Saturday, 3 November 2012

Juvenile Hybrids, a 21st Century Tale

It was frosty first thing and the towpath, which yesterday would have been muddy in places, was crisp on top and recently trimmed vegetation lay white against the darkness at dawn. A certain murkiness appeared to pervade the water as the day tried to break through a clear sky, but for a couple of small clouds, and the chill started to mould the fingers as the search for the tastiest peg commenced
A wander along an exposed straight and through a farm bridge revealed the area I had done a recce on last winter but circumstances had not conspired to allow it to be tested it until today. A few yards past the likely lay a literal raft of willowherb that had been deposited in the water by the midweek mower so this confirmed the chosen spot on the inside of a slow bend with hawthorns opposite and dense bramble scrub behind
The stillness of the water seemed that bit more calm than when there is no frost and tiddlers were to be seen topping from first light right along the length, something I had noticed on another length some miles east a week prior hinting at potential regeneration of the North Oxford Canal for the future and when the extremely fine rain commenced it was as noticeable as it was light with each ring caught and accentuated in the increasing morning light
Gentle rain in the frost
On plumbing, the depth inside was staggering and, as I pushed the pole across checking every half a metre, it didn’t start to shallow-up until past middle and even then not severely. Now I fancied it even more but last time I visited the stretch crayfish had been a problem on a peg with cover across like this and so the decision was made to fish just short of the centre

A whole loaf had been coarsely liquidised in the week then frozen to dry it out for use over forthcoming sessions. A small handful was soaked in canal water and deposited on the spot from a height to make a splash. A piece of flake large enough to need a number 1 shot to sink it was deployed and I settled-in for a few minutes knowing that this method rarely produced early bites unlike proper bread punch fishing when bites would be instant if fish were present
Third put-in the float lifted in a somewhat jerky fashion and a fish was hooked. The elastic wasn’t too keen to emerge however and it clearly wasn’t a pound plus fish, soon an 8 ounce roachxbream hybrid was in the net. Next cast, another bite, and this time a touch more resistance was felt but still not enough to suggest a monster, at least this time it felt more roachy and sure enough one of around 11 ounces slid over the lip of the net but not before it had swum around the string that stretched the keep net out!

Two more proper bites followed given by another juvenile hybrid and, as yet, the smallest fish to fall to the lift bite/flake method – a 2 ounce roach foul-hooked in the ‘shoulder’. Hybrids of course are not usually caught at over a pound, even though they are relatively common, but at least they are naturally occuring, which cannot be said for invasive crayfish

As last week, and indeed the last visit to this location, the cray’s then moved-in and started pulling the line together with the beginning of a procession of boats, one of which amazingly was a Cheese Boat selling, it said, ‘Speciality Welsh Cheeses on the Waterways’, or words to that effect, really I ask you

Sitting it out and trying two other lines, one right across and one closer-in, produced only more cray bites and after two hours it was time to quit and dry out but not without identifying a couple more promising swims on the way back where long grasses lay on the water
Fish at last
These were consistently the smallest fish I had taken since religiously pursuing the lift bite method and flake but it was nice to get some proper bites at last and tomorrow morning I’d be back for another dose at another location possibly on this same canal, it had been tempting midweek to try a small stream but passing over the Avon on Friday showed it to be all-but bank-high and so another weekend on the canals was in order
Bird List: Mallard, Moorhen, Bullfinch, Great tit, Blue tit, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Pheasant, Red-legged partridge

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