Tuesday 26 November 2013

At Last: Back for the Grayling

Interesting day yesterday.  Finally, after some weeks of high water, I was able to get back on the river. Project grayling.  Still just a little high, but certainly very fishable,  the water having cleared quite well, and only a few centimetres above the normal level for this time of year.   I had decided to fish a few different swims for an hour or so each.  On any smallish  river it seems rather pointless to remain static when after grayling.   They are not too difficult to catch as a rule, and after a couple of hours without one, I usually conclude that they are either not feeding, not there, or else the Gods are against me on the day.  
I had intended to be at my first choice of swim as soon as it was light enough to see a float, but I misjudged again, and was perhaps 30 minutes too late.   But I don't find that grayling feed much better in that first half hour, so it mattered very little.  I travelled light,  tackle and bait in a small landing net, one rod, a long handled small landing net, for I would, in one swim, have to stretch over extensive bankside vegetation, straining to reach and net any fish hooked there.  Too good looking a swim by far to ignore.   And a small folding stool... a small folding stool... a small...Damn!   I reached the first swim and realised I had left the stool in the car.    I had travelled even lighter than I had wished.   The water is too deep for wading, and being on the sunny side of the stream I did not wish to stand up, illuminated in full view.   Glancing around I saw, on the bank, something bright pink in colour.   Investigating, it proved to be a Disney Store food mixing bowl.   In perfect condition, still with the sticky price label attached.   Someone must have thrown it into the river upstream.  No idea why.   Although a bit garish in shocking pink, adorned with Mickey Mouse graphics, it is now in use in the kitchen.    On the bank it became, upside down, my seat for the day.  Not very generous in its level of comfort, but better than sitting on the grass, which was still coated in the residue from recent spate conditions.   

Travelling light, with the rod already made up, my almost ubiquitous 12 foot travel barbel rod ( I use it for almost anything except barbel) , makes for a very rapid deployment of tackle, and I was fishing within five minutes.   I was playing a fish within ten minutes, second cast.    It was an out of season brownie of about three quarters of a pound.  But a very healthy and fit looking fish.   

No sooner had my third cast hit the water than the bait was taken, and a fish charged downstream against the four pound line.  I caught a flash of a fair fish as it turned sideways.   That was the last time I saw it for quite a while. It stayed deep, but was very lively, refusing to be drawn to the surface, and I had visions of a huge grayling in my head.   Only in my head though, for the fish, after a lengthy and utterly superb scrap, proved to be another brownie.  A brown trout of no less than three pounds eleven ounces.   Again, out of season, and looking rather thin,   but at that size it was my biggest trout from the river, and so it had to be weighed for interest's sake.   Its slim body did not stop it putting up that brilliant scrap.  Very entertaining.   After a photograph it was returned safely, swimming off strongly.  The small landing net was quite inadequate for the size of fish.  Another lesson driven home ( one I should have remembered well) : forget the size of fish you expect to catch, and gear up for the larger ones that might just appear unexpectedly.

I usually find that the trout are quickest to find the bait, and that unfortunately, even out of season you often have to catch a resident trout or two first, before the grayling move in.    Unfortunately the theory failed on this occasion, no grayling coming to the net from the swim.   

About 9 o'clock a jet black mink stole cautiously along the riverside edge other bank.  It was in deep shadow, and being black, a good photograph was out of the question, even had I had the correct lens fitted. So I still have not managed any good pictures of mink.   Seeing it though, once again emphasised how surprising it is that some people still mistake them for otters.    More like an all black squirrel.  I should probably apologise to all those who saw and groaned at the joke earlier in this paragraph, but I am not going to...so there,  tough!   .

I fished another four swims before heading home.   At about half past two my hands started to turn blue, and I deemed it advisable to retire gracefully, with all my fingers intact.       Three of those swims were to give me a single brown trout each, all around the half pound mark, but the grayling remained stubbornly absent.   The grayling are not prolific in the river, and so I shall not complain too severely.     

But to come back to the big trout.   Its spot pattern was very different to all other trout I have taken from the river.   Like the grayling the trout are not prolific, and to catch five in one day has quite astonished me. What a shame it was the close season.    They are most probably wild fish, none ever having been stocked into the stream locally. That I know for certain.  Ten or fifteen miles or so upstream is the nearest that any trout are likely to have been stocked, and I must suspect that the fish I catch have been born in the river itself.  

There follow four pictures of trout I have caught from this stream.  The first is an absolutely stunning looking fish.  Such gorgeous evenly spread red and black spots, all with white surrounds on a fabulous greeny gold background.  Not a huge fish but an incredibly beautiful specimen.
Utterly Gorgeous Brownie Looking Surprised

The second fish is a very spotty fish, lots and lots of black spots, and if those spots are encircled with white, then the white blends in as a background, rather than as individual rings.

Many Black Spots

The third fish is the three pounds eleven fish from yesterday. It carries an absolute mass of both black and red spots, all very small, and is most unlike the other fish. It is the only fish I have caught that looks even remotely like this.
Enough Spots to Make a 1960's Measles Epidemic Quite Jealous.

The fourth fish is the first trout I ever caught from the stream, and actually my first fish of any species from it. Different again. It was also the first fish I caught after a break of more than 30 years not touching my rods. At the time I caught it, I suspected it might be a sea trout, but I have little knowledge of sea trout, never having knowingly caught one.  I have had several fish that I thought might have been guilty, but always, when asked, a more experienced sea trout angler has diagnosed the fish to be brown.  I really don't know myself, and suspect that, until I have seen a definite sea trout or two, I shall remain confused.  But at least, to judge from reading the odd forum and web site, I am not on my own struggling for positive IDs. That makes me feel a little better that, after more than 50 years with a rod, I still struggle to identify some of our native game fish.   Then again, I might just be damned annoyed that I have yet to catch one!
Apparently not a Sea Trout. (note the fibreglass rod)

 So: four fish, all apparently brownies, all looking very different from each other with vastly different spot patterns, all from the same small river. The genetics of trout must be quite fascinatingly complex.  Look at the first two: the spots are all very distinct from each other, but on one fish, scattered quite widely, on the other, very closely.  Yet something has arranged the spots so that none overlap, and the spread of spots in each case is very even.  The genetics to produce such an effect must be very complex indeed.  The third fish seems almost to break these rules, with spots scattered willy nilly, every available space being taken up by a spot, each spot being much smaller, no room for the white borders, and many spots appearing to overlap.  

I tried to do a bit of research a while back, to see whether anyone had investigated how genetics governs these patterns on animals: tigers, zebras etc., as well as fish.  I have found that there is very little information to be found, although surely someone must be researching it?   Life itself is very complex, and mixed in with life as a general theme, are all sorts of little extras, like these spotting and striping patterns which add yet more wonder to the entire process.   Oddly the only name I could find, who had done any research on this was Alan Turing, the genius who more or less invented the digital computer, down in Bletchley park, during the war.    I have to suspect that somewhere within these patterns,  the concepts of fractals, and similar mathematics will be found.  It is obvious that the spot patterning must in some way be encoded into the DNA.  Each and every trout is different, and so it also is apparent that every single spot, its colour and its position cannot be individually coded into the DNA of the fish.  So the DNA must code  for the process, rather than for the generation of each individual spot.  Some algorithms must be at work which ensure that the spots are randomly, yet fairly evenly, spaced.  The DNA has to decide in some way, how many spots and where, their colour, shape and size, and to ensure, as seems to be generally the case, that there is no overlap. There has to be some highly complex, underlying mathematics , a university style maths text book, written entirely as sequences of 4 different nitrogen bases: Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G) and Cytosine (C). You may think that 4 is not enough...but all the data, in all the computers in the world, is just stored by TWO different numbers, or representational states: One and zero.  The four bases also code for the species, how many leaves, fins  or legs a creature or plant has, how it grows, all the biological processes going on inside its body and indeed anything it is able to do for itself following its birth. For a fish everything it needs to survive is coded into its DNA. Very few species of fish get any help from their parents. We might refer to it as instinctive behaviour, all encoded into the DNA.  DNA and the way it is coded into full recipes for life is way beyond my comprehension, but is obviously one of the wonders of our world...if not its greatest miracle.  I see things written, about our having sequenced the human genome, and tabulated it in, ( I think), about 20 thick volumes. Sequencing it is the simple part, just a listing of ALL the bases in order.  Decoding exactly how that translates into Fred Bloggs, or even that solitary hair on his little finger, is a whole other ball game, and the best anyone yet seems to have come up with is that certain genes, affect certain characteristics...say eye colour, or the various genetic diseases. The process of how the DNA within that gene specifies blue eyes will probably never, in my opinion, be fully understood.
If anyone reading this should know anything about how the leopard really gets his spots, I should be grateful for a few tips, as to where I need to look next.    

Monday 18 November 2013

Expedition Zander Part II

The fishing this last week has still not been the best:  rivers not ideally suited to my quest for grayling. Still high, after a Wednesday night downpour. The same night dislodged many, many leaves from the trees, probably the largest leaf fall of the year.  About a hundred and twenty percent of those fallen leaves are now flowing downstream, making legering difficult. The stillwaters are quiet following the fairly rapid temperature drop of the last week or so.  Nevertheless I went out to  a gravel pit to seek perch.  A couple of carp showed themselves, one within an easy lob of the worm, the other right on the far side of the water.  Once again, one of the only fish to show was right near to me. It is at times rather uncanny.  I threw a lobworm on top of it, mainly as a perch bait, but should the carp choose to take it, I would not be overly complaining.   It didn't,  neither did the perch, and I feel a strongly worded letter to the editor coming on.   

But after the industrial background to the zander fishing of last week, to be out in the countryside, out of sight of man and his creations ( gravel pit apart) was gratifying.    The usual robin kept me company and begged for maggots, successfully, for who could not give in to such pleading,  but apart from a couple of magpies in the woods behind few birds moved on the land.  All was very peaceful.   The usual mallards, coots and tufted ducks adorned the water, and as with my last trip, I saw some curlews.   But far more of them this week.   A few solo birds and pairs were bonuses to the loose flock of about a hundred curlews that flew
Curlews at Distance ( Wrong Lens Fitted)
over the lake 3 or 4 times.   Their enigmatic eerie calls carried well over the water.    Too far away for a good camera shot, but close enough to make a positive visual ID.   Later a similar number of lapwings were to pass over.   I would like to say a shoal of a hundred big perch also passed through, but if they did their passing went unnoticed by both myself and my lobworms.

The river still being too high for my comfortable fishing, I decided on part two of the zander hunt, and headed back down to the Midlands.   Someone pointed out to me that last week's mini zander cost me about forty quid, in petrol costs alone. Over 300 pounds Sterling per pound of zander caught. But, and I know that this makes little real sense, either logical or economic:  it was all paid for by my pensions: government pension and company pension.   They give me money every month, and I do absolutely no work for it.  So although I know, deep in my brain,  that I have paid for it all during my working career, it still now seems very much  like free money.   So I spend it on fishing without so much as a nervous twitch of the wallet.

This week Jane guided me flawlessly to the destination, about a mile or so from last week's spot.   The tongue-lashing I gave her last week had worked, and she navigated  without hitch or argument.  I arrived with two hours of darkness in hand , rods built and primed , just needing baits  for the cast.   Minnows added, the rods were cast into the canal boat channel, where they swam about until daylight, unimpeded by any nearby predatory presences.   As daylight broke, I re-cast them very near to some moored barges, on the assumption that any local zander would now be seeking to avoid the light.   Two or three times the
Getting a Little Bigger....But Not Much.
minnows went crazy, causing the small floats to bob about dramatically.   But no runs came.   Later, when a decent roach splashed in the boat channel, I threw a minnow at it, or rather into the same spot as it had showed itself.   The float never settled, but immediately made off, if a little jerkily.  A strike hit a fish, which proved to be a small zander: well under a pound but much bigger than last week's fish.   

Jeff Hatt, of Idler's Quest blogging fame came to visit and stayed for a chat.  Local lad. ( How was the jam Jeff? ).  Jeff writes with far more flair than I.  My scrawlings are, I feel, contaminated by my years of working in a scientific research and development environment.  Writing dry reports has not helped my blogging style one jot. Jeff's blog article last week shows him riding a bicycle along the towpath carrying his rods and tackle.  The photograph reminded me of one of my long held ambitions, which is to be able to cycle with my own fishing gear to the nearest river.
My Next Fishing Vehicle. ( Photo: Snow White Productions)
A little differently to the approach used by Jeff though. On Tuesday evenings I run a juggling and unicycling club, teaching people both skills.     Being of somewhat unsound mind I want to ride to my local stream by unicycle, or maybe by reverse steering bike. It is a couple of miles to the river, and I still need a little more practice first. I will get there. Possibly in one piece.

Jeff was to return later for a couple of hours' roach fishing.  The roach were also to prove uncooperative, probably due to the week's rapid temperature drop, for Jeff was confident that he should in theory have caught something. One of my minnows had another crazy few seconds, the float

Foulhooked Mini Zander

bobbing about like mad, but no actual run.  I lifted the rod to find a foulhooked mini zander, of a size that might suggest it to be the brother of last week's fish.  Time to theorize:  was it really the minnow making the float jiggle about like a "Strictly Come Dancing" competitor? Or was that small zander scrapping and fighting with the minnow, unable to swallow it?  The minnow itself was still lively, and last week's mini zander was hooked a good minute after the float movements had ceased.  Have all these crazy float movements been due to immature zander?  And if so, should I be using a different bait?    Jeff had suggested a chunk of dead roach rarely fails.   I tried it for quite a while, but the fish were still playing away from home, the roulette ball consistently landing on the zero.   One more run produced a tiny perch, which had performed a Herculean task by half swallowing the minnow.  Its mouth was so full of minnow that I had immense trouble getting the big single hook out safely.
Very Greedy Perch.

Birdlife on the canal was restricted to mallards, a couple of swans and a moorhen.   The aquatic equivalent of sparrows, pigeons and starlings.  Very common on just about every water I visit.  But I did get a half decent photo of a stray goldfinch.  Always a delight, the goldfinch.


So, do I return for another bash at the zander, or do I wait until more settled weather before I try again?  I think I may wait a while.     Success has been largely eluding me for about three or four weeks now.   I might just  have a go for a barbel or two next,  something a little easier, to enable me to carve a notch or two on the rod handle.   We will see.  Decisions, decisions.  If I do go fishing for barbel I will have to ignore the far preferable à la carte menu of perch and grayling.  I wonder where I put those dice?

Sunday 10 November 2013

Expedition Zander

I don't think I have written anything about zander to date. Certainly not much.  But of course, as I age, my memory remains just as  dreadful, certainly not getting anywhere near that instant recall that competitors on mastermind have. So I might have already written reams of highly entertaining stuff about zander...but I doubt it.

There are no zander anywhere near my home, but there is no doubt that zander are spreading about the country. I read that originally just 23 fish were taken from Woburn Abbey and transplanted into the middle level somewhere in the fens, in the early sixties, maybe late fifties.  Nothing was heard of them for a while, until "fishing" magazine, now a defunct publication, had some correspondence and maybe an article or two as well, about strange "V" shaped marks being found on livebaits. As I recall, again probably imperfectly, it was about another year before the culprits were found to be zander.   The original gang of 23 had evidently bred very successfully.  And zander now, fifty years later, cover a very wide area, including, as we all know, much of the Trent and Severn catchments, and the canal system in the Midlands.  Once zander start to breed in a water they seem to do so very successfully.   But of course there will always be the odd angler who helps them on their way, and I was informed this week that zander have now been found, by both anglers and the EA, in the Sankay Canal ( also known as the St. Helen's Canal).   This is a long way from their established bases, and will undoubtedly become another centre for the distribution and spread of the species.  The North West will probably not remain zander free much longer.

I am a little concerned about how genetically strong the UK zander population might be.   Just 23 fish, being the mothers and fathers of all our UK zander is a very small population of fish, even in the highly unlikely event that all 23 were actively breeding.   Any other species breeding with such low numbers would be causing grave concern amongst biologists, who would have fully justified fears about the amount of genetic variation in the species.  Especially so, as the original Woburn fish were most likely of limited genetic variability themselves.   How many individuals were introduced into the Sankay Canal?   It is highly likely that only one pair have successfully bred there, resulting in a mass of sibling fish, and more future genetic weakness.  Each new irruption of zander into fresh areas is likely to be degrading the genetic variability still further.  It may be argued that the EA, and others will not be overly concerned about how genetically weak any invasive species is, for it might, perchance, give them a crevice, a small window, through which a successful control or extermination method might be placed. Those who would like to see the zander genes more variable could easily campaign for the introduction of fresh genetic stock brought in from the continent.    The fish I see do look pretty healthy, and maybe they have got away with it.  I see far less zander photographs showing deformities than I do of barbel. Yet many of the barbel introductions have been legal, and bred at EA fish farms, where one might assume they know what they are doing. Deformed barbel are still caught with some frequency though, and I suspect that a lack of genetic variability is the cause.

My first zander was caught about three years ago, and came as a complete shock to me.  Having taken a 30 odd years sleep, well away from fishing, I had no idea how far certain species of fish had spread.   The numbers of carp I saw everywhere horrified me.  I had no idea that barbel were present in my local stream, let alone being so prolific in the Trent, until I caught one locally. And until I reeled in that very first zander, I had no idea that the Trent held them.  Even as I reeled it in, I initially thought it to be a somewhat oddball small pike. But there is no reason on this earth for a zander on the bank to be confused with any other species, despite frequent attempts to cause such confusion by naming them pike-perch.
Zander in Sharp Focus
  This picture shows the head of my first zander.  The teeth come as quite a shock at first sight, and although the zander's dentition may not come close to that of the magnificent tiger fish of Africa, it still has a sufficiently impressive set of teeth as to make me want to keep my fingers well away.  I kept this vampire fish pointing firmly North, whilst staying in the deep South myself. The teeth seem to be, in my opinion, well designed to grip and hold slippery, lively prey.  And so, although deadbaits are so very often quoted as the zander bait supreme, I am not so sure.  The other interesting feature is the eye.  Note its cloudy appearance.  A closely related species in America is known as the walleye, and it shares that same blank look in its eye.   It is probably due to the fish having a reflective retina, so as to improve its night vision, and it is this eye, above all other features that identifies the fish as being primarily a low light feeder.  

Catching ONE zander was of course never going to be enough for me, especially as that first fish was an entirely accidental capture.  So a second trip, specifically for a Trent zander was planned, albeit a year later.  The results would show, a) whether my ideas for seeking zander would work, and b) whether there were many more zander in the river.  Pleasingly that trip did indeed result in the river giving up of itself another zander.  Not huge at about five and a half pounds, but neither was it tiny.   My wife has always moaned that we never eat the fish I catch, and so, knowing that zander are supposed to be very good eating indeed, I phoned her and asked her to look up a zander recipe.  Her enthusiasm for me as a hunter/gatherer crashed immediately, and she refused point blank to have anything to do with cooking the fish.  Women!  The dogma of many years reversed in an instant. Perhaps that is what they mean by being good at multi-tasking?  Maybe the teeth  in my earlier photograph had put her off?   So, the fish, which had been recovering in the landing net, went back into the river.   Recovering?  Well hardly, as the fish had not given any sort of Olympic performance when hooked.  It had limped effortlessly to the net. I was quite disappointed.   The lack of scrap has probably been a factor in my not having fished for them since.  
The Very Perch-like First Dorsal Fin
I watched an angler fishing for grayling yesterday, in a river that I thought was not at all in the right mood for the species.  It was high, very coloured, and flowing a little too fast for comfort.  In such unsuitable conditions I would go and fish elsewhere.  This chappie soldiered on.  He complained of frequent bites but no fish hooked.  I suspected he was having other problems entirely, and suggested to him that the "bites" on his leger gear were perhaps not from fish.  He disagreed and so I suggested that there was one easy way to find out.   Maybe it is symptomatic of the spoon fed modern angler, but he was unable to see, without my helpful "hints", that if he fished without any hookbait and still got similar bites then they were not from fish. I despair at times for the modern angler.  So many are little more than pre-programmed robots in their approach to angling.   The river was, and still is very high, and full of leaves swirling past in the current. The river is very coloured, flowing at speed, and not easily fished at the moment.
 This lack of decent river fishing for grayling during the last fortnight, due to the regular, repeated rainfall, and consequential highly coloured water, has left me with the need to look elsewhere.   I looked for pike yesterday along the local canal,  My lures were ignored, or perhaps did not pass anywhere near to the resident pike.  And it rained, rained in repeated heavy short storms.  Some decorated with added hailstones.    I wandered along the towpath with a standard gents' umbrella stuck down the back of my coat, in a very "look, no hands" manner, and was able to fish efficiently, if for no actual reward. I got some very odd looks from the four man ladies' rowing teams that were sculling up and down the canal.  But at least I was dry,  whereas they, in their team T shirts, looked absolutely saturated and were quite obviously, even to the untrained observer, freezing cold.  Never fails to amaze me how some people will quite stupidly go out in the cold and wet to do sports.  A couple of the young ladies must be anglers as well, surprising me with their enterprising storage of 12 mm halibut pellets.

So despite the very definite attractions of another day's local pike fishing, tomorrow I shall once again head off with a zander in mind.   The aim will be to intentionally catch a zander, any size, any shape, any colour. The target will be a new water for me, one I have yet to see, never mind fish. I have been assured that it is a day ticket venue.  So, small zander with luck, and maybe I'll play with the bigger specimens at some time in the future.

There will now be a short commercial break, whilst I bugger off with my rods and you slip into something more comfortable to watch Coronation Street.
OK.  I have returned.  All on the edge of your seats wondering how my day went?  Well not badly to begin with,  the 100 mile journey was made in darkness, early morning, as I hoped to be fishing by about 3am.  Clear empty roads, no rain.   Until the exit from the motorway all was fantastic. Apart from the extensive road works of course...and those average speed cameras.   My SatNav cut in and "Jane" said
"Take the exit."
I did,
"At the roundabout take the 5th exit."    
There was a fair bit of traffic on the roundabout, and so, by the time I realised that the 5th exit would take me back along the same motorway, but in the opposite direction, I was stuck,  and had no option but to rejoin the motorway.  Travelling the wrong way.  At this point I had one of my frequent conversations with Jane.
"Stupid bitch!  What on earth are you thinking, you idiotic woman?"
And as I looked at the screen I realised that if I followed her next instructions, we would be doing another U-turn at the next motorway junction.   And so on ad infinitum, except that the biting fleas would all be the same size!   In order to avoid going round that loop again and again, I reprogrammed the SatNav to avoid motorways, and with a few more cutting remarks to Jane, I reached the first of 4 possible fishing spots I had chosen with Google Earth.  
I often end up having arguments with Jane.   And when by myself I can get away with all sorts of misogynistic comments, without any danger of retaliation, or prosecution.   I can say exactly what I like to the silly bitch.     Not so back home, but, having had a massive disagreement with Jane, I can treat an argument with the wife very differently.  I can stay calm and quiet, not shout at all and just respond logically and sedately to any of her shouted accusations.   It might still end up as a "3-day no speaking", but I just pretend it is not happening and speak normally.   BUT, all our female friends say that my tactics are unfair, and that I should really be shouting back.   Unfair!   Unfair it may be, but shouting back would still get me that 3 day Coventry treatment.

The other game you can play with the SatNav is to choose the "use shortest route" option.   All those trucks that get stuck down tiny lanes have chosen the shortest route option.    They may well have saved themselves three and a half miles over a two hundred mile journey, but now they are stuck, and it has taken them an hour longer to get there as well.    By car you don't get stuck, but you do get to see all sorts of new and unexplored places:  " Nether Wallop in the Wold" and similar.    I have found two previously unknown tribes in deepest Staffordshire whilst on shortest routes.

But, now two hours late, I finally cast in my two rods, each floatfishing with a starlight atop the float.   One close in, and near to a moored boat, the other near the far bank, and under a tree.   The location did not look at all like it did on Google Earth.   A series of apartment blocks have appeared since the aerial photograph was taken.  My eyes looked left and then right continuously monitoring both floats,  and after only twenty minutes the right hand float had moved a couple of feet.   I watch it slowly move a bit more, very stop-start, nothing definite, but my eventual strike made contact with a small fish.  It splashed briefly on the surface before shedding the hook.
In the dark I could only assume that it was a zander, and it looked not more than a pound or so.    Daylight returned, and I could see in detail a small footbridge over the water.   A metal sculpture was attached to the bridge, and featured birds and fish.   Surprisingly one of them appears to be a zander:  two dorsal fins, with the front one quite spiny. The photograph will pinpoint my fishing location to any local readers, but my meagre captures on the day are unlikely to have anyone rushing out there with their rods. The rain, which kept off during the journey, started as soon as I got out of the car.   Not heavy, but persistent.  I waited for a gap in the rain, brief though it was and then, after taking a small perch on a livebait and losing another 12 inch fish on deadbait, I moved a few miles down the road.  Here in the daylight the floats remained quite stationary.   The rain was a constant drizzle, not so fine as to be called mist, yet fine enough that it seemed not to fall, but to travel quite horizontally despite minimal wind.    The umbrella therefore did little to keep me dry, and the situation became thoroughly miserable.  Not many birds to watch either, although a female sparrowhawk flew by carrying a small prey bird in one foot.  One bright spot was provided by a pest controller, who was out trapping mink.   He was also not having any luck, which was a good thing, as he told me I was fishing an area which had a prolific population of water voles.   I didn't see one though.  Not seen a water vole for several decades.
There was some activity in the depths: a couple of deadbaits came back obviously suffering from the attentions of signal crayfish.   Finally a real  bite, and I struck into very momentary resistance.   Reeled in to find that my wire trace had given out.  A friend who has just stopped fishing had given me some gear, including some traces.   I should have checked them, for the wire had come adrift from the crimp, losing me the fish and a single hook. Memo to self: make up my own wire traces in future!
But eventually another run materialized, as tentative as the others and resulted in a zander on the bank. It almost seemed as if the fish had become exhausted dragging my very small float about  After catching a couple of the world's smallest grayling, and some minuscule pike in recent weeks, I can now lay claim to the nation's smallest zander too.
Tiny, but Already an Effective Predator.

Cute little fellow, taking a minnow deadbait half his own length.   I fished on three hours into darkness, but the lack of runs and the constant drizzle eventually took its toll, and I packed up and drove home.
So  200 miles driven, a day spent immersed in the drizzle, for a tiny perch and an even smaller zander.  Was it worth it?  Of course it was.   Was it worth you reading about it?  No idea.