The end of the week had seen mild weather and strong westerly winds, ideal Pike fishing conditions but unfortunately I was stuck at work. Saturday evening was spent talking, laughing, eating Chinese and drinking Guinness with my oldest, dearest friends. It’s been years since I’ve been in Town on a Saturday night but things haven’t changed, drunk lads will always feel the need to fight each other. Thankfully this was just a side show which didn’t spoil our evening out. These nights are all too rare so it was well worth sacrificing an early start on my day off. I didn’t feel too rough in the morning but still didn’t hurry out of bed. I was planning to fish the afternoon through dusk when all the Pike should come on the feed, in theory….
I spent a bit of time out in the back yard getting my gear together as Christmas had bestowed a bit of new kit to incorporate into/onto my tackle. My old fishing shelter finally gave up the ghost this season. It was a pop up tent that was marketed by Relum and aimed mostly at beach anglers. I bought this in 1997 because I was fed up with lugging a big wavelock umbrella around. My mates took the piss and christened it the ‘portaloo’ but it was lightweight, set up in a couple of minutes and was far better than the old brollies at that time. It lasted me all of seventeen years and if they were still available I’d seriously consider getting another one. Umbrella design and materials have come a long way since I last owned a brolly and I ended up buying a 60” oval brolly. Having looked at a few different options first hand I could see little difference between them so went for one marketed by TFGear, simply because it was cheapest.
The new shelter is much bigger than the old but still lighter than the old wavelock brollies however it was obvious that my old quiver would not be up to the job. I think this item was even older than the shelter and I’m pretty sure it came from ‘The tackle shop’, I have a feeling it originally went on the market when Trevor Moss owned the shop. I reckon I’ve used this old quiver for at least twenty years and it has been bodged up and repaired over this time so a new one was overdue. Perks of the job again, I got to look at four different quivers from four manufacturers before choosing a 30 plus Kodex model. Finally I bought a fox specialist unhooking mat simply because it clips neatly on top of my rucksack.
The time I spent sorting this lot out with a fierce wind cutting through me had me questioning if I really wanted to venture out into the cold at all. It’s windy, cold and horrible, the best conditions have been and gone so why bother? Having made the effort to sort the gear I thought ‘what the hell?’ give the new gear a test if nothing else. So with the car loaded and everything ready I only had to decide where to fish. My destination must tick two boxes; firstly it had to be unaffected from flood water after recent heavy rain, secondly I craved peace and quiet so as few other anglers/strollers as possible. I’d had a couple of days to ponder on this and had come up with a water that I haven’t fished for a long time. It would mean travelling a bit further than I would normally like but I fancied giving it a recce to refresh my memory if nothing else, so why not give it a go?
Because I'm a fun guy
I arrived around midday and after a bit of a walk picked a swim offering me shelter from the wind as well as lots of water to cover. The new quiver felt comfortable, so far so good. To keep warm I would need the shelter up so I didn’t want to move camp, instead I had plenty of scope to keep the baits on the move with frequent recasts to different areas. I legered a bluey on my left and float legered a smelt to the right, both were quietly dropped at the bottom of the marginal shelf, always a good place to start. With the baits out it was time to tackle the new Oval brolly which went up easily and was solid all afternoon with the storm poles and pegs securing it. There was a groundsheet included too but I can’t see myself ever using this so it might as well stay at home in future.
An hour later I’d recast both rods and set up a third with a float rig suspending a Joey Mackerel a foot or so off the bottom. The plan was to cast this out and let it drift around with the wind then slowly retrieve it ‘sink & draw’ style. The water was gin clear just as I’d remembered so hopefully this moving bait would be easily visible to any Pike around, at least that was the plan. It was a pleasant afternoon, bright enough for shades and a cap to be required, with the new brolly keeping the wind of me and the sun on my face I was warm and comfortable. It was really enjoyable working the swim, moving the baits around and refreshing my memory. After two weeks away from the waterside it felt good being out in the East Anglian countryside, I’d forgotten what a nice place this is. There was just one other angler who packed up mid afternoon and only one friendly stroller who was OK. However something was missing, the Pike weren’t playing ball.
Around 1530 I noticed a couple of bait fish break the surface close in so repositioned the float legered Smelt, back to the marginal shelf where I’d begun fishing. Ten minutes later I was watching my drifting float riding the waves, I glanced back to the margin float to see it was laying flat. Action stations… net in position, wind down slowly and… nothing. I wound in to find a bit of weed on the hook and no marks on the bait but for that float to be laying flat the lead must have been moved? If I’d been concentrating on that float instead of the drifter I’d know what had happened for sure. A well set float leger rig, using an unweighted bottom end pencil type float (I like the Drennan Pike Wagglers) gives brilliant bite indication. When a Pike picks up the bait the float tends to rise and wobble then lay flat before sliding away. It’s one of the best sights in fishing and I’d missed it. By now there were more and more silver fish topping so I recast the smelt and also wound the drifting mackerel back into the area. With darkness creeping closer, the surface was alive with fish and chances of a Pike seemed better than at any time previously, unless I’d missed my chance.
At 1600 a single beep drew my attention to the float above the smelt which had a decided wobble on, it didn’t lay flat but yes it was slipping away into the open water! Repeat the procedure… net in place, wind down and fish on! It felt heavy to begin but the fully bent rod had the fish moving towards me. It plodded about in the deep margin then decided it didn’t want to be there and tried to power off. I don’t like giving line but this fish was making me fight to hold on, the new Grey’s rod absorbed this all nicely and a decent fish was soon netted. With the net secured in the margin I sorted out the forceps, scales and camera for a quick self take. The double hook had a solid hold in the scissor but came out easily, the scales showed the fish was heavier than expected. She was a lovely dark spotty fish but had a chunk of tail missing and scratches down one flank, definite signs of Otter attention here too. The other flank looked nice which is obviously the one shown in the photo but on reflection I should have took a snap of both sides. After the quick photo I slipped her back, a much better result than I’d expected when I left home, nice one!
There were still loads of silvers topping so I recast the smelt and adjusted the depth on the mackerel so my bait lay on the bottom. I felt I was in with another chance so decided to sit tight for another half hour or so. As this time passed by I began to tidy up, getting as much as possible stowed away while it was still light enough to see. The oval brolly stowed away as easy as it went up I’m happy to say. I packed away the leger rod leaving the two float rods sitting on microns with the tips in the air. I always pack up this way, leaving the rods to the absolute last minute. At 1635 it was fully dark when the Micron cried out alerting me to the Mackerel heading off into deeper water at a rate of knots. Same routine with the net again and this time the ancient Tricast rod bent round and into a Pike. This one pulled like one of its big sisters and when the head torch picked it out it was smaller than I expected but still a pleasing fish. Fish were still topping so I sent the bait out again and sat back with a grin. For once the Pike had behaved just like the books tell us they should in mid-winter; I’d had a lay in and a couple of nice fish too. It was only at this point that I realised they were my first Pike of 2015, I’m up and running for the year.
I sat it out until I couldn’t see the floats at all and the silvers had all but stopped topping. By this time the flask was empty and my stomach was growling for a feed. By 1730 I was back in the car and heading home with Black Keys rattling the speakers. It would be nice if The Pike always fed at a nice comfortable hour of the day and I could have a lay in every week. It was interesting to see the water come alive as the light faded so maybe they do and I can? For a short while at least.