Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to One and All, here's to a rather more encouraging 2017 than the autumn of 2016 has been.

Yes, and HonGenSec is out there this afternoon. Dedication.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Win Bonus in Tough Times?

The Stillwater is tough. 

So tough that a bite is at the very least a pleasant surprise and, more often in fact, something of a shock.

A couple of weeks ago I felt that floundering feeling when I wasn't enjoying my fishing enough as it seemed to have become directionless and predictable. Too many stretches of canal had turned clear and the banker stretch, although in perfect trim, could only be enthused over so many times.

A decision was made.

Target roach on all venues.

It started with blanks. In fact Monday would have been my sixth consecutive, but no one said it would be easy.

The Stillwater was too still, however I did see some quality fish topping at dawn which gives me future hope, but wind and colour are required.

The hours I whiled away on the banks were exceptional for bird life however and precisely fifty species were listed topped by a fantastic winter visiting firecrest plus a few brief glimpses of an otter bubbling it's way eastward in search of that which I could not find. That tiny bird was the harbinger of what we Burtons call a 'Let's Weep!' moment, such as I last felt when discovering my first ever Dartford warbler in Dorset. Magical.

No bites ensued in two visits and the next thing to make me emotional was meeting a good old friend or two by chance in the tackle shop. About fifteen years they reckon it had been. Cue selfies, tales of days gone by and, I'm told, Facebook may subsequently have been involved, though that is beyond my oldfangledness.

On a tip-off I decided to fine-tune the roach method on another pond where I might get a bite before returning when conditions would be right in search of the prey of palpitations.

As I used to think as a match angler..."You learn nothing if you're not getting any bites".

Arriving before dawn, good fish topped all round with the increasing light and just occasionally some real specimens rolled too.

Fishing two rods at 30m with maggot feeders it was second cast with each rod that the action started and continued unabated until I cut the flavouring from the feeder by way of a reverse experiment and the bites immediately ceased. Amazing proof.

Archie Braddock - you were right, as we're my informal mentors. I was tempted to call them Mentors A & B but that implies a hierarchy so I'm going with Mentor P and Mentor I. I suspect they will become MP and MI in no time...oh, they already have.

Roach, Rudd and a solitary perch completed a lively two hour session with nine pounds of fish which included the golden prize of a rather sneaky p.b. Rudd of 1.2.

Next day the air was a little less welcoming at three degrees but I had a couple more things to try out and so headed to the same peg again. This time for a quarter short of two hours but the hoped-for big roach showed themselves for the first hour of daylight once more.

Second cast again with each rod and two fighters were on the bank. Initially disinterested, but increasingly keen to get away the closer to the bank they came, the unmistakable fight of unseasonal tench was upon us. One could have been lucky, two worthy of comment but to take four up to 5.2.11 was just plain silly. Add to this two roach and three perch, all around ten ounces each and the sixteen pound catch in one and three quarter hours summed-up a commercial-esque(!) session I could never have seen coming.

The second tench, or tenchlet at 1.6, carried festering growths in the roots of its fins and so I slipped it back and thus avoided infecting the keepnet. Photographs are now with the holding club and their experts are on the case to pursue it further. Deer stalkers donned and magnifying lens in hand as I write no doubt.

I think the wind is on the rise in a few days' time, so, having ironed-out a few wrinkles in the method, it's back to The Stillwater to try to tempt the untemptable but until then this alternative is too good to miss for December. Those bigger early-priming roach are there to be had too. The lake is the source of the roach p.b. on stillwaters at 2.1.8 of three decades ago, the best of a magnificent brace and a day when, just minutes later, The Old Duffer nabbed one for himself of 2.0.8 to confirm the venue pedigree.

This morning with, again, very little time to play with, it was back to attempt to tease out those bigger roach that had been active early, a fortunate by-product of this rig-testing industry. It had been a brief frost yesterday evening but, with temperatures due to soar up to 6degC before dawn with some cloud and rain in the early hours, the likelihood of tremulous tench yet ravenous roach became too tempting to ignore.

On arrival it was actually seven degrees but the breeze was biting and I'd forgotten my trousers, or at least my thermal over-trousers, and had to sit like some old(er) boy with a jumper over my thighs looking distinctly as though my carer had cleared-off in search of someone more spritely.

I fancied two options:
A maggot feeder at 30-35m and a flavoured maggot feeder at 60m, both with maggot hook baits.

The result:
4 bites to the flavour in 2.25 hours fishing, all hooked and landed. Zilch on the other. Now there's no doubt that Archie, MI & MP were right.

Encouraging one pound fish to the bank with a slightly over-gunned rod and careful use of the clutch has been interesting in that it has really enabled the identification of the fish by fight characteristics quite easily

So the week ended with a less numerous catch but a nice weight of eight pounds-odd comprising this lovely, yet thermally confused, tench of 5.9:

A probable roach X rudd hybrid of a gnats under a pound:

and two of these chunky footballers:

With an approaching ten days or so to tackle various venues, and the weather looking settled there's genuine optimism in the air, and the water I hope

Monday, 5 December 2016

An Icy Stare

The rivers are running clear again and back at normal level with flow slackening.

The Stillwater would be too still and watery to cope with the cold snap this past week.
The canals had been frozen just a couple of days prior.

So what to do?
A heated aquarium, perhaps.


I hatched a plan via some dubious logic to go to an area where bites would always be minimal thus it would seem no different.

The conjoined Oxford & GUC it was then. Opposite brambles overhanging a naturalised bank.

Bread in front, chopped worm to the right.

Neither area produce so much as a pinhead bubble of action with water temperature just 2.7degC until against all odds the zed float started to trot gently off to the left and I connected with a sedate individual of a couple of pounds that simply couldn’t be bothered to fight

Cut and run to our field on the River Leam. Very clear with the bottom in view where under two feet deep. 
A very tempting swim had formed after the recent high water so confident soared for a perch or two.  

Now you'd guarantee it, would you not?


Where might the canal not be frozen?

Chilly scene
Iced canals fish much better and more consistently than open sections in extreme conditions but the days of heaving interchangeable steel weights and chains on ropes to create that perfectly formed match fishing peg are long gone, even though results would be less buoyant. Besides, playing bigger fish through a hole in the ice is not the wisest of recipes for success.

Protected areas in less exposed landscapes. Close to settlements. Perhaps near boats or where a ripple might form.

It took six bridge visits to find a reasonable option and sadly. It was the same location as yesterday!

A different peg, and more sheltered admittedly, but a worse conclusion. Not a tap.

Deadbait float to left. Worm float to right.
To quit and admit defeat or concoct more hair-brained options?
The latter.

I found myself between a bridge and a lock on the GUC proper. A much better option, albeit the roads were somewhat dodgy in getting there.
A boat had just been through and broken a channel through the ice although where I sat clearly had a crust earlier in the day. It started to recede and as I set-up the floes became less and less daunting.

The cross section of the cut was tapering from shallows across into deeper water nearside of middle extending right into the near bank. Boats would moor here for the lock so it made sense.

With melting ice the subsurface temperature had dropped to 2.5degC but, as is the way of things, confidence was not yet dented, merely pressured.

Again two rods. One with a lob chopped in half and hooked in two sections, flavour oozing. On the other, a roach tail cut from a frozen sample.

The second boat was operated quite efficiently by three girls apart from a little lurch when the controller went back into gear having coasted past me this causing a swirling murklet of canal water to surge right over the square metre my floats occupied. Who'da thunk it?!

No sooner had they gone than students started arriving at the lock cottage for a birthday party (no, I wasn't eavesdropping, they were quite happy to yell the information to each other).

The deadbait float indicated the tiniest of possibilities. Just lowering almost imperceptibly and occasionally moving an inch or two one way or another but, with the canal water still rocking back and forth after the lock activity, I thought little of it and it settled to nought.

A few minutes later I decided to recast as the whole weekend had been littered with leaf issues and the baits could have been concealed.

Something told me to ease into the rig rather than just lift and as I did I sensed a tightening and then some solid though far from urgent digs. This rig was alive.

As I continued to engage with the quarry I was alert to the possibility that any slack could be disastrous and pressure was continually applied. I saw a zander shape under the surface as it kited around and then burst through the surface, it's gills flaring up at me like a can-can dancers skirt. It thrashed itself straight into the net as it peaked too surly and immediately upon lifting clear proceeded to display its chunky self as a new p.b.

67ozs less the net. 3.6.11 and an icy stare
Not exceptional by others' standards but good enough, especially on a day when anything occurring at all was distinctly unlikely.

Roll-on yet more difficult times? No! Milder air is on the way and a breeze to come with it



Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Things Happen

Always an event. An incident. Maybe a string of incidents.

It was clearly going to be very frosty with clear skies and bright sunshine once the day shift got underway.

A more than early start.

In the swim at day break after a particularly long walk into a deep cutting but then a gentle movement of the water gave advance warning.

Five minutes more and the heart-sinking thump, thump, thump of a working boat. This the kiss of death. The massive, surging dark hull growing as it approached through dawn.

Spinning plumes of silt, like black holes into a lifeless world, had strewn the surface at regular intervals coincidental with the beating of the engine.

A moment or two of contemplation. There was no rush to decide.

A big risk. Into the open under clear skies it was.

The finest countryside however. Indeed if it were ever possible to build a pokey, smokey cottage wherever one liked this would be the spot.

In went the tempters followed by the neon sign, "BITE HERE!"

...and bite it did. Out came a treat of a roach preceded by its unmistakable fight after the most unusual bites.

One pound, seven ounces, three drams. Another cracker.

The autumn has seen scarce pickings but, the more so, the larger.

A lion of a dog flops along from the right. The bait was not for him. He sniffed and rejected the possibility. Obviously the finest roach food known to mankind didn't suit his regal palate.

His master moved on having shared the standard 'glorious day, bit chilly though' necessities. Some day I'm gonna break the mould and ask what they dreamt about that night as an opening shot. That should shake 'em off.

Leo meanwhile is nuzzling my coat. And quickly skulks off, master bound.

"He's nicked me pork pie!", I yell. Hearty laughter all round.

The bastard.

Two boats...a change of scenery.

Just as the water settles another, surprising, fish. A hybrid this time around 1.2.

The CRT contractors had done the now 'accepted'...scattered the tall ruderal growth into the drink and left whatever ash poles they had trimmed littering the towpath.

The last peg was very comfortable as I had gradually stepped back toward the bridge from whence this tale commenced.

More boats.

All or nothing now. 3 handfuls of mash.

Ten minutes later, a slight indication. Crayfish, I concluded.

A further five minutes, and on retrieval I lifted into the CRT's dumpings...which started to fight.
Two neat swerves and one surge later - gone.

Nothing more.

Top Six:
(GUC unless *NOXC).

Thursday, 17 November 2016

From Darkness

The tunnel was draughty and nothing showed through the crisp darkness. Just thoughts of images. Throughout it felt similarly hopeless with no sign of an end to it.

As I legged through section after section they were all the same with no light to lead the way.

The sweat built in the mild air and as I searched, agitated, blind, I became more and more lost.

I returned the way I arrived. It was inevitable.

An hour or more had passed.

Still there was no light and, though I cast temptation before me, the shroud endured.

Nothing was there but the smell of emptiness and the drip, drip, drip of incessant damp unsuitability.
Others came and left. They had found the light and went on their way.
Then a glimmer and with it protection, warmth, comfort.

It grew more clear and as it came closer - brightness.

It began to illuminate all around and the day burst open.

I knelt in the glow and as I reached out to touch it - a diamond. Beautifully cut and glintling in the light.

I had stepped into the open and now I could see.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Instant Autumn.

There's no way through!
  My annual claim that this week is peak canal angling time may be under threat. The temperature has taken a sudden dive, day and night, and the extended mild period abruptly ended by quite heavy frosts. 

 The forthcoming conditions were likely to be more of the same combined with unsettled weather including rain. 

 I walked our stretch of the river last weekend and recreated the half dozen or so swims that the -topography allows but the water was dark and clear such that I have written off the possibility of prospecting there for the present. 

 Last weekend the canals were already clearing with visibility generally between 9" and 15", dependent upon the stretch and it's capacity to retain some colour, as both falling boat traffic and temperatures take the sediment and  suspended life  from the water column. 

 While the water cleared however the surface could be supporting the cast-offs of the over-hanging arboreal accompaniment.

 It was to be hoped that the combined impact over the past few days would not affect the chances of fish too greatly. 


2degC. Frost. North-westerly breeze. 

 Trudging the Grand Union towpath early this morning east of Braunston Tunnel the water looked a little clear but it was still quite dark and so I chose a sheltered peg away from the breeze. As the light levels increased however it became apparent that the near shelf was visible over two feet down.

The fish were frantic but tiny. The bait and float constantly jerked around but the majority were unhittable due to their size.

This soon became tiresome and another peg was sought but this produced nothing and I was soon forced to contemplate a change of venue altogether as the water became so strewn with fallen leaves - as though autumn was instant. 

 In the direction of home I passed a stretch of North Oxford Canal that in hindsight would have been more promising. I sat right next to the bridge in a particularly narrow peg with the intention of working my way out into the country.

By now it was 08.45 and boats could not have been long to hit the scene.

Five minutes later, the more coloured water here giving protection and confidence to fish, the float dipped and pulled away to the left underwater.

The moment I struck I knew we were into the target.

Unmistakable big roach. 

How big though? 

 The feeling of excitement at the initial view of a large roach in these waters is promulgated by the first greeness of the back and a certain orangey hue to the fins until they hit the surface and the silver and red become clear. This one was no different and it's size was immediately impressive.

Faffing with two much line out, it took rather too long to net the fish but it was well-hooked and when suspended under the scales it dragged them down to 22.5 ounces, or 1.6.8 in our usual language. 

 Another to slot into the top six for the campaign. 

 Nothing fishy followed but, on the return journey, whispering death. 
The Michael Holding of the bird world. 
The Sparrowhawk, this one a female, slalom-ing the hedge top and suddenly springing on an unsuspecting but, fortunately, quickly reactive magpie. Big bait for this predator but sufficiently elusive in this instance.

 Midweek the birding interest had been stop-off golden plover migrating through Warwickshire with a group of ever less frequent lapwings.

Always a welcome sight in spring and autumn. 
Max zoom is never a good thing without a dslr


Weather - more of the same. 

 The combined GUC and OXC would be the venue with its abundant raven presence and sparse fish population.

Somehow it felt colder. The nip on the fingers like getting fish fingers from the freezer and holding then just too long.

Selecting an area screened from the rising sun this clear morn it was never going to be easy.

It took some time for a fish to fight it's way through the incessant signal crayfish activity but eventually the float popped-up and a 10 ounce hybrid fought like only they can. 

 The hedges were full of tits, finches and thrush species but it wasn't enough to maintain the attention without further bites.

Soon pastures new were sought and I headed south to the Oxford Canal 'proper'.

This stretch I had never even walked before and a quick peek at an aerial view indicated little in the way of tree cover apart from the first 100 yards or so.

As (bad) luck would have it the chainsaw had clearly beaten me to it. The stark clean-cut limbs of ancient willow a hint at what might have been just a few days ago. 

I walked on (with hope in my heart!) and, after a good distance, came across a few bushes that shielded the otherwise exposed water from the uncurtained sun.
There was a worry I might have brought too much gear!
The water looked very turbid for the time of year and was at least a foot shallower than the roach peg of yesterday. Hopes were not great. 

A good while later a tentative lift among the occasional crayfish interest and a 14 ounce roach resulted and that was it for the canal fishing day.

A kestrel, using the breeze lifting it from the high hedge, drifted overhead, muscles relaxed, as I studied the water on the return and resolved that it would be time to return to this stretch (that reminded me of my very first solo visits to the canal in my teens, with pasture rolling down into the water) on a heavily clouded day.


Sitting in the driving seat texting news of an eventless morning thus far I got the call. Sunday dinner ingredients required.

Via lamb, cabbage, carrots and tatties the urge to have a few somewhat irrational moments on the Leam surfaced.

Irrational they certainly were. Never had I seen it so clear. The Leam almost always carries a hint of murk but all manner of debris could seen cast across the bed by the previous flood.

Constant twitches were provided by tiny fish, much as Saturday had started but the fish I sought were too bright to be caught-out at midday.

Last cast and the tip started gently wagging as if caught on a fine twig waving in the minimal flow and on lifting out - resistance. A green chub surfaced of around a pound. "A green chub?", I thought and started to take a closer interest in the bandit that had stolen my bread.

It was a pike barely worthy of the name 'Jack', more of a Jackie, as Jacks might be called as toddlers.

His teeth were no less worthy of his species however.


 So change is upon us. Things will be tricky for a while I suspect. As I write, it is minus one degree centigrade but prospects suggest no freezing nights ahead.
1.15.5  GUC
1.9.11  NOXC
1.7.6    GUC
1.6.8    NOXC
1.4.10  GUC
1.4.6    GUC
16 over 1lb to date.


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Trip Recorder

With bream dominating the last few canal sorties it was with no little excitement that a long-planned trip to the River Wye with some of The Stillwater regulars crept up on us

The other three went down a day earlier and I was able to join them on the Wednesday for three days' barbel hunting

To give this some context, from my own personal perspective this trip was neither my first barbel hunt nor was it my first to the Wye but those previous excursions were as a young teenager after a barbel on the River Severn (managing one of just one pound four ounces) and the one to the Wye was on a baking hot day, with the river gin clear and consequently only a handful of salmon parr to show for it.

To all effects this was to be my first barbel trip to the Wye.

HonGenSec had arranged Wye & Usk Foundation tickets to different beats each day, together with b&b accommodation. All we had to do was turn-up, cough-up and attempt to bag-up.

The scenery was always likely to be spectacular between Hereford and Ross-on-Wye and, apart from being a couple of weeks early to catch the autumn trees in their fully multi-coloured splendour, it didn't disappoint.

On the first day, with the river conveniently up, a few barbel were taken to nine pounds plus and, when I arrived the following day the higher water had become coloured and chances seemed high.

We chose swims under the advice of the landowner but, it being my first visit, I misread the water and fished it badly. I also lost three fish due to hooks coming-off, not being used to their power I had to seek the knot advice (and a degree of emotional counselling) of the others over lamb and mint pie that evening, but contented myself with a couple of run of the mill chub. The river fell around seven inches while we fished.

Next day the river had dropped further and much of the colour dropped-out too. One or two more interesting birds were about - nuthatch, little grebe, goosander - but nothing really unusual apart from the sheer numbers of pheasant on the land. Clearly a shooting party or two were due.

The river was generally shallower than I anticipated and, in the absence of noteworthy features, went for the edge of the main flow putting down a bed of hemp and small pellets over the top with two 8mm red pellets on a size 12. As the water cleared I eased-off the groundbait feeder and swapped to straight lead and loose feed.

Late afternoon the tip whacked over with little warning and we were in. The new 1.75lbs t.c. 'barbel rod' was doing its business and, giving the fish very little opportunity to get started, it was soon in the net. HonGenSec had pointed-out that it couldn't be called a barbel rod until it had caught one, against which there is no counter-argument, and it was now true to its name.

The bruiser went 7lbs 8ounces on the scales (a p.b. by 6.4!) which caused a yahoo of delight to ripple across the stream, landed and unhooked, rested, photographed, rested again and gently returned, this was quite the beauty I expected it to be, albeit there was some historical damage to the scale pattern on the left shoulder. The surprising feature of the fish, for me, was the relative size of the barbules and the clearly visible sense organs in and around its mouth. I can't imagine a barbels eyes have much to do with its feeding habits.

A chub of 3lbs then fell to bread which I had been feeding down the inside under a small willow (you didn't think I could fail to take any did you?!) before, right at the death, the tip was wrenched into activity again and a second hard-fighting barbel was dealt with. This one just 3.2.

It had been hard fishing although four other barbel and four chub completed the gang's catch.

More pie that evening, this time chicken and leek, left us somewhat bloated leading into day four (or three for me), especially those of us who couldn't resist pudding after the entertaining lady-lady subliminally messaged us whispering "Sticky toffee pudding" in HonGenSec's ear. It would have been offensive not to.

Apart from achieving the aim of the trip in landing a proper barbel from a river that would struggle to be more different to my local River Leam the day had passed without any lost hooks. Things were starting to fall into place...or so I thought.

On the final day the water was clearer still, in fact tantamount to clearasil without a spot of colour evident, and groundbait was out of the question as hemp and pellets came to the fore.

We had a false start at one stretch which, being little fished, couldn't accommodate four of us on its available pegs and so returning to different pegs on the venue of day three we went about tackling the inhabitants. Big fish were evident with numerous surface crashes which soon became i.d'd as salmon. I dread to think how many but clearly they could make sport difficult in those numbers, and they did.

I was fortunate enough to hook a barbel early afternoon that I lost to another weak knot and then endured similar misfortune when I had to tighten the clutch to keep a fish out of the nearside bank but failed to re-adjust quickly enough as it headed back upstream and the hook pulled. None of us had anything in the clearing water that day.

We did however enjoy that disconcerting feeling of a river-keeper on the far bank with a shotgun eyeing-up a mink on our bank but we survived without injury, and so did the mink.

A lovely few days, great company, target achieved, even if the fishing was, I am told, below par; picturesque, exclusive access venues; a cracking b&b; great pub food and a chance to borrow The Lady Burton's land rover which was 'necessary' for the visit. What more could an angler want!

Not on a Trip.

Back with feet on towpath this was the last weekend of late early starts before the clocks help us out by donating that extra hour and as always the canal is a risk. Sunday morning it lasted all of 20 minutes before Earl E Riser entered the lock just 70 yards away, cranked the gears with impeccable passion and washed all life through Leamington Spa and into Warwick.

Definitely not a Trip.

Hydrologically blasted from the cut the Leam took on a certain appeal, and in search of more bread from Sainsbury's, the deeper previously neglected sections above Newbold Comyn sprang to mind.

Great idea that was. Four pegs later - not a sniff on bread and so plan C was hatched.

Almost a Trip.

My usual streamier haunt, unaffected by those romantic Victorians in search of the grand public realm and causing falsely deep water, subsequently unnaturally coloured by canal overflow, thought about playing ball. A roach of seven ounces first cast promised much but no more. The third swim ejected 2 roach, 2 dace and a gudgeon and that was that.

Staying in bed was a better option in hindsight. Though I would not have made the cashier's day when explaining that I'd been fishing and ran out of bread, quite why that was so funny I've no idea. Nothing that day was funny.

A Trip to The Hilton

Midweek offered a few opportunities for early visits to canals before work and on the first of those I met up with Russell Hilton of, the now very sadly defunct, 'Tales of the Towpath' blog. He was up from Devon for a few days' and wanted to have stab at some big canal roach and hybrids.

We headed for an area that occasionally produces the odd very big roach and hybrids up to 3lbs but it was very poor. Russell though did hit the bottom half of the target with a hybrid of 1.14 and a skimmer. For my part I had to content myself with a 2lb zander and 1lb perch on small dead boats ('dead boats' indeed, now there's an idea!)

The big roach may have eluded us but at least Russ could go home with a bit more confidence in the canal lift method having achieved half of his aims persevering with it

A Confirmed Trip

Next morning, having heard he words 'North Oxford Canal' emerge from Russell's lips it was inevitable that they would filter through the cranial planning process and be granted consent

At the extreme east end of that very cut I felt the chances of the target roach to cut through the building angling gloom was possible, if not likely

'Mild' is hardly the word for this current spell of weather. 'Silly' is more accurate. 10 degrees C when I landed on the towpath and tip-toed past the boats. Water visibility was around 5 or 6 inches and I had two hours to play with.

Two hours was far too long as it transpired. A good lift bite and solid resistance after twenty minutes fishing, with various crow species announcing the arrival of the day, was all it needed to confirm the plan had worked. No bream fight this one and the eventual glimpse of red brought an irresistible urgency to the pursuit such that no other catch can match.

The line and tightly held stomach could relax with it aquaplaning over the rim of the net and into meshed safety.

1.9.11 of wondrous beauty, that sits proudly second among what is already becoming a really satisfying campaign-list of pound plus canal fish, was the result.

25.7 ounces

A Trip on the Way to a Visit

I had a meeting to attend at 09.30 on Thursday and so, it being right next to the Grand Union on my old match fishing stamping ground, I couldn't decide what to do beforehand. So I resolved to go fishing.


Not expecting much on what I see as the GUC 'proper' (i.e. from south of Whilton Locks to London), as I was not certain of the impact zander had yet had that far down, I set-up in an area I once had the pleasure of watching the great (no misuse of that word here) canal angler Billy Makin and former world champion Ian Heaps have a little post-match competition on some bream pegs opposite trees. Those trees are now replaced with concrete and boats and increased width. In fact it looked more breamy than back in the '80's. (Bill won by the way but that was never in doubt frankly)

Bream did not for a change dominate proceedings this time and two nice roach, just creeping into the challenge by dint of magnitude, and absolutely immaculately presented, brightened that cloudy morn.



Non Trips

Two further visits to that long neglected part of the world were dominated by bream to two and half pounds however and shall remain largely of no more note other than to say that The Old Duffer once again graced the Grand Union with his now rare, but no less skilful, presence to take two of the slimy blighters from my swim

The Long Trip

Current 2016/17 big canal roach campaign - Top Ten:
(All GUC except *NOXC)

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A Soggy Situation

The Prologue.

In the F, F & F post "The Ring around the Bullseye" somebody claimed the biggest of canal roach to be 'loners'.

Whoever that was clearly didn't give the statement due consideration and must've drifted into blogging autopilot.

It can't be confirmed as a fact without aqua-vision and as such must surely be complete speculation but what ejit would write such drivel?!

What I intended but didn't put across accurately was subtley, and yet at the same time fundamentally, different to the message that Jeff Hatt, that currently idle angling idler, picked-up and ran with. The key word I actually wrote was that really big canal roach, and by this I mean those of 1lb 10ozs or more, are "...loners".

Mr Hatt took that, quite rightly, as meaning they lived alone but, equally rightly, pointed-out that roach always live in shoals and that he had himself observed small groups of truly big canal roach loosely accompanied by a few of around a pound. In my case however, with the canals I fish being murky and therefore visually impenetrable, there is no such experience to fall back on but I believe he is right and that it is unlikely that those fish will be loners in that sense. Certainly when on those rare occasions that fish fitting the category above have graced my life I have, every time, harboured a feeling that there may just be one or two more to be caught immediately thereafter.

So what did the word 'loner' mean if not that?

What I meant, but lazily failed to convey, was that they have all been loners when caught. There would be no others following them into the net. Thus the prospect of catching another appeared to be nil. That is not to say they weren't shoal fish but somehow the likelihood of catching more than one at that size was negligible probably because they would have been irretrievably spooked by their lifelong school mate's frantically sudden disappearance.

If The Boy Wonder manages to perfect his aquatic filming we might get some proof. At present it's tantalisingly close but not quite there.


Friday evening.

Having just nipped-out for the obligatory beef curries there is a shroud of autumnal sharpness shrinking over the country side. Not cold enough for frost, damp enough for fog, or sufficiently overcast for rain but, quite distinctly, autumnal.

The weather in the morning should be cloudy with the prospect of rain from 9-ish for maybe a couple of hours but with the wind turning to south-east from easterly.

This forecast confirms that the stretch of GUC I visited for the first time and took the first prize roach of the campaign from will be in ideal condition as the last two weeks before the clocks change run down.




Mild. Overcast. Still.

Up the Junction?
'Peaked early and sat ready to pierce the surface at first light and in this peg one needed to be.

A canal junction. Once it came alive it would be mayhem.

The fish knew this too.

The first half hour was more frantic than usual though, as the fish, apart from one individual prime roach (not a loner, two others primed as tackle was set-up), made desperate efforts to get caught before the tell-tale tug of the water drawn to left or right commenced.

Firstly bronze bream to 1.14 and then hybrids up to 2 pounds 6 ounces (they sure do fight!) slipped over the rim and gave up.

Somewhere in that lot is a roach of 1.4.6, taken second fish of the day
After the two biggest hybrids the action came to an abrupt halt. I fed again but then that dreaded tow started and the arrival of the first narrow boat was signalled.

What a picturesque spot this had been though. Surveyed by typical canal architecture the junction with its weeping willow and neatly trimmed verges was certainly a joy to be part of.

The Kingfisher peeped, mallards scrapped and swans hissed in search of fragments of my bread. All was normal on the cut.

Passing that rarest of canal inhabitants, an angler, as I wandered back with rain cloud confusing the horizon, I was regaled with enthusiastic tales of carp. So that's another target for the future that HonGenSec might just find appealing.



Rain forecast from 7 or 8am

It was a rush to get there and set up before it started. The cloud was thick in the direction of travel but with the orange glow of impending sun still evident to the north. I stuck with the plan to head east and as I got out of the car it started spitting.

I tried to find a suitable swim but so many moored boats sent me back to the car and onto Plan B, a plan that didn't exist until that moment.

Arriving at my peg in the cutting it was so dark as to be a literal headache to see the float and with water clarity probably a touch too deep I did wonder whether a soaking was worth it.

It was also likely that there would be no chance to move swims once camp was built.

Mash was introduced and the rain drops grew larger; enhanced and supplemented by huge drops from the over-arching tree cover. A few leaves adorned the shimmering berippled surface but by 9.30, when the downpour had peaked, autumn was confirmed as suddenly, their leaf nodes strained beyond holding by the weight of water, the branches lost grip of their life-giving attachments and began to recoil into winter.

It took a few minutes but slowly bites started and ultimately, in no rush, 5 bream, as peas in a pod, made a nice net of precisely 10lbs to the ounce.

By now the rain was so heavy as to preclude the walk back so I amused myself talking to passing dogs. Quite a collection today. Cockers & Springers, a giant Jack Russell (more of a Jonathan Russell really), mutts, mongrels and Co., but thankfully only Ollie showed any interest in the bait and by then it mattered not.


(All Grand Union Canal)

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Dream Time?

When James Brindley was commissioned to build the first great canals of England, including our local Oxford Canal, little forethought could he have had for the service he would be providing for this hard-pressed early twenty-first century population.

I was chatting to The Dog recently on an occasional return to the nest from his own pioneering bio-geographing and he was contemplating taking-up an individual sport. "You're too talented not to play cricket", I said, "Your trouble is you're too much like me, you don't like people".
"Your not far off the mark there", he replied.

Of course that was as big a sweeping statement as one could imagine. There are of course many people we like but it is certainly true that that particular attitude that people adopt in groups is a turn off for many of us.

Along the canals I see many many loners. I see people simply seeking to get away. People who need space. They may be boaters, walkers, runners, cyclists, dog owners, heaven forbid even the occasional angler(!), but they all seek one thing, and very little of it involves the transportation of coal.

As an angler it is so massively irritating to get an early boat especially at this immediately pre-GMT time of year when private early morning space is so short, but, you can see that same 'lost in the escapism of it all' look in most boaters eyes at that time of day, and one can't begrudge them long as they slow down!

Yes Brindley and his cohorts delivered escape to a reasonable swathe of a wide community. Where else can you go where everyone says good morning as they pass?

To the present day user that escape is as important as the original civil engineering feat itself in its own way.


So yesterday, following a reliable tip-off, the cross-hairs scanned for roach of a similar flavour to last week's, i.e. very tasty, if not tastier. 

The hints of the hedgerow suggested it was time.

But those that fondle the rudder needed a rudely early fix and within 20 minutes of dawn two such deviants had passed leaving us with nothing but silt soup to behold

The Boy Wonder however had other plans anyway. Underwater filming was on the cards. While I struggled for next to nothing on the fish front he digitally captured roach and perch. More importantly though he confirmed something that has troubled myself, and indeed the hopefully temporarily retired Blogfather himself, Jeff Hatt. What actually happens to bread mash when a boat goes through or when locks open nearby? The answer is quite enlightening and goes to explain why it is so difficult to re-focus fish in a swim after such an event. All of the fluffy mash gets washed away...completely, not just a few inches...and spread far and wide. All that is left are the little harder less buoyant fragments of crust that are contained by the undulations of the bottom (at the risk of sounding like Miranda Hart)

So a decision was made there and then. In future when a boat passes or a lock opens I will move at least 50 yards and start again

I just knew TBW would come in useful one day. All-but 15 years it took.


This morning therefore two bridges were on the mind as I trekked through the country lanes, misty and shrouded in the cloak of night but I ended-up at neither when I found another to be more devoid of boaters' cars than usual and found space to wiggle the little roach bus into.

Weighted down and ready I peered over the parapet to see decent fish topping in an area past a moored boat and there I headed.

Now this was not to be a lengthy sit down. The sky was clear and there was no cover so it would be a case of whatever we could muster before the sun froze the fish.

This turned out to be very little. Combined with the hopeful, if weak, calls of two pairs of bullfinches, the fish were frantically feeding, and so were the crays, but after a roachXbream hybrid of around nine ounces and two bream, largest 1.12 - sudden death. Notably no roach.

The opposite side of the bridge was tree-lined and so, without any hesitation and as yet no water movement, a new swim was prepped with mash and in went the cane-tipped float. Again action was furious, but short-lived with no cloud cover. Three bream to 1.15 and two roach around ten ounces each plus a couple lost and missed in an hour was capped on the day by a fleeting willow tit moving right to left through the far bank thorns, its distinctive call preceding a decent view.

Things were now getting tricky but 60 yards to my right I was able to find yet more cover that would see me out for today, or so I thought.

From that, assumed last, swim three more bream to 1.13 fell quickly to the flake offerings leaving a total catch of 12lbs 3ozs at that moment in time. Another entertaining early morning's action on this ever more bream-dominated canal, the Grand Union.


I fancied a wander.

Those at home had other plans and there was time to spare with the sun being prominent as it was.

Two flights of locks were investigated for likely pounds and likely they were, punctuated as the walk was by a 'chissick-ing' group of grey wagtails and hedges festooned with autumnal fruits.

Sussing that one solitary boat had quite a number of locks to grapple with and rise up through, and with nothing coming down, the kit came out again and, in twenty available minutes, another hybrid and a seventh bream took the overall catch over fourteen pounds but again no roach.

The lack of roach does not trouble me nor will it put off another visit as an overcast day might just produce something more interesting at some point but, for now, I shall concentrate on other areas as the search for the holy grail progresses