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 


  1. George. you're taking the canal apart at the seams! Where will it stop? Enjoy it while it lasts is all I'll say! I wonder if that big hybrid is a rudd x bream? I can't remember what the distinction is but I had one last summer and recognised it straight away from pictures I'd seen of of Irish fish...

    Fought like a demon it did. Like a male tench in fact, which is what I thought it to be until the net proved otherwise!

    1. ...and I'd tried to shroud the ongoing excitement in more bird talk but you read straight through me!

      I'm tempted to say I'd be surprised about a rudd/bream option but, as we're being surprised every day at the moment, it would be a surprise not to be surprised. 'Can't say I ever recall a North Oxford Canal rudd being taken but I may be wrong, the very odd 'ozer' maybe

      ...and, yes, tench did briefly pass through my mind too, so to speak

    2. You'll recall I referred to the Draycote roach introduced to the canal, ooh I don't know, maybe 30 years ago at 1-2lbs size. It is just possible that these could be some of their hybridised babies is it not?

  2. I've had one North Oxford rudd. They look like roach till you see the vermillion fins. Very silvery.

    Don't know about the Draycote roach — would such a small addition of fish in such a very large body of water make such a difference? I think that fish must be some sort of record. I've never had a hybrid over three pounds, ever. Even a true bream over four is rare as hell...

    I think I've had two or three, only. Best was with you that morning last year, Grassy Bend

    As for mornings...

    I should get up and out earlier, obviously!

  3. That WAS a huge bream Jeff I recall being speechless