February 27, 2021

Black and White

I went fishing yesterday. Not since what, October? have I wet a line and, truth be told, for much of that period, I've not been too bothered. Therefore, today, I am marking down a long overdue return to action here, in black and white. 

For the record, I float fished the town section of the Wye in Hereford for the first time. I've lived here for 21 years and have just now ventured downstream. The reason is simple, a large percentage of the river's silver fish migrate to the stretch in town for their winter holiday. The water temperature there will be fractionally higher and the presence of humans help to keep predators away. I have no desire to freeze into dusk after chub and barbel but the idea of a few roach and perch has got the juices flowing. 

One of the 'silver' species that enjoy the town is the bleak, lots and lots of bleak. I met quite a few of them yesterday as they chewed every maggot I introduced into the swim and then plucked and pecked at larger worm baits. I even had a sail-away bite from one that managed to impale itself through the tail root with a size 10. But, by laying on in the margins, I did manage a couple of perch. Neil did somewhat better with around ten fish, again nothing large.

It's been a while since I have fished in an urban setting with many dog walkers and joggers and such. The noisy kids in the playground opposite were an entertainment, especially Charlie. His long-suffering mother was constantly calling to the little darling, "Charlie, get off of that". "Charlie, stop fighting". "Charlie, give that back to her". This went on throughout my session. I have to admit that a broad grin crossed my face when the age-old chorus of " Fight - fight - fight..." sparked off. I was transported back to my school days in an instant. I wonder when this ubiquitous chant began? Neil offered a caveman equivalent which is probably closer to the mark than we know.

Today I am suffering from my activities but looking forward to a return.

On the subject of black and white - blackbirds aren't always black. (Can you see what I am doing here? These blogs aren't just thrown together you know).

When I was a lad, I was a regular visitor at the Taunton Museum. Whilst my brother steamed the glass cases of the large collections of military history and we had both gazed at the Taunton Giant's boot. I would be lost in the natural history section. The taxidermy always held my attention with a special interest in the birds. I was fascinated too by a large collection of leucistic (white) birds of many species. There were most of the garden birds along with warblers, finches etc. I wondered just how such a gathering could be brought together when I had never seen a single one. 

At the age of ten, I was rewarded when Paddy and I were fishing on the bridge over French Weir, when a pure white blackbird flew past, hotly pursued by a gathering of mixed songbirds. It saught brief refuse in an alder tree before, once again flying off to a life of torment. For two young birders, it was manna from heaven and the image is still burned in full detail on my mind.

A few years ago, Nicky and I were driving along a narrow lane when a white blackbird flew across in front of us and through the hedge. Brief but spectacular and I feel very lucky to have witnessed such spectacles. 

I am certain that you have seen plenty of blackbirds and indeed jackdaws, with the odd white feather or cluster thereof. At present, there's a jackdaw in the village that looks like it has walked under a painter's ladder and a blackbird with a brilliant white wing flash. But nothing compared to the one I photographed the other day. 

I saw it several weeks ago, for a second. Then a neighbour mentioned it and said it was resident in the same area as my sighting. I headed off to look whilst on my way to check out a barn owl that feeds over a field and orchard near the church. There it was, in the same garden as before, a stunning male blackbird.


For the record, I saw the owl but the battery had run down on the camera. Maybe next time.


February 03, 2021

During Lockdown I Have Been....

So how have you coped? That new language coming along is it? The guitar lessons going well? Maybe you've been practical around the house or exploring your artistic side. No, nor have I.

In my last post I mentioned a train set and boy, did I set my targets high. I bought a pile of 'job lot' track, loco's, rolling stock etc including a pre-laid track. I quickly dismissed this track on the grounds that it was too small and 'busy'. I started building.

Too small
Ambitious
First build

Having made a decent sized base, I poured much of my bank account into 'No More Nails', and bloody fish blades, the little metal bits that you slide track into to join lengths together. They are small - too small, fiddly and, opening them a little with a knife and pushing them on, caused much blood loss.

Of course, when you follow a designed layout plan with all the correct lengths of track with the correct curve radius, it's a doddle. Make your own track with limited knowledge and pieces well, that's a different story. I read again the forums and realised that I was making the same mistakes that most idiots make. Hey ho, up came the track and down it went again with lengths of bendy track for those awkward bends.

It nearly worked but I took it up again, relayed the base with a flat board surface rather than the insulating foam one. This time I got it just about right but, the continual bending, stretching and pulling on bits of track and tacks had taken its toll on my back. Suddenly my enthusiasm waned and the thought of all that modelling work on the scenery looked like a mountain to climb rather than a pleasurable hobby.

I took it up again, dismantled the base and am now selling the lot. Do I regret it? Not for a second. Slaving in my room got me through the difficult period up to and beyond Christmas, there is now a hint of an impending Spring and my mind has left the lockdown and plans are in the making for the day that freedom comes.

What I have done is to buy a replacement toy (well you do don't you), and I have a new camera. It's a Nikon Coolpix P950 with incredible zoom capabilities, ideal for my needs. I was switched on to the camera by Gavin Haig's Not Quite Scilly blog. If you have any interest in birds, this is a place worth a visit. Gav feels like a friend now as I eagerly follow his birding adventures around the south Dorset coast, all written in an easy to read light-hearted way. His success in 2020 was little short of astounding and his photographs are pretty darned good too. 

Of course, like everything I touch, just picking up a new camera and expecting National Geographic cover picture shots from the off is a big ask. But, when I have ventured out and when the sun has shone (I think it was for twenty minutes last Friday), it's been..... let's just say, a work in progress. This morning though, the sun beat down on my bird feeders and I sat on my bed for ten minutes with the door open, camera in hand. I was pleased with the outcome and I feel I am coming to terms with the multitude of settings. See what you think...






I'll probably sell it next month.



November 24, 2020

2020 Urgh!



 My last blog entry began with a reference to an unfinished quest, a long-standing desire to land a personal best crucian carp. That image and that dream have been haunting me now for some four months. I'd love to report that "Hey, I've been so busy with all these fish, I just haven't had to catch up". Far from it.

My initial enthusiasm was sufficient to get me up and out to a new water, one that held some fine specimens. Neil and I arrived on a blistering hot day (cloud had been forecast), and the surface of the pool was alive with carp of varying sizes. Neil lost all interest in crucians and began plotting the downfall of a basking common or two.

My swim was shady, but it also had tantalising, tiny bubbles popping to the surface here and there. Carefully plumbed, my bait stroked the bottom and I hunched over the rod awaiting action. It wasn't long before the almost imperceptible bobs and dips began - proper Cru behaviour. A slightly more determined dip was met by a twist of the wrist and a lively but small fish shuddered against my will. It was a little common carp.

This went on all day, classic crucian carp bites resulting in little carp. Yes, some of them were beautifully fully scaled mirrors but, they were all peas in a pod. I had one screaming bite but contact was brief and it was obviously a larger carp.

No floating baits were allowed at the venue but, my hotdog sausages when cut into slightly thicker slices, 'floated' in the surface film so, I claimed a technicality and let a piece explore the reed edges. The freebies all went and so did three bits with hooks in them but, and I really don't know why, all three failed to get hooked. I must have been fishing like a muppet.

Neil had a scrappy common, somebody fell or got pushed in, and a chap asked if I could sell him some drugs. Having never taken unprescribed medication and, as far as I know, never having given the appearance of one so inclined, I put it down to him being an idiot. He definitely fished like one.

On the advice of regular crucian catchers, I tried Stockton Reservoir. This involved rising at an ungodly hour, driving a long way and arriving at the same time as the local match anglers only to find they had 'pegged' all of the recommended swims. I tried hard and caught just about every species the lake holds apart from.... yes, you've guessed it. I later learned that the very swims I'd been given the tip to fish had not been drawn and I could have..... a pattern is forming.

I fished the river on one of those perfect days, mild, rising river, the swim out of the worse debris... I have had many fish from that spot and was full of confidence. I blanked.

It was all crap. I found myself fishing swims that had either been recommended or where I had a long proven track record and was falling at every hurdle. I hated myself for following others and vowed to plough my own furrow as usual. However, nothing seemed to work and not a single fish of note had visited my landing net. I began to get to me.

I need ambition and a learning curve to climb in order to keep my interest levels up. But I also need the odd hint that I'm heading in the right direction. Maybe that's the 'luck' element of our sport, if so my account was dry.

The second lockdown, crappy weather and a month-long illness that was a bit of a worry at the time, all combined to lower the enthusiasm. But I need something to keep me and my brain active over winter, never more so than this one. My usual winter read fest of fishing books was only going to increase the frustration, so I bought a train set. Go on, get it out of your system, you'd be surprised how many people have them and how many blokes wish they could.

I am now learning. For example, I've learned that my carpentry is below average at best, how modeling looks really easy in an online video but when you try it..... I've learned that getting started with a layout makes fishing look like a cheap pastime and that I am now more reliant on Amazon than I am oxygen. But it is a learning curve to climb and that will be enough to see out the remainder of this bloody awful year and crawl through the mire of 2021 until the vaccine starts doing the rounds.

Roll on next year and renewed hopes and dreams, in the meantime Choo Choo!




July 19, 2020

An Old Challenge Restarted.

9th August 2013 sits accusingly in my fishing diary. That was the last time I caught a crucian carp and, if truth be told, one of the last times I attempted to.

They had been stocked into a one acre pool on the estate where the carp lake is situated. No questions on identification, genuine accredited crucians which the promise of a golden future as they grew on. They did grow and pound plus fish started to appear.I even caught that single fish amongst the numerous roach that abounded. I fished a few more times and saw those little single bubbles around the weeds and the dithering minute dips and lifts of the float that never resulted in a fish.



A lot has happened since 2013. My ability to fish for any length of time was reduced but a couple of  events this year have given me some of my old vim back. I have new pain relief medication and having sold five rejects, I bought a Fox Duralite chair that, along with my couple of cushions, enables me to sit for a while and still be able to stand up again. I've fished every few days and am still in one piece - result.

However, since 2013 the crucian pond has not fared so well. There was a plague of cormorants and more than enough otters over wintering in the area. The result is that roach are very thin on the ground. What used to be a bite a chuck with the chance of some big fish has become extremely thin pickings. The perch too used to be plentiful and fit but now there's just little ones that I've seen so far.

On the plus side, some tench were introduced and are doing okay and the bream seem to have survived pretty much unharmed - if you count that as a plus. But the crucians? I have heard of one, just one coming out in recent history. It was over two pounds mind so it's well worth having a go.

I did just that last evening and, before I raise any hopes, no I didn't get one. The problem is that the lake has a narrow shelf and it is from this feature that I had my fish. It is also on the shelf that displays the tantalising bubbles but, for the life of me, I cannot now get a bite off it. Just a few inches further out and the drop off is dramatic and attractive to the rest of the fish that live in there. So, do I keep dibbling on the ledge or try and catch as many of the fish in the going spots and hope that a crucian may one day drop by and say hello?

I confess, the quest is a real long shot and when, as it did last evening, the bubbling stops but the bream and tench roll and fizz further out, the temptation to raise the float and have a go is too strong to resist. I guess that something else that's changed in the last six years is my patience and determination. I hedged my bets, fished two lines and didn't give either the attention they deserved.

My evening resulted in a single bream that demonstrated a turn of speed that was well out of character, a brace of diminutive perch and a couple of eels just above the 'bootlace' category. It's possibly  even longer ago that I caught my last eel so I should be grateful. Indeed it is welcoming to see eels nowadays but I do want one of those golden beauties.






July 16, 2020

Four Leaf Clovers...

... they don't work.

When  I was but a lad I was taken, along with my brother and sister, to some hills just off the A303 on the Somerset/Wiltshire boarder. It was sandy ground, short grass and lots of butterflies but the foliage caught our attention. My sister found a four leaf clover.



We scoured the area and soon a mutant patch gave up many of it's oddities. We ended with a haul of a genuine two leafer, lots of fours, a couple of fives I think a six but not a seven although we peaked with an eight leaf clover. None of us have ever seen the like since.

However, I have always kept my eye in and seem to find more than my share of FLC's. It's a knack, as you walk and look down you just have an idea of 'four' in you head and they pop out of the three's waving at you. Have I enjoyed unbridled luck and success as a result? Have I buggery.

One of my earliest fours when I was 12 or 13, was mounted between Sellotape and consigned to my fishing bag. Surely now my trips to the Yeo would be fruitful. Nope, I had a run of blanks and an incident where my trotted bread was heading for a mighty trout well in excess of two pounds. It moved to intercept my offering, I tensed, readying myself when the ground shook. I suspected a minor earth tremor but no, a herd of steers ran full pelt down the bank and into their drinking spot - which happened to contain my trout. The fish left, the air turned blue and a young boy went home disappointed. The clover did not join me again.

Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, if fortune depended on the random collection of mutated foliage we'd all be scouring the fields and hedgerows for a talisman to avoid life's drudgery but the consistency of the curse of the clover is baffling.

A week or so ago I joined my son and grandson for a three generation fishing day at a local pool. Jake caught two small carp quickly then got a little bored, as kids do. I'd had a couple of fish too so joined Jake for an adventure walk, warning him that clearings in the woods meant child eating monsters abound - knowing full well there was one up ahead. He's eleven now so my scare story and a few guttural noises and branch shakes failed to have the desired effect. We walked on through a long meadow and skirted the long way back to the fishing spot so that Neil could have a few minutes of rest from the constant questions and demands...... from Jake, not me.



In the field I found a four leaf clover, one of those big clovers which apparently, produce more four's than some other varieties, or are  they just easier to spot??? Back at base we showed off our find. It was then that Jake realised he'd lost his little plastic Kinder Egg toy somewhere on the trek. His belief in FLC luck instantly tainted. Jake has a few 'issues', Neil likens their home schooling sessions as being akin to herding wasps, hence giving up a 'treasured' toy he'd got that afternoon and had yet to play with, didn't sit right and a tantrum ensued. I could feel Neil's stress level rising so I set off with the boy as we back-tracked though dense undergrowth and long grass. We failed to find his toy but I did find another FLC.

On our second return to the swim, Neil had been in a right state as two rods had gone off together and the resultant carnage was one landed but two rods tangled beyond use. I gave him the clover and he hooked immediately into a better fish on the last rod out - then lost it.

Relating this to my wife she was thrilled by the finding of FLC's as she's never managed it. Next walk with the dog and I found yet another and picked it for her. That was last weekend and since then nothing has gone right. My new bivvy turned up, I set it up in the garden and a pole snapped as I was connecting the tension strap. Nicky had some T shirts arrive from the USA that had been subject to an excess import levy. None of them fitted as US Large, I later found on their all but hidden sizing chart, equates to an adult Asian woman the size of a twelve year old girl. Then today, her long awaited bird bath turned up but was the wrong one. Can you spot a pattern?



I went to the river last evening. I have been chubbed out every time I go so chose a spot that has produced some bigger ones and hoped to exploit my magnetic attraction to them. As I took my already made up rods from the car - ow! A size 10 micro barb curved shank hook sank deep into my thumb. The reel from rod two was entangled with the reel on the rod I was attached to. What made life harder was that it was in my right hand so my manoeuvring was all done cack-handedly. Eventually I had my tackle bag open and some pliers in my hand. It hurt....quite a lot so I opted for pushing the point through and snipping it off. That hurt considerably more so I tried the ghillie method and put a loop around the hook to pull it out from the direction it had gone it. I think I was missing one item, the ghillie as I couldn't get it right without way too much discomfort.


Last option - grab the hook with pliers and give it the ol' heave ho. Surprisingly it didn't bleed much.

I fished till dusk using the method that had worked so well in the past. I had two chub, the biggest about a pound. I drove home and flushed the FLC down the toilet and have vowed never to pick another.

I hope that my fortunes turn and I have something of note to report soon.


As a PS, whilst preparing this blog the heating boiler failed. The FLC is a curse that knows no end....

you have been warned.












June 25, 2020

Raptors Delight

Not the Sugar Hill Gang of course but more of the birds in a bit.

It's been a chubby start to the season. My opening day jaunt saw me trotting corn and catching stacks of small chub up to a couple of pounds. That most were just a few ounces was immaterial, I was more than content stood in the flow and watching a float disappear on almost every trot.

On Tuesday of this week Chris came over for a visit - well you can now can't you. He's been excited at locating a Hobby that found a partner and they are now brooding. A trip over to see them is in the offing. I, in exchange, have been telling Chris about our Red Kite that has taken food off the kitchen roof and, being a very accomplished and eager photographer, Chris wanted to take some shots.

In the mean time Mr Kite has drawn the attention of a number of gulls that try to mug him of his food. One of these seaside interlopers has also learned that the Kite circling our house means a free meal of day-old chicks. My attempts at trail-cam photography has succeeded only in Herring Gull action.

I digress, birds were seen and pictures taken and then we fished. I had a few chub to about 4lb, Chris faffed about for small chub and photographed many things, including me.





Next day I was back and had a few more chub to over 4lbs. It was very pleasant being by the river in the evening and doubly so after so many days stuck in the house.

The birds - well, Chris got some great shots of the Kite which, when you consider they were taken from my back garden, are brilliant. Once they were securely sat on his SSD card, we headed off in search of Peregrine Falcons. Chris became very excited.

There's an area I know of where Peregrines have nested on all but one of the last twenty years. Sightings at this time of year are all but guaranteed but we hit something of a jackpot. As we approached so an adult noisily left the nest, then the second. We set ourselves down for a wait to see if there would be a feeding run in the near future.

As we sat I scanned the rocks and trees above and spotted a juvenile that was almost fully fledged. It was sat sunning itself and doing the occasional wing stretch. A little later I found a second juvenile some way from the first, then an adult returned and perched above the two. Pretty soon they were all asleep. Lunch time.

After a sandwich in the shade of an oak tree, Chris headed back carrying his mega lens that's about the size of a bazooka. I wandered off to another beat to check of the swim I fancied was free. On my return I could see that Chris was getting a display as an adult had coaxed one of the young 'uns off the cliff and was giving it a flying lesson. It was breath taking. I was soon back by his side and we witnessed that bird possibly making its maiden flight. Four peregrines is more than anybody can ask for and Chris must have got blisters on his shutter finger. We even had a group of young Mandarin ducks pass on single file along the far bank and later Ch saw his first Green Sandpiper too, a great day all around.

Okay, it's time to unveil some of his pictures. They're not bad but I recon my camera phone would have done just as well.






Juvenile 1.
Juvenile 2

Adult

Adult and Juvenile 2










May 26, 2020

Coalfish

It's been so long since I had a morning tench fishing. There's just not that many tench waters around here and as my mind spends longer thinking about carp the lovely tench get's lost in the rush for a thirty pounder. But a stocking several years ago has begun to prove fruitful. The little pool was home to some plump roach and perch but they have been brushed aside by age or predation and the fingerling tench are coming on well. Time to try it out.



Apparently these fish are right out of Mr Crabtree's folklore in that they feed very early in the day then switch off and disappear. I didn't fancy a mega-early rise so took the softer option. I gained an hour in bed by bivvying up next to the lake overnight so I could enjoy a lie-in till about 4.45 am. The night was warm, the owls loud and, what I presume to be a juvenile owl left in a tree nearby, whined about it all night.

Cane decided that the first bird song was breakfast time. He was a little put out by the reply and settled for another hour or so until my phone ruined a perfectly good dream. I was quickly out of bed and scanning the baited swim for activity. There wasn't so much as a single bubble.

A coffee had me up and about and a single grain of corn sat below a very old and favoured float. I'd given it a coat of varnish yesterday as so much paint is missing. I sat and gazed at the little red point in the water - absorbed, content and eager.

At last, a slight bob and the rod is trembling in my hand awaiting the next movement. It came in the form of a slight lift and I struck into a solid weight. However, it immediately yielded and I was into the gnarliest male bream ever. It was adorned with spawning tubercles over its entire body and felt like a slice of concrete. However, it was a blank saving fish and was lovingly slipped back.





Soon after - another bite and I am connected to a feisty little fish that, as it rose in the water, looked as if it was made of coal. In came the darkest tench I have ever seen, small but beautifully marked. This was followed by another dark fish with slightly more green on her flanks. I thought it was going to be a busy morning however, despite seeing some bubbles here and there including some that looked very Crucian-like, I didn't get so much as a twitch.



The moment had passed and that 'dead' feeling came over the water. I mused myself by feeding the female Mandarine duck and her four chicks. They were very nervous of me yesterday evening but  now they were content to take seeded bread and corn.

I popped over to the carp lake and had a wander. I found a few fish milling about and the tiger nuts I threw into a corner were soon being truffled up by a carp. But, by the time I had eaten my breakfast, sorted some gear and wandered to a suitable ambush point, the mood on here also changed. The only fish I saw were now basking in thick weed and I got the distinct feeling that they were having a post spawn rest.

I decided they deserved their day in the sun and will return in a week or so - hopefully after some rain.