Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Blogger's Challenge - Starters for Ten

So the bloggers challenge is underway.

11 sleeps in and, as yet, the wonders of subaquatic life have succeeding in seeing me coming from, as they say, a mile away.


That's not to suggest The Stillwater had got the better of me, oh no, the visits have been nothing if not hugely pleasurable, but in a migration watching ornithological manner, not a piscatorial one.

If I am not careful though the pre-schoolholidays (as opposed to pre-school holidays) close season period will have passed me by and I will have lost that greatest chance to add some outsized bream and hybrid to the bloggers challenge canals chart. A situation that may prove irretrievable before next May 1st, especially as the impending spring Highlands trip will likely have its usual effect of turning me off fishing until September.

So, as I see it, I have 4 or 5 forthcoming potential canal sessions to put that right in. Tomorrow morning being the first...


It's now 'tomorrow' morning (imagination required...labour leadership candidates do not apply).

I have expressed before my theory that the big canal brahmas locally live in the marinas much of the time and only really leave to spawn, so being the contrary person I am, I fished the western length of the canal away from the main large offline deep marinas. I read something in a football magazine by Rodney Marsh when I was a schoolboy, "Try the unorthodox". Heading immediately for the dictionary I concluded that following the mainstream would not make for exceptional results in life. Okay I appreciate dear old 'R-o-o-o-d-n-e-e-e-e-e' may not be many people's ideal mole rodel for life (readers now envisage a small velvety mammal being cleaned-out with a pipecleaner), and nor has he been mine since I encountered his foul mouth at close quarters at Filbert Street when Leicester were in the top flight (oh, hang-on, they are in the top flight!). Anyway, all that apart, the little phrase stuck.

Given the earliness of dawn at present I didn't attempt a first cast at 04.30 with work to follow but did get there at 6am, initially ruing the clear sky and already rising sun.

Heading for a suitably orientated cutting where the glow would be kept from the water longest I knew I was more likely to catch roach than bream and their derivatives but it might just have put a pounder on the chart as a target to aim at in the autumn for that particular species.

The redfins here can be stalked (not rodelled) but the lack of determined toppers made me wonder if this was a big mistake.

Unorthodox, maybe. Stupid? Maybe also.

On the odd occasion I have been to the canal I have been experimenting with a fine handmade quill purchased at ludicrous expense for the lift bite method.

It's crap.

Thank god for progress, sometimes.

In future the dear old discontinued 6no4 balsa antenna will return to its rightful place. Poised like a coiled spring to burst through the surface and yell, "Strike, ya ejit!", as only it can.

As the whitethroat and goldfinch scratched and twittered around me I tried really hard to makes sense of this cumbersome indicator. Eventually I noticed a serious and wandering bow-wave come down the canal as kingfishers piped near their nest hole. At first I thought 'otter' and then noticed beige bandana man and canine approaching from the east causing the wave to subside.

Returning to the float it shot up and I struck into a solid fish.

"He's in", b b man exclaimed.

"I'm in", I replied.

Seemingly at risk of the exchange turning into a The Liver Birds-style theme tune I changed the slant, explaining that it was a really good fish and that he could come past again as he'd brought me some luck.

He and K9 watched.

The fish was nodding as if to shake the hook and a deep black back appeared subsurface. "Old bream", I thought and imagined the 3lbs-odd canal p.b. being shattered shortly should the hook hold.

It was a while before it came close to the top again. The rod bent through to below the middle but I was never lost for control. My spectators fell silent, as did I, but soon the shape of a huge canal Chub presented itself. How old this fish must've been is as  unfathomable as a coelacanth from the Indian Ocean. Here was an ancient throwback to the past when Chub lived in this general area but in very low numbers. This was the only time I had ever made contact

Eric Weight author of the excellent Artificial Lite blog had given me the nod recently but until I saw this fish it was the first time the potential for chub had entered my head this day as I was not targeting them and, as it happened, I was a good  100yards from the spot he suggested I try

The leviathan only just fitted in my roach net and it was with some care that I held the light landing net handle close to the screw thread to lift it clear. The size became apparent immediately not least because the fish was so broad. Could this have been the bow-waving fish? It mirrors the day I caught my first North Oxford canal chub out of the blue last year when a large one cruised past in full view by my feet, some miles from today's haunt, immediately before that one bit. I wonder if they cruise the canal as shoal and the odd one gets picked-off?

Content once the fish was disgorged, with some difficulty, beige bandana man and the dog slunk off

On the scales I had to make a double take and recalculate, yes 64 ounces really is four pounds I told myself. Two sixteens are thirty-two, two thirty-twos are sixty-four. 63.1ounces the read-out told me.


63.1, yep!

Some luck.

Now customary top of tail missing

Those with good memories for this drivel may recall my canal p.b. to be fluky 4-6-0 bruiser from the Oxford Canal proper in a match while fishing for a bonus roach back in the 1990's. So it didn't quite trouble that but, as a starter for the challenge, it will do more than nicely and I don't expect to beat it this season for sure. Funnily enough todays fish is two ounces bigger than my river best. Strange stuff indeed

Soon after I moved 50 yards to my left having fed that swim and took a bronze bream of 1-4-3 immediately before that too died but as it had worked I moved again and hit into another big fish and this was more than match for the chub in the fighting stakes which had me praying for a roachXbream hybrid; this being the time of year for the monsters to be caught while they are exposed and away from the cosy marinas.

The rod was more embattled by this fish than the one that turned out to be the best part of a pound larger. A very thin fish nevertheless and spawned-out of it's infertile eggs. This one was more bream than roach in appearance with the eye being the main giveaway of the rutiloid dna

3 pounds two ounces is an excellent canal hybrid and set things up unintentionally nicely for decent bronze and hopefully silver bream too in the next week or so to start my hoped-for climb up the leader board

Not soft focus but slime on the lens!
Great start!


  1. Some great fish there George. I thought I might sneak the bonus points for chub if they were overlooked as there are a few, maybe only two, very small pockets of chub on the Taunton Canal, but they are generally around 2-3lb. You've scuppered that now though! I'll still try but the canal is muddy at present, which is good for tench, but once it clears, sight fishing for rudd and chub should be possible.

    Them hybrids are lovely fish.

    1. Those fish are complete flukes really but thats what this canal is like at this time of year. Three fish for eight pounds would be impossible after June.

      I think this is going to be fascinating with you having big tench and rudd to go at. I can't come close to those - if I catch any at all!

    2. I reckon you'll hold on to to both of these for some time. George. Both will be very hard to beat. I've never caught a canal chub and my best hybrid was a rudd x bream, which is an exceptionally rare fish, but they don't count on the board, do they?

      My best chance with the chub is nearby. Rumours of very big fish indeed a bike ride away.

      Oh, and I've found a complete ten metre pole in a skip...

      Happy days!

    3. I wouldnt worry too much about ruddXbream not counting Jeff. Youd probably need surgical adhesive to create another one of those!

      Ten metre pole on the bike could be interesting, you could lance the bailiff and a few boaters in one swift movement