Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Douglas Firs and Desideratums

House music might be faceless, it was still incarnated by the mythical yellow smiling face. Not to be confused with the much more modern emoticon which rose with internet and instant chats, the smiley face arrived in the late 80s and was to be forever associated with acid culture and everything it implies. 

Now in England it is Bomb The Bass who makes it official by putting a bloody smiley face on the cover of the head banging “Beat Dis” in 1988, they also add it in many of their videoclips at the time.

DJ Danny Rampling then uses for the flyers of the unforgettable Shoom club and a few weeks later acid house will become nation whose flag will be a yellow smiling ecstasy pill, much more politicised than one could think. The rave culture I was a big part of, an era to never be repeated I don't think. 

Now ok, a little unrelated but I loved this, you see travellers driving in Polk County, Oregon, might be getting a strange feeling that someone is watching them. And in a way, they are correct. Above them on the forested hillside is a giant smiley face of their own. 

It appears annually in the fall when the trees’ needles change colour. The face, measuring approximately 300 feet in diameter, was well thought-out. 

The eyes and mouth were planted with Douglas fir, while the much lighter “yellow-ish” colour of the face was created by planting larch trees proving to be most important. 

Now Larch is a conifer with needles that turn yellow and drop off in the fall, which is why the smiley face is best visible this time of year. 

To achieve the oval shape of the eyes and the outer circle of the face, the planting crews used ropes. Those driving along the highway will be able to see the huge smiley face every fall for the next 30 to 50 years until the trees are ready to be harvested and processed into lumber.

Possibly 2021 is one of the most important years to be able to view such a sight. 

Because we all may need a friendly face and a smile, especially one almost as big as a football field. 

Heck those toxic twitter users could do with one of these to light up their lives, dip ones toe in, then straight out again....

God I'm rambling....

Bored yet, as I'm getting there....

Anyway talking about needing a smile, working from home ain't all it's cracked up to be, and I for one are struggling the monotony of it all, the latest lockdown doesn't help for sure as weekends can become very much groundhog day when you limited to what you can do, where you can go. 

Luckily we can still go fishing and a post work trip was on the cards though and I'd better seize the opportunity hadn't I, anything to keep ones well-beng in check, you see by the time I'd finished this short session down at the syndicate water Storm Christoph would be winging its way towards the Midlands ready to dump as much rain as it could get away with.

Now some areas of the North could expect 100mm's of rain apparently with a number of amber weather warnings have been issued for parts of northern and central England, with those in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West, East Midlands and the east of England likely to be hit worst.

It warns of "danger to life" due to fast-flowing or deep floodwater and a "good chance some communities cut off by flooded roads".

Now here in Warwickshire 40 or 50mm is expected but with the ground already saturated the local rivers from being fishable again, would likely be over the banks once Christoph had been and gone.

With the air temperature 10 degrees and the low air pressure as I write this any rise in water temperature, even a degree or so could well get a Barbel to venture out from its hiding place and go mooching around for food. The session almost dictated itself, Barbel it was.

Given the choice of targeting only a single species of fish for the rest of my fishing days Barbel would be quite a bit down the list I would say. Ok they pull back, and I wouldn't deny them that, but I don't find them particularly hard to catch providing you have fish in front of you.

That's the biggest problem in the Warwickshire Avon where Chub and Bream now seem to dominate , those Barbel I'm finding harder to track down. Those stretches that did contain them in numbers the biomass certainly reduced and I fish many a blank sessions before a Barbel turns up. 

I used to be able to rock up on a certain stretch half an hour before dusk and almost guarantee that I'd be walking back to the car with a wet net and a smiley face. Not any more though, fish the same stretch, maybe 1 barbel in every 4 or 5 sessions. 

Now ones restless legs caused by Willis-Ekbom Disease doesn't help matters because I hate sitting behind motionless rods. It's why roving works for me so well if I'm to fish more than a couple of hours, that's why generally I prefer to fish for Barbel in the summer months when the rivers are low and clear so I can actually see them.

Feed some swims with pellets let them rest and then return to see if there any fish feeding to drop in a matching bait. I've also had some success fishing a large buoyant float with a chunk of meat suspended under it, or the simple rolling meat with a freelined piece of meat trundling over the gravel amongst the streamer weed. Those sessions I can cope with, not sat behind a motionless tip for hours on end.

This short session wouldn't quite be grin and bear it, because two hours is just about dooable when I've untapped quarry to catch. I don't want any old Warwickshire Avon Barbel I want a big'un. Well what's big, well to get in to the 14's would be nice, 12lb 14oz being my current PB which I caught a couple of years ago now. 

This stretch sees little pressure and two good doubles have already come out to me and another syndicate member and I know from fishing another couple of stretches a short distance away, there are decent Barbel here to be caught, you just need to be in the right time, the right place. 

So better get the rods out hadn't I, a groundbait feeder filled with goodies and a pungent hardened boilie on the hook was the method of attack. There are some good Chub here to be caught as well, but if there were any around I want to know that even after some persistence plucking the bait would still be there.  

The fishing hut came in handy because as soon as I got there the heavens opened and I had to take shelter for a while. Still, some of the cobwebs were worth admiring and I had to go in and out for the 2 and half hours I was there.

Anyway a short session an even shorter post about it because to cut a long story short I blanked. There was only one fishable swim really and not my chosen one but usually there is at least a chub or two in the swim.

But not for this session, everything pointed to a fish, the water levels dropping, the colour, the pace of the water and the temperature that had increased a couple of degrees since the weekend, but nada, not a jot, not a sausage.

Were there any fish in the swim at all ?

Well there was, however I'm not sure what, you see for the last half an hour I baited with a whole lobworm and two halves and was having the odd tiny indication on the rod top, certainly nothing strikable, what I didn't expect though when packing up, that whatever it was, removed them from the hook entirely. 

Eels ? not sure as they give nice positive bites after usually hooking themselves, small perch ? I don't think so as they usually leave at least some dregs behind. 

Answers on a postcard please....sadly a session as dull as the weather


  1. Interesting as usual but, I must take issue of the birth of the smiley face. It was 'invented', if that is the correct term, in the 1960's and was generally worn as a patch on one's jeans or jacket. It later appeared on T shirts which, up until that time had been patterned but did not display mildly ironic comments.

    The Acid movement adopted the smiley as their logo after it had appeared as decoration on LSD tabs.
    I'll be back next week to tell you how the Warwickshire Avon got it's name :o)

  2. No doubt about it :), hence why I said incarnated, so embodied or personified I suppose. Acid house just adopted the smilie face for their own.


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