Welcome, to a festive fish fest.
Another day off work; I am going fishing.
Mother Wharfe is not in a good state. I`d usually consider fishing for barbel, but they no longer exist, so it`s to Sunrise Fishery I head.
I bump into Trueman at the venue, we agree to fish the same lake but at a socially responsible distance, of course. Our floats have barely graced the surface of the pond when the heavens open. It rains heavily, and constantly. The wind increases in strength, and the fish are not biting. We tough it out for a few hours and then we concede defeat. We pack up in the rain, and then we head for home.
We appear to be cursed – whenever Trueman and I fish together the weather is horrendous.
I blame him. He blames me.
No fishing today. Lots of football to watch, and some tackle to prepare for tomorrows match.
The big one. The Cup Final. The annual Fur & Feather match. With the river deemed `unfit` the decision is made to hold the match at our ponds, in Sicklinghall.
An early start saw all anglers ( apart from the sleepyhead Boilie Baron ) up at the ponds for 9 o`clock for a `safe` draw, a bacon sandwich and a hot drink. The Match Secretary ( understandably ) shirked responsibility for the pegging, so, names were drawn and the anglers themselves would choose the peg they fancied, ergo “ you`ve only yourself to blame”. Crafty bugger, that Match Secretary.
Having completed a quick lap of the ponds I had a couple of pegs in mind. By the time my name was drawn one of those pegs had gone, but the second remained, so I set up on pond 2.
The `all in` was at 10:30. I only had one rod to set up so I was ready at 9:45, with time to kill I went for a wander. Whether it was an act of skullduggery or not I`ll never know, but I was engaged in conversation with pre-match favourite Mike, and subsequently missed the official start. No matter, previous experience here indicated we would be in for a very gruelling day with bites unlikely before noon.
Fishy action was painfully non-existent for most of us. Agent Orange caught an early stickleback, but they didn`t count, so `tough luck` to him. Then the jungle drums ( Shed 7 ) began to rumble: someone was catching. It was Crabtree, one of the anglers that chose pond 4.
Eventually, my own float moved a little and then slid from view; in came a rudd. I dropped back in on the same spot and twenty seconds later in came a second rudd. It became apparent that there was a very small feeding zone – 12 inches either side of it and I wouldn`t get a bite, get it right and I would usually catch a rudd within fifteen seconds.
The `feast` didn`t last, and famine returned. I did manage to winkle out a few more, and finished with approximately forty fish in my net when the `all out` was called.
The weigh-in was conducted, the bonfire lit, and the pie and peas were distributed and consumed with gusto. Social distancing was observed, beverages quaffed, banter exchanged.
The Weighmaster ( Shed 7 ) then announced the winner as Mike H ( approx. 40 fish ) , Crabtree was second ( approx. 40 fish ), and I was third, and in the money with my 40 fish.
Prize money was distributed, prizes were chosen.
Prizes kindly donated by Yorkshire Sports Emporium - the only purveyor of top quality fresh bait in Wetherby, trading through Discount Feeds, near the Engine Shed nightclub - were gratefully grabbed by all anglers. They also sell terminal tackle, other baits and angling accessories. Visit them soon, buy stuff. This shameless promotion of Yorkshire Sports Emporium only cost its owner a pint ( of red maggots ).
Despite the cold, and the poor fishing, everyone went home wearing a smile - largely down to the magnificent work of Shed 7, and the two Amandas. Bonfire, bonhomie, Christmas lights, beer, mince pies, hot drinks delivered to anglers, pie and peas, banter, smut, bacon, innuendo, and whisky were all freely offered, and rarely turned down. You did us proud.
Still giddy from the previous days massive payout I headed to the river. I was hoping to find some grayling. 13 ft float rod, 2.6 lb mainline, 2 lb hooklength, size 20 hook, maggots, and fingers crossed.
The first grayling came on the third trot of the day, all 2 ounces of it. I then caught steadily for the next three hours before the swim tailed off. I rested it for half an hour, and then began to catch again. The light was ebbing from the day as I connected with a fish that suddenly went heavy, and line peeled from my spool. A pike has grabbed my grayling. It lets go, and I land a lightly perforated umber. I pack up, I don’t want to give the pike a free meal, she can hunt her own. It`s the season of goodwill to all men, not pike.
I caught 16 grayling that ranged from a couple of ounces to a pound in weight. I went home happy.
With the river not looking good I decided to meet up with Trueman. We settled on the big lake at Sunrise as there was a match being held on the top lakes.
The wind swirled wildly, and regularly changed direction. We both had tears running down our faces.
However, we both caught plenty of roach, a few skimmers, and saw plenty of wildlife – the red kites were out in force, the pheasants were being particularly raucous, and the otters were hunting in the big lake.
The river is a bit high, a bit fast, and carrying a tinge of colour. I meet The Doctor. As we check out a couple of swims four cormorants fly by.
I send a bronze maggot through my swim, the float above it dips under the water. I strike, but don`t connect with a fish. I reel in and inspect my bait, next to my bronze maggot, impaled upon the hook, is a tiny green maggot. I`ve avoided a blank !
The fishing is hard; we are both pestered by otters, and The Doctor watches one munching on a fish on the opposite bank. We see goosander, kingfishers, and more cormorants. We catch a few grayling, but the day is somewhat underwhelming.
I don`t wear `camo` clothing, but I`m invisible nonetheless : I am fishing, a bloke walks down the bank and pees on the tree next to me. I utter an “oi” !, he is startled but still doesn`t see me. He finishes, walks back up the bank, falls flat on his face. I laugh. He hears this, but still doesn`t see me. He runs away.
A couple of hours, a handful of decent grayling.
Storm Bella is on her way.
Bella has done her worst – the river is raging. No fishing today.
Mother Wharfe is fishable, so that is where I am going.
I hear a wonderful fishy tale from a local angler –
“ I was drinking my morning coffee, and staring out of my kitchen window. A heron flew over the garden hedge, it held something in its beak. It didn`t reappear at the front of my house so I guessed it was perched on the roof. I then heard a clonk, followed by a thud, and, thinking it was my garden gate I opened my kitchen door to see who it was. The heron and I were eye to beady eye, I felt the turbulence from its wingbeats as it took flight. On the lawn was an orange lump, on closer inspection this turned out to be an ornamental carp. It wasn`t moving, its gills weren`t moving, it was inert, it was brown bread, it was an ex-carp, it had ceased to be.
I wasn`t really surprised. The carp had been stabbed, fallen from a roof, and landed on a semi frozen lawn.
I went fishing.
I assumed the dead fish would be eaten by the loitering heron, or by my cat Twenty minutes later I received a call from my daughter – our cat had indeed discovered the fish and had begun licking it, this prompted the carp to rise from the dead and flip-flop around the lawn. My daughter wondered what it would like to eat, I suggested putting it in some water would be a good start. She duly did, and the carp was now swimming enthusiastically in a washing up bowl. A neighbour applied some of his fish antiseptic to its stab wound before it was re-housed in another neighbours pond. It lived happily ever after “.
My own fishing day was tough, with only six grayling to show for my afternoons endeavour. I was left trying to work out what I`d done wrong.
So when I heard that other anglers had fared worse than me, I opened a beer.
2020. What a year. Where does one start ?
In no particular order of importance, some of the things I remember that have resonated with me in this most extraordinary year.
Floods, droughts, storms, wildfires, heatwaves, covid 19, poachers, fly-tippers, arsonists, barbel, bastard minnows, Trump, Johnson, no barbel, trout, Leeds United, lockdown, Norman Hunter, Trevor Cherry, Jack Charlton, fishing, freedom, Dave Greenfield, panic buying, George Floyd, Brexit, the Angling Trust, social distancing, kind friends, Brewdog, Sean Connery, BLM, Anglers Mail, whisky, Zoom, family, facemasks, my fishing mates, parcels, and blogs.
Happy New Year.