Friday, 4 January 2013

It's an Offishial Miracle!

Since the unexpected perch and zander-fest last week things went somewhat down-hill with a long walk to fish a particularly murky North Oxford Canal, wandering well into the wilderness beyond the furthest peg ever fished before, at least as far as memory served, to find the canal at that point to be much shallower than anticipated beyond midway and more suited to summer mornings than mid-winter
Bread produced not the slightest twitch and lobworm just the one bite - precisely as the kit was starting to be packed-away which has proven a very reliable tactic of late! This fish and line parted company after it had gently pulled 5m to the left and the suspicion was of zander from the fight it gave

There was more narrowboat activity than last week suggesting that a few had been hired-out for the new year period

The trip was not all wasted however as it served as a recce for a stretch which hadn't been seen for a long, long time. A number of formerly overhanging hawthorns had been completely removed changing the character of one part of the length entirely such that it now holds no angling attraction whatsoever when set against other options on the stretch

Onlookers trying not to be interested
Anyway, undeterred and continuingly encouraged by the mild conditions, another early start next day maintained the recent trend in leaving the house too early and arriving when still too dark to set-up. This provided the benefit to again venture further than normal to the inside of a very wide bend inspired by the result of the session referred to in the introduction above, albeit on a completely different stretch.

The big plus here was that when matches had been held here in the 1980's & 90's this would have been the place to draw. Having said that the results were never alarming but there were always a few better fish to be had in matches where often a couple of pounds of roach would be enough to give an angler a chance of some form of success. For my part I had only drawn near it once, enjoying watching all those on this section weigh-in on the way back past them and having the fact that this was the best area hammered home in a most emphatic manner. At least I had mustered a few ounces of fish and not blanked!

The canal at this point was less cloudy than yesterday, which was expected from experience, but the downside was that the south-westerly was blowing all the scum, slicks, sticks, bottles and logs to this area and what seemed the optimal peg was right in the middle of it! Fishing the pole with big baits would not be too much of a problem however as they could be lowered into gaps in the detritus as appropriate with a fairly heavy-duty rig as usual

Bread flake was fished close to the bottom of the slowly sloping nearside shelf in the knowledge that any disturbance by boats would likely be limited to water from the middle to the piled far bank due to the tightness of the bend and excessive width. The other advantage was that lobworms could be used on the nearside too, to the left and closer-in

Already a method is beggining to evolve using both techniques by fishing bread until at least an hour and a half of the session has expired and then alternating it with lobworm and continuing to feed both lines each time they are left to be rested

Again the bread flake did not produce a single bite and, having had to delay the start due to an early boat just after the initial feed, lobworm also took a while to show any signs. A text had just been sent to The Lady Burton to say how grim it was when a large but sluggish fish was lost, tempted by the tail of a lobbie. It was a good two and a half hours in however before a more powerful fish was hooked even though, on two occasions, fish had pulled at the bait when lifted off the deck (the prospect of popping the worm up off the bottom has a distinct ring to it for future trips)

The fish lead a merry dance and despite being zander-like at first became more and more intense in it's fight taking quite some while to tire. By the time any glimpse of it was seen I had manged to convince myself I had absolutley no idea what it could be other than a somewhat oddly fighting perch perhaps

The battle continued with the fish moving right then left, trying to get under the keepnet, stirring-up the bottom of the soft, silty, shallow near shelf etc., and still I could not pin-down the species for certain but by this time chub was probably favourite; some were caught within 20 pegs in 'the old days' and the three fish which had crashed on the surface earlier in the session between middle and far bank to the immediate left were maybe the most likely culprits...but then they do of course tend to give up the ghost somewhat resignedly after a while

Eventually a tail flicked visibly near the surface as the fish burrowed downwards away from the poised net, black and rounded, what was it?

Then that unmistakable greeny-gold frantic muscular flexibility of the fish was apparent...tench!

Now at this point the history of angling on the North Oxford, as known, flashed past and although I must confess a passer-by had volunteered that a guy had caught one 'much to his surprise, he didn't know there were any in here' in the summer - this was last time I parked at this bridge - I had immediately blanked that out as either fluke or fabrication

The fish was still not ready however and a desperate surge straight out, as they tend to, but at surface level had it behaving like a dolphin until the elastic brought it back under some form of control when the pole was lowered and it came closer within reach

So to say that catching a tench here, or anywhere on the 20-odd miles of this canal is unusual would be quite the understatement of 2013 even this early in the year. Recollection goes back to around 1975 and although there was a gap from around 1996 to 2011 I had never heard of one caught let alone seen one until the above anecdote

Care was now everything. Ol' rubber lips was not to be lost as this, in it's own way, was almost literally the fish of a lifetime, no matter how large and frankly it didn't look huge.

Soon, after a couple of last second escape bids, it was in the net and an audible chuckle accompanied it. At the very moment it was weighed at 1-11-13 and the genuine extreme rarity was gently introduced to the keepnet

As things tend to go with angling the rig was then flicked out in front, rebaited, and immediately a 6 ounce perch was hooked as the pole was pushed out. Next put-in a roach of around 8 ounces came off the hook as it came to the net

A lull followed until another bite and another similar fight to the tench, it couldn't be of course. If the first one couldn't have been how could this? It clearly wasn't as large but it was no less energetic and took some time to tame, again, but after an exciting little duel the extreme rarity count was doubled and instantly upgraded to an offishial miracle!

This one went 1-3-11 and had a faint heart-shaped mark on it's underside. Both fish also had inch-long damage stripes on their flanks, could this be cormorant evidence? I can think of no other reason for the linear grey indentations on their scales and a few were seen to fly overhead as they headed for lakes to the north

Isn't Christmas great?

Today's bird list:
Moorhen, mallard, buzzard, lesser black-backed gull, indet gulls, cormorant, blackbird, fieldfare, woodpigeon, green woodpecker, great-spotted woodpecker, kingfisher, starling, chaffinch, pied wagtail, carrion crow, raven, magpie, meadow pipit


  1. Great stuff! This confirms my instincts that the weather has been mild enough for some unseasonal tench fishing, as it inevitably will be at some point every year, although we obviously have them in decent numbers down here. I'll be having a crack tomorrow.

    What scales do you use? Love the accuracy!

  2. Replies
    1. They're just digital luggage scales measuring to tenths of ounces so to speak...sounds a bit Heath Robinson but I check them regularly and they seem fine with fish this size. Having been brought-up on matches on hard canal venues where drams were all important it's difficult to kick the habit!

  3. Great stuff George — the canal and its never ending surprises! My friend Ivan Scallon had a really big rudd just last week followed by what looks to a be a two-pound roach. He didn't have scales to weigh them with but the rudd was 12 inches long and very deep set, the roach a full 13.5 inches which is in the ballpark for a two and even it were under would still be at the very least one-twelve. Canal rudd and tench this time of year is quite something.

    1. That's good going Jeff! I take it they are Oxford Canal fish...'your end'?

  4. No, Grand Union fish George. It's Ivan's haunt but these seem a little out of the ordinary in his catches there. Looks like he hit a good pod of fish and the rudd probably live in the same shoal as the roach they are so rare. I've had four only.

  5. Ah yes. I recall a time when The Old Duffer hit a shoal of GUC rudd, somewhere near Stockton I think, all the same size and very little else to be caught. We figured they had been recently stocked