Sunday, 3 September 2017

Of Birds and Badgers....

Oh dear...I have been lazy and idle once again.   Not written anything for ages.   The paragraphs that follow were all written months ago, round about ten past Spring, and have lain fallow on the hard drive ever since, gathering dust...although any real dust in a hard drive would have spelled the death of any data on it.   My scribblings have instead just died of old age I guess. But here they are, exhumed from the coffin:
 River season approached...rather too fast for my liking.  It was almost an advantage NOT to have a whole slice of angling unavailable to me.   Even without the river, I felt I had too much to go at and too little time during which to tackle it.   Either I ignored all my life outside of angling or I missed  out on some things I really wanted to do.  Having ignored all other things, many years ago, I know it is not the ideal course to navigate...by far!  

Therefore, now that my full vista of waters is available,  I have done rather less with the tench than I had expected.  But I have fished a far greater variety of waters for the species than ever before, and the results, as I expected, have been equally variable.   The tench have varied in both colour and size.  Nothing huge, but some nice ones amongst them. Their colours, especially in fish taken from clear water, can be stunning, some with orange bellies, others very metallic green, and all having that super slippery feel to them.  Most have come to the float, and often when also fishing for crucian carp.  There is something very exciting about seeing a float slowly rise four or five inches,  and having the resultant strike hit something that is solid, and obviously NOT a crucian.    Having this happen near the lily pads that fringe the lake, using a light trotting rod, and similarly light tackle all adds to the experience.   I was sort of "told off" by a club bailiff this week.  He suggested, quite strongly, that I should be using at least 10 pound line, "because the fish are not shy", and "the deep reedbeds fringing most of the lake are a problem, with many anglers losing fish in them".  But I just cannot fish like that, I am old fashioned maybe, and like to think that the fight is a two way scenario, not one that I KNOW I will win.  Some of the scraps I have had, have therefore been a bit heart in mouth stuff, especially knowing that, if properly entangled in those lily pads I might also lose an expensive, custom built float.  I speak to many anglers who take the view that, once hooked, the fish MUST be landed at all costs. And so they use tackle that to me seems far, far too heavy.   I don't lose many fish myself to breakages, no matter how caused, and unless that changes I will continue to fish my own way, using whatever tackle I feel is suited.    But I will admit that, with a good tench on the line, and in the lilies, I have occasionally wondered whether that 13 foot trotting rod, three pound line, half pound test curve, the one I use for crucians, grayling and the like, is actually a bit under gunned for the job.  But I continue to extract the fish from the pads, if with difficulty, and so continue to use it. 

    But the tench fishing has not been without its problems, and I have had about four very good ( but unseen) fish, shed the hook well into the fight.   I feel this is unusual for tench, their thick rubbery lips should retain almost any hook hold.   But I have changed my hooks this year, to a model with a much finer wire and a micro-barb.   I don't venture any final opinion to the barbed/barbless arguments.   I feel that an experienced, caring angler should be able to extract a barbed hook without creating any damage to the fish.  It might take experience, but it is perfectly feasible to unhook a fish well.   I don't hold with another common belief either, that barbless hooks move around in the mouth of the fish, as it is played, therefore causing damage.  I see no evidence for that at all.    I do think though, that match anglers, who let's face it, need to fish quickly, should be using barbless hooks at all times.  For matches I think they should be compulsory, matchmen do not have time to battle a hook out, and so the more unscrupulous may well damage some of their fish.  But using barbless should enable them to extract the hook very speedily indeed, with no risk of damage.  

   But what of my problem?  Well, I have been wondering whether, in a long fight with a good fish, a fine wire hook might just cut its way through the flesh.  I need to study the hook holds in my landed fish, to search for any signs that the hook is acting like cheesewire.     I like these hooks, and would like to keep using them, but may find I have to revert in the future.   Certainly, to use them with ten pound line, and with a rod capable of applying that kind of tension, I might well be damaging fish...and would certainly be straightening a few hooks too.  In my opinion, if you straighten a hook, then the line you are using is too strong for that hook, and I am still surprised that hooks do not come with a recommended line strength.. Hook/line combinations can be tested easily at home before use, but you must try to emulate a genuine hook hold. Putting the hook point on a block of wood and pulling on the attached line  is not a good way to do it, as most hook holds are on the bend of the hook, not its point...another reason why the barbed/barbless argument is often a lot of people talking without thinking,  without any real knowledge of what is actually happening down at the hook.   

I don't like being TOLD how I must fish, preferring to work things out for myself.  I will be ignoring that bailiff's comments for the moment.  Many of the clubs' rules are a little unreasonable.  I fish waters where you are banned from taking any glass or cans onto the water.  The theory is that with no cans in the tacklebag, none get thrown in the bushes,  In practice, the kind of angler that is likely to drop litter, is the kind who will ignore the rules, take his 6 pack of Stella anyway, and then throw the cans into the reedbeds before the bailiff sees them.     Every winter the departing greenery reveals the rubbish thrown into those out of sight spots. And often, out of sight means out of reach too. The trouble with anyone writing about litter, is that those reading it will already be the converted.  It matters not how eloquent we are in discussing and bemoaning the subject, if none of the litter throwers ever get to see our output.  Only the stick is likely to work, but too few seem willing to wield it.    

Here endeth the stuff I wrote months ago.   This that follows is all new, although the events inspiring the text may not be so.

I have continued in the main to fish small waters for tench and crucians.  I could have equally said "fished waters for small tench and crucians, for apart from a few six pound tench early season I have had none over about five pounds since. But as I have often said, size does not overrule everything.   Catching 2 and 3 pound tench on light line, fishing near thick lilies in swims also bordered by trees that have fallen into the lake is quite adrenalin inducing.   Trying to turn a male tench, determined to reach snags only a yard away, on a centrepin, light rod and that three pound line takes skill, and is often more exciting that reeling in a leger caught 7, 8, 9 or even 10 pound tench from a swim where the only chance of losing a fish is through a hook pull. So: lots of tench, a goodly number of crucians, some of them over two pounds, and stray rudd, roach and carp have filled the sessions so far.  Less sessions that usual, for we have had a couple of relatives from the Far east visiting, and so I have been allocated taxi duties, and tourist guide duties.  Some walking in the Lake District. We circumnavigated Buttermere, upon which my wife asked whether it was called "Buttermilk, or Buttercream?"   Oh well!   Earlier in the day we had walked most of the way around Crummock Water.    All the way THINKING that it was Buttermilk.     It was thus a very long day and quite exhausting.

 I was fairly well bored by Hadrian's wall and a couple of its hill forts. But one trip I would highly recommend to anyone in July is the Farne Islands. Seabirds in vast numbers as well as grey seals, gave me a good opportunity to play with the camera. Three thousand or so incredibly graceful  Arctic terns that completely ignored us, allowing ultra close approach, unless we ventured too near a nest with eggs, in which case they dive bombed us, attacking the head.  This sent my wife and guests running for cover, with only myself being daft enough to stay still and suffer the onslaught. Probably my only chance to get attacked in this way, so I was determined to enjoy it.  They drew blood from my scalp... through my hat!  But beautiful creatures.   With such tiny red feet, which is, I suppose, indicative of how rarely they need to use them.
Arctic Tern

 
Plural.

With Young


And how on Earth do puffins manage to catch seven or nine sandeels in their beak, without the fish wriggling free, or being dropped?  A friend said he believed that they held them under their tongues, thus releasing the beak for the next sandeel to be caught. Obviously this beakful is intended for a chick or it would have been swallowed, but I was surprised that the bird was just standing around, almost waiting for a neighbour to steal them.  I can only guess that the bird had forgotten where its burrow was.  Maybe it had some age related problem...I saw a program that said the oldest UK puffin was about 38 years old, and that they often live to be 30 plus.
Puffins.


The Somewhat Unfortunately Named Shag With its Dramatic Green Eye
Deep Throat.


Guillemot

Black Legged Kittiwake with Young..
All of the seabirds were astonishingly tolerant of the close presence of visitors to the islands, luckily for them for tourists were present in quite large numbers. The National Trust keep a close watch on the place ( maybe aided by the RSPB).

Having returned home, with the photography bug somewhat rejuvenated, it was time to have yet another try to get a badger in the frame.   As an angler I see badgers more often than most , but trying to photograph them has always been fraught and has never produced any good results, apart from one that I caught asleep by the roadside once.   But this week's efforts have borne very ripe fruit.
Old Brock

With a Stray Fox.

Male, Female?    Female, Male?  
The badgers were very tolerant of the camera flash, even the autofocus pre-flash, which lights up for at least a second.    they did show some nervousness, but only when they had picked up a large item of food, such a as piece of bread.   When taking peanuts they ignored the presence of the camera, which was no more than four feet away, completely.    I was a few yards further back, with a remote camera trigger.   One last tip for night observation, before I sign off.  I was surprised to find that using ordinary binoculars (8 x 30) at night, actually made the view so much better. I had always assumed that they would have magnified, yet dimmed, the image.  Something I had simply accepted, rather than actually thinking about the optics involved.

4 comments:

  1. I'm with you on the tench. Haven't lost many using similar light tackle tactics.

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  2. It has to have a risk of failure to make it engaging and hopefully skill will prevail. Quite agree.

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  3. Thanks George, I was rather pleased with them. I always seem to take better photos when NOT fishing.

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