Monday, 2 April 2012

A Frosty Reception

The frost was heavy at dawn this morning. I hadn't expected to need to scrape the windscreen before I headed to rendezvous with The Old Duffer at pegs the image of which I nursed in my mind all week. I was glad for the heavy duty winter gear The Lady Burton had invested in a couple of Christmases back but, as I stepped out from the warmth of the car, I was more concerned at the sight of those pegs being taken by narrowboats than the cold

I did make myself £5 richer however as I had bet myself that no matter how early I got up he would beat me there. It must be where my competitive instinct comes from, although I try to limit mine to the actual fishing where possible! Sure enough, given that we were going to be fishing together, he had done the obvious thing and walked past the boats to the next available swims. Sadly however the perceived potential was minimal so far from the bridge where he himself had taken roach of 1-15-0 and perch of 1-7-0 in the past. These pegs would produce 30-40 mixed small fish for just over a pound in matches when I was a teenager in about 1980 and by the time I left the scene again in the mid to late '90's, the zander having eaten those little chaps, it was ounces unless the odd netter interrupted the struggle

Consequently the optimism was not exactly oozing but the thick drifting mist hanging over the water, the lambs and young rabbits friskily frolicking in the field opposite, goldfinches again twittering in a tree nearby and the general feeling of isolation at dawn while the masses sleep were enough to make it worthwhile in themselves but, nevertheless, the prospect of a decent fish on the new-found method was always there and the confidence in it from last week's inaugural session was going to carry me through this one, even if it was blank

Plumbing-up it was predictably shallower here than where I fished last week but shallower still than I expected with the deepest channel only about 2m wide and then steeply shelving opposite. I planned to fish at the bottom of the far slope and put in a blob of bread crumb with some mashed bread at that point where a dark reflection also allowed a good view of the float tip

Unusually for bread, bites were not immediately forthcoming and the first came when resorting to a small cube of crust which, somehow, a 2oz roach managed to squeeeze into it's mouth and ended-up in the net. One more missed bite and it was time to top-up the feed. Meanwhile The Old Duffer (or TOD, as he might now be known, for short...but not for long) softly whistled and pointed out a big roach rolling halfway between us. Soon after this a proper exaggerated lift-bite caused the usual state of shock in me but I soon realised what this meant(!) and struck into something which took some elastic and then soon took on the feel of a struggling roach

Attempting an action shot while the fish approached the net with an imaginary third hand (me, not the fish) almost resulted in the camera disappearing in the mist but somehow all remained intact and a not exactly pristine roach with some blackspot around its head was engulfed by the net. Not a pounder, which is now the level at which satisfaction can be certain, but it looked around 12ozs and, more importantly, boosted confidence in having another

Ice, net, roach... the beginnings of a new fruitstone-counting rhyme
A lack of subsequent bites however prompted a further feed introduction, and while I wandered along to my fishing partner avoiding the punctuations of yesterday's dog walking laziness he too had a bite and landed an 8-10oz perch on a banker pinkie line, near-side of middle. (Last week I referred to perch as footballers...this week I discover there is a Newcastle United player called, wait for it...Perch). This short trip signalled the end of the fishing action for the early morning as a pair of skylark headed north-east overhead given away by their distinctive contact calls. I had tried a larger piece of flake but a touch of River Leam deja vue occurred when it failed to be sunk by the shot I was using. The far shelf deserved a spot of feed late-on but with no bites, and a boat approaching soon after, it was time to consider delivering Parps to his Rugby match

The roach, by now affectionately known as 'Spot', was weighed at 11ozs and returned to the water with the his little pink-finned colleague and we contemplated the pegs we couldn't fish plus a couple of others on the opposite side of the bridge (from which we would have had a host of big fish of course!) as we sauntered back

Not the prettiest roach you'll ever see but perfectly good enough when the odds are against you

This stretch, or perhaps the whole of the N. Oxford, was habitually electro-fished at least annually by British Waterways in the days when it mattered to them to ensure that people fished there, when stretches were leased and rents were due to be paid, and a commercials were TV ad's. The zander were removed if overpowered by the electrical current at about 12ozs plus and transported for eating in accordance with the law and the population of fish was fairly stable, if artificially so (having said that the population with zander present was artificially so too of course), albeit that it was an ageing cohort. Now I wonder whether if I were of such a mind to fish for smaller fish what would be present these days, I had caught 13ozs of fish while actively avoiding any littl'uns here? On my three trips to the canal thus far there have been a few small fish topping nearby each time, things will reach a new natural balance eventually just as we now see far fewer mink than in the late 70's and early 80's. A dusk wander along some of the more suitable stretches for 'bits' might answer the question more easily as they indulge in their late evening topping ceremony in mild weather, at least then the big fish hunt can continue without disturbance!

Despite the presence of some competition the Golden Maggot was not mentioned today nor did it need to be as we only scraped 1 species each anyway

[Species list: Wren, skylark, dunnock, great tit, indeterminate gull, mallard, carrion crow, mistle thrush, robin, blackbird, goldfinch, chaffinch, woodpigeon, rabbit, roach, perch.
1st swallow of the year at Dunchurch on the way home.]


  1. You'll be pleased to hear I am struggling too George, just can't seem to buy a bite at the moment. Went out the other night and had one small skimmer at the end of three biteless hours, tonight had a pound roach and lost a second fish (sure it was another silver coloured rudd) at the net. But it took three hours again for those bites to come. Wrong peg? I don't think so. Just wrong timing,

    Still, the drama of the bite certainly wakes you up !

  2. Looks like you're having problems all round Jeff what with the blog-probs and all that?!

    (It may interest you to know that your widget-loss post appeared twice and the publish or be damned one couldn't be viewed, just now)

    I'm quite looking forward to fishing a swim known to hold big fish within my self-imposed scope next...'just need to think of one!

    I'm sure if you're in the right place you'll be getting bites


  3. Tell me about it. The twice published, non-published bit was caused by changes to the way blogger works. I published the notice, then accidentally published an old draft about blog publishing, removed that, found that blogrolls were now pointing at a missing page, re published the notice, the blogrolls still pointed at the missing page, so I had to delete the notice, create a new post and paste the content in that! Phew. That fixed it. What a bleeding faff though!