Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Those reflective eyes and lights in the night.

People heading off for a quiet Sunday jaunt around the dog poop infested canal at Hawksbury junction, or those popping into the grey hound pub for a quiet pint, would be forgiven for thinking that the Midlands arm of the Rebel alliance were massing for re-enactment of the rebel assault on the empires shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, as the growing throng outside the pub were dressed head to toe in green and spoke a strange language where every sentence was punctuated with a type of fish.
It was in actual fact the meeting place for the local blog bunch, who were gathering in honour of Jeff Hatt's half century and for a the first ever canal roving Zander fishing match that I have ever heard of.

These fish socials as always are a great opportunity to meet up with old friends and new. And I for one always look forward to the banter and as per normal it started well before a single line is cast. Everyone was tooled up with a full array of tackle and raring to go. But my vision of ten plus anglers all racked up in starting blocks loaded with tackle as Jeff stood atop the eighteenth century iron bridge that spans the canal firing of a shot gun to signal go, was only a fantasy of mine. Instead we trickled out in dribs and drabs around 3.30pm. Some had intent in mind and shot off to favoured haunts whilst others wandered off a little glossy eyed in unfamiliar territory. 

I hadn't made any plans of where to fish and sat back a little with Andy to wait and see where everyone went. Surprisingly just about everyone went away from the area that we all know for sure has produced Zander in the past. Knowing full well it was available myself and Mr Lewis trundled the short distance round the corner to start where we knew they had once been and shot four float rigs out over the water.

The first area we fished was a wash out. Covered in the collective debris of most of Cov cut it was number one, barely fishable and number two, sans feeding fish. So we opted to start leapfrogging our way up the tow path.

This was a great move as in the very next swim the first action of the night came promptly. A sail away run form a small Zander, which Andy lost early in the fight signalled a hectic hour just as day rolled into night.
The next run was missed then the third got Andy off the mark with nice 2lb ish schoolie.

Working as a team I sorted the fish as he recast his rod so as to maximise any chances of more Zeds being around. The tactic worked a treat for us both as within minutes of casting out Andy was away again with a slightly bigger Zed of 3lb plus.

I was beginning to feel left out until one of my floats zipped off attached to a tiny pound fish. And although I the blank was avoided I was disappointed that my only fish so far could have actually been smaller than a few of the deads I was carrying in my bag.

The best for me was still to come when my other float which was a bit away from the hotspot buried instantly not to return. This one had to be a better fish as my rod was actually bending for this one unlike my first fish. I cannot deny the whole competitiveness of the match got to me a little as the Zed did it's open mouth thrashing bit in the middle of the cut and I demanded Andy net it as quick as possible. Which he did and a four pound fish brought me within ounces of Andy's weight.

Phil came walking through the dark just as we did the photo and was shortly followed by Merv and his grandson Curtis. As we stood in the murk anticipating more runs we all had a good old chin wag on the only subject on the cards when such a large group of fishing fanatics are out on the water for the night.

Even with more moves made the only other things to come our way a were other anglers as the time ticked away and in the end even the blunder bust approach of four anglers including myself, Jeff, Andy and Lee covering just about every inch of one section canal failed. As we met up with everyone at the pub it became apparent that all the action came in the first two hours just the light faded. Which can truly prove that the fish only fed in that tiny window known as the witching hour.

Back in the pub, pints in hand, the presents and prizes were handed out as the libations flowed and the discussions reached their zenith. Andy took first place winning the prize of a ABU multiplier reel piping me to the post by only ounces and what can be described as an already well oiled Jeff was over the moon with the home made present and the worlds only example of Just for Jeff hair dye. That I must say does not have what could be termed as a reputable lineage ( think hard before you use it Jeff)

All in all I think it was quite a successful first go at this format of fishing match and it could have some serious mileage if we were to again maybe in more favourable time of the year.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

In honour of the humble worm.

The other day I happened across a small red book which had been languishing upon a shelf for quite some time. It had come to me amongst a pile of other books which had been handed down to me by another angler. I am not sure why it has taken me so long to peruse its pages - maybe because others filled with mythical stories and pictures of unobtainable fish have distracted me - but once I opened it and read one single verse I was hooked like a hungry fish! It is a compendium of writings and accounts by different authors and is compiled by a man who only refers to himself as BB. The stories held within in it's pages are nothing short of inspiring no matter how trivial a subject they be about.

As I contemplated in that place only a man contemplates, I read a short verse in dedication to the humble worm. Descriptions of every one of our native worms that an angler may be interested in are followed by detailed methods for collection and storage. This proved enough of an inspiration for me go out and obtain for myself a load of worms from the local bait purveyor and head down to my favourite perch patch to see if that now the weather had settled on cold they wanted to come out to play.

Stepping onto the tow path with enough fresh worms to prize out half the perch in Warwickshire I was in a good mood. There was no breeze to contend with, the air was full of mist and above it all the cloud blocked the suns bright rays. It all seemed just right for once.

Puréeing handfulls of worms into a lumpy soup may seem to most a poor pastime for seven o'clock on Sunday morning but quite honestly there is no better way to attract a hungry perch or two. Although I had to wait for them to arrive for a good hour or so, the first perch was more than worth it.


Oddly that two pounder was the only one to turn up to the party at my first stop of the morning so I moved on to another useful spot to repeat the same process. Again it took a good while for the magic ambrosia to take effect but it did in the end bring the fish in, where my almost free lined patented double half a lob worm snagged a couple more fine perch as it sank attractively onto the bottom.

I decided to try one more area before I left and spent an hour or so fishing close to the car. The sky had now cleared and sunlight was illuminating the water but contrary to popular belief the fish became a little more keen in the brighter conditions. Maybe visibility improved slightly, but a late slew of pounder's snatched more bait as it settled in the water and every one was hooked in exactly the same place.

With my time spent well for once I began to slowly pack away my kit just as a couple came walking past. They stopped to ask if I had been successful in my piscatorial endeavours and just as I casually replied, I squatted down awkwardly in front on the edge of the tow path to pick up a bank stick and heard that most embarrassing noise ever.


I knew what that was! It was the gusset of my trusty thermal troos going for a Burton.

They left snickering and so did I with a face redder than a perch's tail.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A new Day

As far as I am concerned there is no better way to spend a mild winters day than in the company of running water. I have sat back and pondered the current state of things and concluded not to try and force it, but to just enjoy time spent in the wilderness connected to the river by rod and line.

After stepping away from the familiar and dabbling with the unfamiliar I returned with an appreciation for what I know and as a result the Avon seemed nothing less than comfortable and beautiful to me.

Above the water and without the cover of  leaf, every resident of the river is exposed to the quiet and well camouflaged angler. Electric blue kingfishers flash like horizontal lighting, skimming the surface as they add alien colour to the brownish back drop. The methodical thumping of a woodpecker searching up and down the trunks of trees is no longer muffled. Flocks of field fares have appeared in the sky flitting from tree top to tree top, and higher up a Buzzard circles overhead on the thermals caused by winter sun.
On the water different birds busy themselves ready for frost. A pair of aloof swans rummage on the banks eating tender weed torn from the bottom and the shy little grebe repeatedly dives under the surface looking for who knows what, whilst a jet black Moorhen with her bright red and yellow beak picks over the debris hanging on low bows left over from recent raised water.

On a day like this I was not concerned with landing the biggest fish possible - though that does not mean I did not try! - but as I sat and gave that giant its chance I happily pondered the river, its residents and what's in store for both them and me in the months ahead.
I had arrived here with not only the intent to happen on big fish but also small, and the wriggling grubs residing in my bucket would have there chance to perform after I was finished with strong smelling meat and man made fodder.

Just after the last crumb of my sandwich was dusted from my beard I upped sticks like a beast of burden and strolled off downstream towards a likely looking run where I spied rings of rising fish as I'd munched my lunch.
Deep under the bank on a gravel knoll I watched to see exactly where between the reed lined banks those fish would rise and I would cast. For this run looked perfect for a plump old dace.

These fish had hunger on their minds, for the plop of my weight had barely reached my ears before the first enquire arrived. Silver roach with genes both myself and Jeff would appreciate were the first to befall my tricks, followed by small Dace then a rouge perch or two.
Too many maggots served only to attract masses of minnows so I cut back and cast more into the flow to avoid their attentions before a shoal of perfect gudgeon turned up, giving only a single clonk to indicate one had consumed my bait.

None of what I caught would qualify as a specimen, but every one was brilliant and welcomed by my eyes.
Late on I returned to were the day had begun. Casting under a bare old tree with a massive matt, where things that might make your eyes bulge could hide.

Before spending my final hour into dark I took time to sit beside another anglers who'd popped over for a chat earlier in the day. We both watched his line drifting away into the water as we exchanged stories and discussed issues regarding only one subject.

With the sun kissing the horizon I returned to my spot what remained of my day again waiting for that brutal arch of rod a panicked fish can make. Just as the last crack of the sun disappeared. As if by magic monsters began to roll in the half light. Though none of them came across my bait. I walked away happy across the now dark meadow bidding my comrade farewell through the cold night air as I headed back for warming food and shelter.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

pastures new

I cannot deny that right now I am feeling disillusioned with the Avon . We had planned a trip to the Wye this weekend but that all fell through at the last minute and left us in need of a change of venue. So upon Andy's suggestion we procured the correct visas, tickets and guide books and took trip to fish the mighty River Severn.

Considering I don't live that far away from the Severn it's odd that I have only ever fished the upper Severn on the welsh boarders. In fact I think that the lowest place I have ever fished it is at the small Welsh town of Abermule. So until now the middle Severn has remained a total mystery to me, which in itself is amazing as the area we intended to fish near Bridgnorth has a reputation as some of the best barbel fishing in the UK. So why I have never been there before is any one's guess.

Previously I referred to this river as the mighty Severn and this was by no means an understatement. It is the longest river in the Britain, it also drains a very large proportion of Wales and discharges the largest amount of water of all our rivers whilst doing it. But until you first set eyes on it in full flow you have no idea of how power full it really is!

We had decided to start of in a comfortable area to try and get to know this raging beast with a little foreplay if you will. And straight away the power was obvious when I casually tossed out a 2oz maggot feeder towards the middle of the river, which never touched bottom until it passed into the slack water some forty feet down the bank from me. eep!!!

On the advice of another far more experienced Severn angler I stuck it out on the maggot feeder whilst it was light and fished a second rod baited with a chunk of spicy meat under any fishy looking trees. It soon became apparent that although our first spot was comfortable it was equally shallow, and although I was getting some regular attention form the local minnow population I was not converting nibbles into wriggles, so we decided to move down stream.

The next spot I opted for was much deeper and even more powerful due to a sunken tree pushing the river hard into a crease emanating from the opposite bank, which collided with another coming from my bank. The maggot feeder stood no chance here resulting in me fishing a single meat line close in again.
After a short while in this swim I began to feel that I just wasn't doing this right at all. I'd seen two or three fish roll out in the centre of the river and quickly casting my meat bait upstream of the area proved that even if I added enough weight to my rig to keep it there, all the debris caught up in the flow soon tore my rigs down stream inevitably finding a snag.

Feeling as if I was ill prepared to fish such conditions with an entire day of it ahead I decided to stop fishing, take a look at my map to see if I could locate some more fishable water to target.
After packing up my kit and spending a good ten minutes trying to get myself plus kit up one of the savage slippery Severn banks I dumped my kit behind Andy and took a stroll down stream in search of quieter water.
What looked like a five minute walk on the map turned out to be a half an hour hike around the edge of open fields.  Along the way I did find a few locals fishing and took every opportunity to try and find out how others were faring. This is normally an easy task of just approaching giving a nod and then asking if much is coming out but - and I mean what i am about to say next  in the nicest possible way - some of the locals who were fishing had some very vibrant and rich accents which if I am honest resulted in us having only half conversations. That meaning I could only understand half of what they were saying. And as I am too a midlander who lives not far away it is pretty insane that we barley speak the same language. Saying that I got by, and the jist of what they were saying was that a few days of over night rain in Wales had not done the fishing any favours here. So much so that even the locals 'cuuuldunt uven bost owt naw muggowts'.
After trudging all the way back up to Andy we had a quick brain storming session and came to the conclusion that rather than sit here fighting it out in an area we didn't feel confident in we would drop down a few miles to fish the Hampton loade section where Andy said he knew some deep holes under trees on our own bank would be fishable.

By the time we arrived it was nearly dinner time and luckily Andy was spot on with the info. So we settled in a couple of swims on the inside of a slight bend in the river that was bookended by a couple of over hanging trees.
My confidence soared when my first flick found a decent depth in slower water with a nice thump of hard bottom at the end of the cast. My maggot feeder rig even held nicely just on the edge of the main flow.

Straight away the tap tap tap of small fish husking out my maggots made the move to this area feel a great idea. My persistence I thought would pay off when I started getting some decent bites then I landed a small chub. (Which I never bother to photograph as I was convinced I would soon be snapping plump barbel later on.)

I did bag a few more micro chub and miss a very keen bite on the maggot but no Barbel came my way as I sat watching four Kingfishers zipping up and down the river in front of me whilst I the Severn valley railway chugged away behind me. Andy on the other hand did manage one barbel, fishing some rather savoury meat deep under a tree upstream. 
The thought that I still stood a chance on the pellet when the light began fade kept reverberating around in my head as the end of the day drew to a close. But the only surprise I got was when two sheep crept up behind me and simultaneously bleated at the top of their voices, nearly sending me into the river.

As I packed up I cannot deny feeling a little disappointed by the days performance. Especially as the middle Severn according to popular belief supposedly throws up barbel like commercial fishery throws up pasty size carp. But I suppose I can't judge a river by a single chilly session in November. So I will probably be back to try again. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Frog blog.

I could offer a multitude of reasons as to why I think the fishing was so bad this weekend; suffice to say it resulted in my first blank in a while. So rather than bore any readers with the sordid details of my difficult relationship with the Warwickshire Avon, I thought it would be more interesting to post this picture of the large frog that resides in my garden pond; I happened upon this little fellow during his morning jaunt whilst I was grubbing round in my pumpkin patch a few weeks ago. Enjoy!


Thursday, 3 November 2011

A strangely satisfying day of mediocrity heralds a change in conditions.

A long journey ahead that night inclined me not to venture too far from home in search of piscatorial action on my day off. I wracked my mind for days for something I fancied and in the end settled for club waters outside the city limits. It was to be a day where everything was much of a muchness or the pinnacle of mediocrity if you would, where nothing special graced my net. No dark brown bream or shining bars of pound plus roach. Just snow white skimmers and tidily roach, which all seemed rather insipid on a dull day. So much so as I never bothered to photo a single one, for their scales had no shine in my eyes!
Even though I cannot deny I enjoyed myself, as the aim of fishing is to catch fish, and that I did. But other bigger things inadvertently satisfied my angling urge.

Rain !

The night before I'd stood in the dark watching Diwali fireworks explode and light the sky in luminous colours. In between the flashes and bangs I could see the stars shining like pin holes in the sky and I thought to myself that it would have to go some if this weather front was going to come in over night.
In the morning I woke to the wondrous sound of rain on my bedroom window. It was finally here like Santa Claus at Christmas. But instead of presents the rain brings those wondrous gifts of coloured rivers and confident fish.

I could have ran excitedly down to the river just like a kid at Christmas. But I know better! For that first rise after summer brings misery as much as joy in the form of hundreds of tiny hunks of weed, torn away in small rotten pieces which drive anglers mad pulling rods round as they hang up on the lines, so much they spend more time out the water than in.
Restrained I continued with my plan and sat in the rain catching and watching excitedly as rain drops fall and fill  up low lakes and swell slow rivers.

In the few days where I waited patiently meditating on how the river would be when I finally arrived I managed to attend Andy's wedding reception, do a days work and spend Saturday afternoon following the Earlsdon Morris men on their tour of Earlsdon. For the first two I was stone cold sober, on the third I was not!

My good friend Windy recently rejoined the ranks of the Earlsdon Morris men and had informed us all of the impending tour. I was very interested to go and see this spectacle as here in the UK we seem to let  just about all our traditions slip away unnoticed to the masses, whilst only a die hard few keep them alive. Upon seeing the enthusiasm of them all on this tour my heart warmed that so many people should care so much and have so much fun whilst practising this ancient tradition.

Windy seemed to be having a good time fuelled by barley based power.

A second group, the Bristol Morris men had travelled over to join them in the tour and take turns performing outside many of the pubs we stopped at along the way. On one journey between watering holes I noticed the best use of a bit of Golf equipment ever.

The tour encompassed most of the pubs in the larger Earlsdon area and the Earlsdon lot danced between every one with a parade of  eager followers trailing behind ready to assault the next pub.

By late afternoon I for one was comfortably toasted. Enough so that Jacky repeatedly asked if I felt sick on the drive back. When home I finished the day off by topping of my beer filled body with a liberal helping of red wine! Lucky for me Andy had agreed to pick me up for a trip down the trickle the following Sunday morning.

It's hard to tell water clarity in the dark, but the amber glow from a nearby street light showed the colour of the Avon was at least enough to hide the streamer weed under the foot bridge we stood on. Both of us had Barbel in mind and four dedicated rods were cast out in total darkness.

I have personally just about had it with the local bream population. As I reckon I may have caught just about every one at least once this last year. So I cast off all finesse and left my sensitive tips at home and went for a fish by design approach. Avon tops and bait runners would see me not striking at little taps here and there as I waited for the hoop job as a lovely Barbel grabbed my bait.

Luckily for me a couple of bream did manage to do a poor impression of a Barbel by clicking line slowly off my reels or I would have had to endure the blank as no Babs showed again.

Unlike most days where the bright sun would have ruined our chances. This one stayed nice and cloudy all morning. So we stuck it out with hope that a bite could materialize at any point. 
Until... Andy called over 'Dan, I am in real trouble here' in that way that you know someone ain't joking around!
It took a few moment for things to compute in my addled brain and even after he explained his problem I still didn't fully comprehend it until I saw exactly what had happened.
Whilst pushing a baiting needle through a boilie the needle had suddenly shot through the bait right into Andy's index finger, well under the skin. As I approached and saw it for myself the poor chap looked a little peaky to say the least. As with all blokes we to think we are qualified surgeons whilst toting a Swiss army knife, but after ten minutes of twisting pulling and slicing, the barb of the needle just seemed even more embedded.

With the situation getting no better and my suggestion to shove it through being the final attempt at riparian surgery a trip down the local hospital was the only remaining choice. Only problem was we had two and a half anglers worth of tackle and the only insured driver had a large implement sticking out of one hand. In the end Andy ventured off alone to flag down a taxi whilst I packed up his kit then waited behind my rods for him to return.
I thought I was going to get an big extension to my fishing session as the normal waiting time at a UK hospital is generally three hours. But shockingly he was back in under forty minutes, after being the only person to walk into the A&E department with a foreign object projecting from his body that Sunday morning and was seen immediately.

When receiving a phone call heralding his return Andy asked me if I had had anything in his absence. Thinking quickly I answered that he'd find out when he got back! As soon as I was off the blower I pulled out my weigh sling and unhooking mat out dipping them both in the river before giving my landing net a good dunking and placing my scales prominently on the wetted mat and waited for him to return.
Soon enough Andy ambled along the back sporting a comically bandaged finger. It took him a few seconds to clock the wetted mat and sling with scales strategically placed on them. I can't rightfully type his reply as my blog may need some certification if I did. I tried to hold out and be coy for as long as possible but he soon saw through my rouse when I broke out laughing.

With the excitement over we headed off with no signs of barbel again. But at least the river is getting coloured and that infernal weed is starting to die away at last.