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.