Sunday, 25 January 2009

Apathy and Irony

I had another busy weekend with only a small window of opportunity to squeeze a few hours fishing in. The plan was to get up at the crack of stupid o clock in the morning and spend a few hours fishing the pit. Once again things didn’t exactly go to plan! The plain truth is, when the alarm sounded the thought of fishing the pit wasn’t enough to drag me out of my warm bed. Eventually after hitting the snooze button for the umpteenth time I managed to get up and out. The kids were stirring upstairs so I poked my head round their bedroom doors, Madison wasn’t getting up for anything but Isaac was keen and after ‘five more minutes’ toddled down stairs for breakfast. By the time the flask was full and we were prepared it was 0730 and a gloomy day was slowly starting to brighten.

As forecast the day was a stinker, gloomy with strong winds from the south and persistent rain. Many anglers seem to think these conditions are the kiss of death for Pike but in my experience it is a pretty good forecast for fishing the gravel pits in this area. On arrival at the pit I spent a while deciding where to fish. The hidden swim in the trees would be a non starter today as there wasn’t enough room to erect a shelter which would be essential with a six year old in tow. I was surprised to see only one other angler fishing, a Carper zipped up tight and cosy in a bivvy. This meant I had an opportunity to fish a large swim that is almost always taken by a carper or two. This spot has plenty of scope and water to cover and I hadn’t fished it since the early nineties. ‘That‘ll do for me’ I thought but on arrival with my kit, closer inspection revealed it was an absolute tip. If being litter strewn wasn’t bad enough a bunch of muppets had made a bonfire which was covered in broken beer bottles, judging by the smell this had been a recent event. Once again my six year old son had to be considered and I wasn’t going to risk his safety with a pile of broken glass. Plan B was to fish the southern bank which was deep with an easy cast to a productive island. Here too I had to fill a plastic bag full over other peoples litter, sadly there was ample evidence that the culprits were Pike anglers. Not only would my fellow anglers be getting a bad name but the area was obviously being Pike fished by idiots. I looked longingly across to my hidden swim in the trees!

By eight o clock I had two deadbaits out soaking while Isaac and I were enjoying the shelter of my little pop up bivvy while the wind whipped rain in. I fished one rod, baited with Lamprey to the Island. Normally this would be a simple cast but the wind was making things more difficult, either gusting and blowing the bait of course or dropping and leaving the risk of landing in the trees on the island. Perhaps I should invest in a bait boat? Not! Eventually I held my nerve and saw the Lamprey land bang on target at about the fifth attempt. The other rod was baited with smelt, and while I was content to leave the Lamprey in place this one was alternated between the deep margin shelf or open water towards the island.

For the next two hours I spent some precious one on one time with Isaac whilst peering through the open bivvy door, keeping an eye on my rods. I helped him read his ‘Star wars’ magazine and he giggled at the ‘Bunny suicides’ book but best of all was watching him feed pieces crisp to a friendly Robin. He was particularly excited when the Robin spotted a worm and after a brief tug of war the bird made off with a second course to its meal. As time ticked by, the sky grew gloomier and the rain seemed to be getting worse, the puddles grew deeper and the bank grew muddier. Everywhere I looked the bankside seemed to be scarred by litter, I suppose that’s the problem with fishing a day ticket pit like this, it is also inhabited by morons.

At around ten o clock Isaac and I were suddenly alerted by the shriek of the BBBB alarm, the Lamprey cast to the island had been picked up, my persistence in casting had been rewarded. The strike met with a solid weight and the rod bent round nicely as I pumped what was obviously decent fish back towards me. The fight was unspectacular, typical of a winter pit Pike and I soon had a good sized fish in the net to Isaac’s excitement. On the mat, the hooks were removed quickly and I recorded a weight of just over sixteen pounds, very nice but unfortunately showing the signs of bad handling from a previous trip to the bank, at least it was returned alive. “What do you think of that?” I asked Isaac as we watched her glide away with a flick of the tail. “That’s cool Dad” he replied “Shall we go home now?” I looked around me and up at the sky which seemed to be getting darker and decided that was a good idea. That fish may have sparked the beginning of a feeding frenzy but I doubt it and we’ll never know, half an hour later we were home, stepping out of soggy clothes.
After the time, money and effort I spend travelling for my fishing I suppose it’s ironic that my heaviest fish of the season (so far!) has been caught from a local water after minimum effort. As much as I enjoyed catching this fish and sharing the experience with Isaac I can honestly say I’d get more satisfaction from catching a fish half that weight from a beautiful natural fishery. Roll on next week!

Monday, 19 January 2009


Richard and I had a plan! The weather had turned mild at last but the forecast was for a wild windy day. Our plan was to meet up early and travel a fair way by boat to fish a sheltered part of the system. This area is very hit and miss but has turned up some good fish for us in the past and we had neglected a little recently. The long range forecast had predicted cold weather to come and we felt sure the Pike would be feeding ahead of this cold front, if we could find them. Fishing from separate boats we could search, keep in contact by text and try our hardest to find some fish.

It could have been a great idea but I overslept by an hour and after a nightmare journey (bloody road works!) it was well and truly daylight by the time I launched the boat. While doing so I chatted to a couple of friendly locals who were also setting out for a day’s fishing. It was nice to reaffirm that most of the guys fishing the system are good people and nothing like the morons who have soured the various internet forums lately. Anyway, I launched fully intending to fish the sheltered area as planned, I’d spoken to Richard on the phone and he was already settled into a swim that had produced for us in the past.

As I motored along, it was evident that the wind was nowhere near as strong as had been forecast. I watched a pair of awesome harriers circling over the reedbeds close to the boat on my left. I never tire of watching these birds, they never fail to impress me. Away to the south I could make out three large pale blobs flying across the bay and I’m almost sure these were the Cranes. While looking south my eyes scanned the basin area which was empty of boats, had a nice ripple and looked spot on. I couldn’t resist dropping in there for an hour so altered course and was soon anchored up with four deadbaits scattered around the boat.

An hour or so later I was on the move, back to the plan, heading towards the area I’d intended to start in. I on an area I hadn’t tried before with moored boats along with a side drain and it was looking good. The drain traditionally shelters shoals of bait fish in the winter and my thinking was Pike should be in the area feeding up ahead of the forecast cold spell. I was happy here and felt confident that a fish would put in an appearance. One bait was tucked up nicely beside a moored boat, surely this would be the one? Unfortunately this didn’t last as two other boats moored up in the drain entrance and started fishing just yards away from me. All the miles and acres they have to fish, and they have to stop so close to me!! Pair of plonkers! What should I do? My mind was made up when the boat I’d cast against was boarded by two lure anglers with inadequate tackle who set off and roared up river as if they were in a big hurry. What did I say about the locals earlier? In all honesty, the vast majority are nice people but there are some tossers around!
A sheltered part of paradise

I’d been in contact with Richard who had tried a couple of swims, both of which had produced for us in the past. There was no one swim in particular that appealed to me so I decided to move, change tactics and float troll a couple of deadbaits. I fished a Herring on one rod and a whole Lamprey on the other and for probably the first time this season the boat was powered by the oars. I slowly covered over a mile without a touch. On the way I past Richard who was still fishless and was motoring back to finish the day closer to the boat yard. The trolling had been fun though I wish I’d been using livebaits. Looking into the water, much clearer here than other parts of the system I wished I had some good trolling lures too! That could be something for the future.

By the early afternoon I was back on more familiar ground fishing the basin area once again, Richard was to the west of me in a shallow swim. We stayed like this for a little over an hour then decided to be social and tie the boats side by side for our last move of the day. We’d fished hard all day but hadn’t managed to locate any fish so why not share a cup of tea and a chat as the sun sank? We chose a sheltered spot, fairly close to the reeds and within minutes of settling in Richard finally had a take. The fish picked up a Sardine and was very small but conveniently unhooked itself along side the boat. Well at least we’d managed one fish between us!

Ten minutes later while deep in conversation and gulping tea I was snapped into attention by a fast whizzing bait runner, a take at last! I bent into a solid fish which had picked up a Lamprey and after a brief but spirited tussle Richard netted a nice solid fish for me. I unhooked it in the net, over the side of the boat then lifted her up for a quick photo before letting her swim away. We didn’t weigh it but it would have been around10 to 12 pounds and in the circumstances I was well happy with my first fish of 2009. With a couple of quick takes we had to stay put for another hour, there could well be more fish in the area. We ended up fishing well into darkness and risking another dodgy journey through the gloom back to the boat yard. And so ended another day in paradise.
First fish of 2009, I'm a lot happier than I look!

Back to base in the gloom.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Freezing New Year

The weather was all wrong, another in a sequence of frosty, cold, dull days. However I had a full day ahead of me so there was only one choice of venue, the only place I want to spend my time. Giles was up for the trip too and despite the poor conditions, a few fish had been coming out and we felt we had a chance. Stuff the weather, we were going to give it our best shot anyway.

For some reason, car journeys with Giles are never mundane affairs, something always seems to happen. Today there was no near car accident or anything like that. We were cruising along easily in the pre dawn darkness, Giles went to light a cigarette and the next thing I know there’s a strange sound, an awful smell and I look round to see Giles sitting with his head in a cloud of smoke. Yes he’d set fire to his hair, a large chunk of fringe was now a frazzled mess on the car floor. I suppose it could have been serious but this didn’t stop me from laughing until my guts ached. It was bloody funny and I had tears of laughter in my eyes, even Giles saw the funny side after a while.

We launched the boat without problem, the dyke was surprisingly free of ice. We motored out as the light began to grow in the east and were soon anchored up in “the basin” fishing three rods each. We used similar methods, a couple of deadbaits were fished static on the bottom while a third was used to drift a bait with the wind, then slowly sink & draw it back to the boat. Within ten minutes I looked up to see Giles float moving purposefully towards the boat, he had a take on a static Bluey and by the time he set the hook it was virtually underneath us. A brief battle ensued before a nice fish of around thirteen pounds was netted.

Success early on, excellent! That made the early start in the bitter cold well worth it! Surely this would be the first of many? We stayed in the first spot for about ninety minutes, then started following a plan to keep moving every hour or so. The thinking was; it’s been very cold for over a week so we didn’t expect Pike to be moving about very much, therefore we needed to move, recast regularly and cover as much water as possible to try and put a Pike or two in the boat. We searched a couple of spots in the basin area without success, then tried “the bay” with the same result and so on to the island and the narrows. The bright spots of the day came around noon. Firstly we were honoured to see a Bittern fly serenely past then disappear into the reeds. Then, a few minutes later a large dog Otter put in a brief appearance. I think this is possibly the first time I’ve seen an Otter in the wild in mainland Britain. Richard was fishing from his own boat and he too struggled but did manage a small fish early on.

The weather forecasters had got it spot on, it was bloody freezing, I’d go as far as to say it has been years since I’ve felt this cold while fishing! We kept trying; in fact we fished a total of seven spots without success and only gave in when the sun sank spectacularly in the west. We often stay into darkness but not today, it was just too bloody cold!! Another blank for me but at least I’d managed to put the boat on a fish for Giles, we both blamed the conditions for the lack of sport. I am quite prepared to fish the system through the worst winter weather but I’ll be bloody glad when it turns mild again!