Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Owl and the Fisherman


The weekend saw the first real cold weather descend upon our little world and the risk that the weekly canal visit may be curtailed by ice hadn't really hit home until the car read-out confirmed a serious -5degC at 6.30 on Sunday morning. The option of a small river had flashed into view the previous day, while undertaking the dubious pleasure of moving the washing machine, but the levels were assumed to be too high after the equally frustrating recent extended heavy rain

Somehow the realisation that a crusty canal might be found on arrival had been pushed to the back of the mind and so it was still quite a shock to the system when it transpired and appeared quite thick already. A look at the Grand Union Fosse bridge the day before had shown no sign of ice and this had probably mislead the mind

So, with no gaps to be seen, a trail was somewhat delicately blazed to the next two bridges east before a free stretch was found; not at the least in an inviting location and frankly one from which I could barely muster the memory of any weights over a pound. Needless to say confidence was not exactly soaring but at least a couple of hours, or such time as extremities lost feeling, would be spent out in the thick of it

Would the fingers and toes need resuscitating after this
There were probably four pegs free of ice apparently caused by a trickle of water running in under the road bridge. Shop would ideally have been set-up closer to the frozen sheet because fish always shelter under the ice when it is present but instead a position 10m short was chosen as there was a cables warning post at this point and, if nothing else, it gave something to lean some kit against

Even the bread groundbait was frozen

The usual procedure ensued and, after an hour and a half, when, as anticipated from recent experience, a bite would have been expected, if one was to be forthcoming at all, confidence ebbed away and the last thirty minutes reverted to a general gawping around session interspersed by the odd great or blue tit diving in amongst the invasive snowberries opposite to chisel away at a sustaining morsel to which the birds were attracted on the ground beneath on numerous occasions, perhaps they were ash seeds but it wasn't possible to be certain
Foraging Blue Tit
Fieldfares, blackbird, robin and dunnock were also rummaging around in the shambolic overgrown bank facing, and crows plus the occasional calling gull passed to the east

On moseying back to the re-frosted car, having wiped as much from the gear as possible the thought dawned that if this stretch was free, with no great rush to get home for a change (and the governing factor being how long it would take for the cold to penetrate the seven upper body layers), could other more inviting areas have been options

A sure sign it's chilly, an elastic swing-tip

Gone are the days when a lump of steel on an ice-cutting chain would be hurled across the surface like some massive industrial Arctic can-opener to free a peg, as the joints have a few too many years to get through yet to reach three score and ten, but secretly it was known that this really was the requirement

The possibility that other options might have presented themselves two hours before was too tempting to ignore and a quick detour confirmed the somewhat unnecessary fact. Yes, more likely spots were ice free, and may well have offered a greater chance of the odd bite...or maybe not

Undeterred the challenge was set to check-out the Upper River Leam and give it a go later the same day and stay into dark

Well by 3.30pm it was positively balmy, no cattle appeared to be in the field and only one other distant angler could be seen as the revised set of kit was set-down in a slightly boggy situation following the rivers' falling levels over the past week

Light was fading fast and the yellow quiver tip was pronounced from the outset as chunks of flake were trundled and occasionally anchored in the crease where the rather racy main flow met stiller water behind a rush bed. Rough-liquidised crumb was introduced but no definite taps were noted in a two to three hour session, perhaps a smelly bait such as meat or lobs would have been more likely

No sooner had darkness descended than a tawny owl started meekly hooting in the village as various members of the thrush family sought roosting refuge in the willow carr beside me.

The gloom grew thicker and the glowworm-like rod tip more luminous as the evening set-in, by now the sense of an impending repeat frost was all around but, despite various items of tackle being wet, it wasn't as cold as it had been in iceland this morning and that sparkly glint never materialised.

As the rod tip arced under the repetitive pressure of receding floodwater the corner of my eye caught a large ill-defined shape swooping down the tiny river course past me, low over the water, barely any further away than the rod tip and settled in a willow which straddled the water to the right. "I'm not your owl", I muttered, after Hermione Granger, as the brown owl took flight again and headed further away still following the riparian beat

The ground was rock hard as I trudged back from the second of two bite-less trips in one day, but deep down this was expected. The head torch still hadn't appeared so a borrowed conventional torch illuminated the field gate left open by the other angler, no harm done as no beast were present but not advisable tactics in the countryside

As long as it's possible to keep warm there's nothing to beat the sights & sounds of the waterside at any time of year. Next I look forward to a river in better shape, some snow on the ground and a bronzed chub in the net, a scene which looks pristinely idyllic in photographs

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, J K Rowling

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