Monday, 29 December 2008

It’s been a quiet few weeks fishing wise, mostly due to lack of time caused by Christmas festivities. I managed two short trips to “the pit” these were uneventful but part of a bigger plan, all will be revealed…or will it? Loose lips sink ships ….The most amusing thing about these trips were the antics of a “bait boater” but more on that another day. Too much food and drink, too much Wii and definitely too much ‘indoors’. It was time to blow the cobwebs away with a long overdue trip to Eden.

Well things didn’t go at all to plan. Late night, not enough sleep, too much other stuff and not out of bed early enough. I arrived at the dyke after an hour or so of uneventful driving through a frosty winter landscape. I told myself that I wouldn’t have missed much in these cold conditions, the afternoon would offer the best chance of a Pike or two. After three days of Christmas over indulgence my head was full of stuff and none of it related to fishing, I really craved my fix of big skies and wilderness, chilling out was the order of the day, a fish would be a bonus.

As I alluded too before, conditions were cold, there was ice on my boat cover which didn’t thaw all day. Add to that grey skies and a bitter wind from the east and most anglers will tell you conditions were about as poor as they could get. Sensibly I opted to fish a spot right in the teeth of the wind. This was a shallow spot in a bay, away from the usual areas and I’d had a take or two here in the past. Looking around, there were several boats in sight, scattered about here and there. I’d passed Richard on my way, he was fishing an area in the narrows that was out of the wind from which he’d caught on a previous trip.

I used the normal four rods; Bluey and Mackerel were fished static on the bottom, a smelt which had been soaked in oil was popped up, cast out and twitched back to the boat. A whole Lamprey was float fished off bottom, allowed to drift with the wind then slowly wobbled back to the boat. I fished the bays, the reed lines and the open water. I reasoned that on a cold day I may need to recast regularly and hopefully drop a bait next to a lethargic Pike. Two hours later I was shivering after a battering from the easterly wind. My hands were numb, my eyes were streaming and I’d caught precisely sweet F.A. It was time for a move; do I play safe and fish the ‘basin’ for a couple of hours or do I join Richard in the ‘new area’? I decided on the latter, just to warm up for a bit. If nothing happened I’d fish the ‘basin’ for last knockings. Just as I started the engine a text came through. Richard had just boated a low double, things were looking up.

A while later I was anchored up about fifty meters away from Richard, sheltered by trees and a reedy bay behind me. The same four rods were cast again; Mackerel just off a point in the reed line, Bluey in the open water, Smelt popped up cast into the bay and twitched back. Finally the Lamprey was allowed to drift away from me. An hour past, Richard moved along to another bay and I was left wondering what to do. Should I stay put in my comfortable position or should I move? I decided that I really should move but would wait for a yacht to pass by before I did so. All of a sudden I noticed a calm patch of released oil in the vicinity of my bluey cast into the open water. Was my float moving? Yes it bloody was! The oil patch had been caused by a Pike chomping on my bait! It was another knee trembling moment, would the strike connect with a monster?

It did connect with a Pike, no monster but a fin perfect six pounder, another fish from this very special water, and after a few blank trips very welcome. Shortly afterwards Richard boated a jack in his new swim. I decided to stay put and settled back to enjoy another spectacular big sky sunset. Unfortunately I’d forgotten my camera so couldn’t record it. Obviously with no camera, when Richard packed up just after dusk, so did I!

This new area, one we hadn’t fished until very recently, has turned up a few fish and why wouldn’t it? We haven’t seen any other boats in this area which is also promising. One to keep visiting in the future, especially as it is relatively close to the boat yard. Also shows there are sure to be other unfished areas that are worth exploring.

That’ll be that for 2008 which has been a memorable and highly enjoyable year whether fishing alone, with my family or with great friends. Lots of time spent laughing in beautiful, peaceful surroundings and we even caught a fish or two. I hope anyone who happens to read this has had a great Christmas and has a prosperous new year. Below are some photo’s from 2008, I have some wine to finish…
Oct'08 History

Summer'08 The future?


Summer'08 Fun...



Feb'08 The Blue Cow



March'08 They do exist.....




Monday, 8 December 2008

More of the same

9am on the first Saturday in December finds me and the kids walking through the Christmas crowds in the town centre. The market is busier than normal; “Justa pand yer strawbreeeees…” (why are market traders always cockneys and where on earth did the strawberries come from?). Everywhere I look there is tinsel and glitter, hideous Christmas music piped through every shop and the crowds! They get worse by the second, every one gets in my way, everyone wants to be in my space. Can’t stand it anymore! Get me out of here!!

Twenty four hours later and I’m anchored up in the basin with four deadbaits spread around the boat. Mine is the only boat in sight, the only sound is the usual squawk of wildfowl and the occasional strange grunting sound. I’m not sure if this was made by a bird, animal or machine but it beat the hell out of ‘Jingle bells’. The day was cold, clear, sunny and bright with a breeze from the west. I had to break a thin layer of ice getting out of the boatyard. (I think I should probably be a lot more careful than I am in these circumstances?) In short, the conditions were piss poor for fishing the system as I knew they would be but what the hell? I fish the system when I can, if I always waited for perfect conditions, I’d always be waiting.
After an hour or so a thought struck me, why not fish another part of the system where I’d caught before in similar conditions? Here the water is clear and weedy, instead of the normal murkiness we are used to. The decision was instant, I tidied up lifted the mud weights and headed south. Forty five minutes later I was sitting comfortably fishing one of my favourite spots in the world. I love it here, its wild, beautiful and occasionally even produces a Pike…..but not today. After ninety minutes or so I lifted the weights again, intending to move just a little way but had the urge to search. I ended up fishing an area I’d never fished before that looked good, clear with attractive reed beds and a side drain entering. An hour later I moved again, further down to another spot that was new to me, opposite a big willow. Three swims, no fish so at 1400 I lifted the weights again and headed back. A pair of Cranes flapped awkwardly through the sky to my left, keeping me company.

Back on more familiar territory and fishing the southern part of the basin, an area that has produced a few takes late in the day before. Once again I spread the baits around the boat and settled back, watching another spectacular sunset and reflecting on fishing the challenging system. The fish my friends and I have been catching so far this season have come from two distinct areas; and one of which has produced 80% of these. Possibly the smart thing to do would be to totally concentrate on these areas, moving within the areas but instead we’ve spent a lot of time, like today, searching far and wide, trying to learn a little bit more. The sun set on another blank day and I felt tired and a little defeated but already looking forward to my next visit.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Success of Sorts

30/11/08
I had a few spare hours this weekend so spent it revisiting a pit I used to fish about twenty years ago. Back then it had produced some very big Pike but I didn’t have a clue about its recent history. It would be naïve to think that I’d be the only Pike angler on the pit but I hoped it wouldn’t be too pressured. One thing for certain, the place was sure to have a fair few carp anglers about, sadly that is true of just about every pit I can think of these days. Anyway, on this short recce session, getting a Pike in the net would be considered a result.

I’d had a look around previously and found a nice looking swim on the northern bank which ticked all the boxes. It was close to an area from which I’d caught some big Pike in the past and bait fish were topping close in. It was also nicely hidden from the rest of the pit and judging by the brambles growing across the path, was rarely fished. I hoped to keep it this way so left my car some distance away and discreetly made my way down the bank in the dark. Not wishing to draw attention to myself I slowly set up without using the head torch. The same could not be said for two guys tackling up on the western bank, away to my right. Their swim was illuminated like a football pitch and they weren’t exactly quiet either. One of them was telling the whole pit about his “accident” and it sounded gruesome, I’m amazed he had the strength to make it out of bed let alone fishing on a damp November morning.

It’s unusual for me to fish less than three rods these days but due to the nature of the swim I’d chosen there was no point in using any more than two. On one rod I fished a Bluey and dropped this in the margins, under an overhanging tree in twelve feet of water. The other rod was baited with a Smelt and cast about 35 yards towards an island. It dropped a little short of where I’d intended but I judged it was close enough. As the day slowly grew light I was surprised to count seven (yes seven!) bivvies set up along the eastern bank to my left, it looked like a refugee camp. I suppose it could be worse, they could be Pikers! I seriously doubt that any of these anglers had the slightest idea that I was even there.

The day was grey, damp and cool with a bit of breeze from the north which rippled the water in places but not where I was fishing. After two weeks without wetting a line it was nice to be out there fishing even if it was far from my first choice venue. Who knows what the pit holds? There seems to be a good head of prey fish and a history of big Pike. Gauging the potential would be interesting and on this first visit my expectations were low, I considered a Pike, any Pike would be a result. At around 8am I glanced at the margin rod and noticed the unmistakable ‘tap tap’ on the rod tip. I wound down and bent into a spirited little Pike of about five pounds which I soon had in the net. It was short and plump and in good condition, nice one, so far so good. I rebaited, this time with half a Lamprey as I was travelling light and hadn’t brought a great deal of bait with me. Half an hour later the same rod was away again, I bent into another small Pike which thrashed its head and spat the hooks, oh well.

By this time the Carp anglers were starting to emerge from the warmth and comfort of their bivvies after another good night sleep no doubt. I’ve grown used to observing some strange and amusing behaviour from this tribe of anglers and today was no exception. It was uncanny the way they all seemed to rise at the same time but this could easily be explained by the use of mobile phones. On cue they all migrated to one swim roughly in the middle of the bank and here they huddled and chatted for a while. Then after a while they all migrated back to their swims, packed up and went home. Strange creatures carp anglers, at least the pit was a lot less crowded now.

An hour past between takes so I decided to twitch the smelt back towards me a yard or so. All the fishing books tell us this is a good way of inducing a Pike to pick the bait up. For once the books were right as within a minute the BBBB alarm was dropping back to indicate a fish swimming towards me. I wound into another Pike which felt a bit bigger than the first and so it proved. It was another short plump fish of around seven pounds. Once again it was in good condition but there were marks inside the mouth which indicated a fairly recent capture. I recast with a Mackerel this time which was the only type of deadbait I had left. For once the cast went exactly where I wanted, just off the back of the Island, in fact I couldn’t have positioned it any better if I’d used one of the carpers bait boats.


Time past, one or two other anglers turned up to fill the void left by the carpers. I’m pretty sure that no one even knew I was fishing, tucked away in my little spot. This view was reinforced by the arrival of the bailiff, if he doesn’t know I’m there, then no one does! I sat quietly, enjoying the solitude and enjoying the bird life which felt safe enough to come close, always when the camera is out of the way. All the usual suspects like a Robin and a Wren as well as every ones favourite, the Kingfisher. Then I was visited by a chirpy flock of Long Tailed Tits, flitting amongst the branches around and above me. I like Tits!

I was nearly out of time so started to slowly pack away the non essential items. The mackerel cast to the island hadn’t caught the attention of any Pike so I twitched that back once more. I tidied the margin rod away and everything else I didn’t think I’d need including the landing net, (yes Pike police I know…..) You guessed it, the Mackerel on island rod was picked up and another Pike ran back towards me. The strike connected once more and the biggest Pike of the morning was soon chinned out and unhooked. It might have gone ten pounds if I could have been bothered to unpack the scales but in all likelihood was a nine pounder.

So my first visit to this pit in a long time had produced three nice fat Pike in decent condition. As stated I’d have settled for one at the beginning so in the circumstances I consider that to be a result. If there are larger fish present, with the same plump build as the ones I caught today then there could be a surprise on the cards.

Monday, 17 November 2008

One thing missing...

A mild, cloudy day with the odd brighter spell and a moderate wind from the North West, it was also three days after the full moon. These are pretty good conditions to be fishing just about anywhere and “Eden” in particular. By 0700 I was anchored up in the basin area, arranging a delicious menu of deadbaits which were spread around the boat. I’d only just finished and was starting to mix up a load of foul smelling fishy groundbait when I was startled by a ticking bait runner. I quickly picked up the rod, baited with Mackerel once again, and wound into a Pike. The fish was on and didn’t feel big but I’ll never know as the hooks pulled out after a few seconds, bugger!!!! I was disappointed but not as gutted as I had been a few weeks ago. I was sure I’d get another chance, wouldn’t I?

I stayed in this area for another ninety minutes then moved another 100 yards to the south. The wind was ideal for drifting so I set one rod up shallower and drifted a smelt deadbait a few inches off the bottom. The bait was rigged head up trace and at the end of the drift was retrieved slowly, sink and draw style. This method has caught me a few fish over the years…but not today. I moved into ‘The bay’ using the same methods I searched three different areas here without reward. I then moved back into the basin and tried two more spots here, nothing. I worked hard, fished hard but didn’t find any more Pike willing to pick up a bait. By this time I was cursing my missed chance first thing in the morning.
Another blank session, my second in a row at Eden but I can console myself that at least I’ve found a fish willing to pick a bait up on both these trips. On this system that is pretty good going! I can remember the first winter I spent searching the system, I fished it a dozen times and boated a grand total of four Pike for my troubles! Back then we fished more in hope than expectation, every Pike caught was a major event, no matter how big or small. Nowadays I launch the boat expecting to catch something, we’ve come a long way. Once again I totally enjoyed every minute spent afloat in this wild natural environment, I didn’t speak to another soul all day and my only company was the birds, in fact there was only one thing missing - Pike! Sadly due to work, family and other commitments it will be a few weeks before I’m able to visit Eden again and I’m missing it already.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

A little time

The unwelcome bleep of the alarm clock woke me around 6 am after too little sleep. I felt rough as guts and dog tired but what the hell, it’s the weekend and there was a small window of opportunity into which I could squeeze a few hours fishing. I staggered out of bed and went through the familiar motions of boiling the kettle and filling the flask etc. Isn’t it strange how, the harder I try to be quiet, the more racket I actually end up making? Is it just me?

An hour later I was settled in soaking three deadbaits at my favourite quiet corner on “The big one”. Conditions looked pretty good with a brisk southerly wind and broken cloud. There were fry dimpling the surface in the margins, Grebes feeding in the open water and the occasional Bream rolling at range. All that was missing was Pike. Most times I fish for Pike, I’m thinking, and trying different things all day, attempting to catch another fish. Here I am content to sit and relax, knowing that I have good bait in an area that the Pike like to be. I enjoyed three hours of peace and quiet, hidden from the cyclists and ramblers although the occasional inquisitive dog gave me a look, thankfully their owners were oblivious to my presence. I’m not anti social, honest! Apart from that my company was the birdlife, I’m no bird watcher but I enjoy counting the species and got up to fifteen with ease.

My fix of fishing gave me time to breath in the fresh air, clear my head and contemplate what is right and wrong in the world. Britain has a new (Black) World champion in Motor Racing, Go Lewis! The great (and highly UNDER rated) Joe Calzaghe is still world champion and probably the best boxer in the world. The mighty Ipswich Town FC are on a run of wins and climbing the table. The Australian cricket team is on the verge of defeat, the first of many over the next twelve months! Across the water there is a new (Black!!) president thank God! He might not change the world but he can’t be worse than the last one! It seems to me that the election in the States affects the British people more than our own elections, sad but true. Of course today is remembrance Sunday and sadly there are still armies trading bullets in the world.

All too soon my time was up and I had to return to my all too hectic reality. Unfortunately the Pike stayed away this morning but it was three hours well spent anyway. In years gone by the onset of winter proper saw the fishing become very difficult on this water, to the point where we fished other, easier waters instead. It could be nearly that time once again but who knows. I do have another local water up my sleeve for when the winter arrives but before then…Eden.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Another fix?

Today I made my third visit to Eden in eight days and I was joined by my nephew Josh and my friend Richard who was to fish from his own boat. It was a cold start to the day as once again I had to scrape ice off the windscreen. We had an uneventful journey but were buzzing and full of confidence. Not only was I coming off the back of a good session but Richard had had a superb day on the Wednesday taking six fish including big doubles of 15, 16 and 17 pounds. Richard and I were hoping for more of the same but for Josh it was his first ever visit to the Eden and any Pike would be a good Pike.

For Josh and I our first port of call was “The bay” whilst Richard motored off to fish an area we call “Ghost Town”. We sat it out for ninety minutes or so, the water was flat calm and I had no confidence so we upped the mudweights and made our own way to the Ghost town. By ten o clock we were fishing with deadbaits scattered about. This was the same spot from which I caught my first ever Pike from the system a few years ago. We spent an hour here then a further sixty minutes fishing close to the now sunken island. The day was bright and clear and the water was mostly rippled but when the wind dropped it fell flat calm and it was hard to feel confident. It was nice to be on “Ghost Town” again, it is the most atmospheric of Pike fisheries but it is very difficult. At the moment I really wonder if its even worth fishing at all. Richard did manage a fish on Bluey but it was small, not one of the monsters we dream about
Why would anyone want to fish a dump like this?

By 1240 we were back fishing in the basin, close to where I’d taken those fish on Tuesday, Richard had also moved back into the area and was fishing nearby. After ninety minutes we moved a couple of hundred yards to fish the far side of the basin. Confidence was slowly ebbing away but surely we’ll find a Pike or two here? Twenty minutes later Josh finally had a take on Lamprey. He set the hooks into a nice fish and expertly played it to the boat where I did the honours with the net. I guessed it at around ten pounds, not only was this Josh’s first Pike from the Eden system but his first double figure Pike from anywhere. I was very pleased for him and he was elated! At last a Pike in the boat, now would it be my turn?

Half an hour later it was decision time, should we make one final move for the day or should we stay put. The decision was made for us by another take to Josh. This time he christened a new Pike rod with a lean fish of around eight pounds, his second biggest Pike. Unfortunately the rest of the afternoon was uneventful, despite fishing well into dark, apart from one small fish to Richard at dusk. In hindsight we should have moved after Josh’s second fish but it’s hard to move when you’ve just caught a fish.

Josh, well pleased with his biggest Pike!

I was really pleased for Josh to have caught a new PB Pike but had felt disappointed not to have caught myself. I could console myself with the thought that I’d put the boat on the spot for Josh to catch his. Here I have something of a moral dilemma. I was very pleased that Josh had caught his personal best Pike but how would I have felt had he pulled out the big grandmother fish that we dream of? These fish are there and once on the water, my boat partner has as good a chance of catching as me. If Richard latches onto a huge Pike from Eden, I’ll be envious but delighted for him as I know just what it would mean to him and I know how much effort he’s put into fishing the system. I know I wouldn’t feel the same way about a “part timer” getting lucky. One thing is for sure, I always choose my fishing partners carefully!

We followed Richard’s boat back in the pitch black for a pleasingly simple journey for a change. On the long drive home we chatted about the system and agreed that the Pike would be now well and truly on the move. Some areas would become devoid of fish whilst others would have an influx of wanderers. We hoped we could stay on to of the fish movement and keep catching.















Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Two days in Eden

Thursday
Up at the crack of 5am once again. Almost everything has been made ready the previous night so it’s just a case of boiling the kettle, taking the bait out of the freezer and jumping in the car. I meet Giles at Tescos and away we go, cruising serenely down the road with Marvin Gaye playing on the stereo, chatting enthusiastically about the day ahead. Our optimistic chatter was rudely interrupted by the total wanker coming the other way, overtaking on a single carriageway and nearly running us off the road and potentially leaving five children without Dads. We were both fuming and it was tempting to turn round, find the culprit and beat some sense into him. But we didn’t…

We arrived at the boat yard in good time, launched the boat without a hitch and were fishing in an area I call “the basin” in time to watch the sun come up. We were fishing a consistent area, with a variety of good, fresh bait in decent conditions (overcast and mild with a fresh south westerly wind), it was just a case of time surely? Maybe it is but we’re still waiting!! In short we blanked, we spent two hours in the first area then moved regularly after that, trying to find some fish. We kept on moving and searching, fishing areas we knew and others that were new to us. After 45-60 minutes in a spot we pulled up the mudweights and moved elsewhere. We may not have been catching but all the time we were learning.
Sun rise over "The basin"

A fishless day, a waste of time? Not on your life! A little bit more learnt about the system and a pleasant day in a beautiful wilderness of reeds and water, watching the Marsh Harriers hunting ducks. This was fascinating; all of a sudden a flock of around thirty Tufted Ducks would take to the sky in panic and a second later the ominous form of the Harrier would swoop low over the reeds.

As the day wore on the wind increased just as the forecasters had predicted, they had also forecast rain in the early evening so we decided to cut and run. By this time the wind was pretty strong too and as we motored north back to base the boat was being thrown about, it was uncomfortable to say the least. One moment we were being thrown forward on a wave, the next the propeller was turning in the air. On a few occasions I managed to steer us side on to the wind which was definitely a bad move. Giles maintained his composure by grimly concentrating on packing his tackle away, pretending it wasn’t happening. I had white knuckles on the tiller and tried my best to tell myself all was fine. I know Pike anglers are supposed to revel in tales of boats pitching between mountainous waves but bollocks to that!! In all seriousness we weren’t in any danger but were still relieved to make it back to the boat yard. We got the boat out quickly and cleanly, loaded the car the car and got the hell out of Dodge before the sheriff arrived. Or to put it another way, left before the rain arrived. Driving home, tired fishless and to be honest a bit despondent, at times you feel like there isn’t a Pike within a mile of your bait and the system seems so big and daunting. But then again that’s part of the challenge and when it does come right it makes it all the better. Here’s to next time!


Tuesday

Another early morning start and for the first time this season I had to scrape ice off the windscreen. Thankfully this mornings journey was uneventful and after seventy minutes and fifty miles I was nearing “Eden”. Away to the east there was a large bank of cloud and driving the last few miles I noticed puddles in the road. The parked cars I passed were all free from ice so it was obviously a few degrees milder here than at home. This could only be a good thing when fishing a shallow system such as Eden. I arrived at the yard and started sorting the boat out. I noticed there was a bit of ice on the boat cover which was thawing. It must have been freezing in the early part of the night then got milder in the early hours. I launched the boat without a problem and chatted to a friendly local launching opposite me.

By 0700 I was securely anchored up in the “Basin” area and had four deadbaits spread around the boat; Mackerel, Smelt, Lamprey and Bluey. I also mixed up some fishmeal groundbait, with chopped fish and ET Eel oil added, a big ball of this was chucked up wind. I cannot prove this really helps to attract Pike but I use it anyway as it gives me confidence. On a water like this I want to stack the odds in my favour and it seems logical that a Pike will detect the scent trail that this gives out. As the day grew fully light I sat back and relaxed, soaking up the unique atmosphere of the system. Away to the west I could just make out the hum of the morning traffic building, a tractor had begun work somewhere in between but apart from that, all I could hear was birdsong.

After almost ninety minutes I was experiencing an all too familiar feeling; “That hasn’t worked, what do I do next?” I started formulating a plan when I was rudely interrupted by the ticking of a bait runner. The rod baited with Mackerel was away. “Bloody hell a take!!!” Not something that has happened up here lately!! I wound down the slack, waiting for the line to tighten into a fish. I kept winding and winding…and winding then eventually worked out that the Pike must have dropped the bait. Bugger!!!! After two full days without a bait being taken, now I get a dropped take, highly frustrating to say the least!!! I sat it out in this spot for another hour but no more fish disturbed me. I then lifted the mudweights and allowed the boat to drift a hundred yards or so and the fished this area for another hour without success. I began to get a sinking feeling that another blank was on the cards. Stuff that! I’ll keep on searching and working to put a fish in the boat!

By 1100 I was moored up in the North western side of a large bay, in a nice looking area between two spots that had produced in the past. A bit of cloud was building in the west and there was a decent ripple on the water and I began to feel confident again. At 1125 once again I was alerted by a ticking bait runner, a mackerel had been picked up for a second time that morning. I quickly made everything ready, wound down and bent into a fish, YES! The bend stayed round and the rod felt solid, then it all went slack. BUGGER!! The air turned blue and I was pig sick, two chances in a day and both wasted. I had only felt the fish for a couple of seconds, not long enough for a ‘one that got away’ story, but long enough to know this wasn’t a head banging jack Pike. Even so I wasn’t sure how big (or not) the fish had been and the ‘not knowing’ would be torture. I’m lucky that, as far as I can remember, I haven’t had a really haunting fish loss up here at Eden. I stayed in that area for another hour hoping in vain that another Pike would put in an appearance.

Fishing gives us a good excuse to wear daft hats and not be embarrased
I picked myself up and by 1240 I was moored in the entrance to the bay, a nice looking natural bottleneck that had to be a good ambush point surely? An hour here and another 45 minutes spent in a feature packed area opposite me told me that it may well be a good ambush area, but not today. The eastern side of the bottleneck was a little deeper and had some interesting bays amongst the reeds so a little bit more learnt and stored away for the future.

By 1450 I was back in the “Basin”, about 100 yards south of my starting point. By now there was a fair bit of cloud and still a nice breeze from the west rippling the surface, I still felt I had a chance of a fish but time was running out. At 1535 the Mackerel was picked up once again and this time I made no mistake. Third time lucky, a spirited Jack of about five pounds was unhooked beside the boat. I was pleased to have caught at last but this didn’t make up for the sense of wasted opportunities earlier in the day. A few minutes later I was startled by a large splash just off the boat between two of my floats. I’d been considering getting off the water early and missing the worst of the traffic but had a nagging feeling I should stay, the splash resolved me to do just that. The feeling of waste I’d been having got worse at 1612 when for a fourth time the rod baited with mackerel was picked up, once again I failed to get this fish to the boat but having felt the fish I’m sure it was small. I’d now had four takes, all on Mackerel and only boated one fish, what was going on here?

Out of the murk....
The sun was sinking behind cloud in the west and there was an eerie atmosphere in the gloom, heightened by an early Tawny Owl calling to the south. Would I get another chance? Just one more run, please! At 1640 my wishes were granted and this time the take came to a Bluey. I’d been turning my head just like the owl, scanning the floats when I saw that particular float slide off. The strike connected and I soon had a nice Pike of around eight pounds at the boat, a lively fish that punched above its weight in the murky water. Ten minutes later having just rebaited with another Bluey I scanned the floats once again. Where was the float on the Mackerel rod? A ticking bait runner gave me the answer and I pulled into a heavier fish this time. She tried to fight but was out gunned by powerful tackle and was soon in the net, obviously the best fish of the day. These Pike can often be deceptive and the length makes it hard to guess the weight so I quickly weighed her at thirteen pounds. I took a quick photo but was interrupted by yet another ticking bait runner, three takes in ten minutes! It was the rod baited with Bluey again, I managed to set the hooks into another nice fish of around eight pounds. I rebaited both rods again and sat it out for another half hour, until I could no longer see the floats but that was it for the day.
The biggest of the day
By the time I had tidied up it seemed pitch black, the wind had picked up and swung round to a northerly, blowing a bit of rain into my face. Once again I had another dodgy journey back to the boat yard ahead of me, I had to contend with an increasing wind starting to throw the boat about. Not only that, I had to avoid the large navigation posts which were likely to jump out in front of me at any moment. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience but I managed to steer straight down the channel and made it back to base with no mishaps. It had been a frustrating day at times but by the end a very rewarding one.

There has been some debate about whether Pike have preferences for certain deadbaits on the fishing forums. There is the logical opinion that a Pike would not pass by one free meal for something else. For most of today I fished four rods with a different species of bait on each one. My first four takes all came on Mackerel and this was from three different swims so it wasn’t as if it was one particular spot that was producing the fish. Of seven takes today , five came to Mackerel and two to Blueys, I had no takes at all on either Lamprey or Smelt. I think that today, conditions were such, Pike found it easier to find oily baits like Mackerel and Bluey and that is why they caught the Pike. The Pike appeared to prefer Mackerel but in reality, they found them quicker.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Its rare for me to fish in my home county, for most of my fishing I travel at least fifty miles. I’m fussy about where I fish, I like to spend my time in beautiful, natural places where there are few, if any, other anglers. The fishing itself has to be interesting; challenging with the possibility of a huge fish. I only know of one water in my local area that ticks all of those boxes, a large still water that I first fished over twenty years ago. Back in the late eighties and early nineties this was a superb Pike fishery and I was lucky to enjoy some fantastic fishing there. Unfortunately by the mid nineties this was a water in serious decline, the roach seemed to have vanished and the Pike were several pounds under weight and very tatty. By the late nineties to even catch a Pike was a rare event.

So what caused the demise of this fishery? Too much pressure from Pike anglers was definitely a factor, some anglers were using tackle that was totally inadequate for what was a snaggy water. To be fair anglers weren’t as enlightened as they are today but the poor old Pike took a battering all the same. There was also a huge problem with migrating cormorants coming in from the continent. I can remember fishing in the winter of 1989/90 counting around sixty of these birds all feeding in an area we knew to be packed tight with bait fish. This may go a long way to explaining the disappearance of the roach. Whatever the reason by the time of the millennium the water was hardly worth fishing.

Despite all this, my friends and I loved fishing the place so we would drop in every now and again more in hope than expectation. In the spring of 2005 we actually caught a few Pike too, it seemed the water was in the beginning of a recovery. I fished hard that season and caught plenty of fish but the bigger Pike were hard to track down. I did manage a few double figure fish up to a best of 19 ½ pounds for my trouble. The fishing still isn’t a patch on days gone by but it is still worth a visit from time to time.

My biggest Pike from the water, 23 pounds in 1991

I had very little time at my disposal this weekend so it was an ideal opportunity to visit the “Big one” once more. I met my friend Jim before dawn and we made our way to a favourite swim, nowadays hidden away from prying eyes behind scrub willow. The plan was to fish deadbaits and occasionally cast lures whilst chilling out and catching up as it’s been several months since we last fished together. It was still dark when I cast my first rod, baited with half a Bluey to the edge of the weed line. On my second rod I ledgered a Lamprey and chucked this as far out into the water as I could.

I’d hardly sat down when the alarm on the rod baited with Bluey sounded as a fish moved rapidly off with the bait. A quick strike pulled into a lively little fish of around seven pounds that thought it was much bigger, it tried to pull my arms off but was well out gunned by the powerful tackle we use these days. This fish was in superb condition, short and stocky with vivid markings. An hour later Jim had a take on a Herring, also fished close to the weed line which produced a similar sized Pike to our first. Unfortunately this fish showed signs that some anglers haven’t learnt from the mistakes of years gone by. The flanks were red raw with patches of missing scales as if it had been unhooked whilst laid on gravel. The worst of this should heal in time but it will show a scar for life.

Jim added another small fish later, hooked on a Kuusamo spoon but I really couldn’t be bothered with any lure fishing today. I was content to sit and relax, enjoying the late autumn sunshine. Yes I must also admit I spent a quite a lot of time reminiscing about days gone by too! We’d had a good laugh and caught a few Pike in beautiful surroundings, that’ll do for me today. By late morning I was running out of time but packing away was made easy for me as the footpaths were filling up with dog walkers, ramblers and mountain bikers, another unwelcome change from years gone by! It was nice to return to the “Big one” once again, one of these days it will be a good Pike fishery again, just hope I’ll be around to see it.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The best laid plans...

I rolled out of bed the moment the alarm went off at 0455, eager to be on my way. When I ventured outside I was greeted with thick fog which dogged my journey all the way. Instead of flying along an empty road I crawled through the gloom but better to arrive in one piece than not at all!

I have a well oiled drill for launching the boat, the trouble is I sometimes forget what it is. Today I slid the boat nicely off the trailer and watched it sail smoothly across the dyke. Something didn’t look right…I realised the rope that had meant to be securing the boat had slipped off the cleat. I jogged round to the other side of the dyke just in time to see the boat bounce off and drift back across to the side I’d just come from. Eventually I got my timing rght and was in the right place at the right time to grab hold of the boat, phew!! A few minutes later the boat was loaded and I was ready to go, just at the exit to the dyke I opened the throttle and…the engine died. No problem, start up again, open up the engine and…it died again. So what’s going on here then? I know the engine was full of petrol, I was sure of it…but it wasn’t. Oh well, with the tank finally topped up I opened up the engine and headed out onto a foggy water heading towards the area where Giles and I had caught a few fish on the last visit.

By 0730 I was moored up fishing four deadbaits around the boat. Two were cast into open water and the other two were popped up to avoid the worst of the weed and cast towards the reed line. Half an hour or so later I heard an engine come and go somewhere out in the fog. Shortly afterwards my phone rang, it was Richard who was somewhere out there, lost in the gloom. We had a quick chat then resumed fishing. A while later the fog lifted a little and I had to laugh, as I saw the silhouette of Richards’s boat about a hundred metres away. A bit of banter ensued, with me accusing him of poaching but all good fun. Conditions were poor; I rarely feel confident when its foggy but worst of all there was no wind, leaving the water flat calm. In my experience a kiss of death when Pike fishing in shallow water. I stayed in the bay for a couple of hours before pulling up the weights and heading for pastures new, as did Richard.
By 1030 I was anchored up in a different area fishing near a reedy point but within casting distance of the boat channel. I’ve hardly fished this area before so it was very much a learning experience. By this time a decent breeze had finally picked up from the South west but it remained gloomy. Much better conditions and I felt more confident. After about an hour I repositioned the boat and fished the edge of the weed line. By 1300 I had decided it was time to move on but my plans were hastily altered by a hefty swirl in shallow weedy water. Definitely a Pike and by the amount of water displaced a decent sized one. I repositioned two buoyant deadbaits in the area and chucked the lure rod too, unfortunately I hadn’t brought any lures that were really suitable for such shallow weedy water but kept throwing a large Spinnerbait. I persevered even though it was catching plenty of weed. There was another large swirl in the bay shortly after the first but my baits remained untouched. After an hour or so I lifted the weights and moved off.

By this time the sun had finally burnt the fog away and I headed back towards another favourite stretch. I anchored up and was just getting comfortable when I heard a strange sound and looked up to see about fifty sailing boats heading towards me. The fine afternoon sun had certainly brought the weekend admirals out in force and I don’t think they had a brain cell between them. The hire boat with a family of six that passed had even less sense, while the adults had a great laugh rocking the boat from side to side, the poor terrified children screamed their lungs out.
I quickly got out of the madness and anchored up across the other side in another spot I’d had a take or two in times gone by but not today. Still it was a pleasant hour in the sun spent watching the madness away to the west. I motored back to the slipway having experienced my first blank of the season, Eden had defeated me today but I’ll be back another…I think this is only the second time since I started this blog that I’ve failed to catch my target fish, which is pretty good going but fishing Eden is tough so it won’t be the last.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

My addiction

I call the place “Eden”. What can I say without giving too much away? It’s a large tidal system, an area of outstanding natural beauty and a haven for wildlife. The fishing can be extremely difficult with Pike few and far between. The draw of the place is the challenge and knowing if you are rewarded then it could well be with the fish of your dreams. I’ve probably said too much now but then again, if you know the place I’m talking about then I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know.

Today I had my first trip of the Pike season proper and once again I am totally addicted to fishing the system. I towed the boat up and was joined by Giles, we launched then motored out, greeted by a pair of Marsh Harriers circling away to the west. Where do we fish on this big river system on an October day? I decided to start in the area we had done OK in last year. We spread an array of deadbaits around the boat and occasionally cast lures but mostly sat enjoying the scenery and soaking up the special atmosphere. We were in a decent area fishing with good bait but thoughts of actually catching fish didn’t enter our heads, this was a hard water after all! However as Giles slowly retrieved a drifted dead roach he felt a sharp tap and a Pike swirled at his bait. Unfortunately his bait wasn’t taken but there was a fish in the area at least!

The weather was pretty much spot on for fishing this system, mild with a decent westerly wind. The only downside was the rain which had begun to fall and was getting heavier. This may not put the fish off but it might make things uncomfortable for us sitting in the boat. At around 9am the bait runner on my rod baited with Lamprey signalled what could only be a take. I pulled into a decent sized fish which punched its weight but was soon in the net. She was a little bit tatty showing the scars of what may well have been a close encounter with a propeller but I was happy with a Pike of eleven pounds. We stayed in this area for another hour before following a pre-determined plan to search out other areas of the system.

By 1030 we were in another area, moored up in a sheltered bay, within lure casting range of the reedbeds. A couple of deadbaits were put in this area too but most were cast out into open water. We had only been in position for a few minutes when one of my rods, baited with Bluey was picked up. The strike connected and plenty of head shakes were transmitted down the line, soon a long lean fish of around seven pounds was brought to the boat. Unlike the first fish this one was in superb condition, a long spotty example of a river Pike.

I’ve known Giles for nearly thirty years and to describe his eccentricities would require a separate blog on its own but the events I’m about to describe go along way to showing the kind of character he is. On one rod he was using a dead roach that had been in his freezer for about three years and looked like a bait that had been in the freezer a while! As he attempted to launch this bait out it parted company with his hooks and splashed down a few yards in front of the boat. After taking the piss I turned my attention elsewhere while Giles mucked about with his lure rod. After a while it became apparent that he was trying to foul hook said Roach which was floating like a cork. After a few attempts he actually managed to do just that, in fact he foul hooked it perfectly through the lips! He then proceeded to reattach it to his bait rod again and cast it successfully back out. I had to laugh; “You’re gonna catch a ‘twenty’ on that!”

You can guess what happened next. A few minutes later, the Hi viz float on that rod went steaming off just like one of the barrels in ‘Jaws’ and the strike put a solid bend in the rod. It wasn’t long before Giles pulled a long, lean, big headed fish into the net. It wasn’t a twenty but at 15.10 it was a very nice fish indeed. A quick photo session and she was returned to grow even bigger while we sat back laughed at our luck, even the rain began to ease!

After a quick repair job on the stove we feasted on bacon sandwiches before moving on to explore further. Our next stop was in open water with deadbaits spread around the boat and lures cast from time to time. This move proved fruitless so we lifted the weights once more and tried another area. This was another likely looking spot, once again the reeds were well in range and we continued to use the same tactics. After nearly an hour nothing had happened and we were just discussing our next move when one of my floats started to move. This proved to be the smallest fish of the day at around six pounds and picked up a buoyant Pollan which had been cast out and slowly twitched back to the boat. Not long after this the bait runner sounded again, my rod baited with bluey went off steadily then stopped just as suddenly. I wound down anyway but there was no Pike on the end and no bait either. My guess is a small Pike had picked up the bait and managed to tear it off the hooks, if it had been a bigger fish I’m sure I’d have put hooks in it.


We gave this area a while longer then moved back close to where we had started. We sat here for an hour but no more action occurred so we packed the gear up and motored back. So my first excursion on my favourite water yielded six takes to two anglers and four Pike to the boat. I’d settle for this kind of sport every week but I know it’s going to get a lot harder as the season wears on!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Unconventional Convention

My weekend started with a mad 2 ½ hour drive through the Friday evening traffic to Stoneleigh. After checking in at the hotel and dumping my bag in the room it was down to the bar to have a glass a beer with old friends and new. The plan was to have a couple of pints then have an early night in preparation for a long and busy day at the convention. Well it didn’t quite happen that way! As usual the bar was buzzing with Pike anglers from all over the country, the beer and banter flowed. It was great to catch up with old friends and equally great to meet some new ones. There were a couple of absolute legends of British Pike fishing in attendance too! Two beers somehow stretched to five and the early night became 1 am, oh dear.

The Big Bad Brummie woke me up with a bang on the door around 0530 am. I had a quick breakfast of tea and paracetamol before heading out into a cool dark morning to begin work setting up the hall. My fellow committee members were running around like blue arsed flies, Mike Kelly and “Dad” Colin Goodge here there and everywhere. By 0730 the PAC stand was almost finished and with the new pictures on the wall, looking good (thanks Rob!). I was able to nip back to the hotel for a quick fried breakfast and couldn’t help indulging in my traditional fishing meal of sausage and bacon sandwiches. By 0900 everything was set and we were waiting for the doors to open and the arrival of around 400 like minded souls.

The day past very quickly, I didn’t get to see any of the talks but had a really enjoyable day chatting to people who visited us on the PAC stand. Faces around the hall made up a “Who’s who” of British Pike fishing, there was a notable exception but he wasn’t missed! An early highlight was “El Pres” extracting £20 membership fee from good ol’ Gordie Burton. Business on the stand came in fits and starts but by the end of the day we had taken a nice amount of cash to boost the club funds. Big thanks to all the helpers, especially Alix who was with me for the day. More details of the PAC product range can be found here:- https://sslrelay.com/pacshop.co.uk/sess/utn;jsessionid=15466479c7d4d01/shopdata/index.shopscript?main_url=..%2Fmodules%2Fthank_you.php4%3Fpayment_ok%3Dtrue%26order_already_saved%3D1

From what I heard, all the speakers went down very well and a good day was had by all. The trade stands seemed busy and everyone I spoke to said they were enjoying the day. Incidentally all the tackle manufacturers that are listed on the right of this page were represented at the show. But this is only a part of the convention, it’s the meeting and greeting that is the best thing about the weekend in my opinion. With people coming form all parts of the UK, Kent and Devon in the south east and west, Wales, Ireland, the highlands of Scotland, Cumbria and everywhere in between. It’s a once a year for friendships to be made and renewed. The socialising is as big a draw as the show itself.
This side of things was a massive success too. The infamous crew from RA88 in Glossop were in full effect and started drinking very early. Teamed up with the lake district lads, after having a beer or ten in the hotel bar they allegedly ended up in a lap dancing club in Leamington spa. By the time we had tidied up the PAC stand and got everything loaded again it was around 7pm. Back to the hotel and after a quick shower it was time to head back down to the bar. With our responsibilities now discharged it was high time to really let our hair down, relax and enjoy the evening. I joined BBB, Steve, Rob, Mark and a whole host of fellow Pikers in celebrating a successful day. After several beers in the bar eighteen of us bundled into taxis and ended up in an Indian restaurant in Coventry. Here we had a decent, if over priced meal, washed down with large quantities of beer and wine. Once again some absolute legends of the UK Pike scene joined our number, guys whose writing and exploits had inspired me over the years.


Back at the hotel a few of our number were feeling the pace and disappeared up the stairs, never to be seen again…I managed to find room for another beer or two but by 1am words were slurring and eyes were closing.


0900 Sunday morning and I awoke with an aching head and a dry mouth. After having the same two breakfasts as the day before I felt OK again and after saying goodbye and shaking many hands I got into the car to begin the long drive home. Will I do it again next year? Damn right I will!!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Hadn't read the script

The plan was simple, drop the boat onto a fen river and spend the day trolling lures. By the end I would have caught a boat full of Pike, in fact I would be fed up with catching them so I’d be ready to spend the winter fishing more challenging waters. No problem, at this time of year in clear water twenty Pike to the boat should be a realistic target. Famous last words, the Pike didn’t read the script!

I was trolling downstream by 0700 and straight away it became evident that there was loads of shitty drifting weed around and this was going to be a problem. Although this is hassle it is something we have gotten used to, as long as I can find some Pike, with perseverance I can usually keep the lures working long enough to catch them. I started off with a Dave Lumb’s all time favourite lure, the Super Shad Rap. This was fished on a soft rod, mounted in a holder on a short line so it runs virtually alongside the boat. Usually the Pike have no problem coming up to hit a lure fished like this and it has advantages in a weedy river; I can simply lift it up, strip the weed and get it fishing again in no time. On the rod in hand I fished a Salmo Skinner again on a fairly short line so I can keep getting it to come up in the water.

In previous autumns I could expect a take almost anywhere but with definite concentrations of fish in certain places, just like any other river I suppose? However after an hour I’d covered several hot areas without so much as a touch. I was still confident as I was approaching the area that had been productive earlier in the season. Sure enough, no sooner had I reached this stretch when the rod slammed over as a Pike nailed the Skinner. Soon the first Jack of the day was unhooked over the side of the boat.

Okay, I’d found a fish in an area where I expected there to be a few more, I decided to stop for five minutes, have a cup of tea and decide how I was going to fish from here. For once it seemed that the weather forecasters were right, the early morning mist was beginning to burn off leaving a bright, clear still day. The lack of wind wouldn’t help with the drifting weed however. With tea drunk I decided to keep on doing what I was doing but on reaching the end of the stretch with no more takes I switched the highly unfashionable Salmo for a very trendy Shallow Invader but this also failed to produce. I made another run downstream without a touch so kept on going but as I did so I found the river becoming more and more coloured. I switched the Shad Rap for a spinnerbait fished on a long line, more to boost my own confidence than any other reason. This worked well as the angle of the line seemed to help it avoid more of the drifting weed and I wished I’d changed over sooner.
The coloured water was in yet another area I expected but failed to catch fish from. I decided to keep on going and fish parts of the river I hadn’t visited in a long time. As I travelled further the water clarity began to improve and so did my confidence. The river widens at this point and I was able to avoid the worst of the weed and keep the lures fishing. Sure enough the spinnerbait was taken and Pike number two brought to the boat. A bit further down I received a sharp tap to the rod in hand but what ever it was didn’t stay hooked this time.

I decided to keep on going and eventually I reached an area from which I’d caught Zander before so I decided to put a couple of deep divers on and try to catch one on a lure. I have very little experience of catching Zeds on lures, in fact my tally stands at one and with all the drifting weed around I was soon beaten and heading back upstream for more familiar fishing. Back in the shallower water I switched one rod to a well chewed Salmo Perch and this was taken in the same area I’d caught my second fish. Number three was even smaller and conveniently unhooked itself beside the boat. I covered this area a couple of times but there were no more Pike willing to take pity on me.

Unfashionable lures but the Pike don't know!

I kept on back upstream through worsening conditions. The sun got brighter and warmer, the drifting weed seemed to be growing and the weather was bringing out the part time anglers and it seemed anyone registered as insane was behind the wheel of a cruiser. Despite all this I kept on trying; switching lures and thoroughly covering spots I expected to find fish. At one stage, in an effort to beat the drifting weed I cut the engine and drifted down with the current, casting as I went. This too failed to raise any interest. So my plans to have a nice confidence boosting session, catching a boat full of fish before the hard winter season came to nothing. I have never known this river to fish so badly on an autumn day such as this. Sure the weed was a problem but I should have caught a lot more fish than three!


By mid afternoon I arrived back at the slipway to find it covered with kids fishing who were a little disappointed to have to move so I could retrieve the boat. The whole area was alive with people lured from their homes by some sunny weather; fishing, walking or just watching and I had to put up with all the normal tedious questions. As I was leaving five "hooray Henry's" set sail in a small inflatable, it looked totally unsafe but some people won’t be told. I do hope there are no reports of any tragedies on the news today.


Less than a week now to the PAC annual convention at Stoneleigh, can’t wait!!!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Therapy

I spent most of Saturday organising my fishing shed for the coming winter and for a morning session this weekend. All the camping gear and stuff I won’t be using till the spring goes to the back while the Pike gear comes to the front. The plan had been for a mobile session on a large local stillwater, one lure rod and one bait rod, a nice way to get back into the swing of Pike fishing. However I spent most of Saturday night rolling around feeling decidedly sick and leaking gas from both ends. I awoke on Sunday morning with a head ache as well as pain in the base of my spine and still feeling like I could throw up at any moment. It’s a very rare day when I feel too ill for fishing but this was one. However by early evening I was feeling better and going stir crazy so Isaac and I picked up a lure rod and went for a walk along the river.

Once again we fished the stretch behind the lake and the river looked in great nick with a tinge of colour and far less weed than the height of summer. We stopped for a look from a footbridge at the downstream end of the stretch, there was no sign of the big Chub that usually hang around on this area. There was no sign of anything else for that matter. Undeterred we set off anyway, casting a ½ oz spinnerbait and either buzzing it back over the weed or letting it flutter into the gaps. We hadn’t gone far when a tiny jack shot out from the weed, missed the lure and disappeared into a swirl of water. Isaac gave me a “you’re useless dad” look.

Just about every swim on this stretch looks like it should hold a Pike or two, not to mention big Chub. If that were the case then fishing would be too easy wouldn’t it? In reality, some do and some don’t and keeping mobile is by far the best way to fish a small river like this. We reached a swim from which I’d lost a fish on our previous visit in July. A couple of casts upstream produced nothing then on the second chuck downstream the spinnerbait was nailed as I lifted the rod tip to buzz it over some streamer weed. For once this fish stayed hooked and I soon had it in the net, ably assisted by Isaac. “Cor that’s a biggun” said the dog walker who had appeared unnoticed; “No it’s just a little Pike” said Isaac, quite the expert!

We got to the end of the stretch without any other fish showing an interest. I swapped the spinnerbait for an alphabet plug and we started to retrace our steps. The same small Pike slashed at the plug in the same swim but there was no action until we reached the straight area behind the lake. Here a Pike of about six pounds engulfed the lure and gave a good scrap in the shallow streamy water. Isaac jumped up and down excitedly as I lifted it ashore, I considered taking a quick photo of Isaac holding it but another group of dog walkers were bearing down on us. I really couldn’t be bothered with the usual “Wow that’s big….can you eat them?.....You’re not going to put it back are you?...” So we slipped it back and kept moving.

Just over an hour after starting we were back at the beginning of the stretch again. While I tidied up Isaac charged around on the play area. I felt much better for my fix of fishing and look forward to getting back into the swing of Pike fishing proper.

Just under two weeks to go until the best fishing show of the year, The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain annual convention at Stoneleigh Park Warwickshire. Four top European speakers and a whole hall full of trade stands catering for predator anglers. This is the only fishing show in the UK which satisfies the predator anglers and is not to be missed. This year there is a bigger lecture theatre and the bar will be better stocked, last time around the bar was drunk dry!!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Nice end to the summer?

For once the sun was shining as we; Madison, Isaac, Nephew Ollie and I left home for another night in Fenland. The A14 has many advantages for a travelling angler but the amount of freight traffic going to and from Felixstowe can be a nightmare. Particularly when a truck one hundred yard in front of my car, blows a tyre and sends rubber flying towards us. Luckily we came through unscathed and the rest of the journey was uneventful until we reached Cambridgeshire. Here we were stuck behind a procession of horseboxes, apparently there was a polo match going on somewhere. I find it amazing that people play polo here in East Anglia, I thought it was exclusively the sport of the upper crust and such people surely live in big houses down south? I certainly hope these people are a lot better at controlling their horses than the dirty great big horse boxes they were driving, they may be rich but they don’t own the bloody road!

After that the afternoon went without a hitch! The kids started catching small fish on the whip almost immediately while I busied myself setting up the tent and getting things ready for the evening. When I had everything ready I set up a feeder rod to target the Bream. I threw out a few kilos of pellets hoping to stop a shoal if they moved through and kept topping the swim out with the feeder. Nothing much happened on this rod but I wasn’t bothered. Ollie was busy filling the keep net so I would have a lot of bait to choose from later. Madison & Isaac were busy playing “Star Wars” in the field, perhaps it was a bad idea to let Isaac bring his toy ‘Light Sabre’ with him. Oh well, the sun was shining, the temperature was comfortable and there was no one around for them to disturb. It made a nice change not having to worry about what weather was on its way, all in all a thoroughly nice afternoon.
Dale arrived in the late afternoon and began setting up a rod for Bream and another for Zander. Meanwhile I fried ‘Vegetarians nightmare” for our evening meal once again. We were treated to another spectacular sunset with colours in the sky ranging from light blue to deep red, time to put a couple of rods out for the Zander! As usual I fished just the two rods, sticking to the methods that had been successful previously; a ledgered livebait with a bait popper cast upstream and a Paternostered live cast slightly downstream. Both baits were cast into the middle of the river, hopefully avoiding the worst of the weed. I did have to reposition the paternoster a couple of times, to avoid the weekend admirals trying their best to disturb us and break the world water speed record.
We had all filled our bellies but unfortunately the fish weren’t doing the same. We had stopped using the whip when the light faded, sometimes a Zander or two can be caught as the light level fades but not tonight and the Bream weren’t showing either. The kids settled down and as night descended we watched a dazzling array of stars come out. We spied a Fox on the flood bank opposite once again, bats pipping and whizzing past accompanied by a soundtrack from a couple of Tawny Owls somewhere to the east.
The sky grew darker, the stars grew brighter and the kids became tired and settled down into the tent. It was a beautiful night, Dale and I uncorked a bottle of wine, chilled out, put the world to rights and generally had a bloody good laugh. Just as I was beginning to feel concerned about the lack of fish, Dale’s Zander rod was away. Despite getting it tangled around my Bream rod and getting in an almighty balls up, we managed to net it. A nice fish of around five pounds and with Dale getting more confident with handling fish, he held it up for the camera with a Cheshire cat grin. Ollie emerged from the tent to witness the fish but his young cousins were well and truly zonked, the combination of fresh air and exercise had them snoring. A nice fish, toasted with another mug of wine!
The night began to grow cold and a mist began to form, once again it was a real pleasure to be out in a wild part of the English countryside. Just after midnight my upstream ledgered bait started to move purposely up the river. I pulled into a decent weight, the rod stayed bent,, obviously a decent sized fish. It proved to be the night of the tangles as Dale managed to get the landing net wrapped around my other rod. Slight panic but soon fixed and a good sized Zander was in the net and soon unhooked and in a weigh sling. At eight and a half pounds it was my best Zed of the season, and it looked bigger in the photos. These came out well, spoilt only by a few pieces of vegetation stuck to the fish’s head. I’m sure the fishing police would be offended by this but better a quick photo and back in the river than waste time picking the weed off.

By the time all was sorted and settled, the temperature seemed to have dipped considerably and the mist was becoming a fog. We toasted our fish, the night, the craic and soon it was the wee small hours and the vino was gone. We crashed in our respective bivvies for the remains of the night.
The rest of the night was uneventful and both my baits were untouched and still kicking when I checked them at first light. It was still foggy and generally I don’t think these are good conditions for fish of any kind. For once the kids didn’t wake early so I took the opportunity to doze for another hour or two. Soon they were awake and demanding breakfast so it was time to break out the frying pan again for another sausage and bacon special. As the sun got higher the fog burnt away, the temperature rose and it was another pleasant day. After breakfast Chris appeared on his mountain bike for a laugh and a chat, as usual he was excellent company.

I packed the gear away slowly as the kids continued to fish a little/play a little/fish a little. At one point Ollie had four different species in four casts; Rudd, Bream, Perch and then a Bleak. Add that to the Roach, Dace and Zander we had caught and that is seven different species. I took some time to point out the species and show him how to recognise them. There are downsides to fishing with kids though. The whip got severely tangled so I had to rig it up again from scratch. One cast later and it was knackered again and I had to repeat the performance. By this time there were signs that some Bream had actually moved into the area with bubbles and the odd fish rolling. Unfortunately we were virtually out of bait but I thought we were still in with a chance. Sure enough the feeder rod trundled off and I handed the rod to Ollie who expertly steered a nice fish of about three pounds into the net.

A nice way to finish what will probably be our last night time adventure in fenland for this summer. September is now upon us and in a couple of weeks I’ll be raring to fish for the Pike. We haven’t had much summer weather this year but we’ve managed some enjoyable, memorable fishing none the less. Part of me is looking forward to next summer already but before that…Pike!

Monday, 18 August 2008

What fishing is all about.....

I hate working weekends and five o’clock wouldn’t come quickly enough. The car was already loaded so it was just a case of a quick pit stop at home to pick up Madison and Isaac along with some supplies then we were on our way to fenland. Thankfully the weather was mild and dry so hopefully the evening would be a little more relaxing than our last venture. This time we were fishing in the company of Dale again and my old pal Giles who was bringing his two year old son Charlie for his first ever night in the fens.

We arrived at the river just before seven o’clock, Giles and Charlie were already settled and Dale was setting up. The first problem was a distinct lack of fresh bait as Giles is rubbish at catching it! With a bit of groundbait Giles started catching more regularly while Dale and I set about tackling up for the evening. The kids were supposed to be assisting with the bait catching while I sorted things out but the novelty has worn off and they were more interested in running around in the field and making a fuss of Charlie. By eight o’clock the tent was up, the kids were settled, the net was full of bait and we were ready to relax. I fished the same methods as last week, a ledgered livebait with a bait popper was cast upstream and a Paternostered live chucked straight out in front of me. The buzzers were turned up and the barbecue was lit.

Another friend, Chris joined us without fishing tackle, purely to socialise and thankfully the predicted showers stayed away allowing us to do just that. We watched the sun set and as the darkness descended, we ate a nice hot evening meal and the children settled into the tent. At this point of the evening fishing really was a secondary consideration, yes we had rods fishing and were tuned in to the slightest beep of the alarms but it didn’t matter if we caught a fish or not. The food was good and washed down with a bottle of wine as we chatted the evening away; laughing, reminiscing, theorising, putting the world to rights and generally enjoying each others company. Now this scenario, four blokes drinking alcohol and having a laugh while night fishing for predators on a pleasant summer evening might raise the eyebrows of some in the PC fishing police. I could reassure you that we were still fishing responsibly (which we were), but I don’t give a stuff what anyone thinks. Fishing is about enjoyment and relaxation and that is exactly what we were doing.
Around 9pm we were interrupted by a take on my upstream ledger rod which resulted in the first Zander of the evening, which would have weighed between five and six pounds. The sky cleared, the temperature dropped and the full moon illuminated the bankside, casting shadows; a Tawny owl was calling and still we laughed and talked. We were in general agreement that these clear, moonlit nights were usually unproductive for Zander. This led on to an interesting debate on whether moon-phases and other things trigger predators to feed and so on. This is what a summer night session in the fenlands is all about for me; fun with the kids during the daylight hours and a chilled out evening. I know it’s a horrible cliché but there really is much more to fishing than catching fish.

Midnight came and went, the wine replaced by a boiling kettle and a hot mug of tea. A bank of cloud came up from the south west, obscuring the moon and almost straight away it felt warmer. We were certain that this change would switch the fish on and rebaited our rods with fresh enthusiasm. Sure enough within a few minutes Giles rod was away and another nice Zander was in the net. This was the first Zed he’d caught for about a decade (for a variety of reasons) so he was delighted.
Half an hour or so later it was my turn again, this time the paternoster rod was away and I pulled into a better sized fish. It thrashed on the surface in mid river and it was obviously my best Zander of the season so far. It was soon in the net and tipped the scales at 7.12, very nice. We toasted that fish with one last cup of tea before Chris headed for home and we disappeared under our respective shelters to get a bit of kip before daylight.
I was stirred by a couple of showers in the wee small hours but the next thing I knew it was six am and an alarm was shrieking. This time it was Dale’s turn at long last and he bent into his first ever Zander. He made short work of getting it in the net and at eight & a half pounds it was the biggest fish, of any species, that he has caught to date. His first Zed might remain his biggest for some considerable time!


After that alarm call the camp slowly stirred into life. The children got up and started catching fish on the whip, while I was in charge of cooking breakfast. At this stage of the morning we had a truly momentous event as little Charlie, aged 2 ½ caught his first ever fish, may it be the first of many!
With a clear sky and bright sun it seemed like the chance of action on the livebaits would be over for the day but at around 0830 my upstream ledgered livebait was snaffled by a little Jack Pike, small but absolutely perfect with stunning markings. I debated whether to pack the rod away but what the hell? On with another bait while I tidied the gear away. An hour later this rod trundled off again. I wound down expecting another Jack but no, not a Pike nor a Zander either. It was a Perch and a good fish too which weighed in at 1.12 making it my best of the season so far, I will have to learn how to hold these things for photos though! Soon the kids had tangled the whip rendering it useless and the gear was all but tidied away.
I’m sure I’m guilty of taking my fishing too seriously at times, especially Pike fishing in the autumn and winter but I love this summer nights chilling out in the fens. It was great seeing the kids running around in the meadow, catching fish and going home with mud on their faces. I enjoyed catching the Zander, Pike and that nice big Perch but equally it was great to see Giles grinning with his first Zander for years and it was lovely to see Dale looking at his fish with an expression that said “did I really catch that thing?” It’s more than half way through august now, the Test matches are over for the year, harvest is well under way and it feels like summer is really on the way out. I don’t know if we’ll have enough time for another night session this year but I hope so.

Friday, 15 August 2008

he best Pike & Predator show in the world.....Probably

This year's PAC Convention takes on an international flavour, with two of Europe's top predator anglers joining a brace of British pikers on stage.
As well as the speakers you can browse all the latest tackle on the trade stands, pick up a bargain on the second hand-stalls, and catch up with old friends and new on what's always an unmissable day out.
So why not kick start your winter campaign with a trip to Piking 2008, which is being staged on Saturday, September 27 at the National Agricultural Showground, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry.
PAC promotions manager Mike Kelly said: "We started planning this year's convention almost straight away after Piking 2007, which was a record-breaking event for the club in more ways than one.
"We knew it was going to be hard to beat it, so this year we've gone for a varied line-up of speakers who share one thing in common - they're all extremely successful pike anglers you'll rarely get the chance to see.
"They all go about their fishing fish very differently, but one thing's for sure - they'll all knock you out with their talks and their catches.
"Michel Huigevoort will be travelling from Holland to share the Dutch style of fishing rivers.
He said: “I grew up close to the river Maas in the south of Holland. And after my very first pike the call of the river and the hunt for the biggest predator never went away."
Apart from pike fishing I like fishing for zander as well. Challenging the biggest bodies of water is what I like most, both in Holland and abroad.
"PA Högberg, from Stockholm, will be outlining his approach to both the increasingly popular Baltic and other Scandinavian waters.
"My talk outline will be the Swedish pike of different types like lake pike, river pike, Baltic pike and sub-groups like stationary pike.
"I'll be covering techniques to catch them. How to pick the right lure. Fishing technique with different types of baits. Rods and reels and how to chose the proper gear.
"Derek Macdonald may be one of the country's best-known lure anglers but he rarely shares the secrets of his success.
"On my travels I have fished in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales even as far afield as Eastern Germany," he said."After a long and winding road, I have managed to reach my Everest and fulfil my dream, catching a monstrous fish weighing over 40lbs.
"Graham Slater is another one of pike fishing's quieter exponents, who has enjoyed some phenomenal catches.
“Thirty years of fishing waters in England, Ireland and Scotland have shaped both the way I think about my fishing and the way I go about it," he said.
"My presentation will details some of my experiences and things I've learned from them, along with last season’s results and how I achieved my most successful season ever.
"Piking 2008 is being held on Saturday, September 27 at the National Agricultural Showground, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry.
Tickets are £12 adult member on the door, or £10 in advance to members. For non-members, tickets on the door are £14, £12 advance, while up to two juniors (under-16) can accompany each paying adult for free.
For advance tickets, send cheque (with SAE...), payable to PACGB, to Mike Kelly, PAC Promotions Manager, 47 Yew Tree Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 0BG.
Parking is free, doors open 9am.

A record number of traders have signed up for this year's PAC Convention.
Some of the top names in predator fishing will be setting up shop for the event at Stoneleigh, Warks, on Saturday, September 27.
They'll be rubbing shoulders with everything from independent lure makers to boat builders - not to mention the lively second-hand tackle and lure stands. Those confirmed so far include
The Tackle Shop, Gainsborough;
The Friendly Fisherman;
Dave Lumb Specialist Tackle;
Sovereign; Zoota Lures;
The Pike Shop;
Piking Brittany;
Esox & More;
Pike and Predators;
DIY Lure & Fly;
Bob Buteaux;
Catmaster; Fishing Pool;
Sea Strike;
Portabote;
Catfish Pro and
Eddie Turner.
PAC promotions manager Mike Kelly said: "Traders have been keen to attend this year's Convention after the huge success of 2008. "We have more interest and, therefore, more variety.
It's going to be a job to pack them all in, so we've extended the hall into the annex room adjoining the Speakers Hall which is also much larger than last year. It's going to be another good year."This year's bill of speakers takes on an international flavour, with anglers from Holland and Sweden featuring alongside two home-grown talents who rarely share the secrets of their success.
Michel Huigevoort and PA Hogberg will be sharing the stage with Graham Slater and Derek MacDonald at Stoneleigh, Warks, on Saturday, September 27.
Click here for more info.Tickets are £12 members/£14 non-members on the door. Advance tickets are £10 from Mike Kelly, 47 Yew Tree Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 0BG. Please enclose a cheque payable to PACGB and an SAE.
Posted by PAC at 9:01 PM

Monday, 11 August 2008

Wet weekend but who cares?

It had been nearly two weeks since I last wet a line, despite a dodgy weather forecast the kids and I were preparing to spend another night in fenland. It’s rare that I go this long without my fix of fishing and I couldn’t wait to wet a line. By 1 pm the car and roof box were loaded and we were all set to go. Madison and Isaac were as excitable as ever and this time my eldest, Shantel, had her first fishing trip of the season along with my nephew Josh. En route we met up with Dale, a work mate who has just rediscovered fishing. An hour after leaving home we pulled up by the river in Cambridgeshire.

As we lugged the pile of camping and fishing gear across the meadow the clouds were looking ominous, the kids began fishing (bait catching), with a whip while I quickly threw the tent up as the first spits of rain were whipped in on a fresh south westerly wind. From then on the weather was wet, windy and generally horrible; i.e. typical British summertime. I worried that the kids, the young ones in particular, would be miserable in the grotty weather but no! When the rain was really heavy they sheltered under the brolly and took turns with the bait catching. When the rain eased to a monsoon they enjoyed their usual routine of running around in the meadow, adding the sports of ‘getting soaked and covered in mud’ to their program. Luckily I packed spare clothes for them. Actually it pleased me to see the kids were not afraid to get damp and dirty and were still able to enjoy themselves despite the weather.

A week of heavy rain in these parts had the river looking spot on, it had risen, carried a touch of colour and extra pace. The kids had no problem filling a net with bait fish; Bream, Roach, Rudd, Bleak and Perch. However the feeder rods we had put out for the bigger Bream were totally unsuccessful. Fishing for Bream like this serves two purposes, obviously its nice to catch some decent Bream and there are good numbers of these in this river. Secondly, I like to get plenty of groundbait and feed into the swim on the theory that this will attract bait fish such as Bream, Roach etc. I believe that this in turn will attract the predators that I am fishing for. As I will be sitting in one place for around twelve hours I want to stack the odds in my favour and do everything I can to draw the fish I’m after to me.
As the light (?!) began to fade I was very confident that the Zander would be feeding as the river looked just right. Our evening meal was a traditional dish consisting of lots of sausages and bacon all expertly fried by Shantel and known as “vegetarian’s nightmare”. After that it was time to get the proper fishing started. I fished two rods, a ledgered livebait with a bait popper attached was cast upstream, in the middle of the river while a running Paternostered livebait was fished downstream. Josh and Dale fished one rod each and stuck to ledger rigs for simplicity.

The Paternoster had only been in place for about ten minutes before it started moving purposefully upstream. I wound into the first Zander of the night, a schoolie but a fish all the same. Ten minutes after the recast, the same rod was away again, the result was another Zander slightly larger than the first. This was a good start but that was the end of the action, for a while at least. In previous seasons, successful Zander sessions had followed a pattern; the smaller fish feed at dusk and dawn while the bigger fish appear in the early hours of the morning. I really hoped that this trip would follow that pattern. The water in this river is usually pretty clear compared to many fenland venues and consequently the Zander are a very vivid gold colour. The bigger fish are really impressive beasts and I hoped one of them would put in an appearance.

The night time was considerably more comfortable than the afternoon had been as the wind had dropped and the rain had dwindled to the odd light shower. We sat around, laughing, we drank tea, tried in vain to get the kids to share their sweets, and Dale and I even had the occasional can of beer, shock horror! For a while the sky even cleared enough for a spot of star gazing. The Zander however were not showing up but as I said earlier this was not unexpected. Between 1:30 & 3:30am was the time, that’s what I assured my companions. As midnight approached, the kids had retired to their tent and I sat dozing in my chair. I thought it would be a good idea to put fresh livebaits on……but then the next thing I knew I woke up and it was 4 o’clock in the morning. I dozed through the ‘hot’ time without so much as a touch. To make things worse, I checked the rods and found both were without baits, bugger!! Had I missed the chance of a big Zander? We’ll never know.

I put fresh baits on and drifted in and out of a dream which included “Girls aloud” and chocolate sauce, before I knew it the sun was up and the kids were stirring. The day dawned bright and clear but the fresh wind remained which made conditions ideal for drying the tent out. As I tidied up the kids caught a few more fish on the whip and tried to get Bream going on the feeder. At 0630 I picked up the upstream ledger rod, turned the handle and was highly surprised to find something fairly large on the end. After a bit of splashing and swirling we had a nice Zander of about six pounds in the net. It was hooked just inside the mouth so whether it had been holding on to my bait some time, or hit it when I began to wind in, who knows?





That was the fishing over with for another weekend; lots of muddy tackle, damp clothing and empty cool bags were loaded back into the car along with four tired kids. Will we be doing it all again next week? I hope so!