Thursday 9 January 2014

First Fish of the Year...and...Do Squirrels Ever Fall Out Of Their Trees?

Yesterday, January the 5th: And I just had to go fishing. 

There had been some worrying developments over Xmas and the New Year.   My occasional readers may remember that I had been impressed by my son's attitude to women and to his girl friends in particular.   Which was basically:  dump them well before any occasion requiring a present.     Well,  he has disappointed me.   His current girlfriend has lasted right through Christmas...and she received  the obligatory present that such entails.   I am just not ready for this.  Only this year did I become a full blown pensioner.  Something I am still practising to be, and still not getting  right.   I am not ready to be a father in law, not even a virtual father-in-law, as defined by today's preferences for living together.    It is all such a threat.  And I have laid down the law that I am in no way old enough yet to become a grandfather, but he has taken such a major step in that direction. Keeping a girlfriend through Xmas!  If you are reading this, you know who you are!  I see my non-grandfather future as being under some serious degree of threat.  It is the apocalypse.  I am just not ready yet, no way,  too young to be a grandfather and too old to do babysitting.     You cannot take a baby fishing.   Far too noisy.   And if it came back smelling of halibut pellets and  garlic luncheon meat my wife would ensure that I should be dead by the next morning.

So I went fishing to try and restore some sense of sanity to the world and to myself.   The river was even higher than last time, but I chose to fish a swim in which I have been successful before.    So a fair degree of that old confidence was present.    Took a few casts to decide whereabouts in the swim looked good,   not too fast, deep enough for Winter grayling, and without too many of the tackle claiming snags that the previous three casts had found.    The bite was not immediate, but 'twas not too long before the rod tip rapped a bit.   I was legering, the river being a too fast and erratic for a comfortable float session.  The fish was hooked about fifteen yards downstream   and immediately started to jump and splash on the surface, maybe a couple of times.    Trout  thinks I. Good scrapper, but a fish which, as it came closer, proved to be no trout, but a grayling.  A good one for the river at 1-9.     A small trout completed the short session a little later, a trace of a sucked maggot being the minute tell-tale of a third, unseen bite.   I will not post another grayling picture, nice though the fish was, it was of a very similar size to other recently posted  fish.  Perhaps there is a lesson there.    I have now had 5 grayling from this swim, all being either 1-8 or 1-9.  Grayling in the river generally seem to have got bigger over the last three years. I used to catch a lot around 10 or 12 oz, but now few are under a pound.   Maybe in a couple of years two pounders will be commonplace, but in the meantime, I may have to try elsewhere for a two pound fish.  I fished on for a couple of hours after the last second fish.   Plenty of nuthatches and great tits to watch.   A plop to my left was made by a kingfisher diving for fish.  I had not seen it, or else I might have managed a very close up photo.  The bird had been about three yards from me, but I had not seen it fly in.   After the dive it headed upriver.  A grey squirrel gambolled in the trees opposite, and I found myself wondering whether they ever fell.  Both grey and red squirrels seem to be able to scamper around a tree trunk at an  astonishing rate of r.p.m.   "Do they ever fall?" is rather like asking "Does God exist?".  You cannot prove it unless you either see a God, or see a squirrel fall. 

Why grayling you may ask?  Well, you might not ask, but read on in any case.   How would I describe the pleasure of holding that freshly caught grayling to any non angler that might have strayed into this page by means of some sort of tragic accident. Like fresh still-warm newly baked bloomer bread, with butter? Like raspberry jelly infused with brandy?  (Try it!).  Yes: but also, have you ever, when seated or maybe whilst lying in the bath, let go a small SBD, a tiny gas bubble that slowly, ever so slowly, curls its way out from between your cheeks, and then, diverting slightly, continues its slow path up between leg and certain delicate areas?  That ten or twenty seconds as the bubble makes its leisurely break for freedom can be quite delicious, and catching a grayling is similarly delightful.  I doubt that I could draw a better comparison. The grayling is reputed to smell like thyme,  and the SBD may also have a herbiferous outcome, although a hint of late night coriander is perhaps more likely a flavour, than that of thyme.  Is herbiferous a word?

So I joined another club today, one with waters higher up the same river.  With grayling in them.  And maybe bigger grayling?  A local tackle shop sells the cards, and for we OAPs the price charged is ridiculously low.   Don't read that as a complaint,  I can now join twice as many clubs at the same total price that I used to pay last year.   I offered to show proof of age but was told  not to bother as: "We trust all our pensioners"     I tried to explain to him, just how silly it was for him to say that, for of course a pensioner is a pensioner, and in the words of the wise Walker, they have no need to lie.   By definition anyone lying about their age whilst applying for an OAP ticket, would not have actually been a pensioner.   I don't think the tackle dealer understood the fine point I was making, or maybe he was just cheesed off with smart Alec OAPs.

Today's buzzphrase in the TV news is "the never had generation" referring to youngsters who have never had money, never had a job....

But it all depends upon how you describe that  "never had".    My generation never had computers, never had Playstations, TVs. mobile phones  (Nor any phone without its own coin slot in a tall red box, near the local Post Office). I never had a bicycle.until given my aunt's forty year old ladies 4 gear Sturmey Archered machine  (very embarrassing!).  No internet,  no email,   We never had a lot of things,  exotic foods, restaurants, holidays anywhere other than at Butlins.  So who are the "never had" generation really?  Odd how it is we, as the parents of the new "neverhads" who were lumbered with paying for all those rather nice things that the new "never had" generation have recently had in such profusion.

More important is what we did have.   The freedom to roam, I went wandering the fields alone from age about six.  And paedophiles did exist before the age of Jimmy Saville. I was once approached by one such, on the pretext of helping him look for a toy plane lost in a field. But even at that tender age I was bright enough to realise that he appeared to be looking for the toy plane in a very odd place, I could not understand how his suggestion to drop his trousers might help find the missing aeroplane, and so I quickly legged it.  Jimmy Saville's young friends, in many cases, seemed not to know that they had that option.  We had grammar schools, the ability to play outside,  very few toys, so we had to invent games and toys ourselves. It was fine making catapults, and bows and arrows, with arrowheads made from nails flattened by the passage of trains on the local railway line.  But I did get into immense trouble one day for making a slingshot.  My dad appeared, Goliath-like, and gave me hell for making it.  I still don't know why it was so much worse than the catapult. It had no where near the same accuracy. Let me assure you: David would have got nowhere near Goliath with his sling.

I nowadays blame much of the UK's ills on the Sony PlayStation and the loss of those grammar schools, together with the fiery discipline that came with them. The grammars were certainly a social leveller, and enabled kids like myself, from working class parents, to move onwards and upwards.  Most of today's kids are not much good at being kids, lousy at being teenagers, and not exactly brilliant at being young adults either.

But also I confess that I am not much good at  being a pensioner,  I do things wrong,  I feel out of place amongst my contemporaries whilst using the free bus pass.   I cannot just stare disinterestedly in front of me, or engage in totally trivial conversation en-route to my destination.  Why do so many pensioners appear to have no interest in what makes life tick, how the universe works, why insects have six legs rather than five etc?   I continue to get this part all wrong.  Do I also look as old to them, as they all seem to look to me?  Why do I feel far more at home with younger people?   I just don't understand any of the rules of this game.  I don't even feel that I deserve the government pension...but thanks very much.  Am I a generational outcast? 

A Pair of Kingfishers. A Shame They Were Not Closer.
Of course there are exceptions to all those OAPs in that bus pass mould. Some OAPs really do enjoy life. And oddly those exceptions almost all seem to be anglers. So I would advise any one getting near their pension date to take up fishing.  It may well keep you young...or possibly just ensure you remain daft.

Today's fishing:  complete blank.   But I did see a pair of kingfishers once again, so the day remained in profit.

And on getting home, a few glances out of the window revealed a song thrush, an occasional visitor to my garden. It was not singing.

Song Thrush

And a male blackcap: a very rare visitor to my garden, and one which is sometimes informally called the Northern Nightingale.   This was only the second such bird  I have seen in 25 years at this address. The blackcap wasn't singing either. So the birds don't think it is Spring just yet,  and neither do the frogs from my pond.  But the squirrels in next door's garden are either certain that Spring has arrived, or they wished specifically  to answer the question posed in the title of this post.   For there were a couple of grey squirrels chasing each other and mating in next door's trees.   And, I can now confirm that squirrels, at least during mating, quite often fall out of trees.  I saw them fall as much as twenty feet, several times.  The falls left them unhurt, and seemed not to dampen their ardour one bit.  Quite coincidental, as I really had been wondering whether they ever fell out of their trees.


  1. I think you just wrote the post I have been thinking all my life, but as I must be ten years younger that must make me a late developer

    Very entertaining!

    1. If you are ten years younger, does that not make ME the late developer?

    2. Well if you only just thought of these things then yes, but somehow I fear they may be a touch less recent!

  2. "So I joined another club today, one with waters higher up the same river."
    hmmmmmm .......

    1. I wish I had the same confidence that the upper river contains larger fish, as the confidence I have that I know exactly why you said "hmmmm...." I also cannot get it out of my head that I, in some way, know you. SFA? I wish SFA did not stand for two different things.

  3. Just read this Jay.....
    Absolutely cried laughing.

    You should be on stage my good man....LOL