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

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