Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Start

It's that time of year again

Peak season and yet I am having to force myself to get out there having not set foot on the bank, rod and reel in hand, since May. The spring trip to the Highlands and the end of the school summer holidays being the markers for an instinctively respected close season

Three trips to our local small stream have produced very little piscatorial excitement but a rather wider range of mammalian entertainment has helped things along and in the process pegs have been created in otherwise dense nettle and rush. Top for amusement was a persistent little chap fighting his way through the waterside vegetation at dusk like a small unseen cartoon character in a wheat field; when his head and, eventually, his whole body appeared after some half hours' scurrying, the shape of a brown rat was more than a little disappointing when I had gone from mink to polecat to stoat in my mind of possibilities. "Boo hiss scum bag, get back in the rushes, it's my bread", I disrespectfully suggested

Juvenile reed bunting. Intrigued at my presence

The wild seems rather more lively than it was this time in the previous two years but then I had not taken to the river bank on those occasions when the canal seemed more appropriate. Not so this time around, although I do believe that might change in a few weeks.

A barn owl swung round the bottom tree hole like a giant moth as the rat charged around. I crept up the bank but it was already gone, odd though it seemed; then a sudden crack and unowl-like noise as it lifted off with an unstruggling snack in its grasp and settled on the old gate to devour it, out of view

A family of swans could, despite their muteness, be heard to shuffle for positional comfort behind midstream rushes to my right. Six of them there had been two weeks ago when I took my accomplice Parps and the The Dog, who was briefly visiting, to suss-out the state of 'our stretch'

In the descending gloom one evening Parps plucked the landowners exclusive rights letter from my pocket as we sat deep among the rushes, more in search of a little interest than anything else, then he scanned the rod licence receipts which stated that they would be issued within 10 days...bought in March, still waiting. At least we have the proof. And then there was the 'proper' licence, a book, that enables us to fish a longer stretch of our favourite little river. They always fascinated me too, the venue maps, the match dates, the record fish, the old-fashioned sounding officials' names. Now at the tender age of 12 he suddenly qualified for them all

Tremendous colouration on this clear stream perch

I've also been pondering the syndicate water and a somewhat brash and successful bid on a pole on eBay did little to arrest my burgeoning drive to pursue the angle


Now, some three weeks and around six trips later, nothing much was to report on the hook. Chub to 1-14-5, roach to ten ounces with the highlight undoubtedly a dazzling dace of 5 ounces 14 drams, a proper little beauty on free-lined bread. A lot of small topping fish were evident but the stream was low as it gets and quite clear encouraging predatory perch and pike to strike where deeper pools existed

A perfect photo opportunity presented itself as a kingfisher settled 8m in front of me on one occasion but as I started to reach for the camera the inability to resist striking at a sudden bite got the better if me. That presented an interesting little conundrum, does that mean I actually prefer fish to birds? Well it's probably more that a trap was set and then tripped that made the bite so unavoidably enthralling as compared to the prospect of a kingfisher picture I suspect. In fact I know

Then just this last Sunday evening a quick-fire evening session when three swims not too distant were primed with a total of six slices of bread and then rotated 20 minutes each, at a time when daylight would be limited by the onset of dusk, formed the entertainment

The first of these was a narrow, busy little glide immediately upstream of, and feeding directly into, my favourite winter peg, which, as yet, is completely overgrown. At about four feet wide it ain't no big river peg but there was always the chance of a single decent fish before the necessity of the chaos surrounding its capture forced one to move on

Getting the bait in place was a challenge but, hiding below the tips of the rushes and flowering water bistort, a lump of flake was neatly flicked sideways into the bulrush-lined and punctuated channel, gravel imagined below

One thing obvious in this late summer escapade has been the positivity of the bites as compared to winter, especially from roach, they are all but unmissable, yet all but unhittable beyond November

The tip pulled quite hard and a strike met with reasonable resistance and a bit of a battle until, clinging-on and giving nothing, given the swim, a good roach popped into the waiting new landing net (all we need now is a decent handle), he weighed 0-11-14 and was a welcome start

Prior to baiting the swims I had chatted to an even less bedecked angler than myself who had been freelining lobs to good effect in the afternoon sun, taking some nice chub, roach and perch plus, he suspected, a couple of small zander but, having thought it through since, I suspect they may have been ye olde daddy ruffe

Second peg was a former cattle drink, now overgrown, and a favourite for a single good fish when conditions and extant vegetation suit. Barely had the hook hit the deck when the tip formed an animated arc followed immediately by the kind of aquatic commotion reserved only for chub. Hit and hold did the trick and the fella's rubbery lips appeared from amid the nearside rushes to find the greenery of the net. Scales applied, he went a nice 2-15-14, just a ha'penny short of 3lbs and the best of the short campaign thus far

Peg three was to be the one I fished into dark having fed it further before settling into the cattle drink. It was an awkward lie, in fact lying would probably have been a better bet had I been blessed with something to lie on

A gentle glide of around 5m wide across to a long bulrush bed opposite with some submerged cabbages inside was always looking good for a quality fish before sloping-off indoors. A rapid series of taps ending in a gentle pull brought a three ounce roach to hand and on dropping back in very close under my feet, so to speak, a gentle but determined bend was pulled into the tip by another fighter which, with less in the way of danger to navigate, was given a little more time before being drawn to rest. This one was a little more full of frame than the first (which surely would have gone 3.4.0 to 3.8.0 midwinter) and a very similar weight at 2-13-8. He was gently returned via the net to recover and find his way back into the flow

Knowing the evening's action would be brief in such restricted swims I decided to return to the cattle drink but, true to form, it produced nothing else and I hit the road to indulge in some Heavy such brilliance could have eluded me for so long is beyond me, ruffling my old feathers for sure. Did you think I should?

Heavy Soul - Paul Weller, Island Records, 1997
Peacock Suit - Paul Weller, Go Discs, 1996

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