When the weather warms up I don't miss an opportunity to take the kids fishing, should they wish to go. Isaac accompanies me more often than his sisters but he is only really interested in the bigger fish, preferably ones with teeth. Madison loves being in the country side and when not chasing butterflies or talking to livestock is more than happy just catching “the pretty little silver fish”. She's caught a few Pike over the years but it's been a while since I've managed to convince her to spend a day in the boat with me. Today however was my first opportunity to launch the boat and fish a river for three months and what's more my lil' gal was coming with me.
We had an early start but after tea and breakfast we were hitched up and ready to go. Madison looked out of the window and counted the rabbits on the verge while I counted the miles. Eventually we arrived and I wasted no time launching the boat on a lovely little river, one I hadn't fished for quite some time. The engine didn't want to start, it never does when it hasn't been used for a while but after blistering my fingers we got there in the end and were soon chugging slowly down the river.
Between the two of us we shared three rods, a heavy set up with a big Pike lure on, mostly a Salmo Skinner. A medium rod with a Heddon Lucky13 which picks up both Pike and Perch, whilst the light fixed spool outfit was baited with a spinner for the Perch. Conditions overhead were good, mostly cloudy with the sun poking through occasionally and a fresh breeze from the south west. The river looked good too, good clarity but a slight tinge of colour and a decent flow. All in all I felt very confident for both species, surely we'd have a boat full today?
We'd hardly got started when the medium rod slammed over but the culprit made its escape. A little further on and the Lucky13 was nailed again and I wound in the first jack of the new season, very small but fin perfect and most welcome. At this point Madison, who had been holding the light rod, insisted on swapping for the Lucky13 which she renamed “Lucky number 2, because two is my favourite number.” We were both lost in watching a Barn Owl glide gracefully over the meadows when suddenly Madi shrieked as the rod came alive in her hand. “Help Dad! It's too heavy!” With a bit of encouragement she soon had her first Pike for a couple of years alongside the boat. I don't know who was more excited, me or her.
It was nice to be back on this little river, one where I've enjoyed loads of fun days out over the years but returning sometimes has its downsides, things never stay the same. Today I was disappointed to see that a lovely weeping willow had been butchered. A deadbait carefully placed beneath the trailing fronds has produced dozens of Pike for me over the years but now the old tree has been 'improved' by the NRA. Where the overhanging branch had once been was now an ugly scarred stump. Not only is this an eyesore but a shady winter hiding place for both predator and prey is gone.
We stopped for a cup of tea and a bite to eat and watched a Heron fish and listened to the calls and answers of Cuckoos as we recharged our batteries for a bit. Refreshed we set off again and hadn't gone far before Madison cried out again. This time she handled the rod a bit better but the fish appeared to me smaller. As it neared the boat I could see red fins in the clear water, it was a Perch! “Be careful Madi” I said. She steered it alongside the boat and I leant over and lifted it out, beautiful! A lovely plump fish that I would have been well pleased to have caught. Madison was delighted, announcing it was “much prettier than the Pike”.
We carried on downstream but as we did so the fishing became almost impossible to to large amounts of drifting weed. This is the scourge of trolling the shallow eastern rivers and I have never seen it as bad as it was today. Further downstream the river curves away and catches more wind which pushed the drifting crap to the bank and made life a little easier. This area is usually a banker for a fish or two and I'd just announced this to Madi when the heavy rod slammed over and another small Pike was hooked, brought to the boat and quickly unhooked. I expected to catch a few more fish but for some reason this stretch was a lot more coloured than the previous section. However we persevered and I managed another small Pike on the Skinner while Madi hooked one on the “Lucky no.2” which unfortunately shook itself off again.
We nosed the boat into a reed bed, had another cup of tea and shared lunch while we watched the waterfowl on the river and the small birds chirping in the reeds. There wasn't another soul in sight, the sun poked through the clouds for a while and all was right with the world. With the tea drunk and all the food gone we turned the boat around and headed back upstream. I was confident of a lot more fish but the return journey proved a struggle. The murky water yielded nothing, not even a take and we lifted the rods out and motored through the drifting weed, Madi singing her heart out as we did so, to the amusement of the occasional angler we passed. Back at the original stretch a few fish started to show an interest again but they weren't really 'having it'. Pike would swirl, boil and nip at the lures but they weren't really attacking them with any conviction. Perch were conspicuous by their absence, which was a surprise in the conditions. Madison dropped her lure alongside the boat and was watching the action when a Jack shot up and nailed it making her yell with surprise and excitement. Unfortunately this one wriggled free too.
We decided we'd had enough for the day so headed back towards the car. I switched the Skinner for a smaller Salmo minnow to hedge our bets a bit more. This lure was soon taken but once again the fish, another small Pike, shook itself free. Not far from the starting point this rod rattled in the holder again and this time the fish stayed hooked. I passed the rod to Madison and let her wind in another Jack taking our total to six fish for the day. Had we landed all the fish that had shown an interest we would have been into double figures. In purely fishing terms the day was a bit disappointing but time spent with my daughter was priceless. She sat in the car listening to the radio as I hitched the trailer up, then we were under way. “Did you enjoy that Madison?” I asked. “Yes Dad, it was great” she replied “can we go to Macdonalds now?”