Wednesday 6 May 2015


our wisteria is always a joy but is exceptional this spring

Funny sort of a Spring – wonderful sunny days and beautiful in our garden but cold nights throwing nature into a spin and my fishing plans ‘out the window’.

a vital helping hand for the Avon's beleaguered roach

Firstly roach and the remarkable work friends Trevor Harrop and Budgie Price are doing to help this iconic species. Roach normally spawn on April 25th  in the Hampshire Avon but as you’ll see if you read the Avon Roach Project blog - and I highly commend it, for they are inspiring others to help roach in other catchments too. -  the warm sun and clear chalk stream water encouraged the river’s roach to spawn ten days early. No way that the projects Trevor and Budgie were going to be caught out though, for they had the spawning boards in place and ready for action and as usual, collected prodigious quantities of eggs.

many hundreds of perfect Avon roach were released into the river this spring 

more and more released in several traditionally favourite spots
What followed was again a surprise, for the cold nights caused the roach eggs to delay hatching, something very unusual though not unknown in nature.

‘Delayed implantation’ is a well known strategy for mammals that wait until more favourable conditions before triggering 'egg hatching' … that’s my poor attempt to describe a complex process ; lack of space is my excuse. Anyway, if you want to read more about what happened with the eggs, plus revealing pics, visit the projects Facebook page for regular updates.

Sky TV have made a couple of films about their successful attempts to re-instate the legendary populations of Avon roach with Keith Arthur's ‘Tight Lines’ and they can be viewed on their blog too.

Sway on yet another chilly but beautiful dawn
The roach’s breeding schedule was also modified by the glorious weather in still waters, for the roach at Sway Lakes bred early too and scuppered my plans for catching some biggies with friends. They have proved really tricky, even causing me to rescue my swing-tip from the museum to overcome the tentative bites ... and it worked. Sometimes the old ideas are the best ideas.
trying to get a bite that I can connect with using a swing-tip

the 'old school' trick did the job, a resistance-free bite indicator
a good one but why are they always an ounce short of that magical number!

spring time is the perfect time to be fishing

I went to try again at Sway yesterday but the violent gale force winds stopped my plans to use a pole and I certainly needed delicate pole tackle to hit the tentative bites. I managed to catch just nine roach, all around a pound from over a hundred bites, all missed, but then I’m good at that.

these three survivors from a brood of nine look as though they might make it, cold nights permitting
The mallard have been breeding well in this warm spring, lots of ducklings paddling about in the sunshine, and in our garden too. I’ve spent a lot of time on projects in our patch this spring, hence the lack of Blogs and fishing, but the work keeps me fit and I love the physical graft involved in creating wildlife habitat and beautiful flowery scenes for Sue and I to share.
our garden is a joy at anytime but particularly when the sun shines ... and not an otter in sight!
The spring sunshine has ensured the flowering shrubs and wisteria have been stunningly flouriferous.
Sue's snakes-head fritillaries in the lawn did well this year

the newly created woodland glade just planted up

about twenty tons of soil went into it's construction with the help of friend David
I did manage a few fishing trips away from the garden. Tim, owner of Sway Lakes kindly took me out into the channel one day and we caught several meal sized fish along with others that I'd never caught before which were returned, including thornback rays, dabs and dogfish. It was all a far cry from shy biting roach and all the better for it. 

I love it out on the ocean waves, the rougher the better, for I once had the pleasure of crossing the Drake Straits from the Falklands to Antarctica in a substantial storm. The size of the waves as they filled the sky and the wandering albatrosses sliding effortlessly past the stern of the boat were most impressive. I was trying to film them for the BBC1 series 'Life in the Freezer' without falling overboard - an unforgettable experience seeing such huge waves but never once did I think I was going to die! 
It was a tad different from a smooth Solent.
a tasty plaice - one of several we caught that sunny day
a perfect day to be out birding in the wilds, even if not ideal weather for roach fishing

In my previous blog about Britford roaching I mentioned that I'd made a bird list, compiled while not catching roach. For those of a twitchy nature, here’s the list. In previous years I could have added goshawk, red kite and most unusual of all perhaps, a couple of hawfinches. But this list is just for the final days of the 2015 fishing season. Nothing remarkable here but you can't beat watching a tree creeper shuffling up a tree alongside you when waiting for a bite.
A BRITFORD BIRD LIST  - early March 2015

            -   Jackdaw
            -   Rook   
            -   Carrion Crow
-   Magpie
-      Heron
-      Cormorant
-      Grey Wagtail
-      Pied Wagtail
-      Moorhen
-      Little Egret
-      Mallard
-      Teal
-      Gadwall
-      Tufted Duck
-      Kestrel
-      Sparrow Hawk
-      Buzzard
-      Lapwing
-      Chiffchaff
-      Cetti’s Warbler
-      Wren
-      Tree Creeper
-      Goldcrest
-      Chaffinch
-      Bullfinch
-      Goldfinch
-      Blue Tit
-      Great Tit
-      Black-headed Gull
-      Herring Gull
-      GBB Gull
-      Starling
-      Blackbird
-      Song Thrush
-      Mistle Thrush
-      Wood Pigeon
-      Stock Dove
-      Mute Swan
-      Great-spotted Woodpecker
-      Kingfisher
-      Green Sandpiper
-      Meadow Pipit
-      Snipe
-      Water Rail
-      Long-tailed Tit
-      Robin
-      Dunnock
-      Greenfinch
-      Barn Owl
-      Canada Goose
-      Pheasant

river keeper Stuart with one of his treasured bars of silver

However, just to prove I do occasionally catch some of river keeper Stuart’s prize roach, here’s a cracker from the end of the season. Roll on June16th!

Just the other day, Hucklesbrook gave me my first sound of cuckoos and my first sighting of hobbies this year. It's a lovely spot, with or without fish
The start of May usually means my focus falls firmly on tench but again, those cold night have meant that the tincas in the big pits I am targeting have not yet ‘switched on’, so I shall have to persevere with the blanks until I get lucky. My target this year is to beat my PB of 8/9 [from five different waters] but what I really desire is a double – don’t we all!

Mike with his perfect lady tench of exactly 9lbs
I was sat alongside friend Mike at Hucklesbrook the other day and as if to show me the way, [he always catches more than me anyway], he caught this lovely nine pounder. I was delighted to be there to witness it and take the happy snap. What a cracking tench and not an ounce of spawn to add weight to it’s long frame.

waiting for a bite ... and there was otter spraint on the big rock in front of me
I’ve decided to give Bradleys a go this year, mainly so that I can share the bank with long time friend and fishing buddy, Mark Woodage. He is something of a local expert and a very tidy angler, precise casting being one of his skills … and he’s caught plenty of tench in the past. So I’ll be picking his brains and trying a trick or two of my own. I’ll keep those secret of course!

Mark trying to keep warm in the 'spring' sunshine. By 'eck that wind was cold
We went there together last week but with two degrees of frost and a cold wind we were on a hiding to nothing … and nothing is exactly what we caught. To save face we called it a recce and left happy that we had spent some time together for a good chat,  shared a beer and a bun and done some good birding. 

these naughty Red Crested Pochard did their best to remove all the bait from my swim
Mallards have done well in this years warm sunshine, in spite of cold nights
Great-crested Grebes mean there must be at least one fish out there somewhere
Bradleys through my Polaroids - a bit of fun but warning of wind on it's way for sure ... and the clouds of cirrus were right
The night had been so cold in the camper van that I wished I’d packed my Arctic sleeping bag, though being awake most of the night was compensated by the nightingale that serenaded me loudly just outside the window. Pure magic.
this nocturnal serenader has got talent and plenty of 'X' factor