Monday, 14 January 2013
Chases to the Cut
Being laid-up for some time inspired me in more lucid moments to start blogging getting-on for a year or so ago, so being in the same situation again, has given me time to go back through old catch records and to compile species' bests from each, whenever the symptoms have subsided sufficiently
Some of those places didn't deserve to be logged in that respect as they may have been listed trips to poor stretches at only once or twice frequented locations selected by the opposition in knock-out situations simply because they were poor and, as such, the returns for species caught were often just ounces
What I have been left with then looks a little thin in some areas; to a specimen hunter would look absolutely threadbare (more like a child's list) and, to an angler fishing anywhere other than canals, pretty paltry too
However the list of canal bests isn't too bad for someone not given to fishing 'the hotspot' & thus, it being the start of a new year and all that, it is time to make use of it. The benefit is that it can act as a reminder of those records waiting to be beaten and, perhaps, instead of seeking-out roach every weekend, it might nurture some kind of wish to exceed a few of the other weights on the list too!
Over the past year lists of pre-2012 & post-2012 bests have been kept separately as they represent the two different worlds this conduit is trying to serve to compare, but in future they are also going to be listed annually like a birder might keep annual tallies if he were of such a mind...something I have never done (although somewhere a 'life list' does exist I'm sure, 'can't be certain where though)
Bronze bream 3-12-0 (Grand Union 1993)*
Silver bream 0-11-0 (North Oxford 2012)
Carp 5-8-0 (Grand Union, Northampton Arm 1991)*
Crucian carp 0-12-0 (Grand Union, 1990)*
Chub 4-3-0 ('South' Oxford, 1994)*
Gudgeon 0-2-0 (North Oxford, 1996)
Perch 1-10-8* (Grand Union, date uncertain)
Pike 5-10-0 (Grand Union, Leicester Line circa 2002)
Roach 1-4-12 (North Oxford, 2012)
Rudd 0-6-8 (Grand Union, 1991)*
Ruffe 0-2-0 (North Oxford, 1990)
Tench 3-2-0 (Grand Union, 1989)
Zander 2-11-0 (North Oxford, 2012)
Jeff Hatt is currently valiantly espousing canal fishing on his Idler's Quest blog and I can only agree that this somewhat 'angling in miniature' scene (if it yet is one again, I'm sure it will grow if it isn't) is well worth the effort especially if combined with a healthy distrust of the sensationlist elements of the angling media which, apart from having an undoubted generally negative affect on the sport as viewed by the outside world (and plenty inside the world!), bears no relation to most rational fishermans' views of angling and therefore, if ignored, this type of angling can be enjoyed all the more
It doesn't have to be the biggest, the quickest, the fastest, it just has to be a pleasure! The angling press lost sight of this somewhere along the way between The Greats of yesteryear, Bob Nudd & the current raft of slaughterers trying to lower the water levels of commercials with their two keepnets, and cruel & pointless methods and motives, which have quite clearly now seeped into many branches of the sport by osmosis.
My belief is that this started with the big roach & bream catches publicised from Ireland & Denmark, probably in the mid-seventies from memory, crude tactics for a captive audience...some of you will still be able to picture a former world champion, who will forever be associated with a parrot, and 'southern stars' with huge bulging tunnels of, probably knotted or knitted, keepnets full of roach, rudd or bream depending on the country they plundered...I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time but surely in hindsight, as it did to me then, it appears barbaric and yet now, 30 to 40 years on, it is actively encouraged nationwide. If you are brought-up as a youngster on 'commercials' these days you must wonder, if indeed the brain is engaged on the matter, what is the value of fish?, and in the same sentence lies the answer, 'commercial'.
The death of a fish due to ineptitude has been a very rare event throughout my angling life, and usually this was due to a small fish swallowing the bait when laying-on & being impossible to neatly unhook, but how many of those irish fish must have been gull-fodder when returned to the water?...and the pirates wonder why it doesn't last. How many of those suffering internal injuries would die later?
No, canal fishing these days, and especially on those affected by zander, is thankfully not in that bracket and it strikes me that, apart perhaps from certain forms of river fishing, there is currently no purer branch of the sport. I may be coming across as 'born again', which I am of course(!), but to step away, re-assess and re-invent is often a means of opening one's own eyes fully to the reality. Not that I ever plundered those kind of weights, in fact I have never caught even as much as 30lbs of fish in a session preferring instead the challenge of getting a bite in a rainwater puddle to following the crowd to the current litter-strewn, bank-worn, lipless fish-filled hot peg.
Yes, canal angling is a laudible pursuit within its own limitations. Each canal, and indeed each stretch of the longer waterways, has it's own character and one might consider setting different challenges for each definable length. In the old days my own aim was simply to devise a method which would beat 9-11 other blokes trying to do the same to me (a match fishing section usually being of 10 or 12 anglers, 1 from each competing team). Now it is simply to enjoy it and try to catch a few larger fish rather than a few littl'uns. Sometimes with a keepnet, sometimes without
If you are a trout angler or perhaps the type who likes to take the odd zander for the pot, that's fine; that makes the the world revolve, it's not wanton, it's food. If other species of fish are protected from removal from waters why are anglers allowed to treat them so badly? No other protected species are treated in this manner with, in some cases, even their specific habitat protected too
I have photographs of catches of fish flapping about in fields from the past which I look at and cringe. Indeed I recently posted a picture of a nest of perch I laid on the bank in a gale and pouring rain which didn't look great but they all went back healthy and weren't crushed or injured
How long before a do-gooder takes action against an angler or fishery? Not on a canal they won't but obviously they do have their downsides. Certain cuts cannot be fished after about 9am in summer and I suspect the majority (sweeping statement...but it didn't stop me above!) are unfishable during the main daylight hours during any school holidays simply due to weight of boat traffic. Some canals, and most of the Grand Union being a broad canal immediately springs to mind here, are fishable regardless in terms of being able to get a bite, but the constant disturbance is irritating even then. Another snag I have discovered, quite literally, this year is that the towpath margins in recent times have been allowed to become overgrown for quite some while in some places (in fact this must have extended to years given the height of ash poles until recently present on the water's edge) but suddenly that undergrowth, or is it over-growth?, has gone (no doubt something to do with the change of control from BW and shuffling budgets) and where have they gone? Into the canal! Not ideal and not something new in principle, admittedly, but an extreme case neverethless. So if you recently fished such a stretch you will realise how long it will now be before you can properly fish it again. It would be nice to think that the canal-controlling powers that (now) be will take account of anglers as they used to in the late 20th century but that remains to be seen
In the meantime I too would certainly recommend you get out there and try out your local cut, some of the time you will be amazed, the rest you will simply enjoy...as long as it's not midday on a bank holiday!
Now, where are those beta blockers?