Monday, 31 August 2015

Hour Glass Sand

It's a calm evening as I approach the river, I peer up at the sun as it skips in and out of the clouds, much like I once did in the mornings as a child from beneath the duvet, eyes dilating painfully, urging me to cover my head. The sound of flowing water whets my appetite as does the merry whistle of the electric blue, as it flies by I smile and offer a salute, modest acknowledgement for the king of fishers.

The river is part obscured by balsam and nettle, as I fumble through the vegetation it is with a sense of urgency and yearning, the invitation for me to lose myself is strong almost incessant.

Finally my eyes rest upon the river, its subaquatic jungle beckoning me to wet a line, dense cabbage patch giving way to streamer weed and intimate gravel runs, there is no rush to cast, a deep breath is taken, nostrils fill with the heady aroma of balsam, I rustle about in the rucksack for the small tub of bait that has hidden itself in this Aladdin's cave of piscatorial paraphernalia, sure enough it is to be found at the very bottom where it has secreted itself away, a few minutes later and an underarm cast is made, ripples break the surface film and my connection to the river is complete.

Very few thoughts other than the here and now break into my mind, a chance to wonder what might lurk beneath, I'm excitable as the rod shakes, a faint wing beat can be heard and the culprit soon reveals itself to be a Pipistrelle bat, I watch as it flutters between water and foliage, its balletic movement mesmerising me.

The evening cloud cover slowly disperses and a heavy dew begins to form on the grass, its beads illuminated by an awoken moon, my breath is visible, I shudder a little as night air and expectation meet for the first time.

It is not long before a moonlit hunter can be heard, the wood mice that were chattering so enthusiastically, planning a daring raid on my rucksack fall silent, rustling can be heard as they disperse, lest they become a midnight feast for an owl, its presence given away as leaves fall from the bough above.

A series of staccato taps leave my rod shaking, an odd bite and one that fills me with apprehension and unease, images of crayfish and their shellfish attitude for toying with an anglers bait begin to invade my thoughts, these soon vanish as the rod makes a sudden bid for freedom from the rest.
The lead can be felt tumbling through the cabbage patch as the occupant at the other end gatecrashes its way to safety, the clutch ticking steadily, a splash is heard and a golden bar breaks the surface, I'm more than ready for it to slip into the net but it has other ideas as it disappears under the surface and back downstream. By now my heart beats hard and fast but not from where it should reside, for it has taken a small excursion to keep my dry throat company, the mixture of adrenaline and anticipation creates the oddest of emotional concoctions, but it is one every angler is accustom to and something we willingly repeat.

Eventually the folds of the landing net sag and I come to realise that all along it has been fish playing angler.

As I say a final farewell the hourglass is neigh on empty, I spend the last few grains of it watching this muscular beauty swim off and rejoin its brethren.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Abstraction - Waterways thirst for hydration

So far summer has been a rather dry one, although I am sure a few anglers will have set their alarm clock for the heavy downpours predicted this coming weekend and I would say many of our rivers would dearly benefit from a drop of rain, not because it might make any anglers wet dream come true, but for the fact that many rivers are quite painfully low and in need of replenishment.

It does make me wonder how severely abstraction is harming the habitat and species that co-exist along our riverine environments and how easily abstraction licenses are handed out. Going back to 2010 I remember reading the wwf report which stated that a third of river catchments were being threatened by over abstraction, the likes of the Kennet and Itchen amongst others mentioned in this, has much really changed?

From looking at my local network of rivers, nearly if not all of which are feeders and bloodlines to the Thames, I would have to say that no might be the answer to that question. This leads me on to ponder a few other things, such as how much damage to our rivers is caused by Thames water and their malfunctioning, dare I say archaic sewage system/treatment plants.

For example a few seasons ago on the Blackwater I had packed up from an enjoyable fishing trip, the rain had been heavy and constant enough to cause surface flooding, whilst waiting to be picked up I could see two tankers on the road, cleaning up excess water, from the stench it was obvious that it was more than just surface water. On driving by we took the time to stop and ask one of the guys working the tanker, he did not want to answer any questions and asked us to move on, however we did get a response from one of the other chaps further down the road and he admitted that it was indeed sewage that was being cleared up.

Fast forward to this season and a sewage pipe that crossed above ground to an opposite side of  riverbank began to leak raw sewage during the close season. Thankfully it was spotted early on by one of the clubs officials and the environment agency were soon at hand. Meanwhile Thames water called in two tankers and closed the pumping station. Swift action you might think, but weeks went by with Thames water claiming that they could not commence any reparation due to not being able to hire scaffolding, yet there is a scaffold company local to the site of the incident. In the end Thames water chose to replace said pipe and run the new one under the river bed instead, I can't help feel that the term "hear no evil, see no evil" or in this case smell no evil comes to mind.

You might think I have a bit of a dislike for Thames water and you're probably right, but it is fuelled by the fact they have wiped out a few good reaches of rivers and brooks over the years and got away like so many companies do with just a fine and a slap on the wrist, I think that would perhaps peeve most people.

So far this season I have done seven trips on the Loddon mainly for barbel and of those trips it has been a reasonable balance between captures and blanks.

One of my recent trips resulted in a double hook pull, now I like to think that such things balance themselves out, especially having been lucky in past seasons to land fish to mid double on a lot lighter tackle when I probably shouldn't have. I must admit despite thinking this through I did still go home with a rather rueful smile etched on my face.

Getting down to the river late one evening I was greeted by a friend who had journeyed from Swindon to my neck of the woods and was just setting up, we had a chat and ended up fishing fairly close together, he planned to fish till 11pm and just as he was getting ready to pack up had his first Loddon barbel of the season. This was quite surprising given how unsociable their feeding patterns can be. He was very happy and I duly did the honours with the camera.

A smile speaks a thousand words

I decided to stay on for three more hours, thoughts in my head gnawing away about the recent hook pulls, that and wondering if bats could one day be tamed and used as portable anti mosquito devices.  Don't ever say I don't use time on the bank to think pro actively..

At 1am I started receiving a few delicate line bites accompanied by the odd heavier rattle, forty minutes later and the rod departed the front rest, saved by the butt grip and my hand as I lurched forward, it had to be one of the most violent takes I have had in a while and it was evident I was connected to a very powerful fish that was intent on putting the pacey water to good use.

flashbacks of hook pulls had me playing this fish very gingerly, it was a real scrap and everything that could go wrong nearly did which included the ledger weight lodging in the landing net mesh with  fish sliding back out over the lip, thankfully the weight dislodged and the fish slid into the net on the second attempt.

fighting fit torpedo (10lb)

This was a great way to exorcise those hook pull demons. Although if I am honest I can still hear them whispering to me.