21st December 2019
It feels like it’s rained for forty days and forty nights and for the first time in a very long time my local river is in proper flood, it’s in the fields where it shouldn’t be and hammering through where it should. Hopefully a few years of accumulated silt and debris will be moved and the river will be more approachable in future? It’s that time of year when the world goes mad and I need a bit of time by the water to forget all the bullshit but free time shrinks and to be honest I’ve fished hard up until now and I need a rest. When the festive fuckery is finished I’ll be well up for getting afloat.
I’d had a hankering to get my bank kit out again and recently found a reason to visit a gravel pit that I’ve fished rarely over the years. I remembered clear, weedy water, comfortable swims, a few blanks but also a couple of big Pike. I’d forgotten a railway line, a busy road and industrial units and I’d also forgotten the big reed beds made covering water very difficult in most of the swims. I just ignored the carp anglers. The day was wet and windy meaning I had to carry more kit that I like, this and the carp anglers meant moves were reduced to just one. I haven’t fished anywhere so accessible in a few years and I’d completely forgotten how much I dislike what is for most, the ‘normal’ angling experience. I blanked, didn’t enjoy it so won’t be rushing back.
Other than that December has been a quieter month, tough going at the special place but a few Pike have obliged at other out of the way places. I’ll probably have another day afloat to soothe myself from the assault of society before the year ends; hopefully the day is not too far away.
29th December 2019
A few days respite from work, eating too much, drinking too much, you know the rest… The Christmas bollocks always makes me grumpy but once it gets here I enjoy the good bits. We did get out of the house a few times but two weeks without wetting a line is way too long so I had to take the opportunity before stumbling back into the work days. I was up before the alarm despite being into a lazy routine but dragging a teenage son out of his bed was more challenging. We left home around 0700, for once the cross county roads were quiet; as was the car, Isaac was practically mute beside me. I even turned the stereo down for once, blasting Royksopp out didn’t seem to fit well on this Sunday morning.
It was 0800 before we made our first casts; we used two rods each, fishing deadbaits near and far banks and also shared a fifth rod which drifted a bait down with the gentle current. We’d picked a decent mild day with a light south westerly breeze which unusually wasn’t sweeping rain clouds towards us. For the first time in a very long time I actually fished beneath glimpses of a blue sky, with the boat tucked into the reeds we were sheltered and comfortable. The water had a downstream ripple and was well coloured, unsurprising with all the rain we’ve had.
We’d hardly got settled before I heard the sound of vehicles and a few minutes later a couple of Pikers were walking the banks. With a mile long stretch to go at they just had to set themselves up right opposite us, friendly enough but noisy. Even our unsubtle recasts couldn’t dissuade them. It didn’t help that Isaac’s upstream rod started travelling, as we couldn’t hide the commotion of a nice fish fighting hard coming to the net, one nil to my son. Our neighbours were slow to set up but definitely weren’t going anywhere, they probably guessed we’d be moving at some point and wanted to wait it out.
Time passed without any action but there were definitely Pike at home, three or four decent sized swirls giving their presence away. It would have been silly to move with fish showing; our neighbours were fishing the margins. We spotted an Egret fly over and a Kestrel hovered downstream, the wind rattled the reeds. Around 0915 my downstream rod was on the move but the bait was dropped before I wound down. I chucked it back into the same spot and a few minutes later it was heading for mid river once again. This time it didn’t stop and I bent into a surprising weight that dragged the rod down and upstream. After this initial surge of energy it was soon plodding and brought into the net. I didn’t want to make a fuss but this was a nice chunky fish in good nick and well worth weighing so out came the scales and a pleasing weight recorded,. We were being watched so I slipped it back without a photo then regretted it straight away. After that I gave up and moved downstream, am I anti-social or paranoid? Perhaps both but an isolated piece of water and the only other two humans around had to fish so fucking close! Even in the out of the way places I’ll always have to contend with other Pikers, at least here everything else is close to perfect.
Our first move was a short one but an hour without a fish was too long so we were off again, soon settled with the rods scattered again. Today Isaac was without a phone or any electronic gadgetry so the chatter flowed; there are many more mutual topics of conversation as he gets older. But for the next hour most of the chat was fishy as we’d dropped onto some Pike. I started things off with a thin, otter ravaged fish that should have been a double then quickly followed it with a shorter, fatter Pike that was. Both took smelts fished tight to the downstream bank. Isaac lost a fish on a bait cast mid stream then I had a dropped take on the margin rod again. A few minutes later the smelt on the same rod was on the move again and I soon boated another fat fish but the smallest of the day so far. It was 4-1 to Dad but Isaac was taking it well, even so I made him recast the rod so it was now his, as was the shared rod. I wanted him to catch another even if he wasn’t fussed. The next take didn’t take long but this time it was Isaac’s rod cast upstream. He wound into it and thankfully it stayed hooked. We soon had our sixth fish of the day and as the camera hadn’t yet been out I decided it should.
Had we stayed on I’m sure we’d have continued to find fish but we’d only planned a short trip and by now it was midday so we decided enough was enough. Back in the car and back on the road home, Happy Mondays playing on the stereo, I’m not sure if I have one of those in store…
So that was my last day of fishing in 2019, a year that has followed the usual pattern of successful and hugely enjoyable Pike fishing at the beginning and end, sandwiching a few months of catching bugger all of note whilst the sun shines. I know why this is and my last two trips of the year remind me why I can’t change my ways, too much.
Other than fishing I’ve endured another year of addiction to our cricket team which has become even more unpredictable than Pakistan at their maddest moments. The World cup win was torturous and only enjoyable after the match had ended but the feeling when Buttler broke the stumps… It wasn’t just the tournament, the four years of brilliant ODI cricket deserved reward. But the test team drive me mad and I keep coming back to the captain. The Ashes were brilliant though and that afternoon at Headingly was as good as I’ve ever experienced, albeit by TMS.
And we’ve seen a load of live music this year too, mostly good. Starting with Fucked up, there was Fat White Family (twice), Paul Weller, Primal Scream (twice), Stereophonics, Underworld, Hawkwind and many others that slip my mind. Eels are always a highlight and we saw them play in Nottingham but best of all might have been Loyle Carner at Latitude.
My fishing highlight? Well it will definitely be a Pike because I’ve caught bugger all else over the last twelve months. Seeing both my children catch Pike this year has been lovely, Isaac has been doing it fairly regularly for a few years now but Maddie’s was her first for almost a decade. For myself an unusually prolific day on a headbanger of a water which started with a couple of nice fish from my first stop followed later in the day by a fish I’ve happily? avoided catching for forty years. She fought like she was furious and I was sure she was bigger but for the first time my scales stopped at 19.15. I might have been disappointed for a second or two but it’s just a number and that Pike wasn’t the biggest of 2019.
At some point during the last year I realised it was actually forty years since I caught my first Pike, forty fucking years? The first was caught from an idyllic weirpool on my local River Gipping on a live Gudgeon in August 1979. It's been a few years since I've had a Pike from this river and the last Gudgeon landed has fallen from my memory. There's two worthy challenges for the fishing year ahead.
So 2020. How the fuck did that happen? Happy New Year.