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

'Pigeon

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

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Leaves on the Line


The past couple of weeks have been varied in all manner of ways.

A return to The Stillwater is imminent but a mixture of lake, canal and river have kept this soldier of the angle busy meanwhile, if punctuated by the odd blank.

I asked my colleague to do a raindance for the rivers and it worked, to a degree. In fact it was the degree, or lack of them, that ultimately scuppered that plan with two frosts in that period.

So there's been the chance of the odd fish, by hook or by crook (perhaps attached to an orange 1970's fibreglass pole) and an inexplicable influx of our biggest finch, the hawfinch, with its massive bill (Greater Invoice Finches?) has occurred over the past week or two. Odd individuals and groups into double figures have been turning-up 'all over' and having a bird-conscious sideline has never been more timely. Plus winter visitors are arriving in force when it only seems like yesterday that summer visiting warblers were singing from every tree,  thicket, reed and hedge.

So it was with an eye to the tip or float and another to the sky (Marty Feldman again) that entertainment was sought.

----

It would be misleading to say the good days outnumbered the bad in angling terms but without doubt there have been some highlights in a phase of such variable global warming-induced weather that made the seeking of regular decent action improbable.

This 'bonus fish-hunting' lark is nothing if not regularly rewarding but it would be too easy to plunder the same stretch of canal that has given-up some double figure bags of bream and hybrids.

Fluctuating river levels mean occasional days with floating vegetation gathering on the line and the need for colour in the water make it constantly sought after, yet not often present.

Angling is nothing if it is not a challenge.

----

So what have we encountered?

Starting with the highlights, the list is quick to define through it's lack of depth.

Top of the list, without anything coming close, was catching a stationary stoat in the headlights on entering a fishery. In turning to face the light it exposed an inverted triangle of pure white chest crisply set in chestnut flanks before bounding into the verge and the consolation of darkness. The nearest warren would soon be on the highest level of alert.

Next, a bruiser of a barbel from below the weir, a fish that somehow managed to find itself being replayed a week later in the Club newsletter. This capture was unusual in the way the swim was fished.

Unbeknown to me the depth of the river changed dramatically precisely where I sat. If I swung a lead under the near bank to the left it suggested around 5 to 6 feet but to the right it was comfortably into double figures.

Given that it wasn't deepest winter the shallower area was favoured. A couple of handfuls of meat went in, the big fish rig was lowered to join it and left to simmer while a light liquidised bread feeder was cast a third across hoping to bring that area to an immediate boil seeking that elusive big river roach.

The latter didn't occur, the best of seven fish going around eight ounces.

An hour and a half in however, while fiddling with my tackle, the 1.75tc rod attempted to take off. Instantly dropping what I was doing, I managed to grab the handle and adjust the clutch to suit.

The fish fought like a champion. Tearing off diagonally downstream initially away from the bank and then back, kiting, deep in the strong weirpool flow. Then it was off again this time closer and almost under the bank. Close to capture, the fish was in and out of the net twice and landed at the third attempt.

A public location...a crowd had gathered.

Various uneducated questions were asked and  responded to. It was a barbel, not a tench and, no, I wasn't expecting that but I did hope for it. Then a guy with a unit conversion app advised me it was 11lbs 3ozs with the net, which, by this time, was large and sodden and upon deduction brought a notably chunky barbus to it's true weight of 10lbs 6ozs.


The fourth and smallest F,F&F Warwickshire Avon 'double' of the season/lifetime.

Delighted?

We were.

----

Beyond stoat and whiskers it's been a case of digging deep into the notes to find no.3 in this week's chart...

The increased flow and depth of local rivers had engendered a certain misplaced excitement yet with little to report. Not surprising at this time when water temperatures are still unsettled but on a general downcurve.

So we go back a fortnight and into a slightly questionable decision. A visit to a short stretch of Grand Union that produced a rare ruffe in the summer occurred.

Knowing it might produce roach, bream and/or hybrids was of use but the worm sideline failed miserably for predators.

The session was entirely predictable in that it took time for the fish to find the feed. When they did though things instantly became just a tad interesting...

Three hybrids ranging from 15ozs to 1lb 10ozs started the action off followed after a lull by a twelve ounce roach. I felt I may have started too close in and so fed again further out after the first boat.

Crayfish were a real problem, constantly pulling the bait around, but a decent flake popped-up out of their reach and soon something somewhat more substantial was attached. At first it swam toward the bank and I lost direct contact thinking it was lost and then maybe that it was a smaller skimmer but when it turned, perhaps having seen me, it stripped line off the centrepin for a few yards. Being a fish of its species however it was never likely to be the battle to top them all and soon it caved in, flopped on its side and was directed over the net to be recovered for inspection.


Now at this point I must explain that I do not know how big my biggest canal bream had been. It will have been caught in a match on the Grand Union, probably at or near Fenny Stratford, but won't have been weighed separately. I have therefore been 'seeking claims' from myself at a minimum of 3.8.0, so to speak.

This baby went 3.10.3 and therefore now fills that previously vacant spot. Which just shows that the area one might often walk past should not be ignored when the time might be right.

The most bizarre thing of all is that this little event had gone partly unrecorded. No notes left in the phone, only part of the story in the log book but with points claimed for The Challenge.

Otherwise three things are worthy of note - a dace of a few drams larger than previously claimed and a one pound, twelve ounce river perch for challenge points together with a straggly flock of around 150 migrating golden plover over the Warwickshire countryside.

----

BLOGGERS CHALLENGE TOP FIVES
Rivers:
1/. James Denison 523
2/. Sean Dowling 314
3/. Brian Roberts 308
4/. Mick Newey 272
5/. George Burton 268

Canals:
1/. George Burton 296
2/. James Denison 206
3/. Russell Hilton 180
4/. Daniel Everitt 119
5/. Sean Dowling 95

Stillwaters:
1/. Brian Roberts 301
2/. James Denison 296
3/. Daniel Everitt 249
4/. George Burton 249
5/. Russell Hilton 147

Overall:
1/. James Denison 1025
2/. George Burton 813
3/. Brian Roberts 654
4/. Russell Hilton 576
5/. Daniel Everitt 541

----
A typical current river catch. 4lbs or so of rosch, dace and chublets

To conclude this particular post then -
A small number of good fish but with plenty of quiet sessions in between; some nice bird sightings but no hawfinch (yet) and plenty of the season left to go at.

Bring it, and the proper cold weather, on!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

In between Times


Living in the Midlands possibilities for roach of such magnitude as to make one wonder whether it's really worth having another cast, or whether the bewildered state should somehow be embalmed and taken from the bank, are few.

Revisiting Mark Wintle's excellent roach books, it being autumn now, in "Big Roach 2" was to be found a statement by Pete Shadick pronouncing that 2lb river roach are at least 14" from snout to cleft of tail.

Out came the measures and, by deduction using ratios from photographs, the second of my two lifetime two pounders, a canal fish of 2.3+, measured at least 14"

This was of some comfort as, being the doubting sort, even casting aspersions on my own old records, I do sometimes look back at those fish and ask whether a mistake could have been made.

Well not in this case it seems.

Comfort is drawn.

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So, The Boy Wonder "TBW" decides it's a fishing weekend and his favourite location is agreed upon.

The Res has been good to us this year from roach in the frost early-on, through rudd, perch, tench and even a proper crucian but, since the Challenge commenced TBW had not seen a tench to his own rod

The imaginary Golden Maggot would get an airing too

Weapons were chosen for the duel:
TBW - 1 rod - maggot and hemp feeder at 30m
F,F&F - float fished bread at 2 rods out (and a sneaky chopped worm feeder down the inside on the wand)

The level had dropped and colour with it

Standard Custom and Practice ensued...
I catch my biggest fish first cast and TBW casts his rig off and spent the next hour in state of general faffulence

Yes that first throw of the flake and up pops the float to reveal the clutch screaming surge of a 4lbs 5ozs 8drm male tench, but that was that


Total Bloody Womble "TBW" eventually gets into the swing and as per usual proceeds to tease two decent tench of 3.3 and 3.5 with a bigger one lost on his last cast to pluck the total weight prize from my grasp with some excellent counter-attacking. Draw the opposition out and into a sense of security then hit them hard. Perhaps Jurgen Klopp could learn from this boy Womble


Result:
TBW - Total weight 6.8; total species 1; number of fish 2. Points 1
FF&F - Total weight 6.0; total species 2; number of fish 4. points 2
Never in doubt

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My staple water the North Oxford Canal is very poor at present. Few fish, much colour and boat traffic high.

A move to the short length of conjoined Grand Union and Oxford Canals, even with its essential bow to stern flotilla from 8am or so, has been far more productive and a new area of attack has offered surprising all round  quality.

The wind could have been awkward hence the choice of an east-facing bend which was inevitably capable of offering shelter whichever forecast one favoured.

The local farmers were flat-out flattening-out the fields for winter fare. It seems but yesterday that the dust of the harvest clogged the airways but now there is no sign; the reaping, rolling, ploughing, tilling and drilling all complete in perfect linear patterns.

When everything else is failing revert to what you know. In this instance mashed bread and chopped worm. That approach on two rods produced a marvellous catch of just over ten pounds in two hours this very morning.

It was not the overall catch however but the size of the best fish of each species that made the eyes bulge, like Marty Feldman on speed.

The trend of the sequence caught with this approach when bream are present usually goes: bream/hybrids then a roach, or maybe two, then when that dies (by reverting to the worm rig) it's perch and the odd zander.

This morning followed the protocol to the letter with five bronze bream to 2lbs 2ozs followed by the best roach of the campaign yet at a cracking 1.10.0, albeit a fish of two halves with the anterior of a definite two pounder and a posterior that suggested a pounder, then five perch to 1.13.13 plus a zed-let.


That hard fighting roach would sit proudly in the top F,F&F canal roach list and, without checking, probably at around 6th or 7th.


It's 10am now and, the morn only having been sufficiently light 7am, already it's bums on (heated) seats and foot down heading off for a breakfast but not before a triple take as the last of today's many less than immaculate narrowboats chugged through...two years since we'd spoken I'd estimate...and there he was, a little changed by the passage of that time. Duncan, a good former angler, now operating on the dark surface of the water - with the odd dabble when the mood takes no doubt.

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The Bloggers Challenge is at an odd stage.

Many of the summer species are tabled and those that passed many of us by, largely those of flowing water, are not feeding due to a lack of rain.

For my part then it's purely a case of enjoying the fishing with no particular target other than whatever occurs, or at least for now.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Canal Research gets Silver Liting


There was a time when the pursuit of big canal fish was a combined effort. Committed anglers pooling information to inform a common goal.

Then that all changed two winters ago and since the furrow had been ploughed alone with neither horse nor spreadsheet.

A chance encounter with a bankside acquaintance has changed all that however with our work on 'the project' stimulating the latent traditional angler in an otherwise rubber fetishist mind (as a hitherto devout lure angler).

Witnessing the early morning success of bread on the canal had inspired him into a burst of activity on a canal I last fished in an NFA West Midlands Junior Championship precisely 40 years ago.

Results have been comparable with those I too have experienced and at last there is a sounding board out there, a catch-it net from which to pluck some rebounds.

Eric Weight authored an excellent lure fishing blog "Artficial Lite" which he then had to mothball due to the age old problem, but now it's back and now adorned with a separate glittering subsection "Silver Lite" in which he eloquently sets-out his findings in this new venture.

Initially Eric has had little difficulty in depicting my dear old self as a complete know-all (clearly he is a good judge of character) but hopefully by sharing what we've gleaned through the research and ramblings of F,F&F he can subjugate the learning process and cut to the chase of the chase on the cut.

Silver Lite is proving the fish of the Ashby de la Zouch Canal to be more akin to heavy metal by the weight of numbers of large hybrids Eric has teased into the net via dawn, and even pre-dawn, presented flake.

I joined him for a tough session on a recent Saturday morning and found the canal very much reminiscent of my local North Oxford Canal in appearance and, possibly, stocks. The main noteworthy difference being the sheer size of its armoured space invaders; one of which I had to net and must've been nigh-on half a pound!


Eric has been having some great early morning catches and has recently tracked down some decent roach to just over the pound mark so there is potential in that cut, albeit, for myself, it's a few minutes further than I like to regularly travel.

Interrogating the map however reminded me that other lengths of the Ashby do run closer to home and must be worth some attention this winter, especially in sheltered countryside locations.

Thankfully it is generally a rural canal.

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And so the canal campaign begins...

Today I sit writing with rising, recently seeded fields before me, migrating skylark and occasional meadow pipit calling overhead. The water now turbid as the passing narrowboats exceed double figures.

On the inside of this wide piled bend I had hoped.

The clarity at dawn was perfect for some 'bread fish' as well as those susceptible to the odd large worm.

These mornings however can never be lengthy. If the canals were closed they would soon be clear so, yes, we do need boats but the resultant short sharp sessions need to be very focussed to avoid wastage.

Good things are always possible...


Roach X bream hybrid 2lbs 1oz
 
Roach 0.14.2
 
Perch 2lbs 1oz & a few more challenge point
The above formed part of this mornings 11 fish, 9lbs catch from an area I'd been meaning to visit for three years but for various reasons didn't make

It was certainly an education and were it not for a mad spell of fifteen minutes during which four bites came to both rods simultaneously and all ended-up being completely missed.

It's clearly going to be a while before we get back in the groove!

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BLOGGER'S CHALLENGE UPDATE:
1 James Denison 999
2 George Burton 771
3 Brian Roberts 623
4 Danny Everitt 503
5 Sean Dowling 428