Friday, 6 April 2012

The Angling-based Past v. The Angling-based Future, a Contextual Analysis...or skimmers, sticklebacks, stonechats and shrews

Sounds a bit rude really doesn't it?, but I thought it was about time I put some context to the plan

Between 1975 and 1996 I recorded as accurately as I could every single fish I caught. If I were to bother to add them up (which I will not...there's sad and there's terminal!) I could also tell you, a touch more approximately, how many of each species in that period. I appreciate I may have lost count from time to time but on the odd occasion, when I knew I may have done so, I would count them back at the end and invariably I had undercounted so I can say without fear of guilt that the recorded figures are, if anything, slightly below the true numbers

To give an example, if I check back, in 1990/91 season (bearing in mind they were proper seasons back then) the book says 4900 fish were caught at an average of 51.58 per trip for a total catch of 350.2.12 and a trip average of 3.11.0. I could tell you more but you may well begin to wonder if you might catch OCD from the words. I could tell you what the average weight of each fish was, in fact that would not be difficult at all, however what might appear quite surprising I am sure is that the average weight of each catch and each fish may seem extremely low and yet the number of fish caught on average seems quite high

It's all in this box. Originally in special books, then an A5 sheet per trip
 The reason for this is that from the age of about 12 I fished in matches and saw non-match sessions as practice for them. Consequently I hardly ever fished for big fish for a whole session even if they were clearly in front of me as I would almost always be looking to get some fish in the net by whatever (legal) means before I tried to catch the bigger ones at the very least in case they didn't feed and I was left blank, a disaster in a team match for instance

I recall, looking back, that in the early days we used to concentrate on certain rivers and later on canals often travelling with the Old Duffer's mates until he got a car of his own. Extended spells going to the Great Ouse, Trent, Warks Avon, Thames, Grand Union and North Oxford Canals are still quite vividly remembered combined with occasional trips to all sorts of other venues as widely drawn as the River Wye and Coombe Abbey lake. Eventually however I settled for a long period on the Grand Union between Crick and Leighton Buzzard followed by another period on West Midlands canals including the Staffs/Worcs, B'ham/Worcs, Shropshire Union, Stratford Canal and, again, the Grand Union, this time west of Warwick. During both of these latter spells of canal fishing the North Oxford featured most winters and, often, early season evenings too. Consequently I navigate by fishing venues rather than pubs and rarely need a voice to say 'take second exit' unless a new road has been built

Some Warks bloggers may recognise this venue from a Xmas 1983 photo of a photo?

From an earlier age than the above I had been birdwatching and avidly listing every species seen, even on the shortest of trips which could possibly fall into this bracket, and including any other species I might have been capable of having a stab at identifying such as the occasional butterfly or mammal (The Dog has always been particularly adept at attracting the latter since he appeared on the scene some 16 years ago. I fear it is due to his reticence to wash)

I had undertaken studies of a short length of the River Avon, east of Rugby, and another of Stanford Reservoir when at school and so the recording doctrine set-in early. When none of the above opportunities  presented themselves then the option of a jam-jar and net seeking-out bullheads and loaches under the stones of shallow brooks would always offer another option or, perhaps, tracking wasps back to their nests and then trying to convince The Old Duffer that we (he) really ought to go and dig it out under cover of darkness and then put the grubs to good use on the Trent ('never did happen). For the past ten years I have been involved in other forms of recording at a more structured and public level with bats, amphibians and reptiles and which I suppose have filled some of the gap while I have been away from fishing, birdwatching and generally being out there entirely for the pleasure of it

Fifteen years or so after quitting fishing part-way through a winter league series, when the urge not to go overwhelmed me, it has been like a new sport altogether to come back into it without the wish or will to enter matches and the prospect initially to concentrate effort toward bigger fish to see what can be caught from those same locations, from which I once averaged a much higher number of tiny fish, is quite a challenge. The cost of travel and available time keep me within certain limits now and to concentrate in the north-eastern end of Feldon seems quite appropriate and contained, although I am certain I will stray from time to time when a seemingly valid reason or whim presents itself

A typical catch of old. A team of footballers from the R Thames, 1983

What I do not yet know is where seeking-out bigger fish at the cost of tiddlers will end-up. I can't be sure but what I do know is that the quest to come-up with new or more refined methods, a mindset that constantly accompanied my approach between '75 and '96, hasn't gone away and already this has paid-off with some bigger canal fish in just three concerted visits. Everything can be improved somehow to suit a situation and for now that is keeping me suitably amused and excited. A heightened awareness of the natural world around me also adds fascination but, frankly, at this moment, the bite takes precedence! This new world will evolve into something more, or different, from there if it wants to I am sure.

Soon I think I will add at the side of my posts, if I can figure out how to do it(!), a list of my P.B's from the past world I describe above and perhaps another of the evolving New World list to compare it with. It (the old list) won't initially at least make for exciting reading for the onlooker but it will focus my mind and hopefully will get more interesting as we progress


  1. i recognise that willow between brinklow and ca thiron,its where i spent most of my early teen years fishing belong to rugby aa as i remember

    1. You're not wrong there Ian

      It's the first fence end east of All Oaks Wood where the Willow stands

      You're taking me back with that comment. I think it was controlled by Rugby Legion rather than Rugby Fed? I seem to recall their waters met at Hillmorton Locks but stand to be corrected, maybe you can remember?

      I actually caught a pound or more of bits there a couple of years ago but my memory tells me it was usually big fish or nothing

    2. where you are fishing is where i used to go there and a few pegs towards the bend,caster for roach up to a pound was my aim.
      i'm sure it was the rugby federation of anglers that controlled the water