Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Sunday 27 January 2019

Warwickshire Avon – Pudding Sleeves and Puff Guts

Talking about milking it, crocodile teared Emma Fairweather has been doing the rounds of the media after her 'traumatic' encounter with the Duke of Edinburgh. Now Emma suffered a broken wrist in a car crash with Prince Philip near the Queen's Sandringham Estate, an accident where his Freelander overturned.

As I write this, she is still probably waiting for an apology from the “world’s most expensive plaque-unveiler.” his words not mine, because an apology from the palace wasn't enough. Just move on with your life for God's sake nobody was was badly hurt, then again rather than letting the insurance company's sort the mess out, there is a few quid to made stupid.

Emma Fairweather, still waiting !!!!
"The door is absolutely still open for him to reach out," and Ms Fairweather added she had "not yet been asked for a statement by police, and had yet to receive a full medical examination."

You cannot make this stuff up !!!!

Anyway maybe now it's time for the Queen to take the keys off the old duffer, and put hers away for good as well, it's not as if they haven't got chauffeurs to ferry them about when they need to get out and about. 

I worked on the Bentley State Limousine that was gifted to the Queen at Windsor Castle on 29th May 2002 It was presented on behalf of a consortium of British based automotive manufacturing and service companies, as recognition of her Golden Jubilee year.

I'm sure that's kicking around somewhere, it's certainly a car to be driven in, the leg room was ridiculous and more than enough room for all the corgi's and for them to stretch their legs and the Duke to fall asleep after his whiskey and milk. 

Failing that maybe it's time to get serious....!!!!

Now kidnapping and containment isn’t my usual approach when fishing rivers, but here are some lovely swims where the fish feel safe.

Fallen branches left to rest, forgotten trees harbouring flood debris from forgotten times and huge rafts of canoe stopping proportions, seemingly bottomless glides you can jump across and sheltered swims providing cover and sanctuary to untapped fish I’ve yet to plunder.

Now this particular swim the bigger Chub have some shoulder room rather than having to mix it with the youngsters in the mosh pit and this swim would be one of four I’d fish for this morning session. A stiffer rod, a 3g (2 SSG) coil feeder to try a method out George Burton has been using recently and no hooklink just straight through to a size 12 specimen hook. Bait well bread flake and a few bits of steak I had left over from the Chevin session midweek.

Anyway enough of the babbling prelude, how did the session go ?

My God it was blustery, the wind was bitterly cold as well, the temperature flattering to deceive. I was struggling to stand up at one point such the power of the wind. Some rain overnight had boosted the levels but the water would have been cold, very cold I'd imagine. There was a slight tinge of colour so I expected the fish to feed, but the session was tough.

About 2 hours in to the three hour session, and with the first half an hour spent pre-baiting, I was contemplating calling it day, but I stuck to the plan and eventually I was rewarded.

Bites were difficult to see because the rod tip was bouncing around like a good'un, but this was a confident pull and a fish was on.

I could tell it wasn't a big fish but a welcome fish all the same because it was like a bar of ice when I unhooked it. I retained that in the net to see if anymore fish were in the swim, but after 15 minutes I moved on to the next swim. This was the intended finishing swim, because fish here if hooked and banked are generally over 4lb in weight. The first tap came quite quick but it didn't materialise in to a proper bite for some reason, it was certainly a fish for sure.

After half an hour without further indication I decided to finish a little earlier, it was obvious the fish were not feeding because usually I'd get a bite in every other swim. There was plenty of debris coming down and that certainly wasn't helping, and the water temperature taking a dip overnight there were probably huddled together sulking. A nice morning though with some wild weather, oddly enjoyable on the whole.

Oh and as I was driving back listening to the news on the radio, this mostly prewritten blog post has an update, you see, because apparently the Duke, sorry one of his minions has written to Ms Fairweather to shut her up, sorry give her an apology.

Thank God for that, I thought there was another sleepless night was on the cards.

Friday 25 January 2019

‘Not quite’ The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.106 – Mud Larks and Muckworms

Battered chips a ‘Game Changer’ according to someone in work who is a partaker in all things bad. Now the use of 'Game Changer' doesn't usually come without merit attached. Apparently these orange chips are to the Black Country what jellied eels are to London or pasties to Cornwall. These distinctly coloured chips are an authentic style of chip dipped in an orange coloured batter before they are fried.

Believed to have been a delicacy of the war years, they were made to break the monotony of wartime fare.

The fried potatoes are so orange, non locals would be forgiven for thinking that it was the oil that needed changing, sometimes with a hint of paprika for an extra orange glow, these chips are a black country favourite, and to some, considered the best in the world.

But which chippy can stake its claim as the pioneer?

A quick Google, everyone and their granny by the looks of it….

So how come I’ve not come across a chippy’s that serves these artery cloggers, I’ve certainly visited enough of them in my time, they look great.

Then again thankfully I cannot remember the last time I frequented where the coal seam comes to the surface, probably 20 years ago, back then it was like entering a land that time forgot so I can only imagine what it’s like now, then again probably not a bad thing for me as someone who struggles with the pressure of the modern world.

I'm now wondering if the over consumption of these chips are adding to the Oompa Loompa'esk orange 'glow' that many of the females that live in these provenances seem to have. Hmmmmmm I think the secret recipe it out, beta-carotene ?, you know the substance that gives carrots their orange colour. 

Anyway back on track, ta’ra for now !! 

Talking of 'game changers' with a thumbs up bait addition recommendation from Nic from Avon Angling UK as he’s being doing well with predators of late, could this simple addition to ones armoury be the edge I needed ?

….back to that in a moment

As I was typing the title out it dawned on my just how many hours I’ve dedicated to catching a double figure canal Zander. I’m sure if the path I was treading was the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, which at one time the broadest and deepest in the world, I’d have concluded the quest some time ago. Its sheer scale and impressive engineering give way to a huge volume of water….

….big waters, big fish

You only have to see the stamp of fish coming out of the Lower Severn now, some right old lumps.

But hang on Mick, you’ve had some decent Zander from the canal, in-fact some right old lumps considering most of it you can stand up in, don’t chuck in the towel just yet. Now up at the 'Tefal Head' recently I backtracked quite quickly on the area I largely discounted because of the mediocre results over the last couple of years. It was now back on one’s radar, because a short morning session where in two short feeding periods I couldn’t keep a deadbait in the water long enough, it was run galore.

The fish in my title banner came from this area and a bigger fish a couple of bridges away so maybe the bait fish have returned in numbers and the zeds have followed, who knows but something had changed for sure. I've said before this location sees little or no angling pressure, footfall limited and it's the fact that you feel away from it all, literally here, like you're the whole area to yourself, and I'm sure out finned friends feels that way too, it's one of the places that I've enjoyed solitude on many occasions.

Was there a lump waiting in the wings, only one way to find out…?

So for this afternoon session where I’d hoped the boats had stirred it up a bit to decrease the waters clarity I’d fish two rods like I usually do with, roach on one and smelt on the other, but for something new and the possible game changer, is I’d inject some winterised smelt oil in to the deadbaits for added attraction because of the heads-up from Nic.

As you know if you’ve followed my quest that smelt worked so well for Canal Zander that given the choice of a bait to use exclusively, smelt would be my choice. The fishy cucumber pungency ,who knows but it certainly works well. I fish dirty looking and turbid canals in the main and maybe smellier the better despite the ridiculously good eyesight these fish possess. A winterised oil to leak extra attraction off, surely has to work Shirley ?

So a smelt on smelt combo, any good ?

Well, errrrr no, what a tough session, I've never seen the canal here so clear, in-fact I was in two minds to go home or another canal altogether. I didn't have that long though so best try and make the most of it. No boats either throughout the session and they despite being a pain for some, I've never found them an issue, they stir the bottom up nicely to go about their business with a smoke screen.

So lots of roving, lots of swims fished to try and drop a bait on a Zed's noggin, even in the usual productive oxygenated swim the floats remained motionless. The session wasn't all lost though as I could check out the oil leakage by dropping the bait in the margin, the picture above is not far off a couple of feet as it drops off, so you can see how clear it was, but it seemed that the oil created a nice big scent trail.

So back up to where I started, biteless after a couple of hours I decided to fish one of my banker swims headed in to dusk. A smelt to the left a roach to the right. As the light was starting to go, out of the blue the left hand rods float jumps in to life and within seconds is submerging under the water. It's carted nearly a couple of meters in as long as it's taken me to type this. I lean in to the fish and a Zed is on. I can clearly see its flanks as it's tried to escape, but after a short fight it's in the net.

Not a big fish, but a welcome blank saver and very recognisable with a big chunk out it's back, it's certainly been in the wars, what a tough session....

I fished for another 20 minutes till I could just about see the float but no one bites were forthcoming. I should have gone with what my head was telling me and maybe fish the 'deep bit' a ten minute drive down the road, because experience told me, I'd be lucky to catch anything, the fishing Gods were looking after me today, they must have been. 

Warwickshire Avon – Ox Houses and Omnivores

An unreachable swim harbouring some suspected BIG Chub within its confinement got my mind working overtime to trojan horse levels of subterfuge. The large overhanging tree with branches drooping beyond the waterline causing a tangled mess and a huge stranglehold beneath. With no obvious secret knock to get through the backdoor, and no obvious way to bypass the bolted and padlocked entrance-way emblazoned with Fortress Chevin, this short session needed some thought to try and penetrate its inhabitants.

They needed to be teased away from beyond the snag fest like a guard dog can be coaxed and cajoled away from his position with a massive marrow ambrosial.

A plan was hatched….

Under the dense cloud cover and headed up to dusk and a 'tad' beyond some chunks of raw braising steak with its stale sock pungency would be strategically placed upstream away from the fortress in a circular pattern, and  to provide a scent trail to try and get those pharyngeal teeth chattering.

Positioned slap bang in the middle of the orbicular inveiglement would be a large piece of the bloodiest of the cheap onglet impersonator buried in a size 6. Now when fishing for Chub of this scale and statue I've found that if you tighten up to the bait and the line is to tight then they can tear off the meat from the hook in spectacular fashion, some of the bites are plain ridiculous.

I've found the way to approach them is to fish a link ledger to just hold bottom and leave a bow in the line. Bites are still forthcoming but as there is less resistance the feedback received through their blunt heads is minimal and they are happy to take the bait confidently rather than a smash and grab manner.

The weather had been bitter up to this session so much so the mornings icy patterns on my cars roof were something to behold and also a smattering of snow the day before. The knock on effect of that being that the frigid waters of the Warwickshire Avon were seemingly cold enough to freeze the Chevin’s chuff, maybe I was mad.

But these are hardy fish remember, they have evolved to deal with these conditions a little like the cropped topped weather braving clubbers of Newcastle. The antifreeze proteins within their piscine makeup disturb the water molecules in such a way that they cannot bond together and form ice crystals. 

Now chumming or the use of berley trail is nothing new and essential to catching fish such as sharks so why not a Chub.

The aim of a berley trail is to draw fish from the surrounding area to as close to your bait as possible. There is a key to successful fishing here, a good trail should concentrate fish around your bait. If the trail is going anywhere but where your bait is likely to be, then fish will be drawn away from your bait.

So “Mick why not use a feeder stuffed with mince?” Well to be honest, I like as little on the line as possible and the fact is, despite the bait being in open water once the Chub realises he is hooked, once he is snagged bound, less ‘sticky-outie’ bits the better. So the set-up well, a light link ledger on a running bead, a grippa stop on the line as the stop, and straight through to the hook, this gives a relatively undisturbed entrance in the water, not Peter Kay reliving his John Smith’s advert (Anyone still drink the stuff ?)

It’s a small stretch of river this a 5lber my best, but there were much bigger fish to be had as I've seen them, so anything to avoid detection is the key to success, these are cagey and easily spookable fish remember despite their bold biting and fighting capabilities.

I didn’t have long either, from hookbait in water I’d have an hour and a half maximum before calling time and back to the chaos. Some much needed midweek mindfulness, nothing better.

So Operation Tartare which was meticulous in the planning (well 10 minutes), a successful mission or just brass monkeys?

Errrr, well lets just say it didn't go that well, before getting to the chosen swim after putting a bait in two productive swims to try and net one quickly, but without a nibble I proceeded to the swim for the rest of the session.

The water temperature was cold at 5.6 degrees but I've caught Chub in colder waters than that, but here was the problem, I'm not sure what was going on upstream but the amount of debris coming down was boarding on the ridiculous. So much so I couldn't really fish in open water, as within seconds the rubbish collected round the line and the rod was off its rest.

As the light went the first indication came but with the countdown to home time up I had to make it count. A few tentative pulls turned in to a proper'un and stupidly I struck rather than let the bite develop further. That's typical of impatient me and despite recasting which usually means another bite is forthcoming time was called and I had to go with the tail between my legs.

So a blank !!!!

I've another couple of sessions planned though, canal Zander and also back to the Leam for some Chub, hopefully I'll have a bit more success. Oh and plans have been made to fish a tributary of the Warwickshire Avon I've not fished before, I just need to wait till there is some more water on it.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Warwickshire Stour – Buck Fitches and Bog Trotters

Hobbyless and good friend Dave admitted the other day that he often watches off grid survival videos where after building the shelter, making of the fire and cooking of the food keeps him in check like fishing does for me. It may seem a simple concept but it's a brief departure from an otherwise busy life like many of us lead, to one more simple.

One particular channel he was watching the closing scene of the video often ended with the cracking open of a can of beer or swinging a dram overlooking an untouched landscape, for Dave that was heaven, pure heaven.To be fair, if my legs ever gave in, I'm right on that one Dave, sounds right up my street. Now if only VR could advance faster than the Brexit process we'd be on to a winner.

It's sort of hit the buffers a little if you ask me but I'm hoping with 5G just round the corner and the exponential increase in computing power being able to become your own Robinson Crusoe will be achievable at the flick of a switch and the modern day narcissism with it's Instagram and YouTube Millionaires, Photoshoppers and lip filling, buttock lifting, HD browers, gone for ever, well for a couple of hours anyway.

Watch this space, I'm sure it's not that far off (crosses fingers)

Now for those that read my blog must know by now that fishing gives me a much need solitude and vitamin D loading far away from the madding crowd and I'm always up for finding new waters that are suitable for me to achieve that.

As you know I'm a planner for all my sessions and for this one, it started a few days earlier whilst enjoying a nice fire I'd looked at Google earth at a quiet section of the Warwickshire Stour I’ve got access to, that could well be home to some nice fish.

A few clicks later following the meandering course of the river the distance was bang on what I thought it was, yes a gnats nadger under a mile of virgin water to explore (to me anyway) and another small waterway to dangle a piece of bread or a lobworm or two.

I had a reccy here recently at the tail end and just exploring that small section it had character in abundance, my kind of water, so for this session I wanted to explore the upper reaches of the stretch just to see if I could get a bite.

Rivers like this are not likely to throw up fish bigger than what you find in the parts of the Warwickshire Avon I fish, however fish like the Roach which I’ve had some decent ones from the Stour in the past, enjoy these smaller waters just like I do. They can go out their daily business with fewer disturbances and one of the by-products of being more contained is the relative sanctuary and safety that these waters give over their parents.

Now Nic from Avon Angling UK who I’ve fished with on quite a few occasions now shares a similar mind-set as me on the whole when it comes to fishing, a specimen fish is secondary to the solitude and location that fishing these smaller waterways can bring. Waters where luckily a matchman’s trolley daren’t venture and its banks trodden by the select few.

The quality Roach he’s been catching in-particular have been an encouraging sign, and the hard fighting Chub albeit not huge haven’t probably seen a hook hence their spirited fight, what’s not to like, well unless you’re a Troll with nothing better to do of course.

I’d not fished the Stour for a while now so it was out with the 11ft TFG River and Stream rod fitted with a fast taper 2oz glass tip. As per usual with my small water fishing, priming a swim with liquidised bread is worthwhile as it often brings bites quick and as a roving angler with only a short session to fish, it can make or break a session.

Again it was cold but with hardly any wind and a lovely sunrise us anglers become accustomed to it was very nice to be out indeed, the river had a nice green tinge to it but you could see just how low the river is by just how lifeless it is. Some visible flow in a few swims, pedestrian in the main and the odd swim had topping fish but we really need some rain to get the river looking in fine fettle again.

Before I started at more or less the middle of the stretch we've access to I fed five or six swims initially and alternated between worm and bread throughout the short session, With rivers like this I've found if you're not getting bites quick it's best move to find the fish rather than the fish find you.

Talking about bread I thought I'd try the Warburtons special editions Sourdough sliced loaf to see if could rival the Blue, errrrrrr don't bother, not just for fishing, not a very nice colour or texture and to be honest it didn't taste much different either, oh well at least the wrapper looked good.

The first fish came after about the third swim I tried and was a nice small Chub that gave me a bit of a run around....

....and that's how it continued to be honest, lots of small Chub, one particular was a bite a chuck, only little chublets but as least I was getting bites.

The last but one swim there was a predator active because every so often a load of small fish came jumping out the water to try and avoid his clutches.

A lobworm went without hinderance so maybe it was a Pike that was giving them a bit of bother. The peg was noted though if I come here with some deadbaits in the future.

Oddly not one roach showed, but then with the liquidised bread visible a couple of foot down hardly a surprise, they like the bigger fish tend to like a bit of colour in the water to be confident enough to feed. Not a session for big fish then, but plenty of bites and it was nice to see more of the river I'd only seen on Google Earth.

Untouched and left alone basically, a canoeist nightmare, oh well, now wheres that thumbs up emoji !!!!

Saturday 19 January 2019

The River Leam – Double Juggs and Dilberries

In parts of the world blessed with effective, modern sanitation, it's widely understood that poo belongs inside a person, or a toilet. But if you like me, have stumbled upon the 'bowel movement bandit' like I have recently, there are people in society with obvious issues that like to defecate in public and leave their aftermath for all to see.

Yeap, in three different locations now over the last couple of weeks whilst bankside, in plain view, discarded dirty toilet paper with no attempt to hide it.

….WTAF !!!

Excuse my French !!!! now the horrible thing is, apart from the discarded dog poo bags that riddle the towpaths and public footpaths, we’ve now go to contend with the human stuff. Has any other pathology remained so unexplored? because a quick Google clearly this is a common problem, yet psychologists appear indifferent to or unaware of it, for God’s sake, there isn’t even a Wikipedia page about this!, I think I might start one.

There will always be accidents and emergencies, of course, and our shame may lead us to shirk responsibility for their consequences, heck I've been in a similar predicament but didn't have to stoop so low, but I hope you will join me in demanding that a behaviorist or relevant expert study the mind-set of habitually off-the-bowel bandits.

Do they yearn to return to prehistory, or just a time before plumbing? Are they resorting to the elemental means of marking one’s territory? Do they simply delight in disgusting the rest of us? I refuse to believe that we cannot know, it’s the truth we deserve, just not a big steaming pile of it.

*******’s You know who you are !!!!

Anyway back to the fish before ones blood pressure rises to dangerous levels, this little river in low summer conditions had looked incapable of supporting anything larger than an 8oz Roach but with the added depth and colour of the winter flow, it has taken a new and exciting appearance.

All the main river features are reproduced in miniature, fast runs between reed and rush beds opening in to quiet pools, smooth glides with even pace and depth, sharp bends with eddying slacks on the inside, and here and there overhanging trees and bushes with branches trailing in the beneath.

(Takes a breath !!!!)

The first reccy session here recently with George Burton showed that not only were there some nice Chub to be had, but also some cracking plump Dace as well. Now I don’t fish for Dace that often, however recently, the little Brook me and Sam discovered is now home to my beatable PB of 8oz’s, a water so small most wouldn't think there is anything in it. I should fish more of it maybe as I’ve only really fished a small section of it, and I’m sure there are more surprises to be had.

I love the spirited and almost Grayling like fight these ‘silver darts’ give, and despite being small, using balanced tackle they can give a nice bend in the rod.

It was a bitterly cold morning and a venue I’d only fished once before so the plan was to feed a little liquidised bread and fish a small piece of breadflake on the hook.

The rig consisted of a an Enterprise link ledger clip, a single SSG and on the quickchange swivel bead a Kamasan B520 size 12 hook to 3lb 2oz nylon on the business end, and that set-up would be used on my ickle 8ft Wand rod with 1.0oz tip fitted.

It’s a very sensitive blank indeed and can almost bend upon itself but it also has the backbone to get a Chub out from headed snag bound as it's predominately meant for winter F1 fishing on mud puddles. I'd probably use a small cage feeder on a slightly bigger river but the swims I wanted to concentrate on were that small that I'd rather try and keep less of a disturbance as possible.

This ickle set-up is great for ickle rivers like this....

Now this stretch despite being low and in need of more colour it was the sheltered deeper glides further down the stretch that I’m sure would hold some Dace of repute.

Its winter after all, so they retreat from the shallows and the faster oxygenated water like a lot of fish do to a bigger volume of the wet stuff where they feel more comfortable. Usually away from the shoal the larger fish are hanging in the wings rather than get involved in the kerfuffle.

I decided for this session to spend a little more time in each swim than I usually do, and as last time I wanted to walk the whole stretch to get an idea what swims were available I didn't spend that much time in each one. I still managed some nice Chub though, however despite Chub not being my target for this morning session they would be most welcome if I was struggling to track down the Dace.

So best laid plans and all that, Mick how did you get on....?

Well a bitterly cold morning meant wrapping up warm and there was bursts of light rain throughout the morning but the fishing made up for it 6 or 7 really plump dace from swims where could couldn't see the bottom, those swims meant roving to find them as the river was really low and clear as expected.

The Chub were biting as well with 5 smallish fish landed and 2 fish lost, the first fish got caught in the reeds near my feet and got properly wedged so I used the landing net to give it a nudge but that meant bumping it off :). The other Chub I lost was from quite an open swim but despite trying to restrain it's run the fine wire hook opened out and the fish stuck two fins at me, definitely the biggest fish I've hooked down here anyway, oh well....

"A river in decline" not what I've found, 2 sessions down this new stretch it's been great, especially as conditions haven't been that favourable. I cannot wait till it's up and has some colour, I'll go properly geared up for the Chub then, one swim in particular I've got my eye on. As I've said before ok not the biggest stamp of fish, but that's not what it it's all about, the peace the solitude and on my terms.

No discarded toilet paper today, just a couple of tree ornaments and couple of undisturbed dog turds....!!!!

Sunday 13 January 2019

Small Brook Fishing Pt.6 - No Stones to be Upturned, Loach by Design

The chance discovery of a tiny brook that was home to certain species of fish I’d not caught before had whetted our appetites. Before we fished it you see I stumbled upon a field report that spurred us on even more because of the Dace potential. Over five or so ‘field’ trips , Sam and myself managed to catch some nice fat dace, brook brown trout and even some roach.

After a session on my tod when a bullhead was caught without even a nudge on the quiver we'd scaled down our tactics for the next session and managed to register bites from a few Miller’s Thumb's to add another tick to Sam's species caught tally. However the interest didn't stop there because like the bullhead there was another fish here we'd not caught before, let alone seen, and that was the Stone Loach.

Stone Loach by rod and line, Stone Loach by design I ask you ?

The field report (screen grab below) was carried out some time ago now and they were already starting to dwindle in numbers, then again , the bullheads are still here, the Loach too ?, no reason why they wouldn’t ? Ok it was 20 years since the report, that's a heck of a long time ago, I had some hair back then and a bulging bank balance, how times change.

After some much needed googling to get some background information on this little fish a plan was hatched, now the Beardie or Stone Loach is a small, purely freshwater, fish, 140mm (5.5”) in length at most. Its body is cylindrical except near the tail, where it is flattened sideways, its eyes are set high on its head and its mouth low all adaptations for life on the bottom in and amongst stones and debris which luckily makes up most of this little brooks bed.

Its most noticeable feature is the six barbels set around its mouth (from which it gets its name “Beardie”), with which it can sense prey, also an adaptation for bottom living. Generally grey and brown, its tail is bright orange. It spawns from spring to late summer, shedding its sticky eggs amongst gravel and vegetation. For a small fish it is very fecund, one 75mm female was found to spawn 10,000 eggs in total in spawning episodes from late April to early August.

The species is found in clean rivers and around loch shores throughout west, central and Eastern Europe and across Asia to the Pacific coast.

In the British Isles apparently they were originally found only in the South-east of England, but they have been widely spread by humans for use as bait, Loach Tails are still used as bait for Salmon in some places, or for food, yes really.

The problem is they are retiring fish, and by day they lie motionless under a stone, so their presence is often unsuspected in brooks that hold a good stock of them.

At night they leave their fastness’s and feed, though their very poor swimming powers limit the length of their excursions. Apparently they are extremely voracious and will eat any living matter, nymphs, insects, crustacians, worms etc and it is generally conceded that they feed by touch and smell, aided by their barbels rather than sight.

They supposedly feed at or very close to the bottom.

The fact that they are occasionally caught by anglers (generally Gudgeon anglers) shows their appetite sometimes overcomes shyness, but anyone wishing to catch loach and rod and line should fish in darkness.

Pffffffffffffttttttttttttttttttttttttttt !!!!

Not sure I could justify fishing in to dark for them....

The Loach however has an interesting structural peculiarity.

It can breathe like other fish through its gills, but when it finds itself in water insufficiently oxygenated it will come to the surface to gulp down air. The air is dealt with within the intestines, a process known as intestinal breathing and oxygen is passed to the body.

The stream dweller has little need for this secondary breathing apparatus, but many foreign species of Loaches live in waters that dry up seasonally, and they are capable of subsisting in mud, breathing in pure air, until the water returns.

Could they be spotted a little like topping Roach at dusk ?

Now it’s surprising what you can find on the web these days and I found a pretty good report which confirmed their nighttime feeding habits (Nocturnal Foraging in the Stone Loach Barbatula Barbatula Fixed or Environmentally Mediated Behaviour ( Yes really, who gets these jobs ?, I want in)  that concluded that the small benthic dweller in temperate rivers and lakes, gradually shifts to daytime foraging when fish are hungry and no acute predation risk is present.

Foraging activity in Stone Loach always remained significantly higher during the night compared to the twilight and the day, independent of food availability, even after the fish had lost more than 20% of their initial body weight. The absolute levels of daytime activity significantly decreased, while nocturnal movements significantly increased. Activity stopped almost completely when a predator was present.

Unlike the Wife, the Stone Loach did not adopt daytime foraging even when there was no acute daytime predation risk and the fish were starving. This indicates that in Stone Loach an anticipated rather than observed predation risk is taken into account when estimating the predation risk at any time of the day.

Such a strict behaviour might be especially important for benthic dwellers with a low swimming speed, and therefore escape potential, in relation to fast moving daytime predators.

But there were some encouraging signs for a daytime caught fish mind you because smaller fish, for example, spent a larger proportion of their time active during the day in order to compensate for their body size, even though daytime foraging was riskier in the short-term due to a higher predation risk.

There was a glimmer of hope to one’s obvious insanity !!!!

So how to tackle up for these wee bearded beasties then?
To be honest, looking at this weight, length graph I stumbled upon, they ain’t ‘that’ small, so if I could register a bite from a bullhead I should be able to register a bite from a Loach that’s for sure.

Now they like gravely bottoms (don’t we all) so the method in one’s madness was to ditch the quiver set-up for bite detection.

Then maybe fish a moving bait initially, or one that slowly dragged along the bottom to try and get the fish moving if there were any in the area.  

So it was out with the 2g Drennan Crystal Dibbers, a tiny pole float, small in stature and unobtrusive to be able to tackle these lilliputian lethiathans.

A small hook, straight through to a tiny hook and a single maggot or small worm as bait. A small worm has ridiculous wriggling ability, far more than any maggot anyway, to get these fish away from their lair anything to catch their eye is an advantage over a grub.

I'd switch between the two during the fishing as there are some nice Dace to be caught here as well. The float would be fished over-depth so the bait would slowly move over the bottom, that was the plan anyway.

Now the 8ft wand rod would stay because the good thing about it is that the line loaded on the reel that I purposely had this brook in mind for is a light as anything, so there is little to no resistance meaning that the float could be cast in theory despite only weighing a little more than a gnats nadger.

As a back-up we'd have Sam's 5ft 5" quiver rod just in case the swim suited a static rather than a moving bait.

We had only explored a very small section of this brook so locations new and old would be sought to try and close another one of my challenges.

So anyway, enough of the preamble Mick, how did the first session go?

Well this location we'd not fished it before, but the field report as described seemed to come from this area and the access looked a little easier for me and the Tangleator to get fishing quick, not only that but it looked a decent length to start off with as well so give us the best opportunity of covering as much of this diminutive waterway as possible.

No messing straight in to it.....

Well to be fair I had some time to kill before picking the kids up from school so I went to go and case it out first and apart from it being probably a little too clear, wow what a little stretch. Plenty of character, easy access and also lots of different swims, deeper areas, shallow areas over gravel, even a weir.

So, how did the first session go ?

To be fair it went ok, we fished maybe 5 or 6 likely looking swims and Sam caught the first fish, a chunky bullhead and probably caught maybe 4 or 5 during the two hours session. The biggest not huge but went nearly 6.5 grams on the scales, so around 25% of the British record. All good fun though with Sam in amazement of the prehistoric look of the fish.

A small Perch was caught in a deeper area over some gravel but to be honest the little waterway could do with a bit more water on it, It was very shallow indeed in places and gin clear. The Loach remained elusive but then don't want it easy now do we.

"Daddy there MUST be fish in that small weir" "otherwise it cannot be called a weir"

And to be fair Sam was correct in his assumption, I cast his quiver rod with a single SSG link ledger to the tail end of the swim and 10 minutes when by without a nibble, but then all hell breaks loose and the tip is bouncing around like a good'un with the rod trying to leave the rest.

Sam strikes in to the fish and a fish is taking line, I grabbed it quick to get it under control and had to tighten the clutch up but after I got the fish under control I gave it back to Sam to continue on with the fight. And a good job of it he did too.

There was only one fish it could be....

Yeap a brownie, not a huge one, but for a tiny brook in Bards country, not a bad little catch. Now with Sam getting cold because of the cold wind, we decided to call it a day. We both love these little streams, ok not F1 carp to bend the rod, but come on, sitting on a seat box fishing a dirty manmade hole in the ground, or fishing for the unknown in a small brook like this, we know what we prefer.

We'll be back for those Loach, I'm sure of it....
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