Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Sunday 30 April 2023

Canal Zander - The Hallowed II Chronicles Pt.8

I haven't been up this neck of the woods for ages and considering I know what swims within these hallowed waters I'm not sure why I've waited this long. In-fact when I got the gear out the car and started walking on the towpath alongside the green waters I had a chuckle to myself because this is like no other canal I fish, for those in the know it's an eyeopener. 

That double figure canal Zander I caught and also my pike PB >17 came from here and there are even bigger fish within its containment to be caught if I'd only put the time and effort in.

The fragrancy of the spring flowers were tainted by the rotting animal amongst the reeds but I soon got fishing.  The plan was to fish worm / bread with some groundbait for anything that comes before the boats started moving so I arrived for 6am before the tiller ticklers decided to spoil the solitude. 

What I didn't expect though was the first swim that has form for bites produced naff all for 45 minutes so it was time for a move. That is very off indeed here really because the fish show quite quickly in the swim especially when using groundbait.

The move was crucial for success it seemed at within 10 minutes of moving swims I had the first bite. I was a little premature on the strike so I bumped the fish off but at least I knew there were fish in the swim.

Then a little flurry of activity when a shoal of rudd turned up and I caught quite a few in quick succession. Probably 15 or so, none of the big ones that reside here but at least I had a bend in the rod.

Then as quickly as they turned up they disappeared leaving me to scratch around for some bites. A few swingers were next, such as small perch and a skimmer but again things were not exactly prolific. The deadbait rod, well that I fished in two swims and was seeing no action whatsoever, so with a circus of boats now starting to arrive I decided to do what I do best and go on the rove.

Locks always hold fish generally but in the end there was that many boats I just couldn't get a bait to settle in the tsunami all very frustrating. So yeap you guessed it, back on my feet again where I retraced my steps but this time go beyond to an area of thick cover that throws up a fish or two. 

What I didn't expect was within 5 minutes the float receives a bite and after a couple of bobs confidently turns in to a full on bite. The fish felt a decent weight but it wasn't fighting at all really and I soon had it in the landing net. 

A proper battle scarred warrior this one, it had seen it all before I can well imagine. Not a bad fish though, quite a long'un and going 6lb and 8 ounces on the scales. With boats now coming at me from all directions I decided to leave it there on that fish and maybe come back again soon but this time in to dusk and beyond an maybe try for a Tench. 

Warwickshire Trout - River Alne Pt.7

Being a permi now the annual bonus I received didn't last long, a caput, dead, knackered dishwasher that needed to be replaced, a UK summer holiday to pay for, a flight booked for a lads 5 days holiday in Spain, Sam's birthday etc etc, all spent as soon as I received it. I could go on strike like many of the public section workers I suppose to show my displeasure, but I'd be sacked now wouldn't I. 

If I wasn't happy I'd just do what I usually do and that's hand my notice in and go elsewhere to seek better pay. As a 50 year old though, plenty of perks being working in the private sector and ok, I'm not that badly paid in the scheme of things but then I've >30 years as a design engineer, I should be well remunerated for all my experience as I'm left to do what I do most of the time.  

Could I go back jobbing again, > quite possibly but the Wife would lose the XC90, she'd be looking for a hit man most probably. I shouldn't moan I did treat myself to a nice single malt I've had before and also got the Wife a bottle of Cloudy Bay which is one of her favourites.

Rum (decent sipping stuff) is my default tipple but I've not bought a bottle of spirit for ages and ages, so hey, lets treat myself.

Now the Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve is matured in French Limousin Oak casks. Limousin Oak is a popular choice for maturation of Cognac. 

From the classic Speyside fruity (sherry) smell, it evolves to a lively explosion of wood, vanilla, toffee, tobacco, banana and so on. A real first class decent scotch that doesn't break the bank, oh and leave the whisky for 15 minutes before drinking, like any decent dram.  

 Talking of Spey a famous gillie who'd worked on the Spey for decades used regularly to catch fish when others found it extremely difficult or others thought it was just that the gillie knew the water so well he impossible. Some put it down to his enormous experience while could time his fishing to perfection.

One day he'd done particularly well whenever his guest handed him the rod and went off for a while. Each time the fisherman returned he found that the gillie had landed another fish. After three fish had been caught in this way the fisherman decided to stick it out. He fished hard for a couple of hours. Nothing. It was puzzling because the fisherman was experienced and extremely knowledgeable. 

Eventually he stopped fishing, offered the gillie a dram from his flask and asked him how he did it.
Feeling sorry for the fisherman who was an old friend, the gillie looked about quickly and then beckoned him to come closer.

'Dog hair,' said the gillie.
'What?' said the guest.
'Dog hair,' came the reply.
'What on earth has dog hair got to do with it?'

Each time you went away I tied a bit of my old Alsatian's fur to the hook. On a gloomy day like this it can make all the difference. The fisherman clearly didn't believe a word of it so the gillie took the rod, reeled in and, having fished around in his pocket, tied on a short tuft of blackish hair. Five minutes later he was into a good fish. The fisherman was astonished. 

This time instead of removing the dog hair when he handed the rod back to the fisherman the gillie left it on and within minutes another salmon lay on the bank. The gillie insisted the trick did not always work, but when everything else had been tried it was, he said, always worth a shot.

That's why we love fishing, the superstitions we all have are all different and many we keep to ourselves. 

Every time I'm bankside here I literally don't think about anything but fishing, but there is a good reason for that. You see as soon as I drive in to the field and lock the gate behind me I know that it will just me and the sheep enjoying the solitude and the fishing often is just a by-product.

A tale of two half this one....

I started at the upper reaches I fish and worked myself down but was struggling to hook up on the natural looking Salmo butcher I wanted to try. 

I had at least 4 fast grabs from trout but I failed to hook-up any of them. I've had this before to be honest especially when the water is clear like it was for this two hour session.

They almost nudge it with their heads at a ridiculous speed and whack in to the lure without their mouths open, all very frustrating. I did see some rises when I was there so maybe it's mayfly and dry fly time. Anyway the last swim I managed a small'un but that wasn't good enough for me.

So to the weir forthwith, you see here you are almost guaranteed a bite most of the time. So back in the car and back to the end of the stretch to try and winkle out a better fish.

I didn't need 15 minutes either (curfew time) because the first cast of the Salmo butcher a fish nailed it after a few cranks of the reel. A decent scrap as well launching a few times out of the water trying to escape the hooks. No such luck though and it was soon landed after a spirited battle. Not the 3lber I was after but they are here, I just need to keep plugging away, excuse the pun !!!

Saturday 29 April 2023

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.64

Worms are among the best all-round baits available but, again, are strangely neglected by the majority of canal anglers. Perch love them. So do tench and chub. Both eels and pike will take them, and contrary to popular opinion, some fine roach can be caught with them too. To complete the list, there are few better baits for chub than a big lobworm.

Many different species of worm exist. The canal angler need only concern himself with two kinds, the lobworm and the red worm. Lobworms are most easily found on lawns, tennis-courts, bowling-greens and cricket-pitches at night, when there is some dew on the grass. The period immediately following a heavy rainfall is most productive. I have gathered them in hundreds at such times.

Some anglers use the tail only for roach fishing, but I often use the whole worm and have caught many decent roach, as well as perch and chub. A larger hook than is generally used is advisable. I regard size 10 as the absolute minimum. A size 8 or 6 is better, especially when chub or tench is the quarry.

Red worms are another fine bait. When used in quantity and fished on a smaller hook than that used for lobworms (I use a size 16 wide gape), they will lure tench, perch, bream, chub and roach.

The best places to find them are in rotted-down compost or manure heaps, beneath old sacking and rotted wood, and almost anywhere where the ground is soft and damp. An old disused manure heap is usually a prolific breeding ground for them. The only drawback with these worms is that they are also attractive to minnows. Wherever these nuisance fish can be found in quantity, the lobworm will probably prove the better of the two bait for specimen fish.

Now Stratford-Upon-Avon district council in their wisdom decided to introduce a food waste bin a year ago now at huge expense. The two food caddies were delivered to over 62,000 households, to residents across the District, together with an information booklet , explaining how the new waste collection service works and what you need to do.

Residents were provided with a small 7 litre caddy and a larger 23 litre external food waste bin. The small caddy is designed to be kept in the kitchen for collecting food waste, which can then be transferred into the external food waste bin for collection. 

The external food waste bin is designed to be stored outside and has a lockable lid to contain any smells and prevent vermin getting in. The food waste is collected every week which will also help to prevent smells. Prevent smells ? lol within a week, we were thinking, this won't work for us it, the bins looked good mind you just didn't work very well. 

Que the established wormey, now I chuck the majority of food waste in there, and boy is it thriving !!! I'm still waiting for that day where the council representative to knock on my door to ask why we are not putting our bin out for emptying, probably too busy working from home or striking, oh well I can only hope. 

What I didn't expect was that a ruffe was the first fish at this early start down at bream alley. It gave a decent bite too. After a bream rolled in the middle of the canal and then soon after a metre from my float the next bite I'd hooked in to a hard fighting fish. 

It bolted to my right and was trying to get in to some tree roots but I managed to tease it out having to tighten the drag. It then went straight over to the middle with me struggling to keep on top of it using light tackle. 

Sadly after two decent runs the size 16 hook pulled leaving me wondering what the bloody hell was that. I suspect a large hybrid (my best here 4lb) as when it came to the surface it was silver. Whatever it was it did me over good and proper it !!!

I struggled for bites for a couple of hours after a moored boat left its moorings close to me but out of the blue the float buried and it was a bream. With an hour to go after another boat had ploughed up the swim the pungent worms led to another bite. 

This was hybrid again, I knew straight away, not that big though going 2lb exactly but a welcome sight in a tough session. Another one soon after of similar size and that was my lot. A slow session sadly and with that lost fish and another boat heading towards me, it was time for the off.  

Before I go I must mention Buffalo Si and his 14lb Zander he caught on the canal, a PB and another huge Zander to his ever growing collection. He messaged me when I was on route to the bream spot and was well chuffed for him.

He puts in the effort like no other angler I know, bonkers springs to mind, but as they say effort equals reward. 16lb next closed season ? Si will be on it I know that. 

Friday 28 April 2023

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.63

Now it's a sad fact but a fact nonetheless that fishermen have to share rivers and lakes with other water users. The problem for fishermen is that they need quiet to get the best out of their pastime, while other water users often like to make as much noise and disturbance as possible. Water skiers are a curse, canoeists a damn nuisance and boating holidaymakers even worse.

Sometimes conflicts arise and boaters and anglers have even been known to come to blows. More amusingly, anglers fishing the stretch of the Thames that runs through Oxford have at times taken their revenge on the arrogance of passing college boats by accidentally catapulting large quantities of maggots at the occupants.

 But problems like these are thankfully rare on the upper reaches of the Thames, and Buscot, with its moss-covered weir and air of Victorian innocence, was a quiet backwater with few boats in the 1960s. Fishermen in pursuit of the massive barbel that skulked beneath the foaming waters of the weir had it all to themselves, which is why the legend of what the locals jokingly called the biggest talking fish ever landed in Britain became part of fishing folklore.

It all started on a sunny day in August. A London club had come up to fish the stretch of water below but also including - the weir and they were not having an easy time of it. Water levels were low, the river was sluggish and the fish were not in a taking mood.

But the fifty-odd fishermen pegged out at thirty-yard intervals along the banks stayed put. One or two gave up and enjoyed the view, some found a book or a newspaper somewhere in their capacious bags and began to read, others discreetly reeled in their lines, stretched themselves out on the warm earth and fell asleep.

One fisherman Mick McNewey, pegged about halfway along the half-mile of river devoted to the match, was determined to catch something. He'd done badly in the last two matches and was keen to at least avoid a blank despite the fact that, on this hot and unforgiving August day, most of the club was likely to remain fishless.

A small group of what this particular fisherman assumed were picnickers had settled on the far bank about four hundred yards downstream. The fisherman noted their arrival and then forgot all about them. As the afternoon grew hotter, more fishermen gave up the unequal struggle and settled down for a snooze. Three who had long ago surrendered decided to wander along the bank and see if anyone had caught anything. 

They arrived at the last peg where our determined fisherman continued to try as hard as he could just in time to see him strike and apparently make contact with a good fish. 

They were astonished and said so. The man in contact with the fish was so excited and simultaneously terrified that this monster chub or barbel would get off that he spoke not a word. 

But inwardly he was exultant, knowing that if he could get this fish safely to the bank he would win the match by a wide margin.

His rod was bent double, line occasionally slipped from the reel as the fish moved downstream, but it was a solid, seemingly immovable weight. 

The fisherman put as much pressure on it as he dared and the minutes slipped by. This was unprecedented. 

He could see his line entering the water about fifty yards downstream, but it was moving in circles. 

Then it edged slowly towards the opposite bank before returning, quiet and unhurried to the centre of the river. Still the full pressure of the rod was having absolutely no effect.

The fisherman was beginning to despair. Behind him and around him a small crowd of his clubmates had gathered as word of the epic battle spread along the river. 

And they were all watching when the fisherman suddenly seemed to be getting somewhere. This monster of the deep was no longer fifty yards away. It was virtually opposite the angler, right in the middle of the river.

Then with a great boil it came to the surface. It was a diver, fully kitted out with rubber wetsuit and oxygen tank. With rod still bent double and his line clearly running down to a point on the diver's left leg, the fisherman could only stand and stare. 

He was speechless. The diver one of that small group of apparent picnickers downstream on the far bank was unfortunately not in the least lost for words. He took off his facemask and hurled abuse at the poor fisherman for a full two minutes. 

The gist of it seemed to be that a very expensive diving suit now had a nasty little leak in it caused by a size fourteen hook and a ball of cheese paste That August match went down in the club's history books as the worst in terms of fishing but by far the best for entertainment.

Now talking of entertainment I fully expected a blank fishing for Zander at an area that according to the grapevine been electro fished and the Zander removed.  To be fair my results haven't been brilliant down here and to be honest over the last 2 years I rarely now and it's the closest bit of canal to me. 

Even if it has those small fish will have avoided the stun gun and would get about breeding anyway. But a likeminded anger had been catching a few down here so I thought I'd give it a go. I've a Freedom of Information Request in to see if those jungle drums were correct, but judging by the others I've submitted I'm probably just an inconvenience to the canal and rivers trust. 

Anyway only a two hour session this and after covering one section without a bite I moved to another section and within 5 mins of fishing tight to a bush two bites at the same time 😵 and I soon had two schoolies in the net after some piscatorial drama. And that was that, one more missed bite and another hour in the rain, nothing else doing so I brought the session to a conclusion. 

Thursday 27 April 2023

Warwickshire Trout - River Alne Pt.6

Now for apart from regularly hooking themselves, fishermen often hook old boots, fence posts, cows and other animals. They don't mean to do it; it just happens. Occasionally it happens in a way that is quite out of the ordinary.

Apparently in 1910 a man fishing for trout on the River Test just below Winchester caught a tree. He'd been trying to execute a particularly long cast to a rising trout under the far bank and in the traditional way something to do with the triumph of experience over hope his back cast wound itself neatly around the outstretched branch of a willow. 

The fisherman was cross and rather than try to extricate his tackle carefully he gave an angry pull and his line snapped, but unusually, his cast (which had three flies attached) fell from the tree on to a duck that had been quietly snoozing the afternoon away. 

The duck felt the coils of line land on her and panicked. She leapt into the river, shook herself indignantly, and swam off downstream. The fisherman looked on with some concern as his cast had three flies with their three sharp hooks attached, but there was nothing he could do.

Then, as he watched, he saw the unmistakable gloop of a rising trout right behind the duck. It was without question a big trout and it had taken one of the three flies left dangling from the duck's neck. There began one of the oddest battles ever witnessed on an English river.

In its attempts to shake off the hook, the trout dived and leapt, sometimes pulling the duck's head under the water, sometimes half yanking the duck into the air. Each time the duck pulled the trout out of the water, but the trout was too big for the duck to carry off. 

As the duck tried to take off, the trout felt a greater pull and, panicking in its turn, tried to reach the bottom of the river. The duck was immediately half submerged. The tussle seemed to go on for ever, with the fisherman transfixed by the unprecedented sight. At one moment the trout would be gasping, its head in the air, the next the duck would be half drowned in the river.

Anyway I was back again on the Alne 24 hours later to try and winkle out a decent trout. I was on the lower reaches of the syndicate stretch yesterday but fancied exploring some of the shallower upstream swims where trout a likely to hang around. 

I had a few hits recently but failed to bank a fish but this time I wanted to try out the slightly larger Salmo Butcher that has a slower action but also is far shallower running. 

I love this little river because not only being 5 mins away, but also because I have it all to myself basically. The other syndicate members have the odd match here and from time to time I see another angler but it's like my own stretch of river. 

There was a tinge of colour still but being shallow in the main the lure could be seen no problem. The butcher is ideal really because the Alne is debris ridden and being a shallower diver means the lure doesn't get caught up (much). Lure prices just seem to be going up and up and lose a lure that is £8 down the swanee.

I use 18lb flurocarbon as a hooklink because it doesn't effect the fishing and it also means if I cast in to a tree I can give it a heck of a yank to try and free it. 

Anyway to the session, 4 more trout banked, 2 came off mid fight and also I had a few more hits where I didn't hook up. I love this sort of fishing where out of nowhere the trout appears and nails the lure right in front of you.

Nothing big for this session and in the end I walked the whole length and back which is >3 miles. The farmer has been doing some more tree felling too, this time removing a huge tree that was not only blocking the river but also hindering its flow. 

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Warwickshire Trout - River Alne Pt.5

Now most fishermen trust each other. If your fishing friends say they have caught or lost such and such a fish you believe them, notwithstanding the old adage about fisherman exaggerating the size of the one that got away. 

The truth is that there is no point lying about an unusual fish or a huge specimen because the fact that you yourself know you haven't caught it is enough to ruin any pleasure you might gain from the astonished looks on the faces of your fellow anglers. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule.

One angler regularly broke all the rules and surprised his friends with a series of astonishing successes. It took years to catch him out. Whenever he caught a fish it always weighed a great deal more than any similar fish caught by anyone else. 

If it was a roach it was always over the magic two-pound mark; if it was tench it was always a superb six- or even seven-pounder. If it was a pike it never weighed less than twenty pounds. It seemed that this particular fisherman could do no wrong. 

Like most of his friends the fisherman used his own set of scales they were of the highest quality and a very good make and because his friends thought he would never lie to them it was simply assumed that he was a brilliant and lucky angler.

After a year in which he managed to land no fewer than seventeen pike over twenty pounds, not to mention numerous other specimens, he was given his fishing club's highest award at the annual dinner. Two days later the fisherman's best friend and neighbour became a father. 

The friend was also a keen fisherman and he decided on this particular morning that he would weigh his new son. Try as he might he could not find his scales so he popped round to his friend's to borrow a set. It was then that the explanation for all those heavy pike, perch, roach and tench became apparent for, according to his friend's scales, the two-day old baby weighed 22 pounds!

To be honest I've had the same problem myself, you see the PB Barbel I caught looked way bigger than the 12lb and 14 ounces it weighed on the Korum digital scales, but I went with it and it was duly noted. However it was bugging me so I weighed a cast iron weight I had and it was reading under, quite a bit under actually. 

The cause, well the battery was on the way out and that could have well been the culprit. I'd never know though and since then I've always used mechanical scales as don't want that dilemma again. 

Anyway to the fishing !! I didn't expect to wake up to a frost when I headed off in to the office, what is all that about, anyway when I got back after a hard days CAD bashing (ok, I elaborate 😀) I had a small window of opportunity to go fishing so to the local Alne it was. 

When I got through the locked gate though what I didn't expect to see what a load of trees had been cut down, not just a small amount either, a waiting bonfire that could probably be seen from space. It sort of put a dampener of things to be honest, the club secretary wasn't informed it was going on either, on one hand it has opened up a trotting potential, on the other hand the chub hide is now gone at 'Jack's Peg'.

I did manage a fish from the weir but the water was still pretty coloured even though it doesn't look like it in the pictures. I just wasn't feeling it so headed home early and would try again tomorrow. I fancy a lazy action lure this time, so I'm going to give the Salmo butcher a go I think. 
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