Wednesday, 13 October 2010

It's that time of year again.

The curtain raiser to the Pike season is always the last weekend in September when the Pike Anglers club of Great Britain holds it's annual convention. This year it was held in Kettering and thanks to the efforts of Colin Goodge and the PAC committee it was a tremendous success. Rich and I travelled up on the Saturday to help Mark and Gary man the PAC products stand. The hall was full, the crowd was buzzing and a great day was had by all. The evening that followed was equally good, a pub full of Pikers drinking and making merry that continued well past midnight. Breakfast the following morning was a far more subdued affair...

October is here now, in fact the first weekend has been and gone but I haven't yet wet a line. I spent most of the weekend doing things with the kids. The weather may have been wet and windy but the temperature was comfortable enough for us to spend some time outside. A morning at the cinema, a nice walk around the local park lake. Time in the garden with the pet Rabbits, kicking a football around, all good. In between times I've also spent the last week or so slowly getting my shit together. New reel filled with braid and fixed onto the P3. All the rods checked out, rigged up, fresh knots tied etc. A batch of traces tied up ready for the new season. All the gear has been checked and re-checked. Fresh bait in the freezer, food in the fridge, all the flasks and cooking gear ready. In fact I don't think I've ever felt more ready or better prepared for the start of the Pike season.

The evening before my first trip, I had the car loaded and everything good to go. There's only one problem, I'd strained my back and it was giving me jip. Like a kid on Christmas eve I can never sleep the night before I'm due to fish and this was no exception. I was up before the alarm clock and soon out of the house and on the road. The journey north is always frustrating due mainly to the roads and the idiots that frequent them. Today's twat was someone in one of those highway maintenance pick ups who insisted on driving at 50 mph on the single carriageway then speeding up and flying off on the dual so he couldn't be over taken. My own car was misbehaving too, for some reason the indicators kept switching themselves on but this was rectified by some heavy handedness and bad language. Eventually I arrived at my destination unscathed and was met with another obstacle, the trailer was stuck in the mud. After a load more cursing, grunting, brute force and sweat the boat was in the water and cutting through the waves of my favourite place once again.

This year I've made up my mind that when conditions are good and I have time I will put in maximum effort. In this case I have two days without responsibilities so I'll be spending both days fishing and sleeping in the boat in between. This will be the way I go about things while the weather is still relatively comfortable. I've also decided that there are plenty of areas in the system where I haven't yet wet a line so it's high time I searched out ne water.

By 0730 I was anchored up and four deadbaits were spread around the boat carefully, in an effort to maximise any scent trail that would be seeping from them. The day was mild and mostly cloudy with a moderate southerly wind. I sat back and smiled, the pain in my back had abated, I was back in the land of big skies, reeds and water. I had a plan for the day; I intended to spend no more than ninety minutes in any area if no fish showed themselves. That's exactly how the day panned out, I kept on moving, searching and working. I fished two spots in the vicinity of “The Stump” area. This is one of my favourite spots and one where I've caught a lot of fish but I wonder if this is a self fulfilling prophecy? Whatever, there were a few baitfish of some variety topping in this area but no Pike moved to my baits. During this time the sky had become more gloomy and had been spitting drizzle at me from time to time. My bad back had woken up again and was giving me more grief.

Next stop was an area I've rarely fished but one I intend to visit more frequently in future. Not far from the “Stump” as it happens, the entrance to a bay just has to be worth a go surely? Maybe but not today so after 90 minutes here I was on the move again, passing through the gap and into the bay. Another fishless ninety minutes passed but was brightened up by a fry up. Time was passing by now, the whole area seemed devoid of Pike so it was high time I upped sticks and left for pastures new.

I passed anglers catching skimmers at one spot and carried on for a look around another area that was relatively new to me. By 1545 I was anchored with the regulation four rods covering two bays and open water. I've rarely fished this area over the years and this is something I will be putting right as I know it's a good area at certain times of year. However I just didn't feel confident or comfortable and I wasn't going to be happy here. I had to make a move and there were two destinations in mind. Both involved a bit of a journey on the engine but both were appealing in their own way. Eventually the choice was made, for better or for worse and off I went through dark skies and drizzle.

I fancied heading over to one area in particular but on arrival I noticed a boat already sitting in the vicinity. I settled for fishing on the corner of a bay, tucked into the reeds. I've fished this spot before and although I've never done any good it feels right and I felt I had a good chance in the hours ahead. One thing Rich and I have learned is that this area definitely produces at this time of year and I think this may be due to Pike migrating here from other parts of the system. I felt confident that I'd put my self in a position to intercept any Pike moving into the area, time would tell.

Dusk deepened and I was settled and comfortable. I fished the regular four rods; a Sardine, un-weighted, was dropped into the weed to my left. I fished a Bluey and an “the evil” on the weedline plus a Mackerel in open water. Overhead a massive swarm of Geese gathered and circled almost like those massive autumn flocks of Starlings. Thousands of birds honked and squawked as they settled into the marshes to the south for the night. The other boat left the area leaving me alone for the night, lovely. I rigged up the “boat biters” and settled down in the bottom of the tub. My mark2 cuddy was fixed up and with the middle seat of the boat now removed I'm able to stretch out. It may all look a little 'Heath Robinson' compared to the flash boats I see around, but it keeps me dry and sheltered. The very definition of “crude but its effective”.
Home. Crude but effective!

Time passed, the night grew dark and the stars came out in spectacular fashion. I reduced the rods down to two and slumbered in the bottom of the boat. Sleeping yes but waking at the slightest strange noise or movement of the boat. I suppose I'm lucky that when I'm relaxed (i.e. any time except the night before a fishing trip), I have the ability to drift in and out of sleep easily. I was comfortable apart from twinges of pain across my shoulder blade but able to block that out. By 1 am I was well tired so wound the rods in for a few hours of total sleep to recharge the batteries. Apart from the absence of fish, all was well in my world until around 3am. At this point the wind picked up with a bit more of an easterly influence to it and it began to rain. I was able to shut it out for a while and continue with my cat-napping but soon grew damp and uncomfortable. However with a bit of re-organisation I was sorted and able to drift back to the land of nod once more.

By 6am I was wide awake once more and back into fish hunting mode. I put fresh baits on all rods, two on the weedline and two in open water. I wanted breakfast but the bloody lighter was soggy and I just couldn't get the stove alight. Here I was, 24 hours without a fish, damp, tired, hungry, thirsty and fishless. Bugger!!! I eventually managed to get a flame and get my sausage and bacon on the go. After breakfast I got the kettle on to fill the flask up. This procedure was interrupted by a whirring bait runner, the Smelt in open water had been picked up, a take at last! Pandemonium in the boat, stove switched off, I picked the rod up and wound down quickly....only to find the bait had been dropped. The air turned blue. What was I like? 42 years old, sleeping in a bloody boat on a wet October night for the chance of a poxy fish? Why?

By 8.30am it was high time for a move, but where? I'd had a take so was loathe to go too far so opted for a short shunt about 50yds downwind, finishing up just off the entrance to a bay. I cast an Eel and a Bluey to the weedline, then a Mackerel and a Smelt were fished in open water. That dropped take had enthused me with a bit of confidence, there were fish willing to feed if I could put a bait to them. The day was grey and gloomy with drizzle blowing in on a fresh south easterly wind. Not ideal conditions but...

At 9.15 at last it happened, another take this time on Bluey. I wound down quickly and set the hooks. Yes! Fish on! My first Pike of the season from the system punched above it's weight but was quickly bundled into the net where it woke up and belatedly started to fight. Hooks were removed and a nicely marked fish of around seven pounds was admired briefly then returned. Nice one, blank saved! I recast with a fresh half a Bluey then sat back with a smile on my face, my mojo had returned, I know remembered “why”.
First of the season

Forty five minutes later I was contemplating another move when I noticed an oil slick calm the water around the float on the Bluey rod. A couple of seconds later it happened again. Had a Pike picked it up? I took the rod out of the holder to try and shake some weed off the line only to be greeted with a screaming bait runner as a Pike bolted into the bay. The bend of my rod soon stopped and turned it! This one felt a bit heavier than the first and so it proved, in the net it looked every ounce a double with a bit to spare. Nice one! The bait was still attached so went back out to the weedline once more.

Bit bigger

Another forty five minutes passed and I decided it was time to move once more, eventually settling just to the north of the bay. I spent an uneventful hour or so here watching the hunting Harriers before upping the weights and leaving the area. I went searching, fishing another 'new' area for an hour or so. A nice looking bay that I'm sure I'll visit again some time. No Pike were encountered here but a bit more learnt and stored away for the future. Next I went back onto more familiar territory. By now the sky had cleared and the wind was a fresh westerly. I was only here long enough to fry up and tidy up before heading back to the slipway. I pulled the boat out without incident, packed the car and was away. My first trip of the season was over, the cobwebs were blown away and I had a couple of fish under my belt, not a bad start. Can't wait to get back. A few days later I was back.......

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