Thursday, 31 December 2015

Christmas is here and the Fish are getting Festively Fat


The Christmas period has not been quite what one would have hoped on the piscatorial front, notwithstanding those who are, and have been, flooded-out of their precious homes in various parts of the country. Unthinkable for those fortunate enough to have been spared as we have in these parts

The river was to be my personal target but it soon struck-out into the fields, after I finished that which must be done to earn one's daily Warburton's blue, and has pretty much stayed there since thanks to regular bursts of heavy rain

So from wet stuff to White Stuff it was. Armed with wrigglers and then vouchers to pass the time

This was on my Christmas list and didn't materialise...
...but these beauties did!

The canal may therefore seem an obvious refuge under such circumstances but the eastern end of the cut, which, again, I had ear-marked for the break, would be unfishable due to the heavy colour it takes-on. It would be the western part below the locks that would have to be concentrated on, and this would limit possibilities

I did very gratefully receive a wide array of bird feeders to set-up in the currently overgrown garden of the new house at Christmas though. This followed a seriously hot bonfire that cleared a good chunk of the debris

Some of the feeders became instant squirrel magnets but, thankfully, others are proofed from the pilferers. No major surprises have been spotted as yet but when it gets seriously cold, and I understand that process may well start tonight, that is bound to change. Highlights so far have been a wintering male blackcap, green and great spotted woodpecker, coal and long-tailed tit and fifteen collared dove sheltering in the apple tree away from yesterdays gales.

A pictoral record of the few trips and interludes of the past week or so follows:

The above 4 photos all from the same early session on a peg that has, as yet, produced no fish under a pound that I recall. Hybrid 2lbs, perch 1lb 14ozs, zander 1lb 4ozs (and that boosts my Blogger's challenge score by 1 point - big news!)

A single bite at dusk produced this cracking roachXbream hybrid of 2.10.0 on the next trip.

Two consecutive catches above dominated by, apparently current or recently spawning, perch to 1.6.4
Biggest roach of the week came today at 1.3.14. A spotty youth at that.

Have a Great New year all!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Risks of Canal Angling Prevail

The risk in canal angling comes when conditions dictate that an unusual approach is required and this weekend's strong gales brought about that very situation

Firstly we are lucky in that our local canal bends round the east end of town and there is always somewhere one can hide from the wind, be that fall-out from either sag aloo or storm Desmond

Saturday, dawn:
Severe prevailing winds usually mean that the traditionally best pegs on the cut are perfect and in my case I tend to use such circumstances as an excuse to visit

(My) conventional tactics of lift bite bread rig and lobworm on the tip poured a touch under ten pounds of multicoloured offerings into the mythical net. Hybrids to 1.5.8, Roach to 0.15.12, Perch to 1.10.8 and a solitary zander of 1.2.10 made up the two-rod catch

Most memorable moment was kneeling to disgorge the best roach and finding the tip pulling gently round, so netting the zander with the roach already in there. The trials of fishing two rods when both lines are active!

Part of the evening was spent contemplating how to take full advantage of a good few hours spare the next day. This was where the risk came in.

The Boy Wonder was keen to try to get some angling action having been out of it for much of the season thus far with various injuries and illnesses, but after a number of late nights wasn't keen to get up early, so we decided I'd go early and then come back to fetch him for a short session, midday

Sunday, dawn:
The map indicated that a good few miles of canal I'd rarely, if ever, fished before would be safe from me either being blown in or over, and there I headed. First peg on a turning bay had cables over and they looked quite close so, although it was still dark and I could see no signs, I decided life would be the deciding factor as Parps wouldn't get his trip out later if I was charcoal and moved-on.

Five minutes later I pulled-up in a silent, yet remarkably full, pub car park and set off to fish between boats. Boy was it shallow, even in the track, 18" or so less than much of the rest of the canal, but I tried three swims and came back with less than pound of fish to show for it but 'enjoyed' a good number of crayfish pulls and nudges. A lesson learnt

Sunday, midday:
In an attempt to get The Boy on some fish in the middle of the day, with the gale raging and boats likely, we went back to the banker swims of the previous day. There was a peg where willow roots enter the canal on the nearside and we could fish either side of it feeding the one central spot, close-in, and feed it we did...but the fish really did not.

At one point I struck in frustration at a crayfish bite only to find my float stayed where it was until I realised I had been watching a tiny bobbing stick for around 5 minutes. The real float was by now behind me on the bank of course

TBW however managed to outwit the odd one, in his usual Lloyd Honeyghan-esque 'take no prisoners' style. Heaving a good perch and his first zander of the season aboard the good ship Towpath.

Perch 1.4.6, Zander 10cm.
At last he could trouble the bloggers challenge scoreboard again! Mission accomplished in trying conditions and the risks had been worth it

For my part? Just the one chubby little striped footballer, a sort of Sammy Lee of the Water, but there's always next week.

Incidental bird list;
Moorhen, mallard, mute swan, black-headed gull, starling, mistle thrush, redwing, blackbird, robin, dunnock, wren, blue tit, long-tailed tit, magpie, jackdaw, woodpigeon, carrion crow, great spotted woodpecker.

Thursday, 3 December 2015


Drama on the Cov Canal?
The conclusion has been reached that, for now, with the usual temptations of canal and small stream ahead until mid-march, the Blogger's Challenge can be intermixed with those delights and any incidental points scored along the way will be exactly that

The prospect of targeting specific species through that period will be difficult but hopefully some chub points, combined perhaps with roach and dace, might just come along and, in the right conditions, pike can hopefully be added too with nothing more than a micro-specimen to show for the season thus far

So, the past couple of weeks have involved a brief obsession with a certain stretch of canal which I visited with Jeff & Russell on Zedvember 54th when the change in weather overnight had been little short of horrific in angling terms - from an extended period of exceptionally mild autumn weather to a burst of cold rain then a strong frost and no prospect of reaching 4degC all day. Not the best of circumstances for Jeff and I to take up the 2lb canal roach challenge nor for Russell to have his first taste of big roach fishing on the Oxford. Needless to say that little sortie had nothing to commend it

The Zedvember fest itself however was most enjoyable with the Boy Wonder and I having a brief dabble and then a chinwag with those bloggers we'd not met before from far and wide in various shapes, sizes, accents and interests. All with a tale to tell, largely involving plenty of schoolboy humour of course!
While we were gathered Jeff's partner Judy arrived with words to the effect of, "Ooh. A bunch of fishermen. What do you call a collection of fishermen?" The only word I could muster in the circumstances was 'a blank' and, with no advances made, we stuck with it for the time being; albeit I'm not sure anyone actually did blank but it felt as though most of us had

B.W. and I had intended to stop to eat but the pub was so deceptively busy [the only person out front all afternoon had been Jeff (all afternoon) and yet the car park and the overflow at the back was packed] that we decided to leave it and tackle a bag or two of chips on the way back

The highlight of the day, apart from the obvious of course, was in running back to the car to get Russell's birthday card before he departed, misjudging the steepness of a grassy bank and falling headlong forward like some kind of poleaxed grandfather clock

Until, that is, on the way to the chip shop, many conversations later, this...

"I've got it", said The Boy, in mildy subdued exclamation, all matter of fact.


"It's was a cast"

"What was a...? Oh yes! It's a cast. A cast of anglers. Now that is clever". The penny dropped and, yes, sure enough it was a cast of anglers, and some cast at that

Back to the plot from the cast:

The ensuing visits to the canaloid have been interesting, engaging and predictable in equal measure. That is about 1/3 of each

(Canaloid: A three-dimensional form with level top, rounded bottom, and indeterminate, often snaking, length).

A quick sojourn to the area that produced the biggest roach of recent weeks at 1.13.0 brought a few fish with a single specimen over a pound, coming in at 1.5.4 to be precise

Otter signs nearby suggested young ones to be present from the scat evidence but the entertainment of the day was a 'flick'(?) of 3 friendly moorhens (okay not as good as a cast, I'll grant you) which ran toward me at the prospect of bread and then retreated with equal gusto once they'd claimed a morsel each never to be seen again

Following this the first subsequent visit to the stretch alluded to earlier involved a couple of pegs being fished in the usual manner, bread down the middle and lobworm nearside, 10 yards to one side on the tip, producing two roach to 12 ounces on bread and not so much as even a sniff-let on worm

Peg two was a contrast.
No bites on bread but plenty on whole lobworms. A surprise chub, thought initially to be a rare carp, took a lob on the drop and tore-off along the far shelf, eventually being beaten and weighed-in at over three pounds. Soon after a smaller one was lost, which I didn't initially realise I had hooked, and then a real beast took possession of the hook and bait proceeding to surge from the swim eventually losing grip as I ventured to follow it along the towpath, an opportunity lost. Two perch on worm followed, up to 1.2.0

With no significant roach to show for that trip yet driven by some kind of disbelieving urge I was back at dawn the next day and mistakenly, as is usually the case with revisits, back to the chub peg which this time produced a couple of skimmers to 1.4.0 on bread and perch to 1.5.0 on worm. Moving to two other pegs again produced roach to just under the pound and numerous perch and small hybrids

The longer walk however brought into view even further pegs overhung a little by hawthorns and the like, plus some rushes and sweeping bends which were just too tempting to miss-out on and, it seemed, the odd topping fish too

So, Wednesday, there I was back again with a plan to work my way along those previously unseen
swims 25 yards or so at a time with bread only. If the fish are there we know they will fall to the magic bait within minutes and a twenty minute maximum was set unless a peg was consistently giving-up good fish of course

First swim opposite some hawthorns gave-up 2 roach to ten ounces

Second, on a bend with an ash tree overhead - 2 roach to 1.0.14 and a 3ounce hybrid

Third, again on the bend, but this time in the middle - 2 roach to 0.14.13

The 4th peg - I settled into but got boated-out before long and breakfast called with just two little perch in the net

This three-trip adventure told me enough about that stretch and it will be left well alone for some time now. Perhaps until I feel it is time to try to tackle some chub again

Over the subsequent few days the mild weather has returned with high winds and rain too. This has put far too much colour into the other more likely stretches of the Oxford nearby and so it may just be time to tackle the Leam again, perhaps with a few lobs into the more slack areas, which the postman kindly delivered out his capacious red bag this very day

Has Santa come early I ask myself?

Thursday, 19 November 2015

From the Murk, Diamonds

The limitations to fishing on highly trafficked relatively shallow canals are obvious to those who have experienced the dubious pleasure but perhaps to those more used to lightly-used, wider, deeper venues it may be difficult to comprehend.

Canal fishing life revolves around two main factors, the weather and boat traffic; and to benefit most from the undoubted pleasures of the cut decisions need to be made based firstly on water colour and then wind direction.

My angling backyard, as regular readers will be somewhat sick of reading, is the Oxford Canal north of the conjoined Oxford and Grand Union's from Braunston in Northants to north-east of Coventry where it meets the Coventry Canal. The majority of the cut is in Warwickshire, an area of largely clay-based surface geology, and consequently the incoming run-off or flood water from fields and ditches leaves fine beige silt behind.

Fishing early morning has become more critical during my lifetime and evening fishing is all but pointless with narrowboats active often until dusk.

The couple of hours one can often enjoy before the boats can be, at certain times of year, of quite unbelievable angling quality. Spring and autumn are those times and currently, with unseemly weather conditions prevailing for the past month, we are experiencing one of those periods.

The average weight of fish to be caught in these heady days is usually between three and seven pounds an hour with the number of fish in a catch usually averaging around a pound each.

Sounds great doesn't it? Imagine a five hour canal match in which one could take fifteen to thirty five pounds of fish based on those averages! Well, as you might gather, it isn't quite like that. The canals are not overstocked commercial fisheries after all.

Two things influence that catch; the fish population and the first boats of the day.

The North Oxford, or 'NOXC' as I have come to abbreviate it, averages around five feet, six inches deep along the boat track. Some areas are a touch deeper, others shallower. The width varies from just 8m to perhaps 20m-odd, but the average is around 12m. The consequence of these limited dimensions, heavy boat traffic and an unsurprisingly commensurate lack of weed growth is a dearth of natural food and an associated low fish population.

Fishing can therefore be challenging outside these peak times and within them one to three hours' action is as much as one can expect to enjoy.

Being little deeper than the length of the narrowboats' tiller the disturbance by the first boat of the day is often devastating, such that fishing-on if the boat passes at any great speed is the least desirable of the two options available. The settled silt overnight prior to an early start will leave the canal with a certain turbidity first thing. After long frosty periods and reduced boat movement some areas can go almost perfectly clear but this is unusual and the majority of the time a certain amount of colour is present due to suspended sediment in the water.

The two baits I tend to favour most these days, bread and lobworms, both work better when the water isn't too heavily coloured but thankfully if some stretches of the NOXC are blighted by a complexion like milky tea after downpours there are usually other (elevated) sections that will remain sensibly fishable.

Yesterday at 09.50hrs this happened...

It is possible to appreciate the water colour prior to the boat going through by looking at the undisturbed patches of water on the far side but within minutes the canal would be like pea soup all over, the fish scattered and the likelihood of more boats would then far exceed the possibility of sitting it out successfully for more fish worth catching.

Prior to the first boats however this happened:

and then this:

Note the water colour at this point.
and there were others...

Three roach of between 1.1.0 and 1.4.0. A hybrid of 1.8.0 and string of perch to 12ozs for a total weight of around 7.8.0 from a surprisingly shallow peg.

The effort is indeed worth it

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Predicting the Unpredictable OR the Winter 2015/16 Big Roach Quest

The midlands canal network can be a treacherous place. Boaters slip into locks; country gentlefolk fall into the water near pubs after dark; ponies are drowned and, most worryingly of all, gongoozlers sell cheese.

If you are indigenous and wild there are natural threats. Kingfisher, otter, pike, heron, signal crayfish and of course zander together with the universally disliked mink, not to mention the occasional diving bird, may seek to harm you.

It's a tough world out there.

How tough, is best encapsulated by the following image taken at about 9am today (Saturday) which depicts a group of women afeared of the challenge that walking the towing path might set them. Now admittedly I took the difficult route to the water by descending brick steps but it didn't occur to me for one moment that I would need dayglo clothing and not one but two hi-tech walking sticks to make this dangerous journey. I know for next time however.

Why did I never notice the hazards before? Sometimes I am so stupid. Thank God for Humbrol fluorescent paints. The Walking Wagglers have saved me, and now you I suspect, from a grizzly end, without doubt. Take heed canal users out there, the towpath comprises a route almost as risky as the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands.

Todays risk didn't end there though...

Midweek, the gauntlet had been well and truly thrown down with...(I was going to use the word 'gay' here but, now that the meaning of this word is in its third incarnation in my lifetime, I no longer know what it stands for. So I'm going for a different word as it suits the mood)...dangerous abandon.

The target is to catch a canal roach so huge it will beat the Idler's Quest Authority (IQA, not to be confused with IPA which fuels the associated engine) - accepted British Canal Record of 2.4.0.

Eager for first blood I returned to the spot from whence the 1.13.0 roach, covered in the last post, appeared. It was colder now though. Six degrees C overnight and rain forecast from 9am.

An early start was, as usual, key; especially at a weekend.

In terms of light levels, I had peaked a little soon as I struggled to focus on the yellow-tipped float which sat, apparently motionless, before me. Some twenty minutes it was slumped low, between changes in ever-increasing bait size. The gloom started to lift as the first dog walker of the day appeared to view as far as one could see to the right - a resting carp angler, in uniform, strode toward me with twin sheep dog types afore. Dramatically the float lifted and I struck into a very solid fish. It seemed bream-like and then took on extra power as it headed south causing me, very unusually, to leave my seat and follow it toward where I assumed stealth mode man to be. Only visible by his dogs.

"'Got one on?", came out of the blue, or should that be khaki.

"'Sure have!"

"Ah, there's some lumps along here. Some big Zander too". 

Funny how everyone becomes an expert when they see an angler and yet no one fishes the canals.

"Well it won't be one of those on bread", I replied.

"Unless it's taken the roach that took the bread!", he blurted as he wandered further on...and then stopped as the lump surfaced. I had to ask him to repeat himself as I was strangely distracted at this moment.

"Slab", he said, all matter of fact.

"Hybrid", I said, matter of accuracy...and off he and they went to plot the rounding-up of some named fish elsewhere.

The shocks continue.

There are canal hybrids and then there are super-charged over-sized monster North Oxford Canal hybrids. Like that eel a month or more ago this one needed threading into the net sideways as, even head on, it would only just have fitted.

A couple of years back I recall taking a series of ever-increasing hybrids week by week, peaking at 4.0.3 and growing to love these the most pointless of naturally occurring fish. 

This was clearly over three pounds by some margin. A very roach-like example (if only!) but as chunky as a bag of sugar in the body.

I hung the presumed infertile beast on the scales, knowing the Little Samsons would be somewhat overstretched and feeble, expecting nothing specific but when the read-out hit 84.6 ounces I also knew this was a special moment. Deducting 12.6 for the net was a trifle and I was left with a round 72 ounces and a simple calculation of four pounds eight ounces.

Simple and yet bewildering.

One of those rare moments when the overwhelming desire is not to return the fish but continue to admire it. To do so however would be contrary to our ethos as anglers of course and so, reluctantly, I slipped this comfortable P. B. breaker back to observe the power as it surged back into the depths, it's strength recovered.

Despite this incredible capture to add to a run of them recently I expected little more on the day, and little more I got, for the time being at least.

Soon enough though the urge to free-line whole lobworms centrally down the cut to my left set-in. Action was immediate with relatively small perch coming to hand regularly. Then one of a pound six followed by another powerful hybrid of 2.6.0 as the only other bite on bread, apart from nibbling, tugging crayfish.

The perch continued in a steady procession right down to a one ounce fish but then a proper head-banger (pursued closely by another one of 1.6.0) sealed the day putting 1.14.0 and another three pounds of fish onto the tally as a working boat came through spoiling prospects as surely as the spots of rain would send me packing.

The total catch equalled sixteen pounds five ounces and beat my previous best ever North Oxford catch by some three pounds-odd.

The quite staggering run of canal sport continues and, as I write the temperature has risen to around eight degrees above this morning's with moist tropical air blowing in from the south-west ensuring that tomorrow might offer another opportunity to tap into this  geyser of big canal fish before it freezes up.

The bloggers challenge scoreboard is now a struggle. Points are limited with most obvious species categories now pretty much peaked so this hybrid, and the few ounces I managed to add to roach and carp in recent days, may prove to be crucial moments.

For the sad record - Somebodies former pet carp, minus top lip. Obviously someone previously caught the fish in kit form. 4lbs 2ozs.

So that was yesterday.

Today (Sunday) started with a better plan.

Or so I thought.

Get there before sunrise and walk into the wilderness towards known big roach territory and seek a quiet spot out of the gales and impending rain.

Technically this worked a treat. Not a ripple. Wind ripping overhead and rain delayed, no doubt by the same phenomenon, and, as I it here around lunch time, still no rain

Usual tactics were deployed but as it grew light the water appeared somewhat changed by yesterday's rain. Visibility was reduced to only 4 to 6 inches down and that required something of a squint.

The bread rig sat untroubled for some time.

The whole lob rig however bent round first cast. Two early and unimagined Chub both just knocking on three pounds, from an area I have never seen one before, followed by a stream of Perch from three ounces to 1.5.2 made up for just two fish on bread, both roach and topped by one of 1.0.3.

The interest this morning though wasn't the fishing but the fish.

Now that may sound a bit odd but nearly all of the fish were streaked with sores if above half pound in weight. Early-on I had seen two cormorants in flight descending and heading for the canal to my left. I can think of no other culprit that could cause this damage.

The location is very secluded and they could comfortably spend an hour or two each morning trying to arrest the escape of anything they can attempt to grip. I have never seen such wholesale harm to a net of fish and can only assume this is indeed a regular hunting ground.

Now dayglo coats would not help these little guys but it just goes to show the Walking Wagglers were right. It just ain't safe out there

...if you're a fish.

The catch totted-up to fourteen pounds two ounces today, boosted of course by 6lbs of Chub in the first three casts. Big fish straight-off at the start is the continuing trend. 'Twas ever thus early on the cut but as long as this ridiculously mild weather continues I see no reason why the fishing should not remain so good and the next few days are forecast to be similar. Now, I need to find those roach again...

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

What Price a really Big Canal Roach this Winter?

Sat, as I was, on the outside of a bend I had meant to but never actually fished before with two fish in the (though bagged up at home) net, so to speak, a wonder of technology interrupts me from deep in my pocket...

"What do you reckon the chances of a NOC 2lb roach this winter? 

They don't seem to be shrinking. By your recent results I 'd say not. 

There's a very big surprise out there you know, George. 

I'm certain".

It's 06.45 hours and the recently christened 'Blogfather' is pestering me, having recently remembered I am an early riser. How to reply to Jeff?

I ponder.

Why was I here?

Because it would be out the wind, dry and full of promise, but promise of what? Truth be told I had arrived with no great intentions other than to 'go fishing'. The previous evening had been consumed with financial stuff and it was simply an opportunity to get out there for a couple of hours before a 10am appointment.

By now a hybrid of around 1.8.0 and a tiny perch had succumbed.

A reply grew in my mind. Just answer the question I thought, what do you really think? Well, I was fishing the roach method and expecting whatever came along on large flakes of bread (I've gone past punches to squeezes now, as we've progressed) plus the usual quivertip to one side with whole lobworm, enticing not much of any size as it happened.

"Trying to catch one as we speak!
Pretty good I would say, albeit my latest ones have been on GUC".
I kept plugging away but I was pestered by various chattering walkers and lost concentration missing many bites in what was a 'bite a chuck' session. Roach to 9ozs, Bream to 1.4.0, Perch to 7ozs, Zander to 8ozs and a lot of topping small roach told me this wasn't the swim for bigger fish. It was however a peg I would definitely have run to in a match back in the 1980's.
With 45 minutes to work time I moved the other side of the road bridge, next to which I had been sat, on a particularly narrow and featureless stretch of the North Oxford Canal. I could fish past middle without letting any line out on the 12' rod.
In went two hands full of mash and, first cast, up popped the float and an initially pathetic battle commenced, soon enough though young rutilus realised this was for real and had a proper go at getting away, at which point I too had a realisation that he maybe wasn't so young
A cracking roach surfaced and slid without fuss in to the waiting cradle
Pictures taken with a bait sample for scale and the scales deployed to show he went 1-6-12. From memory the best NOXC roach of the season
Well, it is I early November, it is mild and the canal colour did scream, "Bread!". So what else should I have expected when combined with Jeff's prompt?!
Then a boat. Then another boat immediately, the other way, but, being near moored craft, they were very slow and by the time I'd moved somewhere wider, three pegs further along, the silt was already settling out of sight.
Three more hands full of mash went in and out went the rig.
The phone rings, it's work. I take the call and hook, play, land, unhook and return a bream of around a pound during the call. Time was short, no time to waste
"One more cast", I tell myself
Instantly up pops the float again and this time something more solid risks its secrecy and fights with vigour. It can only be hybrid (perhaps not powerful enough though) or roach; and if it's a roach it's better than 1.6.12!
Soon it is in view. It's over a pound and half for sure and it has red fins
Then it gets tangled round a rope a boater has left dangling from the piling under my feet, unseen 'til now. I can see it underwater and decide to net it in that state but only succeed in pushing it off, further out, and the fight recommenced but very quickly was over once the fish was given a gulp of air 
Preoccupied at having almost lost it, I momentarily lost sight if it's sheer size. A smartly dressed country gentleman with dog appears over my right shoulder and snaps me back to reality. Yes, it was landed.
"My goodness that's of some size! What sort of fish is that?", he exclaims.
Being at this point somewhat chuffed with myself I tell him, "Roach. A two pound roach is the fish of lifetime and that must be a pound and a half so I could not be more happy". "At least", he replies and trots off with Fido into the fields
Opening the net and gazing at this otherwise concealed beauty of the canals I am dumbstruck. A quick clear photo and he's in the bag being weighed, scales zero'd twice for certainty
One pound thirteen ounces on the mark.
The fish takes the, drug-free, silver medal without dispute in the all time F,F&F all canals roach table
Both fish were relatively young and so, yes Jeff, I think there's a chance of a 2lb North Oxford Canal roach this winter. How far beyond that they may go I dare not guess, but I'll be out there searching too

Monday, 26 October 2015

One of Those Weekends

Sometimes detailed planning just works...

Adam's apple kept time with a swelling heart like a drummer driving the urgency of the message.

The breeze slept, furled by the rampant calm, as the mist stretched from the silence as if an inverted cross-section of marginal weed, it's mycelia fading into the chill as it rose.

Youthful passion had been expended here in silver sparkle and a powerful yet golden dullness, and treasure had been dug, but now this would be a new beginning. A venture of expectation and imagined unknowns. The temptation, the chase. The uncertainty, the rising excitement.

Those of a certain yet unpredictable maturity that shoal together could be relied upon here but, one score years on what would exist, if anything?

Mallard, magpie and moorhen made way with cacophony and splatter as dawn arrived; a pair here, perhaps as many as fifteen there and so I sat, among the scent of damp moss, warmed by hope.

The purpose of revisiting this wide, deep water of industrial provenance would be to cast some gain upon the scoreboard of challenge to my contemporaries. A game that has now taken on a striking reality, as fish after impressive fish is recorded and value awarded, has gripped me with its unfolding array of options and possibilities.

Bronze bream, the quarry, had lived here in trade proportions and, as the aquatic and riparian habitat appeared unchanged from distant memory, optimism grew fat. Would they too?

It was a risk. To introduce free offerings equating to two full slices of blue-wrapped finest would be either excess or success but that is the way of things now, matched with a lump of flake and a elaborately decorated crow quill indicator. Death or glory, yes, but the goal, a fish of over three pounds in weight, would cope.

Foot and paw traffic was frequent on this well-worn, neatly maintained route, and each of three canines appeared in fear of this towpath intruder; from Jack Russell through Black Lab to long-bodied, short-legged fat little mutt, all strangely nervous with owners claiming they 'had not seen an angler before'. Well maybe the stay-aways were wiser than I?

We would see.

Action and a strike twenty minutes after dawn, a fish on and a good fighter. A roachXbream hybrid of two pounds precisely. The warm-up act for the unexpected, due to occur next.

Soon the water would give-up its jewel. Not quite, but approaching, the fish of a lifetime and an unexpectedly marvellous event. A beautiful beast of a canal roach fought for its freedom long and hard against the soft rod which sought to tame it

One pound eleven and a half ounces of canal angling perfection
Bronze bream were here, as was clear from rolling fish, and, soon enough, after another hybrid of just over 2 pounds one was on. Hard fighting are these fit Grand Union fish but the anticipated three pounder registered at just 2-11-0

At this point as things slowed I recalled hooking and losing two carp about six pegs further on back in the 1990's. Could they still be on the same peg? It certainly looked as I remembered it

More bread was thrown to the edge of a bush and within five minutes one was hooked, its yellow body spinning under water like some kind of electric lure for the pike one could only imagine. After a spirited effort he lay in the, only just large enough, net - gasping and spent. A slender baby carp. Not your modern day washed-out, fished-out, disrespected, commercially-pimped tramp of a carp but a genuine wild fish naturally spawned and grown with no help from man. The first canal carp I could recall for around 20 years...and it set the mind racing to larger specimens and another visit

At 3-7-8 not the largest ever caught but worth a handful more points
In all just five canal fish of four (or three and a half) species for twelve pounds. Canal angling is clearly dead and buried, no doubting that

The previous day, when internet-less after and while moving house, I struck lucky at another old Grand Union canal haunt on a peg I had not fished before, taking a further p.b. canal perch at 2.11.0 just five minutes after starting at dawn, and some half pound bigger than the one set just eleven days ago, together with a then best GUC roach of 1-7-0. A record which of course would stand for just one day.
Monster 2-11-0 canal perch
Then best GUC roach at 1-7-0
These were preceded by finding some GUC rudd, at last. Topping in that spitting and slurpy way of theirs, and landing a best on the day of 12 ounces

So, plenty of points added to the challenge board over seven days and a reasonable buffer to the next man in the shape of the inestimable Mr Hatt. The remainder of the challenge is going to need some careful planning having missed-out on some 'summer' species earlier-on in the season.

Thankfully, mild weather seems to be settled-in for a few more days yet, so may the quality of angling continue!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A Future in the Past

Decades ago The Old Duffer, now officially retired from the angle (unless I can tempt him from time to time), used to take me to all manner of mysterious venues. Most times legally, sometimes questionably so

A vast cauldron of bubbling tales sit as yet to be rediscovered in my mind but they would range from being peppered with buckshot by a shooter oblivious to our presence but nevertheless, one would assume, aware of the towpath; through my falling-in to various parts of the Great Ouse system three times in one week at the age of around 12 years and spilling the beans into the grass when knocking them off the camping stove, scraping them up and eating them; to crashing the car into the back of a van when I was supposed to be ‘off sick’ from school and advising the WPC when I was interviewed that I thought we were doing, “About 40mph” after being strictly informed I should only answer questions I knew the answer to otherwise, “Just say you don’t know”. It was a 30 zone

Never did a week go by without an event and of course those happenings, and often mishap-enings, were compounded on club bus trips to far flung glamorous and grim locations (in equal measure) under which circumstances the frequency of perfectly-baked recipes for amusement in half-baked situations would beggar belief in today’s hermetically-sealed world

The Boy Wonder and I are now able to take advantage of those experiences on a regular basis. This past Saturday for instance we decided to travel a little out of Feldon to a stretch of canal that I used the frequent on a weekly basis, initially for pleasure and then for matches and practice. Some excellent times were had back then but this blog has never been about self-promotion and it isn’t about to start now, so I’ll stick to the point

The venue was always good for some not-so-easy-to-catch roach in the 2 to 5 ounce bracket, perch around the same size and occasionally the odd skimmer would show-up. Most pegs could produce between one and three pounds of fish and four to five pounds would usually be enough to win a match, or, perhaps, around two pounds in an evening competition

One area though was rarely pegged for a number of reasons and it was this that we would sometimes head for when pleasure fishing. I do recall not having the best of ‘luck’ there myself as, being a relative novice at the time, bream fishing was a little beyond me as I was much happier snatching smaller fish from the two margins. The Old Duffer though was quite adept and appreciated the laying-on technique and feeding necessities for skimmers

When we tried to quietly roll-up at dawn on this revisit we were a tad early and so went for the easy option of the known parking arrangements and the best peg from years ago, which we would share. This rather than risk being unable to park at the target bridge and missing prime time

This was TBW’s first dawn trip of the season and it was something of a test. Anticipating a potentially good day with the water the ‘right’ colour of murky green, cloud cover and boundless optimism we piled the bread mash into the channel (my job) and worm feed down the near shelf (his job).

From first cast it was action all the way as quality roach, then the occasional hybrid and then bream to just under two pounds followed in processional order to the net. In fact we were taken aback when a two ounce fish had the temerity to get in the way!

Soon the boats started to get active and The Boy was overwhelmed with a need to find out what was lingering over the worm feed before it was too late. The answer was crayfish, and certainly there had been plenty causing false action down the middle earlier-on. Soon though he managed to connect with some stripeys but they weren’t huge with the biggest around the half-pound mark. Good canal points for him though to go with his best roach yet of 8ozs

Packing away, and on the way back to the car, thoughts and conversation turned to that school boy and ecologists favourite…poo. We somehow managed to avoid quite a number of bank deposits either side of our shared pitch in the semi-gloom. Quite some luck as it seems there was a dog poo bag shortage locally. As we walked back however the larger specimens had been sprayed bright orange which we figured was a way of embarrassing the dog owners that had placed the offending lumps the day before.

“They should spray the owners orange”, we exclaimed, almost in unison. Hopefully this tactic will have some effect but it's sad to say there are certain areas of canals which are easily accessible where it is nigh-on impossible to find sufficient gap to sit in but, on the bright side, the schoolboy humour would have been absent without the dollops.

Dogs bottoms aside we hung exactly fifteen pounds of mixed species and sizes under the scales after three hours fishing with TBW adding points for roach and perch to The Bloggers Challenge

Sunday was an odd one

We didn’t fancy getting-up early again, so, with The Lady Burton otherwise engaged for the morning, and the only other excitement packing boxes for the house move we sloped-off down ‘our bit’ of the Leam

Setting-up in the swim that produced a big perch for him last winter, Parps got on with the task of dropping lobs into the six foot deep hole under, unusually, an overhanging hazel. Meanwhile, as has become standard practise, I struggled to muster even the slightest hint of a bite elsewhere.

“I’ve got one!”, he called, just minutes after settling-in and a quite beautifully deeply-coloured perch just under the pound nestled in his landing net when I went to see.

What seemed like seconds later I heard some attempt to communicate another event and clambered up the bank again. As I reached field level he staggered out of the shade of tree and now wilting nettles, mouth hanging open and arms away from his body in a fixed shrug. Dazed.

“Wassup?”, I queried

“I just had a great big pike on and it’s bitten my hook off. It took the worm but why would it take a worm? Pike eat fish don’t they?”

“Well, yes, but they are predators and will take anything that moves and looks edible. It won’t have gone far he’s probably still in the same place. So you’ve a good chance of getting him again”

Back in went the worm but slightly too far from the fed area so he wound the wriggler back and just as it was about to be lifted from the water, sure enough, “Crash!”, the monster carnivore took it again and soon enough it was in the net.

There in its mouth was the first shiny hook it had acquired which gave us the distinct pleasure of removing both and returning him, all one pound eight ounces of him, and TBW’s first ever pikelet, unharmed to the stream

Who says Crabtree is fiction? Not in our house it ain’t