Thursday 1 August 2013

Splashing, Jumping, Dunkings and One Large Thud.

Yesterday I really felt the need to fish for some crucian carp.  Inexplicable but it was something I  just had to do, they were one of my quarry fish as a teenager.   No true crucians have fallen to my rod so far this year, yet they remain one of my favourite little fish, and I needed a change from tench.  So I searched the club's waters list, and chose a small sand or maybe gravel pit that I had never seen before.  I was a little concerned that the water was described as holding crucians, carp, tench and uncoloured goldfish. The prospect of more ugly crucian hybrids was a threat to be considered.   Described by the booklet as being something of a hole in the ground, the water was actually rather nicer than that, once the Satnav dropped me into the car park.  It was tree lined, mainly with oaks and alders, and  obviously was quite deep, and I chose my swim based purely on its lack of proximity to the four carp anglers' bivvies that were already set up.  They had probably been there all night, and not knowing the water I chose to arrive with good light, and reached my chosen spot at about 5am. The steeps steps down to the swim confirmed the need for good light.
There were quite a number of small to middling carp already cruising and pushing themselves half out of the water, as carp are often wont to do.   I rigged up a float rod, on a paternoster type set-up, so as to make casting a little easier.  The swim was about 14 feet deep, and I did not fancy using a sliding float. Crucians are notorious for playing with a bait, the float displaying niggling little dips, wobbles and bobs, but rarely giving a solid bite indication.   Unless of course it is rigged for lift method.  I have found that crucians are not particularly shy, but they do like to mess about.  With a sizeable shot (I used an AAA) about an inch and a half from the float, and depth set such that the shot is just resting on the bottom, most bites from crucians will sooner or later give a lift or even a flat float bite.   And such bites are within striking reach, at least 50% of the time. They can be hit. A pinch of flake provided the final touch, a bait I have found to be excellent for crucians of all sizes.  The cast was made, about three rod lengths out, and I was immediately plagued with some young mallards, all of whom seemed to want to eat my float, some getting it part way down their throats before shaking it out again.   They tried again and again for over 30 minutes, and simply would not leave the float alone.   Never seen such thick and blatantly stupid mallards.   Eventually though they went, and I was able to fish without having ducks make my bait dance about on the lake bottom.  
The carp continued to cruise and splash, and the crucians ignored me.  Until, that is, I threw in a small handful of micro pellets around my float.   Within minutes my float started to dither, and crucians started to jump, all of them very near to my float.  It was most odd, the way they were apparently coming up from fourteen feet, pretty near vertically, to splash on the surface.   Quite a few of them actually cleared the water.  This was the only spot on the lake where there was any significant crucian movement, and the activity was very obviously associated with feeding on the pellets. The effect on their swim bladders, moving through fourteen feet of water must have been significant, and I am surprised they did not feel enough discomfort to
deter their playfulness.  It was not long before the float lay flat and I was into a crucian of maybe five or six ounces, the rod vibrating as it tried to get away.  It was, I am sure, a true crucian, and in typical fashion, it curled its tail around my hand, as I unhooked it.    Crucians will often actually tremble in your hand, a quite bizarre sensation. They are the nearest thing that you can get to a teddy bear with fins.
Shortly after my first fish, a pigeon, determined to show that the mallards do not have a monopoly on stupidity, sort of dunked itself into the lake in front of me.   I have no idea what it was doing: splash, dunk, waited a couple of seconds and then it flew off.   Later in the day a dragonfly did exactly the same: a sort of slam dunk, or crash landing into the lake, and immediately took off again.  Was it drinking?  It seemed a totally intentional act, and it entered the water at some speed, as if trying to make a big splash. So I think it was more to do with cleaning, washing and dislodging dust rather than drinking.  Dragonflies are such masters of the air and, had it been drinking, I am sure the process would have been very delicately and precisely achieved.    A few days ago, during the really hot weather a third creature also dunked itself.   This one made a quite deliberate approach, rather like a swallow and it was obviously drinking.   This was a bat.  In daylight.   The second time I have seen a bat drink in daylight, the other time being in very hot weather too,  way back in the hot summer of '76....75?....74? I suspect that only during really hot weather, and then rarely, does a bat need to drink during daylight.
Meanwhile the crucians continued to jump and splash, and rarely was my float completely still.  Within a couple of hours or three, about forty crucians flattened the float, and more than twenty were hooked and landed. None very big, all being 4 to 10 ounces. And all were, in my opinion, true crucians.  They just looked right. 

So, that has dealt with the splashings, the jumping and the dunkings.   But what of the thud?
Nina's Photo of Sparrowhawk and Dove
I didn't hear the thud.   It happened whilst I was fishing but back at home.  My wife Nina was sitting in the lounge when she was disturbed by a loud bang on the double glazed lounge window.   As she looked around, a collared dove was slowly sliding down the window, whilst being mantled by a sparrowhawk.

A cloud of dislodged small feathers fluttered down around them. The hawk then, with its prey, moved onto the patio, where, much to the chagrin of Nina, a very tidy person, it removed the rest of the feathers, scattering them around, whilst the dove
A Well Plucked Collared Dove
still struggled in its claws.   Nina is a bit of a NIMBY when it come to nature being inevitably red in tooth and claw, and thinks it is all fine as long as it takes place out of her sight. And definitely NOT on her patio. But she did grab my camera and took a few photos.    I really must give her some basic instruction in the use of an SLR though.  Just four shots, taken through rain splashed double glazing with the flash enabled, were not going to produce the superb photographs that she could so easily have taken. 
In Hiding: Awaiting Lunch to be Served
A collared dove is quite a big meal for a sparrowhawk, and after eating just a little of it in our apple tree, it flew off, carrying the rest of the carcase in its long yellow claws.   It must have a nest of young somewhere near, for, only a couple of hours later, it reappeared and took a young goldfinch from near the bird feeders, once again hitting the window with its prey. So our local hawk is back, after an absence of probably three months or more. It is still around today, and I managed a distant shot at the limits of my 300mm lens, as it hid in the sycamore tree at the bottom of the garden.

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