Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Glorious Waste of Time...!

The Great British Fish-in is a national institution. A load of blokes who may or may not even know each other but who are bound loosely together in piscatorial brotherhood by dint of a shared interest in all things fishy get together on a stretch of bank along some stream or around some puddle to ostensibly, apparently and purportedly but not necessarily or even actually, catch fish.

The broad Avon Valley from the top of Windmill Hill, Anchor Meadow at centre right

The Midland's chapter of the Angling Specific Blogger's Organisation, or ASBO to be acronymic, had arranged their first ever meeting for the last weekend of July and the first of August at Anchor Meadow on the Wark's Avon and as a founder member of that (?once) illustrious club, even I was invited along. It was a two day event but I never even intended to fish on the Saturday as I was sure it wouldn't be necessary: others would do it for me and I could then get on with the important business of spectating and besides, I was staying on for another couple of days so I could well afford to be lax.

On arrival I first spied a lack of tents and feared that I was the first on site and that would mean setting up rods. Thankfully on closer inspection I could see that Danny and Andy were already occupying the top point of the island, always my swim of choice at Anchor Meadow, and that Steve, Martin and Gary were occupying all the choice pegs below the weir pool so I was relieved of the burden of bothering. Perfect.

I donned my spiffing blue fedora, popped the top off a bottle of Shepperd Neame's finest, sparked up a cheap cigar and went on walkabout. Ahah, 'The Man from Delmonte', say's Andy, busily oiking out bleak and dace for pike bait.  The sun was high and the heat was building and I thought my colour co-ordinated azure based holiday wear just perfect for the situation till Andy also pointed out that red socks were a glaring mismatch with the rest of the outfit. Judy noted upon leaving for home, that he was indeed, right...

One of the pretty swims downstream of the weir

The river was as low as I've ever seen it, a good foot below last year's average summer level but fish could be seen everywhere in the sparkling clear water. Off the very edge of the bank where andy fished could be seen roach of at least a pound and perch the same size too and down the other end of the island where Martin Steve and Sean were set up could be seen some cruising chub and the occasional teenage barbel segueing effortlessly from weed plume to weed plume across the shallow gravel glides.

I eventually set up a rod for roach and ledgered breadflake into a depression in the shallow water above the weir. I had a few gudgeon and later one of the intended fish of about half a pound that I hoped would the first of many as I know that some big fish live in that particular place in Summer. They didn't come but Andy had one at a pound and four ounces on his barbel rig and a twelve pound pike on his pike rig. Martin had a couple of small barbel below the weir and Steve a nice fat four and a half pound chub.

Andy's roach

Within ten minutes of Keith's late arrival he'd advised that a potentially hazardous trip across the weir sill to the pub might be a good idea. I tended to agree. Keith set off across the slippery silkweed smothered concrete and cobbles to ascertain whether or not the pub was actually open for trade as it looked deserted. On return he informed us that it would open at seven O'clock - yep, you heard right - that's seven O'clock on a Saturday afternoon in high season and with the sun beating down upon the thirsty hordes.

The intrepid thirsty cross the weir

We were to discover the root of the problem on first orders at seven o'one prompt. The bar, which looked smarter than I remember it from last year had just two pumps for lager and ale respectively which is always an ominous sign and was now run by a late middle aged couple without young bar or waiting staff in attendance (another bad omen) who'd in the meantime turned a once fine English pub into a faux posh restaurant more suited to well-heeled octogenarians and their avian appetites than, well, us!

"Err, two pints of your bitter and a pint of 'the' lager please" Say's Dave, getting them in for Lee and me.

"You are aware we only serve 'drinkers' till eight" declaimed the landlord in perfect Fawltyese.

"We weren't planning on staying late" replies Dave, pint in hand as we turn away from the bar to join the boys out back.

Keith was hyper and on fine form. He also bummed a cigar overturning his late cessation of nicotine intake in one moment of weakness. He then decided to ask the landlord for some tobacco products and disappeared back inside with the hopeless request already forming upon his lips and returned a minute having added a stick or two to the bonfire of oik we'd inadvertantly lit under the landlord's arse.

On ordering the second round we were told curtly and without grace that "this gentlemen, WILL be the last".

I hoped then for a hapless Manuel to storm out of the kitchen with a burning plate of flambéed roast quail with cognac, trip over a dead rat and pitch the whole order into the lap of a retired carpet salesman, or for the long suppressed Sybil lurking in the mousey wife busily engaged in small work back of bar to suddenly emerge and cut him down to size with a smart cuff about the head.

It didn't happen and more's the pity...

Dave and Lee wading back again...

A brace of Avon sole

Look, there's that eight pound perch...!

I sat on the point all evening long watching Keith's hilarious casting of a wayward suspended deadbait rig across Danny's lines with three anglers and later four when Lee decided to abandon his upstream peg in favour of a social, all crammed into a space no longer than twenty feet and then Joe Chatterton turned up to watch the goings on, the first time anyone had actually met him.

... and a twenty eight pound barbel...!

Pike were caught one after the other as the light failed but no zander and nothing large...

Danny's rod bent, Andy net at the ready

... and it was all great fun, the mirth continuing right into the night. By eleven I had laughed myself to the point of speechlessness and by twelve had lost the use of my tongue eventually turning in around one thirty, Danny and Andy deciding to forgo sleep completely and hold out for a big zed by morning.

Keith hauling a pike at dusk

They didn't get one but Dave did have a small barbel around ten O'clock next day which was promising. By midday all of the crew had gone home leaving me to fish on 'properly' through the heat of the afternoon and into the cool of the following night ....

The Man from Delmonte he say's ...

Move you buggers!

But the fish that moved the rod tops weren't the barbel or chub who seemed top have vanished beneath the cover of the weed plumes, just tiddlers banging the bait about. I did however manage a six ounce dace, though it was absolutely not the way to catch one, but at least I put a few more points on the challenge scoreboard.

I fished two late evenings after a monster barbel off the top point of the island, as that's where the biggest fish along this stretch of the Avon live, but in a total of twelve hours had only a few bream for my efforts. I guess a return trip when the water is up will see those big fish moving again...

On the upside I discovered that the flat grassland around the fishery was a great place to hunt feathers...

A buzzard's secondary flight feather on the golf course

Yep you heard right, feathers. I've found that the Ebay public will buy them so I've been out over the last month or so on the daily dog walks collecting everything from goose and mallard, to pigeon, magpie and even black-headed gull, all of which have 'flown' off the shelf.

I found the usual list of species - pigeon, magpie, crow, mallard, pheasant, but also plenty of buzzard  feathers including a prize 'finger' primary, some surprise lapwing, lots of herring gull (though no black- headed even though there were loads in the sky) jackdaw below a roost, a few fluffy long-eared owl breast plumes and a single kestrel secondary, most of which I'll list on fleabay in the next few days for my beer money but I think I'll keep the best - the owls and raptors - for myself as they are the hardest to find and the most interesting and impressive, especially the owl with their impossibly soft furry texture and with a wingspan of up to five feet, the buzzard (the tourist's eagle) wing feathers in all sizes.

Strangely I only saw the one buzzard, heard an owl or two, and watched a lone hawk mobbed by songbirds flying West the whole time I was there and I saw no lapwings whatsoever though a whole flock must have dropped by as the numerous feathers found all in one place on the golf course were fresh.

Nature spends a long time hiding away from view doesn't it? I doubt we see a fraction of what's there no matter how hard we fish or look...

Next on the agenda? Perhaps a trip to Loch Lomond after a big pike, and a golden eagle....!


  1. That looks like an amazing slice of water and it contains pike you say? Awesome stuff and truly a glorious post. Well done and may your bag be loaded with feathers on the return trip home.

  2. Nice looking river there, sounds like you guys had fun, shame about the pub seems many pubs are going down hill or just closing.

    Tight Lines ;)

  3. Love the hat Jeff. So no big babs caught. Where we off next time?

  4. How abaout a day on Blenheim for my birthday in late September?

    I could find a pub accommodation nearby for the night.