Friday, 20 January 2017

A cold, hard afternoon

      A quick session on the drain this afternoon. I'm on the water by one fifteen, tackled up and some fresh bait caught in double quick time but the glassy calm, which looked perfect, was the harbinger of a cold and what steadily began to look like a pike free session.
     About ten inches of water had been pumped out and the level was low, note the black 'tide mark', and over the whole system that is millions and millions of gallons of water. The water itself was absolutely freezing cold but at least there was no sign of ice; no doubt the lowering of the water level had broken up the ice and the fragments and shards had moved away with the pumping.
     Finally, after three cold hours, a tentative take that finally developed into a good run and that run resulted in a pike being netted, not a large pike but a pike none-the-less, and at least it didn't turn into a blank session. 
      Patience and luck then. One bite, one fish.
      No fishing this Saturday, it's a day reserved for beating for the a shoot that's run by the farmer, at least there will be roast or casseroled pheasant on the menu this weekend.
      As a compromise I think I'll fish on Monday for perch, that seems fair to me.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Tilth accelerator

      The weather is doing some of the farmer's work just as it helps the well prepared gardener too. First the tractors with the multi-blade ploughs deep plough the field and turn up the soil in large lumps which is left to weather in the rain wind and, hopefully, some really hard frosts. The frost breaks up the soil and reduces the size of the lumps of earth into ever smaller pieces until the busters, harrows and drills work over it planting, in this case spring wheat, all in one multi-action pass of the tractor.
      Unbelievably the farmer was practically smiling when he was talking about the weather cycles that we've enjoyed in the last couple of months but not wishing to get too optimistic he did throw in the caveat that he was convinced that it was going to be a wet spring.
      Well you can't have everything.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Frost world

      A trip back to the very frosty and cold weather we had around Christmas time when we enjoyed -5 and -6 degrees. Now I just love the effect that a simple frost has on the most mundane everyday objects where it turns them into something completely different and they're objects that wouldn't give a second glance to under normal conditions.
      In this case the object is the top of a fence post looking like something way out in the cosmos with a green gas cloud about to be drawn into the black hole in the middle.
      Well, I think it does, you just please yourself.
      The temperature is -1.5 this morning, so that's more 'Frost Worlds'.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Cool for cats.

      This poster for the 27th Montreal Jazz Festival is by Tomi Ungerer, one of my illustration and graphic design heroes. Printed in two colours it has a striking image and wit and humour, hanging on the wall of the my little print room it brings a smile to my face every time I see it.
      I love the fact that the supercool, piano playing tomcat has claws made from music notes, his tabby stripes are piano keys and his tackle is part piano key part notation. And all drawn by hand, even the type. The poster is signed by the artist and numbered 165 out of 225.
      I can also recommend a book by Tomi Ungerer called 'Far out isn't far enough' a diary of a year spent being self-sufficient in Newfoundland, needless to say it is beautifully illustrated as well as being beautifully written. Look him up on the web and enjoy his work.
      Sorry about the reflections in the glass, just don't blame the artist, blame me.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The calm after the storms

      After a week of gales, high wind, gusting wind, in fact all kind of wind plus rain, snow sleet, wintry showers and frost Saturday comes and all is calm down on the drain. There is a little wind but my favourite fish holding area is sheltered from the breeze and it is good to fish without the added bonus of wind chill and ice on the drain.
      The Norfolk Reed looks good too.
      But not only is there a calm in terms of the weather conditions there seems to be a calm on and under the surface. A half mackerel I threw into the drain last Saturday is still visible on the bottom about four yards out and four feet down. I did think that discarded bait would have disappeared but perhaps it still being there underlines the need for a small fresh roach, skimmer bream or rudd as bait. In fifteen minutes enough fresh bait has been caught for the afternoon session and a drifted roach is the chosen method, an hour later and down goes the float as it holds hard against the reeds on my bank and a lively single figure pike with a split anal fin is eventually netted, unhooked, and returned to the water.

      A fresh bait is cast out into the same area and it hasn't been out under the float for ten minutes when the the float begins to move again but it isn't a run. The pumps have been  started miles away at St Germans Pumping Station, the water levels are being adjusted before the rain forecast for Sunday arrives, the run-off continues for ten minutes or so then everything goes still again. Being a Saturday the Royal Air Force Typhoons and Uncle Sam's boys and girls in the F15s from Lakenheath aren't tearing up the sky with the afterburner chorus, the only sounds are the kingfisher splashing into the water and the rooks moving on to who knows where for their next meal.

      The farmer's wife stops to talk while walking her dog and as we are chatting, me with my back to the water, she says 'your float has disappeared'. Another pike that is a similar size to the first fish, but without the split fin, is finally netted and swiftly returned to the drain.
      A new bait on and out goes the float again, after a few minutes a violent bob of the float and then the battered red float zooms away in the middle of a huge swirl. This pike takes about fifteen yards of line off the reel on the first run and then does the same thing again and a third time. When I see the fish it is about seven pounds and somehow it is hooked in the tail, perhaps it missed the bait and hooked up as it swirled around, anyway as it nears the lip of the net the hook pulls free so that encounter will be classed as half a pike.
      2.5 pike for the afternoon and no sign of the perch but you have to be pleased with that result under these beautiful weather conditions as the evening steadily draws in. It takes ten minutes to drive home and by the time I have unloaded all my equipment from the car it's dark.
      Definitely time to light the fire and pour a beer.


Friday, 13 January 2017

The cloven hoof

      Everything is laid bare in winter and animals that pass on the lush headland grass in summer pass in secret and are hard to see in all of the tangle and profusion of growth. However the firm mud on the headlands in winter tells a different story and here there a very clear muntjac deer hoof imprints
      Needless to say the two Jack Russell Terriers don't need any hoof prints to know that the deer are there, they can smell them and set off following their scent trails completely ignoring the whistle and calls for them to return.
      Typical Jack Russells in other words. Usually it takes the loud rustling of the training treat reward bag to persuade them back so they aren't really training rewards but training bribes.

      One reason I don't want them cornering and confronting a muntjac deer is that the deer sport a set of very fine tusks and a friend's whippet saluki cross chased and cornered a muntjac and got severely gored and torn. Think of a small set of wild boar tusks and you are about right, not forgetting the antlers.
      Anyway, I keep telling them that a really good and long established wood pile can provide hours of rooting fun just forget the deer.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Not Oliver but Norfolk

      Norfolk Reed to be precise and this long and dense bed of Norfolk Reed runs up to the orchard alongside a dyke, it is about ten or twelve feet deep at its thickest and two hundred or so yards long.
      The farmer doesn't cut the reed back because it provides excellent cover for the pheasants and partridges as well as Muntjack and Roe Deer. We've also seen grass snakes, frogs and toads in there too, as well as the usual summer bird population and the inevitable rats.
      Norfolk Reed used to be utilised for thatching and livestock bedding as well as a temporary covering for straw and haystacks in the old days. It makes good throwaway pens too and I would think that you could even make quite usable floats with the stems. Perhaps I should cut a myself a small supply, paint and seal them and then try them in the summer. Watch this space for the result.
      Anyway, I think that Norfolk Reed is a beautiful looking plant and as a bonus it does make a lovely noise when the wind blows it around, all that tapping and rustling is very creepy when it is getting dark.
      Speed up you two terriers it will soon be dusk. And it's a full moon. Quickly now.