Trimming the kit down to the absolute bare minimum was quite a facinating exercise in itself. To date during the rebirth I had taken the dalek to sit on with its secret drawers and slidy bits containing a vast number of now redundant, but formerly life-saving, pole rigs. In reality I only 'needed' two rigs for the big roach method, one orange, one black, for differing backgrounds but I couldn't leave the house without six. Still it was a serious climb-down from a hundred and twenty-odd 15 year-old and subsequently unusable variations
Although a list of items of kit would not take long to compile I will limit myself to saying that my rucksack stool was still half empty even with flask and bait included
The rod holdall was dispensed with and I managed to decant a shortened version of the pole (three longest joints missing) two sections of landing net handle and two spare top sets into a single rod bag. Add to this a net bag and we were ready to go, in fact my cold weather clothing took up more space than the kit. Now THAT was a first as canal fishing went
The purpose of all this was to enable me to quickly travel further from the car and get fishing in locations I would otherwise not have bothered walking to weighed-down with heavier stuff. Firstly because I wanted to get there early to take full advantage of the period between dawn and first boat, secondly to revisit swims I remembered from the dim and distant past and thirdly the fact that a really simple approach is so very appealling...quick to set-up and put away, focussing the mind and ensuring that I do not get distracted with the option of small fish or general confusion on such occasions
On Saturday morning I trekked a good distance from the bridge at first light. A number of tempting pegs were passed but I had my mind set on an area from which I recalled catching plenty of roach on bread before the reincarnation and where, in the month of March, I had also seen a bed of violets blooming under the hedgerow, not that they would be there as a milestone at this time of year but it had stuck in my mind
Previous experience had told me that signal crayfish were more likely opposite cover (can anyone corrobrate this?) so I chose an open peg immediately before a row of hawthorns on the outside of a bend. The other lesson was that the big roach-seeking method would often produce a simple one bite, one fish result so no mistakes could be entertained and, frankly, the bites have seemed unmissable anyway
A mid-channel line was selected and the popped-up flake nailed to the deck awaiting interest. A good degree of drifting-off ensued as various rural events unfolded before my eyes and ears most interesting of which was a particularly relaxed small herd of bullocks which wandered slowly past and only one of which took time to stop and wonder what I was and why I was sat there opposite purely to look at him. They headed off to the rear of the hawthorns and out of sight, occasionally stopping to nibble at the sparse vegetation but not to fertilize it, this occurred on the move.
Back to the float..nothing
Some moments later, uproar beyond view. First impression was that the unwitting cattle had been allowed to enter an area off limits by contractors leaving gates open by some brickwork which had recently been repaired and that someone, possibly the farmer, wanted to get them back where they belonged asap. New language was learned and much yelling endured. Then it went quiet and, a minute or two later, a Volvo went by at a reasonable speed (for a farm track) with a fair old amount of revving included. 'Just someone late for work after all', I thought, and the beast returned to a relaxed state
As I returned to the float its insert lifted right above the surface and a good fish was hooked. A decent fight followed, suitably enhanced as the elastic refused to emerge smoothly due to the fact I'd neglected to run it through the water before I started and, as I started to bring the pole round to the right, the narrowness of the towing path became amplified as I realised there was no convenient hole behind to push it through and in the subsequent dither I commited an error which would have been unheard of in the past in I allowing the line to go slack and the barbless hook to drop-out. The air went purple as red mist blended with blue language and, as I swung the line to hand, a tell-tale blob of that shiny transparent slime of the roach was on the hook spade and shot.
One bite, no fish...and then the boats started so I knew it was then simply a case of waiting until it was time to go home
Nine long-tailed tits twanged their little avian jew's harps and flitted across the gap in front of me as they passed between bushes, the last of them somewhat reluctant to cross the divide alone but they were followed sometime later by another three who joined the first bunch and then suffered a fearful ear-bending! Maybe they were late for the rendezvous or simply intruding and in need some kind of winter flock-joining initiation
During the session a large number of tiny fish topped all around and two large fish broke the surface, one with a crash, two pegs to my right as simultaneously a shoal of medium-sized roach topped regularly at the end of a straight to my right. Far more action that I would have anticipated if you had asked before I started
Next day I was back. An hour earlier of course with the clocks having changed but the water was more coloured than Saturday and I passed a couple of sleeping narrowboats on the way along (always a risk in case the occupants are awakened) to fish where the two big fish had topped but, nevertheless, the penny didn't drop
The approach would be the same but after half an hour's fishing the float pulled to the left and the deflating sound of a boat coming from the same direction, which I tried very hard to make sound like a tractor or a plane or something, let the air out of the balloon of optimism rather earlier than I would have hoped and it was closely followed by three others
A female reed bunting landed in the bushes opposite and I waited an age for it's head to appear from behind bunch of haws to get a photograph through the early morning murk
No bites and no toppers. It was cold and raining when I left home but despite what might otherwise have appeared a somewhat pointless visit I did identify a particulary enticing swim on the way back to the car with rushes both inside and across which had somehow eluded my gaze the day before
Three trips, six hours, no fish. These are the days!
Next week of course the boats will be tucked back up in the yards and the colour will drop out a touch more overnight from now through to the end of the (old) season offering greater potential for bread to snare those big roach and other strays. I know from years gone by that the first two weeks in November are the best for canal fishing so no need to be downhearted. Just being outside is enough for me
2 alsatians who I have met a couple of times before and sniff round the bread
2 jack russels, one of which actually stole my bread
1 greyhound called Badger, who I am reliably informed travels alongside his boat on the towpath and waits under bridges if it rains but never travels onboard
2 labradors - 1 black, 1 brown and well controlled by a suitably waxed-clad Country Gentleman
1 retrievery thing
2 more greyhounds as I left
So, it's official, 3 in 10 dogs...