Saturday, 4 January 2014

Despite the Weather....

The full title of this post should actually be "Despite the Weather...Despite Christmas...and Despite the Wife.".  
But despite whatever, I did get out a couple of times.  With the river still a little too high for my liking I braved it out for about three hours early on the 30th.   The swim I'd chosen had suffered something of a bank collapse during the last week, and I decided to take a risk and fish from above a weir, into the weir itself. Not something the faint-hearted should try, for, apart from the danger of falling in and being swept into the undertow, trying to lift a netted fish up against the waterfall is very difficult, the falling water exerting a massive amount of pressure on the landing net.  This type of fishing also tends to give a lot of false bites due to the ebb and flow of the turbulence below the weir, but with experience, either touch legering or just watching the rod tip will enable you to filter out the fish from the flotsam, the drifting leaves and the vagaries of the current.   The first cast produced a good jagging bite, which I unexpectedly  missed. A second cast to the same spot quickly produced an identical bite, for a better result.  A hard fighting fish charged off into the current.  And now the problem: because of the bank collapse I found myself unable get near enough to reach down with the landing net into the weir.   Too dangerous to wade above the weir into a couple of feet of very fast moving water, and the bit of banking I used to stand on to net fish, has now been swept away.   I knew by this time that the fish was a grayling, something over a pound, and I would need the landing net. Time to try something novel. I accelerated the tiring fish towards the weir, and managed, using the rod,  to make it jump, salmon like, over the low weir and into the pool above.  This sounds more dramatic than it was, for the weir was only some six inches high. Following the fish's flight, it was then easy to land it conventionally with the net. A very clean, pretty
The Grayling Goes back
fish of maybe a pound and a couple of ounces, which, after a short rest swam off strongly.   There are not many grayling, or indeed many fish of any other species, in this river, and apart from one very tiny grayling of an ounce or so, caught a little later, that was my only fish of the day.   Tiny grayling don't look very much like grayling, they are very slim and quite silvery rather than grey, and I can understand that some anglers, unused to grayling, might easily mis-identify them as dace, or small chub. Their presence in the river can only be to the good, unless they should all prove to be goosander or cormorant fodder.

I returned home happy enough though, I had seen the river and a kingfisher, and caught fish too.  

The house in the meantime had become a death trap.   My wife, being from the Far East, is not happy with having just the odd chain of flashing lights and a Christmas tree.   Nope:  for her, old superstitions remain and advice from the village witch doctor arrived just before New year's eve.  Round objects apparently will bestow us with  great beneficial effects in the coming year.  I encountered the first of such objects, just inside the back door, and nearly slipped on them:  coins.   Every doorway, every window cill, every one of our stairs had a line of coinage across it.  Old French francs, Italian lira, German marks and Hungarian goulashes littered the carpets. Oranges, eggs, tins of beans, all sorts of round or circular objects were scattered liberally about, on tables, mantlepieces and work surfaces.
Passing through the kitchen I nearly tripped over a jug on the floor that was almost full of water.  In the bottom of the jug shone still more coins.   This was to feature in a New Year midnight Ju-Ju ceremony, when more coins were added such that the water overflowed.   A sodden floor  then became slippery enough for any equally sodden guest or resident to slide and break a leg or two on. I suffered all this in silence, which kept her happy, and apparently we will be in for a very profitable New Year as a consequence.  She still, despite many blanks, has an astonishingly high lottery confidence level. Maybe I shall be able to buy the River Frome next month.  Hmmm!   I think I might have to get a number of goldfish bowls,  nice round ones, fill them with fish from the river until they overflow, and line them all up along the garden paths.  

In reality all this mumbo jumbo is trivia compared to having to suffer Christmas every September in the shops, and then right on without a break through until February.   Should Christmas not have a half term break?  By the first week of October I have already had my fill of the "pre Xmas sales" and am dreading hearing that first Christmas song on the supermarket tannoys.  How on earth do the stores' staff stay sane? No matter how hard I try to avoid Christmas it is a near impossible task, certainly from Guy Fawkes night onwards.  And whilst I am in rant mode ( which I know one or two of my readers enjoy), is it not about time that all shops were banned from using the word "save".  How can anyone possibly save in a shop?  The very best you can do, without involving a degree of criminality, is to come out of the shop with the same amount of money you went in with.   Take the wife along and this becomes an impossibility of course.   Spending and saving are at opposite sides of the X axis on any graph you care to show me. Any shop sign or advert that claims to save you money should be banned by the advertising standards agency.  Preferably before my wife next gets near a shop.  How many dresses does she damn well need?  "SAVE MONEY,  KEEP OUT OF THE BLOODY SHOP!"

I also fished for a few hours on New Year's day.  Within moments of first casting out, a red and white Santa hat floated downstream past me, its red LED lights were somehow still flashing.  Has Santa had enough of Christmas too?  Wanted to end it all?  Thrown himself into the river from the town bridge after dropping all those toys down the chimneys of the local sink estate? I watched eagerly, but didn't see any reindeer float or swim by. But I did see a group of four goosanders in the shallows though.   Without party hats.


I think they must have dined well on New Year's Eve, as they were contentedly idling away their time in the thin sunshine.  Two males and two females...not good news for next year's breeding season.  The river was very much the same as it was a couple of days earlier.  I had chosen a new swim, one I have fished before: a great looking swim, but one in which I have yet to get my first bite.   Angling, or at least pre-commercial angling is all about confidence.   A confident angler is far more likely to catch fish. And confidence is a skill you have to learn.   I cannot explain this "confidence catches" phenomena in any scientifically acceptable manner.  It is, I suppose, my own version of believing in ghosts or Gods.   But I have seen the effects of confidence, or lack of it, far too often for there to be nothing in it. But confidence I cannot simply manufacture:  give me a swim in which I have caught before, in good weather conditions and I will go out knowing that I will catch.   Let me fish a similar swim, and I will still go in there on a high. Top of the confidence scale.   But every little detail  that differs from the ideal can sap some of that confidence.   And on this day, January 1st, never having caught a fish from the swim before took the edge off it,  the high water level sapped it a bit more, the speed of the current was a little more than ideal, and I was not by the water as dawn broke.    All of these factors conspired to reduce my optimism, and the almost inevitable result was a total lack of bites.   I knew that, if I moved up or down a couple of swims, then I would very probably catch a fish or two, but no-one should always fish in the same spots, using the same methods.   I for one, most certainly need variation, I need to try new things, new places, different methods.  Sometimes I suffer the consequences, but blanks should always be part of fishing. Anglers actually need blanks.   The day I no longer expect or want blanks will be the first time I take a trip to a commercial water. 

And I will have switched my brain off in preparation for the experience.

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