Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Tuesday 29 September 2020

The Tiny River Alne - Precepts and Projectionisms

A super quick session this'un, a day in the home office, an rather exciting car to design and engineer, but the workload not letting up one jot, deadlines to meet, concepts to work up, prototype builds to support. However a window of opportunity, albeit less than a couple of hours in total before I took over the family duties.

With the tackle still in the car from the weekends pursuits if was back the River Alne to try and catch a fish or two. The waterway is in desperate need of rain because just in this small stretch there were areas almost devoid of water. Removal of shoes and socks you could easily cross without even a wetting of the ankle.

I had a plan and that was to fish a little ladybird pattern lure which goes about its contorted business on the surface layers. Chub and Trout love these sorts of lures though because they are so visual especially when fished in shallow and extremely clear waters like the Alne was for this session.

To cut a long story short the only fish caught was a trout but hey, the conditions were not brilliant with mostly bright sunshine, but after the session ones endeavours in work throughout the day were rewarded with an impressive characterful fight and the capture of another Warwickshire Brownie. I also got to walk in some lovely surroundings where I was the only one providing some footfall.

I did nearly sh*t a brick though because I stumbled upon this....

I'm sure it has some stories to tell !!!

Now a healthy stream or small river usually contains a wide variety of different swims, has a luxuriant growth of weed, and is usually well stocked with several different species of fish. If all seems well, it is a wise policy to leave the stream as it is.

Interference with the existing ecology of the water, however well intentioned, may have disastrous effects later. It is all too easy to take a step in the wrong direction, but much more difficult to retrace that step once any serious damage has been done.

The first essential is to check on the purity of the water as it is useless to contemplate any further steps until any pollution that may exist has been identified and eradicated. A water recovering from recent pollution would probably contain little if any plant-life and would need to be replanted first with suitable weeds. In the normal course of events, weeds would gradually reestablish themselves as the amount of pollution in the water decreased.

Some anglers seem to have a strong aversion to weeds, but they are essential to both fish and animal life; and a water that is deficient in both does not often produce good fish—as witness the stunted trout of the barren mountain streams. Some cutting back of weeds is sometimes desirable, or even essential when they have grown to such an extent that they block the free passage of water.

When this happens some of the weeds should be removed, preferably from the centre of the stream where the flow of water is usually most brisk. Plants that are removed should be dug up rather than just cut off as, if the roots are left in, the plants will reappear the following year. No cutting or removal should be attempted in the spring as plants then provide essential shelter for the hordes of newly-hatched fry, and all such work is best left until the autumn when the fry will have had a chance to establish themselves. 

From the angler's point of view it is also desirable to have a healthy bankside growth of reeds, such as the sedges, reed-mace, or yellow iris, together with bushes and small trees, such as willow, alder, or hawthorn. These all serve to provide cover for the angler, and too drastic pruning, far less wholesale removal, is very much to be discouraged.

Most trees which have been heavily pruned or lopped take many years to grow again, and may never recover. Willows recover more rapidly than most and are one of the best trees to plant along the banks of a stream. Only when the bankside growth is so dense that it virtually shuts out all light from the water should it be cut back, and then only to a limited extent. 

There is nothing more depressing sight than rows and rows of tree stumps where there was once a line of beautiful trees. Remove a few at intervals. Trim back some of the overhanging branches to let in more light. But leave the rest. Both angler and the fish will have cause to appreciate the cover they provide.

The angler though in recent times has strayed away from these small streams, to lakes and pools of F1 Utopia. The reasons ? well the average angler is collecting his pension not washing cars for a pint of maggots and fishing for a large majority has become a pastime for the lazy. Pegs you can park behind, not pegs you need to wade through. 2 keepnets required, not merely a landing net.

Carp fishing too, gone are stalking the canals and river for a double figure fish, it's now chasing carp with names, yes actual names who have been caught multiple times from baptising . Anglers that appreciate small intimate waterways though I'm sure will start to grow going forward. Because modern society doesn't let up and because of that peace and solitude is a welcome distraction.

As an angler you're also less likely to get that needed tonic at a commercial fishery where you're subjected to a convoy of white vans and colourful language. Those like me that do frequent waters like this are the eyes and the ears, the habitat watchers, the gatekeepers if you will.

Young angler Sam given the choice would fish for Bullheads rather than Barbel, I can see where his allegiances are, and luckily for me we are on the same wavelength.  

Sunday 27 September 2020

The Tiny River Alne - Cockchafers and Coleopterology

For this short morning session down at the tiny river Alne it was out with the Salmo Cockchafer. This little floating lure shallow dives on the retrieve and moves in a quite enticing fashion. 

The last visit here I fished the shallower swims and caught a few wild brown trout and also had some chub come up from the depths to look at the lure but then they returned as quickly as they arrived. 

There are some deeper swims here even though the river is painfully low and clear in the main, there are still areas that hold fish because the change of depth over such a small distance really can be fairly dramatic indeed. Maybe something more 'natural' looking may well trip up the most cautious of all fishes. 

It's a stretch of river that exhibits all the characteristics of a left left to its own devices, a natural river where nature is left alone to do its own thing, but then like every waterway there are some anomalies.  

You see as I was walking up to the first swim a heron was disturbed but then I heard a rather large splash. I knew instantly what it was and managed to get a half decent picture on my phone of one of the resident otters. 

I say otters as I've seen a far larger one here to be fair at a similar time. I watched it for a good while hunting and bubbling as they do and after it managed to catch a small fish it disappeared from view. Despite seeing me a couple of times it didn't seem to mind I was sharing the bank with it. 

Now Cockchafers, Melolontha Melolontha, are relatively large beetles belonging to the scarab family. Adults are 2.5-3cm long, and are common in the south of England and the Midlands. The name cockchafer means 'big beetle' in Old English. 

Cockchafers make an irritating buzz when flying, and the gigantic beetles are known for casusing irreparable damage to gardens and biting humans. They are mostly extinct across the rest of Europe due to the use of super-strength pesticides that are outlawed in the United Kingdom.

Although one of their common names is the May bug, if climate conditions are right, adult cockchafer beetles are often seen flying in April.  

Cockchafers have whitish triangles on their sides, hairy bodies, reddish-brown wing cases that meet in the middle and orange fan-like antennae.

Adult cockchafers only live for about 5 or 6 weeks. During that time, they look for a mate and fly into the tree tops to feed on leaves. They fly at dusk on warm evenings, making a noisy hum, and are attracted to light. 

They sometimes mistake chimney stacks for tree tops and occasionally fall down chimneys into open fireplaces, then after dark, they are attracted to light and can get caught in lamp shades.

Although they are known as bugs, cockchafers are not true bugs, which belong to another group of insects that includes shield bugs, water bugs, aphids and scale insects. True bugs that can fly have wings that usually overlap when folded, instead of meeting in a mid-line as cockchafer wings do.

Cockchafers spend most of their lives (three to four years) underground as larvae, or grubs. The grubs are white and C-shaped with six legs and reddish-brown heads. 

They can be larger than the adults, growing to up to 4cm and are a food source for owls and bats. Grubs eat the roots of a variety of plants and in large numbers can become pests damaging pastures and crops.

It was turning in to a frustrating session because fish after fish seemed to attack the lure but then either tentatively grabbed it or swam up to it and then abruptly turned away. 

Nothing of size to be fair but when you've standing high on the bank every fish take can be seen. Exciting stuff that a murky canal cannot offer the same visual appeal.

A change in lure was in order, back to a 3.5cm Salmo Rattlin Hornet which did the business last weekend and sure enough the fourth cast a decent Chub was on. The problem was I didn't get on top of the fish nearly quick enough and the Chub carted to my right and quickly in to some over hanging thick cover. 

It wasn't hooked cleanly though so as quickly as it was hooked it was off, damn !!!. It looked a decent stamp too, probably greater than 3 pound I'd imagine.

I carried on in that swim without any other rises so moved down to the next one. Eventually after another couple of aborted takes the first fish was on. It gave a good account for itself but not the biggest of Chub that this stretch can offer. At least it was fish though and putting a line through the frustration of earlier. 

In the end after losing the hot perch lure in a snag :( I managed another 3 fish which in the end turned in to a half decent session. I love roving these little rivers especially when the banks are so quiet and it's so handy to get here. 

I'm hoping some rain would top it up though because I'm sure it would fish even better when there is a bit of water on. A small waist bag of bits, a rod and a landing net, you cannot get more simpler either. 

Saturday 26 September 2020

Warwickshire Stour - Koyaanisqatsi and Kainotophobia

I've not fished here for a good while but knowing it would be nice and quiet I fancied a roving session to see what I could winkle out.

Tackle was minimal so a light float rod (TFG River and Stream) a centrepin, a small bag of bits and a selection of baits. Worms, maggots and a few slices of bread.

This section of the Warwickshire Stour really is my sort of river, in places only wide enough to jump across and with the weather taking a bit of a cold snap, the banks and swims are ideal to roam in some lovely countryside where you are highly unlikely to see another angler.

It's a roving river not a river to be fished where you are confined to a single peg.

Ok the fish are not the biggest but for me that's well down the list in the tick list when it's a stretch of river as therapeutic as this.

Thoughts turn to fish and to Uncle Ben in these troubling times, where the worlds ills can be entirely forgotten about during the 3 or 4 hours session.

A tonic that I'm consuming in even more quantities these days, the mind blanking ability of the art on angling is something I don't think I'd ever tire of.

You only have to look at my posts of late, ones maggot dangling is on the increase despite the sessions which are often very short indeed.

An altered state of consciousness if you will, now due to the behaviourist paradigm in psychology altered states of consciousness were dismissed as a field of scientific inquiry during the early 20th century.

They were pathologized and merely seen as symptoms of intoxication or demonic possession.

Rod in hand, river ahead this type of altered state of consciousness can be achieved without the use of the lockupables.

You see an altered state of consciousness may be defined as a short-term change in the general configuration of one's individual experience, such that the rational functioning is clearly altered from one's usual state of consciousness

Now obviously there are many ways that one's consciousness can be altered, such as by using psychoactive drugs, as well as alcohol and the like, which are defined as chemical substances that pass through the blood and disturb brain function, causing changes in awareness, attitude, consciousness, and behaviour.

It's when I return from a fishing trip that I realise that those things on ones mind before the session started never featured at all, gone, vanished, kyboshed. It works wonders and even amplified up a notch when the air is fresh, the skies are blue and clear like it was for this session.

Now if you've not seen the 1982 film Koyaanisqati give it ago, effectively one of the first environmental films I can remember. 

The first section of Koyaanisqatsi begins with long, aerial shots of the natural world cloudscapes, ocean waves, the desert scenery of Monument Valley made so famous by 1950s westerns. Slowly, the presence of mankind drips into the film, we see power lines, mines and atomic explosions. 

Then, after half an hour or so yes, this film demands commitment, concentration and utter capitulation the pace and visual intensity picks up, as some transfixing footage of derelict housing estates being demolished feeds into urban scenes of traffic, shown in either slow motion or rapid timelapse. 

We see hotdogs and sponge cakes being made in a food factory, people spilling out and on to trains and elevators, and jumbo jets taxiing at LAX. 

And then it climaxes perfectly with archive footage of a Nasa test rocket exploding during take-off in 1962, with the camera tracking the final flaming piece of debris as it falls back to earth.

I'd like it remade for as we stand now in 2020, a change in the world and it's society can happen just by a viral post on social media these days. 

Anything that works for you to deal with this world we live in really must be grabbed with both hands as it ain't an easy world to live in is it, especially in the COVID-19 world doom monger Professor Dim-Ditty has put his finger in the air to predict for us.

Anyway I'm going off topic back to the fishing.

I couldn't believe what I saw when I got to the river, a river dredged to an inch of its life, the river I knew and loved changed for ever I'd imagine. The banks littered with the extraction, habitat removed in huge clumps. Mussels, gravel and reeds there in plain sight.

The scale of it can be seen here, pile after pile, mound after mound the whole stretch of the river too. It didn't sit right with me and after speaking to the farmer it only confirmed that. 

To be honest I did think about going somewhere else such the eyesore but I stuck with it and to be honest in the end faired better than I thought.

Quite a few chublets were caught by roving around and by alternating the bait size I caught some gudgeon too.

A small jack pike chased some bread on the retrieve but sadly nothing worthy of note. It was 4 degrees when I started fishing, 12 degrees when I left at least the weather was pleasant.

Legality aside, as permits must been needed for this sort of invasive work I'm sure, sadly it really put a dampener on the session and I cut it short, I just wasn't feeling it, lets hope it wasn't done in the name of match fishing, that would be madness.

Friday 25 September 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Hedonism and Hebdomadally

Now back in the acid house era, an era to never to be repeated Wobble was probably my favourite ever local nightclub.

It was a Birmingham institution that lasted many years and still had a loyal following who still attend the yearly reunion and other small events when sadly a little like my DJ'ing it eventually it fizzled out.

My DJ'ing set-up complete with terracotta walls and paper thin curtains !!!!

Still brilliant memories of those clubbing years and some great shared experiences with the likeminded.

Now wobble had the same kind of values as many ravers of that generation, they weren't afraid to take risks, they were hedonistic and lived life to the full, acid junkies who didn't play by the rules, house music was played downstairs and techno upstairs, it really was a one off club. 

'WOBBLE'  you see a very surreal experience and very unique in it's make-up, no other club could offer the same attribute despite others trying to put their own heads above that rave parapet.

It was called Wobble for a good reason the dance floor used to 'Wobble' you see.

Now the opening hours of 11pm through to 7am gave the DJ's a lot of time to span musical genres where the resident DJ's played the majority of the night with guests normally taking up 90 mins or 2 hours of the near 8 hour marathon weekly event for over 10 Years.

Josh Wink, Nick Warren, Andy Weatherall, Jon Pleased Wimmin,  Dave Seaman, Tall Paul, Alex P. Brandon Block, Jeremy Healy they all played there.

When it shut at 7am, where to go, what to do ? well Sundissential stupid, the event started as an after normal club hours event and exploited loopholes in licensing laws to allow alcohol to be sold on a Sunday morning to clubbers at this time.

Tony De Vit did the opening night at Sundissential and it grew very quickly. It was very colourful, clubbers dressed up as ballerinas or Elton John certainly an eyeopener in Brum as on route they were rubbing shoulders with church frequenters.

DJ's Andy Farley, Lisa Lashes and Fergie as well as Tony De Vit responsible for making made hard house as popular as it is today.

My genre changed to music a little more progressive with sound systems more to my ear and DJ more sophisticated, Digweed and Lawler the mainstay , still, the love of repetitive beats remains to this day.

Only those who was there during those years and know the true magic and harmony shared by a elite set of people from every conceivable walk of life, the change in society back then compared to now really is quite staggering.

A decent fish caught here at the start of the season.
The Instagram generation really would struggle with the overall concept and experience now I'm sure.

Anyway back to fishing a chance conversation with an elderly Gentleman at a local club stretch this week he shared some experiences over the 30 years he'd been a member and it was a bit of an eye opener to tell you the truth.

80lb bags of Chub and Barbel a frequent experience in the matches, his best Barbel heading towards 17lb and it wasn't uncommon to catch 5-10 barbel a session such the biomass of the river at that time, like the rave days, an era never to be forgotten, it was called Barbel Alley for a good reason,

However over the years the decline in Barbel numbers is quite clear to see, catch rates well down from what they were. Will they return who knows, ever increasing water extraction, farmland run off and introduced predation certainly didn't help matters, the only saving grace there are still fish to be caught, some good'uns too. 

Then again maybe it isn't all bad you see, fishing shouldn't be easy should it, I question those overstocked commercial venue anglers, fishing in what is effectively a fish tank, a keepnet full of barbel (yes really) and carp commonplace it seems, yeap fill you're boots, slap your poles, you're welcome to it.

Now talking of boots, it's been tough as old boots at the syndicate stretch of late, despite catching a double figure Barbel and Carp a couple or three trips in, since then try as I might it's been very hard fishing indeed. Some small Chub have succumbed to the bait but no more Barbel and even a try of a deadbait a couple of times in to dusk and beyond, nothing on that line of attack.

Ok the conditions are not brilliant for Barbel certainly but come dusk I did expect a little more reward for ones effort. So for this session post a sprinkling of rain and a temperature drop I would see what I could winkle out.

Garlic infused spam on one rod, a paste wrapped boilie and a groundbait feeder on the other rod. 10.00pm was the curfew I set myself, so at least an hour and a half of proper dark, enough time to catch something decent surely Shirley ? Well only one way to find out, better get the rods out.

Before I got the mainline of attack out I like using the lure rod for half an hour or so to see what I could pick up and some perch were up for a scrap again, 4 or 5 caught from one particular deeper swim to avoid the blank.

Dusk and beyond though again was an odd'un here. Within a few minutes of having the meat rod out quite a powerful bite ensued that I assume was a chub, but then that was basically it. No fish topping of note, no pulls or taps on the boilie rod, in complete contrast to a stretch not far away from here.

Still, the sky was clear, the satellites, shooting stars and the odd bolt of lightning on the horizon kept me entertained.

It was a cold one too, 7 degrees when I left but with the light winter gear on I was perfectly fine. The air so cold it felt the predator rods could well be dusted off soon. I've not given up on the Barbel totally yet because the majority of doubles I've caught have been in January when the banks are quieter and the fish hungrier.

So the weekend not far away, where to go ? what to do ?

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Yobbery and Yogibogeyboxes

So NASA'S perseverance rover is currently on its 40 million mile journey through space, and is expected to land on Mars by February, 2021.

Once it does, the robotic explorer will hunt for clues of ancient microbial life on the Martian landscape. The Perseverance rover launched on July 30 from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The robot will land on the Jezero Crater, a 28-mile wide, 500-meter-deep crater located in a basin slightly north of the Martian equator.Once it lands on Mars, Perseverance will begin hunting for clues of past microbial life that may have existed during the Red Planet's early history.

The mission will also test out conditions for possible human exploration of Mars by trialling a method of producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, characterizing environmental conditions such as water and dust on Mars, and looking for resources.

Now In order to scan the rocks on Mars for the tiniest hints of life that existed billions of years ago,

Perseverance will use a precision X-ray device powered by artificial intelligence dubbed as PIXL.PIXL, short for Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, is about the size of a sarnie box and located at the end of Perseverance's 7-foot long robotic arm.

The rover will collect at least 20 samples from Mars using a handy drill, literally attached to the robot's arm. The rock samples will be stored away in tubes in a well-identified place on the Martian surface, and left there to be returned to Earth by a future sample return mission to the Red Planet.

But first, Perseverance will use PIXL to scan the rocks using the powerful X-ray beam in order to see where and how much the chemicals are distributed across the rocks' surface. PIXL's X-ray beam is so narrow that it can pinpoint features as small as a grain of salt.

Once it has scanned the rocks, the results from PIXL will inform the science team behind Perseverance over which rocks show potential for housing ancient microbial life and are therefore worth returning to Earth for further investigation.

Now NASA haven't got back to me yet because maybe when the device is done with it can be re-located down to the Warwickshire Avon to try and discover where the heck the Barbel are. 

Now to be fair this stupidly quick dusk session I may well have been visited by a Barbel, because whilst the meat rod was out doing it's thing, out of nowhere a huge bite took the centrepins ratchet off guard and nearly took the rod off the rest.

I struck in to nothing though and usually Barbel hook themselves, so I'm thinking a gluttonous Chevin may well have been the fish giving the rod some gyp.  

I did manage to bank a Chub on the other rod after pull after pull after pull eventually a fish hooked itself. Not a huge fish, probably a nadger over 3lb but when the light goes they really do seem to let their guard down.

The water is gin clear but still come dusk I've never had a problem catching Barbel, especially at this stretch where there are usually barbel in numbers. Still I might have another dangle tomorrow as I'm sure there are some about to be caught, I just them in-front of me this time.

Monday 21 September 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Clock-watchers and Clyster Pipes

Having multiple venues at your disposal locally really is very handy indeed, you see within five or ten minutes by car I can be bankside at a stream, brook, small river, large river and two canal networks.

I was in two minds whether to go post Sunday dinner but with Sam pestering me to go, whilst he was finishing off the remainder of his I was cobbling together some bait and tackle to head down to the Warwickshire Avon.

This, the end of one of my club waters is very handy indeed, no locked gates to get through just a winding undulated and bumpy path to negotiate, which to be fair is fair game for the little Jimny.

The only stipulation here is that you have to be off half an hour after official dusk (19:40) which to be fair was ideal as Sam had school in the morning so we'd need to be off by 8.00pm anyway.

We arrived at 18.40pm so there would be no messing around, which not much more than an hour fishing we had to make haste. With the Avon tough as old boots during the day because it is obscenely low and clear and the fish just seem to disappear , this is the time to be bankside.

"Four steps to the car from the swim, 6 to the passenger door" (Sam Newey) we couldn't really get any closer to the river. Ideal when the session is a long as a match fisherman takes to set up his top kits prior to a match.

With the weather still mild and the water following suit I tend to fish the same way in big open swims for the Chub and Barbel. I use a large bait dropper an deposit a maggot container full of hemp and mixed pellets an hour before dusk and then sort the rods out to fish one bait over the top and then another bait away from the Smörgåsbord.

For this session it was a piece of meat secured using a cat bait screw which would be fished downstream and then a paste wrapped boilie over the carpet of bait. It's amazing just how the fishing can transform when the light goes and this session was no exception.

With dusk approaching the first knocks and pulls started, some decent ones too especially on the meat rod where a couple of times we had to check the bait was still on the bait screw such the ferocity of some of the bites. The screw doing an excellent job of retention we need not worry.

I always use air dried boilies now because you can just leave the bait out despite any attention it may receive from even the most determined of gluttonous chub. If a Chevin eventually hooks itself you will certainly know about it, Barbel well, stupid question, they tend to hook themselves anyway.

I was worried we might be fishless when we had to go but despite the missed bites eventually a proper bite on the boilie rod Sam was reaching for the rod and centrepin. The staging was a little way down from the bank but Sam was down there like a shot playing the fish.

A decent bend in the rod too but I knew it was a Chub rather than a Barbel. He was doing well till the Chub went on one last run towards a thick reed bed and I had to take over to avoid the inevitable.

Sam switched to landing duties and we had a decent Chub in the net. Now I was a little worried if there would still be big fish in the area because since I was here last the lovely section of really thick overhanging cover that existed here since I've been a member for some reason had been hacked back to an inch of it's life.

So much so you wouldn't even know it existed if you hadn't cast eyes on it before.  It was an area fish took sanctuary, where Barbel used to call their home during the daylight hours.

Just goes to show get your timings right you can still get amongst the bigger fish where fish during the day you'd have a bag of bits if you were lucky. It was Sam's fish to be fair and a new PB for him, 4lb 10 ounces of Warwickshire Avon Chub.

It was now time to go, so as quickly as we arrived we were headed home again, this time though a talk of all things Chub, rather than where did we go wrong.

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