28 May 2012

The fish beneath our feet

The advice I received from a fellow blogger following my previous post on Jubilee Pools (thanks Baz) was not to ignore the margins.

Perhaps then I shouldn't have been quite so surprised to find a dozen or more large carp patrolling right under my feet as I arrived on the horseshoe lake just before 7am on Saturday morning.

A delightful sight of course, but one which begged the inevitable question - how to catch them?

Trying to resist the temptation to rush, I flicked a few pieces of crust out, but there was no evidence of them taking off the top. Instead I turned to the worm and started to put together a peculiar hybrid outfit - my rarely-used carp rod, 15lb mainline and flouro hook length incongruously fitted with a tiny reed stem float with a dendra worm writhing beneath. Sounds odd I know, but I honestly couldn't see any other combination in my kitbag which would have allowed me to hook and hold a large carp just feet from the reeds, platform legs and other hazards so close to the bank.

And do you know what - it worked! The worm went in a few times just a metre or so to the left and right of the platform in front of me. One or two of the big girls sailed straight past it, and then whoosh - the float buried, I struck carefully, and off went a strong, strong fish.

Since I was basically fishing with what felt like a broom handle and tow rope, I imagine I could have bossed the fish a bit more than I did. But it had been quite a while since I'd caught a real cracker and I certainly didn't want to risk a hook pull at this stage. I'd also never used kit like this in anger before, so softly softly was the order of the day.

Once I had the fish heading away from the margin I was content to carefully back wind and give it some space out in front of me from which to make a couple of determined runs, before slipping the net under it five minutes later, quite literally shaking with happiness. I can't quite put my finger on why, but there is simply nothing else in fishing quite like stalking and catching a big fish from right under your feet.

And this margin-caught mirror carp was a beauty. Not as heavy as I'd initially thought at 'only' 9lbs 5ozs, but it was as picture-perfect a fish as you could wish for - lean and strong, intricately scaled and rose-hued in the already-strong morning sun.

A thoroughly enjoyable morning followed, albeit one that could never quite live up to that joyous start. Once it became clear that the margin fish had moved on, I set up on a neighbouring peg and put a more normal carp rig out just a couple of rod lengths to my left. That worked a treat and I had a 6lb common carp on the mat before I could even rig up a second rod.

When I finally got to that second rod, it was a traditional feeder with 'deads' on the hook in the hope of roach or bream. It produced taps, liners and a couple of missed bites, but as the bobbin on my sleeper rod danced indecisively up and down for the remainder of the morning it became clear that the bream had moved in and taken a fancy to my close-in pellet and boilie offering instead.

I landed three of them in the end, the largest just over 4lbs, to finish the morning with: a notional 'bag' of around 25lbs; a multitude of birding 'ticks' including a cuckoo and a pair of fly-by oystercatchers; and a silly grin, still plastered all over my face.

A little more of this please

Oh early summer I love thee, however brief your appearance may be this year.

An evening tench - always a special
My first after-work fishing session of the year (two tench, a couple of carp and a mix of skimmers and better bream on a simple waggler rig); whitethroats scratching out their songs all around my Henley-in-Arden lunchtime walks; a single yellow spike of cowslip in the wild grasslands of The Mount; a carpet of bluebells in the nearby woods; birdsong all around me morning, noon and night.

These are just a few of my favourite things.

24 May 2012

Two lifers... a bolt from the blue

With my angling adventures leaving so little time for 'proper' birding at the moment, I'd almost forgotten what it was like to add new ticks to my life list. As a result, the two 'lifers' I added on Sunday afternoon came as a bit of a bolt from the blue.

After concluding a chilly morning's fishing at Jubilee Pools, I dashed off to the nearby Brandon Marsh nature reserve to meet the family for lunch and perhaps, I thought, a quick stroll down to the pools. As it turned out the family was quite amenable to the idea, so with bins and scope in hand we scooted down to East Marsh for a family birdwatching session.

My son is still at an age where he finds it easier to use a scope than bins, so as soon as we arrived in the Wright Hide I attached the hide clamp, levelled the scope, adjusted the focus - and found a pair of red crested pochards staring back at me. These exotic ducks, nearly all of them descended from escaped captive birds, are not so uncommon as to make them hard for a committed birdwatcher to find - but for some reason they had eluded me for the best part of ten years. A nice surprise.

Moving on to the main East Marsh hide, a second surprise awaited. From this angle I had views over a second, and much wilder, lifer - a wood sandpiper, a striking wading bird presumably stopping over for some rest and recuperation on its way north to breed.

Two years ago almost to the day I recorded here that, much to my annoyance, a pair of wood sandpipers had passed through Brandon while I was away for the weekend. So if I record here and now that I missed the recent influx of Warwickshire ring ouzels, plus the nightingale at Brandon and the wood warbler at Draycote, perhaps in two years time... well, one can but hope.

Anyway, the updated life list  is here - 213 species in all, a miserly haul for any serious birder but they've all given me a great deal of pleasure over the years, and that's all I really care about.