked too surly and immediately upon lifting clear proceeded to display its chunky self as a new p.b.

67ozs less the net. 3.6.11 and an icy stare
Not exceptional by others' standards but good enough, especially on a day when anything occurring at all was distinctly unlikely.

Roll-on yet more difficult times? No! Milder air is on the way and a breeze to come with it



Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Things Happen

Always an event. An incident. Maybe a string of incidents.

It was clearly going to be very frosty with clear skies and bright sunshine once the day shift got underway.

A more than early start.

In the swim at day break after a particularly long walk into a deep cutting but then a gentle movement of the water gave advance warning.

Five minutes more and the heart-sinking thump, thump, thump of a working boat. This the kiss of death. The massive, surging dark hull growing as it approached through dawn.

Spinning plumes of silt, like black holes into a lifeless world, had strewn the surface at regular intervals coincidental with the beating of the engine.

A moment or two of contemplation. There was no rush to decide.

A big risk. Into the open under clear skies it was.

The finest countryside however. Indeed if it were ever possible to build a pokey, smokey cottage wherever one liked this would be the spot.

In went the tempters followed by the neon sign, "BITE HERE!"

...and bite it did. Out came a treat of a roach preceded by its unmistakable fight after the most unusual bites.

One pound, seven ounces, three drams. Another cracker.

The autumn has seen scarce pickings but, the more so, the larger.

A lion of a dog flops along from the right. The bait was not for him. He sniffed and rejected the possibility. Obviously the finest roach food known to mankind didn't suit his regal palate.

His master moved on having shared the standard 'glorious day, bit chilly though' necessities. Some day I'm gonna break the mould and ask what they dreamt about that night as an opening shot. That should shake 'em off.

Leo meanwhile is nuzzling my coat. And quickly skulks off, master bound.

"He's nicked me pork pie!", I yell. Hearty laughter all round.

The bastard.

Two boats...a change of scenery.

Just as the water settles another, surprising, fish. A hybrid this time around 1.2.

The CRT contractors had done the now 'accepted'...scattered the tall ruderal growth into the drink and left whatever ash poles they had trimmed littering the towpath.

The last peg was very comfortable as I had gradually stepped back toward the bridge from whence this tale commenced.

More boats.

All or nothing now. 3 handfuls of mash.

Ten minutes later, a slight indication. Crayfish, I concluded.

A further five minutes, and on retrieval I lifted into the CRT's dumpings...which started to fight.
Two neat swerves and one surge later - gone.

Nothing more.

Top Six:
(GUC unless *NOXC).

Thursday, 17 November 2016

From Darkness

The tunnel was draughty and nothing showed through the crisp darkness. Just thoughts of images. Throughout it felt similarly hopeless with no sign of an end to it.

As I legged through section after section they were all the same with no light to lead the way.

The sweat built in the mild air and as I searched, agitated, blind, I became more and more lost.

I returned the way I arrived. It was inevitable.

An hour or more had passed.

Still there was no light and, though I cast temptation before me, the shroud endured.

Nothing was there but the smell of emptiness and the drip, drip, drip of incessant damp unsuitability.
Others came and left. They had found the light and went on their way.
Then a glimmer and with it protection, warmth, comfort.

It grew more clear and as it came closer - brightness.

It began to illuminate all around and the day burst open.

I knelt in the glow and as I reached out to touch it - a diamond. Beautifully cut and glintling in the light.

I had stepped into the open and now I could see.