Sunday, 19 January 2020

The River Leam - Crow Fairs and Crook Shanks

Four years ago or so the the Rocket pub near Coventry railway station that was boarded up for a good few years, started to be flattened as part of the regeneration work around the station for the Friargate development.

Now back in the 80s the pub, in Warwick Road, was opposite Horizon Studios and was often frequented by 2-Tone legends such as The Specials, The Beat and Madness. It was a pub whenever there was a top sporting event on we used to always go to.

The last gathering I can remember vividly, it was for the 2003 Rugby World Cup final where a big group of us descended to the back of the pub where the biggest screen was and the early drinking commenced.

The atmosphere like it always was there was superb, and as the game panned out the friendly banter and the general ambience was heightened to new levels.

One problem though, yeap the sound delay, you see the front of the pub was obviously watching a different stream or channel, and they were a good few seconds ahead of us in the prime area with the big screen at the back, the better ales on tap.

So when Jonny Wilkinson lined up the iconic kick, stuck with his weaker right foot, in the final seconds of extra time, we heard the roar before he actually kicked it. 

A climax and delayed reaction beyond our control !!!!

To be fair it wasn't at all marred,because the victory over Australia by 20 points to 17 was one of the best sporting moment I've been witness to.

His kick the glorious end-product of thousands of hours of kicking practice and meant an overwhelming feeling of elation for me and the other fans that had watched it.

Another good pub banished to the history books though, that's never a good thing.

Now talking about delayed reaction dace can give very confident bites indeed when using a quiver but fast taper, slow taper, glass or carbon, it's surprising just how different bites are registered depending on the tip you use.

I've found that often you need to be quick on the strike as they can be finicky biters and often you strike in to nothing if your reaction is too slow.

After breaking my wand rod a couple of weekends ago for this morning's session at the WBAS section of the river Leam, it was out with the 1.2oz test-curve TFG River and Stream rod. Combined with a centrepin it's a lovely rod and shame it's discontinued, in-fact I like it so much I'm on the look out for another to add to the collection.

Bread and maggots would be the main stay for this session, with liquidised bread in the feeder, the visit to the stream last time the dace really gave good confident bites on the bread and that was what I wanted. The quick change bead allowed me to change hook-link easily, so whilst it was rigged initially with a lighter set-up for the dace I wanted to target.

The few times I've fished it I've found a nice stamp of dace that seem to reside in swims where you cannot see the bottom, the deep holes basically.

However the good thing about a quick change link is that I could change the hook-link for a now discontinued paste cage. Now there is one swim in-particular where the bigger Chub seem to reside and after having a hook pull last time here on a lighter set-up, something more suitable was needed if a decent Chevin was hooked in this relatively open body of water. In-fact it was fitted with the paste cage first off because that was the first swim I'd fish.

Now it's a characterful stretch this, tight bends, a big pool, undercuts, holes, shallow faster areas and in places the river is jumpable with a short run-up even an old duffer like me could manage. Rivers like this don't tend to have the biggest of fish admittedly but for me I'd rather be fishing this sort or venue, rather than chucking big leads in to the Trent. Diminutive the better for me, but there are still some nice fish to be caught.

When actor and filmmaker George Burton and I fished this section 12 months back he had his PB dace whilst I was having a natter when our paths crossed. Small waters many overlook but there are some gems to be had, some roving to be done.

Now my PB dace came from a tiny Warwickshire stream that has been forgotten in so many ways, even smaller than this stretch of the Leam in size. Sometimes though fish seek sanctuary away from the main river in times of high water, so to be honest, for me anyway, not a huge surprise.

I'm always looking for the next fix though, small rivers define me as an angler I'd say, and given the choice, the Avon or its veins and tributaries, it would always be the latter, especially if it's just me roving and dropping in to any swim I want. Why venues like this have fallen out of favour I don't know, what's not to like, ok bites maybe not forthcoming like a mud puddle but come on, fishing to me and those from days gone by the location can be just as appealing as what fish you're likely to catch.

Now prior to this morning session there was some heavy'ish rain during the start of the week and the river was fining down after being over its banks so when I got to the river it was more coloured than I'd like. To be fair I've never had a problem catching dace and to be fair chub in conditions like this, so I wasn't that concerned about the river I was about to tackle.

Anyway back to the session !!!!

What a lovely morning, a hard frost with the sun trying its best to burn through the fog that was clinging on to the best of its ability. I headed straight to the chub pool but to be honest despite fishing a couple of spots the water was probably a little high, the surface was bubbling and boiling in most of it so the Chevin wouldn't really have time to relax.

George was at the bottom of the stretch and not long in to the session had picked up a couple of Chub to nearly 3lb on a lobworm tail, so the fish were feeding for sure. I started to make my way down to George and fished a few swims on the way managing some roach and small dace on liquidised bread in the feeder and maggot on the hook.

The river was just the wrong side of chocolate and when the sun came up the skies blue the bites dried up. Even two swims I primed with bread and paste freebies were fishless. I persevered in one of the swims and had a couple more small roach that really banged the quiver tip but to be honest it was tough going.

Another couple of days without rain it will probably be perfect. Still some fish were caught, and when I landed a bullhead on the last caught that gave a couple of rattles on the tip, it certainly wasn't a wasted morning, sometime when the conditions are like this, it's just nice being out.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Soggy Dollars and Shy Cocks

Rum never really featured in ones alcohol consumption, booze intake, ok the odd Bacardi and Coke here and there and then on a two week sail around the BVI's with some friends I was introduced to the Painkiller cocktail that the volcanic archipelago in the Caribbean really did embrace with a passion.

Now the Painkiller is an easy drinking mix of pineapple juice, orange juice, coconut milk, and a good old glug of Pussers Rum and was apparently conceived by the Soggy Dollar Bar in the 1970s.

The Soggy Dollar bar is still there today and when we anchored our dingy after getting off the catamaran (Lagoon 440) at the island of Jost Van Dyke, you need to disembark, and get wet basically. It's a wade in the sea to get bar side, hence the name I suppose.

The British Virgin Islands are a land that time forgot and probably my favourite holiday. It had everything, fishing, snorkelling, fresh lobsters, mixing with actors, salvaging a boat that lost its mooring, a nighttime search for a lost crew member and then culminating with us winning the flotilla race it really was a holiday I always look back to.

The BVI's are so different in character to the unforgettable U.S Virgin Islands I've also visited, in-fact chalk and cheese. We even circled Necker Island, what a place to call your home, lucky git.

Now the painkiller typically calls for "Navy Strength" rum, which is high-proof and often a blend of rums from multiple Caribbean islands. It was developed when the British Royal Navy patrolled the seas and sailors were allowed a daily rum ration.

Because of the strength and the flavour the rum despite being masked by the other ingredients, the rum really did shine through and I still make painkillers to this day from time to time for others to enjoy.

Easy drinking though, so take it easy on it because you might have trouble standing up after two or three.

Up till now a cask strength single malt (60%) was the feet up chilled out drink of choice until a year or so ago a friend Simon introduced me to Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, a fabulous Venezuelan dark golden rum, distilled from molasses in a copper pot still before it's aged for up to 12 years.

Drank neat like any good rum should be, my palate started to change, so much so at the moment when I entered the secure lock on the under-stairs booze cupboard, I'm reaching for the Rum not the Whisky.

After trying a good few different rums now Plantation XO ended up as my default rum of choice as it was ridiculously smooth, a proper good depth of flavour to it without some of the sweetness of some rums. So every now and again when I need a reward for my weeks endeavours to the automotive industry a good measure is poured, a decent dark chocolate often opened to accompany it.

As I've said before, life's simple pleasures are often the most rewarding, in my time of life, these need to be embraced more and more. As I type this I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to a selection of Plantation rums the good Wife bought me for Christmas. 

No half arsed small measures either, the Cigar Box Rum Collection contains a single 100ml bottle each of the following 6 rums. The 3 Stars White Rum, Trinidad 2001, Jamaica 2001, Guatemala Gran Anejo, Barbados 5 years and the Barbados Extra Old.

You've got to have a decent measure to appreciate rums like this, and the quality of decent rums means they are there to be sipped, not downed.

An open fire on the go, a decent film, a good drink, a shared pleasure.... talking of life's simple pleasures for this early morning session down at a new section of the Warwickshire Avon I'd not fished before, chub were the target.

Simple roving tactics are where my allegiances lie and this gave me an opportunity to have a nose at this new stretch and also to try and winkle out a chub or two, or maybe even a Barbel. I did think about talking a predator float sleeper rod with me to try and fish any slacks for Zander or maybe a Pike, but I wanted to travel as light as possible for this inaugural visit. The lightweight chair really is a revelation, no quiver, a small rucksack, jobs a good'un.

After the recent mild temperatures this was a cold start, with a hard frost overnight it was just above freezing when I got bankside but the sun was rising strongly in the clear skies it was a pleasure to be out when others were still tucked up in bed.

As I'd never been here before I used the lead to feel the bottom of the bed to see where it was clear. When it's the height of summer I bet this stretch looks completely different.

And that is the problem fishing a river for the first time, those holding spots you can see when the river is low and clear, or where the reeds and where the river usually starts and finishes is very useful information for the angler.

Meat on one rod, lobworms on the other I fished 4 swims, the river was up and boiling in places but there was some nice slower swims and also some slacks I could fish no problem.

A fantastic morning to be out, crisp under foot and when the sun came up behind me it illuminated the river in all its winter glory. A clear blue sky, air fresh and clean, bird life prevalent.  The problem was someone should have told the fish to feed because I ended up biteless throughout the session, maybe a maggot feeder might have been the better option for a bite, but I was after a proper bend in the rod from something.

The river is dropping and also clearing so I might try for a better Pike than I've managed so far in the Bloggers Challenge. There was some nice spots here to try, so I'll be back I'm sure.

Friday, 17 January 2020

The Tiny River Alne - Conny Wabbles and Corpse Revivers

Our great nation appears to be falling out of love with the full English breakfast. New research conducted recently has shown that one in five Brits under 30 has never had a fry up. One reason for this could be a fear of putting on weight and even the most powerful of Instagram filters cannot remove that muffin top.

Now it appears that health concerns are the main reason a fifth of 18-30 year old's avoid the fry up. The full English breakfast dates back to the 1800s, when the Victorians made it the most important meal of the day, using it as an opportunity to display their wealth and hospitality.

It was soon adopted by the working classes of the industrial revolution who needed a hearty breakfast to give them the energy to work a full day of manual labour. The tradition spread until its peak in the 1950s, when roughly half of the British population started their day with a full English breakfast.

Those shunning the 'heart attack on a plate' would rather tuck into smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, smashed avocado on toast or oatmeal pancakes for breakfast. Now to be fair I can see where they are coming from, I rarely have a 'full English' these days mainly because ones eyes are bigger than ones belly, my food consumption nothing like what it used to be.

When it's done well though it is hard to beat. If you are ever in Padstow check in to Woodlands Country House and have one of Hugo's to see where I'm coming from. But then like me if I'm to cook one myself it needs to be with the finest of ingredients, not those found in the bottom of the freezer in Farmfoods. 

But then Hugo Woolley (as pictured) mixes his breakfast up as well, nothing like variety in your food I say.

Old favourites such as Eggs Benedict, and porridge get a look in, but they sit alongside the lesser known likes of Koulibiac, Coddled eggs and the Savoy Hotel’s 'Corpse Reviver', he's even written a book all things breakfast.

Now talking about mixing it up, a bearded dragon deprived of it's food, sorry but there is fish to be caught, the lizard can forgo his breakfast just this once I'm sure.

So for this short after work session down at the little river Alne, wasp and pachnoda grubs would be used to try and winkle out a fish or two.

These Pachnoda Grubs are the soft-bodied larvae stage of the fruit beetle also known as Sun Beetles and are over an inch in length, proper fat things, like something you'd get in a bushtucker trial or put in front of you in a restaurant in Pudong where you'd point and ask, "errrr what the heck is that ?".

Now the Alne was about the only river that looked anywhere near fishable, the other rivers I fish the Leam, Warwickshire Avon and the Stour in flood again due to the rain that seemingly is never ending.

Every time you think there is an end in sight someone has been flossing to the rain Gods.

To be fair with more rain on the way as I type this, I may well be heading for the Alne tributary if the reccy didn't go well, but I geared up with two set-ups one where I could fish even if the river was nearly over its banks, if that was the case I'd use cheesepaste.

You all know I plan my sessions, so things can change post penning so to speak !!!!

I'm sure if I'm going to renew this Alne book as to be honest despite only living a walk away if we were snowed in, I've not fished it 'that' much. In the summer it's too shallow, in the winter up and down like nothing else like it. When conditions are perfect though it fishes brilliantly when roving with some breadflake and liquidised bread in the feeder, you can pick up chub from most swims that looks chubby.

I'm sure there are specimen fish to be had as well, but having seen the biggest Otter I've ever seen on a waterway as the Alne maybe it's not the time to fish it.

Results the last couple of sessions have been quite mediocre on the wet net front, so much so,the tangleator Sam isn't that bothered if I take him or not. Rivers like this though when it can be deep and then shallow in a matter of a few paces despite the river being up there is usually a swim or two that can be fished.

The last swim fished, sadly no Chevin were home
Not just that though, since me and Sam have been fishing it, I've yet to see another angler. A Queens wave to the farmer on his quad bike, a death stare from a sheep, an occasional dog poo bag swinger about the only contact from other things that breathe.

The chub have been half decent for a small river as well, but for this session I wanted to try something different to see what else I could pick up. A fish survey by the EA the club secretary shared with me when I first joined showed that there was dace, roach and even bream present as well as gudgeon, chub and trout.

Some initial research on the Alne also showed that there were some massive roach in years gone by, but also some Barbel and the odd carp.A chance meeting of the farmer at a party through some friends of ours that rent some stabling off them, confirmed all of the above. In-fact the trout over the years have been a decent stamp as well.

Rivers change though, there are some good years, some bad years, at the moment I don't think it's in his heyday but there are still some half decent fish that put a bend in the rod to be caught despite Harry Otter ruling the roost.

Now when I got to the river it was a decent fishable level, a reasonable pace in places and strong tea coloured but good enough for a dangle.

Harry Otter was in residence too, because as I was heading to swim number two he was in the middle of the swim with head out the water. As I went to get my zoom camera out my pocket he saw me, and buried his head under and I never saw him again during the three hour session.

I won't dwell on the afternoons fishing that much but some nice dace were caught up to 5 1/4 ounces, a brownie and a couple of gonks.

The chub nowhere to be seen though which surprised me as they seem to be the main quarry when I walk these banks. The wasp grubs really do work well especially when partnered with a maggot. The tip is a fast action glass so I missed a lot of bites too, I assume it was small fish trying to strip the big grub from the hook.

A couple of maggots fished instead I assume would have banked more fish but it was the larger stamp of dace I was after today. Despite liquidised bread in the feeder bread as a hookbait didn't to it today, grubs were where it was at.

I tried a larger Pachnoda in the final swim that I primed with liquidised bread but sadly Mr Chevin wasn't home. An enjoyable session though, lots of bites in a chocolate brown river, I didn't really expect that to be honest, these small rivers really are for me.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

'Not Quite' The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.146 – Woke'rs and Welsh Ejectments

After the Christmas break with the nippers back in school the Wife and I back in to the eating out on a Friday afternoon routine, so a Turkish restaurant for the first meal out in 2020, the prawn starter which was lovely, with some flatbreads and various tips. then a meat feast lamb shish, chicken shish, and minced lamb adana,

Vegan's please look away !!!!

The simple things in life can often be the most pleasurable, a shared good meal, bellies full. I'll save the homemade Baklava till the next time we visit. We'll be back. Fishing gives me similar pleasures as does a large rum swigged with a film.

The local rivers in turmoil again, storm Brendan bringing lots of rain with him to top up the already full water-table, the ground sodden, rivers chocolate, yeap, you guessed it, having to scrat around to get that much needed fishing fix. To be honest I thought about not having a dangle this week, but after a nice chilled weekend only a few days in to the working week, in one way and another I really needed to get out bankside.

One option for sure, yeap you guessed it, canal Zander, so with tackle cobbled together a sheltered swim of convenience. Only a couple of hours this session but enough to re-align the cogs, reset the dials. Now this may be a swim of convenience but there are some good fish that swim in these turbid waters.

'The Deep Bit'  I discovered, which isn't far from here I'd managed  fish to over 7lb, but I'd also caught quite a few fish over 5lb, which believe you me, stretches like this don't come up that often. Now I lost a big Zed here sometime ago so it's always been on ones radar, and there is a good reason for that, away from the 'Deep Bit' it's still feature bound.

Thick cover, marginal and overhead it provides some sanctuary where predators like to hang out and the more I fish for canal Zander, these are the areas I like to target.

I rarely fish dusk and beyond for canal Zander but maybe I'm missing a trick ?

In my experience there is no need to, the stretches I fish are very turbid and all you need to do is find the fish and they will feed. When the water is cold though they tend to hold up and things do get tougher, they often lay on the bottom hence why, when you catch them they are covered in leeches. When they are like this you need to put a bait right on the top of their head, they don't seem to budge much these fish.

Smelt as pictured above is the main stay of my Zander fishing, they seem to love it. The bait looks bigger than it actually is, because the float is only around 7cm's or so. If it's a small smelt use it whole, if it's a big bait, lop the tail off.

So anyway back to the session, the floats when out at dusk. Now Nic from Avon Angling UK put me on to this torch off of Ebay. You can focus the beam so the beam of light is really narrow, so for illuminating rod tips or floats without much disturbance it's ideal. When focusing on floats in the dark even with a light on them they can be difficult to focus on, unlike in daylight there is less references to focus on, so bites are less obvious.

So back to the session, well, I thought I had a bite quite quick when it was dark as the far float drifted out of the beam quite quickly, sadly a struck in to thin air, a lock must have been opened as the water was flowing from right to left. If there isn't a bite in fifteen or twenty minutes then it's time to move on, easily said than done in the dark, so I stuck it out for an hour before I moved.

The next swim 'the banker' I've caught multiple fish a few times, the most 10 or 12 in a short mornings session all from the same swim. So a trudge up the spooky muddy towpath I settled down for the last half an hour. Floats went out, wait for that bite. I waited and waited and waited a little more, nothing. Heading up to dusk I'd have expected some fish moving, some fish topping but after the session finished on a blank, that played on my mind, for some reason the fish were off big time.

Yeap, another blank to add to the list !!!!
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