Monday 1 July 2013

Swifts, House Martins, a Lonesome Tench and Utter Rubbish.

Another trip to the tench lake, a 2 night session.   For much of the first day, the sky was thick with swifts, and if it is ever possible to estimate numbers of such fast moving birds, heading in all directions, then there were about two hundred of them.  Every one giving a superb demonstration of how to fly: none of that Red Arrows amateurish rubbish.   They were, I am sure, picking up a lot of very small insects, far too small for me to see.  They do sometimes take larger prey, and some years ago, up in the Lake District, I watched a large mayfly hatch and slowly fly up, no more than a foot from my face.  As it drew level with my eyes, there was a brown horizontal flash, and the insect disappeared, having been taken by a swift at full speed.  A solitary wing was all that remained, spiralling slowly back towards the water. Quite a moment.  Swifts must hit their food at quite a speed, and for large flies there must be a significant impact into the mouth of the bird.  On the second day of fishing, it rained, and the swifts disappeared. I wonder whether they were seeking shelter from the rain, or maybe protecting their eyes from it?  In order to take insects at such speeds their vision must surely be partly binocular, with the eyes pointing at least partially forward . Raindrops at speed are unpleasant, so maybe the swifts avoid them?  The swifts were replaced by some fifty or so house martins, flying happily in the rain, and for the most part, just an inch or two above the water surface.  Their wingtips, on the downstroke, were millimetres from the surface for much of the time, yet never did a single wingtip touch the surface.  Brilliant little fliers.

It was probably silly of me to spend so long by the lake, thereby getting in trouble with the wife, and especially as the second night proved biteless. Not so much as a line bite to suggest that there were fish anywhere near me.  But the first day did produce one reasonable tench, a little over five pounds, and two or three missed bites.      After the fish, I had beautiful, flat float bites on each of the next three casts, each coming about five minutes after the cast.  Obviously tench....or were they?

I was concerned that I had missed three easy bites, from a species that is normally quite easy to hook.  And after some thought, and a sanity check, I realised that none of these three flat float incidents were due to tench.  I like to fish fairly light, and, in order to get a light float rig out some 20 yards, I had moulded a small blob of loose groundbait around my shot.   This achieved two things: a longer, but  easy cast, and some bait very near the hook.   The groundbait was mixed just hard enough to remain on during the cast, but I am now sure it was staying on the shot, for a while longer: about five minutes or so longer.  It was then soft enough to  fall away the shot.   However it appears that I had lost one of my BB shot earlier, and the remaining two were no longer sufficient to cock the float.  Hence, after five minutes, the groundbait, which had been ensuring that the float remained cocked, melted away, and the float  slowly lay flat.   Missed bites, but no fish were present.  A lesson learned.  Had I not realised what was happening I would have written some rubbish about missed bites, had a minor rant, and been guilty of writing before thinking.   "Obviously tench" was complete rubbish.

But in angling a great deal is said, and written, without thought, or knowledge, or evidence.  And it is produced by all types, from novices to experts. More utter crap is written about angling than about all other sports added together...and yes, that does include football.

Following a couple of words in one of my earlier posts I will try to get across the full stupidity of one conversation I recently heard, between two carp anglers.   They had been fishing one particular lake for a year or so, and had taken, between them, some 50 carp, almost all doubles. the split was something like 26/24 to the two anglers.   The angler with 24 fish, had taken carp to 27 pounds.   The second guy had caught, amongst his fish, a couple of low 30 pound fish.  In the conversation he was crowing about how he was therefore the better angler.   Both 30's had fallen to his rod, and he had also caught more fish.  Total rubbish of course, and looks very much like a "luck of the draw", cookie crumbling result to me. But what amazed me most of all was that the second angler, he with a best fish of only 27 pounds, agreed entirely with his mate!

I rarely watch angling on the TV, but occasionally lapse.   I quite enjoy the River Monsters, and The Robson Green series of programmes, probably because both are just intended to entertain, rather than educate.  The River Monsters gets quite funny at times, because "our Jeremy" seems to find ultimate danger everywhere he looks, the danger being exaggerated out of all proportions.  How he gets out of bed in a morning without a risk assessment is a mystery to me.  Educational angling programmes are another thing altogether, and often contain more of the  "utter rubbish" to which I referred earlier.  TV angling journalists are not exempt.  Consult Matt Hayes on how to hook maggots, and you are advised to carefully hook them through the blunt end, thus not damaging them.  John Wilson, in the same week's TV, said that it mattered not a bit how you put the hook in, and a bit of fluid leaking from the maggot would spread the amino acids about to entice the fish.  A or B?  You choose.    Another Matt Hayes programme advised how to tell whether a carp had ever been caught before.  He showed, on a carp he had just caught, a curtain of soft tissue just inside the carp's mouth.   The curtain was complete, unbroken, and, therefore, apparently, a sign that the fish had never been caught before. But...but...but...he had just caught the fish...and yet its curtain was still intact.  So he released a fish, curtain intact, and the next angler to catch it will also think it is a virgin fish, never hooked before?  And surely, if Matt had hooked and landed the fish, the curtain should have been damaged during the process?   Therefore you should never see an intact curtain?  Clearly matt should have said, that the more often a fish is caught, the more likely that the curtain will show damage.
 All of this shows it that those at the peak of our angling tree are just as prone to making stupid statements as the rest of us are.   I try to temper my wilder ideas with "possiblys" and "probablys", to provide me with escape routes, but will, I guess, still sometimes spout junk myself.  I apologize in advance for any such lapses, and please, feel free to comment.  I don't expect angling journalism, or pub chats to change, and the rubbish will remain as intact as Matt's Carp's curtain did.  I can only advise that, to think about the angling yourself, is as much likely to produce results as just listening to others.


  1. Swifts are just incredible birds, I will never forget watching and hearing packs of them screaming in high speed pursuit over a humid sun-drenched cricket ground as a boy and whenever I see or hear that these days, as I did only a few days ago, the memory is just as vivid some 40 years on

    Thought provoking stuff, thank you, 'enjoyed that

    I'm not sure how I managed to join your site as part of my email address rather than my blog 'float, flight & flannel' but clearly technology got the better of me there!

  2. Thanks for the positive comments George, appreciated. More on swifts in the next post. I cannot help you on the joining name, I left the IT industry 6 years ago, and already, some things now get the better of me too.