For most of this year I’ve been working literally five minutes from home and I mean five minutes’ walk from home. This has been nice as I’ve mostly avoided the madness of the rush hour commute. I have a chuckle in the mornings as I walk alongside the main road, I like to look at the drivers faces, which without exception always look unhappy. That was me not so long ago and there is every chance that will be me again sometime in the future, in fact that was me for two days last week when I had to drive into the heart of Fenland for a computer course.
I’ve fished in the Fens a lot over the years, when my local Pike fishing started to decline this was an obvious area to try. An hour in the motor saw me surrounded by water but it was a different type of fishing to what I was used to. It took me a long time to adjust to fishing rivers and drains as I had so much confidence in the ‘static’ style of fishing that had been successful on my local stillwaters. In 1992 on only my second visit to Fenland I managed a cracking Pike of 19.06 which to me at the time was proof that I didn’t have to change my approach too much. Eventually the penny dropped and I began to travel lighter and fish more of a roving style but to be honest I was never really mobile enough until I became a boat owner. I have lots of fond memories of fishing in the Fens, mostly for Pike and Zander but I also fluked some big Perch and Chub too.
One of my favourite spots was a stretch of the big river that ran through quiet meadows to the south of Ely. Here I would carelessly thrash my car down an unsuitable farm track and park it precariously on the edge, allowing just enough room for the occasional vehicle to pass. One morning after a summer night fishing for Zander I emerged from my bivvy to find a herd of cows had surrounded my Astra and for some reason were happily licking the paint off it? This stretch fished well for me in the autumn and then again at the back end just before the season finished. This area ticked a lot of boxes for a pleasurable days fishing and I have many fond memories. Looking back I had Pike to 19+ and Zander around 8lbs. Rich had a 13+ Zander, Ian a 20+ Pike and Giles managed to catch a 5lb Sea Trout. Being a little off the beaten track it was always quiet and it was rare to see another angler here.
I realised it had been nearly a decade since I’ve fished in this part of the world so a drive through old haunts was sure to be interesting. Because I spent most of my time sitting by and looking at the water my memories were of lovely reed fringed waterways and I’d completely forgotten how bleak the Fens look in winter. Thousands of acres of ploughed black earth crossed with treacherous roads that sit far above the fields yet bizarrely below the water courses; many isolated houses sporting a rusty car or two as garden ornaments. The little towns and hamlets of dull grey brick seem depressing and could do with a bit of love and attention. To be fair in the dark, drizzly weather we had last week nowhere looks its best. My destination was Wisbech, which I’m told is very nice in places but not the parts I could see. The sign reading “Wisbech – Twinned with Mordor” didn’t bode well. Worst of all is the new A142 Ely southern bypass which consists of a giant flyover that cuts straight across the lovely quiet meadow that my friends and I used to fish, it is ruined forever. As I drove home on Friday evening I realised it is unlikely that I’ll ever fish regularly in the Fens again, if ever. That’s fine with me, I’ve moved on and have been lucky enough to find waters where I can be at peace and enjoy interesting fishing.
To be fair the traffic around Ely and Soham was horrendous, even with the horrible new bypass and even when I got onto the A14 it was little better. Instead of sitting in a slow moving queue of traffic I was in a faster moving two lane amateur whacky race with idiot drivers switching lanes as if it would make any bloody difference at all to their journey time. I couldn’t relax for a second and by the time I arrived home I was frazzled. I hadn’t planned to fish this weekend but I needed some tranquil time to clear my mind.
So Saturday morning saw me sitting in a boat in an isolated corner of the county, I suppose from the view I had, if you didn’t know better you might think I was in the fens. The day was another in a monotonous stream of cloud and gloom, the Easterly wind has been a constant feature for over a week. All the text books say these are the worst conditions for fishing and so it seemed, two hours passed without a twitch. It didn’t matter though, I was outside in the fresh air and the cares of the working week were being cleaned away. Then just before 1000 a smelt cast along the near margin was moving steadily into mid-stream, the strike met a positive response and a couple of minutes later I was unhooking a Pike of about seven pounds. I couldn’t get my radio to work so had to follow the cricket via my phone, England seemed toothless at first but Sri Lanka later collapsed spectacularly. In the next couple of hours the float sailed away twice more and another two small Pike were brought to the boat and unhooked over the side. As planned I packed up at lunch time, passing Giles and son on the way back to the boat yard, pleasantries/abuse were exchanged, I wished them luck and headed for home.
In the early evening Rich collected the Purple Princess and I, he pointed his car north and towards the UEA where my daughter is currently living and studying. It was lovely to see Maddie as I’ve been missing her like a lost limb; the four of us then walked over to the LCR building where ‘The Levellers’ were playing. It’s been a couple of months since I last saw any live music so I was well up for it. The Lev’s were very good although I would have preferred more of the older tunes and the hall was absolutely ram packed which made moving difficult and dancing impossible. Still they are a very good live band with a strong, loyal following and it was another good gig. I've said it somewhere before but the Levellers' anti establishment message began in the hell of Thatcherism but is sadly even more relevant today. After hugging my daughter goodbye we headed back to Suffolk, today was a good day, just what I needed.