Tuesday, 26 November 2013

26th November

Morning, 26th November 1976. Two days into my 15th year imprisoned on planet suburbia.

Outside, a familiar noise. Ford Cortina. Starter motor wheezing. Vain attempt to cajole unwilling engine into life. It goes on and on, until eventually, it stops. Battery flat.

Later in the day a second raucous racket will be unleashed.

I haven't heard it yet. Neither has our hapless Cortina owner who's now attached jump leads to his battery out a neighbour's gaping bonnet, nor has our unwitting helper holding the engine at constant rev to provide the necessary spark of life. Not one between us have the slightest clue that by tea time our whole world will have changed irrevocably, but in the meanwhile...

Coughing carbs, wheezing starters, humming motors.

For a few brief hours they remain the sounds of the streets.

I don't remember if I ever heard them again after that day. Fuel injection eventually consigned them to the aural dustbin, but they seem to have passed into history that very afternoon when sonic petrol directly injected into the flaccid veins of our moribund culture yanked us straight out of stumbling zombification.

I remember the import of that epic hair-raising roar "Rrright — Now, hahahaha..." as if it were yesterday, 37 years on and 52 years of age.

Radio to reel-to-reel. Erasing whatever went before. Who cares what ever it was?

The furious blast rewound, rewound, rewound.

Unbelievably. At precisely 2.09. End of bar six during the elevated stomping march of the middle-eight.

The strangest thing...

There's my name! And it's unmistakable!!

"Oh — Jeff Hatt..."


"Oh — Jeff Hatt..."


"Oh — Jeff Hatt..."


"Oh — Jeff Hatt..."



Morning, 27th November 1976. Escape planned.

Skinny black drills, sharp toed black brogues, black shirt, thin black tie — irregular issue.

Bathroom, mirror, scissors. Hack off the locks, soap up and spike.

Set out for school... 

Confidently late — no excuses.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Canal Roach — Math Matters

Finding roach on these canals of mine is not an easy task. You might think fish to be spread throughout the entire length of one like currants in the proverbial bun and I think that's how canals might appear to be to those who've not experienced them before, any peg looking much like any other. That's not the case of course. Just as with any other watercourse they are found in certain locations...

The trouble with canals, at least those I fish, is that there's no way to know where a shoal of roach might be if you don't either catch them or see the visible sign of them. And that's a problem because they very rarely show themselves, you certainly won't be able to spot them with polarising sunglasses, the only time of year when they are visible is when basking near the surface during the hottest days of summer and catching them doesn't really tell you the extent of the shoal located unless you catch a lot of them.

And that rarely happens!

It's akin to fishing a motorway. And that's exactly what they were built to be — jointing sea and navigable river into a great new framework of man-made waterways linking every city in the land one to another, they were the late 18th Century's major arterial routes — the blood supply of the industrial revolution.

Winding their way through ever changing scenery —  just like motorways, between junctions all canals are exactly the same the entire miles of their length. Narrowboats and trucks both demand that.

Life would be made very difficult for those that use them if it were not so...

It certainly makes life difficult for the would be roach angler, though. Uniformity is our bugbear and where to fish for them may as well be decided on the toss of a coin.

Far bank cover has nothing to do with where roach live. It does with tench who patrol along the far bank just as crows search the hard shoulder in search of carrion. Cast as tight as possible to it and if they're there or thereabouts then given time enough you will catch them.

But roach live in the boat track — the fast lane. The only cover that matters to them is the depth of the water over their timid heads.

At least that fact reduces the problem of location because the far bank can be ignored and effort concentrated where it matters but it also expands the problem by denying the angler any sense of place.

The boat track is very, very long and utterly uniform in width and depth. Any part of it seems as good as any other...

But that's not true at all. Certain places are much better than others — but for no reason that anyone has ever figured. And that's why canal anglers are number crunching maniacs hell bent on bean counting each event of every second of each session and calculating their way to success. Only numbers can tell them where they should be fishing, and only numbers can tell them why.

Ask any canal angler and they will concur.

It's math that matters...

Success is the product of pure calculation!

I haven't fished for their roach properly for two years now. I began catching them on bread in 2011, quickly discovered that it was most attractive to 'other' species who liked to swim right against the far bank, fished there for them and because roach were rarely caught that close and shallow, I stopped seeing them.

In the meanwhile I've lost sight of their ever shifting locations.

Having embarked on a new mission for the Winter to come, their present locations are what I have to find. You may have gathered that efforts so far have drawn blanks. Interesting blanks of course, as all blanks are, but blanks all the same. But blanks make numbers, therefore they are good work.

In the long term...

Though they're driving me up the wall in the short!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Canal Roach — A Signal Defeat?

Well the roach session did throw up a surprise, but a nasty one. Bream were biting and I had a couple of them as always but no sign of roach in the first chosen peg. Bites came around the half hour mark, which is usual for bread fished over mash, but then they tailed off and didn't look as if they'd return.

Second peg bites came after five minutes, but once again bream were the culprit. However, a few tentative sharp dips around the half hour mark put me on guard for the desired big lift of the float from feeding roach. But, it never came...

When recast the float refused to settle down to the tip as it should but stayed aloft, the final shot placed just an inch from the bait had not hit bottom. I thought it had landed on a twig which would produce the same effect but strangely the float seemed to be moving slowly and steadily to the left.

Not something I've ever seen before, I left it to continue and when it crossed into the deepest part of the boat track the float very gradually vanished. A moving twig? Surely not.

There was nothing there. No twig, no branch, no nothing, moving or not.

It happened again, and again. And then finally I hooked the twig, and it felt like one too, even looked like one for a brief moment...

Gimme a big hug...

Ah no. Not you!

I thought I'd never see signal crayfish penetrate so deep into the city territory of the Coventry Canal with its almost unbroken steel revetments and hard packed towpath banks. Unfortunately there's gaps along the far bank, here and there, where the banks meet the waters without a barrier between and that's all the buggers need to breed and survive.

Jesus, they exploit watercourses with gay abandon, don't they. No doubt they'll be crawling up the drainpipes next, taking up residence in the lavatory pan, eating our turds and thriving too.

Is nowhere sacred...?

There's just no answer to them, you know. Simply no way to control let alone eradicate them. Everything tried has failed — successes have been brief and rebounded badly. Research continues but it's wasted time, effort and money. Nothing works.

The only thing that has not been tried, as yet, though many think it the only viable way forward, is Sterile Insect Technique. Hoards of sterile males are released into an environment overrun with a plague of an invasive or damaging species, they outcompete fertile males due to their greater numbers, breed with fertile females who then lay infertile eggs.

The life cycle of an insect can be broken, indeed screwworm was completely eradicate from the 176 square-mile Venezuelan island of Curacao in just seven weeks. However, the female of that species mates just once in her life...

Crayfish just go on and on.

I'm sure it would be tried with them on a trial basis at least, if only a way could be found to chop the boy's nads off. No one has succeeded in doing that yet. I wouldn't know where they were in fact I can't tell the difference between the boys and the girls.

I've heard they can hybridise with native crayfish, though, or at least they can mate with them. I cannot find hard non-contradictory fact about whether or not they actually can produce offspring or just infertile eggs. Some authorities say the one thing, some the other.

But if hybrid offspring were created they would be infertile, wouldn't they?

So, find out if that is true, breed trillions of these saviours, eat the females, release the males en-masse into every place, and kill the signal bastards off!

(Take out the native crays first though! If you can find any...)

The cost though. That's what stops progress. It's not that it wouldn't cost a lot to do — it would. It's that the plague doesnt cost the economy enough to warrant it.

Only when so chock full of them the culverted Tyburn pops its manholes and overflows into the streets of Westminster, The Embankment is so deeply undermined by breeding burrows that Big Ben lists militantly to the left, and our Prime Minister gets his nads bitten, on the khazi, 10 Downing Street, will anyone do anything about them.

Till then, they're here to stay.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Hit Parade

On the sidebar of Idler's Quest is a list of popular posts that I call 'The Hit Parade.' The top five posts in terms of their performance over the last thirty days, it shows which are currently read the most. Lots of other angling blogs include the same and I'm sure their authors are just as bemused as I am about why old posts suddenly appear, stay a while and then vanish, why some recent posts never get on it and why  a few are so popular they'll dominate the list for very long periods of time.

Just recently a post titled 'My Way With Bread' slipped off the list after reigning supreme for nigh on a year. A 'how to' kind of post that explained how I prepare and use bread discs, its popularity was due to  the fact that it was about bait, most likely, bait being one of those things that anglers really do want to read about.

It's back now!

It never seems to go away for long...

It is a small blog in its own right with nigh on five thousand unique hits where people have landed straight on its page and not the current blog update. According to blogger stats it has gained four times the visitor numbers of any other individual posts from my entire output over five years.

There's a piece written over a year ago about roach hybrids that gets good stats. One of a series about different hybrids all of which suddenly crop up in the list from time to time, slip back out again, often returning for a second stay months later and for no apparent reason. I suppose because they are about something rarely written about, they have a niche market.

They're hardly expert information though. Well I hope they aren't being taken as such, because they're just my thoughts and observations about the freak fish I find on the end of my line now and then.

Of course it will usually contain posts from the last thirty days. I can understand the reasons why they are there but not the reasons why the posts between them did not show up and probably never will.

When I installed the gadget that's what I thought would happen — recent posts would always show up, but they often don't make the grade.

Another popular one that comes back into the list occasionally is another old post about my clumsy first grapples with the long pole. Again, I don't know why my experience should be of much interest but that post has cropped up in the list many times now.

Do anglers like to read about total lack of experience?  Is it because it actually does contain useful information for other beginners and even nuggets of crucial information for the experienced? Or is it because they're desperate to read anything concerning pole fishing in an angling blogosphere seriously lacking where that arm of the sport is concerned?

I don't know. Haven't a clue. It's a mystery to me...

It does suggest there's a market for a pole blog or two, I think. Especially if the anglers who would run them be technically minded, go deep into the often bewildering finesses that make the art of it, and are not simply concerned with bragging about large catches made and matches won.

No one's interested in that. Well they are, but only if there's hard information or deep thinking about how those catches were made that chimes with or challenges their own experience.

If there's one thing that glues together all the posts with true longevity. Those that have long term appeal and are read consistently. It is that they are never about my successes.

Big fish stories have their moment of glory and then slip away. They are soon old news.

That suggests that the audience for this blog or any blog wants to know more about about how the angler goes about making those rare results, rather than the results themselves. Wants to know how another angler thinks.

Whether that thinking is wrong headed or clear headed, it really doesn't seem to matter because the truth lays somewhere between two poles of widely differing experience — yours, and mine.

Now, I'm off down the cut roach fishing this afternoon. I'll be using bread discs, of course, and hoping for big fish to brag about tomorrow morning — though I might draw a blank!

Who knows...

But I'll bet some small 'other' thing occurs that's more interesting than either!

If it does, as it often does. Expect a dissertation...