Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Targets Rescinded and Ignored.

In my last missive, I wrote about my prolonged search for a two pound grayling.   I have fished for grayling on and off for 2 or 3 years, and on odd occasions before, and I finally and recently achieved that two pound plus fish...and it was from a local water that I had more or less dismissed as being incapable of growing fish to such a size.  I was very pleased to be able to prove myself wrong. Spectacularly wrong, in that I have now found swims where more or less every fish is a pound and three quarters, or heavier.

One of my readers  ( a rare breed indeed)  asked me what my new target would be.   After some thought I have to say that, although I did write about the hunt for such a fish, it was not really my ultimate target at all.  My ultimate target was to enjoy just being there, being out in the countryside amongst the trees and wildlife.   A secondary target was to try and catch a few grayling,  their size was not that important, although I would be the last to deny that I do enjoy a fish that pulls back hard on the rod.       In my youth, having achieved that two pound fish, my next grayling trip would have been to try to beat that fish with an even larger one.  It would have been the be all and end all target of ALL subsequent gray lady chases.  In those days I only had one target, and it was that, regardless of the species I was fishing for,  to strive once again to beat my personal best for that species.   But in that I was wrong, or at best misguided and it proved not to be the way for me to continue fishing.  Regardless of how much success I was having, and I assure you it was considerable,  the targets just got ever bigger, and in theory more difficult to reach.  In practice I kept on reaching many of them. making the next trip even more of a challenge. And therein for me, lay disaster, a disaster I only averted by hanging up the rods and wellies for several decades.   I doubt that I could have continued in that way without eventually driving myself insane.

There are anglers around who are able to continue to point their angling along those lines.  Phil Smith is probably one of the ultimate expressions of such fishing.  Seeking ever bigger fish.  His recent book is even called "Targets Set and Achieved".   Phil started in the big fish game at about the same time as I did,  probably about 1966, and he has kept at it, although his targets have become wider.  One of his aims now is to catch a double figure barbel from as many rivers as possible.   It is an interesting aim, but not one for me.  If you are continually going to set larger or more difficult targets then inevitably you are going to have to travel far more, the local waters will have been, for some time, no longer holding any fish of a size that you seek. Hence Phil's chosen nickname on his blog  "Travelling Man".  In effect his success rate is going to be related to how far, how often and how widely he is able to travel.   Such targetting of ever bigger fish is going to get progressively more difficult.   I don't want to go all the way to Scotland, or all the way to Spain in order to be able to fish for the next roach I would like to catch.   I wish Phil all the best in his quests but my own have not run parallel to his for the last few years.   I understand that Phil probably wishes to profit from his angling, to sell books, write articles, and to an extent that aim dictates how any big fish angling writer must fish.  I have no particular wish to become famous, but I do wish to enjoy my fishing, every day that I go out.  And I will.  By NOT having any very important big fish targets.  

So since that grayling, I have been fishing for...even more grayling.  It would be nice to get another two pound fish, but I don't have any need to do so. And oddly I have been rewarded with a whole stream of fish between 1-12 and 1-15 over the last two or three weeks.  Fabulous fish all, but I should not have been significantly more contented had they all been a couple of ounces bigger, for that additional two ounces would not have made the fish any harder to catch.  Indeed I almost expect another two now, once the floods have receded a little and the rain has eased off a bit.

That is part of what happened way back.   I had changed from hoping to catch good fish, to expecting that I would land them.   And having that certainty is just not nearly as much fun.    The more I knew what was going to take my bait, the less I found I was enjoying it. No mystery.   Just inevitability.

I KNOW that if I journey down to the Frome, or up to Scotland I will be able to quite easily top up my best grayling. It is exactly what I would have done in my past, but the reality is that it would not take any more skill than catching my recent few fish,  And I would detest the motorway drive to get there.  Sure I would enjoy the day's or days' fishing, but, because I no longer need to meet a sized target, I have no need to beetle off  there.

Oddly, since I stopped angling all those years ago, and returned to angling, big fish of almost all species have become so very much easier to catch. Few of my old personal bests remain unbeaten. There are far more big fish of most species, spread across many more waters,  they are even bigger, and the science of angling, baits, tackle and methods have improved so much that these days anyone can catch big fish.  And to an extent, almost everyone does.  Of course I have said all this before, and let me assure you, if there is any better way of getting right up the noses of today's specimen hunters, ( and some olde school specimen hunters), then I have yet to find it.   Some get quite prickly when anyone suggests that fishing can at times be easy, especially if I mention fishing for big fish can be similarly easy.

So have I any loosely defined, casual new targets?  Well, if I can tear myself away from the grey ladies, another go for those big roach would be appealing.  Or perch.  Which of my old records have I not beaten during the last 4 or 5 years?  Only bream, carp and crucians remain undented.  Carp would not be too difficult to improve on. Of all species, the number of big carp in our waters has rocketed the most. A fair chance of my beating that P.B. even by accident whilst chasing other species.  Bream I would probably have to give some serious degree of dedication to up my best fish.  Crucian Carp? Beating my best Crucian seems unlikely unless I too, become that travelling man, and go to seek a very big fish in a known very big crucian water, looking for that one named fish.   That is not going to happen, it is not important that it does.  Over and above all that nonsense is the overriding wish that I continue to enjoy the days.  Beating my personal bests would be nice, but not at all needed.  And so, occasionally, you may well...no sorry...you WILL find me under that old bridge just seeking a few gudgeon.

Post script:

The local rivers have spent some considerable time, water levels too high to fish, at least for grayling.  The run up to Christmas, a bad dose of some evil throat infection, and Christmas itself have restricted my angling to just three trips to the river.   And secretly I might admit I could not be bothered with any stillwaters recently.

Trip one produced just a couple of small trout from a high river.   Trip two, still with the river high , and snow lying on the hills either side of the valley was just a midge's better.  There was a distinct snowline about 100 feet higher than my spot on the river.  Above the line the ground was white, below it remaining the scruffy green of winter. Dippers were executing the occasional fly past, but they didn't stop to watch me fish.   The half day session produced three fish, a couple of trout and a third fish that fought brilliantly, taking line, holding solid in the current, and generally behaving like a good male grayling, which it wasn't.  It was a half pound spotty, Foul hooked fish do not behave normally, their effect on the rod is very different, so different that it is usually possible, with experience, to tell that a fish has been foul hooked well before you get to see the fish.  Normally hooked fish, are hooked at what is effectively the end of a fishy lever, and can be steered, and often  pointed in a direction you wish them to go.  Once facing up the line they may actually help the angler by swimming towards him.   A foul hooked fish will rarely do that. A fish hooked on the dorsal, or pelvic fin will feel very lumpy and leaden, and will not respond logically to a pull on the line.   And carp especially, with their big sticky out fins are very prone to becoming foul hooked, especially when float fishing on the bottom for them.   My trout was hooked in the pectoral fin, close to the body and immediately behind the gill plate.  It did not show any sense of awkwardness when played, but for some reason I do not understand, it felt much much bigger than it actually was, and I had been sure it was a very big male grayling.  That small trout's fight though, was such that I was not disappointed at the outcome.
Trip three demonstrated the prophetic nature of some of the above text.  Three hours, one small trout, and three grayling all over 1-12, with the best being my second two pounder....that expected fish!   All three grays gave a magnificent scrap on the light three pound line, at times remaining quite stationary, against the pull of the line, the float being suspended, immobile, in the air whilst a fishy tug of war ensued, neither team gaining any ground.  Grayling are the only fish which seem to be able to do this stationary fight trick,  sometimes for nearly a minute, aided as they are by the strong current. Good to get out and amongst the grayling one final time before 2015 cuts in.