Friday 5 October 2012

A Not So Blank Session

I fished a certain gravel pit a couple of weeks ago.  The weather was warm, the water deep, and so, despite the clear sky, I was expecting to catch.  And I did, although the fish were neither of the size nor species I had aimed for.   Tench were once more the target, but not a sniff of a tench was seen.

But the afternoon was not wasted, for there were dragonflies and damselflies everywhere, and of several species.  The fish, apart from a few very obvious carp cruising, were inactive, and so certainly were the tench.  But the dragonflies provided me with a few photographs. This first photograph is of a "migrant hawker dragonfly".  As dragonflies go, it sounds, from the "migrant" tag, to be a rare visitor, but that is not the case, and it appears to be fairly common.   Easily confused with the common hawker, but I think I have the ID correct.
Later in the day I photographed a pair mating on some nearby vegetation.  I think these are also migrant hawkers, but cannot be sure. I think the male is on the right, hanging on to his female just behind the head.  Note the little blue damselfly, that appears to be taking an almost pornographic interest in the events happening nearby.  This photograph has redefined how I thought dragonflies and damselflies mated.   I had often seen pairs flying in tandem, the male, with the end of his abdomen, gripping the female just behind the head, and the pair flying "line astern".  I had always thought it very odd that the females' sex organs seemed to be positioned just behind the head.  But, as can be seen from the photo, the female at some time has to curve her own abdomen to a position underneath the male's thorax.   So mating cannot take place in flight, and indeed, not without the consent of the female. I saw several pairs of damselflies arranged in a similar position later on in the day. The damsels adopt an almost heart shaped configuration...awwwww!   But the female's consent is not seen as necessary by the male damselflies, which seem to vastly outnumber the females.   One poor female appeared to be drowning, yet there was a queue of males attempting to mate with ( rape?) her.
The carp, though not many, continued to swim past, including this very large individual.  This fish I would guess at about thirty pounds, but I am not really keen on carp angling these days, and so I did not try to catch it.  I don't like the way many carp look, overweight, bloated, and I have only seen one mirror carp that I thought looked truly handsome. It had a much slimmer profile, and was a linear mirror that even I had to admit looked wonderful, despite its not being fully scaled. But I would be happier if all carp had remained wildies, and regret that so much selective breeding has taken place.  But I suppose that selective breeding with cats and dogs has also produced some of this earth's ugliest creatures.
The clear water also revealed a good half dozen small pike, mostly quite motionless, awaiting their prey.
This one was very easy to approach, even in the clear water, and was 11 or 12 inches long.  Some others were no more than six inches, but all had that menacing look about them.  One, slightly larger , at about fifteen inches long swam past.  It had a piece of white plastic, rectangular in shape, stuck in its jaws.   The edges of the plastic were draped with bits of weed.   I have no idea how it got into this condition, nor whether it would survive.  The gravel pit is very clean, with remarkably little litter, a pleasing sight these days, so how the pike found one of the very few bits of junk, I have no idea.  And even less idea why it decided to try and eat it.  I was not able to rescue it, so its fate remains unknown to me.
Twenty yards out, and another surprise visitor.  A small dot appeared on the otherwise flat calm, motionless surface.  It took me a while to figure it out, but the dot was the head of a terrapin, no doubt discarded by some pet owner, who no longer wanted to feed it daily.   They are getting more common, as this is the third water in which I have seen them.  With luck, they will not find the climate suitable for breeding.  A friend of my wife astonished us a while ago.  She had smuggled a couple of small terrapins, or perhaps they were tortoises, back from America, in her clothing.  I have always know her to be a little scatterbrained, but hearing she had flown home,  tortoises crawling about in her knickers, left me almost speechless.   Silly woman.
By this time I had given up all hope of tench, the sun was far too high in the clear sky. So I decided to fish for perch.   I chose to use a slow sinking feeder, stuffed with maggots and a lump of polystyrene, cast into the deep water.  It took quite some time for the bait, a small worm to sink the 16 or 18 feet, but a bite came fairly rapidly, once it had hit bottom.  A roach of some 6 ounces, very dark across the back, but with wonderfully coloured red fins.  No other bites came until I changed the bait to double maggot, still fishing the same method.  Eventually I had about thirty such roach, all 6 to 8 ounces apart from one that was a pound.   Any pound roach is always a welcome fish.  Only two perch took the baits, one a six inch fish the other a fish of one pound eleven ounces.  This fish surprised me, as it did not have the expected bright colouration that I associate with such clear water.  Its lack of black stripes can be seen in the photo, but its size is such that a winter perch session or two might be well worth a go on the pit.
As I left the pit a little later, a carp angler had just arrived.  His wheelbarrow was loaded fully, so much gear that I was in total disbelief, almost shock.  I calculated he had about 36 cubic feet of gear on that wheelbarrow.  There was even a patch of artificial grass "so he didn't have to lay his reels down in the mud if he caught a fish".  He could have survived a couple of months deep in the tropical rainforest without any signs of discomfort. I will never understand the need to take so much gear.  I have even seen anglers in their bivvies with portable TVs, space heating and duvets.  They sleep the night away, door zipped up, use a bolt rig so that the fish hooks itself, and have radio controlled fish alarms to wake them up.   All they need is an electrically powered reel, and there would be no need to stay by the waterside.   Cast out, go home to the wife and return to net the fish from the shallows next morning. It would only need a couple more minor inventions and they could return in the morning, and their only action would then be to check the camera to see what they had caught, before publishing the results on Facebook:  "Look what I caught last night".  Fishing changed so dramatically whilst I took the odd thirty two years away from the bankside. I don't like very  much of what has happened during that time.

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