I guess Tracy and I are not entirely blameless in the situation that we’ve found ourselves in with these two feathered pests. We turn up carrying a big, bright yellow bag of pedigree chum mixers and proceed to catapult them in to the water (we have tried cheaper, supermarket brand dog biscuits but found that the majority of them sink). I don’t think there’s a bird on the lake that hasn’t developed a taste for this easy meal but at least most of them have a modicum of manners and know when to stop. The two in question, however, seem to be able to eat insatiably without a break.
Fish are often much maligned as far as their intelligence goes; how many times have you heard the myth about a goldfishes’ eight second memory? But compared to Ducky McDuckface in particular, the lakes’ carp are geniuses. I’ve lost count of the times when it’s picked up one of our deer hair flies (usually from the path of an approaching carp), given it a squeeze in its bill, dropped it and then swam around in a small circle only to pick it up again from the exact spot where it spat it out. It only has to find a real dog biscuit once in a while to encourage this behaviour, indicating to me that it has zero spatial awareness and a complete lack of cognitive skills that would allow it to determine food from ‘not food’ even on the 10th (or more) time of seeing the fly within a couple of minutes. The only thing we can do when Ducky is about is to move, this buys us about 20 minutes in a new spot whilst it makes the swim over to us again – I think it’s too stuffed with dog food to fly!
The goose isn’t quite as thick as the duck, but it is just as annoying. There are actually four geese at the lake (I think they’re Embdens), three of them are upstanding members of the goose community who will take a few biscuits and then waddle off up the bank and lie down to allow their meal to digest. The fourth just never gives up. Its speciality move is to wait for you to cast and then charge across your line, often ignoring the floating offerings that are closest to it. This leaves you with two options; lift the line off quickly as you see it making its move - risking pulling the fly into it, or leave the line in the water and hope it swims cleanly over the top. Which option is chosen depends on the specifics of each lunge, and 99.9% of the time we manage to avoid any incident. Now that’s obviously a made up statistic (as are 78.4% of all statistics), but I can confidently say it’s not 100% because last year Tracy managed to land the aforementioned goose on a #5 weight outfit!
During one of its charges it managed to lasso itself around its foot, sensing that something was not right it then proceeded to take off. Now this isn’t exactly a small goose – it stuffs down high protein dog biscuits all summer – so I was (much to my amusement) expecting a long drawn out fight with backing being peeled off from Tracy’s screaming reel into the air. As it turned out it was downed remarkably quickly (too fat and unfit to fly?) and was soon in Tracy’s clutches where we untangled it. At this point Tracy was left with one arm around the goose’s body and one hand gripped around its neck – and by all the hissing going on it was evident that the goose was not at all happy with the situation. I believe the only safe thing to do in such a scenario (i.e. to avoid a goosey retaliation) is to find someone else to take the bird off you. A quick off-the-cuff cover story is required, e.g. “here, can you hold my goose for a second while I make a phone call” at which point you can leg it, leaving them to deal with the hissing mad fowl. However, on this day it was just Tracy and myself fishing and I wasn’t about to be caught out – although Tracy did try it saying “hold this while I take a photo….” – yeah, right!
Actually the release was without incident and the goose left us alone for the rest of the day. In fact it avoided us for the next couple of weeks before getting bold enough to start up its old tricks. This year we’ll be monitoring its behaviour in a whole new light though, Tracy cooked a goose over Christmas and it was good…
As an aside, for those wanting a good aerial battle Tracy can recommend a Frigate bird. One of these swooped and took her surface popper whilst GT fishing in Christmas Island. Frigate Birds are accustomed to spending large amounts of time airborne and won’t be brought down to earth as easily as a fat goose. Even on the #10 weight outfit this much smaller quarry put up a great fight and was just as feisty as the goose once grounded. With its wickedly curved and sharp beak blood was spilled during the release – this was the guide’s though, not Tracy’s.
Next week: Battles with Californian Sea-lions. (I’m not sure about this though as it wasn’t fly fishing)
All the best, James