Wednesday 3 July 2013

Better Late Than Never.

This post is not about the funeral I attended last week, the funeral of a distant, occasional, acquaintance.  I felt quite guilty during the ceremony, as, for some reason, I was unable to stop thinking up some rather black jokes.  One was, as the coffin was carried in, dead on time: "It's not like him to be late".  Wondering why the crematorium only switched on the central heating as people were leaving, was in equally bad taste, but I suspect, that had he been able to hear, Dave would have appreciated the jokes. I did feel bad about it, but sometimes the mind wanders, especially on a day when I was completely unable to penetrate the thick Irish accent of the officiating priest.  Such is life, and death I guess, and I do hope that, as I finally go myself, that people are able to watch with a smile on their faces...even if it is a smile that says, "Thank god we finally got rid of the old bugger".
Sand martins Nesting Near the Mersey
In contrast to the ceremony, the swifts on Monday were having a wild time. They were constantly flying at great speed, with many an instantaneous change of direction, often so close to the water surface that it was miraculous that they never made the slightest mistake. They remained dry at all times, never even scraping the water surface. Their flight was pure perfection. They did make a few sounds, but not the shrieks and screams that they sometimes utter when chasing each other.  They seemed to be using me as part of their aerial games. As I sat by the lake or walked the bank, birds would often zoom past me, at full speed, missing me by inches, so close I could feel the backwash of air as they passed.  As I fished the tench lake again, it was obvious that these birds were enjoying both life, and their ability to fly, to the absolute full.  About twenty swallows, a handful of  house martins, and a couple of sand martins joined in the spectacle, each species flying in their own distinct style, styles which even change with the weather, with the rain, the wind or even the sun.  As I said last week, house martins seem to fly very low in rain, and swifts sometimes disappear completely. I usually only see sand martins near rivers, where they nest either in sand tunnels they build themselves, or if feeling lazy, in man-made drainage pipes, or gaps in old brickwork.
I had arrived at the lake fairly late myself. On the journey down, notices on the motorway signage, suggested that there had been a bad crash, with resultant major delays, a few miles before my intended turnoff. So I had placed my whereabouts into the hands of the pleasant lady who sits in my old Satnav. I don't argue with her very often, and on this occasion she guided me along unknown, but interesting roads as we got ever nearer to the water.  The journey took an extra hour, and, having baited the swim, I finally cast the two rods in at or around 6pm. I had the lake to myself, probably over a hundred acres of flat calm water. By ten o'clock it was becoming evident that I had the lake more to myself than I thought: for, despite constant flat calm conditions I had yet to see a fish move. Fish are also affected by the weather, and change their behaviour to suit.   But here I had fish that had changed their behaviour compared to their habits of last week, and under weather conditions that looked very similar.  It was thirty minutes later that I saw the first fish ringing the surface. Too late for any bright water, a roach or other small fish, it surfaced about a hundred yards away. The next fish to move was a good fish, of unknown species, which rolled just three or four yards from my baited patch.   This was a great confidence booster: rolling there, so near to my bait, it must have been a feeding fish. Ten minutes later a similar fish rolled, 30 yards off, and moving away.  The confidence level dropped a couple of notches. Confidence in a feeding fish was replaced by the thought that, in reality,  only coincidence had governed where that fish was.

Dawn, and Not a Ripple to be Seen.
The night passed, warm and still, with only two line bites to show for it, and those were caused by Daubenton's bats hitting the line, rather than by fish. Very few fish moved overnight, or at dawn. Those that broke the surface did so in a very disinterested way. A shame, for they would have seen a rather nice orange sky as the sun rose. The swifts returned and continued their wild games. I have no idea how they gain so much energy from just the odd midge or two.  They constantly seem to fly at full speed on their swept back sickle wings. Their flight is so efficient that I cannot understand why so many of our early aeronautical pioneers ever thought that pairs , or even trios of wings on their early biplanes and tri-planes were a good idea. Why did they not just copy the birds?

By oh seven hundred hours I was ready to give up, and slowly started to pack away my gear.  The rucksac was packed, the chair folded, umbrella (unused) packed away. Bait was packed.  Everything but the two rods and the landing net was packed.  I had even removed the screw in rod rests from the bank sticks.  The rods were then simply resting, butt rings atop the bank sticks. My glow bobbins, a variation on a device I invented 45 years ago were returned to the tackle box. I had previously used dough bobbins, made from real bread pinched onto the line, but dark nights and the availability of beta lights had triggered a burst of creativity.  Maybe I should have patented the idea all those years ago. But no doubt others would have had similar ideas at the same time. I might have called them glough bobbins...or if I fell into the modern trend to reduce everything to absurdity: Glo-Bos.  Yeuck!  These days I use Star Lights instead. Modern betalights are very dim by comparison.  My old betas are still brighter than their modern equivalent, 40 years on. Tritium gas has become scarce, and so much less is used in each glass vial. The half life of Tritium, at a little over twelve years, suggests that only a tenth the quantity of the active gas is now used.  Go check your old GCE Physics books for an explanation of that.  :-).   To compensate the price has increased tenfold.

As I reached out to pack the first rod, its tip twitched, and I struck into a nice tench of just over five pounds.  It fought reasonably well, right up to the net.  I still, working on old school fish sizes, weigh any tench I think will make five pounds, and detached the net from its handle to do so.  I then carried the fish, still in the net, back to the water and watched it swim away. As I did so the second rod lurched sideways off its precarious stand, and I was into a second fish.  A far better fish to judge from the dogged, solid fight.  It held deep and slow, characteristic of a big old tench, rather than a carp. I walked backward up the bank to retrieve the landing net handle from 15 yards behind me, and with some difficulty, re-attached the net as I played the fish. A superb scrapper, a female tench of exactly seven pounds was landed, weighed and photographed.  Two very late fish indeed, but better then than never.  So I stayed on, figuring that my baited area had at last been found, and that more fish were headed my way.   They were not, and the two fish were to remain my total bag.  Not a bad haul though, late as it had been in the session.

I did manage to watch a little vole, of unknown species, but chestnut in colour, messing about in daylight near some unused groundbait.   I failed to photograph it, as the battery pack in my camera had given up on life just after the fish photos were taken.   I have only seen voles twice, and on both occasions they have avoided my camera.  This little beast did manage to chew through my bait bag whilst I was not watching though.  I have also only seen one shrew, many years ago now.   Again in daylight.  I caught a movement in the grass, and saw the shrew.  I approached closer, and it ignored my waving hand, and appeared not to understand me as I told it to "Shoo shrew!". Eventually I was able to get very close, and stroked it for twenty or thirty seconds before it unconcernedly ambled away into the undergrowth.

So in short, an interesting expedition, very much up and down, with a couple of good fish very late into the bag.  We all tend to have that last cast, and that "final" last cast, and maybe even one more for luck.  This day's fishing showed how important those last casts can be.


  1. I always pack up like that....hats what the baitrunner is for surely?