Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Sunday 28 June 2020

The Tiny River Alne - Tiddlers and Tonitrophobia

Now serious adult anglers do not trouble themselves too much with the lesser species of the tiny rivers and streams, leaving them to the care of small boys with nets and jamjars.

These are waterways completely forgotten about, 'there are no fish in there' well, fish that would put a worthy bend in the rod, nobody would fish there.

Then there are the oddities like Sam and I....

"Sam what fish shall we try and catch ?"

"Well we have maggots haven't we"

"Yeah a pint or so"

"Well a Stone Loach or a Stickleback Daddy, I've still not caught one them have I ?"

"Nope, then again I've not caught a Stone Loach on rod and line either" "Thats sorted then, let's pop to the Alne, the little bit of rain we've had might have topped it up nicely too." "Sorted"

Now sticklebacks like the shrews on land, they are tiny but ferocious, I saw one once with a decent size roach which it bullied cruelly. The stickleback would get just above and well behind the roach and, keeping in its blindspot, and dart forward to take a bite at its dorsal fin.

Now the three-spined stickle stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, the best protected and the most adventurous and aggressive of the family. They are a widespread group of fishes, found all across the northern parts of the globe, in fresh or salt water, all small but well armed.

Many fish have a spiny, protective first dorsal fin, the sticklebacks have converted this to a row of separate spines, strong and as sharp as thorns.

The pelvic fins too, are no longer used for steering but have become sharp spines, and the first ray of the small anal fin is also spiny. This makes a stickleback a prickly mouthful for any predator, and in the three-spined variety the sides of the body are further protected by a row of overlapping boney plates.

In many ways it's a mercy that sticklebacks do not grow very large I suppose because like the bullhead, the 'Millers Thumb' they are fearsome looking things when the scale-up button is pressed.

Now Sam is still scared of thunder and lightning which has been quite prevalent of late, so a 4lb bullhead, a 3lb stickleback, yeah, it's good they are tiny. Otherwise we wouldn't target them.

Now we are a dab hand at bullheads in-fact Sam still holds the record of the biggest caught on rod and line by the Newey family. But there are other species that we've still to catch and I'm sure they are here on this diminutive waterway 5 mins drive away.

Thus far we've caught brown trout, bullhead, minnow, gudgeon, roach, perch, dace and chub, I'm sure these other species are here, clean gravely bottoms, deeper bends, yeap, they are all here. So simple tactics, an inaugural outing for my new tiny river and stream set-up and Sam would be manning his float rod.

We'd concentrate on the upper stretch of the river for this short morning session as it varies so much in such a small area, plenty to go out for sure.

I didn't get to fish it much last season because it was in almost constant flood. Rivers such as the Alne can rise and fall very fast but when the water table is already busting at the seams, then any rain whatsover it's over the banks again.

When we got bankside I thought the river would have more water on, sadly not though, thing is with small rivers like this, any deeper areas will hold fish. So rove around find any likely spots and fishing maggots bites come rather quickly.

A trout was the first fish to come which must have more or less taken the bait on the drop, not a huge fish, we've caught bigger fish here but they give a really good fight on light tackle.

Dace and minnows, and lots of them were the order of the day, but another trout at the end of the short session we got what we came for, dips on the float and a bend in the quiver.

You also don't get to see two kingfishers on a branch together that often, we did though.

Warwickshire Avon - Pallasethesia and Parapsychology

Now Gyro, pronounced “GHEE-ro” in Greek comes from the Greek word “gheereezo,” which means to turn. As mentioned above, it’s a stacked rotating pile of thinly sliced meat, either lamb, pork, beef, or some combination thereof, with latter-day renditions that include chicken and even fish.

As the tightly packed stack roasts upright, the layers meld together and the grill person manning the gyro rotisserie cuts off paper-thin slices, which he or she fixes in a pita wrap with tomatoes, raw red onions, parsley or lettuce, Greek yogurt or tzatziki, and sometimes fried potatoes and a sprinkling of paprika or cayenne pepper.

Gyro is the poster girl, so to speak, of Greek fast food, even though it may or may not be 100% Greek. It has a surprisingly long and, pun intended, rotating history.

The gyro as we know it more or less today first arrived in Greece in 1922, with the hundreds of thousands of Greek and Armenian refugees from Turkey and Istanbul.

As theories go for how food travels, the above seems fairly straightforward. This being Greek cuisine, rife with layers of history way more complex than a delicately spiced or marinated proper gyro, there are other theories as to the origins of this most delicious if somewhat less than wholesome wrap.

By some accounts, gyro is the scion of a long and old family of skewered meat feasts, one with roots that stretch back to the time of Alexander the Great and his returning armies, whose soldiers were known to skewer and roast various cuts of meat on long, swordlike blades over an open fire.

I got in to them in Shanghai oddly, not in Greece because they had a Sherpa service that was similar to Uber eats and the like. An army of scooter riders would bring food directly to ones hotel door from all manner of eateries, and I found a brilliant Greek restaurant in Pudong . Finish work, order food, jump in the shower, get myself sorted and then a knock on the door. They delivered alcoholic beverages too, you cannot argue with that.

So Coals to one side, whack the chicken thighs over to the other side of the kettle, lid on for 50 minutes, you've lovely tender chicken. Mix it up with the marinade, mine consists of greek yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cinnamon, allspice and lots of oregano. A simple greek salad and some rosemary garlic potatoes, again another simple but tasty meal that beats any local takeaway.

Anyway enough of the food talk, back to the fishing, a glutton for punishment, most probably but with some rain overnight some of it heavy and a top up during the day, I was back down the syndicate section of the Warwickshire Avon.

The temperature had dropped 10 degrees in 24 hours, no longer hot and stuffy it was a more manageable 19 degrees. The water is still crystal clear though so this session would be another in to dusk.

A similar approach to the last session with one small change, two rods again boilie on hair rigs, this time a pva bag of pellets but one I'd wrap in paste for extra attraction. As the light was going I'd use a lure again, this time a shallow diving minnow. A perch or a chub would be nice, well anything really, after the big bream and most welcome river carp, it was back to summer toughness.

Fellow syndicate member Dave Williams was bankside when I got there, he was finding the conditions testing too, the odd tap on larger baits the order of the day. I set the rods up in a swim upstream ready to cast out and went on the rove with the lure rod.

About the third or fourth cast I had a small perch take a grab at the lure and it showed just how clear  and lifeless the river was. Again in the same swim a small jack pike came for a look but didn't come and grab it. All very halfhearted....

After a couple more swims without any interest I was back at the rods and cast the baits out ready for the hour and a half wait in to dusk. Only a short session again this. Now Dave who was battling a shoulder injury decided to go and left with a blank. The best time was on the way though, when conditions are like this, it's the best hope for anything that will give a bend in the rod.

Sadly it played out exactly as the previous session, as soon as the light went the pulls and plucks started. Some of the pulls quite ridiculous but I knew exactly what they were, yeap greedy Chevin. It was a Barbel I was after, and they are here, a 12lber came out this time last week.

It was past dusk now and the black clouds that were in the distance now appeared over my head and it started to rain, a pitter-patter at first and then a full on downpour. I was starting to get ready to go and then a chub pull turned in to a proper bite.

A fish was on again, the first lift of the rod the disappointment could be felt. A craft Chevin hung itself again, and similar size to the last time. I didn't even bother to land it, unhooking it in the margin. It was 10.45pm, now, with the rain hammering it down.

Time to go, maybe next time then. Maybe it's time to fish somewhere where I know there are barbel in numbers.

Thursday 25 June 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Schadenfreudes and Scoville Scales

Ones jerk marinade has to suit the Wife's palate, the scotch bonnets sadly confined to just one each, more than that you see, she is reaching for the glass of milk , or a tablespoonful of youghurt with a rather hot and flustered look on her face.

Still look on the positive side of it, because I do most of the cooking, I'M in control of the scoville scale.

So to make the marinade the chilli's are blended together with ½ large red onion, 3 cloves garlic, 3 spring onion stalks, 1/8 cup white wine vinegar, 1/8 cup soy sauce, ½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon crushed pimento seeds, 1 tablespoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 tablespoon oil and a squeeze lime, and breathe !!!!

So marinade some chicken thighs for 24 hours, whack them on the barbi over the lumpwood and job's a good'un.

If you need some extra spice like I do, a dollop of hot pepper sauce on the side, you will never go back to a shop bought paste again, it tastes super fresh and fragrant, because, well it is.

Now the Jamaican's are very protective of their national dishes, and quite rightly so, so I won't go in to detail on my 'rice and peas' recipe that accompanied the chicken for fear of offending those that know what they are doing. It's a dish steeped in history, and like Britain's own it must be remembered, it is 'history' after all it shouldn't be forgotten.

One half of this popular dish is the staple, rice, now rice was popular in West African culture and the slaves brought the recipe with them to Jamaica and passed on the knowledge to their descendants. To help them adjust to their new, horrid environment, the slaves cooked food that was familiar to them, including rice and peas.

Jamaican rice and peas has been nicknamed Coat of Arms. Use of this term was first noted in 1930, when expert cigar maker and trade unionist Bain Alves recalled how hundreds of men and women at a race meeting in Kingston could get up to “a quattie rice and peas” also known as Jamaican Coat of Arms. Fast forward decades later and “Jamaican Coat of Arms” is still ascribed to rice and peas.

Have you ever wondered why Sunday is the most popular day for serving rice and peas? It’s certainly not coincidental. The practice dates back to the days of slavery. Back in the 1700’s, slaves were only allowed Sundays off from their backbreaking work. And on this day, the best foods were served,  chief among them was rice and peas.

From generation to generation, Jamaicans have been loyal to this dish and there are few occasions when rice and peas does not make the menu. In addition to being an important part of Sunday entrée, rice and peas holds centre stage at weddings, funerals, festivals and nearly every special event in Jamaica. Luckily no longer reserved for Sundays, you can even find rice and peas on virtually every restaurant menu on the island.

And why not, bring it on....

Anyway enough of that back to the fishing, a short session this, two pungent baits, two PVA bags of pungent pellets out an hour before dusk. There was nothing down on the clear and pedestrian river last visit here, but could dusk bring a bite I wonder, the difference in the river from when I banked the carp and bream was quite remarkable in such a short space of time. In 48 hours it turned from fill your boots to, dribs, drabs and dace.

  blend of natural Asian flavours and spices that make it smell unlike many other baits I use. It really is quite distinctive and banked me a few nice barbel thus far.

So on one rod a Dynamite 'Hot Fish' boilie which I stumbled upon a while ago when at one time they were only available in Europe. It's a mix of quality tuna grade fishmeal and bird food, green lipped mussel, another proven feed stimulant and garlic. But it's the

The second rod a Hinders Ramiz dumbell, which again is very pungent with meat flavours but also has added garlic which I find barbel particularly seem to love.

The bait was a few I marinated in the glug for a while. Now Hinders kindly supplied me some bait a while ago but I'd not had much time to use them an anger as the rivers were in constant flood last season, not just a trickle over the banks, but proper'uns "where does the river start and stop" levels.

Both rods for added attraction, a pva bag of cheese and garlic pellets....

Fishing big rivers since the start of the season I realise small rivers and streams are more my thing. It's the stalking approach I miss I suppose and the diminutive winding waterways that I feel more at home at. Still the fish are usually bigger in the bigger rivers and lets face it, big fish are most welcome when they let their guard down.

With little rain predicted this session would be make or break, as I needed some reward as I have the river Alne at the back of my mind wondering when I will pay a visit. I've a new set-up to that needs a inaugural outing and a sensitive quiver that needs a quivering.

It reached 32 degrees during the day so was nice to be waterside when the temperatures were dropping to give some much needed relief from the heat and humidity. Before the two baits went out, I'd chuck the surface insect lure around to try and tempt a cafty Chevin.

Enough of the preamble how did it go !!!!

Well when I arrived Martin Roberts was already bankside and was actually in the swim I wanted to fish, as it was the swim I fish in the main a couple of days earlier, he'd come straight from work and wanted  put some bait in, oh and also to catch a fish. He also wanted a nose at the stretch not having seen it before let alone fished it.

This is a stretch that hasn't been fish for a good while so I suspect despite the syndicates results this far in tough conditions, it might take a while for the bigger fish to reside here, rather than it being a pass through. A near 13lb Barbel, 13lb Carp and 6.5lb Bream ain't a bad return so far though.

After a quick natter I positioned myself downstream, I got the rods set-up ready to cast out and started to give the surface lure a go. There is mayfly hatch at the minute and combined with lots of insects drifting down the river, the fish are taking them off the top. Only small fish by the looks of it, but my experience of the Avon things don't really start to kick off for the bigger fish till much later on, when almost all the light as gone.

In these clear conditions the Avon is proper tough, if you can find a shallow fast running section that's your best bet, because the fish feel less vulnerable with the commotion that is going on.  A float fished piece of bread flake or rolling a chunk of meat often doing the business for Chub and Barbel.

There was plenty going on, but when Martin packed up and left to get his tea it was only then I started to get indications on the bait rods which I'd put out an hour before dusk when there was a nice sunset. I had one tentative pull on the surface lure so decided to sit behind the rods watching the tips and enjoy the evening.  The small temperature drop and light breeze making it rather pleasant, better than being stuck in the stuffy house anyway.

Not long after the bats came out, the first proper pull on the right hand rod. In the space of half an hour a few more plucks and then a proper bite a fish was on. I knew exactly what is was when it felt the first bend of the rod, a small'ish chub determined to get the bait off the hair when a little over the top and hooked itself.

I don't particularly enjoy catching Chub on Barbel gear so it was netted quickly and swiftly returned. It was dark now, 11.15pm in-fact, half an hour past dusk and rather than get the rod out again, after having poor sleep the night before I decided to pack up.

When the conditions are like this, low and clear dusk is the way to go, so I'll have another go soon maybe, next time, maybe I'll stay longer to. There was a notable change from motionless tips to moving ones, so at least being a virgin on this water, that's encouraging. Just before I left I put out some more freebies for the fish to feel comfortable. 

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Lustration and Lumpenintelligentsia

The explosion of craft beers available on the supermarket shelves has been a bit of an eyeopener. The small scale brewers now having a market they never thought they would have 3 or 4 years ago.

Market demand who knows ? the once Shoreditch stranglehold now mass market.

There has always been a demand for weird and wonderful beers and there also has been a large and well established micro brewery industry for years and years.

But it was very much hearsay and word of mouth, and to sample them yourself in any great variety you had to attend the local CAMRA beer festival and mix with those with beer guts, flat caps and ferrets.

Walk in to Tesco and the like now though, the shelves have changed, the humdrum bottles of Bishops Fingers shoved to one side, the bright orange small cans of Northern Monk Rapscallion Orange Zest now in its place.

You pay a pretty penny for these craft beers too, £3 quid the norm for one can, yes you heard right one measly can.

Lidl has realised this and luckily for those as tight as I can be sometimes there are from time to time some gems to be had at a price the layman is prepared to pay.

There are exceptions though, where I don't mind paying a little more if it raises it's hops above the parapet, you see I stumbled upon a coffee stout which was a collaboration by Brewdog and Evil Twin Brewing.

Now I'm not usually a fan of Brewdog beers in the main from their emergence on the market their growth has been quite staggering, but they seem to put out any old average beer out now just put a red mark in the market share tick box. I need to wade through the humdrum now to find one that suits ones well oiled palate.

The name and can design is utterly ridiculous, but these days when it's all about shelf appeal nothing is out of bounds it seems.

A heavy hitter at 9.0% ABV the imperial coffee stout is brewed with seven different malts, this is an incredibly decadent dark beer and is remarkable smooth. Chocolate, coffee and vanilla rise from the aroma, alongside roasted nutty notes and malt-derived bitterness.

Kettle-hopped with Chinook for an additional offset to the rich, creamy oats and wheat, this is a balanced, complementary beer lifted by the power of Nitro. Their words not mine, it's a good un that's for sure, so much so I cleared the shelves in a selfless act when in the local Tesco. It's like drinking a velvety Black Russian with the kick that goes with it.

I think what helped was the first one I had sank complemented a slow cooked barbecued lamb shoulder marinated in lemon juice, rosemary and copious amount of garlic which was very rich in itself. A fresh Greek side salad and a few oven roasted skin on potatoes cut in to uniform cubes only an engineering eye can deliver.

Life's simple pleasures must be embraced whenever possible in these troubling times to keep ones wellbeing on track without stumbling off the rails.

Now the other day, head down deep in to designing another automotive interior part to add to ones tally I realised I'd not taken a day of to myself since December which the annual trip to the Lower Itchen.

Many on Furlough feet up coffers full without having to work, I thought, what the heck am I doing especially since April I was no longer a long standing freelancer ( 21 years ) and the 12mth fixed contract I decided to take just at the right time gave me the standard permanent benefits.

So a belated Fathers Day present to myself I suppose, yeap I decided to treat myself to a whole days fishing. Some good signs as well, as I was typing this the Coronavirus R rating falling and infections well on the retreat.

Now I did wonder how I could cope with a whole days fishing as 5 hours is about my limit, but the reality is a day at the Lower Itchen for example passes far quicker than the hours dictate. There would be no rushing, no clock watching, fishing as it comes.

A few different approaches and set-ups there could well be less planning than I usually do, and anyone who has suffered my blog for a while, I plan sessions well in advance, sometimes weeks.

One thing I did want to do was try and photograph the Cuckoo's that call this stretch home. They were quite vocal here the last couple of times and I found the tree where they hang out, so that was the only thing really I wanted to tick off the list.

Work can wait 24 hours I'm sure, I've got to think about myself more often, it rarely happens, that needs to change going forward.

A 13lb carp and a 6lb 8oz bream from here the 2nd visit, peaked too soon ?

Boy it was a hot one, being bankside for 6.45am it was lovely, it didn't stay like that though as it reached 24 degrees when I left at 3.00pm. I started off on pellet on one rod with a PVA bag of freebies and then fished a maggot feeder with some caster groundbait.

A float rod for back-up because that worked well when me and Sam came here last time.

Bites were initially quite forthcoming and I managed some small roach, dace, bleak and chub but as soon as the sun was high in the sky the bites dried up completely. With no bites or plucks on the pellet rod I went for a rove with the float rod.

Throughout the session I also allowed some bread to drift down to see if any Chub would take it off the surface but no sadly apart from an annoying swan having a full belly from time to time no fish came up to feed.

One particular swim which has a bush to the right providing some cover it was a bite a chuck, again only small stuff but I could see the maggot well over a metre down, the Avon had gone from being up and a slight tinge of colour to clear and dropping a good foot or so.

Now in my experience when the Avon is like this it can be very tough indeed.

Still when you're in an environment like this it is just nice being out. The wildlife keep me entertained if the fishing didn't. I had to shelter under the umbrella which isn't like me, but the sun was beating down and didn't want to get burnt.

It's going to get hotter too, reaching nearly 30 degrees over the last couple of days.

I tried worms and bread, but it was only the maggots that were doing any good, everything else nothing. Still I had a day to myself which is a rare occurrence these days. It was just nice to chill, and take pleasure in being outdoors.

The banks were alive as well, a mayfly hatch, various insects and caterpillars galore.

A session in to dusk ? might have to be !!!!

Saturday 20 June 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Borborology and Bonesetters

The results for the 2019/2020 Bloggers Challenge are in and the table below shows the landslide win by George Burton, All three waterways fished extensively and some serious effort put in by George especially on the canal to lift the trophy.

Every other year is perfect because to really participate in it properly takes some planning and dare I see it sometimes, it will take you outside of the comfort zone.

Some highlights for me from the Challenge, Sean Dowling's 10lb 2oz River Bream, Georges massive 16lb 10oz Barbel off of the Warwickshire Avon and late starter James Denison's 18lb 7oz Pike and 1lb 15oz Roach with partner in crime Brian Roberts 6lb 5oz Chub and 2lb 4oz Grayling.

For me it was all about the river, I rarely fished stillwaters just not my thing and I struggle to find the time to fish as it is. Most sessions being fairly short so I have to make sure my sessions count.

That is easier said than done mind you especially when this years challenge we had to deal with unprecedented amounts of rain where the local rivers were over the banks much of the time.

Still my tally for the river meant I topped the leaderboard for all things running which entirely selfishly was the aim from the start.

I made a really good dent in to ticking off the species and then once a good tally was built up, it's then just a matter of trying to increase the weights one by one to register a few more points.

Now fishing different waterways like I do shows just how particular species line one area and stick with it. Gudgeon, Ruffe, Bullheads caught from swims and areas I had preciously done before.

In-fact the Ruffe was a bit of an eyeopener, I rarely catch them unless I give the Warwickshire Stour a good plundering with maggots, even then they barely register on the salter scales.

But one swim on the Warwickshire Avon always has them in situ. The first dangle of the float with a worm under a bite within seconds and I've a Ruffe on the end.

My tally of 933 points and 1st place featured 15 species ticked off which wasn't a bad result. However river carp, silver bream and tench eluded me. The Barbel seemed harder to catch as well after numerous blanks I had to move to an old haunt to try and track one down.

I sort of missed the boat on the carp and tench but the silver bream was always doable, especially when one particular stretch of the Warwickshire Avon a syndicate member who didn't know what they were at first had been catching them to specimen levels.

So the captures were Barbel 10lb 11oz, Bream 4lb 8oz, Bullhead 0.34oz, Chub 5lb 8oz PB, Dace 5.8oz, Eel 1lb 8oz, Gudgeon 0.97oz, Grayling 8oz, Perch 1lb 2oz, Pike 11 lb 10oz  Equal PB, Roach 12oz, Rudd 6.2oz, Roach / Bream Hybrid 1lb 12oz, Ruffe 0.72oz and Zander 6lb.

The only other weight I registered was on the canal and that was a Zander of 6lb which matched the one caught on the Avon and gave me 100 points.

The scoring system worked much better this year, the points a percentage of the highest weight recorded by a fellow competitor not based on the British record.

The 100 pointers were chopping and changing all the time which made it highly competitive, and over the competition fascinating to watch. I'm used to fishing streams and the like, it's not all about the big fish for me so a bullhead for instance was always going to be a decent scorer despite Sean pipping me with the biggest fish as the river season was coming to it's conclusion.

We were the only ones to register a weight because it means having to fish a waterway not everyone feels comfortable in. Every fish needed to be photographed and documented on the secret squirrel blog or on ones own blog.

So anyway back to the session, Sam was with me for this mornings session, trotting a float with maggots to try and pick up anything to entertain a 9 year old was the order of the day.

That was difficult to be fair as a proper Barbel not far off my PB was caught from the new syndicate water a couple of days earlier and I fancied a go for one myself.

He'd hadn't been for a while and to be fair I had promised him I'd take him to alleviate some of the lockdown boredom. Bites are key and there are plenty of bait fish here that hopefully would be willing to feed. The recent storms had meant the river was on the fall with quite a lot of debris coming down still most likely.

I didn't want him to have his own way mind you, so I'd also have a huge piece of luncheon meat out upstream to hopefully catch something that was suitable for a landing net.

I don't mess around with bait sizes for Barbel, a quarter or even a third of a tin with a longshank hooked pulled through and turned through 90 degrees. Bite are unmissable generally, but then they are so if a Barbel decides to pull on the bait.

Bites were frequent which is what it's all about, A perch dropped off earlier on but then it was a constant stream of small fish. Bleak, chunky dace, chublets and roach all falling to the red maggots. The luncheon meat rod remained biteless but dusk would be the best time to fish baits this big I would imagine.

The river is still very clear which won't help but still its earlier season I'm sure when there is colour in the water it will transform the fishing. An enjoyable session for sure, Sam well happy now we can go back to the river.
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