Sunday 1 June 2014

Tricky Tench and Trivia.

Well, I am back.  And "Why have I not been blogging?" I hear you ask in your thousands. Well, I suppose maybe half a dozen of you might have noticed my absence.  One or two might even have have missed the missives.  I have the best excuse of all time: pure laziness. Writing has had to compete with fishing, sleep, and idleness.  I have not been re-papering the front room, mowing the lawns, repairing the gates.  Nope, and the more I have been out with the rods, the more I have stacked up to write, and the more momentous that task has become. But finally, a few words are hitting the page.

Since India the fishing has taken a couple of directions.  The arrival of the trout season has ensured a few trips to the rivers, with Salmo trutta as the target.   And a few fish have graced the end of my line.  Nothing huge, with fish to three pounds.  But I am not going to spend too much time talking about the trout.   Much of that was effectively done whilst catching them out of season on trips after the grayling.   And of course, once the seasons switched from coarse to game, the nuisance fish switched too. A few grayling were caught and also a solitary chub.  The chub did not look as if it needed the close season.   A very good looking fish, and at an ounce over four pounds ( I was unable to resist weighing it), my largest from the river for a couple of years.  A shame it did not really count.   Actually two chub...I have just remembered another one, maybe half the size, which intruded upon the trout fishing.
Cormorant Damage on a Good Sized Chub
    There seem to be few chub in the river these days.   Massed black death: cormorants, have seen off so many of the bigger fish, with goosanders also dealing quite effectively with smaller species. Even the common roach is a rarity, and I have gone whole seasons without landing one from the river.

So it was then on to the tench, and my first few trips were to a banker water, one in which I suspected I would catch a few fish.  After all, I had caught tench there in January, February and March,  so April should not be too much of a problem.  And it wasn't.  One trip produced 5 fish, to just shy of six pounds.   Despite their  heavy activity in the opening months of the year, they were still showing no signs of holding any spawn, which pleased me.  All fought very well, as tench invariably do.   But I did have a problem, and not for the first time.  On this trip I was to lose three other fish, on consecutive casts, and all to hook pulls. Were these the only three fish I have lost then I would have dismissed this as a statistical blip,  but I have lost a few other fish, tench and grayling.     Losing the grayling I can fully understand, the upper jaw of the fish is very bony and hard.  A hook in the upper jaw will very often have penetrated only a millimetre or so, and, regardless of it being a barbed or barbless hook, that hold is vary precarious.  A with a fish of a lively nature, such as is the grayling, a lost fish or two is to be expected. There have been days when I have lost half of the grayling I hooked, usually immediately, and it is part of the game, it is to be expected, rule 1.  But tench are different, their mouths are tough, but not so tough as to prevent a sharp hook, and most modern hooks are very sharp indeed when new, from taking a good hold.    And those three fish losses were not immediate.  All were lost well into the fight, as much as a couple of minutes having passed, before the fish was off and away.  I have no explanation for this.  I am happy with my hook choices.  Those fish that I did land were all hooked perfectly, with not a clue as to why the hooks had pulled out of other fish. I feel that I can look at a hook, and taking into account its size and pattern, be confident with my choice.   Other times, with other patterns, or maybe a larger size in the same pattern, I feel that the hook is not perfectly suited to the job.   But my lost fish over the last two season have not all been with one size or even one model of hook.  I am reluctant to assign the get out phrase of "just bad luck", but I can think of no other explanation at the moment.    
The grebes seem to have also been hit by bad luck.   They had been nesting on my previous trip.   This time they were nowhere to be seen, and a coot had taken over the nest site.   Which was annoying as, one day I had driven there with just my rods...not intention of fishing.   And the damned grebes had gone. Such is life.

Having sated the lust for a few post India tench, it was time to move on to some more difficult waters, waters in which the tench swim bigger...some of them.    The "easy water" has given me fish to 6-14, the others have all produced fish over seven.   In my past a seven pounder would have been seen as more or less unattainable, but these days I am learning rapidly just how far the bar has been raised, and so, despite my vow not to return to being an all out specimen hunter, I have the chance to catch these huge fish with a more leisurely approach.    So water number one, a fair sized reservoir was home for a couple of nights.   The tench were partying elsewhere and my efforts were to be rewarded by a solitary male fish of about four and three quarter pounds.    I lost another fish, a carp which on being hooked came up seven feet or so to the surface, and with a large swirl of water, was away.    I suspect that it was never properly hooked.  It probably would not have been over about ten pounds, as I have yet to land a double figure carp in this water.   Swifts, swallows, house martins and sandmartins all made guest appearances over the water.    

Coot, Sitting on Huge Blue Feet.
Eventually I settled on yet another water, much closer to home than the aforementioned reservoir.  A water from which I extracted just three tench last year.  But their sizes promised much.   The first trip was an overnight session, in a new swim, and a very misty night produced just one small tench, probably less than three pounds.  A few fish were seen to roll, but I was unable to persuade them to come out and see me. In the early morning mist I did see a pair of the resident grebes perform the "penguin" dance.  A birdwatcher friend told me that the dance was so called. I have often seen pairs of grebes, alternately shaking their heads, occasionally dipping their necks down in a momentary preening of the back feathers motion.  But I had never seen the penguin dance, except on TV.   Both birds approached each other, and paddling away  like mad , chest to chest, they raised themselves up high in the water, bodies quite vertical.   Sorry no photo.     The coots, as ever, were being aggressive, chasing and squabbling with each other, often lying on their backs, kicking away with their ridiculous blue feet.

Coot, Being Aggressive With a Mallard
As I drove home along the motorway, I was surprised to see a pair of magpies, fighting on the hard shoulder.  Like the coots, these were lying on their backs, on the tarmac, kicking away merrily with both feet.  Something new, as I have never seen magpies acting quite so before.  "Two for joy?"  Far too often, I see things that are either too brief, or simply at the wrong place, wrong time to get a photo.   Hanging out of the passenger window, whilst driving at 60 mph pointing a camera, was a risk that not even I was prepared to take for you, the reader. So, in the absence of a "selfie", from said magpies, tough.

The next trip to the lake was to be a blank, just a dawn until midday trip.  Very few fish were seen, despite a flat calm lake surface, and a choice of swim that allowed me to see the whole lake.  A slow movement caught my attention though, and a three pound pike drifted slowly into the swim, a few inches below the surface.   Donning my polaroid glasses, I could see that it was many yards from any potential prey. But next time I looked, a second, slightly smaller pike had appeared three or four yards from the first.  They remained for an hour or so, basking in the sunshine.  As I watched them, I noticed something trapped in the scum at the lake edge, and fished it out with my landing net.  It was a cockchafer beetle....
"Yes, yes, I know!   I wouldn't want one of those in my underpants either".   

I thought it had drowned, but it twitched one of its legs slightly.  So, as I was not being disturbed by massed ranks of eager hungry tench, I placed the beetle on the handle of my rod to dry out, and brushed its back to clear off some parachute seed heads that had become stuck to it.  After an hour or so, it moved a little, turning around on the handle.  Eventually it flew off, rattling as it went.  I felt quite pleased with myself, having rescued it. But just take a look at those crazy TV aerials on its head.  The seven individual leaves on each side can by closed up from the fan shape by the insect.   Each leg has a twin hook at its end, and its grip on my finger, in the photograph, was very secure. A tornado would not have dislodged it. What an insane, superb creature.

The next two sessions both produced fish.  Simple legering tactics on the first morning resulted in two tench, a small fish of a couple of pounds and a very nice fish indeed of 7-8.   I was surprised that, given the very mild Winter, it was not bloated and fat with spawn.  Instead it was just a beautifully proportioned and
coloured fish. It has maybe a slight hint of being a two tone fish too.   Top secret bait, as you can see in the
7-8 Female
photo. (Note to the mat police: the fish was on thick wet grass, and came to no harm at all). The next day, also in the early morning I caught another tench in the upper half of the six pound range.  It though had a quite noticeable spawn ball, and I did wonder why all the fish were not at a similar stage of gravidity...gravidness?  Neither word passes the spell checker.  Another fish, which felt much bigger, or which may have been a male was lost to yet another hook pull, after an extended fight. I did not see the fish.

There followed three of four blanks sessions, in each of which a tench or few rolled right over my baited area.  I was surprised a little by the lack of bites in the presence of fish, fish that were obviously attracted by by bait, but, as ever, I would always want such events to occur.  Predictability would destroy much of what I seek from angling.  One session was a night session, float fishing in about 14 feet of water.   No bites at all...until about 11.00 am, when my float slowly lifted and lay flat.  My thoughts of a tench were soon dashed as a two ounce roach came to hand.  A large, probably very large shoal of roach had moved in and three more were hooked, on the drop, in three casts.   As I reeled the last one in, something grabbed it.  Pike, thinks I, but despite the size 14 hook, being already embedded in the roach, I thought I would try to gently bring it to the net.   I soon found it was not a pike, but a perch, with a 8 inch roach half into its mouth.   It spat it out as I looked into the clear water, but soon grabbed it again.   It struggled a bit, and I had to choose whether to strike, and hope enough of the small hook was exposed, or to wait and try to draw the perch over the net very slowly.  I waited until the roach was fully inside the fish's mouth and began to reel in slowly. Of course the perch ejected the roach and swam away.  Size: difficult to say, but well over two pounds for sure, maybe three.  Its stripes were really black, a benefit of life in clear water.  One rod quickly became a lobworm rod, and soon I had a bite.   But the culprit was a slightly disappointing three pound jack pike.

Eight Pounds Nine Ounces
Back to the lake for an early morning session in a new swim. 3.00 am start, and before ten minutes had passed after introducing a smallish amount of bait, two fish, probably tench rolled right on the money.   Very few other fish rolled anywhere, and so I sat, wondering why and how they could ignore my baits.  It was around 8 o'clock, long after the last fish moved, that I had my first bite.   A tench, to judge from the bend in
the rod, and a good one.   Two or three times I thought it had become snagged, but I suspect that it was merely swimming directly away from me, the pressure of my line in accordance with Newton providing an equal and opposite  force.  As it eventually approached the net I saw a huge flank, and knew it to be my biggest tench to date.   8 pounds 9 ounces.   It was well provided with spawn though, and would probably have not touched eight without it.    Would I have preferred it to have been 7-15, without the spawn?  Good Question. But the spawn did not stop it from demonstrating how displeased it was to be so disturbed.  An hour later, the indicator shot up, and the reel began to spin backwards faster than I could have wound it.  I struck and missed!    How could anyone miss such a bite? But as I reeled in a small roach
Super Strong Suicidal Roach
was revealed to have taken the bait.  I might have suspected it had been grabbed by a pike, but its scales were absolutely pristine.   It was just a very fit, suicidal roach.   I wonder what it thought as my strike brought it to a sudden dead stop, directly from warp speed three?  All quiet again, the only movement being from a flotilla of Canada geese with their young.  These geese appear to creche their offspring, and thirteen young were guarded by eight adults.

The guards did not deter the male swan, which now that his mate was on the nest, was attacking anything that swims.   Anywhere on the lake, even hundreds of yards from its nest, the swan was chasing anything that floated.  Geese, mallards, coots.  The coots were also with young now, and as I watched a jay flying very low across the water, dambuster's style, a coot flapped its way across the lake so as to try and intercept the jay.  Ambitious but brave.

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