Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The 21st Century Entertainment. A Cautionary Christmas Tale


Great Uncle Dubious originally came to England from the Mediterranean in 1963. Where he lived they hunted, and hunted as though they sought to emulate the way the Americans hunted Martha

Dube though was different. While he ate well he always earned his crust and obtained his food in the conventional manner. He kept pigeons, and turkeys in December, and lived a simple life here, as one might have expected

Since retirement though something was wrong. He was restless and somehow wanted more from his bird keeping. He experimented with foods. He had tried all the traditional options - pigeon peas, bread, corn, millet, etc., but somehow those doves always stayed the same, so he started to experiment. It became an obsession. Years passed, and while certain ingredients made those birds glow and take on a sheen (varnish was good), nothing really worked but one day on the advice of 'big' Dave, a  diminutive five-foot champion breeder of racing pigeons, he obtained some hitherto widely unknown ingredients and started to feed his birds crumbs with an increasingly high content of them

Slowly, over time, he noted that the pigeons became rounder and larger, a few became extremely large, and he wondered. Soon Pinky, his best ever showing dove with many champion awards behind her, but now also retired, became so large that she was claimed to be the biggest ever seen in captivity, but Dube remained restless, something was still lacking


Eventually though, Stan next door, Gerry down the road and even Brian, who had no interest in pigeons at all, though liked his finches, were seeking Dube's recipe. So, to do them a favour as he didn't want to give his secret away ("Let the b*****s work it out for themselves", he said to Aunt Dube. "It'll break you, all this madness", she said, "D'u hear me? Break you I say") he made more magic crumbs and gave them to his friends. They too grew large pigeons and Brian had a little success too.



One night during a frightful electric storm that kept him awake and yet fired his imagination my Great Uncle had the brainwave to end them all. He would feed his magic crumbs to wild pigeons and improve their lot

Now we should not suggest Dube was the reckless sort as that would be misleading, strangely adventurous at this time of life maybe, and egged-on by his friends with his recipes certainly, but no he didn't blindly start feeding the wild pigeons without some research. It did not take him long to discover via his teenage nephew on Gaggle, the online bird forum (there is one?! Oops), that woodpigeons were not particularly well protected by law, indeed they were agricultural pests. They were also booming in numbers and a little experimentation and intervention with his local population could only help them become healthier, and bigger

It took a while but in the countryside near his house pigeons grew. Of course there were so many of them that he couldn't supply the feeders which ran dry by lunchtime each day!

Dube went into production. The wood shed was converted into a dry store and much banging and crashing occurred deep into the night, day after day. Brian came to help and soon Dube was producing his magic pigeon food by the hundredweight (can we still say that? Perhaps I mean 50kg or something)

Brian let it slip that he too had started keeping a few pigeons and that they has become even larger than Dubes. He felt it was probably that there were less of them and they could bully the goldfinches for the crumbs. Meanwhile, at the back in the dried-out and colourless gorse stems those goldfinches quietly became thrush-sized


Other pigeon fanciers wanted his food, he set up a company to produce enough crumbs to sell on the open market and racing pigeon enthusiasts found that their birds could now break those long-standing records without any risk in front of the drug testers

A young dutch avian palaeontologist, C. Kuyt-De Bono, declared this to be a disaster in the making ("I told you!", said Aunt Dube), but no one listened

Despite the hectic life my Uncle had acquired late in his three score years and ten he never stopped in his own quest and continued to feed the wild pigeons nearby from the feeders in his garden. The ground was bare where they had eaten everything that existed within 20 metres (metres, yes that's better) and their droppings nourished the surrounding wider area causing Dube to get a little nettle rash around the bottom, of the garden

In the first winter it was found that the birds didn't eat so much, and Dube, having produced so many magic crumbs to meet summer demand, was able to stop production and survive off his existing stock until the following March. A pattern started to develop and over a period of pigeon time he realised this would hold back his production year round, he became more money-orientated than before but now he had employees to support and Aunt Dube had become accustomed to a more comfortable life funded by these rather amusing rotund doves.

Brian meanwhile was perplexed. His dabbling with doves and progression with pigeons had produced an anomaly. A cross-bred bird that was vigorous in growth up to a certain middle size, that ate like mad, seemed to have a rapid metabolism and was as hungry in winter as summer. He mentioned this to Dube in passing. Love Doves he named them, as they were curiously heart-shaped due to their natural pigeon chest and appealed to those who sought solace in something consistently amenable to their attentions


One bright morning Mr & Mrs D were woken by shotgun fire. This was not unusual. They lived next to countryside and the adjoining farmer often allowed one or two hunting types to take a few birds for the pot in return for the occasional brace of pheasant or partridge being hung in his porch as a surprise on rising from their slumber. The sound of gunfire sounded somehow closer this time and more regular, in fact Dube would not have been surprised had he peered through the gap in the curtains to eye piercing sunlight to see two gun-toting bird blasters.


"Seven", he yelled, "SEVEN!?". "There are seven of them shooting our pigeons on our land!", he added. My Aunt was apoplectic, the doctor was summoned (who knocked at the door with a 'rat a tat tat' of course). The police were called and the gentlemen with the guns were encouraged to disperse. Dube used rather more urgent language and it sounded from a short distance as though ducks might've been involved

That Friday night in the Cock & Pullet, Dube and Brian contemplated the situation. Here they were with a whole burgeoning bundle of birdy information and it was so exciting. People in the local area were changing the face of pigeon size, they became bigger and bigger where they were fed the magic crumbs and those that remained wild in truest sense, further afield, stayed the same. Furthermore people were prepared to poach them

Brian had an idea. "Dube?", he enquired, "Why don't we buy the field next to your house?". "Why on earth would we want to do that Bri?", came the reply. Brian explained...the beer flowed...and eight weeks later they had it, their own field. Flyers were issued by post, email, web (and pigeon) and bookings were taken. The newly named 'P3' doves (Love Doves would never have cut it) were released into the field to add some wider interest and the pigeons Dube had fed next door in his garden were there too, in ever greater number, together with enlarged specimens of other species that benefitted from the Magic Crumb(tm) crumbs as a consequence

They got planning permission for a shop and sold their increasing range of bird food while the punters flocked (no, really) to shoot there, the bird meat didn't taste great compared to the pigeon they knew of old but they were much easier to hit due to their size so they appealed to both experienced and beginners of the shooting fraternity, and Dube joked that one day, if they carried-on like this, they wouldn't be able to fly at all! They had recreated the dodo!

Well, maybe they had. The prophecy just needed to be fulfilled



As the venture grew it became apparent that other entrepreneurial individuals some distance from Fat Dove Fields were setting-up their own centres supplying released birds fed on Magic Crumb, a few of them started shops and sold Dube and Bri's product as well but, not long after, rumours filtered in the community. The RSPFB (Royal Society for the Prevention of Fat Birds) were making noises, and they weren't cooing. They claimed that feeding wild birds suped-up (or souped-up? Some debate online - you decide) feed to change their physical state contravened applicable legislation but couldn't quote it. Nevertheless due to their huge grass roots following things started to became a little hairy, not to say feathery, for the dynamic dove duo. Public opinion started to move against them as their leader, none other than Joe himself, suggested at the very least perverting the natural course of bird evolution and introducing captive bred, not to mention hybrid, birds into the wild was at best morally reprehensible and at worst ill-eagle. He suggested Dube and possibly Brian would soon be up before the beak for winging-it so long without legal advice or proper licensing


Those words would surely come back to haunt them. Word was on the air waves that birds were flapping around the countryside nationwide in an injured state due to the voracity with which the shotgun merchants had taken to blasting these poor defenceless balls of fluff, they could not all be found and eaten. Foxes were seen to proliferate

The man and woman in the street now knew about this. Birds were so visual, and everyone loves a robin at Christmas, but suddenly those naturally round red-breasted thrushes were somewhat threadbare around the wing-pits due to their bulking-out. It had genuinely reached a stage at which no standard old-fashioned bird food could be purchased and even the feeders had to be enlarged and reinforced to accommodate the hefty avian invaders in any gardens where they were fed 


Dew Gooder, the local Parish Council Chair, summed it all up when he stated on the record in Fat Dove Fields very own Parish that (and I quote), "If they had been fish or something no one could see or cared about it wouldn't matter, but because they're birds it's just too much, it has to stop"

...and stop it did.



Merry Christmas All, no nightmares please! Just a bit of fun, I think.





Tuesday, 23 December 2014

THE LAST FESTIVE GASP...A Search for Big Leam Roach Commences


A couple of hours before and into dark this afternoon, in and around the last minute festive splashing-out, saw the last of the 'first meadow' pegs on the new River Leam stretches tested

Much shallower at around 6 feet, and with the colour dropping rapidly out now, I wasn't too sure what to expect. The deeper pegs would probably have been a better bet but these constant 20 to 40 mph winds have been affecting the water and air temperatures had been high for a few days so it was worth a shot, or so I thought

Depositing the bread feed into the swim I sat back and fixed a view on the float. Previously I had noticed instant bites on each occasion I had used the pole here, except once, so immediate confidence should have been high but I was touch flaky on the subject as the wind buffeted the pole which I had to hold high to control the rig

The line speared, taught, into the water some 10 metres above a part fallen willow and I hoped that fish sheltering there would move up onto the feed but deep down I knew the bread approach was an all or nothing, early doors-only method. (Clich√© after clich√©? My word Float Flight, what is going-on!)

Two casts before a bite, the shock!, but then the float sank down a hole and a fish was on. Only a two ouncer, and the smallest fish from the stretch thus far, but a start. Every angler needs a start

Next put-in met with another sail-away bite but this time it fought back and made the most of the flow here on a narrow peg where the speed of current was greater than in the deeper wider pegs downstream. From the polite nodding fight I suspected roach and sure enough Lord Rutilus surfaced as I drew him in front of me away from the fed area. He looked a cracker and would go over a pound for sure. Another perfect fish without even the merest hint of scale or fin damage

This was the second largest roach from the Leam in three years trying (beating one only an ounce or so smaller just a month ago into third) albeit generally targeting chub, but now that the pole is proving effective for them I might just revisit some swims that might suit it to see what can be achieved with a more refined method without the problem of 'tappy' bites on a quiver-tip...and with ten days or so of relaxation ahead who could possibly resist?! Well not his angler for sure

A further fish of around seven or eight ounces was followed by two smaller ones and then the action subsided. One missed bite and one fish pulled-out of to add to those banked was not a bad return for just over an hour's pole fishing while I could still see but the tip with a lump of crust produced not even a tap after dark and it was off to the shops again to finish the list just as the clouds burst and drenched me on the walk back...great!

The roach biggest weighed in at 1-1-6
(Photos a bit poor today. Not sure quite why but not much focussing going on there it seems...and quite literally no birds to report at all)

Monday, 22 December 2014

More time. Less fish?

Two trips down the river this weekend, both p.m. and both in swims I has fancied from previous visits but at ten minutes door to gate it ain't no hardship

Saturday was spent trotting bread under a balsa in what appeared the perfect smooth water glide, up to and beyond a bush, and then a link-leger into dark under the bush with two reasonably decent bites, one missed, one pulled-out, and therefore no fish

Ever-present family of swans slip past backwards in the dark...why?
The seed was sewn however and with the river falling to inversely reflect a contrary increase in air temperature predicted on the Sunday all seemed to point to an unavoidable opportunity. Shopping was pulled-in early with Parps and I waltzing into the shops as soon as they opened and Sunday's first gentle indoor net as he builds up for next cricket season between ten and eleven this would leave a good slot after dropping The Old Duffer and The Old Trout for a show and then night out just after lunch

Having enjoyed running a float through with the centrepin, but sadly not having anything to show for it, I decided to revert to the new pole method which had been reasonably successful a fortnight ago tempting a nice chub first put on the pole and then a sequence of roach

Slowly the tactic is starting to evolve into something worth using regularly and, if anything, it seems slightly more productive than the standard techniques, largely because, in a river dominated by 3 to 12 ounce roach hitting their bites on the 'tip is a recipe for certifiable frustration

A peg was chosen at the end of a mid-river crease where a glide started and I intended to pole-fish that line. The river was still two foot six above normal and nicely coloured with a few smaller roach topping from middle to far bank. An added bonus was a nearside slack downstream of the peg behind a rush bed which I would drop a link leger into as a sleeper option (wit' lobs on't t'hook)

Somehow I wasn't quite 'with it'; the wind was painfully awkward, despite not hitting the water as such, and I was easily distracted. Fifty fieldfares flapped their staccato randomly undulating flight overhead and buzzards mewed as the rode the gusting breeze over the paddocks off the far bank with an eye out for the local bunnies. Other things drew my attention. Dog walkers, wrens, car headlights in the distance, anything but the fishing. On dropping in however a sail-away bite resulted in another first cast chub on the hook, probably around a pound and a half, and in taking one too many joints off the pole too quickly I allowed it to bury itself in rushes under my feet before I had it beaten!

A series of nice hand-sized and just swingable roach followed, and maybe during the forthcoming holiday I may just ditch the effort to seek slightly larger samples and try maggot under a waggler just to see what is in really in there

While the breeze subsided I decided to have a hot drink and triangle of pork pie, only a Pork Farms  jobbie but welcome none the less. Head and tail of lob meanwhile were lowered into the slack while the pole was rested in the field for the time being. As I tightened the rod tip dived toward the surface and a good fighter was on. Ten feet of murky water and a light avon rod helped and hindered the prey but soon it was at the surface and what I thought to be a guaranteed 2.8.0 perch, angry with its erect dorsal flagging capture (and later stabbing my index finger) was netted.

This was one a chubster of a perch, very wide for its length, but it must've swallowed a tennis ball as it went 28.5 ounces on the scales; which was on the one hand disappointing and on the other quite brilliant as it beat the river p.b. by around six ounces and was the second Leam p.b. from the stretch in around three weeks



A veritable pig-perch but quite a beauty nevertheless
At the close the local barn owl screeched just once as it left to quarter the river margins and rough grassland further afield in its massive winter vole-producing range. The net was lifted and three pounds ten ounces of quality fish were carefully returned to the cold water in this the shortest of days, though without a photo as I was rather keen to get away on this occasion

The quite incredible, nay delightful, annual display of Christmas lights in the local village made the single track lanes akin to motorways in weight of traffic with every under twelve, and quite a good number over, visiting to absorb that festive feeling. I however, wishing to avoid the melee, comforted myself in the prior sunset




Monday, 15 December 2014

Crave New World

Jack of all trades
Despite seemingly being reasonably able to turn my hand to most angling methods with varying degrees of success I am particularly poor at making good decisions in respect of likely venues

From the age of about twelve my angling was very much cast in a match angling context and, absolutely love it though I then did, it is no way to teach an angler how to understand seasons & conditions in relation to individual species

There were certain obvious situations to avoid. The weed choked summer river or drain for instance, a recently dredged canal or severe flood conditions spring to mind but these would even be obvious to the non-angler, although there can be merit even in some of those apparently uninviting circumstances of course

Selecting a stretch of river, canal or pond because of its seasonal bias to summer rudd or clear water winter pike would pass me by

For me it is more about the methods and techniques that might winkle a fish often somewhat against the odds. The tiny hook and finest of lines to avoid a blank for the team on an all-but fishless January canal; a hemp line contrary to popular belief on a North Oxford Canal evening match; a ludicrously light rig fished treble-depth and held tight for the slowest of slow drops seeking bonus roach on warm-water summer canals. This list goes on, but all of these scenarios were artificially induced by the constraint of having to fish the peg gifted by the mystery of the draw bag; a case of having to; win or lose, death or glory, the approach to the random peg was the sword by which the match angler did, or died

Top match anglers at the peak of their sport have an edge. It might be a complete method they have perfected or as little as a slight variation on a theme used by all. Some will occasionally succeed when the circumstances allow it. Others increase their own odds by being ahead of the game in as many key departments as possible but when the matchman or woman is on form, flying, high in confidence, he or she just knows what the next step is, what change to make. It is instinctive and rarely lets him or her down...until something changes to remove the advantage and they must change with it or be proven briefly to have been extremely lucky and not that good after all, and, I have crossed rods with those too of course

Having spent the recent few years pursuing fish larger than the match angler would consistently target on similar venues, I hesitate to use the phrase 'specimen fish' as that would simply not be completely accurate, it is undoubtedly apparent that the level of pure angling skill generally purveyed in match angling far exceeds that of other branches of the sport. The ability of some anglers to extract decent catches in superficially the most unlikely of swims is quite beyond belief. Indeed I personally have lost count of the times that great, or, at least, exceedingly good, anglers have achieved this kind of incredible feat before my very eyes. Of course it isn't possible to catch what isn't in front of you but that really is not the point

In big fish circles it is more a case of utilising that same unshifting self-confidence and applying it to a method, bait or water that the angler believes in. Top specimen hunters think nothing of casting what they consider to be the killing bait and rig to the spot they know will produce that fish of a lifetime and then waiting an inordinate amount of time for it to happen. Contrast this with top class squatt fishing at its peak when 200 canal anglers sought 3lbs plus of small roach to gain superiority. A method that required a recast if the float had settled. In an attempt at real time as you scroll down, it went like this:

Feed, 

Cast, 
Mend line, 
Refill catty pouch by touch,

Strike,



Plop fish in net,
Rebait, 

Feed, 

Cast,
Mend, 
Refill pouch,
Strike,



Plop...
And so on, minute after minute, hour after hour for four or five hours. Sometimes 'feed' and 'rebait' could be interchanged. A hundred plus fish to far bank waggler tactics would be ideal, and later on to the pole of course

The key was to get the inter-feed timing such that the last fed squatts were hitting bottom as the next feed hit the surface, a constant stream in fact. Well, that was the simple part of the theory anyway

Now though it is the variety of methods, rods, reels, poles, species, conditions, etc., that this particular angler is getting to grips with and, while many years competing with and against the aforementioned cannot fail to rub a little all-round craft into the piscatorial pores I cannot change the fact that I do tend to target the right thing at the wrong time. What I mean by this is that I might wake-up with the heady excitement of a river roach session buzzing around my skull to then forget that same river is gin clear, perhaps barely moving and that I ought really seek-out a pike in the morning (not the afternoon), and so forth

Certain favourable conditions are being grasped however. The turbid, high but falling river water in rising temperatures post-flood takes no thought as it is an instant draw, but, largely due to the fact that it triggers ticking that 'difficult challenge' box in my angling mind, even though I must surely soon realise that it is in fact one of the easiest times to catch fish of many species, it just doesn't look as though it should be! Frosty banks are a great time for canal roach, this also has not passed me by

I can only put it down to the fact that I do not yet know enough of the information floating around this complex world I now reside in. Certainly I read a lot from certain sources; books in preference to magazines and blogs in preference to manufacturer's websites; but even though I know for instance that tench are spring feeders in cloudy conditions perhaps best caught at dawn rather than at night but certainly appearing to feed in bursts, I do find it very hard to apply it when my mind says, 'I do fancy some bream today'.

As with the many new things that we have to get to grips with in life it tends to become more clear eventually if one immerses oneself long enough in its essence and, as a bird is not fully fledged as soon as it hatches, so must I retain the patience to let it all osmose into the blood and ultimately become second nature, perhaps the original Mr Crabtree could help me out here?

----

So, with angling time out of the question due to dodgy weather forecast and Christmas shopping to undertake this past weekend, we set about trying-out Parps' spotting scope with a vengeance and off to Pitsford Water we headed

The causeway was iced as we set-up viewing towards the nature reserve to set the ball rolling and the breeze did little to keep the shivers at bay. The flask helped however and we were well down the coffee in no time as we picked through the more common wildfowl and checked them in the book to give him some confidence in the i.d's


Teal, mallard, wigeon, then cormorant and onto great crested grebe, etc., plus that ever-pleasurable winter diving bird the male goldeneye. A host of wintering mute swan were dotted around the periphery of the vast acreage of water but one looked somewhat too busy to the naked eye in the distance and this was where the 'scope really came into it's own as first finding and then focus revealed a great while egret with its impossibly snake-like neck and huge yellow bill stalking the margins up to its knees in icy water. Only my second ever and the littl'uns first of course

We added coot and moorhen, black-headed and common gull, grey heron and lapwing before we felt the urge to check-out the opposite side where the visitors feed the birds. Saints fan and his partner were somewhat intimidated by approaching ye olde farmyard goose but as soon as it became realised that it would not come closer than about two feet they too found their feet and scattered bread crumbs to all and sundry. Gulls seemingly the most adventurously opportunistic foragers in the circumstances plucking feed from the air

A couple who decided to feed them from the car however got a touch more than they had bargained for when a group, of mainly mallard, set siege to the vehicle and were trying to get into the passenger seat to get first shout


A whisper of a diver at the dam end of the res. from another passing father and son however sent us scuttling in that direction before we had to head off to the shops and a quick search of the water found it fairly settled close to a bright orange buoy mark 'D'. Just too far to photograph successfully but close enough to view and confirm the species as great northern on account of its more massive bill, short and uber-chunky neck and hints of chequerboard on its back. Not a first for myself but a welcome rarity nevertheless and certainly the boy wonder's debut Arctic Loon - a somewhat appropriate alternative name in his case

Difficult to see but it's halfway between the buoy and the right-hand edge of this poor long-distance photograph.
 'D' for Diver, could it have been anywhere else?!

Here we also added little grebe and shoveler to the list together with a few common passerines and went off home happy as the sunlight burst through and cast a glow on a robin and mistle thrush over bare rusty Northamptonshire soil where we had parked


 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Vagaries of Natural Fortune, or, Always Something to be Happy About


So there we were back again on the new stretch, Parps with sections of lobworm on the crease of nearside slack on his trusty twin-tip Avon quiver and myself on the new experimental method in a glide running up to a raft

The Leam was at 0.65m which equates to about 0.4m or 16" above summer level and still carrying a nice amount of colour but not enough to prevent us being wary of breaking the skyline as we moved around

While I prepped the new gear I dropped a piece of bread on the tip close-in to the raft and immediately had a roach of seven ounces. Subsequently the rod was quickly thrown up the bank as I could see my preparations were to be interrupted. We were sharing a keep net placed halfway between us as we felt today could produce a few fish and to see the ultimate catch might just be worth sharing

Parps was flicking regular chopped wrigglers into the crease and let them settle in the slack and sat back to await his first bite

Meanwhile a heron flew up across the trees barking as it did so and a wren whirred it's little round clockwork wings as it traversed the water from rush bed to rush bed

First cast once I'd organised myself resulted in a early bite and some resistance. I drew the fish upstream away from the swim without breaking surface and P was there ready to net whatever it proved to be. A chub, as it happened, just over two pounds and a nice start

With each feed another bite came, but not rushed, just steady; and I was under the impression that it was once the folded bread hook bait became fully soaked and expanded that the fish took a gastronomic interest

My companion of the angle was starting get bites and lost two fish with soft action rod doubled over that had me wondering what the problem might be. Of course his adversaries were likely to be footballers and so the possibility of the hook not lodging appropriately in their bony mouths was always a possibility, if not a probability. I offered a few words

A sparrowhawk at one point whooshed over my left shoulder, the turbulence evident in the sound of its wing and tail feathers, twisting to maintain a course on track towards gathered thrush species in the scrub beyond. The local family of swans previously referred to glid (new word) past without so much as a ripple and their number, at four, was now stable it seemed, the cob uttering that odd 'whoopa' sound they make when excited

Two or three further nice roach were then rounded off by a beauty of thirteen ounces before Parps lost another two or three good fish and it was time to pay him a visit again. I allowed him to proceed as before and then struck at the bite for him which was quite positive, without being savage, and a fighter was on. Between us one pound six ounces of angry perch was deposited in the net, and all was well. I suspect it was just the strength of strike that was lacking but another lesson had been learnt and his all-important angling experience widened for future reference when needed

By this time it was approaching dark and we decanted ourselves into the one swim to try a big lump of crust into darkness in the hope of a big ol' rubber lips, nothing was doing as the fieldfares crashed into hawthorns seeking roosting opportunities for the night and so we gave it a few more minutes and then packed our last few items away and undertook the obligatory weigh-in and photo session, and a nice picture the make in the gentle flash of a remarkably good quality camera phone


As I reintroduced the catch to the water, catch - water, water - catch, Parps massively whispered 'Dad!, Look!, Owl!' along the bank and of course as I looked up it was gone but from his description it was our friend Tyto alba, the barn owl, often seen on our own stretch half a mile or so further downstream
 
We had mustered six pounds of nice fish between us, and not a sprat among 'em, in the receding high waters and I'm not sure whether the highlight for the boy wonder was his best ever perch or the owl but it probably doesn't matter; either way the pleasure was huge and he chattered all the way back to the lane bursting with enthusiasm for life and all that it could throw at him

----
 
So today found me there again. The method had worked and it was time to refine it further
 
A heavy frost awaited me however and the stream was now clear to over a metre down under the bread ball test leaving me less than hopeful and sure enough I was right to be sceptical with only one quick rap of the tip in my fourth of fifth swim on a light quiver tip
 
 
Company today was again the heron, of which I attempted a long-distance wide-angle shot (okay so the phone camera isn't that versatile!), and his tiny partner in Piscean crime the kingfisher
 
The is no doubt what the highlight of the morning was though (sorry hornet!)...as I crept through the villages on frosty roads a shape suddenly was upon me as it ambled onto the verge and then bounding in the lack-lustre, "Please don't hit me. I'm not that fast", kind of manner which only the badger, of British land mammals, can display. It made it to the other side following which I, and probably it, breathed more easily
 
So you'll have gathered by now that nothing was caught but it did offer an option to wander into the unknown and suss-out future swims within the new boundaries for plotting the downfall of some unsuspecting inhabitants once there is some more water on and tinge of fishy colour.
 
Meanwhile I suspect the canal will call again, a good heavy frost never bothered those hardy residents