Tuesday 11 March 2014

The Fifteenth Of March

 March the fifteenth.  Close season on the rivers.  Time for all those barbel anglers to vegetate in front of the TV?  Or time for them to see what else night be swimming around in some of our UK waters?   Or perhaps something else....

The last week or so has been patchy, partly my own fault, poor choice of suitable venues. I had intended to return to the river to see whether the grayling would be as obliging as had been the trout a week or so ago, but the rain stepped in again, and the day after I caught the trout, the river was three times as deep and probably carrying ten times the flow. I did go to look, but it was very chocolate in colour.  So I spent a few days messing about on still waters.    

The first trip was to try for a crucian carp, on a water that produced them in quite large numbers for me on a couple of occasions last year.   This time was however a complete and utter failure, not so much as a twitch.    It would seem that crucians wake up more reluctantly than do tench. The lake surface was absolutely still all day, no wind at all, and from my chosen spot I could see 90% of the lake surface.   Only one carp broke surface all day.   No other fish at all stirred.  There was a heavy splash right at the far end of the lake though, a splash preceded by a loud cry of desperation a few moments before.  I had seen a carp angler wandering along the far bank and he had chosen to climb into a waterside tree overlooking the clear water, and to search for carp with his polaroids.   The tree gave way, and I saw him drop vertically, feet first, into deep water that I already knew was at a mere 5 degrees centigrade.  He managed to crawl out, and I could only imagine what he might have been saying. He was a youngish lad, and before being dropped in the lake by that tree, had been dropped off at the lake some time before by a friend or relative.   I guessed he had no means of getting home, wet as he was, until a pre-arranged time.   A while later the bailiff came and checked my card and EA licence. I mentioned the poor damp lad to the bailiff, and said he might expect to find someone cold and shivering around the corner.    No sympathy from this bailiff though.   "If he left his rods fishing by themselves to go looking for carp I'll endorse his card, I don't care how bloody wet he is."   Some days the milk of human kindness flows freely,  other times it has curdled nicely before being added to the cup of tea, and is then served up without sugar. The stillness of the water surface revealed quite a lot of bubbles rising to the surface.   As usual another angler said they would be carp, digging into the mud.   He was wrong, I think almost all bubbles seen rising, from lake or from river bed are nothing to do with the fish.   But on this occasion I was able to prove it to him.   I noticed that near to me there were about a dozen places where bubbles were rising. Two or three were near enough to the bank that the absence of fish could actually be seen.   Other bubbles were rising in exactly the same spots repeatedly,  and more surprisingly, at regular intervals.   I monitored one such spot for quite a while.  Every one minute and forty seconds (give or take a couple of seconds), a mass of about 50 pea sized bubbles would rise to the surface.  This was so regular, that I could have timed an hour quite accurately by it, should I have chosen to do so.  These bubbles continued in precisely  the same spot, at the same time interval, right through the day.  At just 5 degrees, I was surprised that so much decomposition gas was being generated. There must have been quite a large underground reservoir of gas, helping to regulate the bubbling. Not a single carp was involved though!  Most of the other spots were bubbling at fairly regular intervals too.

My next outing was to the local canal.   Occasionally, with just half a day to play with, a local water will tempt me and become my target.   The fishing was fine, and a few half decent perch were teased out from near some moored barges. None reached two pounds but all were very welcome.   My fishing was briefly disturbed by one barge which sailed past, crewed by what one might have described as  the epitome of a "dirty old man"..  He obviously had great  a sense of humour though.  His barge was named the "Nautilust".   Brilliant, and a pleasant change from "The Elk" or "Priscella, Queen of the Canal" and various other silly and sentimental  boat names.

I was determined to get out a few times before "March the Fifteenth", and I arrived at dawn a few days ago to fish a smallish club pond.  No idea of its fish content, but I had an ulterior motive for later in the day.   The
The Bream Pond
fishing was nothing to shout about, and although by the end of the day I had about twenty fish, mainly bream, none would have dragged a spring balance, kicking and screaming, past the half pound mark.  But a pleasant day with the sun shining.  Dave: if you are reading this, dig out those water skis. I finally found you a sloping lake!
Various signs of Spring were apparent.   A few ladybirds were crawling about.  Unfortunately they were all harlequins emerging from their Winter hibernation.   The harlequin ladybird is another of our invasive species, and is outcompeting some of our native species as it spreads ever further to the North.  The dunnocks were getting fruity, the male fluttering his wings at any nearly female.  A solitary lapwing was in its display flight, crazy aerobatics which were probably impressing me more than any nearby female lapwings. The alternative name of peewit comes from its call, rather than its insane tendency to indulge in such crazy flight plans.  One other bird flew across the pond.  Slightly zig-zagging flight, with angled wings. Although my wader identification is non too expert I decided that I must have seen a jack snipe, probably the first I have ever seen. For much of the afternoon I was accompanied by a little wren, which rooted and scuttled about in nearby low vegetation.  It took the odd maggot and had something wrong with its left foot. Not so much as to inhibit its feeding too much though.

Shortly before dusk, I packed up my tackle, because I wanted to stake out a badger sett near the pond.   I had groundbaited the entrance and nearby areas with some sweetcorn and halibut pellets, hoping to draw out old Brock as the light faded.  However my spending a couple of hours with the camera homed in on the main sett entrance, was to yield no result.  

 As the last traces of light disappeared from the Western sky, so the first stars started to appear in the East. One planet, Jupiter I guess, had been visible for some minutes already.     Also around this time, tawny owls started to hoot.   There were quite a lot of them,  although not much was heard in the way of the usual calls and replies:   tu-whits  and corresponding tu-whoos.      One owl,  which may or may not have been a tawny, made several cries, once every few seconds as it flew a northerly flightpath to the west of me.  I didn't see any of the owls. Normally when fishing at night I hear the odd tawny owls, and occasionally even see them, as shadowy shapes flying overhead, but on this night, with no fishing to distract me, I heard far more of their cries than usual, but saw nothing. Eventually as the temperature plummeted with the clear sky, I gave up on the badgers, and headed home.

With the rivers falling again, I had another couple of sessions, different river, similar result:  4 trout, no grayling, and one very good trout, certainly over three pounds, lost to a hook pull, after quite a long and exciting scrap.  I might need to try and re-acquaint myself with that son-of-a-fish once the trout season opens.   

I did re-acquaint myself with the Derwent one day. The EA river levels website had suggested that the water would be low and clear.   I got up at 3am to check.   The website had lied to me though, and by the time I got to the river, not long after 6.30, it was up a little too much for comfort, and was quite coloured.  I stayed for a biteless day, frustrated by seeing just 4 fish move:  one, a small grayling which rose in front of me, just as I reached the river.   Three other fish swirled on the surface, one midstream as I changed swims around mid-day, and two others, one in each of the two swims I fished, both fish swirling within a yard of my feet.  I saw none of these three fish,  my attention was elsewhere, all were good fish, and I can only guess that they were pike.   But yet again, the only fish I saw were very near to my chosen fishing spots.   Uncanny.

Today is probably going to be my last outing before that fateful fifteenth of March...probably.  As I walked towards the river this morning rabbits were scattering in front of me. The frost was quite intense, and the fields were quite white as I strode down the hill towards the river.   Nice low level, and clear, and I expected a grayling or two.   The first fish though was a 1/2 pound brownie.  A nuisance fish.  I have to say that, for, although I enjoyed catching the fish, it is still close season: so it was a nuisance fish...unwanted... unloved... but which was returned safely.  Another followed, somewhat larger, and the swim went dead after its aerobatics. Too noisy, that fish needs to take up something quieter, like synchronized swimming. I moved a few yards upstream to where a fast tail rip bordered some slower water.   Here I did get the odd bite, but

A Perfectly Plump Chub
they were very, very tentative.   But a chub a little over two pounds soon hit the net after a spirited, deepwater fight.  The identity of the fish established by the nature of the fight long before I saw the chub.   A while later a better fish, a very plump and pristine chub a little over three pounds. As I played it a male mandarin duck flew past, its colours wonderfully vibrant in the sunlight.
Mandarin Duck, by Dali
 I may have said this before, but, had I not seen this duck in real life, I would have assumed it to have been painted by Salvadore Dali, whilst on crack cocaine. In the absence of the male, even the female is spectacular. One other chub shed the hook a little later. Lunchtime was my deadline for going home, and a final cast hooked into a third trout, one of maybe a pound and a quarter.   Throughout the day, the "V" of the river banks had become a flyway for the birds, and  several other species flew past: a heron, a couple of cormorants, one female goosander, two dippers, several grey wagtails, and a flight of five small unidentified ducks.   Possibly female mandarins.   Throughout the day 4 or 5 mallards flew up and down the stretch.
Grey Wagtail
  In the trees were various tit species, blackbirds, woodpeckers,  nuthatches, and woodpigeons.  I was told last week by a birdwatching friend that, unlike gulls, woodpigeons NEVER defecate in flight.   I think I'll stick to fishing if that is what I would learn as a twitcher..

Finally back, or perhaps forward  to March the 15th.   What shall I be doing that day?   Well, the close season seemed to be a good time to go fish elsewhere.  So: March the 15th is big silver bird day.   I will be off fishing abroad, on what will either be a very exciting trip, or my most expensive blank week to date.   More to come later.

P.S.   For those of you who read about my drilling holes in the lawn with a Black & Decker...it worked!   I estimate at least a couple of thousand crocus flowers have appeared.

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