Friday, 13 February 2015

Tales of the Unexpectant

Freezing conditions, iced margins but perfectly coloured water greeted the intrepid princes as they embarked on their respective recent midweek missions

Last weekend though two breezily snow flake speckled visits produced but a solitary half pound roach from a gentle glide under a sparsely crowned willow in the valley. Parps however excellent himself (again) producing a miracle fish from thin air while I cast into every rush bed and tree visible to the human eye in an attempt to keep the tackle market bouyant. I can't actually remember catching ye olde miller's thumb on rod and line, although something tells me I might have many years ago. This one though was perfectly formed in miniature and had wedged three of boy wonder's maggots sideways in its not inconsiderable miller's mouth, the red glowing through its strangely gold encrusted iridescent and transparent pot belly.

A very unusual occurrence all round that is unless you are Jeff Hatt who has taken a veritable miller's hand of the rock-lurking blighters:
In fact blog world has been awash with hugely tiny record shakers lately, try this one for size too, in which Russell Hilton is caught aghast by an oversized minnow:

This has reminded me that we found some massive sticklebacks in a pool above the high water line on holiday a couple of years ago. In fact Parps caught one with his bare hand so big that when raised above the waterline it went dark, no, seriously, it did...just like fishing the Gloucester Canal when one of those incongruous inland ships travels past

This year we are staying close to that spot so I intend to take a pen rod and try to claim a record. There are problems to address though. The pool is in Scotland so I don't know if they have a record list or whether 'ours' covers 'theirs' too, especially since 'the vote'. The pool may have a hint of salt in it but what is the ruling there? Would it be a sea record or a freshwater record? Could we apply for both or does it depend on the type of fish rather than the water it is caught in, i.e. If eventually my first non-canal 4lb chub was caught at sea would it be a sea or freshwater record?

Okay, I'll admit it early - drugs may have been involved in the writing of this piece

Anyway all of that is somewhat premature as the fish are probably dead, the pools gone or the area is now the first known british colony of the great white egret, happily lunching on the spiny critters; and I don't have the pen rod, and even if I did does it count as a rod?

So many questions!

So back to the present from the potential fantasy future...

At the car park we princes inadvertently gathered. I recognised two charming gents as lure fisherman who had passed me on the cut some months ago and, anglers being as rare on canals as record minnows, thankfully they recalled me being there too. We exchanged the usual notes and pleasantries and as they headed-off east for perch and chub on artificials I headed west for chub on bread, which, of course, thinking about it is artificial too. I guess the main difference then would be that I was throwing more free artificial in that they might, albeit in this snag-pit of a brook that may be debatable

Interestingly they had taken chub to two pounds-odd thus far in their first season on the river which seems, and again confirms, the average for the Leam and perch to a pound and three quarters which parallels my efforts to

What I didn't realise though was that one of them, Eric, is a blogger too, and a damned good one, with much thought provoking material interspersed with the necessary blogging drivel we all love of course. I happened to stumble across 'Artificials Lite' after the above event

(Note to self: Stop plugging others' blogs, else no one will read past the first link)

Continuing the mashed bread feeding experiment that Wednesday I made the mash at home and took a dinky little box of pre-cut bread discs and crusts, partly to save time in a pre-work session and also to save freezing the poor little pinkies off (actually my girl's fingers barely qualify as squatts) by squeezing it in subzero temperatures. This time I would feed a swim and fish it immediately for no more than 15 minutes

Third peg in and I was just giving-up hope when a drop-in very close under the near bank below me produced a proper pull and after a spirited battle in such cold water a lovely chub of 2-3-10 graced the early sunlit net and I began to think in the process that crawling around with audibly creaking joints on the bank in winter to hide behind the odd blade of dry grass is conduct unbecoming of a man in his fifties

Moving-on, swim five proved to be a newly discovered deep hole that needed the pole approach really but produced two little taps from small fish but nothing to strike at

Eventually two minutes before the bell a gentle bite in the last swim, which I missed, and off we went to stand in line with the others kids ready for the day ahead

The other princes were still at it with cars still ensconced as I left. You can read about it on Artifial Lite's 4th Feb post (if you haven't had enough of this venue for now!)

I do love fishing in the frosty conditions when thoroughly togged-up in mobile duvet and multiple thermal layers but if only the light snow earlier in the week had been sufficient to lay that chub against

One day, one special crisp day


This past few while I had noticed what has become known in birding circles as an 'LBJ' [a phrase almost as abhorrent/belittling/disrespectful (delete as appropriate) as 'silvers' in angling]. This Little Brown Job was, it turned out, a meadow pipit, not the usual dunnock...and here's the bust to prove it

Quite a sighting for the garden, albeit we adjoin a field, but certainly a garden first for any of the houses we have lived in

Then the dunnock put in an appearance with its dainty but feeble warble evident every morning at present and with the four local birds forming their usual promiscuous tangle immediately pre breeding season as these sparrows of the hedge tend to do. I do like dunnocks, such under appreciated contributors to our world


Since, three or four more trips to the stream have produced only a single dicey bite when line became as one with some dried willow herb and simultaneously tugged by a chub in an undercut. Not ideal. A vigorous strike remarkably saw all resolved in one deft (that's an intentional 'deft' in case you were considering whether that might be a typo) fell swoop taking the line from woody ruderal straight to fish rather neatly. Rather too neatly as it happened, with the fish clearly facing away from me at the time and, not entirely unsurprisingly, mortally shocked by the experience, leaping clean from the icy trickle, landing with a massive tail-slap, whale-style, on its left-hand side, dividing the line into more lengths than recommended with a single rod and charging downstream at a rate of knots leaving his shoal mates wondering if he'd just heard where Nemo was

An intriguing distraction occurred in one peg where I had cut a hole in vegetation to poke a squeeze of flake into an undercut when I became conscious of a quite large, and yellow and blue, ball of fluff floating to earth beside me. As I turned to view it, at the same time trying not to twitch the rod and invite a bird's nest, it instantly transformed into a pair of blue tits fighting over territory/mate in the first luke-warm sunshine of the year. They emitted a strange electronicmtweeting and gripped each other with their feet like two beached dayglo mini-peregrines while fluffing out their feathers and remaining in a quiveringly rigid state. I would have attempted a photograph but with many bare intervening stems it would have been pointless as the phone camera, while good enough, inexplicably doesn't focus on what my brain anticipates. As I moved to get a better view, no more than a metre away from my cushion, they realised my presence and, with bounding unhurried flight, disappeared swooping into the dropping willow branches like primates in a rainforest

I have now reached a point where I do not expect to catch anything at all prior to arriving but more see the trip as simply a case of being out by the river. When I get there though that unending confidence that the next cast will produce that bite never goes away

Now I have started to regularly bait a couple of likely swims with a slight rise in air temperatures predicted this week and, on the second visit to do so, having seen only two other anglers on the river when I have been fishing in over two months, found not one but two such fellows firmly set-in for a session in the very place.

It's the same kind of luck I have with my fantasy football team. If I transfer them in they get sent-off, if I keep them they stop scoring. Such is life it seems, but I'm not bitter about any of it, really I'm not


  1. I haven't seen a stickleback in decades, George. I used to catch loads from a local pond when I was a kid fishing for newts. The great crested newts were the big prize and the bigger they were the greater the kudos for catching one. They were rare captures amongst loads of ordinary ones, but of course the sticklebacks were the nuisance species!

    No hooks, of course. Just a worm tied on a length of cotton.

    1. The birmingham/fazeley canal used to be stuffed with them but they were so tiny. In some matches if the gudgeon didnt show people actually fished for them! Desperate times in more ways than one