Three more days before the season ends and the rivers close for fishing. Three more days of free time for me to spend on the water, fishing at my favourite place. I spend a mad evening getting the kids fed and bathed whilst sorting everything for a few days fishing in between. Where to fish? Previous experience puts a few areas in mind and temperatures that have been steadily climbing give me a bit of confidence. However, the place has been rock hard lately by all accounts so I have to be prepared for anything. I think of got a tent/cuddy/contraption sorted but only time will tell if it works? A late night, can't sleep, can't wait to get out there.
I had a take it easy morning, got the kids ready and dropped them at school. They'll be with their mother for the weekend so I have the next three days without responsibilities. All the gear, bait food etc. was ready so there was no mad rush in the morning. I left home just after nine o'clock, driving through light rain and grim clouds but thankfully milder weather. Mid week traffic meant the journey would never be rapid so I trundled along, happy to see signs of spring, masses of snowdrops growing in the woods.
I was on the water by eleven o'clock and taking a bit of a trip, with the wind (was that brown, finch sized bird a Reed Bunting? ), then against, watching a spectacular display by the Harriers along the way before I reached my destination. There were a few other boats about, well it is the last weekend of the season. I had an area in mind but one of the boats was close to it so setting up there was not an option. No problem, I dropped the weights in an area that looked the part and a spot I'd never fished before. It was mild, a nice chop, the cloud was thinning and the rain had all but stopped. Four baits spread out and I was fishing, love it!
A couple of hours later I was on the move settling in to another area where I'd found fish in the past but not this afternoon. What I was really doing was killing time until I could get into the spot I really wanted to fish. This didn't happen until dusk when the other boats left but I was soon settled with fresh baits cast and a lot of chopped bait spread over the area. A pair of Cranes flew noisily high overhead, heading for their roost? I managed to erect a cuddy of sorts. It was a short notice bodge job and looked crap, however it worked and won't take too much fine tuning to get it right in time for next season. I felt confident now, the fish had been here this time last season but has the cold weather delayed things? Time will tell.
Rich arrived and anchored up near by, setting up by torchlight. Not long after dark the cloud cleared away revealing a spectacular splash of stars. Soundtrack provided by Tawny Owls away to the north above the chatter of ducks. After dark I add extra weight and tighten right up, using bait-runners and ET boat biters to alert me to any takes. Tonight there were no takes and by midnight I'd wound the baits in and settled into my sleeping bag for a few hours sleep in the bottom of the boat.
The night was mild and I was surprisingly comfortable and woke before dawn feeling refreshed. First priority was to get four fresh baits out and put the kettle on. I had cricket on the radio too, England battering a weak Bangladesh team. There were already other boats making their way into the area but I was happy with my choice of swim. There was a splash and a swirl to my left, I looked round just in time to see the arse end of an Otter diving away from me. For the next few minutes there were more tell tale signs of Otter activity which is all very nice but it's hard to feel confident of catching when there's a large fish eating mammal around. A while later there was a strange 'shape' moving across the surface, it swam out from the reeds then seemed to change its mind and head back towards the bank. It turned out to be a water vole and I can't remember the last time I saw one of them. All very well but where were the Pike? Should I stay or should I go? I liked the area I was fishing but felt I would have caught by now if fish were about. Also there was the Otter....The options for a move were limited by the amount of other boats about, plenty of other people were out, enjoying the last weekend of the season.
Eventually I opted to move to a spot that I hadn't seen fished so far this weekend which was an area I'd had action before. Straight away it felt right and I was soon fishing four rods again with renewed confidence. I hadn't been in position long when something fishy swirled to my left, has to be a Pike? This was repeated four more times during the afternoon, these were totally different swirls to the disturbance caused by the Otter. Despite repositioning the baits, chopping & changing I couldn't get a fish to take. Oh for a livebait! On the last occasion something large made a deep swirl and displaced a lot of water, I was sure there was a big Pike in front of me. I hadn't seen or heard of anything caught during the day and with fish showing in the area the decision to stay put was easy. As the light faded I heard another splash away to my right. This one sounded different and sure enough an Otter's head popped up. Not good news and sods law saw it come closer and closer, this thing wasn't afraid of me and was quite happy to splash and bubble its way through my swim and back again.
Despite the frustrations I was loving the whole experience. With everything I needed for the weekend stowed in the boat, once I'd left the slipway I felt completely free. For a couple of days I could just do as I please and here I was, fishing my favourite place in the world, watching the sky darken and listening to the night come alive. Anchored up as I was it seemed as if the environment had just accepted me as part of the scenery and the wildlife didn't seem nervous about coming closer than normal. I've never seen Otters(s) at such close quarters before and I should have felt privileged but once I'd seen them I just wanted them to bugger off. There had been no sign of any Pike of any size since they arrived. By ten o'clock my eyes were heavy so I wound the rods in & climbed into the sleeping bag again. Was that big fish about or had the Otter scared her away? Would I have a chance in the morning?
I awoke early again, four fresh baits out and cricket tuned in on the radio. The kettle had hardly boiled when the first boats arrived. I felt confident as the day brightened, was that big fish still around? It only takes one run to make your season here, would I get that run? The answer is no. The highlight of the morning was a Bittern flying close by and once again an Otter put in an appearance. The experience had been fantastic but I knew I was beaten. I moved a couple of times, working my way back towards the slipway but fished without confidence. The weekend had finished, like the season without me getting the one I'm after. I retrieved the boat in the mid afternoon, hitched the trailer and packed everything away for a while. I was about to re-enter the normal world after two days almost completely cut off, as it turned out it took me an equal amount of time to re-adjust. The weekend had been a grueller fish wise but I'd loved every minute and would do it all again tomorrow given half a chance.
I've had some nice fish this winter but not the one I dream about. Happily good friends have done better.Roll on October.