June 2013


uke1

With what feels suspiciously like a chest infection, the resultant lack of a good night’s sleep and a very windy and wet day I am not by the river bank as planned, but rather sat here trying to organise my bookshelves. With little success.

I haven’t stuck to my plan of moving books on, so that I can free up shelf space for new acquisitions.

Nor have I held up on those new acquisitions, but mostly they have been useful.

However, this one I confess is not. It contains no information I do not already have elsewhere. The illustrations whilst good on the cover are somewhat muddy inside and in any case are nowhere near as good as those in others of my books on the subject. For example this one.

uke1 004

But I bought it because of its condition, its “feel” and because it is of its time.

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How long ago was it that I posted about home-made lures? Nine months? It doesn’t seem so long. Remiss of me then not to mention in my Year on the Fly post Joel’s Scrapyard Plug. As regular readers of this blog know I love a good self-fabricated item, and so I loved this post. But even more so since it set off in me another of my pipedreams.

Well pipedreams is a bit harsh as it suggests someone whose plans never progress beyond the pie in the sky and some of my schemes do, form time to time, bear fruit.

But I am aware that I have ideas and ambition that outstrip my means of achieving them.

Getting to the point, I believe that the last photo in Joel’s blogpost is what he calls a Sunfish and what I know as a Pumpkinseed. When I say “I know” I should explain that I have never caught or even seen one, but I have it in my head from Jonathan Newdick’s classic book The Complete Freshwater Fishes of the British Isles that there are Pumpkinseeds somewhere in the UK.

On checking he book I find that that it states that the species was introduced from America at the turn of the 20th century and occurs “only in lakes in Somerset and perhaps one or two localities in Suffolk.”

Since the publishing date was 1979 I wonder what the situation is these days.

Now wouldn’t tracking them down and catching some be an adventure?

seal2

In a few weeks I’m moving to a new job. This one will be largely based on London and so over the last week or so I’ve gradually started clearing out my desk and fling cabinets.

It’s been quite tedious to be honest, sorting out what to keep and what to bin. So I was sat yesterday afternoon leafing through some old papers with my mind wondering if the rain predicted for Sunday was going to be heavy enough to spoil, or postpone my opening day of the season fishing trip.

Now since I’ve returned to angling I’ve noticed that I’ve become a good deal more superstitious. That would worry me but for the fact that seeing signs of luck and portents does seem to be something I do only in connection with fishing.

As I rifled through some loose sheets one fell to the floor. I picked it up and found that it had been doodled on. Two things occurred to me.

Firstly that the seal was quite good. Well you could tell it was a seal and that’s something – I’m not a great artist. In fact it was a little bit stylised – like some North Native American art that I’ve seen.

The second thing that came into my mind was that this long forgotten image was of a superb fish predator. Surely this was an omen of success to come?

Ridiculous I know, but we humans are, when all’s said and done, ridiculous creatures.

Last year the fishing closed season passed with a numbing slowness. This year it hasn’t felt the same. I think the reason for this is that the back end of last season was pretty hopeless. The rivers were so high with all the rain we had and were almost entirely unfishable.

I went fishing only a handful of times in the first three months of 2013

and indeed can only recall two of those trips . One was in mid-February and because of either rain or snow it had been a month since I’d travelled to the river. The mundanities of life had also got in the way of this, as had a rather extended physical impediment (I couldn’t walk properly and wonky legs are not a good idea at the water-side).

But at last the opportunity to go was clear of obstacles even if the weather looked decidedly shakey. The day dawned and though it was somewhat soggy I had plenty of appropriate clothing.

I had recently received an angling T-shirt and since it had been accompanied by a note hoping it would bring me luck, that too seemed to be appropriate clothing.

So I set off early, not as early as I’d initially planned, because I decided to delay whilst I waited to see just how the weather was going to shape up. Until I realised that it wasn’t and set off anyway cold, but optimistic.

Clomping along to the bankside I spotted a penny in the grass. Another portent of luck surely? I picked it up and slipped it in my pocket. It had been drizzling all the way there, so the first thing I did was get all Ray Mears and use a poncho and a stick to rig up a waterproof covering for my gear to stop it getting sodden.

I fished through the drizzle and then through the snow that replaced it. I’ve never been fishing whilst it was snowing before and to be honest it wasn’t too bad. Quite atmospheric. Certainly better than the drizzle. I caught five fish all bar one a good size for the stretch.

There was no wind and so no wind-chill, which meant I could fish without gloves (always preferable), but nevertheless I began to notice that my core temperature was dropping.

At this point I realised that I was probably in the fringe area of angling where it starts to merge into the hinterlands of mental illness and so, somewhat reluctantly, set off home.

The second trip that sticks in my mind was actually the last day of the season. After leaving work early I made for the river nearest to home.

Last year I hadn’t noticed any other anglers about, but this year there were a few. No doubt they hoped that as it hadn’t rained for a spell the river might be low enough to provide a last chance of a fish.

Arriving at around four I planned to fish on till it got dark. It was pretty cold and the water was running high and fast, so I was not hopeful.

I had one bite.

I missed it.

It was freezing.

I wanted to give up.

But it was the last day of the season.

A quick root around in my bag produced a very small bottle of brandy that I’d bought in a chav-haunted convenience store on the way home from my last trip. It had warmed me up then and did so again as I took a nip from time to time. Dusk was falling and I was staring dumbly at the vermillion tip of my float, that had just begin to glow in the half-light and was pondering how as light fades some colours appear for a short while to become more intense.

At this point I looked up.

Through the open woodland on the opposite bank I saw a white shape. At no more than six feet off the ground a barn owl was heading straight towards me. Halfway across the water it banked to my right, rising slightly to hover over a patch of rough grass and dead nettle stalks a few yards down the footpath. It hung there as I stared mesmerised and continued to do as it flew off and away across the fields, rapidly, but at the same time somehow, in slow motion.

This was a magical encounter with amazing creature that flew and hovered in complete silence and it seemed to be a good omen to mark the end of the season.

So after one last cast with my body warmed with a last nip and my soul cheered by a sublime avian encounter I packed up and made for home.

As I say unlike last year this closed season has flown by. As swiftly and as silently as that owl in fact.

But now, with really just a matter of hours till I head off once more to the water, I feel the excitement surging within me and I can only hope for some of last season’s magic and madness.

The weather though may make it tend towards the latter

yotf

It wasn’t all doom and gloom back in first few months of the year, although at times it certainly felt like it, what with an unexpected funeral, and equally surprising family break up, together with a series of frustrating disappointments at work. Plus the trails of illnesses, etc. which I mentioned at the time.

But even in the darkest times there are usually shafts of light and often it is luck that plays a part in creating them.

Whilst working my way through one of the lists of new blogs that regularly appear on The Outdoor Blogger Network, I found an American site that combined fishing and art. A Year on the Fly, by Joel de Jong was at the time having a competition for some of his artwork and also a T shirt.

So I stuck my name down by way of an entry and when the competition closed a few weeks later an email headed “Winner, winner, chicken dinner. ” (not a phrase I had ever come across – but plan to start using) dropped into my Inbox email to announce that I had won second prize. This suited me because as well as some of Joel’s artwork, it included a HexFishing.co T-shirt and I had written in my entry:

“At the risk of sounding like a cheap date, I’d be happy with one of the Tees – which is only part of the 2nd prize.”

The package took a week or two to wend its way over to this side of the Atlantic and when it arrived I was again delighted because as well as the limited edition print of an endangered Apache Trout, and the T-Shirt (I bet I’m the only person in the UK with one!) Joel enclosed another of his prints featuring a pair of racehorses and some HexFishing stickers. What a generous guy!

If you like art of a piscatorial nature then I’d urge you to pop over to a year on the fly, and there’s always something new to see. What I particularly like is that Joel often goes through the stages of creation of a piece of art.

Of recent posts I really like:

and – well I’ll stop there, just go and see for yourself!

Whilst I don’t have fine skills. Certainly not in woodwork or metalwork, I think I’m pretty useful with my hands. Handy you might say. My father a mechanic and panel-beater taught me two important things in the realm of mending, fixing and creating.

Firstly get the right tool for the job. Otherwise you may spend a lot of time, energy and also patience trying to complete what could be a relatively easy task.

The other one was to think about what you are going to do before you do it and all the while that you are carrying out the operation/exercise. This trail of thought isn’t just about being systematic, but also creative. The methodical and the imaginative are not always found together, but if you can combine the two you can end up getting a good result.

All of which preamble – or should that be preramble? – bring me to this little project.

trigger

What is it?

Well it’s a kind of pistoley thing that fires elastic bands. But it is also a prototype trigger system for a crossbow that Little Boots asked me to make.

That request was no doubt fired by the rediscovery of his bow and arrows in the garden playhouse and the discussion it prompted about a crossbow we made together about five years ago. Made from a big T-shaped piece of wooden train track, three large elastic bands, a peg and a lot of masking tape it fired corks and LB used to regularly ambush me with it.

To be honest I agreed without really thinking through what it might entail. It’s proved to be far more complicated than I thought, but I know have a working system. As you can see it’s made from scraps of wood and MDF screwed together. But what isn’t so obvious is that the mechanism itself consists of:

  • a fishing line spool
  • a piece of thick u-shaped plastic from some packaging
  • a piece of elastic
  • a piece of plastic heating pipe
  • a drawing pin
  • a nail
  • the spring and plastic pipe from a bottle of anti-bac spray

Luckily I have a “Womble box” full of plastic oddments that I keep for things like this.

Around six months ago I did a post on T-shirts. In it I mentioned the Streatham Fishing Club T-shirts. They are now available in a wide range of colours.

I think the club is something of a virtual one, since ownership of a Tee confers membership.

Please be assured that I have no connection with them other than loving the design, but for that reason I recommend you buy one. I also suspect that wearing one will increase your fishing catch.

And I can’t help but think that there should be some coded greeting should you bump into someone else wearing one.

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