Sunday 21 April 2024

Back in the Red

Over a decade ago the search for bigger canal roach commenced, inspired by Jeff Hatt, author of the long defunct, "Idler's Quest", his methods and his results. 

Jeff and I started to research the situations around each capture even to the extent of a shared access spreadsheet giving us the possibility to find trends, if indeed there were any to find. 

The ultimate aim was to prove whether, or that, 2lb roach existed in local canals, the Coventry and North Oxford (NOxC) in his case, being located close to Hawkesbury Junction, and the Grand Union and NOxC in my case. 

Jeff had taken a couple of 1.15 fish in extreme cold, by fishing whole lobworms over a bed of hemp and we were both catching fair numbers of pound-plus fish with some regularity. 

Jeff of course then left the scene, but I continued for some time in a lone quest which culminated in a 2lbs 3ozs fish in September 2013, which at the time was considerably bigger than anything else I'd tempted with the trusty Warburton's blue.

Around 2020, Eric Weight (who incidentally has started a new blog), and I released a tentative video outlining the methods we had been using in building quite a list of roach over a pound and a quarter, which, it had transpired, appeared to be some kind of threshold greater than 1lb that had proven to be a clear obstacle for some time.

I then found that by feeding more heavily with bread mash it was possible to break the 1.4 barrier and then to maintain the run of bigger fish with some regularity. This peaked at the capture of that incredible fish of 2.3.10 in September 2013 which was immediately followed by an impromptu Pizzaland family dinner, The Old Trout and The Late Old Duffer joined us too, by way of celebration. Photographs were shared. 

After the video was put out, however, the continual effort in compiling the footage left me seeking alternatives with the enthusiasm for the quest truly exhausted and, save the odd trip every few months or so, canals had been off the agenda, until, that was, around a fortnight ago. 

An early close season campaign for roach from Rocky Res had produced five or six over a pound and up to 1.6 but the fishing was deteriorating and so I resolved to give it a rest until water temperatures were around 15°C and the tench might be more forthcoming.

This left me with a quandary that was solved by commencing a search for canal big silver bream over 1lb. A fish of this species over 12ozs counts as a Stonefish in my tiny mind. 

A recent landslide on the North Oxford Canal caused the canal to be closed west of Rugby which meant less, or no, boat traffic and  theoretically, clearer water. In reality this proved to be the case quite close to the landslip but further afield the water remained coloured, largely due to incessant rain. 

After a couple of fairly fruitless trips, west of Rugby, I decided to try the canal to the east of the town and, using the same tactics as in the past it soon became apparent that the fish were still there, and that maybe I had also stumbled across a gathering of big old fish by revisiting an old haunt. 

Four 2hr sessions over a 10 day period produces some incredible general NOxC catches and developed a repetitive pattern in rest of the feeding of fish. 

Bream would be first to show at dawn or dusk but, in amongst them, would be some quality silver bream from twelve ounces up to, so far, 1lb 1oz, which in turn were eventually replaced by roach later in each session and this was where the fun began. 

On the first session of precisely two hours before dusk, 17lbs+ of fish hit the net. This included bream to 2lbs 13ozs and silver bream to 15ozs but the eye-opener was a brace of roach as darkness set in going 1.9.6 and then 1.14.6 on the Ever Rite scales. A best ever brace, for me at least, and some chunky old life-fashioned fish they were too. 

So taken aback was I that I was late leaving, due to having to sit to compose myself after returning the larger fish. I couldn't see for another cast and eventually drifted back home in a dazed state. 

This trip was to prove a template for the rest of the week with no nets below double figures and on the fourth visit a staggering 26lbs of fish were caught in 90 minutes (no extra time or penalties here, but opposition did give itself up rather easily). Highlights of this catch were frankly other worldly, silver bream to 15ozs again, bream to 2.12 but the unquestionable highlights were a roachXbream hybrid of 4lbs 11ozs that took just under a fortnight to land on light tackle, a PB canal fish, and a trio of roach going 1.3.0, 1.9.0 and topped show-type pause...drum roll...2.1.10. 

In the space of 4 trips totalling no more than 11 hours' fishing the following list of big roach was compiled:

2.1.10, 1.14.6, 1.11.8, 1.9.6, 1.9.0, 1.4.0, 1.3.0 & 1.3.0. 

...and to think I couldn't crack 1.4 earlier on the learning curve!

Tactically, nothing had changed since 2013 but when the 26lb catch was being built it was time to experiment. Instead of the usual BB tell-tale for the lift method, accompanied by a piece of flake the size of a 20p piece, I pondered going to excessive lengths manifesting in a AAA holding down a decent piece of crust or a chunk of flake, and it was in this manner that the PB hybrid and 2lb roach were snared.

Who'd've thought it?! 

I had intended to stop this plundering but a few trusted friends have pointed out that it won't last and that I should make the most of it. They are correct of course. The fishing hasn't been quite the same and my opportunities limited but we did add a further fish of 1.7.14 to that list yesterday in bright sunlight. 

Despite being used to catching pound-plus canal roach this spell has been exceptional. I wrote in the past about the impact I believe offline marinas have on fish size and numbers, and remain convinced that these act as holding areas for big fish with young ones harvested by Zander leaving the bigger fish to wander the canals at spawning time. 

Long may it continue. 

Saturday 24 December 2022

Prime Suspect

He was a naturally scruffy and imperfect little soul. Black and grey hair matted and his shins often coated in spare gravy 'for later'. The dandruff fell from his skin like salt from a pot and yet he was the dearest of chaps.

His eating habits were as equally rapid as messy, but always preceded by an all-but terminal, physically evident fear that the food being prepared would not be for him.

On trips, he would set his more perfectly formed big brother off in howling sessions such that would make the rest of the family resort to headphones, conveying the message he was here, there, or anywhere for that matter.

This led me to wonder why dogs howl. 

Some brief research made the discovery that it was thought to be to announce their presence. A kind of, "We're over here, in case any of you can't find us", message. It keeps the pack safe and in numbers.

Anglers, and others no doubt, have often pondered the reason for fish to 'top', the written word on angling often referring to this as 'priming' (though I have no idea why), that is the tenancy for individual fish to come to the surface, roll over, causing the telltale concentric rings of outward moving ripples, and return to the depths.

Given that everything happens for a reason it seems a little puzzling at first glance. What is the evolutionary advantage in exposing one's self to risk of predation by such an action? 

Peak times for such activity are dawn and dusk but it can also go on throughout the day. Again, the question is, "Why?". 

It's not a feeding activity. Fish that are feeding at the surace have a quite different form of action, more aggressive and 'splashy', and why don't predatory fish do it? Pike, and perch? 

It's intensity can vary between species. Chub will crash at the surface at dusk, whereas roach are the gentlest exponents of the craft.

A subject I have pondered for a lifetime, on and off, has drawn me to one conclusion that it is the direct equivalent of dogs howling. A message by the unspeaking to avoid the unspeakable. 

"If you lost touch or are passing through, come and join us, we're safer together". 

It certainly seems to be promoted by stillness and light levels but should not be confused with the propensity of rudd to surface feed avidly at dusk, especially where food in the form of invertebrates has drifted into a certain part of a stillwater. Rudd are generally very  unsubtle toppers as are roachXbream hybrids!

Apart from the sight of large roach breaking surface I have to say the one that makes my inner soft spot glow is the sight and sound of stone loach "fripping" at dusk as they burst the surface of streams in a display of apparent delight in feeling sufficient confidence to slip the lair at dusk.

Whatever the purpose of the habitual routine, it is clearly one trait that has stood some non-predatory fish species the test of millions of years' existence. 

Friday 10 December 2021

A Flood of Opportunities

The challenge of extracting fish from flooded rivers is one of the greatest. Not in that it's the most difficult but in the measure of the pleasure of success against the conditions

The temptation to say, "Against the Odds", was almost irresistible but that would have been lazy and not necessarily true

In these parts the challenge of catching decent 'Stone-fish*' in clear, low, slow flowing water is far greater than in floodwater. 

In floodwater the options are narrowed and the target wider. The former by way of the river dictating the terms of engagement whereas the latter is a result of the fish being pushed into area where they might tightly shoal. 

If I had to choose a single type of fishing to keep me amused this would be high on the list and yet fishing in such circumstances only seems to meet with the unquestioning acceptance a certain type of angler. Generally one of experience, one who has been there before and isn't, some might say 'naturally,' put off by the sight of a raging river. 

Matches, thankfully now back in fashion on rivers, are frequently cancelled under such conditions and, as canal match anglers we used to welcome such days that would boost the turn-out without necessarily boosting the chances of the extra cohort. It had to be appreciated though that there is a distinct risk in running matches in such circumstances that cannot be ignored.

As an individual however, not being tied to a peg, so to speak, opens up a world of safe opportunity with requisite care. 

In the previous life alluded to above I recall fishing high rivers rarely, even during spells as 'a river angler' this was the case. In fact I only recall three such occasions. One on the a featureless stretch of the middle Trent in a club match, one on the Nene just below Northampton, and a third also on the Nene somewhere further downstream in an Open match. These examples perfectly demonstrate the match against individual situations. 

Trent: River high, 4' from top of bank. Inexperienced, I felt fishing where an angler would usually be sat, with maggots (that's all we had) would be best as the main flow rushed past. No choice but to sit there and spend 5 hours praying for someone to end the match early. 

Nene: Pleasure session. The river, a recent new cutting of the main flow, was seriously enjoying itself while The Old Duffer and I sat in a side arm taking advantage of fish, including tench and carp, sheltering from the torrent in steady turbid depths. 

Nene: Open. I drew above a little slack back eddy with a eye that was relatively still. Circumspect feed with groundbait produced a couple of skimmers and some roach that made the day worthwhile with a 3lbs catch; while Ray Mumford fished a long pole into a far bank slack beyond the main flow to take 6lbs of roach on bread. 

The above indicate the vagaries of the relative circumstances. One can be lucky in a match, but the likelihood is (if it goes ahead) that only a few pegs will be genuinely fishable but, alone, the freedom to select a swim or a series of swims makes the deal altogether more potentially profitable. 

Having only fished high rivers in earnest for around 7 or 8 seasons the prospect now fills me with nothing but excitement. 

Such angling is precisely what it should be. Nothing is the same and one has to think on the hoof and adapt to the constraints of each opportunity presenting itself. Often a single swim can offer multiple possibilities - a slack bay, a crease, a steady glide, gaps between overhanging trees, rafts, sluggish water immediately downstream of features such as reedbeds, etc.

Methods are equally flexible although a static bait of bread, worm or meat is likely to be preferred and the scale of the quarry increased from that most prevalent in the normal level river. It certainly isn't a time to fiddle around with light rigs and small hooks as the fish willing to offer their assistance to the cause will likely be the mothers and fathers of those we caught last week. 

Sounding too good to be true I accept there are negative aspects. Firstly, if the flood is caused by an influx of water colder than the pre-existing river temperature, it will usually kill sport until the fish acclimatise and start to forage. This could take a week or more. If the incoming water is warmer however success can be immediate provided, on rising levels, the debris careering through can be avoided. Secondly, if the water is too coloured, it will be difficult to tempt a bite. 

Float fishing is usually a non-option unless float leger or pole feeder are employed as the quivertip becomes the primary source of entertainment when pursuing targets that are only limited by the bait in use, i.e., both bream species, hybrids, roach, chub, dace on bread; chub, barbel, eels, bream on meat and pretty much anything but mainly perch and chub on lobworms. One thing is fundamentally clear however and that is that tiny baits are pointless when the river is up. 

The use of a bait dropper becomes essential when the feeder is not the preference and what an under used, neglected, item this is. Fishing bread mash in a flood and in a feeder, or trying to introduce a few snippets of worm would be impossible were it not for these ingenious devices. So much so that one would be well advised to set-up a dedicated rod for its use; one that is not so soft as to make its deployment a matter of luck rather than skill.

Thinking things through further, pb's of Leam  perch and roach have come in high water conditions as well as Avon barbel, chub and silver bream, the latter of course being known to be at it's most gullible in coloured water. 

As I write, a short shower rattles on the window at 6°C ensuring that the local rivers, Warks Avon and Leam, will maintain their high state going into the weekend. By then it will have been five days since the 4°C storm struck and it should be time, combined with further increasing air temperatures, receding flow and water levels, to glean a Stone-fish or two from a few likely havens. 

It remains to be seen, of course, but I'm up for it if you are?! 

*'Stone-fish' - a term derived from the writings of the late Peter Stone, who espoused the theory that it is usually possible to catch the bigger fish from a swim...and he was right. 

Sunday 5 December 2021

That Awkward Time

Even a steady breeze can convert the comfortable cold to an eye-watering blast. Someone should invent a hat with racehorse style blinkers. 

In the second angling life it has often been a struggle turning from autumn into no winter with any degree of success. It's easier on the canal, with the fish always so obliging and confidence always high, but lakes, apart from Rocky Res, and rivers, are another...kettle of fish, but there's more to like than hittable bites (I'm told)

The last 3 or 4 trips have been brief, often super-local and eye-opening


THURSDAY - R Leam - New stretch - Early:

Smattering of snow, hard frost, - 1°C.

River, clear with steady flow, iced shallow margins. 

Swim scalloped by overhanging trees opposite. 

15g cage feeder with liquidised bread and flake. 

Not so much as a tap. 

There was a big swirl 10m upstream. A bit splashy so probably not an otter and, in the moment, I plumped for a chub. 

Then, noticing movement downstream, I glanced to my right on a river narrower than Sir Jonathan Edwards could jump to see the most brazen of cormorants looking sheepishly at me out of the back corner of its yellow circled eye

"What the...?!"


SATURDAY a.m. - R Leam - WBAS 3rd field - early:

Biting West wind, just above freezing, no cloud. 

River clear, nice flow. 

15g Pole feeder + liquidised bread and flake. 

1st swim one that always looks good but hadn't yet produced anything of note.

Dropping the feeder off the edge of far bankside grass beds resulted in the usual clear water tentative bites from small fish. 

Second drop in, the, "peep, peep", of the king of fishers approaches. 


He lands on the pole not 1.5m from my bulging eyes, bobs his head 2 or 3 times and, to my amazement...starts fishing, looking, apparently, at my float! Desperate to pick up a camera, I twitched, causing the pole to jerk at the very moment he flung himself into the water and came out with a small fish only to departed upstream to render it senseless on a branch before swallowing it, head first. 

"The little bugger!", the exclamation. 

1 small dace came to hand. 

2nd swim, same area but one which has thrown-up decent roach in the right conditions previously. 

Similar outcome. This one a roach. 


SATURDAY p.m. - R Warks Avon, PH stretch - late:

Stiff westerly, 4°C, some sleet later. 

Clear river, good flow, tinge of colour. 

Bread mash to right + link leger & flake on a 2'+ tail. 15g cage feeder upstream to downstream edge of rush bed + crust on a 3" tail. 

Quiet start then a proper wrap-round bite on downstream rod. The fish was substantial and kept deep chugging upstream close in. A short burst took line from the clutch and then it reverted to chugging, this time downstream. Suddenly though it decided to take off toward mid-river and 'ping' off it came. Swinging the line to hand revealed the biggest scale I'd ever extracted from a foul-hooked fish, almost as large as a typical shot box. 

WhatsApp discussions concluded in a stalemate, chub or carp? One thing is certain, if it was a chub, it was biiiiiiig.

Two little grebe twittered to each other upon meeting downstream and paddled out together to quarter the bay opposite me. 

Next cast the upstream rod goes round and the bite is missed but a decent fish is hooked within 5 minutes. It felt like a chub but approaching the net it pulled out. 

3 or 4 further bites of varying ferocity ensued but no contact was made in a frantic 20 minute spell around dusk, typical of a clear river. 


As is typical of early and late sessions, rarely are they without incident, even when the fishing is less than remarkable. It's just great being out there but I did manage a nice chub to round the weekend off this evening

Monday 22 November 2021

Two Weeks & Two Rivers


The moon was brightening and I thought I could sense something breathing, but the sound was continually drowned-out by the sky, throbbing with the lumpy drone of a hundred distant combustion engines

Now the river, at its narrowest accelerated channel, glinted silver as sunlight struck it via the surface of that early evening moon; each turbulent surge outlined and shrinking as it subsided into darkness

Through the summer it is readily forgotten how thoroughly the cup of calm can be drained right down to the very last drop by the riverside at dusk. Everything settles to roost and a whole new everything soon stirs. 

Rooks and jackdaws, tonight over a thousand starling, and of course the pheasants' unpleasant cocophony as they crash-in to perches, often inappropriately selected and then deselected, are the regular proponents of the changing guard. 

No sooner have they handed over to the night-shift than the rustling and chewing of rodents; the last minute piscean displays of ebullience; then the cries, hoots and screeches of owls; moorhen scrambling into bushes or climbing rushes all comprise the, albeit brief, B-side of the day's soundtrack before a general silence descends. 

On two consecutive trips the local barn owl flew straight to me as if to check-out this new and mobile feature of the usually unchanged landscape. What a sight, as they floated without even the slightest sound on moth-like wings. Unsatisfied on both occasions each perched nearby to survey the scene but lost interest as efficiently as they gained it. Voles called (now when I say, "Voles called", I don't mean...well, anyway). 

The little grebe, a ubiquitous tiny river bird, seemingly ever present in the colder months, is easily missed or mistaken for a crashing chub or rolling roach, but with stealth they can be seen in between the reed stems diving for the last water boatmen of summer or perhaps winter  sticklebacks to sustain their Slender yet impossibly buoyant selves. 

The evening was frustrating in the extreme. It's not often I can say I've had 15 bites when chubbing with meat but conversely quite usual to say I've had just the one fish. This however was that day. The first three or four bites were sail-aways yet were struck into nothing. Slow to learn, I held back and allowed the next bite to develop more fully, managing to hook and land, via a crisis-let with a weedbed, an immaculate chub of 3lbs 13ozs

I was no better off afterwards, as the bites became increasingly short, sharp and stacatto, such that I began to consider the possibility of eels. HonGenSec suggested signal crayfish, which I suppose could have been trying to swim off with the bait and then quickly losing grip, neatly reflecting my own demeanour as I sloped away into the mist of the darkening field, largely defeated



To be sat there again; feet in the rushy margins, backside on the bank; was like the reopening of the sweet shop hoping mint humbugs were back in stock. 

The Leam is, as they say, "A funny river"

The slightest miscue and she appears devoid of life. Her appetite generally on the reluctant side of anorexic except during those occasional times when her complexion suggests a flush of rude and ravenous health. 

This weekend was clearly the former, as she lay chilled in serpentine stillness. Visibility was two feet plus, far too clear for more than the odd fish per swim, with any panic palpable, but hope would be a companion.

In flight, fieldfare and the seeping Redwing, flushed from hawthorn and willow, scatter in random abandon at the first morning sight of man. Meadow pipit and skylark continue the winter spread as they filter throughout the land. 

Prostrate willows seemed more prevalent, and more dramatic, than three years prior. 

It had been that long. 

20 minutes of 10g feeder deployment and no bites to show for it, the river low and clear, I slip into the old banker swim. A change of approach to boot. 4 finger blobs of mash, scattered such that they would entice the quarry from its lair, drifted down in the negligible gentle flow to the edge of a previously significant feature, now depleted. There was something about it though, something imperceptible that made it attractive to both chub and roach in the past and so there was no reason to conclude that this would still be the case; perhaps the bed was scoured gravel?

First flick - poor. 

The second? Accurate and short of the spot imagined where the feed came to rest. Ideal.

As is the case with small rivers, one tends to seek-out micro-quivertips to indicate the tiniest of twitches, but when the fish is worth the effort it could put a curve in a 2oz tip without any trouble. This bite was to be no different; the customary tremble closely pursued by a wrap around and what felt like a proper combatant was engaged.

Now the wand isn't made for specimen fishing but it copes adequately with fish up to 3lbs and can subdue bigger fish in open water but this was the Leam, all rushy margins and snag-ridden runs. Initially the fish didn't show any desire for the vegetative route of escape but as it approached the net instinct clearly took hold and there it was being dragged to the surface and into the net before we had to offer it the option of releasing itself before digging it from the debris.

The opening fish of the new era then was chub of 2lbs 13ozs, and a very welcome start!

Usually under such circumstances I might give it one more cast or I might move on immediately. The former was favoured, given the re-acquaintance with the stretch, and in went a tasty fresh flake of Jonathan's best. This time the hook bait lodged in the leading edge of the feature and the heart fluttered like a cabbage white under the gaze of a wren but one gentle tweak and it flipped neatly out and sunk right next to the snag. Needless to say, when such luck abounds, it wasn't long before the tip was arching downstream again and another decent fish was hooked. At first it was a roach, then a chub of a pound or more but the head-shaking didn't seem right and, as it came into view, it was clearly a more than decent roach. Then it turned into chub again and dived into the dead rushes. The landing net turned excavator scooped the fish and all around it up, and at the scales it proved the first river pounder of the season at 1.1.8 and the world was good; for five minutes there was no COVID, no climate crisis and no war. Anywhere.

A chance call to the farmer had resulted in the syndicate getting access to this excellent stretch of the river where the features almost outnumber fish and offer so many options as to make one all boggly of mind.

As I tested another glide I was feeling that loss of engagement, that prelude to the trudge back to the tank, and through the distraction I became aware of a huge but somehow gentle swirl to my right next to the fallen log the bait rested beneath. Thinking initially, "Giant chub", I became conscious of a seal-like shape slipping underwater on the far side between the, now brown, rushes flat to the surface where up-periscoped an old, distinctly grey haired, Labrador head, or so it seemed, and this guy was not happy.

"Humpf", he exclaimed, inwardly, and all breath-y like, "What's going on here? That wasn't there yesterday!" 

His neck so unfathomably long and able to project so far out of the water as to be unreal, this was the biggest dog otter one could imagine, with rolls in his neck like a 60-year old Mike Tyson. He regarded me, for what seemed quite some time, as I too regarded him - with sheer disbelief - but then, he was gone, and the bubble of apparent fantasy burst.

Things do come in threes after all and this day was no different


Sunday 31 October 2021

Marvel at the Natural World

Something has been troubling me. 

Not a recent thing. It's been there for years, a decade, or more. 


But it's been closer to being tangible this autumn, and at last I believe I've grasped it. 


As sure as three pheasants just traversed the nettle-fringed river, bursting from semi-improved grassland into Himalayan balsam. I've grasped it, and, as I ruminate, a train rattles the same way. It's dark now, and the warmly-lit windows are suggestive of an unimaginable cosiness, yet blunted by thoughts of the smell of unwashed hair and trainers. 


Getting out has always been about the countryside (going out having been an altogether different proposition), but the impossibility of writing when faced with the daily challenges of life this past year or more has been prohibitive. 

I am grateful for a lack of  bites this evening as the time is well spent in a brief spell of that elusive clear riparian thought so noticeably absent in summer. 

Baits grow, presentation reverts to static and physical activity is minimised as parents of warm weather fish become more probable via the simple reduced appetite of tiddlers. 

It had always been apparent that being out was preferable in itself, but why? What was it that made it so?

As a teenager the whole feeling of match angling from kit to fish, via the buzz of the challenge and the glow of those little victories such as beating the anglers each side, was the draw. Tiny spools of 8oz(!) french line by mail order from Don's of Edmonton, a Ray Mumford pole and floats, the iconic 3 section Shakespeare landing net handle with white grip, gold and black taping, and spoon net. The race for 100 fish or more and removing necessarily barbless hooks in a flash for efficiency...and never a thought of big fish. It was all about bites. 

Through all of this though (and before) there ran something that continued, and continues, as a perfect thread, unknotted by time, as straight as a line between rod tip and charging quarry, and it could be found in moments such as these:

  • Wading in the margins as low as safely possible (and occasionally not!) to the unrippled surface. Lily pads blending land into gently flowing water. The tip of a fine stick float gently progressing, controlled with the flow; the disappearance, the light splash, the reappearance and swinging to hand of the palpable wriggling irritation of a dace. 
  • A pair of Moorhen tail-flicking and clucking at my presence under a long-since vigorous hawthorn. A boy appears, sits next to me, chatting, and starts to skilfully depict them in graphite them for his homework. 
  • The, now, perpetual presence of otter spraint under wider canal bridges. Suggestive of a mammal so wild; so almost mythical at the crease of 20th and 21st Centuries and so large as to be from another age. 
  • The wind pushing heavily turbid waves up the finest gradient of the sandy, gravelly shore of a low reservoir, punished by the demands of spring, watering the eyes and putting the towel-banded eyeshade in jeopardy. Casting a waggler to the waves in inches of water and finding it teeming with big, confidently feeding, roach. 

All of these things have that common 'green' thread known as the natural world woven through them. 

So is it simply this I've been seeking, the natural world?, and why so strong like the twizzle of a  magnet facing away from steel? 


So what is "The Natural World"? 

Fundamentally the starting point must be whether we agree that man is part of the natural world, and that everything 'he' does is therefore natural too, or whether man's universal arrogance makes everything during the time of his presence, the Anthropocene, unnatural. 

For me it is unquestionably the latter, the very notion that we could have driven a planet to such a state that our own very existence is challenged, is beyond comprehension and all in the pursuit of the advancement of a now largely imagined existence. An existence played out almost entirely in his head. Is man's brain is too big for his own good? 


Reverting to the man-introduced pheasants and the man-made train...

The river banks dominated by nettles the result of a nitrate-rich rooting medium created by man. 

Semi-improved grassland. 'Improved' for agricultural use in pursuit of meat faster, better, and more valuable than ever before

The Himalyan balsam, a now out of control invasive species.

In that brief opening description is captured the whole conundrum and hidden therein too is the nub of my genuine crisis. 

It is not the natural world as we know it that I seek and have sought, as by that true contentment is never achieved. Everywhere, and increasingly so, it is the pursuit of the avoidance of the trappings of man. 

I was sat at a reservoir this past spring and manoeuvred into a position where I felt detached from man. The view of a house in the distance could be avoided if the small willow to my left concealed it and I sent a photograph to The Lady Burton expressing the fact. Yet there I was, briefly believing I had found it, whilst looking out over what was once an untouched valley shaped by glaciers and then carved by a river of vigour and health, dominated by woodland and accompanied by a vast population of other life that we cannot begin to perceive. 

...and that is the key to it, the unending need to get outside in the previously subconscious vain hope of finding it. Finding an unmolested, virginal, unimaginably vibrant natural world that Smithsonian states is only present over 17% of the earth's surface (but even that doesn't go unaffected in some form or other, if only by dint of the changing weather and invisible impacts blown by corrosive winds from elsewhere). 

So, next time we hear the claim that it's not too late to save the earth maybe we should ask ourselves what it is that needs to be saved. It cannot possibly be man, what use is he? He cannot right this wrong so great as to be beyond his arrogant wit to comprehend either. 

The fact, tucked away in the vaults of all of our minds with the lost instincts and triggers we fail to realise are there, is that it's gone. The world when the earth and it's grateful inhabitants all lived within their and each others means, a true and naturally evolving ecology, is gone, and the process can only reboot when man exits stage right. 

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Rediscovery of a Seasons End

So, as I was, saying...

The Discovery was retrieved from the insurance company's own repair workshop last week. Like new, it was. Immaculate, smelling like a car in a showroom and complete with all contents, maybe somewhat stupidly, left inside and, on a personal level, we are whole again...just in time to enjoy the end of the season 

The River Leam never ceases to engage me fully. Whether on the bank or dreaming of it, the little river is such a tease. 

There is a length of maybe three swims on our Syndicate stretch that have intrigued me for the 2 or 3 years we've had access to it. 

It seems perfect. Steady flow, smooth glide, nice depth at 3ft plus along its length and edged by undercut grass beds on the far steep bank (where it hadn't caved-in) been and lined with rushes nearside. 

I'd been drawn to it numerous times but, not until this winter, had it produced so much as a bite! 

A bit of a dabble at the downstream end, where the current disappears under a goat willow, in passing, one early autumn day 2020 actually brought one of those surprising bites where one is going through the motions, expecting nothing from the whole charade, and yet it spoils things by damned well working!

Not only did the tip twitch but it proved a decent roach. The very fish that should be there. 

Since that day there has not been a biteless visit to the glide and, although it remains seemingly impossible to ensnare more than two fish per swim, it is somewhat gratifying that they are showing from there now. 

My guess is that I've probably tried it at the wrong time previously and that it would seem logical for fish to move there in winter, with a bit more water on. 

A surprise chub of 2.14 was welcome on one occasion but with that, and one or two other fruitful swims, the roach potential of this little stretch, reachable within 5 miles of home while travelling has been constrained by Covid, has been evident. Odd fish have been small but a good proportion of them have been over 6ozs and up to a peak of 11ozs. Nothing to threaten the stretch PB of a pound and a few drams, nor indeed the river best at 1.4.6, but nice fish nevertheless and very enjoyable when options are few.

...and so it continued until the end of the season, punctuated by some nice dace to 7ozs.

A burst of (over?) confidence led to a closing day rush of blood.

It would be a three-pronged attack on river best chub (3.15), roach (1.4) and dace (8ozs) with liquidised bread in a tiny 10g feeder on the wand in various areas of the main flow and creases while in a deep slack the treat of a huge piece of crust would lay, irresistibly waving in the gentle swirl of the current.

A fellow Syndicate member, initially suspected as a poacher, was ensconced and awaiting the action when I arrived. A brief chat was followed by a couple of other snatches of conversation between bites which culminated a bizarrely in-depth conflab on rare circa 1980 records, from The Undertones via XTC to Blue Rondo a la Turk. Not the every day discussion for sure but great, and quite passionate, reminiscing as it turned-out.

Three proper bites and two roach of seven ounces and ten ounces immediately after were the limit for the last session of what has been a necessarily limted and therefore patchy season to say the least. Both were taken on the micro-feeder option with not so much as an aquatic sneeze in the direction of the crust labelled, "Big Chub".

The journey home, was not exactly one spent floating on the basis of the result but it was more than comforting to have the bus back, and all that it entails.

Roll-on June 16th!