Monday, 22 November 2021

Two Weeks & Two Rivers


The moon was brightening and I thought I could sense something breathing, but the sound was continually drowned-out by the sky, throbbing with the lumpy drone of a hundred distant combustion engines

Now the river, at its narrowest accelerated channel, glinted silver as sunlight struck it via the surface of that early evening moon; each turbulent surge outlined and shrinking as it subsided into darkness

Through the summer it is readily forgotten how thoroughly the cup of calm can be drained right down to the very last drop by the riverside at dusk. Everything settles to roost and a whole new everything soon stirs. 

Rooks and jackdaws, tonight over a thousand starling, and of course the pheasants' unpleasant cocophony as they crash-in to perches, often inappropriately selected and then deselected, are the regular proponents of the changing guard. 

No sooner have they handed over to the night-shift than the rustling and chewing of rodents; the last minute piscean displays of ebullience; then the cries, hoots and screeches of owls; moorhen scrambling into bushes or climbing rushes all comprise the, albeit brief, B-side of the day's soundtrack before a general silence descends. 

On two consecutive trips the local barn owl flew straight to me as if to check-out this new and mobile feature of the usually unchanged landscape. What a sight, as they floated without even the slightest sound on moth-like wings. Unsatisfied on both occasions each perched nearby to survey the scene but lost interest as efficiently as they gained it. Voles called (now when I say, "Voles called", I don't mean...well, anyway). 

The little grebe, a ubiquitous tiny river bird, seemingly ever present in the colder months, is easily missed or mistaken for a crashing chub or rolling roach, but with stealth they can be seen in between the reed stems diving for the last water boatmen of summer or perhaps winter  sticklebacks to sustain their Slender yet impossibly buoyant selves. 

The evening was frustrating in the extreme. It's not often I can say I've had 15 bites when chubbing with meat but conversely quite usual to say I've had just the one fish. This however was that day. The first three or four bites were sail-aways yet were struck into nothing. Slow to learn, I held back and allowed the next bite to develop more fully, managing to hook and land, via a crisis-let with a weedbed, an immaculate chub of 3lbs 13ozs

I was no better off afterwards, as the bites became increasingly short, sharp and stacatto, such that I began to consider the possibility of eels. HonGenSec suggested signal crayfish, which I suppose could have been trying to swim off with the bait and then quickly losing grip, neatly reflecting my own demeanour as I sloped away into the mist of the darkening field, largely defeated



To be sat there again; feet in the rushy margins, backside on the bank; was like the reopening of the sweet shop hoping mint humbugs were back in stock. 

The Leam is, as they say, "A funny river"

The slightest miscue and she appears devoid of life. Her appetite generally on the reluctant side of anorexic except during those occasional times when her complexion suggests a flush of rude and ravenous health. 

This weekend was clearly the former, as she lay chilled in serpentine stillness. Visibility was two feet plus, far too clear for more than the odd fish per swim, with any panic palpable, but hope would be a companion.

In flight, fieldfare and the seeping redwing,

flushed from hawthorn and willow, scatter in random abandon at the first morning sight of man. Meadow pipit and skylark continue the winter spread as they filter throughout the land. 

Prostrate willows seemed more prevalent, and more dramatic, than three years prior. 

It had been that long. 

20 minutes of 10g feeder deployment and no bites to show for it, the river low and clear, I slip into the old banker swim. A change of approach to boot. 4 finger blobs of mash, scattered such that they would entice the quarry from its lair, drifted down in the negligible gentle flow to the edge of a previously significant feature, now depleted. There was something about it though, something imperceptible that made it attractive to both chub and roach in the past and so there was no reason to conclude that this would still be the case; perhaps the bed was scoured gravel?

First flick - poor. 

The second? Accurate and short of the spot imagined where the feed came to rest. Ideal.

As is the case with small rivers, one tends to seek-out micro-quivertips to indicate the tiniest of twitches, but when the fish is worth the effort it could put a curve in a 2oz tip without any trouble. This bite was to be no different; the customary tremble closely pursued by a wrap around and what felt like a proper combatant was engaged.

Now the wand isn't made for specimen fishing but it copes adequately with fish up to 3lbs and can subdue bigger fish in open water but this was the Leam, all rushy margins and snag-ridden runs. Initially the fish didn't show any desire for the vegetative route of escape but as it approached the net instinct clearly took hold and there it was being dragged to the surface and into the net before we had to offer it the option of releasing itself before digging it from the debris.

The opening fish of the new era then was chub of 2lbs 13ozs, and a very welcome start!

Usually under such circumstances I might give it one more cast or I might move on immediately. The former was favoured, given the re-acquaintance with the stretch, and in went a tasty fresh flake of Jonathan's best. This time the hook bait lodged in the leading edge of the feature and the heart fluttered like a cabbage white under the gaze of a wren but one gentle tweak and it flipped neatly out and sunk right next to the snag. Needless to say, when such luck abounds, it wasn't long before the tip was arching downstream again and another decent fish was hooked. At first it was a roach, then a chub of a pound or more but the head-shaking didn't seem right and, as it came into view, it was clearly a more than decent roach. Then it turned into chub again and dived into the dead rushes. The landing net turned excavator scooped the fish and all around it up, and at the scales it proved the first river pounder of the season at 1.1.8 and the world was good; for five minutes there was no COVID, no climate crisis and no war. Anywhere.

A chance call to the farmer had resulted in the syndicate getting access to this excellent stretch of the river where the features almost outnumber fish and offer so many options as to make one all boggly of mind.

As I tested another glide I was feeling that loss of engagement, that prelude to the trudge back to the tank, and through the distraction I became aware of a huge but somehow gentle swirl to my right next to the fallen log the bait rested beneath. Thinking initially, "Giant chub", I became conscious of a seal-like shape slipping underwater on the far side between the, now brown, rushes flat to the surface where up-periscoped an old, distinctly grey haired, Labrador head, or so it seemed, and this guy was not happy.

"Humpf", he exclaimed, inwardly, and all breath-y like, "What's going on here? That wasn't there yesterday!" 

His neck so unfathomably long and able to project so far out of the water as to be unreal, this was the biggest dog otter one could imagine, with rolls in his neck like a 60-year old Mike Tyson. He regarded me, for what seemed quite some time, as I too regarded him - with sheer disbelief - but then, he was gone, and the bubble of apparent fantasy burst.

Things do come in threes after all and this day was no different


Sunday, 31 October 2021

Marvel at the Natural World

Something has been troubling me. 

Not a recent thing. It's been there for years, a decade, or more. 


But it's been closer to being tangible this autumn, and at last I believe I've grasped it. 


As sure as three pheasants just traversed the nettle-fringed river, bursting from semi-improved grassland into Himalayan balsam. I've grasped it, and, as I ruminate, a train rattles the same way. It's dark now, and the warmly-lit windows are suggestive of an unimaginable cosiness, yet blunted by thoughts of the smell of unwashed hair and trainers. 


Getting out has always been about the countryside (going out having been an altogether different proposition), but the impossibility of writing when faced with the daily challenges of life this past year or more has been prohibitive. 

I am grateful for a lack of  bites this evening as the time is well spent in a brief spell of that elusive clear riparian thought so noticeably absent in summer. 

Baits grow, presentation reverts to static and physical activity is minimised as parents of warm weather fish become more probable via the simple reduced appetite of tiddlers. 

It had always been apparent that being out was preferable in itself, but why? What was it that made it so?

As a teenager the whole feeling of match angling from kit to fish, via the buzz of the challenge and the glow of those little victories such as beating the anglers each side, was the draw. Tiny spools of 8oz(!) french line by mail order from Don's of Edmonton, a Ray Mumford pole and floats, the iconic 3 section Shakespeare landing net handle with white grip, gold and black taping, and spoon net. The race for 100 fish or more and removing necessarily barbless hooks in a flash for efficiency...and never a thought of big fish. It was all about bites. 

Through all of this though (and before) there ran something that continued, and continues, as a perfect thread, unknotted by time, as straight as a line between rod tip and charging quarry, and it could be found in moments such as these:

  • Wading in the margins as low as safely possible (and occasionally not!) to the unrippled surface. Lily pads blending land into gently flowing water. The tip of a fine stick float gently progressing, controlled with the flow; the disappearance, the light splash, the reappearance and swinging to hand of the palpable wriggling irritation of a dace. 
  • A pair of Moorhen tail-flicking and clucking at my presence under a long-since vigorous hawthorn. A boy appears, sits next to me, chatting, and starts to skilfully depict them in graphite them for his homework. 
  • The, now, perpetual presence of otter spraint under wider canal bridges. Suggestive of a mammal so wild; so almost mythical at the crease of 20th and 21st Centuries and so large as to be from another age. 
  • The wind pushing heavily turbid waves up the finest gradient of the sandy, gravelly shore of a low reservoir, punished by the demands of spring, watering the eyes and putting the towel-banded eyeshade in jeopardy. Casting a waggler to the waves in inches of water and finding it teeming with big, confidently feeding, roach. 

All of these things have that common 'green' thread known as the natural world woven through them. 

So is it simply this I've been seeking, the natural world?, and why so strong like the twizzle of a  magnet facing away from steel? 


So what is "The Natural World"? 

Fundamentally the starting point must be whether we agree that man is part of the natural world, and that everything 'he' does is therefore natural too, or whether man's universal arrogance makes everything during the time of his presence, the Anthropocene, unnatural. 

For me it is unquestionably the latter, the very notion that we could have driven a planet to such a state that our own very existence is challenged, is beyond comprehension and all in the pursuit of the advancement of a now largely imagined existence. An existence played out almost entirely in his head. Is man's brain is too big for his own good? 


Reverting to the man-introduced pheasants and the man-made train...

The river banks dominated by nettles the result of a nitrate-rich rooting medium created by man. 

Semi-improved grassland. 'Improved' for agricultural use in pursuit of meat faster, better, and more valuable than ever before

The Himalyan balsam, a now out of control invasive species.

In that brief opening description is captured the whole conundrum and hidden therein too is the nub of my genuine crisis. 

It is not the natural world as we know it that I seek and have sought, as by that true contentment is never achieved. Everywhere, and increasingly so, it is the pursuit of the avoidance of the trappings of man. 

I was sat at a reservoir this past spring and manoeuvred into a position where I felt detached from man. The view of a house in the distance could be avoided if the small willow to my left concealed it and I sent a photograph to The Lady Burton expressing the fact. Yet there I was, briefly believing I had found it, whilst looking out over what was once an untouched valley shaped by glaciers and then carved by a river of vigour and health, dominated by woodland and accompanied by a vast population of other life that we cannot begin to perceive. 

...and that is the key to it, the unending need to get outside in the previously subconscious vain hope of finding it. Finding an unmolested, virginal, unimaginably vibrant natural world that Smithsonian states is only present over 17% of the earth's surface (but even that doesn't go unaffected in some form or other, if only by dint of the changing weather and invisible impacts blown by corrosive winds from elsewhere). 

So, next time we hear the claim that it's not too late to save the earth maybe we should ask ourselves what it is that needs to be saved. It cannot possibly be man, what use is he? He cannot right this wrong so great as to be beyond his arrogant wit to comprehend either. 

The fact, tucked away in the vaults of all of our minds with the lost instincts and triggers we fail to realise are there, is that it's gone. The world when the earth and it's grateful inhabitants all lived within their and each others means, a true and naturally evolving ecology, is gone, and the process can only reboot when man exits stage right. 

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Rediscovery of a Seasons End

So, as I was, saying...

The Discovery was retrieved from the insurance company's own repair workshop last week. Like new, it was. Immaculate, smelling like a car in a showroom and complete with all contents, maybe somewhat stupidly, left inside and, on a personal level, we are whole again...just in time to enjoy the end of the season 

The River Leam never ceases to engage me fully. Whether on the bank or dreaming of it, the little river is such a tease. 

There is a length of maybe three swims on our Syndicate stretch that have intrigued me for the 2 or 3 years we've had access to it. 

It seems perfect. Steady flow, smooth glide, nice depth at 3ft plus along its length and edged by undercut grass beds on the far steep bank (where it hadn't caved-in) been and lined with rushes nearside. 

I'd been drawn to it numerous times but, not until this winter, had it produced so much as a bite! 

A bit of a dabble at the downstream end, where the current disappears under a goat willow, in passing, one early autumn day 2020 actually brought one of those surprising bites where one is going through the motions, expecting nothing from the whole charade, and yet it spoils things by damned well working!

Not only did the tip twitch but it proved a decent roach. The very fish that should be there. 

Since that day there has not been a biteless visit to the glide and, although it remains seemingly impossible to ensnare more than two fish per swim, it is somewhat gratifying that they are showing from there now. 

My guess is that I've probably tried it at the wrong time previously and that it would seem logical for fish to move there in winter, with a bit more water on. 

A surprise chub of 2.14 was welcome on one occasion but with that, and one or two other fruitful swims, the roach potential of this little stretch, reachable within 5 miles of home while travelling has been constrained by Covid, has been evident. Odd fish have been small but a good proportion of them have been over 6ozs and up to a peak of 11ozs. Nothing to threaten the stretch PB of a pound and a few drams, nor indeed the river best at 1.4.6, but nice fish nevertheless and very enjoyable when options are few.

...and so it continued until the end of the season, punctuated by some nice dace to 7ozs.

A burst of (over?) confidence led to a closing day rush of blood.

It would be a three-pronged attack on river best chub (3.15), roach (1.4) and dace (8ozs) with liquidised bread in a tiny 10g feeder on the wand in various areas of the main flow and creases while in a deep slack the treat of a huge piece of crust would lay, irresistibly waving in the gentle swirl of the current.

A fellow Syndicate member, initially suspected as a poacher, was ensconced and awaiting the action when I arrived. A brief chat was followed by a couple of other snatches of conversation between bites which culminated a bizarrely in-depth conflab on rare circa 1980 records, from The Undertones via XTC to Blue Rondo a la Turk. Not the every day discussion for sure but great, and quite passionate, reminiscing as it turned-out.

Three proper bites and two roach of seven ounces and ten ounces immediately after were the limit for the last session of what has been a necessarily limted and therefore patchy season to say the least. Both were taken on the micro-feeder option with not so much as an aquatic sneeze in the direction of the crust labelled, "Big Chub".

The journey home, was not exactly one spent floating on the basis of the result but it was more than comforting to have the bus back, and all that it entails.

Roll-on June 16th!

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Defending the Discovery of a Land Rover

My first Land Rover, a white 200tdi 110, bought for tuppence ha'penny from a farm, was our first experience of them

Great fun when the The Dog and The Boy Wonder were little, careering through floods and waiting for the squeal as the murky water dribbled through the dash onto The Lady Burton's knees

It was supposed to be a sort of weekend car for fishing and bikes (you could get the four of us and our bikes inside) but it was so enjoyable I started using it for work surveys despite the dodgy fuel gauge

The Lady Burton had a 300tdi Discovery prior to that but it was beyond our pocket to maintain it at the time, so it had the traded in for some common sense in the remarkably similar form of an original Audi TT, beautiful car that leather interior, proper design classic...until the boys outgrew the back almost-seat. 

From time to time though you would hear the phrase, "Dad's getting Land Rover magazines again. It can only mean one thing"

We'd pondered camping holidays and as the boys grew the motor home became too constrained an option, mainly in terms of sleeping arrangements, but having dallied with the prospect of a G4 Discovery 3, decided against it and secretly hatched the plan of a Defender Tdci double-cab pick-up with ventilated aluminium pod over the back complete with Hannibal roof tent and separate OzTent which involved weekend visits to far flung private enthusiast/dealerships until, on the day, we collected the most incredible piece of kit; chipped for economy and Discovery-like performance. 

Boy did we have some fun in that vehicle! 

On holidays, it took just a few minutes to put the roof tent up or down, in fact no longer than the motor home had taken to tidy into a driveable condition every morning

When the pigs grew to size they were rounded-up in a homemade 'pig walker' and driven to the end of the road in the back, returning as the most amazing sausages and cuts of meat one could imagine. What a difference it made to feed them on household scraps, not factory produced feed

The roof tent was a whole new world. When zipped-up there was zero light. A finger in front of the eyes could not be seen. Perfect darkness. The quality of sleep in that was at a level I would be so grateful for these days

It wasn't always a perfect exercise though

On the maiden overnighter it rained all night and on rising to a bright warm sunny morning everything felt somewhat moist. Granny Green Teeth was 'downstairs' in what we called the lounge and was found to be floating in half an inch of water on a camp bed. Bless her, she thought this was what happened when you went camping. It turns out however that our supplier had received a batch of unsealed tents and rapidly replaced it with one that worked properly. What an event! 

The death knoll of the package however was a Dorset trip littered with severe weather warnings. The OzTent had a fearful sag in the roof one morning, with a reservoir South-West Water themselves would've been proud of, the cause. The tent was on a slope and before TBW and I woke (I know!, you can see what's coming!) the other half of the foursome decided to heave the water off the roof. Uphill. 

The rest is a tale of insane cackling and irritability, punctuated with bursts of frantic cleaning and mopping. 

Next night, severe gales. The car was rocking about like a boat on the high seas. Accentuated by the height, the tent was buffeted and bashed, and at one point TBW, being a tiddler at the time, wrapped himself around my right arm and, trying to hide his fear, asked quietly, "Are you okay Dad?". This caused me to realised that a bracket above an overhang that covered the ladder had become detached, banging against the Camelback, and to his, now lifelong amusement, I ripped the whole thing off and flung it to the ground. In the circumstances there was little else to do

From what had been a packed and bustling camp site, we awoke to water-logged open spaces and, in the field below us, a pile of abandoned tents. It seemed we were one of very few that sat it out. The camp workers said they would decide which tents were salvagable and sell them, the rest would be scrapped

Meanwhile a mk1 Freelander came into The Lady B's possession with a kind of Altro-esque interior which served well for an easy clean. This then morphed into Freelander 2, ideal for a soggy trip to the the Wye and then, having dallied with hybrids, a lifetimes dream became available. A low mileage Discovery 4 HSE with cream leather seats and matching piano wood inserts

Purchasing the car was a nightmare. Firstly no Land Rover dealer was in the slightest interested in talking to us about a car and, when we eventually found one on our doorstep, that fine, fine company Experian, whose feedback is all-but entirely and scathingly negative, put a block on it. Much wrangling and a month later the vehicle passed into our possession. It's more than a vehicle though it's an organism, I'm sure of it, that can take you to places you would've considered impossible, with absolutely no help from the guy in the driving seat

Fast forward 15 months and TBW wanders by on the landing with the passing comment, "Oh, hi Dad, I thought you'd gone fishing. Where's your car?". The sharp and predictable reply followed, but, no, he wasn't joking, it had been removed in the night, keys still in the house in 'Faraday bags'. How they started and moved it I've no idea, but they knew what they were doing for certain

Phone calls to Police and Insurance Company ensued and a value was agreed, because I wouldn't be getting it back, but I had to wait 5 days, at which time they would pay out and the search would be on for something conversely undesirable as a replacement. Maybe an Audi A2, the car no one realises exists

Serious consideration was given to Subaru Forester or Outback, and even a Mini All4, when the realisation dawned that, come Monday, I'd be car-less

Discussion also turned seriously to security cameras and the like 

Then, four days later, TBW (as a soon to be policeman, our in-house Police Liaison Officer) takes a call saying the car has been found. Dreading to hear what state it's in, or even whether it's intact, I want to cover my ears. No, it seems it's still the same shape as when it left. It was found by a Police Officer specialising in spotting stolen cars and noticed this one due to it having shiny new plates on a filthy vehicle. Who said you should keep your car clean? 

Mixed feelings abound at first and a feeling of not really wanting it back after it's been who knows where with who knows whom doing who knows what in it but slowly this lifted and when further news later appeared to confirm the contents were still intact the immediate emotion was, "When can I get it back?!"

I'd listed the contents for insurance purposes and was staggered at the stuff I had stashed away in there, even when it seemed almost empty, and the cameras, binoculars, roach set-up with 50th birthday centrepin were the items I most wanted to see again

Plots always thicken in modern times of course, and, this would be a cornflour and bisto mix (day 5). The insurance co., confirms it's settling the finance and sending me the balance, plus £150 for lost belongings. 


It went like this:

"I don't understand why you're paying-out when the five days weren't up at the time it was found". 

"It's been found?". 

"Yes if you read the file you'll find I emailed you yesterday". 

"We've not had a email! Hold on please". 

...inane musical interlude... 

"That's fine Sir. I'll put the file on hold until you get back to us". 

Subsequently, 7 days elapsed from finding the vehicle to something actually happening, i.e. its removal to have locks changed. A necessary repair. 

So we hope to be reunited this week and we'll see what's missing from inside, if anything. 

Saturday, 13 February 2021

A Fleeting Reflection on Ice

In the night it was minus five (apparently). Today, it did not get above a balmy freezing point all day. 

Can there be enjoyment in this, well yes, but success?... 

Winter has rarely been a time of waterside angling excitement. Being 'out in it' can produce the most enthralling of times but ordinarily there's far more hope than result. 

As a youngster, I've only recently recalled, we scarcely went fishing in winter. Apart from the infamous 'Swan hits HV cables' Xmas Day blank. I guess The Old Duffer had more sense than to risk aching knuckles as time progressed, unlike his dozey progeny.

A taste for Winter Leagues and then a few tremendously cold Winters in the 1980's however changed that and fishing through canal ice became a regular thing. 

I drew next to an established and respected angler as a teenager the first time I encountered ice, armed with the equivalent of a toothpick in the face of a 'berg and watched-on in 'towpath please subsume me' trepidation as he cut himself a slot of clear water and I, nauseated, saw my match slip away before my very eyes. Kindness though was not his weakness and he gave me his breaking kit once he'd done his peg and explained how to go about it. I don't remember what we caught but I do recall a quickly establishing pattern, particularly on intermittently frozen match lengths, of the fish always being under the ice rather than the, often inexplicably, clear sections and that the fishing was actually better with ice than without. 

These of course were the days of bloodworm and joker winter leagues. Leagues that banned such baits were usually suspended in such crusty circumstances, locally at least.

Such events became the norm and over time a series of different steel weights with a screw thread attached to a chain and a decent rope became standard kit. I've seen anglers with sash window weights, lump hammer heads, bricks, etc., to do the damage but, for a little fella like my dearself, carrying the additional heavy weight on long walks in big matches was a drag, almost literally. Over time though, the method was perfected such that, on occasion, given the right thickness of ice, it was possible to cut a single rectangle out and slide it under the main sheet. This was far preferable to removing a thousand chunks and shards with a, soon to be shredded, landing net.

The worst occasions were those commencing with the heart-sinking pinging and twanging of the ice floe being pressurised and crushed against steel piling by that first boat and then kept fluid by the ensuing flotilla on inexplicable busy days of traffic. Days when the majority of the time was spent recreating fishing space. The best days however were with just occasional boats, sufficient to keep the water in a tinge of colour, following the initial commotion and stirring of silt caused by the ice breaker itself hitting the bottom. 

These were the days of ruffe, gudgeon, perch and, for the more skilled, bonus roach. We picked-up a number of tips along the way from the stars that used to frequent the matches we poured our hard earned money into and yet when those match fishing boots were hung-up for the final time I'd have to confess that bloodworm and joker were baffling to the end to me. Much to others' amusement the method just went straight over my head and yet I was told it was so simple. 

There was a particular day when all team mates were otherwise engaged that I decided to attend a match on the Wyrley & Essington Canal. An out and out 'joker job' for small fish. There must've been other things on as it wasn't a huge turn-out, maybe 40-odd anglers. Anyway I drew where I was lead to believe the winner would come from, with spare pegs both sides, and, with an hour to go, I thought I was well clear of the field, with about 3lbs, catching behind a log laying on the edge of the far shelf! 

Well, with half an hour to go, there was a commotion to my left and matey boy, who had previously had very little, has only hooked a carp! 

That was as close as it ever got in bloodworm and joker matches against top opposition. On most other occasions it would have been simpler have put £10 on a runner at Warwick, selected by pin and blindfold, and taken my chances. 

I've waffled about little gems falling from the mouths of others before and in the bloodworm stakes there were many, but, it being a method I would come to endure rather than enjoy, it was, rare that these nuggets were put into positive practice. 

There was a time when a top angler was catching better stamp roach, we gleaned, on a single joker using a bristle waggler and a slow fall with 3no13's spread down the line. We tried it, and the roach didn't feed, anywhere. 

In another period it was the thing to dump a load of worm down the middle in the hope of snaring a skimmer or two later. That failed miserably and I also recall big roach being caught six inches to a foot off bottom late in the match and that didn't produce a bean, let alone a roach, for the FF&F net. 

Anyway, needless to say that 'the blood' did not flow in this angler in the same way that a grain of hemp or a pinch of bread could get it racing through the veins when they worked! 

Friday, 29 January 2021

An Exciting Snow & Ice Event

Yesterday it was 11 degrees C, overcast, breezy and yet, having double-checked, it was still January, not April.

Last weekend the frost formed a sparkling coat on Saturday evening, the likely swim for Sunday was labelled

Leam levels had dropped significantly at the end of the week and, while water temperatures had been rising, with it a sudden change reverted it back to a meagre 4°C

Identifying fishable slacks with a known clean river bed was a challenge but, on the basis that fish don't move far from their regular haunts, the first hole selected was where a small backwater met the main flow coming straight towards the bank and leaving a little slack perfect for the pole leger at 10-11m down the side of some linear phragmites growth while, to the west, a flock of 30 lapwing floated in a swirling spiral of apparent indecision

A gentle breeze blew with the main flow and brought a brief sprinkling of snow pellets to wake the fingers and numb the face. Woodpeckers 'kecked' between the naked ash boughs as a male buzzard braked on urgent wings to briefly take-up position below them

A Covid-inflicted alternative lobworm supplier had delivered a wizened and partly dead batch of otherwise prime turbid-water bait in the morning but, even had it been vigorous and healthy, chances were slim

A sharp suck of freezing air, a split second after the snow, punctuated a deeply felt swirl in the slack. Not the kind of action one might anticipate but a trend that was to typify the weekend

Soon, another crash down stream, but this time a precariously balanced piece of floodwater flotsam had become dislodged, fallen and resurfaced like a pole dropped, end-on, off a quay

Lifting the rig, set at around 12' with the water on, would occasionally meet with a snag but nothing was lost and the odd thing was gained

The turbulence of the swim became noticeably random once we became properly acquainted and, as one upsurge dragged the bite marker off line, like a grounded child clinging onto a roundabout, a chub of around two pounds burst the boil and surfed for 4 or 5 feet

Why such activity in such a cold, tumultuous and treacly environment is beyond comprehension but that was not the end of it

Nothing so exciting as a bite interrupted proceedings but that wasn't a deterrent to this PB clinging on for its life on one lift out of the bait. In fact it looked like a leaf until it started wriggling madly... 

I'm sure a tiny one of these little beauties, that wouldn't look out of place in a rockpool, had graced the palm years before, but sadly the grey matter stretcheth not sufficiently to recall it

Another couple of swims were tried but the dead or dying bait left little confidence in the jar so an 'X' was marked on the spot for the Sunday and a laboured walk back across a crispening sodden meadow drew the evening to a close


Next morning, for no apparent reason, the 'X' wasn't appealing and the lower limbs headed the opposite way, downstream, where three nice slacks caught the eye and were gently tickled into, the hope of, action for half an hour or so each on a straight lead having attempted to fish the Saturday swim again but, with the water about a foot lower, it was pretty much unfishable due to the changed turbulence and after losing the whole pole rig that implement was thrown into the Land Rover and out came the trusty Avon Quiver. To no avail either, of course! 

Meanwhile, as warned by the wireless from London, the sky burned a smokeless fire from the east. A prelude to the epilogue

While irritating the second swim such that it's mouth became clamped shut, more fish were splashing under an overhanging bush on a bend tight to the bank below me

More inexplicable behaviour at a slightly reduced 3.8degC water temperature

Moving to swim 4 of the session snow fell and fell heavily such that soon two inches of the fluffiest stuff had built up on all that was previously in view. Loose items such bait dropper, scissors and chopping pot had to be dug from the whiteness to be rediscovered and the wider scene became immediately Christmassy, a month too late

Nothing moved for some time until a pair of Jackdaw flapped west followed a loose flock of Carrion crow. I flicked the rod tip to reveal a quiver again, just in the faintest hope, but that was all it would be. There really was no chance of a bite but the experience of sitting through a complete snowstorm from start, watching it build up, to walking back through its freshly deposited crunchiness was a rare event and, as I exchanged pleasantries with Multidogman by the car, we were in firm agreement that the opportunity to be out in it was not to be missed

How much of our lives do we spend constrained by bricks and mortar in ignorance of the true realities of life?


His Artificial Liteness, Eric Weight, has again been working his magic with minimal input from yours truly based on autumnal angling fare.

The results can be viewed here or via the tab at the top of the page

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

The Snow Fish

A snow chub had been on the agenda since returning to angling now some 8 years or so back

Catching it took some time but the accompanying reward of an inner completeness was worth it

The first with any snow on the ground was something of a disappointment as the snow lay neither deep, nor crisp and more thinly patchy than even

At the second attempt, in proper crunchy, creaky, fresh snow, the anticipated satisfaction, if not more, was all around

Opportunities in more recent times have been more limited however with less non-work, snow-hit days available for such pursuits

Last weekend, the first of 2021, was not a contender but an afternoon session of around two hours at Rocky Res was always going to be a challenge even without any weather constraints at the time of year

Hoping for quality roach at 3°C with light showers wafting in behind me from the west, two open-end feeders were deployed at distance with 18 hooks on short helicopter links and red rubber maggots offering the natural presentation of an unnatural snack

Flurries of departing gulls headed to the nationally significant roost Draycote Water as the evening drew in. Coots were in and out of the water at each passing dog walker

Four roach, three of them noteworthy, topped to my left as dusk hinted at its intentions and at a distance that suggested the feeders sat in the right area 

As the afternoon progressed so the quality of the angling regressed to the sort of state that left a feeling of hopelessness. It became seriously cold and at sunset, when the bell tolls for we lesser mortals without night tickets to packaway, odd pellets of snow started to hit the water, and. as I reached for various items to tuck them under the umbrella, the left-hand alarm struck up a shocking shrill chirp and an urgent glance down witnessed the bobbin hit the rest and drop back to the ground, confirming a self-hooked fish

Lifting the rod, a very gingerly-played fish was slowly inched toward the bank, or so it was hoped. It became increasingly apparent that this probably was not the ultimate target and, as thoughts turned to the landing net, it took on that unmistakable increased power closer to the bank that can only mean one thing

Who'd've thought it. Not a huge fish at 3lbs 9ozs but a winter tench, a January tench and a snow sprinkled tench too, all in one freezing finale to an otherwise fish free afternoon. 

Which surely supports the adage, "Never give up"!