Wednesday 17 August 2016

The Crucian Finale...Probably.

I felt like I needed a couple more sessions after those crucians. Even following recent successes, I was not fully satisfied with my performance and so returned to the jinx lake.   The idea was to make  a last trip, or maybe two before veering off to seek another species entirely.  I was better prepared this time, all my old schoolboy crucian knowledge was back, and very much to the fore in the tactical plan.   The weather forecast was not at all bad,  very cloudy, prospect of a little rain, but not so much as to make life on the bankside unpleasant.  And as is more and more often the case these days, the forecast proved to be spot on.  No longer is it more accurate to simply say " Today's weather will be similar to that of yesterday".   Even weather forecasts are no fun any more.

My first cast hit the water not long after dawn.  I had decided to ignore other anglers' suggestions that I fish just three or four feet out from the reeds.  They, and the bailiffs, all recommend this, and say most of the crucians come from very close in.    It had crossed my mind though, that cause and effect may have become confused here.  If everyone fishes close in ( and they seem to do so) then it is inevitable that all the crucians will be taken close in.   So the advice may be self fulfilling.  I decided to fish a fair bit further out, 6 or 7 yards, and would see what happened.

Nothing for quite a while, but after the obligatory couple of small roach, a fish that was better.  The rod stopped dead as the line tightened to the fish. That is always quite a pleasurable moment, when on the strike, the rod stops suddenly and the fish holds solid. It didn't initially move much, very typical of one species. Crucian thinks I.  But it soon became apparent that it was not a crucian, the fight, once it got under way, bored too consistently deep, and was lasting too long.  The fish nearly had me in trouble in the branches of a part dead alder that drooped into the water, and on light crucian gear it was heart in mouth stuff as the tension in the line was necessarily increased to a fairly unsafe value, one getting very near to the breaking strain of the hooklink.    But all was to be well and a scrapper of a tench about three and a half was landed.

The mass of house martins that had spent the early part of the day milling around over the pond had now departed, leaving just a few swallows whose presence I had not noted earlier in amongst the general melee of birds.  A couple of swifts also paid a short visit, but the dozen or so of swallows were to remain throughout the day.  I didn't have too much time to look at them, for the float once again lifted and the "rod stopped dead" situation was repeated.  But this fish was different, it didn't charge about the swim madly, as had the tench.  It set off for the other side of the lake, at a fairly steady and slow pace, largely unaffected by the best I could do on my three pound hook link.  It managed a more or less perfectly straight line swimming away from me at  right angles to the bank. I was not worried, for I was not expecting there to be any snags out there, and fully expected to land the fish in due course.  I should have worried though, for, when some 15 or 20 yards out and counting, the hook pulled.   I will never know what the fish was of course.  I suspect a much bigger tench, although a carp could have been responsible.    I do doubt that, for I suspect a carp would have been travelling at a far greater speed.  Far too many hook pulls this season for my liking.

The voles were back, sneaking bits of food.   I am told by a birdwatching friend that this has been an excellent year for voles. He appears to be right. It should, in consequence, have been a great year for owls too.   But the wet summer has restricted their hunting, and so owls have not fared well at all.  Breeding successes have been limited by unsuitable weather.  I am not too impressed by the blackberries this year either.   There have been trips in other years when the blackberry brambles near my swim have provided much of my food and drink for the day.   Ripened and ripening berries seem rarer this year, although the few I have picked and eaten were wonderfully tarty.   A week in nature can be a long time though, and I hope the fruits may become more prolific soon.

Some days the warblers have constantly given voice, both in the rushes and the nearby trees.   Warblers tend to be amongst what most average birdwatchers call LBJs.  LBJ stands for Little Brown Job or in English, unidentified small bird. In summer the presence of young birds, often not in full adult plumage, serves to confuse the issue still more. Some can be so similar that only the most advanced and experienced twitcher can be sure...or risk saying that they are sure.  All very reminiscent of our own trout/sea trout problems.  FSSF.  Fair Sized Spotty Fish?   But I managed to photograph one bird that repeatedly came quite near.  So this is a photograph of an LBJ.  What is it?   You tell me.  I am guessing  reed warbler in a (pear?) tree.

But to return to the crucian carp.  The dull day seemed to have stimulated them, and having returned to the tactics of my youth, that is to fish lift method very sensitively, they decided to play the game, and although the bites were not 100% hittable, by some wide margin, plenty of bites came, and quite a few were hooked.   Of those 13 were landed, with no less than eight weighing over two pounds.  But 6 or 7 were either pricked or lost to a hook pull.
Four Two Pound Plus Crucians

Again, the fish were very much of a size, the smallest differing from the largest by just a pound. The light and precarious hook holds must be fuelled by the way the species toys with its food.  I have only had one crucian that I remember needed the use of a disgorger, and that hookhold was only just out of reach of my fingers.  I can say the same about barbel, rarely do they seem to be hooked anywhere other than in the lips.  The difference of course is that once hooked, barbel rarely manage to get rid of the hook.

I do wonder for the future of crucians in this water.  Are the pike, of which there seem to be quite a lot, removing all the smaller crucians, leaving an ageing population with no younger fish to back up for the future?  Or are we, for some unknown reason, simply never catching the smaller fish?   Should the club consider a stocking programme?  The fish though, do look young, and so maybe there are quite a few years yet before we need to worry.  I saw an interesting note from someone who has his own carp lake, but added some crucians about 7 years ago.   These are now of a very good size indeed, with some approaching 4 only seven years old!   I don't know what he has been feeding them, but if details he has given are accurate, it is a food I suspect would ruin my own dieting plan.    So how old might the fish I am catching be?   And how long might they live?  Peter Rolfe suggests that some top 20 years. I don't know how many of those that remain healthy and avoid predation will actually reach that sort of age.  The average is probably considerably less.  10 years?  12 years?   I will probably not have many, if any, more sessions for crucians, on this lake this year.   But it would seem a good insurance policy to add them to next season's target species.  Who knows how long a good thing will last?

Late in the evening , the kingfishers which had performed several fly-pasts directly over my float during the day, appeared again.   One of them did three straight line typical low flights across, and then along, the full length of the lake. As it did so though, it was pursued by a swallow, which appeared to be chasing it, its zig-zagging flightpath contrasting with the ruler straight path of the kingfisher, yet keeping in close if variable formation.   The swallows had earlier been chasing each other, and I can only imagine that the kingfisher was seen as adding a brightly coloured extension to the game. I don't imagine there was any other reason for the swallow's behaviour.    Intriguing though: there may be more to a birdbrain than many think.
One of the swallows came to watch me fish.  I think this is one of this year's youngsters.  Probably exhausted from chasing after the kingfisher.  The photo is not the greatest, but chances to get a swallow in the picture are quite rare.   When using my small "fishing" camera, although it does have auto focus, it is none too bright at picking exactly what to focus on. There is no manual focus ring. I usually end up focussing on something I think is equidistant from me, and then swinging the camera around, with the shutter half pressed.  Not ideal.

During the day I had other visitors, dragonflies were constantly passing.  This one stopped to lay an egg or two.

And of course the young moorhen that was in constant attendance.

Although welcome, I wish they would all time their visits to the quiet periods between bites. 

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