2012 – End Of Season Blog (Part One of Three)

Welcome to what has turned out to be a mammoth blog. 8,000 words!!!! So many that I’ve decided to split it up into 3 instalments. That’s right, this is merely Part One of a marathon read. When I began typing a couple of weeks back the season was entering its death throes and my opening thoughts began:

‘The sun is shining, the birds are singing, trees are sprouting buds and leaves, daffodils have burst forth and the fat lady is clearing her throat with a degree of enthusiasm that only comes when she’s about to bellow out a rousing refrain of Auld Lang Syne. Yes folks, another river season is about to end and hundreds of folk who haven’t been fishing since last autumn will be rejoicing because they now have another 3 months of inactivity to look forward to, no doubt saving them from the nagging embarassment of never actually catching owt.

With no excuses required for not going fishing they’ll turn their attentions to internet forums with renewed vigour and drone on endlessly about how it’s such a good thing to take an enforced break, a chance to recharge their batteries(!) and feel secure in the knowledge that the public at large will respect us for our ecologically sound stance.

Of course that’s utter bull***t because the public at large couldn’t give a flying fig about angling. They’ll continue to paddle their canoes through spawning grounds, allow their children to pick wild flowers, their dogs to chase nesting birds off their eggs, harry sheep and cattle and generally trample through SSSI sites with indifference. Wake up folks, Mr Townie doesn’t care about us. You credit him with great intelligence and a caring nature when deep down inside he’s as stupid as you are!

And yes, you’ve won. You’re stopping the really keen anglers from fishing. Well done! Only fishing won’t stop on the rivers, will it? Those who fish for the pot won’t stop. Cormorants won’t stop, nor otters. Clubs will have no income, more folk will migrate to the commercials and fish stocks will continue to decline. Bet you feel pretty smug all the same.’

Nothing’s changed there then!

Honestly, does the average member of the public actually care that this 37lb carp was slaughtered by an otter last week…

Or that more will die unless someone steps in and takes the necessary illegal action to prevent it happening? What bothers me is that a number of vociferous pro-closed season ‘anglers’ will say this fish deserved to die. Doesn’t belong here, it was old, it would have died eventually anyway, so get over it. Yet these same hypocrites will support and even fund the stocking of barbel into rivers where they are non-indigenous. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Of course, come mid-June it’ll be those who purport to be so caring who will target barbel and chub on the spawning grounds. They’ll even boast of how glorious their actions are – the glorious 16th and all that goes with it. They’ll insist everyone adopts their welfare policies for the protection of fish, while in reality they’ll frig about endlessly with the rare fish they do catch, keeping them out of the water far too long for weighing and photographs before spending half an hour trying to get them to recover enough to swim away…

But it’s okay if you use a mat.

Fortunately it’s such an infrequently occurence as to be inconsequential in the bigger picture.

Listen guys, these fish aren’t precious objects, they’re free range otter meat, that’s all.

Last week I heard talk of the local RSPB getting ‘twitchy’ over the lack of grebes and herons on their nature reserve. One day they’ll work out that these native inland birds require fish as a pre-requisite of their survival and those alien invaders they steadfastly protect are the cause of this demise. Anglers will never succeeed in getting the protection provided to cormorants lifted, ultimately the RSPB will. But unfortunately by the time they wake up and do something it will be too late.

Wouldn’t be surprised if the folk who currently support the closed season actually object to this and demand protection for cormorants and otters. That may sound stupid to you and me but just read their comments on forums of late. It’s not as ridiculous or as far fetched as you might think. Only recently one prominent barbel statesman stated the Ouse barbel were old, so it didn’t matter that otters killed them… Another told me that the fish are dead, so get over it!

Personally, I think the closed season should be a matter for each individual’s conscience. If you want to observe it then by all means feel free to do so with my blessing. But why should you impose your views on everyone else? What about individual choice? Let’s have a one-day mandatory break by all means, shall we make this on April 1st. – April Fools Day? Outside of that we should let each individual club decide when and whether it closes all or parts of its water for prescribed periods, determined by prevailing weather conditions.

By all means protect the areas where fish spawn (when they are spawning) rather than the entire country for an arbitrary 93 days which, lest we forget, was imposed upon us thanks to the actions of a non-fishing MP more than a hundred years ago and was never meant to protect coarse fish in the first place.

The Mundella Act has been hijacked to serve the purposes of those with a highly questionable and dubious agenda. Not politicians, not nature lovers, not the RSPB but by anglers.

Falling In Again (1)

Oh well, let’s move on to less serious matters – like fishing. I had a tip off about a mate of mine this week. I knew he’d gone ‘swimming’ a few weeks ago but what I didn’t realise is that he’s only done it again. Seriously he’s only fished Pine Lake Fisheries three times and he’s fallen in twice! Why would anyone want to do that, eh?

Bet he thought he’d got away with the second dip. Sorry Trev, my spies are everywhere! Sadly there are no photos.

Unless someone out there knows differently… Please contact me if you have one.

Another Box Ticked

With winter seemingly over and the end of season looming Stu and I have been going over our filming spreadsheet with a fine toothcomb. There were still a few boxes to tick, one being a simple intro and piece to camera with a few technical details. I knew just the place. Scenic and rarely fished. What’s more it had never let me down, producing much bigger than average sized chub for the river so we gained permission and nipped down there full of confidence.

I caught one measly chub. A smallish one. In fact the smallest one I’ve ever caught there. Bloody typical, eh? We moved to another stretch, well, three more stretches actually and had just one more fish of roughly the same size. Then Stu had a mishap with the camera that smashed the bluetooth receiver, but at least the camera was okay. Some days you just know it isn’t meant to be.

But the footage we did shoot looks fabulous. Perhaps sometimes we set unrealistic expectations and forget that it’s the surroundings that matter more than what we catch.

Bread Head Failure

Stu rang to say he’d got a little job on in Derbyshire that wouldn’t take him long to wrap up. Did I fancy tagging along and we could nip over to the Dove when he finished? ‘Let’s leave the cameras at home and just go for a bit of pleasure.’ He suggested. Sounded tempting and it would make a real change from the pressures of filming and I wasn’t planning on much else that day anyway.

I hung around for an hour while he did his work stuff and we were still on the banks before the Derby rush hour cleared. Alas the Dove had risen 9 inches for some inexplicable reason and my plans to fish with bread for chub were in tatters. It really can be as contrary as that. I never had a single pull on the bread. My change bait was maggot and they were instantly mullered by minnows so my day was a failure but Stu did manage to nick a barbel on pellets. At least it didn’t rain.

Comfortably Numb

Had an email this week from a very good angler. He wrote: ‘Hope you are okay and catching a few. I was on the river the other day pushing a float through – you dont half get some funny looks – when a narrow boat came upriver. I thought of you straight away as it was your favourite, yes, it was ‘Comfortably Numb’, the one you had problems with on your DVD and the guy is still not sure what a straight line is…

I wonder how many carefully laid barbel traps that particular boat has taken out in the past season or two? In fact I’ll gamble he has a right old birds nest of lines wrapped around his propellor even as we speak.

Idle Curiosity 

Three years ago I shot a feature for Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine on the lower River Idle. It was one of those dream days. By 10.30am I’d caught 25lb of pristine roach. With no further pressure to catch roach I chucked out a pike bait and had 3 up to doubles. You pray for days like that but I never seemed to find enough time to go back and have another crack. Since then I’ve been too busy on other projects but a little window arose this week and I nipped down to see how it was fishing.

I arrived early and secured the same swim. Only this time I blanked. I couldn’t raise a single bite. There were three other anglers on the stretch so I walked along to see how they were doing. Only one had caught and it was so small he ‘thought’ it was a dace. One cannot help but wonder where those fish have gone, eh?

Undaunted I threw my gear back in the van and headed for a special little swim that I haven’t fished for at least a decade. It was one of my secret places stretching back to those heady days in the 1970’s when it was common to catch roach going well over a pound. The river looked just how it used to except there were no fish topping. It looked completely dead.

Much to my surprise the float dipped after about 15 minutes and I caught a nice roach of perhaps 3oz. Was this the start of a good session? Alas not. I didn’t get another, nor did I get so much as a nipped maggot. My only other bite came from a bream. Idle bream normally fight like tigers as they’re usually a good stamp, often running four or 5lb appiece. This one limped in and it looked a sorry sight. Something, and I’m guessing a cormorant, had attacked it. There was a gaping wound on its flank and red weals where it had been grabbed on the wrist of its tail.

But at least it was soldiering on and who knows it may recover. I doubt the thing would have been attacked had there been a healthy head of silver fish but if the black plague is targeting 4lb bream I fear there’s no hope for pound roach…

Say Goodbye To Our Birdlife

And while we are on the subject of predation it’s not just fish that otters kill. Perhaps those who stupidly believe otters to be cute and cuddly creatures might care to reconsider after watching this encounter with a heron…

Oh, and you can ignore the lamentable excuse laden text that the person who filmed it has added. This otter was defending nothing. The heron posed no threat. This was a well fed otter showing what otters are – vicious killers.

Down The Don

One river that defies national trends is the River Don. I can catch silver fish here all day long but that might be down to the effective cormorant management that has been carried out by a number of individuals who actually care for English nature. They’re fully paid up members of the Billy Makin school of thought when it comes to protecting the environment.

A trip with no other motive than to use up some old maggots provided me with a cracking days sport that would still have been a good catch 40 years ago, in fact your average match angler back then would have snatched your arm off for such a day.

It began with me running an 8 No4 stick through in 12 feet of water. A few small roch and dace showed immediate interest and then I had a few better fish. In between times I had 5 good skimmers, just on the turning brown stage, but I just felt something wasn’t quite right. The skimmers disappeared which can mean they’ve backed off or the loose feed isn’t getting to them. It was the latter.

Shallowing up I began to catch some nice dace, ending up fishing 3 feet deep with a 2 No4 stick float and getting a bite a chuck. Unfortunately I ran out of bait while they were still having it.

Returning 5 days later I opted for a different swim 200 yards upstream. This time I was itching to go shallow and within the hour I was catching at half depth. A switch to a slim 3 No6 Benny Ashurst stick float had fish crawling up the rod. By striking gently I could get two or even three bites each trot down. If the float travelled more than a yard without going under it meant something had nicked the maggot.

Boy did I enjoy myself. I guess I caught over 200 fish, mostly dace between an ounce and 5 ounces. Three distinct year classes and plenty of each. And by scaling off on Google Earth I can tell that I was just 2.23 miles from my front door. Yet I spend hours driving all over the country to fish other rivers. Hardly makes sense, does it?

Wizards Of Oz

On the subject of fishing on the doorstep I had an interesting email from Tony Howard this week. Tony used to fish in the same village working mens club as me about 30 years ago. Like his old man Johnny, who won a Trent Nationonal, Tony was a class act. Later on we fished in the same team at Goldthorpe but after I gave up match fish fishing we drifted apart and lost touch.

Next thing I heard he’d emigrated to Australia but he tracked me down through this web site. Indeed the site has rekindled lots of lost friendships but none quite so distant as this one. Guess the world really is shrinking. Anyway his latest email intrigued me because Tony was just setting out to fish a 3-day competition on the Murray River which is about 5 hours away from where he now resides in Melbourne. He reckons it’s absolutely solid with carp and he’ll send me some pictures when he gets back. That’ll be interesting.

Typical isn’t it. Me old mate Popey’s half way through a 3 month spell in Oz and all he writes about in his blog is picnics, going to the zoo and babysitting while I stay home and write about the fishing over there. Come on Steve, get your finger out! You’re in a unique position to tell us all about the Aussie fishing scene, the tackle shops, venues, species, magazines, TV shows, top baits, tactics and so much more. Don’t waste this fantastic opportunity.

Alarm Call

With tench and bream fishing high on my list of targets this spring and summer I was chuffed to take delivery of a new set of Delkim bite alarms. I’ve used Delkims exclusively for at least 15 years and the ones I’ve used are still in perfect working order, but I really am a bit of a tackle tart at heart and I fancied using the new light-up bobbins and twin LEDs. So I’ve upgraded.

Can’t wait to get out and use them now!

Right. Newspaper column to write and if things go well maybe I’ll find time to publish Part Two tomorrow, or at a push, Saturday. Feel free to join me…

10 thoughts on “2012 – End Of Season Blog (Part One of Three)

  1. Cracking read Bob!

    I found a second Otters Holt on my favoured stretch last week :O)

    I will look forwards to monitoring them with my Cannon camera whist fishing come June 16th

  2. Brilliant read Bob,

    the footage of that Otter with the Heron speaks volumes and I have been seeing a few more than I would like on the Loddon this season, can’t say I’m overly amused.

  3. Pingback: Blogs...... - Barbel Fishing World Forums

    • Anthropomorphism is a very dangerous thing.

      The Heron isn’t suffering
      The Otter is killing it

      The Otter isn’t being cruel or nasty it is simply being an Otter

      I have seen Pike eat ducklings and baby rats
      I Have seen Herons eat duckling mice rats and small rabbits
      I have seen Sparrowhawks eat the cutest of fledgling blue tits

      nature isn’t human, it doesn’t value morality, it doesn’t play fair, it isn’t convenient, it doesn’t serve to entertain.

      nature simply ‘is’

  4. Yes, a great read as ever Bob.

    I doubt the otter killed the heron because it posed a direct threat to its cub, more likely that as another predator it was competition. As you so often in the wild, apex predators often killed other predators, which means one less to worry about.

  5. Nice one Bob.

    So what do you think we should do about the close season and predation issues?

    We seem to talk a lot amongst ourselves but I see little effort to take this to a broader audience, as if we don’t want to draw attention it.

    I believe we need some properly funded research, something that will only be funded by anglers. Do you think a campaign to raise the funds would be something realistic?

    I was thinking that the EA could run this fund raising exercise, perhaps a voluntary £1 contribution in addition to the rod license suppliemented by angling outlets selling wrist bands to supplement this.

    With a million plus license holders a 50% success rate would see half a million in the coffers, enough to fund the research.


    • We have a unified body in the Angling Trust and this is our only route to Parliament. At the current time people like me can only try and influence other anglers but whilst ever we have leading angling figures suggesting that cormorants and otters are not a problem then we are in difficulties. Meanwhile I work on the principle of changing one mind at a time.

      We should endeavour to support the Predation Action Group and they will exert pressure formally. It’s all but impossible to do so as an individual other than to build support and voice opinions.

      I’m not sold on the research route. The last time the boffins spent 2 years studying cormorants they came to the conclusion that they don’t eat a lot of fish – yes, they dive a lot but they never seem to surface with a fish. Two years later someone told them they swallow fish underwater…

      If that’s the best that scientific study can offer then we would simply waste time and money.

      I don’t believe it is possible to collect money on the back of license funds. It has been suggested that it could do so for the Trust – say a £1 levy on ALL licenses rather than rely on folk like me who stumped up for life membership to fund the cause.

      In any case, how much research do you need to establish that 30,000 cormorants eat a lot of fish?

      Those in charge of culling license appear to have stopped counting how many birds are shot for each permit granted but sadly few anglers own guns.

  6. What is the Billy makin school of thought regarding cormorants Bob? I don’t recall ever having a problem with them. However I do seem to remember that the fields around my fishery contained some of the fattest foxes I have ever seen. Regards as always Billy makin tenerife

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