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:
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)
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 http://idlersquest.blogspot.co.uk 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
Stillwater - *
River 3-5-0 (Warks Avon, 2013)
Canal 3-12-0 (Grand Union Canal, 1993)
North Oxford Canal 3-9-3 (2013)
Canal 1-5-8 (NOXC, 2013)
GUC 0-15-8 (2014)
Roach X bream hybrid:
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 male...no 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)