Tuesday 26 January 2016

ALDI do Not Sell Broad Beans....and Some Fishing Trivialities.

Firstly, my apologies.  I have been lazy.  Most of this stuff was written last year.  Since I wrote this the crocus mentioned later have already started to bloom, the snowdrops are rampant and the minor floods I talk about became trivial compared to what came next. I was not really happy with this blog article, so delayed it until I could tweak it and make it better.  The floods also caused a suspension of any angling activity within half a mile of the river. Alas, then the New Year came around without any further changes to the text,  and so I will publish it as it stands and be damned, to make way for new stuff.  Still not happy with it but what the hell. I don't have to read it.

So, back to the title:

Its true, Aldi do not sell broad beans. They never have, and probably will never do so. Such pulses are a bit of a niche vegetable. (When did beans become pulses?)  But this is not a problem.   Tesco, ASDA and Sainsbury's do sell them.  I am no great masterchef, not a good cook, not any kind of cook, and so the microwave that was bought for us nearly 30 years ago, and which still works, has seen me peering into its cavity more than a few times. The real macho cooker in the kitchen is therefore almost a no go area for me.  Most attempts to use it have proved disastrous.  But occasionally I will make a spicy three day bean and leek soup. And it is not at all bad.   However my son, who CAN cook really well, but has obviously never overcome his childhood avoidance  of anything green, has described my soup as toxic waste, and refused to go within a yard of it.   Probably within a metre as he is "of the modern era".  I doubt he has any idea of how big a yard is. So one of those ingredients that helps make the soup so green is broad beans.

Hidden between the Peas and the Spinach
As ALDI (and LIDL) refuse to co-operate, I have always bought my broad beans from one of the big three supermarkets...or I have until about 8 weeks ago, when I was suddenly unable to find broad beans on their shelves.  Butter beans, baked beans, haricot and kidney beans were all there, enough to contribute noticeably to global warming.  I initially assumed the broads were out of stock, then finally concluded they must have been a bad harvest this year.  But yesterday I discovered that the supermarkets have been conspiring against me.   They have created problems to rival that GCHQ Christsmas card puzzle.  I finally cracked Tesco yesterday, and accidentally found their broad beans.   Where were they?  They were NOT on the bean shelf!  They had cunningly placed them next to the peas, and being in an identically sized and similarly coloured can, they were camouflaged better than a chameleon on LSD.  I am sure Tesco's sales have dropped through the roof, no one can have bought any broad beans in weeks, they have been far too well hidden.   So I bought some. I bought four cans in case they were similarly hard to find next time.  On getting home I found one was a can of spinach in water!  Damn...something else they were hiding near the peas.    Olive Oil may well be part of a recipe for culinary success, but spinach in a tin is not a patch on the real thing. Someone please tell Popeye before it is too late. Anyone who can open a tin by squeezing it, has, in any case, no need of any iron rich foodstuffs.

All Tins the Same Colour.
Today I cracked the ASDA puzzle as well.   They were even sneakier.   Their broad beans have "been" there all the  time.  Sorry...well actually I am not sorry at all. Been, been, been!   They were on the bean shelf, being invisible.  Why invisible?   The swines have changed the packaging on the cans from pictures of green beans to a yellow coloured picture. See how hard that is to see?  They hid the tins, in full view, sandwiched between the butter beans and sweetcorn.  What sort of marketing genius hides their wares in such a way?   Green beans, broad beans are green, and the cans that hold then should surely be green...especially when they were green last year. I have still  to crack Sainsbury's tactics.   God only knows the extremes they have taken to keep their beans safe from purchase and  thence becoming an essential componemt of toxic waste.   And just how did my lad manage to influence such big companies....oh yes son, I know where the real blame lies.

Autumn is now well and truly with us, and is spending its shortening days littering the rivers with leaves.  The wrong kind of leaves of course, affecting our lines, as anglers, just as much as they affect the lines of British Rail. Legering during the Autumn in a river can be very fraught, and both surface and submerged ex-foliage interrupts the peace and quiet rather more than the chub and barbel might.   Luckily in the Autumn there are grayling to be caught, fish which can be most obliging creatures, and there are few better ways to catch them, than with a trotted bait.  Floats are little affected by leaves that have been torn off and condemned by the season.    ( Anyone know the connection there?)  I bought a couple of new floats on line this week, pretty little things with whipping and inlaid feathers.   But I was disappointed by the rough finish, as if they had not been properly sanded down, before adding the final coat of  varnish.  But then I wondered whether this might actually be an advantage.  Would rough floats stay in line more readily, needing less mending of the monofilament? I suspect the difference may be slight, if anything at all. You used to be able to buy fluted floats, claimed by the makers to be better for trotting the river.  I don't know if the claim was true, but a rough finish on a float is a little like many micro-flutes.  The ultimate might be to incorporate a plastic dart flight into the body, but it would obviously only work on a fairly large float, as, on a smaller float, it would impede cocking. I will certainly give these new floats a  go, and the fact that they are not finished in the superb way I had hoped, should make me somewhat less reluctant to cast them under that overhanging tree.

Grayling can be very obliging, and I have already caught well over eighty of them this autumn,
A fish of About a Pound and a Half Clearly
Shows the Coloured Edge to its Dorsal Fin.
although their sizes have been generally smaller than they were last year. I find that they can move swims year on year, or perhaps even month on month, and I no longer expect to find fish of the same size, or bigger, in the same swims as last season. They also seem to quite often shoal to a size,  Catch one half pounder and the next two or three are likely to be of similar dimensions. But not all have been small and the best of the bunch went a very nice 1-13. But generally finding pound plus fish this year has proved difficult. Again though, all the biggest fish have been males.  

Grayling can also be quite frustrating creatures.  Their upper jaw is very hard and bony, so quite often a hook hold in a grayling is akin to that of a fingernail hold to a rock-climber, very tenuous, delicate and apt to come adrift at any moment.   There are days when at least half the grayling felt on the line lose contact either immediately, or at some time subsequent whilst en-route to the net.    They are like Schrodinger's cat, you never know whether there will be a grayling until it is actually in the net.   (I prefer Schrodinger's cake: which you can both eat and have.)  As for that grayling: it matters not how sharp the hook is, nor whether it is barbed or barbless.  It is a situation too, where size is irrelevant.  A size 14 is just as likely to come away as a size 10 hook.    Float fishing does greatly reduce the number of deep hooked fish, a frequent problem with both grayling and trout, but a barbless hook makes the use of a disgorger far more efficient.  Any really difficult hooks I leave, cutting the line in the expectation that the fish will in time get rid of a barbless hook fairly easily.  I hope so, for excessive poking around with a disgorger, even a slammo, is probably not the best idea.

But is there anything, anywhere in the UK more beautiful than that grayling as you give it that last look, before returning it to its stream?  The 1-13 fish gave me a last look too.  It defiantly cruised about in shallow water, 3 or 4 inches deep, with its dorsal fin raised proudly out of the water, completing several full circles until it finally sidled off into a deeper run.  I had been fishing mid-river, sitting on a folding seat in a couple of inches of water.   As I sat there, a pair of dippers flashed past, chasing each other.   They split and passed either side of me, at speed, their white breasts very visible.  Any day when I see dippers is a good day, and to see them in this spot was especially pleasing, as it is about as far downstream on the river as dippers go, and it is rare to see them here.  They like rocks protruding midstream, and I was sitting amongst the final clump of such rocks.  There are no more such rocks further downstream.   The grayling also do not venture much further down than the swim where I was fishing. The river becomes very fast, very shallow, and very devoid of character for a long way downstream.  I have yet to catch or even see any fish in the section.

But I have another reason to be annoyed with our ladies in the stream.   I have yet to take a good photo of a mink.    Several blurred attempts, and other instances of them nipping back into the vegetation much too quickly.  So seeing a mink take to the river directly opposite me, trailing bubbles, made me suspect it would re-emerge. And it did, only a few feet away.   However in anticipation, I had lain the rod on the ground, allowing the float to make it own way down the river, and to swing in towards the near bank. I readied the camera and focussed in, zoomed suitably. But just as the mink surfaced the rod  banged around, its tip heading downstream fast.   I grabbed the rod in panic, missed the photograph, scared the mink and hooked a very small grayling. The fish had frustrated my photographic intentions. I'll console myself that there will be other days, mink being very common around here these days.  I have never seen one catch a fish though, and do wonder whether they have the speed to catch a live healthy fish.  I know they sometimes take signal crayfish, which can only be a good thing.

The other day, I was lying in the bath thinking, and experimenting.  I had wondered what temperature made for a nice hot bath.   I truly had no real idea before, of how hot my bath water was.  I found that   41 degrees Centigrade, or Celsius, depending on whether you are measuring in old or new money, generated a nice hot bath.  42 degrees was maybe  a little excessive, and getting right to my upper limit of tolerance, bright red skin territory.  Any hotter still would have probably been damaging in the way that Princess Margaret was damaged some years ago.  I was surprised that very hot water was just 4 degrees warmer than body temperature.  Sacrificing all for my readers, I waited until the water cooled. I admit I may have cheated a bit by dribbling in some more from the cold tap to hasten the process,  and found that at 37 degrees, or body temperature, the water just starts to take on a cool feel. This makes some sort of sense, as it is the point at which heat starts to flow from the body into the water, rather than the other way round.  

By now you must be wondering why I have been describing my ablutions in such detail.  What on Earth is the idiot rabbiting on about now? Well: think now about a fish in winter.  Being cold blooded, it has matched its body temperature to that of the water.  A good idea, as it reduces the need for energy to a very low value. It needs minimal food at a time when food is scarce.  Let us suppose the river water is at 6 degrees.  An angler now, with hands nice and warm stuffed into his thermal gloves catches that fish.   Whips off the mittens and grabs hold of the fish so as to extract the hook.  Needs the disgorger.  The fish is now  being held in a hand that could be as much as 25 or more degrees hotter than its body.   I struggle at 5 degrees difference, so I wonder how that fish might be feeling?   At this point my knowledge runs out: I have no idea of the thermal conductivity of  a rudd or even a roach, certainly not that of a grayling.   How much discomfort might I be causing that fish with my hot hands?  Or might it actually appreciate the heat....unlikely I feel.    I have no idea, but will certainly be trying to keep more fish held in just the landing net and out of my hands from now on during the colder weather. 

Or I could say sod the fishing, and get that bathwater back up to 41 degrees.

I don't tend to advertise too much what my old job was, whilst I was still working.   Knowing too much about computers gets you all sorts of requests to fix this and that fault on their laptop, their desktop, their TV, even their toasters and washing machines.   I prefer to steer clear, but just occasionally a close friend will  successfully prevail upon me to do something.      In this case to set up his laptop for Wi-Fi.   Anyone else would have either done it himself, or bought a broadband package and had the company install it.  Not so my friend.  He lives on the 192 bus route:  "a bus that runs as often as eighteen times an hour" says the advert on the bus stop outside his house. And the local Stagecoach buses have free Wi-Fi.   So I was asked to set up his computer to link in to this free source of internet.   It is really great ( he says): he has one minute in every three with a data connection,  slightly less if the bus does not stop to drop passengers outside his front room.   But it costs him nothing, and it is better than sitting on the town centre bench outside MacDonald's in the rain. The only person I know who actually loves and prays for those times when three buses  arrive at once.

All that messing about in the bath seems to have given me flu.   Three weeks of hell and wishing I was dead, and regretting forgetting the flu jab. So three weeks have passed without making a single cast.  I rallied sufficiently one day to plant another 950 crocus and snow drop bulbs in the front lawn.  Using the Black and Decker, I can drill holes in the lawn and not take too long in doing it.   I planted nearly 900 last year in this way and they flowered brilliantly in February.  I always find bulbs, and trees etc. very impressive.  How in Earth do they manage to push aside quite heavily compacted soil in order to make a space to grow into?  One of nature's wonders indeed.  Bury me in the garden and there is no way I could elbow my way out, but a delicate bluebell manages to create enough space to grow and create extra new bulbs.  Hard enough making a space on the tube, or on a standing room only bus.   Smelly fishing gear does help considerably in those circumstances of course.

It has been a while since I wrote most of this, because I am afraid that forgetting to get my fly virus injection was a serious mistake, and I have been out of sorts for over three weeks, with several days spent wishing for death.   The rivers  though have been too high to seriously consider fishing for the grayling.   Over one night in particular a local river climbed to a depth of three metres, most of the increase taking place over a couple of hours.  Debris is visible on top of the flood protection embankments, littering the path which runs atop it.  Any fishing would have had to be in stillwaters.

Male and Female Goosander
A walk along the local stream today showed a dozen goosanders. That nursery rhyme needs
modification these days  goosey, goosey goosander... etc.  There were quite few males around, which I don't see during the summer, but a recent David Attenborough program suggested that the males clear off duiring the summer, leaving the females alone.  Norway   eclipse plumage.  Not much else happening with the birds: one goldcrest near the river, and a male blackcap has set up home in the garden.  My wife watched a sparrowhawk dismantle a woodpigeon on the patio outside the lounge window.  She watched from the bedroom.   I was in the lounge knowing nothing of this, so no photographs.   She thought I had gone fishing, so didn't tell me.

Stop press: a male wood duck seen on the local river.  Managed a dreadful photo at distance.  It would come no closer.  Spectacular bird, not quite as awe inspiring as a male mandarin though.