Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Sunday 16 October 2022

Small Brook Fishing Pt.22 - Blennies and Blattnerphones

Now the naturalists' name for this fish is the bullhead. Apparently there are several species of bullhead in the waters of the world but only one is native of the British Isles and many prefer to call it the miller's thumb, a name by which it has been known popularly for at least six centuries.

The curious name arose in days when every village had a miller, and has little point now that milling lacks the personal touch. Yarrell, in his  "History of British Fishes" gave a good account of its origin.

"The miller's ear", he wrote, "is constantly directed to the note made by the running-stone in its circular course over the bedstone, the exact parallelism of their two surfaces, indicated by a particular sound, being a matter of the first consequence, and his hand is constantly placed under the meal-spout, to ascertain by actual contact the character and qualities of the meal produced.

The thumb by a particular movement spreads the sample over the fingers. 

By this incessant action of the miller's thumb, a peculiarity in its form is produced which is said to resemble exactly the shape of the head of the fish constantly found in mill-streams, and has obtained for it the name of Miller's Thumb.

That was written in 1835, at a stage between old-time milling and modern practice. Yarrell added a note. " Although the improved machinery of the present time has diminished the necessity for the miller's skill in the mechanical department, the thumb is still constantly resorted to as the best test for the quality of flour. 

Now the miller's thumb is placed in an Order which includes gurnards and sticklebacks, as in its Family (the Cottidae) there are fish with names like father lasher and long-spined sea scorpion. 

The miller's thumb is no exception to a general rule of spikiness, and if grew to 3ft, instead of 3 inches it would be a really dangerous creature" 

Ok Mick' get on with it !!!

Well there was a reason why I light footed it over to the 'Bullhead Banker" and that was because I wanted to test out a cobbled together LRF rock-pooling set-up for the trip to Pembrokeshire.
You see in my own experience having witnessed this fishes predatory instinct first hand. Could I catch one on this micro lure set-up meant for Blennies and Gobies.

They lie in ambush in or near these retreats and dash out and seize any living creature, including other fish, sufficiently small to be tackled.

Anyway to the fishing, wow we'd never seen the stream like this before, not only was it low but it was gin clear. The 5lb flurocarbon main line would be the first thing to be ditched on the set-up as not only did it coil up with its memory, but it looked thicker than I thought it would be.

When you're fishing tiny 0.75gram jig heads the less resistance the better and it just didn't cut it. 

That will be swapped for 6lb braid which I'm hoping will be much better. Anyway the nibbles started after the third or fourth cast where you could feel something grabbing the end of the lure, but not quite taking it.

Sam and I alternated between the rod duties where the tiny lure looked great in the water and I didn't think it would be long to bank a fish. How wrong was I though, whatever having a go clearly didn't have a mouth big enough to take the lure fully.

Anyway after a wander up and down the stretch we returned to where we started and Sam had a great idea which I put in to practice. Once the nibbles had started the lure was left to hit the deck which would give the fish more of a chance to grab it.

To be fair it took a good while, but eventually after plenty of frustration in the bright sunshine a bullhead was hanging on for dear life and fell off when I lifted it out. 

This probably the smallest bullhead we had managed from this stream but there was certainly method in our madness.

And that was our lot, we had bites in all the swims we fished but none of the bigger fish that live here showed at all. The stream like the local rivers having one of it's off days. We need rain and lots of it, because sadly it was very much out of sorts.


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