Wednesday 19 September 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Flections and Flosculations

Few animals lend themselves more readily to anthropomorphism than the hedgehog, and so it is hardly surprising that Mrs Tiggy-Winkles should long have been a staple of children’s stories.

Hedgehogs, however, do not merely pander to our sentimentality. Perhaps more than any other animal, they enable us to get up close to the wild. They can be met in suburbs, in gardens, in parks. There is no need to be a seasoned naturalist to glimpse them snuffling busily after beetles, worms and slugs. Hedgehogs live alongside us, but not as livestock, not as pets. They are our surest, our most familiar gateway to a fascination with the natural world.

The view from Brockweir bridge....
Now a recent’ish study conducted to look in to hedgehog populations showed that entire swaths of the countryside have become hedgehog-free. Of 261 sites surveyed, traces of hedgehogs were found in a mere 20%. Shockingly, none was found in the south-west. An animal once ubiquitous in our fields and lanes is facing extinction.

It is no coincidence that the decline in their numbers should have begun in the 1950s, when hedgerows began to be grubbed up, fields soused in pesticides, and agriculture expanded on an industrial scale. Nor is it any coincidence that the rate of decline should have accelerated since the 1970s, as the road network was expanded, and the volume of traffic increased.

Hedgehogs cannot survive without the large numbers of invertebrates that are sustained by a healthy countryside. Nor can their populations flourish if their habitats are sliced and diced by ever more gashes of tarmac. 

Stranded on what in effect are islands, surrounded by hungry and predatory badgers, and poisoned by insecticides, it is little wonder that hedgehogs face a struggle to survive. 

Badgers are certainly on the increase, one even decided that it liked the front of my car a few  years ago, and they’ve had the blame for a liking of little baby hogs to supplement their diet. Oddly of late though, I’ve seen more hedgehogs out and about on my travels than badgers, I suppose it helps that I’m often out of the house, at dawn and dusk. 

There seems to be more slugs about this year, whether or not that has got to do with anything I’m not sure. The thing is, us anglers get to see wildlife that others don’t, even Sam saw his first hedgehog the other day, which again is encouraging, as he could put a face to a name, and only ever seen pictures of them in books.

Now talking of wildlife we attended the Brockwier annual soapbox again the weekend just gone and a wildlife trust volunteer I got talking to hadn’t seen an Otter in the wild in the UK, which I found bizarre, considering the amount I see these days.

He was amazed I’d seen them in the daylight hours, errrrr because they are so used to humans now, again us anglers are in a prime position to see things others wouldn’t, the nations waterways have always been a hotbed of activity, were are lucky as anglers I tell thee.

Anyway back to the session, I’d earmarked this swim for a while now, situated on a bend it was also a holding pool as such as upstream it was shallow and thick with streamer weed, downstream, sluggish and much deeper.

Close in it is quite deep with a nice glide, the far bank, like a mill pond just beyond the crease. The plan was, because as you know I always have them, was upstream to fish a boilie with a paste wrap and a PVA bag of freebies, and downstream, just off the main flow fish a lump of spam again.

The rather large overhanging tree had been trimmed back by some hapless hackers but there was still enough of it left to provide some cover for any large fish that decided to reside there. Now this would be another short after work session to try and winkle out a Barbel as dusk, because they are like a switch down here, cutlery banging on the table like my eldest son Ben, they are in a routine.

That’s the good thing about fishing for them, forgot the spending countless hours behind motionless rods, fish at the right time, you can save yourself a load of thumb twiddling time. For those that have diary makers like me it’s ideal as you can cram more sessions in without fear of upsetting the heirs and assigns.

Within half an hour or so the boilie rod received some attention and it didn't let up for the whole session. Plucks, bangs and pull which were obviously inquisitive chub, however a 6" pull of the rod tip continued and I received my first proper bite.

At first I thought it was a chublet but on closer inspection it was an ickle Barbel. I'd had one a little bigger than this when fishing the fast shallower water when float fishing a chunk of meat, sadly it dropped off before I could net it but certainly encouraging considering a small fish down here is a 5lber.

Now I set my hairs up long like the pubes in urinals at work belonging to those far flung, so headed in to dusk the bite response was ridiculous. So much so I was worried about the meat bait still being attached so I ditched it for another boilie with paste. With 20 minutes left a determined Chub eventually snared itself and no more bites materialised.

I'm sure if I scaled down the gear, put the bait tight to the hook I'd have landed quite a few Chub, but I hate using Barbel gear for Chub, I'd rather not catch them and if I do, on my terms. So on to the next session, later on in fact, this time and hour in to dark hopefully at a section on the Avon that I can so that without breaking the rules.

With a little rain on the way I'm hoping that there might be a little pace in the water as I fancy trying some rolling meat as some of the swims are ideal for it. A moving bait is often need for success rather than failure and having using the technique before a few times, it's well worth a try me thinks. 


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