Friday, 22 March 2013

Oh that will be a unicorn then!

I fished next to a patch of wild sown daffodils the other day. That might not seem especially poignant, but I can assure you that it is! As only last week I sat fished next to the very same patch of wild sown daffodils. Fishing in that same spot on two occasions lead me to the very realisation that made this innocuous patch of flowers poignant, and what that poignant realisation was was: in the period of supposedly one spring week those daffodils had not grown so much as a millimetre. I could have put a ruler next to them and taken a picture on both visits and quite honestly I would of had a perfect and impossible spot the difference competition ready made. There had been zero progression on their part whatsoever. No height, no width and certainly no marked movement towards flowering. Their yellow treasure remained hidden within.

One thing that had changed though over the past week was the colour of the canal. It had gone from a nice hint of greenish brown to muddy flood water brown, and now resembled the colour of my Gran's tea. I am not exactly sure where it is, but I suspect somewhere not too far from where I was fishing there must be a brook or stream that spews filthy flood water into this canal when rain falls, and the river rises and ruins the fishing something terrible.

A month or so ago I walked away from this section of canal when it was like this but after last weeks superlative performance, I really thought that even in these terrible conditions the perch would still be in the mood for a feed. I stuck with it and confidently feed the nearside shelf with a slightly more potent mix of freebies than normal to help the fish locate my bait.

Turned out my confidence was ill founded and the perch were in no mood to feed at all. Whether they weren't able to detect my bait due to the turgid water or whether they were just off the feed I did not know, but after two hours my new handmade float had not ventured below the surface once.

When you find yourself in the situation when you have had no action and have resigned yourself to the belief that you will encounter no action, when something does happen you automatically think it is not say a bite, but is instead something else like the wind, or tow, which is now moving your float.
That is exactly where my thoughts had gone when my float began a merry dance. Bites here consist constantly of bob and sink, not a pirouette and drift!  When a bite does not fit the norm I often worry that an early strike might ruin my only chance of the day. This case was no different as I delayed, rod in hand, waiting for something more extreme than a rotation. The moment it dipped even slightly I panicked and struck into a familiar weight but unfamiliar fight...

I could not truthfully estimate the number of perch I have caught on this stretch of canal. What I could say is that being that all related they generally look very similar and for the most part all fight in the same way. This as yet unseen fish was not fighting that way and was instead boring all over the swim quickly and violently. Amid the hordes of perch and zander I have caught over the years, two bream and one roach bream hybrid have been landed amoungst them. The latter of which was what I expected this would be when  flash of silver was sighted as it rolled just before it went in the net.
But how surprised was I when I opened the folds of the net to find no mangy hybrid but instead a perfect unicorn.

Rare mythical unicorn-like big roach are rumoured  to exist in this percidae dominated canal but until now I have never seen one. Once I thought I saw a shoal of small roach dappling the canal one summers night but I put that down as a mirage or a hallucination. Then out of the blue I go and catch a great big fat pristine one in the worst possible conditions.

The rumours now become even more pressing as this, my first roach caught here, weighed one pound five ounces and they are fabled to go grow right up to that most special of weights for roach, two pounds. Now with the general Jurassic nature of the perch round these parts I believe that maybe the roach that survive the hungry horde should be left with enough food to attain such weights, and seeing this fish just makes me believe it even more.

With that fish released far way from my swim and still in a state of  rutilus shock I cast out again only receive two more tepid and shy bites that never developed into anything. There was more than one roach there for sure but no more became confident enough to suck in the mess of lob worm I was presenting. And then it began to snow badly.

I have fished in a few snow showers before and this, like every other one I have not been prepared for, was punishing. Tucked under my brolly the air temperature plummeted as my umbrella became weighed down by the accumulating snow, and I began to shiver. Over the last few weeks my many layers of clothing have reduced here and there by one item at a time, and I was regretting discarding every one hunkered next to the cut.

The blizzard eventually stopped and for a while the sun showed its face long enough to melt any settled snow and for a single average perch  to show up, before I slipped off home with the thoughts of big roach to occupy my mind as I warmed by the fire.


  1. Whahhay! At last a lobworm roach for Danny boy!

    How you've fished that place so many times but never had one till now is remarkable to me — you know round my way that's what I do for the real bigguns. Slow work, but that size is the average, when you can get 'em.

    Triffic stuff.

    What a corking fish too. Never caught before. Look at that paddle of a tail but those small scales — still growing — that'll be a two in two years time no doubt. Just keep feeding them chop and they'll pack on the ounces!

    Just when I thought the canals had no roach in them. They've been really hard this winter. Maybe, just maybe, they'll come now.

  2. In the worst possible conditions, when the water looks like all I was going to catch was a carrier bag that came along. I have to say mate it was absolutely fin perfect head to tail and was joy to see.

    As for why I have never caught one before, that's simple... That section of canal is so full of two pound perch that your average lobworm has the life expectancy of a pint of beer at the bloggers bash.

    I will say this though Jeff. It won't be my last!!! ;)

    1. What, are you intending to fish for roach there on purpose at some point then? That'll be interesting.

      That's one washed out roach. Those I've caught on the Oxford are like are like that when the water is heavily stirred up by boats but they return to normal overnight when it clarifies. That one you had from the Avon in flood was the same. Remarkable they change their camouflage so quickly, don't you think?

      The silver bream I caught at Lucys Mill last month was the same but that was because it was caught in ten feet of water or more, but in the keep net an hour it changed and had a dark back when I released it.

  3. I reckon there will be pockets of them throughout the canal, where conditions are right.

    I keep thinking about trying down my end but with no evidence to go on yet it would be very lucky to find some. Ultimatly though there is only one way to find out. I'll add it to the to do list!
    Nice fish BTW ;)

  4. I think your right Lee. There is pockets of all sorts down the canals in the right places. The canals have become an angling wilderness the last fifteen years and the fact that they are undisturbed means the fish are growing big never knowing the sting of hook. Your big pike was testament to that mate!
    By the way congrats on that kipper :) I only spotted that post the other day.

  5. Cracking roach! Maybe they're on the feed again then, fingers crossed...and I still can't suss-out where that stretch is from all the photos you've posted, very discreetly done

  6. Congratulations on catching your mythical beast.