Monday 11 March 2013

...and Did the Disco Maggots Dance?

Nope:  The maggots that caused so much trouble the night before were sullen on the fishing trip, and refused to parley with the fish. I threw them at the river all day long and the river, in cahoots with all its denizens, ignored them completely.  On a day when I started with supreme confidence, with both water and air temperature about 8 degrees Centigrade  ( only about 1 degree with the wind chill factoring in its evil influence on my hands and feet), the river disappointed me.  Other anglers who packed away their tackle earlier than did I, reported blanks.  The river was low, and I was only saved from a total blank as the light started to fade, when a chub of about 2 & 1/2 pounds took a lump of breadflake. It gave a pleasingly spirited scrap and so I hung on for an evening feeding spree, but should instead have gone home. The birdlife was nearly a disappointment too. By mid afternoon I had seen only swans, mallards, blackheaded gulls ( some with their newly blackened heads), and a solitary black backed gull.   Impressive bird: it flew upstream into a headwind, using its wings only for control, not a flap to be seen. Yet it gained height as it did so.  So much for simple "O" level physics. An oystercatcher, heard but not seen, almost completed the ornithological experiences for the day.

But a gorgeous little kestrel performed a long fly past downriver, and later another, upriver, hovering briefly before perching on a nearby wire during a brief spell of sunshine.
That alone would have made the day worthwhile, but later a very rare event: A couple of avocets landed briefly on some exposed mudflats a little way downstream.  Too far away for my camera, even with the 300 lens fitted, and had I not seen avocets before they would have been too far away for me to properly identify. Waders are not my strongest suit. I will instead add a couple of avocet photographs that I took a couple of years ago near the Ribble.  Such spectacular birds, as indeed are most of those with exclusively black and white plumage. Not as delicate at they look, and can get quite aggressive, especially when their young are in danger.  And such crazy long upturned bills.  If you think the Chinese make eating difficult with chopsticks, be prepared to be amazed what this bird can do with a beak that looks to be totally unsuited to the job.
Avocet With Young


And I can now answer the flyspray question, as posed in the last post.  Fly spray, used conventionally, does not seem to bother maggots at all.  Over the following couple of days I picked up a steadily decreasing quantity during each visit to the cellar.    The numbers decreasing only, I suspect, because the remaining wanderers had found suitable crevices in which to hide.   Few more will now be captured, as they have started to pupate.   There will soon be many hundreds of flies buzzing around the underfloor space.   Last time there were only a few dozen, but some still emerged from the cellar into the house at large.   I passed them off to the wife as having flown in through the kitchen window.   It was Summer then, and I know that the excuse will not wear this time.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Damned Disco Maggots

We have all done it I know. I first did it when I was about 13. My father was not happy.  My mother was horrified. She didn't speak to me for weeks.

I came down one early morning to find the hall awash with escaped maggots. Cleared up as many as I could whilst my parents were still in bed...but three weeks later the secret was out...big time, and, as above, my mother and father were not amused.

On that occasion I know why it happened. Leaving the lid a little loose to allow them to breathe, also lets them sweat and escape by scaling the walls of the tin. We soon learn that keeping maggots cool and dry, with the lid off, contains them within the tin. Or it did until the night before last.

The tackle shop did not have my usual colour of maggots, and so I had to buy something called "Disco", a lurid mixture of over the top coloured maggots. They had been left overnight, two pints in a four pint maggot box, lid off, on the cellar floor. All should have been fine. BUT...going down to pick them up for my early start yesterday, the sea level looked rather low. About a pint had gone walkabout. And I have no idea why or how. I blame the tackle shop and his disco branded gentles. These discos were regular Houdinis, who limboed their way over the wall. I rounded up as many as I could, making me a little late for a pre-dawn start, but the effect in three weeks time will do nothing other than reduce the number of megatons falling when the wife finds out. What is worse, in three weeks time my 84 year old aunt comes to visit from Australia, together with my cousin and her husband. I feel my second near death experience of the year approaching fast. I have no idea how they escaped.

Meanwhile: does anybody know whether flyspray kills maggots hidden in the nooks and crannies of a cellar? The tin says all flying insects, but....
This all recalls an article I wrote many years ago, following another such escape.  I reproduce it here, in exact form, no changes to protect the guilty.
It was entitled:
Commuting with Nature

May I first advise the squeamish to go and squeam elsewhere.

Years ago now I was a very, very keen angler, a specimen hunter, one of those idiots who sought out the biggest of the particular species in which he was interested on the day. Daytime, night-time, all weekend, often all week, summer, winter, rain or sunshine, it made no difference. If I could get away from work, the lake or riverside side was the immediate destination. Of course big fish and long sessions meant lots of bait, and there were times when maggots, bred commercially on a maggot farm, would be essential. So, in the torrential rain (perfect weather), one day, we were tench fishing at Tabley Mere, Knutsford, Cheshire UK. And here my apologies to the estate gamekeeper, belated though they be: yes! we did break the rules and fish at night (every night actually). God, my soul feels cleansed now! The trip was to last some 10 days, and so the bulk of the maggots were in my old, dark blue Ford Cortina, safe in the boot (trunk). Or so I thought.....

A bit of natural history now. Whilst maggots are kept dry they happily crawl around in the bottom of a maggot tin, and do no harm at all, presenting no problems to anyone. But when they are wet, the water allows them to crawl up vertical surfaces with ease. Now in the car was not a tin of maggots, but some four gallons of these sweet little creatures. Dyed in various pretty colours, they milled around in a big plastic sort skip in the boot! Anglers' cars of course get neglected, and mine being no exception to the rule, it had developed a water leak in the boot, directly above half the world's population of best quality multicoloured supermaggots: a tench picnic fit only for the gods. Once wet the maggots quickly emulated Houdini, and by the next time I visited the car, for another gallon or so of Frank's Fishing Shop's best, the vast bulk had gone for a stroll. As I approached the car I realised all was not as it should have been. My dark blue paintwork was covered in little dayglow coloured spots.....and wait......the spots appeared to be moving. Yes folks, every square inch of the wet car was covered with the brutes, all engaged in one great scientific surface tension experiment . Not only that, but, as maggots seek out nooks and crannies in which to hide and pupate, they were crawling everywhere. They were even going around and around inside the car's instrumentation. I had a maggot pressure gauge and the fuel gauge, although still working, merely measured how many gallons of maggots were at loose in the car! Of course the main problem for the moment was the loss of the bait. Picking them off the car one by one was not a practical solution when there were tench still waiting to be caught. I raided the gamekeeper's compost heap for redworms. Two bucketfuls, still mixed with the compost, and we were back in business again. A few short weeks later, episode two: having pupated in the car by the million, a billion freshly hatched blue bottle flies were now engaged in hatching. For a week or so everywhere the car went, it left a trail of emerging flies. Stop at traffic lights, and a swarm of them would horrify any pedestrian within easy flight distance. Park near houses, and the occupants would wonder where on earth all the flies were coming from. Rather like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" but in miniature.

I could not of course abandon the car, or take time to de-infest it: No time, I was carp fishing that week! There were other subsequent escapes, in the house, in the fridge (keeps them cool in summer and slows down pupation), but none bring back the full flowing flavour of the moment as did the car incident.

Monday 4 March 2013

An Unwelcome Bream

The rivers are very low, at least for a Winter month, and so I decided to have another go for perch, in one of my favourite areas. I know from previous captures, that perch over two and a half pounds are present, and therefore armed myself with some huge lobworms.  Attached a float and cast in just upstream of a fallen tree, where it remained quite stationary in the slack water
Not for long though, and after about 30 minutes the float sailed off.   A good fish was hooked, and I had exciting visions of a 3 pound perch, or possible one even larger.   Of course it was not to be, and the first time it surfaced, I could see it was a bronze bream that had been performing very well in the current. I had not, for one instant, expected a bream so close to the riverbank, under low water conditions.  Things then took a turn for the worse, with not a twitch until after 4PM.      5 chub then came to similar tactics in about 90 minutes.   All in nice condition, none less than 2 pounds, nor was any over 3.       The second rod was also tooled up with lobworm as bait, but with a swimfeeder full of maggots on the line.    Very odd, both rods producing the same number of enquiries, but all that the leger rod produced was single rapid taps on the rod tip. Nothing I was able to strike at.    The float rod produced confident bites, from the same area of the swim.  The perch made no sign of still being resident.  But 6 fish in early March is not too bad I guess.
The bird life was fairly active, a kingfisher flashing past low over the water a couple of times.  Other water birds included a dabchick, heron, a young great crested grebe, the usual mallards, moorhens and cormorants. Unseen woodpeckers drummed in the trees behind me, and a couple of buzzards circled overhead.  Canada geese and crows of course, wrens and tits, but the star of the day was probably the tree creeper which worked its way up a trunk a few yards away from me. 

Sunday 3 March 2013


The last few days were all about keeping the wife happy.   She wanted to go to Vienna, partly to go see the place,but also to see her niece, who was attending some United Nation symposium on plant genetic modification.   So I packed up my socks and we headed off.   Two flights, via Zurich.   Considerable worry as our first flight was an hour late, and landed after the Vienna flight was due to take off.    But it waited for us, and our headlong run between well separated gates was unnecessary.  Snow had delayed many of the flights from airports near the Alps.
Can't say I really enjoyed the city, too much like Budapest, which we had visited just 6 months ago.  Like Budapest, it was very free of litter.  I wish the UK was the same, equally clean.    But as in Budapest, graffiti was everywhere, with some fine examples.  Vienna is an arty city, and whilst I would not create graffiti myself ( in part because I cannot draw or paint), I do appreciate it when well done.  The following is an example seen of the side of the Danube Canal.  I loved it, as does my newly qualified medic son.
 Dunno if it has any meaning other than as an alternative to the apple, but it is a skillful piece of art,    far more so than some of the modern junk in the Vienna museums.  But art critics are the easiest of humans to dupe I suppose.
Nice underground system, and good above ground trams too.   Why though, does it always seem so much easier to navigate underground, effectively blind, than to use the trams, where one can see the landmarks?   Probably due to their own version of the London underground map.
But what about the fish? Well if you ignore the fact that the Danube is NOT blue, it does contain fish. I sneaked off down to the river to avoid a shopping trip, and borrowed a guy's rod for a cast or two. Probably because of a large snow melt content,   he had caught nothing and so was probably not thrilled when I struck lucky after just five minutes with this fish, weighing about 2 & 1/2 pounds. Pretty sure it is an ide, not a fish with which I am very familiar. Also known as an orfe, of which a golden variety is popular with pond keepers, and the herons which see them so much more easily than normal orfe. 

So, if you are able to provide a better identification, then thank you. The fish is, sadly, dead.   Having borrowed the guy's rod, he indicated that he would like to take the fish home, and, although I should have liked to see the fish swim away, it would have been a little churlish of me to refuse it to someone who had loaned me his rod so readily.