The fishing season opened at Hanningfield Reservoir this weekend. There were a few immigrants around. I was introduced to one of them. A black male who goes by the name of Ruby. Ruby is a swan. He originates from Australia, and is thought to have arrived at Hanningfield four years ago by mistake while migrating to somewhere else. The white swans either ignore him or chase him off, so he has no company. Staff at the fishery feel sorry for Ruby so feed him every morning. Even at Christmas.
Ruby got his name because staff thought he was a girl at first. They realised he was a male when the other swans refused to let him join their herd, gaggle or pack, or whatever they call themselves.Ruby doesn’t seem to be much into fishing; perhaps because he does OK from free food handouts. But either way, everyone at Hanningfield likes him. And they were really pleased when he came back after leaving for a few months last year.
It was quite a cold March day today. No more than 8C, but a bitter northerly wind. Lots of people about. Almost all anglers. And mostly from overseas. Eastern Europeans I guessed, judging by the accents. There must have been at least 20 people around the car park and then many more on the jetties and out on the small motorboats that are hired for £20 per day.
I asked one of the park rangers about the popularity of the trout fishery among overseas visitors. He confirmed that at weekends, the reservoir was mainly fished by eastern Europeans. Mid week, he said, the place was mostly local anglers. He thought the eastern Europeans came at weekends because they ‘worked on the tools’ during the week. Plumbers, decorators, engineers, builders. “Sometimes they turn up in their fluorescent work gear and get changed here,” he said. “They love their fishing.”
I looked over at Ruby. He was still asleep.
“He sleeps a lot doesn’t he,” I said.
“Yeah,” said the warden. “But he answers to his name ‘cause he thinks it’s feeding time. If he doesn’t get fed in the morning he pecks at the door. He’s a real character.”
“Be nice if another black swan arrived some day wouldn’t it?”
“Everyone would like that,” he said.