Sunday, 11 March 2018

Another Back-end to Die from.

This back-end of the traditional coarse fishing season has been, like so many others, a time of luck and opportunity.

One seeks to glean what one can from our rivers but dear old Jack Frost and John Snow(?) tend to intervene more often than not. Indeed when these two characters are not at large it's probably raining heavily anyway.

The albatross shot on the way back from Wiltshire a month or so ago hangs like a necklace of increasing pungency.


The Bloggers Challenge has proven a tremendous boost to the season. The careful planning of the pursuit of each species across all three platforms has been incredibly engaging and not a trip has gone by that wasn't influenced by the competition, the format of which I find completely enthralling.

I confess I had been targeting the overall leader board this time but of course in the knowledge that James would be way out in front by now; and such has been the case.

As a canal angler who has not spent any significant portion of his life fishing stillwaters (until the past three years or so) and whose regular river experience was in the distant past some thirty years back this has been an entertaining challenge and never has research been so thoroughly undertaken.

Despite this however the points-scoring fish caught to date were all duped within thirty minutes of home apart from the Hants Avon chub.

Some of the fishing has been incredible, the run of five Warks Avon barbel, smallest 9.12, for instance and the all round capacity to achieve that is Napton Reservoir.

In fact, if it were analysed, a good proportion of the fish will have come from the excellent waters of Leamington A A where much of the period has been spent.

For most participants though the challenge has been more of precisely that since Christmas. River pike had been a main target to get up above the measly 6lber extracted from the side of the keepnet in Summer 2017 but a mixture of lack of experience, the species seemingly going off the feed in general and plain bad luck conspired such that this would fail but, with a decent plan in place for the March 15th to May 1st period, the numerous hours spent in their pursuit would not, fingers crossed, prove too detrimental overall.

Chief mover over the past few days though has been Brian Roberts (no, not my local villager and former Cov City full back but of Pike Blog) with a quick burst of very impressive fish...2oz gudgeon, 8.4 bream, 1.9 roach, etc., etc.

Bloggers Challenge top 5's:

James Denison 1089
George Burton 871
Brian Roberts 795
Russell Hilton 680
Danny Everitt 601

James Denison 583
Brian Roberts 449
Mick Newey 376
Sean Dowling 316
George Burton 295

Brian Roberts 301
James Denison 296
George Burton 283
Danny Everitt 255
Russell Hilton 150

George Burton 293
Russell Hilton 246
James Denison 209
Ben Hennessy 133
Danny Everitt 128


So thoughts have turned to next season ('always will think this way, close season or not) and I've started enquiring and negotiating access to as much of the River Leam as possible. Currently at least another four more meadows have been added to the LAA stretches, our private meadow and the Godiva length, which may well come into play again.

I'm enchanted by the challenge of the river. A bit like a child with a pond net. It doesn't have to be the biggest, longest, most overfed capture but, given it is less than 10 minutes away at its closest, is hugely varied and contains a natural range & balance of species, a concerted effort for them is a great prospect.

Each water has its ceiling on sizes. A 5.11 Hants Avon Chub might equate to a 3.6 Leam fish and therefore, despite what the national angling press might seek to sensationalise, the fact is they are as worthy as each other in their relative ways.

A quick recce on two of the new lengths highlighted the obvious - that it will be difficult to find fishable holes in summer - but autumn and winter fishing with water on should prove fruitful.

Points scoring dace from new stretch of Leam on first visit

An updated list of River Leam p.b's will probably follow by way of targets and interest moving forward.

Currently main Leam p.b's are:
Chub 3.13
Roach 1.4
Dace 0.4.6
Perch 1.12
These from very limited opportunities given the length of the river that is theoretically fishable.

Certainly pike go to double figures, perch to 2.8 min., roach to 1.14, chub must go over 4lbs somewhere and the dace potential has not been met by the waters I have fished but I suspect fish over 8ozs are present in suitable places.


Since the Hants Avon trip the only noteworthy catch has been a nice bream of 4.5 from the Warks Avon, on a bread feeder sleeper rod while deadbaiting with hideously oversized mackerel parts, so with the final river weekend upon us, rod licences renewed, temperatures suddenly soaring into double figures but heavy rain causing local rivers to burst the season is highly likely to end on a river fishing wash-out and leave us wishing it had occurred either a touch sooner, or much later.

To repeat then; "A time of luck and opportunity"; enough time and too little opportunity, for this angler at least...but there's life in us yet!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Luck in, Look out.

Kingfisher poised overhead

A Long weekend

Long sessions and an unusually long drive.

Predators were offering themselves in the mind of temptation.

Lamprey, sprat & sardine were stocked with meat, bread & maggot the alternative options.

The days might provide a clay bed, a gravel bottom and chalk without cheese yet all would involve the Avon, both rivers and their respective rods.

Fellow blogger Nathan Walter had, very generously indeed, arranged a guest ticket on a stretch of the Hampshire Avon, in Wiltshire as it happened, but the prelude would play-out on its less vaunted Warwickshire namesake.



How trusting can wild birds possibly be?

Mute swan, moorhen, robin and even carrion crow all happy to risk trespassing in my space in a place where no doubt they are regularly fattened by the non-believers.

"What is it mummy? A Blackbird?".

"It's looks a bit big for a Blackbird darling".

The robin had a penchant for luncheon meat; the crow for bread and apple core; the moorhen of damaged foot for pretty much anything and the mute swan for floats. It's just not natural...but then fish take bread, pellets, bits of plastic, lures too. 

In reality it's just the natural world surviving by the most readily available means in tough conditions. Who could complain about that? It's not just humans content with an easy life.

For their part (the river fallen, pulling nicely, colour gently departing) the fish did not want bread, lamprey, sprat or herring in slack or along crease but they did have a taste for spam.

Loose feeding 5mm cubes regularly tight across near a distinct feature for an hour before adorning the meat-peppered gravel bottom with a hookbait gave the resident chub time to gain confidence and, without ever being rushed, gradually a very nice net of fish to three and a half pounds was compiled during the rest of the day until dusk. Not that there was any intention of using all the luck up locally with The Trip to follow.

We weren't holding back

Sixteen and a half pounds of fish. Chub from 1.14 plus a single perch of 1.9 on lamprey and a small roach on bread comprised the catch. Tomorrow would surely be an anticlimax after such a rewarding day but, with thoughts of grayling and dreams of giant glistening silver roach, there was no shortage of hope.



Rain for the two hour journey into Paradise. Rain in paradise. Rain on the way back. A childhood dream nevertheless

Thankfully it was not windy and thus the low air temperatures did not penetrate deeper than layer four of the cocoon.

Nathan paced the porch. Breakfast was not served but, a tap at the window, a cheery chat and soon we were devouring Wiltshire's finest to gird the guts for the challenge ahead.

Walking the stretch, an unseasonal chiffchaff foraged in the dense overhang that would prove to be the swim for the day. A steady seven foot trot down past the branches in water with 'that green tinge'.

My host imagined a dozen fish under each bush along the stretch and it was hard to disagree.

Steady trickling of maggots took a while to produce a bite but the trotting rod and centrepin performed nicely once the extension to fifteen feet was added. The first fish flattered to deceive and a serious impersonation of a big roach was the result.

Nathan and the wandering red or blue man sauntered forth in anticipation but we were all disappointed yet happy that something had been caught an hour or so in. Even if that fish was a chub of just over 2lbs and not the Holy Grail.

As things progressed a very satisfactory couple of hours, topped with three cracking and immaculate fish of 3.13, 4.0.8 and a new river p.b. of 4.4, ensued. All coming to a single red or fluoro maggot trotted under a 4.5 swan chubber.

Grins all round.

Meanwhile Nathan really struggled in a variety of swims but gallantly refused to move elsewhere as long as I was catching. In fact it was very noticeable that he was a thrilled as I was with the experience; and certainly the red or blue man had not caught since we arrived either.

Cetti's warbler and water rail issued their unmistakable calls from the far bank and a tidy bird list extended.

In retrospect it was clear that I had simply been fortunate enough to sit on a shoal and it was panning-out at lunchtime like an end had come to it anyway with only one more 2+ fish coming after a lost leviathon turned downstream and could not be stopped on the fine tackle required to conjure a maggot induced nibble this particular day. A further p.b. outwith the grasp.

We pondered the option of a move but on consulting the Timex there really wouldn't have been time and so the decision was made to stay, although the ghillie would be trying another swim and, for my part, I resolved to start feeding bread mash about two hours before close of play such that it would drift in the flow and settle under the leading face of the bush.

Regular enquiries from small fish kept the trigger finger twitchy and an hour or so later a more pronounced question met with the inevitable and the final chub of the day was on.

This time the two of us were conjoined via a size 8 to 4.4 fluorocarbon.

On the face of it there should only have been one winner and, ultimately,  that of course would be the case but it took a while and the further upstream the fish was drawn the better it felt in the flow, she facing into the aqueous pressure, the trotter with other ideas and angles.

Prior to this day the best fish this rod had handled was only just over two pounds but it really was now showing itself to be an impressive piece of design and engineering. Not the most recent of products but new is not always best and the fighting curve was a joy.

The fish meanwhile was not so impressed by the gear albeit it was getting to subdue this prey slowly.

Soon, mouth out, a gasp of air and a street slide sideways had it in the net.

"Another four!", I muttered to myself.

No reply.

Rod laid to one side and a lift of the net met with nothing. Aha, the net must have been caught but, no, it transpired it was the belly of the fish that caused the issue.

This was no four pounder. Earlier p.b. beware.

I knew the sling weighed around a pound, and 64 ounces on my small yet perfectly formed scales represented 4lbs.

"107 ounces!", the scales pronounced. Less 16odd was looking like 90 ounces.

What did that mean?

I was reckoning on five pounds ten.

Shaking and not unduly stunned I floated along to my partner for the day who simply asked, "What's that?!" upon sight of straining net approaching.

"A massive chub", came the bemused reply, "I reckon it's 90 ounces, 5.10!?".

We gave it a proper, considered, undithering weigh and Nathan confirmed 5 pounds 11 ounces on the button.

Second and massive p.b. of the day

A truly beautiful fish, yet more impressive than that; and in celebration the local otter drifted past and, just as quickly, out of sight.

A conclusion to events and I couldn't thank poor old Nathan enough. He wore Lone Angler and occasionally cut the figure of one but he remained irrepressibly enthusiastic for my catches and that's just fishing; sometimes you're on 'em, sometimes you ain't and there's nowt to be done. At least as the host he could sleep comfortably that night. There is surely nothing worse than inviting an angler and them catching nothing.

Two consecutive river chub p.b's, a catch of 22lbs, a good friend made, tales and knowledge shared and new lessons learned.

What could be better, but hold on!...there's Monday yet.



Warwickshire Avon again...piking.

We track down the topping dawn shoal and good pike tear through very active two to six ounce fish three or four times.

Deadbaits deployed.

Three runs, three inconclusively hooked fish, all lost and one dropped run.

Secondary bread swim primed ready for last two hours of daylight.


As I said, you're either on 'em or your not.


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Ice and a Slice

Dawn was sullen. Cold and unmoving in the crystalline shroud

Fingers burnt to metal, numbness pervading. Conductivity seeking to turn flesh to ice. Hard pellets of snow blistering the complexion like a hundred wind-driven air guns

The cocoon would stretch to its limit by both the day's acts of God and chronic Festive fall-out. The nylon mushroom, stout as a defence, would only offset so much bitterness

Gulls cackled in a rural melee as wild duck took flight and out of the fear a solitary brown, beautifully tortoisehell-marked, downy feather braked from a burst of turbulence and floated to earth, landing suspended by its quill, from least year's dock. A reminder of a fragility we oft-times lose sight of

There was tingling water; there were clouds indistinct from the frozen pearls that swept in arcs towards the pitch and there were open fields; ridge and furrow magnified by a coat of pristine perfection but, sub-surface, who could predict? Any attempt would be decorated with more pessimism than encouragement but the pitch was free and, with an unstinting confidence in the outcome, we embarked on this foreseen 'one bite, one fish' morning with, at times, as many as three hands tied behind our back; the first by winter

A guru, once deposed, but an oracle nevertheless, advised that if anything would be sufficiently enticing in a challenge such as this it would be a caster. We had bread and lamprey; the latter in preparation for an inaccessible location this easily avoidable invisible sunrise

Two hands tied

Knowledge though was on our side we thought. Banking on success in bad days on the bank, seek out the banker location. The outcome would never be in doubt. The inevitable speck dispatched into the margin swayed and drifted down so slowly that it seemed never likely to disappear from view, but it did, captured by the brown hand of the depths and dragged into the dark. The top quarter of the mirror visible to the straining eye

Pre-planning had been absolute, nothing forgotten yet nothing unnecessary

Some overspill attractant flicked along the path of geological soup for those more in need would be consumed by a bouncing female bomb of that contradiction, a brown blackbird, followed by the red of breast in waiting for the red of fin


Week in. Week out. The Captains were afloat, nothing contains a percentage. Not even this most miserable of days.

Within a hour three had slipped past with the barest hint of commotion but we knew that, on days such as this, when tranquillity would deliver the prize, this would clamp our third hand, shackled and useless...and so it continued

Once the hour-glass was spent the sand settled the account at zero, the motions to be repeated. An uninviting yet disarmingly productive desperation spot took the imagination and soon the cast was made into the by now enlarged stars of ice that floated toward the face like perforated marshmallows, iced and sliced

That thing that is always against us would soon bring itself to bear. The cocoon at thermal breaking point, the ice water trickling down to the boots of mud-pie. It would not be long before a line had to be drawn and tidied away

Endurance is one thing, stupidity another. The latter was on the white horizon

The lamprey rod broken-down and all peripheral paraphernalia packed; a quick glance, a twitch, a lift and that confirmatory delay. A strike, a curve, a whispered, "Yes!"

"It's a roach", the fight said

"Now don't come off"

"Ooh, a nice one too"

The obligatory, "C'mon you beauty", over the net and lifted clear without so much as a splash

"Not quite a pound, I'm giving it 0.14.8", was the internal reaction to this lifesaving chill pill

The scales suggested 0.15.10 over three measurements but never has a fish been so beautiful, so pleasing

So huge

Monday, 15 January 2018

The Snag Is...

The Project that Eric and I are working on has proven difficult

The unending fluctuations in the weather since mid-December have made any likelihood of consistent sport ultra-slim

It's been a case of blanks occasionally punctuated with fish, rather than vice versa as we would prefer it, and some encouraging wildlife but no pattern to life

The rivers have been bank-high for some time and still retain colour, especially the Warks Avon, and more rain is due so that can only be good in maintaining that position

Lakes remain very cold and canals, generally, still retain some colour but would fish feed this past weekend?

They needed to


The call of our biggest crow, the raven, currently resonates it seems in every rural corner of the countryside. With their distinctive voices, and some relatively squeaky ones for amusement, they offer the warmth of their unending charm these cold mornings

When we arrived on Saturday morning it was no different, the accompaniment of both green and great spotted woodpeckers to boot. Resident moorhens, stripped of their cover a fortnight since by hackers, hugged the far piles in their gentle waterborne perambulations. Stealth mode without the camouflage, trying to be as invisible as possible 

The Project would benefit from this location. One that has produced some of the best canal roach catches for FF&F over the years including one caster caught net of well over ten pounds and a burst of five fish over a pound, and up to one pound six ounces, last winter

A slow start on bread but the pull of the canal with the daily adjustment of inter-lock water levels makes it difficult to catch more than the odd one on the lift method. The bait, no doubt, is waving around, yet anchored, and those erudite adversaries are no stranger to the inadequacies of this angler. They pose and stare, as fish do, and carefully browse the mashed bread scattered in the boat channel but ignore the bait

Once or twice before I had experimented running the rig through with the flow by simply swapping the BB anchor shot for a no.4 pushed up the line a touch and the depth reduced in the hope that the flake would be suitably weighted-down as to be presented at the acceptable depth relative to the canal bed

In two trial periods on Saturday the second produced a bite and the only fish of the day was taken. A roach of just eight ounces but it was a welcome blank-saver when three 'proper' lift bites had failed to result in fins and scales on the bank, albeit the hook length was struck-off on what could have been a decent fish, the other two being completely missed probably due, simply, to bad timing

A sparrowhawk drifted along the willow canopy to a cacophony of alarm calls, and slipped-off behind the canalside house. Gulls, even when just above freezing, found a thermal and raced in spirals toward the regional fluffy grey throw that stretched north, south, east and west overhead

A move for a few minutes into a darker area more overhung by trees did not enhance matters and the conclusion was drawn that another day would be better. Any day would be better

That evening our eldest, The Dog, would be getting married in the USA, for us by Facebook Video-link; a touching yet also matter of fact affair to enable him to permanently move there to be with his Queen Victoria sooner than would otherwise have been possible

More would be explained when he returned to Blighted on Wednesday


Sunday, alone, treading the trimly manicured towpath, the 'go-to' area came into view

Moor Morehens than one could shake a rail at seem to be resident here, constantly in dispute over a particular blade of rush or other but they are a favourite water bird and so this behaviour is largely accepted as quaint. This is not the case with spring-fighting coots though which really do drive this poor soul to distraction
The water looked too heavily laden with super-fine silt to offer any confidence yet, upon introducing a speck-let of bread, the Grand Union sought to deceive the angler, who, on the basis of turbidity alone might well have expected little from the occasion. The white blob was visible until around ten inches (25cm) below water level, a definite pointer to the bait being successful

Focus was all this day

One rod, one bait, only one potential excuse (incompetence)

Full concentration, no distractions, no pressure; just as it is preferred 

The surface was quite still but, like the previous day the canal pulled gently to the left. Initially the standard lift method was deployed as per usual and we'd take it from there

2nd cast after enticing the quarry with one and half slices of mashed bread the rig met with a supreme lift bite and solid fish was on, one with far greater energy, power and urgency than one might expect in mid-January at one point making off for the far rushes 

The local cuts do house some magnificent roachXbream hybrids, if there is such a thing, I have come to love 'em. From memory, at least one, maybe two, have been coughed-up into the F,F&F landing net by either North Oxford or Grand Union canals in recent years that exceeded a previously deemed impossible 4lbs plus, together with a few more over 3.8. This one, once relieved of a valiant battle, caused the scales to quiver at 3lbs 13ozs

A VERY roach-like Hybrid
Soon after in pursuit, a bream of just under 2lbs joined the rXb in the imaginary net and the tow started to increase a touch

With no roach to show for the session as yet the float was slid up 7" or so and BB swapped for 4 again, immediately a ten ounce roach fell to the ruse as the flake drifted past its very nose but that was it

As it had been a boat-free morning until the first came through after that moment another swim was fed further from the bridge where the cut is distinctly more tree-lined and apparently shaded, albeit the trees were fastigiate and sparse of branch

Again, soon after casting-in with a close-by raven cronking as it looked over its shoulder in the direction of the bite, another hard fighting fish was on, this one a 2lbs 2ounce rXb hybrid; by now though the over-rapid distant thumping of a diesel-powered narrowboat could be heard above the birdlife and came into view to the right, stern depressed and bow waves imitating the severn bore lapping along each bank without subsiding. Thankfully two other similar moored craft at perfect distance caused the eroding vessel to ease-off, ridiculously well in fact as it happened and a friendly, "Thank you for slowing down", not only met with a, "Say again?....No problem at all Sir", and a wave, but also an extended gentle exit from the swim with a higher gear not being engaged until at least 50 yards away

In the forced prelude, rather than the imperceptible wake, of that speedy but immediately born-again boater the trotting option was again taken and as the red float tip ran into the perceived zone it dithered then sailed under, and this time the actual target was on. A good roach of just over one pound, one ounce fell to the moving bait. Clearly this is now something to concentrate on more often and endeavour to fine tune

A pound plus of Grand Union beauty
The total for just six fish in two and half hours was a distinctly rewarding ten pounds and five ounces. Two hybrids, one bream and three roach 


After what had proven a particularly exhausting weeks' work, I treated myself to another relaxed session straight after

Well, via the pork pie shop 

This time we were on the Warwickshire Avon in the most awkward, barely accessible Avon swim imaginable

The remaining bread mash from the morning was dropped into the flow of the crease well above an over-hanging branch and an access platform through the deposited sludge for a rod-rest created out of all available loose sticks and twigs

After a bit of general jiggery-pokery a nodding bite on the quiver commenced, and endured, on a large piece of crust off a three inch (75mm) tail intended for a p.b. chub

The strike met with a weighty fish that tried, without any great power, to secrete itself under the downstream branches. Soon though it was just under the surface and wafting its bronze flanks in a very unchub-like manner

Within a spilt second it was apparent that this was a good river bream, not a chub at all. Niceties were exchanged, he was noted at 4.10 and slipped gently back into a deep-ish slack, near what looked like a mink residence, to adopt another steady position in the coloured falling water without doubt

There was yet more bread to be eaten after all


Bait cost for the weekend, given the quantity left too?

- 80p

You can't beat that for value of entertainment!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Return of the Mysterons

Heavy turbidity as the aftermath of snow melt, rain, silt and road salt eased away. The Stream remained fulsome and hearty but since the preceding tea time Little Johnny Frost had been at work. Sparkled did everything; the grass, teasels, flood flotsam, burdocks, fences, trees and of course the water margins

Over the past two weeks the fortune to see three otters, two certainly dogs, across three watercourses, and all in daylight, has been a dream. Some brethren of the maggot might claim this a nightmare, but not here

These magnificent, intelligent, artful creatures mesmerise like no other. Bites and ravens ignored as peripheral

Hauling-out onto a vast raft of torn-out bulrushes, logs and branches deposited by the first high waters of this turbulent winter the dog otter slipped in and out of the water of this County's primary river and then out of sight just 10m away, oblivious to human presence and the 11m of carbon pole running past his flanks

Later at dusk he returned, swam past this silent still frame, took-up a lounger on the raft again and proceeded to utter a series of chesty coughs. Fish bone stuck? Who knows, but another fascinating moment in the company of a top predator was there to be absorbed

By this time mist, leaning towards fog, was befuddling the autofocus and all we were left with was those Mysteron eyes and ghostly apparitions

Dodgy pic of Mr Ron

The canal of childhood development, tough but rewarding, was behaving as is its wont. Perfect colour for fish but Mr Hackett had preceded us and "The Bushes", those that the great Billy Makin would seek on a bee-line after an early bath on another stretch in pursuit of ten pounds of caster roach before tea, were no more. The whole stretch, and indeed every other we have seen, trimmed to the piles (nasty business)

They will regenerate of course but what focusses the piscine attention meanwhile with no cover? Marinas? Quite possibly. One might like to think the fish will spread-out and offer greater eveness throughout the affected parts but that is for the future to solve

One twelve ounce roach (plus a thirteen ounce perch to TBW) and thoughts turned to the flask. Reaching for it a stream of bubbles appeared, diagonally, near side to far, then a log appeared tight to the concrete under brambles followed by the logs head, it had eyes. This beauty was a good four foot long; sleek, oily, alert, and hunting

Capturing inadequate film it turned and zig-zagged bank-to-bank with more bubbles, occasionally raising its head to breathe

The canals in these parts support otter sprainting locations under the majority of bridges, the longer the bridge the more used it seems, yet this was the first canal sighting of His Majesty where, it might be suspected, he and his kith are generally nocturnal given the levels of bankside and waterborne disturbance
Dodgy pic - Ron's Head

Back to the stream...

Eventually some topping fish were spotted and three or four nice roach up to three parts of a pound enhanced by two chub of just a big gudgeon over two pounds made for a very nice 6lbs+ catch in the conditions 

It was during this period of intense concentration on the pole with bread feeder that a splashy swirl occurred upstream and, turning to view, it was immediately obvious what had caused it.

More bubbling through the swim and head and body popped up some ten metres or so downstream. This one not so big but clearly also hunting among the bankside roots and debris. Suspected as a female, camera in hand the pursuit commenced but she was brighter and was out of sight all-but instantaneously leaving only emptiness and some out of focus film to remember her by, AGAIN, and this time to poor to contemplate sharing
With apologies to:
  • All otters called Ron
  • Gerry Anderson
  • My reader

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Are Things on the Up?

Even the day after Boxing Day the full english looked appealling despite the gastronmic gut-glut that was this festive period. The prize though was not to be found on the fork nor in the chocolate sprinkled cup. It would, perchance, be outside lurking in the leaf litter

There would be no rush

TBW would be explaining manual focus on his now optically-enhanced super-snapper, thanks to Santa, and this for sure, not given to brevity, would take some time

The fat had barely congealed as we strode to the spot we interpreted as 'the one'. Myself with ancient bin's, he with his world (for now) around his neck


Blackbird, five of them

Song thrush. Never tire of those understated, clever beauties

A chattering group of tits

Ah! Chaffinches. Three under one canopy, two protected by another. These could be key. 'It' might be with them

The sun (yes, the sun) was behind the target however and it was a case of risking the worst by wandering gently past before turning and waiting, the light now on our backs, at a respectful distance 

Goldfinches twittered among the alders; no redpolls, no siskins. A robin, committed to 'film' together with them. A wren

Bullfinches "phee, phee" in modest canopy-high flight and settle, partly obscured by black branches, 'twas ever thus

The chaffinches begin the return, first a male to join a female uninterested in the initial disturbance, and a third

Still no sign

A more hefty bird alights in a small tree...bin's to face

"That's him", matter of fact. This twitching lark lacks the excitement of unexpected encounters but when ten minutes from home it's not necessarily to be ignored, even at these reduced adrenaline levels

The lens is tested and the bird captured

Hawfinch, and, though a touch distant for an ultra-clear view, not in doubt. The oversized bill, the deep white wingbar, the size, the build. This would be for TBW (Top Bird Watcher) a lifetime first and only a second for myself. Both twitched somewhat tainted ticks but ticks they were

The avifauna scatters. 'The bird' heads behind the clump

Enter (stage left) - Blunderbirder One

Stealthily waltzing under the cap of self-importance, midway between our dearselves and 'the bird', Swarovski's at the ready

He'd get the bugger

We retreat to the sanctuary of family and further frothy cappucinos. Smug, sated and gobsmacked in equal measure

For Blunderbirder the search continued, and so it should. The great tit


New Year's Eve and the torrent was as strong milk-laden tea, still carrying the second wave of snow melt. An incorrect reading of 4degC in the water was corrected to 7degC much later in the day so we were perhaps psychologically a smidgen more negative than was necessary

To seek the slacks, we waded through puddle and mud, weapons at hand, and there it was. A gentle backflow in a massive eddy that would do quite nicely as a starting point

Three and two thirds anglers were passed on the way. The first, consumed by expectation, didn't flinch. The second, sporting a sheepish smile that said, "You caught me", confessed no bites in half an hour. The third, sat facing the full flow with no respite flanked by two non-practising fishermen, was keen to advise that it was, "Really fast!! I chucked my lead out there (points to the raging flow) and it was down here (points downstream in the edge) before it hit the bottom". You don't say

TBW chose to drop a small maggot feeder just over the near shelf. The colour being completely opaque, the preference where I sat was to offer lobworms on a similar line, bread 10-11m out in the eye of the eddy where it was least busy and thirdly a sleeper rod with a half herring deadbait which, I should add, was not expected to do anything other than slumber. We were right on the latter point

It will come as no devastating shock that the non-deadbait fishing also proved very difficult but on the F,F&F Scale of Engagement this type of fishing, against all odds when any so-called sane angler would have sought solace on a Stillwater or by staying in bed, is dinging loudly on that 'Test your Strength" bell

After an hour or so a series of taps on a lobworm resulted in a resistance-free strike and that was it for that line

The bread was presented with pole feeder dropped slap bang into the cornea. The tiny feeder crammed with breadmash, the hook concealed in Warburton's finest. There would be fish here, there had to be. They would be drifting around the eddy seeking the easiest snack in the quietest flow

Third careful drop and the bite marker bobbed and drew away. A pleasing curve established in the pole and the hefty chub-anticipating elastic extended a metre or so, blinking into daylight, with the unsuspecting startled ten feet below the waterline

"Got one", came the call, "No idea what it is though. It's not a perch and doesn't feel chubby but in these conditions it could be I suppose". A monster roach, albeit largely as a somewhat wild dream, might also be marginally, perhaps 10%, less than impossible here

No runs, no extreme power but an ability to remain at a good depth set this fish apart. TBW manned the net, the fish stayed pretty much as hooked and proceeded to circle slowly eventually drifting against the backflow toward the near bank. It appeared, line wrapped around the body. Foul hooked perhaps? A bream but difficult to size in the murky water, two plus we agreed. TBW then chipped-in at three and no one could disagree. Partly because I wasn't inclined to and partly because no one else was there

The fish slid over the rim and as it did it untangled. The hook was clearly in the lip and the hooklength snapped leaving just the 16 hook attached to the upper lip with a tiny pig tail of line protruding

"Right, I'm going three, four", spouted the ghillie, confident

"That's not a bad call", I replied, "But I'm going for 3.8. He's thick in the body though"

The scales confirm three things; the actual weight to be four pounds six ounces; we two to be bad estimators of weight and the fish to be the fourth biggest F,F&F river bream yet

Mrs and (grown-up) Miss Entertainingly-Forthright, (well, we were near Stratford-upon-Avon where even the spud guns are double-barrelled) walked vigorously past for the second time

It went like this

Us: "Oh, we did catch one by the way"
Miss E-F: "Oh good, where?". She feigned to tiptoe, hoping to get a look
Us: "It's gone back now"
Miss E-F: "Oh, I would've liked to see that!"
Mrs E-F: "How big". She spread her hands by varying degrees, indicating first three feet long, then one, then two
Us: "It was a good one, four pounds"
Mrs & Miss E-F: "Hey, that's not bad at all, well done"
Us: "There you go you see, not so mad after all are we?"
Mrs E-F: "No, not so mad. Just marginally"
Us: "Thanks for the vote of confidence!"
(Cackles all round)

The fact no other bites were enjoyed mattered not. This was what fishing in the conditions was all about. Fishing for a bite from who knows what, who knows when; it could be a ruffe, it could be a barbel, or, it could be a bream.

Magic stuff

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Variety and Application...or...What to do when it gets tough

Christmas Day a warm memory, the FF&F household refreshingly quiet as the others recover and a scattering of Santa seed brings a small flock of chaffinches to the bare bonfire surrounds, but the male dominated group are flighty and currently peer out from the trees awaiting the first mover to trigger the rest to follow.

A lone fieldfare, a much overlooked species but quite beautiful if one takes the time, in violent pursuit of anything thrush-like, ensures the fallers are his

Pondering the last month, it has been outstanding in its unpredictability and, largely weather driven, hit-and-miss-ness. It pays to plan carefully and ensure anything is possible at any moment but even then these intentions will fail more often that not without stable conditions.

Applying the experience of the decades is so important at such times and, rifling through the notes, it makes for a veritable eclecto-feast of tactics:
15.11.17 - Canal - sea deadbaits & lures
17 11 17 (am) - Reservoir - Cage feeder & bread
17 11 17 (pm) - Stream - Cage feeder & liquidised bread
18 11 17 - Reservoir - Slider & caster
19 11 17 - Reservoir - Experimental 'zig rig' with bread
20 11 17 - Reservoir - Waggler & caster
22 11 17 - Canal - Spratt deadbaits
25 11 17 - Canal - Lift method & bread
26 11 17 - Reservoir - 2 x maggot feeders
28 11 17 - Canal - Lift method & bread
29 11 17 - Reservoir - 'Zig rig' & bread
02 12 17 - Canal - Lift method & bread
03 12 17 - The Stillwater - Mackerel deadbaits
17 12 17 - ditto
18 12 17 - River - Pole feeder & bread mash

Minus 10C overnight; five or six inches of snow; heavy rain; 11C in the day; clear skies & sun have all been over and upon us during that period and none of them to any benefit for the angler unless they were to stick around and become the norm

The above and more determine the unquestionable need to keep the mind active and look to apply methods that will work in the particular circumstances that prevail, led by the preceding and present weather

In all those trips since the last post (not now bugler!) there have been one or two highlights that must not be omitted. Top of the list, firmly, a call from a dear old former traveling companion who, since our paths diverged, made his merry way into one of the handful of top English match angling teams as soon as I stopped holding him back(!), captained them until 3 years ago and took part in the World Club Championships. We could have spoken for hours and it took only a few seconds of the call to get onto angling! I can see it will be regular thing now that we're back in touch

Onto actual angling - a second-largest stillwater pike of 8.11 was rapidly subsumed into the afterglow of a p.b. dismantling lump of 16lbs precisely. The third bite in three casts at dawn. A perfectly spotless fish, well those spots that weren't supposed to be there at least, if you get my drift-float. To top it, there was still some snow around to enhance her visage

A three pounds nine ounce chub first cast on the pole feeder with bread was welcome on a particularly tricky day on the Warwickshire Avon. The somewhat subdued fight brought about by the elastic a boon when fishing this method. Unfortunately a slip and sudden flip saw it back in the drink before I had even taken the camera from the bag, so to speak. Accomplished as ever.

The chaffinches have returned on the other side of the glass and, grabbing the bin's, we seek that gem of the winter, a brambling, but no such fortune as yet. It usually takes a prolonged spell of desperately cold weather to bring such rarities to the garden and today follows that pattern.

Slider-fished double caster was successful in teasing a two pound perch from eleven feet of chilly reservoir water in a clear patch when weed was problem further out but it took three repeat sessions of regular feeding that same swim to encourage the blighter and some of his small brethren to risk a nibble

The hawfinches continue to elude us but regularly visiting bearded tit showed well enough in the reservoir reedbed, a male again this year. Sometimes as many as six are seen but just the one on this occasion of passage. An agitated individual, seemingly unable to settle, and, flitting from reed stem to reed stem, made itself impossible to photograph and therefore there is no proof to share

Of course I would want normally to close on that now traditional note of a nice big a canal roach. In fact a fish of 1lb 3ozs 3 drams from the banker swim and a bright highlight in a largely testing six week period only very occasionally punctuated with gems but, inexplicably, there is no pic so we will have to make do with this unseasonal tench taken two days before Christmas on a rubber/real red maggot balanced hookbait hopefully wafting just above the reservoir bed. This welcome winter imposter went 2.15.0 but when it came to etiquette in front of camera she was clearly found flipping wanting!

The day will close with heavy rain and then snow

The only certainty therefore being the uncertainty of the weather