Monday 25 May 2015

A Second Delivery of the Post.

This is the second time I have posted this. After first publishing, I was not really happy with it. My decision to pull it, was aided by one of my readers, who, probably somewhat in jest, described it as "littered with errors" and that I had "lost it".  He was completely right, but I would have probably removed the post anyway.  I had, almost as I had predicted in one of the following paragraphs, made quite a few errors, some of which I have corrected.  It is unlikely that I will have found and removed them all. It is so easy to make errors, and so hard to find ones you make yourself.  I know perfectly well the difference between "two, to and too", and "there, their and they're", but in between my brain choosing the correct word and my fingers typing it, somehow errors can creep in.  And ever since I have learned to type with three fingers, the resultant group of three letters can often get jumbled. My fingers work at different speeds, I am sure!  Perfect prose will always evade me. I dare not ever post any first draft.  Too many of the errors seem to be quite Freudian.
Had I also "lost it"? Very probably, but in what manner? What did he mean?   Had I mentally flipped? Maybe, as I have never thought myself as completely normal. My wife would be far less complimentary.   Had I lost the ability to write in an interesting way?  I have never been a natural writer, and although in my career I had to produce a lot of texts, they were all dry scientific descriptions. Reference material. No artistry needed. I have always veered heavily onto the scientific side of the path, and most artistic ability has eluded me. So I always feel a sense of "should do better" when blogging...and I also get really jealous of people who can draw and paint!    Or did my reader simply mean that I had lost the ability to catch fish?  After so many blanks I was starting to feel such myself.  Of the three possible meanings of "lost it", the lack of fishing success will be the easiest to fix.  But for now, the post returns, with a few minor tweaks:
You may remember that, way back in 1983, there was an advert for British Telecom's Yellow Pages, in which a pleasant avuncular guy was searching second hand books shops for a copy of "Fly Fishing" by J.R. Hartley.   It became a very popular advert and still features at about number 14 in the list of best UK TV adverts. Of course it was all a work of fiction,  the guy never existed, and neither did the book... not until about 1991:  when someone decided to write and publish it.   How much of a work of fiction this book is, I have no idea.  Certainly the author is not really called J.R anything, let alone Hartley, although he purports to be one and the same.     I have no idea whether any of the content of the book is actually true, or whether it refers to another angler who has changed his name to protect the guilty.  I did however find a copy of the book last week, brand new, unread, and for only a couple of quid.  So I bought it.

As a book on fly fishing it would cast well short of any rising trout, in that few anglers, whether or not they had ever held a fly rod, would learn much of a technique from it.  The reality is that very little fly fishing is actually discussed in the volume, and that which is, is merely incidental to the various stories on offer.   Are the stories true? Again I have no idea, but they are written in a very entertaining manner, with some very clever wit, often  subtle and well disguised.  One little example that amused me was concerning a man named Sheldrake.  Old J. R. referred to Sheldrake's wife as Shelduck.  Clever. The book's style could almost be considered to be very blog like in its nature.

I like blogs, and read quite a few of them.  Anglers who write them clearly write not just for others, but for themselves too.  And so, there are very few angling blogs out there not worth reading. Many are excellent, to a degree that makes my own meagre effort seem quite worthless.  Such blogs make angling interesting in ways which the angling press does not...and they are completely free to read too.  There are the odd blogs whose content is "I caught this, caught that, look at the photos", but they are few and far between.  Because bloggers have such an interest, and clearly want not only to fish, but to write too, the standard of the prose in almost all blogs is somewhere between good and excellent.   The odd spelling mistake is apparent, as are some grammatical errors, but by and large they are very consumable, and quite tasty.

The other mediums used by anglers are very different.  Facebook and forums.   Many anglers using these are only interested in the fishing, or more specifically in the catching, and many posts are doing little other than seeking information.  How do I catch this? Where did you catch that?  What bait should I use? Where can I find a nice big, easy to catch, carp?   And the English in them can be depressingly bad.   At times one might suspect that an entire generation has become near illiterate...but knowing some of the people involved it becomes apparent that many are much older, in their 50's and 60's, and, apart from a less frequent use of textspeak, their scribblings can be equally as bad as almost anything written by much younger anglers.  But add youth and text-speak to a tweet or post, and sometimes the message becomes indecipherable, meaningless, and quite impossible to understand.    The context, or other nearby messages, can sometimes help the decoding process, but many such posts would have surely defeated Alan Turing and his entire Bletchley team.

I don't criticize and correct these twitching and tweeting people on-line. I  might respond to someone who points a sharply accusing finger at an error I myself have made.   Most errors I make are mistypes, although not all, for I am far from perfect myself.   I can then take significant delight in responding, because it is almost mandatory, on line, when having a go at someone's errors, that you make errors yourself. So I am often given enough elbow room for retaliation.  There is no message that needs more checks, more scrutiny before its publication, than a  message posted to moan about someone else's grammar or spelling.  It is a deep black hole just waiting to be fallen into, and is almost unavoidable. Walking the edge of the hole, being critical of another, makes you very likely to be sucked deeply into the vortex yourself. And then you are lost.

I think that the Sony Playstation, and the computer games industry in general have done a great deal to destroy literacy around the world.  Latterly these have been joined by the cellphone, and the need to type only with the thumbs, leading to all pervasive abbreviation: textspeak. In a few generations we may all have a prehensile pollex or two. Few people read books any more.  And if you don't read at all, your writing is unlikely to shine.  The bloggers that I read, are glowing beacons in an angling literary wasteland.   Long may they prosper.  

I have been wondering: do the Chinese make spelling mistakes?  Would one incorrect calligraphic stroke not completely change the meaning of a character?  Incorrect spelling in English rarely removes the ability to understand the sentence containing it...but what of Chinese?   Chinese students HAVE to learn the characters, one by one.  Thousands of them.  Does such a long exercise result in the Chinese having better memories, greater accuracy when writing, or higher IQ's  than the rest of us?  Does the extra study time contribute to the undoubted fact that many more Asians are short sighted? ( 80% as opposed to 30%  of Europeans is an oft quoted figure. Genetics and exposure to sunlight also being possible contributory factors).   Ever wondered how a Chinese dictionary works?   Look it up: fascinating.  The absence of any simple method of ordering the words  makes its use very different to that of the OED.  It may be that the Chinese HAVE to spell a character correctly, as they lack any easy means of looking up a word, such as we have with the OED.

Wild Garlic in Flower
Spring: Spring is undoubtedly here.  It can be seen  everywhere, colouring and transfiguring the landscape.  The trees are covered in CLEAN green leaves.   Bulbs are sprouting, the wild garlic is, in places, already in flower.  The horse chestnuts have their limp-wristed leaves dangling below their flower spikes, and it will be a week or more before they show their full strength.  I love them in the Spring, but hate them in the Autumn when their leaves interfere dreadfully with a legered line.

Limp Wristed Horse Chestnuts

Spring comes earlier down South, but its effects are also visible earlier on the side of the river that catches the most sun,  the difference can be quite striking once you look for it.    The birds get lively, both with their mating rituals, and with aggression.   I have jays, magpies and jackdaws all fighting a turf war in my back garden.   The magpies are very vocal, (nagpies?) but don't really seem to be winning.   

A pair of collared doves were mating yesterday. The male was hopping, not walking as doves/pigeons usually tend to do. I have never seen a pigeon-like bird hopping before.  A second bird, the female, was nearby.  The feathers on the male bird's back, between the wings, were all ruffled up too. Nearby the dunnocks were displaying and chasing.   Whilst fishing I have watched the crazy display flight of several lapwings.   These birds have an alternative name of "peewits".  I understand the name comes from their call, although, anyone watching the mad display flights might think they were just plain daft.  Wonderful to be a spectator to this avian air show.  This being Spring, there will now follow the inevitable display of amphibians:

Toads,  Toadspawn, Frogspawn, and Kermit

Sunset Before a Biteless Night
Most, if not all of the fish do not yet seem to know that Spring has arrived.  My tench fishing has still to yield its first fish, although I have intentionally avoided my easy, cannot fail, tench lake.  It produced quite a few fish last year, some in every month of the year, with fish to not quite seven pounds.   I know I could just go there and succeed, but have not wanted to.  So I stayed with the big, clear lakes, five sessions, including two full nights for no fish.  But Friday's session did see 5 or 6 tench rolling.  I'll change swims next time and hope for a better response.  

There was another angler fishing one of these large lakes, but he was after carp, and with some success, as I was to learn later that he had caught an eighteen pound fish.  He was fishing very near to his van, a big new Mercedes, very shiny and very red.  In it and scattered around it was a vast array of obviously brand new shiny tackle, an amount such as I have never seen before outside of a major fishing shop.   I had arrived early in the morning, during darkness, and may have disturbed his sleep, because a voice came from within the van, belonging to a prone, but very comfortable angler, as I passed.  I apologized for waking him.  When I returned, fishless, he was still there.  Outside of the van were two or three very large net holdalls, full of boilies, big boilies. probably twenty kilograms of them. I remarked that I had never seen so many boilies in one place, and his reply informed me that he had another 150 kilos in the van!!!  During a short conversation he revealed that he was a professional angler, employed by one of the big angling manufacturing companies.  Korum I think.   Also he was the current UK carp record holder.  Some of you may well know him by name. I didn't and still don't.   But by coincidence he is the third carp record holder I have met, having spoken briefly with both Richard Walker and Chris Yates in the distant past.  I know, I know: name dropper.     But since those days the record fish situation has changed for me.  Clarissa, Walker's 44 pound carp came from a naturally rich lake, and had gained that weight from eating the abundant water life present in Redmire.  Today's record fish are very different.  No longer do anglers need to go seek out new waters themselves, find the big fish and work out how to tempt them. Today's big fish, certainly carp, bream, tench, barbel and chub, are all fish that have grown big and fat on fast food diets, delivered daily to their doors by a succession of anglers, all eager to add another big fish to their captures, all providing regular fattening meals to their target species.  The records for these species will never again be normal, natural fish. they will always be farmed fish. Anglers KNOW where the next record is likely to come from, they know its name, they know who caught it last, and they know how best to fish for it.  Catching it is just a matter of fishing the water, feeding the fish, waiting for it to put on those extra pounds, or ounces, and finally hoping to be the one to catch it before it, or the angler, dies of old age or falls victim to ill health.  As such I now find it very difficult to take much of a serious interest in such records.  They seem so irrelevant nowadays.    Some fish are different, the grayling and roach do not seem to have been affected by the influx of food.  But the locations holding even those species to record or near record size, are far better understood these days, as information is disseminated to anglers by so many different means.

If  You Can See a Giraffe, Then maybe I am not Going Crazy.
I have also fished a couple of small ponds of late.  The first, a new water for me, was a small farm pond.  In ideal conditions I did not have a bite, and only saw one small fish splash on the surface.  Turning around, and glancing over my shoulder, I saw, in a nearby group of trees, a giraffe.  Yes: a giraffe of all things.   Thought I had finally gone completely mad, but every time I looked, it was still there.  I zoomed the camera onto it, and it was very realistic, but obviously either manufactured or stuffed.  A mystery.  Later in the day a bloke came strolling around the pond.  Thought he was the bailiff, but I was wrong: A local.   I asked him about the giraffe.  It is not alone, as he thought there were a few other species present.   Turns out that the property is owned by a gentleman named Stobart, he of trucking fame.  (I hope I didn't Spoonerize that).  Why he has a life sized giraffe, stuffed or otherwise, remains a little, 14 foot tall,  mystery.  But a reason for my lack of bites also became apparent during the conversation.  The pond has been stocked recently, and the local had been given a supply of pellets by the fishing club, and had been feeding the fish, in every swim, on a more or less daily basis, to welcome them to, and give them a good start in, their new home. The fish simply were not hungry, already stuffed to the gills with trout pellets.

So my next pond was elsewhere, a club pond, and another one I had never seen before, despite being a member of the club for some five years.  The pond surface was covered with the drifting remains of masses of rushes.  It was almost impossible to cast a line into the water, but I just about managed it.  A couple of carp were stirring on the surface, but I ignored them, leaving a float-fished lump of flake on the bottom.  Four hours and one shy bite later I had nothing to show.  But, as any regular stillwater float angler will know, a bite is not always a bob, or the float sailing away or even laying flat. Occasionally it just seems to behave, well ...wrongly...not corresponding to wind and waves.  So I struck at one such improbably bite and hooked something decent which swam off to the right, hugging the bottom.   I knew I would have to play it carefully on the 3 pound line,  right until the moment the hook pulled out.  At dusk I retired defeated, but returned the next day.   Two rods this time, one casting a lump of floating bread into the floating weed which, aided by a light wind, had concentrated itself onto just half of the pond's surface.  Three hours later the bread was slurped down, and I struck into a good carp,  one which, after ten seconds or so, also shed the hook.  Ah well, such is life. Without the disappointments in angling, the successes would not reach such heights.   A short time later the success came, on the breadflake rod.  A slow positive bite was hit and a good fish moved powerfully towards the far bank.  I had to give it line.  I was surprised by the result, as I guided a chub into the net.  At three and a quarter pounds or so, my biggest stillwater chub by far, possibly my only stillwater chub, as I cannot remember another. The fish was in excellent condition, with deeply bronzed flanks, and fought well.   The only odd thing about it was the wrist of the tail, which seemed unusually thin.

The final pond I fished was a total different kettle, one absolutely rammed with fish, it was to turn out.  I was interested in getting hold of a few crucian carp for the garden pond, and also feeling nostalgic for the farm ponds of my youth, from which I used to catch crucian carp, fishing lift method with bread.   I chose the same method on this small, free to fish, farm pond.  It was all go from the start, a small rudd grabbing the bread almost immediately.  The crucians were there, and in numbers, but like the rudd were probably stunted, and rather short of food in this tiny puddle.  In three hours I probably had a good fifty rudd, to about 3 or 4 ounces, and over 40 crucian carp, all no longer than my hand is wide.  One solitary carp/crucian hybrid completed the catch, and it would be fair to say that my float never remained stationary for more than a minute.  The water will not miss the dozen crucians that now live rather closer to home.  All in all a pleasant few hours with a light rod, a centrepin and float.

Finally I took the car for its yearly service and MOT today.   No problems but I did notice something in the showroom.   Now I know that a VW Polo is perhaps not an ideal fishing car, but after seeing the notice, I have ordered three, one for tench and bream fishing, one for grayling, and one for pike angling.   Being as patriotic as I can be when ordering VWs, I have gone for the base model, one in each of red, white and blue...

...and when walking back from the service centre I saw this near the Post Office:  think about it. I had to think twice myself.



  1. Oh dear J, still suffering the old typing problems? All figners nad thubms!! Whatever, you're still a great read.

  2. Major apology JZ...

    Never intended to give you a fit of paranoia. I was ENTIRELY in jest my friend. I was simply relived that I am not the only one suffering such difficulties!

  3. Oh I know George. I was already dissaisfied with the post before you made your comment. Although in jest, you merely confirmed that I wanted to tweak it a bit. My problem is that it is so difficult to remain fresh and to do something new and entertaining. I don't want to go into "caught this, changed my bait, cast in, caught that" mode, and I also don't wish to be someone who claims to be teaching people how to fish. People in general already know that, or already have adequate sources of such knowledge. Maybe I am making it too difficult for myself.