Friday, 9 October 2015

Of Voles, and Dragonflies, of Carp and Crucians

Missing out, at least temporarily, missives about perch, roach, barbel and grayling trips, I want to mumble a few words about other bits and pieces.  I needed to have a few sessions that were very casual, almost trivial, and to fish for other species, in waters that I would not usually visit regularly.
So firstly I particularly wanted to catch some crucian carp.   These were always my favourites as a very young angler, fishing on the club pond, getting on towards dark, using lift method with a pinch of breadflake a couple of feet from the bank in three feet of muddy water.  The bites were typically crucian, delicate, little pimples of bites, barely registering on the small floats, but using the lift method made it all much easier, and most bites were non too difficult to hit.  Then that vibrating fight, making the rod tremor as the fish struggled frantically to get free.  Finally having the fish curl up its tail in the hand as it was unhooked, a gorgeous little teddy bear of a fish. Bliss.

Not surprisingly then my first choice of venue was also a small club farm pond.  The lift method was
Little Cruician
frequently used in my early angling life, and the bites now, on that same method and same breadflake  ( although now Warburton's rather than  Mother's Pride) were just as satisfyingly minuscule.   But as before, they could be hit, and as the afternoon wore on a good thirty crucians came to hand.   All of a size, small, their growth in the pond probably limited by their numbers, stunted growth as we used to call it, and also restricted by the competing hoards of small rudd they shared the water with.   Other animals seem to die in lack of food situations, fish just appear to reduce their maximum size, whilst still becoming fully mature adults. Quite a few of those rudd in the pond also liked the
Tiny, but Colourful Rudd
bread, end I greatly enjoyed the short three hour session.
Roach poles in my youth were archaic pieces of angling tackle, used only by a few Southerners of extremely advanced years, on the rivers Lea and Thames.  I had still never seen one when I stopped fishing about 40 years ago.  On my return to the fold 6 or 7 years ago they were then commonplace, even locally, and frequently used for carp of all species!  When did elastic appear in the system? I was shocked somewhat by their frequency, but I did buy one a few years ago.   It has remained in its bag...until last week ...when I determined to have a go with it, on another club water, and also for crucians.  Not the best of poles, costing about 60 quid.  I understand people can pay as much as fifty times that for a really good one.   However there are limits, both financial and temporal as to how much I was prepared to invest on a pole. Two days later, I had only one crucian, maybe a little over a pound, to show for my efforts.  But, in words straight off a can of tuna, my first pole caught fish.  I can see some advantages to using poles, but I am unlikely to frequently suffer what I see as their many disadvantages.
I took the pole to a third pond, a new one for me, but it remained in its bag, and I used an eleven foot
Morning on the Pond, and the Little Patch of Lilies
Avon to fish bread for another two crucians, a tiny mirror carp and one roach.   All day I ignored some carp that were smokescreening in the shallow water close to and in front of me, only feet from the bank.  I don't think I have used the word "smokescreening" since first reading it in "Stillwater Angling".  But these carp, even in already muddied, clouded water were subtracting visibly from their visibility. Eventually though I gave in, temptation proved too much for my feeble determination to ignore them, and I cast a bit of groundbait, moulded into a paste, to where I had seen the fish, very near to a small clump of lily leaves. It was not long before the float sailed slowly out towards the middle of the lake, and after a short scrap a mirror carp of about seven pounds was landed.  Another much smaller common followed just before dark, on the last cast of the day.  The crucians were very pale in colour, so pale that I momentarily doubted their identities, but the coloured water had discoloured the fish quite dramatically.

Sunday ( Oh my God, I just mistyped that as Sinday, possibly in an accidental confirmation of my atheism ). Odd too, how so many of my mistypes can get quite Freudian.    So, Sunday and yet another club water, one I fished just once before, catching quite a lot, maybe as many as 50, crucians on the occasion.   This water is very clear and deep.  Few spots have less than 15 feet of water, even near the bank, and so the pole was not even considered.  I cannot imagine how anyone could ever land a substantial fish from such deep water on a pole. So I suspect it may once again be gathering dust for quite a while. I had 16 feet of water in front of me, a short cast out, so with the Avon rod I still had to get a little inventive so as to be able to float fish that deep, lift method, without having to use one of those awful sliding floats.

I had not wanted to resort to legering, because right through this season legering has caused me a major problem.  Line Twist!   Not something I have noticed much in other years, but this year it has been dreadful. I am careful when loading my spools with new line, to ensure that the line comes off the supply spool without twist.  It gains one twist per revolution as it goes onto the fixed spool, but this disappears on the cast, becoming twist free in use.  There is an alternative I see recommended, which is to get the line coming off the spool sideways, in such a manner that it loads on to the reel without twist.  After considering both I prefer not to have twist in a cast out line.    There are three things which can add twist to a line during use:

1)  use of the slipping clutch.   Each revolution of the clutch adds one twist to the line
2)  use of a baitrunner does exactly the same.
3)  when reeling in, if the end tackle spins it adds twists.
It is also just conceivable that the end tackle could rotate on the cast as a result of the movement through the air, but I doubt that is really happening.

I don't use the clutch, preferring to reel backwards and the baitrunner has not really moved much at all. So, when using a feeder I have intentionally been reeling in slowly, and, as far as I can tell, the feeder has not been rotating on the retrieve, certainly not in the final few yards.  YET, after only a few 40 yard cast with new line, with either feeder or lead, I am seeing hundreds, if not thousands of twists in the line.  With the lead dangling from the rod tip after reeling in, it can rotate well over a hundred times. 100+ twists in about 4 yards of monofilament. So 40 yards of cast suggests as much as a thousand twists in total.  I have not as yet worked out why it should be so bad, as it seems to defy all the physics I know.  The state of the line gets so bad that twists near the reel, having cast out 40 yards three or four times, have been causing tangles, impeding casts and generally being a nightmare.  My only solution to date has been to keep replacing the line.  Every two or three trips!    Luckily I use line that costs just £1-29 for 250 yards, and that I split three ways.  The financial cost is minimal, but the time taken reloading spools is time that could be better spent. The only other clue I have is that, since I started checking, the twists are always in the same direction, the lead rotating clockwise, seen from above, as it dangles from the rod tip.  New line on both rods yesterday,  I only cast each rod 5 or 6 times, and yet I once again have the problem.   But I WILL get to the bottom of it.

So the float fishing has been a welcome change, and on Sunday, having thrown my bread upon the
The First Of Many Mirrors
water, it was not long before I started to see lots of the usual crucian type bobs and bobbles on the lift method rigged float.  Unusually though, I seemed unable to hit them.  Crucians are of course totally unable to multitask. Eating and swimming at the same time seems completely beyond them, all of which explains the minute movements seen on the float when fishing for this species.  Then I did hit a bite, but the rod tip on the light rod stopped dead, as if I hit a snag. But no, it was obviously a fish, something bigger than a crucian, and proved to be a mirror carp of six or seven pounds, good fun on the three pound line and a one pound test curve rod.  Twenty minutes later, another carp, after more missed twitches, and I started to think that the twitches on the float, today at least, were not crucians, but rather bigger fish, carp, waving their fins about and nudging or disturbing the line. By 9AM I had three more carp, all very much of a similar size, all on bread flake, some giving superb flat float bites.  I learned to ignore the minor tremors of my float. The crucians just were not there.
A Young Vole is Unable to Resist a Few Pellets
As the sun got higher, the bites ceased for a while, but the wildlife became interesting.  A sparrowhawk, a female, traversed the pond in front of me. A grey heron also crossed the pond.  One of its legs was drooping badly, and I fear it must have been broken.  A heron that has to hop around a pool loses much of its stealthy approach, and I fear for its future.   Later three buzzards were circling directly above, their shrill cries quite loud.  Two of them appeared to be having a bit of an aerial dogfight, whilst the third gained height in a thermal at a speed that greatly surprised me. A family of voles appeared to live in the front edge of the fishing platform on which I sat, occasionally venturing shyly out.  I tempted them out some more with a few pellets and gradually they became less shy.  Two fully grown individuals, one more greyish than chestnut, and later in the day one or more younger voles joined in the feast, nipping out, grabbing a mouthful and then scuttling back.

Soon the bites returned, and another three anglers joined me on the pond.  I was able to advise them that it was fishing well, probably silly of me, as they settled into the next two adjacent swims.   As the day went on I began to feel for them, as they were getting no bites, yet in my swim, the carp just seemed to keep on coming, every fifteen or twenty minutes.   In the very still conditions I could hear them speaking to each other as their words bounced off the still surface of the pond.  "He's bloody well got another one!", "How is he doing that?", "Never even seen him here before"  and other similar comments.   They were doing their usual thing: legering with boilies, and a method feeder.   Maybe the splashes were scaring the fish...maybe the carp had had quite enough of fancy baits.     The carp continued making my float dance and kept on taking the bread flake.   To cut the story short, I finished with 18 carp, two F1s and a really bright gold goldfish.  I estimated my total weight to be about 150 pounds of fish, my highest ever single day total.   The carp were all between six and ten pounds...well the best might not quite have made that mark.  Nothing huge, very uniform in size, and every one a mirror.  Maybe because of the deep water they were all very dark fish, and quite snub nosed, not in any way pretty fish.  I still think of mirror carp as being ornamental, suitable for display ponds rather than angling, but these were to me, very ugly fish indeed. Give me a common any day.  
A Deep Bronze F1 Hybrid
The two F1s were better, deep antique mahogany in colour, and I think, the only decent sized F1s I have caught, with the best about four and three quarter pounds. I have very limited experience of these hybrids, bit I admit these two were very good looking fish, and compared to the significantly larger mirror carp, put up a far better scrap.  That is the first time I have ever had a good word to say about F1s.   I can see how they might be better appreciated now.  Are  all F1s fully scaled, similar to commons, or do some have mirror like scaling?

The goldfish weighed 1-13, a good fish I guess.  I have caught very few goldfish, my only other
A Handful of Gold
remembered gold one being from many years back.  I was surprised at how similar to a crucian carp the mouth on this fish appeared.  As I was driving home I suddenly thought that it would have looked rather good in my garden pond, where in company with my crucians, tench, gudgeon, bullheads and stone loach, it would have been the only fish we would have been able to see regularly.  Of the other species, at most I see the odd swirl of water from a fish I have disturbed in passing.  Too late the thought, but as taking the fish would have broken club rules, maybe it was for the best.

From lunchtime on, as the sun broke through the mist, quite a number of dragonflies appeared, together with the odd damselfly. Various sizes and species, and as I watched them,
At Rest, Guarding its Territory

Mating Pair
marvelling at their incredible skills in flight I missed a few bites.   A pair were mating on woodwork close by, and several were flying in tandem pairs, some laying their eggs.  I had put a ball of bright green groundbait, moulded into a paste, where the voles could access it.  The carp had previously ignored it, but not the voles.   Nor did the dragonflies, and one dark green individual, of similar colour to the bait, actually attacked the bait ball several times.   I had seen other dragonflies, at rest, take to chasing intruding rivals, some even seeing of members of other species.  They were reacting to movement. But I was quite surprised that a dragonfly would also attack something stationary, but of very similar colour to itself.  I can only assume from this event that they must have colour vision. I know they have the multi faceted compound eyes, but wonder whether each of those compound eyes is effectively just a single pixel, or whether each has a significant number of pixels.   Looking at their flight, and their obvious recognition of colour, I suspect the latter.
A Large Green Dragonfly Making One of Four Attacks on my Grren Bait Ball
On My Knee, Enjoying the Sun

Very late on, on the very last of the last casts, a single crucian took my bait.  A deep and clear-water
fish, being fairly dark, but its colours were far more crisp and clearly defined than those of fish taken a day or two before, from coloured water.  But I shall not be rushing back to this pond. I'll leave it to the other members.  It is very nice to have such a huge haul, but mirror carp are not my favourite fish, and so once will be quite enough for now, thank you.

All in all a highly entertaining day

Late Update: Having made contact with the a representative of Natural England, I learn that dragonflies do indeed have colour vision, and additionally are able to see some frequencies of ultra violet light, and also to do some things with polarised light. More details were sent for me to study, but I'll not overcomplicate things here. I am surprised, but when I remember that Homo Sapiens has had perhaps a couple of million years of evolution in our history, compared with a hell of a lot more for dragonflies, which back then  probably alighted on T-Rex's knee, then I should not really be surprised that a modern dragonfly is such an incredibly sophisticated insect.