29 January 2012

Variety is the spice | Part 1

One of the great joys of rivers, at least when set against the majority of commercial stillwater fisheries, is that no two swims are ever exactly the same.

Not, I should hasten to add, that I've got anything at all against commercials. In fact they've been largely responsible for my reintroduction to angling, and I fished little else for the whole of my first year back.

But having vowed to abandon those commercials during the winter in favour of learning more about river fishing, I'm now relishing the variety, the texture, the sheer unpredictability of flowing water.

Take the River Leam by way of an example. I've pretty much hammered the Welches Meadow and Leam Valley nature reserve stretches over the last few months, but genuinely feel like I'm only just starting to get a feel for one or two swims - an understanding of where the currents run, where the shelves and the deeper pools lie, where the snags and the weeds are and, of course, where the fish are most likely to be. It takes hours of bank time to get this feel for just a single swim (well it does for me) - and yet the neighbouring swim, which may be just yards away, is almost certainly completely different. And a few days of rain or a change in temperature of just a few degrees can mean that even the swims you know best feel completely alien again.

So even on the stretches of the Leam I know best there are dozens of unexplored (by me) swims, and if you move significantly up or down stream then the changes are even more dramatic, with the river undergoing almost total transformations of character.

Clearly one winter will be nowhere near enough to get to know even this one short and relatively minor river. So last weekend I realised that I faced a choice - continue exploring the stretches I had already been fishing, or make a start on tackling one of the other areas.

Whether it'll make me a better angler I don't know, but I chose the latter and headed to Offchurch in search of the upper Leam...

22 January 2012

Some early-year bird notes

One of the real joys of January is what feels like the almost overnight re-emergence of the birds.

It occurs to me pretty much every year that the birds seem to see the end of our Christmas celebrations as their cue for bursting into song - lifting our spirits and announcing the idea of spring many weeks before it will actually arive.

They bring me moments of joy throughout these dark weeks.

As I leave the house for work I am greeted most mornings by the rapping of great spotted woodpeckers looking for partners and territory.

I stopped last week to watch and listen to the blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, blackbirds and more from a narrow footbridge over the Henley-in-Arden stream. It was already a lovely lunchtime moment, but became so much more so when a tiny, mouse-like treecreeper flew to a tree trunk just yards from me and started to spiral upwards.

Fishing trips (of which another post shortly) are accompanied by the most amazing symphonies - today it was jackdaws, fieldfare, great tits and a superb song thrush.

And when you go out of your way to find the birds, as we did last weekend with a family trip to Brandon, they are there in numbers - there is not better time than a sunny January day for watching our brilliant wildfowl for example, from the exquisite teal to the whistling wigeon to the beautiful but faintly absurd shoveller.

8 January 2012

If brevity is the soul of wit...

...then these note should be good (bit pressed for time I'm afraid).

On the birding front, I've just stepped out of my back door to be greeted by a low flying, loud 'cronking' raven circling my house. A wonderful start to my day :-)

Elsewhere, all is awaking - blue tits and wrens notably singing for the first time this week.

Fishing news is equally brief - I spent 90 mins on the Leam yesterday but couldn't find the roach or chub. I should have moved swims (chap down the river had 20 or more nice roach in the morning, so they were still feeding), but couldn't raise the enthusiasm. Fortunately a lovely 14oz perch saved the morning.

1 January 2012

One last hurrah

Managed to sneak in a couple of hours on The Leam to finish 2011, and with some success.

With virtually no flow to speak of on my favourite bend, I ignored the (not very) shallows in front of me and instead targeted the deeper water downstream with a waggler rig.

This gave me a wider water and more lines to target, which was I think the key to putting together a longer run of bites than hitherto. Either that or it was the new secret ingredient - turmeric on the maggots!

Whatever the reason, I ended up with four nice fish on the bank (a chunky 6oz roach and three chub to 7oz), a few tiddlers, a handful of missed bites and two good fish lost in play - the second of which killed the swim and effectively ended a very enjoyable little session.