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.


AUTUMN/WINTER 2016/17 BIG CANAL ROACH CAMPAIGN
Top Six:
1.15.5
1.9.11*
1.7.6
1.7.3*
1.6.8*
1.5.13*
(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.
 
Safety.

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. 
 

 ---- 
 

 SATURDAY:
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

  ---- 
 

 SUNDAY
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.
 
----
 
BIG CANAL ROACH CAMPAIGN 2015/16 TOP SIX:
 
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.