Anyone who is bored/daft enough to read my scribbles more than once will have noticed that I never name the waters I'm fishing for obvious reasons, but this time I'm going to make an exception. The reason why will become apparent towards the end of this ramble. Anyway, back to my trip down memory lane, August 1979. I can remember I was fishing my usual haunt at that time, a small millpond on Suffolk's River Gipping. The mill was long gone even then but it was still a beautiful shady, little pool. The river had once been canalised and where a lock had formerly stood, water now tumbled over a weir, through a brick sided run, beneath a bridge and into the tree shaded pool. Here a nice current flowed down the far bank and an eddy swirled around the near. The pool then narrowed and water sped through a shallow gravel run and away. In my mind the weather was hot and clear but it always was in the school summer holiday back then. The tackle was a poker stiff six foot boat rod made of solid fibre glass with an Intrepid surfcast reel loaded with thick blue mono that could have towed a bus. I don't remember if I used a wire trace but I suspect I didn't. I do remember mounting a live gudgeon on an enormous single hook and swinging it as far into the pool as I could on the gear I was using. The rod was then laid on the ground and I assume I turned my attention back to catching dace, gudgeon, minnows or what ever would take my maggots. After a while could have been minutes, could have been hours, I was alerted by the sound of gravel moving as my tackle was dragged towards the water. I don't think the beast beneath could have put up much of a struggle before it was dragged onto the gravel and battered to death. Obviously I took it home to show off to my family, friends and anyone else who glanced in my direction. It was weighed on mum's kitchen scales and 1 ½ pounds recorded. After having my photo taken in the back garden the poor hapless ex-Pike was buried beneath a bush. Happily, this is the one and only Pike I have ever knowingly killed.
Back to the present. This weekend was another busy one. Loads of decorating to fill the days, a big Saturday night out with my oldest, dearest friends (including my fishing mates) and our wives & girlfriends – I think I've just about recovered from that one! Today Shantel made her début for a new football team, played a blinder and scored on the way to a win. All I needed to cap a perfect weekend was a fish or two so on Sunday evening I sneaked down the river with a medium lure rod and a minimal amount of tackle. Where should I go? There was only one choice, that little millpool on the River Gipping. My sights were set low, just a Pike, any Pike would do. After days of dry, bright, mild weather today was cloudy with a hint of drizzle in the air. I crossed the bridge and negotiated the stile, at first glance the pool looked much the same as it had in my childhood but on closer inspection the flow was nowhere near as strong as it had been back then. This may be due to the long dry spell we've experienced but I suspect it has more to do with abstraction from a pumping station downstream. This is used to top up a water supply reservoir and it's affects on the river have gone largely un-noticed over the last couple of decades.
I began fishing with a home made ½ ounce spinnerbait, buzzing it amongst lily pads. After a couple of casts a fish moved near by...was it a Pike? I continued a quick retrieve but the lure stopped by weed, or so I thought but as I pulled a small Pike swirled away, sod it! chance missed. I continued downstream fishing swims I literally spent days in as a child. On one hand it looked familiar, trees where I'd lost countless floats still overhung the river and there were still some well worn patches in the same places on the bank. However other trees had been broken down and the far bank had been redeveloped. On one occasion in my youth my pals and I were almost caught scrumping apples and had to escape by jumping into the river. Both the old building and the orchard were gone, replaced by three or four new houses and the sound of children's voices playing “What's the time Mr Wolf?” was clearly audible. There was also a great deal more weed, choking the river in places and as I alluded to earlier the current was nothing like it was in my childhood. It was on this stretch of river that I learnt to trot with a stick float (anyone remember that?), nowadays it would be like fishing a lake. The fishing was a non event. One more jack Pike shot out of the weed at high speed, homed in on the spinnerbait then just as rapidly turned and vanished back into the weed from whence it came, but that was it. Time well spent though.
On the way home I decided to pull in and have a look at another stretch of the river, this one used to be my absolute favourite and is controlled by a club grandly titled the Gipping Angling Preservation Society. I was disappointed to see that what was once a great stretch of river with excellent fishing for Roach, Chub and winter Pike is now almost completely choked with weed. The peg numbers go up to number thirty but only about five were actually fishable due to weed and general dis-repair. There was virtually no current at all which doesn't help matters either. I wonder what the G.A.P.S. Club are doing to “preserve” the fishing on the Gipping? The answer is obviously absolutely nothing as they are busy spending the revenue from their ever decreasing membership on trying, yet somehow failing to build more Carp puddles. When I was a child this club had about 1100 members and controlled all the worthwhile fishing in the area. I was a member for many years and virtually learnt to fish on their waters. Unfortunately even back then G.A.P.S. was always a decade behind the times and even now they have only just cottoned on to the fact that big Carp fishing is actually quite popular. I haven't been a member of this club for several years now, the final straw was a livebait ban imposed some time ago. I use the word imposed deliberately as the club's match dominated committee decided the club needed this in the name of “fish welfare” without consulting the membership.
This was once my favourite Pike swim on the river...
I was amongst a group of five or six Pike anglers who attempted to do something about the ban at a committee meeting. Most of the talking was done by a friend called Chris who has since sadly passed away. Not only was Chris a fine all round angler but a very intelligent and articulate man who completely destroyed the arguments put forward by the committee. They had no answer to Chris and we were treated to the sight of grown men shrugging their shoulders and giggling into the palms of their hand. Their response was to say “thank you very much” and ban it anyway. The club lost five members right then & there, last I heard membership was down to about 300. Compare this to the similarly named Colchester APS based twenty miles to the south and the contrast couldn't be greater. Here there is a thriving club offering anglers what they want, including Carp and Catfish. Other clubs more local to G.A.P.S. patch have sprung up and are growing at the expense of the older established organisation, none of them are my cup of tea but they offer what anglers want.
Anyway, rant over. On a more positive note it's two weeks to go before the annual Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain at Stoneleigh. Always a great event with a great line up of speakers and all of the tackle suppliers listed on the right of the page will be showing off their wares.