How often do we venture out into the wild early or late in the day and witness something for the first time?
On consecutive recent days events have been enjoyed, brought about by conspiring circumstances, that I don't recall experiencing previously, mostly influenced by the effects of temperature
First I decided to visit a stretch of canal I hadn't fished for around twenty years, and, going further back, probably 13 years before that to the previous visit. A good catch back then, believe it or believe it not, was high ounces so the prospects weren't great set against that context. However the zander-induced proliferation of big fish in the canal generally ensured that it was likely to be one bite, one fish wherever I went on a morning with clear skies anyway, so what was to be lost by trying this place with the better haunts either too coloured or too often visited recently? Very little.
The path went past a small boatyard, small by modern standards, where boats were moored two and three abreast such that some of them edged into the centre of the canal. It was very tempting to set-up here and, when a genuinely surprising number of small roach started topping as I wandered past, I thought more than twice and even came back to the spot before continuing. Pegs beyond the boats also had topping fish and a 30m long reedbed opposite was just too enticing, especially as, beyond that point, the prospects appeared some what less than exciting.
The fishing was interesting but unexciting, marginally eclipsed by the bird life (and almost by the continuous dog life)
It was cold. No frost on arrival but then it formed on and around the kit as the morning took hold. To my right in the marina mouth I watched the ice form, there only, through the mist of my own breath but, with a decent pull on the cut as it discharged the rainfall from a fortnight past into the Avon, no ice formed in the narrow channel I had chosen.
The promiscuous dunnock showed its true self with three individuals singing and frolicking in the dead ruderal & hedgeline opposite, at times passed by a variety of tits, finches and thrushes. Most of the time the peak of a thermally-lined cap cut-out any potential action above eye-level but for no known reason I did at least once lift my gaze briefly at precisely the moment a probable wader flew rapidly by and took a steep right-turn through the hedge into an industrial estate and a small stream behind me. No great distinguishing features on this middle-sized bird which left me perplexed, maybe it wasn't a wader, anyway I'll never know and sometimes that's a good thing; keeping the uncertainty of it all to the fore.
A few small fish and a bumped specimen later and my enthralment in this long-lost stretch started to wane with the deathly chug of a narrowboat emanating from the gloom past the boatyard. The boat cut through like a non-Newtonian fluid and swept past me taking a million pieces of wafer-thin ice with it. Minutes later every speck of ice had gone; pulled cleanly to the west on the flow, and, to the 11am dog walker, it would simply have seemed a perfect mild sunny morning as the temperature crept up to a peak of 7 or 8C.
'Never watched that unfold before
Next day saw me back. I'd deposited some bread 25 metres to my left and was set to give it a go but this time when I arrived the marina was already frozen in part and spread across the whole patch during my stay
The bread from the previous morning really did the trick...crayfish heaven! Twitch after twitch after twitch soon had me scurrying for another peg safe in the knowledge that all the crays were piled-up in one spot. The second produced two small roach before the lure of the birdlife again had me drifting-off shrub, tree and skyward as the gentle 'pheep' of a male bullfinch aurally illuminated the frost, accompanied by his rich rose-red barrel-chest, high in a hawthorn
The temperature rose more steeply than yesterday and soon the ice, which was threatening to creep toward me, started to subside and by the time I headed back to see if my car had been clamped or ticketed it had been completely consumed back into the body of towing water and, by then, probably, dumped in the avon (the ice that is, not the car)
'Never seen that before
Unperturbed by a lack of angling success, that same day I had to shake-off a residual river fishing desire on the Leam. It was about half a metre up but starting to show signs of clearing after the melted snow. My footprints were the first to appear in the deposited silt of a river that had been over 2m above normal a few days prior and whole lobs presented in numerous swims for a few minutes each produced little other than an increasingly serious shortage of swan shot and hooks!
Eventually, as dusk fell, I settled into a swim where a gentle glide had formed following substantial bank erosion caused by the preceding floods. Tap, tap, tap-tap was the best bite I had and, an hour after dark, the distant honking of geese was accompanied by the sudden shocking brightness of the phone screen indicating the The Lady Burton considered it time we had dinner, and she was right.
As my eyes became re-accustomed to the dark, and the 'one last cast' ritual undertaken in plummeting temperatures, I was conscious, as I often am on this venue, of a passing tawny owl. They had been tooit too-ooing as usual for some time and had now become active. A massive bird flew past me above the river and commenced that typical bird-like rapid braking with its wings as it headed into some dense trees...'CRACK' came the sound and, within a split second, a loud splash as something hit the water. '**** - the owls gone in', I inwardly exclaimed as I leapt to my feet and trained my now faultering head-torch on the murky surface only to see the branch it had obviously tried to land-on float swiftly by! The owl, unseen and probably smirking as only owls can at my panic on its behalf, had itself floated off to seek out another perch...which is more than I managed
|Sunset over the Leam|
Bullfinch, goldfinch, chaffinch, dunnock, blue tit, great tit, robin, song thrush, blackbird, magpie, carrion crow, woodpigeon, collared dove, mallard, mute swan, lesser black backed gull, black headed gull, tawny owl, pheasant, canada goose. Rabbit. Roach, roachxbream hybrid, perch.