Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nature doesn't stand still

Those tench last week made me eager to get back for another session. In the two previous season on the water once they have moved into this area they have hung around and a repeat performance has been on the cards. My hopes were high.

The hot spell continued and conditions were similar to last week, with the exception of the wind direction. Whether that was the deciding factor I'm not sure (I should look back at my records and see if good catches in this area have coincided with a particular wind direction) but the first day followed the same pattern as last week - no tench seen and no bites had. Carp looked to be spawning by the distant reed beds, big bow waves and tail thrashing was watched through binoculars and poorly videoed with my camera.

If anything the water level was down somewhat, there were emergent weedbeds in various places, and the previously clear gravel where I had caught from had some pondweed beginning to sprout. Nature's constant cycle may vary in its timing, but it carries on turning.

Undeterred by the lack of tench activity I baited up in readiness for a second dawn. After all, the previous session had started slowly. It was promised to be an overcast day, perfect for tench, but didn't turn out that way. On either count. By noon I had had enough. The feeling I had was one of wasting my time. The barrow was loaded, pushed back to the car and I headed for another pit for a recce.

 Spod and marker rods at the ready

This remote pit was deserted, the banks more overgrown than last year, and the crystal clear water had rafts of floating weed and algae drifting on the strong breeze. I thought I might as well sit in the sun behind the rods as sit in the car baking on the motorway. The barrow was loaded again and I set up on the bank off which the wind was blowing so any drifting weed would drift away from my lines.

After finding a clear spot with the marker rod I spodded out the last of my seed mix, marked my lines and cast out the baits. Hardly had I eaten my late lunch than the wind swung round 90 degrees to my left and the weed rafts appeared like a scummy green Armada. I endured a frustrating afternoon in the hope that the wind would drop as evening came on and I could fish in peace with the chance of a bream or two.

It was not to be. The wind changed after my evening bacon butties alright. It swung round a few more degrees and blew the weed straight at me. When Roland appeared a couple of hours before dark I started thinking of home. The heat had been draining and a comfy bed was just too appealing. England had the Aussies well under the thumb so I wasn't going to miss out on an exciting finish. By half past nine I retreated - just as a couple of fish topped over my bait.

The trip hadn't been a complete disaster. I got some nice damselfly photos from the grass behind my swim on the second pit and saw plenty of birdlife, some at the really close range that anglers often enjoy. At the second pit, which I knew was rife with butterflies (four species seen during this session), there were a few dragonflies seen along with a multitude of damsels and other photogenic insects, so much so that I might take a run back with just the camera gear to see if I can digitise any. Well, there might just be a couple of rods stashed in the car too...

Seven spotted ladybird

Female banded demoiselle

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A heli-tench rig

I made up another variation on the helicopter rig the other day  to enable me to swap from a straight lead and boilie combo to a feeder and plastic caster set-up. I would have simply used an in-line lead to make the change if I'd not left them at home - retying one knot is no hardship for me, and keeps the knots fresh, which I think is essential when using mono.

Here's the rig. In order of addition to the main line it goes as follows:
Fox braid float stop, 5mm plastic bead, quick change swivel, 5mm plastic bead, 6mm rubber bead, tail rubber, hooked snap. The hooklink has a loop tied on the end and a rig sleeve threaded over it. I guess the rubber bead could be optional, or maybe the tail rubber (one or the other, not both) if greater simplicity was desired.

It works...

On 0.30mm mono I think the braid stops work better than the Drennan Grippa Stops, but for neatness on dace or roach rigs the Grippas win out.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The urge

I've always taken the view that if you don't feel like doing something you shouldn't do it just because you think you ought to. Which is why the tench fishing hasn't been as intense this spring as in previous years. My few sessions have been gruellers which haven't even felt like I was in with a chance. So the photography has been more appealing. Last weekend something changed. The forecast was for settled dry weather and my long lens was out of commission. That alone shouldn't have made me need to get the tench rods out. It must have been something else.

Monday came around and I prevaricated. Tuesday was different. With the decks cleared by late afternoon I gobbled down an early tea and hastily packed the car hoping I had enough food and bait to see me through. The session would be open-ended. When food, bait or water ran out I'd come home! Lunch time on Friday was the latest I could realistically fish until as I wanted to call in at the Harrison factory on my way home.

I still left it a bit late to set off, but with the summer solstice closing in there'd be plenty of light to find a swim and get settled in. Finding just a couple of anglers on 30 or 40 acres gave me too much swim choice. Plan A had been to move if nothing showed up, so I picked the swim I'd blanked in last time.

Tucked up in bed by ten thirty, I'd been up early with the camera and was dog tired, the left hand Delkim disturbed me after fifteen minutes as a little line was taken, the bobbin hitting the deck by the time I had my boots on. A 10mm Tutti Frutti pop-up had been taken. The new-tackle-jinx was broken!

From the way the fish was behaving I wasn't sure what I was connected to. It being dark, and me not having my specs on, I couldn't tell for sure even when it came into the beam from my Petzl. I thought it was a deep bodied tench, but a bream slid into the net. Out of practice at the guessing game I thought it might be a double, but it was almost two pounds shy. A clean, bronze, chubby fish and a welcome start.

Clear-water bream

I woke before the alarm, made a brew and listened to the distant, incessant, chattering of sedge warblers mingling with the rest of the dawn chorus - still loud and varied for early summer. I spodded out some more seed mix (hemp, groats and corn) and swapped the boilie for two grains of plastic corn. This rig was cast a way out to the spod line, as was an in-line maggot feeder. A second feeder went closer in to my right, just within catapult range where I sprinkled some seeds and some red maggots. As usual the feeder rigs were baited with two hair-rigged plastic casters. Someone on an internet forum had suggested the reason for my lack of tench so far was my plastic baits, and that live maggots work much better. I almost believed them, but my motto is "if your rigs worked in the past, the reason you are blanking is a lack of fish in the swim". I stuck with the plastic.

A clear sky heralded a hot and sunny day. Most of it was spent watching the birdlife in the bushes around me and over the lake or sleeping. Mallards visited me, the friendly female from last year still bold and nosey. Tufties visited my baits. No fish showed either on the surface or on my hooks. There wasn't much recasting done. Around tea time I did some more baiting up, changing distant feeder to a helicopter rig and a 15mm Tutti for the night.

I was hoping the bream might show up again after dark and settle on the bait. It didn't happen. Only two other bream have come my way on this pit. Both in the middle of hot, bright sunny days, and completely out of the blue. I've yet to see a bream roll or land more than one in a session. In fact that bream on the first night is the only fish I have taken at night, from my only nocturnal bite. Most odd.

The second dawn was a repeat of the first. Almost. This time I saw some oily swirls that weren't caused by fowl. What they were caused by was hard to say. No fins broke the surface. They could have been carp. Yeuk! After a light baiting the boilie was swapped back to a feeder and caster set-up.

It was at ten to seven that I was disturbed by the unexpected sound of a Delkim, and the unusual sight (this spring) of a rod tip pulling round. The fish was covered in weed, bright pale green soft weed, of which there was little to be found, and as a result didn't scrap much until the weed dropped free. A tench at last! One of the smallest I've had from the pit but one of the most welcome at a few ounces over five pounds. As immaculate as most of her sorority in the lake. While playing this fish there was another oily swirl a few yards out. A good sign in my book. Sure enough, thirty five minutes later it happened again. This time the fish was a bit bigger. Great stuff. The rest of the day was spent nature watching. Again!

 First 'proper' tench of the year

By the time I had finished off my evening meal of a tin of beans and sausage, washed down with a mug of tea, I was starting to consider my next move. The maggots were turning rapidly, and dwindling after the baiting up and feeder filling. I should have bought three pints instead of two. Should I call it quits and pack up at dark, or give it one more night and morning? Around eight I reached for the stove to make a brew and found the gas bottle surprisingly light. I shook it and it was worryingly quiet. It didn't seem to me like I'd get a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie out of what was left. Home looked a good bet. Yet something made me stay. I had plenty of water left, half a bottle of pop for variety, and four slices of bread. I could drink water and pop and save two slices for a late breakfast bacon butty, eating the other two slices of bread if I got peckish. I might just struggle on until lunch time. The best way to overcome hunger is to sleep. I put a boilie out again for the night and hit the hay.

Friday morning dawned overcast. This meant it felt warmer than the previous two dawns. In fact it was quite muggy. The lake was flat calm. There were more of the oily, finless swirls. Some almost over my close in baited patch. There wasn't much left in the seed bucket, so I eked it out with three or four spods to the far off spot where the plastic corn was recast. Seeing the swirls I decided to drop the distant feeder on the same line as the right hand one - but straight in front of the rod pod. This spot then received a sprinkling of seeds and maggots/casters as did the right hand spot. I then went back to bed in order to put breakfast back as far as I could.

Breakfast time was just after seven. The gas died just as the bacon fat started to crisp. Two rashers between the last two slices of bread was the most welcome butty I can remember in a long time! An hour later the plastic casters on the rig straight out were picked up by a tench that came in easy, belying its size. Not a monster, but a seven pounder ought to pull a bit harder than that one did. I recast both feeder rods, sprayed out more feed, and had a repeat performance twenty minutes later from a fish two pounds lighter that fought like a demon!

And so the morning progressed. At almost half hourly intervals one of the feeder rods would be in action. So much for plastic casters cutting down my catches! By five past eleven I'd netted eight perfectly proportioned tench. The biggest female going 7lb 13oz, the lone male (a really hard scrapper) 6lb 14oz. At ten past eleven the rod fishing the feeder straight out was off again. As I made for the rod the daft mallards which were by the rods took flight, and as I pulled into the hard running fish the female landed in the line of my right hand rod. Distracted by the now entangled duck I felt the line go slack and the fish was gone. At this point the duck also came free and I cursed her loudly.

 Still a little bit of room to fill out some more

The maggots were sparse in the bucket, my stomach was rumbling, the sky was darkening almost imperceptibly. Another hour without a take and I'd break camp and seek sustenance. The next hour was indeed fishless. I pushed my laden barrow back to the car I thinking to myself how it had been worth stopping that extra night rather than taking the easy option. Then I swilled more water, loaded up the Astra and pointed the bonnet at a chippy. As I pulled up outside the fried fish emporium I felt spots of rain. By the time I was parked in a lay-by eating the fish and chips it was raining that warm summer rain that doesn't seem to soak.

Not only had I broken the new tackle jinx I'd got to give the 1.75lb Torrixes and the Baitrunner Ds a good test. The only worry I'd had about the reels was the small ant-reverse lever, but in practice I had no trouble flicking it off to allow me to backwind. They're nice and smooth for that. Initially I was concerned that the butts of the Torrixes were a little too stiff. The rods certainly didn't seem to bend as deeply as the Interceptors. However, when I hooked the runaway male and had to apply full sidestrain to get it out from under the bankside willows I had no trouble at all. I think I might get to really like these rods. They certainly make much nicer tench rods than the 2lb version I used a few years back. When I called at Harrison's on my way home I discovered there is a softer butt available. It's a temptation. If it proves a touch too soft for tench it might make the rods spot on for long range roach fishing.

  Torrix testing tench

Friday, June 18, 2010

Some bird photos

During the quiet times on my latest three-night tench session there was lots to watch, some of which I caught on camera - not always at the highest quality.

Something I've seen at this venue before were long tailed birds flying out from the willows taking flies above the water, and even off the surface. This time I identified them as pied wagtails. Not a bird usually associated with perching, but at least one was using a dead branch as a lookout post.

In the willows and hawthorns around the swim there was a lot of bird activity. Young long tailed tits made a prolonged appearance twittering away, and allowing me to get reasonably close with the 70-300.

A blackcap paid a short visit - so the photo was a hasty one.

The longest photo-shoot was of a common tern that decided to feed in my swim early on the final morning. Given better light stunning shots of this bird would have been a cinch.

The tench turned up too. I'll try and blog about the fishing over the weekend.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Streamside damsels

Back in July 2007 I took a picture of a damselfly eating another insect. It wasn't a great shot. yesterday Mark Houghton blogged a picture of a banded demoiselle - the same speices of damsel. As I knew there were plenty to be found along a stream near the dragonfly pond I nipped out after boxing off what work I had to do by lunch time.

The lure of the pond was hard to resist and I took up the challenge of shooting a dragonfly on the wing. I left defeated - for now. It's a task that requires a concerted effort. On reaching the stream I was wondering where to start my search for the iridescent beasts when two males flew up before me. Starting the theme for the afternoon they steadfastly refused to settle anywhere where they were unobscured, or if they did they were at an inconvenient angle. Rather than hang around waiting for a good opportunity I went in search of more demoiselles.

Although country parks and local nature reserves are a public amenity, and often habituated by errant canines and children, they do have the advantage over more 'serious' nature reserves in that you can wander off the hard paths and are not restricted to looking at the wildlife through hide windows. So it was that I followed a lightly trampled path along the stream's grassy bank.

More damsels flew up and I soon learned to tread more carefully. In some spots there were many damsels to be seen. One was sure to land and pose nicely. It didn't. I managed a few half decent pics, but in most the damsels were partly out of focus because of the angle of their bodies, or there was a leaf partially hiding them. The sun had also disappeared, although the light was still good. Not that that mattered as I was shooting using flash. After a brief bee interlude I wended my way back along the stream.

Female banded demoiselle

On reaching the bridge where the path back to the car leaves the stream I took one last look at the spot I'd started in, but from the opposite bank. Two male banded demoiselles appeared and one landed in a perfect pose. I took a few shots from afar then moved in closer. It stayed put and I was able to get in as close as the lens would allow. Knowing I had at least one good shot I bid the poser a fond farewell and called it a day after a last look at the pond. The chippy beckoned.

 Male banded demoiselle

Birds and a dog

After an early tea I set off to a country park because the rain had eased up and the sun was looking like it might appear for the first time yesterday. When I got there the rain had beaten me to it. Not wet enough to put me off I sheltered the camera under my jacket to keep the drizzle off it.

The first top spot of the day was another Lost Ball! A lucky one because it had been washed downstream by the time I returned. The rainfall hadn't been much, but these upland streams don't need much to pick up pace and colour.

Lost ball 19

The dampness was keeping the smaller birds under cover, which was fine as my big lens is at the lens hospital, the waterfowl were mostly laying on the bank with their heads tucked under their wings. That made them easy to approach and photograph, particularly the bedraggled cygnets.

Ugly ducklings

I haven't visited the park for a lot of years, and it's more manicured than I remembered it, but still wild in places. Parts of it reveal it's industrial heritage, although nature is reclaiming it in the less visited areas. Of course dog walkers abound. Which can be fun when the dog is a lively five month old bearded collie!


The rain had stopped by the time I'd completed my circuit so I headed for the hills of the Land that Time Forgot. Of course it's micro-climate was in operation and the world was misty and wet there. After climbing up the side of a stream that had been almost dry a week ago I descended and tried some arty shots of water droplets on bracken fronds. Nice idea. Poor execution.

Looking down the formerly-industrialised upland stream


Friday, June 11, 2010

Sunny afternoon

Mucho worko catching up with my backlog meant I needed a little R&R this afternoon. So I popped back to the dragonfly pond. And aptly named it is on a warm sunny afternoon in June. There were dragonflies and damsels flitting about all over the pond and in the vegetation around it. This made it difficult to photograph them as they were constantly on the move. One four spotted chaser did behave and took to posing for long periods allowing me to get close too. Even so it's a whole new skill-set I'm needing to acquire to get nice sharp photos with the flash and ambient light well balanced for a natural look. I'm in deperate need of a flash diffuser too - I have one on order.

Working from a RAW file meant I could balance out the exposure on the shot above, but the shot below was beyond redemption.

While I was at the pond I had an interesting chat with one of the park rangers. Apparently they had tried electro-fishing the pond to remove all the nasty fish that have the temerity to eat the dragonfly larvae. He seemed to be of the opinion that fish were of little use - so I said they were quite useful in a pond for fishing in. I'm not sure he was too impressed. Although he was pleasant and informed, I got the impression he may have been a bit of a conservation zealot.

With rush hour approaching I thought I'd go looking for dragonflies and damsels at the warbler pit, after looking in on some nearby woodland. There were young tits noisily following their parents through the trees, and chiffchaffs singing their repetitive song. A couple of butterflies were also seen - a red admiral and a speckled wood.

At the warbler pit I was saddened to see a dead female mallard floating in the marginal weed, out of reach from the bank. An equally appalled carp angler appeared, and proceeded to tell me that there had been two 'anglers' in the swim last night shooting anything that moved. He reckoned they had shot and cooked another duck and there were dead starlings found this morning when they had left. The place is uncontrolled for the fishing, and while there are some who respect the palce and take their, and other's,  litter home there is a faction who treat it like a tip. It's a great shame because the place abounds with wildlife.

Leaving the car parking area I wandered off through the meadow. I'm useless on flower identification, although I did note orchids of some sort among the varied blooms. Into the reeds and my ears were immediately assailed by the songs (if you can call them that) of sedge and reed warblers. The birds were soon spotted. They were gathering food for their better hidden young, as were a few reed buntings. I spent quite a while watching the birds, including a chiffchaff, among the reeds and surrounding willow scrub. Back in the car I saw, too late to get a chance for a photo, a kestrel hovering unusually low over the landward edge of a small heavily reeded pool.

It's a surprisingly wild place, but the easy access means that it's frequented by what one tries not to refer to as 'lowlife scum'. But when you have read that two men set a lurcher on a pregnant roe in the area it's hard not to make such rabid generalisations. There seems to me to be a need to make something more of the largely untended land. But then there'd be a danger of it becoming rather too well groomed, like the park the dragonfly pond is in.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Back to work

At long last I have blanks, and rings, and cork, and... In short I can start to catch up on the backlog of orders. I doubt anyone will get their rods for the start of the river season, but they won't be far behind.

This morning I tried taking some more close-ups of bees. Kind ones that were predictable in their progress around the flowers. I need to get a diffuser to soften the light, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.

Oh well. Nose to the grindstone.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A mixed bag

Still awaiting blanks I nipped out with the camera to relieve the boredom. As I had sent my big lens off for 'inspection' for it's faulty operation I was limited to using something shorter. A return to the dragonflies was in order. I wanted to play around with the new flashgun for one thing, and I was hoping the cooler, damp, weather might slow the insects down and give me a better chance of some good shots.

Although the sun was shining when I set off it wasn't by the time I got to the car park. I'd driven towards an ever darkening sky and was greeted by rain. It was clearly a passing shower so I sat it out, then donned a waterproof jacket and set off as the last drops fell. There were damsels and dragonflies around, but hard to spot. They probably were lethargic, and hiding. I got some shots but they were poor efforts. Then I got distracted by moths - which would always settle underneath a leaf. I wasn't for lying in the wet grass to look up at them, so I wandered off.

I wandered off the hard path and into some trees where a crane fly flew past me and alighted on a slender trunk. It stayed there long enough for me to get the flashgun out again and make a hash of taking its portrait. This close-up lark really is trying.

Spotting some mallards on another pond I spent a while waiting for them to pose nicely. The female was more amenable than the male. As usual with my luck, the light was poor and the shots a touch noisy with the high ISO. But the compositions are quite nice.


Further round the pool I tried out some shots of the yellow flag. I messed up the camera settings with the flash and again they were grainier than they should have been.

I'd seen a small shoal of small perch basking as I'd left the mallards, and while photographing the flags I heard a noisy splashing in some shallow water. It turned out the noise makers were spawning roach. I think they were roach and not rudd, but the glimpse I got were fleeting. The rain returned as I had another look at the dragonfly pond, but as it looked to be brightening towards home I opted to visit another site before tea.

The light was feeble by now. Again I messed up the settings when doing a digital Monet impression (awful pun...) on some water lily leaves. Shame, they looked good on the camera's screen. How anyone can judge a photo from the camera screen is a complete mystery to me.

I made a slightly better effort with some flowers. I only know what the orchid is because there was a sign up that told me!

southern marsh orchid
Southern marsh orchid

Taking a short walk into the pines I watched a blue tit feeding it's offspring in a nest box for a few minutes, after spotting a treecreeper working its way up a tall trunk. That was pretty much my lot. I can feel the pull of the river now. Settling in for an evening session on a muggy summer's evening, watching bats and listening to owls and the screech of Baitrunners. Magic.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

In case you missed it

Another look out of the 'stock room' window saw me reaching for the binoculars to find out if the shapeless brown lump in the middle of the field was a pile of horse poo or the hare the earlier photos had revealed. It turned out to be the hare with its ears down and its back to me. I hastily set up the tripod by the back fence and hoped the evening sun would illuminate the animal when it was doing something interesting. A cloud passed in front of the sun almost immediately I was set up.

Patience paid off though. The hare got up, had a stretch and started eating. Then it posed as the sunlight returned briefly. Still a little far away, and the low light made for grainy shots, but I might have to take an early morning look for the hare some time.

Death among the buttercups

I had to pop up to the 'stock room' a few minutes ago and from the window saw a couple of crows leaping and flapping about across the other side of the field. Watching more intently I saw an agitated female pheasant trying to fend them off. I reckoned she must have been defending her brood so I rushed back downstairs and grabbed the camera with the long lens. Not long enough for detail, but the following blurry shots (click them to see them bigger) tell the sad story.

The crow then proceeded to eat its lunch.

Photography often reveals the unseen. Concentrating on the action I was oblivious to a creature that was keeping its head down, but editing the images it was revealed.

Scaling down

Yesterday I had to get to the Post Office early and then in to town to pick up a new flash gun. On my way home I stopped off at a dragonfly breeding pond to see what was what before getting back to listen to the test match. The sun shone and it was warm as I left the car park.

As soon as I found the pond a load of damsels flew up and away across the grass and flowers bordering the water. It was the dragonflies I wanted to have a look at. My first glimpse of one was like that of the damsels - flying away, but they were to be seen.

My first photos were of far off insects amongst the clutter of plant stems. I wandered round for a while, checking my watch so I wouldn't miss the first overs of the day, but didn't see much else. On the way out a four spotted chaser landed on a rush stem overhanging the water and let me get reasonably close. This made for a nice soft background to set off the fine wing detail. A few wobbly shots were taken using natural light, followed by one sharp shot, then I tried the in-camera flash - not having taken any batteries for the new gun... This turned out okay but a bit overdone with the flash despite adjusting the output.

Four spotted chaser

During the lunch break at Old Trafford, having read the manual for the flash, I nipped round the back of my garage where bees were buzzing round some spiky plant. The honey bees were more predictable, working in a logical way along the flowers. The small bumble bees that I really wanted to photograph were far more erratic. They would land on a flower then buzz off to another flower, but one that could be anywhere rather than a few inches away. Stupid creatures!

 Honey bee - I guess...

As expected, when I went in search of the warblers I had seen yesterday in the evening they were notable for their calls from unseen perches. Rain is on its way over the next few days. I'm hoping it's accompanied by rod blanks so I can finally start catching up again.

Friday, June 04, 2010

It was ever thus

The morning was spent listening to the test match and working. The afternoon was spent listening to the test match and photographing sparrows in the garden. There are lots of young uns around and their attempts at bathing are most entertaining. Yet again the dead maggots proved a big draw and there were adults taking them to cram into their offspring and juveniles helping themselves.

House sparrows

After close of play (brought on by bad light), a too-much-chilli powder evening meal and listening to the Archers I went out for a canal-side walk, taking my 70-300 zoom with the macro facility looking for insects and spiders, when the sun came out again. As soon as I approached the reedbeds reed warblers were in audible evidence and in good view too. Typical. I snuck off into a field of thistles and immediately heard a chiffchaff, and then saw a couple of them in the hedgerow.

Lacking much cover I squatted down in the thistles and took my chances. If I'd had the right lens I might have got some reasonable shots, as it was I had to settle for enhancing heavy crops. But they're okay on the screen if not good enough to print out at poster size! The unexpected blackcap that appeared briefly deep in the hawthorn was less presentable, but I present it here for entertainment value.

Male blackcap


Leaving the field I carried on, hearing and then seeing a whitethroat and yet more reed warblers out in the open along the reeds' edge. I was all set to grab a shot of a cranefly when it flew. That was the only insect I saw in the hour or so I was out looking for insects.

I guess the only way to be prepared for all eventualities is to take the kitchen sink along. Although that would probably guarantee seeing nothing at all, or being faced with too many choices. Hey ho. All part of life's rich pageant.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A rudd hunt

An early phone call revealed that I still have to wait until next week for my blank order (some of it...) to arrive. Faced with the depressing prospect of sitting at home twiddling my thumbs I popped to the tackle shop to buy myself some maggots to add to the sweetcorn I already had and threw my float rod in the car with some other gear. The pond, for that's all it is, I was heading for is notoriously difficult to find. I'd visited the place once before, many years ago, and got lost. Today was no different.

Rumour has it the place is full of rudd with a reasonable average size. Well, that was last summer. This summer the place is crammed with tiny rudd. Minnow sized and not much bigger. First chuck in shortly after one o'clock with a single white maggot on a size sixteen saw the float sail away, resulting in the first of numerous mini-rudd.

A float

It was a fish a cast until I got fed up. I took the photo below of one to try out the close up attachment for my DSLR. After releasing the fish I switched to a grain of corn and set the float a bit deeper to put the bait on the bottom, with the bulk shot slid down the line to get the bait through the rudd in the surface layers.

Tiny, tiny rudd

While I was reviewing the photo on the camera's screen the rod butt hit my right leg. I looked up to see the rod tip arching down. It turned out a tench, probably the second smallest I have ever caught, had hooked itself. The fight revealed that my old Abu 501 is in need of some attention. It was far from smooth when backwinding.

1st tench of the year!

The corn certainly put the mini-rudd off. Bites slowed right down. I shallowed the float up to avoid any more tench and catapulted out some freebies. Almost immediately the float sank and I struck into a fish that felt like a better rudd. It came off... There was a lull then I had two bites in two cast resulting in two rudd of eight or ten ounces.

A pale rudd

Heavily coloured water always means pale looking fish, and all the rudd and the tench were like that. It's a shame, as it takes some of the pleasure away for me. One thing's for sure, a few perch in the pond would wax fat on all the rudd! For a while I amused myself by seeing how many maggots on the hook it would take to deter the tiny fish. I gave up at four. The bites did slow down, but eventually a fish would manage to get the hook in its mouth. Then I went back to the corn.

This produced the biggest rudd of the session, all 14oz of it. A bit of an old warrior too with missing scales and top lip. That was my signal to wrap up. It hadn't been quite the fishing I had hoped for. Kind of fun, but all the mini-rudd did was make me think what good baits they'd make for perch or eels.

In between bites on the corn I'd tried my hand at photographing damselflies that were alighting on an alder sapling at the water's edge. The red ones were more spooky than the blue ones. Any sign of movement and they'd fly off, while the blue ones were far more tolerant. I still can't get the hang of this close up photography lark to my satisfaction.

Not a blue damselfly

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Heading for the hills

After a dull and dismal start to the day it turned sunny and warm as promised. Another milk run was in the offing, a little further afield towards hill country. The first port of call was a disused quarry in search of warblers. Blackcaps in particular. I settled into a sunny corner and listened. Unfortunately there was some tree felling going on and the air was rent by the sound of chainsaws. I could hear a chiffchaff's annoying tweets, then a willow warbler close by. I managed to call it in close, briefly, and got one horribly fuzzy pic.

Then I got distracted by a flash of black and white beyond a small silver birch. Something had landed at the edge of the small pool I was sitting above. I was treated to a close, but obscured, view of a jay bathing and shaking itself dry.

There was still plenty of birdsong, but the racket of the saws was too much for me. I left for the moors. The route I took was pretty barren - the maintained path keeping too far away from where anything might live - with no photo ops to speak of. I was hoping to track down a redstart but failed miserably. There will be more there than I saw in my fleeting walk up the beck and back so worth another visit at some stage.

By now I was roasting and the final leg of my milk run, looking for dipper and grey wagtail habitat was abandoned. On the way home I cooled off and carried on to the marsh. Here there were larks aplenty, one of which obliged by perching on a fence post.

All this bird chasing is getting too much. I really must go catch myself some fish.