Thursday, 31 January 2013

pushing our luck against all odds.

I slept badly the other night. It was the rain that caused this fitful sleep. I have never slept particularly well whilst it rains ever since I was a child, and quite truthfully I have never fathomed why. Normally sleeping is not that much of a problem for me. In fact in the past I have slept in places most would consider abominable. The centre of Bristol bus station at peak time, atop a damp haystack next to a canal on a chilly October night and in several cinemas during very loud movie screenings.

The night in question though was in no uncertain terms terrible. Rain drummed constantly on my bedroom window and intermittent gusts drove huge globules against the glass with storm force. In my half sleep my mind was not only battered by the weather, but also by the shadowing thought that whilst I slept the world outside thawed under the hand of the tempest that raged against my window. This may seem like an exaggeration, but everything is exaggerated when you can't sleep, and a few inches of snow melting easily turned into a global catastrophe, like the end of an ice age.

In the dark the thought of all remnants of snow melting ran through my mind and filled the river with awful chilled rock salt tainted water, as the white world was washed away. So there I lay trying to cover my ears from this torturous sound with a hood of quilt and blanket, all the while brooding half conscious on what the Avon would look like when I first saw it in the morning. If I ever got to morning...

The night before the morning after my phone had bleeped to indicate a message just as I drifted off, and in the early hours I burnt my eyes to read it. From it's vague contents I determined Andy now doubted the validity of our intent to visit the river. His normally unshakable confidence had been undermined by the falling rain, rising river and a few doubting comments to a facebook post he had made.
I however was not perturbed by such things and hoped my confidence in our chances would be enough to bolster both our resolves, and if it wasn't then I would go it alone.
My reason for wanting to get on the river even in such frightful conditions is simple. When the river flares up quite often the populations are forced to find sanctuary from the flow. If you can find these safe havens then the audience is captive. As I know certain bits of the Avon area as good as anyone else then I feel confident that I know where the slack areas will be. So if we could find a fish-able area, chances are that fish would more than likely be in them, and if they got hungry maybe one of our baits may get picked up resulting in a trophy whilst most anglers never even left the house. This might seem like a bit of a hair brain rationality to apply to risky endeavours, but as the single best bit of fishing advice I have been given says 'you won't catch anything with your hook out of the water'.

Once we got under way our confidence did soar a little as we batted ideas to and fro. But when we first saw the river our short lived confidence melted much like the snow that now filled it. Option after option were submerged until only two remained. The first was an epic but still borderline slack created by the main flow splitting in two as it passed under a bridge, then colliding again making half the river flow a at least two thirds less than the opposite side.

In a more favourable flood this has been an amazing fish holding area. But today it proved to be not quite sheltered enough. This swim in normal conditions is still water, today however it flowed with some force and after probing it for more than an hour, we had between us cast each one our four rods multiple times. 
I cant imagine there is a single bit of weed left in the Avon this year as most of it came down before Christmas. Now though all that is left skimming the bottom is rotting black leaves which alone can't dislodge your rig. In multiples though they clog leads, cover baits and hang off ever hook point if left to there own devices.

Our confidence halved, we upped sticks towards the last gasp saloon. Behind an island in the track of a lock  we found exactly what we sought. The only flow in this spot was shaved from the main current by the point of the island and left an almost still but deep area on the nearside bank. If ever I saw a more text book zander hideout I would be lying. The conditions were perfect, how could there be no one home.

Four hours we waited, and in that time we received exactly two of the poorest runs I have ever seen on the Avon. Both were over moments after they started and both were left an appropriate amount of time before baits were checked and tell tale tiny punctures were seen on the flanks of the baits.

During our vigil we did see something odd. Every so often a fish would suddenly roll right up the flooded bank amongst the vegetation close to our feet. Ever time we saw it we were convinced it was the same fish. It was certainly silver in appearance, but why it was rolling in this newly flooded bit of ground was beyond both of us. Time and time again it surfaced only feet in front of us. For my part I was thinking it was a small zander attacking prey fish sheltering in the scrub.

It was my idea it was a zander and my knowledge of how much those little critters love lobworms that inclined me to swap my heavy outfit for a lighter one and try a worm down the edge. The light was going and the world was growing darker before anything happened. 

spot the weir
I was a little upstream taking a photo of the river as the sunset over its still swelling banks when Andy whistled sharply and indicated that I had just had some interest on the rod that he had been watching for me. I got back just to see it nod again then begin bouncing round hard. Then after hours of confidence sapping nothing I was playing a fish. But the question was what sort of fish was it exactly.

Really I never thought it would be what it was but the sight of a pretty big roach was pure joy and almost made our gamble worth while. It was a bit washed out but it was undoubtedly a thoroughbred roach of one pound and one ounce.

Now I must come clean and make an admission here and certain friend of mine may want to pour himself a large shot of something strong before he reads this. This was not my first encounter with the rolling in the shallows on this session.

Immediately after swapping over to my lighter outfit and about an hour before I landed the roach I had got an pretty much instant bite. This fish was connected and played until I found myself in a bit of an two and eight with my landing net out of position and me cutting off Andy from it. At this point thinking it was probably some minging skimmer that I decided to try and bank the fish by pulling it into the flooded edge instead of getting the net. As I lifted its head a little more to get it over some nettles its identity came apparent  Andy shrieked its a big roach I panicked and applied more pressure then my hook came free. Now that first and lost roach as far as both as we both could make out was at least half if not more as big as the one I landed. So by not having my net on the right side of me I actually bumped off what could of been a Warwickshire Avon roach of one pound eight or more.....maybe much more!

As the light went we did focus on our attempts to land more of these chance captures, but only found eels. Though we should have focused on the rising river! Knowing we could get into to trouble we had ensured and exit point into the field behind was always available. By home time we were convinced that although the river had risen we could still leave via the way we had come in.
The moment we turned the first corner we came face to face will a wall of water. Keeping calm we turned to our reserve exit and hoped the barbed wire fence. A bit further on we found the Avon spilling noisily into the field we were now stood in and a knee deep wade was our only option to get out of it.

Once through that we believed we were high and dry. That was until we had to go under a bridge where we soon found the Avon was very much over its banks and flowing hard. At this point our pair became a trio!
Why anyone other than stupid anglers would decide to try and get through this flood was beyond me, but the old chap we found clambering along a fence in the dark alone was at risk of getting into some serious trouble.

This second wade was different. The river was not just escaping is banks but running over them with force straight onto us and dragging your feet forward caused the water to crash up our legs like waves breaking on a reef. One the other side we made sure the old fella made it across then we all crossed the foot bridge to the other side together where we knew a third dip in the Avon was inevitable.
By far this one was the longest wade, but good on Mr Lewis for going all the way back through it a second time to give our new friend a piggy back up onto dry land and safety.

Walking back towards the car away from the river I could not help but think that we had really pushed our luck on this occasion. I was damp from a little above the knee down, my boots I knew would take weeks to dry out, but some how it seemed worth it. Yes we had not caught the chance trophy we so hankered for, but we had caught some fish against all odds and had ourselves a little adventure whilst doing so as well.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Three miles downstream of small stream adventures by Jeff Hatt.

Snow brings out a hardly seen part of my personality. The sight of falling flakes settling all around brings on first twitchy excitement. Then as it piles up I begin to feel like a belligerent Scot of the Antarctic bar drunk type. It's like mother nature has just given me the classic shove to the chest  and beckoned me on like "c'mon then what you gonna do about that" to which I always react in the same way thinking 'yep I will have me some of that'. Conversely though I am rather un-inclined to drive around in the snow! 
I think my general disdain for insurance companies and my natural stinginess subconsciously stops me risking my car. Walking round in it though, well now that's totally a different matter. Having DNA made up partly of northern, welsh and polish blood goes some way to making me rather durable in cold weather. Add to that the oversize nature of my feet and I find myself only a talcum powder covered chewbacca the wookie costume off of the best impression of a yeti ever seen.

I suppose other than my natural comfort in the snow, the fact that where I reside has local to it a useful little stream, that when I am not inclined to drive acts as a back up fishing spot, does help me get out when the weather is bad. 
I know I treat this little river like a common whore and only venture there when I can't get to the money rivers. I know full well that I should explore it more, as the things I hear about this tiny trickle every time I am on its banks really do warrant more investigation. But its just one of those situations that falls into the 'there is not enough time in my life to fish everywhere I want to' catagory.

But anyway, with Jacky determined to hunker down for the weekend with a sustenance plan more detailed than the Normandy landings, I decided both Saturday and Sunday mornings seemed viable for sessions on my fall back venue.

It's an odd feeling walking through streets fishing gear in tow. Normally it's, pack up your car and head off to some secret place away from society, but doing this you feel like an alien. If I pass anyone on the street carrying fishing kit you always get the same look. Like you're wearing a Kermit costume or have suddenly turned into John Merrick.

When ever I got out suburban fishing I never dally walking through the houses. It's always a constant fast pace until I pass through natures archway away from people and into this little fishing oasis hidden in plain sight.

So often am I used to fishing rivers that are ten or more times as big as this, that I forget how delicate my tackle must be on these small streams. A packet of cumbersome fat 3xssg shots that I had been handling all the way here seemed far too bulky once opened and were quickly substituted for a single swan shot as weight for casting. Once I swung a tiny feeder into this little stream, and the moment it hit the water I regretted it. The plop it made sounded like a bomb going off in the silence. 
Now a pair of walnut sized balls of liquidised bread tossed up stream is more than adequate enough way to feed a small swim quietly. They float for maybe a metre before beginning to dissolve and spread salty sweet hints of food through the shallow swims.

It was roach I hoped that would be stimulated into biting and the first fish hooked was a sliver of a silver roach. It was however a small chub whose spirited fight smashed my four foot wide swim to bits in only a few zig zagging runs moment later.

The next spot which had water that seemed deep and green enough to contain fish was on the outside of a seemingly innocuous bend where I doubt anyone had walked since I was last there over a year ago.
Again the initial rattles seemed rather roachish, then it went very quiet until I was just about to pull my hook to apply a new pinch of bread and then the tip lurched round.

I never expected a real fight from anything in this little stream but the unseen culprit was really bending my light tip rod and the thudding fight had me very confused. The site of something big and silver had me praying to old Isaac for a roach. The bright light and silvery flanks had tricked my eager mind one way, but the identity was far more obvious.

Although not the holy grail we all seek of this small river. It is however a great sign!The chub have up until now seemed to have a ceiling weight of a pound and a half, then I catch one of 2.10lb proving my theory totally wrong This fish will certainly be a three next year and how long then till it's four I wonder.

After such a close quarter scrap I never thought I would get another bite from this swim, let alone another fish. But with limited deep areas for the next half a mile I chanced another cast and landed another chub of  maybe a pound and then only went and landed a third on my third cast.

Its amazing how much mud three small chub can stir up in two feet of water. The arrival of four ducks who were very excited by the turgid water, got me moving off downstream a good ways to a bend in the river where the flow had scoured deep under a tree on my own bank. I would have never have know of this hidden feature should a fish not have zoomed under there after I hooked it mid flow a few years ago.

It is always a one trick pony this swim. Casting a bit short then paying off line allows the the flow to catch hold of my rig and skips it in under the tree so sweetly it's beautiful. Then it's just a case of wait...wait... wait for it and knock knock bang! another small stream chub does its very best to stay in its hidey hole.

Five chub in as many casts from a stream long forgotten by most anglers. Saturday could not have been any more satisfying I am sure. Sunday on the other hand was another day indeed.

Six inches the stream had risen overnight and the water that now swelled it was not rain but melted snow. New riffles and swirls had appeared where none had been twenty four hours before, and now nothing seemed as keen as the day before.

The moment my first cast hit the water, flakes began to fill the air and by my fist bite visibility had fallen by half. I was lovely and warm but my warmth soon worked against me as the snow landing on my legs melted instantly soaking into my trousers.
Covering my legs with my small hooking mat enabled me to stay long enough to land one measly chublet, the smallest of the entire weekend I should say. Lack of attention kept me moving from swim to swim but little was interested in feeding. So by the end of the stretch I was ready to leave.

It is amazing what a difference a little bit of cold water can do to a small river, because the two sessions could not have been more different and the only reasonable reason was the change in water. I can only hope that this snow does not all melt at once before I next get out, as every river in the country would be back over its banks should that happen. So fingers crossed it melts away slowly.

Friday, 18 January 2013


Last night whilst the world outside froze hard and frigid I lay warm under down. In the stillness of the night my mind soared free and I dreamt of a fish. It was a huge bulbous carp with golden orange belly that faded up into its almost black-gold back. The great fish had not one single scale on it's entire body and the skin was so soft and perfect that again and again I rubbed my hand across it's side. Its protruding mouth was so big, it could have sucked up apples like peanuts and it's frightened eye looked more human than I felt comfortable with.

I don't remember putting it into a sling, though I can recall the face of my scales and the red needle bouncing back and forth as the great fish struggled. The weight could have been twenty three or thirty two pounds but of which I am not quite sure, as my brain wouldn't allow one to stand out more than its opposite.

I could not decipher where or how I had caught this amazing fish as the water from where it came was not envisioned in my dream. All I can remember was looking across a empty scrub horse field on a hot summers day and seeing an ancient gate half open. It had obviously been that way for some time as tall grass grew around its base and brambles wove their way through near its hinge. Back and forth I kept looking to the gate maybe with the hope of seeing someone who might help me.

No one appeared and I looked back to the mighty carp gasping at my knees. Now panic struck me the fish did not have long. I looked up at the bright sun then down at the fish and then at my arm on which I could feel the suns burning rays.

Hot and panicked I struggled to ready my camera. The ground was so hard the bank stick would not dig any more than a inch or so in and every time I let go, the camera fell to one side. Eventually it held and looking into the screen the brightness of the sun obscured just about everything from sight. Then I found myself struggling to pick up the carps mass. The red light of my camera was flickering away indicating the ever decreasing timer and I could not control the fish at all. The side of the fish not exposed to the sun was so slimy my hands could not grip, and on the other it had become so sticky dry that my grip gave it purchase to flip against me.

After one only attempt I looked at the cameras tiny screen and saw my blurry face and a giant orange mass below it; neither were recognisable. I looked back across the field to the gate. And then I woke up!

Dreams of fish are nothing new to me but this one felt very strange indeed. I have no idea what this means, whether it is some kind of omen or hint of subconscious fear. I have the last few days been weighing up the pros and cons of various unhooking mats I was considering buying, so maybe that has something to do with it.
Frankly I think I might seize the day and go to the tackle shop this weekend and buy that Korum multi mat I decided on. Hopefully that might ease my sleep.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Fishing in a winter wonderland.

I feel lucky too know of a special spot on old mother Avon, that when the weather is at its most horrid you can be guaranteed some wondrous sport. Fishing there can be so good in fact, that I would quite easily go as far as to say that it can be more consistent bite wise on bad day, than most others rivers on their very best of days.

Years ago I, like empty beer cans, was a regular feature of this understated bit of the Avon. My seasons would begin in the dark on June 16th attempting to hook hold of a rare barbel. During the summers I would jig the deep clear waters for perch and rampant jack pike. Then as autumn crept in chub could be relied upon to feed amongst the dying weed. But of all the seasons to be enjoyed sitting aside running water it was winter that was most enjoyable here, as when the cold easterly wind brought snow from Europe that was when the dace became king. And what dace they were too!

Nowadays it is only those dace which lure me back to this ancient river bank, and conditions this weekend just passed seemed torrid enough for a date to surely to be set. Truthfully we had it in our minds to travel to another place, but four hundred miles of driving to freeze half to death did seem slightly pointless on such a day. So after a myriad of suggestions, the name of old reliable was uttered and we were off.

Dace as far as I am concerned are the most underrated of our course fish. If I was to say that on our last session myself and Mr Lewis caught ourselves fourteen or more carp of between twenty and thirty pounds in under five hours, you would think I had surely gone mad. On the other hand if I said we had caught fourteen dace of between six and ten or more ounces... Well that statement would probably not raise so much as an eye brow, and considering that pound for pound or ounce for ounce they are just about the same comparatively, I think it would prove my point aptly.

What makes this even more amazing is that these fish were all caught on probably less than five pounds worth of bait; when was the last time you read about anyone catching even one carp on anything less than fifty pounds worth of bait.

As I knew would be the case, once positioned knee deep in freshly deposited mud in the half light, bait flowing, the bites came quick and fast. Though my first catch of the day was to have a total weight probably the same as everything other fish we caught put together, and maybe a few more too boot.

You see not only does this dace abundance provide great fishing for us but it also provides good feeding for pike, and most of the pike for miles converge at this time of year, like us, on this section. Oh, and are they a thieving bunch for sure. How many small dace have been stolen from me here I could not count on all my digits and yours. Feeders and floats to seem to be regularly taken on the retrieve as the pike here are that wound up in the frenzy.

The most unbelievable situation I ever experienced first hand, happened after I hooked a tiny dace which flipped my hook. My still baited hook was taken as it sank by a second dace which I began to reel in. This  fish was then grabbed by a small pike of maybe four pounds which bent my rod double. After playing the pike for a while I was thinking it may get landed if my luck held and then a bigger pike grabbed that one and ended the whole debacle in a flash.

Knowing the amount of pike present and having two predator rods in my quiver for the afternoon session I was always going to put out a bait just in case. But I never thought one would come along so soon!
My first enquire from a dace had just been spectacularly missed and as I loaded my feeder full of magics again I caught a slight bounce on my other rod tip from the corner of my eye. At first I wondered if I had knocked the rod as I was re-baiting my feeder then it bounced again with a little more venom.
Normally it takes an hour or so for the predators to move into that small zone right at your feet where the small fish exit and re-enter the water. Today though someone was already resident in the kill zone and my bait had dropped right into its lair.

Before I had even had chance to land a single lovely silver dace I found myself striking into a pike as it moved off. I don't know why but I always assume it's going to be a naughty little jack pike here. Maybe it's because when the water is clear you can see the little buggers racking up under your feet ready to attack your catches  Today was no different, and assuming it was just another jack I powered straight into it and gave it some real stick. It did not take long to get it on the surface where through the still murky light I sight as I thought a decent enough jack pike. Then it ploughed off like a steam train. This was when Andy called over suggesting I take it a bit easy that I replied " pah... it's just a little one with a big attitude" to which he replied
"I reckon that's a bit bigger than you think". When it next surfaced shaking its head I will admit it did look a bit bigger. Then when the net slipped under, it didn't seem that big again. But when I picked the net up and set eyes on its bulk filling my predator spoon, I did finally agree that I may have been a bit gung ho with this lovely lady.

What a start to a mornings fishing! I had not even taken my head light off and here I was wrestling with a plump mid double pike in the stickiest mud in Warwickshire.

It took a while to settle down after I returned her safely upstream and recast another dead bait back into the that kill zone, but soon enough I got my head down and caught up with Andy, who was by now swinging in dace and roach in one after another.

The silver fishing was out of this world as expected. Running a float through was scoring hard for Andy and fishing a tiny maggot feeder kept me striking all morning as the snow began to fall. The float as expected registered more bites, but as I have often felt, the feeder seemed to sort out a larger class of dace quicker rather than having to wade through all the tiny ones to catch a big one here or there.

All in all the stamp of fish was great and if only could have caught just one dace the length of Andy's longest fish and the girth of my fattest fish, we may of actually stood a real chance of landing a one pound dace from the Warwickshire Avon.

By noon I was clean out of magics and quite frankly caked in fish slime. After another enjoyable dace bashing session my only regret was that I never got one single picture of one of those lovely dace as I was to wrapped up in catching them to remember to get any pictures. Oh well, all I can to do is go back again try for that pounder or maybe even a twenty pound pike.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Carbeling! No Zarbeling.

Last year whilst grubbing around on the river I got chatting to an old guy - well I was chatting, he was moaning. Amongst his various gripes he mumbled the word carbeling, by which he was referring to when carp anglers, who normally spend their time pitched up for days on end next to some lake awaiting a pig of a carp, instead ply their carpy scaled down tactics to fishing for big barbel on non native rivers.
Hearing this made me realise that I could possibly coin a new phrase of my own for a technique I have been using for a good many years now.

Zarbeling ; To fish for zander using using barbel techniques and tackle.

I started doing this after what can be considered one of the most frustrating sessions ever. Whilst fishing a particularly coloured Avon on a mild February day with some very heavy cloud cover, my two bite alarms sounded all day with multiple enquiries, from what I was convinced were zander. Even low resistance rigs fished into the slack water using light set drop off indicators could not convert the initial enquiries into actual runs. Late in the day my riparian companion Rob rolled up to my swim, after spending the session quiver tipping for small fish down stream. After watching my bank side disco for a while he tied on a trace, cast out a dead bait, and lo and behold, he got a tiny bit of a bite which he converted into a nice zander.

This got me thinking that tip rods were the way forward for river zander fishing. On a lake or canal that has little or no flow you can leave the bail arm open on your reel with whatever bite indicator you favour attached, and have no problems.
The problem with rivers is the flow. To fish at all in the flow there is always an element of resistance/pressure on your rigs, and we all know zander hate both. Barbel rods offered both a sensitive quiver tip plus enough power to deal with the biggest zander you are likely to come across, and even with pike right up to 20lb should you be lucky enough to hook one. Rig wise I straight away began using a free running big barbel set up, just with a wire trace and trebles attached instead of a mono or braid hook link.

For quite a long I was still waiting for that hoop around of the tip, of which I did get the odd one here or there. But still I was getting heaps of tiny knocks I was not converting. I can't remember when I figured this out exactly, but on one occasion after getting a single tap on the rod tip I picked up the rod and took the line in my other hand.
By holding the tension myself I could actually feel the fish move off, and I let it go on its merry way whilst keeping in touch with it. Once I had let it have what I thought was enough time to get the bait in its mouth, my sharp strike met with throbbing resistance.
This was a revelation! I now began converting probably 80% or more of  the slight taps into landed fish and I have never looked back.

With this unnerving warm weather we are currently experiencing and my need to get back on running water, I wondered if a dusk zarbeling session might be the right way to go. With a fining down river with a healthy bit of colour and near double figure temperatures to boot, the conditions looked about spot on.

I could of just played it safe and gone chubbing on the upper Avon where I knew the fish were on the feed, and given my state Sunday morning after the bloggers winter watering the night before, that was nearly the case. But as I ummed and ahhed, mooching around the house, I came to the conclusion that another window like this in the weather might not be so forthcoming over the next few months, so I got my act together and headed out.

Anyone who fishes any busy town waters will fully understand what I mean when I say that I soon found myself sitting in that still strip of almost silent land between the bustling path populated by Sunday walkers and the ever moving river. I kind of love being in this place half between humanity and nature. You walk along that path to get where you're going, then step out of society slightly and begin to dabble with nature instead whilst all the other people still on the path are oblivious to things going on right beside them.

After sitting in silence staring skyward for the best part of an hour, I was beginning to think my gamble was going to end badly, and pangs of regret crept into my mind. Given the conditions I had hoped even during the daylight hours some interest might have been garnered, but not so much as a nod had occurred. Sure the plethora of rubbish still suspended in the water kept me busy recasting every now and again, but the feeling I was working for nothing had begun to undermine my confidence badly.

Then twang!!! It always amazes me that even after watching rod tips for hours as they move back and forth that we anglers can spot the difference between an rotten old leaf catching your line and the tiniest pluck of a fish. This was no leaf, bag or any other shite for that matter. It was one hundred percent a fish. Rod in hand I could feel a few more tiny tremors travelling back along the just taught line. Then it moved off and I tracked the fish through ninety degrees with the rod flicked of the baitrunner  and as the line tightened  I struck hard into a solid fish.

My decision to gamble on a zarbeling session had paid of with the capture of my first zander of the year, and at seven pounds plus it was a great first fish. As is so often the case on this busy bit of water, once that first bite was out the way it all kicked off. Two more smaller zander fell one after another before it quietened off for a while.

Vilified, my thoughts were pushing me away from the river and homeward. My hunger had become apparent, and the idea of the beef and ale pie I would soon be eating was betraying me. That was until one of my rod tips began bouncing around.
I have found when using this method of bite indication for predators that the difference between a zander and a pike bite is never more evident  A zander nine times out of ten gives a single tap then unless line is given it will certainly drop the bait. A pike on the other hand nearly always indicates its presence in one of two ways: either the rod tip slowly bends over, then for some reason springs back before bouncing back and forth until you hit it; or it hammers off straight onto the bait runner just like a barbel. Either way the difference is obvious once you seen a few examples of each.

The first pike was tiny and no injustice was therefore felt when it got off. Only a short while after recasting onto the exact same spot, the next pike to pick up my bait really put a bend in my rod as it hung deep in the still powerful current.

Long and wide across the shoulders, this young lady has was well on her way to becoming a proper river pike. Like all the fish I caught on this short session she was solid. The fish, unlike us anglers, seem to have fared very well in the flooded conditions, and its nice to know that whilst we have been unable to fish, our quarry has been able to feed up in earnest for any cold weather ahead.

Friday, 4 January 2013

How to end the year

I saw a landslide the other day. It was the first one I have ever seen in my home county. We are not a county you would normally associate with such things so seeing one is very rare. It really was quite shocking seeing the huge cut out of the hill side. The contrast of the luscious green crass against the exposed reddish brown Warwickshire mud transfixed me. I even stood on top of it with one huge lake behind me and another below looking down at where the soil had settled and crushed the bank with its unseen weight.
It made me feel quite nervous that more than half of the land that held back thousands of tons water of the lake behind had gone and I wondered how long what was left could hold on for. Soon after I stood above this massive scar, I stood below it staring up at the house size hole in the land. The choice to either walk around the biggest lake on the complex or dare to cross the newly deposited earth was met with a boyish moment of daring not felt since my youth.
The first few steps on top of the soft newly laid ground were slow and tentative, but the the steps were followed were quick and light. Half way across I broke into a inane smile and half cackled as panic rose inside, and I ran the last ten feet before turning to look one last time.

Thinking back to it now I seems quite apt that I would see this slide. As the end of this year has too slipped away from us anglers just like the land had, with a month of constant rain soaking it through. I for one have stewed heavily with a want to grace the rivers but unable to go near and forced to do what I love somewhere I did not want to be.

I feel reluctant to regale my catches and measure my year by them. 2012 although fish filled, was defined for me not by what I caught but what I used to catch them. It was, if you will, a year of rod romance. I know some might think it strange for me not to remember all those wondrous captures, but to instead picture my year in a flash back montage of moments where myself and my squeeze pitted ourselves against our quarry as some cheesy soundtrack plays in my mind, but that is how I want to remember this year just passed.

From the moment I set eyes on that green varnished carbon and virgin cork it was love at first sight and I knew I would never speak ill of it. In every situation I put that rod in it excelled;  dirty fighting winter chub, supercharged spring carp, perch that would make your eyes bulge clean out your head, cold blooded hunters and distant travellers: they all succumbed to its forgiving bend.

It only seemed right that the last fish of note of my year should be winkled from a still ignored pool on this rod, and prove my thoughts correct that big perch do seem present, even though my friend and owner of this lake believed they were not.

Now though, I feel this romance coming to an end. It's not that we have fallen out, but more that the year of the perch has come to an end and a new romance dawns now as another temptress pulls me in a different direction.

Sleek, slim and finished in the darkest red varnish that is only noticeable in certain light. Twice as powerful as my old love this rod is marked specifically for one species,  but I know it will be perfect for others. You see, long have carp drifted from my mind, but now they have crept back like submerged zeppelins slowly hanging silently under water.

I do not hanker to hide in my bivvy waiting for day old traps to go off. Instead I now dream of stalking them on canals, lakes and maybe even rivers. I dream of the instant gratification that goes hand in hand with finding them, waiting for the right moment too quietly flick a gob of bread or a couple of grains toward them and then have my heart jumping into my throat as my bait flutters down. Maybe a section of quill might indicate interest or better still just watch the line tighten or the bait to just disappear.

This is what I hope for my new year and its summer of promise. Not to just sit around waiting for dusk to come and the barbel to feed, but to instead worship those bright hot days of which so many I have wasted. To instead use this time as I did in my youth, when a loaf of bread was all I needed to feed both me, the fish and my soul. 

For now though these dreams are still far away and have much fermentation ahead. So it just becomes a case of praying the rain holds of a little bit longer or just long enough for me to actually get near a river and to wish you all a happy new year where you get chance to realise your hopes and dreams.