Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bread head to Zed head

In the dim and distant, the short stretch of canal ventured to this dull dawn would occasionally produce a cupro-nickel adorned weight in local matches but it's rush-fringed banks flattered very much to deceive the matchman of yesteryear. The best catch I recall was around three pounds of silver skimmers and often in winter matches catches were limited to those in the range of twelve ounces to a pound and a half; summer ones were often won of the farthest end peg, with the colour dropped out of the water overnight and the nervy inhabitants pushed-along with anglers' footsteps

I have passed these pegs and failed to be drawn-in by their long forgotten potential ten, or maybe a dozen, times in the past 2 years but this very day lax and amnesic events, in equal measure, lead to camp being set-up slap-bang in the middle of that very place

A new pole, over-gunned with new fangled puller bungs and heavy duty elastic, was the draw to the canal as a post-purchase test waggle and the option to use the travel Avon quiver was there as back-up if the worms had survived a five weekdays in the car

The freak event was threefold. Last Sunday I managed to step 6 inches left of where I have sat many a time over the past two winters and went up to my left thigh in the River Leam. Fortunately it wasn't too cold and I managed to fish-on for an hour in wrung out clothes before the masking effects of three small fish and the flask started to wear-off and I felt it was starting to get silly. So the wellies went into the porch to dry and consequently were left behind when departing for the canal today, which with the benefit of hindsight was good, as I have since discovered they were still soaking. The result of this little distraction was that I had to walk to the peg in my Scarpas which was okay to a point; the point being reached when water started to seep in which also happened to coincide with the aforementioned rushy bend

As is so often the case now the banks were unfished and unkempt so a little gap was sought and one or two strategic stems bent over to allow access for shipping the matt finished, yet super-slippery, beast in and out, aided by a neatly positioned remnant of fence behind. Investment in end caps for all of the four largest joints enabled roving with the smallest pole for the job and even though we had inherited some savage looking elastic the experiment had to be completed to understand the difference between the usual no6 and this stuff, the like of which I last saw on It's a Knock-out (albeit everyone on that show may well now be banged-up for all I know, or care) whereas this stuff certainly wasn't going to be taking any prisoners if indeed the hook held through it's apparently fearful red power

Obviously to the pre-summer (self-imposed close season) reader the actual method wasn't going to change as big roach would be the initial quarry closely followed by perch on the worm if circumstances pointed that way. So three handfuls of mashed bread, crusts and all, hit the surface with a splosh and a splat 10m out and there the float sat with quite massive pastry-cuts of sliced bread on the hook and it wasn't until we'd got down to the 20mm disc that bites occurred you wont be surprised to hear. The first one pulled-out and I immediately blamed the elastic of course. Second one was not in the same bracket though and staunchly drew 8 or 9 inches out of the sadly stumpy tip (no1's still awaited). This was a fish with the right attitude but not that of hybrid, and not the slovenliness of a bronze bream. It certainly felt like a roach, and it was. A good one. It proved a worthy adversary as it hit the near shelf trying to take full advantage of every overhanging root, stem and branch in striving for it's William Wallace. It did fail, for the time being though, despite the lightest of hooking in it's upper, outer lip.

1-4-6 of battling beauty
The first boat passed at 07.30 just half an hour after dawn and this fish followed, closely chased by another at just under a pound, before the traffic rendered the channel a less than attractive option but, soon, a corvid-powered fracas drew the attention across the damp pasture to the far hedge where a female sparrowhawk was pursued my the mob until she found shelter within a suitably dense hawthorn and they resorted to gathering on nearby posts, wires and dead branches until they lost interest, and drifted back to their morning ground-level foraging as ravens wheeled and tumbled overhead

Four lobs were chopped and introduced under a nearside overhanging ash to my right and whole lobs on a size 6 with a single swan link dropped in after them. Bites came in an instant and it soon became noticeable that the fighters were down the shelf not under the actual bush

The first fish put up a tremendous fight, a perch of 1-6-14, and from that moment forward the tip was regularly twanging with perch and then a burst of lost fish when, every time, the lob had wrapped over the hook point! Soon though a heftier specimen with an altogether deeper, more doughty action and the, now familiar, rasping of line along it's erect dorsal as it twisted beyond sight. A zander predictably flashed at the surface and a p.b.-nudger it appeared too. Unusually in my experience of North Oxford Canal zander it indulged in some surface thrashing before flopping into the submission position for netting. These fish are always immaculately presented, confirming their rapid ascent to top predator role in this devastated, devastating and still evolving ecosystem

2-11-14 was 14 drams over the previous p.b. and it certainly made the
net for rounder fish forms up to 4lbs look somewhat inadequate 
It was clearly the case that these fish wanted a large bait and two lobs brought instant responses from the sail-finned mercenaries of murk. Two or three undoubtedly bigger fish simply let go of bunches of worms with the hook fully masked by flesh of worm, one of them was really solid but remains untroubled, perhaps to fall on future quests

Soon a flock of sipping and churring long-tailed tits were all around, then just as suddenly. silent and gone; leaving just the ubiquitous wren to fill the morning with his tnt-sponsored song

What started with the bread head on as a roach session to test the pole (and brought forward some very useful information) became an equally, if not more, enlightening zander event and has set the mind racing in the manner only the real world can

An experimental 10-15-0 mixed bag was about half the potential given the prey on (and off) the hook during the four hours' activity and should have blown the previous 13lbs-odd NOXC record well and truly out of the water, but the fact it didn't makes it all the more enticing and the p.b. zander with top ten canal perch and roach make me wonder why so much time has been spent on a low and clear river to date

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pleasure of the Gloom

The deep-bend's resident pipistrelle fluttered blinking into the light at its usual time on Sunday night but didn't hang around (sorry!), heading towards the village and no doubt the insects around and over its streetlights. The tawny's were particularly vocal; the male too-it, too-ooing and female shrieking across the little valley that seems to have become my own over the past two winters. Not so much my own at present though as late developing river anglers busily create pegs like badgers digging setts and reaping new bedding. No doubt the frosty weather to come will thin them out though and the armchair swims they have created will be welcome then for the winter, if only as clean areas where fish might shelter in floods!

Kingfisher, jackdaw and raven, lesser black-backed gull and canada goose plus the ever-present woodpigeon flew over or by as the wait for a greater level of darkness was warmed by the flask and punctuated by the occasional comical broken-voiced bleating of sheep as they sought comfort for the night

The stream hadn't fished well today but there were odd fish to be had. At dawn an early chub just under two pounds brightened proceedings but the supporting act peaked at just a four ounce roach and a dace of similar maturity

Four swims were tried, with two of those newly and carefully made without full exposure to the quarry, in strategic spots, but running a float through was rendered all but impossible in most due to the lack of flow associated with such a long dry period

The decision was (eventually) made to return in the evening when four swims were primed with some bread feed, two of the swims were further new ones and neither mustered so much as a single fish, just a few taps of the tip, whereas those that were fished in the morning produced a few little roach and then, well beyond sunset I glanced away from the tip when mashing some more bread only to revert to the betalite illuminated tip to catch it in a fearful curve and disappearing under the water among the rushes!

There was clearly no need to strike, it was simply a case of clinging-on and thankfully the fish, while a bit of a bruiser, did not retaliate particularly wildly and was soon in the waiting net. At 3-5-2 however it usurped last weeks brace and moved into 2nd place in this river's list behind a fish of 3lbs 13ozs getting on for two years ago (he must be a four pounder by now!) but soon after a rig lost on a snag was enough to draw the evening to an abrupt conclusion and off we trotted with the owls still ringing in my ears