Friday, 13 March 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Ettringite and Ecstasiate

Alpine Ibex are big mountain goats that live among the peaks in the European Alps where predators cannot reach. They occupy the steep, rocky terrain above the tree line between two to three thousand meters above sea level.

But they can’t live there at all times, because there is no food up there. During spring and summer, the Ibex live among the conifers and the meadows where there are plenty of grass to feed. Before the first snow falls, the Ibex has to fatten up and build reserves to help see them through the Alpine winters. Once winter arrives, the Ibex retreats to the safety of their homes in the clouds.


Like many herbivores, the Alpine Ibex lacks salt and other essential minerals in their diet which they can’t get from grass. So the Ibex has to seek out natural salt licks. In springtime, when salt requirements are the highest, the Ibex can be seen licking rock surfaces for leached salts.

Dam walls are another precious source of salts and minerals. Dams are composed of concrete, and concrete releases a calcium-aluminium mineral called ettringite as part of the curing process. Up to twenty percent of hardened concrete is composed of ettringite.

Only the Alpine Ibex can exploit this resource. Being excellent climbers, the Ibex will climb the sheer vertical face of the dam’s wall using the small protruding boulders as foothold to lick ettringite off the wall’s surface. 

The Ibex can scale such great heights because of their soft, split hooves that can grip any surface like a pincer.

Slap bang in the middle of the red zone of a COVID-19 outbreak the Cingino Dam in northern Italy, not far from the Swiss border, is one place where you can observe the Alpine Ibex’s gravity-defying stunts, but it’s not the only place. This behaviour is exhibited at other dams in the region.

Now in similar vane a huge chunk of salty spam can get the nervous Barbel Barbus out from its hiding place to seek out the meaty belly buster where a boilie may well be ignored. 

You see to recently a fellow blogger recently caught a massive Warwickshire Avon barbel of huge proportions. I did know they existed in the river, because I've seen a couple of colossal fish up close when I've been fish spotting in the summer.

But sadly they haven't thus far managed to put one on the bank, let along hook one. I can only imagine the feeling when the scales went past the seemingly unattainable and continued on its trajectory. 


My best fish 12lb 14oz's still a scale below what can be achieved if you put the effort in. Winter is the time to capture them as they are at their biggest, the banks are quieter too which suits me, because I prefer to fish on my own in general.

Meat or Spam is one of those baits there is always in my armoury because it's such a reliable bait for a big Barbel, and for the short sessions it's easy to chuck a couple of baits out and sit and wait for that bite only a Barbel can give. They just seem to love it, they really do.


So with the winter close season on the countdown I was down at a convenient stretch of the Warwickshire Avon to try and winkle a fish out in the two hours I had before dusk fell and I had to vacate the swim. Rods made up, baits out, chair unfolded.
Baits are big they always have been for me, no point having a canape buried in the hook, it needs to be a full on pig-out for me. 

After picking up a load of plastic bottles that the high waters had left I hunkered down for the session, the wind was gusting to such an extent there were white peaks on the water and on occasion the rod was taken off the rest.


As the sun started to set the resident owl came out earlier than expect and right out in front of me as it kissed the far bank, and went from left to right to try and spot any prey to target. Stunning creatures, they really are.

There are two here that I always see every time I fish in to dusk, a little like the fish that swim here, sundown is the time to see them, the time they start to move. Such graceful birds, they are up there with my favourite species, I love seeing them, doing what they do.


Anyway as dusk approached out of nowhere a bite came, the rod tip heading riverward and kept on going. I was in to a fish, oh yes !!!!  but hmmmm this ain't pulling back like a Barbel would. Damn, yeap a gluttonous Chub, which played on a Barbel rod, not exactly sport.

But still a fish I suppose. Now I quickly unhooked and released the fish and got another bait out but sadly nothing materialised before I had to go. I suspect if I fished in to dark things might be different but sadly this stretch I've not got the option.


 I need to have a think about the new season because I've spread myself too wide me thinks, the 'bomb hole' for instance I'm sure there are gems to be had but I've just not fished it enough. Two more sessions planned before the canal beckons, despite the water levels getting in the way I've had a pretty good season to be fair. 

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