Monday 22 September 2008

Hadn't read the script

The plan was simple, drop the boat onto a fen river and spend the day trolling lures. By the end I would have caught a boat full of Pike, in fact I would be fed up with catching them so I’d be ready to spend the winter fishing more challenging waters. No problem, at this time of year in clear water twenty Pike to the boat should be a realistic target. Famous last words, the Pike didn’t read the script!

I was trolling downstream by 0700 and straight away it became evident that there was loads of shitty drifting weed around and this was going to be a problem. Although this is hassle it is something we have gotten used to, as long as I can find some Pike, with perseverance I can usually keep the lures working long enough to catch them. I started off with a Dave Lumb’s all time favourite lure, the Super Shad Rap. This was fished on a soft rod, mounted in a holder on a short line so it runs virtually alongside the boat. Usually the Pike have no problem coming up to hit a lure fished like this and it has advantages in a weedy river; I can simply lift it up, strip the weed and get it fishing again in no time. On the rod in hand I fished a Salmo Skinner again on a fairly short line so I can keep getting it to come up in the water.

In previous autumns I could expect a take almost anywhere but with definite concentrations of fish in certain places, just like any other river I suppose? However after an hour I’d covered several hot areas without so much as a touch. I was still confident as I was approaching the area that had been productive earlier in the season. Sure enough, no sooner had I reached this stretch when the rod slammed over as a Pike nailed the Skinner. Soon the first Jack of the day was unhooked over the side of the boat.

Okay, I’d found a fish in an area where I expected there to be a few more, I decided to stop for five minutes, have a cup of tea and decide how I was going to fish from here. For once it seemed that the weather forecasters were right, the early morning mist was beginning to burn off leaving a bright, clear still day. The lack of wind wouldn’t help with the drifting weed however. With tea drunk I decided to keep on doing what I was doing but on reaching the end of the stretch with no more takes I switched the highly unfashionable Salmo for a very trendy Shallow Invader but this also failed to produce. I made another run downstream without a touch so kept on going but as I did so I found the river becoming more and more coloured. I switched the Shad Rap for a spinnerbait fished on a long line, more to boost my own confidence than any other reason. This worked well as the angle of the line seemed to help it avoid more of the drifting weed and I wished I’d changed over sooner.
The coloured water was in yet another area I expected but failed to catch fish from. I decided to keep on going and fish parts of the river I hadn’t visited in a long time. As I travelled further the water clarity began to improve and so did my confidence. The river widens at this point and I was able to avoid the worst of the weed and keep the lures fishing. Sure enough the spinnerbait was taken and Pike number two brought to the boat. A bit further down I received a sharp tap to the rod in hand but what ever it was didn’t stay hooked this time.

I decided to keep on going and eventually I reached an area from which I’d caught Zander before so I decided to put a couple of deep divers on and try to catch one on a lure. I have very little experience of catching Zeds on lures, in fact my tally stands at one and with all the drifting weed around I was soon beaten and heading back upstream for more familiar fishing. Back in the shallower water I switched one rod to a well chewed Salmo Perch and this was taken in the same area I’d caught my second fish. Number three was even smaller and conveniently unhooked itself beside the boat. I covered this area a couple of times but there were no more Pike willing to take pity on me.

Unfashionable lures but the Pike don't know!

I kept on back upstream through worsening conditions. The sun got brighter and warmer, the drifting weed seemed to be growing and the weather was bringing out the part time anglers and it seemed anyone registered as insane was behind the wheel of a cruiser. Despite all this I kept on trying; switching lures and thoroughly covering spots I expected to find fish. At one stage, in an effort to beat the drifting weed I cut the engine and drifted down with the current, casting as I went. This too failed to raise any interest. So my plans to have a nice confidence boosting session, catching a boat full of fish before the hard winter season came to nothing. I have never known this river to fish so badly on an autumn day such as this. Sure the weed was a problem but I should have caught a lot more fish than three!

By mid afternoon I arrived back at the slipway to find it covered with kids fishing who were a little disappointed to have to move so I could retrieve the boat. The whole area was alive with people lured from their homes by some sunny weather; fishing, walking or just watching and I had to put up with all the normal tedious questions. As I was leaving five "hooray Henry's" set sail in a small inflatable, it looked totally unsafe but some people won’t be told. I do hope there are no reports of any tragedies on the news today.

Less than a week now to the PAC annual convention at Stoneleigh, can’t wait!!!

Sunday 14 September 2008


I spent most of Saturday organising my fishing shed for the coming winter and for a morning session this weekend. All the camping gear and stuff I won’t be using till the spring goes to the back while the Pike gear comes to the front. The plan had been for a mobile session on a large local stillwater, one lure rod and one bait rod, a nice way to get back into the swing of Pike fishing. However I spent most of Saturday night rolling around feeling decidedly sick and leaking gas from both ends. I awoke on Sunday morning with a head ache as well as pain in the base of my spine and still feeling like I could throw up at any moment. It’s a very rare day when I feel too ill for fishing but this was one. However by early evening I was feeling better and going stir crazy so Isaac and I picked up a lure rod and went for a walk along the river.

Once again we fished the stretch behind the lake and the river looked in great nick with a tinge of colour and far less weed than the height of summer. We stopped for a look from a footbridge at the downstream end of the stretch, there was no sign of the big Chub that usually hang around on this area. There was no sign of anything else for that matter. Undeterred we set off anyway, casting a ½ oz spinnerbait and either buzzing it back over the weed or letting it flutter into the gaps. We hadn’t gone far when a tiny jack shot out from the weed, missed the lure and disappeared into a swirl of water. Isaac gave me a “you’re useless dad” look.

Just about every swim on this stretch looks like it should hold a Pike or two, not to mention big Chub. If that were the case then fishing would be too easy wouldn’t it? In reality, some do and some don’t and keeping mobile is by far the best way to fish a small river like this. We reached a swim from which I’d lost a fish on our previous visit in July. A couple of casts upstream produced nothing then on the second chuck downstream the spinnerbait was nailed as I lifted the rod tip to buzz it over some streamer weed. For once this fish stayed hooked and I soon had it in the net, ably assisted by Isaac. “Cor that’s a biggun” said the dog walker who had appeared unnoticed; “No it’s just a little Pike” said Isaac, quite the expert!

We got to the end of the stretch without any other fish showing an interest. I swapped the spinnerbait for an alphabet plug and we started to retrace our steps. The same small Pike slashed at the plug in the same swim but there was no action until we reached the straight area behind the lake. Here a Pike of about six pounds engulfed the lure and gave a good scrap in the shallow streamy water. Isaac jumped up and down excitedly as I lifted it ashore, I considered taking a quick photo of Isaac holding it but another group of dog walkers were bearing down on us. I really couldn’t be bothered with the usual “Wow that’s big….can you eat them?.....You’re not going to put it back are you?...” So we slipped it back and kept moving.

Just over an hour after starting we were back at the beginning of the stretch again. While I tidied up Isaac charged around on the play area. I felt much better for my fix of fishing and look forward to getting back into the swing of Pike fishing proper.

Just under two weeks to go until the best fishing show of the year, The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain annual convention at Stoneleigh Park Warwickshire. Four top European speakers and a whole hall full of trade stands catering for predator anglers. This is the only fishing show in the UK which satisfies the predator anglers and is not to be missed. This year there is a bigger lecture theatre and the bar will be better stocked, last time around the bar was drunk dry!!

Monday 1 September 2008

Nice end to the summer?

For once the sun was shining as we; Madison, Isaac, Nephew Ollie and I left home for another night in Fenland. The A14 has many advantages for a travelling angler but the amount of freight traffic going to and from Felixstowe can be a nightmare. Particularly when a truck one hundred yard in front of my car, blows a tyre and sends rubber flying towards us. Luckily we came through unscathed and the rest of the journey was uneventful until we reached Cambridgeshire. Here we were stuck behind a procession of horseboxes, apparently there was a polo match going on somewhere. I find it amazing that people play polo here in East Anglia, I thought it was exclusively the sport of the upper crust and such people surely live in big houses down south? I certainly hope these people are a lot better at controlling their horses than the dirty great big horse boxes they were driving, they may be rich but they don’t own the bloody road!

After that the afternoon went without a hitch! The kids started catching small fish on the whip almost immediately while I busied myself setting up the tent and getting things ready for the evening. When I had everything ready I set up a feeder rod to target the Bream. I threw out a few kilos of pellets hoping to stop a shoal if they moved through and kept topping the swim out with the feeder. Nothing much happened on this rod but I wasn’t bothered. Ollie was busy filling the keep net so I would have a lot of bait to choose from later. Madison & Isaac were busy playing “Star Wars” in the field, perhaps it was a bad idea to let Isaac bring his toy ‘Light Sabre’ with him. Oh well, the sun was shining, the temperature was comfortable and there was no one around for them to disturb. It made a nice change not having to worry about what weather was on its way, all in all a thoroughly nice afternoon.
Dale arrived in the late afternoon and began setting up a rod for Bream and another for Zander. Meanwhile I fried ‘Vegetarians nightmare” for our evening meal once again. We were treated to another spectacular sunset with colours in the sky ranging from light blue to deep red, time to put a couple of rods out for the Zander! As usual I fished just the two rods, sticking to the methods that had been successful previously; a ledgered livebait with a bait popper cast upstream and a Paternostered live cast slightly downstream. Both baits were cast into the middle of the river, hopefully avoiding the worst of the weed. I did have to reposition the paternoster a couple of times, to avoid the weekend admirals trying their best to disturb us and break the world water speed record.
We had all filled our bellies but unfortunately the fish weren’t doing the same. We had stopped using the whip when the light faded, sometimes a Zander or two can be caught as the light level fades but not tonight and the Bream weren’t showing either. The kids settled down and as night descended we watched a dazzling array of stars come out. We spied a Fox on the flood bank opposite once again, bats pipping and whizzing past accompanied by a soundtrack from a couple of Tawny Owls somewhere to the east.
The sky grew darker, the stars grew brighter and the kids became tired and settled down into the tent. It was a beautiful night, Dale and I uncorked a bottle of wine, chilled out, put the world to rights and generally had a bloody good laugh. Just as I was beginning to feel concerned about the lack of fish, Dale’s Zander rod was away. Despite getting it tangled around my Bream rod and getting in an almighty balls up, we managed to net it. A nice fish of around five pounds and with Dale getting more confident with handling fish, he held it up for the camera with a Cheshire cat grin. Ollie emerged from the tent to witness the fish but his young cousins were well and truly zonked, the combination of fresh air and exercise had them snoring. A nice fish, toasted with another mug of wine!
The night began to grow cold and a mist began to form, once again it was a real pleasure to be out in a wild part of the English countryside. Just after midnight my upstream ledgered bait started to move purposely up the river. I pulled into a decent weight, the rod stayed bent,, obviously a decent sized fish. It proved to be the night of the tangles as Dale managed to get the landing net wrapped around my other rod. Slight panic but soon fixed and a good sized Zander was in the net and soon unhooked and in a weigh sling. At eight and a half pounds it was my best Zed of the season, and it looked bigger in the photos. These came out well, spoilt only by a few pieces of vegetation stuck to the fish’s head. I’m sure the fishing police would be offended by this but better a quick photo and back in the river than waste time picking the weed off.

By the time all was sorted and settled, the temperature seemed to have dipped considerably and the mist was becoming a fog. We toasted our fish, the night, the craic and soon it was the wee small hours and the vino was gone. We crashed in our respective bivvies for the remains of the night.
The rest of the night was uneventful and both my baits were untouched and still kicking when I checked them at first light. It was still foggy and generally I don’t think these are good conditions for fish of any kind. For once the kids didn’t wake early so I took the opportunity to doze for another hour or two. Soon they were awake and demanding breakfast so it was time to break out the frying pan again for another sausage and bacon special. As the sun got higher the fog burnt away, the temperature rose and it was another pleasant day. After breakfast Chris appeared on his mountain bike for a laugh and a chat, as usual he was excellent company.

I packed the gear away slowly as the kids continued to fish a little/play a little/fish a little. At one point Ollie had four different species in four casts; Rudd, Bream, Perch and then a Bleak. Add that to the Roach, Dace and Zander we had caught and that is seven different species. I took some time to point out the species and show him how to recognise them. There are downsides to fishing with kids though. The whip got severely tangled so I had to rig it up again from scratch. One cast later and it was knackered again and I had to repeat the performance. By this time there were signs that some Bream had actually moved into the area with bubbles and the odd fish rolling. Unfortunately we were virtually out of bait but I thought we were still in with a chance. Sure enough the feeder rod trundled off and I handed the rod to Ollie who expertly steered a nice fish of about three pounds into the net.

A nice way to finish what will probably be our last night time adventure in fenland for this summer. September is now upon us and in a couple of weeks I’ll be raring to fish for the Pike. We haven’t had much summer weather this year but we’ve managed some enjoyable, memorable fishing none the less. Part of me is looking forward to next summer already but before that…Pike!