Sunday, 2 February 2014

Then & now

A thread on the PAC facebook page got me thinking and remembering the other night. A member asked a question about ways to pop up a deadbait. I only skimmed through the replies but there was a lot of good advice amongst the banter but only a fleeting mention of my favourite method. There are many ways to present a bait off bottom but the method I use has advantages that give it an edge over the various different ways of making the bait buoyant. My method is nothing new; the Float Paternoster rig has been used for over a century. What gives it an edge? Firstly the paternoster set up keeps the bait, hooks and mainline clear off the bottom and free of any debris so it can be chucked out and slowly twitched back to the bank. This way you cover water and search for fish but by keeping a close eye on the float you learn loads about the topography of the water too. This reminded me…

…In the late nineties I was fishing a chain of “New” pits, I’d been keeping an eye on them for a year or two but now was the time. Ownership and fishing rights were a grey area but the guys working the gravel weren’t bothered as long as no one made a nuisance of themselves. However there was a red Toyota that had to be avoided at all costs. There were a handful of Pikers in the know and most made an effort to stay concealed, those that didn’t were ejected. I always got a buzz fishing the new and unknown and the thought of getting one over Mr Red Toyota added to the fun.

The pit on a calm day

On one weekend I’d planned a trip to the fens but high winds and heavy rain put me off. I knew a spot on one of these pits where I could set up behind a mound of gravel and be sheltered from the elements. This was conveniently placed on the mouth of a large Pikey bay. Two deadbaits were cast to features; a snaggy peninsula opposite and the marginal shelf. The third rod was a Float paternoster rig, the bait on this occasion a livebait was cast across the bay mouth, the inline float cocked at a depth of 14 feet. After a while I began twitching the bait towards me and after a couple of pulls the float lay flat. I’d found a shallower area, this was interesting, a small feature in an otherwise deep bowl. Within minutes I had a take and a nice fish of around nine pounds netted. I put on a fresh bait cast out then slowly wound back until the float lay flat before clipping up. Once again I didn’t have long to wait before another nice fish came to the net. I repeated the trick twice more that day and landed fish to low doubles and subsequently caught many more Pike from this small hump that was two feet shallower than the surrounding water. That lesson sunk in and I’ve used it to find features and catch Pike ever since. It’s particularly effective when using livebaits but it still works well with deads!

Magic pit Pike!

I fished those pits on and off for a few years and caught stacks of Pike from them but never a real big one. Friends caught twenty pounders but my scales always got stuck at nineteen pounds and I caught a few at that weight. We could have fished other places that held bigger fish and took less effort but those places didn’t have the magic. Time goes by, the pits are unrecognisable nowadays and they definitely aren’t my cup of tea any more. This winter I’ve done a bit of pit fishing but as much as I’ve enjoyed it, it definitely lacks that bit of magic that comes with the unknown.

Now back to the present. The weekend was manic with shopping trips and Saturday clubs and my Madi’s fourteenth birthday. At one point there were as many as six teenage girls in the house, lots of chatter, laughter, baking cakes and music. We played Madi’s new ‘Paramore’ CD in the car and it was actually pretty good. I like to think that being brought up listening to Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Happy Mondays… proper music, she’s not totally brainwashed into liking Cowell crap. Nine of the last ten days had seen heavy rain fall on the Suffolk countryside but this weekend was mild with bright sunshine. It was too good to miss so Isaac and I disappeared for a couple of hours by the waterside.

With all the rain we’ve had it was no surprise to see water everywhere but I hadn’t banked on our chosen venue being so full. One look at the mucky coloured water convinced me we’d be better off elsewhere so after retracing our steps we headed off to another stillwater that was high but fishable. We were settled and fishing by the late morning, enjoying the sunshine that has been all too rare since the turn of the year. I fished a sprat under a float to the right (no paternoster today!) whilst Isaac expertly positioned his bluey at the foot of the marginal shelf. We’d brought lure rods too but the high water cramped us and there was little room to use them this time.

We were only there for a couple of hours but plenty of time for Isaac to explore the flooded vicinity, (without getting wet) and explain his latest theory for video game world domination whilst demolishing his crisps. We also discovered one of the first signs of spring, Snowdrops growing in the woods around us. We didn’t tempt any Pike into taking our baits during this brief trip but we were glad to have made the effort to get out in the fresh air.

I made a decision to take things easy during the mid-winter period, fishing mostly locally for short sessions. With the everyday realities of a busy family, work and the whole Christmas thing something has to give at this time of year. When I’ve been fishing it’s been slow but I’ve managed a decent fish from every place I’ve tried however next winter I’m thinking of doing something totally different locally, well see...  Hopefully we’ll have a couple more local trips and it would be great if Isaac can increase his PB before the season ends in just six weeks’ time. The ‘back end’ of the season can be unpredictable and sometimes damn tough but the days are lengthening and we may get the kind of weather that makes it a joy to be out. So having taken it easy for a couple of months I’m refreshed and looking forward to a crack at the special place.

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