Wednesday 29 October 2008

Two days in Eden

Up at the crack of 5am once again. Almost everything has been made ready the previous night so it’s just a case of boiling the kettle, taking the bait out of the freezer and jumping in the car. I meet Giles at Tescos and away we go, cruising serenely down the road with Marvin Gaye playing on the stereo, chatting enthusiastically about the day ahead. Our optimistic chatter was rudely interrupted by the total wanker coming the other way, overtaking on a single carriageway and nearly running us off the road and potentially leaving five children without Dads. We were both fuming and it was tempting to turn round, find the culprit and beat some sense into him. But we didn’t…

We arrived at the boat yard in good time, launched the boat without a hitch and were fishing in an area I call “the basin” in time to watch the sun come up. We were fishing a consistent area, with a variety of good, fresh bait in decent conditions (overcast and mild with a fresh south westerly wind), it was just a case of time surely? Maybe it is but we’re still waiting!! In short we blanked, we spent two hours in the first area then moved regularly after that, trying to find some fish. We kept on moving and searching, fishing areas we knew and others that were new to us. After 45-60 minutes in a spot we pulled up the mudweights and moved elsewhere. We may not have been catching but all the time we were learning.
Sun rise over "The basin"

A fishless day, a waste of time? Not on your life! A little bit more learnt about the system and a pleasant day in a beautiful wilderness of reeds and water, watching the Marsh Harriers hunting ducks. This was fascinating; all of a sudden a flock of around thirty Tufted Ducks would take to the sky in panic and a second later the ominous form of the Harrier would swoop low over the reeds.

As the day wore on the wind increased just as the forecasters had predicted, they had also forecast rain in the early evening so we decided to cut and run. By this time the wind was pretty strong too and as we motored north back to base the boat was being thrown about, it was uncomfortable to say the least. One moment we were being thrown forward on a wave, the next the propeller was turning in the air. On a few occasions I managed to steer us side on to the wind which was definitely a bad move. Giles maintained his composure by grimly concentrating on packing his tackle away, pretending it wasn’t happening. I had white knuckles on the tiller and tried my best to tell myself all was fine. I know Pike anglers are supposed to revel in tales of boats pitching between mountainous waves but bollocks to that!! In all seriousness we weren’t in any danger but were still relieved to make it back to the boat yard. We got the boat out quickly and cleanly, loaded the car the car and got the hell out of Dodge before the sheriff arrived. Or to put it another way, left before the rain arrived. Driving home, tired fishless and to be honest a bit despondent, at times you feel like there isn’t a Pike within a mile of your bait and the system seems so big and daunting. But then again that’s part of the challenge and when it does come right it makes it all the better. Here’s to next time!


Another early morning start and for the first time this season I had to scrape ice off the windscreen. Thankfully this mornings journey was uneventful and after seventy minutes and fifty miles I was nearing “Eden”. Away to the east there was a large bank of cloud and driving the last few miles I noticed puddles in the road. The parked cars I passed were all free from ice so it was obviously a few degrees milder here than at home. This could only be a good thing when fishing a shallow system such as Eden. I arrived at the yard and started sorting the boat out. I noticed there was a bit of ice on the boat cover which was thawing. It must have been freezing in the early part of the night then got milder in the early hours. I launched the boat without a problem and chatted to a friendly local launching opposite me.

By 0700 I was securely anchored up in the “Basin” area and had four deadbaits spread around the boat; Mackerel, Smelt, Lamprey and Bluey. I also mixed up some fishmeal groundbait, with chopped fish and ET Eel oil added, a big ball of this was chucked up wind. I cannot prove this really helps to attract Pike but I use it anyway as it gives me confidence. On a water like this I want to stack the odds in my favour and it seems logical that a Pike will detect the scent trail that this gives out. As the day grew fully light I sat back and relaxed, soaking up the unique atmosphere of the system. Away to the west I could just make out the hum of the morning traffic building, a tractor had begun work somewhere in between but apart from that, all I could hear was birdsong.

After almost ninety minutes I was experiencing an all too familiar feeling; “That hasn’t worked, what do I do next?” I started formulating a plan when I was rudely interrupted by the ticking of a bait runner. The rod baited with Mackerel was away. “Bloody hell a take!!!” Not something that has happened up here lately!! I wound down the slack, waiting for the line to tighten into a fish. I kept winding and winding…and winding then eventually worked out that the Pike must have dropped the bait. Bugger!!!! After two full days without a bait being taken, now I get a dropped take, highly frustrating to say the least!!! I sat it out in this spot for another hour but no more fish disturbed me. I then lifted the mudweights and allowed the boat to drift a hundred yards or so and the fished this area for another hour without success. I began to get a sinking feeling that another blank was on the cards. Stuff that! I’ll keep on searching and working to put a fish in the boat!

By 1100 I was moored up in the North western side of a large bay, in a nice looking area between two spots that had produced in the past. A bit of cloud was building in the west and there was a decent ripple on the water and I began to feel confident again. At 1125 once again I was alerted by a ticking bait runner, a mackerel had been picked up for a second time that morning. I quickly made everything ready, wound down and bent into a fish, YES! The bend stayed round and the rod felt solid, then it all went slack. BUGGER!! The air turned blue and I was pig sick, two chances in a day and both wasted. I had only felt the fish for a couple of seconds, not long enough for a ‘one that got away’ story, but long enough to know this wasn’t a head banging jack Pike. Even so I wasn’t sure how big (or not) the fish had been and the ‘not knowing’ would be torture. I’m lucky that, as far as I can remember, I haven’t had a really haunting fish loss up here at Eden. I stayed in that area for another hour hoping in vain that another Pike would put in an appearance.

Fishing gives us a good excuse to wear daft hats and not be embarrased
I picked myself up and by 1240 I was moored in the entrance to the bay, a nice looking natural bottleneck that had to be a good ambush point surely? An hour here and another 45 minutes spent in a feature packed area opposite me told me that it may well be a good ambush area, but not today. The eastern side of the bottleneck was a little deeper and had some interesting bays amongst the reeds so a little bit more learnt and stored away for the future.

By 1450 I was back in the “Basin”, about 100 yards south of my starting point. By now there was a fair bit of cloud and still a nice breeze from the west rippling the surface, I still felt I had a chance of a fish but time was running out. At 1535 the Mackerel was picked up once again and this time I made no mistake. Third time lucky, a spirited Jack of about five pounds was unhooked beside the boat. I was pleased to have caught at last but this didn’t make up for the sense of wasted opportunities earlier in the day. A few minutes later I was startled by a large splash just off the boat between two of my floats. I’d been considering getting off the water early and missing the worst of the traffic but had a nagging feeling I should stay, the splash resolved me to do just that. The feeling of waste I’d been having got worse at 1612 when for a fourth time the rod baited with mackerel was picked up, once again I failed to get this fish to the boat but having felt the fish I’m sure it was small. I’d now had four takes, all on Mackerel and only boated one fish, what was going on here?

Out of the murk....
The sun was sinking behind cloud in the west and there was an eerie atmosphere in the gloom, heightened by an early Tawny Owl calling to the south. Would I get another chance? Just one more run, please! At 1640 my wishes were granted and this time the take came to a Bluey. I’d been turning my head just like the owl, scanning the floats when I saw that particular float slide off. The strike connected and I soon had a nice Pike of around eight pounds at the boat, a lively fish that punched above its weight in the murky water. Ten minutes later having just rebaited with another Bluey I scanned the floats once again. Where was the float on the Mackerel rod? A ticking bait runner gave me the answer and I pulled into a heavier fish this time. She tried to fight but was out gunned by powerful tackle and was soon in the net, obviously the best fish of the day. These Pike can often be deceptive and the length makes it hard to guess the weight so I quickly weighed her at thirteen pounds. I took a quick photo but was interrupted by yet another ticking bait runner, three takes in ten minutes! It was the rod baited with Bluey again, I managed to set the hooks into another nice fish of around eight pounds. I rebaited both rods again and sat it out for another half hour, until I could no longer see the floats but that was it for the day.
The biggest of the day
By the time I had tidied up it seemed pitch black, the wind had picked up and swung round to a northerly, blowing a bit of rain into my face. Once again I had another dodgy journey back to the boat yard ahead of me, I had to contend with an increasing wind starting to throw the boat about. Not only that, I had to avoid the large navigation posts which were likely to jump out in front of me at any moment. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience but I managed to steer straight down the channel and made it back to base with no mishaps. It had been a frustrating day at times but by the end a very rewarding one.

There has been some debate about whether Pike have preferences for certain deadbaits on the fishing forums. There is the logical opinion that a Pike would not pass by one free meal for something else. For most of today I fished four rods with a different species of bait on each one. My first four takes all came on Mackerel and this was from three different swims so it wasn’t as if it was one particular spot that was producing the fish. Of seven takes today , five came to Mackerel and two to Blueys, I had no takes at all on either Lamprey or Smelt. I think that today, conditions were such, Pike found it easier to find oily baits like Mackerel and Bluey and that is why they caught the Pike. The Pike appeared to prefer Mackerel but in reality, they found them quicker.

Sunday 19 October 2008

Its rare for me to fish in my home county, for most of my fishing I travel at least fifty miles. I’m fussy about where I fish, I like to spend my time in beautiful, natural places where there are few, if any, other anglers. The fishing itself has to be interesting; challenging with the possibility of a huge fish. I only know of one water in my local area that ticks all of those boxes, a large still water that I first fished over twenty years ago. Back in the late eighties and early nineties this was a superb Pike fishery and I was lucky to enjoy some fantastic fishing there. Unfortunately by the mid nineties this was a water in serious decline, the roach seemed to have vanished and the Pike were several pounds under weight and very tatty. By the late nineties to even catch a Pike was a rare event.

So what caused the demise of this fishery? Too much pressure from Pike anglers was definitely a factor, some anglers were using tackle that was totally inadequate for what was a snaggy water. To be fair anglers weren’t as enlightened as they are today but the poor old Pike took a battering all the same. There was also a huge problem with migrating cormorants coming in from the continent. I can remember fishing in the winter of 1989/90 counting around sixty of these birds all feeding in an area we knew to be packed tight with bait fish. This may go a long way to explaining the disappearance of the roach. Whatever the reason by the time of the millennium the water was hardly worth fishing.

Despite all this, my friends and I loved fishing the place so we would drop in every now and again more in hope than expectation. In the spring of 2005 we actually caught a few Pike too, it seemed the water was in the beginning of a recovery. I fished hard that season and caught plenty of fish but the bigger Pike were hard to track down. I did manage a few double figure fish up to a best of 19 ½ pounds for my trouble. The fishing still isn’t a patch on days gone by but it is still worth a visit from time to time.

My biggest Pike from the water, 23 pounds in 1991

I had very little time at my disposal this weekend so it was an ideal opportunity to visit the “Big one” once more. I met my friend Jim before dawn and we made our way to a favourite swim, nowadays hidden away from prying eyes behind scrub willow. The plan was to fish deadbaits and occasionally cast lures whilst chilling out and catching up as it’s been several months since we last fished together. It was still dark when I cast my first rod, baited with half a Bluey to the edge of the weed line. On my second rod I ledgered a Lamprey and chucked this as far out into the water as I could.

I’d hardly sat down when the alarm on the rod baited with Bluey sounded as a fish moved rapidly off with the bait. A quick strike pulled into a lively little fish of around seven pounds that thought it was much bigger, it tried to pull my arms off but was well out gunned by the powerful tackle we use these days. This fish was in superb condition, short and stocky with vivid markings. An hour later Jim had a take on a Herring, also fished close to the weed line which produced a similar sized Pike to our first. Unfortunately this fish showed signs that some anglers haven’t learnt from the mistakes of years gone by. The flanks were red raw with patches of missing scales as if it had been unhooked whilst laid on gravel. The worst of this should heal in time but it will show a scar for life.

Jim added another small fish later, hooked on a Kuusamo spoon but I really couldn’t be bothered with any lure fishing today. I was content to sit and relax, enjoying the late autumn sunshine. Yes I must also admit I spent a quite a lot of time reminiscing about days gone by too! We’d had a good laugh and caught a few Pike in beautiful surroundings, that’ll do for me today. By late morning I was running out of time but packing away was made easy for me as the footpaths were filling up with dog walkers, ramblers and mountain bikers, another unwelcome change from years gone by! It was nice to return to the “Big one” once again, one of these days it will be a good Pike fishery again, just hope I’ll be around to see it.

Sunday 12 October 2008

The best laid plans...

I rolled out of bed the moment the alarm went off at 0455, eager to be on my way. When I ventured outside I was greeted with thick fog which dogged my journey all the way. Instead of flying along an empty road I crawled through the gloom but better to arrive in one piece than not at all!

I have a well oiled drill for launching the boat, the trouble is I sometimes forget what it is. Today I slid the boat nicely off the trailer and watched it sail smoothly across the dyke. Something didn’t look right…I realised the rope that had meant to be securing the boat had slipped off the cleat. I jogged round to the other side of the dyke just in time to see the boat bounce off and drift back across to the side I’d just come from. Eventually I got my timing rght and was in the right place at the right time to grab hold of the boat, phew!! A few minutes later the boat was loaded and I was ready to go, just at the exit to the dyke I opened the throttle and…the engine died. No problem, start up again, open up the engine and…it died again. So what’s going on here then? I know the engine was full of petrol, I was sure of it…but it wasn’t. Oh well, with the tank finally topped up I opened up the engine and headed out onto a foggy water heading towards the area where Giles and I had caught a few fish on the last visit.

By 0730 I was moored up fishing four deadbaits around the boat. Two were cast into open water and the other two were popped up to avoid the worst of the weed and cast towards the reed line. Half an hour or so later I heard an engine come and go somewhere out in the fog. Shortly afterwards my phone rang, it was Richard who was somewhere out there, lost in the gloom. We had a quick chat then resumed fishing. A while later the fog lifted a little and I had to laugh, as I saw the silhouette of Richards’s boat about a hundred metres away. A bit of banter ensued, with me accusing him of poaching but all good fun. Conditions were poor; I rarely feel confident when its foggy but worst of all there was no wind, leaving the water flat calm. In my experience a kiss of death when Pike fishing in shallow water. I stayed in the bay for a couple of hours before pulling up the weights and heading for pastures new, as did Richard.
By 1030 I was anchored up in a different area fishing near a reedy point but within casting distance of the boat channel. I’ve hardly fished this area before so it was very much a learning experience. By this time a decent breeze had finally picked up from the South west but it remained gloomy. Much better conditions and I felt more confident. After about an hour I repositioned the boat and fished the edge of the weed line. By 1300 I had decided it was time to move on but my plans were hastily altered by a hefty swirl in shallow weedy water. Definitely a Pike and by the amount of water displaced a decent sized one. I repositioned two buoyant deadbaits in the area and chucked the lure rod too, unfortunately I hadn’t brought any lures that were really suitable for such shallow weedy water but kept throwing a large Spinnerbait. I persevered even though it was catching plenty of weed. There was another large swirl in the bay shortly after the first but my baits remained untouched. After an hour or so I lifted the weights and moved off.

By this time the sun had finally burnt the fog away and I headed back towards another favourite stretch. I anchored up and was just getting comfortable when I heard a strange sound and looked up to see about fifty sailing boats heading towards me. The fine afternoon sun had certainly brought the weekend admirals out in force and I don’t think they had a brain cell between them. The hire boat with a family of six that passed had even less sense, while the adults had a great laugh rocking the boat from side to side, the poor terrified children screamed their lungs out.
I quickly got out of the madness and anchored up across the other side in another spot I’d had a take or two in times gone by but not today. Still it was a pleasant hour in the sun spent watching the madness away to the west. I motored back to the slipway having experienced my first blank of the season, Eden had defeated me today but I’ll be back another…I think this is only the second time since I started this blog that I’ve failed to catch my target fish, which is pretty good going but fishing Eden is tough so it won’t be the last.

Sunday 5 October 2008

My addiction

I call the place “Eden”. What can I say without giving too much away? It’s a large tidal system, an area of outstanding natural beauty and a haven for wildlife. The fishing can be extremely difficult with Pike few and far between. The draw of the place is the challenge and knowing if you are rewarded then it could well be with the fish of your dreams. I’ve probably said too much now but then again, if you know the place I’m talking about then I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know.

Today I had my first trip of the Pike season proper and once again I am totally addicted to fishing the system. I towed the boat up and was joined by Giles, we launched then motored out, greeted by a pair of Marsh Harriers circling away to the west. Where do we fish on this big river system on an October day? I decided to start in the area we had done OK in last year. We spread an array of deadbaits around the boat and occasionally cast lures but mostly sat enjoying the scenery and soaking up the special atmosphere. We were in a decent area fishing with good bait but thoughts of actually catching fish didn’t enter our heads, this was a hard water after all! However as Giles slowly retrieved a drifted dead roach he felt a sharp tap and a Pike swirled at his bait. Unfortunately his bait wasn’t taken but there was a fish in the area at least!

The weather was pretty much spot on for fishing this system, mild with a decent westerly wind. The only downside was the rain which had begun to fall and was getting heavier. This may not put the fish off but it might make things uncomfortable for us sitting in the boat. At around 9am the bait runner on my rod baited with Lamprey signalled what could only be a take. I pulled into a decent sized fish which punched its weight but was soon in the net. She was a little bit tatty showing the scars of what may well have been a close encounter with a propeller but I was happy with a Pike of eleven pounds. We stayed in this area for another hour before following a pre-determined plan to search out other areas of the system.

By 1030 we were in another area, moored up in a sheltered bay, within lure casting range of the reedbeds. A couple of deadbaits were put in this area too but most were cast out into open water. We had only been in position for a few minutes when one of my rods, baited with Bluey was picked up. The strike connected and plenty of head shakes were transmitted down the line, soon a long lean fish of around seven pounds was brought to the boat. Unlike the first fish this one was in superb condition, a long spotty example of a river Pike.

I’ve known Giles for nearly thirty years and to describe his eccentricities would require a separate blog on its own but the events I’m about to describe go along way to showing the kind of character he is. On one rod he was using a dead roach that had been in his freezer for about three years and looked like a bait that had been in the freezer a while! As he attempted to launch this bait out it parted company with his hooks and splashed down a few yards in front of the boat. After taking the piss I turned my attention elsewhere while Giles mucked about with his lure rod. After a while it became apparent that he was trying to foul hook said Roach which was floating like a cork. After a few attempts he actually managed to do just that, in fact he foul hooked it perfectly through the lips! He then proceeded to reattach it to his bait rod again and cast it successfully back out. I had to laugh; “You’re gonna catch a ‘twenty’ on that!”

You can guess what happened next. A few minutes later, the Hi viz float on that rod went steaming off just like one of the barrels in ‘Jaws’ and the strike put a solid bend in the rod. It wasn’t long before Giles pulled a long, lean, big headed fish into the net. It wasn’t a twenty but at 15.10 it was a very nice fish indeed. A quick photo session and she was returned to grow even bigger while we sat back laughed at our luck, even the rain began to ease!

After a quick repair job on the stove we feasted on bacon sandwiches before moving on to explore further. Our next stop was in open water with deadbaits spread around the boat and lures cast from time to time. This move proved fruitless so we lifted the weights once more and tried another area. This was another likely looking spot, once again the reeds were well in range and we continued to use the same tactics. After nearly an hour nothing had happened and we were just discussing our next move when one of my floats started to move. This proved to be the smallest fish of the day at around six pounds and picked up a buoyant Pollan which had been cast out and slowly twitched back to the boat. Not long after this the bait runner sounded again, my rod baited with bluey went off steadily then stopped just as suddenly. I wound down anyway but there was no Pike on the end and no bait either. My guess is a small Pike had picked up the bait and managed to tear it off the hooks, if it had been a bigger fish I’m sure I’d have put hooks in it.

We gave this area a while longer then moved back close to where we had started. We sat here for an hour but no more action occurred so we packed the gear up and motored back. So my first excursion on my favourite water yielded six takes to two anglers and four Pike to the boat. I’d settle for this kind of sport every week but I know it’s going to get a lot harder as the season wears on!

Thursday 2 October 2008

Unconventional Convention

My weekend started with a mad 2 ½ hour drive through the Friday evening traffic to Stoneleigh. After checking in at the hotel and dumping my bag in the room it was down to the bar to have a glass a beer with old friends and new. The plan was to have a couple of pints then have an early night in preparation for a long and busy day at the convention. Well it didn’t quite happen that way! As usual the bar was buzzing with Pike anglers from all over the country, the beer and banter flowed. It was great to catch up with old friends and equally great to meet some new ones. There were a couple of absolute legends of British Pike fishing in attendance too! Two beers somehow stretched to five and the early night became 1 am, oh dear.

The Big Bad Brummie woke me up with a bang on the door around 0530 am. I had a quick breakfast of tea and paracetamol before heading out into a cool dark morning to begin work setting up the hall. My fellow committee members were running around like blue arsed flies, Mike Kelly and “Dad” Colin Goodge here there and everywhere. By 0730 the PAC stand was almost finished and with the new pictures on the wall, looking good (thanks Rob!). I was able to nip back to the hotel for a quick fried breakfast and couldn’t help indulging in my traditional fishing meal of sausage and bacon sandwiches. By 0900 everything was set and we were waiting for the doors to open and the arrival of around 400 like minded souls.

The day past very quickly, I didn’t get to see any of the talks but had a really enjoyable day chatting to people who visited us on the PAC stand. Faces around the hall made up a “Who’s who” of British Pike fishing, there was a notable exception but he wasn’t missed! An early highlight was “El Pres” extracting £20 membership fee from good ol’ Gordie Burton. Business on the stand came in fits and starts but by the end of the day we had taken a nice amount of cash to boost the club funds. Big thanks to all the helpers, especially Alix who was with me for the day. More details of the PAC product range can be found here:-;jsessionid=15466479c7d4d01/shopdata/index.shopscript?main_url=..%2Fmodules%2Fthank_you.php4%3Fpayment_ok%3Dtrue%26order_already_saved%3D1

From what I heard, all the speakers went down very well and a good day was had by all. The trade stands seemed busy and everyone I spoke to said they were enjoying the day. Incidentally all the tackle manufacturers that are listed on the right of this page were represented at the show. But this is only a part of the convention, it’s the meeting and greeting that is the best thing about the weekend in my opinion. With people coming form all parts of the UK, Kent and Devon in the south east and west, Wales, Ireland, the highlands of Scotland, Cumbria and everywhere in between. It’s a once a year for friendships to be made and renewed. The socialising is as big a draw as the show itself.
This side of things was a massive success too. The infamous crew from RA88 in Glossop were in full effect and started drinking very early. Teamed up with the lake district lads, after having a beer or ten in the hotel bar they allegedly ended up in a lap dancing club in Leamington spa. By the time we had tidied up the PAC stand and got everything loaded again it was around 7pm. Back to the hotel and after a quick shower it was time to head back down to the bar. With our responsibilities now discharged it was high time to really let our hair down, relax and enjoy the evening. I joined BBB, Steve, Rob, Mark and a whole host of fellow Pikers in celebrating a successful day. After several beers in the bar eighteen of us bundled into taxis and ended up in an Indian restaurant in Coventry. Here we had a decent, if over priced meal, washed down with large quantities of beer and wine. Once again some absolute legends of the UK Pike scene joined our number, guys whose writing and exploits had inspired me over the years.

Back at the hotel a few of our number were feeling the pace and disappeared up the stairs, never to be seen again…I managed to find room for another beer or two but by 1am words were slurring and eyes were closing.

0900 Sunday morning and I awoke with an aching head and a dry mouth. After having the same two breakfasts as the day before I felt OK again and after saying goodbye and shaking many hands I got into the car to begin the long drive home. Will I do it again next year? Damn right I will!!