Thursday, 30 January 2014


Having just visited Mick Newey's always entertaining Piscatorial Quagswagging ( (where did you discover that word Mick?!) to find a link to a 116 page document about the angling world-perceived problem of fish predation I feel compelled to write something

But what, what should I write?

My natural reaction is to side against any groundswell of angling opinion as it is all-but always driven by the sensationalist and self-preservative tendencies of the tabloid-esque angling press, desperate for a sale in an insular world they would have you believe is necessarily controlled by tackle companies and a single fish species

The fact that it is inevitable today for issues associated with carp to be high profile factors is again a turn-off due to the inextricable link to economics and ego. It is surely natural to question the supposed necessity to maintain waters for the benefit of a single species or any unnatural mix, the reasons I resist can surely be the only ones

Next there is the logical thought that fishery owners and managers shoot themselves and the sport in the foot and fin when they measure the importance of their, no doubt individually-named, stock in £'s not lbs.

I could go on

...and I will

For those who, like me, do not have the stomach for 116 pages of such information, 'Predation: An Ecological Disaster. The Big Picture' is a compilation of research documents, press clippings, commentary and opinion by scientists, supposedly high profile anglers, politicians, celebrities, etc., presented as being published for The Predation Action Group (PAG).

PAG it seems is the joint effort of various angling 'personalities' and others reporting back to the Angling Trust but sadly their website does them no favours ( If you were to click on the otter in the predators section and read the first sentence you will immediately get my drift

Anyway, the thrust of it is to convince those who may condone it that destruction of presupposed culprits is essential to maintain an artificial level of control over predators to the benefit of the quantity and size of fish available to be caught and ultimately, of course, to reward those who believe that fish exist to adorn them with gold and those whose heads grow fat upon their capture. No need to expand further on that

Thankfully blogworld is heavily populated by countryfolk who fully appreciate that a balanced ecological community is what we all desire of our favourite waters and that a healthy, naturally biodiverse countryside is a laudible aim we should all be able to enjoy for its, at the same time, magical, beautiful, weird and wonderful qualities

The fact that certain introductions would upset the balance was inevitable. Otters for instance have spread naturally into my part of the world following, and possibly directly because of, introductions elsewhere. It will now take time for a natural balance to descend on the watercourses they inhabit especially when combined with the fact that there are now coincidentally so many signal crayfish for them to forage on in some of those waters

New introductions of non-indigenous species, it would undoubtedly be fair to say, are never well advised

Alien species inevitably cause initial problems beyond prediction and the imagination before they settle back to a natural level in the newly adjusted ecosystem, often at a cost to a pre-existing species (mink/water vole being the obvious example)

Reintroductions are another matter, what are we (they) trying to achieve? If we allow ourselves to be sentimental for a second then, yes, it is nice to be able to see the majesty of red kites close to home but I still and always will see them as a slightly false 'tick', just as I do with white-tailed eagles on the annual Highlands excursion, monstrously impressive though they are. These species have been lost for whatever reason in the past and their presence now does nothing to reinstate the then extant balance of fauna at the time they last graced these isles. So what is the point of all that?

I could go on and on, page after page, on this subject of course

The fact of the matter is that we have what we have at any one point in time. If it were down to me, and it isn't as thankfully I am nobody in the scheme of things, there would be no introductions, no reintroductions and heavy protection and conservation of what we already have with emphasis on the relinking and enlarging of the widest possible variety of valuable habitat as part of a nationwide strategy. This should be the fundamental thrust of conservation - to maximise the chances for the broadest range of biodiversity to survive, strengthened not weakened, in the interests of maintaining Gaia to the benefit of all species, ourselves included. This should be the predominant national policy above all other or our, perhaps immediate, children may live to regret the actions of ourselves, their predecessors

So how does that leave us with the PAG document?

Well, do we not simply have to wait and make of situations of change what we can? My local waters had been hard venues from which to catch fish, certainly since the 1960's, but in 2013 the canal fished so well I actually got bored and stopped going, and yet simultaneously there was, and is, otter spraint under every suitable bridge and signal crayfish everywhere...oh! and, yes, it is riddled with zander too. This example is the antithesis of the PAG argument; a venue that was incredibly difficult to winkle a few small fish out of thirty years ago but that last year produced numerous double figure bags of quality fish with the additional benefit in the interim of otter, signal crayfish, zander and, at times undoubtedly, cormorants and, to my definite knowledge, goosander too. Similarly a syndicate I belong to has a water which for the first time in living memory is alive with small fish and yet this has occurred at a time when cormorant numbers have been increasing. 'For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction', 'remember those words from school physics?

So what does that prove?

Well nothing of course, other than nothing is clear and it's all guesswork, all round. Nobody understands whats going on and every time it gets tampered with it it goes wrong and becomes ever more complicated

It's quite simple - leave what species remain alone, protect them - and embrace the constant change; 'twas ever thus and always will be so

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Kids and fishing...what to do?

The last post ('hear the bugle?) finished with...

"To see the face of a twelve year-old Crabtree with a chub in his hands - now that would be something"

...and half an hour into the very next session, with the Leam three feet above normal level and a decent piece of flake floating four inches off bottom in an undercut bank, this happens:

And a few minutes before that, this:

The first was Parps' first ever chub, which he extracted for himself from a swim lined on the inside by reeds and overhung by a willow by applying steady pressure and giving no line. His first chub and it went 3-2-11

The second he was holding for me, 2-15-3

I'm sure my first ever chub was an ouncer!

Words fail


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Boy with the Gift (Small river roach and chub)

During a temporary lull in the high level of the Leam we at last had the opportunity to test Parps' Christmas present, a new John Wilson twin-tip 10' Avon, on Saturday. The level was dropping a couple of inches every two to three hours at Kites Hardwick, where the upper river passes trout angling Mecca Draycote Water, according to the ultra-useful Environment Agency website, and it seemed we were likely to be able to find the odd slack from which to attempt to prise a gem

It would be a brief session, with civil sunset due at 5pm and our arrival at the bank not before 3.30

For ease and balance we matched the Avon with a closed-faced reel loaded with 4lb line and settled on a shelving bank right in front of a willow that stretched from far bank almost to near and he gently plopped various flakes of bread into the slack for the hour with no lack of skill but, despite a tawny owl calling as we reloaded the car, the highlight for him came second cast when the tip pulled down quite urgently a couple times before pulling more steadily and he struck into a fish that put a bend in the rod as it wandered out into the flow. Recalling without prompting that snagging swims call for no line to be given he leant into the fish and drew it neatly over the net after it had been convinced not to hang in the flow for too long

A perfect jewel of a roach hung in the hammock of a landing net, all sparkling ten ounces of it - it was sparkling I am sure of it - and both initial incredulity and beaming smiles ensued

Rod christened
A picture of calmness - outwardly
 Next day it was a heavy frost and he who was still pleased and dreaming of record roach had Rugby training (subsequently cancelled) so I, quite thankfully once I saw the extent of frost in the previously water-logged field, returned to the site to try some further slacks and glides

After having over-confidently selected a swim too short and snaggy to trot a topper through I was soon on the prowl and primed four swims with mashed bread. Roving with an 1/8oz bomb link-leger, eventually a shoal of roach were located at the end of a steady glide which shallowed-up towards the end but due to the fact that I had left my quivertips in the car the one being used was rather too stiff and the peg did not allow the rod to be pointed at the bait to accommodate a bobbin indicator but, nevertheless, a proper bite did occur and it felt a good fish in the flow at 20-odd yards distance. That said the fish was on under control and the closer it came the less sizeable it seemed until it flashed its washed-out flood water colouration on the surface and into the net. 13 ounces the gullible one went and that was an enjoyable result after two fishless, but tap-tappy-tap-tap, hours

Next peg soon produced a couple of additional taps to add to the growing list I imagined I'd carved as notches on a stick like a nineteen century cricket scorer before a gentle pull-round, and twang back, followed by a longer gentle pull-round, striking into which a chub attempted to take me into roots of the undercut near bank from whence it bit. With a strand of barbed wire to contend with too, this was no time to mess around and the fish was soon bullied into the net at which point it spat out the hook and I thanked myself for not giving it any chance to escape. It only went around a pound and a half but it made the effort worthwhile. Unusually, in fact for the first time on this river, I think, I had used a keepnet in slack area

Today the company of a grey wagtail illuminated the day (having chosen to fish out of direct sunlight in the hope of getting more bites later into the day and appeared to be successful) plus drumming of green woodpecker and creeping of nuthatch and treecreeper; the piping and arrow-like flight of the passing kingfisher as well as the omnipresent long-tailed tit, blue and great tit

The river was the to rise again later and has probably been largely unfishable since but hopefully, by this coming weekend, we might again venture forth into falling levels and sneak the odd inhabitant from its lair of murk. To see the face of a twelve year-old Crabtree with a chub in his hands - now that would be something

Monday, 6 January 2014

So Much Weather About

I am always surprised at how little rain can cause widespread flooding and find it incredible each time the rain just stops rather than continuing and making the situation even worse. It's as though the clouds know when enough is enough

Now if you are reading this while stood knee deep in water in your lounge you may disagree but we seem to live on a knife-edge so regularly these days, just one more storm away from disaster in places only occasionally or never afflicted in the normal course of events

I don't understand meteorology sufficiently well to know whether there are limiting factors but if there are they are certainly changing and becoming fuzzy at the edges

We have a stream running through our Warwickshire garden, in fact to be more precise, two streams converge bringing an apparently fairly natural watercourse and spring water from one direction and another largely taking run-off from playing fields and farm ditches together at their confluence, forming the beginnings of a tributary of the River Leam which it joins between Princethorpe and Eathorpe

This stream rapidly rises and falls with each event but it has never exceeded the depth of its banks in the seven or eight years we have been its riparian custodians. This is fortunate, as our lowest floor is below the height of the banks but has never been wetted by it; this is if you exclude a freak event when one of our gutters failed when we were on holiday and left our volunteer saviours with around three inches of water to bail-out of a room that one steps down into after the rainwater seeped through the structure and neatly filled it up for them!

Being an angler one is accutely conscious of the weather and these days I am personally more likely to avoid uncomfortable conditions that I would have been able to in my match fishing days when it was necessary to do as was expected and sit it out for the team. In those times (c.1980-1995) it was apparent that winds were getting higher. more extensive and more regular but that rainfall was quite low. Indeed it was said at the time that the subterannean aquifers were so depleted that they would never be replenished, but they have been and now they seem so full as to be at bursting point so often

who me?
The severity of wet weather regularly seems to leave us without options as anglers. Birders or, more accurately, the birds themselves lose exposed mud to feed on at watersides for those of such a persuasion and water becomes so turbid as to preclude easy feeding for those adapted to dive for fish

A cormorant shocked at my presence close to the edge takes refuge in the instantly camouflaging water
This past weekend the syndicate water, which still, this season, has only produced one fish of any note to the float, flight and flannel rod was so coloured after further rain re-established the previous level of murk as to suggest no bites would be forthcoming and, sure enough, in 5 hours of effort this proved true; but goosander, cormorant and goldeneye numbers were notably down on the past week too. So do birds migrate to clearer lakes when our silt-affected midlands stillwaters take on such heavy suspensions? Maybe they do, but even if they can the fish can't follow suit and we just have to wait for the colour to subside and the associated sport to perk-up

long distance goldeneye
goosander and tufted duck
The river season ends in just ten weeks time yet it feels as if it only just started and action is already postponed by conditions. That said, the forecast is now better with the last of the foreseeable 'bad weather' confined to the next couple of days but then maintained air temperatures and lack of heavy cloud should allow some clearing of waters, fish to be caught and birds to be spotted

Drake wigeon and stretching wifeon

Two challenges still remain then, a four pound Leam chub and a snow-caught chub to grace the net. Will they come to pass before 16th March? Will the opportunity arise for either or both? That remains to be seen