Sunday, 28 February 2021

The not so secret pit

Towards the end of the last century my friends and I had been enjoying some excellent fishing on a group of gravel pits local to us.  We found that with them being located in the river valley life established itself quickly and by the time the diggers moved off, the pits would usually be worth fishing.  Sometimes we done well from the start but at others we had to bide our time.  Usually we had the pits to ourselves and enjoyed the solitude as well as some very good Piking which included PB’s for two of us that were in the know.  By the turn of the century things had changed, the gravel digging had finished, the site was under new ownership and our presence was no longer welcome.  Sitting it out with the full deadbaiting kit was no longer an option but covert raids travelling light with the lure fishing gear were very much on.  For a couple of years we played ‘cat and mouse’ with the new owner who would regularly patrol the site in his bright red pick up.  We would nearly always see or hear him long before he got anywhere near us and all it took to avoid detection was to slip into the bushes or just lay down in the undergrowth.  When the red pick up had passed on we could then resume fishing, albeit on a higher state of alert.

The lure fishing photo pose of choice at the time...

In the end it was bloody Carp that were our downfall, as no one else was fishing for them it seemed too good to miss.  We'd regularly seen a group of five fish that looked in the fifteen to twenty pounds range and Mr G confirmed this by catching a couple.  They were usually easy to see because one of them was a bright orange Koi, find that one and the others weren't far behind. ‘Looks like a fucking carrot’ I remarked to Mr G one day and the name stuck as it’s still swimming around today in the most popular day ticket fishery in the area and it still has the same stupid name!  But by static carp fishing I was a sitting duck and eventually made the acquaintance of the new owner who had the nerve to accuse me of poaching!  This I strongly denied stating I was fishing and if I’d actually been poaching he’d have never found me.  After a brief discussion I was firmly told that I wasn’t welcome on his land and I’d be in big trouble if I was found there again.

So it was back to the lure fishing and covert tactics once more but even this was becoming more difficult as the new owner had twigged that cars left in certain laybys meant he had visitors.  Another spring visit brought another dive into the undergrowth as the red pick-up appeared again but this time he knew we were there and kept circling.  We were absolutely determined not to be caught, this was a point of honour.  To ensure this meant Mr G and I had to make short sprints from bush to bush when the pick-up was moving away and stand still as he passed again.  Eventually we made our escape by wading a stream and sneaked back to the safety of the layby.  

We were disappointed as it was a mild spring evening and we really wanted to have a cast.  The increased security patrols had now made fishing these pits more trouble than they were worth.  We needed to find somewhere else and it was then that I remembered the ‘secret pit’ which I’d cased but hadn’t yet fished.  We decided to load all the gear into one car and leave the other in the layby to keep the red pick-up busy, then we set off for the new pit which was a few miles away.  A slow drive over a long bumpy gravel track brought us to an isolated, tree lined water of about four acres that looked beautiful in the spring green.  The water was clear and weedy, if nothing else it looked the part.  As we started fishing we weren’t even sure if the water held Pike but this was soon confirmed and from memory both Mr G and I caught a couple each that evening. 

First Pike from the secret pit!

That was the first time we fished the secret pit and we paid occasional visits over the next couple of years, it wasn’t exactly a poach as there were never any unfriendly signs but ownership was never established so it was prudent to keep a low profile.  But it seemed we were either too early or too late, we caught Pike regularly along with the odd Perch but doubles were few and far between, in truth the fishing wasn’t a patch on what we’d been driven away from and the interest waned.  I didn’t go near the secret pit for over a decade and it was only Prymnesium in Norfolk that made me look for other options. I revisited the place about five years ago when once again I only caught Jacks.  Now desperate times have come again and the lack of anything else interesting that can strictly be considered local means the pit is back on the radar once more.

But it’s hardly a secret as I know other anglers have visited it over the years, there are other like minded local Pikers who know these things must be checked out.  But it is tucked away nicely, you’d almost have to know it was there to be able to see it and nowadays it is a good three quarter mile yomp from the nearest suitable place to leave a car.  The urge to fish was pulling at me but I was bored of tramping along a river which currently seems to consist of miles of lifelessness.  The same stretches that had been full of Dace in the summer are beyond either my skill or my motivation, perhaps both.  But there was the not so secret pit which would give me the opportunity to mix the fishing up a bit as well as chill out in the spring sun and the more I thought about it the better the idea became.

I travelled light and made a leisurely start, it was approaching 1000 before I made my first cast, I swung half a herring out on a float leger rig, just beyond an overhanging tree close in to my left.  I was fishing a small point in the south western corner which gave me the most scope so I began casting a shad on jig head, counting it down to remind myself of the depths and contours.  After doing this for a few minutes I recast the deadbait, this landed on a slope in around nine feet of water.  To the right it shallowed up with a bit of weed and to the left it dropped away into about twelve feet of water.  I was happy with that and recommenced casting the shad around.

After a few casts I was dreamily taking in the rather nice scene before me, a tree shrouded piece of water lit up in bright sunshine, the first hints of new greenery trying to break out.  I retrieved again, lifted and recast the lure then glanced down to notice the clear water at my feet was disturbed.  Something had followed the lure but I’d been distracted and hadn’t seen it.  No drama, there’s something about so I’m in with a chance.  I always used to be tempted to recast to the same spot when I got a follow but nowadays I do anything but.  That disturbed fish is on the move and to where I don’t know so I tend to make a couple of casts away from the area that produced the response.  I can’t remember where I picked this up from but the thinking is to give the Pike time to get back into a striking position again.  It may all be theory and bollocks but I don’t think so, I have a real feeling there’s something to it.  But nothing else at all happened over the next few minutes so I switched to a lighter, larger shad in supposed pike colour and started again.  After a few minutes there was a proper rap on the rod and I put a bend in it and soon had a Jack splashing about in the margins.  The goalposts are wider now that my options are so restricted, on a trip like this any Pike is a good Pike.

A few more casts with the Shad produced nothing but I was happy so sat back on the mat and made a brew.  The pit is certainly a nice quiet place to while away a few spring hours, the tree lined banks seem to shut the real world, enclosing me in a little oasis.    The lower branches were stained white showing the water level had dropped a good foot in recent weeks leaving a pale ring that went right around the lake.  Moorhens squawked and splashed, and at far end I spotted several white blotches that I suspected might be Egrets.  As I sat a Sparrowhawk crossed over then a little later some kind of Plover.  It was good to be out, sitting on my arse in the sunshine staring at a motionless float.  If only I could shut out the sound of traffic but to do that means moving away from local…  There was barely a breath of wind and I consoled myself as these were the worst conditions for fishing on the broads, I wasn't missing much?  

After a lengthy break I resumed casting lures again, starting with a Slider in the upper layers then buzzing a spinnerbait back in midwater.  My intention was to wake up any dormant Pike, maybe they’d find my deadbait?  Don’t laugh, it’s worked plenty of times in the past and almost did today in as much as a small Pike followed up and this time I saw it.  When I say small it was half the size of the first Jack but I thought I might as well try to catch it.  I switched to a smaller lure, a ‘real eel’ and began casting this around.  It didn’t take long before the tip yanked and I hooked a Jack which was so surprised it allowed me to just wind it in and pick it out of the water.

Another fish prompted another rest and another cup of tea.  An occasional asthmatic breeze stirred the surface from time to time but the middle of the day was warm and comfortable.  Unhappy with laying my rod on the deck I fashioned a natural rest, I think these might catch on...  I recast the deadbait, changing it to a smelt then sat back some more, it was nice just being here.  The Egrets had become braver and perched on a branch half way along the lake.  They are no longer a rare sight but I can’t remember ever seeing four together before, I suspect spring may have something to do with it, perhaps the secret pit is the place to be for a young, single Little Egret?


By now it was early afternoon and I had stayed longer than planned and caught more than I expected but I was still enjoying myself.  I picked up the lure rod again and started fanning the water, diligently covering all the depths and altering speeds but nothing else bumped my lure and the deadbait remained motionless.  I packed up at 1330 and began the trudge back to the car.  The fields have been turned over recently and a skylark landed, looking for a snack.  By the time I made it back to the motor I’d worked up a sweat and still the sun was shining.  I’m resigned to not being able to visit the broads before this season comes to an end, I really want to get up there but as tempted as I am, I know in honesty I wouldn’t relax if I made the trip, if others do so I won't judge but for me it’s just not right.  There’s always next season and maybe the break will make me return with extra enthusiasm.  For the next few weeks though any fishing will have to remain short, lightweight and local.  When the restrictions are lifted I’m looking forward to fishing from the Suffolk beaches and this time last year I’d never have guessed I’d be saying that.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

The return of Mr Happy

Three weeks without a cast, almost the whole month of February has passed me by.  A week of arctic bastard conditions didn’t help, my only motivation then was to stay warm though it was nice to get out for a yomp across the fields.  It’s not that I’m afraid of the cold and I know it’s nice to get out for that much coveted ‘snow Pike’ photo but with the local fishing available to me, nah fuck that!  In truth there are three sizable stillwaters within an easy walk of my house.  One is a park lake which is very busy with dog walkers and fuckwitts; fishing there would drive me mad.  Another is a gravel pit carp fishery that I have fished on and off over the years, when I was younger and had more tolerance for cloned bellends sitting behind rod pods talking bollocks.  Then there’s the Marsh which is a lovely place and holds some good memories for me but since I last fished there it’s become a Carp syndicate and the price of membership has tripled along with a rule book that bends and flexes to the whim of the syndicate leader - allegedly.

That just leaves the river which does allow me to wander about in solitude but it is a poor fishery these days and I’ve already written more than enough about its demise on these pages.  But because I can’t resist the pull of angling I do still fish it …

Yesterday I sorted some lure fishing kit and drove down to the ‘childhood’ stretch.  I unloaded the car and walked to the bridge but after looking at the boiling current below for a few minutes I thought better of it so retraced my steps and got back in the car without a cast.  In hindsight I’m sure I could have made a go of it and had a cast or two but I’d probably have been better off plopping a deadbait down somewhere.

This morning I had to drop Isaac in Stow so repacked the same kit and on my way home parked in a layby a couple of miles out of town.  Today was that day, the first warmish sunny Saturday that makes you feel that spring is getting closer, every year this encourages idiots to come out of hibernation.  On my way out I passed the cool kids who felt obliged to wear shorts and someone else dressed like Biggles who was driving a convertible and looked like he was trying to convince himself it was all worth it.  Then there was a plague of fucking cyclists, lycra clad wankers everywhere.  If I have to stay local for my hobby then what is local to a cyclist?  I can’t drive for an hour alone then get into my boat and head off fishing alone but these twats are allowed to pedal unsteadily off and block the roads in groups of four?

Talking of lycra, what is it about sports that involve dressing up in skin tight multi coloured clothing that makes them obliged to be a pain in the arse?  At places I’ve fished including parts of Broadland bloody windsurfers are a damn nuisance, not to mention bastard Jet skis.  This reminds me of a story I read in the local news just a couple of days ago.  Two total fucking rockets used this very mode of transport to set off on a drug run, across the North sea to Holland!  I’ll say it again, to Holland on a fucking Jet ski!  They made it there and three quarters of the way back before running out of petrol and had to call the coast guard for help whilst 27 miles off Lowestoft. This lead to the discovery of their dodgy cargo and a custodial sentence was handed down last week.  Fucking priceless!  How did these clowns reach adulthood?  You could be forgiven for assuming they were locked up for their own safety.

Anyway, back to the river…  Usually when I fish this stretch I walk downstream but today I went the other way instead, fishing a stretch I’d never even looked at before carrying a lure rod, a net and with a rucksack on my back.  I fished a Shad upstream and a spinnerbait back down, I wasn’t expecting anything and I wasn’t surprised, the stretch was mostly shallow and uninviting but at least I’d got out and had a cast.  There were a few spots that looked good for a Chub in other circumstances but I’m not sure there are any of these left in the river nowadays.

Now I’m waiting on that useless bastard of a PM to waffle his bollocks on Monday evening.  At some point his verbal vomit will be translated into English and I’ll learn if I can get out in a boat again before March 14th.  The whole ‘mental health’ thing is being flogged to death and for me to claim my right to fish on these grounds is an insult to those who are genuinely suffering.  But having said all that, it would do me the world of good to get a dose of proper wild countryside before the Pike season comes to a close but its unlikely that this would stem my urge to swear and moan.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Local?

You must stay local’.  Define local?  Are we talking a mile, a couple of miles?  What?  Does anyone know or is this yet another deliberately vague instruction from an incompetent government?  I suppose it depends who you are really; I mean there are some in London who consider Durham to be local, anyway…

Another murky day in January and I had the urge but where do I go? I have to stay local of course which seriously cuts down my options unless I decide to fish for carp on a crowded puddle, nah.  So it’s the river then and by 0830 I was walking downstream, following the stream home, something I’ve done several times in the last year or so.  Today I took a float rod and some maggots, stopping here and there and running a stick float downstream.  The river looked idyllic in places with ethereal light and snow still clinging on in patches, if only the float would bury every now and then…  It never did, not once and the closer to home I got the lower my confidence dropped and the less persistent I became.  Angling is all about finding the fish, the truth is I just don’t know this stretch well enough and I’m not sure I can be arsed to learn more?  But the birds were active and it was nice to see an Egret though they can’t be considered rare anymore.

At the town end of the stretch is a series of pools and falls which were never as promising as they look but still it was annoying when homemade ‘No Fishing’ signs started appearing.  An acquaintance delights in removing these signs at every opportunity stating that whoever puts them there has no legal right to do so and I believe this assertion is correct.  I noticed today that far more permanent signs had appeared but they are still obviously homemade and will only be seen as a challenge.  Today I couldn’t resist dropping a float in, screw the signs and bollocks to whoever puts them there.  My attempt as bait didn’t lure he/she out on a cold January day.

I wasn’t satisfied, still had the urge and the forecast was looking good, the mildest day for a week and it was actually going to stay dry. ‘Fuck it I’m going fishing…’ 

I can’t say the day dawned because it was another one typical for January, sometimes if up early enough we get a quick glimpse of the big fireball before it slips under its blanket of murk but not today.  I stretched ‘local’ a little more today so found myself sitting in the Suffolk boat which is probably far enough from home to get me into trouble but still not as far as I drive to work.  On the journey and in the boat I didn’t come close to another person but at work I’m the regulation two metres from others.  We are the herd, our mental or physical wellbeing counts for fuck all, just keep the flow of money pouring into the very deep Armani pockets.  Anyone would think I had a chip on my shoulder?

Where was I?  Sitting in a boat on a remote stretch of slowly meandering water peering through the murk at three orange topped floats willing one of them to slide away…  It didn’t take long, I looked at the one closest to the boat and done a double take, it was moving ever so slowly but definitely on the go.  I wound down and the rod stayed bent for just long enough to make me wonder if…  But no the fish couldn’t maintain itself against the pressure and I soon had a Jack alongside the boat where I was able to unhook it with no bother.  The bait was gone and I couldn’t remember if it had been a smelt or a joey but as a pale green cucumbery thing was handy out it went.  Half an hour later another float was bobbing, this one definitely had a herring beneath it but by the time I wound down the fish had dropped it.  I gave it half an hour longer but nothing else happened, time for a move.

My next stop was way downstream, a shit or bust area which is inconsistent at best so I don’t visit it as often as I might.  Today I had a Jack on Herring after twenty minutes so settled back with confidence that proved unfounded.  A Buzzard flew close by and Blue Tits skipped through the bushes, the morning was mild and pleasant, nice to be out in the countryside.  After an uneventful hour I started making my way back upstream, stopping here and there, trolling in between but not finding anything interested in a lump of dead fish.  At 1115 I stopped at a spot which usually produces, chucked the baits out and settled back to demolish what was left of my food, washing it all down with a brew.  The light was changing, you could never call it bright but there was a definite lightening of the gloom, enough to make me dig the shades out to ease tired eyes.

With noon approaching and nothing doing I realised I was bored, should I have another move or just clear off?  Then all thoughts were banished as my eyes were drawn to the furthest float, the herring was definitely on the move so I wound down quickly and this time the rod bent over and stayed.  There felt like a bit of weight on the end and this was confirmed when a kick and a surge saw line pulled from a tight clutch.  Mid winter Pike rarely pull your arms off and this one plodded about before popping up beside the boat and revealing itself to be a nice long fish.  No fucking about now, I scooped it up in the net at the first opportunity.  The hooks came out easily and it was apparent I’d need scales and a camera for this one which turned out to be the best I’ve had from my home county for nearly five years.

I sat back again with a big smile and another brew, this was most unexpected as fish this size are seldom seen in these parts nowadays.  I should have felt full of enthusiasm but a nagging voice in my head was saying I’d used up all my luck and was unlikely to catch anything to better this one.  I want to be in Norfolk, that’s the trouble.  I feel like I should be there and nowhere else but in reality I might not get there again this season.  I stuck it out for another hour but by this time my interest had evaporated so I trolled my way back to base without incident.  Shortly after I was driving home along roads that were packed with crawling traffic, fucking lockdown hey?

I had planned another proper local trip to the river but it rained and then it rained.  Once again the level rose and the water burst into the fields and in some places the streets which put paid to any plans I might have had.  For some reason I find these floods fascinating, the power of water goes mostly unnoticed and I couldn’t resist putting on my boots for a walk and a wade, the gentle stream had become a dangerous torrent.  It will be interesting to see how much has changed when it all calms down again and it’s likely that’s what I’ll be doing the next time I wet a line.  But what I really want to do is get afloat in Norfolk…

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Just because

 I don’t like January much either, it’s basically the same as December, short murky days when the sun never comes out and cold, too fucking cold.  There’s one saving grace though, we don’t have to put up with the Christmas charade, at the end of the month comes February and reawakening.  This January has been particularly shit, locked down tighter, you can’t fish – you can fish.  Make up your fucking minds!  The Angling Trust is lapping up the adulation but their motivation is keeping the trade happy, has AT really acted in our best interests?  Just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  Amidst the confusion the government avoids the blame, when this is all over don’t ever let anyone tell you that it was all our fault for not following the rules.  People are fucking stupid, they need to be told what not to do, our leaders have failed us, again.  But enough of all that bollocks. 

Halfway through the month and I still hadn’t made a cast, the weather had been uninspiring, a series of heavy frosts and day time temperatures just creeping above freezing.  “But that’s Pike weather!”  Really?  Not where I fish it isn’t.  When the temperature rose a little so came the rain, bucket loads fell and overnight the river was badly flooded again.  I felt the need to fish but my ‘local’ water was not going to be viable so decided to wait until things calmed down again.

A day off, no alarm clock set but the aging bladder had me out of bed at 0500, with a test match in progress it was hard to get back to sleep so I sat with a brew and TMS, listening to England piling on the runs.  I’m up early, should I go fishing?  I have nothing ready, the rain will have wiped out all the local places and the weather is shit.  But if I don’t go today when will I get to go again?  It would be no surprise if restrictions get tighter and there would be no complaint from me.  Fuck it, maybe I shouldn’t but I can so on this occasion I will.  There’s a place that should be okay, a land drain out in the fields that is probably stretching ‘local’ but I won’t see a soul.

A Kestrel hovered as I pulled into the first layby at 0730, the water was very high and the colour of piss weak tea, it didn’t look at all inspiring.  But from the second stop further downstream things looked better, still high but nowhere near as coloured so I soon had three deadbaits positioned covering the near bank, middle and far side.  I settled back amongst the reedbeds, sheltered from the northerly, warm and comfortable with TMS describing Root and Lawrence punishing Sri Lanka.  This will do me for a morning.  There was a good article in a recent ‘Pikelines’ by Dave Harrison which advised anglers to manage their expectations, you can’t catch what isn’t there.  I spend a lot of my Pikey time chasing monsters but there are times like today when just a Jack will send me home happy.  The day was typical; murky dull and cold with drizzle at times which was a pain as I hadn’t packed any shelter but if it got too much I’d go home.

After about half an hour I was surprised to see my furthest float jab and start sliding downstream along the far bank but by the time I’d tightened up nothing was moving and the line was weightless.  Still I recast with hope, if one fish was willing to pick up a bait then hopefully others would.  This proved correct as a short while later the float in mid stream was moving and this time I set the hook and started to winch a bit of weight back towards me.  But with a rap on the rod tip the line fell slack and another chance was gone. 

I sat it out for another thirty minutes but apart from a Kingfisher’s visit nothing else happened so I made a short move downstream and once again set up fishing near, middle and far.  This time it was the near side rod in action after only a few minutes, a take on Smelt saw me somehow strike fresh air.  What the fuck was wrong with me today?  The float had hardly resettled when it was on the move again but this time I hooked the fish and wound a Jack to the surface where it shook its head and spat the bait back at me.  I laughed out loud, what else can you do?  I resigned myself to one of those days when the Jacks are on the munch, this happens every now and then, a day of frustration, missed and dropped takes the norm.  Another half hour passed before a Mackerel in mid stream was moving and this time I connected and kept the pressure on.  Near the edge I could see the bottom hook in the point of the lower jaw so bullied it into the net before sod’s law could intervene again.  After a series of cock ups I had my first Pike of the year and closer investigation showed the hooks had dropped out.  It looked about ten pounds but didn’t leave the water; I seem to be photographing a lot of fish in the net nowadays.  They are rarely great photos but it does the fish no harm and records a memory for me.  I find it ironic that the ones we covet most are the ones we keep out of the water for the longest.

After rain in Galle had finally curtailed the cricket I had one more move, back upstream and it was noticeable that the tea coloured water was creeping its way down the stretch.  A family of Otters played on the far side, “oh what a lovely sight!”  Bollocks.  This didn’t stop the Pike though as a Smelt in mid stream produced a take and a head banging fish of around seven pounds tried it’s best to fight.  This too was lightly hooked and never came out of the water.  I’d hardly recast when the close range rod was away, this time I picked up the rod with renewed confidence, wound down and struck thin air. ‘Ah fuck it!’  By now it was early afternoon and I’d had enough, I set out to catch my first Pike of the year and had succeeded, that’ll do for today.  In all honestly I’d travelled further than I should but since leaving the car I hadn’t come within twenty yards of another human and I doubt any of the dog walkers even knew I was there.  My mind and soul felt refreshed, relaxing in the countryside done me a world of good and I didn’t hurt anyone.  Home in the daylight, we’re supposed to be in a lockdown so where is all this traffic going?  But who am I to talk?

Another year and another heavily edited fishing diary of sorts which will hopefully feature more Pike when it’s cold and lots of variation when it’s warmer; Tench, Bass, Gudgeon and if I’m really lucky a Suffolk Shark?  We’ve just got to get through this fucking pandemic first.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Wasn't all bad...

December always seems grey.  Short days and low cloud there’s no light and I wonder if this contributes to me being so grumpy at this time of year?  These last few days have seen plenty of cloud and buckets of rain, enough to raise the river as high as I’ve ever seen it, Xmas eve saw parts of the town under water.  This kind of flood should shift and scour, perhaps making the river a different entity to the one I’ve fished this season?  But here in the east it all drains away quickly and thankfully very few people are affected, today I actually saw the sun which made a nice change.  The season of good will is an obstacle to overcome but once we’ve all paid Xmas tax and the New Year is upon us I tell myself we’re through the worst, the days are getting a few minutes longer now and things will start growing again soon.  But for a couple more hours we’re still stuck in 2020, a year most people want to forget.  

Apart from a few weeks in the spring the angling year was hardly affected and those of us with an angling affliction have probably found the whole lockdown experience less stressful than most.  I’m doubly lucky, living in the countryside meant that even when I couldn’t fish I was able to get out wandering in wild places.  2020 started pretty well with plenty of Pike to upper double figures along with my first ‘target’ of the year, a Pike from my local river.  Then spring came and as usual my attempts to catch wild Tench and Carp were fruitless, my latest grand plan being a total failure.  By the time we were able to fish the rivers in June I’d had enough of chasing myths so set off on a quest to catch a Gudgeon from my local river.  This ultimately proved a failure but I rediscovered the pleasure of watching a stick float trundle down the river and caught plenty of Rudd, Roach, Chub and Dace.  Some were from swims I’d fished as a lad and others from areas I’d never before trotted.  And I have come up with a location where I may catch that elusive Gudgeon next year…

Mid summer brought another change of angling scenery as for the first time in nearly forty years I found myself staring out to sea, watching rod tips and becoming totally hypnotised by the whole experience.  Everything about it felt new, fresh and exciting; with three ‘new’ species caught every fish was a potential PB.  What sea fishing has is an air of mystery that is almost extinct in coarse fishing in an era where fish have names.  A rod slamming bite and a Bass of a couple of pounds was one of my fishing highlights of the year, one I hope to repeat next summer.


But despite the interesting variety 2020 was mostly about the Pike fishing and it all went rather well, in fact I’ve had very few years that have been better.  There was a spell early on when everything just clicked and confidence soared, times like this come rarely so I made the most of it. On one unforgettable occasion I dropped into a spot, swung a herring out underarm and after a few minutes saw the float stab.  After a short but terrifying battle I drew a very long fish over the net and I knew without doubt that I’d achieved my one and only ambition in Pike angling.  This finally came after literally shedding blood, sweat and tears of all types over many seasons but I wouldn’t change a fucking thing!  

However within days I realised that one ambition had been replaced by another and then another! My desire for solitude means there are very few places where these Pikey ambitions could become reality but luckily I know a couple so on I’ll go for as long as I’m still enjoying it.  When I next go fishing, sometime in the early days of 2021 I’ll be after Pike once more and I’m starting to look forward to it already.





Friday, 25 December 2020

December

December, my least favourite month and because I never worked out what was happening with work leave in this interrupted year I have a few days off.  Once upon a time I would have spent every single one of them by the waterside but nowadays I take it easy, a trip here and another one there will do for me.

I woke up on a gloomy, grey morning with persistent rain, enough to flood the river again I expect.  Certainly enough to put me off going fishing this morning, the good thing about keeping diaries, I KNOW my chosen water doesn’t fish well in grey, rainy weather. 

So me and Isaac arrived in the early afternoon by which time the clouds had broken up and at one point there was even a brief appearance from the sun.  By the time we’d got the boat loaded, rowed out and baits in the water it was around 1330.  We shared rods with five deadbaits scattered about the boat, fishing a spot I’d caught a few from in recent times.  It didn’t take long before Isaac was away on smelt.  He wound down, done everything right but for some reason the fish didn’t stay hooked.  I had the next two takes, a bluey on a single hook rig accounted for a seven pounder at 1400 then half an hour later I had a low double on Mackerel.  We moved after a while, back upstream where Isaac had another take but this one was dropped.  By then it was getting dark and by the time we got back to the boathouse I needed the head torch.

Two takes each but on this occasion the luck was on my side.  Its great fishing with my son, we don’t do it often enough.  I struggle to get motivated to fish anywhere other than the special place nowadays but I enjoyed fishing today, the best company and only a short trip.

A few days later I was out of bed at an ungodly hour and soon driving north with ‘Chemical Brothers’ keeping me awake.  I was a little held up at the slip, I wanted to catch some bait and things didn’t go to plan but soon the bucket was shimmering and I was heading out into the wilds.  On paper everything was on my side; just after New Moon, mild with a light south westerly and a bright sky for once.  Maybe it was too bright as the predicted cloud cover didn’t arrive and despite working hard and moving often I failed to find any Pike.  That’s not unusual in these parts but it didn’t spoil my day, still it was fantastic to be back out there after more than a month away, travelling up during a lockdown didn’t sit right.  I didn’t see any Pike but the Harriers were ever present and I saw a Bittern along with a large white heron shaped thing that I think is a Great Egret?  And still I dream of the unknown monster…

After a lay in and a day of rest I was feeling the urge again so the Princess dropped me off on her way to work and the plan was to walk home along the river casting lures, starting at the old ford and heading back upstream.  I also had a plan B worked in should the river be pushing through too hard, the secret pit should be fishable and its five years since I last visited it, who knows what has changed?  It was a beautiful sunny day, mild with a light south westerly and I arrived at the river to find it just about fishable.  I walked along way and cast infrequently but where I did fish, my old K11 Kwikfish seemed to be working in the stream okay.  The water was high which made it difficult for me to read on this little known stretch and I didn’t feel confident.

I got to the pit and as expected it was even more overgrown than before, the water was high but clear enough.  I tried the bottleneck swim but could only manage a couple of casts with a shad because there just wasn’t room.  I walked round to the northern side where there was a bit of space and within a couple of casts the shad was taken and I gladly dragged a Jack into the margins.  After a few more minutes I felt I had fully covered the water available so moved on again.

There’s only one more fishable spot on the pit but it’s a good one, a small point with tree lined bays both sides and a view the length of the pit.  Within a few casts I felt a bump on the shad, definitely a fish but it didn’t hook up.  The same thing happened again a few minutes later which gave me confidence to carry on and eventually I had a proper take and landed another Jack, a little bigger than the first.  After a tea break I resumed fishing and covered the swim with a few different lures working different depths but nothing else pulled back.

It wasn’t long before I got itchy feet so I clipped the Kwikfish back on and returned to the river, trying to fish slacks where I could find them.  I was headed in the general direction of home but soon came up against an obstacle, a ‘footpath closed’ sign blocking the rickety bridge.  To retrace my footsteps would have added a couple of miles and almost an hour to my day so after the briefest of inspections I ignored the sign and crossed.  Another identical sign at the other side seemed evidence that the only obstacle had been overcome but I could see no reason to block the bridge, it seemed perfectly safe to me. So I resumed fishing but nothing grabbed the lure and it had never really seemed likely.  It was nice to bump into a couple of old acquaintances when I returned to civilisation and after a good yarn I packed the gear away and yomped home via the park.  A few hours in the countryside and a couple of Jacks for my trouble, I’d have settled for that.  I grew up fishing the gravel pits but how long since I last caught a Pike from one? 

A few days later I was awake at a reasonable hour, the Princess was off to work again, did I fancy getting dropped off and walking the river home again?  Could I be arsed?  In truth no, through the window it looked horrible out there.  But for some reason I got my bits together and around 0900 found myself walking down a track towards the river.  This time I was a couple of miles upstream and today I found the river lower, flowing nicely with a tinge of colour.  I felt confident fish would at least see my lure and felt I was in with a chance.  The cloud had broken up a bit and by now the morning was a mixture of sunshine and gloomy periods with the occasional light shower, mild with fresh winds from the south.  I began fishing with more confidence than I’d had the last time.

So I made my way downstream towards home, mostly fish shads and sometimes a spinnerbait, casting here and there, gradually waking up.  But nothing was happening, there were no fishy pulls on my line and no sign of any fish of any description.  Much of the river was straight, shallow and uninviting but the further I walked the better things looked.  At last a fish flashed at a shad but from the glimpse I got it looked like a smallish Perch and it never returned.  On a bit further and I felt a definite tap, a few casts later something grabbed the Shad and with no fuss whatsoever I hauled a Jack out of the river.  It may have been small but it was perfect.  I’m easily pleased on a trip like this; just catching a fish makes it a result, especially as Pike seem to be much scarcer on my local river these days.  Why is this?  The river is slowly dying and has been for many years now; the fish are under more pressure from enemies with two feet, four feet and wings.   Still I had another couple of miles of interesting looking river to go at and if I could catch one there was still every chance of another.

Most of the river looks the part along here and I’ve fished it a few times without any real success and this was repeated today.  All of it looked right and there were a couple of pools that looked bang on for a Pike, this may be the case but today they didn’t want my lures.  After a couple of miles of slip sliding through mud my legs were tired as I trudged back up the road.  Maybe I’ll do it again?  Maybe with a stick float and some maggots?  Maybe but first we have to get through the festival of greed…

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Seasonal affective disorder

 So here we are allegedly locked down again although you’d never know this by the weight of rush hour traffic.  In reality it’s an evening lockdown, a token gesture and nothing more.  And if the clown in Downing Street has done such a good job then how did we end up here again?  Now speaking purely selfishly I’d have been pissed right off if the country had closed down when the scientists advised.  Autumn is my favourite time of the fishing year and to be kept away from my favourite places at this time would have been sickening.  So I was able to spend the season alone in my boat doing what I love, I fished hard and it all went rather well.  By the time the lockdown returned I was ready for a break and early announcements attributed to the Broads Authority suggested boats would not be welcome on the water.  But it seems the BA had no right to make this pronouncement so both anglers and boaters are going about business as usual.  Living an hour away from the boat yard makes the whole travelling thing problematic for me so I’ll be staying away for a while, even though I could drive up and launch without going anywhere near another human.

The lockdowns have contributed to this being a very busy year for fishing, commercial fisheries are rammed and many local clubs had to cap their memberships for the first time in years.  There have never been so many anglers out on the bank and with this latest period of restriction it could be bad news for the Pike.  That Pike suffer badly from angling pressure is accepted as fact by almost all experienced anglers, tackle shops are running out of dead bait and many waters are now seeing extreme pressure, it might not end well…

On a related theme, a club that is reasonably local to me acquired a new stillwater which has a reputation for producing seriously big Pike.  The club took some steps to regulate the angling pressure by inviting anglers to apply for one of two, ‘Pike tickets’ which would allow them to fish for a two month period. The club also introduced strict rules on the type of tackle people should use and what the tackle trade calls ‘fish care equipment’.  On the face of it this all seems sensible but all sorts of people applied for tickets which means experienced Pikers may miss out whilst Noddy with the big unhooking mat could be staring at a big head full of sharp teeth.  No sour grapes here, I’m not a member and have no interest in fishing the place as, amongst other things, it would mean interacting with people but I wish a couple of friends good luck on all fronts.

Also in the local-ish angling world the EA has been forced to back down on idiotic plans to block a Bure broad off to migratory fish.  Recent research using radio tags has revealed the broad to be a major spawning site for Bream which move into the area from all over the system.  Obviously stopping a species from reproducing is not going to end well and even when EA’s own staff pointed this out they were ignored.  This was part of another fuck witted scheme by which some scientist would splash around for a bit then write a paper that nobody reads and declare themselves clever.  As usual its anglers that have fought to stop this happening and once again PAC’s superstar John Currie has been in the thick of it.  Also rare credit to Angling Trust whose ‘Fish Legal’ team has also contributed to the argument and the blocking of the broad has been postponed.  I must caveat this by saying AT in the east has a habit of swooping in at the last minute to claim responsibility for other people’s work.  I say the scheme is postponed because these quangos are seldom held accountable and I suspect they will come up with a slightly different yet equally ludicrous idea in the near future.

When I go fishing in autumn or winter I go Pike fishing.  Always.  But today I changed the habits of a lifetime.  I left home with minimal tackle but I did take two rods; one was a quiver tip set up with a maggot feeder and the other was a float rod with a wire stemmed stick. A small rucksack, landing net, seat, bank stick and bait box made up my kit.  The morning was gloomy so I waited for the soggy clouds to pass over before leaving home around lunchtime.

My destination was a stretch of river that I’d fished in the summer, on that occasion I’d found it in perfect nick after heavy summer rain but today it ran low and clear, a barren river bed illuminated by the now bright afternoon sun.  I wandered along a muddy footpath, heading away from the houses looking for likely looking pools that may hold a few silver fish or better still a Chub.  When I was younger you could almost guarantee catching Chub between two and three pounds along here but now things are much changed.  The river is much shallower and the course of the main flow is not the same, well at least it had some flow today, that isn’t a given.  The reeds are brown stalks now but still choking the river in many places and look unlikely to be dislodged by winter floods, should we get any.

With half a mile or so in my legs I came to a spot that had looked the part in the summer and didn’t actually look too bad today.  But with the vegetation now flattened there was no cover and this clumsy bastard would have spooked any Chub around long before the float plopped in.  But I didn’t spook everything as my first trot saw the float bury and a nice Rudd was swung in.  The good start promised much but although a managed a couple more fish, pristine river Roach, bites were infrequent and there were other places I wanted to try.

The next spot was a long run that had been full of fish in the summer but today was low, clear and lifeless.  I tried a few trots but what I really wanted to do was have a cup of tea while sitting on my arse looking at a quiver tip so in the next spot this is exactly what I done.  Here a fallen tree almost crosses the river and traps a raft of floating natural debris that is in the process of fading from green to brown but has been invaded by a fleet of coke bottles.  The swim looks the part and was a very good area a lifetime ago so I swung the feeder upstream, perched on a folding boat seat and tried to make a brew.  However making tea proved difficult on a sloping bank but the main trouble was I kept getting interrupted by bites, one a chuck when the feeder landed in the right place.  A mixture of nice sized Rudd and Roach, in different circumstances almost all would have gone in a bucket.  In the end I chucked the feeder downstream just so I could enjoy my tea.  When I recast to the raft the bites came again but the fish seemed to be getting smaller and there was no sign of any Chub.

In theory it should have been enjoyable, catching sparkling fish in the countryside on a little fished river but the reality was different.  A little further upstream is a quarry from which came an almighty racket and away behind me there’s a large building site noisily sinking concrete into a former arable hillside.  Then there were the walkers who aren’t any bother but sitting so close to the path I couldn’t relax.  I’ve found there are three types of walker; my favourites just ignore me which is perfect.  Next are those that utter a polite greeting then carry on their way, these are a just a minor irritant. Finally there are the worst kinds, the ones who want to engage me in a conversation which will follow a depressingly predictable course.  I don’t want to be rude so supress the urge to scream ‘Fuck off!’ in their faces.  Thankfully there were no close encounters of the third kind today but the ever present threat made me nervous and uncomfortable.  I know, I’m a grumpy unsociable bastard but I’ve come to the conclusion that 95% of people are just sheep and at least half of those are fucking idiots.  Dealing with humans is unavoidable most of the time but when I’m fishing I’m too used to solitude.  So I went home. There’s a lot to be said for Pike fishing from a boat…

On reflection my mood may have been due the state of the river, seeing it up close, bare and lifeless was a disappointment.  The spots I’d ear marked for a Chub didn’t look at all likely, if I’m going to fish like this again this winter and I probably will, then it won’t be here.  But there are other places where I’ve seen Chub and I’m far less likely to encounter wandering humans so for the next couple of months I may be going off the rails some more.