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.

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