Friday, 13 September 2013

Back to the Scrap

Another couple of short sessions on the Scrapyard Pond.  One morning, one late the same evening.  There are times when I need to fish just a short session, nothing heavy, neither in dedication nor in the gear to be carried.  So fishing fairly near home, with just a rod or two, and a very small package of bait and other gear is ideal.  I can be parking the car within 5 minutes, and fishing in ten.  None of the British Expeditionary Force preparation, and, as long as it does not matter much what is caught, it can be very enjoyable. 

The fish today were not exceptional, hardly worth a literary mention, a common carp of about three pounds which gobbled a lobworm ( and which fought as well as the far bigger mirror taken a couple of days ago), two roach around the half pound mark, 3 or 4 little perch, and, new for me on the water, half a dozen small rudd. With a skimmer bream the other day, this has brought my species count for the pond to 5.  And I hope to add eels, tench and crucians, if any crucians do actually swim in its depths.  As darkness fell last night small fish were rising and splashing like crazy in and around my float.   Something in my baiting must have caused this, as rises elsewhere were quite spasmodic and infrequent.  I suspect that most were rudd, and had I chosen to fish shallow, or with a slow sinking bait, I think it would have been a fish a cast.

The perch would make this an ideal water for a new angler, a kid with a cheap rod, as I once was myself.  Not too many perch to remove the challenge, but enough to keep a level of interest.  In some respects the perch are unfortunate: they are the most likely species to swallow a bait quite deep, and small boys, if they do come equipped with a disgorger, do not usually come ingrained with the knowledge of how it should be used.   A lot of small perch end up swimming in circles near the water's edge, as the lifeblood drains away from them.   I find the slammo design of disgorger to be very useful, and much more efficient in extracting a hook safely.  Even in darkness ( for some of those small rudd were caught in the dark, and had swallowed the bait), I find the slammo works very well.

The morning and evening were quite still, making float fishing easy, but the clear skies and cooling temperatures were certainly suggestive that Autumn is very near now.  The water, however was very warm. 

Unusual: A Non Agressive Coot.
But no tench, the target species, were to show any interest.  The peace and calm was shattered by the coots as usual, a dozen or so being resident. Get coots in numbers above zero, and aggression is invariably the result.   I am told that male coots often kill some of their own young.  Not observed it myself but I have seen, on a Cheshire Mere, a fight break out between two coots, and all the other coots within sight rushed in to join the action.   There were eventually about 30 birds in the scrum.   Yellow and red cards all round.  On the Trent I watched a drama between just two birds.  One had taken a particular dislike to a second.  It constantly chased it, such that it had to submerge to escape.  As soon as it returned to the surface it was attacked again.  This continued for over half an hour, and eventually the poor bird was caught, and actually drowned, by being held under water,  the body drifting away downstream.

But the coots were not the only birds being aggressive.  About a dozen magpies live in and around the area.    They defend their turf constantly, despite there no longer being any young defenceless birds amongst them.  The young and defenceless have long since joined in the aggression   The first birds to suffer were overflying crows. Each was escorted off the premises, not attacked, but certainly accompanied.  Later a grey heron flew in and perched atop a tall tree at the end of the pond.  Magpies started to assemble, and perch in
Grey Heron with Beak
nearby branches.   More and more came until there were about fifteen in attendance.  None dared to get too close, for they knew, I assume, that the heron's bill is quite a weapon. A sparrowhawk was next to fly across the pond.  As it crossed,  half a dozen magpies peeled off from the heron's tree, and followed the hawk. It looked more and more harassed as it left the area.  The heron continued to ignore the magpies, but eventually flew down and landed on a bed of grangle weed in the middle of the pond.  It slowly sank up to its, just about getting its underfeathers wet.  Apologies for the poetic license involved there.  It seemed quite happy to walk about on the weedbed, every step sinking it a few inches into the water, but it remained supported by its large splayed feet.    I could now see it to be a young bird, and it remained a while, hunting for fish, until it flew away to a bankside spot.  Later, well after dark, it again landed on the same weedbed. I assume it was hunting, but it was by then, too dark to see any detail.   

Herons seem to me to be as comfortable in the dark as do owls.  I often see them flying up and down the river in the middle of the night.   They usually spot me, even though I remain perfectly still, in dark camouflaged clothing, with no lights shining.   At twenty yards or so away, they will suddenly veer off in panic.  I have no idea how they see me, but must consider infra-red vision to be one possibility.   But why would they need infra red vision?   Fish are cold blooded, and would not show up as heat generating creatures.   BUT if a bird spends so much time flying at night, it must have a good reason, and so I am sure that herons must hunt at night.   I did see a heron once trying, unsuccessfully to catch bats.   Perched atop a metallic structure, used to carry cables across the river, it was stabbing at them as they flew past.  Maybe they eat more rats and mice than we suspect.  There was a photo in the press a couple of years ago, showing a heron eating a small rabbit. (Google "heron eats rabbit"). The eyesight of herons is certainly impressive, bearing in mind that they also have to cope with fish not being quite where they appear to be due to the refractive index of water causing light beams to bend.  The bird must have to make "in flight" adjustments to its fish grab stab.
But the eyesight of a heron is not perfect.  I was fishing at night for barbel a couple of years ago.  Only a three pound eel had so far taken any interest in my bait, when suddenly, the rod wrenched violently to the left, ripping line off the baitrunner at speed.   I picked up the rod, so as to play the barbel that I most surely knew it must be, when there was a huge splash mid-river, some twenty yards downstream. Most unlike a barbel, even in shallow water. It soon became apparent that it was not a fish.  A heron, flying low over the river, had NOT seen me tucked away behind a tree, and had flown into the line.   I struggled to bring the bird back to me, and carefully disentangled it from the monofilament.  As I stood it on the bank, looking very dishevelled indeed, it took a couple of stabs at me, and then strolled nonchalantly downstream, already, it seemed, in hunting mode.  I heard it fly off two or three minutes later.

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