The water temperatures were rock bottom; in fact they didn’t break out of the three degrees bracket once during the week. The local pools have all been permanently covered in a sheet of ice and it was only the flow of the canal, albeit minimal, that enabled me to fish them. With time limitations I decided to continue with spinning for perch, which last week saw me land a nice fish.
However, this week was a different ball game. I did manage a small perch on the first outing, but that was it for the week. Although the sessions were short – averaging about ninety minutes – that still amounts to a lot of casts, and plenty of opportunity for a hungry perch to attack the lure. However, just the one fish obliged. Although I am forever the optimist I am still nevertheless realistic and always knew that it was going to be a struggle. The only excitement that I had was when the spinner temporarily caught on an underwater obstacle, when just for a moment I thought I had connected with a fish.
The highlight of the week was not a fish but a bird, and in particular a water rail. I noticed the bird on the far bank, feeding in light vegetation. Being quite shy, as soon as it saw me it was off. A combination of running along the ground and swimming on the water saw it disappear into a dense reed bed in double quick time. They aren’t in the category of rare bird that would see twitchers descend from across the country, but nevertheless they are not easily seen. They are resident in small numbers in the UK, but their numbers are swollen by winter visitors.
It’s been a good year for me on the bird front – having seen 129 species – many of them whilst out angling. With birds including barn owl, little owl, hobby, osprey, peregrine falcon and yellow wagtail, I’ve certainly had some welcome diversions, particularly when the angling has been slow. But the type of fishing that I do certainly makes it easier to take in the surrounding wildlife. Even spinning allows me to cast my eye around the area as opposed to staring at a float or a rod tip.
It’s also been a good year on the fishing front too. Lots of blanks, which is par for the course if you are pursuing big fish, but also some encouragements along the way to keep the motivation level high. Specimen fishing, by its nature means that you won’t always hit the mark, but when you do then there’s always the chance of a bulls eye. And this year I have broken my personal best records for five fish, so that has been very rewarding.
If I had to settle for just one fish of the five during 2007, then it would be the 9lb 12oz tench that I caught way back in the spring when I did a gravel pit campaign. This would be pushed all the way though by the 16lb 1oz barbel that was caught in July. I’m sure that for many anglers, particularly barbel fanatics, there would be no contest, but I’m not a single species angler and certainly taking into account the big picture of the capture, the tench it is for me. The other fish that pushed my personal record list upwards were carp at 27lb 10oz, perch and zander. The latter pb was broken several times, but as I was pretty much a zander virgin anyway before this year a prolonged campaign meant that several advances were always going to be on the cards.
As I now look forward to a new year, I’m hoping to again increase a few personal bests. But above all I want to enjoy my fishing, with anything caught seen as a bonus rather than an essential. If you’re not appreciating being out there, all the 10lb barbel, tench and bream in the world will never compensate. Yes, we all want to catch fish, but if you don’t enjoy it then it’s time to re-evaluate. And with that logic, hopefully I won’t be doing any of that in 2008.
(Originally published December 2007)