Friday, 13 April 2018

A Good Day by the Water

The angling winter has been peppered with blank sessions; the birding equivalent however punctuated by just the odd sparkling find - a garden brambling and two lesser redpoll just a couple of weeks ago; the Hawfinch at Draycote Water and such like.

Now that the river season has emitted it last feeble lung of air The Stillwater has become home. Prebaiting for nearly 2 weeks now eventually the fish will become active (with the water temperature have breached ten degrees centigrade today) and find the bait when loaded hookbaits are included with a bonanza to ensue but, until then, a recent barren angling excursion littered with birding highlights will keep us warm with its memory.

An hour after dawn, the plaintive call of the curlew from the north. Drifting on the barely perceptible breeze it flew, gently, as curlew do, as if the air itself could counter gravity and support them aloft without muscular propulsion, perhaps a male with less extravagant bill, directly overhead and disappeared South across the water. A pair had completed the same journey a week ago at a similar time of day.

That would have sufficed as a highlight, we're not greedy, but at 10.15am a returning osprey gently cruised along the north bank. It's flap, flap, glide flight combined with its size, obvious white areas and wing profile made it unmistakable as it likely headed in the direction of nesting areas in deepest Rutland.

By this point the fact we were biteless was but an insignificant midge bite compared to the emerging imago from a pupa of excitement that was unfolding.

This morning would yet get better still.

Unseen the "choo-lu-lu" of the greenshank overhead and a nice early record too.

As I shared this information via the ether I caught a glimpse of a heavy white bird. In no way the jaunty flight of a common or arctic tern but a steady 'gait'. The view too fleeting to achieve a positive i.d. but Norman (my gut, he's had a name since I suddenly put on two trouser sizes and took on a life of his own) said, "Sandwich tern".

I lost the bird from view as it headed east but it came back from a second circuit and the unmistakable whiteness, steady flight and close-up of the yellow-tipped black bill confirmed that it was indeed a sandwich tern.

A first ever F, F&F inland record to complete a rare old treat of a birdwatching day; the only slight irritation the lack of camera, as I'd tried to travel as light as possible given a long walk and boggy terrain.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Bloggers Challenge Run-in

Onset of April marks the start of the final month of the Bloggers Challenge 2017/18.

One or two anglers have been able to put some good points on the scales since the New Year but most of us have struggled. However, today is the turning point in the weather with temperatures set to rise over the next fortnight to fifteen centigrade in the day but more importantly five degrees plus overnight, enabling the stillwaters and canals to boost the possibilities of some late 'summer fish'

Brian had a tremendous burst of quality fish toward the end of the river season which cemented his place in third for the time being, a hundred points behind my dear old self, sat 200 behind runaway leader James.


So, in the knowledge that 100 points is just three cracking fish for Brian to overtake me, I've set myself the challenge within a challenge of adding as many points in the next four weeks as I can glean and really give it a go; almost as if it had only just commenced.

It can be a fizzling last few weeks of the competition and so the prospect of some excitement in it is not to be sniffed at.

Scouring the potential identified a few species that slipped through the gaping holes in the ramshackle landing net, some of which (say it quietly) should be quite easy to catch. Others not so.

This past weekend The Canon took me to a pond known to contain ide. Thinking of it as a day-ticket fishery it still appeared to be one as I arrived, if a little full to overflowing across the path in places. On closer inspection however it was clear that under that increased water level sat platforms seemingly inches apart; a sure sign that this was a commercial fishery.

I immediately felt quite queasy but found putting my fingers in my ears and repeating, "La la la la", helped, as I stemmed the flow of blood, quite neatly actually, with sticks of pop-up foam in each nostril.

Now I had never seen an ide and had to Google it so that I could recognise one and apparently it's just a naturally coloured orfe. If a zander is a 'pike-perch' (it isn't) then an ide is a chub-roach.

A bit more research suggested the most likely method, keeping it simple, would be float fishing on the drop with regular maggot feed. I knew it could rain all morning and so rod and line was preferred to the pole.

The Canon left me to it and wandered off to find a suitable bread punch swim peg (commercial after all) less affected by the high water having advised the water was 18"-2' up on normal...and it was coloured. Well, I knew such fisheries were often coloured due simply to the action of their inhabitants and, looking at it, I felt if it had been a river I would be rubbing my hands. I set sail therefore with some self-promoted confidence.

At this point there was no one else there but, slowly, a trickle of vans bounced and splashed through the water-filled potholes just behind me and as the first one passed, a bite, a strike and the devil incarnate was hooked...a commercial carp.

Clearly there would be some risks taken here; I was after ide in a venue the population of which was generally unknown to me so I set up with a 16 hook to a 3.5lbs fluorocarbon hooklength and 4.4lbs reel line. A 4BB insert waggler with 3no.8's down the line would act as the middleman. This set-up would give me some chance of landing Satan should he bite without too much affecting the ide prospects, or so I thought.

So this carp is hooked but the hook pulls out soon thereafter. Minutes later the same event precisely. Then I hook one that doesn't seem to be in danger of coming-off and my light match rod suddenly seemed incredibly under-gunned making the fight long and, toward the end arm-achingly long-winded. Upon inspection of this 6lbs 8oz common carp the reason for the lost fish became evident. No lips. Let's call him "Marchello".

At this point a little flurry of estates and vans pass and pull-up 100 yards to my left, the occupants of which then disembark and proceed to shout to each other about the conditions.

"He's catching down there", floats down wind into the shell-like. Well, why wouldn't you? It's coloured and clearly stuffed with fish.

Soon after, a 7.4 version was dragged to the net like an unwieldy channel swimmer...with horns. This one, hooked on the outside of the orifice formerly known as a mouth, was never slipping the hook.

The maggots continued to be drizzled in. 10 at a time and constant, rather like scaled-up squatt fishing. In fact it took me back about 30 years.

So, here I am on my lightweight chair, under the gamp with my trusty centrepin offering encouragement to the blinkered pole fishing masses who decide to stay, unlike previous visitors who turned straight round and headed for breakfast.

I think there's five in this mass and they're having a 'match' albeit they seem to choose their pegs but I simply may have missed the drawer for numbers. They shout at each other while moving their gear.

"He's got another" accompanied the second fish as a water vole, yes a water vole, swam between banks. Apart from the ide the highlight of the morning.

On the drop - a smaller fish. It could be a roach, rudd, hybrid...or...the target. On the retieve it became roach or ide alternately two or three times before I swung it to hand and my first ide was banked at 8ozs. Unfortunately, in the rain and excitement, I forgot to photograph it and then dropped it back in anyway but thankfully the Challenge guys agreed the six points could count.

"You had a bite yet?"

"No mate"

"You on pellet?"

I hook and lose, after a long battle, a third sack of evil.

"You got one?"


...."You lost it?"

"Yeah it's come off"

At which point the rest of the competitors shout and laugh at him. Inwardly I'm thinking, "Really?!.

The Grumpy Old Man in me is tempted to comment that, in my day, open matches started at thirty anglers and went up to 200 plus. On the odd occasion something went wrong and only a handful turned-up we'd go pleasure fishing. This wasn't a match, it was at best a knock-up and at worst a practice session. Let's face it, you'd only get Matchman of the Year points if there were a minimum of 60 competitors.

It gets harder now. I try chopped worm and hook a fourth of these dark satanic ills that again pulls-out.

The float rig gets an even more risky 18 hook in the hope of a further ide but the only other bite comes from a bream of 3.1

So I've had seventeen pounds odd of fish and lost (taking an average carp size as six pounds) 24lbs = circa 41lbs of fish due to the light tackle. The two matchmen in my 'section' are blanking.

I pack the stuff in the car and visit the Canon, who slips in that he has started catching bream...on bread punch. No pellets here either? How odd.

Approach the venue; assess the situation; fish to the conditions. It's not, as they say, rocket science, but then it's the match angler's job to know that, not mine.

With apologies to the memory of William Blake

Sunday, 25 March 2018

A Reflective Surface

The fields rolling and falling though marsh to the rush-lined margins, bleached and wrung-out by winter.

A consuming stillness save for the calling raven, finches and thrushes. Artificial yet real, but isn't it all?

Three moorhen career through the pasture's edge headlong as if to fall in a chestward heap, legs in cartoon motion to the rear. How many are they, these ever-present canal rails? Thankfully more than sufficient to gladden the heart on all-but every gongoozling excursion, without doubt.

Here a manor chunk of F, F & F history would be recalled. Negotiation, advertisement, commitment, engagement and satisfaction in the pursuit.

This was a stretch of the most picturesque Midlands canal snaking, as it still does, from dark tunnel to complex locks; through ancient parkland with its mature oaks and chestnuts; cutting through sheep pasture like a chisel to linocut. The result the same. A work of human art.

A change had come. Rush beds extended, reedmace beds established. A wide, now narrowed, bend and whereas, in decades past, the plate glass surface would be punctuated by the innumerable concentric rings of myriad small roach. Now- nothing.

Here, one imagined barn owl and drifting hen harrier slipping over rough grassland untouched by beast or harrow from decent to recent times.

There, a badger sett high and deep in the clay bank.

Then otter-marked brick paving. "Private, trespassers will be persecuted", it said to anything capable of interpreting it.

Today so different.

In years gone, sixty brethren would gather in the dawn-time mist. A fleece and nylon clump of pink-eyed expectation and laughter. "That's a posh shirt you're wearing there George. Are you trying to raise the standard of match angling attire?"

Of those a handful would remain to be showered as they coveted; the clump dissolved to all corners; glitter cast on the worthy.

Perhaps a shoal of bream, a 'juicy' tench or carp, a hard-won net of sparkling roach would attain the jewels, and otherwise perhaps just a handful of tiddlers as winter set in.

The crinkle-cut towpath edge, a straightened pastry cutter, still beats out those reminders with a numerical rhythm.

Twenty-three, the first; through thirties, a favourite 52 and up to 74, a narrower tiddler-filled straight.

Today though it was the teens and in pursuit of that toothiest of adversaries, pike. They had always been here. A slowly raking, shallow near shelf overhung by branches but the turbidity would prove to work against us and only the nuthatch, dunnock and siskin would keep us from sliding into tedium.

The historic stone wall, consumed by ivy yet still partly intact beside the massive oak and, more distant, fresh lamb; twins and triplets in red and blue. How closely the ewes knit their lanolin-infiltrated wool to the reins of their excitable young.

March violets quietly bloom, a modesty instilled by evolution, on woodbanks and in the lee of hawthorn hedges. Hints of green among the marginal rushes and young rabbits, all dewy-eyed twinkles and bobbing white tails, conscious of the soaring threat of these cloudy skies.

Spring, and the sweet shop is again open.

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!