99 Problems but a fish ain’t one
February arrived, and continued with the generally calm, balmy ,weather we have been enjoying since Christmas.
Mother Wharfe was running low, slow, and clear.
I was fishing solo today, and, due to the late night, and subsequent low-level hangover, didn't grace the bank until just before noon. I fished on Club waters and had the river to myself. I selected a likely looking peg, tackled up, and let battle commence. My weapon of choice was a waggler, 3lb mainline, and a size 20 Drennan, to 2lb hook length.
Lunch today would start with a ground bait appetiser, followed by a main of white or bronze maggots, and I was hoping the diners were hungry.
Crabtree had told me "they'll be gone by Christmas", but today, they were still here.
I trundled the float through , and after ten or so runs, it finally vanished. I retrieved what I thought was my first fish, only to discover it was Mr Toothys first fish, not mine. Piked !. I re tackled, and continued my Dace quest, landing a dozen or so before lifting into something bigger, and then the fish went really heavy again.
A pattern emerged,I would catch and net the smaller fish, the two Pike would share anything bigger. I played the smaller Esox for five minutes, before begrudgingly picking up my landing net. I didn't want to catch ( or unhook ) the big fella,but thankfully he did the decent thing and bit me off.
As I tackled up again,I watched a Cormorant swallow two fish- one small, one decent.just upstream. Then,my hat trick of predators was completed five minutes later, by a squadron of Goosander landing downstream.
The abundance of predators didn't stop the Dace feeding though,and the old pattern resumed. I caught more fish than the two Pike did, and even managed to sneak a few grayling into the net, but the majority of my captures were Dace to 6oz, the majority of my losses were,obviously, record breakers.
I headed home, content.
I had caught my chosen quarry. I had fed the wildlife,above and below the surface,and, thanks to 2lb line and sharp teeth, avoided landing a Pike. 10 fingers intact, looking forward to next weekend.
By gum !
The weather changed. A pewter sky, and a chocolate river doing its best to escape the confines of its banks.
What would have been a 'Ruffe match' on the river, became a rough match on our new ponds.
With the change of venue, Rudd would become the target.
The draw handed me a fancied peg on pond 2,where the winning weight came from in the equally cold, Fur and Feather Christmas match. The omens were good, Lady Luck had nibbled my ear...... and then we started.
Two biteless hours passed. No worries, they start feeding in the p.m. The omens were still good.
Up in the water, on the bottom,mid depth, nothing.
I tried to fish close to the recently deforested reed bed, but the miasma of severed, floating stalks prevented this. But for this obstacle, I would,naturally, have trounced all comers. The cash would have been mine. I would have been gracious and humble in victory,a little bashful even, but the reed bed ! The hotspot ! Aaagh.
( I haven't much angling experience, but I've quickly learned the value of the Book of Excuses )
My learned friends, Piscator, and Crabtree, have both warned me about 'moody ponds';and this one seemed to be in a right huff ! So much so, that I followed the much muttering Crabtree, on a short walk to inspect our newly dug 4th pond.
It can be best described as a blunt, rectangular canal, with a marginal shelf carved by JCB, from the surrounding bog. It contained inches of water, and yards of mud,but it's our water and our mud, and it will be fishable in due course. It even gifted us some Crucians, and some Eels; discovered during excavation.
Anyway, back to the match. It was cold, it rained, and nobody on pond 2 had a bite all day. All the action was on unfancied pond 1, where both anglers caught.The winner was Agent Orange - Lord of deforestation, with 6lb of Rudd on waggler and maggot. Congratulations to him on what was a tough day.
The rest of us went for a 'sympathy pint'.
So much for omens, eh ?
On Saturday I headed to club waters in search of Dace. Just for a few hours, just to commune with nature, just to avoid cleaning out my gutters, at home.
I was there,on the bank, but I kind of wasn't.
I fished like a novice. I AM a novice.
I watched my waggler bob up and down as it headed east, expecting it to disappear. It didnt. It couldn't. Most of it was above the water,well, an inch and a bit, at least.No self respecting Dace would be caught out by such crudity. A Grayling, maybe, but I couldn't find one daft enough.
Then,a familiar voice in my ear - "doing any good ?"
A polite but negative response followed.
I woke up then, dotted the float down, and fed more maggots.
Fresh on the bank, I could hear Izaak bagging up, upstream.
I fished the last couple of hours semi-competently, and finished with a dozen silver Dace, and a couple of Gling.
The fella upstream filled his boots.
And I got piked, again.
I was fishing at Club waters again, doing it 'by the book' this time.
Stick float. 3lb line . 2lb bottom. size 20 hook to nylon.
I'm not one to stay in an unproductive peg, I don't mind upping sticks and legging it,but today I parked.
My wingman for the day was none other than 'the Doctor' himself, and he moved pegs after ninety minutes, having bagged up on minnows - also meant to be 'gone by Christmas' ! - cursing the mild weather.
His new peg started producing after half an hour,and when I visited, I'm sure he was smiling . Possibly because I hadn't yet caught,possibly because he was catching,probably both
I returned to my peg, ran the float through a few more times, and decided to lob in a bomb instead, and have a coffee as I stared at the Orange dot. I poured, it twitched. I stopped, it did. I poured again ( you know what's coming ), it went round. Thankfully, waterproof trousers also mean coffee proof. The regular feeding had paid off. A 'net' Dace came in. Had they arrived ? Stick float back in,first run, another Dace. Another six maggots in, another trot, another fish. They had arrived, late but welcome. I didn't catch until 1:45,and then it went bonkers -Dace City.
I had a great afternoon, I didn't catch more than The Doctor, but couldn't complain.
It was a busy day - at least six anglers on our stretch. A mild day with periods of Sun brought out the joggers, dog walkers,cyclists, and ramblers to enjoy the day. I tried not to let the sight of a bloke 'taking a dump' on the far bank spoil my day, but I can still see the bright red undies and bare bum - I had my story to tell in the bar ! My round of course, The Doctor had 'forgotten' his wallet, again.
I had Friday off work, went fishing in the afternoon.
I caught, but caught very little.
My story to tell came late in the day, but it came.
My landing net made a bid for freedom as I started to pack up, sliding into Mother Wharfe of its own volition.
What do you do ? Obviously, one panics, but one isn't daft enough to jump in after it. I had a leger rod set up, grabbed it, took a breath, and made the cast.Unbelievably ( to me anyway ) , the bomb landed in the net, 8 yards away, overhanging branches etc.( I couldn't do it again if I had fifty goes at it. ).I retrieved slowly, but the handle was wedged solid,in bank side roots, out of reach.
A phone call. Crabtree to the rescue. He brought his pole, pushed the handle out of the snag, and I fished it out, blinded by the egg on my face.
Saturday was Pond work day. Preparing our ponds, and surrounds, for club use. I had some labouring to do, and then some Rudd to catch and remove from pond 1 - there are worse jobs. I got 30 or so, and then got 'swanned'. Less of a dental menace than the ubiquitous Pike, but hissy and flappy nonetheless,and, if they don't want to move, they dont. They wrecked the swim, so we packed up. It was 'beer o'clock' apparently.
Sunday was the same - pond work, jobs to do, and more Rudd to move.
A massive thanks is due to the Club stalwarts that have given many,many hours of their time to get the ponds complex fit for use. It's usually Crabtree, Shed 7, and the Boilie Baron doing the donkey work, assisted by a small band of helpers, but the work is nearly done, and fishing for all members commences soon.
Every member owes them a pint.