The First REAL day of Spring.
The warm weather has finally arrived it would seem, and has tempted me to the water's edge. Of course, water has that magnetic quality, drawing me ever closer, and I would have gone anyway, but Spring's temptation sounds more lyrical. Well it does to me, so there!
Crucians were calling, and I decided on a shallow lake, known to contain a lot of them. Known to everyone else maybe, for I only managed one last year in about 4 trips. Did lose a large carp on light tackle though, which careered off down the lake in the shallow water, leaving a huge bow wave on its way to the snag. I reject utterly the claims made by many that a hooked and panicking carp will head right for the nearest snag. But the end result is the same, whatever you believe or not. I'll remain an atheist on this one. If you wish to imbue your carp with God like capability, then so be it. Amen.
My choice of water was based on the idea that a lake that averages only eighteen inches of water would see active fish far earlier than deeper waters. So did I catch a crucian this time: NO! But I did add another water to my long list this year that have produced perch of two pound plus for me. Saw my first swallow of the year, a low flying buzzard being hounded ( birded?) by a crow, and a few pheasant of both sexes. Does one swallow make a Spring?
The Second Day of Spring.
Left the rods at home and went for a stroll along the Manchester Ship Canal. Disappointed to see no-one fishing, despite a recent announcement by one who "should" know, that the short stretch of the Canal that can be legally fished does not have a close season. I still doubt the verity of this, as the Canal is merely a dredged and deepened bit of the River Irwell. If I cast a rod at it and get caught, I'll blame you. You know who you are. ;-) But amongst the black backed gulls, the cormorants, mallards, Canada geese and swans that floated on, or flew above the canal, were about 30 sand martins. Enterprising little birds these martins. They are supposed to dig tunnels in vertical sand banks near rivers. But being lazy little birdbrains they are happy to use existing clay pipes poking out of brick walls, and on the Shippie, to use cracks between the old stonework of the vertical canal banks. I do worry for them this year though, sand martins being invariably the first arrivals from Africa, before the swallows, housemartins and swifts, they must be finding very little to eat. Our late spring has led to a dearth of flying insects. I saw none on my walk, nor whilst fishing. Will these, and other sand martins survive this year?
No fish seen rising, and the cormorant I watched for half an hour went hungry.
Having failed to catch a crucian two days ago, perch are now my target. Again on a fairly shallow water, but for perch, the water temperature is less critical, so this place is a fairly uniform 3 foot 6. Arriving early, I choose a sheltered spot, with the light wind behind me, and behind the fence that is also behind me, creating a barrier. Despite a dawn start, lunchtime remains biteless. The perch rod was to remain biteless all day, and the crucian rod was so far looking to be similarly afflicted. I pass the morning watching mating toads in the edges of last season's weedbeds, and studying the chaffinches as they chase each other with the full joys of Spring in their wings. A couple of small brown birds land in the skeletal tree behind me. They do not stay long and remain unidentified. LBJs, to use the description of qualified ornithologists. No? OK, just for you, dear reader: Little Brown Job. Any brown small bird that you cannot quite identify.
A butterfly, first sighting of the year, struggles impressively across the wind, on wings that look ill-designed for the journey, yet which are nevertheless highly functional. It brings me luck, for a short time afterwards I hook and land a spirited crucian carp of about a pound and three quarters.
The wind has now changed around, and blows directly into my face, all the while getting stronger. So strong that the M62 has banned high sided vehicles. It makes for some very difficult float fishing, especially for shy biting crucians. I miss many a bite, but not all, and I end the day with an impressive 11, together with a pair of tench. All of the fish have the hollow bellies that suggests they have not fed well recently. The crucians run from about a pound and a quarter, up to exactly two pounds, and the two tench would have weighed about the same as the largest crucian, a couple of pound each. This all bodes well, not only for this water, but for several other tench waters I want to throw a lead at this year. As I pack up, a pair of buzzards circle overhead, gradually moving away and downwind. Lower down, a pair of kestrels demonstrate that, even in the high wind, the nickname of "windhover" is well deserved. Not sure what prey they seek though, hovering right over the middle of the lake. As I walk back to the car, I see the first gardener of Spring. I guess he is also back from Africa, but some days later than the sand martins.
I leave the water far earlier than I wanted to, immediately greeting the motorway rush hour, and ultimately emerge from that nightmare just in time to go out and run the local circus school, my regular Tuesday night gig. A good three days, and a promising, if late, start to warm water. Actually it is still just 10 degrees in the lake, and the fish are not yet in peak condition following their harsh winter. The 20 degree air temperature had made the 3rd day bearable, although I am suffering considerable wind-burn after 6 hours of facing a stiff breeze. I do wish I had not worn that bobble hat though. A two tone forehead does not suit me.