Tuesday 15 December 2009

Return of the Blue Cow

For once I had an easy journey on uncrowded roads but equally uncommon was a queue at the slipway. I had plenty of time to think, three weeks had passed since my last disastrous visit, plenty of time to lose track of the fish. However it seemed that this unlikely window of opportunity had opened at the right time for me as the long range forecast warned of a cold snap to come. Over night it had been clear and cool at home but here was cloud, signs of recent rain and milder temperature. The weatherman claimed today would be bright about 7 degrees with a moderate north easterly. I felt confident that Pike would be feeding, if I could find some.

I had an area in mind, one I didn't know particularly well and hadn't yet fished this season but had produced a fish or two this time last year. This was an area I'd had in mind on my last visit and for some reason I fancied my chances there today. By 8am I was in position, a Pollan cast towards the reeds, a Mackerel was fished upwind in open water while I Lamprey and Bluey were fanned out downwind. Amongst the Christmas madness at last a fix of fresh air, peace, countryside and maybe even a fish or two. For now it was just a case of making a brew, sitting back comfortably and waiting.

After only fifteen minutes or so, with the flask held precariously a bait runner purred, my Mackerel was moving. I wound down and on connection a fish thrashed noisily on the surface, then dived putting a nice bend in the rod. After that it was just a case of pumping back a nice solid weight towards the boat, the fish did little, soon a nice big head became visible near the net and within moments she was mine. Long and lean, in mint condition, my best of the season so far, bootiful! Into the sladle, unhooked without fuss, weighed, a quick photo then back in the water. The mackerel was recast, the tea was still warm and tasted great.

Twenty minutes later I was thinking about moving the Pollan when it started moving off on its own. Once again I pulled into a nice fish which pulled harder than the first but turned out to be smaller. Still a good fish though, admired for a moment then released. Over the years I've spent days here without seeing the float moved which makes the days when you find fish so much sweeter. Where there's one, there's often a few more. Would I complete the hat trick? Shortly after I had a strange experience, all around was bright blue sky except for one dark grey cloud. This was directly above and dumping light rain on top of me. At least I was treated to a rainbow.

After a quiet ninety minutes it was time for a move but where? I decided to stay in the general area so lifted the mud weights and travelled about 60 metres upwind, far enough to ensure all four baits would be fishing in new water. The rods were carefully spread out as before, the Pollan now popped up and twitched back towards the boat. The other rods were kept on the move too.
There were two “events” of this move but only the first actually concerned fishing, I glanced at the float above the bluey and noticed a flat patch on the surface caused by oil. This sometimes happens when a Pike chomps the bait and can be followed by a travelling float but this time it didn't occur. However there was another oil patch a minute or so later and it seemed to be in the wrong place, upwind as opposed to downwind. Very odd. When I wound that rod in the bait had gone? Had a fish picked up the bluey, somehow avoided the hooks (cast off?) and moved off with it? I'll never know.

The second event concerned a yacht. I noticed it coming towards me, his course seemed to indicate he was following the reedline and would pass harmlessly by. On the front of the yacht the obviously cheerful occupant had placed a good sized Christmas tree. Whether or not this obscured his view I don't know but all of a sudden it was apparent that he was heading straight for one of my lines. I was too slow and the line got caught up by which time the yacht was so close I barely had to raise my voice.
“You've picked up my line mate” I called
“Sorry” came the reply “there's nothing I can do, they're invisible...” He didn't consider stopping for a second.
“Invisible? With a bloody great orange float ?” I asked but got only a mumbled response.
I don't normally get 'involved' with the often selfish boaters I encounter, I usually just get on with it but this guy's 'don't give a shit' attitude got up my snout. I hung on the rod and luckily it came free, no harm done and after checking the line decided now was a good time for a move.

This time I travelled back downwind, beyond my original starting point and dropped into a slightly shallower area. By now the sun was obscured by cloud more often than not and with the forecast North easterly wind it felt chilly. The rods were spread again, two towards the reeds and two in open water. I stayed like this for an hour or so before another move where I concentrated on the open water. My belly was filled with a fry up and washed down with a cuppa but unfortunately no fish intruded on my meal. During the day it had become evident that the engine wasn't running quite right so I decided to get off the water in the early afternoon. I didn't fancy being out on the water, in the dark with no engine.

The journey home was brightened by listening to the football on local radio, Town actually won for a change. Another hour to kill, thoughts going through my head. At the beginning of the autumn the mornings had been quiet with all the fish coming after noon however, on my last two successful visits the action had all been in the first ninety minutes. No sooner do we notice a pattern then it changes. A spell of cold weather will change things for sure, if it stays cold for a while it will get tough. Here's hoping for mild weather when I make it out again, whenever that may be.


Thursday 3 December 2009

Stir Crazy

Prior to my most recent trip I had a look through my fishing diaries and discovered that I'd gone ten consecutive trips to my favourite place without a blank, dating back to 4th January this year. Although I haven't caught anything to go mad about I was pretty pleased wth this consistency and there were a few good fish along the way. Obviously with all this back patting going on I was due for a fall from grace. Not only was my last visit a blank, (Fishing the same methods in the places that had produced for me recently) it later turned into an unprecedented disaster of which I will say no more...for now at least. Richard has managed to catch a few in the mean time but the bigger fish have eluded him too. In general, at the moment we're finding fish but not the ones we're after.

A couple of weeks with no fish and no fishing has got me climbing the walls a bit so I feel the need to rant here for a bit. In truth there have been times when I could have gone after a Pike or two close to home but I just can't get motivated to fish waters that don't inspire me. There is a very good chance of catching a big Pike from the waters local to me but almost all of them are places I have fished in the past. Most can be crowded and as I get older I definitely get more anti social, I go fishing to get away from people and just can't be bothered having the same conversation with a dozen different dog walkers. One of the advantages to boat fishing that gets mentioned least. Maybe I should try fishing for something else, there are some decent Chub locally that don't really get fished for? Right now they just don't float my boat (!) either. At some point life will be less hectic and then I'll probably find a will and a way.

The angling forums can be a diversion but at the moment these are full of rubbish too, however there have been a couple of posts lately asking “Why join the PAC?” The question should really be “Why not?” Apart from the social side; regional meetings with guest speakers, fish-ins, annual convention etc. the club campaigns for the protection of Pike and the rights of the Pike angler. Over the years the club has tackled everything; bait bans, Pike culls, access to fisheries, environmental campaigns And rehoming Pike. When I first fished for Pike you weren't a proper Piker unless you were a member of PAC, however it strikes me that through necessity the club was more radical, maybe more confrontational back then. I wonder if it would gain more support if it was like that today? Perhaps this might marginalise the club politically but there may come a day when there is no choice.

Another one of the many reasons for joining is Pikelines magazine and the autumn edition which dropped on the doormat recently was a great read. There is an interview with Neilson Baxter who is making some phenomonal catches of Scottish Pike. Neilson apparently enjoys “privilidged” access on one or two waters but it's obvious that the guy is totally dedicated, works hard for his fish and absolutely loves Pike. I think that the majority of Pikers, given the same circumstances would do exactly the same. The main theme for this issue is river Piking with interesting reads from David Wolsencraft Dodds on fly fishing, not something that really appeals to me but I enjoyed the article. Also Phil Kirk wrote a piece about tackling the River Trent. The closest I've come to this river is walking over it on the way to the Trent Bridge cricket ground. Another good read with some cracking photos.

I've shared a pint or three with Rob Shallcroft over the years and here is a guy who knows his rivers backwards and is a very succesful river Piker. He's written regularly for the magazine and it's always first class stuff, his latest article “Queens, aquariums and the urban bingo” is a gem and the pick of the bunch. It is obvious that Rob is speaking from the heart with real experience and he has the nack of getting his message across. The main photo accompanying it is really different and in its way spectacular. The rivers that Rob fishes are a world away from the ones I call home, they could hardly be more different. One of these days...

Bill Winship is another regular contributor but not one I've always read with conviction. He begins with the words “There are lots of things to be grateful for about living in Yorkshire...” And ends with “...a magical experience unique to winter time and unique to Yorkshire”. I don't think Bills experiences are as “unique” as he believes and sorry Bill but God isn't a Yorkshireman. I definately don't share Bill's view that “lures are 90% less effective in winter” not in my experience anyway but then again I haven't used a Devon Minnow in about thirty years. There were some interesting thoughts on bait though.

Time is short this weekend and the weather forecast is grim. Here's hoping I can fit in a day in the boat.
River Pike caught in winter on a Jerkbait fish shallow.

Sunday 8 November 2009



For once I was able to take advantage of a rare mid week day off and head back to my nirvana. My lady was also off work and having heard me talking on and on about the place was dragged mumbling out of bed at 5am to join me for her first experience of my favourite place on earth. We were both soon revived by tea and set off through the early morning gloom.

The forecast had been horrendous and we were greeted by sheets of drizzle and rain sodden roads. Shelley stayed warm and dry in the car while I launched the boat and I'm sure she was constantly questioning her sanity. But soon there was no hiding place and she found herself in the bows as I motored the boat down to our starting point. The sky was dull and grey with a bit of light rain whipping in on a moderate southerly wind but not as bad as I feared. As I passed over an area from which I'd caught several fish in the past I had a nagging feeling that I should be dropping the weights down here. However I kept going and moored the boat alongside the reeds for shelter to let Shelley get accustomed to being afloat. Four deadbaits were thrown downwind and we settled down to enjoy the scenery, the wildlife and an early fried breakfast.

We spent a couple of hours in this spot and the weather wasn't nearly as bad as the weatherman had threatened. With Shelley having found her sea legs I lifted the weights and took us into the open water spot I fancied. We spent ninety minutes here, Shelley was able to enjoy the full 360 degree panorama and really get a taste for the place. She was busy looking through a camera lens but no Pike disturbed us or put in an appearance for a photo call.

Our next stop was a more sheltered area, one from which I always seem to catch these days, (that's just put the kiss of death on that then...). Two deadbaits were cast into open water while two more where fished towards the reeds. We settled down and had a hot lunch, no sooner had we finished this than a large, ominous looking bank of dark cloud came up from the south west. Soon the threatened rain was starting to fall on us but the worst of the weather seemed to be passing by to the north of us. It was at this point that for the first time today I was disturbed by the wonderful sound of a boat biter singing. I looked up to see a float heading steadily towards the reeds, the Pollan had been picked up. I bent into a lively fish that although fairly small was very welcome. This was the first Pike Shelley had ever seen and she was impressed, “If that one's small. What are the big ones like?”

A fresh bait was cast out and I settled back with a smile. I'd slowly sunk into thinking a blank was on the cards but this fish had saved the day. At this point the wind strengthened and swung to the north west blowing the deep grey clouds in our direction and dumping loads of heavy rain on top of us. The plan had been to get off the water in the late afternoon but after half an hour of this we were both getting wet so decided it was a good time to call it a day. Ironically as we headed back to the boat yard the sky was clearing in the west and our arrival was heralded by a rainbow. That's now three trips and three fish but so far the big gals are avoiding me...


It's now the first week of November and I feel like I'm back in the groove. A cup of teas brings me round a little after 5 am then there's an hour journey north with the Prodigy pumping out of the stereo. The dashboard of the motor claims the outside temperature is 2 degrees (glad I'm wearing my winter hat this week) but I'm not sure I trust it? During the journey road bridges take me over five different rivers and I've caught Pike from all of them over the years. For once the journey is smooth with no annoying delays. By the time I reach the boat yard the temperature has allegedly climbed to 5 degrees, the sky is lightening to the east and I'm frantic as the tea I drank first thing is working its way through so I have to jump from the car to answer the call.

Half an hour later I was in position, the sky is clear and there's a light wind from the west. Four deadbaits are spread around the boat, not in a haphazard manner, a little thought has gone into their positions and I had a plan in place for the rest of the day. On each rod is a different bait, Mackerel and Bluey are fished downwind, a Lamprey cast upwind and a Pollan was cast away to the side and gradually twitched back to the boat. When I first fished this system a few years ago I did so expecting to struggle but happy in my surroundings, nowadays I expect to catch fish. Over the years I've learnt bit by bit and now I feel comfortable on the water.

Half an hour later I sat scanning the floats and as I glanced towards the one on the rod baited with Bluey as often happens I noticed a calm patch caused by leaking oil from the bait..... “hang on a minute – that float's on the move!” I quickly set the hooks and there was a bit of resistance but it didn't prove to be one of the big gals. Still a nice fish around the double figure mark was soon in the net, unhooked, briefly admired and returned to the murky waters. That'll do for starters! The bluey was still attached so I recast it and sat back to celebrate with a hot mug of tea.

I kept the pollan moving, twitching it back a foot or two every now and then, something that seems to work on this system but not on others, for me at least. After half an hour I decided to put a fresh Bluey on and whilst on my feet recast the Mackerel. I then picked up the rod baited with Pollan, intending to twitch it back again but as I did so it was solid. I opened the bail arm and sure enough line started peeling off. Closed the bail arm, wound down and....yes! Fish on! This one put a good bend in my antique Tricast rod and was obviously heavier than the first. She plodded a bit but was soon rolling over the net, a good long fish in absolutely mint condition and my first proper Pike of the season, get in! Here was a fish that justified using the Sladle, for the first time since March, and once again I couldn't help but be impressed by how easy it makes the whole unhooking procedure, a superb piece of kit. A quick photo and back to grow a little bigger.

With two fish under my boat I stayed in the area longer than I normally would, with grebes in the area I felt confident of more action but by eleven O clock nothing else had happened. I twitched all four baits back to the boat and as I did so pondered my next move. Do I stick to the plan I had in mind or head off and search? I chose the former and moved about 100 metres upwind and spread the baits out once again. This procedure was carried out a couple more times during the early afternoon but the fishing was uneventful. I was tempted to describe this part of the day as quiet but it was hardly that with the sound of gunshots reverberating around, the pheasants were obviously taking a battering. There was also a lunatic circling the water in some kind of light aircraft that sounded like it was propelled by wasp power. Despite this it was thoroughly pleasant, sitting back watching the ever present Harriers circling to the south of me and enjoying the autumn sunshine. I could easily have dozed off. However there was a sense of killing time, I expected the afternoon to be quiet but was confident of picking up another fish or two as the light faded later in the day.

In mid afternoon I moved once more, this time settling into an area that had produced the goods late in the day before. Rich came by and stopped for a quick chat, exchanging notes before he headed off to pastures new. With fresh baits soaking I sat back and enjoyed the last of the sun as it sank below the reeds, ever expectant of a take but on this occasion it didn't materialise. When I realised I'd left my torch in the car I had to do the sensible thing and pack up quickly. Another day spent doing what I love had passed by quickly, roll on the next one.

Finally, a few days ago the sad news came through that the father of modern Pike fishing, Dr Barrie Rickards had passed away. Although he had not enjoyed the best of health in recent years this still came as a bit of a shock. His book 'Fishing for Big Pike' co written with Ray Webb in the early 70's revolutionised the way anglers went about fishing for the species. As one of the founder members and original committee members of the Pike Anglers club of Great Britain he also spear headed the movement to return Pike alive conserve the species. Through his writing Barrie both educated and inspired me to fish for Pike and by trying to emulate his thinking approach I like to think I have become a better all round angler. In recent years I was privileged to meet the man on a couple of occasions and have an all too brief chat with a true gentleman. The most influential Pike angler we have seen has passed away, Barrie Rickards RIP.

Friday 30 October 2009

Heaven & Hell

A last minute change of plans gave me the opportunity to spend a night and a day at my favourite place. The car was hastily loaded and I was on my way, driving through drizzle and gloom with a plan fixed in my mind. If I could get on the water in time I would motor off to a place where Rich had found a fish or two in recent times. Unfortunately a succession of 'Tesco' trucks slowed my journey considerably and by the time I had launched the boat daylight was fading fast. I chickened out of plan A, not wanting too long a journey in the dark but was not too disappointed as I had faith in plan B. I headed out and questioned my sanity as another drizzle shower was whipped into my face by a brisk westerly breeze. However the sky was clearing and as I nosed the boat into the reeds the beautiful sunset away to my left made everything worthwhile.

As the light faded I quickly got three baits out into the water, two float ledgered deads were fished fairly close to the boat, a sardine adjacent to the reeds and a bluey a little further out. As I was anchored securely the third rod was rigged up with a ledger rig using a running 3ozs lead and baited with a mackerel. Some people frown on ledgering from a boat but if it's done correctly there is no problem. All three rods were fished with tight lines and ET boat biter alarms. With the rods out the boat was tidied up and organised so I knew where everything was and could reach it with ease. I was then able to settle back with a mug of tea and enjoy the experience of night fishing on the system.

I'd hardly been there an hour when I had a sharp pull on the ledger rod, the boat-biter sang out and the bait runner gave a little line. It stopped as soon as it had started but could only have been a take. I wound down to absolutely no resistance but there were a few marks on the bait, no doubts – a dropped take. On the one hand it was disappointing that I hadn't put a fish in the boat but on the other it boosted my confidence knowing that my choice of swim wasn't far off the mark.

Supper was the traditional sausage and bacon fry up washed down with another mug of tea. A friend “CC” was fishing elsewhere on the system and we swapped texts through the evening, passing the time with football banter and fishing gossip. All three rods were checked and recast. By now it was properly dark, the night was mild even though the wind was still fresh and the clear sky was dotted with stars. I lay back listening to the rustling reeds and counting the shooting stars, making the same wish on each of them. The temperature may have been falling but not my spirits, there was something wonderful about just being there, soaking up the atmosphere. All I needed was a fish....

At around 2200 the boat biter signalled life on the float rig baited with Bluey. This time the culprit kept going and I quickly wound down, bent into a fish and there was a pleasing resistance on the end of the line. My first night time Pike from this system punched its weight and tail-walked in the moonlight for me, fan bloody tastic! Not a monster but she'll do for me, a broad grin spread across my face. Not only that she conveniently unhooked herself in the net and was swimming away moments later. With the rod recast and the boat tidied once again I lay down in the bottom of the boat feeling content and at peace with the world.

I must have dozed off as just over an hour later the ledger rod was purring away as another Pike made off with the deadbait. Another quick strike saw a Pike of similar size drawn towards the boat, all seemed well but as she came into range a shake of the head saw the bait and hooks being thrown back at me. Oh well... I recast and fished an hour or so longer, enjoying the star lit spectacle but after a while the eyes grew heavy so I wound the rods in and lay down in the bottom of the boat once more to get some rest. I dozed off wondering what to do in the morning, should I stay in this general area or head off to the spot I'd originally intended to fish.....?

I cat napped through the night but awoke feeling fairly fresh as light began to grow away in the east. I made an instant decision to pull up the weights and head of to the “other” area. Half an hour later I was tucked into a nice sheltered corner with four deadbaits spread about the boat. Two were fished along the weed line while two others were out in open water. The day dawned as the previous one had ended, with a clear sky and a fresh westerly wind. Conditions looked good but I felt unsettled, not really confident. I had company in the form of a harrier hunting low over the reeds behind me and I beautiful panorama of water and marshland in front but still a nagging feeling I should move. After a while this urge became too much so move I did.

The next spot was one I'd never fished from before but it ticked all the boxes. A bay opened up to my left and there was thick marginal weed in front of the reeds on both sides of me. I cast a mackerel upwind along the weed line and a Sardine down wind. A Bluey was fished in open water as was a Pollan on the fourth rod. This latter was fished buoyant and twitched back towards the boat. I felt settled here and also felt like I was covering the water around me thoroughly, surely it was just a matter of time? A little over an hour later the mackerel was picked up, signalled by the float moving away from me following the line of the weed. I wound down and bent into the fish which responded by diving straight into the weed. Everything went solid but I kept the pressure on and gradually started to gain line and pump something back towards the boat. At first I was sure there was life on the end of the line but by the time I got a mass of weed back to the boat whatever fish had been on the end had gone. I have no idea just how large or small the Pike had been but kept telling myself that had it been a big fish the hooks would have found a good hold and I'd have landed it. This didn't stop me feeling gutted though! With a healthy dose of hindsight I realised that by positioning the boat a little further out I could have avoided the problem almost entirely, live and learn.

I carried on fishing but my enthusiasm and confidence were diminishing, I felt like I'd blown my chances for the day. Things didn't improve when a large yacht which had been zig-zagging across the water in front of me decided to stop and take down the sails within spitting distance of my boat. Why, when there's hundreds of acres of water did this bunch of clowns have to perform this task right in front of me? Two adults hanging precariously off the bows on a windy day, being watched by two children and not a single life jacket between them! Usually I'm able to ignore these types but today I couldn't help giving them some 'advice' in my Anglo Saxon dialect. I moved further upwind for another hour and here I threw a lure around for a while. At the end of a retrieve a tiny Pike flashed at the lure before vanishing once again. It was going to be one of those days! As I tidied the boat ready for departure a group of Cranes flew by, they were leaving the area and so was I.

There's Cranes there honest!

On yesterdays journey I'd been held up by Tesco lorries, on my journey home I was stuck behind a bloody horse box. When it comes to these creatures (which were rendered useless by the invention of the internal combustion engine) I think the French have the right idea. However, on the right back-side, Jodhpurs are a gift from God. Eventually I made it home; tired, filthy and very smelly. I'd enjoyed the experience, boated a fish but had the feeling I could have done better. My addiction has taken hold of me again and I can't wait to get back.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Punish the polluters!

Pollution is obviously a nightmare for all anglers and with the paltry fines imposed on polluters there is hardly any deterrent. In fact in some cases it might even be financially viable to allow a pollution and take the fine - not that I'm cynical of course!

Please follow this link and sigh the petition.


Last week it was the River Trent, next week it could be your local river.


Wednesday 14 October 2009

early Autumn

The last weekend in September was highly eventful, beginning with an early morning start on the Saturday and avoiding an over turned boat & trailer on the A14 I managed to make my way to Stoneleigh for the PAC annual convention.

As usual it was a highly enjoyable day catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I spent most of it helping Mark & co on the club's products stand. It was a nice change this year to just be a helper and not have the responsibility for organising the stand. This year I was also able to spend a bit more time wandering around the hall and checking out the tackle stands. Steve Bown was there demonstrating the excellent BBB alarms, alongside the inimitable Dave Lumb who shared a bit of his knowledge about a rod I hope to be buying sometime soon. Next stand along was Eddie Turner with the full range of gear and some awesome stuffed fish for a backdrop. Across the way was Alex and the Zoota lures stand where I couldn't resist buying another wagtail to replace the badly chewed one in my tackle box. I also bought a copy of John Watson's “Pikers Progression”, a book I've been after for some time. My final purchase was a life jacket from the second hand stall, If I'm not wearing it the kids will be. For the first time ever I even got to see a talk this year, this was by Ian Weatherall who overcame some early nerves to deliver a very enjoyable talk with a few laughs and some cracking photos.

The convention is always a good day but the best part, without a doubt is always the Saturday night. With the day's work over it's time to relax, eat, drink and make merry. My friends and I managed to do all of those things to excess. When not actually fishing, the next best thing has to be talking about it and a beery evening was spent laughing, reminiscing and sharing stories. Big thanks to Steve, Rob & Ian for their company which went on until the early hours of the morning.

We had a days fishing scheduled for the Sunday but we were all a bit worse for wear so there was no rush. A leisurely breakfast, a quick cup of tea then off to the river. Five of us cast rods for Pike, Zander, Barbel and anything else that swum. Five slightly hungover anglers soaked up the autumn sunshine, relaxed, laughed and totally failed to catch a fish of any kind. That's why it's called fishing and not catching.

In the early evening I began the long drive back to Suffolk but before I'd made it to the motorway the car was making horrible noises when I changed gear. I limped back home but there was obviously something very wrong. The M.O.T. proved terminal and to make things more ironic I'd just acquired a new trailer. So now I had boat sitting on a nice trailer but no car to tow it, my first Pike trip of the autumn planned for midweek had to be postponed. What a pisser!
The car is dead, long live the car! Eventually everything fell into place and with new wheels (and more debt) I towed the boat up to its winter home and had my first trip of the season. For once there was no early start and it was midday before I was on the water. The weekend admirals were out in force so my options were limited but I launched easily and headed south, as I neared a favoured area I saw a couple of Grebes so made a beeline for them. I ended up dropping the weights in an area I hadn't fished before but it looked good. Two static deadbaits were chucked out into open water and two others were made buoyant and fished along the reed line. The baits were positioned so any oils and juice leaking out would spread making as much of a scent trail as possible. At least that was the theory!

I spent a couple of hours in this spot before lifting the weights and moving over to a quiet bay from which I've caught a few Pike in the past. Once again four deadbaits were spread out though one was fished close to the reeds. The sun was more evident now, poking through the clouds and the breeze had freshened considerably. I felt more confident here than I had in the first spot and really felt that If I could find fish then I would catch. However after an hour or so in this spot I hadn't located any Pike willing to take a bait so it was time to move once more.

Just a short journey this time saw me sitting in another spot that had produced for me in the past. A bluey was cast into open water, a buoyant Mackerel upwind a Sardine downwind and a Pollan chucked towards the reeds. I made myself comfortable in the bottom of the boat and got some sausages sizzling in the pan. There is absolutely no doubt that they taste best in such circumstances. Just as I was contemplating plan D, I noticed the float cast towards the reeds was on the move, my first take of the autumn and as usual a knee trembling, ring clenching experience. I wound down quickly and bent into the fish and it was obvious straight away that it wasn't a monster, however the first of the new season was soon in the net and I was a very happy bunny. I've never fished anywhere else where a relatively small fish puts such a big smile on my face. It's something I struggle to describe...so I won't try today at least. I gave this area another half hour before making my final move of the day.

I dropped into an open water swim and spread fresh baits around the boat, once again trying to maximise any scent trail they may make. I settled down with a hot mug of tea and watched the first of many sunsets over the reeds and marshes this season. I fished for as long as I could see the floats then quickly tidied up and headed back to base. It's been six months since my last visit and by god it was good to be back!

Wednesday 16 September 2009


What a mad few weeks, where did the time go? Despite my gloomy predictions England managed to win the Ashes!!! But the end of the test match series always seems like the end of summer, maybe not a bad thing the way the fishing has gone this year? I managed to take the kids to the Fenland country fair on the bank holiday weekend, which was great. Mark & co were manning the PAC stand and it was good to catch up. Madison loved the ferret racing, Isaac loved the food... With all this family stuff going on I almost missed an important personal anniversary; thirty years ago, in august 1979 I caught my first ever Pike!

Anyone who is bored/daft enough to read my scribbles more than once will have noticed that I never name the waters I'm fishing for obvious reasons, but this time I'm going to make an exception. The reason why will become apparent towards the end of this ramble. Anyway, back to my trip down memory lane, August 1979. I can remember I was fishing my usual haunt at that time, a small millpond on Suffolk's River Gipping. The mill was long gone even then but it was still a beautiful shady, little pool. The river had once been canalised and where a lock had formerly stood, water now tumbled over a weir, through a brick sided run, beneath a bridge and into the tree shaded pool. Here a nice current flowed down the far bank and an eddy swirled around the near. The pool then narrowed and water sped through a shallow gravel run and away. In my mind the weather was hot and clear but it always was in the school summer holiday back then. The tackle was a poker stiff six foot boat rod made of solid fibre glass with an Intrepid surfcast reel loaded with thick blue mono that could have towed a bus. I don't remember if I used a wire trace but I suspect I didn't. I do remember mounting a live gudgeon on an enormous single hook and swinging it as far into the pool as I could on the gear I was using. The rod was then laid on the ground and I assume I turned my attention back to catching dace, gudgeon, minnows or what ever would take my maggots. After a while could have been minutes, could have been hours, I was alerted by the sound of gravel moving as my tackle was dragged towards the water. I don't think the beast beneath could have put up much of a struggle before it was dragged onto the gravel and battered to death. Obviously I took it home to show off to my family, friends and anyone else who glanced in my direction. It was weighed on mum's kitchen scales and 1 ½ pounds recorded. After having my photo taken in the back garden the poor hapless ex-Pike was buried beneath a bush. Happily, this is the one and only Pike I have ever knowingly killed.

Back to the present. This weekend was another busy one. Loads of decorating to fill the days, a big Saturday night out with my oldest, dearest friends (including my fishing mates) and our wives & girlfriends – I think I've just about recovered from that one! Today Shantel made her d├ębut for a new football team, played a blinder and scored on the way to a win. All I needed to cap a perfect weekend was a fish or two so on Sunday evening I sneaked down the river with a medium lure rod and a minimal amount of tackle. Where should I go? There was only one choice, that little millpool on the River Gipping. My sights were set low, just a Pike, any Pike would do. After days of dry, bright, mild weather today was cloudy with a hint of drizzle in the air. I crossed the bridge and negotiated the stile, at first glance the pool looked much the same as it had in my childhood but on closer inspection the flow was nowhere near as strong as it had been back then. This may be due to the long dry spell we've experienced but I suspect it has more to do with abstraction from a pumping station downstream. This is used to top up a water supply reservoir and it's affects on the river have gone largely un-noticed over the last couple of decades.

I began fishing with a home made ½ ounce spinnerbait, buzzing it amongst lily pads. After a couple of casts a fish moved near by...was it a Pike? I continued a quick retrieve but the lure stopped by weed, or so I thought but as I pulled a small Pike swirled away, sod it! chance missed. I continued downstream fishing swims I literally spent days in as a child. On one hand it looked familiar, trees where I'd lost countless floats still overhung the river and there were still some well worn patches in the same places on the bank. However other trees had been broken down and the far bank had been redeveloped. On one occasion in my youth my pals and I were almost caught scrumping apples and had to escape by jumping into the river. Both the old building and the orchard were gone, replaced by three or four new houses and the sound of children's voices playing “What's the time Mr Wolf?” was clearly audible. There was also a great deal more weed, choking the river in places and as I alluded to earlier the current was nothing like it was in my childhood. It was on this stretch of river that I learnt to trot with a stick float (anyone remember that?), nowadays it would be like fishing a lake. The fishing was a non event. One more jack Pike shot out of the weed at high speed, homed in on the spinnerbait then just as rapidly turned and vanished back into the weed from whence it came, but that was it. Time well spent though.

On the way home I decided to pull in and have a look at another stretch of the river, this one used to be my absolute favourite and is controlled by a club grandly titled the Gipping Angling Preservation Society. I was disappointed to see that what was once a great stretch of river with excellent fishing for Roach, Chub and winter Pike is now almost completely choked with weed. The peg numbers go up to number thirty but only about five were actually fishable due to weed and general dis-repair. There was virtually no current at all which doesn't help matters either. I wonder what the G.A.P.S. Club are doing to “preserve” the fishing on the Gipping? The answer is obviously absolutely nothing as they are busy spending the revenue from their ever decreasing membership on trying, yet somehow failing to build more Carp puddles. When I was a child this club had about 1100 members and controlled all the worthwhile fishing in the area. I was a member for many years and virtually learnt to fish on their waters. Unfortunately even back then G.A.P.S. was always a decade behind the times and even now they have only just cottoned on to the fact that big Carp fishing is actually quite popular. I haven't been a member of this club for several years now, the final straw was a livebait ban imposed some time ago. I use the word imposed deliberately as the club's match dominated committee decided the club needed this in the name of “fish welfare” without consulting the membership.
This was once my favourite Pike swim on the river...

I was amongst a group of five or six Pike anglers who attempted to do something about the ban at a committee meeting. Most of the talking was done by a friend called Chris who has since sadly passed away. Not only was Chris a fine all round angler but a very intelligent and articulate man who completely destroyed the arguments put forward by the committee. They had no answer to Chris and we were treated to the sight of grown men shrugging their shoulders and giggling into the palms of their hand. Their response was to say “thank you very much” and ban it anyway. The club lost five members right then & there, last I heard membership was down to about 300. Compare this to the similarly named Colchester APS based twenty miles to the south and the contrast couldn't be greater. Here there is a thriving club offering anglers what they want, including Carp and Catfish. Other clubs more local to G.A.P.S. patch have sprung up and are growing at the expense of the older established organisation, none of them are my cup of tea but they offer what anglers want.
What happened to the overhanging branches? Another winter holding area destroyed

Anyway, rant over. On a more positive note it's two weeks to go before the annual Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain at Stoneleigh. Always a great event with a great line up of speakers and all of the tackle suppliers listed on the right of the page will be showing off their wares.
Details here.......

Wednesday 19 August 2009

All very nice but...

What to do today? The Zander fishing in itself has been poor, nothing to motivate and excite me. What do Madison and Isaac want to do, go fishing or do something different? I'm really not bothered to tell the truth. The jury consults and comes back with the verdict; “We want to go night fishing Dad!” I let them talk me into it. The next question is where do we go? I'd really like to catch some Zander and I know plenty of nice places where I have a good chance of doing that. However I need somewhere where the kids can relax, catch a few fish and just be themselves safely, without bothering anyone else. Busy roads, locked gates, treacherous banks, swamps and unpredictable livestock reduce the choice to just one. Back to the same spot that hasn't been producing the goods lately, oh well.

The journey was uneventful, half way through august and already there's football on the radio, the kids preferred to sing along to radio1. The forecasters had promised two warm, dry days and a clear night with a fresh wind from the south west. We arrived at the river in the late afternoon and as usual had the stretch to ourselves. The river was down on last week and clearer too but was still fairly high with a bit of pace, it didn't look bad. There was a fair bit of drifting weed but the wind was pushing into the near bank and it would be easy to fish around. By early evening the camp was sorted and the fishing was aided by a team effort. Madison had her creative head on so gave herself the job of groundbait maker, adding ingredients like a chef and giving us a running commentary on what she was doing. No groundbait mix has ever been more lovingly flavoured, mixed and kneaded as this one was. Isaac was chief bait catcher, regularly yanking in Bream, Bleak, Rudd, Roach and lots of Perch of 4 to 6 ounces, yelling “Got one!” excitedly every time. Madison put his success down to her bait mixing.

Meanwhile in between baiting up, sorting tangles and unhooking fish I was rigging up the Zander rods. After a bit of a rethink I'd switched from the CD paternoster to a standard float paternoster rig so I'd be able to angle the rods and keep the line completely clear of the water and avoid the worst of the weed. On the other rod I used a short buoyant lead link and 3ozs of lead on a running ledger rig. Both were baited with livebaits and dropped into clear spaces in mid channel. The children continued fishing for a bit longer then started dropping unsubtle hints about being hungry. Time for a fry up, a cup of tea, sit back and chill out.

The evening was uneventful fishing wise, the children explored the meadow some more then as the light faded returned and sat around chattering. Madison was tired so took herself off into her sleeping bag but Isaac sat beside me asking when the Zander were coming (I wish I knew!) and watching the riverside darken around us. As promised the sky was clear and it was a great night for star gazing. Isaac was really excited by the bats that were flying above us and by the occasional shooting star; “I'm going to wish for thousands of toy clone troopers dad!” By 1045 Isaac was yawning so I tucked him into the tent, his sister was already sound asleep. The paternoster had worked fine but the ledger rod had still picked up a bit of weed. After re-baiting both rods with fresh lives I climbed into my winter gear (never bother with a sleeping bag) and lay down in the bivvy.

I awoke at first light, no alarms had sounded during the night but there was no bait on the ledger rig. The bait on the paternoster was still there though, both rods were re-baited and then it was back to the bivvy. The rigs may not have caught a fish but I felt more confident in them....I dozed off again knowing that my best chance had passed and another blank was on the cards. Next thing I know its about 8am and the children are stirring, demanding breakfast. A cup of tea wakes me up and the morning fry up filled us up. The kids were fuelled and full of energy and spent some time charging around the meadow before settling down to a bit more fishing while I tidied the camp away.

The summer holidays are passing quickly, it would be nice to drop a Zander bait into a different part of fenland one of these days but time probably won't allow it. It's great spending time like this with Madison and Isaac...but a bloody Zander would be nice! But at the moment I'm relying on luck...If I do have another nights fishing the kids won't let me go alone so it will have to be a return to “Our meadow”. Before that it's Isaac's birthday next week and the Ashes.

Monday 10 August 2009

Luck's got to change?

I've been suffering. Only another cricket fan, specifically an England cricket fan will know what I've been going through. It's no good I have to get it all off my chest. For months I've been telling anyone who will listen that the team management and the selectors in particular are idiots and are getting things all wrong. The selectors seem to make choices that make the England fans say “What? Who? Why?” Last year it was Darren Pattinson (whatever happened to him?), lately it's been somebody called Trott. In the past they've stuck by batsmen that have struggled yet chucked bowlers out of the team after a bad match. This year they're continuing to stick by a bowling attack that isn't capable of removing top batsmen in anything other than the most helpful conditions. Stuart Broad will become a great all rounder but he isn't good enough yet. The good run of luck/results against the Australians has given everyone a false impression, until now. This weekend the Aussies absolutely battered us, levelling the series at 1-1 with one to play. Here's hoping that the selectors can get it right (Bopara out, Rob Key in, pick bowlers that suit the wicket) for the last match and our team plays at 100%, otherwise we're going to lose. On a positive note it's been a better series than I expected though. Rant over.

Fishing this weekend was more of the same, Shelley & I headed off to fenland and by the early evening we were settling in by the river, she fished for bait while I set up camp. The first thing I noticed was the river looked good, much better than I could have possibly hoped; high, coloured and pushing through nicely. It looked bang on for Zander and my confidence was boosted immediately. The increased pace and water made bait catching more difficult though but with lots of perseverance and regular feeding Shelley managed to catch a few Bleak, Bream and Rudd. I'm pleased that she really seems to be enjoying this fishing lark and has picked up the basics quickly. She thinks she's just about ready to put maggots on the hook now but hasn't yet actually touched a fish. With the light fading I got two Zander rods rigged up and fishing, a paternoster on one and a ledger rig on the other as usual. I'm sticking to tried and tested methods that have caught plenty of fish for me over the years but this season things haven't gone to plan.

The evening was lovely, warm and pleasant, much more comfortable than the downpour we fished through last week. It was nice to chill out, eat, drink and be merry in relative comfort. There were far fewer weekend admirals about and all was very peaceful. The moon rose but was partially obscured by clouds, not a night for moonlight shadows but surely good conditions for a Zander? Unfortunately the fishing wasn't as relaxing, masses of drifting weed were catching on the line and dragging the baits downstream. I was casting to clearer spots but the rigs were being pulled into weed regularly. I did have one take on the paternoster but didn't connect, I retrieved a nice bream livebait to find a chunk had been bitten out of it, I suspect an Eel was to blame. Eventually in the wee small hours, after several rounds of tug o' war with weed rafts I ran out of bait so wound in and retired to the comfort of the tent.

We slept in a bit and it was sometime around 9am before I emerged from the tent. Shelley had more success this morning, float fishing maggots to catch some nice Rudd, Roach & a Perch. I rigged up the paternoster again and chucked it into mid river, more in hope than expectation. I put a bit of thought into my presentation and think that next time I'll have a set up that will avoid the worst of the weed. The morning was lovely; fried breakfast, hot tea and good company. Boat traffic started to increase and there were large numbers of joggers pounding along the floodbank, and they say anglers are mad? All too soon it was time to tidy the gear away and head for home. The Zander fishing has been disappointing so far this season but despite that, time spent in the countryside has been as enjoyable as ever. Next week I'll do it all again.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Rain stopped play

Friday was a good day. England well on top of the Aussies in the third test, I love cricket!! Friday was also a long night, spent in the company of old friends who I don't see often enough. We went to see a band with the charming name of “F***ed up”, kind of punky with lots of shouting. We all over indulged and stayed up very late but it was a great time as usual. By strange coincidence I was feeling a bit under the weather on Saturday morning and was very slow getting out of bed and getting the gear sorted and in the car. This time Isaac stayed at home and my eldest, Shantel joined Madison and I for an overnight trip to the fens. The weather was breezy with sunny spells amongst the cloud, there was the threat of rain later however. Unfortunately the weather in Birmingham was much worse and I was unable to listen to cricket on the radio for the journey west.

By 2pm we arrived in the fens and began the normal routine of the kids catching bait on the whip while I sorted the gear and pitched the tent. As usual I fed the swim with lots of groundbait and maggots, Shantel was soon whipping in lots of small Bream along with the occasional Rudd or Roach. Chris arrived shortly afterwards and set up downstream and after a nightmare journey north Elliott arrived and opted to fish upstream. The weather remained cloudy and fresh but there was no hint of rain. Overhead conditions seemed good for an early take so we all had Zander baits out by the early evening. The river was not looking so good however, low, clear and still lots of weed, much more than previous seasons. Still, we were all feeling confident of a take or two. Unfortunately the news from the Cricket wasn't good, too much rain and play had been abandoned for the day.

Cabaret this evening was provided by a drunken bunch on a narrow boat. Two blokes had decided to ride in an inflatable dinghy being towed and had managed to fall out and into the river. They cheerfully swam down towards the boat which cut its engines and drifted right through the area we were fishing, crashing into the bank. They restarted the boat and the two clever people in the river found out its really quite difficult to climb up the side of a narrow boat. In the end no harm was done to anybody but it's highly ironic that with all the many miles of river this had to happen right in front of us. It's worth remembering that had this incident occurred on the deep, powerful tidal rivers in Norfolk those two idiots might not have made it out of the river. Elliot's luck hadn't improved either, he had to move after setting up on an ants nest.

When the madness subsided we settled back down to the fishing and our confidence was justified as Chris had a take. The result was an eel which was quickly unhooked and slipped back into the river. He had predicted an eel or two in these conditions. There were threatening clouds away to the west but the wind was from the south and they looked to be passing harmlessly by. Chris then took up his customary role as head chef and proceeded to fry up his speciality Newmarket sausages, (he swears they're not made of race horses) served with onions and salad, delicious! Desert was toasted marshmallows, guaranteed to keep the kids up all night. Madison narrowly outpointed Elliott in the marshmallow eating contest. As usual there was lots of banter & mutual ribbing along with a cold bottle of beer or two. In fact we were having such a good time that we failed to notice that the wind had swung around and the rain was heading straight for us.

It started suddenly and then pelted down. Within minutes we were all scrambling around trying to get ourselves in wet weather clothing and cover gear up. Our camps had been set up on a southerly wind and now we had a westerly whipping rain right into us. All three of us were caught unaware' s and got a soaking, the girls however were fine; warm and dry zipped up in their tent. For two hours the sky emptied on top of us, absolutely everything was damp at best, a lot of the kit was soaked. However as the sun dipped in the west, the cloud thinned and the rain began to ease. We were treated to another spectacular fenland skyscape; in the eastern sky was a spectacular double rainbow whilst to the west the sun blazed bright orange on the horizon, the photos do neither justice. I stood out in the open enjoying the scenery with the rain stinging my face and laughed, I was actually enjoying this madness! Shortly afterwards my paternoster rig roared off and I bent into a scrappy fish, not the Zander I'd hoped for but a small Pike, Oh well things were looking up.

When the rain eventually stopped we studied the aftermath. Chris was wet but this wasn't a major problem as he hadn't planned to fish all night anyway. I wasn't too bad but damp and uncomfortable, the girls in the tent were absolutely fine. Poor old Elliott however, had come off worse and was totally drenched, as was all his kit. Spending the rest of the night on the fen wasn't really an option, his only choice was to pack up and head for home. Before he left he managed to rub salt into his wounds by falling in the mud on the flood bank. Unfortunately that wasn't the end of his bad luck for the day but I'm sure he'll be back for another crack.

Chris too began to tidy up and head for a dry home but before he left my Paternoster roared off a second time. The culprit this time was long, ugly and slimy. Eels are great when you're actually fishing for the things but on a Zander rig in the dark, I hate them. I remember chatting to an ol' Suffolk boy years ago. I told him that I sometimes struggled to unhook Eels. His reply was “I never have any trouble unhooking Eels...I just cut their f***ing heads off!” He was deadly serious and couldn't understand why I cracked up laughing. Not a very PC statement in the context of these enlightened times.

Chris had tidied up, said his goodbyes and left, at that point I envied him. I was damp and uncomfortable, the eel appeared to have completely trashed the paternoster rig. I tried to gently persuade the kids we'd be better off if we slowly tidied up and spent the night in our own dry beds. They were having none of it, insisting they were warm and dry and looking forward to me frying them breakfast in the morning. I had no real choice but to stay and make best of it so I made an effort to organise everything and get things sorted for the night ahead. My groundbait had taken a soaking so I balled it all into my swim, hoping to attract some bait fish and also predators. I put a fresh bait on the ledger and dropped it on the edge of the weed. I put a second ledger rig into a clear spot under the rod tip then picked up the paternoster which wasn't as bas as I'd thought. I thought I might as well chuck this back out too so a fresh bait was put into mid river. I now had everything organised and three fresh, lively baits out in the river and actually felt confident of putting a Zed onto the bank. After one last cuppa I settled back into my bivvy and tried to forget everything was damp and doze for a bit. Twice in the dark hours I was roused by a bite alarm, unfortunately both times it wasn't fish and after removing lots of drifting weed I recast a fresh bait into the river. The third time the alarm sounded it wasn't weed...it was a Swan and by now it was daylight, my best chance of a Zander had passed. Three fresh baits then back into the bivvy for another snooze.


8am and the camp was stirring, bright sunlight was drying everything off nicely. Shantel entertained herself catching a few more fish on the whip while Madison charged up and down the meadow with her skipping rope. I slowly tidied up and cooked us all a lovely fried breakfast, washed down with a cup of tea, both really hit the mark. We deserved a good feed and we got one! On the floodbank opposite a cheerful chap wearing a beard and a big jumper was warbling away some strange tune as he walked along. He could have been from the Cambridge folk festival, or he could be someone who wishes he was. I'm pretty sure he wasn't from the “F***ed up” gig on Friday though! By 11am we were in the car travelling back home, I hoped to have cricket on the radio but play was delayed but the good news was it was due to start at noon. C'mon England!

Monday 27 July 2009

Summer for a day

No one should have to work at the weekend, least of all me. To be fair I don't have to do it often but I don't like it. I spent the day clock watching, counting down the hours and minutes until I was able to jump in the car, which was already fully loaded with gear, then head off for a nights fishing. On the way I picked up my lil' lady Shelley who had never been fishing before. My descriptions of quiet, unspoilt rivers at the ends of winding dirt roads, spectacular sunsets and delicious fry ups washed down with wine had set her thinking she might actually enjoy the experience.

We arrived in the early evening, the river was a little low and clearer than I'd expected after a week of heavy showers. The weather however was warm, clear and dry, summer had returned for a day at least; Ideal for chilling out in the countryside. I set Shelley up with the whip and after explaining the basics left her to it while I set up the tent and got all the gear ready for the evening. It didn't take long before a truly momentous event, Shelley caught her first ever fish, a Roach. Actually she took to this fishing lark like a natural and was soon filling the net with silver fish; Rudd, Bleak, Bream and a tiny Chub. Meanwhile I had the camp-site sorted, two Zander rods were cast out and the kettle was soon bubbling on the stove, followed swiftly by the regular fishing meal of sausage and bacon sarnies, lovely. It was a perfect summer evening, the tranquillity broken only by the occasional boat passing and by a bunch of hooray Henrys who decided to take a noisy swim upriver.

Once it got too dark to see the float we gave up fishing for silvers and settled back with a bottle of wine to watch the sun set spectacularly, silhouetting a hot air balloon in the distance as it came in to land. In the half light an Owl flew soundlessly and gracefully along the opposite floodbank and the hoots of Tawnys could be heard as a crescent moon began to dip in the sky. The sky was clear so it seemed to take an age to get fully dark but when it did so the stars were spectacular. At around 10 pm the ledgered livebait was taken and I wound down to find myself connected to a fish, albeit very briefly. Everything went solid and I eventually hauled in a big bundle of weed and lots of someone else's line, whatever had taken my bait was long gone. Weed has been a problem this season so far, its very thick in places and livebaits are finding it easy to attach themselves to weed and lever themselves off the hooks. The answer would be to recast regularly but to be honest I've been too laid back and too busy just chilling out to bother too much.

With fresh baits out we settled back down to chill out and enjoy a beautiful, mild, starry night, eventually dozing off in the early hours. The next thing I knew it was dawn, signalled by a spectacular sunrise but sadly no Zander had disturbed the night. Two more fresh baits went out into the river and thinking I had missed my chance of a decent fish I dozed off to sleep again. A bite alarm sounded around 7.30 am and the next thing I knew I was scrambling towards the rod, fish on! The resistance was minimal and the fish soon materialised, a nice sized Perch, one I definitely didn't want to lose! I soon had it on the bank and was absolutely sure it would top two pounds however the scales disagreed, it was a couple of ounces under. It occurred to me that whenever I actually set out to target Perch my results are modest at best, in fact all of my biggest Perch have been caught when I've been fishing for either Pike or Zander. I think there's a lesson in that! I woke Shelley up to take a couple of quick pictures (I'm going to have to learn how to hold these things for the camera too), then slipped it back.

The second day was cloudy with a breeze from the west. Shelley emerged from the tent and settled back into the routine of catching silver fish on the whip as if she'd been doing it all her life. Meanwhile I boiled the kettle and made breakfast then slowly tidied away our camp. The traffic from holiday boats increased to the point that it was becoming annoying so by the late morning we were all packed up and heading for home. I was pleased with the Perch, it kind of made the trip worthwhile in a fishing sense. Although I'd failed to catch a Zander I'd definitely succeeded in showing Shelley some of the things that make our sport so enjoyable and I know it won't be long before she's fishing again.

Monday 20 July 2009

Ah, that's better...

Looking back over the past couple of months, since the start of spring my attempts at catching fish have been one glorious failure after another. Absolutely no Tench which is normal for me, but only small Pike and Perch on lures when I would usually expect much better, what's going on? Next year I think my spring & early summer fishing will take a different direction. Anyway, the summer holidays are here now, time for a change of pace. It's the time of year when the kids and I head to the Fenlands for a spot of camping, fishing and relaxing. In the daylight hours we fish for silvers but when the light fades out comes the heavier tackle and I target the Zander. Whether I succeed or continue my run of heroic disasters doesn't really matter, the time spent in the countryside will be rewarding and relaxing.

With a car jammed to the roof with gear we left home in the early afternoon and had an uneventful journey west. On the radio was my other sporting passion, cricket and with the Aussies in the country and the ashes at stake I'll have a radio beside me for the rest of the summer. Anyway, things were going well, England on top and making steady progress. After forty five minutes of our own steady progress I was parking the car beside the floodbank and the children were scrambling to get out.

Madison was four years old the first time she spent a night here in the fens and Isaac was three so we settled into a tried & tested routine. They waved the whip around and caught a few fish in between running around the meadow, while I set up the tent and everything else. The afternoon was warm and windy with broken cloud but thankfully it was dry which makes the whole experience so much more relaxing. The recent storms had freshened the river up nicely, it had a good flow and a tinge of colour, bang on for the Zander I hoped. Meanwhile, at Lords England got a bit bogged down in the middle of the afternoon but Prior and Collingworth ground the Aussies down later on. By six o'clock everything was ready, the net was full of fresh bait and I had two rods rigged and ready for the Zander. I fished a running ledger with a bait popper cast upstream and a running paternoster rig in front of me. Both rods were baited with fresh lives and had a 'rig rattle' on the trace.

With everything ready the next priority was food so the stove was sparked up and the frying pan was soon sizzling away. The sausage and bacon sarnies were washed down with a hot cup of tea, the wind started to die away, the river looked in great nick and everything was right with the world. It was into this happy camp that Chris stepped shortly after the stove had cooled. While the kids ran around the meadow some more we chatted the evening away and Chris cooked desert, barbecued bananas stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate! A little sweet for me but the little 'uns devoured them enthusiastically. Chris & I were content to have a cold bottle of beer and it was shortly after this things started to go a bit strange.

We heard a sound from behind us and looked around to see a car on top of the flood bank, the occupants were acting very strangely indeed. After a while it became apparent that the car was stuck on the very top with both the front and rear wheels clear of the ground. Being helpful sorts we wandered over to see if we could be of assistance, the occupants were a young couple who were slightly embarrassed and the bloke was either very drunk or very weird. He spoke with a very educated (posh) Oxbridge accent and didn't seem to understand the more rural speech of us ol' country boys. The young lady didn't even get out of the car. With a lot of exertion we managed to tip the car and get it moving down the slope at which point the lady turned around, gunned the engine and hurtled back towards us at speed, barely giving us time to get out of the way. She successfully cleared the floodbank this time and parked the car in a more sensible place. Chris & I returned to the river and tried to settle back into the ambient surroundings but our new friends weren't quite as relaxed. They had intended to camp by the river but instead were having quite a loud argument which ended with the lady storming off and the by now obviously drunk chap wandering around cursing to himself and struggling to put his tent up. He eventually succeeded and thankfully soon disappeared inside to sleep it off.

As the light faded, the temperature dropped quickly, the kids retired to their snug sleeping bags inside the tent and Chris bade us farewell. I put fresh baits on both the Zander rods and settled back to await developments. I had very little confidence on the back of my recent fishing results and to be honest I didn't care too much, we were enjoying ourselves, that was the important thing. Around 11 pm the downstream rod, set up with a paternoster signalled signs of life. I wound down quickly but the culprit had removed my bait and transferred the hooks into some weed, typical! Just my luck! I re baited and chucked the rig back out, before I settled back into the bivvy I took time to look up at the millions of stars visible in the clear sky, something that never fails to blow my mind.

First of the season

The next thing I knew an alarm was shrieking at me, I staggered out and picked up the upstream ledger rod. With daylight beginning to lighten the scene I bent into my first Zander of 2009 and after a bit of a tug o' war through the weedbeds I soon had it in the net. Not a monster but a nice fish of around five pounds and after my recent poor run I considered it a result to actually land the fish I'd targeted! The rod was re baited and cast out, I settled back into the bivvy again; relaxed, happy but very tired. No sooner had my eyes shut, it seemed I was away again, a fast take on the paternoster rod. I bent into a decent weight of fish, was there a lot of weed on the line or was this the mother of all Zander? A long shape appeared in the growing light and there didn't appear to be too much weed on the line, my hope of landing a BIG Zander grew. However, as it neared the net it became apparent that what I'd hooked was in fact a decent sized Pike, a fish around mid doubles. I was slightly disappointed but hey, it's still a nice fish which was unhooked, photographed and slipped back with as little fuss as possible. Another fresh bait was cast into mid river, it was just before 5am and the sun was creeping above the flood bank, the orange light creating a rainbow through the cloud in the western sky, beautiful!

Not the mother of all Zander but welcome all the same!

My eyes opened again a couple of hours later, it was fully daylight and the kids were chattering away happily in the tent beside me. I stirred myself awake and put the kettle on, a cup of tea to wake me up before breakfast, more sausage and bacon sandwiches. Madison was happy scribbling in her notebook about the stripy caterpillars she'd found while Isaac sat holding the whip, trying to catch a fish or two. I sat beside him and peering down into the clear water I noticed a shape beside the keepnet, it was a nice sized perch, obviously attracted by the fish inside the net. First of all we tried to tempt this fish with a couple of maggots but it didn't want to know, in fact it seemed completely oblivious. We needed a livebait but all of ours were in the net and we couldn't get to them without disturbing the Perch. Eventually Isaac caught a Bleak on the whip, a little too big perhaps but it would have to do. I lowered it down, hooked up on a spare rod and we peered down into the water wondering what would happen. We didn't have long to wait, for some reason I'd expected the Perch to swim up cautiously and casually but as soon as this fish became aware of the hapless Bleak it just nailed it and disappeared into the weed, unfortunately I suspect the bait was too big for the Perch, either that or I fluffed the strike. Whatever, no Perch graced the net this morning.

That was our last excitement of the day. The children had a last run around the meadow and I tidied all the gear up with threatening clouds building away to the west, rain was on it's way. By late morning we were back in the car as the first spots began to splat on the windscreen, cricket would help the journey pass by quickly once again. These summer nights in the fenland tick all the boxes, nice scenery, wildlife, good company, nice food, peace & quiet and for once I'd even caught the fish I'd set out after.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Sometimes things don't go to plan...

Friday evening 10 pm, sitting in front of the pc minding my own business and the phone rings, a “friend” who shall remain nameless is drunk in town and needs rescuing. The car is loaded with fishing gear & the boat is hitched. So feeling totally pissed off I unhitch the boat & drive into town. When I get to town my “friend” is not just drunk but semi-conscious and vomiting. Back home, friend is dumped in the flat, at the foot of the stairs in a heap.

I go back to the car & wipe up a few dribbles of vomit from the front footwell, not too bad. Look in the back...what the f***? At first I think it's loads of puke, in fact it's paint spilled from the pot I'd bought for redecorating my house. Loads of white paint all over the floor of my car!!!!! It takes me ages to wipe away the worst of it. It's all over my fishing gear too, including my lures!! It dawns on me that the lures are worth more than the car so I have to clean the paint off them too. A bucket of water does the trick thankfully. Eventually I get to bed about two hours later than planned.

Up again at the crack of 5am, feeling very tired but what the hell? The forecast was for mixed sunny and cloudy spells with showers. We'd had rain the previous evening so after two blistering hot weeks surely this break in the weather would switch the fish on? The weather men almost got it right, except there was no cloud and no rain, just clear skies, sunshine and more soaring temperatures. Lovely weather for sunbathing but crap for fishing, however everything was ready so I went anyway. The destination this week is a river in the fens with a good head of Pike and an even better stock of Perch.

I started trolling slowly downstream with two rods hedging my bets, one rod had a Salmo Skinner for Pike, the other a Lucky 13 for anything that comes along. In this weather I was expecting to struggle but I didn't expect it to be as hard as it turned out. I kept chopping and changing lures, depending on the weed growth and clarity of the water. In some stretches its like an aquarium but downstream of some of the side drains it can be a little murky. After a while I came to a stretch which was always a banker for a Pike or three, often there'd be a double or two in attendance. I clipped a large spinnerbait on one rod and reverted to the Skinner on the other. Thoughts of catching Perch were temporarily banished from my mind. The inevitable happened, the rod fishing the spinnerbait slammed over and I leant into the first fish of the day. Resistance was minimal, my all out Pike approach had resulted in a small Perch with a big appetite.

After that I gave up on the bigger Pike lures and stuck to small to medium baits but continued to struggle. The sun beat down, the day began to boil and my confidence dwindled. In the clearer stretches I could see fish by the thousand but none were of the predatory varieties that I was targeting. Eventually as I was motoring back up river the Lucky 13 was nailed and the result was another Perch. Having doubled my tally and after covering another couple areas that normally held fish without reward, I gave up. I stood up and slowly motored back to base looking for signs of fish, what I saw was very encouraging. Lots of Bream, not particularly big but worth catching. A couple of double figure carp, a species I'd never noticed here before but best of all Rudd. These are prolific throughout the river but I glimpsed some that were big, very big. Something to think about for another time.

The boat was soon back on the trailer and I began making my way home. As soon as I hit the main road problems began. Looking in the wing mirror I noticed smoke coming from the drivers side wheel of the trailer. I slowed down and pulled over into the first lay by I came across. The source of the smoke soon became apparent, a so far unidentified problem with the hub had buckled the wheel. The tyre was pressed up against the mudguard which was carving a deep groove out of the rubber, hence the smoke. Oh dear, or words to that effect. Luckily I had a spare wheel and changing that over was no problem but how do I prevent this tyre being gouged to pieces? That would be more difficult, leaving the boat and trailer in a lay by miles from home is not really an option. Eventually I twist, bend and break the mudguard off the trailer, leaving the wheel turning freely, if a bit wobbly. I limped home, relieved to have made it, with a knackered trailer to add to a ruined car interior, what a poxy 24 hours.
Oh well, another five days of work and I'll be raring to go fishing again!

Sunday 21 June 2009

Return of the Pink Piker


When the weather warms up I don't miss an opportunity to take the kids fishing, should they wish to go. Isaac accompanies me more often than his sisters but he is only really interested in the bigger fish, preferably ones with teeth. Madison loves being in the country side and when not chasing butterflies or talking to livestock is more than happy just catching “the pretty little silver fish”. She's caught a few Pike over the years but it's been a while since I've managed to convince her to spend a day in the boat with me. Today however was my first opportunity to launch the boat and fish a river for three months and what's more my lil' gal was coming with me.

We had an early start but after tea and breakfast we were hitched up and ready to go. Madison looked out of the window and counted the rabbits on the verge while I counted the miles. Eventually we arrived and I wasted no time launching the boat on a lovely little river, one I hadn't fished for quite some time. The engine didn't want to start, it never does when it hasn't been used for a while but after blistering my fingers we got there in the end and were soon chugging slowly down the river.

Between the two of us we shared three rods, a heavy set up with a big Pike lure on, mostly a Salmo Skinner. A medium rod with a Heddon Lucky13 which picks up both Pike and Perch, whilst the light fixed spool outfit was baited with a spinner for the Perch. Conditions overhead were good, mostly cloudy with the sun poking through occasionally and a fresh breeze from the south west. The river looked good too, good clarity but a slight tinge of colour and a decent flow. All in all I felt very confident for both species, surely we'd have a boat full today?

We'd hardly got started when the medium rod slammed over but the culprit made its escape. A little further on and the Lucky13 was nailed again and I wound in the first jack of the new season, very small but fin perfect and most welcome. At this point Madison, who had been holding the light rod, insisted on swapping for the Lucky13 which she renamed “Lucky number 2, because two is my favourite number.” We were both lost in watching a Barn Owl glide gracefully over the meadows when suddenly Madi shrieked as the rod came alive in her hand. “Help Dad! It's too heavy!” With a bit of encouragement she soon had her first Pike for a couple of years alongside the boat. I don't know who was more excited, me or her.

It was nice to be back on this little river, one where I've enjoyed loads of fun days out over the years but returning sometimes has its downsides, things never stay the same. Today I was disappointed to see that a lovely weeping willow had been butchered. A deadbait carefully placed beneath the trailing fronds has produced dozens of Pike for me over the years but now the old tree has been 'improved' by the NRA. Where the overhanging branch had once been was now an ugly scarred stump. Not only is this an eyesore but a shady winter hiding place for both predator and prey is gone.

We stopped for a cup of tea and a bite to eat and watched a Heron fish and listened to the calls and answers of Cuckoos as we recharged our batteries for a bit. Refreshed we set off again and hadn't gone far before Madison cried out again. This time she handled the rod a bit better but the fish appeared to me smaller. As it neared the boat I could see red fins in the clear water, it was a Perch! “Be careful Madi” I said. She steered it alongside the boat and I leant over and lifted it out, beautiful! A lovely plump fish that I would have been well pleased to have caught. Madison was delighted, announcing it was “much prettier than the Pike”.

We carried on downstream but as we did so the fishing became almost impossible to to large amounts of drifting weed. This is the scourge of trolling the shallow eastern rivers and I have never seen it as bad as it was today. Further downstream the river curves away and catches more wind which pushed the drifting crap to the bank and made life a little easier. This area is usually a banker for a fish or two and I'd just announced this to Madi when the heavy rod slammed over and another small Pike was hooked, brought to the boat and quickly unhooked. I expected to catch a few more fish but for some reason this stretch was a lot more coloured than the previous section. However we persevered and I managed another small Pike on the Skinner while Madi hooked one on the “Lucky no.2” which unfortunately shook itself off again.

We nosed the boat into a reed bed, had another cup of tea and shared lunch while we watched the waterfowl on the river and the small birds chirping in the reeds. There wasn't another soul in sight, the sun poked through the clouds for a while and all was right with the world. With the tea drunk and all the food gone we turned the boat around and headed back upstream. I was confident of a lot more fish but the return journey proved a struggle. The murky water yielded nothing, not even a take and we lifted the rods out and motored through the drifting weed, Madi singing her heart out as we did so, to the amusement of the occasional angler we passed. Back at the original stretch a few fish started to show an interest again but they weren't really 'having it'. Pike would swirl, boil and nip at the lures but they weren't really attacking them with any conviction. Perch were conspicuous by their absence, which was a surprise in the conditions. Madison dropped her lure alongside the boat and was watching the action when a Jack shot up and nailed it making her yell with surprise and excitement. Unfortunately this one wriggled free too.

We decided we'd had enough for the day so headed back towards the car. I switched the Skinner for a smaller Salmo minnow to hedge our bets a bit more. This lure was soon taken but once again the fish, another small Pike, shook itself free. Not far from the starting point this rod rattled in the holder again and this time the fish stayed hooked. I passed the rod to Madison and let her wind in another Jack taking our total to six fish for the day. Had we landed all the fish that had shown an interest we would have been into double figures. In purely fishing terms the day was a bit disappointing but time spent with my daughter was priceless. She sat in the car listening to the radio as I hitched the trailer up, then we were under way. “Did you enjoy that Madison?” I asked. “Yes Dad, it was great” she replied “can we go to Macdonalds now?”