Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Beastly Easterlies

Depressed by the unending easterly winds I thought I'd cheer myself up by checking the long term forecast to see when it might end and thirty days hence the Met Office predict...more of the same

Well that helped

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Combined End of the Beginning

A weekend struck-through by a third bout of man'flu this winter set me thinking more widely than the usual particularly narrow field of view...

So many memories from the old days. So many days when luck was on my side and yet plenty when it wasn't, memories that mysteriously emerge heavily rioting from a fog like a ponderous bream from murky water as I attempt to draw them out for recollection

There have been days when one's fortune seemed overwhelmingly unjust to others and others that are simply forgotten, and for justifiable reason

I have been lucky to have found the outdoors, or maybe it is the other way round, but then that is no doubt the mantra of anyone who enjoys thoroughly an enthralling pursuit away from their work which is more than just sport or a hobby but a way of life, a state of mind

This for me is how I view being anywhere in fresh air but particularly imbibing the sights and being stimulated of the senses in the countryside, even though there is nothing natural about it if one takes the view that man's influence renders things 'unnatural'. There is not a single plant or organism outside the influence of man, without doubt, and the great outdoors is only great within those limits and set against that context. The range of our everyday lives is wholly subject to the influence of ourselves and our ancestors

50 years I have wandered where the feeling took me and at every turn there is regret, occasionally at my own stupidity, but more often over the actions of others

As a teenager, and maybe before, it was fundamentally obvious that unendingly and obsessionally tampering with what I will call 'life' was a means to a gloomy end. Even at that formative time of life it was beyond being unquestionable that there was no need for any car to be capable of less than even 40mpg; there was no logic in straightening watercourses and literally destroying the food chain and webs supported by them to such an extent that, even when the error is identifed, it can never be corrected as the true loss is just a faded memory; there was a noticeable decline in what is now termed biodiversity (yes, give it a name and we can all live with it, "My child is out of control!, He has attention problems", well have you considered that feeding him a diet of blue smarties, coke and electronic games might not be natural?); development goes ahead paying lip service to biodiversity because national planning guidance says it must, and for that reason alone; agriculture rapes every last inch of land and can only be diverted from its destructive combine by subsidy

It is no risk as far as I am concerned to state here that it is possible that in ours or our childrens' lifetimes the world as we know it may come to an end. I do not consider this the miserable rambling of one obsessed by 'doom and gloom' but just a calculated statement of fact

To my mind it has long since been questionable that the earth behaves as a single organism and that it can't be that long, in terms of the time-line of life on earth, that it is about to change, as far as we are concerned, for the unfathomable worse

Highly likely is the possibility that the extinction of one too many organisms will act as a fairly sudden catalyst for massive change as we head for the inevitable restructuring of Gaia to the exclusion of life as we know and enjoy it

Today was a strange one, two of the family were ill with heavy colds and yet we needed to vacate the house as building work was underway which we wouldn't be able to live with. The day therefore became one of wanderings and, in that now somewhat old-fashioned way, we drove. We drove partly so that we didn't visit friends or relations and spread the bug to them and partly to revisit areas of countryside we hadn't seen for a while south of home and into the north of Oxfordshire

We drove about forty miles and, in all that way, through drift-crisped verges and scenes of wild desperation; through stiff easterly winds biting on exposed arable fields; under snow-laden branches of apparently lifeless trees we saw just four mammals, two pair of roe deer, and I remarked how odd it seemed to see them wandering the fields and yet not being owned by the landowners but, of course, we should be used to the presence of wild animals we should expect them to be there and not have to search for them with a metaphorical nit-comb in the flea-bitten wig of the outdoors

Yes, so many memories. Memories of water voles pushing tiny flared nostril-speared bow waves and diving at the last minute sight of my presence through their tiny glistening pin-head eyes pursued to the edge by released mink and hanging like a milk tooth on its last eye-wateringly painful thread of flesh; of myriad multi-coloured butterfly species now seemingly lost for ever in any number and maybe soon for good; of vast shoals of tiny gudgeon now quite simply devoured by the dim-witted alien attack of the zander; on catching the diminutive native freshwater crayfish in a minnow-trap, inspecting it with wonder, and returning it with care to the stony sun-sparkled and commensurately tiny River Swift; of hundreds of yellow wagtails falling in fields from migration brighter than custard such that it seemed the whole population of the country was descending on us at that very moment; of hoardes of chirping house sparrows attacking the breadcrumbs in the back yard of youth; and imagined memories that can only be gleaned of a balance of existence never fully experienced from an era, indeed another world, when otters and bitterns, water meadows and working mills, red-backed shrikes and adders, lush growth and a vast and wide array of lifeforms washed around in a delicately poised environment such as we will never see again nor appreciate to even the most infinitely miniscule degree as common-sense fades away hand-in-hand with the advancement of the modern world

How I wish that, just occasionally, time spent by the water might be punctuated by the 'plop' of the water vole, how fulfilled life would again be

"But we're alright, we're nice and warm here,
No one to hurt us except our friends"

Gaia - James Lovelock/Oxford University Press 1979
The Combine - Paul Weller/Universal Music Publishing Group 1977

Thursday, 21 March 2013


The realisation that a few hours could occasionally be grabbed before work at this time of year set me off on a North Oxford Canal roach hunt this morning at dawn

Boats were moored where it had been the intention whence to head but, due to the fact that I found myself unable to sleep after precisely 03.22hrs, it left me with plenty of time to ponder other options as the day was not sufficiently broken to set-up after striding-out that far at 5.15am in any case

Eventually, following much mulling-over, and dithering back and forth, a peg opposite a dormant bulrush bed was selected and perched at

As I did so a courting gang of mallards decided that was also where they would also engage in their own form of ritual, culminating in the female being all-but drowned...eggs to follow for sure. Certain aspects of this masquerade were however quite fascinating; the female swimming underwater and coyly emerging under bankside vegetation and then brazenly swimming directly toward the best-presented male for instance. Nevertheless the almighty commotion and unwillingness of the group to go elsewhere was quite disconcerting in respect of the angling prospects and I was convinced at this point that these clowns and the flock of mixed thrushes in the field opposite were to comprise the days entertainment

The day was, again, to be somewhat experimental with the newly received wand to test while also fishing another rod with a float using the lift-bite method with bread (no change in that respect then!)

Travelling ultra-light and without rod-rests presented an interesting set of challenges with two rods to arrange such they didn't get in each others way, so to speak. Initially a light link-leger was used with a whole lobworm set against the rush bed while mashed bread was introduced just past middle for the float

As per the weekend, an early boat before any bites had materialised did nothing to bolster enthusiasm but after a further feed of mash things settled into some kind of logical rhythm and by this stage mallard had steamed off into the distance given that decisons had been made and three less desirable drakes were real Charlies left quietly sulking under the brambles (even I could see that coming, they really ought to look at their reflections sometimes and take it easy!)

This, and the setting-up, took rather longer than I had hoped and so a line was not wet in anger until 06.45. The boat caused the flask to be cracked early and by 8am I was wondering if I'd be going to work with a bill longer than the rejected mallards but at 08.15 the float duly rose from the water like Excalibur and, despite trying to tidy the wand positioning at the time, a swift strike met with admirable and vigourous resistance. 'Roach or hybrid?', I pondered as it swirled twice in front of me, the rod drawing it instantly away from the feeding area in a manner which the pole cannot achieve with big roach due to the soft mouth/elastic strength dilemma. Its next appearance indicated a flash of red fin and as I netted the fish it was clear this was the first pound-plus roach since mid-December! Not a beauty with one side badly scarred and one showing signs of recovery but a good one all the same and, given the recent dirth of the larger examples of the species, most welcome and heart-warming at 1-2-3


Next cast, as is so often the case, produced a similar bite, a much heftier fish and a significant fight it must be said, but, bizarrely, it was soon over when the fish gasped fresh air and lost the will. A very plain yet perfectly formed bronze bream of 1-12-5

No further bites and three more closely-spaced boats brought the session to a close after just over 2 hours. The wand had ultimately been deployed with an over-large piece of crust anchored to the bottom immediately right of the mash feed while the float was dropped to the left and down-tow of the feed. The idea being that if I am indeed ever to beat the 1-4-12 canal roach PB this might just be the way, although it sat motionless on the day

Species list:
Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Black-headed gull, Starling, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Mallard, Moorhen, Roach, Bronze bream

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Glorious Fifteenth!

How to remember the dates of the close season? Well it doesn't initially come naturally when the start is on the 16th and the end on the 14th does it? Every season a trip is mentally planned for the 15th March before the realisation sets in that the period is 15th March to 15th June inclusive

On the strength of that the decision was made to visit a short, but quite specific, stretch of canal I hadn't fished since being a schoolboy in the late seventies to recommence the search for big roach with the close of the river season leaving the four pund chub target hanging enticingly in the air. In those days, before poles were on the agenda, I had the ability to flick a small Billy Lane 'ducker' under the overhanging branches of far side bushes in search of small fish without snagging but, one thing was certain, that wouldn't be happening these days. We would stick to the boat channel!

(A ducker was a short balsa-bodied dark-varnished waggler with a cane stem and we used 2-3BB versions, with Billy Lane's signature on, adding lead wire wrapped around the base peg to reduce their shot-carrying capacity to just two 'dust' shot, i.e. 2no8. So they were great to cast and showed sensitive bites if dotted-down to just the merest pimple)

This session was to be an experiment, going the whole hog and leaving the long pole at home...no?...yes! The old specialist 11'6" canal waggler rod was dusted-off from the pre-1995 vault and my favourite light reel, great for careful light waggler fishing and suited to my girls hands and finer lines - was attached. For me if it worked on the day this would be as positive step back but, as with all experiments, there would be risks

Arriving to start at 6.30am the gear was prepared to commence at that precise moment, when, also at that precise moment, that deathly 'ptug, ptug, ptug' of a narrowboat pervaded the chill air and diverted my attention from the mashing of bread. Now I have never been one to complain to or shout at boaters and see no benefit in spoiling theirs' and your own day except that is pass the time of day but boy was I tempted to ask one or two (im)pertinent questions on this occasion. A lock was only about 10-15 pegs to my right, in the angler's standard method of measurement, and yet it was an hour and a half before it eventually opened confirming that the answer to the question 'Is this really necessary?' would have been a resounding 'No'...and that wouldn't have helped. No, the best bet was to bite one's lip, until it bled if necessary, and then concentrate on the job in hand which would not be easy in any event

So there I sat, with a lap full of blood, pondering that the usual approach would be to deposit a walnut sized blob of wetted coarsely-liquidised bread which had hardly seen the blender and then wait 30 to 90 minutes for a bite. This time I mashed a single slice of bread in my hand then added some liquidised to soak up the spare water and, after plumbing to find the foot of the far shelf, threw three blobs of total volume equivalent to a small orange into the requisite spot covering about a two to three foot circle. The quantity of feed far exceeded anything I could possibly have entertained in the past and yet the quantity one can introduce on a river for instance, albeit much of it is washed to waiting fish further downstream, had recently taught me not to worry so much about quantity in pursuit of larger fish as it was only likely to be the smaller fish that would be choked-off and that was actually a good thing

No duckers to hand these days, I attached a old 5no4 'canal grey' locked with just 2no10 and with 2no6 on the deck to secure the bread and the remaining bulk about 15" above that. The float had a very slender tip and would show the lift-bites I sought quite dramatically. A silver wide-gape crystal bend 16 hook completed the set-up and constituted the smallest hook I had used since returning to fishing over a year ago; mainly selected on the basis that I had very few 14's left and 12's in this pattern are a bit springy, although they would, probably, be better suited to rod and line than pole. None of this was possible however before I had inadvertently dragged the top off my float tube and deposited them in a side pocket and mud, breaking two ancient Image canal wagglers one of which was the original clear varnished ones from the very first run they did...serious disaster...worse than the early boat in fact!

First cast, without the pole, knowing I would wait some time for bites what with the early boat and then general scheme of things with this method, gave time to arrange the peripheral kit. One thing I really I miss, always travelling very, very light, is a side-tray or bait-waiter and so, leaning down to make the bread more reachable for hookbaits, I looked up to see the stem of the float waving around and yelling 'strike ya ejit!', which I duly did, and the light rod designed for catching small roach took on a fearful bend before it relaxed to its normal state and the fish was gone. I guess some twnety years on since last use it was always possible that it would take some getting used to. My concern however was that that single event could easily have trashed the swim and may well have signalled the end of sport before it had even commenced

I quickly re-baited and swung the rig back out. Within seconds the same thing happened and I was into a good fish. While playing it with the tip to middle action of the rod performing beauitifully it reminded me of a time when I was playing the biggest canal bream I have had in a match and I couldn't lift it through the water to the net with this very rod but this one wasn't quite in that bracket, thankfully. As I went to drag the netted fsih toward me one of the arms pulled out of the joint and left a tangle of mesh and bronze bream; very little slime though it being March and all that goes with it in the fishy cycle

Now, this being a dedicated big roach session, I left the keepnet at home; at this point regret came to the fore as a bream these days on this canal usually heralds the start of a stream of them and given that the point of catching the species is to assemble a nice catch of them I now wished I had it, not least because, if my suspicions were correct, I would be wandering two pegs along to release them rather regularly until boat traffic killed sport. A quick weigh put it smack-on two pounds and out went the rig again this time with a tiny cube of crust as I resumed tidying the pitch...really, sometimes all I lack is a stripy windbreak and guy ropes with some beach towels drying and I'd look quite the part

One difficulty was setting the rod down. If it was just laid on the bank it couldn't easily be adjusted for line taughtness to get the float sitting correctly for the lifts to register and if propped on bits of kit they were inevitably the bits I wanted to use. Holding it was best so I started sitting on the handle match-style and it helped no end while fiddling about with other stuff

Soon a slide-away bite occurred, typical of bream when the set-up is geared to the opposite!, and I struck into another chunky fish with a bit of fight about it. The first time it became visible pink fins were evident and another hybrid to follow the many caught since Christmas was on it's way to the net. After a few more lunges, admirably cushioned by the rod which, by this time, I was beginning to fall in love with all over again, the fish of around the pound mark slipped over the rim of the triangular shallow net revealing the eye of a nocturnal feeder. Immediately it registered that this was going to be a silver bream, and quite a beauty and PB too at 1-4-2. The cracking (cracking!) fish was duly reintroduced to the murky depths 40 metres to the left...and some compensation for the lack of roach. A check of 49 scales on the lateral line, 8 from 'wrist' to tail, 23 branched rays of anal fin and that big goo-goo eye, twenty-five percent of the length of its head, confirmed that silver, not bronze, took gold for the session

At this moment the decision was made to feed a lobbie line 5 metres out and to my right, in readiness for the far line tailing-off and in the hope of a predatory fish to conclude

The bread line continued it's rich doughy air bubble of form for about an hour when, at the appearance of weak sunlight, as is usual, the line completely died. Further bronzes of 1-14-2 and 0-11-0 and another small silver at 7ozs added to the catch and by this time a short 'sleeper pole' with a whole brandling was showing signs of life too as I struck into a perch or zander, confirmed by the line twanging along the stiffened dorsal fin, spine by spine. A rotund 11 ounce perch came to the top quite meekly and in standing-up to take it along to the release spot the rod and reel were knocked clean into the water! Fortunately it briefly floated and was rescued with the reel taken apart and dried there and then. On attempting to attach the pole cup to put more lobworm bait in I managed to shatter the last three inches of the tip so that will now become the big fish top set with the no1 completely removed!

One more small footballer completed the set for the morning and after just an hour and a half both lines were then dormant

After two hours boats crossed in the peg, one of which was towing another and particularly low-slung signaling the metaphorical final whistle. Rarely can such a brief session have been so disastrous and yet so rewarding. The final insult was to knock the rig winder into the cut at the last second, it sank but was retrieved with all manner of algal stodge in the already dried and packed landing net. The fish totalled 7-2-4 which is no bad effort for less than one and half hour's intensive action and, so engaging was the pursuit this particular morning that, at no time until the walk back was I conscious of the bird life, at one point during which the noise a flock of squalking starlings and a lustily singing chaffinch filled the air to perfectly complete the trip

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Peter & the Gulf

With ("NEVER start a sentence with 'with' Burton!", I can hear my English master now) the assault on the Leam reaching fever-pitch in terms of hours spent, but not in respect of fish caught, the highlight of the week was clear

Parps won his school class World Book Day 'dressing-up as a character' event with is own interpretation of his newly resurrected angling hero. Yes, you guessed it, Mr Crabtree. I could have been Peter but the prospect of shaving my legs stopped me 

That apart we've experienced the piping of the kingfisher, a raven attacking a buzzard, two five ounce dace, a scale-perfect chub just a minnow short of two pounds, endured over a hundred tippy-tappy bites from presumed micro-dace, a ten ounce fin-perfect roach and the unedifying sight of minnows discarded by an 'angler' onto the muddy bank alive and left to die; and here they are, in no particular order:


Early in 2012 the target of a four pound river chub was set, after which the range of venues was somewhat limited to one stretch of the 'what I call' middle Leam (apologies to Miranda Hart,) upstream of Leamington Spa. During which time it has become apparent that this particular riparian beat, despite it's feature-laden appearance, is somewhat under provided for in the chub department. This has been deduced through experience and in discussion with others on the bank none of whom it seems, during that period, have landed a single one, although I do find I have the bank to myself after dark (maybe there's a night fishing ban? I hadn't considered that, 'must enquire)

As it is unlikely that there will be another opportunity to get on the bank of flowing water before the dreaded 15th (in fact as I write this it is the evening of 13th and with work tomorrow but some time available on Friday morning it is likely that will mean canal or lake) the list to date of fish over 1lb for that stretch comprising around 6 suitable swims reads, and will remain, as follows: 3-13-0, 2-15-0, 2-5-0, 2-0-6, 1-15-2

The gulf between the size of chub on the upper Warks Avon compared to these Leam fish is really noticeable with four pounders regular and fives not entirely unusual on the former watercourse. I had based the quest on old knowledge and have found it to be wanting as the contemporary angler has perhaps shown the Leam not quite to be the River it once was in respect of specimen fish. Very enjoyable nevertheless, but what do I know - I have hardly fished the whole river!

The notion that there are very few chub in the length I have preferred is borne-out by the small number of fish caught when in fact all sessions have been in pursuit of them largely with big chunks of flake or crust and occasional lobworms with a good proportion of the hours of concentration being in the first hour of darkness, when, interestingly, the two biggest were taken...or of course the obvious option that I'm really not very good at it also springs to mind

Anyway, quite what the benefit of all that is I've no idea

So, what to concentrate on for the next three months then?...hmm. Spawning canal roach in the hope of a podgy belter? Is that 'legal'?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

When Plenty is quite Enough


A couple of weeks ago it was decided it was time to crack the Leam

What one might call the middle river upstream of Leamington had consistently got the better of the rusty river angling skills (and what puny skills they were related only to catching nets of small fish in a 'that was a good day's fishing' kind of manner)

The river at the time was starting to fall from flood proportions and was about 0.5m above normal. Last weekend a late evening visit produced the usual owl-related entertainment but I don't recall having a proper bite with the river about a foot above normal

This weekend I felt it would be spot-on. 250mm up and probably with plenty of colour still in it to keep the feeding confidence of the fish high

As the river is a task for late in the day rather than early, the dawn visit on Saturday had to be canal-orientated, and so it was. The journey there should have acted as a warning. A barn owl scattered some early rising jackdaws and wheeled across the dual carriageway. It's huge moth-like form so distracting close-up as to make one question one's driving concentration but soon became a memory as the car careered toward the venue; nothing, surely, could match that sight. The prospects however seemed good with the heavy colour of a fortnight past having dropped-out of the water until, kneeling at the water's edge to scoop water for the bread feed, it became apparent that the visibility was almost too good extending to at least a foot down and, on the particular stretch, would potentially prove the kiss of death...and so it proved.

Soon after, a male sparrowhawk, with his sleek and unmistakable flap and glide flight and slate-blue back, drifted past just above mid-water and disappeared to the right following a line just inches above the towpath as he contemplated breakfast

Two hours passed and no bites but (there was a big BUT) as per the previous post, something unique occurred as I sat wondering if anything at all swam under the surface, as not even crayfish bites were evident, I happened to glance to my right where a wide turning bay was just in view by a large tree. Against that dark backdrop three large birds on the water with a hint of white caught the eye. "Canada's", I internally muttered and glanced away, they were often here, but, in doing so, one slipped under the surface in an naturally accomplished manner, a natural assassin. A double-take then had me convinced, they were goosander. Now I couldn't begin to work-out how many hours had been spent in isolated locations on canals early in the morning in the lifetime to date but never before had goosander been been on the agenda ('nearly said 'menu'!), as a truly wild bird with a healthy distrust of man. Being a sawbill they are fish-eaters but, not being blessed with mouths in heron-like proportion, they don't offer much of a threat to the inhabitants of the North Oxford Canal, given that the majority of them are probably over 4 ounces in weight and therefore not on the menu (there - squeezed it in!) for the fine-mouthed goosander

More internal rumination at this point, "I shalln't be amused if they catch one!"...and catch one they didn't. In fact, within just a few minutes they flew to my left seeking stretches with more snacklihood revealing their number to comprise two males and a female. Beautiful birds and perfectly evolved for their lifestyle including the rather odd habit of nesting in tree-holes of course

Soon a skylark was singing in the distance as spring threatened it's intentions reinforced by the somewhat feeble attempts to pronounce itself present by a yellowhammer. The chances of life underwater had slipped-away by 9am and after collecting fresh moss for the lobworm collection the warmth of home seemed irresistable

Later in the day a long overdue trip to the tip offered a few spare minutes to pre-bait three likely-looking Leam swims with a mixed liquidised and mashed bread mix accompanied by the mildly unhealthy Lady Burton who 'needed the fresh air' and, by 4pm it could be resisted no more, although the water was a touch clearer than expected with visibility 9 inches down.

The three pegs were re-fed on arrival and I perched myself in the most comfortable of them to run a small 'Topper' through. I did this for an hour and then intended to change to the lead as the light faded and try the other two swims before returning here to fish into dark.

The peg had surprised with it's depth previously and the rig was set well over 6 foot as a 6 ounce roach came on the third or fourth trot through and then one bumped-off on the strike but soon the float buried in that all-consuming chub-like manner and a fish of just a fraction over 2 pounds was drawn to the net with the power of the Avon rod too much for it, thankfully, in this snag-lined stream

As light started to fade it was time to wander to swim two, a shallower stretch will sunken rushes evident and with the main flow tight across, a chance therefore of some interest closer-in. The intention was to give it just 15 minutes or so in each of the other options having reverted to single-swan link-leger

The action was certainly non-stop but from small over-excited fish. I hooked one of the sharp bites and saw a flash as the fish spun under the water in a manner which only dace can achieve and just as suddenly it was gone. Frantic tapping and pulling continued until I had a reasonably proper bite and struck into something a touch more solid, which being a shallow swim, immediately rolled and splashed on the surface revealing itself as a decent roach. It fought well in the flow, as river roach tend to, and took a while to come to the waiting submerged net partly due to a touch more care being taken than had been afforded the earlier chub. He/she/it was a deep-bellied perfectly-formed example of the species and, as I tend to with any roach over a pound, wasinitially over-estimated in size but when quickly dropped on the scales was confirmed as an exact replica of my largest canal roach at 1-4-11

The commotion lead me to seek-out peg three where a similar sequence of events ensued brought to a halt by this time a small dace

By then there was just sufficient light to allow the return journey to first base to be made; for a betalight to be attached to the tip and to settled-in for the first hour of darkness with that comforting glow hovering over the water, just into the shade of the steeply sloping far bank. Quiet however it was not! As the owls struck-up their now anticipated chorus, and as is also customary one flew low over the water in complete silence to my right and disappeared into the increasing gloom of the wood while his mate or, at the very least, competitor continuing hooting from a distant Cupressus

Half an hour later, as the pungent smell of a farm fire wafted through the valley, I became conscious of the falling temperature and hats were exchanged for a higher 'tog'. No sooner had I looked back at the tip than it slammed round and that instantaneous, instinctive reflex of striking found me attached to my own substantial foe in the dark. standing quickly up and initially without any illumination other than the reflection of the light sky on the water (metaphorical) gauntlets were thrown down onto the now rippling surface (besides, they're new gloves). This was going to test the rod and myself; with minimal vision and little experience of such situations to call on all that could be done was think 'hit and hold' and trust the Avon to do the rest

At this point my secondary angling aim from 2012, which had been scuppered, partly, by the terribly wet year, came to mind in a somewhat fateful fashion. Could it be 4lbs? It felt it, or I willed it to feel it, but of course I couldn't really be sure. My only previous experience of such fish was on the pole from the Oxford Canal with a carp rig, the only comparison to which was that I was on one end and a chub was on the other

Under what felt like extreme pressure (how would you get a six pounder out of a peg like this?!) it still managed to dally briefly with some roots but the tension drew it clear and into open-ish water, then it seemed to be mine and the net seemed tempting as a way to draw things to a swift close but it shot-out into the main current to take on an altogether superior fighting capacity. It being the wrong side of a central reedbed left only one option, more pressure, and that worked as the surface erupted and the fish slid over the reeds and into the now expectant gape of the landing net

An iPhone flash photo doesn't do it justice, but here it is

So, some battle, but how big was it? With the 4lb target hanging over proceedings the scales which weigh ounces added an extra dimension...'61.0oz' it read...soon it dawned that 64 ounces would be enough, and, though it wasn't 'enough', it was certainly plenty as my biggest river chub slipped back into the depths. It was quite a slender fish that would comfortably have pushed 4-4 to 4-8 fully nourished but of course the peculiar advantage of missing a target is that it still exists to be beaten however with only 11 days of the season to go is it really possible from the Leam? Whether it is or it isn't, plenty of hours will be put in before the close I'm sure

...and with some scale
Species list for the weekend:
Rabbit, roach, chub, dace, perch, zander, chaffinch, goldfinch, yellowhammer, robin, blackbird, song thrush, fieldfare, nuthatch, dunnock, great tit, blue tit, starling, woodpigeon, magpie, carrion crow, rook, raven, jay, sparrowhawk, barn owl, tawny owl, mallard, moorhen, canada goose, goosander, black-headed gull, common gull
(4 oz zander and 14oz perch from Sunday morning trip to N Ox C)