Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Thursday 21 September 2023

Warwickshire Avon - Spraints and Splanchnology

Despite angling magically transporting us to a more tranquil world and the mystery of water, prior to the escapism I made a rather grim discovery a year or so ago on this section of the river where an otter must have had a close encounter with a motor vehicle. I've seen probably >100 otters over the years whilst fishing and its only when you see them close up you realise what an apex predator they really are. Impressive animals I must admit.
Anyway I bought this book on a whim from the rather impressive Old Hall bookshop in Looe for £2.50. Now the otter is one of our finest British mammals, but because of the nocturnal nature of most of its activities it is a difficult animal to study in the field. 

This book tells how H. G. Hurrell, the naturalist, and his family endeavoured to become more familiar with an otter's life and behaviour. 

The whole family have always been intensely interested in natural history subjects, especially those near to their home in Devon, and the discovery of otter traces a few years ago led to a spate of activity to find out more about this animal. 

Regular searching on the rivers south of Dartmoor produced evidence of otter activity, and information from local people helped to fill in the picture. 

At the same time the Hurrells began to learn a new language appropriate to the study of otters and such terms as spraints, seals, holts and hovers came to have real and vivid meaning for them.

Further information about the early development of the otter was gained when the Hurrells kept two otter cubs, Topsy and Turvy, for a considerable time. It also enabled them to enjoy the first-hand experience of knowing the charm and fascination of an otter's temperament.

Meanwhile, they continued to study indirectly the behaviour of wild otters. A completely new method was to try a special apparatus designed to record the movements of the animal more precisely. 

The methods used in Devon were tried in other parts of the country to study otters and were found to be equally reliable. These are described in detail so that amateur naturalists anywhere can carry out similar investigations in their own area.

A lighter side to these intensive activities was the making of a film about watching for otters. So it was that otters came to dominate the Hurrells' household and no wonder the author thought that at times she and her family seemed to be taking on the characteristics of otters themselves! I'm not a reader of books, I've never have been, but it was a rather interesting read I must admit. 

Anyway for this session I fancied a pull from a chub, especially when good friend Nic from Avon Angling who has recently hit 8k subscribers messaged me to say "fill your boots" as he and others have been making hay with the extra water on and been catching some nice chub. 

Nic though was using the matchmen tactics of Wag and Mag with maggots but for this session I planned to stick to my usual hunks of bread approach.

When I was here last there was chub milling around but they were so spooky in the clear water and after losing one after it took some bread off the top and did me over good and proper, and they vanished. So I was back in more favourable conditions to try and winkle one out.  

What an odd session that was, you see after fishing a float with maggots in one of the swims all I could muster up were some tiny bait fish. Nice to see the next generation but not exactly what I was after. I could have persevered I suppose but you know me those restless legs I got in the move with the quiver rod and fished a large piece of bread flake.

I baited a few spots as well and would return to them if the other swims were not producing. The colour and level really did look perfect but swim after swim the bread was being mullered by small fish but nothing big was showing whatsoever.

In one of the swims I was getting some decent sharp pulls as soon as they bait hit the bottom but not really strikable so as dusk approached I was getting desperate. By the willow swim there is a nice slack and I had primed that with bread mash only to find a swan with its head down when I got there.

The rain had started in anger ten minutes after the swan vanished and with a torch having to illuminate the rod tip thankfully a proper pull round a fish was on. I knew from the first pull it was only a small chub and it was soon in the net. A 2.5lber maybe but not big enough to get wet taking a selfie with it. Very odd session and to be honest very disappointing. Oh well, these sessions happen from time to time.


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