Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Snowy Banks & Armoured Flanks

Snow, the word resonates with so many different memories, snowball fights as a child, that explosion as a well rounded ball hits the back of your neck, trickling down, meeting the warmth from within your jacket.

Days spent sledging, dad and I doubling up on what was one of the best sledges I ever had, a deep blue, vaccum moulded affair, with room for father and son to share the thrills and more often than not spills, on the snow laden hills that surround Spencers Wood. Each trip down, followed by a sturdy trudge back uphill, like a surfer seeking that perfect wave, with high hopes for a faster, more complete ride on that next trip downhill. One of the larger hills that we favoured had a lovely hump midway down, this would often freeze over, creating the perfect ramp, the younger children and ones generally looking for props from their friends, would always try to hit this slap bang in the middle, it was almost a rite of passage.

I remember our best run down that hill as if it was yesterday, we had managed some nice rides that day, but still hadn't hit the sweet spot, father and sons faces set in a somewhat whimsical seriousness as we charged off downhill again, dad giving that extra boost before finally jumping in, acceleration, that cold rush of air stinging our faces, the light airy feeling as the sledge almost hovered, yet remained true and straight, the hump loomed, looking larger than ever before, we hit it dead on centre, the sledge making a crunching sound as it lifted, we was airborne, a feeling akin to the one you get as you drift off asleep and feel yourself falling.

I have no idea how fast we was going, but upon hitting the hump, we landed just short of the nearby  wire fence and stile, sledge jammed in the fence and us in a heap laughing infectiously, great memories.

As I made my way to the river, the snow crunched crisply underfoot, the area looking absolutely stunning in its snowy petticoat, the icey layer revealing pathways taken by various animals, deer rabbit and fox prints all showing up very easily, each one telling a tale of hunter and hunted.

The river had fined down a lot, running lower and much clearer, looking spot on for a fish or two.I had brought with me some bread so as to try and tempt a few roach, I know further upstream there has been some nice fish caught, but downstream is a bit of an unknown for myself, as although I have caught many species (dace, chub, trout, pike,perch, gudgeon, minnows), I have not caught any roach, that is not to say they aren't there, as I personally can't see why they wouldn't be, however I must admit that I did spend more time focusing on the chub, as I so dearly wanted one in the snow.

I decided to bait a few swims very lightly with a mixture of mashed bread, seed and maggots before sitting down to one of the most welcome cups of coffee I have had,  the birdlife were also out in force, accoustics of the snow amplifying each and everyone of their calls, I really wish that I had my camera to hand for each one that I saw, (kingfishers,hobbys,buzzards and kites) and a pair of herons whom flew by, their calls sounding similar to that of rusty metal grinding together.

Cage feeder and small piece of cheese paste making a splosh as it entered the far bank, I was at peace, there is something about small river fishing that just feels so very special, for me a place has to have that feeling, you know the kind that you get when you hear a certain music track, making the hairs stand on the back of your neck, sending a shiver down your spine and this river has that in spades.

During the day a friendly robin and his wagtail sidekick which I decided to aptly name batman, kept making returning visits to the twisted roots of a tree on the farbank.

What happened during one of their visits was simply jaw-dropping, I was sat watching the quivertip,when all of a sudden I heard high pitched birdcall emanate from upstream, from then on everything happened so fast, a bird of prey sped by, skimming past my rod with its talons outstretched, both the little birds making shrill calls in abject fear, the wagtail escaped becoming breakfast by inches, I believe the bird was a Harrier, but I am not sure which, at first I thought perhaps a Marsh harrier, but have since been informed that it might have been a rare winter hobby.

The first bite was a bold affair, the rod tip stabbing a couple of times, before jerking round, the welcome resistance of a hungry chevin was felt, head down, spiritedly attempting to make its
way to a nearby snag.

A most welcome snowy chub of 2lb 7oz, I was rather happy and in fairness I could have perhaps winkled more out from this swim, but I felt the urge to move in an attempt to warm myself up.

By now the wind was becoming quite blustery, cutting into me like a set of sharp knives. The wind chill was really starting to kick in, my hands agreed with this, turning from lobster red to a slight blue tinge, my own fault really for not wearing gloves, but that is something that I have never been able to do, I'm the same when tieing my shoe laces, I simply can't stand feeling too constricted, I could go into more depth as to why this, but I have perhaps already digressed too much.

My flask was nearly running on empty when a very confident bite occurred, I was met by a reassuring thud as I struck, the fish moving in a bullish manner to the far bank and not being to willing to come back straight away, the steady flow helping it in its quest for snag seeking freedom.

It was not long before this fish was sat in the net and looking rather frisky, a short but chunky and well filled fish and a new Blackwater pb of 5lb 4oz. My hands and fingers felt like very painful stumps, but this was all forgotten in the moment, I gave it an appreciative peck on the head before  slipping it back.

When I got home and started to defrost I recounted the trip, it had been superb, the lovely widlife, the close call with the hobby, beautiful surroundings and two snowy chub, what more can an angler want for?


  1. Mark, you are a really "chub-crazy" guy! ;-)

    In Austria it`s to cold for fishing these days....only snow and ice...:-(
    greets from Vienna


    1. That is quite possibly very true Eric, I really do love Chub.

      Oh that's not so good I can imagine that must be very annoying, especially with some of the waters you have round you.

  2. Great read, well done on the fish! Nice to see the interest in birds as well! I ventured up to my local canal today, loaded with gear, frozen solid! Needless to say I made a hasty retreat from what would have been my first coarse fishing experience! Will have to try the severn tomorrow instead!


    1. Thank you,

      I absolutely adore what we get to see when fishing and birdlife is no exception, so very enjoyable and with the snow lacing the ground it really highlights the wildlife tenfold

      Unlucky about the canal, I know how you feel as I want to get along to the canal again and chance my arm for a few more perch.

  3. You couldn't want for more than a five pound chub in the snow, could you? hard to imagine that the little fella I had today could grown into a dog like that! Great fishing in the thick of it, Mark. You gotta get out in the snow —you'll regret it if you don't!

    1. Hello Jeff!

      Exactly, to be fair I was over the moon with the 2.7, so to have the larger fish as well was very nice.I have really been enjoying this tiny waterway Jeff, you would no doubt love it.

      Very true I certainly would have regreted it, had I not got out in it.Oh for another go on a sledge, I would try and fit into my old one, but I can't see that working out too well.

  4. There really is something about snow that brings back many (ironically) warm memories. Very much enjoyed the read, Mark. And you've got it...when the flask is running low, that's when it's time to head home.

    1. Why thank you Erin,

      The stark nature that snow creates, is simply stunning, although we certainly don't get it like you do in Colorado, it's nice to see families out enjoying making snowmen, having snowball fights and generally horsing around.

      Yes by the time my flask was running on empty my fingers and toes were more than hinting that I should go home,it had been a very enjoyable day.

  5. Great blog Mark, really enjoyed it.

    Don't go back to sledging, I did and have a photograph of me in mid-air doing a forward somersault after hitting a tree stump. I ached for days. memories can be better than bruises ;o)

    1. Thanks Dave,

      on that advice I don't think I will do Dave! Although the thought of you doing a forward somersault does conjure up a multitude of images and I bet that was a painful landing too.

  6. Great result Mark and yet another evocative write up. By God we are lucky to be anglers and get to see and experience so much!

  7. Agreed Nathan, we get to see some beautiful sights and one of the positive sides of the internet is that we can share these with other like minded people.