Friday, 4 October 2019

Gold Mines and The Wrath of Zeus



The recent distinct chill on leaving Chez Flannel signals the start of the Bloggers Challenge proper in the vortex that is the space between the ears.

A change of rules this year, and so far it's proven quite intriguing.

If someone catches a fish bigger than the previous best of that species it gets 100pts, and the prev best a %age of that new top weight. So, covering all regular species right down to bullhead and spread across rivers, lakes and canals, there is plenty to target, year round.

What it does mean is that no one can sit on their laurels and, in fact, for me it's very much been the usual approach of piling fish onto the leader board, no matter how small, and then trying to better them as the year moves on.

In the last challenge of 2017/18 I recall setting a  series of unexpected P. B's but as I was starting that competition with the PB bar set very low that wouldn't have been difficult. Now that they are set, and some have since been further improved, none have been broken to date this time. It's a struggle therefore to pick out highlights but a river tench of 4lbs 3ozs from the Fens and a cracking Grand Union roach of 1.12 stand out at present.

On the downside, perpetual champion, James Denison, has been laid-up by a serious back issue (and, no, that's not an injury caused by old copy of Financial Times) so his challenge hasn't really fired-up as yet but we all know the threat he'll pose when fully functional so it's useful to get a head-start!

----


The Driving Seat
The Lady Burton and I recently agreed the impulse purchase of a little 'pre-loved' river boat moored on the Nene which will trigger a serious change of scenery for us on available free days.

The FF&F bus hasn't been to the Nene for thirty-five years but I'm sure it will soon be able to find it unaided. It's far enough away to feel like a holiday, yet close enough for a quick visit or indeed to get back from when The Boy Wonder sets the house on fire.

Nene fishing it seems is very much unchanged from the old days, I'm told. Plenty of small fish, mainly roach and skimmers with proper bream, chub and even barbel in places...and still the odd river carp.

River Angler TV has taken a hammering, and its creator, Mark, has been very helpful in pointing the noddle in the direction of some good tickets to consider, fishing locations and the like.

From this coming weekend the Nene challenge will therefore commence. No preconceived ideas in place, it'll simply be a case of prepare for anything, and be prepared for any thing. The lure of weir pools and backwaters however maybe too tasty to ignore for long!

The marina, one might imagine, would hold good fish, possibly larger than the river from past experience, and so a beady eye-out for rolling fish will be kept. The margins are certainly teeming with one and two ounce fish of various species, much as one would expect in a pool with a gravel base.

----
A Long Weekend on Rising Rivers

Friday:
Arrived to the kind of car park I have a real love of...empty...just after dawn my minf set on bream with the possibility of a barbel or a carp

The early autumn rain earlier in the week had caused a rise and colouring of this most sullen of Warwickshire Avon stretches. The sort of murk, pull and flush that usually triggers those fascinating river bream to feed (please excuse the unintentional toilet metaphor!)

Wandering the field edge looking to avoid dodginess underfoot I became conscious of an unexpected brightness in the air and looked up to find all of the willows where the bream live looking like this...



So, immediately stumped as I was by confusion and a lack of ideas, this was the thought process:
"What the...?!"

"That's shocking, all that habitat 'tidied-up' and there was a major colony of that moth here"

"Where's the camera?"

"The shoal will still be here though, they never move..."

"...but how long ago were they cut down? It wasn't this week"

"The river could be strewn with invisible branches"

"I'll move back to the unaffected stretch"

(setting-up) "Maybe I should've gone somewhere else?"

The forecast showers hurtled down and the accompanying, surprisingly fierce winds, hurled the rain sideways into the new and remarkably flimsy brolly as the fish, if they were present, stayed in their sleeping bags with their woolly hats on, as The Lady Burton likes to imagine them. Sometimes the peerage rests ever so lightly on her finely sculpted candy floss shoulders.

Yes, I should've gone somewhere else.

Five hours of inactivity later it was time for lunch and to receive the usual unwelcome at the 'community store', where you are looked upon as a criminal while handing over your hard-earned cash if you weren't born within a rod, pole or perch of the door.

After an hour spent eating some very nice smoked salmon and seafood slop between two slices of corrugated cardboard (and trying to apply for boat insurance online via the phone) in the sun I, decided to spend the afternoon in a known barbel haunt in the hope of a double.

I was using the River Wye groundbait stodgy mush stuff I concocted 7 weeks or so back, and they didn't like it. Nothing but the odd sharp chublet twang.

So I started loose feeding pellets and cubelets of meat which happened to coincide with the river taking on the task of a drainage ditch with dirty water and debris from a downpour driving through.
The tip though whacked round and the clutch was giving a touch of line before I reacted. The usual surging run interspersed with relatively easy pumping of the rod indicated a spirited but not huge barbel had taken the plunge.



Soon in the net, he went 6lbs 13ozs and made the first day-off worthwhile. Nothing of note ensued apart from a very active and successful Kingfisher and, at dark, while packing stuff in the car, a voice, "Y'alrightmate...you'ad'oat?". "Just one", I replied, "'You done any good?". "Yeah, I just had a nine five, I wondered if you'd come and photograph it for me".

So, sliding more sideways that actually moving forward in the wheel marks now sodden from showers, the bus trundled to his swim and the deed was done. 3 deeds in fact as, in the first one, mateyboy looked somewhat unprepared, his eyes in a state of blinded flux waiting for the flash. 

He'd arrived two hours before sunset and completed the business he booked-in for. Only to be admired, that approach. 


Saturday/Sunday:
...and then it started to rain, and before we could draw piscatorial breath the rivers were getting distinctly wider. So the weekend proved a washout apart from a trip to the marina to sort out paperwork, etc. In fact, I don't recall Saturday actually happening. 

This included selecting a mooring. There were 6 free albeit it seems a bit of a 'park where you can free for all' in reality, rather like unallocated spaces in a complex of flats but we did find out that the central pontoon is occupied by a few anglers with boats. We had the lamp on them in no time and within minutes realised the angling potential of the marina itself. The result of this being that if we catch anything to even half the size they suggest we'll be happy!

Monday:
HonGenSec had been scheming. Stillwater Barbel and Chub for the challenge was the offer. £7 a day, proper cafe, nice surroundings. Some textual negotiations ensued and before I knew it, there we were. Brollies at the ready. Flowing aerated water, that distinctly off-putting commercial water colour, manicured banks and hook-blind pet carp cruising the surface.

But we were focused. Oh yes, we could blank-out the neon signs and gold-encrusted cash registers.

I hadn't realised quite how many pet barbel there were in the puddle and expected catching one to be a fluke, but no, fishing different methods we both had two and HGS's were the best two at a cuddly 5 and 6lbs, losing another, compared to two juveniles at 3.15 for myself. A couple of nice pet crucians and roach were further reward however and at least we can now move on from that grotesque spectre, Challenge points bagged, and put it behind us!


The rain commenced around 3.30pm and, once started it continued. This was a forever cloud that culminated in such heavy rain on the following day that my four minute drive to work started with me walking to the car in a few spots and after two miles it was so intense the  road was heavily awash as to drag the car sideways on invisible tarmac at every concealed lake of rainwater. Thankfully the brakes did work at the roundabout and it was neatly circumnavigated as we sailed cautiously round, spinnaker unfurled.











Thursday, 22 August 2019

Tesco's finest. The River Wye.



It may come as a surprise, or maybe as much as a shock, to see the headline here, but fear not, this ain't no advert...

The self-styled Stillwater Barbel Group annual August Wye trip was into its last day. The main group had been there since the beginning of the week when I joined them late on Wednesday, having had to work the morning due to a pressing deadline.

The river was falling from a small rise and rain was predicted on the middle of three days. The Wye, being a spate river, runs low and clear with more difficult fishing between the rising, colouring and falling of the water after rain upstream of wherever it is one might be having a dabble.

Arriving at the first day venue to find little caught, and the storm that sent Mr Tidy scuttling home early, as well as causing me not to be too concerned about having to work, to have been another inexplicable figment of a weather forecasters' imagination, was both a relief and a worry, of sorts.

Arriving, just as the afternoon feast was about to be prepared, the, by then, well-practiced routine unfolded. Given the kind use and, as it happened, unnecessary shelter, of a nearby salmon hut, life could have been made simpler but, unhindered by such luxury, an Alice in Wonderland-type scene, both physically and metaphorically, manifested before the eyes of, this, the observer.

Table, chairs, 3 gas rings, plates, cups, cutlery; steaks of both beef and gammon, par-boiled potatoes (were there carp here?), sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and a huge bag of pre-chopped onions. Not to mention the remnants of Mr Tidy's annually hand-made, and exquisite, pork pie.

Thankfully The Lady Burton had donated a loaf of her best homemade granary bread; Bluebell had donated 6 of her richest garden-bug based eggs and a four-tin pack of baked beans completed the contribution of the FF&F delegation.

That feast concluded without excitement but the following day it was far more daring.

Halfway through cooking Ms Y Walker happened upon us, complete with pooch.

"You're a bit early", was the perhaps obvious quip.

 Lacking bankside kitchen worktop space it soon became apparent to the observer (me) that getting all this food ready was not as simple as first appeared. Even with three rings ("give it three rings!") the food was necessarily cooked in relays, so where do you put it all during the process? The only real option was on the ground or on bags, tubs of bait, etc.

Cue the farce.

Three of us became aware of an equivalent contingent of fox red yellow labradors approaching, having formed a kind of advance party split from their so-called handlers.

HonGenSec and I immediately saw the potential here but Des, Les...Wes was oblivious, stooping as he was with his back to them, dispensing veg onto his plate full of tasty meats.

On the ground.

"Mind your plate Wes"

"Wes move your plate"

"WES, THE DOGS ARE COMING"

Quick as any man approaching his four score years and ten could react, the plate was scooped-up before the salivating pack could pounce. Frankly they didn't appear to have been wanting in nourishment, such was the message from their suitcase bodies, but they circled the area licking up spilt morsels like a pod of dolphins rounding up bait fish.

----

There had been a shortage of bags suitable for hemp at Chez Flannel prior to the trip and so lateral thinking decreed a recently emptied resealable museli bag a suitable, and suitably capacious, alternative.

I imagined a row of pre-loved museli bags lined up in the freezer holding 2 pints each of perfectly individually polished seeds.

It was a good bag. Much tougher than your average supermarket sandwich bag and more robustly sealable. As most anglers are aware, keeping hemp fresh for two days without sealing and refrigerating as long as one can is all but impossible, unless you happen to be roach fishing in Iceland (a potential Toyah album title perhaps?).

On the last day of the trip, a day bequeathed as an extra by Mission Control, HonGenSec and I, then deserted by the Mountain Goat and Des, Les...Wes, left the Assassin's B&B after the usual hearty breakfast and, expecting a colouring, rising river, arrived at the Wye to find the water unchanged. We selected swims but at that moment I had that irresistible urge that makes one wish you'd stayed closer to home fifteen minutes longer.

I soon found myself behind the salmon hut wondering what manner of bitey bugs might be disturbed by my rummagings.

This being a posh place I couldn't bear to leave anything behind and so I emerged from the undergrowth clutching toilet roll in one hand and the formerly empty hemp bag, now leaden, in my left. 'Tesco's finest', displaid to the couple who walked by at that very second (why, oh Wye?).

"'Morning", I announced figuring an air of confidence, rather that the air filled with buzzing flies, might help distract their thoughts.

It didn't, Mrs Couple averting her gaze rather too abruptly to have that urgent need to inspect something far off that didn't exist, and no doubt battling the suddenly growing queasiness in the oesophagus.

After 12 noon or so the river did start to rise and it rose at the measured rate of 1"/20 minutes until sunset, when the tide turned. The colour intensified and, by mid afternoon, the power of the Wye became evident.

First weed and twigs, perhaps the odd dislodged log; then branches and, ultimately, two whole trees, one still in leaf, were swept south on the torrent. By this time we had both decamped and taken up new safe positions where the bankside topography would enable a gradual creep higher as the levels rose.

The increasingly rushing river ripped through from a third of the way across to the far bank, but the nearside third was steady with the eye of the building eddy easily reachable and indeed holdable with a 60g feeder and my secret concoction.

Bites were immediate, consistent, declining and finally regular, as dusk closed upon an excellent three and a half days.




This time we caught the weather and conditions right. Each time the F, F&F bus goes to Wye it seems to improve. Privately (so don't share this) I'd like to think we get better at working the river out, but in reality I'm certain it's more a case of catching the river right than any kind of improving skill.

As I stood up to gather the widespread kit, a feeling of dampness overcame me in a department not without incident this same day. A massive orange slug had fallen down the back of the chair and I had been sat on it for forty minutes or more. The slimy undesirable, indescribable gungy mess has soaked through to the skin. Beautiful.



As I trudged, dragging my reluctant self, back to the car and ultimately home, I was reminded of those events earlier in the day; the bag of Tesco's finest leaning against the rear wheel to be picked up, packed away and, later, properly disposed of.



Next August I hope to be back again for what has become an annual and quite irresistible pilgrimage.








Sunday, 28 July 2019

The Intentional and Unintentional Roach Angler

Strange Roach?!
The, so-called, tench campaign out of the system, it was time for a new challenge but not before the usual period of indecision when confronted by the sudden ditching of a plan, and this was an end as abrupt as Thomas crashing into the Fat Controllers house at breakfast time

For a start, no feelings arose as a guide for that next step. Nothing at all in fact. So we had a few canal dabbling sessions (resulting in some tenchlet's strangely enough, I'd only had 3 tench in a lifetime minus 10-15 years on the Oxford canal, yet in two trips another six were added with only two over a pound). 

Good signs. I'm certain most of these 'exotic' canal captures come from adjacent fisheries that, over time, for various reasons, end-up with their contents mingling with the established fish populations of the canal. In this instance they have obviously since bred successfully

So that was an interesting interlude but, to be frank, it produced insufficient water to float this angler's boat

Then a chance chat (while clearing the car of the spare gear) with Committee Keith provided the answer, the Lure Wizard then concurred and Bailiff 1 soon confirmed without any necessity for a preemptive retaliatory strike - big roach were being caught at Rocky Res.

Okay, that's interesting, but it's summer. We don't fish for roach in the summer!

But hang-on a minute, The Old Duffer used to.

In the late 1970's the holiday destination for anyone who was anyone in angling from our part of the world was the Great Ouse. A sixty-mile/80 minute trip to, what we then considered, angling paradise. Catching fish in the heat of July and August was boosted by early and late sessions combined with all day trips using a single bait, in fact, as far as the hook went, a single bait

In those days the (roach) pole was in its, early stages of renaissance but, as with all things angling, the technique would ultimately transform many an angler into a fish catching machine

The Old Duffer was one of them

I can see it now - iconic 22' Shakespeare pole (very dark brown/black with gold taped bands and a white wrap on the centre of the handle); Ivan Marks bristle float, black and slenderly bottle shaped like the Milo 'Siro' that would follow in the '80's; classic Mustad 90340 barbless hooks ("You can't use barbless hooks, all the fish'll get away!", "Not as long as I pull back they won't!"); bait waiter, comprising metal baitbox-shaped square 'hoops' on a bank-stick; a circular 'spoon' landing net with handle to match the (roach) pole and a ring around the base, like one section of a keepnet; a wicker basket ('seatbox') and, finally, a bag of just-cooked hempseed, as fresh and gorgeous smelling as possible.

There are many good tales emanating from the use of hemp in fishing
¬ It drugs the fish!;
¬ It only works at harvest time;
¬ You should cook it in 'bicarb' (bicarbonate of soda) to make shells go black to contrast with the white shoots. 'Problem being, cooking in bicarb also turned the shoots brown so we soon sought non-other than, then World Champion, Ian Heaps' advice, "Cook 'em in sugar", he commented, and so we did. Not just black with white insides, but they also tasted good (I'm told!).

In 1976 we had a summer like 2018. Wall to wall baking sunshine. The Old Duffer was fishing with the above gear and trickling in a few grains per slow run through, the river being low, until the roach were sent into what can only be described as a frenzy. Ultimately they were so mesmerised by the bait they were literally eating anything that floated past within the feeding zone; leaves, flies, feathers, nothing was safe. It was only roach though with just the odd hybrid amongst them and generally 3 to 6 ounce fish with occasional bigger ones. Thirty pounds and six ounces of them, culminating with the fish so close they were simply swung to hand

...and so it proved everywhere we went. There was barely a venue where hemp didn't work under those conditions and it appeared to draw the fish from a good distance but, as the Somerset Shubunkin noted recently, they were fish one wouldn't even suspect to be there were it not for this, the most magic of baits.

Armed with these memories and the knowledge that big roach could be drunk in on the rocks, off
we set with 10m pole and a few grains per 'cast', maggot on the hook but immediately small rudd were pests. A swap to double caster produced a, string of perch in the 3 to 6ozs bracket and then slowly but surely bites on hemp started to occur just tentative at first but with a bit of fiddling with the depth combined with the breeze, and therefore an undertow striking-up, it wasn't too long before perhaps every third bite was a proper one.

First fish was a 12oz beauty (and another thing these hemp roach were immaculate, strange for a heavily fished water)


The list I jotted down went like this:
12ozs, 9ozs, 7ozs, 8ozs, 2ozs, 1.0.0, 2ozs, 6ozs, 7ozs, 10ozs...and...1.3.10, 13ozs, 1.1.0, 14ozs.

The best of the lot
Those last four fish all taken with a mid-depth bulk and a few droppers, held tight against the pole as it settled and all of them taken with ferocious bites on the drop; just as I had to leave.

Unfortunately the next fish in the sequence was dear old Cypry, leaving the rig and elastic looking like a schoolgirls multi-coloured string collage.

It was time to go anyway. Back in the day, hemp was one of the most successful baits I used, so quite why it has taken so long to remember this when I'd had such confidence in it is beyond me, but then, many things are it seems.

So, to add mystery to the mayhem, I went to the canal. To an area of the Grand Union I could rely on for bream, and big ones. Feeding maggot over groundbait towards a tree opposite for those beauties  but with a separate hemp line near side of middle to the right, purely as a change method.

Needless to say, I had one small perch that must've been irritated by a grain of hemp for some particular reason and then a huge canal roach of 1.12 on the double maggot bream rig.

Fourth biggest ever canal roach...by accident!
The all-time F,F&F best canal roach list now looks like this:

  1. 2-3-10 (2013) Oxford
  2. 1-15-5 (2016) Grand Union
  3. 1-13-0 (2015) Oxford
  4. 1-12-0 (2019) Grand Union
  5. 1-11-8 (2015) Grand Union
  6. 1-10-0 (2017) Grand Union
Fishing. It simply makes no sense!




Wednesday, 17 July 2019

... AND THEN DESPERATION SET IN


There were eighty to one hundred hours of opportunity, occasionally punctuated by bursts of excited activity from our aquatic adversaries that would make a spod rod curl, and in all that time around seven or eight real indications of fishy presence plus one actual, positive, definite, undoubted bite

Fish brushing against the line is one thing but a proper bite? Well that was simply an unwelcome interruption to the interminable slumber


The target, I recalled, had been a tench. 'Consensus was The Stillwater could produce a 'double' this year, with 2017's best around 9lbs and last year's 9.8

Certainly, the water was slow to warm up this spring and, when it did, a burst of persistent easterlies injected the type of temperature drop that would resurrect Damart. The odd few fish caught in that period clammed-up with their brethren and cousins, and, to this day, have barely shown any willingness to accept the anglers bait

The crux of the problem is that the density of natural food available in the fishes own habitat is so deep and diverse that anything needing anglers bait to survive is either already close to death or too incompetent to be referred to by whatever name humankind may have imposed upon it

Baiting every two to three days, and fishing an evening and a morning pretty much every week, from March until the beginning of July became the normal routine. Running the gamut and vagaries of accommodating birders (thank you folks!) to access the swim, off-roading for about a mile in a, so-called, 4x4 and inundating the grill with grass seeds in the process, fascination turned to determination, turned to obsession and, ultimately, simply to boredom

Yes, the birding was good initially but, as summer ignites, the bird world takes a inversely proportional dousing in the adrenaline stakes

There were a few though, osprey, hobby,'Channel' wagtail, even a possible, unconfirmed, nightjar, together with an array of butterflies and dragon or damselflies to keep the unrelenting lister in currency

Recently emerged black-tailed skimmer I believe



What were we taking about?

Oh yes, tench!

So, it being Bloggers Challenge year, under new rules, I figured a 9lbs+ tubby tinca plus the odd spin-off specimen in the process would be a great start come the sound of the nationwide starting pistol on June 16th

At least it can be confirmed that the real bite came after that date. 80-100 hours, 50-odd pints of bait, 680 miles in 25 minute trips, an unhealthy ingestion of Ronald's finest sustenance at awkward hours, but a 'nice' fish at seven pounds four ounces for sure


Well, jigger my kumquat, or should I say, "Blimey", what a campaign for that reward!


A pic?

Oh go on then...









Saturday, 13 April 2019

Life in the Old Bog yet



Minus one and the iced mist drags itself from the water in an almost imperceptible spiral of a farmhouse in diameter.

Undeterred, the cacophony of April strikes up as the sun burns though the silhouettes of trees as if whitefire lies behind.

Then as a squeezed irregular shape, rays bursting through the stout timbers of a hundred years standing, the earth's candle fires up.




Beneath the surface those mucus encased shoals start to dream, but they dream of the confidence of dusk.

Teetering over the margins, the butterbur, having thrust out of the now frozen ground, stand reluctant, their florets pendulous, as if ashamed of their emerging splendour.



This is spring in these neglected parts that only the chiffchaff and its cousins appreciate sufficiently to return.

As that most modern of woodpeckers, the great spotted, drums a beat on a galvanised steel mast the wide-eyed silver bream, bathed in sky blue iridescence and salmon fins, lies spent and still in the magnificence of its defeat, teased again by the most lowly of baits.







Monday, 1 April 2019

SEASON FINALE & SYNDICATE OPENINGS



A BACK END CHALLENGE

Daylight gone, gales dropping, beta light wagging gently in the post-peak flow, as it had through the previous hour. The few items in use were pushed back into various pockets and whipped up and over the hood such that it nestled comfortably under the right arm. Rod and net in right hand and chair in left, the vacant walk back across the meadow progressed, the sheep now invisible, as progress was made the glow of the rod tip bobbed like the lure of a deep ocean angler fish illuminating the way.

The perennial challenge had peaked in recent weeks at around three and a half pounds. That 4lb Leam chub still eluding capture. That fish does exist however, of that we can be certain. A recent acquaintance has had two or three around 3.13 and the closest we got this past season was but a minnow short of the bullseye.

Coupled with this though, fuelled by extensive research and inquiries, was an as yet unwritten target of increasing the river roach P.B. At the time this particular line of enquiry was gestating, memory (never a good source of accurate information) announced that the river best was a 1.4.6 fish from Leamington A A stretch, perhaps a handful of years ago. However, in a rare moment of I.T. enlightenment, a list of best roach appeared out of nowhere; this included, not one but two, fish of 1.8 - one from the Trent and one from the Warks Avon - in the mid-1980's.

The plan was simple, concentrate on local rivers most likely to produce the biggest roach and, when time allowed, start to suss-out and understand the River Severn as the only river within about an hour of Chez Nous known to contain more than the odd individual over two pounds (being, of course, the ultimate target).

The challenge bar had been raised and with plans afoot to break this barrier, a twelve ounce Warwickshire Avon fish being the best to date, the tension became palpable.

In attempting to narrow viable options, a list of potential rivers and venues was drawn-up based on distance combined with their potential to issue forth 2lb fish, this on the basis that fish of that size would be newsworthy and traceable via published reports. Limited areas of Warwickshire Avon & Leam, the Severn. Nothing else.

In these parts of Blighty the prospect a 'river 2' is comparable with an ageing plum tree most unlikely ever to bear fruit. More than the fish of a lifetime in truth, the phrase implying the possibility in every anglers lifetime. Not so.

So, should these fail, I promised myself a trip south as the sunset on a scratchy season to tackle a chalkstream or two, guided by local wisdom.

The first session on the Blogger's Syndicate stretch of upper middle Warwickshire Avon was tough, fishing the deepest hole, but as the light faded into a frosty grave, a 12ozer found irresistability in the face of a grain of corn, but, despite lingering in the spreading sparkles brought to life by moonbeams, no more.




Christmas, and a Birmingham Anglers Association (BAA) 'book' (nowadays disappointingly a card and a mind-blowing venues map book) arrived. Come January 1st it would be possible to begin sampling the delights of big River Severn roach.

Pouring over various forums, some good, some plain irritating, a pattern started to emerge. Firstly that Severn fish hadn't been really been written about for a handful of years, secondly reports suggested they tended to be caught mid-river in summer on pellets and, finally, that a noteworthy portion of those river locations reputedly held good shoals in winter.

On the basis of this loose information HonGenSec & I hatched a plot to start targeting the river over a couple of long weekends, January to March. He for barbel and chub, parallel with this roach commitment.



Overall we spent four full days together on the river plus a couple of hours when we met before dusk at the tail of my compadres fifth day.

A tactic was hatched to start on the float where possible after bait dropping and loose feeding caster with a touch of overcooked hemp, such as to not preoccupy any fish. Various tweaks to this approach were applied until settling into a routine of 2 hours float fishing, followed by a 30g feeder just below the upstream and of the 'trot' and a light straight lead halfway down on the same trotting line.



Three things became apparent in this process - the fishing was generally poor, many anglers were blanking; it worked for barbel and chub but there wasn't a roach to be seen!


4lbs 10oz Severn Chubster. Little point hiding the mug now its all over YouTube!

Best Barbus went 8lbs 2ozs and took some taming on a 16 fine wire roach hook

In desperation 38 angling hours into the Severn campaign a local tackle dealer offered the following nugget, "The cormorants have herded all the roach into towns and the only place you can catch them is under bridges". That didn't fit the criteria at all and at that point the back-up plan came to the fore.

Thus far, approximately 50 hours in total and one 12oz Warks Avon roach to show for them, and with the end of the river season zooming-in, it was time to take-up the very kind offer of James Denison's generosity to pursue what would, with any luck, be first-ever chalkstream fish.

An monotonous trip down a Monday morning motorway lead to the meeting point in an urban setting. Rolling through it though was a stream that defied its surroundings and survived as a viable ecosystem despite the pressure of civilisation pushing, squeezing and towering over it like a mid-pounce leopard, the spots of which would never be lost but only grow yet larger.

First area, a mill pool, produced it and it alone. A three ounce roach of such immensely striking colours and contrasts that it could easily have been a different species compared to its pallid Midlands brethren.

The life in this challenged stream had to be sen to be believed. Even the laundry had water lice living in it



Moving on, scaling walls, running the gamut of traffic, joggers, people with the perennial question preceding the movement of their lips, dogs (and of course their proceeds), other anglers and life itself we tested-out another area where the machinations of society displayed in all their dubious splendour.

Notably, all swims were nothing like anything experienced anywhere before. Rapids, slacks, back-eddies, features largely comprising the trappings of human occupation rather than the natural, comprised the watercraft exercise of the day. In a nutshell the bottom was visible in 2 to 3 feet of water and it was a case of flicking a float into the darkest, most mysterious areas of water, and finding the fish by trial and (plenty of) error.

Once an out and out river angler, the rust had grown so think in the joints that the supply of skill testing swims took all day to (not quite) get used to, but occasionally a trot would be about right and the resultant roach - big, bold, beautiful - were suggestive that penetrating oil had made the difference.

The bite was never-ending and the response to steady, gentle feed rewarding.
The best, of four around the pound mark, went one pound three ounces and in between came a couple of lovely dace; the best at 0.8.13 being the best of this current lifetime. Reincarnation? Don't rule it out!



The last legal river fishing day was washed away in the remnants of another transatlantic storm and so one pound three ounces will have to suffice for now.

Plenty of time to improve things next season. 

----



WARWICKSHIRE BLOGGERS' ANGLING SYNDICATE

The first season of WBAS has been and gone so quickly.

I think it would be fair to say it's been a resounding success with some cracking venues trialled and plans hatched for the future.

One thing we do realise is that the will to obtain access to exclusive waters means we must increase our number from ten to fifteen members to cover the cost but also retain the high likelihood of a solitary day on the bank without having to grapple with others for swims. Even then, if we all chose to fish at the same time, we would have a third of a mile of bank space each!

Currently we have access to three small Warwickshire rivers, a prime stretch of Warks Avon and a pool just over the border in Leicestershire that we are developing from carp and small fish to, we hope, quality tench and pure crucians.

So, if you consider yourself like-minded; are attracted by solitude and good fishing for quality fish (in environments as natural as one can still find in the area) please do comment on this post providing an email address, and we'll remove that message from public display before responding with further information (please note that prospective members will need to be proposed by current members or contacted for a conversation by telephone).

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NEXT UP:

A bream and tench campaign on stillwaters when time allows and big canal fish when it doesn't.

Otherwise it'll be the next Blogger's Challenge starting June 16th under new points scoring rules...how very traditional we are!




Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Evolving Situation


The Bloggers' Syndicate stretch of the Upper Warwickshire Avon has transmogrified into a perfect meandering stream over the past month

No longer the sluggish, eutrophic, apparently lifeless ditch. A bank-high torrent has flushed activity into it like steady rain to a recently drilled field. Suddenly the scum-clad becomes the pristine and, to the piscean stomach, comes hunger.

The tinge of colour suggestive of feeding fish, combined with swift narrow runs flanked at bends and obstructions by gentle glides, slacks and tiny whirling depressions easing through the creases and slowly, imperceptibly, diminishing to nothing, had raised expectation to unprecented levels.

Over-excited surface-bursting fish remain rare, but they are now occasional, while confidence and competition for a morsel in the chilling, constant curvature of the channel abound.
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A week ago, the tiny River Leam sought to issue forth all its Chub in one magnificent morning.

Fish were so ravenous as to tear-off with large chunks of crust before the anglers' contact with them could be affirmed. Rod tips pulled round barbel like and clutches squealed in otherwise rural tranquility.

Eight fish between 2lbs 1oz and a touch over 3lbs came to the net in a couple of hectic hours while a match angler harvested eleven of these aquatic omnivores for a catch of over 27lbs the following day. 

Quite unprecedented action. 

Those 19 fish averaged 2lbs 6ozs, a fair reflection of the state of this oft misunderstood stream, it's potential shrouded by a paucity of suitable conditions, and yet it has recently been said this is "A River in Decline".
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So the era when global warming manifests physically in the feast and famine of fish is firmly established.

Clear or coloured; low or threatening the fields; stagnating or vigorously flowing. Such are the extreme phases of the midland river in the 21st Century. A time when partly forced predation combined with the above climatic influences is turning, or has turned, our fish to increasingly nocturnal behaviour.

One wonders whether angling clubs of the future will need floodlights.

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In a recent exchange with that expert Specimen fish pursuer James Denison, we were agreed that we can live with the natural balance that otters will ultimately create once back to a population balanced with their environment but when it comes to the invasive signal crayfish and ever increasing displaced cormorants there is no obvious solution, and, as with all these things, the answer will be considered long after the piscatorial horse has bolted.
What will this leave?

In New Zealand there is a purge on non-native fauna but where would we start, with so many established former invaders and introducees that one wonders what would be left if they were removed from the landscape and how that loss would now affect the indigenous species.

Perhaps rewilding, with the reintroduction of long-lost top predators and landscape-shaping species, would impact these flourishing animals the dissipation of some of which is now ingrained in our culture. The rabbit for instance.

No. It is far too complex to contemplate a solution but, one thing is certain, pot-shotting the odd fish-eating bird changes nothing. If it is man that has changed the balance of nature then it is men that have to live with it.
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Moving-on!...

'Bumped into Zed-hunter extraordinaire Mick Newey on a new stretch of the Leam the Bloggers' Syndicate is trialling just after the aforementioned floods, and prior to the colour completely falling away.

Dressed resplendently as always he leapfrogged my swim at the very moment I had my best twang on the new wand, on its first outing.

Rather than plough the usual chub-likely crease, the day was to have been one of experimentation. The mini method feeder idea recently tested for big canal roach seemed, on the face of it, to be equally suitable for small stream, smaller species.

So arriving at the first swim, a bag of 'liquidised' at the ready, a long, steady glide around three feet deep looked ideal - nothing.

Working upstream, any fish facing away from me,  a deeper hole concealed in trees caught the eye. Tap, tap, quiver, twang and a handful of Chublet was eased back into the protected shallows bankside.

...And so it continued, until we met. The bite was struck sharply and a sparklingly silver fish twirled in frantic action in the clearing water. It had the look of a battery powered silver bream but of course it couldn't be. Soon the net slipped under the biggest dace I had ever seen in the pearlescent-clad flesh.

Now when I say biggest ever, the excitement must be tempered by the fact that I have never seen one over five ounces, but nevertheless the fact remains. Mick felt it could go seven or eight ounces and I underestimated, match angler style, the fish ultimately weighed-in at seven ounces four drams.


Perhaps a feeble P.B., but it was one, and that would do me, and, for me at least, that moment was enough to confirm the potential of the water.

Further swims produced other previous P.B.-shaking dace. All from steady, shaded glides over gravel.

The 'mini-method' displayed an additional virtue that could, just possibly, set it on its way to being a standard technique in the F, F & F armoury; it enabled the swim to be searched without risking over-feeding the wrong area and wrecking it before casting in. The rig could be flicked around various spots until the fish were found and then the feed built-up cast by cast, and, by increasing the stop shot size, casting weight could be adjusted neatly too.
Certainly with more flow and depth on the stream would take float fishing as well but it shows signs of being a tactic to employ with some regularity, and far less crude on casting than a standard feeder set-up, however tiny 'they' might make them.

That said, it is perhaps time to confess that the past as a 95% float angler has been completely turned on its historical, not to say "hysterical", head in this second, and last, wave of angling submersion. It didn't take long for the taxed and diminishing grey matter to twig that the effort and, let's be frank, discomfort of float fishing for bigger fish really is not worth it all that often.
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Catch Mick Newey's blog here

... And James Denison's here