Friday 7 August 2015

Apocalypse Last Week

It has been a long time since I did any serious walking,  a mile or two, quite often, but anything longer seems in the dim, distant past.   So I decided to have a far longer stroll, and chose Salford Quays in Manchester as the destination.     I'll tell you the end result, here and now, rather than at the end:   serious aches in the legs and ankles after walking about 12 miles.   But after a couple of days I definitely felt better for it, and will have to get back to taking such longer walks more regularly.  The Quays is Salford's old docks, served by the Manchester Ship Canal. Locks close off the canal, and the Quays are unlikely to ever again have much, if any at all, boat traffic. A few ships still use the canal though. So the Quay lock gates have been closed for years and the pounds, or basins as some are called, are effectively cut off from the Canal itself.     As a consequence there is no water flow through them, only rain and very minor seepage between the lock gates ensures a steady water level.   The level in the canal itself is controlled by additional huge locks further downstream, and is, I think kept fairly constant.   I say downstream because the start of the Canal is in fact really the River Irwell, dredged out to some 25 feet deep, 36 miles long and I would guess some 90 yards   wide.   Nearer the sea it follows part of the route of the River Mersey, of which the Irwell is a tributary.   Together with the steady water level, comes great water clarity, and provided that the algae is not "breaking" it can be easy to see a good 12 feet or more deep into the basins.  So fish can often be seen.  I watched a carp of about 10 pounds idling away its time near the basin wall.   As I left the Quays, an angler was just unloading his car.  I admit to being surprised at how much gear he had with him.  A very large piled up wheelbarrow carrying of all sorts of stuff, enough to enable him to survive an apocalypse.   He was after the carp.  One of his bags contained his beer, he said.   Another had in it an electric battery powered drill.   I guess this was to drill anchor points into the concrete banks for his bivvy.  But also all the gear, several thousand pounds worth I suspect,  looked to be brand new.   How on earth he keeps his tackle so pristine I have no idea.   Mine always looks battered and used.  Maybe because I use it and don't worry too much if the rod hits the odd tree or two as I change swims.

I walked back into Manchester along the Ship Canal.  One good fish swirled as I passed, maybe it was another carp. I didn't see it, and I don't think it had seen me.  I determined I should fish it soon.  But first, the next evening, I watched a small fishing match, on the Piccadilly basin of the Rochdale canal, right in the city centre.  The match was won by about three pounds of roach, including some nice half pound plus fish. The winner had to cope with a bunch of youths behind him, break dancing and generating some interestingly and highly scented puffs of smoke. Roachpole fishing is something I have no experience of and it was rather educational to see it. I can appreciate the advantages, but for my own style of fishing I suspect that it is all too much of a bother.  Too much messing about for me.  Or as the locals might say: "I can't be doing with all that."  But very good to see goodly numbers of fish so near to the centre of Manchester.

This Week's Rant:

At sometime during the fishing match my mobile phone was sabotaged.  I have never been an expert with a mobile phone, despite my life-long computer industry background.  A situation that my son takes great advantage of, in order to poke fun at me.   He suddenly had an ally.  That damned woman in my SatNav, she who must be obeyed, or perhaps argued with, had moved, and set up home inside my phone.  When I pressed the "go" button, she started to read my screen, quite loudly, and very annoyingly.  "Twenty-one thirty two":  she announced was the time.    "Battery seventy eight percent full",  and so on.  Worse still, as soon as I touched any on-screen key, or even just the screen itself, she announced my actions to the world.

"e key pressed".

As I typed my password, she made a vocal confirmation with every key pressed.  Being security conscious, she did say: "full stop", "full stop"  rather than repeat my actual password letters.       Worse was to come.   She took great delight in telling me, whenever I  touched the screen,  exactly where I had touched it, whilst not allowing me to slide a finger across the screen to accept a call.   I was unable to answer the phone.   What is the point of my having a mobile phone if I cannot answer the very occasional calls that come to it?   I concluded that some special feature must have become enabled, maybe a switch to help a blind person, and that all I had to do was to go to the "settings" screen to revert it.   She shouted "settings" as I touched the key, and I found I had to then make two more quick taps in order to action the key.   Up came settings,  but the first screen did not contain the required change.  And then disaster:  slide would not work here either.  I scraped off several layers of skin from my forefinger, desperately trying to scroll down to page three of the "settings" screen.  Every time I touched the screen she would again tell me which part of the screen I had touched:

  "Wifi", "Data usage", "Bluetooth".

But would she allow me to scroll down? Not a chance.

My son was off in the Far East, swimming with whale sharks, and I was quite jealous of the lucky so and sod. Huge beautiful fish, up to 35 feet long, exclusively plankton eaters.  Pretty yellow spots.  I had texted him the day before, suggesting he use two krill on a size 14 hook, but didn't get a sensible reply. But he was not, being under water, and 9000 miles away, able to help me kill off this loud mouthed smooth telephone operator lady.   By this time my wife was joining in, taking the Mickey at my total incompetence.     Desperation had set in, and I plugged the phone and its resident woman  into the computer, praying for 240 Volts, then upgraded and reloaded the phone's system software.  That procedure might have actually impressed my son, had he been able to watch,  but it didn't deter the lady in the phone.  Instead she got even stroppier, and it took me a good 30 minutes just to figure out how to re-enter my security codes, whilst she was rabbiting on and intercepting my every key stroke.   Eventually I got past both the phone password and the SIM password, but to no effect. She remained.  I was getting increasingly annoyed and frustrated by this time,  calling Sony and the Three network all the names under the sun. So I finally bit the bullet and went down town to the Three shop, where none of the five staff were able to resolve the problem.   But they did put me in touch with Sony support, and the gentleman on the line had seen this once before.   And he revealed to me what must be a closer kept secret than was "Little Boy" during the war.   You can also scroll by using TWO fingers at the same time.   I did so, with my two fingers configured so as to show the lady exactly what I thought of her.   It worked and I was able to scroll down to an "Accessibility" icon, under which a feature called "Talkback" had mysteriously been turned on.  "Accessibility"...really? It had rendered my phone totally out of bounds.  How on earth a partially sighted person would have coped defeats me.  I had not changed it to "Talkback" myself, and had no idea that the feature was there.    But sanity returned, the world order was re-established, and I was already wondering whether the wife might have a similar off switch, as I rode the bus back home.

The next morning, early, having travelled light, I set up two rods by the side of the Ship Canal,  or "The Shippy" as it is known locally.  I did not think that it was worth my while to try for a carp, especially on such a big strange water, so I put in a smallish amount of bait and decided to look for a bream or two, or some roach.
Manchester Ship Canal by Night
The last scientific report I read about the Shippy was a technical evaluation of its water quality, and its flora and fauna.   It was said that the roach lived in the upper layers, and, holding their breath, dived to the bottom to quickly search out a bite to eat, the lower levels having more or less zero dissolved oxygen.  This report was maybe ten years ago, and I feel things might be better now, so determined to bottom fish.  The depth was not the anticipated 25 feet,  maybe little more than ten.  Probably, because I was fairly near the Irwell, a spate river,  any sediment carried during a flood would tend to settle out once the flow rate decreased, so I think I was fishing over a good 15 feet of slowly accumulated sediment.

One rod breadflake, one maggots, both with a maggot feeder.   As daylight dawned I could properly see my surroundings.  The bats disappeared.
Ship Canal Decoration
The carp angler's apocalypse had occurred.  As far as I could see, every square inch of the substantial concrete banks and walls was covered in graffiti.    More paint than the spray can manufacturers could have made surely? And how do these people summon up the cash for so much paint?  People who create graffiti are either artists or idiots.  There were a few artists on display, and many of the idiots who "tagged" their own names over the good stuff.   I quite like good graffiti, and certainly there was little real harm done in it being here.  It would require considerable work by the council to transform this post Hiroshima bombsite type environment into something nice, and into a state where graffiti should not be tolerated.

But I did see a kingfisher flash past me, and a kestrel hovered over the far bank. So maybe the devastation is not so bad as mine eye thinks?  A good three dozen swans sailed past, followed by the usual Canada geese, and the odd mallard. Swallows and sand martins also cavorted over the water.  The advancing light soon revealed a number of old car and truck tyres around which I would have to steer any fish hooked. A cormorant, one of many that live on the canal, sat on a floating barrier.  It rocked uncomfortably as every wave passed it by, and looked well fed.

Then I had a shock, my rod tip rapped slightly.  I admit quite freely that in this environment I was not expecting any action at all, despite rumours of there being fish. I waited, but nothing.   But over the next hour or so half a dozen smallish roach took the bait.  All very cautious bites.    Less cautious was my last bite, and a heavier fish was hooked.  Most of the fight was typical...of a bream, although it did manage a couple of sharp pulls as well, which briefly impressed me.  After being steered around the tyres it was netted.
My Swim on the "Shippy".
 A bronze bream of  6 pounds 12 ounces.  I would not usually have bothered weighing a bream of this size, but on my first expedition to the Ship Canal, I thought I should.  Surprisingly it was a very healthy individual, a nice shade of gold, a thick deep fish.  The photo is a little disappointing, but I did not have an unhooking mat with me, and the photographic options were concrete, or in the net.  So the picture is a little blurred and the fish in the net.           
Impressed by my first encounter with the Ship Canal, I decided to fish in the clear water of the Quays themselves the next day.    Similar amount of concrete, but without the decorations.  A few hours saw me catch a few small perch, and eventually another bream.    This one was most unlike the fish of a day before.  It was VERY dark in colour, super-slimy, was still recovering from spawning, remnants of the head tubercles still being present, It was thin, side to side, and quite shallow.    I had expected the opposite, that bream from the clear waters of the quays would be very good looking fish.   But I suspect that they spawn later, in the deep water, that they do in the canal itself, which, fed by the Irwell undoubtedly warms up faster.   The Quays fish was certainly male.   It prompts me to wonder, whether the golden fish are all female, and the dark ones all male.   I have caught both "varieties" gold and black, from several waters now, and it makes some sense to see them as the males and females.   Speculation at the moment of course.
A Depressingly Ugly Quays Bream.  A Definite Male.

A Far Prettier Canal Bream.  A Female?

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