Sunday, 10 January 2016

TOWPATH MUDBATH


The Blogger's Challenge has reached a climatic impasse with the multifunctional weather restricting viable options for the time being

The rivers Avon and Leam have regularly visited local pastures and left behind remnants of their presence. The dropping temperatures have resulted in two Stillwater trips without so much as a sucked maggot. The canals have been reluctant to relinquish control of their inhabitants in the few areas not blighted by strong winds or heavily coloured water

Decisions on venues have been taxing with aerial mapping, weather forecasting and dawn/dusk app's taking a pasting prior to each trip

Yesterday and today, with winds of 20-odd mph and rain forecast, stretches of cut were selected which would not carry a great deal of suspended silt and that would be equally comfortable to fish

In terms of tactics, knowing that bites would be limited and experimentation therefore pointless, bread and lobworms would be my choices

Saturday, as I approached the likely area along the muddied towing path before first light, the turbidity looked healthily tinged for bread and equally suitable for worm. Justification possible

This area of the Grand Union was known to be populated by good bream and with a three pounder having eluded me all season another crack would not be time wasted given the lack of other options

A new bucket of lobworms had arrived this week offering fresh opportunity for predator fishing but previously little success had been found in this location, not that this was going to prevent trying

As usual of late, bites weren't instant but the 45 minute rule was again proven correct as a plodding lump was hooked after a hideously extravagant lift of the float signalled action approximately half an hour in but that was to be that

The worm line proved more entertaining as showers swept through and, thankfully, over the brolly I had taken the unusual trouble to pack and carry. A flurry of zander around the pound mark tore into the worm feed and bait but then that too went predictably quiet as daylight set fully in


Today it was to be the North Oxford Canal and I headed for the usual length for when the more attractive stretches are coloured by rain but, having fished there too many times over the last few waterlogged weeks and bored myself, it was time to turn right at the bridge and by way of variety. The breeze caught the surface in that unkempt 'too unsettled to ripple' manner the air has of creating false bow waves and depressions on the surface. Then, on the bend, rippling and a real chill

I toyed with a peg in the open opposite rushes but decided on a spot between a high hedge behind me and small willow and thorn bushes opposite. The far side looked shallow but there was a promising depth down the boat run and so it was this that I attacked, but then that will be no surprise.


Bread straight in front with mash spread over a five foot circle and chopped lobworm to my right toward the base of the near shelf

On this occasion bites were instant and it took some effort to drag my eyes away from the indicators to clock the various ravens, identifiable by their equally varied voices, flying back and forth over the raised landscape to the north of me. A good fight, not a bream, not a perch (on bread it wouldn't be), but the red fins were of course the give way. Another of those fish with an orange tinge to its flesh, this time on the chin. This one was going-on the for a pound and a perfect start to the day


From this moment for 30 further minutes both rods were very active and, as per a similar recent event, at one point I had a bite on the tip while landing a bream of 2.7.8. I netted the bream and then struck into and played a perch of 1.11.8 until it was beaten. I then hung it in the side against the quiver-tip with it pulling, weakened, against the rod along the near shelf while I unhooked the bream and then netted the perch and popped it too into the net

Common gulls occasionally swept down over the canal presumably sighting my struck-off pieces of bread but then turning sharply away upon realising that I was the source of these inadvertent offerings. The ever-present moorhens however were keen to steal them and delicately peck them to manageable pieces under the overhanging branches of the far bank

The fish kept coming for around three quarters of an hour with bites on whole lobs more closely spaced that the more intermittent yet very certain enquiries on bread flake and, with the smallest fish at eleven ounces the catch soon built-up although as many bites were missed on lobs due to the huge size of bait I was using, but, with a challenge canal perch of 2.11.0 already on the board, only a bigger one or a decent zander will trouble the virtual scorer

Again a couple of dogs were affeared of this hunkering shape by the water and one refused to come past me altogether. Yesterday a strange looking presumed spaniel-cross mutt with divergent eyes came right up and barked like a lunatic as I chatted to it. Prior to that a massively chunky golden retriever was equally on the back foot until it saw a friendly face under the hat and then was happy to approach on the way back. No bread was stolen this weekend though, oh no. When you're down to your last couple of slices...

So as the bites petered-out and with two dog walkers coming from the right I heard someone else passing from the left in extremely rustly clothing.

"Had much?", came the question.

I looked up to see a lure angler standing by my side right on the waters edge. Respect for other anglers came to mind but I kept my own counsel.

"A few bream", I replied, then "Oh, you're lure angling? I've had some decent perch on worm too if it's any help" (I could be polite at least).

Distracted by his presence I had not noted the first narrow-boat after day-break in stealth mode from the left but quickly removed both rods from the water.

His accomplice appeared, older and, seemingly somewhat better versed in angling etiquette, he stood back, albeit he was wearing red. Why is it that some lure anglers need no watercraft or subtle cladding and yet the rest of us can instinctively feel the fish drifting away if we make any kind of false move? I appreciate the technique requires a certain prominence to make it physically possible but really  

Off they wandered bemoaning the fact that my bites had dried-up and that they hadn't got up early enough. For my part I decided, "Time for breakfast" and exclaimed as such to yet another passer-by. Honestly I don't think anyone nearby could have slept Saturday night; there were two cyclists and a dog walker through with head-torches before it even got light, while I was unpacking the car in fact. Surely we anglers have the divine right to be there first. After all it's our job isn't it? What is going on out there?!

I slowly wiped the sloppy mud off everything in this quagmire of a length of bank and awaited the moment when no one was in sight to empty the net. The lure anglers came back past...nothing

"Do you tend to lose many lure's on snags in the canal?", I asked

"Not as many as we used to", came the reply

Make of that what you will

I shared the fact that The Boy Wonder had caught a pair of pants on two maggots last week, which summed-up our combined blanks, and off they went pushing more fish along in front of them

Many moons ago regular winter matches were run on the Leicester Line, or Arm, of the Grand Union in Northants and, early mornings, the water would often be quite clear. It was no coincidence that the anglers on the end pegs or those pegged where the towpath was shrouded in bushes, boats or rushes, would catch 'all' the fish. No, watercraft is not optional if one wishes to make the most of one's opportunities and maintain those of others

Anyway back to the subject. As I slopped around like a wallowing carp eventually the path cleared and I was able to lift the fish out to weight them one-by-one as I put them back. Five bronze bream, three perch and the roach. 9 fish for around fourteen pounds, six ounces and all caught before 8.30 a.m. when sunrise is at 07.30hrs. I couldn't recall my best catch from the NOXC but it wouldn't be far off this one way or the other


Then I had the idea of photographing one as it slipped out of my hand into the water...
It didn't go well

So as regards challenge points. I, for the fourth consecutive time, only managed to add the odd point for a three ounces larger bream than before. It really is getting difficult now and until the weather becomes more settled that will not change

I, somewhat sadly, took the trouble to estimate (if things went perfectly to mid-May) that I would still be some twenty points behind Russell Hilton who is in second place overall, but you never know, miracles have already happened to many in the competition this season and so there will be others yet I am sure

Mouse Update:
New babies for my birthday

Bubble and squeak

Bubble is black with two white circles and squeak is golden. Training will commence this week