Wednesday, 28 January 2015


With my musings around the effect of light levels on the feeding habits of big roach intermittently disrupted by conditions and circumstances I am left to reflect on another factor in the alternative quest, that of the relationship between feeding bread mash and subsequently successful visits to fed pegs

It is common knowledge that the accepted 'specialist' approach is to feed a few swims and attack them in rotation but as with so much written word on angling one tends to find this only snags the fluffy surface of a deeper comfort blanket of truth protecting the fish. The same reason that has terminally irritated me with the purchase of glossy angling magazines - too much repetition, too little depth of knowledge...or should I say shared knowledge, as the knowledge is clearly there in many instances but there is a reluctance to commit it to paper for fear of losing a competitive edge

It is easy to understand why, for instance, a match angler would use this approach to writing but it undermines the mainstream angling magazine industry and simultaneously underpins a perceived necessary secrecy between top level anglers and the 'others' and usually manifests itself in little more than an embellished list of products as if the average Joe Dangles could be equally successful if only he used this elastic, or that pellet. It's not just match anglers of course but it's easy to convey the issue with that analogy

Now you might say, "..but you openly confess to being a former match angler so weren't you guilty of that by definition?", and the riposte would be, well, yes, we would always look for an edge, that's what it's all about, but if anyone were to ask surely it is best to share experiences as it benefits all of us. The best anglers will still be the best. The detail fascinated as much then as it does now and frankly would often lead to downfall, certainly in my case. Too much thought and too little caught

I don't think it is any coincidence that in feeding the swims last weekend in threes and then returning to the first around ten to fifteen minutes later to work my way through them that both pegs one and four produced immediate good bites and fish, after which I moved straight on without another cast due to the unavoidable commotion of taming fish with an Avon rod in small snag-strewn streams to lifeless pegs two and five then three and six

Over the past three years it has been noticeable during daylight hours that fish, and by that I mean rod-bending chub, have been caught sooner rather than later in fed swims and those that might have been fed say 30-45 minutes before being fished were less likely to produce that hoped-for decent fish

The same would not be true of evening sessions when I have found fish come onto the feed in the first hour after dark despite perhaps regular feeding and that is why it is essential to target known chub swims at that time as they move out of cover to take advantage of the lack of light

Over time my approach has progressed from feeding a swim and fishing it out to feeding five or six swims and rotating them, topping them up each time I left, to the current feeding three pegs and then returning to the first and fishing the three in series. There would be a better solution that would perhaps confirm this pretty much beyond doubt which would simply be to feed each one and just wait ten minutes before casting in, then moving on and doing the same. This would make more of every swim when the fish are present and if the return exceeds one fish in three swims we have the answer

...but it's not that simple...

Rarely during daylight hours has the Leam produced more than one chub from a swim and then only in perfectly coloured high water winter conditions. This tells us the population is not huge and, though this is certainly skewed by the necessity to hit and hold the fish or else lose them in the multitude of escapes routes they have access to thus scattering any others immediately, apart from the odd swim that one might choose to tackle with match rod and maggots, there is perhaps no option but to come up with an efficient procedure that gets a fish from as many swims as possible. This could perhaps be combined with re-feeding the successful pegs after say an hour or more on longer sessions, but that remains to be seen.


If last week's Anfield league cup semi-final was the best game of the season (it wasn't, I can say from personal experience Liverpool were often pedestrian and lacked confidence in front of goal), what was that last night?!

The best game I have seen for as long as I can remember. Jaw ache, headache and completely drained by the end...and that was just sitting at home in the lounge on my own! The players themselves must have been almost as tired, and so much incident. The best side must have won because they scored more goals but in reality there was nothing to choose between them

Now that's entertainment Mr Weller


Any early start today saw me on the bank in the dark and ready to fish at first light, two swims fed, deciding to give it a maximum of ten minutes in each. Bites come first drop-in, almost always, if the fish are there. Then two more swims and so on. With just two hours to play with before work it was the only sensible option as three fed swims appears to waste the third of them and there wasn't time to go one peg at a time and wait a ten to fifteen minutes after feeding before fishing. Feeding just the two meant I could be in the second of them within fifteen to twenty minutes of feeding it, this seemed a plausible potential solution

The trip will remain memorable though for an unusual event.

As I sat there in the shelter of some trees against the wind I became conscious of dog barking nearby and expected the chocolate Labrador I often see to appear on the far bank where a footpath runs along the field.

Sure enough out of the corner of my eye I caught his movement under the bottom bar of the stile and he trotted, unusually jauntily I might add, down the bank and onto the plateau of sedimentary deposition created by thousands of years of the meanderings of the stream. At this point I looked up, puzzled by the contradiction. A large dog fox barked again, twice, right in front of me perhaps 20m distant. He trotted on and looked to his right, then again and his penny dropped. Suddenly, fit and strong, he sprinted up the bank and disappeared into the thinnings of the hedge. A great sight but soon I drifted back to the task at hand

No more than a few minutes later a ginger shape appeared out of the same hedge. This time a more diminutive fluffy version of the previous visitor. The vixen was now on the prowl but she too was drawn to my presence and took a similar, though more dignified, course until she met the hedge line and leapt clean over the undergrowth over the wire fence and back to the male, one surmises

Well worth the entrance fee 

On Sunday I wrote:
"...two hours later, with not the slightest indication, I sauntered back fishless.
But that's why we keep going isn't it? The unpredictability. The challenge."

Today I'm writing:
Two hours later, with not the slightest indication, I sauntered back fishless.
But that's why we keep going isn't it? The unpredictability. The challenge.

Roll on the close season? Well, maybe not just yet

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Pursuit of Small Stream Chub and Roach

After the now customary summer angling hiatus, autumn and winter 2014 was a somewhat rudderless affair

Canals had drifted to the back of my mind and the intriguing little River Leam pushed itself to the fore via its curvaceous contours, enhanced later in the year by a new licence allowing a much wider search to be made in often deeply sculpted recesses. Now access to three rural stretches was possible (plus the town waters of Leamington Spa which offer little attraction)
Dear Diary,

The two trips prior to this weekend had been partly experimental in trying cheese paste for chub without a single bite. Yesterday I reverted to bread, as I had promised myself, and had a lovely fish, just gaining a few golden scales in readiness for summer, first cast in the first swim...they're trying to tell me something. That's meat, worm and cheese paste I've tried for chub over the preceding months and years now and every time I come back to bread. The fish gave a brave and memory-registering account of itself in the stronger flow here, displaying 3-1-0 on the scales and bending the light Avon double at the same time offering a reminder of those many evenings seeking the one biggest fish from the swim after dark that I have now become so impatient with

The sheep by now were apoplectic at my presence and braying loudly in their comedic multi-coloured voices as they faced across the water. Soon though they grew tired of the lack of, no doubt, anticipated food and wandered as only sheep can to the distant reaches of the meadow in search of whatever their somewhat empty heads seek, and back again. They say a low boredom threshold is a sign of intelligence, sheep seem to be up there with the house fly.

Second and third swims, although looking tasty, produced no real bites but the fourth, in many ways similar to the first - a smooth glide leading to an undercut with overhanging bushes - again offered an indication of feeding activity on the first drop-in. As with the first fish, upon the strike it leapt clean out of the stream and a concern it might tangle in branches above the water afflicted me, but no, things were soon calmly in hand and an immaculate never before caught beauty of one and a half pounds was soon laying in the glistening mesh of safety, mildly rouged fins rigid in resistance and mouth fixed agape like a miniature basking shark

Swim five was one known to be holding a shoal of roach from previous visits. An unexpected deep hole leading to a long glide that had an annoying branch impeding tackle control and which had not been removed on the previous visit. No bites this time, despite a couple of topping occupants, and the woody irritant was soon dragged up the bank leaving a clear run for the future

Another uncut leading to a bush was next but it proved snaggy and dangerously tackle-consuming so it was soon deserted

By now darkness was falling and, despite being multi-thermal layered, the air soon noticeably chilled as fieldfares began diving and crashing into riverside bushes for roosting sites in their inimitable style. Woodpigeons and various crow species headed-off to their own secret slumbering locations among the beckoning branches of the darkest woods. The resident punky little grebe scooted by in semi-darkness

A couple of bursts of tapping on the tip lead to nothing decisive another than the distinct impression of a rather desperate small roach in the very last swim and, as the impatience set in once more, the net had frozen solid as I closed-up the stall and headed back, the knowledge of the most likely bait once again underlined in ink, the others struck through in red

Tomorrow, the intention of seeking the biggest chub after dark with the temperature rising to seven or eight degrees into the night from zero at dawn. The river continues to slowly fall, being about eight inches above normal level with a tinge of colour. All indicators suggest an ideal opportunity, but first there is cricket to coach



So, with twenty young batters, fielders and bowlers, and five coaches, thoroughly worn-out, a return was made. Not to the same length but, given the conditions, to the location thought most likely to threaten the current personal Leam chub record of three-thirteen

The pre-planned intention was to alternate crust and flake, feeding mash every half hour or so and possibly also swapping between swims if safe and sufficiently discreet to do so after dark, feeding each as I left in rotation and expecting bites as I dropped-in to each. On this basis expecting relatively long periods without a bait necessarily being in the water, but that depended upon the prevalence of bites and also whether it would be possible to use more than one swim

On arrival, half hour before sundown, three pegs were selected and fed. The air temperature was 8degC and a breeze blew across the river over the right shoulder. The most upstream of the three pegs was to be the one I would be likely to settle in after trying all three, based on the conditions, likelihood of fish and previous experience

First cast was around 5.15pm and two hours later, with not the slightest indication, I sauntered back fishless

But that's why we keep going isn't it? The unpredictability. The challenge.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Big Chub and Roach. Fresh Impetus. (Part 2)

So where was I?

Oh yes, light levels and big roach feeding...

Richard Walker identified 6.5 footcandles as the threshold below which big roach would feed and John Etherington agrees

Now 6.5 footcandles equates to 70.2 lux in modern units which is darker that a 'very dark day':

In my experience I would say this is possibly a touch pessimistic but there are so many variable factors in play here.

How big is a big roach?
How turbid is the water?
How deep are the roach lying?
Is the water shaded?
Are they affected by other influences in their feeding?
Is it as applicable to stillwaters, rivers and canals in equal measure?
...Are they even there?

When I have been in pursuit of big canal roach, and regular visitors will know this means anything over a pound (Walker might have considered that 'nice, but small'), I have most likely caught the majority of them outside those parameters, i.e. at light levels in excess of 70 lux having tested what that level really looks like with the benefit of the new app. 70 lux is definitely 'last cast' territory for the float angler

Having the benefit of some thinking time since I posted Part One together with the always helpful and pithy responses of Jeff Hatt and comments of others there are a number of situations which clearly contradict the 70 lux theory:
  • Match fishing is always undertaken in the brightest part of the day and I can think of no situations when I personally have taken large roach in light levels of 70 lux or less in match conditions. I doubt whether light levels that low would ever have occurred in my 15 years at it. So all my match-caught roach and the vast majority, if not all, of those of other match anglers would have come in ‘daylight’ 
  • Regular feeding has on numerous occasions produced what I consider may be the biggest roach present in a swim during the day after, often, two to four hours constant feeding effort. On canals this would usually have been on caster or occasionally hemp and on rivers caster or maggot (I’m sure The Old Duffer, were I to consult him, would say the same about hemp and tares) 
  • ‘Smaller’ roach will feed right through the day on canals and on rivers when the conditions are right (less likely in clear water)
The upshot of this is that, like many things, it's just another guide to help us make the most of our precious time on the bank and shouldn't be rigidly applied but there is definitely something in it and I certainly would not waste my time fishing for big roach during a blazing hot day on any venue...but I won't be the only one to recall the frantic feeding of roach in midday heat of the 1976 heat-wave on hemp and tares when on one memorable occasion fishing the Great Ouse at St Ives they became so apparently drugged-up on the stuff and preoccupied with feeding that they were literally taking anything that floated by, including leaves - I kid you not. 20 to 30lb bags were comfortably possible and even I, then barely a teenager, had double figures of them in times when those sort of roach weights were very much the exception and bream shoals normally ruled the roost

So is it a question of what we deem to be ‘big’ roach?

The examples I give above from personal experience can be bulked-out by the inclusion of big roach bags winning matches on the River Severn on a cyclical basis (currently underway again) and the true tales of certain anglers taking multiple two pound roach when pleasure fishing the same and similar stretches during the peaks of those cycles

I think we need to separate some aspects out here to make sense of the 70 lux theory

We do not expect to catch the very largest fish when match fishing. We might from time to time ‘fluke’ the odd one but we must assume that the fish caught in matches are not the highest few percent of roach present in terms of weight. Those odd pound fish I was fortunate enough to net in the old days would have been either one of many or there would have been others that we never managed to tempt that may have been even larger. Those wise old fish, perhaps of around six to ten years of age, might well have been pushed along by the walking anglers off the match length anyway…ever wondered why the far end peg was always favourite, especially in clear water conditions?!

Snippets of information like this are all part of reading the situation on the bank. If when you arrive at the canal you can see the end of the cloud for instance, and blue sky behind it, maybe it isn't the time to expect a few pound-plus roach, but, if the water is what I would describe as perfect for bread (clear to about eight inches down and naturally coloured, i.e. not floodwater coloured) and it's cloudy, prepare to fill your boots with quality fish, if they are there and all other factors point to it


So have been on the bank of the stream lately? You bet! Both Saturday and Sunday in fact, moving from swim to swim and approaching the stretch from different access points each day to cover the whole water in one weekend and, as usual at this time of year, the fish were in identifiable pockets with the level about 0.8m above normal, or about '2 foot 8' in old money. There was no great pattern to it other than that generally they were near good cover and a reasonable depth but I did find a shoal of roach in a nearside slack in the open but all too briefly as the full sun rose and scuppered the chances of bites

Saturday afternoon I found the fish in my very last swim and managed to lose two small chub at the rim of the net resulting in a resounding blank and a few choice words, twice. I was using lobworms and instead of bread I thought it time I moved into the modern age and used a proprietary Cheese paste in pegs I expected to hold chub. The chub I lost came to two sections of worms

I tested the light level app on this trip and found the level at which I was getting bites initially to be around 170 lux but it certainly did improve in terms of bites per minute ratio as it got darker, and as one might expect, until I was amazed to find it reading 1 lux when I could still see some shapes quite clearly

Sunday was quite a challenge. A heavy frost first thing and the line freezing in the rings. Again I persevered with the cheese paste whenever I thought it might work but with no nibbles and all the bites came to sections of lobworms. First bite was in an open area with a noticeable nearside slack where a roach topped as I approached. I had one first drop in at around seven ounces as soon as it hit the bottom. One more missed bite but by now the sun was bright and it was time to move on

Next swim was the one I had down as the banker but just one tremor had me moving to the next one fairly soon, which happened to be where I ended up the day before. A nearside slack again but with a good depth and shade from the sun. Here both rods were deployed with multiple worm sections and I enjoyed regular bites taking another eight ounce roach, a twelve ounce chub and smaller roach plus a few missed bites from small fish and one which came off the hook. The bites hadn't tailed-off when I left, though they were more tricky to hit...definitely a peg for the pole and bread method to be tried-out this one

Pleased with the action in such demanding conditions I headed home to look up some taxidermy I'd been tipped-off about and logged the things I'd learnt about this intriguing water. I am confident that on one or other trip I would have had a chub bite on bread, as the conditions have been stable for some time now, so next trip I'll probably revert back to that from cheese paste, not least because I have confidence in it...and it's cheaper too! The forecast is for more of the same at least until Thursday, temperatures not above 2 deg C all through and often cloudy, so there will come an opportune moment and I hope to be there to take advantage of settled conditions, however cold they may be. The chub and roach, and probably the perch if (I could find them), don't mind it so why should I?

Mouse Training Update:

Monica hasn't yet ventured onto my hand, although she did think the whole hand was food yesterday when she bit my finger and tried to drag me into their food store. She will take a treat from the end of my nails however

Potty ventured right up to the top of my fingers on my outstretched palm for a peanut, by-passing lesser offerings on the way tonight. Now that is a breakthrough and she should soon be scurrying over my jumper while the football's on...and leaving incidental deposits no doubt

Monday, 12 January 2015

Big Chub and Roach, Fresh Impetus (Part 1)

Laid-up, as I have been, with the lurgy since the New Year it was with genuine excitement that after some months (extending perhaps to a couple of years) I eventually tracked down, at the right price, a copy of 'Big Chub and Roach...Thoughts and Encounters' by John Etherington which thudded onto the door mat just two days ago

Not as thick or as large as I had expected but, I was sure, packed with useful information and, therein, enlightenment

Already in the first couple of pages he talks of the ceiling for chub being double the average size caught causing me to reach for my notebook and work mine out for the Leam. 31 chub, totalling 64-14-0, average 2-1-8. So my 4lb target complies with his thinking too, pretty neatly in fact. That said, I don't record chub under a pound and a half in my list but then I suspect he doesn't either, and they really are few and far between anyway when fishing big baits

My biggest at 3-13-0, while close to the possible ceiling of 4-3-0 is my only one over 3-8-0 so it implies I am not quite there yet but if you apply a +/- factor of, say, 10% this would give a range 6.5 ounces either side of that i.e. 3-12-8 to 4-9-8. So this is what he implies a Leam angler should be aiming at

From my perpetual 4lb Leam chub target you will we aware that these thoughts coincide, albeit mine is on a more woolly basis of simple observation, but to have it confirmed externally is of some comfort and gives me the resolve to carry on pursuing something larger. This is only my third season at it and as he also states that once you break through the barrier it will happen again and again, I hope to have something to look forward to yet. My biggest problem in that regard, as I have explained before, is that I do tend to want to go fishing when the conditions are against the likelihood of bites quite regularly, but maybe, on those occasions, I ought to take a more match-style approach and just fish for anything that swims or pursue dace which will feed in lighter conditions than most species

Speaking of conditions...later he discusses light levels at which big roach, in particular, are likely to feed. He states that Richard Walker determined a level of 6.5 footcandles as being the level below which this occurrs, and, using his camera (a 35mm SLR, I would assume) found that the same reading of 6.5 in the viewfinder coincided with roach feeding (although he didn't know whether the units of measurement were actually the same)

It is clear that big roach are very much affected by light levels when it comes to feeding. On my local canal I usually struggle to get bites from them once the sun comes up if there is no cloud and when there is cloud it needs to be fairly thick to provide any chance of fish from an hour or two after actual (i.e. Civil) sunrise. That is if the boats haven't turned the water to treacle by then anyway!

I have never measured light levels when fishing but it is beyond question that this general theory is true. There will always be exceptions of course but for serious angling is should be seen as a rule

This lead me to wonder how I might measure this in the modern age. Walker's books were obviously written decades ago and my current reading fodder was published in 1985 (although from the clothing, tackle and grainy black & white imagery one could easily be mistaken, quite frankly, for thinking they were from the 1960's!). So some research enlightened (sorry) me to the point at which I now understand that 1 footcandle = 10.8 lux and they are measures of illuminance. Below is a table which rather neatly also corresponds with the above theories (footcandles in the middle column, lux on the right):

Full Daylight     1,000 10,752
Overcast Day        100       1,075
Very Dark Day       10      107
Twilight                   1        10.8
Deep Twilight   0.1 1.08
Full Moon.           0.01        0.108
Quarter Moon           0.001 0.0108
Starlight                   0.0001 0.0011

6.5 footcandles therefore equates to 70.2 lux and, as can be seen, this level is lower than 'very dark day' at 107 lux and heading toward twilight so the cloud needs to be very heavy to result in this light level during the day but it gives us a clue as to the benefits of dawn and dusk, although moonlight can then come into play but probably in a different manner. Turbidity of the water is also a factor of course and accounts for those occasional days when roach will feed throughout daylight hours in certain flood conditions if combined with some cloud cover, however it is beyond my wit to combine the two and produce a method measuring that! (Perhaps a jar of flood water between a device and the sun? Moving on...)

I got to thinking about how I might measure this on the bank. Cricket umpires use light meters to determine whether it is safe for players to continue (we know it usually is, but they'll take 'em off anyway!) so that was an option and a quick delve into ebay confirmed that light meters these days start at around a tenner for a digital model, which is manageable. Although you have got to carry it with everything else of course and in my drive to travel light every appendage is to be analysed for necessity

So I started to ponder whether there might be an app. available. Of course Messrs Walker and Etherington will not have encountered such wonders in their time but, sure enough, even on android there they are...and they're free.

So I just downloaded 'Lux Meter Level' and it sits here next to me reading 8 and if I tilt it toward the window it reads 79. 79? Whoah!! Hang-on. Where are my rods?!

I'll finish this later...

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Next Year's Fishing and Birding


Back in January 2013 I posted my somewhat paltry list of canal P.B's, just under half of which were a by-product of a fifteen-year canal match fishing period:
Canal P.B's:
Bronze bream 3-12-0 (Grand Union 1993)*
Silver bream 0-11-0 (North Oxford 2012)
Carp 5-8-0 (Grand Union, Northampton Arm 1991)*
Crucian carp 0-12-0 (Grand Union, 1990)*
Chub 4-3-0 ('South' Oxford, 1994)*
Gudgeon 0-2-0 (North Oxford, 1996)
Perch 1-10-8 (Grand Union, date uncertain)*
Pike 5-10-0 (Grand Union, Leicester Line circa 2002)
Roach 1-4-12 (North Oxford, 2012)
Rudd 0-6-8 (Grand Union, 1991)*
Ruffe 0-2-0 (North Oxford, 1990)
Tench 3-2-0 (Grand Union, 1989)
Zander 2-11-0 (North Oxford, 2012)
*Match-caught fish

This was certainly not intended to impress anyone, and (say it together), it never was likely to, but the idea was that it would serve as an annual marker as to what had changed through the anticipated vehicles of improved methods, wider knowledge, new or evolving venues or other influential factors and, I sincerely hoped, a few new converts might start plundering the canals in a similar fashion from which we would start to build an extended, maybe more detailed, picture of the big fish situation, especially I hoped when it came to roach, inspired perhaps by Jeff Hatt's widely read and excellent Idler's Quest if not this more limited affair 

Somehow though, through the assumed excitement of this time last year, it skipped my memory to update it one year on. Instead reference was made to challenges still outstanding at that moment, but that I felt remained perfectly feasible:
"Two challenges still remain then, a four pound Leam chub and a snow-caught chub to grace the net".
Given that those challenges were set to be achieved by the end of that traditional river season in mid-March 2014 I should be somewhat downhearted when I sit here, a further year on, and neither has been met, even now!

This year's statement concentrates not only on those previously incomplete transactions with the real world bank but also seeks to invest in pushing up the river roach standard, with interest. Now the 4lb chub goal may not appear too difficult to those who perhaps are used to fishing the Hampshire Avon, or indeed the Warwickshire Avon (which runs through my village in infant form), but each watercourse or body has it's own natural thresholds and, while I do believe the wilder parts of the Leam outside Leamington Spa still hold chub up to, and possibly over, five pounds they are few and far between over three and a half. As for a chub in the snow (any nettable size), well we don't get much do we and that would just be luck. I have been out once under such conditions since

So the Leam chub target still stands, the new stretches seem to hold a few although perhaps more tricky to pinpoint and then snare due to the depths involved than those I have concentrated on for the past two years

To raise the bar on this I have now set myself the additional aim of more large roach from the river. I know that at least two fish of 2lbs have been caught in the past two years and, under the new club book I have had two around the pound mark already since October without having scratched the surface of available pegs so I see no great risk in adding a River Leam roach of at least 1-8-0 to the list, albeit it is two years since I had my 1-4-11 best from a shallow gravel glide. I could go higher but I know how difficult it has proven to muster three over a pound in two years and it is only due to new areas being available to me and an increasingly refined new technique proving a touch more profitable than the link leger or float that drives me to set the bar at a pound eight. Two pounds would be magical and, as it happens, would neatly complete my set but the chances of it coming from this river are slim and I don't want a target that is absolutely impossible and consequently demoralising. [If I hear you say, "It didn't stop you on the canal!", which may have seemed even more unlikely, then yes that's true but the reality of that matter was that the presence of pound-plus fish was evident and lead to logical conclusion. The corresponding population of the Leam is not anywhere near those of the North Oxford]. If I am lucky enough to find and tempt one to complete this initial challenge then I have a new hurdle to jump at maybe 1-12-0 and it gives me an added incentive going forward. That said, if it had, again, been the Hampshire Avon we were talking about then two pounds would be too low or, at least, may not have lasted too long

In considering the next year ahead though I did come to the conclusion that I only really fish for a handful of species - Roach, Perch and Chub on rivers and Roach, Perch, the two Bream species and associated hybrids on canals (plus, very occasionally, zander but their whereabouts is luck, I generally find). I add to this the ever-alluring soap-slippery tench which from time to time I have the great fortune to have chance encounters. Even when I travel to the occasional lake and the syndicate water (which still baffles me, but I am now armed with renewed gusto there too) similar species tick my tackle boxes. In a moment of rare clarity yesterday evening it came to me that my overall aim in this angling life should not be to list every species as I did in 2013, most of which I do not even see from one year or season to the next, more I should focus on those within physical reach that I prefer to catch, generally what one might term the light-middleweight species but with no pound for pound pugilistic persuasion required in my eyes. Within my chosen boundaries in this part of the world these species could all balance a scale at between two and ten pounds wherever I may pursue them but on balance would more often fall below the five pound mark. This suits my outlook, and my available tackle

Below therefore I set-out those P.B's that I consider of interest to me and that are either there for the taking or to improve whenever possible. They are not wholly limiting or indeed exhaustive and may evolve over time but it represents a line in the sand after three years of working out why I came back to the sport. Without that match fishing drive any more these offer some statistical meaning to the vigorous practice of the angle and provided they come from natural or naturalised waters that will suit me fine, but equally they won't be a water-millstone - attached to which I might consider throwing myself into the deep if they don't show much sign of advancement. As a further little incentive I've decided to add in records for Dunsmore & Feldon waters too, where relevant, simply because that's geographically relevant too

Bronze bream:
Stillwater - *
River 3-5-0 (Warks Avon, 2013)
Canal 3-12-0 (Grand Union Canal, 1993)
North Oxford Canal 3-9-3 (2013)

Silver bream:
Stillwater -
River -
Canal 1-5-8 (NOXC, 2013)
GUC 0-15-8 (2014)

Roach X bream hybrid:
Stillwater -
River -
Canal 4-0-3 (NOXC, 2013)
GUC 2-8-3 (2014)

Stillwater - *
River 3-13-0 (Leam, 2013)
Canal 4-3-0 (Oxford Canal, S. of Banbury, 1994)
NOXC 3-9-0 (2014)

Stillwater 2-12-0 (Syndicate water, 2013)
River 1-12-8 (Leam, 2014)
Canal 2-1-0 (GUC, 2013)
NOXC 1-13-11 (2013)

Stillwater 2-1-8 (Napton Reservoir, 1981)
River 1-4-11 (Leam, 2012)
Canal 2-3-10 (NOXC, 2013)
GUC 1-1-3 (2014)*

Stillwater 4-6-14 (Napton Reservoir, 2014)
River/drain 4-7-0 (French Drove, 1991)
Canal 3-2-0 (GUC, 1989)
NOXC 2-4-5 (2014)

'-' indicates no record, not caught or below one pound.
'*' indicates further research of records required.
Of course a number of the fish caught in the 2012-2014 period have been reported through this very conduit, if not all
So that's the angling element all ready to attack henceforth plus the extra little targets I set earlier but, also, I have my thoughts on the birding world and there are certain species I really feel I ought to make the effort to see before I keel over under the burden of keeping track of beating all these fish records! So, while not resorting to twitching I should add (to paraphrase someone "the pursuit of birds that are dying, disorientated, lost or sick"), if they turn-up in Dunsmore and Feldon, which includes the regionally if not nationally important bird magnet Draycote Water of course, then I must damned well make the short journey (when it's not windy...boy does that place catch the wind!)

There are certain species that are a must for me now and encapsulated in a desirability alarm bell signifying that they might just go extinct (in Britain) in my lifetime, the red-backed shrike for instance, but it's got to be a pressure...of course this may involve travelling a few (hundred) miles off piste, but we'll see. Life really is very short, and so much to do

Which reminds me, my mice need feeding (Christmas present from the family). Two females which I'm hoping to make sufficiently hand-tame that I can imagine taking them to school in my pockets.
I've named them Potty, shortened from Hippopota-mouse (obviously) and Monica. The latter requires me to relay to you a joke:
A mouse walks into a music shop,
He runs up to the counter and asks the shop keeper if he has any good quality mouse-organs for sale,
The shop keeper says, "I do as it happens", and pulls out a tiny little shallow fur-lined drawer full of mouse-organs of all different sizes and colours.
"I've got red ones, blue ones, green, yellow..."
"...but I was really looking for a metal one", the mouse interjected.
"Ah yes, no problem", said the owner, "Those come in special little individual boxes. We have them in brass. Oh yes...and silver".
"You don't have a mouse-organ in gold Sir, by any chance?", came the reply.
"Sadly not", said the owner, twiddling his moustache, "We did until yesterday afternoon but a pretty little well-dressed lady mouse bought the very last one".
"Aaaah", said the mouse loudly and knowingly, "That'd be our Monica!"

(If you feel you might be missing something here, the last line is to be read aloud - and it might help if you're from the midlands)

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Going into an Arc Four by Four

So with a bag full of new sweets I headed to the stream
I can't imagine, except when spinning, that I can ever have set-out to fish with so little kit - new bait & tackle waist-band with matching mat plus the usual net and travel Avon quiver

A number of factors pointed to this day...
  • The river had been swollen and was falling but, I hoped, would still hold sufficient cover.
  • The air temperature had been hovering around freezing since before the rains that caused the river to rise, hence the water temperature would be correspondingly low but, four or five days in, the fish might be used to it.
  • The Christmas festivities had taken priority.
  • I now had a cheap liquidiser (in fact, like so many modern products,  it is much more than that but that was, at least, the purpose I bought it for) for bread.
  • Three days' full sun and clear skies preceded this one which promised to be cloudy from noon so the prospect of afternoon sport on these very short days around the new year was one I could not ignore. Equally the idea of fishing into dark after the fish might not have eaten much for the best part of a week was irresistible, and, on top of all that I also had my sweets to try.
The inestimable Lady Burton had bought me reel cases for Christmas but sadly I had too many already and so I swapped them yesterday for an eva (I'm told) completely sealed, welded in fact, net bag to keep in the car
[I also had two robust bird feeders (not to support Great Uncle Dubes over-ripe pigeons I might add!) and soon after I hung one out full of fat balls I coincidentally noticed a flock of around a dozen meadow pipit leap-frogging each other in the winter wheat-sewn field behind the bungalow, accompanied by jackdaw, rook, pied wagtail, woodpigeon (of course) and a blue tit nearer to the place we are temporarily calling home for a year]
A further treat, more a liquorice hose than a fruit salad, would be the stream itself. A quarter-mile stretch, never before seen, proved a winding, alternating mix of glides and deeper holes with numerous overhanging and, occasionally, fallen willows

After some initial confusion faffing about with liquidised bread I reverted to a mix of it rougly 50/50 with mashed bread so that it was soaked, and suitably sinking
The attack was to feed two swims downstream of the one I happened to be in, give each 15-20 minutes and move-on

It was not until the fourth swim, and the first with a branch in the water, that a sign of interest emerged running from the water and up the line to the tip but an early strike proved as equally futile as impetuous
Evidence that the levels had been higher recently manifested in silty banks within a foot of so of the waterline and, in shallower areas, ice had been left behind to float above decaying vegetation, like a miniature crystal canopy perhaps to protect a surreal exhibition of water shrews' wares, close to the waterline from the previous night's hard frost

Three more glides, one with a good-looking slack below a dramatically projecting rush bed, produced nothing but, again, the fourth, a distinctive location on a deep tight inside bend with overhanging trees, seemed the place. A  tremulous indication was missed and, by the feel of it, I may have just nicked the fish as I struck. I hoped it had been glancing submerged weed and cast back down towards the branches hanging over and into the water
Another bite, ponderous but also more positive, resulted in a pristine seven ounce roach coming to hand 

Third cast to the branch and another missed nibble. The fourth however was perfect, within inches of the branch and allowed to sink before tightening-up. As I sat there thinking things were going in fours and feeling the likelihood was...hang-on that moved a bit then, and again, gentle nods of the tip...whoah! arced round and the strike met with what felt like a better roach. As I started to tighten to the fish with it swimming upstream toward me it started to get distinctly bigger. It burrowed deep and shook it's head. No roach. Soon it was up from the depths and a chub appeared looking around 1-12-0 I thought, from an acute angle

It was soon in the net despite the customary lunge for near bank roots and with what appeared a bite out of the tail tipped the scales at 2-8-0 pretty much confirming the Leam average

Keen to try another peg in woodland before darkness engulfed the valley (and I wanted to return to the peg that produced the first bite for an hour after dark) I moved on, but to no avail despite the strong foxy aroma of the soggy bankside. A tiny, unkempt and unreasonably buoyant dabchick drifted past with the flow as if with motorised feet in the wrong gear while they whirred away to little effect, seemingly and unusually oblivious to my presence

I took a moment to investigate the next thirty metres of wooded bank which looked exceptional with two large branches laying across the full width of the watercourse but there was insufficient time to prime yet another swim

Minutes later I settled into the murk at the intended resting place for dusk, crawling under a low horizontal limb to reach the comfort of the only small area where it was in fact possible to swing terminal tackle to hand, and waited...

The screech owl did just that and the temperature actually appeared to rise reflecting the moon's rise higher through the thick spiny hawthorn to my right, and I waited... 

One thing is becoming clear, that the fallen branches and one or two of the very deepest holes now offer pretty much the only hope of bites on the stream. The challenge becomes even more challenging as winter bites