Sunday, 29 March 2015

BIG Challenges All Round

I hadn't prepared myself for the break. So consumed was I by the challenge of the River Leam that the somewhat sudden end, even though I was working towards it, caught me napping. Captivated, enthralled, enthused, maybe even obsessed and possessed, I had been by its secretive charm but now it had come to a close

Improving temperatures over the past three weeks or so tempted me to spend some time birding and plumbing some pegs on The Stillwater (yes I did say "stillwater", it may be something of a shock to my regular reader but it is true) more out of fancying a walk in the sunshine than anything else

Last Sunday was glorious of course. I was severely overdressed, having arrived before the temperatures soared, and lost about a stone during the day's wandering. Something I can ill afford

I found some enticing pegs in areas I hadn't been to for some time and a number of interesting birds, the highlight of which, though I wouldn't have found it myself as it wasn't on my walking route, thanks to another generous birder's 'scope was being able to view (and he confirmed as) a white wagtail. Frankly I couldn't have i.d'd it without some guidance as the heat-haze we were peering through barely made it recognisable as a wagtail...or even a bird! Nevertheless, a lifetime first it was, I'm told   

From the lawn: Pied not White...the murky underside is the give
away, even though the nape/back interface here is quite crisp
After enjoying the sight of a small foraging flock of tree sparrows, which is never anything less than an absolute pleasure, I found a swim I felt might do the job for the spring. A little weedy it was, but that makes two of us, and I was hopeful that if I could get the fish feeding there they might help to clear it over the forthcoming poaching months until June 16th obliges us with the mental moral right to continue to do the same until this time next year when we revert to doing so guiltily, as we do now

So the plan was hatched to concentrate on the stillwater, intermingled with the canal when conditions we were too poor to be exposed on an unforgiving lake, until June

In parallel with all this however came discussions with south-west blogger, talented angler and catcher of goldfish Russell Hilton of 'Tales of the Towpath' with a view to establishing a bloggers challenge for 2015/2016.
Russell's idea had gradually been honed in discussion with myself and Jeff Hatt (who took part in previous challenges until they petered-out two years or so ago and was full of sage wisdom, as ever)
The final challenge is very engaging and has me fired-up already with still a month to go until the mid-close season starting pistol fires.
Of course the only way these things can succeed is through the honesty of the participants and one thing I have learnt since starting this middling blog is that the level of integrity among angling bloggers is set very high and this gives me, and I hope many others, the confidence to get stuck in and take part in what promises to be an excellent event, with points available for 20 species across each water type of rivers/drains, stillwaters and canals relating your best fish to the British record
In trials it has proven perfectly possible that an angler seeking a wide number of species of relatively modest size might challenge the water/species specialist with four or five really big fish so, as planned, we hope it genuinely will prove a challenge for bloggers across the whole spectrum - from out and out specimen hunters to those who simply like to write about the pleasure of angling.
Personally I fall somewhere between the two (tending to fish certain appealing venues for larger than average fish), and I suspect most of us do, so I expect this to suit our category of angler rather nicely.
I will leave Russell to explain the machinations and how to enter here:
and I very much hope you are as enthralled by the prospect as I and the Boy Wonder are
- - - - - -
Seven days on and The Stillwater campaign has now reached the fifth session (15 hours) and has yet to give up any secrets of the, not so, deep. Increasing air temperatures through the week, water which is no longer cold to the touch and latterly, and certainly today and yesterday, windy conditions that can only serve to bring spring time to the sub-surface world ever more quickly. So I remain optimistic that soon the tip will wang round or the plunge into the depths, be it quiver or float, sometime soon
One brief (overslept!) Grand Union visit produced little of value except the unusual experience of a canal rudd around eight ounces and some unremarkable roach
Meanwhile life is not all about (lack of) fish. I preoccupy myself with my favourite bin's, a treasured possession, scouring the water every twenty minutes or so to see what has moved-in or has appeared overhead. An old pair of reasonable quality 8x40's are ideal for this task. They give just enough magnification, aren't too heavy to carry with the tackle and let a good deal of light in when needed at those awkward times of day; so much so in fact that it is as if a light has been switched-on when raising them to straining eyes
Signs of the changing season came in the form of chiffchaffs with this early arriving warbler singing and suddenly apparent all over the countryside last weekend, and sand martins have reached us too, flicking their delicate yet effective brown wings against the wind into which they face, just above the water's surface, making consumate headway against the odds. It's truly amazing they find enough to eat when they first fall upon us with little invertebrate activity evident to the human eye
The week has produced an interesting if not mind blowing bird list but today I got to to thinking about mammals...
How often does one see an array of mammal species, or even any (other than brown rats), while dabbling at the water's edge? Rarely, yet the signs are often there. At my peg and as I pottered back windswept this morning, with the forecast heavy rain hinting by gentle splashes on the personal rain detector (bald patch) I found evidence of shrew and badger (both in my peg), fox, muntjac and mole. I could probably have found vole or field mouse too with a little more effort and yet, in terms of actual sightings, it's was as though they didn't exist

Badger latrine...nice! Somehow I lost my pic of fox poo, how sad
Shrew hole 
Muntjac hoof prints 
Anyway enough of this, I'm off to plan the attack for the Bloggers Challenge 2015/16. Only 33.5 sleeps to go until the 00.01hrs May 1st start!

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