It’s 04.30 in the morning of
23rd June and time to reflect on my golden opening … and I’m up at
this lovely time of day, not because I’m about to cast but because there is a
‘playful’ otter just outside the window, trying to eat the last of our minnows.
waiting for the glorious 16th
It reminds me of my opening
day at a lovely little crucian lake up near Shaftesbury where an otter visited
during the early hours of the 16th, trying to catch before I had
even cast in. Luckily the lake I was fishing has an electric fence round it
but the lake next door has been drained for dredging and there were the tracks, leading through the mud to the last remaining carp in the
puddles that are left before passing my swim by the lilies - but on the other
side of the fence. What a shame we have to fence off bits of the countryside to
protect our precious fish.
not long to midnight now
I arrived at the lake on the
15th and after a careful walk round to assess where the fish might
be, I set up in the ‘Vole Swim’, named for obvious reasons and with lilies
on the left and overhanging willows on the right. I raked a narrow channel in
the thick weed and noted that there was very dense potamogeton at pole lengths
end … tough weed and trouble with a capital “T’ if I hooked a tench!
A little bit of
groundbaitand small pellets were
offered as a gift to the fish gods, along with a few casters and dead maggots
and by dusk there were encouraging signs of activity in the depths below.
Anticipation was mounting and as if to celebrate the start to the season, a
barn owl flew at head height past the window of my VW camper as I brewed a
cuppa. It was so close I could have almost touched it as it looked at me
carefully as it passed, a moment indelibly printed into my brain for life.
I sat by my swim at midnight
but decided to delay that magical first cast until dawn when all the senses are
alert and the world is waking up. I just love that first light when all the
birds start singing and the sky begins to shape the lake with it’s reflections
… and I didn’t have long to wait for a bite, for as I was easing out my knob of
paste, a small rudd grabbed it. Several more of a reasonable size slid over the
net and with the water being crystal clear, their glorious colours made sure it
was a golden start.
aren't rudd beautiful
Bubbles were rising
frequently from the mud, so I knew something bigger was on the cards, hopefully
a crucianand when the float slid
under and the fish was hooked, it circled for a second or two, as crucians do
but then it woke up and tore off into the dense weed. Obviously a hefty tench …
but I will never know for the hook pulled. The same thing happened again a few
minutes later so I selected a new top kit with stronger elastic.
I was getting tiny bites
which I felt sure were crucians and after a winter trotting a flooded Avon for
roach, I’d forgotten just how sneaky crucians can be. I adjusted my tiny pole
float to hang in the surface tension, with a No10 stots just off bottom for a
tell-tale and felt sure that would result in the first crucian of the season
but when it finally disappeared, yet another tench tore off and completely
trashed my carefully assembled rig. Curses.
stretched elastic and nerves
Twenty minutes later, and
with even stronger elastic, I had a new rig with the bait just touching bottom
and hoped that by edging under the overhanging tree to an area that had
received no bait, my soft hooker pellet would avoid the tackle wrecking tench
and find a hungry crucian – and it worked.
During the next two hours I
managed to miss several tiny bites but also landed six lovely plump crucians,
four over two pounds with a best of two pounds six ounces. What a lovely way to
start the season.
a perfect golden start
I had several small rudd and
another crucian over two and had already lifted my rig out once when in the clear water I saw a large golden tench enter the swim. When it came into the swim again I couldn't resist seeing if I could land it and it promptly broke my pole! I knew this fish from the past when it had broken a rod ... they do go a bit these golden ones ... and realised my stupidity even before I hooked it, so it was time to pack up and lick my wounds. It
had been an enjoyable start to the season, even if I was left wishing that I
could have landed one of those tench.
the tackle breaking terror
Anyway, I had work to do
because I had foolishly volunteered to make a film with Trevor Harrop for the
Angling Trust about Avon Roach and their predation by cormorants. Trevor had
given a very successful introductory talk at one of the Trust’s Fishery
Management Advisors meetings about the Roach Project and Trust roles in
changing the cormorant protection laws and the suggestion was for Trevor to
appear at every meeting. This not being practical, the next best thing would be
a film of him giving the talk so I stepped up to do the honours.
how many takes?!
Several takes later the
filming at Britford was complete but as Trev said, we were both suffering from
sun stroke by the time it was in the can. What with his fluffs, plane noise,
dog’s barking, wind gusts and clouds obscuring his face it’s no wonder I want
to give up filming. It drives you mad! After making more than sixty wildlife
films ‘Repetitive Strain Syndrome’ is getting to me.
still smiling - or relieved it's in the can?
Three days editing followed
before the film was finished … and if you visit the Avon Roach Project or
Angling Trust’s websites you can decide if it’s a job well done. Roach
certainly need all the help they can get if they’re to recover in our rivers
and lakes. The Angling Trust is doing a great job now and I believe all anglers
should support their work. In the meantime, catch one for me … I'd better go and check the otter damage, then do some gardening.