Struggling to reach the 90-odd yard target in a brisk easterly the birds become ever more enchanting. As they have this past fortnight with the traditional unpredictable feeding of close season fish pushing interest in that direction.
It would have been easier to have targeted and plundered the canals at what is a peak time for their unsuspecting larger inhabitants but I fancy something more exciting, potentially shocking even, having met that challenge head-on 3 years running, and have now largely plumped for fish so large I cannot imagine what kind of mental turmoil they will spread once banked.
The largest fish I have ever admired on the bank was a pike sneaking gently into double figures this past winter...canals produce very little of that calibre!...yet that fish, and large still-water predators in general, leave me somewhat cold.
Meanwhile as I sit awaiting that one hell-breaking loose bite the migrants are flooding in. Martins and Swallow, warblers and a first Cuckoo, turning the real world from a winter rustle to an exuberant spring the moment they alight on this island.
In a massively converse parallel the last remaining golden eagle in England is 'missing, presumed dead'. A twenty year-old male without a mate in recent years and the last of his majestic kind. Hopefully the strong Scottish population will burst over the border and repopulate in the future but how likely is it, really, that they could survive in this land where disturbance is now standard, nay encouraged, and habitat diminished?
Having spent the first few weeks of the bloggers challenge seeking the impossible so do I end it in the same vein. Sadly I'm no Martin Bowler. I do however have some exceedingly generous mentors in this big fish hunting lark and so the possibilities are narrowed such that with a touch of luck one never knows it might just happen.
A singular sortie towpath-side did add a pound or so to the Zander column a week ago and offered a reminder of what a fish feels and looks like after so many bite less hours in a new world. A first ever canal fish on a dead bait too. How times have changed!
Somehow the contrasts of light lift-bite float fishing for pound roach and link legering lobworms for perch via free-lining for chub on a small river, to feeder and float fishing maggots and hemp for tench to this little lot...
...seems a nice mix of possibilities. It simply requires a full year of matching the application of techniques and tactics with correct seasonal timing to see what might just be possible.
And that's where I do struggle.
Ag'in the likelihood of this monster capture sits the advice Hon Gen Sec supplied at 7.37am one recent morning that The Stillwater, erm water, is 5°C colder than this time next year.
Surely I meant 'last year' there didn't I?
Yes I did.
So, the decision was taken not to throw absolutely everything into this project but to slip in the odd canal-side sojourn too. Not least to maintain hope and, thereby, sanity.
Armed with this wise tactic I managed just under 2 hours on the Grand Union in my silver bream haunt thinking that the sheer numbers of fish present must, in turn, mean sheet size of predators. Certainly it is the only stretch of canal I know where great crested grebes fish daily.
This was the result. A catch of 10lbs 4ozs:
...and although I was secretly hoping for a decent zander or indeed a pike the only run on a roach head met with no connection but the bread line added some 26 inadvertent points to the Bloggers' Challenge by way of a rudd of 0.15.8; a surprise, and always welcome, bonus tench of 1.14.8 and a lovely silver bream, right on cue, knocking the P.B. door at 1.3.0
So maybe there is still hope in the challenge yet with around 20 days to go before Russell blows the whistle on the years competition.