Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Line Twist: Diagnosis. Still a Problem, But Maybe There is a Treatment?

Those of you who read this regularly, (and both of you know who you are), will remember that last season especially, I had a major problem with line twist.    It hit me whilst tench fishing, legering, and more recently it has again struck whilst I have been float fishing at distance with worms.

Line twist on monofilament can become a nuisance or even  a major disaster if ignored.   My tactics to date have always been to change the last 100 yards of line, every two or three trips. It hasn't really been enough, as a single day's fishing can impart a vast amount of twist to the monofilament. Well over a thousand twists is not a rare occurrence. Regular replacement of my line was possible because I use fairly cheap line. Actually very, very cheap, but it still seems a decent product, although it becomes quite a palaver every week or so, to strip 100 yards off each of three reels and then to reload them.

I suspect that much of the mumbo jumbo I read in the angling comics, comparing various brands of line and their resistance to twist, is just that: mumbo jumbo.   No monofilament line is going to be able to avoid line twist, none will be significantly better at it than any other brand.  It is  a problem that depends upon how it is used, and not how it has been manufactured. How supple the line is may have a small effect on how badly the problem manifests itself.

Line twist causes one major problem: the twist can show up near the rod or reel, by visibly twisting itself together, almost like a platting effect, but with two, not three component threads.  Worst case scenario is that these then form multiple twists, leading to tangles and knots, some large enough as to need cutting out, as the knots become ever more difficult or near impossible to undo.  Even if the major tangles are avoided, the twists can cause coils of line to leap off the reel, as if alive, adding ever more twisted line to the tangle risk. Such loops can then catch any projecting parts of the reel or  the rod rests. It is a problem that if unnoticed will quickly reveal itself once a fish is added into the mix.

Replacing mono with braid does not reduce the twist: but , braid being more supple, does allow far more twists in the line before it shows up as a problem. It will delay the onset of trouble. Of course being much more expensive it does nothing to reduce costs of replacement.

Because of my own problems, I have done considerable recent on-line research into fishing forums and the like, but find mainly that there is a lot of clap trap written about twist, by people who have obviously not thought deeply enough about it, or who have gone off at a skewed tangent and written absolute cobblers. Many simply repeat the mantra of others before them. None seem to have correctly analysed the problem.  So; having failed to get any satisfactory explanation or solution to the problem, it was time to do some deep thinking and analysis for myself.

Firstly: what is my objective?

I wish to fish, as much as possible, with zero or negligible twist in the section of line in the water. Put another way, when the line is cast out I do not want it to display any significant twist. It must not put me at risk due to being twisted.

Secondly: How is twist generated?

Line on a new spool, as manufactured, is entirely without twist.  So if it is transferred onto a centrepin reel, by putting an axle, say a pencil, through the spool, and allowing that spool to rotate as the reel is filled, then we will put no twist onto the reel.  All will be perfect.    If instead, we allow the line to slip off the side of the spool, then one twist would be added for every 360 degree loop of line as it comes off the spool.   The direction of twist depends from which side of the spool the line slips off.  Line twist on a centrepin is not what we want, and this therefore is not a method any angler would normally use when loading a centrepin.  The amount of twist that would be put onto a centrepin in this way would only be about one twist for every 6 or 8 inches of line. In normal use this would not present a problem for the centrepin, more twist is to be expected from simply retrieving a trotted float a few dozen times.

There used to be ( and maybe still is) a reel that purported to combine the best features of a centrepin, together with the free casting of a fixed spool reel.  It was a simple design, which reeled in exactly like a centrepin. To cast out the spool was rotated 90 degrees, to become side on to the rod, and the line then would come off the edge of a chamfered spool, allowing long casts to be made. It was called the Alvey Sidecast. It had a major design problem though, in that for every loop on line cast out and retrieved, one twist of 360 degrees would be added to the line.  Cast by cast, the twist would build up on the reel, and eventually show itself and cause problems.  Alvey recommended the use of a swivel to help counteract this, but swivels, even ball bearing swivels, do not work very efficiently in reducing line twist.   I had realised myself that swivels did not solve my own problems. I even went to the expense of buying some ball bearing swivels, only to find they were not much better than the bog standard article.   Swivels may help a bit, but they do not prevent twist.  There is simply too much friction involved, and added to contamination by bits of weed or grit, they soon allow just as much twist to develop as if they were not there at all.

The fixed spool reel was invented for ease of long casting, and the rotating bale arm was a method of solving the Alvey twist problem.  And it does an excellent job.

Use a fixed spool reel, without the bait runner, and without using the clutch, and you will generate no line twist (in the cast part of the line), as long as the end tackle does not rotate.

That was probably Newton's Fourth law of motion, but as he did not lay claim to it, it is all mine!

Line twist, on a fixed spool reel can be generated in several ways.

Firstly, when loading the spooled line onto the reel.
There are three ways to do this:

1)  Ill thought out
2) Totally wrong and
3) The correct way.

The ill thought out method, is to wind the line off the side of the spool, in such a way that the line rotates off the spool and onto the reel in the same sense. It is easier for you to try this, and watch what happens, rather than my trying to explain it here.  Doing this, if the spool and reel are of the same diameter, the line ends up on the reel with no twist at all.   "Job done" say those who recommend this method.   If the spool and reel are of different diameters, then there will be a residual amount of twist imparted to the reel.  If they are identical diameters we do indeed get a reel with no twist at all on it.   Perfect until we cast out.  Then once we cast out, we gain one twist for every loop of line that comes off the reel.   With a five-to-one ratio reel, if the reel recovers a yard per handle rotation, casting out 50 yards, we will have imparted no less than 250 twists to the cast line.   5 times 50.  And that twist would disappear as the line was reeled back in.  But the ideal is not to have any twists in the line that has been cast out, not the line once it is back on the reel. 

The totally wrong method is to have the line come off the OTHER side of the spool.  Do this and you put TWO twists onto the reel for every loop of line transferred.  And on casting out that 50 yards you still will again  have 250 twists in the cast line. 

Method three is to allow the spool to spin on a pencil as you load the reel.   This will result in one twist per revolution on the reel bale arm, but once in the water it will be free of twist .   Twist on the reel does not matter in the slightest!   Wound onto the reel, line twist has no negative effects at all. It is not being used, and the twists are in effect captured, trapped and contained. Method three is the way to go.

This photo shows how I load line onto a reel.  The fingers are acting as an axle and also control the tension as the line is loaded. 
The line passes through the first ring to make the process fairly easy. 
 I usually hold the rod butt between my knees. 

Many anglers will tell you to allow line to come off the label side of the spool.  This is wrong and based on a misconception. It would load the reel with no twist ( assuming spool and reel are the same diameter), but once you cast out you add one twist for every loop of line that comes off the reel.   About 5 twists per yard.

Using the method in the photo, when you cast out the newly loaded line, there will be NO twist in it.
Twist is almost certain to be added as you fish, but at least you start off clean.

Another way to generate line twist is to allow the reel clutch to operate.  Whether that be a fish taking line, the angler rather stupidly reeling with the clutch set too lightly, or the bait runner operating, there will be one additional twist applied to the cast out line, for every rotation of the reelspool.  Every loop of line that a running fish takes, adds one twist.   If you are snagged and attempt to reel in with a slack clutch, then every turn of the reel handle, on a 5 to 1 geared reel, will add 5 twists.  These twists are NOT removed when you reel in. They will still be there on your next cast. 

One method to reduce this would be to reel backwards when playing a fish, rather than to use the slipping clutch.  I play all my fish this way, and apart from the very occasional rapped knuckles due to my carelessness, it has worked perfectly for me. 

You could also allow the reel to rotate backwards, rather than using the baitrunner, but that is perhaps taking things a little too far.

Another way that twists are added is by using end tackle that rotates on the retrieve.   Feeders are very prone to doing this.  Baits, particularly big baits, will cause line twist on the retrieve. Even a couple of maggots can act like a propeller in reverse, generating twist as they are pulled through the water.   If you are lucky, then alternate casts will have the bait rotating in opposite directions, cancelling out any problems. I am never so lucky and find that such twists build up, and can build up very rapidly indeed.   After just 4 or 5 casts, line can become almost unusable.  Catch a fish every cast: no problem, the fish itself prevents any twist being added....unless is swims around and around in circles.  Cast frequently and reel back in without those fish: possible big problem.

Fish with a heavy lead, and keep the line taught, and fewer problems will present themselves, but the twist will still be there. I prefer to fish fairly light.

It may be that some twist may be generated on the cast itself.  The truth of this is hard to determine, but such twist is likely to be negligible, and so I will ignore it.

What can be done about twist, if you cannot, due to bait choices and legering, avoid it entirely?

Well, there is a lead that you can buy. Cast it out and as you reel in, it is supposed to rotate and reduce twist in your line.  It's called the Gardner Spin Doctor. In theory it works, but it has two problems:   because it rotates at a constant speed, as you gradually reel in the line, so it has a greater effect on twist reduction, the nearer the end tackle gets to you.   It does not redistribute and remove twist evenly along the length of the line.   I should point out here of course that reeling in a bait has a similar effect, putting more twists per meter into the line as you reel in and the hook gets nearer.   So maybe not a great problem, especially as, once you cast out again, the twists remaining will tend to equalise along the length of the line in the water.  A second problem is that the leads only remove twists in one direction, and I guess that such a lead is designed to remove twists due to clutch use.   The direction of that twist is predictable.  ( But do all bail arms, on all reel models rotate the same way?) The twist due to rotating bait or end tackle can be either clockwise or anti-clockwise.  So the lead would then be useful only perhaps half the time.

Another method would be to dangle a lead from a high building, tied to the end of your line and allow the twist to unravel itself.  this would work fine, but might take some time, and is hardly a convenient bankside solution.   And if you live in a bungalow, tough!

My own problem is due, I believe, almost entirely to the rotation of end tackle and baits.   Feeders or leads when legering, worms and similar when float fishing or legering.   So I cannot predict in which direction my twist will build up.   But I have had an idea.   

Use the reel to remove the twist!

Let's say that twist caused by use of the clutch on my reels is clockwise twist.   Clutch induced twist will always be in the same direction for any particular reel.  ( it is possible that on some other reel models the bail arm rotates the other way...I wouldn't know).
So if my baits have been applying anti-clockwise twists, then I can cast out my usual distance, use the line clip as usual, loosen the slipping clutch right off, point the rod down the line and wind away, thus cancelling out and removing 5 twists for every rotation of the handle, the clutch being so loose that the lead does not move at all.   As long as the lead does not move, I can remove all or most of the twist, by applying clockwise twist and then re-start my fishing.   I could guarantee the lead does not move by taping the reel spool to the bail arm.

If on the other hand my baits have been applying a cumulative clockwork twist, I can still use the reel to correct it.  After casting out, I can tape the reel spool to the bale arm to stop any relative movement between them, and then reel BACKWARDS to remove the twist.    So I have a fairly quick, bankside method of removing twist from my line, ( for twist in either direction), and no longer have the need to replace my line every week or so.  This saves me £1-29 for a spool, which would usually be enough to fill the reels on three rods, but more importantly, it gives me a bankside, quick and easy solution, to my problem. 

All I need to do is to decide in which direction to apply the correction, and how much of that correction to apply.  Examination of the twist loop which forms when a length of line is slackened will be enough to diagnose whether the twist is clockwise or anticlockwise.  So the direction of reel winding is fairly easy to work out.   
How many turns of the reel handle will be required is more difficult.  I could remove an amount of twist and then look to see how close I am to the twist free target, having a second, or third go until I get somewhere near the ideal of zero twists.   There is no point in going right down to zero, as the next cast or two will undoubtedly probably re-apply some twist.   
So instead I  designed an experiment.   I took a yard of my 8 pound line and applied first 10, then 20, then 30 twists to it.   You may think that these are very large amounts of twist to apply to such a short length of line, but my experience has been that when fishing I can generate many hundreds, if not a thousand or more twists in a few casts whilst fishing as little as 30 yards from the bank.  
Having generated the 10,20 or 30 twists in a tight length of line, I allowed it to slacken and looked at the size of the loop formed.   I was expecting the loops size to vary with the amount of twist: the more twist per unit length, the smaller the resultant loop. And so it proved. 30 twists in the yard gave me a loop size having an area of about the same size as a penny,  Twenty twists and the loop area was about the same area as a 50 pence piece, whereas 10 twists presented a loop size area similar in size to a 55mm lens cap.    See diagram below:
Approximate Loop Sizes Obtained From Twisting a Yard of 8 Pound Line. **

So if I get a loop size somewhere between that of a penny and a fifty pence piece from my cast line, I might then estimate that I have in the region of 25 twists per yard.    Multiply that by 30 yards and I have in total 750 twists.  One rotation of the reel handle on that 5-1 ratio reel gives me 5 twists, and so to remove the twists, a rotation count somewhere around 150 winds of the handle, in the correct direction, should see me reduce the problem to somewhere near zero, close enough at least to be able to fish on without a problem.

**Note that line of a different breaking strain would have given different loop sizes.

So that is the theory and the experimentation, and all that remains is to see what happens in the coming tench sessions.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Pesistence, Patience, Perspiration Pay off for Perch

I have had thoughts that some of my blog entries are far too long, tending towards tedious. So this one will be a little shorter:

Woodpigeons, robin, rat, crows, jackdaws, sparrowhawk, kestrel, tufted duck, mallard with young. A pair of peas in pod perch.

A Perch

Same Fish, Another View.


Saturday, 16 April 2016

It's Fishing...But Not as We Know it. (Part 2).

OK, Part two:  "What about the fishing?" 

The fishing I experienced in Thailand can also be effectively split into two parts. 

 The target (or bigger) species, and secondly: any smaller types of fish.

I am probably not going to say too much about the larger species (although that may change as I write), far too many others have extolled their virtues. I am certainly not going to list them, fish by fish, as I caught them. All are hard fighting fish, and as I said before, a main objective of the trip was to get into contact with some real scrappers, some large fish of exotic origins.
At least a dozen red tailed Amazonian catfish fell to my rod. Some good sized ones, none of record breaking proportions though.   They were my favourites: beautiful spotty heads, with gaping mouths, long barbules and a skull you wouldn't easily dent with a large jack hammer. My first one took a deadbait, a small herring like fish, but I later found that even small baits were a suitable enticement for these cats. They seemed to prefer the marginal parts of the lake, but maybe that was because any unused fish baits were tipped into the lake by the ghillies each evening. Right into the shallows.

Red Tailed Catfish

The second species I caught were Siamese carp. Half a dozen or so.  I didn't get the largest caught during the week, but had fish to maybe thirty five pounds. Apparently that  is none too big for the species, but they all gave a good account of themselves.
Small and Peaceful Siamese Carp

 The fish above is probably the smallest I caught and is a lot better looking than the bigger specimens were.  Nice edging of red on some of the fins. The fish is being held by one of the ghillies. I wasn't about to get myself wet for the smaller fish. Some of the slightly larger fish were less than happy about my staying fairly dry:
Larger and Stroppier Siamese Carp

But I suppose any fish with a gob approaching the size of the Mersey Tunnel, is going to have something to say about being caught.  One of my carp surprised everyone by taking an eight inch fish deadbait.
Small Siamese, Big Gob.

I foulhooked one carp, and it went rather ballistic, charging off at warp 6 speed.   It was not long though, before the line went slack and the hook provided the evidence: a single scale was firmly attached, that to the best of my knowledge, was a scale from a Siamese carp.

Sizes mentioned here must be taken with a pinch of salt.   That is not to say they have been exaggerated, rather the converse. I erred on the conservative. Weighing the fish would have been difficult at times, especially for some species, so sizes were estimated.    One ghillie was on a work experience trip. Cheap labour maybe, but nevertheless, far better for him than selling fries in MacDonald's. I don't think he had much real angling experience.  Got on well with him. He was almost as daft as I am. He tried hard but didn't quite make my grade of idiot. The other was a dyed in the wool carp angler, one who had stayed on at the lake, having bartered some extra fishing in exchange for work as a ghillie on site.  He was OK, a good bloke but only the carp seemed to really matter to him, and he spent considerable time trying to get me to chase  carp as my main quarry.  He failed.    So the two ghillies, I soon realised, were less experienced at estimating fish sizes that I was myself.   And it had to be faced, fish of the sort of sizes caught in Thailand are rare in the UK, and no matter how much I measure the photos, and calculate lengths, girths and weights, there is always going to be a degree of guesswork involved, especially with the bigger fish.  Which brings me on to the third target species:  Arapaima.

Arapaima are another South American species, and one that grows very big indeed. They are a little different in that they breathe air, coming to the surface at intervals to take a breath. In Thailand they appear to be bred especially for fishing resorts ( but possibly also as a food source).  The weather conditions and climate certainly suit them, and they probably have comparable growth rates to those  in the Amazonian areas where they are normally found.  I read that in South America, they are somewhat endangered, so perhaps breeding programmes in Thailand can only be a good thing. It would be sad to lose such a really large and spectacular fish species from the planet. Better to have some specimens outside of their usual haunts than to have none at all. 

I landed three arapaima, all weighing into three figures, with the largest, best guess/estimate, being about 205 pounds.  This took quite some time to land, with my legs actually turning to jelly part way through the fight. I sat down to complete the process.   Now I don't think the fight should have taken anywhere near that long, but the lake's owners specified that they be played very lightly.   I had to allow the ghillies to set my clutch.  This setting was, I am sure, only about 3 or 4 pounds, to judge from the bend in the rod when the reel gave line. ( I may have sneaked the odd bit of finger onto the spool at times though).  I was told that despite their size, arapaima are delicate fish, and would suffer if played too hard.   My own thoughts on this differ: I feel that playing a fish for such a long time is bound to stress it more.   I would rather have had the fish in the net in about twenty minutes, and I saw no reason why that would not have happened had the clutch been set differently. 
200 Pounds of Fish Makes Quite a Hole in the Lake, After Surfacing to Breathe During the Fight. 
 I accepted that, when the fish came up to breathe air, that the line should be slackened. It seemed reasonable to assume that interfering with the fish's breathing would really have upset it, and caused extreme panic.  But I could see no reason why, for the rest of the time, much greater pressure could not have been applied.  My feeling is that the approach adopted was totally wrong.   I was sure that, with such a light clutch setting, a big fish such as this was just having a good swim up and down the lake and I was doing little more than waiting for it to swim near enough to the net to be encased in it.  It was only when I was allowed to tighten the clutch, so as to avoid having to play and land the fish in darkness, that I felt much progress was being made.   Light tension, combined with barbless hooks, means extra care was needed whilst playing the fish, but there was surely no need to be quite so gentle.

Another criticism was that the landing nets for arapaima: long bits of heavy grade knotted netting stretched between two eight foot parallel poles, were highly inadequate.  With largely untrained ghillies, two of my arapaima actually got out of the net.  One broke the line in doing so, leaving me with just two, rather poor photos. The other, my biggest, forced its way out, and then had to be played a second time, back into the net.  The nets were just a long rectangle of mesh.  There was no end netting to prevent a fish from swimming back out from between the poles, a fact they took full advantage of.   I feel a much softer mesh should have been in use, and that the net shape should have been more like a pig trough, with ends designed to keep the fish in place, once netted. Human muscles, without the help of a suitable net, just cannot control and compete with a lively thrashing arapaima in its own element.

I did make a few changes to the way I fished, rather than just accepting the prescribed methods and baits, and I feel this helped me hook this fish, the biggest arapaima, and also a few others.  But had I not anticipated there would be restrictions on how I fished, I would have gone home very resentful indeed, that I could not fish my way, with my own tackle.  I am sure I would then have caught more...and in perfect safety.  I have, after all, been fishing a hell of a long time. But I compromised...rather more than I would have liked, for the sake of a peaceful week.
200 Pound Plus. Lovely Red Edging to Most of its Scales.

  I found the end tackle odd: compulsory 4 ounce leads, even for short casts. Reason given: they need to be sure the fish won't swallow the lead.    Easily solved: just put the lead more than  9 inches away from the hook.  All rigs were 9 inches between hook and lead.  And I have never heard of any fish ever swallowing a lead. But all of the rigs I used were subjected to two or three JayZS special tweaks before I attached any bait to them.  I really hated the end tackle set up.   Even after the tweaks I did not find it was approaching an ideal.    My apologies to the ghillies, they will have to re-tie any rig I used, to get it back to the site standard. Heh heh!

I must re-iterate here: this trip was about catching a few fish.  It was simple fishing for large fish, and not angling for them. The fishing itself was not difficult.  Treated as happy hour, a lightweight trip, it worked just fine for me.  Had I taken it more seriously I should have been very unhappy.  I don't like others making decisions for me when it really matters.

One thing for me to think about is that they used the slipping clutch for all the fish. I prefer to reel backwards myself.  In using the clutch, week after week on the resort rods, they are applying a LOT of twist to the line. One twist for every rotation of the spool. This much twist on monofilament, would result in its twisting about itself, into "T" shaped offshoots from the main line.  It causes line to flip off the spool too, and can (and does!) cause major tangles.   I have a lot of problems with line twist when legering, and nothing I do seems to be able to avoid it.  Not even ball bearing swivels.   But line twist did not show up as a problem in Thailand.  Why?  Simple!  They use braid as a main line, which is so supple that any twist does not seem to cause major problems.   I might have to test this theory out on the tench this year.   I have high hopes....just need to check the club rules to see if braid is allowed.
I had more freedom with the smaller species: whether fishing for livebait or just generally passing a bit of time catching tiddlers.  I felt they would have preferred me to do this with the 3 foot long bit of bamboo, equipped with a small hook and three of four feet of light line, that they supplied to other anglers. Instead I used tackle I had taken with me and fished just a few feet from the bank.  What a rebel I was.  Not entirely ideal though, float fishing 5 pound line, 16 hook on a 3 pound test curve carp rod.  But I caught fish, some for livebait, others just to pass a bit of time.   I didn't in total spend more than 9 or 10 hours fishing like this, but maybe I should have done.  

The predominant species was tilapia. A cichlid species.
The tilapia is very widespread across warm countries because of its suitability as a farmed food fish.  They taste lovely.  We used to catch  and immediately cook them over a fire of coconut husks in the Philippines.  Few better tasting freshwater fish exist. Tilapia in the lake were prolific, mainly just a few ounces in size, but my tackle enabled me to catch them up to a couple of pounds or so.  They have a chunky body and a lot of finnage, so punch well above their weight on the end of a line.

Java Barb

Next most common species was the java barb. None of these were over about 12 ounces, but they looked very much like a brighter, shinier version of our own silver bream.  The anal fin, body shape were similar, and they even had an identical copious coating of slime.  They liked bread, and I had taken a loaf of Warburton's with me.  Doesn't everyone?

 Other occasional captures on my float gear were small Asian retail catfish. They were quite astonishing fish, with highly flexible whiskers almost as long as their bodies.
Asian RedTailed Catfish

Note the green perch bobber float.  It was made by a guy called Mike Cootes, who calls himself the Purple Peanut...or maybe he just calls his website such. But he makes absolutely beautiful floats.  So nice that I am almost reluctant to use them.  But equally it would be such a shame not to use them.  A bit like having a Ferrari that never leaves the garage. So I used them for catching small fish in the margins.  I feel that I should now use the term "Peanutting" to describe the very action of messing around in the margins to catch tiddlers.  The float worked well.

But this tackle did not just attract small fish. Three times  that size 16 hook, carrying a minuscule bit of bait, less than half the size of a pea, hooked into something far bigger. Three times my precious peanutting float was dragged eighty, ninety, maybe a hundred yards down the lake.  As the float became more distant, my fear of losing it increased in proportion, if not exponentially.  In each case I fought back, bringing the fish most of the way back.  But then the light line gave way.  The fish had not broken the line, but had abraded it, reducing its strength.   The last few inches of line felt rough to the touch when I reeled in after losing the fish.  I suspect all three were good sized red tailed catfish, which had taken a tiny bait. The cats have abrasive pads just inside the mouth, very similar to a Wels catfish, but also that hard head might well have guaranteed the destruction of my line.   Three exciting ten minute sessions. I should have liked to have landed one of them, and maybe I should have spent more time "Peanutting" for them, so that Mike could have had a more spectacular photo of his float and fish, but  the five pound line was far from ideal, and my chances of success were  reduced by it.

But apart from a few niggles, it was a generally good week abroad. Nice fish, great wildlife and it is not everywhere that a young Thai lady will bring you breakfast down by the lake.

Lastly this:  You won't get many of these down the local canal. A Long Snouted Pipefish.
OK I Cheated. I Caught this One in the Landing Net.   Bye.

It's Fishing...But Not as We Know it. (Part 1).

I had a fairly good end to the conventional open season for coarse fish, a couple of dozen pike, and some nice perch over the last couple of weeks. The largest of the pike was about 15 pounds, a good fish for the water, and took a lobworm aimed at its stripey companions. Playing the fish, once I had realised it was no perch, was all a bit heart in mouth stuff.  No wire trace, 4 pound line.  All very pleasing when the fish was in the net.  The fish, both perch and pike, appeared NOT to have spawned yet, which, considering the warm weather we have had this winter, seems a bit odd, especially in a shallow water venue. Neither did they yet seem to be overburdened with spawn, and the spawning event for both perch and pike, in mid March, still looked to be a good couple of weeks away.  I sometimes find early close season a difficult time in which to catch fish.  Late close season is very much spent avoiding bream, as I do not like to catch them with all the lumps and bumps, and that rough touch  that comes with male bream getting ready to spawn.   The tubercles, and  other features make the fish actually feel and look ill as I touch them.   Far better to leave them alone.  Managed a rather nice photo of this handsome male goosander.  It surfaced unexpectedly in my swim, and somehow seemed rather less shy than those I find on the rivers, where I usually see them.

Male Goosander on the Canal.

So recently, I had a birthday.  Happens most years. Past a "certain" age, birthdays become something to be avoided.  Another year's mileage on the old chassis.   I breezed past 60.  I had just retired and that the new found freedom overshadowed the big six - O.    Sixty two was no great problem either.    I had just started to take the company pension and felt instantly richer at 62.  Adequate compensation for the high numeric.  Likewise 65, when all those workers out there pay their taxes purely to fund my fishing bait.  So 65:  not a problem .  No, the problem age is sixty eight.   That is the number at which you realise you are nearer to seventy than sixty five.   And there is nothing you can do to remove the feeling.   You can ignore it, but not remove it. 

My son added to the horror by sending me a birthday card.  A card that he littered with just about every fishy pun he could find. I shall not risk losing friends and readers by repeating them all here, but see no reason why you should not suffer one or two that I had not heard before:  "Re-inventing the whale" for instance.  And I had heard "For Cod's Sake!" before, but not the more subtle "For God's Hake!"  That one is quite a gudgeon.   But enough of that.  My wife had also recently intercepted an article of fishing tackle I had bought on Ebay.   She then wrapped it in gift paper and gave it to me as a present.   Sneaky!  And possible grounds for divorce.

Going into Sainsbury's recently I found the loo out of order.  A note pinned to the door said "Sorry for the inconvenience"   I kid you not.   So I had to go across the road to ASDA.   I don't like ASDA.  They have a long escalator to get up into the shop.   I don't usually mind escalators, but this one is different.  The hand rail moves slightly faster than the stairs.  I stand on the bottom step, rest my hand on the rail, and as I ascend, because my hand is moving slightly faster than my feet, I am slowly tilted forward, bit by bit, until at the top I am leaning about 20 degrees, and am within a midge's of falling flat on my face.  Who designs these things?  How could they risk life and limb in this way?  Yes, I know I could shift my hand, but that would be no fun at all.  ;-)   As an aside, the next time in ASDA, the up escalator was broken, and I had to walk up it.  I don't know why, but the visual impact of walking up a stationary escalator was quite weird.  I felt a bit strange.  Maybe it was linked to all those parallel shiny metallic strips. It seemed to have a sort of optical illusionary effect on me.

So why all this mini rant?   Well I needed rather more than the impending close season to justify a fishing trip abroad. Grasping at straws. An escalation of my real reasons for going fishing. My wife also spotted an article in the Daily Mail's web site about fishing in Thailand and jokingly said I should go there to catch "some real fish".  I think she was somewhat shocked, when, three days later, I was in a taxi heading towards the airport.   Birthday, escalators, close seasons: what better excuse for a trip abroad?

In the UK I never fish commercial waters.  At least I never have to date.  I just don't like the idea of them.  The fisheries in Thailand are certainly a type of commercial.  Exotic fish species swim in them, but they are very much commercials.  I have never thought that UK commercials amounted to real angling.  I know many carp anglers will disagree, and they will no doubt similarly disagree with me about the fishing in Thailand.   It is fishing...but not as we know it.    I think the best I can say is that from my point of view it is fishing...but it is not angling.   To me angling implies a degree of art and skill.   I cannot really say that angling in Thailand at these fishing resorts qualifies as skilful.  There are too many rules to follow, individuality is not approved of, and with very minor differences, everyone at these resorts fishes with similar tackle, similar methods and similar bait. You are largely TOLD how to fish, so what you catch is more down to them, than it is to you. This is understandable, for the exotic fish the waters contain do not come cheap, and have to be protected from maverick anglers, and it means that rules have to be imposed so as to offer a degree of protection to the fish.  So in order to be able to stand the process I had to accept most of the rules. I understood all that before leaving the UK, and as long as I could consider the fishing as being  "happy hour" stuff, playtime,  I was content.  Had I wanted to fish in a way wherein my angling skills would be tested, I would never have got as far as a boarding pass.  This is not to say it was not fun: getting a bend in the rod and an ache in the arm is what it is all about in Thailand.   To fish for these exotic species "in the wild" would have entailed great expense, a major expedition, exposing me to considerable danger and disease deep in the Amazonian jungle.  The only way Joe Bloggs is ever going to be able to fish for species such as arapaima, at an acceptable cost, is to visit one of these angling resorts.   In much the same way as the only way most carp anglers are able to fish for 40 pound plus fish, is to visit a commercial water, possibly even one such in France.

How the resorts manage to get licenses to stock waters in Thailand with exotic, predatory species from South America is something of a mystery.  I have to put it down to lax environmental departments, the wish to encourage tourism at all costs, and maybe a lack of any realisation of how much damage these fish might cause if they escaped into the wild.   After all the Thailand climate is sufficiently similar to Amazonian conditions that we can be certain the escaped fish would breed, probably prolifically.

I was as attracted by the wildlife as much as by the fish on offer, and although the number of species present (seen?) was less than I had hoped for, there were still some gems that I would never find on the banks of the local cut.  Look at this flower: it is called a batflower for obvious reasons. I found it well away from the fishing lake, when I went for a wander.   It is probably too much a flight of fancy to suggest that real bats are involved in its fertilisation processes.

There were some interesting birds too, and I apologise if I mis-identify any of them.  This I think is a black winged stilt. Incredibly graceful once you come to terms with it having clockwork, backwards facing legs.   I suspect that what looks like a knee, is probably an ankle joint.

Another, much smaller bird, looked a little like a humming bird as it sipped nectar from the bird of paradise flowers that surrounded the lake.  It ignored me, enabling me to get quite a passable photograph.

I think this is an olive backed sunbird

These are open billed storks.   Common birds: I saw them in India too.   The one on the right has a small snail in its bill.   Snails appear to be a favourite food.  How the bird uses something that looks better suited to cutting drivers out of cars crashed on the motorway, to extract snails, without damaging the shells, I have no idea.  But there were always lots of empty snail shells wherever the storks had been feeding.

This next bird I am not so sure of.  If was one of a number of herons and egrets I managed to photograph.  I have been unable to find a photograph on line which looks exactly  like it, but perhaps it was a youngster, in plumage yet to be fully developed.  It was obviously some sort of heron or perhaps a species of bittern. My best guess is a Chinese Pond Heron.   Either way, this one was hunting a small lizard.  It didn't catch the lizard, as the bird was scared away by a lady needing the toilet in a hurry.   So my hoped for  pictures of bird with lizard did not happen, and the bird missed out on its lunch. A stunning bird though. The second picture is an adult Javan Pond Heron, and is probably a closely related species.
Chinese Pond Heron??

Javan Pond Heron

Oriental garden Lizard
This was the lizard that the heron was hunting.
After resting a while, a good ten minutes of sunning itself on the handle of my rod, it suddenly dived into the undergrowth. Moments later, two herons appeared and stood over the spot where the lizard had hidden itself. It was at that point that the lady intervened in the little tale.  I think it to be an oriental garden lizard. 

Water Monitor
Much bigger, at about five feet long, was this water monitor.   It crawled out from waterside vegetation, ambled along a pathway, and took to the tree once I started to chase after it, camera in hand.

Snakes were around but quite hard to find.  Only saw two, one being far too high up in a tree to try and photograph it.  I felt there was no point in waiting until it came back down, snakes are amongst the most patient of animals, and I am sure it would have out-waited me by quite a while. I said "out-waited" there, not "out-witted". I did manage to photograph one swimming snake: it was one of the bronze backed species.   As I photographed it a damsel fly approached it and landed on its head, giving me an unexpected but very welcome and perhaps unique picture.

Bronze backed Snake and Passenger
So, you may by now be asking: "What about the fishing?" 

Well, I am afraid that I found the wildlife equally as interesting as the fish and fishing, and so, in order to keep the blog entries no more than tediously long, the fish related stuff from Thailand is all in part two of this missive. 

To be continued in Part 2....very soon.