Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Test

The two least desirable times to pursue 'thine angle' are subsequent to a snow melt and to melted ice. Experience of fishing after snow has melted tells us that this is the most likely time for fish to clam-up and choose not to feed at all. Any bite is a bonus and time is better spent decorating a house, no greater insult can I pay the situation

Conversely, fishing while iced can be very productive indeed, especially on canals, if one can be bothered with the labourious task of breaking it. It appears perhaps to partly insulate the water so that the temperature below remains relatively constant, which has it benefits under the conditions of a longer-term freeze, and gives the fish a greater degree of confidence due to the perceived shelter they are afforded

So the prospect of chasing a big roach this weekend could not have been further from fruition. Canal ice was broken by boats on Friday and then rapidly melted by Sunday so Christmas shopping would surely be in order for the weekend

A sudden burst of mild air across the country however changed that and the challenge of actually getting a bite superceded the potential to lie-in. Both The Dog and Parps were laid-up, cold-ridden, and The Lady Burton comatose when the alarm rang-out at 6am so the outdoors seemed like an altogether more attractive option, even if the probability of silver crossing the palm was miniscule

At the first bridge it remained too dark to set-up (peaked too early again) and so I had an urge to try a stretch which presented three options in terms of type of swim; natural with trees oposite, natural with low vegetation opposite and piled both sides. Having wandered one way and then the other a glimpse of a topping fish, and then another, made the decision; these could only be roach and although they did not appear to be large in the murk anything would do today and the likelihood of larger ones in the same location was high. The sight of active fish also had that convincing effect that today could indeed be better than forecast

On the basis that the cold ice-water would have descended immediately into the boat channel, which was wide here, two spots were plumbed to the same depth one each side of the channel slightly up the slope of the shelves and, hopefully, above the 'too cold' water line with a mental picture of the Dick Walker 'thermocline' image springing immediately to mind

This was a departure from the norm. Usually, with a maximum of 2 hours to dispose of, one spot just past middle would be selected but this Sunday two 'holes' to fish would keep things just a touch more lively and increase scope. There was also a long-held memory that big roach could be taken closer-in here than in most other locations that could be brought to mind and this was an opportunity to test that theory when it least mattered if it failed

Sloppy coarse white crumb, comprising liquidised Warburton's blue medium sliced white bread subsequently frozen and then mixed with some fine crumb, to add a clouding effect, was introduced from more than four feet above water level, the resultant plop being intentionally sought, on both lines

The test match went on, care of steaming to the iPhone, as Captain Cook's men pursued an unlikely series win in India; not something ever done before on my part as the sound of the natural world is all-but always preferable but this was important, a critical stage of play on the fourth day and so much so as not to be missed. 63 for 1 at that moment, Cook just out, a dodgy decision apparently

It was yet another dull start to the day, the dawns heralded by sunlight have been few and far between this season and this was no different, thus the possibility of listing a few birds by sight was low so they had to be identified by sound while the wait for a bite progressed and, thankfully, no difficult ones passed through; blackbird, robin, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, moorhen and later goldfinch, mute swan (they could be seen!) and wren, plus jackdaw, carrion crow and woodpigeon, the latter scattered overhead by shotguns being discharged to the north

An early boat came through quite gently, barely stirring the beige silt as it headed west, and a second light feed of each line was made once the water had completely settled and a check made to avoid pronounced lock movement

Compton went for about 30 and there was again some doubt as to whether he had nicked it before it struck his pad when a sudden silence descended as the battery died. The phrase "Hmm, so much for that idea!" replaced it

Alternating the two lines it was something of a surprise when the float quivered close-in and a strike hit nothing which was put down to signal crayfish without a proper lift to strike at. Last time camp had been made near here crays were avoided by lengthening the popped-up bread flake tail to 6" so an immediate decision was made and next put-in the float dithered around and was left to materialise, potentially - a few tugs as if a claw was pulling the hooklength to drag the bread down toward it's mouth but followed by an obvious lift and, after months of practice, this triggered an immediate upward jerk then the surge of emerging elastic to the right as the fish, a roach from the shaking of its head, was drawn away from the fed area

After an excellent fight the pristine beauty slipped over the lip of the net and unusually this fish, which went 1-3-0, looked less than pound. The keepnet option was discounted today as the pickings were likely to be thin and that was more than possibly the 'one bite, one fish' which would exceed expectations. The perfect specimen was released 30 yards away

The thought that this might be the only fish led to the inside line being gently re-fed and then the far line being fished but a blank 15 minutes soon had the rig re-deposited on the previously fishy spot to see it sail away at odds with the lift-bite set-up and another similarly-sized fish was felt which put-up a greater struggle than the first as attempts to dig down were made trying get into roots under the pole tip but, soon after, another cracking roach was tamed albeit with a small bloodied patch on it's flank. This one appeared to be a touch bigger than the first and it was with mild disappointment that the scales indicated precisely the same weight at 1-3-0

Another carefully navigated boat passed-by without fuss and both lines were very lightly re-fed, more by way of a reminder than a further helping of food...and the sun came out

Soon after a first bite on the far line, as a flock of long-tailed tits twanged there merry way rapidly past the spot, and a rather enthusiastic strike caused the fish to burrow for the far bank straight through the fed area. This one, whilst acting in a roach-like fashion, felt noticeably larger but as I eventually lead it away from the target zone the hook pulled-out and a cloud of blue air surrounded to culprit

Once calm and rationality had re-established itself the far line was again lightly re-fed and left, immediately a bite was missed 20 feet out followed by another fish on. The impression this time was of a smaller fish, as was the case when it hit the net, but not without it making a valiant attempt to dip the scales past the pound mark. They settled at 0-15-13 however. Maybe by March

What ensued was a period of confusion

What time was it? Was it worth another cast or two? Should they be fed again?

The conclusion was made to have one more look across at the far line and again the float lifted and a good fish was hooked only for it again to pull free half-way back across

The winter shoal was well and truly located. Armed with this knowledge the resistance to using anything other than bread would definitely break and caster would now come into play as the quest to improve the PB would become more intense. Start on bread and wait for the caster line, down the very middle, to come alive for at least two hours, now that was a thirst no amount of melting ice would quench

As the scene was surveyed boats were coming from both directions and so the decision became inevitable, and the phone being plugged-in to the car confirmed the end of the days' play. England had a lead of 165 with a day to go and 7 wickets in hand. Trott on 66 and the world's best batman, due a score, at the crease - what could possibly go wrong from there?


  1. Still getting those spanking roach and the average is high enough to predict it but I can't believe that ceiling of 1:03/4 hasn't been breached yet, George. I think it's a glass ceiling, just stats throwing a wobbler as they do. The long run will find that out though, I'm sure.

    As you say my average on the northern end of the Oxford is much higher and even the Coventry nearby seems to be throwing up the bigger fish nowadays when the average a few years ago there was around a pound. Maybe its the climate about those parts, or the electricity!

  2. Yes the old (fish)wives tale of big fish under the cables!...or is it?

    I'm confident the fish I lost was bigger as, although the initial rush of a fish can sometimes be deceptive, this still felt heavy after it was partly tamed prior to coming off the hook

    I need to make the effort to fish into dark I think. They must be there!