Groundhog day on the canal
Left to right: a surprise bream, a mistle thrush, a second surprise bream, a canal chub
Whoever we are and whatever our likes, dislikes and indifferences, there is one thing that we all share – a birthday. And as mine came round, top of the list of what I wanted to do was no surprise to anyone that even remotely knows me. A fishing session. Hence with the alarm set for 5.00am, I was up bright and early and making my way to the local canal after perch. Although the days are quite nice the nights are still chilly and before I set off in the car I had to scrape ice from the windshield. It felt very wintry as I walked to the spot that I had chosen to fish, and even more so as I sat there with freezing cold toes.
My tactic for the session, and the ones that followed, was a familiar one. Legered worm fished on a low resistance rig to the far bank close to overhanging vegetation. With bite alarms, bank sticks and a hanger – albeit a light one – to the undiscerning passer-by I could have been a carp fisherman. It’s funny how people see a certain set-up and draw conclusions. I’ve had people say to me ‘There are no carp in here mate’. Well, first of all I’m not carp fishing, and secondly there are because I have caught them. But whilst I may correct them on the initial point I keep quiet on the second. I play my cards very close to my chest at times.
I had a few dropped baits where I suspected roach, but eventually I caught a chub followed by a small perch. My birthday wasn’t exactly a fireworks display but at least I wasn’t a blanker. On the nature front I watched a pair of nesting jackdaws who had set up home in a pedunculate oak tree on the far bank. Severe weather had taken its toll on the tree and a branch had come away creating a tear in the trunk that provided a ready made residence for the birds. I also saw another bird in the area that shares the same sort of breeding site, the stock dove. I love these birds and there is a certain place near where I live where I go birding with the intention of seeing them.
The next morning it was another 5.00am start and back on the canal. I identified another nesting bird, this time a grey wagtail that was occupying a very safe and secure position in a small crevice on vertical ‘cliff’ on the far bank. Even the deadly mink would have had trouble scaling that. Fishing-wise, within half an hour I was into a suspected carp (or big chub) that I lost. These things happen and there’s nothing that you can do about it. I was having problems though with casting and thought I had some debris lodged in the top ring of the rod. It was only when I took a closer look that I realised the ring had iced up where it had made contact with the water. No wonder I was struggling on the perch front, although I did catch a few small ones.
The best fish though was a bream. It was a real surprise as I have never had one from the stretch before. Fishing is definitely full of the unknown factor. With the alarm clock set for another crack of dawn start the third morning on the trot, I got the idea of groundhog day as an article title. And again I was ice scraping and suffering cold toes, until the sun came out that was, then it was really warm. The two biggest fish were a chub and a bream. Smaller perch were caught but for the third session on the trot no decent ones. Was it the weather or were they spawning?
One creature that was well into its breeding cycle was a female mallard who I observed going to her nest. Nothing unusual in that of course, except that the nest was twelve feet up a tree. Mallards do this sometimes and it will be interesting to see what happens when the young hatch. I had one more session to come to round the week off but in the meantime it was a trip to Molineux that was another groundhog day. After a number of recent draws it was a case of snap as we drew with Blackburn Rovers. But with Hull City losing it was a definite case of a point earned rather than two dropped as our fight for survival moved on to just one team that could catch us. And with Burnley losing 0-4 the next day, Premier League football was guaranteed for Wolves until 2011. And as I tweeted, probably forevermore!
Anyway back to the fishing groundhog day as the final session of the article saw me up at 5.00am for the fourth time and heading towards the canal after perch. Would I finally catch a decent one this time though? The answer to that was no, although I did catch a number of smaller ones. And my previous question was also answered as a number of the fish deposited milt which showed that they were indeed in spawning mode. I guess the big fish were totally focused on reproducing and feeding was not on the radar. It was unusual for me to fish the swim that I did for four sessions and not come away with at least something to shout about. It’s usually a banker peg for big perch.
I saw my first birds of 2010 that have left the nest, as a female mallard and ten young made their way along the canal. I managed to capture them on camcorder and they feature in the accompanying video. I also noticed a colony of bluebells in full bloom on the far bank. Like everything else, the harsh winter has set them back, but now they are making up for lost time. But with spring becoming more and more evident by the day, I’m looking forward to fish really coming on the feed. Apart from when they are spawning that is!
Video number 18 on list
(Originally published May 2010)