Monday, 25 June 2012


With the new season open I didn’t rush to wet a line on the opening weekend, my local rivers are uninspiring and it’s hard to find the time to make plans further afield.  However I needed to tinker with the boat and trailer so with Shelley along for the trip, I made my way to the boatyard.  It has been a while since my last visit, so on arrival it was no surprise to find a boat full of water, which of course had to be drained.  I can’t work it out, the spring has been like a monsoon, as indicated by the amount of water in the boat, so why was there hardly any water in the slip?  

The morning like so many others recently had been wet but by the time we launched in mid-afternoon the sky was clearing and the sun was trying to poke through. It was nice to be out in the boat, cutting through the water in warm weather amongst summer greens, rather than winter beige. Fishing was very much on the agenda but it was more of an outing, as we took a slow cruise through the system, soaking up the environment around us, Shelley capturing as much of it as possible through the camera lens. As ever the birdlife was exceptional, too many species to list but I’ll have a go. The highlights were Egrets, Owls, and the ever present Harriers. All the waterfowl you can think of plus Reed Buntings, Wagtails, loads of Herons, families of Geese and Swans, Gulls and Terns. Somewhere to the north we could hear Cranes and I think I might have seen a Bittern.
After an hour or so of meandering around we dropped the mud weights at a favourite spot.  I mixed a little groundbait and fished a waggler with corn on a size 12.  I was optimistically hoping to find a Bream or two.  Shelley fished with a whip, maggots on a more sensible size 18.  She caught small Rudd & Roach from the off but bites on my more crude set up were less frequent.  We had a snack and a tea break then caught a few more silvers, Shelley with the lions share but eventually my float went and I hooked the Bream I’d been after, unfortunately not a proper river Bream, it was only a couple of ounces. 

After a couple of hours we decided it was time for a change of scenery so we motored off to another spot.  Here I cut the engine and we drifted along, Shelley taking photos, me casting lures amongst the weed beds.  Nowadays the Zoota Wagtail is one of my ‘go to’ shallow water lures.  I say ‘nowadays’ but I don’t do a great deal of lure fishing…nowadays.  Anyway the Wagtail, a relatively light (slow sinking), curly tail plastic lure, has caught pike from rivers, drains and stillwaters and I have a lot of confidence in it.  This was justified after a few minutes when the rod banged over and a Pike was hooked.  A small fish but it charged through the weedbeds and tried to punch above its weight but soon succumbed and was unhooked alongside the boat.  We carried on drifting and casting for an hour or so.  I chopped and changed lures; Jerkbait, Spinnerbait & crankbait then reverted back to the Wagtail.  No more Pike made themselves known.  

With the sun beginning to sink in the sky I fired the engine once again and we started our cruise back to the boatyard with Swallows skimming the water alongside us.  We were mostly heading west so had a grandstand view of an epic flatlands sunset, Shelley’s camera clicking constantly.  A nice way to spend a summer evening, I think I’ll do that again sometime.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


The weekend’s social timetable changed unexpectedly giving me the opportunity to have a few hours at the Marsh.  The only problem was it involved getting up early in the morning.  Not so long ago this would not have presented a problem, getting up at a ridiculous hour was the norm for the weekend.  Nowadays it’s not such a regular occurrence, even my Pike fishing sees relatively few early alarm calls these days.  Over time I had become afraid of the early mornings so could I be arsed to drag myself out of bed at 0445?
I spent Saturday evening buggering about with bits of tackle, tying a couple of short fluoro hooklengths, mixing groundbait and rigging up the nearly new rod.  This took a couple of hours, longer than I expected and the early night went out of the window.  By this time I’d more or less convinced myself to go fishing but how would I handle the early alarm call?
Some bland, forgettable radio tune roused me from slumber and I rolled groggily out of bed.  That wasn’t so bad!  Half an hour later I was by the water’s edge.  There were a couple of Carp anglers already bivvied up which narrowed down the options so I went for a swim on the south bank.  The previous day had been damp and windy but this morning was clear and dry but with a nice breeze from the South west.  The swim I’d chosen had nice margin features, overhangs on both sides with a bed of lilies between them but I’d already opted against using the float rod.  Firstly I’d figured I’d be tired and would not concentrate on the float properly.  Secondly I’m absolutely hopeless at stillwater float fishing, I just can’t keep my eye on a stationary float consistently enough.  Trotting a stick float down a river was a different matter but sadly there’s rarely enough flow on my local rivers these days…  Then thirdly it was a good excuse to use my nearly new, lighter rod. 
On the new rod I fished a helicopter rig with an open end feeder and fake pop up corn fished on a 4” hooklength.  Groundbait was Lake Wizard’s Gold, mixed with a bit of Expo along with some maggots and hemp.  I chucked a few small balls around the feeder and topped it up regularly.  The other rod was the normal chod rig with a tutti pop up and a dozen freebies on top.  I hadn’t even undone the flask before I had a twitchy take on the feeder rod and hooked into…the inevitable small Rudd.  Some things don’t change.
I settled back with the long awaited cup of tea and enjoyed the view of the pool in its full summer greenery, with the dawn chorus as my soundtrack.  I was glad I’d got my backside out of bed.  There was plenty of fishy activity in my swim; Rudd dimpled the surface and the shoals were occasionally scattered by a striking Pike.  Bottom feeding fish created bubbles along the marginal shelf but I know from experience not to try and guess the culprits.  A brood of ducks tried to steal my groundbait and a grebe gave the Rudd shoals an enemy from above.  I heard my first cuckoo of the year, nearly two months late?  Despite all of this I couldn’t stop my eyelids drooping and from time to time I dozed on my chair.

In my more alert spells I’d recast the feeder a few times and topped the groundbait up as I was sure fish of some description were feeding on it.  This was confirmed around 0745 by another twitchy take resulting in a Roach of about 10ozs.  An hour later I had another, more confident take and set the hook into something fairly heavy that did very little.  That ruled out Carp but I also doubted it was a Tench.  The fish buried into the lilies but steady pressure brought it up, a sizeable bream rolled in front of me.  Once out of the pads it was soon in the net.  It was covered in the infamous tubercles that signify something to do with spawning but I can't remember what. Not a monster but I’m only marginally more successful at catching Bream than I am Tench and only a few years ago this would have been a PB.
That was my last action of the day and an hour or so later time was up and I was on my way.  I’m still failing to catch Tench but given the time available I was happy with my mornings fishing.  Getting up early ain’t so bad.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Dutch ditch water

I’m just back from a family holiday in Holland, something I’ve done many times but unfortunately there was no time to fish this time.  This was frustrating at times because there is water literally everywhere; Canals, Dykes, Ditches, Rivers and Stillwaters of all shapes, sizes and types.  Often these different types of water combine again, in all shapes and sizes.
It’s a couple of weeks since I was last able to fish and no opportunities on the horizon so I’m now a little stir crazy.  Last week I was close to the scene of my first attempts to catch fish on the continent so I thought I’d write about it.
It was September 2001, a few days after all the madness that changed the world forever, for the worse.  We managed to forget all of that, we had to we were on holiday.  I was determined to catch a Dutch Pike and found my way to a large stillwater.  The plan was to keep searching with lures, surely I’d find a Pike sooner or later?  After two short sessions, the answer was a definite no.  Not a touch, a follow or anything.  On my way to and from this water I’d been passing a collection of ditches of various sizes which joined together at the end of a small canal.  Five separate waterways joined at one place, if there were any fish here then surely this junction would be the spot?  So with time running out I had one last chance to catch a Dutch Pike, I headed to the junction.
I parked the car at the narrowest point of a ditch that bordered the road and started fishing at the first place I was able to cast, the water barely ten feet across.  My first cast was along the ditch with a small home-made spinnerbait and straight away felt a tap on the rod and saw a boil on the surface…but no fish hooked!  Next cast, another swirl but no take.  No fish but the best signs so far, I know felt confident that I might actually catch something!  I worked my way down the ditch to the junction and here a cast to the mouth of a ditch saw another fish boil and strike at the lure, fish on!  A jack thrashed on the surface and threw the bait, “Bollocks!” or words to that effect.  It was just a small one but even so it would have been nice…

I crossed the canal via a small bridge and straight away another, bigger Pike followed lazily up to the bank.  This one never really looked like it would take the lure but still got the heart rate up a bit.  I kept searching, both the main canal and the two branches I was able to cover.  I chopped and changed lures but after a while I began to get that sinking feeling, I’d missed my chance.  The spinnerbait had moved fish earlier so I stuck with that as I retraced my steps towards the car, with time running out.
I was back to the narrow ditch, the car looming closer with every step.  Yet another cast went along the ditch and plopped into the clear channel between the reeds.  A few turns of the handle…then wallop, the tip banged round and I was into a fish.  Then the line dropped slack…before I had a chance to get pissed off it tightened again.  With nowhere else to go the Pike had torn up the ditch towards me and beyond.  Luckily I was still attached!  She was intent to keep going and I had to follow her along the bank to keep the line clear of the near-bank reeds.  The fight was noisy as she crashed around on the surface, head shaking, at the end of each little run but was in the net before long.  A lovely, dark fish that was not only my first Dutch Pike but was much bigger than I’d expected to encounter in such a tiny stretch of water.  Out with the single hook, a quick photo then back into the ditch, where she slipped strongly out of sight.
And that was that.  That was my last cast of the holiday and a couple of days later we headed home.  Measured in pounds and ounces that Pike would count for little but measured in smiles, it was priceless.  Remembering all this has made me determined to pack a little gear the next time I go to Holland.