It had not rained for three days, and the Environment Agency website showed that the river level was fishable. Not particularly low, but lower than it was on a day a few weeks ago when I had done very well, landing 8 or 9 fish. No rain was forecast until much later in the day, and so I headed once again towards the grayling. The plan was to spend a couple of hours on a known stretch and then to move onwards and upwards to seek that bigger fish upstream in one my new club's stretches. I was travelling light, as I like to do during the Winter. It allows mobility and the chance to quickly move (or is that boldly go) from swim to swim. Load yourself with all sorts of gear and the temptation is to remain in one swim all day long, rather than move when it seems logical to do so. Such static fishing in Winter will certainly cost you fish.
I prefer wearing hiking boots, but on occasions when the paths are muddy, or I might wish to wade into the shallows, I will wear wellies. I had asked a couple of years ago, in some forum or other, what wellies to buy that would be best at keeping my feet warm, and was told that for Winter fishing, Muckboots were ideal. I found them fair to middling, not tremendously warm, but acceptable. But there again, I am myself cold blooded below the knees and elbows. The Muckboots though were good, until one day when my feet got very cold. The rubber had micro-cracked on both boots and one was leaking badly. They were less than a year old. So I now have some Skeetex boots. They seem fairly warm, and the rubber has yet to show any signs of perishing. They do have one problem though. Although I am sure in my mind that the two boots are totally identical, it still looks to me as if one boot is a left handed wellie, and the other right handed. Now I know you pedants out there will be shouting "left footed, you pillock". But as I find such pedantry quite sinister, I shall ignore it, and apologise to those readers who either studied Latin at school, or who have watched too many episodes of "Up Pompeii". So I always find myself putting the left handed wellie onto my left handed foot, expecting it to both feel and to look right...or left rather. But it never does. As soon as I put that left handed boot onto my left foot it looks to be right handed. Happens every time. And if I change them around it seems to make no difference at all. They invariably seem to be wrong footing me. Now it may be that Harrod's Wellies, or other Green Wellingtons from some expensive field sports establishment will be tailored to fit a left and a right foot, but I am sure that most angling boots must exhibit the same problems as do mine. Look down: are you sure your own boots are on the right feet? The problems with my boots does not end there. In an attempt to keep my feet warm, I also don a pair of thermal socks. I deliberately bought boots a size too big so as to accommodate them. Any one seeing me fishing: my feet are NOT that huge, honest! Unfortunately when it come time to take the wellingtons off, one of the boots always refuses to co-operate. It just will not leave my foot easily. It clings like a limpet. The inner boot grips viciously and will not release the sock. Invariably, and after a struggle, the inner boot lining comes out with the foot. They are a bit of a swine to get back in again too. The girl in the local tackle shop tells me that Skeetex are meant to be worn on bare feet. This would perhaps solve the removal problem, but surely that bare foot story cannot be true? She also advised a friend that the fold over tops, if folded up instead, allowed one to wade in slightly deeper water. I suggested this was not the case, and that their main function was in advertising, and a couple of wet feet later he was forced to agree with me as he squelched his way back to his car. Enough of boots...unless anyone wants more?
So I reached the river and one look told me all was not as I had expected. A couple of centimetres down on a level I regarded as very fishable, but instead of owing its colour to Gordon's it looked to have been heavily tinted by Cadbury's. The water was very brown, and that made it look quite angry. Studying the E.A river levels page can be quite informative, but this time I got it wrong. I had set out convinced that the river, after three rain free days, would be quite clear, but maybe a lot of muddy water is still draining very slowly from the fields, painting the river brown in 3-D. I resolved to fish anyway, but bites were not to be had. Another kingfisher flashed past heading upstream, just above the water, and later a goosander flew downstream along exactly the same path. A hawk landed in a tree
|A Kestrel, One I took Earlier.|
some 60 yards away, a sparrowhawk, I thought. But its features were too sharp and so I then suspected it must be a peregrine. My hawk identification has never been too good, and only later, when it flew down to about five yards above the ground and executed a millimetre perfect stationary hover, did I realise it was a kestrel. It then dived down into the grass fully out of sight, flying up and away about twenty seconds later. If its hunt was successful it can only have been a beetle or similar, for it was not carrying a vole. I took my cue from the bird's departure, and also went home.
The next day, still needing another waterside fix, I decided to have another go at the tench, and arrived at the water at first light. I chose a fresh swim, some hundred or so yards further down the lake, and baited up with a few feeders full of maggots, all aimed into a very small and precise area. No more than about two yards square but about 40 yards out. Choice of spot was otherwise quite haphazard, and I had no particular reason to choose either the swim, nor the distance to cast. What I felt was important was the
accuracy of the baiting. Time had now moved on to 10: 30 and nothing at all had happened. No bites, not a
|Male Fish 4-5|
sign of a fish moving anywhere on the lake. I was about to start reading again when a fish rolled. A single fish rolling on a large lake is usually nothing to enthuse about, but when that fish rolls right above your precision groundbaiting, it instantaneously raises the confidence levels sky high. And the confidence was fully justified, for ten minutes later I was sliding the net under a male tench of 4 pounds 5 ounces. The water temperature was just 4.3 degrees C. The fish was in peak condition, its maleness being apparent from those Chinese soup-spoon shaped ventral fins. These fins help give the males their superb power, being well suited to the job. Unlike Chinese soup spoons. Which are a nightmare. How on earth are you supposed to use something of such an obscure shape to ladle crab and sweetcorn soup into your mouth? The spoon shape is just so wrong. That shape is designed for tench, not for soup spoons! Unless the Chinese have different shaped mouths to Europeans, their cutlery manufacturing processes need urgent redesign. But maybe in China the spoons they use are better shaped, and this over here is all part of one big joke that the orientals play on we Europeans. Ever used chopsticks? Not easy is it? Especially when number 36 on the menu comes in pieces that are just that teensy bit too big to pick up, no matter how skilled we are with the chopsticks. And they know that we just cannot use them to cut the meat up into smaller pieces. And anyone who thinks that straw mushrooms are naturally that slippery is quite mistaken. It is a well known fact that all straw mushrooms are individually oiled by the chef prior to being presented to any customer in Manchester's Chinatown. It is all on video you know: when those restaurants finally close in the early morning, the staff gather round, waitresses, chefs, managers, and all laugh at the most inept of our chopstick and Chinese spoon attempts, whilst they have their own late night snacks, all using conventional spoons, knives and forks, before finally going home, their shifts ended.
I was only to see two other fish move in the lake, both creating big swirls, one right under my rod tips, near the remains of last years rush bed, the other, later, some 3 or 4 yards to the right. I didn't see the fish, but suspect pike were responsible. But it was not to be the end of the bites, and I was playing another tench at about 1PM. This was a female of 5-13, a little thin, but with that glorious orange underbelly that some tench have. Quite beautiful. A third fish came a little later, and was a perfectly proportioned female of 6 pounds 1 ounce. A fourth fish slipped the hook as I struggled with the brolly in heavy rain. I blame pure incompetence. That excuse lets me nicely off the hook.
|6 Pounds 1 Ounce, with Accompanying Left Welly|