I’m looking out of the window at grey clouds and the threat of more rain. Can this really be July already? What happened to ‘flaming June’? Oh well, at least the fishing is about as easy as it gets, don’t you think? Suicidal barbel everywhere. But what if your ambitions extend beyond simply catching river pigs…? Guess that raised a few hackles but I do think there’s an element of truth in the old adage that God invented barbel for those who lack the skills to catch chub!
I seem to have hit a bit of purple patch, so much so I’ve far too many pictures to use in this month’s blog. I’ve even started messing with them to create ‘interesting’ effects. After all, how many ‘sad man holding a wet fish’ shots can one blog get away with?
You might recall from my last blog that my very first cast into a river this season (towards the end of June) produced a barbel that was clearly still recovering from spawning and as a result I packed up. Well, last week I went and dabbled on another river. Once again I prepared a swim, gave it a good half hour to settle down and once again hooked a barbel on my first cast, literally within a few minutes. I had another on my second cast, too. And this was in the middle of the day on a stretch that’s supposed to be pressured yet Stu and I were the only anglers there.
It was ironic really. I netted the first fish, staked out the landing net to let it recover and gave Stu a quick bell: ‘Do us a favour mate, I know you’ve only just cast in but would you mind photographing this fish for me?’
‘Just give me a minute,’ He replied, ‘I just need to land this fish.’
He’d got one first cast as well.
I also had a few cracking chub and three great big bream, the best of which was probably as big as any bream I’ve ever caught from a river. Proper chunky with a rounded chest like a carp.
Don’t ask me what any of the fish in this month’s blog weighed because I couldn’t be bothered carrying scales. Saying that, later in the afternoon Stu asked me to photograph a chub and give him a hand to weigh it ( he did have scales) to get his eye in on estimating. We both looked at it and guessed it would weigh somewhere in the mid to upper fours, maybe 4-14.
We both got a shock when it went 5-7. ‘Crikey!’ Says I, ‘I’ve put one back bigger than that and didn’t even take a picture!’
Certainly there are some big chub around this year, much more chubbier (no pun intended) than in a normal summer. Bodes well for the coming autumn and winter, I hope.
If it’s not bad enough that I put a few noses out of joint by sharing my exploits and backing it all up with a few nice pictures here in the blog (jealousy is soooo consuming guys!), but these moaning minnies are really going to be despondant now because I’ve decided to extend my embrace of cyberspace even further. But I have to say it’s not all been plain sailing.
My old Facebook personal account had begun to snowball with new ‘friends’ arriving on a daily basis and the fear was I’d soon reach my permitted limit so I decide it was time to get a little more professional and create a ‘Facebook page’ for my activities. Now a page is what a business has, or someone with a professional image. The advantage is you don’t get capped. You can have as many friends and followers as you like. For example, Martin Bowler has a public page rather than a personal account.
So, I designed one, and bl**dy slick it looks, too, as you can see above! And then I made a mistake. I tried to transfer all my existing stuff across and in the blink of a millisecond it all vanished. Zap! It was gone. Friends, messages, photos, the lot. Vanished. And it was at this point I realised the limitations of a ‘page’. For example, a page doesn’t have a wall or a news feed so you have no idea what your mates are up to. You can only send messages back to people who have contacted you first. Nightmare!
But after a lot of soul searching, ranting and raving Facebook eventually reinstated my personal account and my information stream returned to a two-way situation. So, if you want to keep up with snippets of what I’ve been up to here’s the link. But you’ll perhaps need to ‘friend’ or ‘like’ the site, or whatever it is you have to do. I’m honestly not sure.
Flushed with my new found ‘page’ success I decided, what the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound. So I’ve linked up to Twitter. Henceforth, anything I post on Facebook will also be available on Twitter for anyone who’s into mobile devices and such although right now I’m Billy No Mates…
But that’ll change. I hope!
Barbel Days And Ways Is Now On Facebook
With a head of steam building Stu and I have taken things a step further and created a stand-alone page for our Barbel Days And Ways DVDs. Although we’ve hung this on the DVD peg the purpose is not to sell DVDs. Indeed you cannot purchase them from the page but what you can do is post images and video clips related to barbel fishing. Already you can find a couple of dozen barbel clips on the page to while away the hours and one or two have already been brave enough to post their own pictures. How about you? Fancy showing us yours? And do remember, it’s not a c**k measuring excersize, it’s about your pride in catching a fish of any size.
Of course, Stu got the bug. After years of denial and viewing Facebook through his wife’s account he’s launched a page of his own… Addictive stuff this Facebook lark.
Caught In The Act Update
Filming continues apace on the Caught In The Act project. We’re getting there and the finishing line is almost coming into view. Just need the weather to settle down and the river levels to return to something like normal. Underwater filming is anything but easy in murky water.
One of my film targets was a big rudd. Now those who know me will tell you this is my bogey species. Bad enough that rudd are pretty rare where I live to start with and the odd water that does contain a few big ones tends to be over-run with tiddlers with pirhana tendencies to boot, it was a case of Mohammed going to the mountain and where better than the Cambridgeshire Fens. The Fens is the rudd Mecca of the UK and it is still possible to catch a two-pounder from a river down there and that, to me, has to be one of the finest achievements in angling because no fish looks better on the bank than a big rudd. They are simply sensational.
What you don’t really want is high water levels and a howling downstream wind. That’s a combination with failure written all over it. If I say Mike Townsend and Lee Swords visited the same river a couple of days before me and BOTH these fine anglers blanked you’ll get the picture. As it was I met up with Mark Barrett so we could make it a part social trip. Mark was after carp so we were able to leave all our gear with him while Stu and I roamed far and wide searching as many swims as possible.
It was tough, I can tell you. No excuses but I did manage to winkle out five fish from 5 different swims after a huge amount of effort. Mark chucked out a couple of carp rods, sat in his bivvy and bided his time for the optimum moment. As the light levels began to fade and the wind eased ever so slightly he chucked out a waggler. He didn’t feed anything yet nicked two rudd in 3 casts. And they were the biggest of the 7 we caught between us! That’s local know-how in practise.
Mark offers a guiding service to anyone who might be interested in having a go for themselves, or indeed for pike and zander through his Kestrel Guiding Services.
I must recount this little tale though. I had gone down there intending to catch on bread. My feed would be liquidised bread. Stu, in his wisdom, took along a couple of pints of white maggots despite the fact he was on camera duty and not even fishing. I did try maggot several times but couldn’t get a single bite on them. No, all my bites came to bread, as I expected.
So Stu spends two hours searching for some rudd in the near margins, knowing that they are shy creatures and almost always caught at range. Eventually he managed to attract a rudd to the back of some pads and it began taking maggots on the drop. After feeding it for half an hour there were 3 fish in the swim and they were really having it. ‘Shift over and let me catch one.’ Says I.
‘No, I want to film them.’ Says Stu.
Of course we disagreed strongly on this but Stu was adamant. We strapped the camera to the end of a carbon carp pole and gently pushed it toward the feeding rudd. Wooosh! Off they went. ‘Told you!’ Says I. But Stu’s determination doesn’t diminish because of a small set back. He continued feeding and eventually the rudd returned. Cautiously at first and then they got bolder and bolder. Soon they were really having it. Bread or maggots, it didn’t matter. They ploughed into whatever we threw at them. Meanwhile I’m feeding while Stu actually pans across the swim to capture a series of unbelievable shots.
Eventually my pleading got through to him. ‘Okay, go on then…’ So I nicked on two maggots, fed a dozen and flicked out my float. For a second the rudd backed off and my bait sank out of sight. And then the float buried. Now bearing in mind the biggest of these 3 rudd was probably two and a half pounds my heart was in my mouth. I struck and in one swift movement a tiny hybrid came hurtling out of the water! I couldn’t believe it. We hadn’t seen any other fish in the swim whatsoever, just the 3 rudd. But you know what? That one bite was it. They had spooked off and never returned…
This Barbel Game Is Just Too Easy!
I nipped out for my third river trip of the year and did the hat-trick. Three outings and a barbel on my very first cast each time. Only this time the fishing was even better. Turning up just before mid-day I fed a few swims, let them settle down and then had 5 fish in an hour. Easy peasy when you get it right.
Good sized fish, too, as these pictures show. And guess what? I had the river to myself. The only other angler I saw turned up just as I was leaving for home at 6.30pm. Learn the lesson. You don’t have to wait for Noddy hour to catch barbel. Just sort out location, feeding and tactics. Okay, come August when the rivers are low, clear and stale then maybe you will have to wait till last knockings but with all this colour and flow it simply ain’t necessary.
I do have to say that no barbel caught during full darkness, no matter how big, can ever give you quite the same feeling of satisfaction as watching a fully recovered lump swimming away in broad daylight…
And if you’re still not convinced barbel can be caught during the daytime here’s James Gould’s girlfriend with one she managed to winkle out without any help at all. Not bad to think she only picked up a rod for the first time a matter of weeks ago. Get in there girl! Already had the cover of the Anglers Mail with a tench.
Now she’s putting a fair few barbel anglers to shame. Eat your heart out bloggers!
In The Frame
The subject of photography cropped up this week in a qustion on my Facebook page about self-take pictures. I’m not a good social angler. If I go fishing with someone I tend to fish very badly and end up spending half my time in their swim socialising rather than trying to catch fish. No, if I want to catch something I’m far better off going on my own. I don’t get lonely, I don’t crave for attention or sit their texting folk, I get on with the job of catching fish. Social fishing has its place but I have to lay down a line of separation, I’m either fishing or socialising.
Some folk are like me. I am happy with my own company, but it does have its drawbacks, taking photographs is one of them. I know if I fish with certain anglers I will get sh*t hot trophy shots. Well composed, sharp focus, properly exposed and I’ll get direction as to whether I need to bring the tail forward, hold the fish upright, higher, lower, closer to my body, etc. Self-takes are a lot harder, especially when I’m travelling light.
It would be great to carry a tripod, but that’s out of the question. I have resorted to balancing my camera on my bait bucket or ruckbag on more occasions than I care to think about but the best solution is a simple camera adaptor. For years I used a Gold Labe Tackle adaptor that screwed into a bank stick but for some reason it got a bit sloppy and the camera was prone to ‘flopping’. This week I’ve replaced the old one with the ‘new’ GLT ‘deluxe’ adaptor and I have to say it is brilliant. It’s £11.95 well spent for any angler.
Once the camera is set you simply need to frame the shot. Not easy on your own but rather than faff about with spare bank sticks I use a wide angle lens and crop the shot. Leave the fish to recover in the landing net and take half a dozen shots of yourself (pretending you are holding a fish) till you get the right framing and exposure. As a rule of thumb I set the camera to under-expose by two-thirds of a stop and drop in a bit of flash to begin with. I rarely go far wrong with that in my experience.
You can use your camera’s built-in timer, an air release cable or an electronic remote to fire the shutter. I have one made by Hahnel, the Giga T Pro. You can programme it to fire off a series of shots at intervals, say a shot every 2 secods for 30 seconds, for example. Each time the camera will re-focus before firing so there’s no excuse at all for not getting the perfect shot. There will definitely be no camera shake like unlike there is when you employ the services of a passing alcoholic dog walker…
Dear, oh dear, Steve. Did the earth move for you, too?!!! 😉
Seriously, get the basics right and all you need to do then is learn how to disguise those revealing backgrounds from the pictures you publish with photo imaging software like Photoshop and you can share your joy with everyone whilst keeping your favourite swims a secret.
Doctor Otter’s In Denial
I do worry when International Otter Survival Fund’s Head of Operations, Dr Paul Yoxon, comes out with a quote stating that: “The data simply isn’t available to say that otters are everywhere.”
Really? So how come the BBC broadcast in 2011 that otters are now in every county in the UK? Are we saying that the 2010 survey by the Environment Agency which found otters in every single county except Kent was flawed? A myth, perhaps?
And according to Yoxon we’re in a drought. We are not experiencing the wettest spring and early summer since 2007. June wasn’t the wettest on record and there isn’t a whole month’s rain forecast to hit already saturated ground in the next 24 hours, is there?
Which kind of makes his next statement rather ludicrous: “On the one hand we are being told that there is a drought and fish are having to be rescued from drying rivers and on the other hand we are hearing that there are loads of otters. Both… cannot be true. But instead of arguing we want to work WITH people involved in fishing to resolve conflicts before they become serious. We hope as many fishermen as possible will join us and help us preserve fish stocks, otters and the biodiversity of our country.”
I’m really pleased that he wants to work WITH anglers but as he’s based on the island of Skye he is hardly at the heart of the problem, is he?!!!
If the Otter Survival Fund wants to work WITH angling then maybe it should stop funding otter holts. Start feeding your ‘pets’ and offering compensation to those who suffer unsustainable losses. When will you recognise the European eel population has collapsed and recognise that cormorants are wreaking untold and unsustainable damage, too? Will you recognise that migratory fish numbers have declined and accept that you have to build a food chain from the bottom up, not the top down? And how about you accept managed culling where damage is catastrophic and unsustainable, particularly on lowland rivers and lakes? Please tTell us what YOU are proposing to do to manage otter numbers until fish populations regain a sustainable level. Will you understand for once that YOU are an intrinsic part of the problem? WE have a solution. It’s just that you don’t like it and it’s not popular with those who see these carnivorous rats as something cute and cuddly.
The IOSF is a charity. It’s mission statement claims it wants to, ‘educate people to the benefits of otters, what healthy populations mean for the environment’. Well, go on then. Tell me exactly what benefits a healthy population has brought to the Ivel, the upper Ouse and the Windrush for starters. And any other rivers you care to name for that matter.
The IOSF actively encourages the creation of carefully sited and constructed artificial holts to encourage otters to recolonise and breed along stretches of waterways from which they are at present absent. It even emphasises careful site selection to avoid unnecessary wastage of effort and money on its web site. In other words, widespread distribution is more important than sustaining any other species it will prey on, irrespective of what state of threat that food supply is under. That is not working WITH angling.
Nowhere on the IOSF web site is there any recognition of the impact that the release of otters has. We are told that otters are no longer raised in captivity and released. If that is true, why is the IOSF appealing for money to raise otters? They state clearly that it costs £1000 per annum to raise an otter cub. Like Bob Geldof they cry, ‘Give us yer money!’ – Otters are special animals and we need special people to help. No amount is too small as it will buy a fish for an otter.
Well it’s all well and good feeding otter cubs, who pays when you release them? Who funds those valuable carp and barbel they kill for fun after you’ve released them? A specimen carp costs thousands of pounds to replace. On some lakes otters have killed a carp galore. Likewise barbel on rivers.
I am sick and tired of folk spouting that Mother Nature will always find a balance. That eventually the number of predators will balance out, stocks will recover and harmony will be restored throughout the countryside. Well if that’s the case, why did a single otter have to be released? Why did cormorants have to be protected? Surely these two species would have found their own balance.
Species die out. Extinction is a daily occurence and the last person to pit your faith and hope into is Mother Nature. Her track record in the survival of the species is dreadful. It has always been the way but the problem here is not nature, it is that man has intervened. Man has decided to play God and tip the evolutionary balance. Man has decided, in his wisdom, that certain species are to be saved at the expense of all others.
In 2004 nearly 16,000 species were listed as under threat or disappearing worldwide, with more than 200 of these already described as ‘possibly extinct’ and almost 3,000 ‘critically endangered’. What makes otters so special against that backdrop? Why does no-one give a sh*t about the greater horseshoe bat, for instance?
Yet this is just the tip of a global iceberg. Further research reveals some 137 species are estimated to go extinct each day, 50,000 species each year. So I ask you again: What’s so special about the otter that we must introduce it to where it never was, where we have to create artificial habitat and where it’s prey has no genetic disposition to protect itself?
But enough, I shall leave you with a few quotes from folk with far more intelligence than I aspire to:
‘Of the four billion life forms which have existed on this planet, three billion, nine hundred and sixty million are now extinct. We don’t know why.’ – P. D. James
* * *
‘We should always be clear that animal exploitation is wrong because it involves speciesism. And speciesism is wrong because, like racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism, classism, and all other forms of human discrimination, speciesism involves violence inflicted on members of the moral community where that infliction of violence cannot be morally justified. But that means that those of us who oppose speciesism necessarily oppose discrimination against humans. It makes no sense to say that speciesism is wrong because it is like racism (or any other form of discrimination) but that we do not have a position about racism. We do. We should be opposed to it and we should always be clear about that.’ – Gary L. Francione
* * *
‘Nevertheless so profound is our ignorance, and so high our presumption, that we marvel when we hear of the extinction of an organic being; and as we do not see the cause, we invoke cataclysms to desolate the world, or invent laws on the duration of the forms of life!’ – Charles Darwin
* * *
And finally, my favourite:
‘We’re so self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now. “Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.” And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. Save the planet, we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. I’m tired of this sh*t. I’m tired of f***ing Earth Day. I’m tired of these self-righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is that there aren’t enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world safe for Volvos. Besides, environmentalists don’t give a sh*t about the planet. Not in the abstract they don’t. You know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They’re worried that some day in the future they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn’t impress me.’
‘The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles … hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere. WE are!’
‘We’re going away. Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little Styrofoam … The planet’ll be here and we’ll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.’
‘The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?” ‘ – George Carlin
* * *
Indeed, why are we here? Not to save otters, that’s for sure! So folks, you heard it here first. Protecting otters and cormorants at the expense of fish is speciesism. It’s non-PC. Extend the H&S culture to fish, I say…!