The close season has once more come under review on the rivers. The decision is that the status quo will remain, and I do approve of that. When I returned to angling after my long hiatus I was shocked to find the stillwater close season had been discarded. No knowing that, I waited very conscientiously until June the 16th, as I did of old. I always thought that the close enabled banks to regrow, it allowed me to take a rest without having to get out there with the rods. I appreciated the break, and am sure the wildlife did too. Not all fish spawned according to the calendar, and it was accepted that nothing was perfect. Fishing now though, exposes anglers to coarse fish in spawning condition. As I have said before, I hate catching male bream, looking the way they do, in full spawning garb. The look awful, feel awful, and I do wonder whether catching them harms them at this time of year. Other anglers seem to revel in the close season, some appear to only fish for tench when they are in spawn, and do so because they are almost exclusively weight driven. I sometimes feel they get more pleasure from looking at the scales, than from looking at the fish itself. Tench spawning times vary greatly from water to water, and even within the same water, and I do fish for them, but would rather catch a smaller specimen without spawn, than a deep bellied heavily laden individual. I caught my first 3 pound plus rudd last year. 3-1. But the capture has ever remained tainted for me, because it was quite noticeably carrying spawn. I was much happier couple of months or so ago, catching more big rudd, of which none showed any sign of such temporary weight increase. Of course, now, the ONLY time anyone will catch a record, of any of the major species, is when it IS carrying spawn. Records are much higher than 40 years ago, and for THREE reasons:
1) the reason everyone quotes: large amounts of highly nutritious bait thrown into all our waters. Fish can often become both larger and also very obese....heavier! Fish farms are designed to maximize fish growth rates, and with anglers throwing masses of pellets, boilies and such, into our lakes and rivers, they are creating large fish ponds. Pellets were after all, designed for fish farms so we should not be surprised to have seen rapid and obesity type growth of our fish.
2) I am sure that the much warmer weather, and the winters in particular, over that time period, of the last 40 or so years, have helped to grow our fish, by giving them a larger time window of active feeding. Look at how much larger the carp are in France, which has had that longer growing season since the year dot.
3) Anglers are deliberately catching spawn filled fish.
So never again will the record be taken by a healthy in-season fish, for any of these species. It is difficult for me NOT to think some of the continental anglers have a better method for ratifying their records. The Dutch, and others, simply measure the length of the fish. So record holders, and seekers, are not influenced by the need to seek out unhealthy or spawn filled fish. The longest fish gets the record. It seems, to me at least, a better way to do it.
So I agree that the close on rivers should remain, and would not be unduly averse to reintroducing it on all our still waters. The close season on rivers restricts, to a degree at least, the ability of weight driven anglers to specifically target spawn bound barbel and chub. Others opinion may well differ, and it may be that weight driven anglers will eventually see the removal of the river close season, and that would give them a fourth reason for fish growing larger than they used to: 12 months of bait going in the rivers, rather than just nine.
There are a number of small waters nearby, ponds mainly, which I find very pleasant for short A.M. or P.M. trips. None of them contain huge fish, but their nearness to home (I could have been posh there and said "proximity"), is a great advantage. One of them is very pretty, lots of lilypads, surrounded by trees, with newts and all the usual variety of stillwater fish species. Unfortunately; venture just outside that ring of trees, and you are in an area of very downmarket industrial activity, from scrap yards and council tips, to a £2-00 hand car wash, burnt out cars and graffiti strewn walls. Yesterday (June!!), as I fished it, a police helicopter circled overhead for well over an hour. So in consequence of all this, I don't like to park the van anywhere near the pond. I have, in the past, walked there, taking about an hour for the journey as long as I didn't make any wrong turns. The distance almost puts me off walking there to fish. And then I have to walk back. The time it takes to walk back often means I stay later than I ought, rather than tackle the walk. Three years ago I bought a pair of folding bikes, one for myself, and one for Nina. They have remained unused...until yesterday, when I decided I might try to ride to the pond for the evening. I unfolded the bike, had a trial run around the block, just to check all was well, and strapped a pair of rods along the crossbar, added a small rucksack, with built in folding stool, filled with a minimum of bait and tackle, and rode out in the sunshine. All was well, for a couple of miles, but in the third and last mile there were a number of clicks from the handlebars, which were not properly bolted in place, and were rotating slightly with each click. No matter, I arrived safely and fished until well after sunset, catching a very tubercular male bream of about 4 pounds and a small tench. The pond was infested with picnickers, swimmers and barbecues, as the locals enjoyed the sunshine, but the water is deep enough, and cloudy enough, that the fish don't seem much concerned by the disturbance. At times I think disturbance enhances the fishing.
So I packed up at first dark, and started to ride home. The handlebar problem had worsened, and they would not remain in place, both rotating and sliding sideways. There were at times as much as 20 degrees of play, comparing where the front wheel should be pointing and the direction the cycle was actually taking. My progress was far more wobbly than that made when I am riding a unicycle. (I spent about 20 years running the local juggling and unicycling club). I managed to partially wedge the handlebars in place with a business card, but still had a fair degree of play, making limited progress, in the dark, along narrow pathways: difficult. In fact, I found that much of the time I could not ride the bike at all. The problem was compounded by my never having been on a conventional two wheeled machine for about 55 years. I have been riding a reverse steer bicycle for some years though: in itself a difficult challenge, and one in which a switch off the brain is required, so as to allow the body to automatically compensate for the bike's tendency to do its own thing, and by ignoring any conscious efforts to steer it. The problem yesterday was that the loose handlebars made the conventional bike FEEL like a reverse steer machine in the dark, and my automatic body reflexes were kicking in ahead of my brain, causing me to sometimes turn the wheel the wrong way and hence fall off. Lean left, try to turn right on a bike, and I guarantee a disaster. Even the rods, sticking out over the from wheel, looked like they turned the wrong way, compared to the rotation of the handlebar stem, and so further reinforced the impression of riding the reverse steer bike. It took me an age to get home, little quicker than had I walked. But I suppose it was fun in an odd kind of way, but the bolt has now been tightened...and some lights fitted!