Thursday 2 August 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Bushy-tails and Beechmasts

In Celtic mythology, Fagus was the god of beech trees. It was thought to have medicinal properties, beech leaves were used to relieve swellings, and boiling the leaves could make a poultice. Forked beech twigs are also traditionally used for divining.

Due to its dense canopy, rarer plant species are associated with beech woodland, such as box, coralroot bitter-cress, and a variety of orchids including red helleborine. Beech woodland makes an important habitat for many butterflies, particularly in open glades and along woodland rides, and the foliage is eaten by the caterpillars of a number of moths and the seeds are eaten by mice, voles, squirrels and birds.

The masts of the Beech tree offer an alternative to hazelnuts, albeit small in size. Containing a high fat content, oil extracted from the masts was used for cooking and lighting in the past, and once it had matured was claimed to be no inferior to olive oil. Beechmasts are very fiddly to shell and nut quality can be hit and miss.

The kernels can be nibbled on raw while lightly toasting them really brings out a pungent nutty flavour. There is an eighteenth century reference to the kernels being put in soups. Another old source comments that suitably treated they could be turned into bread, it is also claimed that roasted beechnuts have been used as a coffee substitute

Yeah tell me about it….!!!! I've got a shed load in my garden to get shot of.

So why then for such a revered tree the pods or beechmasts are like something Lucifer dreamt up, the triangular beech nuts form in prickly four lobed seed cases and open out visually like something from the Day of Triffids step on them with bare feet, you know about it, they hurt, proper hurt.

The overly large tree in the neighbour’s property which boarders mine has a canopy that covers some of my decking and the resident squirrel has been taking the pee recently.

Like a boisterous baby chimp, jumping up and down whilst clinging on the tree with such vigour, the pods have been littering where I and the kids put their feet.

As quickly as the sharp droppings are removed, they return. Weirdly the strong wind we had the weekend didn’t really have the same effect as the hyperactive nut grabbing tree rats.

Now a couple or three years ago now I trapped and ‘rehomed’ another offender and branded it with some bright pink spray paint !! I had in the garage and yet despite being ‘relocated’ a mile away in a local wildlife reserve, the little git returned and proceeded to take the proverbial Mick out of Mick.

He was after the peanuts in the bird feeder and I got through three or four before I found one proper squirrel proof, such their gnawing ability. 

That rascal reveled in his ridicule however it eventually got bored with the lack of nut success he was having and luckily went to annoy someone else. So let’s hope this one gets bored quickly too as I may have to resort to some more underhand tactics, that or shell out another load of dough to get the tree lopped back again.

Unlike this brazen squirrel the Chub of late have seemingly gotten even more cagey and suspicious from when I first started catching them, maybe the fish learn quick and the floating bread spells danger to them like it might not have done before. The last session was much tougher with fish only caught when the bait either went properly tight to cover or right under it and the usually productive swims had gone dead. Previously despite it being gin clear they were happily feeding in open water, that had now gone out of the water.

For this session the floating bread was ditched for a surface lure, this means no freebies but having witnessed the Chub from above in one of the swims ignoring the bread completely and happily let it drift past, maybe something they’d not been used to seeing but looked tempting might be worth a try. They are inquisitive indeed and often rise for a butchers before quickly deciding to take it or not, something out of the ordinary may well be the answer.

I’d tried a static bread bait recently which didn’t really have much effect but headed in to dusk I'd have a medusa rig baited with some worms I had to use up.

Enough of the preamble, so the session….

Well with the swim occupied I wanted to fish at the end of the session with the occupier who was targeting barbel already having a couple of big Chub on pellet I had to make do. I managed a 3lb 8oz chub quite quick from one of the secluded swims where the stealth approach is necessary but despite roving around and trying a few swims that was the only fish that decided it liked the lure.

It came out from its sanctuary just as the lure went under some cover and properly nailed it too. It gave a proper good scrap as well and nearly did me over in a reed bed but I managed to land after I let it some slack.

The last swim which is a bit deeper the medusa rig went out and initially there were some small fish attacking it, most likely minnows but a tell-tale pull on the rod a chub decided that it would like a mouthful of the wrigglers. I didn't weigh this one but it was around 2.5lb I'd say, the swim then went dead so it was time to head back home for a glass of vino with the Wife.


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