Monday 8 January 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Cheese Flingers and Polish Mingers

At eight minutes past eight the 8th of August villagers from Halford near Shipston-Upon-Stour descend on the bridge over the River Stour to throw cheese down to a legendary rat.

The giant Rat of Halford, I’m sure you’ve heard of it….

The Saxon village which lies on the Fosse Way, is said to have suffered terribly from rats attacking its crops around harvest time. Local folklore has it that the beast lurks in the river and Viking warlord called King Hal who in 888 AD founded the village but sadly his reign was brought to an abrupt end when he was killed by the giant rat which had mutated in the river and had grown so big because it lived off dairy products cast in the river during the making of cheese.

In order to try and stop the destruction, it's said villagers decided to offer the rats alternative foods to quell their hunger. So they began to throw cheese to appease the vermin and stop them from coming out to eat the crops.

Whether this worked or not is unclear but in recent years the villagers have resurrected the tradition, held annually at the same time and date in honour of the year the legend first began. Each year more and more people come along to the cheese throwing ceremony and people from as far away as the US travel to Halford to proceed across the bridge by torchlight and throw their cheesy offerings to the rat.

Those who throw their dairy products to the rat don't just satisfy his mythical hunger. The throwers are also said to be blessed with eternal life...well, eternal until the next year's ceremony anyway!

I’m all for British traditions I really am, especially if it has the potential to upset those not likeminded, but hey, if you don’t like it time to get thick-skinned.

Now talking about thick skinned this Polish Morliny Garlic Sausage I buy from Tesco is a bit of a ugly monstrosity in looks and contents it’s not something you’d serve up for a Sunday dinner but scan through the ingredients listed below quickly, and fast forward to the end.

Pork (57%), Water, Pork Fat, Pork Rind, Potato Flour, Salt, Soya Protein, Stabilisers: E451, E452, E261, E326, E508, Pork Collagen Protein, Sugar, Flavour Enhancer: E621, Antioxidant: E316, Garlic Powder (0.5%), Gelling Agent: E407, Glucose, Thickener: E425, Vegetable Extracts, Spice Extracts, Hydrolysed Maize Protein, Flavouring, Smoke Flavouring, Dried Yeast, Yeast Extract, Preservative: E250, Filled into an inedible casing.

Yes apart from containing some fish attracting ingredients such as garlic powder, spice, pork and salt it’s encased in a skin that needs to be removed before eating. I’ve used it successfully before as the skin acts like an anchor for the stop when attached to a hair, so you haven’t that thought in your mind about whether the bait is still on or not. Even a good going over by a chub the bait remains attached.

For this session however and a blank the day before I'd prep these meat baits ready for the following weekend where the conditions look for favourable for a Barbel….

Glug, freeze, glug, freeze and repeat, it really locks in the flavour.

Having been a little bored sat behind motionless roads, this session was to try and snare a decent Chub, the water temperature would have dropped and the clarity improved.

So it was lobworms and cheese paste for this session.....

When I got to to the river after de-icing the car I thought, "Oh Yes !!!" because it had that blue tinge about it, which down here usually means the Chub will be feeding and I'd be in for a good morning.

After the first swim,then the second, the third, the fourth without a bite I was reevaluating that comment, they were clearly not having it.

The river really did look perfect for a fish or two.

The banker swim the 5th to try, is just that, and I cannot remember ever not catching a Chub here in winter if the conditions are right like they seemed to be for this session and sure enough after about 10 minutes after the big lump of cheesepaste was in position, a couple of taps on the quiver then it whoops right over.

I'm in to a decent Chub, it's slack in the inside but the fish has quickly got out in to the main flow which is a fork in the river where the rivers combine and I'm hanging on for dear life with the rod bent double.

I eventually feel in control of it now but then it's got a second wind to try and escape and had managed to get under a raft which is being harbored by a couple of overhanging trees. Then all goes solid, yeap, this hard fighting Chevin has managed to get to the sanctuary of some snags.

I let it go slack, nothing doing, apply as much pressure as I'd like, again nothing doing, then again some slide strain applied, it's out, well the rig that is, the hooks pulled.

Damn !!!!

Some more paste out, no more bites, it's on to the sixth and final swim, again, no bites came.

A really tough session to be honest and it's really a mystery where the Chub have gone, not just here but many areas I fish their presence is lacking, all very odd. I've never seen any cormorants in this locality until this season, so I wonder if that's got anything to do with it. Remember the Chub I caught with large fresh chunk out his flanks ? Otters or Cormorants who knows but one thing is for sure, there must me something go on, because the fish are suspicious in their absence.

In this 6th year of fishing this small stretch for Chub I've never known it so hard going....


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