Sunday, 29 December 2013

Birds and Fish do Mix, Eventually

Sun rising on the swollen river

The Leam was two feet up today and falling. Two inches in the time I enjoyed at it's side in fact but 1.5m lower than at it's post-storm peak.

Parps and I have been fortunate enough to agree exclusive terms for a short stretch of what I would describe as the upper-middle river for the next five years. Pegs have been identified and carefully created without any obvious loss of cover, some even given names...tree hole, willow, the pipe, rush bed...nothing too imaginative though!

Thus far my partner has only managed to be ill at the critical times and so I have been sussing it out on my own. Three visits now and two chublets below a pound to show for them plus the rod pulled out of my hand well after dark on the one occasion

This morning those new pegs were starting to be exposed again after the floods by the falling water. A slack below a fallen tree was initially intended to be targetted with bread but on approaching the river bank it was clear that this frosty morning would be more than just a fishing opportunity this festive season as a flock of seventy or eighty golden plover rapidly wheeled in a synchronised flashing of brown and then white as they sought safe morning foraging in the water meadows downstream, ready for sunrise

As I settled in the silt-covered margins wrens churred and complained at my presence and a pair of wild duck took flight from the next field down. Pheasants crowed to celebrate the dawning of a clear day as the water spilled through the far side of the swim leaving somewhat slacker water close-in and leading down to an aquatic chicane created by opposing bushes at its termination. The glide seemed perhaps a touch too turbulent to be of any great benefit to the catch but it was comfortable and there seemed to be enough steady water in places to make the pursuit worthwhile

A couple of handsful of mashed bread went in by my feet in the hope that the flakes would dissipate through the swim under their own steam and the peg was searched from head to tail over the ensuing couple of hours before the need to wander overcame me. Avian fortune had been on my side while I nursed the swim to a couple of faint tappy unhittable bites with winter flocks of pied wagtail, blue and long-tailed tits landing close-by in search of sustenance. A robin and an expectedly nervous pair of dabchick also used the peg as a commute to their destinations

Dabchick behind (part of) bonus moorhen

Dark, but a hint of rising sun on the face of this somewhat flukily captured long-tailed tit 
Venturing upstream, the carcass of a pound perch cut-off by the receding waters had lost its eyes and a pair of snipe were flushed from the path to reacquaint themselves with the earth in an apparently frozen marsh further from the water after rapid, low, zig-zagging flights. Quite a surprise but not the greatest of the day

A few pegs were tried but insufficient slack was generally evident at this water level. What was obvious however was that with another foot or so off the level there would be some tempting glides in need of searching for roach with balsa or small avon

Blue tits twenty feet above my head, tricky shot
Soon the top of the stretch was reached at a fallen willow and the return trip offered two opportunities that looked different when viewed from an upstream direction; again no interest from any inhabitants but as I stepped into the next reed-lined spot a blue striated water bird flew from under my feet and, with down-curved blood-red bill and trailing legs, sought its escape mid-river before sharply angling right into the bank 30m upstream - water rail - a not uncommon bird but rarely seen except under extreme circumstances such as these

One final muddy promontary was selected for the last hour before yet another festive family lunch, seriously I have never put on any weight in my entire adult life but this Christmas it'll kill me if I don't, and probably if I do . At this point a moment of wonder as I found a tub of small worms and on they went. Taps ensued and then a proper bite which I actually connected with and a severely scale-challenged chublet came to hand - last cast. Phew, that was close!

And the moral of the story is, never put all of your bread in one basket

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