Sunday, 4 November 2018

Something Completely Different

Eric Weight, of Artificial Lite blog, and I worked on a project last winter and now is therefore the appropriate time to share it

This is our first foray of this nature and it has been a great challenge but hopefully it will be suitably received

I cannot thank Eric enough for his expertise, advice and honesty in this journey.

Click Here!

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

An Indication of Syndication


At the end of last term's Bloggers' Challenge a very prominent loose end was left wafting in the breeze

The end that was loose related to the next undertaking, the next challenge in fact. Whilst usually the alternate season away from the competition is welcome, when I came to look the letters had crumbled from the signpost

Disatisfied with the limitations of local known river fishing options my mind started to wander, followed closely by the F,F&F bus and then my poor old feet

As it happened I ended-up spending the close season seeking-out new venues, mainly rivers and, initially, mainly my (now beloved) River Leam

Somehow it was almost as though each landowner I approached had never had the idea before and, in what seemed like just a few bewildering days, rights were acquired to some lovely waters all of which have one thing in common - exclusive peace and quiet. One massive plus of a small Syndicate, admittedly with higher fees than your average Angling Club, is this factor. You know that it is hardly ever going to be a race for a swim. So, after extending the angling antennae, there were soon ten like-minded individuals on board and, if everyone fished the whole range of venues on a given day, on average we'd still only see one other angler and we'd know him anyway.

At least four of our number are Bloggers and thus "Warwickshire Bloggers Angling Syndicate" was born...WBAS

The latter was an idea three or four of us had previously floated briefly when the Saxon Mill stretch became available after Warwick club relinquished rights, but at the time we concluded it was a difficult venue, being generally too public

----

I must confess first thoughts were to try to gain access to as much of the Leam as possible as most of it is not fished and those areas that could be are slowly shrinking away. Godiva have lost half of their water and much of Leamington A A's is inaccessible.

Once it had dawned on me that I couldn't fund the whole venture myself I started to ask around and before we knew it there we were all sat round a table next to the weir at the Saxon Mill, with that unmistakable cologne of treated sewage that pervades the intimate areas of the Warwickshire Avon mistily perfuming us like an air freshener working in reverse. We ran through the venues and after some polite arm-wrestling with landowners I think it's fair to say we are all still pinching ourselves with what we have managed to achieve so quickly.

Part of the initially evolving idea was to gain control of the remaining North Oxford Canal and possibly also some of the more accessible combined Oxford and Grand Union Canals but it transpired this was probably my own dream and no one else's(!) so we quickly dropped that idea and concentrated on rivers and the search for a pool.

Sean Dowling (Off the Oche, Down the River) was full of suggestions and came-up with some crackers that came to fruition, with more that we didn't have the wherewithal to follow-up.

The landowners have all proved very amenable and open-minded, within their obvious business limitations, and each venue has it's own quirks that we have to work within, one of which, by way of example, limits river access to winter months...no problem, it's weeded-up in summer anyway!

What could be better? Exclusive access, no other anglers, way off the beaten track, peace and tranquility, unmanaged river banks, no litter, good fishing, new locations to grapple with, great variety. Nothing beats it.

Perfect.

So here we now sit with options as varied as the Warwickshire Stour, River Leam, Warwickshire Avon and a picturesque, comfortable, sheltered pool. The latter being the subject of a long-term project to create a tench and crucian fishery, and for which we are opening membership to ten others to share the challenge.

----

The Tinier Inhabitants of the Warks Stour

The one magical thing about these waters is their mystery. The majority have not been fished in anger for years, if at all, and the potential is thoroughly engaging.

We've set-up a WhatsApp group to share findings and shallow-off a potentially steep learning curve. This also helps to quickly and easily disseminate more strategic messages without time-consuming meetings. Something I think we all welcome even though the amount of messages inevitably becomes a touch unwieldy at times and WhatsApp Fatigue (and known disorder!) can kick-in.

For my part, my first visit to the Stour stretch was my first visit to the Stour, the only contact I'd had with it previously being running my finger over it in BAA Handbooks as a teenager,  enthralled by tales of deep holes and giant bream. Fish that I never felt capable of catching I should add, assuming they were snared either by accident or by smelly, bewhiskered men with ivy growing up their legs in the way people currently nurture tattoos. This at a time when my modus operandi was to stand in the water wearing a thick jumper and tie, fishing the roach pole, like the late Ray Mumford (who I once watched openly cheat in a match on the Great Ouse by the way, a moment that quickly changed my wardrobe. What a magisterial name for a river that is, the Great Ouse, capturing it's scale, history, latent power and piscatorial magnitude in but two small words, and yet, I look back at them on the page in a reflective, Miranda-type, way and think what strange words they are).

I've drifted.

The Stour was, is, everything the Leam should be, were it not for the extent of its clay geology. Similar in width; shallow then deeper; rushing then still; weeded then clear; shaded then sunlit; devoid then infested; untouched yet touchable and with wildlife abounding. I actually flushed a little owl from the bankside field margin midday while roving with rod, net and bumbag full of the usual. The first one I have seen away from one known nesting site for some years, since their decline in lowland Warwickshire.

Natural Beauty of the Warks Stour

Both Warks Avon stretches are a totally unknown quantity and when access commences to the Upper reaches on October the 1st, it being five minutes from Chez Nous, there's no doubt where I'll be.

As for the pool, well, there's work to do to meet our expectations. Currently it's overrun with small rudd, roach, perch and various hybrids so the long-term aim is to thin those out to give the preferred species growing potential and to remove the carp under double figures so that they become a treat rather than a certainty. It will take time but it has all the potential we need to create an estate lake without the mansion!

I'll keep updating on our adventures via this portal I'm sure but, in the meantime, I was driven to prose while basking in the glory of a deep pool on the new Leam stretch at the end of the hot weather:

Flowering Arrowhead on the Leam

Many a step from a road, from buildings, from fellow man; an oasis of water, giving life.

As I sit, the sun, awkward on the eye, floats imperceptibly higher like a lemon pip gently lifted by the bubbles of a fizzy drink.

The irritated churring of the great tit in a mixed family flock of animated baubles, complete with hangers-on of numerous fattening chiffchaff, breaks through the now strained-for rustling of leaves on a gradually rising breeze as if in a relay without rules.

Fulfilled without false entertainment, the rod tip still, I watch as the flow grips specks of duckweed in its movement and tweaks them, drifting like tiny skaters, spinning and careering in perfect natural chaos toward their own overpopulated metropolis awaiting them in deriliction of decay downstream.

Surely no finer experience is to be discovered than by the stream.




Sunday, 9 September 2018

Pursuing the Stream


Reading and researching every available article and note (there ain't much) to squeeze that extra drip from the fruit that is the tiny River Leam has helped, but not as much as one might prefer.

It's now around five or six years since the tiny Warwickshire River Leam drew this convert into its thrall with that irresistable 'Trust in me' aura.

In those years the perpetual targets have been a 4lb chub and a roach of 1lb 8ozs.

The best chub to date had been one of 3lbs 13ozs a few winters ago, but I know I lost a bigger one on the penultimate day of the season before last, confirming the suspicion that they are in there.

Records are kept of all chub over one and a half pounds in weight and up until this partucular day 69 had been caught, headed by the 3.13 of course.

In terms of roach, the number falling to the float, flight & flannel rod that exceeded one pound have been very limited, numbering in fact less than a handful of individuals, with the biggest 1.4.6 taken from a shallow gravelly glide with some water on.

Whenever chub are the target the approach is similar, tried and trusted. Bait is the established favourite of bread usually fed as mash but occasionally loose pellets of flake squeezed for a slow sink. Then the hookbait alternates between crust on a 3" pop-up and flake with a 15" tail. Line is 5-8lb straight through and, although often coupled with a 6 or 8 hook, currently the rig carries a 10 or a 12 in the clearer water while getting to understand three new meadows of The Stream.

When roach might be around a 1 or 2 swan link of stiff 8lb fluorocarbon that the main line can glide through is preferred to pinched-on shot, just to provide that psychological comfort that the first thing the fish feel as they pick up the bait will not be the weight. Of course this is all irrelevant because when a decent fish bites, be it chub or roach, it's always positive, but it can make an angler confident to have thought these things through.

Enough of the 'how to...' though.

----

So, yesterday evening, after a tiring day, a couple of hours crawling in the undergrowth seemed appealing and the F, F & F bus headed for the new stretch.

Previously, different pegs had been fished each time and this time would be no different.

Flicking a few loose flake offerings, squeezed just enough to make them slowly sink, into the fastest flow emerging from behind a heavy green bulrush bed, dulled by a blistering summer, and down under a willow casting a mysterious darkness over the water preceded the first free-lined 'cast'. The flake floated though and, drawing it back, it appeared to want to sink so sink it did and it was given slack line. Immediately a shape emerged from the darkness and the faint white blob was consumed.


In a confined space, where the only rod curving option was horizontal and sideways, it instantly became clear that this would be the only fish from this swim as it churned clouds of silt from long-unwashed weedbeds but at 2lbs 1oz this chub was a good start.

Creeping upstream, via a couple of blank dobs in a tiny clearing, a narrowed channel of accelerated water caught the eye, as it rolled off the base of a gravel bar and swirled into a pool. An upstream cast was the obvious solution and, with a large chunk of crust to maximise the chances of a chub spotting the waft of temptation, the line was tightened.

As the muscles relaxed into a repose, a twitch, a twang and battle was taken-up. Soon though the head-shaking turned into the typical dive for nearbank cover and, this time, still being out of practice, this was the one that would indeed 'get away'.

Further swims were investigated. Overhanging trees, steady glides, rapids between reedbeds; small one lost, two pounder landed; and eventually, as dusk fell, the trusty Avon took on a nervy arc, bent double. The line singing under pressure and the clutch ticking accentuated the fact that this was a worthy opponent. Certainly more so than anything else on the evening.

Recalling and learning from the lost fish this one was 'mouth-out' as soon as was feasible, without taking too much risk, and, with the gasp of air taken, it was ready and waiting to be hoiked onto the bank.

Without ceremony upon exposing it's true value from the folds of the enveloping mesh, a fish floating around the magical mark revealed itself.

Would this be it? I could have been

Scales settling at 75.1 ounces made for some optimism, less 64 for 4lbs left me hoping the net weighed less than 10.1ozs.

11.8ozs - disappointment, but then elation at a new Leam P.B. and knowledge that by February this could be that target 4 pounder.

3.15.5 - so, so close!

...but now I know where it lives!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Sensing Memorable Moments


There are those times in life when events exceed any prior hope. That are planned to be good but conclude in the exceptional, beyond words.


'Problem is, I'm now committed to put into words an explanation!


The emotions of angling. Those occasional heart-stopping moments when you are so perfectly aligned with the instincts of the quarry that you KNOW the indication you're about to get will result in the target being hooked; the immediate regret at grabbing a handful of spicy nettles in extracting oneself from a risky lie or perhaps that inescapable sinking in the stomach at the knowledge of a certain blank.


There are sounds too that evoke such knowing responses in us as anglers. The heavy spatter of improbably large raindrops signalling the end of a shower; the crash of a leaping and falling carp; the piping of the two-tone flashing cobalt and fire Kingfisher tying-in the visual along with the lazy drift of scentless dawn mist, pouring from the surface and running like ephemeral semi-transparent white horses in one direction or another.


From that distinct sweet smell of roach slime to the truly repulsive stench of a bream-slimed keepnet in a hot and returned-to car. Both as much an assault on the olfactory system as the baking of bread or muck-spreading and by similar extremes.


So today was The Old Duffer’s first angling trip of 2018. A perfect day, after the seemingly interminable hot summer expired to reveal comfortable days of around twenty modern degrees and, with cloud cover but a negligible chance of rain.


Now in his day, as the long-term reader may recall, TOD was an accomplished match angler. First on rivers and then on canals. Recalling those days, a 3m whip was set-up with a thickish cane-tipped waggler and a few strung no.8’s, shirt button style.


The youngest generation present, represented by The Boy Wonder, would be deploying waggler tactics too but on a light specialist rod and antique centrepin.


I would be stalking carp and also laying a bed of bait down in another area for later.


It had been a while and TBW and I did wonder the extent to which TOD would remain capable of undertaking this, after all, highly technical task. A little help with plumbing seemed to bring the feel of things back to a degree. The thick tip of the float to aid reluctant eyes; a tub of maggots raised to hand level seemed sensible; a comfortable, very unmatchman-like, padded chair to support the occasionally creaking limbs and all was ready to go. I gave a trial cast to check the shotting and had a knock on a bare hook, so, happy with how things looked, I fed a few maggots and sat back to rig a couple of rods for myself.


The venue was a pool new to small syndicate formed during the close season and it seemed, after a few recce visits, largely a case of carp and hoards of smallish rudd and roach with a smattering of perch. I had never ardently tested the small fish potential as, these days, I find it tedious and would usually prefer to wait for a bite from something that has a chance of getting away but I hoped TOD might muster a few ‘bits’ to get him back in the swing of the pastime he has not forgotten and never ceases to mention whenever we meet, even though he might struggle with the names of the prey and had certainly very much considered partaking to be in the past.


I glanced away, looked back and, “Blimey, ‘you got one already?”, and so proceeded a steady run of fish in the two to three ounce bracket that would have been the stuff of wild dreams back in the days of draw bag and frame.
 
 
TBW was set-in and, on my first visit, had a handful of tiddlers too.


I checked out some bank clearance we had been doing and all was well so I return to the baited swim next to TOD to try to get through the rudd with double corn hookbait.


“How many you got now then?”.


“12”.


“TWELVE?! I’ve only been gone five minutes!”.


Pleased as bread punch for the old fella, and with a knowing smirk on the opposite side of my face, I got my head down to overtake him with a decent bream or carp. Or so I planned but I couldn’t settle partly out of wanting to ensure he was okay and enjoying it, the latter I assumed confirmed by the silence apart from the thrashing as he drew them to hand, the plop of fish into the net and gentle rasping of maggots hitting the water every minute or two, and partly as I wanted to see what big fish were showing elsewhere.


Riding a bike. Swimming. Tying a hook. All things you never forget how to do even though the body might try to hinder and then prevent it in older age.


Well it seems that the cast, feed, strike, unhook re-bait/cast, feed, strike, unhook, re-bait/cast...process is also an indelible process in the human mind. Okay, in full flow in his prime maybe he would have fed before casting to make the hook bait fall through the fed area but we can make allowances when we consider that the last match this octogenarian gent fished was probably fifteen years ago and recent practice had been thin to the point of non-existence for at least three years, if not longer.


TBW came along, struggling a bit in his swim, “How you doin’ Grandad?”


“Twenty-one...hold-on...twenty-two with this one”, as another roach swung to hand.


“Christ, we’re not bringing you again, are we Dad?!”


And so it continued.
 

Somewhat irritated by being pestered by the fish TOD was targeting I took off around the pool, travelling light to seek-out some visible carp to stalk, and there they were a number around the double figure mark and on returning to the first swim I found a bigger, long common of at least fifteen pounds mooching mid-pool and midwater. I flicked a bait to him and he drifted away, unhurried, and out of sight.


A pair of doubles were next, one of them circling, sensing the plop a metre or so to its right and approaching to a few millimetres before pulling its head way and in one sub-urgent movement projecting the body past, and out of sight.
 
 
I called across the lake to the old offender.


He’d got fifty when I left him.


“Eighty”.


Matter of fact, well it was a fact.


Numbers were not an issue. The name for the stripey fish may have been but numbers, oh no, no problem at all with those. Let’s face it, if you can count and weigh your fish and put the your bets on who needs words. No, numbers’ll do just fine.


“Eighty”, and I think to myself, “He must have about five pounds of fish. I’d never have believed that possible”.


The stalking continues and TBW calls across to ask me to check-out some yellow things on the surface that the rudd are pecking at. Leaves.


I find a catchable double in murky water and flick a floating crust to it. Like its predecessor it circles, inquisitively.


“Eighty”, I chuckle, “Crazy”.


I glance at the time and, as raise my eyes to the crust again ,a white mouth appears to engulf it and I strike.


“Ha!”


A split seconds’ realisation.


“SHIT!”


The rig flies back faster than it left the bank, the quarry sinks back into the old routine and a further bird’s nest is added to those in the trees now deserted by fledged and flown young, and their exhausted parents alike.


I return and meet TOD on the path back. “Oh! How many now then?”


“How many do you think?”


“Ninety”, I offer, certain.


“A hundred and one”.


He goes for a wander round the pools and we start to pack away - during which time he adds another thirteen.


Back in his match fishing days he would have been very pleased with a catch of a hundred or more fish, in fact, often on the canal, a hundred would be the target to do reasonably well but there is one thing that sets a catch apart from the also rans and that is the distinctive thrashing sound of over five pounds of small fish being lifted from the water. Like a hundred taps being turned at once, and then off again within a couple of seconds. It’s a sound that an angler neither forgets nor tires of, and it says, “That’s a good net of fish“, to anyone in earshot at the same time as giving a boost to the captor, for it is at that point that he knows. He just, knows.


So, yes, we were treated to that sound and immediately I’d got seven pounds imprinted in my mind. TOD struggled to lift them out, and more so to get them into the weighing sling, but we got there collectively and the sparkling silver and gold of roach and rudd punctuated by the odd jet-striped emerald perch abounded.


“Ten pounds, twelve ounces”, we concluded at once.


Who’d have thought it possible?
 
 
I didn’t think it possible.


I still don’t think it possible, but it happened. Cast after cast, feed after feed, fish after fish.


It damned well happened
 
 








Wednesday, 25 July 2018

IT'S LIKE A HEATWAVE!

 
The relentless sun, bleaching energy into and out of the humidity of life. Brittle stems and blond seed heads of various grasses surge consecutively yet as one in the breeze. Only physical breaks curb the phenomenon, like the members' pavilion during a Mexican wave.
 
Bovine activity; eyelids, jaws, tails and constantly twitching ears; belies the presence of a myriad irritating flies, persistent at any break in the skin of the beast.

So it's that soul-sapping time when even a beautifully proportioned tench wouldn't entice me from my slumbering sweat.

Never do I feel less likely to get a bite than when the heat and brightness suffocate the urge to eat from the quarry.

"I've got no reason,
It's all too much"
...and, no, I'm not out to lunch but dear old desperate John springs to mind, and YouTube takes a temporary battering.

They were exciting times but give me frozen margins and a link-leger over this furnace any time, please.

----

For three long years butterfly populations on my general travels seemed to be on the brink of collapse but this remarkable period is offering some kind of renaissance for these most attractive of unfathomably possible airborne insects

A few days ago The Lady Burton said there were, "About twenty", white butterflies over a patch of 'Michaelmas' daisies we'd left to run wild and, the next day, while I happened to be watering terminally non-existent tomatoes, before dusk I examined the daisies to find no less than nineteen green-veined whites roosting on the flower heads; all facing north, though I am uncertain what relevance that may have unless into the wind

I then found six others on a mature variegated Acer taking the total to an incredible twenty-five and this, with ringlet, small & large white, meadow brown, speckled wood, gatekeeper, small tortoiseshell, orange tip, brimstone, comma, holly blue and red admiral so far in our garden alone suggests a bumper year that might just indicate the triggering of a recovery through this extraordinarily hot early summer. That is without mention, yet, of the cinnabar moth caterpillars clothed in their wasp-like warning hoops on a solitary ragwort...

 

...and a huge strikingly mottled mullein moth caterpillar that sprayed brown goo when I deigned to gather it up


This migrant Silver Y moth gate-crashed the garage at dog relieving time and took-up residence on my fishing notes box.


The green-veined white, perhaps the third most  recognisable of our four white butterflies (large, small and wood completing the quorum), is a species that passed me by, literally and cognitively, until just a handful of years ago when one alighted on a weed in the margins of a Scottish Highland Oakwood car park and caught the eye of The Dog. Consequently it seemed a rarity but now they appear a very  common white. That of course has always have been the case.

The influence of passing comment on children  comes into play at this juncture. When I was very young, and like a dry sponge for the moisture of all things living and wild in the world, my father, The Old Duffer, was more than sceptical about my claim of a green-veined white in our terraced house garden. From that specific moment, the subject having departed for habitats more floral than our yard, I dismissed the idea from my thoughts but later in life realised it probably was correctly identified and with that comes the associated truth that there are occasions when children are right and their sceptical, perhaps cynical, elders are not. The open-mindedness of youth is not always to be ridiculed.

A similar thing happened with my first Goldcrest. A bird too tinily glorious to be common, one might have thought, but there was one near home and I got a perfect view of it, but, no, "It couldn't have been!"

It was.

----

The air has carried a frission; an electric charge; an inate excitement not experienced since the days of McGuigan and Herol 'Bomber' Graham when every punch and each evasive movement were shared with nervously twitching legs. Bodily perspiration pervading.

England were to face Sweden...and then Croatia...in latter stages of The World Cup.

The exceptional competition. The ultimate entertainment.

Davies, Motson, Coleman.

At 50+ I recall feeling the heat and sunshine of distant lands, through radio and television.

That hazy cacophony of commentary and crowd.

The blurred sun-baked images of the long-haired and the short-shorted.

Pele, Moore, Beckenbauer.

I hope today's people find the same indelible memories when they get older.

Mbappe, De Bruyne, Trippier perhaps.

----

The small blue is a particularly rare butterfly in these parts. Restricted to a few calcareous sites around the Southam area and often, if not always, present due to reintroduction. The problem being it has but one food plant (a bad evolutionary choice) being kidney vetch, a plant appearing like some kind of futuristic yellow clover tending towards red at times.

Friday or Saturday there were three butterflies trapped in the greenhouse (the record is seven). A small tortoiseshell and uninspected white and a tiny blue individual who answered to the name of Tim. Well, of course he did.

A holly blue I thought, briefly viewing the underside of his wings.

I gathered him in my hand with a view to getting closer to a camera but in walking toward the house he crept through a gap and appeared on the back of my hand, instantly to flee the scene.

Another, or the same, individual leap-frogged across the lawn but was too sensitive and elusive to accept a close-up.

On reflection later that day it became likely, in my head at least, that this creature was just too small to be holly blue and so I contacted the County Recorder who quickly confirmed that 2nd broods of butterflies in this draining summer were smaller than the norm reverting me back to the rather more common holly blue.

An out of place full-size Holly Blue on dragged waterweed
This theory came home to me yesterday when I found a group of five tiny freshly emerged gatekeepers close to a tatty previous emerger that was at least twice their size.

I shall keep searching for blues though and be rather more careful with i.d. in future.

----

And so to the most incredible insects of summer, large dragonflies.

For a few years now we've been lucky enough to have a Southern hawker clearing our garden of bugs late into the evening. Just last night I found, this time, we had two, albeit their territorial tete-a-tete ended in a crashing of crisp wings and the loss of the loser sharpish to the surroundings.

I've been trying to I.d. them for 3 or 4 years now seriously but find it so difficult. My eyes and brain not being as sharply connected as they were. Slowly though it's started coming together and thanks to a few know diagnostic features of certain key species less are getting away unlabelled. Yes, the Dymo machine is in overdrive!

It's been pleasing to realise that the UK's biggest, the monstrous emperor, is actually quite common...and seriously aggressive...catching, killing and eating bugs on the wing with remarkably loud cracking sounds, and chasing off intruders.


These have been seen over more than one local stillwater lately, dominating the odonata.

The most common dragon though has been the middle-sized black-tailed skimmer and, through its habit of perching close to the water, it has proven easy to capture in digital form too.
 

Summer visiting hobbies, our most glamourous bird of prey with its orange plus-fours, gorge on these insects in late season when they are at their most numerous and can be seen over prime foraging territory sometimes in small groups at this time of year taking their share in their feet, ripping-off the wings and eating the body while in flight.

A sight definitely worth seeking-out.

----

As I look out into thickest Warwickshire this morning the sun concentrates to build the heat of the day again and the "driest summer for a century" (it's July, anything could happen yet) extends to at least another day.


With apologies/thanks to:
  • Sex Pistols 
  • The Sun, yes, The Sun
  • Holland, Dozier, Holland/Martha Reeves & The Vandellas


Sunday, 3 June 2018

In Search of Big Tench & the Future of the Species.


Did I say, "Ye Gods!"?

Well, the world still has that "Ready Brek" glow about it

While it's never on the tip of the tongue there were a couple of highlights in a twenty-five year match fishing period, of course there had to be one or two, but very few of them matched this

Tougher than the worst canal; tougher than the coldest river; tougher than chewing leather; The Stillwater is all those things and more

Were it not for those encounters with The Blackstone 2 a couple of years ago nothing other than the odd perch, pike or fluked fish would have been possible, as, while the water holds specimen fish, in some instances so large as to be beyond belief; so large as might cause the silence of reverence to decend on any scene; they are so, so difficult to catch

For a start the venue is huge: secondly it's barely fished other than by a dozen or so obsessively committed souls; a pint of bait is but a drop in the ocean; natural food levels are exceptionally high; the depth points to certain swims but they too regularly disappoint; predation is very high and weed growth can be so extensive as to limit fishing to a minimal percentage of the total perimeter

The number of blanks far outweigh the successful days and the latter is measured in number of bites; even line bites are discussed with interest

So far in the current campaign the FF&F landing nets have been graced by no fewer than eleven fish that would have been p.b's before access was gained to the site. These out of just 14 fish caught in the two month period.

The first bite took 14 days from starting feeding. The next? Eleven days, and it has only been in the past fortnights' trips that blanks have been outweighed by fish.

A recent dawn start was a typical example, now that fish are more regularly over the feed. A bite at 08.20, lost in weed; a bite at 09.10 and a male tench of 4.15 is landed. Two further liners concluded and drew a monofilament line under proceedings.


This was not the case in 2016 when a similar campaign took only two days to produce regular bites.

So why was this year so different?

Initially it was started in the hope of a Challenge fish or two, knowing that if successful the fish was highly likely to be worth good points with a 10pt bonus for being the largest caught. This was far too early with the water still quite cold at just below 8°C and it was not until this factor increased to a consistent 17°C that bites were forthcoming and a pattern became established.

Now, having baited the swim for 2 months, it has reached a point at which bites can now be expected rather than the announcement by alarm being a shock to the system. Water temperature is consistently 18°C+ and although that water is quite clear a bank of weed between 'us and them' helps fish to feed confidently.

----

So, just a few mornings ago at 5.30am, a bite met with solid resistance and the ploddy battle put up by your average female tench ensued, no screaming runs here, but a lump of a fish for certain.

She took me kiting into some weed but, varying slack line with reasonable pressure and the chest waders, she came through into the light and when laid on the mat she looked quite huge.

It was two years since my p.b., an eight & a half pounder, and so my experience estimating fish of this size was lacking. I told myself that she was a good seven pounds but when she bottomed the scales at 9lbs 8ozs a comforting smirk started to establish and remained insitu for some hours, returning at each fleeting thought for a few days in fact.

Not the finest of pictures but an indication indeed of the scale of the matter

----

'Consensus is the The Stillwater could produce a double figure fish this year but, sitting with the life-giving sun now set over my right shoulder, Tinca tinca's procreative instincts have been to the fore as individuals aqua-scurried through the reeds and blanket weed allbut under the rod tip in pursuit of the key to future of their species.

Long may it continue.





Thursday, 17 May 2018

So Now What?


The Challenge now behind us, the future unfurling like mist gently drifting across a meadow. No specific direction, nor apparent purpose.

For me The Challenge has become such an engaging event that I am consumed by it for the whole 12 months of its existence.

Consumed by its capacity to include all possibilities; its ability to make one target species ordinarily overlooked or put back without a glance beyond perhaps initial i.d.; it's pitting of skills and wits between anglers who are capable of anything at anytime; its handed-down drive to need to break p.b's; it's breadth of interest and perhaps, most importantly, the inate need be comfortable enough to fish all venue types with a least a modicum of competence.

On that latter point I ain't no Dick Walker or Kevin Ashurst but the pleasure to be gained in learning new methods and techniques, then applying them to ever different situations, is huge and certainly it has been a source of amazement to me that those delicate, finely tuned approaches of my match angling past can actually be less effective than a heavy duty set-up to regularly tempt those big fish.

So currently, as I write infact, with the swim baited (as it has been this past month) the alarms set, landing net poised and camera at the ready, we wait again. And again...

...and again.

After numerous baiting sessions, too many to be precise about the number, out of the blue a proper bite and just a small hybrid comes to the net but it's a start and pretty much the 'species' I was looking then [for this was before the challenge ended and a specimen of such a fish would score maximum points (110: 100 for % of 'record' size plus 10 for biggest caught overall)].

Then as the challenge fizzled-out via a simply horrendous last weekends' weather one or two big bream started to be caught and in one early session I managed a four pounder (claimed to be the smallest in the lake!) at 06.30hrs.

An hour passed and at 07.30, the alarm blipped to confirm another fish and a second bream which proved all waters p.b. blitzer of 11lbs 14ozs, beating the 7lb plus from the Warks Avon last year by a 4lbs margin that didn't even touch the sides. Now that is how to raise a p.b! It does however make most, if not all, future bream less significant.


I guess I can now see that is the curse of the true specimen hunter I've just fallen foul of - hit the target...and then what?

So the baiting continued, having sourced a supply of consistently large maggots.

One thing I always have done in prebaited swims, and this includes bonus fish areas when match fishing, is not to feed it before having an exploratory cast. Many's the time when baiting over the heads of feeding fish has caused them to scurry away.

Sunday morning was no different in this respect, although the heavy, rape pollen inundated mist hanging over The (millpond-like) Stillwater was a bonus; shrouding the sky from the fish and the angler in expectant mystery.

First cast made over three rods, 2 set-up for tench, 1 for bream, and an instant indication saw a bobbin banging it's head against the alarm, but the strike met with only fleeting resistance.

Often this can be the only bite of the day as demonstrated by a torrent of cussing and blinding immediately thereafter.

The recast met with a similar event however, this time no mistake, but equally a surprising lack of resistance from the foe. Winding-in, in clear water, a perch of just over a pound came into view.

A recast and further action. This time to strike met brief solid resistance before going slack.

Thus far, not so good, the redeeming thought being that they were clearly 'having it' and it was only a question of time.

Soon a hard fighting, clearly male, tench was on and as I played it well away from the other lines on what had been the middle rod the left alarm burst into techno song, the bobbin dropping-back to the ground as the feeder slipped. This fish went 4.9.

Soon enough though two further tench were banked. 5.6 and 5lbs dead (when I say "dead"...).



I started to wonder where this would end? Four tench and maybe another perch or two? I wasn't being greedy but wanted to make the most of what was undoubtedly goung to be a brief and rare opportunity.

The three rods sat, poised.

Left and middle 1.25tc but the right hand rod, a classic old 2.25tc and rigged for a rather different species, was next to feel the tension. A really solid fish, nodding slowly as they do, and kiting right, towards submerged rushes, but with suitable angles and pressure it was eased to the top, held there and slowly drawn to inescapability.

At first glimpse underwater it had looked around seven pounds but with the challenge of having to carefully lift the net over the other two, still expectant, lines it became clear this was a touch more special.

Having had that demolition job of an 11.14 p.b. a few days ago however I knew it wasn't quite in that bracket but on the mat it looked a 'double figure' fish, to these somewhat inexperienced eyes at least.

Sure enough it weighed in at a "get rough, get tough, 10.10" (as Heaven 17 would have had it, apologies to Messrs Ware and Gregory).

10.10 'Fight in Progress'
On return, this fish shot off in a very unbreamlike fashion as though it enjoyed the whole experience so much it had an urgent need to find some more bait...it didn't.

A further tench ensued of 4.14 together with a decent lost fish when a second alarm distracted me and the clutch wasn't adjusted quickly enough as a consequence.


Something then catches the corner of my eye.

Something tern-like but simultaneously something 'un-tern-like', both in size and in not being white.

But no, wait a second, it was a tern.

An individual black tern.

The first of the year and always an outstanding experience, such wonderful creatures that they are.

No sooner had the migrant gone out of sight than another monster bream was on the hook. Straight for the emergent rushes it headed but again it was eased up and slid across them without only the slightest twitch of anxiety.

On the scales, this second of the day's brace, registered 9lbs 15ozs (if only it had succumbed an ounce later in it's growth!).


That signalled the end of the string of bites and, totting time and total, the eight fish rolled up at forty seven and a half pounds; the bites spanning only three hours' or so of fishing and not a carp in sight.

By far the best fishing since match fishing ended and way beyond my current, and most likely future, wildest dreams.

Roll on next weekend. Ye Gods!