Monday, 1 June 2009


31/05/09 Holland

Twice a year I used to stuff the car full of fishing gear, strap the rods on the roof and head over to Ireland for a week of Pike fishing, Guinness drinking and other interesting diversions. Unfortunately its been more than a decade since I crossed the Irish sea, partly due to domestic circumstances but also because of the ignorance of the Irish fishery boards. What was once the best natural Pike fishing in the world has been destroyed, in the name of 'improving' the trout fishing. The way things are, it'll be a long time before I visit Ireland again as things just seem to be getting worse.

Anyway, nowadays I get a ferry and head east to Holland, the car loaded up with the family and all that goes with it plus a little bit of fishing gear sneaked in. Friendly people, beautiful cities, sensible attitudes, lovely parks & beaches and lots of water. Two weeks living in a caravan on a theme park, heaven for the kids, tolerable for the adults and plenty of water for me to sneak off to cast some lures around. The first week was virtually all hot, still and bright, great for a holiday but not weather that inspires me with confidence where Pike fishing is concerned. As the days passed I started to get itchy feet and at the end of a sticky humid day, cloud built up from the west, a breeze got up and I reached for the rods.

This is my fifth visit to this part of Holland so I have managed to find a few places to wet a line in this time and tonight I headed for a crossroads of canals and ditches from which I'd extracted a few Pike in the past. I would be easily pleased, just a Pike, any Pike, would be enough. The canals and ditches here are clear, shallow and weedy so I used mostly a half ounce spinnerbait or a mini wagtail. This was chucked with a medium bait casting rod an Abu 5601 reel and 50 lbs powerpro. I worked up and down the canals and ditches but all I found were Bream, trying desperately to foul hook themselves. It was nice to have a couple of hours of peace and quiet but I wanted a fish.

Close to where I left the car is a larger canal with a sparse covering of lilies, it looked perfect for skipping the spinnerbait across the pads and buzzing it along the surface in the clear water. Unfortunately this canal runs alongside some kind of military base, complete with a large steel fence, barbed wire and an imposing white sign post. I speak virtually no Dutch but I must confess I have a fair idea of what “VERBODDEN TE VISSEN” means. However I had an excuse......and I couldn't resist. First cast and the retrieve looked great, the calm surface bubbling from the Colorado blades...but nothing happened, until I lifted the lure from the water and there was a swirl and a boil of water. By this time the cloud had become very gloomy and threatening and I'd taken off the poloroids. Would she have another go?


Next cast I retrieved the lure right up to the bank then stopped and let the bait flutter down...bang! Fish on! All the fish I've caught here have pulled above their weight, this one was about six pounds but didn't know it. These fish are lovely, dark coloured, almost brown with prominent gold spots. I'd love to post a photo of this one but unfortunately she shook the lure off when I grabbed the trace. Our unwritten rule is, if you touch the trace the fish counts, that way a lot of fish can be quickly unhooked in the water where possible, this one unhooked itself. The clouds, once threatening were now intimidating with frequent flashes of lightning and they were heading my way. Not ideal conditions to be waving 6 ½ feet of carbon fibre around so I happily made a hasty retreat.

Storm damage

That night I was privileged to witness an awesome storm, the best I've seen since Giles and I fished all night for Zander in the fens in the mid nineties and were treated to an amazing, spectacular drenching. I wrote about that night somewhere and if I ever find the scraggly, tatty piece of paper I might put it on here. I suspect it has something to do with flat landscapes like the fens and Holland but like the previous storm the lightning seemed continuous. The light of various flashes must be visible for miles. Our particular camp site was on relatively high ground and was set in a wood of tall oaks, oh dear. In fact there were several trees struck that night and others damaged by the gusting wind, including one literally right next to our caravan. I spent all evening staring through the window watching lightning zapping through the sky and it was fantastic. At one point I watched three lines of lightning flash from different directions, then they seemed to meet in the middle and form a circle of light in the sky. Difficult to describe but awesome.

The following day was wet and windy, there was evidence of storm damage everywhere but by the early evening the rain had cleared and a weak sun was poking through the clouds. Once again I fancied my chances for a fish or two. This time I fished some water I'd found by the wonders of google earth, beginning at a nice looking tree lined canal. The water turned out to be shallower than I expected with very little weed cover so my confidence ebbed away as I worked my way along the canal. The water was strewn with small branches and other debris from last night's storm. After a couple of hundred yards the water appeared to be more coloured, surely feeding fish? Yes, more Bream and quite a few of them. As I stood and watched a couple of Carp around fifteen pounds appeared too. Would there be a Pike or two shadowing these fish? No, but a bit further along there was a skinny looking Jack which followed my lure but didn't seem interested in trying to eat it. I kept on moving, my legs getting soaked by the rain drenched grass and eventually a cast to an overhanging tree saw another jack nail the wagtail. This fish was very small and put up absolutely no resistance and so suffered the embarrassment of a quick photo before being slipped back to grow bigger. This fish looked like it might have had a close run in with a larger fish at some point too, maybe there was something big lurking in this canal? Probably, but not showing today.

Where's big sister?

Shortly after that I crossed the road and started fishing another piece of water, a small lake fed by narrow canals at both ends. This too was clear and shallow with occasional patches of lilies. Casting close to this saw a fish swirl at the spinnerbait, possibly a Pike but possibly the line spooking a Carp or Bream. Whatever it was didn't repeat the performance. At the windward end of the lake there were Carp showing regularly including a couple of big fish, one clearly over twenty pounds cruised by obliviously. Here I also had interest from a Pike, a fish close to double figures followed the spinnerbait then slid slowly away and out of sight. I worked my way back to the car but that was that.

The rest of the holiday was spent soaking the sun, checking the quality of the local brew and doing daft things with the kids, not necessarily in that order. My nine year old daughter Madison had been studying Van Gogh at school and possibly the daftest thing I did was agree to take them, to the Van Gogh museum. Madison wandered round pointing out the paintings she knew and educating me about the artist. It was all lost on me but I did notice a pot of sunflowers that looked familiar. She did ask “Dad? Where do they get all the fancy frames?” which left me stumped. Isaac's version was “it's boring, what are we having for lunch?”.

I love Holland, it's cities and people. I love the fact that around almost every corner there is another piece of water to explore. From what I have gathered the Pike are mostly respected here and there is a Pike conservation organisation called SNB. So for the foreseeable future I'll continue to head east with the family. However, should the Irish fishery boards & match organisers choose to remove their heads from their backsides...........Now it's back home and it feels too hot for fishing, hopefully we'll get a nice dose of foul weather to freshen the rivers up before they open again in a fortnight.

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