Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 09:04

Signal crayfish The Signal crayfish - a non-native, invasive species - began to colonise local rivers in the 1970s. Since then it has out-competed, and predated on, native populations of White-clawed crayfish; these last are a keystone species and indicators of healthy, unpolluted rivers. Very occasionally I've had one of these wretched invasive crayfish take baits when I've been long-trotting, but they've usually fallen off the hook before I could bring them to hand. Here's firmer evidence of the presence of these unwelcome guests. Still, these invasive crayfish are themselves predated by otters (and chub), and it can't be coincidental that the spread of signal crayfish has seemed to coincide with the spread of otter populations in local river valleys.

Howard's pike

Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 08:57

Howard's pike Strange day, with the river fairly heavily coloured. There was a greasy, yellow light too. None of that was a good context in which to try and catch pike on softbaits, but I'd reckoned without Howard, who can conjure pike from anywhere. He released two, the best of them this fish of 7-8lb. Both took 8cm softbaits. I did nothing worth reporting, except moving one solid pike that fell off after what felt like a great shrug underwater - just a big kick on the rod, and the fish was gone. Oh well.

We're coming to the end of the coarse fishing season. There were signs of new growth everywhere, and as the light began to fail the roach started moving on the surface. On one reach of river the fish rose continuously and there were some good ones among them. I'd have given a great deal at that moment to have had the float rod with me, especially in that coloured water. Oh well.

In the ancient kingdom

Sunday, 12 February 2017 at 19:02

Ancient law An ancient right allowed us to fish in the heart of an ancient kingdom. It was bitterly cold. I doubt we released more than a couple of handfuls of grayling between us, and they were mostly smaller fish (6-10oz.). Dog-walkers, ball-throwers and fire-eaters went past (fine, I'm joking about the ball-walkers). At its glorious zenith the thermometer reached a magnificent 4C and there was a sneaping downstream wind which chilled fingers, hands....chilled everything. Yet in the shelter of the bank a willow was putting out catkins, there were snowdrops in stream-side gardens and a grey wagtail was busy over the shallows. It wasn't spring, or anything like it, but it could pass for the near end of winter in the ancient kingdom made of fish.

Not quite Graham

Sunday, 12 February 2017 at 18:14

February grayling I don't think I've ever seen an unlovely grayling, but the fish we caught today seemed somehow bleached, enervated and lustreless. If I didn't know better I'd say the poor things were simply...cold.

The first blackbird of spring

Friday, 10 February 2017 at 09:03

Robin Yes, I know. It's a robin: an Alternative Fact.

A week ago I heard a blackbird try out a few very tentative notes in a bitter smear of dawn. I didn't get a good look at the bird and didn't record the song. Yet this morning, in a dawn equally bitter, a blackbird was singing. It, too, was an uncertain song - like a Grade II pianist repeatedly halting over a difficult treble phrase. Yet a blackbird it undoubtedly was, and it won't be too long before we hear the full, magnificent, blood-throated chorus. Meanwhile the evenings are slowly lightening and the coarse fishing season is meandering towards its end in mud and mishaps. Perhaps there'll still be time to catch a grayling or two, or a decent chub, or a big pike, before the lure boxes, the bait tubs and maggot-bags are put away. But then - oh yes, then - it'll be time for trout fishing, and a different angling season will spill away in all its wonderful concentric circles of synchronicity and hope. And before we know it, the bass, too, will be back in the estuary and the dace shoals lying restless on the river shallows.

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