I don't like my angling to be too easy. The idea of fish after fish is always unappealing as I make my way to the water, and actually becomes boring during their capture. I learned this very early on, when I caught over 30 bream one night for my first ton up bag. Every fish was identical in size, its bite was predictably like the last, and the fight was similar. And I knew what result the next cast would bring. Oh, sure enough it was exciting as the fish were first seen to roll at dusk, a hundred yards away, and still more thrilling as they gradually approached the baited area, but once on the feed, as fish repeatedly came to the net, the experience soon palled. I didn't go back for a second night. I like a challenge... but there are exceptions. Gudgeon fishing should always be easy. It is traditional for them to come freely to the hook, and it would just seem wrong to have to struggle to catch gudgeon. I still enjoy the odd trip to catch the gudgeon under the bridge that crosses the local river.
The other exception to my rule is the crucian carp. They are such pretty, cuddly things for one. But they are also always a challenge on a fish by fish basis. Every one can present a problem. And so, although I ended up with over 30 of them yesterday, in a 7 hour session, every fish in the net was a delight to catch. And they did give me a few problems to solve.
I have always viewed bread as my ultimate crucian bait, most of my crucians, big or small, have been taken on Warburton's Bread, or before Warburton's, on Mother's Pride sliced bread. Mother's Pride disappeared from shelves locally some years ago, and I have occasionally wondered whether their factory became Warburton's. The texture of both loaves is so very similar. Bread has been a favourite of mine for a number of species, and many years ago I fished with it to catch some very large rudd and roach. I always liked a big hook for bread flake, and those roach and rudd were mainly taken on a size 2 Sundridge Specimen hook. Quite intentionally on a size 2. But yesterday I arrived at the lake with my rod still set up from a previous fishing session, in which I was using maggots, and the tackle was armed with a size 14 round bend hook. The swim was about 12 feet deep, and with very clear water, and so, knowing crucians to be my quarry, I again set up the float gear, lift method, with just a single AAA shot to take the bait down and cock the float. It would take a while, each cast, for the bait to sink to the bottom, and for the float to cock, sometimes needing a wee bit of tension from the rod to set the float vertical, if the depth was a couple of inches or so less than it had been at the spot where the bait rested on the previous cast. But once the bait had reached bottom, I rarely had to wait very long before the first tentative bobs of the float. The rain was, all this time, coming down sufficiently hard as to prevent any chance of much play on day five of the third Ashes test, and, as I had only taken an ordinary gentleman's umbrella, it did make both keeping dry and fishing a little awkward. Nothing a seasoned drowned rat like myself could not manage though.
The bites were typical of those from British Standard crucians, and at start of play, the first over or two, I was missing three quarters of them. But some fish were being hooked and landed. Others were coming off as I played them, and I was losing about one in three hooked fish. I noticed that many of those landed were hooked by the most delicate of hook holds, and suspected the losses were due to the hook pulling through that ever so slight fold of lip on the bend of the hook. I put it down to the crucians, and their oft infuriating habit of playing with their food. A situation such as this is a prime opportunity to experiment though, and after a couple of hours it seemed logical that I had to try something different. That was as far as logic went: logic would have maybe suggested that, for shy biting fish, I should reduce their food portion size and drop a couple of hook sizes. I chose to do the opposite, bearing in mind my bread experiences from forty years ago. I upped the hook to a size 10.
Up until that moment I had about 15 fish on the tally board, landed and released, none having been hooked other than in the lip, several very delicately so, and with maybe seven or eight other fish lost. The hook change had an immediate effect. I was then hitting three quarters of the bites, and three from the first four fish were hooked just inside the mouth: a far more secure hook hold. I figured that the smaller hook must have been skating out of the crucians' mouths, securing those tenuous hook holds as the hook was leaving. If my theory was correct, the larger hook was not skating out in the same way. So, rather than it being a case of shy bites, it was more a case of poor hook choice. I continued to catch at a much higher rate, with less missed bites, and only one other fish dropped off, until I chose to leave. The final tally was well over 30 crucians, the best couple being something over a pound and a half, plus one crucian/goldfish hybrid and a solitary F1, carp/crucian hybrid. I have only had a couple of F1s before, both being only a few ounces in weight. This one was maybe four pounds and put up a good scrap. The F1 seems to be quite severely compressed side to side, in a bream like fashion, but has a very prominent and well defined scale pattern. This fish had four barbules, but they were very small, especially the upper pair, which were miniscule. I was a little surprised, as I had read that F1s had just two barbules. Maybe they didn't search hard enough to see the second pair?
A bread fishing lesson re-learned, and applied to a different species. No photographs. The small umbrella, rain, and a minimal tackle trip had rendered it impractical to take the camera. However on my return home there was a male bullfinch, together with three of his youngsters from this year's brood, on and around the feeders, so the camera did see some action. So here a picture of a male bullfinch, and a youngster of the same species. Bullfinches are not popular with fruit tree farmers, but they provide quite a splash of colour if you are lucky enough to have them in your garden.