Thursday 27 October 2011

You'll have had your tea Mr Barbel?

The last couple of days have certainly brought some welcome rain to hopefully sustain our rivers over the winter months. Fishing can be difficult now, certainly if chub and barbel are your quarry. With low conditions, swift changes in both temperature and dissolved oxygen make them slightly edgy and even more difficult to catch than normal. With an autumn dollop of rain they will soon know winter is a coming in and hopefully feed like mad to build up fat reserves for the winter.

My trip last evening was certainly more difficult than the previous week where the lovely barbel you see above was one of a few caught to 9lbs 6oz along with some splendid chub and bream.

The river was slightly coloured after rain and the temperature had dropped making anything behave in an all too familiar edgy manner. Anyhow, one last trip before the clocks change would still mean an enjoyable mid-week interlude with fish or no fish.

More often than not I have this particular corner of nowhere to myself, but last night this was not to be. As I climbed the stile what greeted me brought a smile to my face and thoughts of how an incident could be averted. Two young likely lads, reclining in deck chairs sharing a bong and a beer and ledgering for anything that would care to take their bait.

"Afternoon, any good?" I say - "hello mate, nothing yet" says they. "Haven't seen you lads here before, you syndicate members?" says I. "Syndicate? We are waiting to buy a ticket when the bloke comes round" says one of them offering me the bong for a suck. "No thanks mate, but the keeper will be along shortly and it certainly isn't a day ticket water. He probably won't be too chuffed to see you here". BANG! - out of nowhere a duck shooter on the opposite bank shoots at and misses a poor unsuspecting mallard drake peppering BB shot over our heads and into the water at our feet. I decide to wend my way and so do they. I bid them farewell and as I look over my shoulder they are packing up. It's a difficult call really. I am pretty chilled out about the odd "poaching" trip, but I know others who fish here would have booted them in.

I arrive in my chosen nook to see that glorious crease in the river which tells me there might just be a fish on the prod and one that fancies a big lump of Spam for his tea. Tackled up in a jiffy, 3 swan shot is enough to just hold the river bed and a lump of fatty goodness on a size 6 hook will suffice. BANG! - my friend with the shotgun misses again and BB shot peppers me, my chosen pitch and more worryingly my prized B.James whole cane Avocet rod - that will not do. Some loud coughing on my part alerts Mr Gun that I am where I am and hopefully that's the end of it!

This short trip started to remind me of a delightful (but not for him) piece of writing by HT Sheringham entitled "A Day of Tribulation" - I can't remember which book of his it was in, but the gist of it is that everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Just as it does on certain fishing days when you feel it probably might just be best to pack up and go home. I hadn't got to that stage  just yet, I hadn't even cast a line yet when it all goes wrong again!

Two resident black swans decide to mug, rob, molest and nearly kill a lone mute swan who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The ferocity of the attack really shocked me. The sound reminiscent of a Star Wars light sabre fight and after some minutes, barely able to move, the mute swan forced itself out of the river and sat down next to me. This I was not expecting and for the next twenty minutes I stroked and caressed the neck of this bird that I am sure actually realised I was a friend. I was not expecting to be doing this either when I came here to hopefully catch a fish. 

Now, I am not a huge fan of swans - people big them up far too much in my eyes, but I don't dislike them in a Dick Walker kind of way. He detested them (see Drop Me a Line). This poor old bird needed some help and that's what I hope I did for a while. In the end it joined me, by my side, as I fished for what was now becoming a very short trip indeed.

I finally cast my bait the short distance required and settled down for two very quiet hours of nothing - nothing other than the odd chat with my new feathered friend and the odd cup of tea, which was certainly welcome on this now chilly evening.

Two more casts were left until the very last cast and I drift away with my thoughts of what the late autumn and winter will bring to the river. BANG! Mr Gun brings me back to earth and at the same time my rod arches over - the bite of a barbel never ceases to amaze me and I guess it is my form of addiction, I return for more time and time again. Very other worldly and a weird connection between my life and something unseen in a watery world.

In the gathering dusk the fish takes me everywhere and anywhere it likes whilst my Altex clutch purrs and my white feathered friend watches my every move with some suspicion. He is eventually landed, stroked and admired just like my swan.

A beautiful autumn barbel of about 7lbs, gold and stunning in every way. With hands shaking and praise be to Izaac he is photographed, recuperated and returned to his watery world. I bid farewell to the river, my swan and leave in a vapour of ecstasy.

Thursday 20 October 2011

The Avon Roach Project

I can't believe it has been just over two weeks since the annual fundraising event for the Avon Roach Project which took place on the Somerley Estate on the Hampshire Avon. What amazes me is that it was 29 degrees centigrade that very day in early October and we had a frost here last night!

Some fifty anglers fished that day and not a great deal was caught which was due to all manner of valid excuses (the river being so very low, very warm bright conditions, lethargic fish, no fish, lethargic anglers blah de blah), but we all had a splendid day. Over £5,000 was raised between the ARP and the Barbel Society which will be monies well used by both groups for environmental projects. The work that is carried out by Budgie Price, Trevor Harrop, Pete Reading and Hugh Miles with a willing band of helpers is just astonishing. I salute you.

In a nutshell the ARP assists the reinstatement of a self sustaining population of Hampshire Avon roach, for which this most majestic of rivers was once famous. They collect spawn from from true Avon roach on home made spawning boards with a covering of old net to replicate Fontinalis weed - they then transport the spawn to holding tanks where they are nurtured, eggs hatched and raised to one year old fry before returning to the river at two years old. Of course there is more to it than this, but the dedication by this little band of knights in shining armour is something to behold when this most lovely of fish has so much to contend with just to survive the first two years of its life - Avon roach numbers have been decimated over the years, so a kind helpful hand may just give them a chance so future generations can enjoy their beauty.

Have a look at their website, support them if you can and watch the charming film that Hugh Miles has made for the project.

May the sun shine on the Avon Roach Project and roach everywhere this day and every day!

Market Finds No 1

Each week I head up to our Saturday market with some hope in my heart. Will the London dealers have bought all the goodies that I like before I get there? Will I find treasure or will it just be the usual newspaper, sausages and veg. I mostly return bereft of treasure, but sometimes find just the thing. I class this as treasure. Half the fun is the barter with the stall holder and the triumphant return home with prize aloft!

This is a Tri-ang Jones KL44 Crane - What a beauty! What I have been after is a Tri-ang Dock Crane - i'll keep you posted!

I intend to re-furbish & customise the KL44 in time for Christmas - I understand Tri-ang used cobblers twine for the jib & grab cable (at the time Tri-ang offered a hook, bucket or grab - they even did an electro-magnetic & Priestman grab. As you can imagine mighty rare items!).


Friday 14 October 2011

The Quiet Hunt

It hasn't been a bad shrooming season so far, but by the same token not a classic either. It started good, as it usually does, with my annual September trip West. Since then it has sort of fizzled out in this unseasonal weather. As per usual I spent far too much time poking around in the undergrowth than fishing for wild brown trout and drinking ale like my pals who seem to do more of the latter than the former.

My spring shrooming activities were non-existent. I never seem to get many St Georges and thankfully June brought a few Oyster on an old faithful tree stump I know and since then I have been praying for rain - not only for the funghi but our rivers that are desperately low and in need of some persistent rain to get them through the coming months.

Back to my September adventure and I did manage the splendid basket you see here (thanks to me old mucker Fennel for the pics by the way) which has kept me going in dried specimens (Ceps) for a few winter stews. I can confirm that those Chanterelles and Amethyst Deceivers you see were amazing.

It is a bit like fishing I guess - you just never know what you are going to get on the quiet hunt and that for me is half the pleasure of it. Although a few more wouldn't go amiss eh!