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
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
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