Sunday 22 May 2016

Aliens are sending us Frying Pans and we don't know how to respond

Just back from a few days fishing with Nanook in the North.

An unexpected repeat invitation as I am certain I have let myself down both on and off the banks of the River Carron at some point during my previous visits.

A tangerine planc carried myself and many other anglers up to Inverness and into cars, mine, an upgraded black wheeled version of which Biggie Smalls would have been proud that delivered us to Sutherland and ultimately the nine mile single track road that separates the Amat and Glencalvie estates from the outside world.

The river was pitifully low, the lowest I have seen it on my four visits and more akin to summer levels according to sage ghillie Ronnie Ross. Fishing could be hard, but hey that's how salmon fishing goes.

Monday morning just after nine and brim full Bonar Bridge's best black pudding, I made preparations for my first cast with little expectation of catching a fish, but blissed out all the same at being back on the banks of this stunning river.

On my third cast, a decidedly rusty attempt at a spey, a fish is hooked.

Salmon fishing isn't meant to be like this, although I'll confess to previous form, having landed a fish on my fourth cast on my first visit to this river despite being four parts foxed on greetings liquor.

This fish led me a merry dance for five minutes while my host struggled with the boot on Biggie Small's motor in an attempt to access a landing net as it was a long way down to the water and too far to grab a tail.

A stunning fish that I put at just under thirty pounds was soon joined by one of just over six to my host's son's rod. Two fish in under an hour and the only two caught on that day on the river. I won't pretend there was any skill involved on my part, and all those articles, books by experts that peddle the "laws of salmon fishing" must immediately be called into question, but that is fishing, always have hope, whatever your quarry, never address the water with a negative attitude and have confidence in what you have on the end of your line be it bait or a fly.

Fish released I addressed my host and offered my excuses, and should I get the next plane home?

Didn't get another salmon, but two trout succumbed and I moved a grilse on my final morning fishing a rising river.

The air is as clean as it gets, many trees are smothered in lichen, one totemic stump was adorned with fungi and we briefly took in a scurry of red squirrels, a first for me as I'd only ever seen them one at a time.

Each morning I was roused by the sound of curlew and cuckoo, and each evening we dined on red meat from the valley be it beef, lamb or deer, and at this point this guff could turn into an episode of coast or an advert for the Highland tourist board, but if float fishing is a direct route to the third stage of enlightenment, then chucking fluff for a few days in Sutherland is a magical balm that swiftly attends to the madness of modern life in the south of England.

Great Fun, fish or no fish, and thanks for having me, although I am sure I must have let myself down again at some point this time.

Travelling south, I returned my car to Mr Small's valet and resumed my acquaintance with security at the airport that serves the gateway to Highlands. I'm aware I've a suspicious face and once again I was required to turn out my bags before security and hand over goods in order to proceed (a 120ml aerosol - limit 100ml)
Questions answered and bumps felt, I gave my gift of a much travelled aerosol that had previously passed through airports in London (several times), Southampton, Madrid, Pisa, Split, Bologna and Dublin, but had now found its' journey's end in Inverness where the chap who sits in the chair looking at the images of hand luggage who we think is keeping us safe but is in fact doing his online shopping ( and I hope your athlete's foot gets better soon) or possibly picking out items for ebay (last year my much loved multi tool for fishing, who'da thought, fishermen at Inverness airport?)

Give Inverness airport security a google, it's the stuff of Don Emmanuel's nether parts (Louis de B)


Flying back via Manchester on a succession of aeroplanes powered by propellers in which every seat was both an aisle and window seat, we enjoyed an authentic "Flight of the Phoenix experience" as we briefly faltered on our approach to Southampton. Aborting the landing a few feet from the ground I may have cried out "for F*6^% sake get this crate down" which the pilot eventually did after circling the Solent for fifteen minutes to regain his nerve.

Feet fixed firmly back on the mother ship, it was clear just how much rain had fallen in the south during my absence. The river was up and carrying colour with banks more than a little mushy. The mayfly had played their part while I was away and fish had been caught by all who had attended, two with chunks taken out by good old Tarka.

I'd seen a few mayfly in Sutherland along with some thick hatches of large dark olives, but while this river may concede in the large dark olive stakes it'll raise the north in Mayfly. Invertebrate sampling throughout the winter revealed sweeping herds of mayfly nymphs bumbling about on the bed of the river, and this next few weeks should see some heavy hatches.

Over on the Itchen, Operation Thornley swung into action as the Ray Winstone lookalike plus cohorts returned to steal fish. Many police officers plus dogs descended upon the place following a call from a chap passing by and currently we await the findings of ongoing investigations.

Thanks very much to the chap who made the call and especially the rural community police officers who attended on the day.

And so to the FA Cup (cue backing track of Ultravox's Vienna) What used to be a special day that started with cameras on the team bus at 10am has now been reduced to just another game of football on the box. As a Liverpool supporter I couldn't warm to either of the contenders and had fingers crossed for a "Match abandoned due to fog" but the Red Devils taking the spoils is marginally preferable to football's David Brent picking up a laurel.
David/Alan, talked at length prior to the final as to how he would win the FA Cup; that's Alan, not the team or eleven men out on the pitch in shorts charged with chasing the ball, I Pardew - we need to talk about Alan.
In 2012 with the country in a reverie following a memorable London Olympics, Alan, wary of a wandering spotlight, was quick to remind a forgetful country of the Corinthian qualities of top flight football. A few weeks later Alan was banished to the stands for assaulting a match official on the touch line. Further misdemeanours followed.
Prior to this FA Cup Cup Final Alan let slip his political leanings regarding the impending referendum stating that him (not the eleven players out on the pitch, the team etc ete) winning the FA Cup would be one in the eye for Jonny Foreigners running old Albion's top flight football clubs.

Unfortunately the adult game at grass roots level is riddled with Alan's and his methods (and Sam's, Neils, Marks and Tonys for that matter) whose prehistoric take on how football should be played has held the English game back for years.

A little het up over football matters I shall now attend to more soothing matters of mystery and possibly the fourth dimension.

Yes the Yeti, of course the ectoplasm and Ok flying saucers, but here's the real mystery of the age.

Returning home from work on Thursday I was confronted by a brand new (with tags)14cm baby blue frying pan sitting by the front door.

A quick check of my emails confirmed that I had not placed a long forgotten late night order for such an item.

Extensive investigations over the next 24 hours confirmed that it was nothing to do with Child A, Child B or the lady who sleeps on my left. We have our own red version of such a pan in the cupboard, why would we need a blue one? Next door Mrs R had her full complement of pans and the lady who lives over the road was still fishing in Scotland.

We have a 14cm baby blue (BNWT) frying pan and know not from whence it came.

Said item has remained on our kitchen table for five days.

Fearing the work of shaman, all present decline to disturb an article that is fast attaining magical status and may well be cursed.

It may be a warning, a conversation opener from an alien life form (So what do you think of our pans?) or possibly the stork who drops babies by doors is now delivering kitchenalia, we don't know, but our friends at Fourtean times have shown interest in an item that for all we know may well have dropped straight from space,

and come clean Tim Peake if this is your doings, we're a tad spooked down here.

If an event such as this occurred in a remote Amazon village then the item would be assigned deity status and swiftly acquire a substantial following,

although there are some who may suggest that I have long worshipped at the shrine of the frying pan.

If you are short of a baby blue 14cm frying pan BNWT, or if you too have received the gift of a surprise frying pan, please get in touch,

I seem to have gone on a little, but then it has been a while.

Well done Jonathan Leake, the Sunday Times environment correspondent for highlighting issues this guff has been banging on about for some years, and well done the Riverfly partnership for their excellent piece in the Salmon & Trout Association's magazine on declining water quality in our rivers,

Oh yes, one other thing, picked up a copy of Trout & Salmon Magazine at the airport on my way north.

It's been a few years since I purchased a copy, but lawks what a surprise.

Hey Mr Ed, If you need some copy, plus photos, to balance things up a little, don't be a stranger.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

And We're Off!

And we're off, with the first four days of fishing undertaken after a sharp frost each morning and intermittent sleet and hail throughout the day.
Despite conditions, a flurry of olives in the early afternoon has induced fish to rise freely and several now feature in the catch book.

The first few weeks of last season saw many fish lost sending many (trout not anglers) to sulk and brood on future surface feeding but so far this year few fish have been pricked or lost. The cuckoo rocked up on the first day of the month as the first cuckoo flower broke into bloom and the first haze of hawthorn flies appeared as the buds broke on the hawthorn trees, which must mean everything is in its place and all is right with the world, although no fish have fallen to an artificial hawthorn to date. With the cold conditions much of the greenery is in hiatus, waiting for kinder conditions before springing forth. The fringe can only be described as stunted and affords the angler little cover from a fish on the fin while willow and its arboreal chums remain on the cusp of forming leaves. Warmer weather is forecast for later in the week with a marked transformation anticipated as spring finally arrives albeit at "fast forward" speed. We have Mallard chicks on the water and the kingfishers' frantic sorties after minnows suggests that they are feeding young.

The river level is reasonable, and when the weed gets a grip in warmer weather and raises itself up to its' full height the water level will rise further, but we still have foam on the water each morning and the river still carries a tint which is not unusual at the start of the season but it needs to be gone by the end of the month.

It's an oft repeated statement in this stream of guff, but declining water quality and quantity remain the principle threat to brown trout and the chalk stream environment, and if anyone tells you otherwise, tap them hard on the head with a large lump of wood and tell them to stop being silly. And while we're on this one, if a chap in fine fleece and cutting edge walking shoes waxes lyrical on genetic purity and the brown trout, reach for the same said large lump of wood to administer similar treatment and a reminder that protecting habitat and effective habitat management is more important to the success of the brown trout and populations of freshwater fish, than preserving specific genetic lines.

Moving on, and twenty four hours later (Like many of you, I too fall asleep between paragraphs)we've just had one of the heaviest hatches of hawthorn I have seen for some years. Pictures on the left and I apologise for the quality but brer hawthorn doesn't sit still for long.

Over on the short stretch of the Itchen that I fall in and out of on a part time basis, fishing began a little earlier, with fish poking a nose at a trickle of olives. Didn't see much grannom on any of my visits.

The place has been visited a few times by folk with carp fishing rods, bags of lager and large cigars.

If any of you clowns read this guff, stop now.

A long term resident of the valley managed to get some pictures of the car plus perpetrators. The messages to the poaching line at command centre central got lost somewhere in Suffolk, or possibly Sheffield, so we have turned to the police who appear to have matters in hand with something called operation Thornly which aims to quell an increase in petty countryside crime in the county, including poaching.
Thank you very much to the chap who took the photos, and well done the rural community police officer and also to Inspector Thornly (note to self - Sunday evening, ITV six part series, approach Ray Winstone's agent for role as man in ill fitting tracksuit bottoms with big rod and cigar)

Today I fell off a bridge. It wasn't the bridge's fault, despite the intricacy of its design it is of sound construction and once had four people on it at once. The newly betrothed have had their happiest moment recorded on it.
It has formed the centre piece in many artistic efforts in mediums from charcoal to oil some of which manage to make it look level.

It is also featured in the Mary Berry 2015 TV series "Crossing over to the other side" in which Mary explored the efficacy of Britain's best bridges and is featured on page 121 of the accompanying book "Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites".
A former Tiswas presenter may also attest to the efficacy of the bridge as he managed to cross this one before falling through another one a few yards downstream.

Anyway, presented with a new bench to put outside the fishing hut, I mistakenly assembled the thing at the workshop. Carrying the fully assembled seat I struggled through the gate to the bridge, passing the plaque that heralds Mary's crossing, the bench clipped the handrail and balance was affected, for what seemed like ten seconds but can only have been two I teetered in a cartoon style. Remembering my clever phone's aversion to water I whipped it out of my pocket before plunging into waist deep water, where I landed with a bench on my shoulder and phone held head high.

I haven't fallen in the river for years, but may consider doing it more often as I seem to have developed a certain style.

I don't care much for Tom Daley's new trunks but give me a stripy three quarter length swimsuit worn by Victorians when diving into buckets of water from height, and I'll take him on in Rio.

And so to Leicester,

Well done and all that , and outside North London who hasn't been following the foxes since Christmas, but what would Moley have made of it all?

We'll never know


It's one of the three, but I believe the ampersand is on the up.