Saturday 28 December 2013

Rods, Test Curves and a Forthcoming Trip.

More rain! Much more rain, so the rivers are out again for a few days.    And just before Christmas. Time for all true anglers to gain a few "brownie" points.  " Yes darling,  I'll come shopping with you.  I'll not go fishing today, I'll stay home especially  so that I can come shopping with you".  I would actually prefer that she write a list and send me out, carrier bags and cash in hand.   The process is much quicker when I don't have to watch her nip into any other shops en route.  I can get a bag of sugar off a shelf in about 1/3 the time she would herself take. For her it has to be the "right" bag of sugar.  Know what you want, grab it, bag it, and as long as you don't forget too many items, or miss out anything vital to the continuation of life functions, it is quicker and far less painful to leave "her indoors" safely indoors.
"Still raining darling?  Yes, I'll help you write the Christmas cards."   This last with some reluctance, as I am sure her wedding vows included the words  "and I will, every year, write all the Christmas cards"  ... it was  in the ceremony: just after  " do all the ironing", surely?

Part of my own wedding vows was to ensure that my son was brought up properly.   I have partly failed in this, for, having been thoroughly outclassed and smashed by a Trent barbel one night, on his first trip chasing the species, he has not been led into becoming an angler. Catching a grayling did not enthuse him, and at age twelve, a net of a dozen half pound tench and bream, when other anglers caught nothing, has also had no lasting effect.  He simply finds fishing boring. Has he no shame?  In all other respects he is fine: doesn't like football,  loves cricket.  And as a single guy, he has developed a logical way of dealing with women.   His main rules seems to be:  
1) Lacrosse is much more important than any girlfriend.  
2) Never be in a relationship just before Christmas, never be a couple on Valentine's day, and dump any female of the species at least a week before her birthday.  This is not based upon the cost of having to buy a present for the occasion, more about not having to strain the brain trying to think up what the hell to buy her. Always an impossible task for any bloke.  You may think you have found the perfect gift.   Highly unlikely.  Check in a fortnight...she will have exchanged it.

There are always swings and roundabouts of course, and, having voluntarily given up three, maybe four days by the river, there has to be a compensatory flow, to use up the acquired brownies.   So I have booked my 2014 fishing holiday abroad.  I shall not publish any details here,  not yet anyway, secret squirrel still peeking around that old oak tree maybe, but a couple of items in the small print are worthy of a note.   The tour company does not provide tackle,  but I do have a couple of travel carp rods: 2.75 pounds test curve, that may well be of use, if not exactly designed for the job.  Reels are another thing.   I do not have any solid, meaty pit reels.  They have not been needed, as my recent angling has not included any long distance carp fishing.  So I did not have such reels.   Not until today, when two Christmas presents to myself arrived.    The tour company has recommended that I use some 40 pound breaking strain monofilament.  On Ebay, bulk line spools seem to run out at about 30 pounds B.S. So I figure that will have to do the job.   It is a subject worthy of some discussion, as I find many anglers have little or no idea why they are using the line they have chosen.

But first the rod: Manufacturers wax lyrical over rod-ring quality, the finishing of the handle, the whippings, how well the carbon fibre has been laid, but when push comes to shove, there is usually just one figure that is on all anglers' minds.   Test Curve.    I don't know where the term first came from, but I suspect that Richard Walker may well have had his fingers poking deeply into that particular pot of jam.   The most often quoted way to measure a test curve is to put the rod handle horizontal, and hang weights from the tip until it makes an angle of 90 degrees to the butt.   That is never going to happen.   It is impossible to get to a full 90 degrees under those circumstances.  The rod, any rod, whether it be a barbel or a marlin rod, would break first.      In the same way that the Large Hadron Collider would need an infinite amount of energy to accelerate just one single proton to 100% of the speed of light, so you would need an infinite force to bend a rod set up in that way to a full 90 degrees.  So what to do?   Well it is obvious that you CAN bend a rod to more than 90 degrees, but to do so you need to change the angle of the line.    So I would myself define test curve as the minimum force, which, when exerted on the rod tip, bends the tip so as to make an angle of 90 degrees to the butt.  (Forget all that horizontal butt nonsense). The angle of that force, the angle made by the line, will be greater than that 90 degrees , and so will not be directly in line with the end of the rod tip.  

This is all very ( slightly?) academic, but what use is it to the angler?   For most anglers it is quite simply: how stiff is my rod?   For such an angler no more is needed, nothing else is required.  He goes out and buys his carp rods to a prescribed test curve and is happy.   But two rods with the same length and the same test curve may be very different in their "action".   For "action" we can simply read "what shape is the curve of the bent rod".   Some rods  are very stiff low down, with the tip section assuming almost all of the curve.   Others may be designed such that, at the test curve point, the rod displays a fairly constant curve throughout its length.   Tip action, vs "all through" action. The two rods will feel very different when playing a fish.     The "all through" action rod will have far more "give" when playing a fish.  I won't define the term "give", because, as an experienced angler you will know exactly what is meant by it.

With which rod can you apply more force?   Interesting question, and not an easy one to answer.   To simplify, we might consider two different "ideal" rods.  Both 12 feet long, one so stiff as to have no bend in it at all,   the other which bends into a perfect sector of a circle. Let each have an 18 inch handle.   Let us give the "all through" rod a test curve of 3 pounds, and make the assumption that is is possible to achieve that with the line at the 90 degree angle.   It won't be quite accurate but near enough as to make little difference to the precision, and no difference at all to the principles involved.   So now apply that 3 pounds to both rods.    Both rods are now acting as levers.   The completely stiff rod requires you to apply a force of 8 times the three pounds of tension in the line.  The handle is 1/8th of the rod length.  3 times 8. You have to pull up at 24 pounds in order to put three pounds of pressure on the fish. Now consider the all action rod.   It is curved into a quarter circle, the arc of which is 12 feet long.   Simple "O" level maths gives you the radius of that circle as approximately 7 and a half feet.   The effective length of the rod has been reduced to 7.5 feet, and the shorter lever only requires 5 times the force to be applied to the handle.   So you are putting that 3 pounds of pressure on the fish, with only fifteen pounds of force on the handle.     How many of you would have thought the reverse?    More force with the stiff rod?   Not many.   Case solved?   It might seem so, But not completely.   Not that easy I am afraid, because keeping the carbon tip at right angles is not how rods are used..     

Once the rod is in the zone playing a fish, you do not keep the rod tip at right angles to the butt for very long, certainly not with any powerful rod.   Once a fish starts to fight hard, the angler has no choice.  If he wishes to wind up the pressure on the fish he must do two things:   In order to increase that pressure, he must move the bend in the rod closer to the butt end, where the rod is stronger, stiffer, and can therefore exert that extra pressure.   To keep the line at right anglers to the butt is possible with a lot of heaving, but because of the leverage effects described, the angler would have to put a very large amount of force on the rod handle. So, the angler will automatically tend ( or be forced by the fish) to point the rod down more towards the direction of the line, and therefore towards the fish.   The butt will often then be at no more than 45 degrees to the line.   This reduces the effective length of the lever, and allows the angler to apply more line tension to the fish, without the same sort of increase in the force applied at the handle.  The rod is a variable length lever.   It is a lever that gets stiffer, the more force that it is being used to apply.   At shallow angles to the line it becomes almost like a poker, and at such angles the rod becomes less important, it can no longer absorb any kicks from the fish, and so you then become more dependent upon the reel to control the fight.  The clutch kicks into action, the rod can do little more to help, other than acting as a mounting handle to make holding the reel easier.  The rod has, at this point lost all its "give", and you have become reliant on the stretch in the monofilament to provide that function. Few anglers using lines of say eight pounds and above, EVER exert anywhere near the full line tension on a fighting fish, unless the rod is pointing more or less down the line.   The leverage effect is simply too great.  Think back to that last snag when chasing barbel.  Did you, even for a moment, consider pulling for a break with the rod held high? Of course not... because you, and the rod, were probably not strong enough to succeed!   You pointed the rod along the line and walked backwards, and were surprised, even then, by how difficult it was to break that line.  Yes? Now compare that with how much force you were putting on that last big carp or barbel you caught.  Unless you are a very unusual and exceptional angler, you were pussyfooting with that fish.

A quick note on braid:
Braid is usually used at quite high breaking strains, and allows you to feel the movements of the fish far more directly.  But having no give in itself, virtually no stretch, it cannot compensate when the rod's natural give has been overridden by using the low down power of the rod blank.   So, pointing the rod down the line whilst using braid can be risky.  A fast moving fish cannot be stopped dead, it has to be slowed down.   Stretchy monofilament helps you to do this when the rod cannot itself provide that "give".   Doing the same thing with braid takes more skill.   
Tie a length of 10 pound braid to a tree branch.   6 feet below tie a 5 pound brick to it.    It will hold that brick up quite happily.  Lift the brick just a couple of inches and drop it: the braid will break.  Braid takes any change of strain instantly. Monofil will stretch and absorb that impulsive force over a longer time.  It is far more forgiving, and helps you deal with sudden movements of a fish, or a brick.
I have not discussed casting. Specifically the casting of heavy weights to distance.   The line strength adopted, with possibly a shock leader, is most relevant here.    And the rod has to be capable of dealing with that  line strength, or as much of it as you use during the cast. Not too much else to say there.   Earlier readers may well remember that I shattered a rod, trying to cast a heavy weight a long way.  In reality I was using too heavy a line for the rod design.  Too heavy a line works, but only provided that you do not allow it to bend the rod past its limits.   Whilst playing a fish, I could have used any strength of line with that rod, simply by pointing the rod towards the fish.    When casting, the rod WILL bend, no other option, so  for any rod that will be used to cast feeders or heavy leads, the ability to cast without endangering the rod, is the main factor when choosing it.   Heavy rods are designed more for casting, rather than for playing a fish.   If it also plays a fish to your satisfaction you have a bonus.    

So:  back to the fishing trip:  do I use that 30 pound line on my holiday, or do I search out the recommended 40 ?    Well, if my carp rods were that unbending idealised rod described above, in order to break the line with the rod held at right angles I would have to pull back at 320 pounds!   No chance,    but by pointing the rod much more towards the fish, I should be able to keep quite a goodly amount of force to try and slow the fish down.  But I will be reliant also on setting that clutch right.   For any freshwater fish to pull with a force of 30 pounds or more would be quite something, and so I do not expect to get broken.  A shorter rod, much shorter than these 12 foot carp jobs  might help me apply more force, but I am not about to buy two more rods specifically for one week's holiday.  When catfishing a couple of years ago, the rods I used were of five pounds test curve, 12 feet long and very stiff.  I did hold the rods fairly well up, and so must  doubt that I ever pulled on the fish with more than 15 or twenty pounds of force. If that.   They were big fish, feeling very heavy on the line, but how much force was really involved at the end tackle?   Far less than most people think I am sure.   For the rod is indeed a lever,  but one designed to benefit and to give the mechanical advantage to the fish.     In any event I shall also take some spools of 15 pound line.

The final conclusion for rod choice and line choice is simply this:  an experienced angler will almost instinctively know what is right and what is not right.  He will not need to go through all these sorts of thought processes. But to do so is quite interesting.  When I broke the rod, I knew very well that I was taking that risk. The inexperienced angler will not care too much about rod and line choice, will use what his mates are using, and will probably get away with it due to the modern trend of fishing very heavy.  I myself still prefer to fish lighter.  I like to think I have needed a level of skill when landing that fish on this lighter tackle, rather than to know the outcome in advance, to know that the fish has no chance in hell of breaking my heavy gear.

Apologies if all the above became a little too detailed. Some of you will have undoubtedly stopped reading already. Probably one of my more controversial texts. I have dumbed it down, tried to eliminate having too much science, and much has been missed out. I needed to do something to avoid the Christmas build up, and with the rivers out, writing a blog seemed appropriate.  Next I should probably start packing for my trip,  less than 3 months to go now.


Monday 16 December 2013

Trout Survival, the Odd Fish, and More Idle Chatter.

Well, what a shame.  The rain arrived a couple of days ago in force, and the rivers, being spate streams, have all become far more difficult to fish.   So difficult that usually I tend not to bother, certainly for grayling.   The levels are up substantially, and the flow rate has increased quite dramatically.   The leaves that were deposited at the river edges as the levels slowly decreased last week, have all been in motion again, having been washed away from the banks.   Finding the fish has become harder, and it has become more onerous for the fish to find bait, in between trying not to get washed downstream.   Maybe looking good for tomorrow though, although Sundays are not my favourite days to go fishing. 

A Very Thin Out of Season Trout of 3-2.   Huge Jaw.
But I did manage a couple of sessions during the week before it got too damp.    The first session was to a swim I have only fished once before.  It gave up one of my only two rainbow trout from the river about three years ago.   A fair old fish of about two pounds.  This second session was all about chasing the grey ladies again. Fishing for them was difficult, but a couple of fish did grace the old landing net, the best being a nice fish of a pound and nine ounces.     The trout proved a substantial nuisance ( where are they all during the trout season?).  Four small trout were followed by four far better fish.  Two spotties of about a pound and a half, which may well have been the same fish.   If so, it managed to find its way back home, some twenty yards or so, and become so hungry as to take the same bait, in the same spot, after only about 45 minutes.  Mind you, trout are silly buggers and I had one fish three times in an afternoon last year.  The other two trout were bigger,  one of 2-7,  and a 3-2.    I stopped fishing then, for it was obvious these trout had fairly recently spawned, and were desperate to regain lost weight and condition.  It didn't seem very fair to continue catching them.    Look at the photo of the three pounder.  It demonstrates quite clearly why we need a long trout close season.  The fish has lost so much weight that its BMI would be lower than that of Kate Moss divided by Twiggy. What weight would that fish have gone in the last week of the trout season? Anyone any ideas?  Five pounds anyone?  In the Winter, with minimal food in the river, a spawned out trout is likely to recover very slowly.    Why do trout not ignore the past evolution of their species, and start to spawn in the Spring like sensible fish?    What are the advantages of spawning now?    I gain the impression that the ova lie dormant in the gravel until the water has warmed up.  During those months they sit there praying that there are no heavy floods, or are the eggs so sticky that they can make it through the nights until April?    Crayfish permitting. Coarse fish seem to have their heads screwed on far better than do trout.  Come to think of it why are they called "coarse" fish.  The word implies something of a Grimsby fishwife, all mouth and obscenities.    But coarse fish seem to be far more logical, much brighter than trout.   Trout do seem to be the daftest of our native fish, far too eager to snaffle any baited hook.   Maybe that is why fly fishing was invented, to give trout fishing a level of difficulty, and therefore trout anglers a level of apparent sophistication?   Trout are certainly at the thick end of the IQ and coarseness spectrum.  Does any coarse angler really believe all the guff about  only such and such a dry fly works under certain river conditions?  Come to think of it, does any game angler really think that?  Or is it just nice to have a fly box full of pretty things?  Ah well, I probably upset a few carp anglers the other week, it was time to target the game anglers.   Who next I wonder?  :-)

The swim I fished was what I would call a big swim.  Odd things rivers:  you can get what looks to be a very "big" swim, wide, with good flows right across the river, and then a short distance downstream you will get a "small" swim, which appears to carry dramatically less water.   It doesn't of course, but can really give that impression.   The strange thing is that the "big" swims always seem to hold far more fish, and so it is not just me that is being hoodwinked by the river.

The following day I fished a "well known" swim on the river.   And probably suffered for my art.   One tiny grayling, three tiny trout and a couple of trout that were somewhat larger, one just about besting a pound.  Again, the largest was showing signs of having spawned, whereas the three smallest were just creeping out of the parr stage.  But, despite sport being slow I was well enough entertained by a pair of dippers, that
Pair of Dippers. Photo Taken in Spring
chased each other past me, very low over the water, whirring their way across the stream.   They spent a lot of time feeding at the edge of a gravel bar, going in up to their knees, or more probably their ankles.  One bird did manage a couple of full Cousteau underwater trips, but the morning chill had maybe kept them out of the water.   Like the rabbits the other day, without their white chest patches, they would be brilliantly camouflaged.   In their case though, maybe the white helps hide their silhouette against the sky, reducing the chance of prey items spotting them.  Or maybe, more likely, I am completely wrong in suggesting anything of the sort.  I was watching one, thinking that it was very much kingfisher sized, when a kingfisher flew past me, heading upstream far faster than the dippers.  And then I missed a bite. Bloody kingfisher!    But it didn't really matter, as, a few minutes later TWO kingfishers came flying rapidly back
Treecreeper at its Nest Site
downstream.   There was one wonderful moment when I could see a pair of dippers and a pair of kingfishers.   Other birds seen: a buzzard, herons, goosanders, cormorants as usual, crows and jackdaws, a treecreeper and two unidentified flying ducks. Not mallards, but similar in size.    Too fast for my ageing eyesight. 

I had to pack up about 11.00am, because I had booked, a couple of weeks ago, two tickets to see West Side Story at the Manchester Palace Theatre.   Lucky to get the tickets, very few were still unsold, and to get two adjacent seats I had to book the afternoon matinee. Oh dear!  Full of schoolkids and drama students.   Our seats were near the top of the "Grand Tier",  about as high as you can get on a Wednesday afternoon without the help of illegal substances.   It was really far up.  And steep too.   I was very tempted here to tell the old joke whose punchline is "Yeah, deep too".  But I am not going to.  It was so high that we could see the very top of the porticoes over the various posh boxes that lined the sides of the auditorium.    My wife commented that the tops had not been dusted for years.   Now my wife and I continually differ on what constitutes a tidy room.  I had always hoped to convert her to my way of thinking, that a room can still be tidy whilst littered....strewn?....I'll go with "furnished" I think.... with various items of fishing gear, a few half read books, most of last week's papers etc.   But her complaining about the dust in the theatre has finally convinced me that we will never be able to agree and close that particular gap in our thinking.   So I considered, once again, the steepness of the tiers, and figured that if she were to crowd surf from our seats,  she could build up just enough speed, as she approached the edge of the balcony, so that when launched into the auditorium space,  she would just about be able to take out the first violin in the orchestra pit.  

Getting more or less the last two unsold seats meant that we were plumbed into the ultimate in restricted legroom seating areas.  It was impossible to sit with feet pointed straight towards the stage.  Not enough legroom, and so my feet had to be turned slightly out.  Most uncomfortable, sitting there, with widely separated knees projecting over the seat in front.   I can assure you that it is NOT enjoyable to  spend a couple of hours with a young blonde art student's head between ones knees.  Of course the lack of space propagates backwards too, and I made the mistake of turning around during the interval.   My head was also between someone's knees and I rather embarrassingly came face to close up face with a pair of flowery pink knickers.  I cricked my neck quite badly, due to the speed I felt was needed to get back to a respectable eyes front position.  Four rows below us two fifteen year old schoolgirls decided that the interval was a good time to have a fight.  The one whose nose was bloodied was allowed to remain, but the girl who had hit her was quickly muscled out by the schoolteacher.  Well done Miss!  I used the rest of the interval to convince everyone in row M, that, if we all sat pointing 45 degrees to the right, thus placing our legs in front of the adjacent seat and its occupant, we would all be rather more comfortable, and I would probably be able to stand up and walk on leaving the theatre.   The second half was therefore suffered in only minor agony. The first half had made the prospect of a Japanese WWII prison camp seem almost inviting.  Although suffering less, we were so high up, that the top curtain cut off our view of all performers on the staged balconies.  It is difficult to recognise a character when you can see nothing above her waist.   I had to ask the wife which performer was wearing the pink trousers.  My wife both notices and remembers this type of thing.
All went well with the second half of the musical until the long intense silence of the death scene.   I felt quite embarrassed for the old dear a few seats away whose mobile phone rang at that very moment.   The embarrassment turned to incredulity when she answered it.  "Hello Mary....Bingo? Yes.....what time tonight....."   I swear I saw the corpse corpsing.

OK,  show's over,  time for the applause and then you can all clear off home. Maybe take this thought with you:

Today you are the oldest that you have ever been.   It is also as young as you will ever be.  A very special day...and you have just wasted part of it reading all this crap.

A Nice Plump December Grayling
P.S.  I did fish today, Sunday, and the river responded well.    I would have said brilliantly had 10 of my 12 fish not been out of season trout.   Only one showed signs of having bred, and it would seem as if only fish of a pound and over breed in this stream,  the smaller individuals maybe still being too immature. The other two fish were a chub something over two pounds and a grayling that I judged to be 1-6.  A beautiful fish though, and caught as I watched a peregrine falcon perched atop a very tall tree. I had been hoping to see it fly off,  or maybe chase a woodpigeon, but it sneaked away unseen as I played the grayling.  Fishing the river on a Sunday was indeed a pain.  I was the only angler around, fishing a stretch I have not been near for about three years.  It was heaving with dog walkers, dozens of them.  One batch even came by the dozen, twelve dog owners each with their precious pooches gathered together in a wildebeest sized herd.  And not a lion in sight.  None of the twelve dog owners was bright enough to suggest to the others that maybe they should go elsewhere to throw their sticks into the water.   My swim was constantly churned up by canines for a good twenty minutes.  Absolutely no consideration at all.    I moved swims several times during the day, more to seek other fish than to avoid the dreadful plague dogs. Sorry:  plague  of dogs. No need to take that personally Mr. Adams.  The dogs still jumped in the water, or ran amok scattering my gear. Of thirty or so owners whose dogs caused me pain today, only three apologised.   Whilst they were apologising I was thinking "All I want for Christmas is a 12 bore shotgun and open season on poodles, labradors and dalmations.  Especially dalmations."

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.
One twelve bore shotgun,
Eleven cormorants croaking,
Ten dalmations drowning,
Nine yorkies yowling.....

Oh come on!   Join in, you all know the words.  Get with the festive spirits.

I'm going,  Obviously way past my bed time. 

Sunday 1 December 2013

Pretty Ladies, Shame About the Barbel.

A few days ago I had  a trip chasing the grayling of a very difficult river.  I had earlier challenged myself to try and catch a grayling on each trip to the stream.  This was my seventh trip, after I had failed on trip 6 to keep up the winning streak.  Each of those seven trips had also produced out of season trout.  To catch one grayling from this river is a pleasing achievement, and to succeed on 6 out of 7 trips was totally unexpected, although most of the days were to produce just a single grey lady.  But there is only so much self sacrifice one can make, and no matter how satisfying it is to catch fish under very difficult circumstances, sooner or later something has to give.  So yesterday, another destination was planned, another river, one where grayling are known to be present in much larger numbers. I still have not caught my two pound fish, and it was time to change the odds and up  my chances a bit.

The swim I chose is one I last fished a couple of years ago, just the one trip then, with chub the target species. I caught nothing that day, but always thought that the swim held great promise.  Reaching the swim involves a good half mile walk, along a narrow twisty path through a thick beech wood, occasionally bordering a tiny stream into which it would be quite easy to fall like a nocturnal Red Bull cliff diver from the narrow track into the shallow water below.   This was a path I had taken just once before, during daylight.   But yesterday it was still completely dark as, headtorch fitted, I tried to remember the route taken by the path.     Oppressively thick dark clouds overhead filtered out what little light the moon and stars might have otherwise provided.  I had not gone far before a loud cawing and croaking broke out to my right.  I had disturbed a large roost of crows, rooks or perhaps jackdaws.    Probably crows, and they made it well known that my presence in the wood was not fully appreciated by the locals.  Other than listening awhile, I ignored them.   I couldn't see them, and all they could see of me was the headlight.  The path was also more or less invisible; little used, it is just a narrow stretch of  soil, its grass removed by the tread of booted feet.   Autumn, and high winds overnight had almost completely hidden the path.  Masses of beech leaves, mixed with a few from oaks and sycamores were completely masking the route. The whole floor of the wood was coated by leaf fall. Instinct and good luck were all that was keeping me on track.   I disturbed a large bird above me, and it clattered off into the dark.   I would like to think it was an owl, but an owl would have flown off without betraying its presence to me.  Completely silent.  

After venturing into a couple of boggy areas, I eventually reached the river, and my swim.   The first rays of light were leaking through the cloud cover as I tackled up.   For a late November early morning it was quite warm, but those light rays revealed that the river was covered with floating leaves. The leaf cover was maintained by constant heavy winds of maybe 30 or 40 mph, new leaves being added by the thousands. They made float fishing impossible, the line lying atop them on every cast.   As the light increased I could see that almost as many were drifting down below the surface.    Fishing looked as if it was going to be difficult.    I was totally wrong with that assessment, and my very first cast produced a grayling.  I weighed it at 1-8.  A good start.  After a quick photograph  I returned it, and nursed it back to full strength, before seeing it swim off powerfully.   Grayling so very often exhaust themselves during the scrap, and not caring for their proper return would see some of them floating downstream, belly up.  It is always worth taking the time to return these gorgeous fish carefully, even if, as I did, you get your feet wet.

The second and third casts also produced grayling.  All three fish were as peas in the pod.  None would
The Second Pea From the Left
have differed from the others by more than an ounce.  I would have liked a photograph of all three together, but I do not own, nor do I want, a keepnet, and all my fish are returned as quickly as I can.

The fourth cast hit into another fish, one I felt might be a little bigger, and I had already prepared the camera to try and get a shot of the dorsal fin as it came into the shallows.  Nice thought, but the fish proved to be a chunky chub, maybe a smidgeon under three pounds. It too, was returned into the same swim, which may well be a significant factor in the day's equation.    For I was to catch no more chub and no more grayling, despite about three hours of working hard at the problem.   Four casts, four bites, four fish.    The grayling were obviously from the same shoal, but did they comprise the whole shoal? Had I caught them all?    Were the others scared away?   Or did they simply move on?   The pool was quite a large one, and they could easily have gone as much as 50 yards away.   Was my error that of not returning them 15 or twenty yards away?

As I pondered the answers, which remain as elusive as the origins of the Big Bang, a dabchick, in its Winter
Dabchick in Winter
plumage, dived and dithered near the tree roots on the far bank.   A tiny little grebe, it slowly worked its way upstream and disappeared around the bend.  I had thought that the first splash it made, right under the bank, was caused by a fish, but it was too close to the bank for me to risk a cast at it, which is fortunate.   I have seen a dabchick surface with very obvious red maggots in its bill, and I would have hated to have hooked one.

But the chub was not the end of the angling action: an hour or so later I struck into another fish.  My thoughts went:  "good grayling....perhaps not, must be a chub...hmm, a damn good chub". I even thought it could be five or six pounds.  It took a few more moments before reality dawned.   A heavy fish that was sticking close to the bottom, and quite slowly forcing its way upstream.   My four pound line was not bothering it very much.  It was not long after I belatedly sussed that the fish had to be one of the river's barbel, and probably a very good one, that the end tackle came flying back at me, and the fish was off.    The earlier chub and grayling dulled the pain a little but the disappointment remains.  I hate losing fish unseen.   Was it a double?  Would it have been my best from the river?  Could I have kept it out of that snag? All sorts of questions.

The weather was getting worse, the wind strengthening yet more, and occasional showers, some heavy were blasting away at me.   My small umbrella did not fare too well.   It was not blown inside out, but was collapsed by the wind into a half circle, the rib ties being broken.   Repairable, but not good, for the rain was falling more or less horizontally at the time.  It did stop after about twenty minutes, and I found I was not too damp.

Only two further fish were to take my bait, both out of season brown trout in superb condition.  The largest maybe a pound.   The swim was very dead from then on, and although I had a few exploratory casts in other swims, I felt that the best of the day was done, and soon made my way back through the woods to the car.  I resolved to return to the river, in a different swim, early the next day.  A day which was very different.  the sky had cleared overnight, which allowed an early light frost.  The wind had disappeared entirely, and once it dawned, the sun shone steadily and illuminated the remaining leaves from a low angle.  Quite pretty.   the events of the day were to be very different too.   Wildlife which had been hiding from the weather yesterday, now emerged. A splashing to my left proved to be a cormorant, which having seen me, was flapping its way downstream, low over the water.  Several more were to pass me heading both up and downstream during the day. Four mallards chased a goosander downstream.  A large bird emerged from the trees opposite, and headed upriver.   It was a buzzard, almost certainly the one I heard the day before. It probably resented having to flap its thermals today. Next to pass was a dipper, flashing low over the water upstream.  It splash landed about 100 yards above me, near to some protruding rocks. Ideal dipper habitat.  
A pair of Dippers I Photographed on This River a While Ago.

A Bullhead, A Fairly Rare Capture of a Very Common Fish.
As dawn broke, I had reeled in to re-bait.  Snagged!   Yet another feeder lost, but the hook remained, surrounded by a tiny bullhead.   It had taken 4 maggots on a size 12 hook.    The insides of a bullhead are very much like the Tardis.  On another river a year or so ago, I had caught one that had somehow taken two lobworms on an appropriate sized worm hook.  Open up a bullhead and you will probably find all sorts of stuff, 17mm halibut pellets, half a dozen maggot feeders, that missing sock.  
The still and bright conditions made it very easy to spot any slight movements, and a small white dot that moved opposite proved to be a rabbit, which mooched about directly opposite me.   That white tail seemed to completely invalidate otherwise excellent camouflage.  What purpose does it have to make it worthwhile to override its blatant visibility? The buzzard returned, from the other direction, landing in a tree, the high bank shielding the rabbit from its sight.   But moments later the bird repeated its upriver flight path.  The rabbit must have seen it pass over, for it froze, becoming totally immobile for over a minute.  Three jays were to fly over, separated by thirty minute intervals, quite high, and all along the same flight path,  as if they were planning to land on Runway One at the airport.  A pair of nuthatches did not alert me by their movements. Instead I heard some shrill peeping whistles above me, and on looking up saw them scuttling along an oak tree branch  above me. There were quite a lot of nuthatches flitting about.

Here's Four Nuthatch Pictures I Took Earlier. Crazy Birds.
The fishing remained difficult, the expected additions to yesterday's catches was not happening.  Only when I cast well away from the hotspot, did I finally get a bite.    Another grayling, and apparently from the same pea-pod as those yesterday.  Exactly the same size.   It was one very cold fish.  Despite further searching, it was to be the only bite.  The cold overnight had maybe put the fish off and my hands were now turning blue.    I stopped just long enough to see a heron flying downstream towards me.  Of course it saw me, did a U-turn and diverted its way back on the other side of the far bank trees. Day two had proved very different to day one.
But a good couple of days' grayling fishing on a far easier stream than that I have fished of late.  Still looking for that two pound fish, but four grayling for six pounds was an excellent result.   But the question remains:  a) with so many fish around 1-8, do I fish on expecting a two pounder.   or
b) with all the fish "one size fits all", do I have no chance of a two, at least from that swim?

Oh and....Shame about the barbel.