Monday, 18 June 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Wings and Worrywarts

The other day I had some massive fried chicken wings with the ‘Butchers Social’ signature topping of salted caramel, honeycomb and bacon. Now probably like you, as I was initially I wouldn’t have thought the combination would work but boy they did. Comfort food indeed and was someone with not a huge sweet tooth, they really did work and I really did worry if I’d made the wrong decision as I’d happily eaten any of the other flavours.

The fried chicken skin really went with it well and with the meat falling off the bone, it added to some of the best finger food I’d ever eaten.

Trying new things is good in my book so for this session I was down at a local club water to try and winkle out a Chub or two on a surface lure. I also wanted to have a look as the upper stretch as well just to see what it looked like for a future session and I’m glad I did, because a swim was noted down where I’d saw a rather large bronze carp exiting the water. I’d not seen that before up here to be honest so at least I know where one is now, it’s Zander territory too, so I might do a little double dipping.

The banks were busy, very busy indeed like they always are at the start of the season and usually for the first couple of months of mediocrity many go back to the commercial fisheries, just to get a bend in the rod. To be honest this is the time I like to fish various methods and waters for a bit of variety rather than sit behind motionless barbel rods for hours on end. 

I didn’t have a huge amount of time so after an hour or so reccy it was back down to an area of fast water where there is always Chub picking up what comes their way and not fishing surfaces lure here before, I wanted to see if the method worked. The water is very low at the minute and it was easily walkable from one side to the other, but with the Cocoons donned, I spotted a few dark shadows. After the fourth or fifth cast a chub nailed the lure and a fish was on. 

It’s full of streamer weed but didn’t really hinder the retrieve and it was quickly in the landing net. 

I’ve a habit of catching the runt of the litter and this Chub was no exception, a deformed mouth and also a wound or two, I didn’t help adding to its misery. I managed to hook another two but both managed to shed the hook after a brief play through the fast water. 

An enjoyable short session mind you and I’ll use the method in the week up at a stretch where I know some half decent ones reside. I might fish till dusk as well and fish a boilie over a bad of bait to see if anything of note will turn up when the sun goes down.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

River Alne – Widdles, Wigs and Wamblecropts

Did I miss something in the week, during Presidents Trumps and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un ‘historic’ meeting. Trump made a huge concession the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.

As far I could tell nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, bugger all about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

Maybe the staring of each other hair styles Kim eventually came up Top Trumps, hoodwinked springs to mind, so not top dog after all….

Now talking of top dogs, I wasn’t after a Zander or even a Barbel, but anything that would to be honest as this venue was little more than a stream. 

As I suspected for this first session of the new season, the mile and bit stretch of this diminutive river Alne I’ve got access to for this season was a little more than a widdle. 

I’d fished this small tributary of the River Arrow before, albeit upstream where I managed a few tiddlers on lobworm if I recall. It certainly wasn’t anything to write home about and I vowed never to return, but for me and the way I like to fish, this new stretch is very much my thing.

A jumpable river, off the beaten track, any bite on the quiver tip, any dip of the float, all very intriguing, all very new….

You see I love fishing small waters just to see what is hiding in them, ‘potential giants from tiny waters’ which David Carl Forbes my favourite author and illustrator was an advocate of. 

There is just something special for me fishing this sort of waterway. 

Back to basics, tackle to a minimum, a wriggly worm, a slice of bread. Fishing how it used to be before big business got hold and told us how we should be fishing, and what new item we need to be buying to keep up with the lady eating Desmond’s and the monotonous Charman’s.

Bollocks to that, I’ll fish how I want to fish, ta very much….

Unlike the closed canal zander quest I’d stupidly got myself involved with, fishing with no targets in mind can be more satisfying, more relaxing, and eventually when something of note turns up, even more rewarding too. In the winter just gone the capture of a rare Bard’s area trout and some half decent dace from nothing more than a dirty ditch was up there with the most memorable fishing trips I’d had, and believe you me having nearly reached 600 rambling blog posts, there has been enough of them.

Now having seemingly eaten my way through a whole cow the day before having being treated by the Wife for a nice meal out, this sort of venue is ideal to get ones digestive system back to normality and to keep the indigestion at bay. Roving from swim to swim with cocoons donned to try and find where the fish will likely to holding up. Be it, deeper areas, areas of cover, natural pools and snags that sort of thing, features where fish would feel comfortable residing.

It’s surprising just how much water is covered and when exploring any new venue, areas to target as quickly established.

The water level of the Alne can rise quickly after an afternoon of rain, and a day of it, you’d likely see it over its banks. So it can go from being fishable to no so in a day, but then when it is fishable, that can often open out new swims to fish, and that’s where fishing these sort of waters holds appeal for me. It’s different every session, oh and I could bike it more or less, as it’s just down the road, very handy indeed.

So enough of the guff, we’re back fishing running water again, yippeeeee !!!!

So simple tactics for this inaugural session, a light link ledger setup with a short hooklink and size 12 Kamasan B983, lobworm top or tail and my trust TFG River and Stream rod fitted with a 2oz quiver tip. Centrepin the usual bronze garish jobbie fitted with 4lb line. I wonder what I could pick up if anything. A river like this is open to predation which may well be an issue, but only one way to find out, I’d a few worm to drown.

I walked nearly the whole stretch and certainly lots of character. Shallow riffs, snagged filled deeper pool and areas full of lily pads. I've no doubt it will fish much better with some water on it, but I did catch a couple. A small Chub and a tiny trout, which for this part of Warwickshire areas like this are few and far between. An enjoyable trip mind you and such a quiet area with literally no road noise at all, it's a great place for solitude, and sometimes that's all I'm after.

I'll wait for some rain to top it up a little and then I'll give it another bash.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT99 – Blandfordians and Blabbermouths

So as someone looking forward to all things flowing water, a news article popped up the other day which raised ones eyebrows and got me listening. You see maybe getting back to where the water is clean, clear and flowing, might need some more alcohol consumption of the ale variety. 

The early part of every summer for the last four decades has been spoilt for many Blandfordians by the arrival of a fly with a very nasty bite. Yeap apparently it’s making a comeback, the culprit is the black fly. The proper name is Simulium posticatum and the danger period used to be from about 10th May until mid-June, but now it seems to be all summer from those in the know.

You seldom notice it until it’s gone, leaving a spot of blood, then spend the next week nursing anything from an annoying itch to a large incapacitating swelling.

These blood sucking bugs live near areas of water and gives a particularly painful bite.

The Blandford fly's English common name derives from a major outbreak of people being bitten around the town of Blandford Forum in Dorset, in the 1960s and 1970s. 

In a four-week period during the spring of 1972, some 600 people were estimated to have visited their doctors in Blandford to be treated for insect bites.

Now the fly is more prevalent than ever it seems and an outbreak a few years ago in Hereford this led to hundreds of people seeking medical treatment. NHS figures show a 50 per cent rise in hospital admissions for ‘non-venom insect’ bites in the past decade. Many of these will be by black flies.

The male flies of most species collect in huge swarms which, on calm sunny days, dance in the air near trees or buildings, awaiting the arrival of the females. The female flies enter these swarms and are seized by a male before the mating pair falls to the ground. Before or after mating the female flies frequently seek a meal of blood to supplement their diet and assist in the production of eggs. Each of the many species has a preferred host on which it will feed. Hosts include reptiles, birds and mammals such as deer, horses, cattle or sheep. In the case of the Blandford Fly the main host is man. 

Having satisfied its craving for human blood the female must wait for its 200-300 eggs to mature before returning to the river to place them in the desiccation cracks of the steep, shady river bank, well above the summer water levels.

From the mouth of a Zander
The egg laying females crawl deep into the cracks and stick their egg masses to soil particles in moist humid conditions. The eggs are laid in June and July when the weather is warm. They begin to develop at once but when the eyes of the embryo can be seen through the eggshell as little red dots, development stops. Only a spell of cold weather after the onset of winter will trigger the eggs to progress further. 

Probably the most agreeable cure is a beer from the Badger Brewery of Blandford St Mary called Blandford Fly. Folklore has it that only zingibain from ginger can soothe it. This ale therefore includes a generous dollop of ginger in the brewing process to create a subtly spicy character that gives warmth even when served chilled. 

If the zingibain doesn’t work, the alcohol will buy you temporary oblivion.

So anyway back to the fishing, this session was meant to be down at the deep bit for a bit of double dipping. A couple or three biteless hours on the Zed rods despite leapfrogging an extensive section of cover, I was witness to fish movement like I’d never seen before. Bubbles, bubbles and lots of them and also fish existing the water showing that they were bream feeding in the area and lots of them too. 

So one Zander rod and another with a simple small method set-up to at least try and get a bend in the rod. Feeder filled with a little groundbait, micro pellets and bread or sweetcorn for hookbait.

As I was leaving this area last week with rods in hand a biker stopped me and asked what the fishing was like. 

"Errrrrrr, to be honest mate I wouldn't bother"

Ok if he asked me about 5 or 6 weeks earlier than my answer might have been very different, but to be honest would it though ?. The discovery of another good area for Zander I'd rather keeps it under ones hat, so to be fair, the answer would have been the same. Areas where carp reside will also kept under ones radar because those are quite rare to be honest, unlike the anglers that wan't to catch them which can go from none to many if I turned in to a blabbermouth.

I'm keeping this area to myself, ta very much....

So anyway, back to the fishing.

Now as you know I like to plan my sessions well in advance and with the rods set-up I was planning to head straight to the deep bit, but after losing what appeared to be a half decent fish the weekend when the line snapped because of my error I was back to try and see if it were about again. This area has form as well, albeit a few hundred yards away as the fish pictured in my title picture which weighed 8lb 10oz was caught in this vicinity.

That was sometime ago mind you and despite fishing it many a times since I've not had anything like that again. But then maybe the loss of a fish last week was a sign, you never know. The same plan, just a different location as I'd spotted quite a few feeding bream here as well. The only thing I had to change was the landing net and pole, because with the banks the way they are and with an elevated swim, I had to make sure I had enough reach to be able to land a fish.

So anyway, how did I get on....

Well I had a bite within 5 mins of putting a bait out, on a whole small roach. With the fish quickly landed, the float went back out and it didn't stop for an hour or so. I ended up using two rods in the end and ended up with a brace with two runs happening at the same time. After the 6th fish, all went dead and that's how the Zander rods remained. All fish came to whole fish. For the last hour I put out the small method feeder but that was very quiet indeed without even a nudge on the quiver tip.

So I wasn't doing any wrong after all, catch the Zander when they are moving in a pack, you can catch multiple fish, the most around 12 fish down at the deep bit. That's it for this 2018 closed season quest as my mind turns to running water. Maybe if the rivers are in flood I'll have another dabble as I'm sure PT100 won't be that far away. A little more encouraging this year, but I still feel like I'm going backwards despite managing a fish over 5lb again.

The quest will continue however.... 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT98 – Cockalorums and Coversluts

A windlass in hand, and a walk of conviction despite his diminutive statue. With an oversize and Daz white apron with fresh red accents to try and cover what looked like a sacrificial ritual gone tits up, I was ready to call the scuffers to report a murder but then upon further inspection, it was a red tie-dye t-shirt FFS and this guy was a pastel painter, a colour mixing meddler.

You see out the corner of my eye I noticed that there was an overly large easel on the rude end, a finished scene of bridge and towpath with a blood red backdrop, stupid me.

To be honest it’s always a surprise what you see on the cut, you’re mixing with the great unwashed after all where you must expect the unexpected. As someone who is watching a supernatural western series Preacher at the minute which features vampires, angels, agents sent from Hell, Saints of Killers and flying pigs on the journey to search for God. The similarities are for all to see, you never know what the hell is going to happen, well apart from the bloodshed and gore, that’s not quite up there thankfully.

What was he doing out this time of the morning I wonder, oh yeah, fisherman to alienate stupid, I’m in his poo riddled domain after all. But then as about the only one that seemingly fishes canals these days he’d have better off getting a little more shut eye, because barges and boats don’t bother me that much to be honest.

Reduced oxygen levels because of the warm water, who knows but the Zeds have been properly off it, maybe they’ve switched to a short feeding spell, maybe they’ve been driven off elsewhere by an otter impersonating bad badgering badger. A change of scenery was therefore in order to at least find a Zander or two that might well be up for feeding on the smelt offerings that would be dropped in front of their noggins.

Overflows raise oxygen levels, so a lock mouth was the first port of call, but above the Tefal head is an area I’d not properly given a good go to be honest. If it wasn’t for the fact that a 2 mile stretch is usually very productive then I’m sure it would have received more of my attention. I had some bread with me so if I’d spotted some carp under ones Cocoons I might have a try for one merely by swopping to a readymade hooklink , I’m sure at least one or two of those should be milling around.

This challenge is getting harder and harder, and the quest for a cut double is enough to break even the toughest of men. A 9lb fish the biggest I’ve managed in well over 100 trips but that was caught some time ago now and I’ve had neither hide nor hair from a fish that statue since. The schoolie numbers are definitely down, that’s I’ve no doubt. Maybe the apex predator had handed over his batton and is now mulling around in the side-lines.

If that is the case I’m sure there are some big lurkers still here like they once were. They were transitional then because swims where I’d caught both the 9lb fish and a fish of 8lb 10oz which is in my title banner have been fished many times since without a sniff of the same fish again. So once in a while fishing away from the usual stomping ground may well be advantageous. Hence why the change for this short morning session.

The oxygentated swim didn't produce a bit after half an hour to it was just a matter of exploring the sections of cover before a bite was forthcoming. It took a while to, with only 15 minutes or so of the sessions left eventually I had a bite, now the fish grabbed the smelt on the retrieve so I assume it had been sat starring at it for a good 15/20 minutes or so. Not the size I was after but at least not a blank.

So the last section of cover before heading back as the boats were getting a pin, out went a whole roach next to some thicket. It didn't take long for a bite either. The fish was messing around with it for a while before it was taken confidently right under the cover. Now unbeknown to me whilst the bail arm was off, the line had got tangled behind the body of the reel, so upon tightening up I accidentally cut through the line, that was after I felt that it was a reasonable fish.

Bugger !!! not having a good time of it of late....

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT97 – Spadgers, Speares and Spitchcocks

After consumption of some fresh pink lady I was feeling pretty good, you see as a result one had a healthy urinary tract and I was feeling fit and vibrant I was ready to another bash at the Zander. You see the in season Asparagus contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, making it a natural diuretic. So eating more of the spears can help flush excess fluid and salt from your body, which may help prevent urinary tract infections.

Now John from The Two Terriers up at Upwell in West Norfolk kindly supplied some from his recently harvested batch and it was much appreciated, quality the supermarkets could only dream of, a taste unlike any other asparagus I’d tasted recently. Not only a load of pink spears but a handmade Ibiza card and the personal touch, I'm not sure I deserve such attention.

Purple and pink varieties of asparagus in particular are full of anthocyanin’s, which give fruits and veggies their red, blue, and purple hues and have antioxidant effects that can help your body fight damaging free radicals. Although don’t overcook it as you can negate some of its nutritional benefits.

To accompany the pee tainter some Parma ham wrapped cod and a simple poached egg. A good source of vitamin E and a natural aphrodisiac because of vitamin B6 and folate, jobs a good’un.But the list doesn’t end there, can ease a hangover, beats bloating, a rich source of folic acid, vitamin K and a mood booster, yeap it contains high levels of tryptophan. Thumbs up from me and the Wife.

What’s not to like about these seasonal vegetable, there was even a local’ish festival all about it….

Well it’s not happening this year sadly, but Asparafest which took place at Ashdown Farm in Badsey Nr Evesham was a family festival, dare I say it an extreme village fete all about the namesake.
From asparagus eating competitions through to a Zoo of the petting variety. Folk music, Morris dancing, food stalls that have to have at least one dish featuring asparagus, farm & country crafts, barrels of ale.

Asparagus, asparagus and more asparagus all in a chilled family atmosphere it was great, England at its best.

The festival even features Jemima Packington who he is the world’s only ‘asparamancer’, and claims she can see into the future by tossing asparagus into the air and interpreting how the spears land. Some of her previous predictions have come true as well.

Her predictions back in January for 2018 were the following.
  • Record number of Royal births. 
  • UK will suffer flooding at the start of the year. 
  • Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions will occur around the globe. 
  • Theresa May will be ousted and Britain will get a new Prime Minister. 
  • Oscar success for British films and one particular British actor. 
  • Politics will be rocked by a string of scandals. 
  • US will bring the world to the brink of serious conflict if successful intervention by the rest of the world cannot be achieved. Watch out for unlikely peacemakers. 
  • No major sporting achievements for our national teams. 
  • Brexit will cause many countries outside the EU to review their border and immigration policies. 
  • The Bitcoin bubble will burst. 
  • Major world economies will suffer a downturn but will rally slightly. 
  • Resurgence of the book as opposed to cyber libraries and video gaming. 
  • More countries around the world will follow the Danish ethos of Hygge – or contentment and wellness of spirit and body. 
  • A significant return to family values will be seen. 
  • Mick will not complete his Canal Zander Quest !!!
So we'll see, some of them are highly probable I must admit. Let’s hope its back in 2019 as it was a great little festival….

So for the session down at the deep bit it was out with the big guns, yeap, one rod with Lamprey and the other the usual smelt. The Zeds has been off of late, with catch rates down, properly down, so I was hoping a change in scenery and change on bait might be the edge that was needed.

You see the Lamprey oozes blood like a nothing else and maybe some added attraction, a bit like the aftermath of consuming asparagus to a toilet, I was hoping for a little more success as I’ve been having recently.

This area before the water got warm (20.2 degrees C yesterday) has been very productive indeed, so this was a short after work jobbie to try and winkle something out. Like a sparrow I hot footed it down this hallowed ground to get some solitude away from the chaos to where I’m sure there would be a fish or two in the vicinity. The fish activity was beyond ridiculous and after leap frogging a good couple of hundred yards without a bite and witnessing feeding bubbles and a couple of occasions bream existing the water maybe a rod out for bream might take my mind of the motionless floats.

Another Blank !!!!!

Oh well maybe there is next week I suppose. But as suspected the Zeds were not up for feeding or were simply not there. It's been a familiar story to be honest, but hey that's Zander fishing, they cannot be predicted. Now I could have stuck it till way beyond dark but even then there is no guarantee that would give me a bite or two, so it's just one of those things, not much I can do about it.

With the 16th on the countdown I've a couple of sessions left to try and catch a least the target species before the 2018 part of the quest comes to a conclusion.It's getting much tougher I've no doubt about it and yet I had a small glimmer of hope when I stumbled upon the 'deep' bit that saw we right for a four or five sessions.

So where to go next, ? what to do now ? I'll mill it over over a dram and head out somewhere the weekend. They appear to have all but vanished so maybe thinking outside the box is the way to go.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Closed Season Canal Zander Quest PT96 – Toads and Tranklements

With Ben and the Wife enjoying another ride on Alton Towers new rollercoaster ‘The Wicker Man’ after I’d just had my turn sat on the front row with him, less of an adrenaline junkie Sam wanted a gander at the Sharkbait Reef aquarium in Mutiny Bay. Once inside you are brought face to face with a plethora of underwater species, from clown fish to seahorses and eels to shrimps.

You pass through a ten metre ocean tunnel which is home to sharks, rays and other creatures of the deep. Nothing special I might add but the colours are wonderful, like a psychedelic trip without the use of tryptamines and phenethylamines.

The puffer fish I took a picture of reminded me of documentary I saw on the BBC if I recall called Dolphins: Spy in the pod by producer John Downer where they witnessed them putting their ingenuity to use in the pursuit of getting “high”. In extraordinary scenes, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.

Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.

Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.

Similarities to toad licking I suppose which was a bit of an urban myth to be fair, because unless you can find yourself a Bufo alvarins, that’s the only one known to produce the correct chemical 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine.The toad is found in the Sonoran Desert in North America and catching one will be difficult because many amphibian species are disappearing fast due to climate change and loss of habitat.

Heck even an episode of the Simpsons covered it. The toads apparently release the substances through their skins using specialised glands.

'Mucous' glands, as the name suggests, secrete mucus, whilst 'granular' glands secrete toxins. The role of these toxins is to protect the toad from predators like birds, mammals, snakes and crocodiles.

Now the other day an area that I’d not explored for a while popped up on my radar again because I’d spotted a Zander milling around in the far margin in some shallow water holding station and with its back out the water for much of it. It wasn’t doing much either like it had taken a dose of Spice and it had been left in a Zombie like state. Despite casting a deadbait right on its noggin, it didn’t move a muscle. I watched it for a good ten minutes or so before a boat went by, then it was never to be seen again.

It was a decent size Zed as well which over the last few weeks have been difficult to pin down even down at the deep bit. Maybe it was resting post spawning, feet up, fag out but I’d not seen that behaviour before, well not from Zander anyway, from Pike certainly.

Anyway talking of Pike for this session well north of the Tefal Head I was back to see if there were any other fish in the area that would like a smelt deadbait or would like to grab a lure. With not much time left for this closed season 2018 quest for a canal double, I need to make the remaining time count. This canal has form albeit a 10 minute drive away and not fished it for a long time as I said, so it was definitely worth a bash as the other stretches I've been frequenting have properly gone off.

With polarised sunglasses on I thought I'd spot some carp too but sadly despite giving it good 4 or 5 hours in humid conditions apart from a few nibbles on the lure which was probably small fish smaller than the lure itself. I fished quite a few oxygenated swims which usually picks up the odd fish after the first boat went through at 6.45am there was a constant stream of the them. Even the deadbait rod remained motionless throughout the session. Hmmm, not ending well this closed season quest, still a couple or three more sessions planned, hopefully can finish off on a Zander at least.

We'll see !!!!

7 miles walked and a nice location, it's not all about the fishing, honest. But I'm finding it really tough at the minute, then again, not just me by the sound of it, others are struggling as well, so at least I'm not doing anything wrong.

Not long to the river season, not long to the annual pilgrimage to Ibiza, at least there is plenty to look forward to. I've said before maybe when I start this quest all over again next closed season if it's this warm again maybe some dusk and beyond sessions are the way forward.

Especially with he discovery of a productive area which wasn't on my radar, that defiantly needs more time and effort spent on it. An overly large stamp of fish doesn't come up very often, so maybe concentrating on two areas are the way to go, on entirely different canals which is good, where I know larger specimens are likely to be. Today's sessions although enjoyable felt like a wasted effort if I'm honest as the boats ruined it for the Pike fishing especially knowing that the Zeds are no feeding to brilliantly in these conditions, oh well you live and learn.
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