Thursday, 13 December 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Hobgoblins and Hog Grubbers

If you want to guarantee an argument at an average club AGM, two subjects are sure to bring one about, all-in match fishing and night-fishing. There is a considerable body of thought which seems to imagine that night-fishing is unfair, to whom? the fish? or to other club members? or anything that happens at night must be naughty and immoral. This is a delusion shared by numerous nurses' home Sisters, but perhaps with more justification but I digress!

You see the arguments against both these views have been well rehearsed on countless occasions that night-fishing is a skilled branch of the art, requiring a range of new aptitudes anything but unfair except to those who haven't learnt them, that having night-fishermen on the bank amounts to 24-hour bailiffing. The anti-night men feel the way they do because of a gut-reaction. It isn't well reasoned, and therefore they cannot be easily reasoned out of it.

However it’s 2018 and that comes with limitations, even when the club members have been won round, a great many leases from farm owners and landlords have restrictive clauses forbidding night-fishing. And there are often good reasons safety by the waterside and legal responsibility for accident and injury, security of adjacent property, disturbance of residents nearby.

For the sad truth is that the protagonists of freer night-fishing seem to imagine that all potential night-fishermen are as conscientious and courteous as they.

A few rotten apples and dodgy characters will spoil the barrel, and the nocturnal louts can make restrictions be clamped down on the law-abiding majority.

First let's consider the daily rhythm of activity of both men and fish. During the summer, daylight lasts from 3 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. in June. Early-season night-fishing then is about a 4 1/2 hour period out of 24. In December on the other hand we are thinking of daylight from 7 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., so the night lasts for 14 1/2 hours out of 24. By calling them both night-fishing, we are lumping together a very thin slice of cake with a very thick slice.

Human social rhythms are much less flexible. Outdoor occupations, like farm work or gravel extraction, have to follow the hours of daylight in winter but the urban occupations of the majority of us follow a clock "nine to five" or whatever. It follows that fishing after work in winter must be at night for most people. If they can't or won't, they are restricted to weekends for angling in daylight.

Thinking about it logically the daytime summer angler has nearly six hours before work and five after in June. He will disturb the water throughout the daylight hours, though less in the morning before socially-acceptable breakfast time.

Human disturbance is a considerable factor during the nine months of the season which affects fish behaviour particularly in small waters where the fish are always near the bank. Even in a larger water where fish have the option of moving out to the middle, this is still affecting their behaviour, would they have moved out there if they hadn't been disturbed? It is no coincidence that fish move back close in during the quieter night.

Disturbance isn't the only factor affecting fish daily activity it's merely the easiest for the human angler to predict. Other water sports keep an even more inflexible pattern than anglers, boats and water-skiers seldom move before 9 a.m., and there's a happy shortage of nocturnal water-skiers! I wish they'd try it as it might thin their numbers down permanently.

Fish have their own 'circadian' or 24 hour rhythms independent of human disturbance, from anglers or anybody else. Disturbance superimposes an extra pattern of activity on those that are already there.

All animals have circadian rhythms, even humans. Animals kept in total darkness to an approximate 24-hour cycle of sleeping, activity and feeding. Human volunteers living down caves do also. There is an 'internal clock' in all of us that gives an approximate timing, and the actual daylight (or tides) corrects when the 'clock' runs fast or slow. Fish have the same internal clock, and daylight corrects it in the same way.

Fish of course are cold-blooded they will be affected by temperature and its rate of rise or fall. A cool starry night after a hot day may bring the temperature down enough for them to feed so the books say. All I can add is that water has a high specific heat; it cools quite slowly, and a drop of 3°F even in the margins is all one can expect on most nights.

The best nights I've had have been those still muggy summer ones, where the temperature hasn't fallen at all. But temperature change is yet another pattern superimposed upon the basic circadian rhythm. Barbel particularly the big ones, seem to confirm to their timetable like my Ben does to his feeding times.

How can we fish more effectively at night? Firstly we can be comfortable.

Even a summer night, short though it is, can be by cold. The science of staying warm is quite simple.

The insulation is always air, trapped in layers next to the skin so the heat cannot escape. Each human body is effectively a 100 watt heater, and it's your body heat that warms this layer of air.

Trap the air so that it can only get out with difficulty, and you'll stay warm. Hence get warm to start with and stay warm after. In winter, put your clobber on before you leave the house, drive there with the heaters on. In summer, start wrapping up before it gets chilly.

Preparation is the key for me when I fish in to dusk and beyond, the minimum of tackle, rods set-up, baits ready because the last thing you want to do is having to fish with your head torch on all the time. Artificial light to a minimum unless photographing a decent fish, alarms, isotopes or both for bite indication and what can help is the company of others.

Fishing in the dark heightens the senses, a foxes fart amplified to have seemingly come from an animal 100 times bigger.

I didn’t enjoy it at first but could easily do a night fishing session on ones tod because not only has the grim reaper not graced me with his presence but the drunken towpath tredder hasn’t either.

Anyway back on track, talk about disappointing, my usual Zander fishing spots have been more miss than hit recently, and a trip to the syndicate stretch didn’t produce anything either despite the recent rod bending of others. So this session I was invited by Nic from Avon Angling Uk to fish the private stretch he has access to on the Warwickshire Avon where he has been picking up some nice Zander. Night fishing isn’t an issue, the access good so I was looking forward to this short after work session to see what we could pick up. 

Nic often night fishes but has been recently disturbed by trolls with nothing better to do, but less of that said the better, don’t want to give these ogres any air time, back to what we both like doing and that’s catching Zander.

Now the last time me and Nic fished past dusk it was at a busy section of canal where decent Zeds were meant to reside.

Sadly that evening nothing of note was caught, eventually an was otter spotted which didn't help maters, however that sort of called time on the proceedings so I was hoping this session would be more fruitful.

So, how did it go….

I had my usual smelt and roach deadbaits on a simple running rig with light bobbins and alarms as bite indication. The rod tops illuminated with a chemical light just enough to see where they are and what they were doing.

Now I suppose arriving in the dark and fishing in to dark isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but as I said before the minimum of tackle, the rods ready to cast out, I was fishing in less than 10 minutes after parking up.

The weather had got notably colder for this session and the water felt proper cold too, in-fact under 3 degrees air temperature looking at Nic's thermometer and water temp down 2 degrees from when he was here last. The sky was clear and with some of the moon still showing a head torch was only required from time time. There was a nice slack bit of water right on-front of us and a quick dunk of the lead a nice bottom as well, a Zander if it were in the area should spot that pretty easily.

So four deadbait rods out, a social catch-up and wait for those bobbins to rise.....

And they did too, mainly on my rods but nothing that materialised in to a proper bite. One proper bobbin lifter and maybe a dropped take had a stab wound on the smelt, but they were certainly not in a feeding mood. But then they are cold blooded after all, so they probably needed to acclimatise by remembering where they put that extra layer.

So with a frost overnight and toes and fingers getting cold after 2 and a half hours or so we called time to the session, and agreed to give it another go when conditions were more favorable. There doesn't look like there will be that much time to weight either as Friday looks nice and cold but dry, but then Saturday onwards looks like milder conditions with a dumping of rain.

I need to catch some fish and get a bend in ones rod, hey, I know a place....


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