Monday 6 June 2016

Love at First Bite.

As I walked to the pond from my car early this morning, I came upon an strange  sight.  near the usual abandoned Peugeot, was a small wrecked van.  It was not there two days ago. Tyres flat, windows all smashed, hatchback and bonnet open. The engine compartment looked as if someone
had taken a sledgehammer to it. I thought it must have been stolen last night, but something was odd.  The load space was half filled with rubble and rubbish, and more of the same was scattered behind it. I was careful not to touch it, mindful that I did not want to leave any fingerprints on something that was really none of my business.   Odd though.   My own car was a couple of hundred yards further away, but I was still a little concerned...especially it is still missing the wheel trims that were stolen from it in the same spot last year. Not the best area in which to leave your car. Most of the places I choose to fish are in lovely surroundings, green, leafy and safe. This pond is NOT amongst those. I worry more and more, year by year, as I do leave my car in some fairly deserted spots in order to go fishing.  But today I pressed on towards the pond.

 Now many, if not all of us, have a few favourite items of tackle.   Not all of us may think of having favourites, but think of that rod you so often choose, even for a trip for which it is not ideally intended, that reel that just feels right. I have a rod, only fifty quid's worth, a travel barbel rod.  Five sections for twelve feet.  I use it for all sorts of things: light legering, trotting for grayling and for float fishing small waters.  As a barbel rod, I think it would be quite inefficient: far too light for the job.  I have broken it at least three times now: trapped it in a car door,  smashed it trying to cast that feeder just a few more yards, to reach some  imagined big roach lying that bit further out, but always  I have replaced it when broken, and it has become an old friend. An old friend that now has  two or three spare handles.  I ordinarily use it with another old favourite: an Okuma Trent centrepin reel.  This too is hardly suited for purpose.  Okuma do not make left handed centrepins to my knowledge, and so I have to use it in an odd way.   It is different to most centrepins in that it incorporates a clutch.  I find that clutch quite useful, both during fishing with and whilst transporting the rod.   But being a right handed pin, I have to mount it backwards on the rod, and wind the line on "the other way round".  So to bring in a fish I reel backwards.    Not ideal, but the reel makes short distance fishing quite a pleasure.   Casting near the lily pads and fishing bread is something I have long done, and it seems so traditional, both generally, and for me.  Fishing near the pads for tench and crucians just has to be done.  It is an unavoidable fact of life, if not a duty, for any angler.   And if that can be done in a small pond, so much the better.

Today I added another component to the favourite set-up.  I used a float I bought yesterday from good old Purple Peanut.  I  probably paid four times what I  might have paid for a similar item in a tackle shop. But for a hand crafted item such as this, I did not mind at all. I have no real reason to suppose that it performs much better than a shop bought item, but it became a case of love at first bite.  That first bite lifted the float, and it rose up so beautifully and slowly that it displayed more and more coloured bands with every moment.  When I struck into a roach of a very little under a pound, that float had already joined the favourite set up.  Previous roach from this little pond have always been quite pristine, with deeply bronzed shading to their sides.  Shading so deep that fish under a pound really should not have that colour...but here they do.  This fish, my largest to date from the water, showed signs that it had recovered in the past from some sort of attack, possibly a pike.  It had areas denuded of scales, yet seemed healthy enough. 

Other scale perfect roach were to follow later in the session, but my next cast saw the float not settle properly after the usual short time during which the bait sinks. A strike brought forth a small rudd. A fish that must have been lurking mid-water. A rudd with blood red fins and a deep golden sheen to its sides.  Again, colouration that would seem to fit a bigger fish.    I don't know whether "golden rudd" are just ordinary rudd from much clearer waters, or a separate strain bred for the fish keeping trade.  But the rudd ( I was to catch two more during the session) in this pond are all brightly lit.  The photo clearly shows how the dorsal fin is set back some way from the pelvic fins in a rudd.

I was already very fond, if not actually proud of my new float. But I was concerned for it. Although it was then sitting just a few inches the far side of a thick bed of lilies, I had not cast it there with my usual gay, devil-may-care, abandonment.  I was worried for it, sitting there with the lily triffid menace so close. It did not remain idle for long, and after slowly sinking into the depths, it was soon heading for the other side of the pond at speed, my fingers, aiding the lightly set clutch, did little to slow the fish or float down.   At that moment I felt just like any father, any father watching his innocent sixteen year old daughter going out on her first date, to meet, in the dark,  some hairy arsed, untidy teenager, one totally unknown to him, but already having an imagined bad reputation.  And the further away the float went, the more concerned I became. 
I had obviously hooked a carp, on the light rod, on the centrepin, on light line and on the shiny new float.  The worry subsided for a while, as I tried to keep the fight out in the distance.  The carp had other ideas and escorted the float back and into the lilies, where it quickly became stuck.  It became similarly entrapped two or three times, but a combination of pulling, and relaxing line tension to let the carp pull back a bit of line, eventually won the day, and a very fit looking, solidly built,  common carp of maybe six pounds or so, entered the landing net.  Thank God for those barbed hooks, which are sometimes an essential. Carp are not my favourite fish, but if they all looked like this fish I would have my dislike greatly diluted, and I probably would not mind them much at all.      Mirrors should be reserved exclusively for bathrooms, bedrooms and for ornamental pond keepers with poor taste. And koi only have value as a Chinese take-out for herons. They were exactly such in my garden pond!  Multi-coloured obscenities when in an angling water.   ;-)

The float has been labelled by Peanut as a "Tinca Stick" in a neat script, written along the float.  As such it was not doing its job. Ten fish into the morning its efficiency in showing me the bites was indisputable, but it seemed to be driving away the tench.  But then another fish bit, one which felt exactly like one of the tench I had been catching in the pond recently. It too headed for the lilies, and just made it, but was released fairly  
quickly from their siren clutches. I was astounded though, for it was no tench, but a crucian carp, and a good one too.  A rather nice lump of a crucian, which really made my day.   I have now fished this pond about a dozen times, spread over about four years.  I had one other crucian a couple of years back, of similar size.   Both fish had slightly damaged tails and I did wonder whether they could be the same fish, but the second fish was much healthier looking, and after some deliberation I concluded that they were different.   They still remain the only two crucians I have heard of from the venue.  Maybe I need to spend a little more time seeking them.  Although tench were today's target species, the method I was using was ideally set up for crucians too.   And the lift method had given me a super slow lift and flat float crucian bite.

It was now approached half past eight (a.m.), and too late, for I feared no tench would show.   Wrong again!   Three casts produced three typical tench for the pond.   All between one and two pounds.   And all managed to embed themselves deeply into the lilies, forsaking the narrow foot wide channel , back through which I had hoped to guide them.  It was once again like seeing that daughter slip into deep parkland shrubbery, in the company of a dark, handsome but quite a slippery young man.  All three tench though finally succumbed to the release tactics. Tinca Stick scores a hat trick in the final minutes.  A fourth tench wins the lily battle, and I had to pull for a break.  The break occurred close to the hook, for I had taken the precaution of a lighter hooklink.  Quite a morning, five different species and home for breakfast.

As I left, someone was looking at the wrecked van.   He told me its owner had been seen fly tipping on each of the three previous evenings, and that someone, a local or  few  had decided to teach him a lesson.  Rough justice: they totally destroyed his van.    The rubble inside and outside the van was
explained.  Later in the evening it had been daubed with red paint, saying that the owner had been fly tipping.  It would undoubtedly serve as a better warning than the notices forbidding tipping.  The nearby notice that said "GARD DOGS" (sic) could also be improved upon. 

The Sherlock in me might suggest that there is circumstantial evidence linking the writer of the dog warning notice to the van damage.

I added a short evening session as additional experience for the new float, and it rewarded me with three more tench, another roach and a bream, making 6 species for the day.   The bream, maybe a little over five pounds, unfortunately was a male, in its full breeding regalia: pug ugly and covered with tubercles and scabby patches on its scales. It was not a pretty sight and fought like a tealeaf, albeit a heavy tealeaf.  It was so dark and forbidding, that, for a few seconds as I reeled it in I wondered what it was.  I knew it was alive, from the few lolloping  flip flops it gave as it came in.  But once on the surface it was not immediately recognisable as a fish...not for a few seconds at least.    It resembled nothing less than one of those dark old sacks the coalman used to use.   Not an impossibility in this pond, as one of those very sacks was visible in the shallows, amongst other junk: an old bike, paving stones and scaffolding bars.  The remains of a long dead peg I suspect, sandbags and scaffolding, topped by paving slabs, now long collapsed into the water.

I am left wondering why the bream grows those tubercles, why its sides get such hard and scabby
Male Coalsack (You really didn't want to see that, did you?)  Neither did I! 
patches leading up to spawning time.  They hardly look their best, and the least discerning female bream would have to be desperately short sighted to want anything to do with these males.  The first time I saw the scabs on the sides of a large male bream, I thought it had some disease. I had never before seen one like that, all my earlier bream angling having been done before the close season on stillwaters was scrapped.
 It must be something of a contact process. None of the gentle caressing and wooing for a female bream:  just get out the coarsest of sandpaper and she is all yours.

Another day, another place, same float, same hook, bait and rod and another bream was on the line. 
Female Bream
Being female, this one actually pulled its weight, although it was unable to reach any weedbeds. It looked, unlike the recent male, very healthy and fit.   I weighed it mainly for Peanut, the float maker.  At a little over seven pounds, not my biggest bream by a fair way, but certainly the largest I have taken float fishing with a pin.

90% Slime


It was not without slime though, and fair messed up the landing net.  I have learned though, to leave the net to soak in the water for an hour or so, then turn it inside out and shake in the water.  Nearly all the slime then falls off.
For those of you who may be unacquainted with bream, almost all of the white in this photo is the slime just shaken off my landing net. There is one lump of bread just left of centre. I was surprised later, when it appeared that a shoal of small fish, a couple of inches long seemed to regard the slime as edible.
The bream was an early morning capture, followed by a small tench.  But by 6am the clear water and bright light combined to suggest an end to bites for most of the remaining day. No twitches, not even from a roach.  Had I taken more bait than just one slice of Warburton's bread, then maybe more bites would have ensued.  But back in time for breakfast. 

The Purple Peanut Tinca Stick has been firmly established as a favourite. Love at first bite, as has been said.  Mike, if you are reading this, I understand that all your floats are sold on the same basis as ASDA "bags for life".  So if I lose one in the lilies, or leave it dangling from a tree, or stand on it, I get a free replacement?  No questions asked?  ;-)

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Not as Good as it Would be if it Were Better.

It was my first day in grammar school.   Being a "fresher" I had to stand, with other first year students, right at the front of the school assembly hall.   I positioned myself at the back of the organ, and joined in at the first hymn.  I wasn't an atheist then, probably because I had never heard of atheists.   After the first hymn, the teacher playing the organ turned around and said:
"You boy, what is your name?"
I told him and was instructed to remain behind after the assembly. He then told me that my caterwauling had severely upset him, and quite put him off his notes.   He had no idea of why a benevolent God would have ever allowed me vocal chords. The tirade continued awhile, and he finally banned me from singing...FOR LIFE.   I was quite proud to have been banned in such a way, and probably boasted about it to my new classmates.    Sadly the teacher suffered a fatal heart attack a few weeks later.  Although I am fairly sure that my singing was not instrumental in causing his death I have actually, partly in memory of him, but mainly because his assessment was entirely correct, never sung anything since.   The teachers in the school were well practised in the art of the put down.  School reports were littered with juicy comments. I would like to have been able to say that "lamentable progress" had been written in my report by that music teacher, but it was from the art teacher.    He also used the phrase:
 "This work, boy, is not as good as it would be had it been better." 

Those two phrases adequately and accurately describe my tench angling to date this season. 

   Plenty of tench from the smaller venues, during short sessions, but nothing over about three or four pounds.   A few carp and crucians have slotted themselves between those tench.  Delightful fish, all of them, but not entirely within the plan.   I even resurrected the Sunday Challenge: you may remember that, in the 45 minutes of my wife's church service, I challenge myself to drive to the water, tackle up, catch a fish, and get back in time to drive her home.  ~~The result this time was two tench, a carp and a roach. 

None of these challenge fish would have weighed as much as four ounces, but there is something quite wonderful about tiny clearwater tench. Nice to have a moorhen for company too. I understand that the seasonal yellow tip of its bill acts as a target when the young are pleading for food.

 My longer sessions, after bigger fish, have so far resulted in seven consecutive blank sessions.   I came close, contacting a fish that shed the hook, and my best guess as to its identity is that it was a good tench.  But I don't give up that easily and expect my final school report for the year to have some better grades. 

The blanks did give me a chance to test out my theories on line twist, and I can say, certainly for short casts up to about 30 yards, the process for removing twist does indeed work well.   On longer casts the twists do not seem to  equalise along the length of the line quite so easily, but results there have remained encouraging, if not quite so good. It may be that I need to allow more time for the twists to disperse along the line, or else perform the process on land, rather than in the lake.

The birds have been rather more co-operative, the herons in particular have posed quite shamelessly for me.

 The bird below was catching quite well, swallowing something every couple of minutes, but they seemed to be very, very small and although he had to turn his take-out prey items, I was unable to determine what they were.   The pond abounds with tiny rudd though... and tadpoles. I shall make no further comment about this heron's photograph in the blog. Work it out for yourselves.

 The local pair of peregrine falcons are again nesting on the old mill by the river.  I understand they already have two chicks, but these have yet to be visible when I visit with the camera. The birds are of course nesting quite high up, and having to stand some distance back means that I cannot  see any of the actual nest site, just the cavity containing it.   Distance is a problem too: my camera even in bright sunlight cannot really capture the majesty of these birds at such distance, and so the shots remain slightly blurred. I have not seen them catch any prey yet, although there are numerous local feral pigeons that seem rather keen to get themselves eaten. I shall remain hopeful on this one, and visit as often as I am able to.


 As I drove to the pond one morning, still a couple of miles away and on a main road, a female mallard was walking along the middle of the pavement, trailing, in a line behind her, six quite small ducklings.  Right down the middle of the pavement, and so confident and law abiding ( no jaywalking here!) that I expect they would have been aiming for the nearby pelican crossing.   Unfortunately due to traffic, I was unable to stop and take a photo.

Reaching the pond had minor compensations: a couple of morning trips ( back home before 9) led to
Plump Little Common
 a total of three tench, a couple of nicely coloured middling roach, a rudd, a perch, and a carp. I don't mind common carp so much, they do at least look like proper fish, not some oddball creation designed by man for the food or aquarist trade.  All the fish on the centrepin which was quite satisfying. A second hooked carp headed along the bank, passing through two stands of lily pads.   With the 4 pound line I was a little restricted, but managed to get the carp back through one set of pads before the hook pulled free.   Better than the day before when, during the Monday Bank Holiday, I had taken a tour around the pond.   A few picnickers and non serious anglers were around, together with a group of guys passing the time of day.   One, who was a little worse the wear from drink, pleasantly enough, but he greeted me as "Pops".   Never been called "Pops" before, and I admit I hated it.   I know I have a few miles on the old clock, but having told my lad to keep it in his trousers and not make me a grandfather any time soon, and struggling with the "pensioner" thing anyway, I really detested being called "Pops".  Especially by a drunk.  I keep thinking about it: it being one of one's life defining points when you are first called "Pops".  I knew I should have worn my woolly hat,  that would have prevented being called such.   Anyone else calls me that and I will hang, draw and quarter them, not necessarily in that order.