Saturday, 27 April 2013

When the Fishing gets The Bird

Distant washing moggy
At the crack of dawn this morning on former moorland by the canal with a young plantation nearby it was evident that willow warblers had this year arrived in good number, with three simultaneously singing from different perches both within the wood and in standard hedgerow trees

A mistle thrush struck-up it's somewhat limited repertoire from a distant branch and the occasional blackcap, chaffinch and dunnock joined in

Of greatest interest however was the faint calling of the lapwing later fully brought out of his carefree staccato patterings in an arable field by a passing corvid, causing him to take to the air like Mo Farah with dodgy joints. Rocking first this way then that with his over-sized pied wings exaggerating each movement and giving away the nesting activity his imperceptible mate undertook below on the bare earth

The bird interest was exceptional for a fishing trip, mind you my trips are never just fishing trips, they ought to have another name really, 'nature observation' or some such title perhaps. Again the enchantment stemmed from the numerous songs to be heard at various times. The morning had commenced with the slightest hint of frost on the banks in isolated pockets opposite the wood and it was there that the angling expectation took root with a good helping of mashed bread deposited down the middle of this narrow stretch, the first two casts produced roach of just over and just under the longer the wait of an hour or two for a bite with the gradually increasing water temperature. The peg was the most pleasurable, with a short section of subsided bank allowing a seat to be taken down at water level - always preferable for that feeling of being at one with the water and surroundings

Despite a burst of topping fish half an hour after dawn no more action was to be enjoyed. A first boat at 06.38 did not help greatly but that is the risk of early Saturday mornings, when narrowboats hired by the inexperienced need to cover too much water in getting back to the marina for handover, necessitating an early start for them too

So, armed with some knowledge gained in recent weeks, more bread was introduced some four pegs to the left opposite an open field. Immediately it was noticeable that the bird list was growing just for the sake of an 80 yard walk into a adjoining habitat linked only by the canal and its margins, as the gear was relocated while the feed settled. A male reed bunting could be heard forcing out his feeble notes in the now suddenly emerging rushes and the previously seemingly distant lapwing was now more visible and careering over his chosen field in a manner evocative of an age gone by; when, on many a rose-tinted balmy spring evening, The Old Duffer and I, would wonder at their ability to tumble apparently out of control without breaking any wings or losing feathers and yet braking before hitting the ground too. All to distract the intruder, and what a distraction! 

Of course the first cast in the new swim produced more of the same but this was some fighter. I prayed, in some sort of bizarre agnostic fashion, for a dream roach.....

Hybrid. 2-11-5 
Another big canal hybrid eventually relented and slipped into that dream-like state that finds them in the net. A couple more fish followed and an overall catch of over six and a half pounds was returned to the, by then (8.15am), strongly pulling water on conclusion of a brief but most enjoyable dawn to breakfast, pre-B&Q, session

Some chunky fish, now fully recovered from a hard winter but some showing signs of the excitement of spring with absent scales
Roach 1-2-5, 0-15-3, 0-6-0. Bream 1-7-8. RxB Hybrid 2-11-5
Willow warbler, carrion crow, blackbird, woodpigeon, mallard, moorhen, magpie, blackcap (singing, and female viewed), skylark, chaffinch, lapwing, bullfinch, reed bunting, jackdaw, dunnock, greenfinch, mistle thrush, goldfinch, collared dove, swallow, indet gull, wren, blue tit, robin, house sparrow.
Roach, bronze bream, (roachXbream hybrid).

If Saturday had been dream-like then Sunday was the real thing. Another early alarm call but this time ten minutes earlier to allow a longer walk should the opportunity present itself, as no decision would be made on destination until the wheels were turning. Last time this road was taken a barn owl was seen scattering jackdaws and this time it was in the same spot and slipped over a farm gate between trees to vanish into the mist
Only a few hundred yards on, Volpone trotted across the metalled surface with his bunny and disappeared into the darkness of the hedge destined to cause mayhem amongst the waiting cubs no doubt
I hadn't visited this stretch since match angling had lost its gloss but recalled two things quite vividly a match winning perch taken on half a pinkie in the depths of winter and an asthma attack from the long walk in a heavy frost; a day of extremes!
Similarities with today were initially limited to the frost with the fields white-over at 5am but soon cleared as the air warmed with the cloud cover that approached gently from the north-east. Mist gently drifted across the water as I approached an S-bend I had not seen for over twenty years, an area where I had learnt bread punch fishing by trial and error (and a few magazine articles) as a teenager

A narrowboat floated in the mist as if a cake decoration on icing with a deep ribbon of the frozen green field below. Soon the sky turned orange as the sun rose together with a number of large fish beneath the growing cloud cover and dramatically illuminated the whole scene with growing concentric rings of each topping specimen glinting gold
Rooks were the first birds to show as they ferried more beetles than the land can concievably support back to their young in bulging bald beaks. The first lift-bite came five to ten minutes in when a vigorous fight culminated in a noticeably silver fish coming to the surface, no hint of blue to the scales. A large silver bream pulled the scales down to 1-3-6, a sliver off the PB, and the best start imaginable

The first skylark took to the wing to declare the day open for business as a number of blackbirds practiced their own tunes from a variety of perches near and far

The worm line, 15 yards to the right at the bottom of the near shelf, was subject to the 'sleeper wand' but first cast the bait did not hit the bottom before a violent twang of the tip resulted in the hooking of a superb fat spring Dandy of the Stream resplendent in striped tunic and collapsible battlements. An all canals PB at 1-13-5

It was then fish for fish on the two lines but the undoubted highlight was yet another PB hybrid, where are they all coming from, and do they fight?! The seemingly impossible four pounds ceiling shattered by this fish of 4-2-3

The rest of the session was usurped by the bird life and a steady stream of smaller perch on the 'tip seemed somewhat insignificant as a mysterious repetitive warbling seeped from a scrubby patch to the left. Wandering along using the hedge as cover a closer view was attempted but the culprit was deep inside the thorns so I returned to my own perch but not before a pair of tree sparrows chirped their way from an ash to a field hedge in a landscape that has always been something of stronghold for them despite their apparent recent decline

Another hybird came to the net on the wand, this one 1-11-3 and swiftly followed by a good roach on the float, which seemed fairly modest until lying in the net, of 1-2-0

Soon though the warbling moved to a bramble patch with few leaves and gave the ideal opportunity have have another go. With all the stealth of a penguin in clogs I ventured closer and could see movement as the songster headed toward the camera. By this time the iPhone app had confirmed that the sound was made by a lesser whitethroat, all that was missing was a good sighting to ink-in the tick. Then suddenly, and equally briefly, he was all but in the open and a couple of long-lens record shots were reeled-off. Result!

Over eleven pounds of clonkers in a mixed bag including a few small perch out of shot and the surreal period of North Oxford Canal angling continues
What to make of this quality of fishing before the boat activity starts? Well, that's another story...

Barn owl, red fox, skylark, tree sparrow, blackbird, indet gull, rook, mallard, moorhen, canada goose, dunnock, reed bunting, great tit, wren, chaffinch, lapwing, lesser whitethroat, kestrel, silver bream, roach, perch, rXb hybrid 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

When you're on a Roll, Butter it and add Jam

Saturday's events left me reeling with the suggestion that a fish I had not given a second thought as anything other than a hybrid might be the roach of a lifetime, or perhaps a hundred lifetimes...with tapeworm

As the warmth of home was left on Sunday morning for another pre-boat traffic mildly frosty dawn start I had no clue where to go. As usual I was armed with the simplest of baits, lobworms and a loaf of bread, but I really could not go back to the same area as the previous day as it would have become a pursuit of the impossible. Equally I couldn't go somewhere with any potential and so in the interest of a challenge the least likely place to catch a decent roach I could think of mysteriously rose to the top of the list of options, but, the lobs could come into play as it was possible that a few perch might inhabit the area, as well, these days, as zander of course

The infinitesimally tiny likelihood of a decent catch from this stretch cannot be over-exaggerated. in matches it would often be missed-out, of such dubious repute was it. I had never seen a weight of even two pounds from there in around 25 years' knowledge and didn't recall personally even having a pound of fish from it in the former angling life before the late 1990's. Not great then. I had not considered the prospect of the crayfish population either, not yet having had much trouble with them this year, but this was one of those places they might relish, deep inside, shallow across, a rocky towpath edge and a tree-lined far bank

I introduced the now customary three helpings of mashed bread down the base of the far shelf at the start despite the lack of form on the basis of an emerging notion that the quantity of this type of feed is important to stop a marauding roach shoal in their tracks in a manner that white crumb or liquidised bread simply appear unable to match

Soon it was apparent that a substantial crayfish population did indeed exist here with the float constantly being pulled about by the line caught around them...and those tell-tale tench-like bubbles they create punctuating the surface immediately above the feed. Casting slightly away from the fed zone to avoid them gave had a tentative lift, little different to those movements attributable to the crays, but, enough to make the trigger finger twitch. the result was the head-banging resistance of a roach of around 8-10 ounces from which the hook pulled-out in mid-water

Not dejected as such but nevertheless convinced that was my chance for the session gone the worms were reached for together with the wand. Feeling around in my bag and behind me the worms. They, it seemed, were conveniently tucked next to my shoes in the car boot. A blessing, perhaps, that would ensure I stuck to the bread, fully focussed. Some prospect however!
Constantly checking left and right, primarily for signs of topping fish and then for approaching boats I glanced back at the float to see it twitch and postively sail away. This was either a crustacean on speed or another creature with bream-like tendancies. I struck into a fish which took fully five minutes to land, a monstrous hybrid the like of which I could never have dreamed existed in any water let alone this narrow little canal
Humungus mixtupipiscillana at 3-14-0
I hate to keep repeating myself, genuinely I do, and my limited writing skills don't help when attempting to convey the exponential levels of amazement at the current 'form' of the canal, but, yet again, the hybrid PB has been broken with this lump of fish flesh and scales, the progeny of both roach and bronze bream. Although it is never perhaps fully conceivable that one might be impressed by a hybrid, simply because the disappointment at not having caught a pure roach or bream get's in the way of those feelings, I could not deny this was something special. Yes, despite the monster of the previous day that was more roach than bream, this more bream than roach example was over half a pound bigger, the largest North Oxford canal fish I had ever caught for the third week in succession! Surely this would not be beaten ever again unless a rare carp or large zander entered the equation?

This session was unusual from there on to it's conclusion three and a half hours after setting-up, in that bites then came at regular intervals rather than in a burst of 3 or 4 bites in quick succession as was fairly standard when a shoal passed through. Roach then took centre-stage as they moved-in and for a change apparently stayed hovering over the feed which had been topped-up every hour with two more helpings if bites had tailed-off

The first was a fish of 3 drams over a pound, followed by a fourteen ouncer and at this point I became drawn in to the incredible bird song surrounding me so started to mentally compile a list of species from song as a bit of additional entertainment. Warblers were making themselves known in some numbers for the first time this year and a swathe of violets carpetted the bank as it dipped toward the hedge behind me. A hybrid of just under fifteen ounces intially interrupted the test but great tit was the obvious starter for ten, 'Teacher, teacher!', the male urgently cried as the contrastingly contemplative, 'Chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff', emanated from a distant twig in tree-lined scrub to the south. Blackcap, greenfinch, mistle thrush and stock dove joined the musical throng as the list approached twenty species, the larger proportion of which were not ever seen

Perfect roach of around the pound started to show-up
The third roach was a muscular chap akin to the barrel-chested 'All Canals PB' of the previous weekend. The fight was something he or she could be proud of as it continually attempted to get round tree roots under the near bank and, at one point, managed to somehow get the line behind a log laying in the side which increased his chances of returning to the shoal considerably. Fortunately (for me) however the help of the landing net in dragging the log to the right brought the line back out into open water and the fish apparently became disorientated soon to be beaten. For the third time since the new year I was convinced this fish could be another PB but with the 1-7-3 fish in the back of my mind this time I knew it would be close and not a huge increase, if any. The capture of pound roach earlier in the session helped to gauge the scale. In the wetted bag the read-out appeared to gleam the result with some excitement as 24.3oz...converting to 1-8-5 and, yes, another All Canals PB to boot

The best roach from a canal so far at 1-8-5
Another thickset spawning season fish but how had they eluded me last year at this time I thought? In fact, checking 2012's notes they hadn't, I just have a bad memory but that ceiling of around 1-4-0 was quite obvious and the average was slightly smaller than this year, they are a year older after all. Could it be that simple? Well, it could but a theory is starting to formulate on this which I will share in a future post when updating current thinking on the tactics of this big canal roach quest

As a hint of water movement started to take effect a last bite of the day produced a fourth roach of just 8 drams below the pound as the first willow warbler of the year struck-up its melancholy descending song and soon after my photography ability was found wanting trying to make something of the literally fantastical catch of six fish for nine and half pounds from this previously angler-forsaken stretch. I shall not be rushing back there though, much preferring instead to seek-out a new challenge but it will not be ignored so freely in future certainly!

The whole nine and a half pounds of the blighters
In the words of the recently deceased Baroness Thatcher, "I'm enjoying this!", but how much longer this streak of unfathomable luck can continue I have no idea. I feel destined for that inestimable balancing event known as a series of blanks to descend upon things any day and I could not complain if it were indeed to do so

Soaring buzzard and kestrel sought thermals over the road and reflected the light-headed mood as I headed back not noticing either the load on my back or the ground under my feet, angling gets no better than this

The four canal roach in all their spring sunlight glory, totalling 4-5-11
Species list:
Rabbit, roach, (roachxbream hybrid), great tit, blue tit, mallard, moorhen, canada goose, heron, wren, chaffinch, bullfinch, carrion crow, woodpigeon, blackbird, mistle thrush, willow warbler, chiffchaff, robin, greenfinch, blackcap, skylark, stock dove, dunnock, buzzard, kestrel

Saturday, 20 April 2013

those Perpetual Buses

I am left wondering how many times one can be amazed at events and not lose one's verve

In the past three weeks my local waterway the, somewhat modest, North Oxford Canal has produced surprise after surprise

I had been seeking big roach and caught the biggest yet; at the same time broken my bronze bream record for the canal of the third time in a year; taken a zander of 2lbs 9ozs on the perch rig and frequently weighed in three good roach and/or hybrids for over 3lbs. No.7 buses and all that

Last week the current PB bream of 3-2-6, 2 roach to 1-0-3 and 3 zander to 2-9-14 went 7-11-0 between them and comprised another stat to make the eyes water compared to my distant, but thankfully well recorded, memories of 'the old days' when two to three pounds of smaller fish was a good weight

Fisheries scientists would have us believe that a water can hold a certain biomass of species supported by the available food sources. This is to say that, in loose terms, the weight of fish in a water would be roughly the same whether they be thousands of tiny gudgeon or, say, five big carp. Obviously it can't be quite that simplistic as the natural food requirements of species varies but, assuming for now that they all have the same quantity of food available to them, the weight of the five carp would roughly match the weight of the shoal of gudgeon

So the regularity with which the three fish for three pounds scenario has occurred set me thinking about this subject and it came up in conversation with long-lost former colleague of the angle Richard, walker of the towpaths (Note the careful use of a comma, not Richard Walker, thoughtful about angling though he is). He concurred that this did seem to be the case and that if averaged out one's big fish catches of today they would balance with those of yesteryear

Now today was exceptional (again!). Having not been able to sleep for reasons I will not go into I was up and at 'em by 04.20 and actually had a line in the water at 6am on a wide shallow bend where, I had hoped, I might get the odd bite on bread while I built-up a worm swim on the inside a ten metre cast to the right

The early ambience seemed quite idyllic. Light frost, misty water, not a breath of wind, not a cloud in the sky and could that be fish bubbling? As I stared topping clonkers started to swirl, two to the right and a bigger one to the left. Suddenly I was all of a dither getting the line through the rings and had to rethread the top two eyes twice; an extra helping of mashed bread went in the middle and, for the time being the worm option was forgotten

Lift bite method on roach rod was prepped and cast in. The float settled and then unsettled, a somewhat over-zealous early strike and the rig shot out of the water and hit the towpath...fishless, of course

Now I was unsettled, action was not usually this immediate and, after all, I had introduced enough bread to cater for an average village cricket tea. More bubbles, more topping fish. How long before the first boat, would it be early? The float was projected back to 'the spot' which, given the amount of feed, was more like 'the rash'. I was dreaming a Crabtree dream that a nice big capital 'R' lay on the water. The float lifted immediately and dropped just as quickly, then, I swear, it waggled before my very eyes (tempted to launch into Shakespeare here but will resist, just as I had resisted the wand of his name and worms for now). 'Strike!'. The rod bent double

This was a hard-fighting fish, and of some substance. The rod, made originally for 2-3 ounce roach, was at it's limit. The fish powered around and I was tempted to think I might actually be attached to a small carp, rare an occurence though that might be (never before). Then it's head appeared - orange eye, blue irridescence to the scales.Then it's enormity. "H-h-huh" a deep inward breath of physical shock. "It's huge, it's way over two pounds and it's a roach. Take it easy", I told myself and after a couple of false dawns it approached the net and, in it's last tunnelling attempt to escape - those fins. Hmm, those fins look a bit pale, but man was it big? It was big

This post was temporarily withdrawn while the hybrid was studied further in conjunction with Jeff Hatt who is now very kindly seeking further advice on my behalf. It is possible, just possible, that the hybrid may be a diseased roach. If so the implications are unbearable to imagine and so in the interim (and frankly the true answer will likely never be known) it remains a hybrid. Back to the tale...

Two hands lifted the net out and for the first time I regarded this wide-beam would-be roach, thing. Not your average hybrid this. In fact, to this minute, I am not sure what it is, not recalling a hybrid of this appearance before. Could it have been rudd/bream? [One for Jeff Hatt of Idler's Quest blogspot to ruminate over I suspect]. My conclusion at present is front end roach, rear end bream

By this time it was 6.10am. Next cast met with another instantly missed bite, most unusual on this method, but, on re-entry, another solid bruiser of a fish was on. He tried a new tactic - spin in circles and thrash the water. It didn't work. The largest North Oxford Canal bream I had ever set eyes on (again!) sought freedom but with an almighty heave of the inadequate rod it was in the pan and mine to keep, 3-9-3 and seven ounces over last week's PB

More peculiar bites ensued and the penny dropped - spawning bream shoal present = line bites. At 6.25 another was hooked as a hint of sunlight crept over the low horizon in front and to the east. The shafts of light heightened the magnitude of the mist drifting by as this third monster of the morning hit the surface and sparks of unimaginably eye-stinging brightness hit the retina. This chap was initially more of a plodder but once at the surface panic set-in, in the fish that is not me, well, a little in me maybe

As I placed this third three pound fish of the day into the pegged-out keepnet a trance-like atmosphere descended over proceedings and when the float settled again into the gleaming steaming mirror I could not focus. Three fish for around ten pounds in half an hour, what would be next?


The sun is up, the grass is ris,

I wonder where them breamy's is?

Well, them breamy's have switched-off, that's what's happened!

At 6.45 it was time to give the tip a go and despite having a couple of twangs on a whole lob nothing could be struck at. Slowly the bird life became noticebale, a fox had wandered to it's lair in brambles to my right earlier on and I had barely noticed. I had passed the pair of them sat upright in the middle of a field on the way to the parking spot and wished my camera was not in my roving rucksack

Over two more hours passed before the first boat. It was The Cheese Boat, and this time they spoke, they offered to bring the chips, cheesy ones presumably. In this wierd 'after the Lord Mayor's show' period it was mating and fighting time. Two pair of water hen took a dislike to each other while great spotted woodpeckers drummed and chased among the trees, skylark, woodpigeon, great tit, wren and chaffinch sang for their reproductive lives and rabbits...behaved like rabbits

At the weigh-in the mongrel fish looked, on the face of it, considerably smaller than the two matching bookend bream (now there's a thought) but it was so solid and thickset it was no surprise when it trailed just a couple of ounces behind them at 3-5-6. It's constituent parts will probably never be confirmed but I am content that it was not the average roachXbream

Although two (fish-)lifeless hours had passed before I walked the jouney back to the car this too was enlivened by the presence of a notably fat blackcap at close quarters immediately followed by a pair of bullfinch in summer attire. A great end to another quite unbelievable trip and the weight of those fish almost matched that of a shoal of roach I had been lucky enough to chance upon from the same peg some fifteen to twenty years prior, matching biomass, different species

It's all there if we look for it

Species list:
Fox, rabbit, bronze bream, moorhen, mallard, dunnock, blackbird, chaffinch, goldfinch, bullfinch, skylark, wren, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, blue tit, long tailed tit, carrion crow, woodpigeon, blackcap

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Striking Gold

My personal quest has been silver, the silver of the (in modern terms) 'humble' roach but this past weekend we had an old conservatory removed exposing the original door to the daylight for the first time since we have lived here, and a proper clear view of the garden

When we have fed the birds, we stopped when I stopped working at home, the variety of species albeit in small numbers has been quite incredible and with some quite unbelievable visitors from time to time particularly when snow is on the ground for extended periods or frost sets in after Christmas causing wetland birds to venture closer from the adjoining marsh to the north-west

On Sunday The Dog was in the garden and heard a somewhat delicate thud. He looked-up to see a small bundle of fluff bounce down onto the lawn from the newly exposed glazing. He picked it up. I got the call from Parps, "Dad!, Dad! Come quick! See what Doggins has got!" Anticipating positive excitement rather than a gory accident I instinctively grabbed the camera and ran downstairs

Anyone familiar with the goldcrest will appreciate that they are Britain's smallest bird, tied with the much more rare firecrest of course, and those that have the benefit of seeing a head-on drawing or photograph will appreciate it's anthropomorphically sad expression as two thin dark lines extend down from it's mouth into a seriously proportioned upside-down smile, but this one took the biscuit. There it was with glorious hairdo, tattered feathers and the most miserable face one could ever imagine, more downcast that a toddler who'd lost a biscuit:

Struck gold

Monday, 15 April 2013

Going Back for More

Striding-out through the base of the deep cutting in the half-light under the continuous giant many-fingered interlocking ash hands over-arching, accompanied by the crashing alarms of pheasant, ring and stock dove as they burst from their slumber into the ever more intrusive light of the day the angler emerged into the steaming, rolling pasture shaped in sine wave undulations by all but forgotten generations of man labouring over his livelihood in the truest sense of the word. 
Two centuries old canal courses abandoned either side of the now healed scar that is the straight and then snaking course of the contemporary route of the canal

It was here, in the depths of the incessant deluge of a year ago, that he vowed to return. That had been a day of reacquaintance, of water coloured like tea with too much milk and four whirlpools left by the rudders of fish that could only be imagined, and certainly never seen, but of sufficient imagined magnitude to inspire the need to 'go back'. 

The damp air drifted uncomfortably across his face as the earth's furnace strove to burn through the blankets that insulate it. At first it failed.

The angler had struggled with his burden these one and a third miles, yet, as the coolness faded into day, tiny birds sang their hearts out after flying from as far as Africa on no more than a stomach, as small as it's mates imminent eggs, filled with flies
This land was cleared no more than five millennia prior as the need to sustain the anglers' wider ancestral growth took hold and the staple of that advance so long ago would be the basis of this man's stealth on this day - bread

Prevailing circumstances were all but perfect, perhaps a tinge too much colour in the water though insufficient to dampen belief
Handfuls of wetted bread were tossed into the water and the challenge of enticing those monsters of before commenced
Half an hour had passed when the first sign of interest produced a strong battle from a cross-bred fish that broke through the silence as innumerable tail-splashes punctuated the surface film. Eventually it was beaten and a hybrid of a pound and a quarter gently dropped into a waiting net
The hint of chugging boat and then confirmation as the prow became visible to him in the shrouded cutting. Reed bunting, robin and blue tit set up their incessant spring choruses as fieldfares chuckled in the hedges contemplating the long route home and the prospect of furthering their kind


Two boats in quick succession gently slipped past as the angler rested and took sustenance welcomed after the strain of the journey. A large lion-like hound nudged his arm as he stumbled through the perforated hedge behind followed by a kind-hearted and jolly white-bearded man with a tail or two to share. As they departed on their purposeful expedition a muntjac barked by the disused cut and caused the dog to briefly attempt to seek it out until brought to heel
Soon the water re-settled and more bread was used to tempt larger fish to find the will to feed, and feed they did. An extravagant bite and a strong tussle with a roach which when it broke the surface triggered the exclaimation, 'Oh, that's a good fish!' and the ensuing great care over it's capture. Captured however it soon was and it clearly was an exceptional canal fish. At a touch over one pound seven ounces this certainly was an excellent specimen and one the angler had sought specifically for over a little over a year. A welcome reward for extensive and intensive effort, and the largest roach he had ever seen from such man-made watercourses in all his years

Francis Lee-Fish

Soon the fish was back where it belonged but not forgotten as a second substantial school mate succumbed immediately after. This one a fraction under a pound but probably not of the same school year

The education here however was simply the present day comparison with the anglers' long-recalled experiences of days gone. Days when a similar net would have comprised 30 or 40 smaller examples of various fishes interspersed with occasional larger intruders, often fledgling bream but a comparable biomass nevertheless and just as scientists would have predicted
The three took his scales to three pounds ten ounces which the angler took satisfaction in but no greater pleasure that the barrel chested Francis Lee of a roach, not a perfectly formed beauty but a beauty none the less

Sunlight making the fish look dry but all were carefully returned unharmed by the experience and the wiser for it
Well slept, and keen to avoid disappointment, a contrasting challenge was set as another morning broke. This time with breezes causing the muscles to tense against it. A bend in the same unnatural watercourse some miles to the west was to withstand the onslaught of piscatorial pursuit centred around the conversely natural Earthworm in search of spiny predatory fish
The success of the previous day however encouraged additional persistence with bread to bait an area away from the worms were offered, and at the same time, as the day ahead would bewildering in it's complexity and available hours severely limited

A tail of earthworm was laid on the canal bed with sufficient shot simply to tighten to and left to one side. Otherwise thoughts were no more advanced that the approach of the previous day with three handfuls of macerated bread thrown into the middle of this featureless bend
The activity of the fish was all but immediate as a good roach, not quite of the proportions of the fish of yesterday but a fraction over one pound for certain, fought well against the finely balanced rod and line
A pied-headed male reed bunting chirped his simple tune, "one, two...testing - one...two, testing" almost within reach, as a pair of buzzard soared over the hill and a chaffinch 'pinked' in the distance

Soon the previously still tip pulled extravagantly round to the right and an adversary took delight in plunging to the depths and immediately rising to the surface, shaking it's narrow head violently as the surface foamed in abject resistance to the appearance of this hefty sail-finned gladiator. An alien it was and so was it a monster. The net being only just large enough to accommodate it's torpedo-like two pounds nine ounce form

Following the demise of two further tiny aliens a period of calm descended, disturbed only by passing friends caught up in the excitement of a long-lost relationship over two decades prior but the period was abruptly halted and another large contender picked-up the bread...and ran! A momentary forceful pull with backwind switched-off and tightened clutch appeared to be destined for a parting of ways but the soft through-action of the rod, another old friend, took the power of the lunge and brought a large canal bream to rest, as it floated on the surface it spotted an opportunity to escape but succeeded only in finding the sunken net

A first swallow of the unfolding spring flitted past seeking to replenish the wasted resources of the incredible journey now behind it, for the time being  

At the close of this brief dalliance with the outside world seven fish had been fooled for a combined weight of seven pounds eleven ounces

Yesterdays super-sized roach the biggest from any canal; today's bream the biggest from the North Oxford and the zander just an ounce short of a canal best. Those, combined with further roach approaching and just over a pound, made for an excellent weekend's sport as the angler returns to become husband and father again.

With temperatures on the rise, and more rain in the offing, conditions should be good for the immediate future too. 'Looking good, at long last!

Saturday species list:
Barking muntjac, Bullfinch, Raven, Rook, Carrion crow, Woodpigeon, Stock dove, Mallard, Mute swan, Moorhen, Blue tit, Blackbird, Mistle thrush, Robin, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Reed bunting, Fieldfare, Blackcap, Skylark, Canada goose, Green woodpecker, Wren, Buzzard, Jackdaw, Roach, RoachX bream hybrid

Sunday species list:
Mallard, mute swan, moorhen, dunnock, swallow, reed bunting, blackbird, goldfinch, buzzard, chaffinch, skylark, great tit, Indet gulls.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Silver Anniversary

It was almost exactly a year since the big canal roach adventure started with a trip to today's venue but this time the approach would be with rod and line rather than the pole in order to compare the methods on a deeper narrow stretch where the target fish always seem to be present

The morning, which commenced with a great view of a roadside muntjac, produced the now customary frost of course but, as daytime temperatures have been a somewhat balmy 7-8degC of late, no ice had formed and the crispness of the bankside vegetation would soon be burnt-off for certain

As the rod was set-up some aural entertainment was to be had as a variety of 'kronks' emanated from the north and I turned to see a pair of ravens tussling with a third bird, presumed intruding into their airspace, and all with notably different voices. It really is now reaching a stage, similar to the buzzard spread a decade ago, when one expects to hear ravens rather than not in Warwickshire these days

On casting-in a tried and trusted float rig just past middle, a good half hours' peak fishing time bewilderment ensued as the appropriate presentation was struggled with until the realisation dawned that, for some unaccountable reason, the bread was somehow more bouyant than normal and was floating in mid-water preventing the proper settling of the rig resulting in more than the expected normal quantity of shot on the bottom to anchor the flake down

A skylark heralded this stunted spring, to date subdued by unending easterly winds, by climbing to his quite literally out-of-sight peak in a series of fluttering, twittering stages while a chaffinch set-up his song perch in a small hawthorn to my right on the water's edge where, first, a drake mallard, then a cock blackbird and the, always fascinating, moorhen foraged in consecutive sittings immediately below in rough grass. Meanwhile the line did it's best to freeze into the tip ring and the overloaded reel spool shed line like a slinky, constantly...but we got there

Thirty minutes or so after resolving the bread bouyancy issue a somewhat half-hearted lift bite met with no resistance on the strike but, just a couple of casts later, a more meaningful indication proved fruitful when a hard-fighting roach was hooked and netted. As usual when the fish first surfaced various words of amazement at a certain PB crept-out into the chill yet still air. The stocky fish was immediately weighed at 1-3-13 but was expected to go at least 1-6-0, nevertheless the fourth biggest canal roach in the growing list

Precisely an hour later, after the first of four surprisingly carefully guided narrowboats, another lift-bite which became a sailaway betrayed the presence of bronze bream dna and lead to the capture of a hybrid of just over a pound

Two hours in, and with two hours to go, boat traffic permitting, a handful of chopped lobs was introduced 15m to the right and a light link-leger cast to the spot as a sleeper option followed swiftly by a visit from two particularly friendly german shepherds sniffing for food; fortunately, unlike the regular jack russels on this cut, they didn't consider bread to fit the bill

One more missed bite preceded a twitch on the tip which I also missed as excitement got the better of me but next cast, with a tail of a lob, the tip pulled steadily round and a good battle with a roach of just under fifteen ounces christened the new wand at the second attempt

A Silver Anniversary without doubt
A year ago the peg produced two roach of exactly a pound and a three pound bream in the first half-hour...yes the same first half-hour spent in a puzzled state on this trip!

Another pair of ravens graced the trip home which was lit-up initially by a violet peeking-out of the undergrowth by the path, offering further evidence that maybe spring was actually here, as I pondered the challenge undertaken. Clearly the pole is the best option on frosty mornings such as this when elastic would better resist the temptation to completely freeze-up than the delicate tip-eye of a purpose-made canal float rod. Decision made!

Spring at last?

Species list:

Magpie, raven, blackbird, fieldfare, chaffinch, greenfinch, robin, canada goose, greylag goose, mallard, moorhen, woodpigeon, violet, roach, RxB hybrid