Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Bream, Thrushes, Perch and Upstarts...or...The Canal Bug Returns

The last time I caught anything on bread on the canal was November 10th

Admittedly the visits have been few and far between as the 'middle' River Leam fascination has extended its control of me, only six sessions in fact, but I had recalled seeing even the most clearwater-stable lengths turn to strong tea when the rains commenced and, as they continued unabated day after day, week after week, month after month that image had scalded me like that with which the tea may have been made, were it real

Deep down though its true to say that my urges go in cycles when it comes to angling; each little obsession (ah, the smell of it) having to be sated before the next expands like a pin prick of light through a black surface to a sparkling diamond of a challenge until that too is addressed, usually by failure and the need, ultimately again, for variety

That variation often involves one of my other obsessions, probably put on the back burner in the jewellers workshop until such time as it is needed again to fulfil its role

It seems odd in this wettest of winters - has anyone claimed it the wettest on record yet? I'm sure they will soon, everything has to be a record, the biggest, the fastest, the most boring, you name it - that this particular angler, and yes, 'peculiar' would fit to, has spent his time trying to scratch chub and roach from the Leam in the considerable aftermath of each deluge regularly involving beached cars in Welsh Road, Offchurch (being the point at which the world as most know it is at its most vulnerable to this tiny River's wrath) when most others have stayed at home

The challenge got the better of me this weekend however with a blank trip for one of us (me) on the North Oxford last weekend and an opportune trip over the cut in the week revealing that it was not as coloured as one might have expected and the urge to fish the canal returned

Water clarity was good for bread fishing
Saturday a short trip, which seemed quite hard work but thats how I like it (as you will have gathered if a regular visitor, assuming F,F&F has any), to an area that produced some bream including a good silver in the summer saw my now traditional approach unfurled on the unsuspecting watercourse. I say 'short trip' but it was a touch longer than usual as no boats came, although I understand Hillmorton locks are subject to some work at present which may explain

Bread flake down the deepest water bottom of the far shelf on the float and lobworm at the nearside equivalent to my right on a very light 2AA link leger were the methods although the bread feed was cut back as, in the odd session of gongoozling since November 8th I have fed too much

I was again beginning to think the canal was devoid of fish with no toppers and no bites when, half hour in, a bream lifted the flake off bottom and the equivalent lift bite resulted in a fish of 1-8-10 of silver bronziness staring up at me from the landing net but that seemed to be it for quite some time until a small perch wrapped the trip round and while I was unhooking an awkward situation became considerably worse as a bite on bread occurred and 'we' ended-up playing another similar bream with my knees while I did eventually manage to extract the hook from the footballing mascot, no damage done. The bream was then netted too and another 1-6-3 of non-slimy bream went into the keepnet

From this point on the wand was the most active and eventually, as has often been the case with this dual approach, the light bread rod and centre-pin became abandoned on the bankside grass while the lobworm was concentrated on. Air-injection it seemed was critical to getting bites, and they came regularly once that was sussed, with three perch to 1-3-6 and a lone zander of 1-6-14 completing the days entertainment when I ran out of worms

The catch totalled 6-8-11 and included my first canal bread fish for 13 weeks and first canal catch over 1lb for 12 weeks

The birdlife was quite fascinating too, moorhen were mating, but they will be nesting soon of course. Just as winter really takes hold no doubt.

Linnet, goldfinch, chaffinch, fieldfare and redwing, dunnock, blackbird, robin and jackdaw all alighted in the hedge opposite at sometime during the session

A hat trick of thrushes (I missed the blackbird!)
Armed with this knowledge of life against the odds in the canal I took Parps the next day for the next step of his angling development. We accessed at the same point but walked the other way knowing that gales were forecast and there the wind would be behind us and blowing over a tall hedge

A similar day ensued in many ways. A cracking bream with a strangely dented shoulder (more noticeable in the photos than in the flesh) started things off about half an hour into the session and then after a further half hour or so lull a 15oz roach and another bream of around 12ozs in consecutive casts. Then nothing.

Crayfish were in residence and pulling the float around quite regularly in their irritating manner

The boy wonder meanwhile remained bite less so we changed his link leger for a newly created heavy duty float rig for suspending lobworms just off bottom and it worked immediately but the fish of around 10ozs came off as he went to lift it clear of the water

Applying the tricks he had learnt last week he went on to get 7 or 8 bites and land three perch to 1-2-6 with three falling off the hook at the surface

This boy likes his bigger fish and is catching them regularly now

So my fishing has taken-on an unexpected twist of kate, or even late (not fate, and who's Kate?) and I find myself having to draw-up a golden maggot chart. Not just any old golden maggot chart, oh no, as this is no ordinary golden maggot competition

[I can't use 'gm' or 'gmc' here so I'm, somewhat thankfully, stuck without an acronym (The revered Lady Burton used to work in mental health, they don't use ANY real words!)]

This golden maggot is all encompassing...biggest fish, heaviest catch, most fish and of course the, technically correct (to quote the late, and famously slow-scoring, Trevor Bailey), most species...per trip

And, lo and behold, I find myself already 6.5 -12.5 down to a 12-year old companion who has rather conveniently slipped into the peg vacated by the self-confessed, past his sell-by-date Old Duffer, who may now only fish when it's warm and when standing-up with a stick float is the order of the day; so maybe, maybe not. It's a bit like that at the moment but time will tell, you're a long time dead. Kevin Pietersen just flashed into my head

Parameters have not yet been settled. Will we work to the old coarse fishing season and then have a sort of inferior, perhaps bronze pinkie, award for the ensuing three months? Or will it be annual, or even a monthly award? I know not, consultation with the ebullient one will be sought

What to do?

The match fishing embers finally burned-out about 15-18 years ago but this is different, this is personal. Could I possibly let a young upstart, not any upstart but THIS upstart, get the better of me?

Well, yes, I could. Seeing him learn so fast and take stuff in you couldn't even imagine, and then catch fish using the knowledge is more pleasurable than catching them myself. 'Never thought I'd live to see that possibility but here it is right before my very eyes. The fire now burns within him and boys seem to have a natural gift to fish anyway, don't they? I suppose it's the unavoidable hunting instinct that drives it but the technical ability is beyond me, where does that come from?

Roll on next time! Snow on the bank is forecast and the opportunity to land a decent chub in it is one unfulfilled dream that needs to come true...

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