Sunday, 20 December 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Grappling Irons and Great Conjunctions

3 Covid waves, 2 mutant strains and a partridge in a pear tree, January cannot come soon enough, apart from the end of 2020 which many of us want to see the back of December for me is usually eating and drinking in higher quantities than what I usually do. 

It's not only the quantities it's the rich gout inducing stilton cheese, the heavy ports, the red meats, chocolate, the chocolate. At the end of it I just end up feeling a bit blurrrrrrrrggghhhh so January is not only abstinence from the booze but also back to eating properly again. 

I mean just look at my take on Mac and Cheese, 3 different cheeses, bacon pieces and belly filling macaroni. It just wouldn't feature in our day to day food, but still it's good for the wellbeing and in moderation it's not an issue. 

My version uses a few Indian spices with a topping of chopped red onion and coriander. Obviously we needed something else to accompany it and that was, yes you guessed it, some slow cooked BBQ pulled pork shoulder. 

Now I don't usually fish for Barbel in the morning but with a window of opportunity it was rude not to. A big swim this so two rods were justified, one a boilie wrapped in my newly made homemade paste and the downstream rod a chunk of luncheon meat, a proven barbel bait of there ever was one. 

The plan was to play it by ear and maybe move swims if it was justified and with a chair to chill, this would gave my rotund belly some recovery time. Another change for this session was that I'd swap the lead for a feeder packed with a smelly groundbait laced with small pellets and some slithers of meat.

This is an area where I have caught some of my largest Barbel including the repeat capture of a 12lber but usually there are smaller fish hanging around too, in-fact the last Barbel I caught was from this area. With cold weather on the way I might try and squeeze in another session after this one too, however that would be further downstream and in to dusk hopefully. 

My PB Barbel of 12lb 14 ounces was caught in February on a huge piece of garlic spam and despite it being cold they are up for a feed but you just need to be bankside when they do, I've found it can happen anytime and it's usually short.

I'm wondering if I could dedicate a whole season to trying to beat my PB, but I'm not sure I could. 

Although there are much bigger Barbel to be caught on the Warwickshire Avon I like mixing up my fishing more than ever these days so a more single minded approach I'd struggle with I think. I blank more often than not for Barbel and I can count on one hand multiple fish captures, usually it's one bite one fish then you're done. 

I do enjoy the short in to dusk sessions though because especially when the rivers are clear that's the best time for a bite I've found, almost like a switch almost, so I suppose in some ways it does suit my fishing

Now as someone who has been spending many a biteless hour watching the stars over the years because of the by-product of fishing in to dusk and beyond, this month, look to the skies for an extraordinary sight one that hasn’t been seen for nearly 800 years. Hopefully I'll be bankside if I can because it could well be quite a spectacle. 

You see since October the two brightest and largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, have been moving ever closer together in the night's sky. And on December 21st, coincidentally the Winter Solstice, they will be within 0.1º of each other. That's about the thickness of a Dime chocolate bar at arms length.

Some people believe such a ‘Great Conjunction’ was responsible for the star of Bethlehem followed by the Three Wise Men in the Bible story, hence its nickname, the Christmas Star. 

Copious amounts of fruits of the vine spring to mind, still who am I to argue. 

Now in astronomical terms, a conjunction is the apparent meeting of two celestial bodies. It is caused by our line of sight to the objects, making them appear close together in the sky. 

The last time these planets appeared this close together was back in 1623 but they were too close to the Sun to see from the UK or other middle latitudes at that point. The last time they could actually be observed so close together was in 1226.

At the next Great Conjunction, on October 31, 2040, the planets will be separated by a greater distance 1.1 degrees. That means this year’s event is truly a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical occasion, not to be missed. But it won’t happen for long, and it would be easy to miss.

They will appear low in the sky, to the south-west. You can practice finding them now as the planets are already appearing close together. 

You should be able to just about pick them out by twilight and by 6.00pm, full darkness will have descended meaning the planets will be at their brightest, but you will need a clear view to the horizon, as by now they will be only two degrees above it.

Binoculars will be a great way to observe them, and will enable both in your field of view at once. 

A small telescope however will also be brilliant way to observe the spectacle and, depending on your scope, offer greater detail, enabling Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s pattern and moons to be picked out. Fingers crossed for some settled weather and clear skies. 

Anyway, enough of that, lets get back to the fishing....

As seems to be the norm these days the banks were deserted. I arrived at dawn and the sun lifted the gloom and illuminated the river. The water was 8.8 degrees, the colour dropping out but there was still some pace to it.

The baits went out, the feeder packed down a little firmer than I usually do to create a pungent scent trail. There were small fish in the swim as soon as the meat hit the deepish swim as I was getting small taps and knocks within seconds. Half an hour in, not much doing but then out of the blue the meat rods springs in to life and a fish is on.

I thought it was a chub at first but then when it surfaced I realised it was a splasher of a Barbel. It jumped in to life then and gave a decent account of itself but ii was landed quickly enough. Not a big fish so I didn't bother to weigh it so I took a quick snap and returned it to where it came.

It was a lovely mint fish though and some really vibrant colours, I thought I was on to something, but no despite plugging away and then in the end moving swims for the last 45 minutes that was it.

The chub were suspicious in their absence too, still it was a cold day and the wind making it feel rather bitter. The target quarry was landed though and I couldn't argue with that. I've struggled in the past here recently but it's nice to know they are still there to be caught.

I fancy a decent one now though so might well visit the syndicate stretch and have a try for one where the targets are relatively unknown and thus far the fish caught have all been doubles. Got to be quick though as the weather gets much colder from Wednesday next week and I'm dusting off ones Pike gear.


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