Out with the camera at the start of the week and it was obvious things were warming up. The horse chestnut trees were coming into bloom as were the hawthorn hedges. Both a few weeks late, both signs to me that the tench should be on the move and starting to fill out with spawn. Although the lure of a new bird to photograph had become an addiction I found myself at the tackle shop on Tuesday buying red maggots. I still dithered about when to go, and put it off until the last minute. After the last minute in fact, as I had to set up in the dark. By eleven I had three baits in place, not expecting any action during the dark hours.
The alarm was set for quarter past four but I awoke half an hour early to the sound of tiny feet pattering in the bivvy. This was followed by the distant sound of sedge warblers greeting the coming dawn (although they rarely shut up!). Next to sing was a blackbird high in a tree behind me followed by the rest of the avian choir. On with the kettle and then up and out. First job was to refill the feeders and recast them, one to a distant mark I intended to bait up and fish two rods to - the other being a 12mm Tutti Frutti pop-up, and the second to a spot in catapult range.
That done, and with the pop-up refreshed, I set about spodding out the usual mix of hemp and groats plus dead maggots, the same concoction was also catapulted out over the close range rig. Then it was back to bed.
It had been a warm night, and the day warmed quickly after a light drizzle shower. By nine the sun was well up and the day turning hot. The lake was almost flat calm, the surface unbroken by dark dorsals or pinhead bubbles. The day progressed in pretty much that state of fishlessness.
On the wildlife front there was plenty going on, reed buntings, warblers (two fidgety to identify) and various tits in the willows either side of my swim, coots with young chicks, the inevitably raucous Canada geese and oystercatchers, plus swallows and martins flying over the water and a cuckoo calling from somewhere close behind my swim. Then there was the entertainment provided by watching ants dealing with maggots, dragging their immobilised prey away.
Ants at work
All interesting stuff and a wonderful part of being at one with the great outdoors. While all this, and the sweet but musty smell of hawthorn blossom and the endless swarms of fluffy willow seeds drifting and swirling on the light breeze, undoubtedly adds to the joy of angling it's the fish that make it complete.
Another warm night passed without any hints of rats. Most unusual for this lake and this swim in particular. The sight of mice on my arrival and their pattering feet the first night was a novelty. I'm probably tempting fate here but I am wondering if the long cold winter has thinned the rats out and let the mice survive? It seems implausible. Time will tell.
Day two dawned overcast and the highlight was watching a pair of great crested grebes firstly doing their courtship dance, and then chasing of a couple of coots that were trying to drive them from the nest they were starting to build in the coots' territory. Coots are usually bullying creatures that get their own way, chasing of birds much larger than themselves, but the grebes were determined and their sharp beaks must have deterred the coots as they soon conceded defeat.
As the day grew hot, the air still and the water smooth, carp began to cruise at high speed. It was time to do as the coots and admit I was beaten. It had been nice to be out for a couple of nights by the water. That my back stood up to the strain was a welcome bonus, but the new tackle jinx seems to be continuing. I'm hoping that the three tench blanks have been the result of the new pod, rods, and reels, and that the fourth session will break the jinx and I'll catch. If not then I might as well stick to looking at birds through a camera lens instead of carting a load of redundant fishing tackle along while I do the same through binoculars. If you're not catching fish then you're not fishing, you're birdwatching.