June 16, 2021

 Since my last tale of woe I have fished once - and caught a small eel. Nuff said.

Today is the glorious 16th, a date that has had little meaning in my fishing life for several years due to my concentration on carp and the like. But in this brave new world, I have become a changed man and have resorted to type. No, it won't last.

My targets have all been missed by a country mile so I decided to ignore them. No high hopes, no shit or bust attitude, just fishing. To this end I decided to start the new season on the river Lugg.

Neil and I walked for many miles along its banks yesterday and saw - well, bugger all. The river is permanently coloured a sort of cruddy grey due to a large fruit/veg farm extracting water, washing the mud - and chemicals - off their wares then dumping the discoloured stuff back into the river. This discolouration covers much of the river including all of the good fishing area and spreads down the Wye. It used to be a beautiful water where sight fishing was rewarding but now..... How can this be allowed?

Anyway, apart from a handful of chublets, no secrets were revealed. This did not put me off, a few small chub on the float would be enough to get me off the mark - not that I was setting targets you understand, well, I was but I was aiming low.

I arrived before 7am and was surprised to see my chosen beat angler free. The route march to find a shady spot was knackering and, as usual, my 'light' approach was still too heavy. But, after beating through a close approximation of the Burmese jungle, I collapsed into my chair on a shallow run that was covered by shady trees. The bird song was incredible, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, blackcap, blackbird, wren, reed bunting, sedge warbler even a distant peregrine falcon. These, along with a couple I couldn't identify, made me feel right at home and grounded. I put an 11ft float rod together.

The main flow produced nothing but, when I allowed my float to slowly drag through the inside line, it dipped. I didn't see the fish as it got off but, I was inspired. I changed my float to a more sensitive Avon and soon had a small chub to kick the season off. Next fish was 3lb plus and looked impressive from the small river but, it killed the action. I tried a few more tricks but, apart from a tiddler, I decided to move.

Next swim was hot but the sun was about to go behind a large tree and I duly enjoyed its cover. I went onto a lead but didn't contact with any of the trembling bites. A return to a waggler across the far side and it's waddling gently under some over hanging branches brought a succession of chublets. My early rise, exercise, the heat and my cack-handedness all combined to tell me I'd had enough but it had been a really enjoyable session. I'm certain that in no time I'll be back to chasing lumps.... or will I?

May 13, 2021

Blankety Blank.

 After a rather unimpressive visit to the river in February a long cold and wet March and April ensued. As many will agree, there has been little to inspire the sap to rise and those heady early summer mornings of bubbling tench, singing birds and fresh new growth seemed to have been stuck on hold.

Eager to spend some time next to the carp lake, I set up one chilly evening quite aware that a cold night was due. Let's face it, every night was cold but, I checked the weather and the next day was forecast to be sunny, warmer and with a gentle breeze that may be enough to send a few carp toward the shallows. I was sat in the perfect interception spot.

I baited lightly and put one rod out on maggots in the hope that a cruising fish may fancy a light supper. It did - but it was a diminutive roach and it had evidently opted to breach Covid legislation and dine with a large party of its peers. I pulled the rod in, led it next to the other next to my bivvy and settled in for the night. The thought of leaving my warm bed for anything fishy on a frosty night has long since lost its lustre.

I awoke to find the pool covered with a heavy mist and the air brittle with frost. I went back to sleep. 

I did eventually lift a little and I cast out leaving the rods for almost two hours before realising the promised weather was not happening and accepting that the long list of blanks that other members had suffered was to continue a little longer. I left.

My mood was lifted when a conversation with Tim led to an invite to join him on a tench water. No, the 'Crabtree dawns' were still miles away but he had caught a few with a six pounder amongst them. I was fired up and we met an another cold morning.

I fished hard and felt I was doing everything right, I even had a definite one-inch lift on my float but struck into thin air. Tim put a worm on his feeder outfit and landed a four pounder. 

Despite my blank I was keen to return and Gary, who runs the lake, invited me for a second go. This time I woke early and, so as not to stare at a float all day, opted for a twin feeder approach that Gary had also adopted. Again, I blanked even though I had one flying run that was somehow missed. What is happening to me. Rubbing salt into my sores, Gary had a three pound tench. 

He has invited me back and I shall take him up on it..... when conditions are a little milder.

Which all leads me to today. Yesterday, with carp in mind I packed my car . Conditions look good and I reckon a fish or two are on the cards but, I've developed a sore throat and head cold with all the trimmings associated with feeling like crap therefore and my blank start to the year will continue.

All together now 'Blankety blank, blankety blank.... blankety blank.

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 sought 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
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.