Monday 25 August 2014

Hello again.   Apologies for my overly long absence.  I am sure that most of you will be pleased to hear that I have not died of columnaris, bird flu or rananculus. I have not eloped with a dusky maiden, not been the subject of a fatwa from the carp anglers I occasionally poke fun at. Nope, still here.  My big roach water had been playing silly games with me.    It had decided to send in massed legions of 4 to 6 ounce roach to mop up every bait I threw at the water.  Immaculate fish all of them, all uncaught because no-one ever fishes for roach on the lake.   Still a pleasure to catch, but when you are seeking to commune with and make contact with their great grandmothers and grandfathers, they do become something of a pest.   And the perch had started to join in too.  These were also not the huge fish that I optimistically suspect may be present.  The nights were devoid of fish, but I was joined by a spectacular lightning storm, with the attendant drenching downpour.   Crouched under my brolly, I watched the sky clear after an hour or so, and was able to see the odd orbiting satellite, the Pleides star cluster, and even, faintly, the milky way.  Daylight brought the roach back, in what was obviously a huge shoal.

Other problems beset me.  I set off the alarm walking into Aldi, and once again as I left.  I stopped and held my hands up, as you might with a gun pointed at you, protesting my innocence, as the manager rushed out to intercept me. I was checked, searched, and proved innocent, but the alarm went off again as I left the building.  It did it again the next day, and I almost decided to keep walking around until they adjusted it, but contented myself with a good moan at the manager, told him that the alarm was effectively accusing me of being a thief, in front of other customers, was highly embarrassing and thus gained an assurance that he would call in the engineer and have it adjusted. He did not grant my suggested bottle of apologetic wine.
Over the next two days I also set off alarms in Tesco and Morrisons.  I don't like getting sunburned and had bought some long sleeved shirts in a sale at Decathlon.  The alarms were only going off when I wore the blue shirts.  Weird.   Have Decathlon declared war on Aldi and Tescos?  Tennis balls at dawn? Baked bean cans in retaliation? The shirts are in the wash now, and I can only wait until they drip dry before my next experiments and altercations at Aldi's exit.  

So I decided to run away, and take a few days off, hiding and fishing in Wales.   The plan was:  River Severn, River Wye,  wild carp, and mullet.    Far too complex a plan, and such intricate plans often do not go as desired, and so the first river I hit was the Wye.  Arriving in darkness on a strange river with steep banks, the safe option is to find the first easily accessible swim and to cast in.  More difficult distant swims can be sought out in the comparative safety of daylight. I have never fished the Wye before, and so that first cast was made entirely at random, into a river whose depth and nature was entirely unknown to me.    But the two hours before dawn did produce a bite on a large lump of bread, and a chub was heading towards the net.  At about 3 pounds, not huge, but my first Wye fish. Blank saved.   Soon after,  dawn broke, and I had my first real glimpse of the river close up.   Beautiful. Idyllic.  Not another angler in sight.

First View of the River Wye
   I was not to see a single empty tin can or plastic bottle float down, not a single half submerged supermarket trolley, not one old tyre over three days. I did NOT feel at home.    In such circumstances I might have gone on to say no fish either, but that was not the case. The river was low, and I scrambled down a difficult embankment some few hundreds of yards further downstream into a swim with a visible snag.  Rain was to make getting back up the bank quite difficult a day or so later, with resultant muddy knees and hands. A felled tree in the river was caught up on an old salmon fishing stone jetty.  Jetty is not the correct word...I'll think of the correct one sometime I hope.  I had seen a fish rise near to the tree, and so in the absence of any other clues where to fish I plumped for the spot.  An unfashionable word these days: "plumped".  Years ago you would often hear people "plumping" for things, rarely today though.  "Groyne"...that's the word I wanted....not "jetty". Feel free to cut and paste it into the original sentence.  Thank God for a working memory, even a sluggish one.    Now where was I?

Oh yes:   the day proved fruitless from a fishing point of view.  From about 8 a.m. a constant stream of Canadian canoes and kayaks paddled downstream.  Well over two hundred, most keeping to the far bank,
With a bad phone signal, the nearest I could get
to Wi-Fi was Wye Fry.  Sorry!
especially when I had cast a long way across the stream, and it seems the Wye attracts canoe day trippers by the hundred, and canoe hire companies by the dozen. One lonely kayaker had totally the wrong idea. He paddled upstream. What an idiot, going against the flow in both senses of the word.   So no bites, although an angler I was to meet a couple of days later said that the canoes did not disturb the fish or fishing at all. He may well be right, but the last canoe passed by at 7pm, and my first barbel took my bait 20 minutes later.   The fish looked to be waiting for the canoes to pass, rather than for darkness.  At about seven pounds it was more lightweight than it looked as I drew it over the landing net, and on the bank it was a far leaner, sleeker and fitter fish than those caught in the other barbel rivers I have fished in recent years.  It was not overfed on pellets and other angler's baits and hence fought far better than such fat fish do.  It was a barbel as barbel should be. A barbel as they used to be.

A Wye Chub....Rotated 90 degrees by Blogger
This was my first serious barbel session for two or three years, and I admit that the first sight of the river was a little daunting.  Where to find fish in a new, big and shallow river?   But the fish were there, and I finished with four more barbel.  None to worry my personal bests, but fish from 6 pounds and up to 8-15, the biggest of the session will always get a warm welcome from my net. Four or five chub completed the catch.  None reached four pounds, but were still welcome. The chub photo may well give you a crick in the neck, but it was Blogger that rotated the picture, not me.   Blame blogger for your whiplash injuries.
I also lost five barbel to hook pulls, and was probably a little silly, and slow to figure out why.   The river is very rocky, and although a cursory glance at the hooks did not reveal it, the hooks were becoming slightly blunted by the bedrock.   I had changed to a straight hook, one with the point parallel to the shank of the hook.  Next time I think I shall revert to an incurved pattern and see whether that improves things. And I will add a magnifying glass to check the points more thoroughly.   We all make mistakes, but if we can learn from them...
Whilst chasing the barbel I photographed this bird.  I am not sure what it is, but would guess at a cirl bunting.   Never seen one before so my ID may well be in error.  An inconspicuous little creature, but rather nicely marked. (P.S. George, one of the readers of this blog, tells me the bird is a female reed bunting, and I am sure he is correct.)
On to the next part of the plan: remember the plan?  The wild carp lake.   I was sent a written set of directions to the lake, daylight fishing only, and so at 4 am I was close by, and the directions were working well.  1.2 miles and then turn right towards xxxx yyyyyy.  At 0.6 miles a signpost suggested that xxxx yyyyyy was to the left, but I drove on and found...there was no right turn signposted xxxx yyyyyyy.  So I tried the left hand road half a mile back and was lead to a track, impassible to my car, too rough, too steep a track.  If the error in the directions was simply the turn right, rather than left then this might be the correct route, and the lake would be just half a mile up that hill, and be visible in the next valley.   Not sure if I was in the right place, I did not fancy walking half a mile uphill, carrying my carp gear, abandoning my car in the middle of a large chunk of tundra and hoping that the lake would be visible.   At that time there was no one to ask, and with no visible signs of human habitation anywhere in sight I backed out of the carp fishing and headed towards the mullet. One day ticket wasted.
I arrived at the estuary and chose a swim a little upstream of where I had my one and only mullet a couple of weeks previously.   This was a snaggy swim in the extreme, old tree trunks, and what looked like an old bedspread spring mattress made the prospect of hooking one of these fish quite a challenge. As the tide

Mullet in Some of the Snags
   flowed, so some fish started to show themselves.  Grey Mullet!  In my swim!   About 30 fish going to over five pounds swam back and forth in front of me.   And apart from nosing at my bait constantly, and swirling often, see the photo above, that is all they did.  They refused completely to take any of my baits, and it quickly became apparent why so many sea anglers get infuriated by the species.  Grey ghosts would cruise happily under my rod tip, sneering at my inability to hook them. After two days and three high tides I gave up, and gave in to the mullet and text messages from wifey to come home.

Ugly Duck.

During that time spent mullet watching I also saw another unidentified bird.  This photo, zoomed into a blurry magnified picture show it, some sort of duck.   It is a dopey looking individual,  and my best guess is an immature sheld duck.  But who knows for sure what this ugly duckling might be?  Not I .   And this one ain't no swan to be sure.  And my commiserations to any old bugger reading this who fully understands the hidden reference in this paragraph.


  1. Yes, I was with all that! Sadly.

    Very entertaining indeed thank you

    Young shelduck, yes. Cirl bunting, no not in that part of the world, but female reed bunting, yes

  2. Cheers George. I'll go with female reed bunting. Very good looking bird for a female. ...and now try to get that silly damn tune out of your head when you next see a duck...any duck ;-)