Saturday 16 April 2016

It's Fishing...But Not as We Know it. (Part 1).

I had a fairly good end to the conventional open season for coarse fish, a couple of dozen pike, and some nice perch over the last couple of weeks. The largest of the pike was about 15 pounds, a good fish for the water, and took a lobworm aimed at its stripey companions. Playing the fish, once I had realised it was no perch, was all a bit heart in mouth stuff.  No wire trace, 4 pound line.  All very pleasing when the fish was in the net.  The fish, both perch and pike, appeared NOT to have spawned yet, which, considering the warm weather we have had this winter, seems a bit odd, especially in a shallow water venue. Neither did they yet seem to be overburdened with spawn, and the spawning event for both perch and pike, in mid March, still looked to be a good couple of weeks away.  I sometimes find early close season a difficult time in which to catch fish.  Late close season is very much spent avoiding bream, as I do not like to catch them with all the lumps and bumps, and that rough touch  that comes with male bream getting ready to spawn.   The tubercles, and  other features make the fish actually feel and look ill as I touch them.   Far better to leave them alone.  Managed a rather nice photo of this handsome male goosander.  It surfaced unexpectedly in my swim, and somehow seemed rather less shy than those I find on the rivers, where I usually see them.

Male Goosander on the Canal.

So recently, I had a birthday.  Happens most years. Past a "certain" age, birthdays become something to be avoided.  Another year's mileage on the old chassis.   I breezed past 60.  I had just retired and that the new found freedom overshadowed the big six - O.    Sixty two was no great problem either.    I had just started to take the company pension and felt instantly richer at 62.  Adequate compensation for the high numeric.  Likewise 65, when all those workers out there pay their taxes purely to fund my fishing bait.  So 65:  not a problem .  No, the problem age is sixty eight.   That is the number at which you realise you are nearer to seventy than sixty five.   And there is nothing you can do to remove the feeling.   You can ignore it, but not remove it. 

My son added to the horror by sending me a birthday card.  A card that he littered with just about every fishy pun he could find. I shall not risk losing friends and readers by repeating them all here, but see no reason why you should not suffer one or two that I had not heard before:  "Re-inventing the whale" for instance.  And I had heard "For Cod's Sake!" before, but not the more subtle "For God's Hake!"  That one is quite a gudgeon.   But enough of that.  My wife had also recently intercepted an article of fishing tackle I had bought on Ebay.   She then wrapped it in gift paper and gave it to me as a present.   Sneaky!  And possible grounds for divorce.

Going into Sainsbury's recently I found the loo out of order.  A note pinned to the door said "Sorry for the inconvenience"   I kid you not.   So I had to go across the road to ASDA.   I don't like ASDA.  They have a long escalator to get up into the shop.   I don't usually mind escalators, but this one is different.  The hand rail moves slightly faster than the stairs.  I stand on the bottom step, rest my hand on the rail, and as I ascend, because my hand is moving slightly faster than my feet, I am slowly tilted forward, bit by bit, until at the top I am leaning about 20 degrees, and am within a midge's of falling flat on my face.  Who designs these things?  How could they risk life and limb in this way?  Yes, I know I could shift my hand, but that would be no fun at all.  ;-)   As an aside, the next time in ASDA, the up escalator was broken, and I had to walk up it.  I don't know why, but the visual impact of walking up a stationary escalator was quite weird.  I felt a bit strange.  Maybe it was linked to all those parallel shiny metallic strips. It seemed to have a sort of optical illusionary effect on me.

So why all this mini rant?   Well I needed rather more than the impending close season to justify a fishing trip abroad. Grasping at straws. An escalation of my real reasons for going fishing. My wife also spotted an article in the Daily Mail's web site about fishing in Thailand and jokingly said I should go there to catch "some real fish".  I think she was somewhat shocked, when, three days later, I was in a taxi heading towards the airport.   Birthday, escalators, close seasons: what better excuse for a trip abroad?

In the UK I never fish commercial waters.  At least I never have to date.  I just don't like the idea of them.  The fisheries in Thailand are certainly a type of commercial.  Exotic fish species swim in them, but they are very much commercials.  I have never thought that UK commercials amounted to real angling.  I know many carp anglers will disagree, and they will no doubt similarly disagree with me about the fishing in Thailand.   It is fishing...but not as we know it.    I think the best I can say is that from my point of view it is fishing...but it is not angling.   To me angling implies a degree of art and skill.   I cannot really say that angling in Thailand at these fishing resorts qualifies as skilful.  There are too many rules to follow, individuality is not approved of, and with very minor differences, everyone at these resorts fishes with similar tackle, similar methods and similar bait. You are largely TOLD how to fish, so what you catch is more down to them, than it is to you. This is understandable, for the exotic fish the waters contain do not come cheap, and have to be protected from maverick anglers, and it means that rules have to be imposed so as to offer a degree of protection to the fish.  So in order to be able to stand the process I had to accept most of the rules. I understood all that before leaving the UK, and as long as I could consider the fishing as being  "happy hour" stuff, playtime,  I was content.  Had I wanted to fish in a way wherein my angling skills would be tested, I would never have got as far as a boarding pass.  This is not to say it was not fun: getting a bend in the rod and an ache in the arm is what it is all about in Thailand.   To fish for these exotic species "in the wild" would have entailed great expense, a major expedition, exposing me to considerable danger and disease deep in the Amazonian jungle.  The only way Joe Bloggs is ever going to be able to fish for species such as arapaima, at an acceptable cost, is to visit one of these angling resorts.   In much the same way as the only way most carp anglers are able to fish for 40 pound plus fish, is to visit a commercial water, possibly even one such in France.

How the resorts manage to get licenses to stock waters in Thailand with exotic, predatory species from South America is something of a mystery.  I have to put it down to lax environmental departments, the wish to encourage tourism at all costs, and maybe a lack of any realisation of how much damage these fish might cause if they escaped into the wild.   After all the Thailand climate is sufficiently similar to Amazonian conditions that we can be certain the escaped fish would breed, probably prolifically.

I was as attracted by the wildlife as much as by the fish on offer, and although the number of species present (seen?) was less than I had hoped for, there were still some gems that I would never find on the banks of the local cut.  Look at this flower: it is called a batflower for obvious reasons. I found it well away from the fishing lake, when I went for a wander.   It is probably too much a flight of fancy to suggest that real bats are involved in its fertilisation processes.

There were some interesting birds too, and I apologise if I mis-identify any of them.  This I think is a black winged stilt. Incredibly graceful once you come to terms with it having clockwork, backwards facing legs.   I suspect that what looks like a knee, is probably an ankle joint.

Another, much smaller bird, looked a little like a humming bird as it sipped nectar from the bird of paradise flowers that surrounded the lake.  It ignored me, enabling me to get quite a passable photograph.

I think this is an olive backed sunbird

These are open billed storks.   Common birds: I saw them in India too.   The one on the right has a small snail in its bill.   Snails appear to be a favourite food.  How the bird uses something that looks better suited to cutting drivers out of cars crashed on the motorway, to extract snails, without damaging the shells, I have no idea.  But there were always lots of empty snail shells wherever the storks had been feeding.

This next bird I am not so sure of.  If was one of a number of herons and egrets I managed to photograph.  I have been unable to find a photograph on line which looks exactly  like it, but perhaps it was a youngster, in plumage yet to be fully developed.  It was obviously some sort of heron or perhaps a species of bittern. My best guess is a Chinese Pond Heron.   Either way, this one was hunting a small lizard.  It didn't catch the lizard, as the bird was scared away by a lady needing the toilet in a hurry.   So my hoped for  pictures of bird with lizard did not happen, and the bird missed out on its lunch. A stunning bird though. The second picture is an adult Javan Pond Heron, and is probably a closely related species.
Chinese Pond Heron??

Javan Pond Heron

Oriental garden Lizard
This was the lizard that the heron was hunting.
After resting a while, a good ten minutes of sunning itself on the handle of my rod, it suddenly dived into the undergrowth. Moments later, two herons appeared and stood over the spot where the lizard had hidden itself. It was at that point that the lady intervened in the little tale.  I think it to be an oriental garden lizard. 

Water Monitor
Much bigger, at about five feet long, was this water monitor.   It crawled out from waterside vegetation, ambled along a pathway, and took to the tree once I started to chase after it, camera in hand.

Snakes were around but quite hard to find.  Only saw two, one being far too high up in a tree to try and photograph it.  I felt there was no point in waiting until it came back down, snakes are amongst the most patient of animals, and I am sure it would have out-waited me by quite a while. I said "out-waited" there, not "out-witted". I did manage to photograph one swimming snake: it was one of the bronze backed species.   As I photographed it a damsel fly approached it and landed on its head, giving me an unexpected but very welcome and perhaps unique picture.

Bronze backed Snake and Passenger
So, you may by now be asking: "What about the fishing?" 

Well, I am afraid that I found the wildlife equally as interesting as the fish and fishing, and so, in order to keep the blog entries no more than tediously long, the fish related stuff from Thailand is all in part two of this missive. 

To be continued in Part 2....very soon.

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