Sunday 22 February 2009

Half term week

The first day of the school half term holiday sees me at home looking after the kids while their mum works. At last the cold weather has gone and it’s mild outside with a nice breeze from the west. These are good conditions for gravel pit Pike so can I convince Madison and Isaac they would have fun beside the water? The answer is yes and a little after midday I have two deadbaits soaking beside an island while the kids run around and played in the mud and puddles. If their mum could see them she would do her nut but I tell myself that the fresh air is doing them good, a little bit of mud never hurt anyone and it beats the hell out of TV or computer games! While the kids played imaginary games amongst the mud, I tuned the radio into TMS and thoroughly enjoyed listening to England battering the West Indies at cricket. I tried to imagine being in Antigua where the weather is somewhat different to here! Once again choice of swim was dictated by the kids so I settled down on the east bank again and I was pleased to see that the pit was much cleaner and litter free than the last time I’d fished here. This swim ticked all the boxes safety wise, there was a nice wide open space for the kids to play in. I’d be able to keep my eye on them and there were no other anglers for them to disturb.
Don't those BBBB alarms look smart?

Highlight of the day for us was the fry up, which in truth was the biggest incentive for the kids. For them, a nice big Pike just doesn’t have the appeal of a lovely hot sausage sandwich and they’ve cottoned on to the fact that fried food always tastes better when you’re fishing. We had a good feed but unfortunately the Pike didn’t, when we packed up in the late afternoon my deadbaits had remained untouched. Madison was coated in mud from the waste down and if the puddles appeared a little shallower than when we arrived it was because a large amount of water had found itself inside Isaac’s boots. Still a good time was had by all and I love the fact that my kids like being in the countryside, long may it continue.

At last the thermometer had climbed enough to give me a bit of confidence for a trip to Eden. However, Richard had fished the day before and really struggled, in fact my grapevine was reporting that the whole system was fishing poorly, despite the rising temperature. Throughout most of the season we have managed to keep track of the fish most of the time but in the last couple of weeks we seem to have lost them. I was undeterred and set out on the long drive anyway, everything went without a hitch for a change and I launched a little before 7am. The day was dawning but the sun was mostly obscured by thin, high cloud and a northerly breeze rippled the water.

Just after 7:15 I was moored up in the Basin area with four deadbaits scattered around the boat. An interesting chat with Giles last time out had given me food for thought so I carefully positioned the baits around the boat in order to maximise any scent trail that would leak out. I stayed in this first spot for two hours which was probably an hour too long. It was a thoroughly pleasant morning, sitting in the boat, catching the occasional glimpse of the sun and watching the ever present Harriers. But with no Pike showing it was time to move on. I upped anchors and headed off for a long motor down to the far side of the system.

Never fished this one before!

As I neared my destination, two large, strange awkward looking birds flapped gracelessly overhead, the Cranes putting in another welcome appearance. There were a couple of other boats in the area but the swim I fancied was clear. This was a spot that had been very kind to me in the past. I decided to fish here and tuck myself behind shelter, out of the wind, spread the deadbaits out and have a fry up! Ninety minutes later, after the other boats had departed I moved into another area, one I’d always fancied but had never actually fished before. An hour later I was at a loss so clipped on a lure – a Salmo Skinner, more in hope than expectation. After a couple of minutes the line suddenly slackened…A take! and for a split second before the line tightened again my mind asked the question…how big??? The answer was…not very! A jack Pike but a very welcome one! I continued for a while but despite feeling confident I didn’t tempt any more fish.

They do take lures!

By 1500 I was back on home ground fishing the far south western side of the basin , approaching the entrance to a bay. An hour in this spot proved fruitless as did another hour on the edge of another bay. By five o’clock the wind had died away and the water was flat calm. I had a moment of inspiration and decided to float troll two deadbaits on the oars. All was quiet and I could hear the tapping of a woodpecker, along with the squawk of a Pheasant from the woods to my right. As the sky darkened, away to my left I could hear the calling of tawny owls. It was a beautiful evening; all that was missing was a Pike or two! In the end I trolled all the way back to the slipway but nothing troubled my deadbaits.

A highly enjoyable day but at the end of it I’m still none the wiser as to the location of the Pike. Are they nearing the spawning grounds or are they lying dormant in the usual areas? My hunch is the former but time will tell.


I had another free day to spend in paradise but what do I do with it? After a couple of lengthy phone conversations with Richard and based on the results of our recent sessions I came up with a plan. I decided to assume the Pike were getting into spawning mode, stick to areas close to the yard and search out likely looking spawning sites. I had planned to begin fishing an area close to the yard, but another boat was launching behind me, I didn’t want to be disturbed straight away so opted to fish elsewhere. Conditions were good, mild and cloudy with a fresh wind from the west; would the Pike be playing ball? By 0700 I was anchored up in the entrance to a bay in a swim that had produced for me in the past. Two rods were cast into open water while the other two were positioned near to the reeds, one of which beside a gap which led into a small shallow bay.

For the rest of the day I aimed to fish hit and run style, spending a maximum of just over an hour in each swim and if nothing happened, move on to another. I only had to wait for half that time before the ET boat-biter bleeped into life signalling the Lamprey cast to the gap had been picked up. Every take at Eden is a heart stopping moment but for some reason I wasn’t surprised when the culprit turned out to be a jack. It was clean and in good nick unfortunately not showing any signs of unwelcome attention from big females. Still it was a start and maybe there’d be more?

I like these one handed out of the murky shallows photos!

The short answer was no, after giving it another hour a move was in order. I fully intended to drop into a spot I liked the look of, close to reeds but with a dramatic depth change. I’d never fished this spot before and what’s more I’d never seen anyone else fish it either. As I lifted the mudweights a small boat that had two anglers in it and looked dangerously over loaded appeared and stopped exactly where I wanted to fish, what are the odds on that? After cruising round in circles and running out of petrol I decided to drop into a nice reedy bay, another spot that looked like a possible spawning site. Once again I covered both the reeds and the open water and I felt strangely confident. This area is always a good place to view the Harriers at relatively close range if nothing else. I've been trying to get a good photo of a Harrier for weeks but they seem to know when I have the camera ready and keep their distance. The minute it's packed away they fly literally overhead!

That's a Harrier - honest!

After an hour nothing had happened so I was contemplating a move when I was startled by the wonderful sound of a whizzing bait-runner! A Mackerel cast into open water was on the move! I wound down and on contact the rod stayed bent…for a second or two before it slowly straightened and tell tale head shakes were transmitted down the line. I soon had the fish beside the boat and it was slightly larger than the first and had a large, well healed scar – maybe a male? I stayed put for another half an hour, the only mildly interesting thing was a pair of swans shagging beside the boat which was odd considering how much water they had to choose from, perhaps they like an audience? I then moved to another likely looking spot in the north western side of the bay but an hour here went unrewarded. By now the wind had swung to a north westerly and was strengthening but it was still mild and cloudy, good conditions! I wondered whether this would cause the Pike to be active in the open water areas that had produced in the past? There was only one way to find out.

Around midday I dropped into the basin, on the western side. I spent an hour here then moved across to the other side of this area in the teeth of the wind. The boat was being rocked about a bit but nothing too bad, certainly not enough to prevent the fry up! I felt really confident in this area, I was sure it was going to happen…but it didn’t. A pair of Cranes flew over and circled, then circled again…and again, like some kind of ariel dance, a mid air mating ritual perhaps? Ninety minutes later I reverted to plan A and went searching likely looking spawning sites again. I spent an hour close to where I had intended to begin the day. Once again the area looked good, I felt confident but the Pike didn’t show. A Bittern flew soundlessly by as did a Sparrowhawk a short while later but still no Pike. By four o clock I was knackered so decided to get off the water early for a change and begin the drive home in daylight.

On the way home, whilst trying to dodge the Sunday drivers I realised I was still none the wiser as to what those bloody Pike are doing. That now made fish to the boat on four consecutive trips which I’d gladly settle for anytime on this system. However the big girls are still avoiding me and time is running out.

Monday 9 February 2009

A brief thaw...

Cold, cold, cold! When will we get some mild weather? On Friday night it was 50/50 if I’d make it fishing this Sunday, by midday Saturday it was 60/40. I hadn’t visited Eden for three weeks and hadn’t been fishing at all for a fortnight, stuff the weather I had to get out there! Giles was up for the trip too and as we made the journey north we discussed the prospects. The weather was cold but not as severe as it has been recently, we figured that after a couple of weeks of frosts the Pike should be used to the temperature and if we could find some, we could catch them. The journey seemed to take forever, we did pull over at a garage so Giles could buy food and I could get rid of some but soon we were pulling up at the yard and getting the boat ready.

When fishing Eden my usual starting point is somewhere near to where I last caught. This time it was on the south western side of the basin but it was a few weeks since my last visit and I wondered if the trail had gone cold. After 90 minutes that’s how it seemed, we scattered a variety of deadbaits around the boat but nothing picked up the scent. The day turned out to be not as bad as we feared weather wise. It was mostly bright but with some cloudy spells and a nice wind from the west rippling the water. The temperature was never what you could call mild but at least it wasn’t as cold as it had been of late.

For the next part of the day I had a plan and I had no problem convincing Giles to give it a go. Our plan was to use a method that had been very productive on other waters but one we hadn’t yet used here, for a variety of reasons. Come to mention it, I haven’t seen anyone else use it here either. Here and now is not the place to go into any detail on the method itself but today it worked. Just a small Pike to my rod but in poor conditions, with odds against us I considered this a result. I am sure this little Pike will be the first of many.
By early after noon we were back fishing the bay, way up in the north western corner, a spot I’d not fished before. It may well be productive but it wasn’t today. For our last move we were back in the basin, with the deadbaits spread around not far from our starting point. We spent the last part of the day here, in the same way we had spent most of it; chatting, laughing, putting the world to rights and theorising about the fishing. The sun began to dip and the temperature began to plummet. We could have stayed on into darkness but for once neither of us fancied it, so it was back to the yard. Time is running out on the 2008/09 season, another five months and the rivers will close. Will a BIG Pike cross our paths before then?