For once I had a little extra time to spare so decided to make the most of it with a two day, overnight session and hopefully find some of the bigger fish that have avoided us. The venue would be Eden, where else?
After an unhurried journey and a careful boat loading I began the day fishing an area south of the basin that had produced a few fish for us this time last year. None of these fish had been particularly huge but it was a starting point. On the water I was greeted by a clear sunny sky and a fresh wind from the west. Two boats were at the slipway when I launched but one returned to the Staithe very quickly, I suspect it was just too small for two anglers to safely fish from in this wind. The other boat disappeared south and wasn't seen again all day. I began fishing around 0815 but just couldn't get properly anchored in the wind. After two attempts I was tempted to give up and head for calmer waters in 'The Bay'. However I thought I had a good chance of catching in this area so motored closer to the edge where I got a bit of shelter and banged the baits downwind.
I fished three deadbaits on the bottom while a fourth was drifted with the wind. After about half an hour my stubbornness was rewarded with a take on Mackerel, the culprit was a jack that shook free near the boat. I recast a fresh Mackerel downwind again and half an hour later this too was picked up, the float skidded across the surface and the boat-biter sang out.
For the first time this season I found myself attached to a proper Pike, the type of fish that make us get up in the morning, the type that make the effort worthwhile. However, for the next few minutes things didn't go exactly to plan. All was well to begin with, a nice heavy, plodding weight on the end of the line but when it neared the boat things started to go tits up. I had the net ready beside me but as I got the fish nearer I looked over to see the net had fallen in the water and it appeared to be sinking. I panicked and decided the only possible option was to use the butt of my rod to fish it out which meant putting the reel in free spool and letting the fish take line. After a bit of hopeless groping and poking I managed to get hold of the net and drag it to the boat. My haste to wind in the line caused my next problem as I managed to tangle it all around the bail arm leaving me unable to move the reel until I'd untangled it all with shaking hands several minutes later. I kept praying the fish would still be attached and despite my total ineptitude my luck held and she was in the net without any further embarrassment.
I'll get the hang of these 'self take' shots one day...
The double hooks came out easily, this was the first time I'd used the “sladle” and I was instantly impressed. She looked long enough to be a twenty and she was with eight ounces to spare, I was a very happy bunny!
I spent the rest of the morning in this area, enjoying the fact that I was the only boat in sight and I had a twenty under my belt! Around lunchtime, having had no more takes I decided to move into the quieter waters of 'The bay'. I tucked the boat into a sheltered reedy area and arranged the rods around the boat, glad to be out of the wind for a while. After half an hour a Mackerel fished at long range was picked up, the result was a small Pike but it got the ticker racing again. I fished the bay for a couple of uneventful hours then moved round to where I was due to rendezvous with Richard. The area looked good and having seen bait fish being caught here this time last year I gave it a go with maggots on a feeder rod without success. Rich had boated a couple of Pike here recently so I felt reasonably confident. This was justified with another take on mackerel from the channel but unfortunately it was dropped. We had agreed on an area that we both wanted to fish for the night and were pleased to get a call from another mate fishing nearby, we motored over to the area and had the honour of photographing a cracking twenty one pounder for him.
By 1730 we were anchored up side by side tucked into the reeds near to a small bay. During the hours of darkness I cut to two rods fishing a float ledgered bluey close to the reeds and ledgered a Mackerel in open water. Both rods were rigged up with ET boat-biter alarms with the line tight and reels in free spool. We enjoyed watching the sunset over the water whilst stuffing a fry up down our throats. The wind dropped and the sky darkened, the stars came out and later the reflection of the moon shimmered on the rippled waters. There's something magic about night fishing but something slightly mad about night fishing from a boat in March. We enjoyed an evening of banter, laughter and reminiscing, our meal washed down with a little wine. However the one thing lacking was fish. Around midnight I wound my rods in and after a last, very large glass of wine climbed into a sleeping bag and crashed out under a borrowed shelter.
We woke slowly in the morning but soon had fresh baits spread around the boats, we planned to fish the area while we cooked breakfast and tidied up slowly. The weather seemed a repeat of the first day, bright once again but today the wind was considerably stronger. The conversation was centered around where to move but was broke up in mid flow by the bait runner on one of my rods. I had a take on sardine fished close to the reeds and quickly wound into the fish. At first it felt small but by the time I had it by the boat it had grown to a double. In the net it was a good double but in the sladle it dawned on me that it was a bit bigger. A quick weighing revealed a weight of 18lbs 4ozs and a cracking fish! The photo's were taken and she was slipped back into the murky water.
I hadn't managed to lose the smile from my face when things got hectic in Richards boat. Two rods went off at once resulting in a massive tangle but two double figure Pike unhooked and quickly released. Three doubles in half an hour on the back of the fish I'd caught the day before, could it get any better? We decided to stick it out in the same area as action like this was rare and we were sure more fish would be in the area. It was a strange feeling to be fishing here and feeling confident! However time was running out for me as I had to leave in the early afternoon. Richard was able to stay another night but it didn't take that long before one of his baits was picked up again. He bent into another good fish which was quickly beside the boat and looking big. He slipped her in the net and then into the sladle to do the honours. Would she be another twenty? The answer was yes! A twenty each, (plus a third for our mate), fantastic!!
All too soon it was time for me to lift the weights and head back to the base. I enjoyed the journey down the dyke with the Harriers close overhead but I wasn't too keen on turning into the open waters and battling against some serious waves bearing down on me. I was even less pleased with the muppets in a fast boat tearing up and down making the wake even higher. I made it back to the slipway in one piece and as I did so heard the phone ring. It was Richard, he'd just boated a twenty one pounder, magic! We had both struggled to find big fish in any numbers since the turn of the year but for once we'd had a bit of luck!