Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Autumn

Autumn....probably winter by the time I get to publish this, and all the colours are muted to dull browns, greens and greys. But there is still great beauty to be see if you look for it. These fungi

caught my eye one damp morning.  And there is always colour in my maple tree once it red shifts into autumn. The brilliant red on the tree does not last long, being at its best for no more than a couple of days.  But the leaves then fall into my pond, providing an extension to the scarlet, not shrivelling up on the ground.





















I usually find that Autumnal fishing is not as rewarding as I might wish.   The grayling continue to be co-operative of course, at least until the rain arrives and colours the water too much. Many fish, especially those in stillwaters, become lethargic, without the enthusiasm to feed.    There are exceptions of course, predatory fish will still usually feed, and the clear waters of Autumn probably help them to see their lunch.

So I decided to try something new: drop shotting.  From a boat. On a very large reservoir, supposedly noted for large predatory fish, perch of 2-3 pounds being common, and good pike present to keep the stocks of trout in check.  Two days: on a boat with an outboard, on a huge reservoir. "Avoid the direct line out from the stone tower", I was told, and so I did, keeping a good ten yards away from that line.  Forty feet of water and I jigged and dropped the whole of the first day to no effect, enticing just one trout which turned on the lure right at the surface, and which was missed.   The second day went far better, a dozen perch taking the lure, in somewhat shallower water, maybe about 24 feet or so.   None of the perch topped 3/4 of a pound, which ordinarily would not bother me too much.  But drop shotting on a huge reservoir has to be about the most boring fishing I have ever done in my lifetime.
Big Reservoir.  Nothing to See Here at All. 

When the fish are not biting there is nothing of interest to look at.   Another boat 100 yards away. The odd gull, and a solitary grebe that once ventured just about close enough to be seen.   There was little to look at, nothing to see, and it made the days dreary beyond compare.   The promised 2 or 3 pound perch would hardly have made up for the mind numbing sameness of the day.   The most exciting time was when I came to lift up the anchor at the end of the first day.   Ten yards was apparently not far enough away from the banned line.  I was unable to lift the anchor up, it became progressively heavier as I hauled it nearer the surface.   I had, I was told, hooked an underwater airline with the anchor fluke.   Try as I might I could not dislodge it, and I figured that the only thing I could do was to leave the anchor where it was, and to rely on the attached float to show its position, so it could be retrieved later.   Good plan, but one which failed, failed miserably.  As the pipeline returned to the bottom, it had somehow tangled the line, causing the float to disappear as well.   In theory the anchors had enough attached line to work in any swim on the reservoir, leaving the float on the surface.  In practice the tangle thwarted that idea, and I could see the float some 8 or 10 feet below the surface.   I am in no rush to get back there to see if the fishing improves.

So, after a few more grayling and a solitary canal pike of maybe eight or nine pounds, I headed for the River Severn, in order to try for the zander.   A new venue for me, with zander as the target species, and so I decided to fish two days and nights.   A poor choice of dates left me sitting on the bank during the two coldest nights of the year so far.   But I was prepared.   I don't have a bivvy,  but a brolly with side panels would suffice, especially with a length of black cloth draped over the open front, leaving me just enough space to leap out at the first sign of a bite.  The river was low and clear, slow and easy, and my legered rudd deadbaits remained where I cast them, with few drifting leaves to catch the line.   Few fish to disturb them either.  On the first night a missed run, a very finicky sort of run.  Then nothing for a good while. A second similar run.  I was fairly warm, having taken a butane gas heater into the encampment.   I had found two lengths of the black cloth near the river a few days before, and the second length was draped over my legs.   At the onset of the bite, I cast off the cloth and tottered out into the cold, my legs stiff from inactivity, clotted with pins and needles, and I was as unstable as hell.   I came close to falling into some ten feet of cold Severn slack water.  But I hit the fish and reeled it in.   An eel of about two pounds.  We never had eels near home when I was a young angler, and so my first experience of one was during a match on the Witham.  The 15 inch bootlace wriggled and wrapped itself about the line, and I struggled to control it.  Even putting my boot over its neck failed to subdue the thing, and eventually it wriggled into the grass backwards, taking my hook with it.   The Severn fish was larger, maybe a couple of pounds of pure muscle.  It did not want to be unhooked, and as I struggled with the fish, my stiff legs and the dark, I suddenly noticed how misty it was.   It became apparent that the mist was at its most concentrated near to my brolly encampment.   It was the flames and the smell of smoke that convinced me there was nothing misty about the scene at all.  I had cast off the leg warming cloth rather too near to the gas heater, and it had caught fire. A few moments of panic later, the fire was out, and the eel was finally subdued and returned.    Eels!   And I had two more of the damn things the next night.    The daytime was a little better, three or four small chub, a daddy ruffe and a perch were landed, before something else took the rudd.   A pike, long and slim, tending towards thin.
River Severn Pike
 But a scrapper that just dragged the scales past the ten pound mark.   Nicely hooked in the scissors with the single hook.   Once fit and fat I might have expected this fish to weigh a good three pounds more.  I concluded though, that the fish in general, and the zander in particular were doing no more than they needed to remain in the river and alive.  Cold-bloodedness can be advantageous, especially when you do not want to get caught by a passing angler. The fish were not wasting calories by chasing about the swim, and were thus able to be economical with the tooth. (Sorry!...Am I really sorry?...Of course not...you can all suffer that one.).   In stillwater fish can be very static, moving about very little.  Pond keepers are actually advised not to feed their fish during the colder months, and so fish can survive in stillwater for months without feeding at all.   In rivers they might have to flick the odd fin, and so need a little more sustenance, but a fish is a very efficient machine and can get by, eating very little.

These river fish were using just enough calories to exist, to remain alive. And it reminded me that I too, am on (yet another) diet.  So this next section is about dieting, and is neither compulsory, nor compulsive reading. It doesn't quite qualify as a rant. So feel free to take a tea break here.  Not too many biscuits though! It is intended to remind me to keep the weight reduction going, and to allow myself to throw stones and jeer if I fail to get down to the weight I want to be. Feel free to join in if I fail.  

I had been finding some fishing trips quite heavy going of late, especially those involving climbing back up the steep valley sides after fishing the river.  But as of about 14 weeks ago I had lost two stones: 28 pounds, following a series of successes and failures spread across two years.  Another stone or so has gone in the last 3 months.  I told my wife I was worried about getting a six pack, and have no idea why she laughed. To succeed I find I need targets, and I need to keep it interesting, as my aim, should I hit that target, is to shed a further three stones, getting me back to the weight I was whilst frittering away my time at university. Looking down at my trimmer figure, I cannot see where the extra is going to come from. Losing weight is not easy.

So firstly, I needed some information. As ever, the internet provides it in abundance.  Someone my age, height and weight needs 1650 calories a day... 1650 just to survive and remain at a constant weight.  Moving about, getting out of bed, and other inadvisable activities add to that total.  For a moderately active person, of similar build to myself, add on 600 calories per day, for a total of 2250.  At this point the scientist in me reminds you that one food calorie is equivalent to 1000 real scientific calories.  I guess chefs, and dietitians are none too good with big numbers and someone simplified it all for them.  I really need 2,250,000 calories per day, but I won't dwell on that too much.

So: to lose weight there are two choices  1) exercise more or 2) eat less.   I decided to go for option 3), which is a bit of both.

Using another bit of internet data, a pound of human fat, as eaten by your nearest cannibal, contains 3500 calories.   Enough to feed him and one small kid for a day.  But it allows a calculation:   eat 500 calories each day less than that 2250, and I should lose a pound a week. Astonishingly, to me at least, that formula seems to be pretty accurate. I have, to add some of that necessary interest, been totalling up my calorie deficit over the last couple of months or three, and my predicted loss is matching the theoretical loss very very closely.   There are blips in the process, such as one period of two weeks, during which my weight stayed absolutely constant, despite sticking rigidly to the "rules".  I cannot explain that at the moment. 

So what of exercise?   Another schoolboy physics calculation produced the figure of 6.5 calories used, if I run up to the top room in my house, some 30 steps up,  ( allowing for the accepted figure, one that we all know of course: that the body is about 20% efficient). So twice up all those stairs, 60 steps, should use and lose the calorific equivalent of one Trebor mint.  It says on the packet that one mint = 13 calories.  So there is a way of having a sweet treat.   A reward without the guilt. Run up and down twice and have a sweet.   Of course a more relevant bit of data, is the number of times it would take, running up those stairs, to lose a pound in weight.       The keener types amongst you will no doubt have already worked that out in your head as being 538.46 times, leaving me exhausted one step below the first floor.  This is totally ridiculous, and so any form of extreme exercise has been banished from the weight loss program.   Even walking uses very little.  About 25 miles to lose a pound.  And then I would have to walk back again.  So short walks, a few miles on those days I do not go fishing, is as much exercise as I shall include.     25 miles!     Looking up the calorific value of petrol, enabled me to make yet another daft calculation.   Were I able to run on petrol, I would be getting about 220 miles per gallon.  I think.   I did that calculation a few days ago and have forgotten the exact result.

So food has become different.  I find myself looking at the calorie count of food on the supermarket shelves.  There is not much labelled as being specifically for the dieter.   A few weight watchers bits and pieces.   Now I must say, here and now, that Heinz weight watchers soups are not for the faint hearted, nor for the weak of stomach.  They have all the attractive looks and taste of a bush tucker trial.   Look it up! I never thought that anything could have all the look, smell, taste and texture as the remnants in my sink, just after doing the washing up following a vegetarian party. Oh my God, if that soup were the only option, I would have given up ages ago.  I had bought four cans.   I hope the recycling plant doesn't want all the tins to be empty.  There are a few meals rated at about 350 calories.  So in theory I could actually eat six of them in a day without weight gain!   Three therefore should see the pounds fall off. 

The reduction in food intake, especially with exercise, does occasionally lead to a lack of energy. But my son, now a doctor, has banned me from drinking Red Bull: not good for me, he says,  I know it is good for me when those two blondes drive a huge can of it past as I walk down the road though. But all is not lost: there are diet energy drinks out there now.   But read the labels on them.   How can a can of diet, berry flavoured, energy drink, actually give anyone a boost, when it clearly states on the label that a full can contains only 17 calories?   Barely enough in a can to get me to the top of our stairs.   Advertising standards really need to look at this.   

Whilst talking about advertising, I returned one of those "bags for life" to Sainsbury's yesterday.  It had become badly damaged, and my "only 311 calories" ASDA meals were falling out of it.   They were reluctant at first to swap it for me.  Then I pointed out to them that they were getting all this free advertising from me, a walking billboard, every time I went shopping with it at Tesco or Aldi.   That worked and they swapped it.   I chuckled to myself as I left the store.  They obviously had completely missed that I was having a major laugh at their expense (and I really mean their expense) with that reasoning.   It will come to them in a couple of days.  Maybe.

P.S. I lost another three pounds whilst writing this.  Going for a curry.   Bye.







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