There’s always time for a new first
Left to right: Woodland Lodge, my first carp of the year, small but perfectly formed, a nice perch from the canal
A number of ‘firsts’ cropped up during the opening session in this week’s article, so much so that by the end of the day when I was thinking of a title for the piece, I knew that it had to incorporate that fact. The opening first was the date – April 1st – which as we all know is April Fool’s Day. Every year I play the same trick on my wife Debby, and every year she falls for it. It runs something like this… I telephone the home number from my mobile. I answer the phone in my usual way, ‘Hello Stewart Bloor speaking’. I then say, ‘Hang on a moment I’ll get her for you’. ‘Debby’ I shout, ‘it’s for you’. So she comes to the phone – although I will give her credit this year as she actually remembered what day it was before she picked it up.
With the triumphalism of yet another successful April Fool notched up, I set off for the pool where I was going to fish. It’s the latest venue that Kinver Freeliners Angling Club have added to their portfolio and the first time that I have fished at Woodland Lodge. There are a couple of pools – well ponds really – and although I arrived on a damp and miserable day I can see that without doubt they will be very attractive fisheries indeed in a couple of month’s time. The only history that I had concerning the venue was based on a couple of very short winter sessions that the KFAC main man, Steve Williams, had done. So it was nice to fish somewhere that to all intents and purposes was a cast into the unknown.
Although small, like any waterway there are inevitably features. And with perch my target species I homed in on one of the tree root swims that Steve had spoken about. The pond that I fished is lined with common alders and the root systems have grown out into the water. You can see that the ponds have been excavated and trees have been planted very close to the edge, thus creating what has become a very good natural feature. So what was probably an error of judgement in the first place, has been turned around by nature to create excellent living quarters for the fish. And with erosion unlikely to be a major problem, plus the fact that the common alder can very happily co-exist with water, it can only be a good thing for the angler.
The first thing I did on arrival was to plumb the depth in the swim I had chosen. There are so many anglers who literally chuck-it-and-chance-it without any idea of what they are casting into. Then there are anglers who take the word of others (and that’s not in reference to anything that Steve told me by the way!) and base their session on that. And I’m not suggesting that we should doubt what people tell us or become cynical of everything that we hear, but it’s important that we know for ourselves. An example is a pool that I fished many years ago where I was told so many times ‘It’s 30 feet deep in the middle’. When I took a ticket out to fish the place I spent a quiet afternoon on there with a marker float rod and found that it was at the most 9 feet. Which incidentally is roughly what I had in front of me at Woodland Lodge.
I fished two rods, one float and one leger, and ended the day with numerous fish but mostly small ones. Apart from the common carp, that I will come to in a moment, only one perch needed the landing net – and that wasn’t exactly a monster. Although the conditions were quite wintry, amongst the roach I caught I also had a few rudd which my first of the species this year. Some of the perch landed were tiny, and not much bigger than the worm that they took. And whilst I certainly think large perch are magnificent I also marvel at the very small ones as well. They are everything that their bigger brothers are except in perfect miniature, and whilst they fail to compete on size they more than make up for it with courage. My favourite fish without doubt!
I struck into two carp, the first one escaping courtesy of a hook pull. But the second one I managed to net (my first of the year), but only after if created chaos in the water for a couple of minutes, as it raced up and down doing its utmost to kill the swim dead. But as it says on the home page of my website ‘There’s no such thing as a nuisance fish’ and regardless of the species or the size – or even what time of the day or night they come – all fish are welcomed. I still fish for a target species though, and on this session although no bigger perch put in an appearance, I will still go back to the venue to give it a go. You can’t judge a pool by one visit. And to round off the day, driving home I saw my first lapwings of 2010, a small flock dropping into a field to spend the night. So, see how many ‘firsts’ you can spot in the above paragraphs!
Moving on to the second and third sessions of the week, I switched venue and had a couple of early morning starts on the local canal. Setting the alarm for 5.15am that gave me just the right amount of time to be fishing at first light. This is now the time of the year when middle-of-the-day angling on the Staffs/Worcs Canal is hard going. If the boats themselves aren’t churning through the swim then the water movement from the locks makes fishing very difficult. There’s no point in fighting a losing battle, so mornings, evenings and nights are the way to go now till the autumn. And apart from the nights, that’s the best time to target the perch in the warmer months anyway.
On my first canal visit I had just the one perch, not really that big but I used the net anyway to be on the safe side. Plus not only is it about us making sure we land the fish but the net helps to support it as it is lifted from the water. Even a half-a-pound fish being swung in to hand is suspended in the air without the cushion of the water around it. I’m certainly not influenced by the views of those whose aim is to make angling illegal, but if there are self-regulating things that we can do in terms of fish welfare then we shouldn’t see our actions as defensive.
I saw my first blackcap of the year, a male bird singing in trees behind the swim. I also managed to capture it on camera and you can see that on the accompanying video. It took me to 70 species for the year. I’m a very keen birder but I don’t go out of my way to tick birds for the sake of it, so that just shows how many species are out there. And by the end of the year I will top 100; certainly a few will be added over the next month as the summer migrants arrive in numbers. I also saw a couple of goosanders in flight while I fished. I do see them occasionally in this area, but always in winter, so their presence was a reminder that the harsh conditions we have had are still hanging on in a small way.
My final angling session of the week saw me back in the same peg. I fished identical, one float rod and one leger rod. And again I had just the one perch, but this time it was much bigger. My personal approach to angling is such that I don’t catch many fish but the ones I do end up with tend to be better than average for the water, and that suits me perfectly. This perch, like the one in the previous visit, was caught on worm. Whilst the first one was one the float though, I caught this one on the leger rod. My approach was quite simple – worm fished over dead maggots, with brown crumb as the carrier. And it came just in time before the sailors hit the water and the bank holiday armada started!
Video number 15 on list
(Originally published April 2010)