Monday, 14 January 2013

Wintered Oaks, Naked Willows and a Relentless Chaffinch

The day could not have been more different from that of the previous weekend. Last Saturday brought a mild, overcast affair with carp trying their best to meet me. In the woods surrounding the pools a pheasant shoot took place, it was a carnival of beating, banging and hollering followed by a smattering of shotgun fire as hunter engaged the enemy, this went on all day.

This weekend, however, painted a much different scene. From Thursday evening I began looking at the forecast, wet weather leading up to Sunday with a dry but cold day. Cold I can handle, dry even better, but rain I really do dislike. Thursday night saw a deluge of biblical proportions, it carried on through most of Friday and the whole of Saturday, but the forecast still looked promising.

I left home at 6:20am and the journey took forty minutes. The final leg saw me driving through the classic terrain we associate with carp pools, countryside lanes that twist and turn, hedgerows either side and archways of wintered oaks. I arrived in darkness, although there was a faint glow in the south and soon enough the landscape began to show its colours. I had planned all week to fish the trickier bottom pond, the bailiff had previously showed me some pictures of splendid carp, carp to mid-twenties with plated scales and flanks of chocolate that had been caught recently. It was always going to be a waiting game, but after the hectic session I had endured the weekend before I was quite happy to sit and enjoy the day in the hope that something special may come along.

I set up camp halfway along the road bank, it was still slightly dark but I could just about see unaided. Two bivvies perched on the bank to my left, not ideal but there was still plenty of water for me to angle in, but I still made the effort to visit my neighbours to ascertain where they were casting. Back in the swim I plumbed the depth next to a withered bush to my right that leant out over the water a little creating a hiding place and was astounded to find a depth of over five feet almost directly against the bank; the perfect winter margin. I set up the 10ft mark IV with a centrepin, small quill and size 6 hook for the margin spot. The other rod was my 11ft Mark IV teamed with a Mitchell 300 culminating in a ledgered bottom rig which was to be flicked out in the direction of the willow in the corner. Whilst setting up I was sung a beautiful song by a nearby blackbird and a chaffinch did its best to join in.

I had prepared the dry ground-bait mix at home the previous evening, Marine Halibut mix, crushed hemp, tinned hemp and a few pellets of various sizes. All that was left to do was mix it with a little of the icy lake water to complete the job. Three tangerine sized balls were deposited on the areas I intended to fish and after a break of fifteen or so minutes when I consumed cold toast and hot coffee I commenced angling with a chunk of luncheon meat on each hook.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 530 x 799)Image

Gradually the sun appeared behind me, lighting up the far bank first but then reaching my neck bringing the most pleasurable warmth. It was the wind clawing at me me from my right that was the real issue; I fixed up my brolly which went some way to shield me. I was later to learn that the day never got above two degrees with a chill factor of minus two. A couple of hours went by and nothing moved apart from the two coots circling the pool diving at random. A young lad I met last weekend pitched up to my right, he came over for a brief chat and quickly scurried back to tackle up, cast out and hide from the elements in his popup tent.

I took a drink from my flask and was greeted by a very friendly but obviously fussy robin. He perched on the edge of my ground-bait bowl and sifted through seeming only to pick out the hemp seeds. The chaffinch also flew down but didn’t come quite so close, soon after he was back among the trees chirping away with that all familiar ‘Chink Chink’. I must say I didn’t spot a female throughout the whole day so perhaps he just wanted some company; on the other hand, maybe he was just trying to charm me out of a few titbits so that he would not return to his lady in the woods empty handed. Whatever his motive, he was very pleasant company.

At lunchtime I wound in and started on a tour of the pools to stretch my legs. I circled the fishery chatting to other anglers along the way but the general consensus was that the fishing was rock hard and that the drop in temperature over-night and the bitter icy wind were to blame. I made a joke with one guy saying that perhaps it wasn’t the weather and that perhaps we just weren’t trying hard enough, but he seemed to take umbrage to my comment and proceeded to explain to me his methods and went on to tell me that they had worked perfectly in the past and that today shouldn’t be any different. Some people are so touchy…

I did notice on my travels that an area of the top pond had some marginal disturbances that looked remarkably like feeding fish. I stored that in the back of my mind and kept it to myself in case I needed to call upon it later. I also spotted the same male chaffinch, a little scruffy around the head, sat in a holly bush. He was looking around seemingly innocent and chirping away, but I knew he was following me, he was far too blatant.

Thinking that resting my swim without any line going through it would be a good move I returned with renewed confidence, but within half an hour of shivering it was soon discarded and the lure of the top pond and that discoloured margin was getting more and more difficult to ignore. I did have one twitch on the float though, albeit probably a roach with no eyes swimming into the line. I checked the time with my neighbour and at 2:30pm I packed away some things ready for the move to the top pond.

As I got there I heard the chaffinch call out as if to greet me, welcoming me back. He hadn’t followed me but stayed put; perhaps he knew I’d be back. ‘Chink Chink’ was the sound I heard all through setting up. Just the one rod was assembled, the float rod and due to the fish being close to the bank I stepped very lightly and kept noise to an absolute minimum. A little ground-bait was deposited close to the bank next to some vegetation that formed a cavern and my quill followed baited with the usual luncheon meat.

The float bobbed a few times very quickly and sailed away after only a couple of minutes. I connected with the fish which put up a very good scrap with the centrepin spinning so fast it almost causing friction burns to my thumb. All the while I was thinking it was one of the better fish so I played it very gingerly, but was quite surprised when a mirror carp of around 4lbs came up for a gulp and slipped gracefully into the net. It was nice to see a fish, I was sure a blank was on the cards if I had not made the move. I took a quick snap for evidence and slipped her back into the next swim along.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 799 x 530)Image

Although I fed the swim with a small amount of free offerings regularly and the float dipped and swirled quite frequently, I received no more fish, even though I struck at a handful of what I thought were certain bites. It could have been that a shoal of small bream had moved in, or maybe it was because I had one eye on the glorious sunset that was forming to my right, a deep red sun that had started its decent into the horizon. At a little before 4pm I decided that I would begin to pack away and head for the car, but not before taking my camera on a little jaunt to see if I could take advantage of the wonderful scene I was witnessing. The sun was mesmerising as it shone through naked willows. Before I picked up my things for the final journey the chaffinch flew past, sat on my bucket lid and said ‘Chink Chink’, as if wishing me a safe journey home.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 799 x 530)Image

The day, although a cold one, was perfect for many reasons. I was outside for a start at one of my favourite times of the year doing what I love at a place I really enjoy visiting. I made new friends; although mostly the feathered variety, new friends are always welcome whatever shape or form. But it was the break in the weather which pleased me the most, rain for days leading up to the trip and snow and sleet today (Monday). It was as if Isaak had a hand in it, perhaps the chaffinch was also of his doing, to keep me company through the day and keep spirits up.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 530 x 799)Image