For once I had a little time, the kids were with their mother and I had no responsibilities for almost three full days. The previous week had been all rain but by now it was a bit milder although still far from ideal conditions. The plan was to make my way north around midday but the weather was particularly foul and I had a hangover. The previous evening had been fun, company was great, too much food, too much wine and will I ever learn? Instead I slowly and unsteadily got myself organised and set off in mid afternoon. It was still raining but not as heavily now and the north west wind was easing off.
I was on the water by 1730 and fishing, anchored securely in a sheltered spot by 1800. I put three deadbaits out fished on heavy leads with tight lines and 'boatbiters' then settled back in the boat and tried to keep myself dry. Rich was somewhere out there too and we exchanged texts, nothing doing. I sat in my boat which was extra organised awaiting developments and planning my approach for the next two days. Where should I fish tomorrow? I was still undecided, Plan A involved the longer journey and far from ideal conditions. Plan B ? Let's just see..........Also in my mind I was making modifications to the boat, next winter I need more shelter, some kind of cuddy. The rain was annoying but didn't make things too uncomfortable. It was great to be back on the system.
By 2130 I'd twitched two of the three baits back to the boat and recast again. The rain had all but stopped, the moon shone above the thick cloud and it was still a fairly light, if that's the right word? Somewhere to my left something splashed so I recast the nearest rod to where I thought the sound had come from. Could have been a bird but could have been a fish. An hour later I'd had enough so made my way carefully back to base for a late hot pasta supper before crashing out in the car.
I slept OK despite a cold night and was up early the next morning, anchored up in time to see the sun come up. Rich was back on the water too and had opted for plan A. I went for plan B and we'd keep in touch by text. I put a Mackerel and Bluey downwind and cast a popped up Pollan across. The fourth rod was a bait I hadn't used all year, codename 'the evil'. The early morning anticipation turned to 'what next?' as time ticked by. Rich wasn't doing any better so if I move, where to? I repositioned the boat once but stayed in the same general area then made a second move late in the morning. This time I left the area and stopped some way away in a part of the system I hadn't fished for a good while.
Once again I fanned out four baits then settled back, warm and comfortable in the early spring (?) sunshine. A north west wind put a good ripple on the surface and things looked good. I chilled out and watched the harriers at close quarters as they skimmed the reedline however they didn't look like they were hunting. One soared high then cartwheeled downwards again as if it were flying for the shear joy of it. This bird was joined by another and they wheeled around in what I'm guessing was some kind of courtship game. All very well but where were the Pike? Another text from Rich, nothing was happening where he was either and he was heading back for a lunch time rendezvous. As the time passed I became agitated, it wasn't happening, where next? At a little after noon whilst scanning the floats I noticed something amiss, surely one of them.....? Yes it was on the move, something had picked up 'the evil' and was running straight towards the boat. I picked up the rod and wound down a load of slack line before pulling into a fish which pulled back...for a second or two. Not a monster but needed the net and where there's one there might well be another.
Rich appeared an hour or so later and after a short move we tied the two boats together, cast a couple of rods each and settled down for a fry up. Despite pooling information, swapping ideas, theories and fishing as a team it was the first time Rich & I had been in the same place, at the same time all season. It made a nice change to have a bit of a social for a couple of hours. The blue & white team is happy this season but Rich has definitely been the leading scorer. Sunshine, sausage sarnies, hot tea but no Pike. Time for a move.
We both stayed in the same general area but set off in different directions trying to find fish. I got settled in a spot which enabled me to cover both the reeds and the open water and spread the baits around again. As the day waned the wind dropped away completely and so did my confidence, this place fishes better with a bit of chop. The flat calm surface reflected a beautiful sunset but no Pike. We left the broad just after dark without sign of a fish.
A drive in the car through deserted country lanes with Led Zeppelin pumping out saw two men with red faces arrive at a pub, for a couple of pints and a chat about the day ahead. It was hard going and we felt the fishing was unlikely to improve dramatically the next day. We struggled to come up with any ideas or locations that would inspired us at all. At this time of year the Pike should be on the move but the wicked winter had delayed things. Do we look for the places we'd expect to find them or chose areas where we would be likely to intercept the wanderers? Rich had driven so I had the opportunity to drink too much, will I ever learn? Obviously not. Still it knocked me out and numbed me to the cold but caused me to sleep too well as I was woken by the rising sun the following morning. I emerged from the car feeling dodgy and bewildered but was soon in the boat and after breaking ice in the dyke, out for another crack at the Pike.
I opted to fish an open water area which I felt would give me a chance of intercepting any Pike that might be wandering. A Mackerel and Bluey were fished downwind, a popped up Pollan cast upwind and 'the evil' was dropped off the back of the boat and baited with a load of chopped fish, former hook baits. The day was a repeat of the previous, bright and breezy but this time the wind came from the north. Rich was away fishing another similar spot and so far had nothing to report. At around 9.30 a float jabbed and slid away, it was the rod fishing 'the evil' again. The strike met something solid and pleasing, a nice bend in the rod. Yesterday's fish needed the net and this one needed the sladle too. Hooks out easily, a quick glance at a beautiful spotty fish in mint condition then back she went to grow bigger.
In the net!
This gave me a well needed confidence boost so I chopped a load more bait up and spread it around. Usually I move about a lot but today I decided to stay in the same general area, just repositioning the boat every now and then so I could put baits in places I hadn't previously touched. The day passed quickly, Rich was in sight but a fair way off, he kept moving and searching but couldn't find any fish. I stayed put and didn't fare any better fish wise but thoroughly enjoyed another sunny day afloat. Once again the Harriers were spectacular and for the first time this year it really did seem like spring was on its way at last.
By late afternoon the sun was beginning to dip and the temperature started to fall. I decided to call it a day and get the boat off the water and head home while it was still light. The two and a bit days had been very tough but I would have happily stayed for another two. Time is short now, just one more big effort before the season ends. Here's hoping.