Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Hard waters

My last fishing trip involved getting up at 0415, meeting a mate at 0500 then driving for 75 minutes.  Half an hour to get the boat away then another half hour on the engine sees us finally fishing and settled with a brew at around 0730.  We go through this torture knowing that our chances of catching a Pike are very slim even on a good day.  On my last trip the weather was clear, bright and very cold which is the kiss of death on this shallow water.  That was actually an improvement on the trip before that, when we had to break ice to get to our destination and break it again to get back to the slipway.  

I spend a lot of time fishing hard waters, for all species including Pike, why do I do it?  Well it's not total masochism, I actually enjoy it...  Actually I think that might be masochism defined.  As I've said countless times in my witterings, I enjoy spending time in the beautiful places I choose to fish, being there is almost motivation enough.  I enjoy the company of a like minded angler with a sense of humour as warped as my own.  I enjoy watching the wildlife which is more evident in winter when there are fewer places to hide.  I also crave the anticipation; hard waters are big fish waters.  If my float slips away it could be the fish of my dreams...  It's all about the mindset, I know what I've gotten myself into, I know what to expect and I know I'll enjoy myself regardless.

It also helps that between trips to hard waters I am able to fish a few that are much more prolific and which I suppose are more interesting to read about...  

I know its January and it’s meant to be cold but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  Looking at the forecast over the weekend and it’s set to be cold all this week, today looked like being one of the better days so I made preparations to fish while I still can.  I was up early but not silly early, the drive was a cruise with 'Fucked up' blasting out of the stereo, I was afloat before the sun came up and fishing by 0725.  I started off near a row of trees with the usual three deadbait rods, for some reason I didn’t bring the lure tackle?  The morning was cold with ice in the margins in places.  The sun rose into a clear sky and the wind was from the south and moderate.

I didn’t have long to wait today, a smelt cast to the overhang was picked up within ten minutes and I was soon unhooking a Pike of around five pounds beside the boat.  Twenty minutes later the same rod went again and I had another similar sized fish.  I was hardly settled when the smelt was taken for a third time and I bent into a heavier fish, unfortunately it came off and I wound in to find the hook point had turned over, bugger!!  I had a fourth take on smelt at 0820 but this time managed to strike into thin air.  A few minutes later a mackerel cast along the reedline was on the move but the bait was dropped before I wound down.  Dropped or missed takes are a feature on this water, it is prolific and there are plenty of small fish.

It seemed like there were a few fish in the area so I was loathe to move but an hour passed and I was beginning to tidy the boat when I had a sixth take, this time on Herring.  This time everything went to plan and I had a decent fish pulling back and boiling the water in front of me.  This was definitely a landing net job and the Pike looked like being my best from the water this season so I brought it aboard for weighing and a photo.  I guessed it at around sixteen pounds but it was a fat fish that took the scales round to eighteen, nice one!!  I gave this swim another twenty minutes by which time I had itchy feet and had to move.  By now cloud was beginning to build but it was still sunglasses bright.
I had an hour fishing a deeper area without incident then decided on a whim on a long row to a shallow area which had produced both times I’d ventured down there this season.  It didn’t let me down today either with a fish of around seven pounds on Mackerel at 1150.  A gave it a while longer then started making my way back to base.  A stop at a 'shit or bust' area didn’t produce anything – what is it about this spot?  It’s been poor for the last couple of years, at least I got to watch a Hen Harrier coursing over the fields.  I forgot to mention that when I moved I float trolled a deadbait between swims

At 1315 I set up on a slight bend, ironically after the trolling my next take came when I slowly retrieved a smelt, this was another decent fish which I guessed at about twelve pounds.   The afternoon was cloudy but still much brighter than the dull gloom we had for the first couple of weeks of the year.  I had another take in this swim which resulted in a jack on Mackerel then moved once more, back up to deeper water again.  Despite feeling confident and despite fishy signs (carp flattening the waves?) I didn’t get anything here.  At 1530 I had a decision, do I make one more move or do I get off the water and on the road before rush hour?  I decided to go home but trolled back to the boatyard without incident.  In the end I had 9 takes in 8.5 hours and landed six Pike, two doubles to 18.00 and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  However this is quick fix fishing and it doesn't excite me anywhere near as much as fishing for whackers on a hard water.  If I had to choose one or the other then it would be an easy decision.  

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

A week in January

2nd January 2019
My fishing year began with a 6am start and a journey east in the damp and dark, thankfully the world hasn’t woken up yet this early in the year so the A14 wasn’t too bad. By 0700 I was afloat on a familiar stretch, the commuters were forgotten.

I started off with a long row down to an area that is rarely as productive as I feel it should be and was fishing by 0730. The sun crept above the slight hill in front of me then burst out briefly before being sucked into the low cloud. It had been 5*C overnight and rose to 7*C during the day. Water temperature was 5.4*C at 0700 and as usual was clear as tap water. Wind was light and from the North west so I positioned the punt in the shelter of the reeds.

Tactics for the morning started off with three static deadbaits spread around the swim and on a fourth rod I cast lures around my floats at intervals throughout the day.  At 0818 a mackerel cast along the near margin was on the move, the baitrunner purred but the bait was dropped before I picked the rod up. I gave this swim probably too long but was glad I’d broken the routine and fished away from the 'normal' areas.

The previous evening I had been trying to convince myself to make this more of a pioneering session and stick to areas that rarely get fished.  A couple of fishless hours could have dissuaded me but for once I took a gamble.  
I adjusted one of my rods and float trolled down to another rarely fished spot but got there without incident, finally setting up at 0935. This area looked spot on with loads on ambush points which surely must be to a Pike’s liking? Well the answer today was yes! I had two takes; at 1010 (on herring) and 1020 (on mackerel) landing two small fish that fought hard amongst the reeds. When this swim went quiet I rowed further down and had another small fish on Herring almost straight away at 1110.  Half an hour later I was moving again and the float trolling rod was in action once more. I rowed back towards base but stopped short of my normal areas.

1255 I’d been fishing here for half an hour and was half way through toasting a sandwich when a Herring cast to the far side was moving . This fish felt heavier and fought well but fell just short of double figures. Twenty minutes later a tiny smelt cast across was taken and I hit into what felt like a better fish but they all fight well in this clear water. I unhooked the fish in the water and it was a low double, the first of the New Year. I gave it a while longer before I upped the weights for a final move, settling into one of my regular haunts. I had a take on a big lump of Lamprey at 1430 but this was dropped. I probably could have squeezed in another move but felt sure fish would switch on as the light faded but time looked like proving me wrong. I ended up recasting regularly (never a bad thing) and at 1600, within minutes of chucking a bluey well out of the area  I finally had another take which resulted in a nine pounder that pulled well above its weight and had me reaching for the net. Tonight’s sunset was unspectacular. I gave it another half hour before heading for home.

6th January 2019
On Saturday I spent a fair bit of time getting the fishing gear ready, tweaking rigs and sharpening hooks.  I had everything sorted and ready, if I had any sense I should get an early night in.  If...  Sunday saw me falling out of bed at the ridiculous time of 0430, Richard picked me up twenty minutes later and we started a slow drive to a special place in Norfolk.  Limitations on this water meant we had to share a boat but this would make a nice change, a chance to yarn and have a laugh.   

Three hours after getting up I finally cast my deadbaits around the boat, Rich did likewise and we settled back to enjoy the scenery at the very least.  We were under no illusions, we knew were fishing for ghosts in less than ideal conditions but were determined to enjoy yourselves come what may.  We were in the midst of a long period of high pressure, this was yet another gloomy, dull one with no sun and a light westerly wind.  The temperature was the mildest for a few days at 7*c but otherwise poor conditions really.  Would New Moon get things moving?

In short, no.  We moved around a bit, new water to go at always gives the confidence a boost but didn't find anything willing to have a go.  The nearest thing to fishy excitement was when the boat swung and a little line pulled off the baitrunner causing a few seconds of hope that was soon dashed.  Instead of catching fish we enjoyed the wildlife and solitude, drank lots of tea and kept the sarney toaster busy.  We were daft enough to fish until the sun was long gone before commencing the journey home.  I got back shortly before 2000 and was totally knackered.

8th January 2018
When Maddie came home from university before Christmas we spoke about doing a little fishing during the holiday as she had enjoyed herself on the Broads this summer.  With her return imminent it seemed we would run out of time but thankfully we both had a few free hours on Tuesday afternoon so hastily made plans.  As we were short on time and the wind was howling I decided against using a boat, for once I actually opted to fish from the bank!  This entailed burrowing into the depths of the shed where I managed to find two twelve foot rods already rigged along with a couple of bite alarms.  I grabbed one of my boat rods too; sharing three rods should be enough for the two of us.

This particular water was unfamiliar to Maddie so after showing her around we unloaded the car and were settled under shelter with the three rods fishing by 1250.  Today was a total novelty as for the first time this year the sun was out and shining brightly, sunglasses an absolute necessity.  No time to reflect on this as one of the rods was away already, a bluey cast along the near margin was steadily moving into the deeper water.  I wound down steadily and pulled into… fresh air! Oh well.  

I forgot to mention that today I was actually using a leger rig for which I set up a ‘backbiter’ alarm, something I haven’t done for a while.  There had recently been a spirited debate on social media over the correct way to set up one of these devices.  My set up today wasn’t ideal so I expect the Pike police would be chuntering but no matter, ten minutes later a Pike pulled the line out of the clip and I wound into a nice little fish which charged up and down a bit before I chinned it out.  This one picked up half a herring cast to the far bank.  It did feel a little strange using the longer rod and I’m not sure I like it or need it?  It had been a long time since Maddie last saw a Pike so enjoyed inspecting this one through adult eyes, even a small Pike is an impressive fish when you haven’t seen one for a while.

Although it was nice in the sunshine the wind was fierce today, thrashing the beds of Norfolk reeds, some of the brittle leaves broke off and sailed across the water.  I was glad I dragged the oval brolly out of the shed but regretted forgetting to bring a second chair as Maddie had claimed the one we had.  I spent most of the time standing up and scanning the water so no surprise that I was first to notice Maddie’s float jab and then slide off upstream.  She eagerly left the chair and with me spitting instructions she picked up the rod and wound down.  Despite my advice Maddie managed to set the hooks expertly but as she is only used to catching silver fish these days she was surprised by the power of a nice Pike trying to pull back.  Whether she heard my advice or not Maddie managed to gain control and gradually pumped the fish back to the bank, where I scooped it up with the net.  This fish was in lovely condition and although no monster it was Maddie’s first Pike for nearly a decade and we were both delighted.

Maddie’s first cast of the day had been perfect but her recast went backwards.  The next attempt was much better but had hardly settled before a Pike was pulling the float across the swim.  Unfortunately this time the Pike didn’t stay hooked although as far as I could tell Maddie had done everything right.  By now the afternoon had clouded over and my sunglasses were now redundant, it felt like the sunshine had just been a dream.  Although we had planned to fish through dusk the clouds looked bruised and threatened rain so with a Pike each to our credit we decided enough was enough.  I quickly packed up before any rain could dampen our day and we were driving back along the track by 1530. 

Soon it will be time to get back to the routine and we’ll be heading out on another road taking Maddie back to uni.  Once Christmas is over I usually manage to find a reason for justifying the whole thing and it’s usually spending time with family, this year more than ever.

Monday, 31 December 2018


Christmas came with much over indulgence, Christmas went with more of the same.  The days were grey with little sign of the sun, one blending into the next, what day is it now?  Cabin fever looms... Even my teenage son was growing weary of his bedroom full of technology and eagerly agreed to a morning by the water to break the routine.

We didn't get up silly early but were still first to the water and afloat before it was fully daylight.  By 0730 we were relaxed and fishing with deadbaits scattered about the boat and friendly insults scattered within it.  Before long a convoy of cars arrived as expected, at least four anglers would be lining the banks today.  I always give the bank anglers a wide berth and usually enjoy a chat with most of them, never any friction.  I was surprised to see two anglers appear in the swim directly opposite us showing intentions of setting up.  Both Isaac and I had a recast, an unsubtle signal which had the desired effect, after a bit of muttering the two anglers separated to other swims but given the choice available they were still too close for comfort.

Meanwhile I looked up to see one of my floats zipping along the surface, I quickly wound down but the fish dropped the bait.  Still where there's one there is often more.  Half an hour later the same rod, baited with Mackerel was moving again, this time I made contact with a spirited fish that I managed to unhook alongside the boat.  That would do for me, I just wanted Isaac to catch now.

It must have taken an hour for our neighbours to get set up, I watched with a critical eye, they looked to me like once a year Pikers using their carp gear.  A few more deadbaits splashed down into the area which made it a few too many.  We decided that we'd have a move as soon as we'd eaten our breakfast toasted sandwhiches, the ridge monkey is a good bit of kit!  With the stove cool and packed away we upped the weights and moved off, as I rowed away I noticed one of the anglers leave his swim with baits in the water and wander off to chat with his mate, my expression of dismay was ignored, as were the curses that followed...  This water has a lot going for it but access to ignorant muppets isn't one of them, there have been signs of poor angling for as long as I've fished here.  When Isaac caught his PB I removed his trace along with two others.  The rules are printed plain as day but are obviously being ignored.

We recommenced fishing on a narrower, shallower stretch.  This was a 'shit or bust' move, sometimes the Pike are here in numbers but other days it just seems dead.  More than anything the choice had been made to avoid other anglers.  By 1100, after a couple of moves it seemed we'd shit out as nothing had disturbed our baits.  We decided to pack most of the gear up but leave one rod so Isaac could troll a deadbait, just one more Pike would round the morning off nicely.  I rowed as far as possible upstream without a touch then turned and headed back towards the boat yard.  

As we rowed through one of the spots we'd already fished Isaac's float stabbed and slid away but as he wound down the float popped back up, bugger!  We circled round to cover the area again and were mid turn when the float once again plopped under but for a second time the bait was dropped.  The joey Mackerel was looking chewed but still whole however I switched it for a small Smelt, if Isaac got lucky again then he'd be able to strike instantly.  We were almost through the swim when the float slid away once more.  This time Isaac set the hooks quickly and soon bullied the smallest Pike in the water into the boat.  With honours even we were both happy to head for home.

Another year of the post truth age has flown by...  The world went mad some time ago so I find it best to try and ignore all of the bollocks that makes the Ten o'clock news (I am mostly successful but not always) and concentrate on the things that make us happy, Adnams beer is high on this list.  Family comes first and thankfully everything is fine in my world, mostly happy people doing well and also healing where necessary.  Pray it continues...

I love to read, on average I go through a book a week and this year really enjoyed books by Kazuo Ishiguro, Ali Smith, Ian Rankin, Mick Herron and Haruki Murakami amongst many others.  My favourites of the year were "How I killed Margaret Thatcher" by Anthony Cartwright - if only... "Fingers in the sparkle jar" by Chris Packham was surprisingly good and very moving and "Dead man's trousers" by Irvine Welsh a brilliant continuation of the 'Trainspotting saga'.

Then there's cricket which was anything but joyous early in the year; outplayed in Australia, embarrassing in New Zealand and woeful at Lords against Pakistan.  Having leveled that series things got dramatically better with a good win against India including those emotional scenes at the Oval and a very good win in Sri Lanka.  After a couple of turbulent years the test match team is starting to come together again. We also have the best ODI team in the world, next year they have to prove it.

I was spoiled with lots of live music experiences this year, the best were Eels at Brixton Academy which was almost perfect and the Killers at Latitude which was part of a mad, over indulgent festival evening.  Other good shows through the year included The Charlatans, James, PIL, The Vaccines, The Wailers, Wolf Alice, The Levellers and Fucked up who I'm seeing again next month.

Then there's fishing which has been much the same as most years. Pike fishing started steadily in January but the horrible arctic weather ruined my grand plans for a spectacular seasons end.  A bit of Roach fishing went okay but the BIG fish seem to be a thing of the past now.  Apart from an early spring Carp my warm weather fishing would be described as an anti climax if it wasn't so predictable.  The start of this Pike season has been a hard slog but ultimately rewarding.

My fishing highlight?  This time last year I wrote about losing what would probably have been a lure caught PB.  A few months later I had a rematch with another Pike on another water with a different lure and this time, despite getting my landing net snagged, I managed to somehow win the battle.  I was delighted to add a few pounds to the 19.08 I caught on a Suick Thriller in 1999.  But the fish in the photo below isn't either of them.  Happy New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Saturday at last

Every autumn I make sure the car is full of CD's so I have a good soundtrack to while away the hours in the car.  On the way to the water the music is hardly heard as my mind runs riot with the possibilities for the days ahead, 'where should I start?  Will I find them in the same place?  What's plan B?'  On the way back home it is usually something upbeat which will hopefully suit my mood...  Maybe some euphoric dance music, some chilled out reggae or angry, punchy punk.  Some examples are included;

For once this December I had time on my hands but at some point the decorating demons had crept into my house and made loads of work for me to do.  Or so I was informed...  I don't mind painting but I'd much rather be fishing.  When that was done I had furniture to move in and more to move out.  I ended up tired, battered and covered in paint and was then told I still had to go shopping before the end of the week.  I took this blow in my stride because the media tells me everyone shops online these days so the town shouldn't be too bad.  To be fair it wasn't but I can only tolerate crowds of strangers for so long and by the end of our spree I was definitely getting cranky.  The day hadn't gone too badly so far but the journey home was a bastard.  The roads were busy, yes that much should be obvious but it's not weight of traffic that causes the problems it's fuckwitt drivers.  We all see cheeky, impatient drivers nosing out of a junction or roundabout but when the line of traffic isn't moving all they do is block the traffic coming the other way.  This happened several times, even at the same junction and on two occasions the culprits were buses.  It was a good job I wasn't driving...

Meanwhile the bastards that run the country are still taking the piss, how can these inept cunts getaway with being so shit at their jobs?  Why isn't there anyone in a position to sack them?  Not at the next 'election' but immediately, no one else gets away with being so shit.  Breathe...  I'm actually going fishing tomorrow!!

Friday was windy, damp and horrible.  Sunday’s forecast was dark, wet and horrible.  But this was Saturday, mild and dry with a fresh westerly, for once the weather was in my favour.  Today I had company, Mr B is a former colleague from a younger generation but despite this we have much in common.  It would be good to catch up; I hadn’t seen him since we’d shared a boat this time last year.

We were loaded and away in the dark and soon anchored in a favourite spot, setting up slowly by torch light, by 0700 we both had three deadbaits each soaking in gin clear water.  The sun crept above the fields and shone orange through the trees, the sky was clear but we should be getting a bit of cloud later.  The sun crept higher and the day lightened by the minute, it’s the best time of the day, optimism and expectancy at its highest.

It was just at the point when the doubts begin to materialise (isn't that always the case?) that my herring pinged across to the far bank began to show signs of life.  As I wound down the float picked up pace, running back towards me.  I asked Mr B to duck while I swept the rod sideways, successfully as it stayed bent.  Strong tackle and no quarter, the first of the day was in the net in no time.  A nice double figure fish quickly unhooked and returned.  On this water one fish often brings two or three so we sat up straighter and watched the floats with renewed expectation.  I was content to have a fish under my belt and hoped my guest would catch one soon.  It didn’t happen though so forty five minutes later we were on the move.

The first ‘hot’ swim had been underwhelming but no worries, we were soon sitting in another under the now bright sunshine.  A move always gives the confidence another boost but an hour passed without incident, the cloud hadn’t materialised and it looked like we’d face a day of bright sunshine combined with water that could have come out of a tap.  Another move brought a small improvement when a Pike struck at a bait on the retrieve but still we had no proper takes. 

By 1145 we were tied up in our fourth spot of the day, the sun had progressed to an angle which meant the tree lined bank opposite us now cast a bit of shade on the water.  Half an hour later a Mackerel cast into the shade was picked up and I soon had my second Pike of the day.  I say ‘soon’ but it had been four hours between takes…  No time to ponder, Mr B was away at last and into his first of the day so my job as ‘guide’ was successful, all pressure off.  In the next half hour we had another fish each, the best a low double to Mr B and all four were caught from the shaded far bank.  With the boat returned to normal we decided it would be a good time to toast some sarnies and have a cup of tea.  We had planned to move after this but another fish to Mr B delayed things, once again it came off the far bank.  We considered our options which were limited by the arrival of a couple of anglers.  Our next move at 1500 wasn’t ideal but we could still cover a fair bit of water without encroaching on anyone.

At 1530 I had another take from the far bank on a mackerel and quickly wound in the smallest Pike of the day.  With the sun sinking lower in the still clear sky my confidence was increasing in proportion, I was sure the next hour would see a few Pike.  By 1600 I was beginning to wonder but ten minutes later I saw my float twitch, this time it was a smelt dropped close to the boat and which I’d baited with chopped leftovers.  This one had a little more weight to it but as it was hooked on a short line it did most of its fighting in the net.  When the commotion died down I unhooked my biggest fish of the day.  In the next twenty minutes Mr B had two more fish to low double  to bring the final score to five each, the last couple were unhooked by torch light.  We packed up when we could no longer see our floats. Of the ten Pike boated all bar two had come from baits fished in the shade and those two had come after the sun had set. 

It had been a relief to get back into the wilderness after a couple of weeks of incarceration, good to catch up with a friend, we’d stayed warm, dry and comfortable and we’d caught a boat load of fish.  Perfect.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Friday, Saturday

For most of this year I’ve been working literally five minutes from home and I mean five minutes’ walk from home.  This has been nice as I’ve mostly avoided the madness of the rush hour commute.  I have a chuckle in the mornings as I walk alongside the main road, I like to look at the drivers faces, which without exception always look unhappy.   That was me not so long ago and there is every chance that will be me again sometime in the future, in fact that was me for two days last week when I had to drive into the heart of Fenland for a computer course.

I’ve fished in the Fens a lot over the years, when my local Pike fishing started to decline this was an obvious area to try.  An hour in the motor saw me surrounded by water but it was a different type of fishing to what I was used to.  It took me a long time to adjust to fishing rivers and drains as I had so much confidence in the ‘static’ style of fishing that had been successful on my local stillwaters.  In 1992 on only my second visit to Fenland I managed a cracking Pike of 19.06 which to me at the time was proof that I didn’t have to change my approach too much.  Eventually the penny dropped and I began to travel lighter and fish more of a roving style but to be honest I was never really mobile enough until I became a boat owner.  I have lots of fond memories of fishing in the Fens, mostly for Pike and Zander but I also fluked some big Perch and Chub too. 

One of my favourite spots was a stretch of the big river that ran through quiet meadows to the south of Ely.  Here I would carelessly thrash my car down an unsuitable farm track and park it precariously on the edge, allowing just enough room for the occasional vehicle to pass.  One morning after a summer night fishing for Zander I emerged from my bivvy to find a herd of cows had surrounded my Astra and for some reason were happily licking the paint off it?  This stretch fished well for me in the autumn and then again at the back end just before the season finished.  This area ticked a lot of boxes for a pleasurable days fishing and I have many fond memories.  Looking back I had Pike to 19+ and Zander around 8lbs.  Rich had a 13+ Zander, Ian a 20+ Pike and Giles managed to catch a 5lb Sea Trout.  Being a little off the beaten track it was always quiet and it was rare to see another angler here. 

I realised it had been nearly a decade since I’ve fished in this part of the world so a drive through old haunts was sure to be interesting.  Because I spent most of my time sitting by and looking at the water my memories were of lovely reed fringed waterways and I’d completely forgotten how bleak the Fens look in winter.  Thousands of acres of ploughed black earth crossed with treacherous roads that sit far above the fields yet bizarrely below the water courses; many isolated houses sporting a rusty car or two as garden ornaments.  The little towns and hamlets of dull grey brick seem depressing and could do with a bit of love and attention. To be fair in the dark, drizzly weather we had last week nowhere looks its best.  My destination was Wisbech, which I’m told is very nice in places but not the parts I could see.  The sign reading “Wisbech – Twinned with Mordor” didn’t bode well.  Worst of all is the new A142 Ely southern bypass which consists of a giant flyover that cuts straight across the lovely quiet meadow that my friends and I used to fish, it is ruined forever.  As I drove home on Friday evening I realised it is unlikely that I’ll ever fish regularly in the Fens again, if ever.  That’s fine with me, I’ve moved on and have been lucky enough to find waters where I can be at peace and enjoy interesting fishing.

To be fair the traffic around Ely and Soham was horrendous, even with the horrible new bypass and even when I got onto the A14 it was little better.  Instead of sitting in a slow moving queue of traffic I was in a faster moving two lane amateur whacky race with idiot drivers switching lanes as if it would make any bloody difference at all to their journey time.  I couldn’t relax for a second and by the time I arrived home I was frazzled.  I hadn’t planned to fish this weekend but I needed some tranquil time to clear my mind.

So Saturday morning saw me sitting in a boat in an isolated corner of the county, I suppose from the view I had, if you didn’t know better you might think I was in the fens.  The day was another in a monotonous stream of cloud and gloom, the Easterly wind has been a constant feature for over a week.  All the text books say these are the worst conditions for fishing and so it seemed, two hours passed without a twitch.  It didn’t matter though, I was outside in the fresh air and the cares of the working week were being cleaned away.  Then just before 1000 a smelt cast along the near margin was moving steadily into mid-stream, the strike met a positive response and a couple of minutes later I was unhooking a Pike of about seven pounds.  I couldn’t get my radio to work so had to follow the cricket via my phone, England seemed toothless at first but Sri Lanka later collapsed spectacularly.  In the next couple of hours the float sailed away twice more and another two small Pike were brought to the boat and unhooked over the side.  As planned I packed up at lunch time, passing Giles and son on the way back to the boat yard, pleasantries/abuse were exchanged, I wished them luck and headed for home.

In the early evening Rich collected the Purple Princess and I, he pointed his car north and towards the UEA where my daughter is currently living and studying.  It was lovely to see Maddie as I’ve been missing her like a lost limb; the four of us then walked over to the LCR building where ‘The Levellers’ were playing.  It’s been a couple of months since I last saw any live music so I was well up for it.  The Lev’s were very good although I would have preferred more of the older tunes and the hall was absolutely ram packed which made moving difficult and dancing impossible. Still they are a very good live band with a strong, loyal following and it was another good gig.  I've said it somewhere before but the Levellers' anti establishment message began in the hell of Thatcherism but is sadly even more relevant today.  After hugging my daughter goodbye we headed back to Suffolk, today was a good day, just what I needed.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Pikey times

Our Irish Piking brothers need help!  There is a long history of Pike persecution and fishery mismanagement in the Western Loughs of Ireland and just when it seemed the tide was turning anglers now have to contend with a ridiculous byelaw.  Dave Lumb sums the situation up nicely here;  Lumbland

If you feel like donating then click here;  IPS   There is lots more info on the IPS Facebook page;  IPS FB

It's been a week of magazines as the latest issue of PAC's excellent 'Pikelines' mag landed on my doorstep.  This publication gets better and better with every edition, this time around it features articles from a few good friends too.  I don't like rushing a fishing mag, it'll take me a week to pick my way through.  However I've read Rich Gostlings piece on single hooks and I know he's talking sense.  I may be biased but I think it must be the best Pike fishing magazine on the planet and free to members of the Pike Anglers Club.  See link on the side of this page.

Also arriving this week was the latest 'Catch Cult' which is actually number ten.  Rob and Martin have done a top job in delivering a proper fishing magazine featuring articles by anglers, not industry blaggers.  As with any mag that covers a wide range of angling disciplines there is always stuff I really like along with stuff I don't.  This month there was an article which was a bit of both.
Well done to Catch Cult for interviewing Mark Lloyd of the Angling Trust and well done again for asking the difficult questions.  As an AT sceptic (FFS) I thought Mark answered well and I could actually sympathise with his thoughts and views throughout the interview.  That was until I cam to the shit sticky subject of everyone's favourite mammalian killing spree.  Mr Lloyd basically said "we absolutely can't push for an otter cull, the public will slaughter us.  Now lets talk about Signal Crayfish..."  OK Mr Lloyd you are probably right about calling for a cull, I know what you can't do so how about telling us what you can?  For starters how about educating the general public as to the truth about Otters?  Does AT have any interaction with the Predation Action Group?  
I've been an AT member in the past and in principle I want the organisation to succeed, after this interview I think I'm more sympathetic to the organisation.  Unfortunately, from my point of view as a wild water Piker, on the two occasions I've needed the AT to stand up and be counted they've sat sat firmly on the fence.

Here's another Broadland sunset.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Pike Time

Where do the weeks go?
My daughter left for university and I miss her more than I could have ever imagined.
Then just over a fortnight ago Rich and I traveled up to Kettering for the annual PAC convention.  This was actually the first time I'd ever attended purely as a paying punter, in the past I've always had a job to do.  However we were on limited time and horrendous roadworks/diversions ate even further into this so we didn't even see any of the speakers.  We did spend a few hours in the tackle hall talking to lots of friends from across the country, which is always my favourite part of any convention anyway.  It was good to catch up with the likes of  Rob Shallcroft, the Denis & Tim double act, Brian Birdsall, Saint John Currie, Eddie Turner, Dave Lumb, Chico who still hasn't sold me anything, Stephen Harper aka the only sane man in Norfolk and the not even remotely sane Neville Fickling who granted an extended audience.  We both spent a bit of cash too, emergency wire (as I've mislaid my trace making box and it's driving me fucking mad!), a book from the affable Barry McConnell (more to follow...) and a rubber lure from Neville which did exactly what he predicted, caught a few fish then dismantled with the body sinking slowly out of netting range.

"The Eel Angler" by Barry McConnell

Nearly all of my angling friends had read this book and all rated it it highly.  I always planned to borrow a copy and have a read but then I got chatting to Barry at the convention who mentioned the knock down price and I thought why not?
First impressions, it's a Stephen Harper production.  I know this means it will be visually fantastic because that's what Mr Harper does.  Obviously I can confirm this is the case.  As for the content well I love anecdotal writing and that is exactly what we have here, the story of how Barry and friend's Eel angling evolved, similar in a way to Watto's 'Pikers progress' only with Eels, obviously. Barry is a good writer who can really set a scene and put you in the place, I could easily visualise the waters and events described.  He also has many years of experience with catching big Eels so has a wealth of interesting stories to tell with British Eels to over nine pounds.  Unlike most species there is comparatively little known about big Eels, they certainly don't come with pet names and a history of captures, the air of mystery remains.

Barry likes to fish long sessions, two or three nights at a time and this is something I can relate too, I enjoy being by the water for days, fishing gives me the excuse to be there.  The book covers Barry's fishing in waters all over the country, most notably the Meres of the North West but Canals, pits and lakes are also covered.  All things considered there is enough interesting material here to make a really good fishing book.
But 'The Eel Angler' gives us even more.  There are four chapters covering the trips to the antipodes made by Barry and friend Pete Drabble aka 'The Anguilla Guerrilla", in search of truly enormous Eels.  The pair made to trips to New Zealand and two more to Australia where a slightly different species of freshwater Eel grows to almost unbelievable weights.  These trips are genuine pioneering adventures which see the pair literally hacking their way through jungles at times.  They catch some huge Eels too...

I like this book a lot, it's just my kind of read.  If I have one criticism it's Barry's writing is a bit inconsistent.  I mean it's good all the way through but for large parts of the book the writing is excellent.  To me it seems that some of the chapters are a little rushed, with a bit more care the end product could have been even better.  That said it is still a very good book which has inspired a couple of my angling friends to try their hands at Eel fishing themselves.  And yes, I too can see the appeal, pioneering unknown waters for never caught fish, the trouble with me and Eels is I just don't like the bloody things.  But never say never...

So autumn, Pike fishing