Sunday, 6 July 2008

A game of two halves.

Cool and cloudy with a moderate southerly and the threat of showers, not normally a weather forecast to cheer people during the first week of July but it put a smile on my face. All in all pretty good conditions for trolling a fenland river so I was very confident of putting a fish or two in the boat. I really wanted this trip to be a success as I was to be skipper of a motley crew consisting of my son Isaac, who will be six next month, and my fourteen year old nephew, Josh. By 0630 we were launched and slowly trolling a variety of lures downstream, the boys were both using small to medium sized lures aimed at catching Perch as well as Pike while I stuck a large “Salmo Skinner” out the back. Salmo lures are pretty cheap and easy to use which doesn’t endear them to the ‘train-spotters’ of the lure fishing fraternity who seem to think a lure has to be hand carved in a backwoods shack in Canada or Scandinavia to attain any credibility. The ‘Skinner’ has been a top fish catcher for the past couple of summers and although I have caught Perch on it, I expected it to be Pike or bust for me while I kept an eye on the boys.

Things looked good, the river was pretty clear and the wind was keeping the drifting weed at bay so for once things should be pretty easy. Josh had the first fish of the day with a Jack on an old & battered Heddon Lucky 13 that was sitting nicely in the strike zone between the top of the weed and the surface. Not long after that Isaac picked up a small Perch on a spinner and I followed up with a jack on the Salmo. A nice start, both the lads had boated a fish and things looked good for a few but an hour later we had passed through normally productive water without taking any more fish.

We kept heading downstream and reached the area where all the bankside bushes had been destroyed and started picking fish up. Thankfully it seems my fears were unfounded and the area still held fish, today a lot of fish as all three of us had our rods slammed round. Takes came regularly through this stretch, Isaac was well chuffed with his first Pike of the season, I had the biggest at around eleven pounds and Josh had a couple of jacks before catching the fish of the day. This was a beautiful Perch that weighed in at 2lbs 2ozs and once again took the Lucky 13. Josh was pleased but I’m not sure he realises how “big” a two pound Perch is! At that point I wished I’d been using a smaller lure more suitable for the Perch and would gladly have traded that Perch for any of the Pike I’d caught!

We stopped for a cup of tea and a bite to eat before turning the boat around and trolling back upstream. I was confident that we would pick up a load more fish but as the boat turned, so seemingly did our luck. I get a lot of enjoyment from fishing with the kids and enjoy anything they catch as much as I would had I caught it myself and in many cases more! However it does have its drawbacks. In the past actually keeping Isaac dry and in the boat has been a bit of a challenge but now he’s realised that he can’t walk on water that isn’t so much of a problem. My nephew Josh is a nice lad and good company once I’d gotten used to the series of grunts that teenagers use to communicate. Anyway, today’s problem was braid around the propeller. In all the miles I’ve trolled I can’t remember this happening more than a couple of times and indeed today it wasn’t an issue for the first part of the day. Then in the first mile after turning around I had to untangle the prop three times!
The next problem was traffic, not usually an issue on this water but today there was a succession of barges and cruisers coming downstream. This river is narrow in places and rarely exceeds six feet in depth and these boats coloured the water up considerably and also set a great deal of floating weed adrift. Not only was it harder for the Pike to see our lures it was also more difficult to keep them in the water due to the drifting weed that hadn’t been a problem in the first part of the day. Then to cap it all it started raining, well to be more accurate it was absolutely pissing down. A bit of light rain I can handle but with three in the boat and raindrops pounding the surface of the river, accompanied by the distant rumble of thunder it was less than comfortable for a while.

By early afternoon we’d had enough. The troll back upstream had only yielded a couple of jacks and we were damp, tired and hungry. As we neared the launching point braid became entangled with the prop for a fourth time and this time it was my bloody fault! No excuses! The total for the boat was eleven Pike to 11 pounds and two perch to 2.02 and we would have settled for that when we began.

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