Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Sunday 28 November 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Omicrons and Omphalopsychites

The temperature plummeting should have put me off fishing really, but no, come rain or shine, cold fingers and toes I fancied an easy and laidback Pike and Perch fishing session down at an area of the Warwickshire Avon that has predators in numbers. Yet another strain of COVID discovered, better fill ones quota the best I can, before we are all locked down again, and believe you me it wasn't easy to removed myself from a couple of warm plump pillows. 

As expected no one else decided share the banks with me for this morning session which was nice because I could drop in to any of the swims when I wanted to, oh and not worry about anyone muscling in on ones bankside bacon sandwich.

All the swims have depth here, well most of them do and there is also plenty of cover where a predator could lay in wait for an unsuspecting belly filler.

The water temperature had dropped to 5.8 degrees which to be honest should have hit home more than it did, but you cannot catch a fish without bait in the water now can you. Tactics well, a feeder filled with chopped worm and maggots and an air injected lobworm on the hook and then a smelt on the Pike rod.

Now talking about smelt, smelt are fairly rare and sporadically located around Britain, meaning most smelt are caught inadvertently when using feathers, daylights or other small lures to fish for mackerel. 

Many anglers are confused about what they have caught, guessing that they have caught an immature bass or an allis shad or herring. 

However, some anglers specifically target smelt in areas where they are known to be located with small size 4 – 10 hooks dressed with feathers, as full-sized mackerel feathers of daylights with size 1 or 1/0 hooks may be too big for the small mouth of the smelt. 

Smelt are excellent to use as a live bait for bass and other large predatory species, especially from deep water rock marks and piers where they can be lowered down into the sea and do not need to be cast out. 

Some anglers keep smelt alive in a large bucket which is fitted with a battery-powered aeration device. Bizarrely, the smelt has a strange cucumber-like smell when freshly caught, not only that, but the Wife can testify, because she hates them with a passion because they have that fishy smell too. 

Pike seem to love them for some reason and to be honest I rarely use anything else when targeting them, because I've had success using smelt for Zander too, in-fact on the canal it's a great bait to use when the fish have seen it all. Give smelt a go if you don't believe me, its a cracking bait for canal Zeds. 

I suppose its a highly visible bait and when still frozen they are often naturally buoyant so before the bait defrosts you are effectively fishing it off the bottom. 

That one of the reasons why I like to inject a little air in to one of the two lobworms I fish on the baited hook because it offers something a little visual than if it were just stuck on the bottom.

Now I arrived at first light and an hour in without a beep on the alarm or a bob of the float the best time had passed without any indication of fish in the swim whatsoever. Even when adding a maggot or two to the Perch rig the maggots came back whole and unhindered. 

Still it was nice to be out despite the testing conditions. The mercury had barely risen above freezing but with a proper steaming cup of tea and decent bacon (brown sauce, what a stupid question) it's surprising just how easy the worlds ills are forgotten about and those life problems vanish albeit temporarily.

I don't eat much bacon to be honest, but when I do, what's not to like, heck even the saturated fat is palatable when the air smells of, well, you know what I mean.

The aroma of cooking food indoors is a mixed blessing at best. The odours drift throughout the house as an aerosol or a suspension of solid particles in a gas. Think of it like aerosol hairspray, only with tiny droplets of bacon scented grease. This grease floats around until it bumps into something solid where it enjoys its new role as a scented dust magnet. 

Outdoors well, not an issue is it, even the tame robin wanted in on the act and when we parted I think he was sad to see me go, bacon rind, bread, maggots and worms, it will certainly sleep well tonight. 

So to cut a long story short after trying 4 swims in total another blank to add the collection, the snow melt and a rather large drop in temperature not entirely unexpected, but I cannot think of many session where I've had least one run from a pike here even in similar conditions.

Even the lobworm rod has no bites whatsoever not even from one of the roach that call this place their home. Oh well, at least I made it out, I'd have only regretted it otherwise and cannot have it easy fishing all the time now can we, that's what makes it a fascinating past time after all. 

Saturday 27 November 2021

The Tiny River Alne - Presbyopia and Predestinarianisms

Yes it's official I'm getting old, you see ones perfect 20/20 vision, is now, well, errr fubared, well ok maybe not that bad, but certainly a notable change, where over the last 18 months spending so much time working the CATIA software to an inch of its life, those long hours spent looking at a screen stuck at home, I'm sure haven't helped matters.

Now researchers estimate that nearly 2 billion people worldwide have presbyopia. Though presbyopia is a normal change in our eyes as we age, it often is a significant and emotional event because it's a sign of ageing that's impossible to ignore and difficult to hide, but then having grey hair in my early 20's has conditioned me to except that, I'm no spring chicken, after all. 

In parts of the world where there is no access to vision care, presbyopia is much more than an inconvenience its a leading cause of vision impairment that reduces people's quality of life and productivity. When you become presbyopic, you either have to hold your mobile phone and other objects and reading material (books, magazines, menus, labels, etc.) further away from your eyes to see them more clearly.
Unfortunately, when we move things further away from our eyes they get smaller in size, so this is only a temporary and partially successful solution to presbyopia. 

If you can still see close objects pretty well, presbyopia can cause headaches, eye strain and visual fatigue that makes reading and other near vision tasks less comfortable and more tiring. 

To be fair not a fat lot I could really do about it because presbyopia is an age-related process. It is a gradual thickening and loss of flexibility of the natural lens inside your eye. 

The changes occur within the proteins in the lens, making the lens harder and less elastic over time. Age-related changes also take place in the muscle fibres surrounding the lens. With less elasticity, it gets difficult for the eyes to focus on close objects.

Still with an eye test booked next week, reading glasses here we come so hopefully trying to thread a piece of line through a size 18 hook might be a little easier. 

Anyway back to the fishing a quick look at the weather forecast it looked cold, wet and even potentially some sleet or snow but I'd not managed to get out in the week and, well I just needed to get that much needed fishing fix, I'm not a fair weather angler after all you just need to be prepared for it. 

Now luckily for this short session down at the river Alne a larger hook was in order because a session here I can remember like it was yesterday that dace and chub were going mad for a lob worm presented on a rather large size 6. 

The bigger dace specifically were more than happy to take a larger bait so I'd replicate the same tactics employed last time, but also have some bread to use to mix the baits up a nadger. 

The Alne like many rivers I fish if it is clear it can be very tough fishing indeed, so any colour is welcome because often you're starring at a blank unless you've a lure rod with you. 

Something like a small Salmo Hornet can get those trout and chub moving when a worm or bread stuck in-front of their faces would be ignored. When winter hits though the fish are not moving as much so some days you are wondering whether there are actually fish in the river.

The trip to the river didn't start well as on-route I was welcomed by a police car that was parked broadside across the road. A tree a fallen literally blocking the whole road so the 3 mile journey turned in to another 3 on top having to take the long way round.

The sleet started almost as soon as I got the gear out the car and continued for the whole time I was bankside. It actually turned in to snow an hour in and it was starting to settle on the ground. The air temperature was 1 degree so not exactly pleasant, still after being stuck behind a computer screen it was like it and lump it. 

Now I don't think I've ever seen the Alne this clear around this time of the year and 2 swims in without even a tap alternating between bread and worm, I decided to go upstream to the banker swim to try and winkle out a chub.

The fish tend to hold up here because there is plenty of cover and also in the middle of the river has some decent depth too. I decided to fish this for at least half an hour and would sprinkle in a little bread and a few maggots to try and get the attention of some fish laying up.

Nada, nothing, zilch, not even the tiniest of taps, the smallest of pulls. The snow was picking up big time and ok it was predicted to stop in around an hour but to be honest I probably knew what the outcome would be if I stuck it out.

So I decided to end the session early and heading back to the car it had a nice covering of the white stuff and it had settled on the roads too. So where to go, what to do in the morning ? pike, chub or roach ? I'll decide over a Cuban rum, an open fire and my feet up, winter has arrived !!

Sunday 21 November 2021

The River Leam - Moonshine and Monopsychisms

This years works Christmas party is at a hotel I used to work at over 30 years ago and despite being apprehensive at first because it was my first 'proper' job after wheeling the Solihull Times around in ones trolley for a couple of years. I really did enjoy it and it will be a nice trip down memory lane in a few weeks time. 

Nothing that tasking, clearing tables, making and serving coffee and that sort of thing, but some of the characters that worked there were such a good laugh. From the Italian restaurant manger who used to drink on the job and got so drunk one Sunday evening he literally ended up with the sweet trolley on-top of him, to the bar Manager, Irish Jerry who introduced me to his homemade super strong Poitin. 

Now Poitín is Ireland’s most ancient spirit and is often referred to as Ireland’s mezcal, cachaça, grappa and, most commonly, moonshine. The word is a diminutive of the Irish word pota, which means ‘pot’, and is a spirit with something of a dark and chequered history. For this reason it has always carried an element of intrigue.
Traditionally poitín is created using grain or potatoes as a base, which are made into a wash to be distilled in a homemade copper still. 

Open turf fires are then used to heat the still, before a corn flour and oatmeal paste is applied to seal the still joints to avoid alcohol loss. 

In order to determine the cut points, the distiller would throw a sample of the spirit onto the still and observe if it caught fire.

Irish poteen has been produced for several centuries and for nearly the last 300 years has been frequently referred to as Ireland's Moonshine spirit. During the period 1666, until recently, in various forms it has been illegal to sell it in Ireland.

In the 15th and 16th Century, English crown agents, and in later times the Garda, could impose heavy fines and confiscate farm machinery where sacks of grain or barley were found that they decided were intended to be used to produce a mash and subsequently poteen. Hiding such tell-tale signs meant that poteen producers' would work without the risk of prosecution, fines and imprisonment.

It was not until 1997 that all restrictions were lifted and Irish poteen could be sold in Ireland. Now there are plenty of places you can buy the stuff now, but back when I was a teenager it was still very much produced under the radar of the authorities for obvious reasons. 

It's quite a simple process with simple ingredients, a little like fishing with bread or worms, simple is often all you need, in-fact gin for example, a piece of cake. 

Now Knockeen Hills produces poteen you can buy complying with legislation, authorising the use of distillate exceeding 94.7% vol. yeah really...😮 Now Jerry's homemade stuff was around 70% ABV and I can still remember the first time I tasted it like it was yesterday, ridiculously smooth and light on the palate and the strength was undeniable.

Anyway better get fishing hadn't I, well talking of illegal activity the members of the WBAS syndicate are now the eyes and ears for the farmer on this newly acquired stretch of the River Leam. Wayward strays, litter dumpers, balmy sheep, no-gooderers that sort of thing. 

I love these sorts of waters but when the rivers are low especially in the summer often they are unfishable, but this 1 mile stretch has it all really. Deep pools, glides and occasional riffles, its those deep pools that offer potential fishing opportunities when the other area of the Leam I fish where you've more chance of balanced news report coming out of the BBC.

This fish don't have to be big in these sort of rivers, it is the unknown quarry that is of particular interest and thanks to the efforts of George Burton the syndicate members have another water to explore, another water to spark the interest. It's a bit of trek for me, but to be honest, 'not' that much further than ones usual river Leam stomping ground. 

So better get fishing hadn't I !!!!

To be fair I didn't have much of a plan apart from travel light with a quiver tip rod with maggots, bread and worms as bait. I wanted to walk the whole stretch to check out the lay of the land and if a fish succumbed to the bait, then that would be a welcome return.  The temperature had dropped to 3 degrees overnight but I'm sure something would be up for a bite. 

Certainly not ideal conditions when I got to the river because the Leam only really fishes well with some water and the sunny conditions certainly wouldn't have helped.

These sort of rivers though have so much character so find those deeper areas and you can stumble upon some fish. George has already picked up a cracking >1lb roach and some rod bending chub here so at least I knew that there were some quality fish about.

A few swims down though I really was struggling for bites and in small swims you often know if there are fish in the swim rather quickly. I stuck it out with the bread but it was clear after a couple of hours things were tough going and would get tougher as soon as the sun was high in the sky. 

Still this was a reccy not just a fishing trip and it seemed I did more roving than actual fishing. I baited up the swim you can see me in above when I left, to work my way down the stretch, and I'd fish it last when heading back to the car.

Eventually switching to worm was the change that made a difference because within seconds of the bait settling on the bottom the bites started. Quick fast bites though, not proper pulls so I wasn't surprised the first fish to caught was a tiny chub. 

I had a few more from the same swim and a couple of perch but nothing to test the set-up that's for sure. I returned to the pre-baited swim and gave that half an hour but sadly nothing doing at all. George was further downstream on another stretch and he was struggling as well however he did catch chub and roach and a pike that snatched the bread on the retrieve. 

To be fair I did think I'd struggle as not only was it clear but with a frost overnight the fish might well have been put off to feed, certainly in the bits I fished anyway. A lovely stretch though and my sort of river, the problem is the Alne offers the same sort of fishing and that's 5 mins away, not 25 but its the chance of a decent small river roach that will no doubt get me coming back. 

Saturday 20 November 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Net Charges and Noctambulation

I've had worse decisions to make, you see with 8 beers on cask, 16 keg beers and 43 bottled beers or something like that where the heck do you start ? Anglers thrive on argument and there is plenty in literature to provoke the expert as well as instruct the novice, you just need to pick your 'expert' for advice. 

Now beer can divide a nation, well ok, but it's a very personal choice where an outsiders opinion may well be very different to yours. But a drinking partner of mine has a similar palate and that always helps and when I said I'd be frequenting this pub with a 30-foot-long bar, marbled tables, spectacular chandeliers and cosy corners.

There was only one beer that I must have and that was Thornbridge's Necessary Evil, which is an imperial stout, aged for 8 months in bourbon barrels. Aromas of sweet bourbon, vanilla and oak from the ageing process combine with rich chocolate, roasted malts and caramel from the base beer. 

Soft and silky, and to be honest one of the nicest stouts I'd had for a long time. 

Not cheap mind you at £6 for half a pint, yes really but at 13% ABV a pretty heavy hitter so one to savour not one to neck.

And savour I did because after planning to drive home later after food and the train journey home I ended up having to call her indoors to come and fetch me, luckily the early start meant the kids hadn't gone to bed yet. 

Uber in the Shires, you'd be lucky, either that or you'd be waiting a very long time !!!

It's that time of year though with quite a few social events to look forward to, certainly the other passengers on the train in similar spirits which was nice to see considering the 18 months we've just had. 

A group of girls from painting the town red quite happy to engage in conversation, because well, its nice to talk to other people isn't it, we are a social breed after all. 

Now I don't think the roach down this section of the Warwickshire Avon like the Pike ruining their winter party but they are here year on year and if a bite is required this is a good place to go. 

So for this short morning session with Autumn clearly in full swing, nothing complicated just a waggler with a couple of maggots on the hook where hopefully I'd catch a roach or two and I'd have a smelt out on the Pike sleeper rod to hopefully catch the gatecrasher. Oh and to kick things off some roach groundbait that is mixed with crushed coriander seed. 

Whilst on the subject of gatecrashers I remember a news story around 8-9 years ago, because the Leeds Magistrates Court found actual Gatecrasher (the clubbing brand) guilty of selling counterfeit alcohol after the West Yorkshire Trading Standards visited their Bed venue in response to complaints from the drinkers of the establishment.

The officers confiscated 656 litres from the premises, the largest seizure of fake alcohol by the Standards Office at the time, and subsequent tests revealed that the alcohol contained isopropanol, tertiary butanol and chloroform. By the sounds of it though they were stitched up by a second tier reputable and registered supplier called Midnight Tipples who supplied the 'premium vodka'. 

Pull the wool over vodka consuming students eyes, who were they kidding !!!

Now talking of shysters the Pike isn't welcome at the best of times from many angling fraternities but I have grown to love them as a species and usually here, no matter the conditions as long as its fishable that is, they more than often come out to play. To be fair the conditions were not brilliant for this session but still, there is always hope prior to a session isn't there. 

The Avon is back to gin clear but find some deeper water and sprinkle some maggots the fish will come and sure enough I shouldn't have worried about bites because I had plenty. Not the biggest of fish admittedly but when it's a bite a chuck float fishing there is something magical about it.

The roach turned up initially but then it went quiet for 10 minutes and some dace entered the arena and that's when the pike rod had some interest. After one fast bob of the float a few minutes later a proper bite developed and a fish is on. I knew instantly it wasn't that big but a spirited fight to be fair and certainly pulled a little harder than a 4 ounce roach.

After a quick picture it went back and I carried on catching the small stuff. I retained them in the landing net to see how many I caught in the 3.5 hour session but maybe that wasn't a good idea, because twice a pike of a similar size decided that it wanted what was contained within it.

Two violent strikes the second time I lifted the landing net from the handle clear of the water and the pike came with it. A jack of around 4lb eventually releasing its jaws and wriggling itself back in the water. That's a proper predator right there, nothing will get in the way of its instinct.

I decided to retain some of the tiny dace and a few of the bleak and went on the rove with a livebait under a float. A few of the swims looked perfect for perch but despite fishing the 45 minutes with the float doing its thing there was nothing doing at all.

Dusk may well have changed my fortunes but with the Wife and Sam suffering with colds at the moment a few hours before they surfaced was more than adequate to get my fishing fix. I'll be out again in the morning this time on a new stretch of river acquired by the syndicate and there has been some promising catches already. 

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Poison Darts and Podobromhydrosis

Around 2.5 billion people around the world are still cooking with wood, charcoal or dung because they are not connected to a gas grid or cannot cook with electric appliances. Now Kafta Bil Sanieh is as basic as it gets but needs an oven ideally, its a Lebanese Kofte and veg bake that makes an easy, hearty comforting meal that’s full of flavour. 

Part-bake the potatoes firstly and then its basically layered with thickly cut aubergine and a simply made Kofte made from minced meat, onions, parsley, breadcrumbs and spices.  

When its baked with a simple tomato sauce, comfort food for sure, but with 5% mince its certainly weightwatcher friendly and someone in my time of life finds it harder to keep the pounds off. 

Variety is the spice of life, and the chub are no different, as the variety of baits they can be taken on is frankly is huge and likened to an extensive menu from an average American Diner.  Now if you've followed this blog of mine that raspberry mushrooms came up trumps last time I tried something different for Chub, where even a gonk decided it liked the look of the sweet offering. 

Oddly the gammy gums didn't get a look-in but it just goes to show when the chub have seen it all and are plucking and pulling without proper hook-ups its time for a change.

You see here last time the cheesepaste was producing bites but not the proper chub bites we all know and love. They were utterly cautious to the extreme where after some tentative bites, even the tried and tested slack line approach didn't improve matters. So it was out with the jelly frogs and the squidgy gingerbread men. 

The main thing is to get the bait into likely-looking holes and bays, or beneath overhangs which frequently shelter big fish. Once the bait is in position it can be fished with a tight line in fast water, but where the flow permits, other tactics can be employed.

When fishing a tight line it is extremely difficult to decide when to strike. Sometimes the merest touch must be 'hit' and sometimes the angler must patiently avoid touching these and await the really hefty thump which most big chub give when they confidently take the bait, this must be decided as result of experience. 

When the angler finds that striking at small bites fails to hook the fish, or alternatively shows that the fish are small roach or dace, he must turn to the other expedient, but again only through experience can that be attained. 

Now I would fish in to dark again for this short session and with the Avon back to clear again I wasn't expecting much action until the sun had set and the quiver tip would need to illuminated by torchlight.

Here is one of the few spots I can actually fish in to dark on the Warwickshire Avon and with a fellow WBAS syndicate member struggling for bites probably because the resident mink was milling around not far away, here gives me a decent post work option especially when I've caught some nice chub here in the past. 

Big chub wise up to baits that is for certain, well on the waters I fish anyway, they have seen it all don't forget and thinking outside of the box can change those cautious bites to colossal ones Chevin are known for. 

I had some back up offal (pigs heart) to fish in to dark if the treats weren't doing the business, because I've done well on animal offerings in the past such as steak and liver, which for sure are proven chub bankers. 

Method in ones madness ?

Well no bites on the LSD frog, the gingerbread man, well nothing on that either. The river though was lifeless, gin clear as well which doesn't bode well for the Avon. Still dusk came and went and I thought I'd start getting bites.

But n, even a change to a meat based product, nada. I roved around too, fishing maybe 5 swims altogether one being one I pre-baited with some freebies , there wasn't even any fish topping.

Shining the powerful headtorch in the margins I could see some small perch and dace sulking quietly on the river bed but no big fish showed at all. In a desperate attempt to catch something I put some maggots on to at least get a bite, but not even maggots were not doing the business, maybe my feet smell or something. 

Still at least the sweet tasted good because proper tail between ones legs time when I walked back to the car. The weather is getting, cold very cold. I'm hoping that's the change we need to wake them up a bit. 

Monday 15 November 2021

Warwickshire Avon - Big Beat and Borborology

So 319 days in to 2021 and this is my 167th post for this year. Now I didn't think I'd better last year because, because well lets be honest I did cram in quite a few sessions in 2020 but 😮, there you go, I'm as surprised as you are. The closed season canal Zander quest really kicked up a notch this year and we all know the outcome of that. 

Now I didn't think I'd get out the weekend as I was out till the early hours on Saturday where after battling myself through the ridiculously busy crowds in Birmingham that had flocked to the 'German markets' and seemingly to do their early Christmas shopping, Fatboy Slim made it all worthwhile. 

He always puts on a decent gig and this was no exception for the 58 year old who puts much younger DJ's to shame. The DJ on before was pretty good to be fair, but Norman Cook puts on a Big Beat 'show' where the huge display screens match the rather loud repetitive beats. 

Now Big beat features heavy and distorted drum beats at tempos between 100 and 140 beats per minute, Roland TB-303 synthesizer lines resembling those of acid house, and heavy loops from 1960s and 1970s funk, soul, jazz, and rock songs.

Not my usual genre, but it still works rather well, if you ask me, especially when a DJ is there to work the crowd. 

Anyway I got in a 1am and yet at 8.00am the location couldn't be any more different a world away from busy Birmingham and I'm roving the banks of the Warwickshire Avon with bags under ones eyes where to be honest, unusually I didn't have much of a plan. I had some maggots though and a predator float set-up, so I'm sure there were some fish up for a feed. 

The bites were hard to come by initially but then I stumbled on a swim I'd only fished a handful of times and wow, gonk after gonk.

I didn't get much sleep as a low level of tinnitus kept me awake after the sensory overload this sort of gig can give so after feeling very tired indeed, these certainly kept me awake. I don't think I will ever tire of catching gudgeon and they certainly wouldn't end up on a hook as livebait unlike the ten a penny'ers  

I probably caught 20 or so in around an hour or so with minnows, small dace and a few bleak also falling for the disco maggots. The Avon is back to being low and clear again but find swims with cover there are plenty of fish still to be caught if you just want bites like I did for this session.

A change of tactics some perch were eventually caught, the biggest shaking the hook but only looked around a pound and a half anyway, nothing massive luckily. 

The pike well, they were suspiciously quiet, I had a dropped run and that was it. Still a very enjoyable session and it certainly blew the cobwebs away and to be honest that's all I wanted from the session really. 

Only a few hours like most of my fishing trips seem to be, but I like them like that, little and often works for me. Just those few hours without the influence of others works wonders, it really does.  

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