Thursday 30 December 2010

Out with the old

End of year bollocks

As I sit at the keyboard tonight, it's late December, it's still hellishly cold, Lakes and rivers across the country are frozen solid. It's looking unlikely that I'll get out and on the river before the new year. As good as time as any to have a look back at what went right over the last twelve months as well as what I managed to cock up.

The year began Pike fishing at my favourite place and it was very slow and every fish hard earned. I caught a few but nothing massive and as always, loved every minute. The spring and summer was mostly spent fishing a new water for Tench and whatever else happened to take my bait. I managed to catch Rudd, Roach, Perch, Pike, Bream, Carp and yes a solitary Tench, my second best ever. Hard fishing but stimulating. Highlight of the summer was a successful trip out west which resulted in my first ever Barbel. The Autumn was once again spent Pike fishing with a bit of success until this current cold weather brought everything to a stand still.

I'm not the slightest bit interested in turning up at the some hole in the ground, casting out and winding fish in. Wherever I'm fishing, for what ever species, it has to be interesting. Just about everything I've done this year has ticked the boxes so it'll be more of the same next year. I will continue avoid the most popular places and carry on doing my own thing with my own goalposts.

Another year has just about passed and as usual I've loved spending spare time in beautiful places, trying to catch fish. Below are a few favourite photos from 2010.

Friday 17 December 2010

Cold with a capital F

We've had three weeks of sub zero temperatures, snow, ice and all the crap that goes with it. When there's been half a break in the weather I haven't had the time to go. When I do have some spare time the weather is freezing. I thought I might have a go at “The pool” recently but the lid didn't come off. I should really make the effort when it finally does, but maybe then I'll have the time for... This weekend could have been a window of opportunity but the forecast is for heavy snow and more FFFreezing temperatures. Then there's the whole utter madness of the brain dead Christmas rush around. I suppose I'm going to sound like Mr Scrooge now but it's driving me fucking nuts. As the year winds down, everything and everybody speeds up, running around like demented morons because the shops will be closed for one day! Must get stuff, any stuff will do. Stuff, stuff and more stuff. Then get in the car, sit in traffic until the conveyor belt reaches another shop, then more fucking stuff. Thank god for online shopping! Even with this wonderful life saving creation, actually going shopping cannot be avoided. Stir crazy, going nuts. Best look on the bright side. At least the waters will have had a few weeks of rest, as have I.

In the autumn there was a load of talk on the fishing forums about traces and hooks for Pike. Single hooks are the big talking point at the moment, some anglers are advocating them as a viable alternative to trebles. Some fisheries are promoting them as being more “fish friendly” than trebles being supposedly easier to unhook and this I find worrying. One high profile day ticket fishery has banned trebles and insisted on singles as a measure to protect their stocks of predatory fish. Other similar fisheries have talked about this idea too. The use of a single hook will not stop an idiot from damaging a Pike. OK this idiot may arguably do less damage with singles but it is wrong to legislate against any method when the real problem is bad angling. These day ticket fisheries would do better to have pro-active bailiffs on the bank to educate people and enforce the rules already in place. Maybe this is too expensive but they could fund this by not advertising the Pike fishing in their water as this ruins the fishing quicker than anything! Good fishing doesn't need advertising, it speaks for itself.

I'm not against using single hooks, if an angler is confident in what he is doing and happy with what he catches then good luck to him. A good friend of mine has been using singles almost exclusively for two or three seasons now. He has his own method of doing it, which makes sense and he believes this has improved his hook up rate and I can't argue with that. He's landed some very big Pike on his methods, enough said. What I do find annoying are anglers who preach that single hooks are the way to go for the “fish friendly” reasons that the day ticket waters hide behind. I don't like this one-upmanship. Use them if you want, don't tell me I should be for moral reasons. Pike anglers have enough restrictions without imposing our own.

I may give singles a try sometime but when it comes to livebaiting then it's trebles all the way for me, Owners in size four or two. It's a confidence thing for me, trebles work and the way the bait is hooked I struggle to see a better way. I rig them up the way Dave Horton does it, with the bottom treble sliding as described in "Ultimate Pike". For most of my fishing I use deadbaits. I've used double hooks since 1987 and although I've occasionally dabbled with combinations of double and treble I know feel totally confident using a twin double hook trace. Maybe they're easier to unhook than trebles? Maybe not. Partridge or preferably Drennan in sizes six, four and occasionally two. For what it's worth the wires I use are ET's Mr Softee with a breaking strain of 35 pounds for deadbait rigs and Mason's Multistrand in 30lbs b.s. for livebaits. Below, purely for the sake of it, is a photo. Oh, the silver ball thing on the livebait trace is one of ET's rig rattles. Do they make a difference? Who knows, I think they do and they certainly don't hurt.

24 hours later and the latest five day forecast looks even worse, it's minus bloody six out there! It's highly unlikely I'll fish before Christmas, maybe I'll get a chance over the break but before we know it the new year will be here. Then we start to count down the weeks before the season closes. Before we know it, spring will be here. A nice thought when it's cold outside. I want to catch some more Pike first though! Here's to milder weather ASAP.

Monday 22 November 2010

Here and there

As usual I was awake early on a damp miserable morning. Everything had been made ready the previous evening so it was simply a case of filling flasks, loading the car and hitting the road. At least it should have been, I got to the end of the road and had a nagging feeling that my freezer bag wasn't in the car, and so it proved. Five minutes after that false start I was on my way again. I had an easy journey along clear rods, belting out “The Prodigy” and thumping the steering wheel. My mind went back to the summer, watching Maxim prowling the stage at the bowl, audience in the palm of his hand. I also thought about a certain bureaucratic quango; “Fuck 'em and their law”.

At the slipway it was still gloomy and raining, in fact by the time the boat was loaded up it was absolutely chucking it down so I decided to tackle up in the relative shelter of the dyke before heading out into the wilds. I also managed a bit of float fishing and caught one sizeable Roach for my trouble, I wouldn't be letting this one go! I ventured out into the open with a fresh south westerly blowing the stinging rain right into my face. I dropped the weights at the “stump” once more and quickly had four rods out and fishing by 0730. By this time the gloom had lifted a little but there was no real sunrise as such. This is a regular stopping place for me early on in the trip as it is a decent area and gives me a chance to get the boat fully organised before heading off to explore further.

Today it proved a good choice as after half an hour I looked up to see my float skimming across the waves signalling something trying to make off with a Bluey. I quickly set the hooks and found myself attached to something that wasn't particularly heavy but didn't want to come anywhere near the boat so punched above its weight. Even when I brought it alongside this Pike wasn't finished. I turned to pick up my forceps and by the time I looked back it had dived under the boat and out the other side. All was soon retrieved, a nice fish safely unhooked and returned before normality resumed. Would anything else make an appearance in this area? No, an hour later I was pulling up the weights and preparing for a move.

My next stop was predictable, was “shit or bust bay”. Once again I stuck to fishing with four deadbaits, saving the Roach for later. I cast a Herring and “the evil” out into open water then fished a Bluey and a mackerel on the reedline. Sadly today was bust. I spent a while bailing water out of the bottom of the boat, this had gone unnoticed when I launched. After completing this procedure it was high time for another move so I quietly made my way across an area I hadn't fished before. I sat here a little over an hour and in this time the sky cleared some what to reveal some very welcome patches of blue and a respite from the persistent rain. No Pike troubled me here but once again I'd searched a little further and learnt a little bit more.

Harriers, yes there is!

By 1300 I was slowly approaching another favourite area. There were other boats about here but I hoped there'd be enough room for me to squeeze onto the corner of a bay without disturbing anyone. There was another boat about one hundred metres away and I judged that this wasn't too much encroachment so carefully dropped the weights and set about fishing. I was on t the spot I'd taken a couple of fish from on my first visit of the autumn. By 1315 I was settled and fishing with Herring and Mackerel in the open water plus Bluey and Lamprey on the weedline. I hadn't been there long when I noticed action in the boat across the other side of the bay.

I hardly had time to ponder on this before a flat spot caused by oil on the surface attracted my attention, had something chomped the Bluey? Yes! The float was sliding away! The resulting strike put a proper bend in the rod, lovely! I found myself attached to a big angry Pike that didn't want to come near the boat then had a similar reaction to the landing net. After a brief tug of war and lots of boiling water she was mine! Into the sladle, unhooked then weighed, a quick photo before being admired briefly, (bootiful!) and returned. Job done!

A very angry Pike

I spent a happy hour smiling to myself and sitting in the sun, an all to rare experience so I enjoyed it while I could. It was bright but the wind had increased and swung a little, a fresh Westerly rocked the boat about. Before long itchy feet took over and I was pondering my next move. Obviously other boats in the area cut down the options and I ended up sitting in a spot I've fished a few times before. I've never boated a Pike here but it does tick all the boxes and it's only a matter of time. Not today however. As I tidied up for my final move of the day Rich made his way into the area. After a quick chat we headed off to our chosen places to spend the night.

I settled in to the same general area that I'd fished a few weeks previously. I cast a Herring and a Mackerel into open water then a Lamprey towards the bay. Finally a Bluey was dropped close to the boat along the weedline. For once I had time to get everything ship shape in the daylight then got down to business of a traditional evening meal. My usual healthy option of fried vegetarians nightmare. As the sun sank in the sky I changed a couple of the rods round, I replaced the Lamprey with the “evil” and swapped the Herring for the Roach livebait fished on a Paternoster rig. I washed dinner down with a cup of tea then sat back to wait.

Night fell but there was no let up in the wind which if anything had increased and veered to the North West. The night was mostly cloudy and rain fell in showers from time to time making life a little uncomfortable. Occasionally the full moon broke through the cloud and reflected spectacularly in the choppy water. The wind rushed through the nearby trees making that familiar sound. It was another wild night! The evening passed by with Richard and I texting filthy jokes to each other but neither of us was disturbed by a fish. By midnight I'd had enough so wound the rods in and retired to the comfort of my sleeping bag, covered with a plastic sheet, in the bottom of the boat.

I awoke around 0630 and despite the opulence of my accommodation I was damp and uncomfortable. However I soon shook this off, cast out three fresh deadbaits and put the kettle on. Once again the cloud made the sunrise a non event, the wind was now light and from a westerly direction. After ninety minutes without action and a hearty breakfast I was pondering a move. This was put on hold however by a couple of heavy showers, whipped in by the freshening wind which by now had swung back to a North Westerly.

Before much longer I was anchored up in the spot I'd had the fish yesterday, employing similar tactics. The Roach which was still full of beans was switched to a float rig. I hoped to drift it down the wind but this fish was intent on swimming everywhere but where I intended it. None the less it was still covering water so I wasn't too bothered. The time here was spent mostly watching Harriers in a sky that had now become a clear blue. I spent just over an hour here then moved a hundred metres or so south to a point in the reeds. Forty five minutes here followed without incident so I tidied up, upped the weights and moved off the area.

The view

By 1300 I was sitting pretty in a large bay at a spot that had produced a few nice fish in previous autumns. Here I was mostly sheltered from the still strengthening wind and for some reason I felt confident. I continued to drift the Roach around under a float rig and fished deadbaits on the other three rods. I chucked a Bluey and a Lamprey downwind then with the final rod I popped a Herring up to fish it just off bottom. This rod was kept on the move, twitching and recasting regularly. I was watching the livebait float dance its way along when after half an hour a ticking baitrunner alerted me, once again the Bluey had been picked up. I wound down and bent into a fish but immediately felt the taps of a head shaking jack being transmitted along the line. This lasted for a second or two before the fish came off, it may have been small but I don't like losing fish, ever. The Bluey was recast and I figured I'd missed my last chance of the trip but I'd better give it a bit longer just in case. Forty five minutes passed and I'd given up and begun tidying up the boat. Was that a baitrunner? Bloody hell it was! There was a flat spot on the waves downwind and the float was moving rapidly to the right, Bluey again. I bent into a better fish which tail walked on impact then pulled hard against the bent rod. She was soon subdued and alongside the boat, another good sized, plump fish in fantastic condition which I chinned with a gloved hand. The hooks were just in the scissors and were removed easily, no need for the sladle this time. Should I take a quick photo? Normally I probably would have but as this one was still in the water alongside the boat I simply removed my hand and allowed her to drift off.

After that I felt obliged to stay a while longer but nothing else occurred. The last of the rain clouds had departed and I packed the tackle away in sunlight which was a relief. The wind was still fresh and the boat skipped across sizeable waves on our way back to the slip. Another weekend in my favourite place had come to an end leaving me very tired and slightly damp. I hope the weeks pass quickly so I can get back here and do it all again.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Can I be bothered?

The children were busy for a couple of hours so relieved of parental responsibility I quickly loaded the car and sneaked off to “The pool” once again. On arrival I was disappointed to find that the car park was full again, I don't know why this was a surprise after my last visit but there you go. I walked past a guy bivvied up Carp fishing, next to him were two fellas quietly Piking. The swim I'd fished on my previous visit was occupied by a couple of kids so I dropped my gear into the first empty one I encountered, this would have to do.

I cast a popped up Smelt into a deep margin in front of a reed bed then quickly tackled up a whip, float fishing maggots to hopefully catch some livebait. Next job was to set up a Paternoster rig ready for the inevitable wriggling Roach to be mounted on it. I scanned around the lake, apart from the three anglers I'd passed there was a collection of Dads and lads on the far side, probably the same ones as last time, just as noisy anyway.

Catching silver fish for bait was proving a lot more difficult than I'd expected. I discarded the whip and set up a waggler, fishing a couple of maggots on the bottom and put a little groundbait in, still no bites. I never was any good at this style of fishing. A fortnight ago it had been dead easy to catch a load of fish on maggots in mid water now it was as if all the silver fish had vanished. It's important that I find out where!

I noticed the Carp angler had emerged from hibernation and was faffing around with something in the margins. It was one of those bait boat things which he used to place his bait to some dying lilies around 30 metres away from where he sat. Not the easiest of casts but one any half decent angler should be able to make eight times out of ten. What is angling coming to when a bait boat is used for something like this?

I'd been fishing for just over an hour when finally a float dipped, it wasn't the waggler it was the Pike float signalling the Smelt had been picked up. The strike was successful and I soon had a perfectly conditioned Jack Pike thrashing in the margins where I picked it out, unhooked it with my fingers and returned it without a fuss. I don't think any of the other anglers even noticed which is just the way I like it.

I fished on for another hour, the silver fish still conspicuous by their absence. I never even cast the Paternoster rod that had sat on a rod rest all morning. For once I wasn't sad to be packing up, fishing crowded waters isn't my thing at all. I can't help finding it strange that this pool which was almost deserted in the summer is getting so crowded now. Both my visits here have coincided with unseasonably mild, bright weather, has this brought the crowds out? Or two plus two = a popular Pike water? Maybe a decent fish or two? Can I be bothered to join the crowds to find out?

Thursday 11 November 2010

Attention Cricket fans

Less than 14 days until the Ashes starts;

For the best cricket coverage on the WWW

For an interesting alternative view, check out Tim Holt's blog the link is on the side of the page.
Tim kindly invited me to write a piece

For the best debate and discussion well moderated and without idiots (well not many anyway)

And for a bit of banter

Monday 8 November 2010

Out of sorts

Every now and then I get a reminder that people actually read this shit that I type on here and, as daft as it may sound, every time it comes as a surprise. When I first started writing this stuff 2 ½ years ago I saw it as little more than a nice way of keeping a diary and putting a few pictures up. I can't remember ever 'advertising' it, I just wanted a way to record my memories. Maybe someone would come across the page by accident from time to time, maybe not. When the penny dropped that there actually one or two people around who had enough spare time to read this crap I then realised I had to write it in such a way that I didn't actually tell anything to anyone. This is a challenge in itself, it has to be kept honest without giving too much away. Every autumn, as the Pike season approaches I ask myself, 'do I really want to do this again?' It's strangely addictive however.

Anyway, I had another 'reminder' last week which caused me to ask myself whether I've been a bit unfair to Derrick Amies and his, er … book. In his defence it is only fair to state that Derrick Amies has caught a hell of a lot of big Pike, more than I ever will even if I live to 150. He also knows his way around his home waters far better than most of us, myself included ever will. So who the hell am I to question him? In the interests of balance it's only fair that I make some positive comments about the book. I enjoyed the history section more than I expected and DA's defence of Dennis Pye is admirable, leaving me with the feeling that I wanted to believe him. The chapter on Pike location is very interesting and for the most part believable, even if the hard evidence is lacking. Derrick's thoughts on boat-craft and the need to be quiet on the water are common sense and hard to argue with but maybe a little extreme? However, on this point I'd happily bow to Derrick's greater wisdom. What I'm trying to say is Derrick does have some interesting ideas but it's bloody hard work extracting them. The parts when the book is good, then its pretty interesting. But the parts when it's bad....

Back to the fishing. I had a couple of days free of responsibilities so I was really looking forward to another two days out on the water. I knew exactly where I wanted to fish and how I wanted to fish it. However as the time approached there was a black cloud on the horizon, literally. The forecast for the second day was for heavy rain and gales and not only did this cause an honoured guest to postpone it threw the plans I'd made out of the window. I've read all the stirring tales of Pikers with white knuckles battling rolling waves to heroically get to and from their destination but bugger that, it's only fishing! Was this the reason I felt completely out of sorts as I staggered around the house in the silly, early hours of the morning? Or was it because I opened the wine bottle too early? Either way, instead of bouncing out of bed, all eager to go I was decidedly out of sorts, no energy, no get up and go. So too the journey north, normally my mind is full on thinking about where and how I'm going to be fishing. Two days previously I knew exactly what I wanted to do but now I didn't have a clue.

At the slipway there was a bit of a queue but friendly faces and chat so all good. My bloody engine wouldn't start, after a while I realised I hadn't put any petrol in it.... As I made my way out I still had no idea where I wanted to fish, the wind was from the east and I remembered a spot that had produced the goods this time last year in similar conditions, that'll do for me. As I rounded a reed bed I saw a boat about a hundred metres away, exactly where I wanted to be. Bugger that, plan B was my usual default plan. Head to the spot I caught fish from last time out. By 0800 I had the weights down and the usual four rods positioned around the boat. The sky was a mixture of clear blue and dark clouds that occasionally splattered me with rain. Conditions, at the moment, where pretty good and I was in a decent area with good bait so surely I was in with a shout of a fish? For some reason, today it just didn't feel right.

After ninety minutes I needed a move, but once again I had no real idea of where to go. When I did make up my mind, what did I find? Not one but two boats in the area I wanted to fish. Now I was down to plan D or was it E? I ended up fishing a point between two bays. I've fished here once before, it looks great but on both occasions I've failed to find any fish here. By now the bright, breezy weather had brought more water sports enthusiasts out, twats with sails, so unfortunately these had to be considered before I made my next move. Eventually I settled into another spot I'd had fish from in similar conditions. A nice bay that gave me a bit of shelter in order to have a fry up. I liked it here, a place I've had some success in the recent past and no other boats about either. For some reason, once again I just couldn't feel confident.

Something caught my eye and I glanced to the float fishing a Bluey by the reedline, all of a sudden there was a swirl as a pike attacked my float! Surely it was going to take the bait? Five minutes passed, nothing. I twitched the deadbait a foot and steered my (non dumbell rigged) livebait into the general area. Fifteen minutes passed, still nothing so I started casting a lure, gradually and carefully searching the area. There was a Pike about, could I get a take? The short answer is no. Oh well, fry up complete I sat in the sun with a full belly being entertained by swarms of starlings overhead and planning my next move. It was at this point that the next problem of the day occurred.

I started the engine no problem but the bloody thing didn't want to go anywhere! A quick phone call to Rich confirmed what I suspected, shear pin, luckily I had a spare which was soon fitted and off I went. Rich had boated a Jack earlier in the day but apart from that had struggled. We rendezvoused close by, cast out and sat socialising for a couple of hours. Why was the fishing so poor in what appeared to be decent conditions? Perhaps the barometer was taking a dive with the incoming storm?

The sun began to dip and Richard had to head off, I was left with a decision to make. Should I find somewhere safe batten down the hatches and ride out the night? Or should I follow Richard back to the slipway and give it best? By now the wind had dropped completely and the water was like a mirror in places but for some reason It felt hostile and I wanted to be off. As I pulled up my mudweights that was my intention but as I slowly motored out of the area I was struck by the beauty of the setting sun reflected in the near calm water. I laughed to myself, this is fantastic!! Once again thousands of Starlings swarmed in the sky above me. I resolved to stay and slowly approached an area I fancied only to be greeted with rolling Bream. This will do!

With fresh enthusiasm I put four rods out again, covering the area as Bream continued to roll. For the first time today I actually began to feel a little confident and with no other boats in the area I enjoyed the peace and quiet. I'd put in the effort, would I be rewarded? With the sun sinking the wind died away completely leaving it flat calm. I rocked my boat sending the only ripples on the water as I moved about like Bambi on ice and reflected maybe Derrick had a point? He'd certainly hate sharing a boat with a clumsy git like me that's for sure. I stayed in this spot for a couple of hours by which time the Bream had stopped showing and it was fully dark. What do I do next?

I had another move tucking into the reeds about one hundred metres away from my last stop. Once again three deadbaits and a livebait were positioned, as usual fished on tight lines with boat-biters. Stars reflected in the calm water and I had a permanent firework show going on in all directions. At times the night was so quiet the silence was oppressive but then at others there was a cacophony of sound; startled pheasants in the woods behind me, cattle mooing, dogs barking and Tawny Owls from all directions. There were also some other strange sounds, was that a Bittern?

I had one last fry up, washed down with a brew. It was decision time, do I stay and ride the night out or do I give it best and sleep in a warm bed tonight? It really hadn't been my day but to be honest, from the moment I'd crawled out of bed in the morning my heart hadn't been in it. I just couldn't get my head round the fishing today. I packed up and carefully made my way back to the slip in the pitch black. The system had beaten me today but I'll be back soon.

Thursday 4 November 2010

Two books

Autumn is not only the traditional start to the Pike season it also usually sees the launch of any new book releases and this year was no exception. For several seasons there's been at least one Stephen Harper production too and long may it continue! You know what you're going to get with with one of Steve's books, a high quality product that is beautifully laid out and a real pleasure to read. In the recent past Mr Harper has produced books for Neville Fickling, Eddie Turner and John Watson to name but a few. This years offering has Stephen's own name on the spine as under the title “Dream Pike” he has compiled a series of previously untold stories relating to the capture of Thirty pounds plus Pike by a wide variety of authors. The intention is to “entertain and inspire”, so does it tick the boxes?

The stories come from anglers of varying noteriety within the game and cover all water types from the wild loughs/lochs of Ireland & Scotland, Trout waters, gravel pits, drains, lakes, ponds and Broadland. With a book like this it's inevitable that the reader will enjoy some stories more than others. There were one or two that failed to move me and a few more that I could take or leave but on the whole most are highly entertaining. The ones that stood out for me were those by George Higgins, John Nunn and Stephen Harpers own tale. The eagle eyed reader will notice that one Pike in particular (at least) is pictured in two different stories whilst another is featured in a different book. If I was to split hairs to offer a criticism it would have been nice to see more “new” authors as opposed to some of the more familiar names.

Maybe I'm a little biased because I know several of the contributors but on the whole “Dream Pike” is a damn good read and I found it both entertaining and inspiring.

There was another book released this autumn. Derrick Amies has always been a controversial figure since he reappeared on the Pike scene in the early eighties. In those days he was notorious for being instrumental in the deaths of three massive Pike from the Thurne system. Since then some have openly questioned his integrity while many others have done so on the quiet. Would his long awaited book “Pike Fishing on the Norfolk Broads” finally answer all the questions and settle all the arguments? I read with an open mind hoping this would be the case. So what about the book?

Go straight to the introduction. Here DA states; “I have always said that this will be my only book, therefore I wish to make the best job of it that I possibly can.” If this is the case, why oh why did he not employ a proof reader? The first spelling mistake I found was in the second paragraph of the introduction of the book. The punctuation, grammar and spelling are absolutely appalling. The layout is amateurish and the photo reproduction is poor. However, I was trying to read the words of an angler, not a writer so I soldiered on anyway. Surely If I could fight my way through the “English” then there would be a reward? A genuine insight into Broadland Piking? Some good advice on methods or locations? Let's see.

I read through the chapters on the history of Norfolk Piking, including the defence of Dennis Pye and although certain things sat a little uneasily with me I was prepared to take Derrick's word on things. I carried on through Amies' account of his return to Piking in the eighties and again, there were things that didn't ring true. For example:- Derrick Amies DID catch a 42.02 Pike in the summer of 1985, no doubt. In the text Amies claims that he knew where the Pike would be because of his knowledge of the big fish movements post spawning. However, other writers who fished the system around that time contradict this. As I remember other people have stated that the fish were concentrated in the river at Somerton because of a Prymnesium outbreak further downstream. DA doesn't mention this at all.

Amies “Pike Foundation” makes sense but where is the solid, hard facts that back the theory? Studies made on Windermere regarding the food intake of a Pike do not necessarily mean a Broadland fish behaves in the same way. The chapter on location was also interesting but full of contradictions and not backed by evidence as far as I'm concerned.

By the time I'd reached this point in the book I was uneasy with what I was reading but my mind was still open. I was still prepared to go with what Derrick Amies was telling me. However after I'd read chapter six where DA talks about the methods he uses I'm sorry to say I'd lost it. I may not have Amies experience of fishing the “dumbell” float but I do know enough about the other methods he uses to know he was talking crap. From here on I had absolutely no faith in what I was reading and the inconsistencies were glaring out of the page at me.

Amies refers to his experience as a TV engineer and states his no nonsense electrical background means he relates his fishing experience in the same no nonsense style. No supposition, just facts and evidence. Unfortunately the book is full of theory without evidence & fact.

Also in the introduction Amies claims; “I have to date caught 157 twenties and 1/3 of these have been over twenty five pounds including nine thirties and two forty pounders

OK so DA knows exactly how many 20's he's caught but can only guess at the number over 25 pounds?? A bit odd considering 25+ fish are the subject of most of the book???

OK reading that sentence DA has taken 9 30's & 2 forties making a total of 11 fish over 30 pounds. In the book we have photos of two forties , no problem there.

How about the nine thirties? We have photos and written stories of a 36.08, 30.04, 30.10, and 30.02. We also have a photo but no story of another 30.10. That's five out of nine thirties, what about the other four?

Surely if this is Amies' Piking autobiography he'd want to mention all of his greatest catches wouldn't he? Obviously not.

One of the missing thirties is the “Hickling 33” which was removed from Stephen Harpers updated 'Pike of Broadland' In chapter 2 Amies tells the full story of his honest mistake regarding the wrong photo being supplied. Harper excluded this fish from the update which clearly upset Amies so why hasn't he put the record straight by printing the photo of the 33 in his own book??? One of the biggest fish DA has caught and it's not there???

Throughout the book Amies is forever referring to watching Big Pike in clear water but the Broads are very rarely clear these days!!!!!

Most writers, whatever their skill, have a 'voice' that is their own. Derrick is trying so hard to sound clever, his voice is drowned out.

So Derrick Amies is unable to produce photo's for all of the big Pike he claims to have caught.

He is able to see into water that usually has visibility down to one foot at most.He can make a float fished livebait go where he wants, like a dog on a lead.

He understands exactly how and why moon phases affect Pike.

Sorry Derrick, I don't believe you.

Saturday 30 October 2010

A little look somewhere else

In the summer I re-discovered a little water that I hoped might provide a bit of interesting winter Pike fishing from time to time. I walked around it a few times and was encouraged by what I found, a pretty, tree lined place with deep water and a huge head of silver fish as well as decent shoals of Bream. I hardly ever saw anyone else fishing there either, just the occasional mute Carp angler so this too was a bonus. I thought it might make a good place to take my son for an hours fishing every now and then, and so it proved. After an hour fishing with a whip he was usually bored of catching Roach, Rudd, Perch and skimmers. On one such excursion, our fishing was interrupted by an ambitious jack Pike that kept attacking the silver fish we were catching, in fact we made a game of it by swinging our catches in as quickly as possible to avoid the hungry jack. I wasn't interested in catching that Pike at that time but a seed had been planted and I immediately starting thinking ahead to cooler weather. Maybe I'd found somewhere local-ish that would prove interesting for the occasional days Pike fishing?

The other day a window of opportunity opened enough for me to do just that so after a bit of a lay in I made my way down to “The Pool” around nine o'clock. There was one swim in particular that I fancied as it was slightly deeper than the others and also the place where Isaac and I had the “jack attacks” in the summer. My intended swim was free as I'd expected but as I began setting up it dawned on me that the rest of the water was actually quite crowded. Considering I'd only ever seen two or at most three other anglers fishing through the summer months it was a shock to see another six anglers dotted around the lake, what's more ALL of them were fishing for Pike! It looks like my hopes for a quiet bit of winter fishing have been shattered, I suppose I should have known better.

With nothing else to do I dropped a Smelt deadbait into the deep margins to my left and set up a Paternoster rig on another rod. I hoped I'd be able to catch some of the millions of silver fish for livebait and so it proved, within minutes I had a Livebait kicking away in the open water in front of me. And after a few minutes more the livebait was away, I wound down quickly but the culprit had gone, along with my bait! A fresh one was soon in position but only for a minute or two before I had another steady take. This time there was no messing, I pulled the hooks home and soon bullied a jack to the bank where I chinned it out, unhooked it quickly and returned it. I looked up to see I had an audience in the next peg, the fella grinned and gave me the thumbs up, I returned his smile. He looked like he was kitted out properly and knew what he was doing.

I began to look around at the other anglers sharing the Pool with me. On the far side was a real keen angler, fishing a deadbait on one rod then continuously lure fishing with another. Opposite him were a collection of Dads and lads, or to be precise, two dads and two lads. This gave me a little cause for concern, there were floats all over the place and although the adults seemed fairly vigilant the kids were running around here, there and everywhere. The youngsters also seemed to love casting and their baits were being retrieved almost as regularly as the other guys lure. They were also noisy, very noisy and although I'm sure my own children aren't exactly quiet when they accompany me I do know that other anglers won't hear them swearing from the other side of the lake. On the plus side at least the kids were out there fishing, with their fathers instead of staring at a TV. You can't knock that.

My musing was suddenly interrupted by another take on the livebait and I quickly set the hooks into my second Pike of the day. This one was slightly larger than the first but still didn't warrant using the landing net. I tried to unhook and return it quickly and discretely but one of the lads spotted what was going on and hollered “that man has got a Pike!!!” so everyone on the water now knew. Oh well.

Time passed, the sun came out and it was a thoroughly pleasant autumn day. I was getting a bite a chuck fishing maggots for the silvers but to be honest, with enough bait in the bucket it was getting boring. As it got warmer I could have easily dozed off but I was roused by a commotion from the other side of the lake. One of the lads had hooked a Pike. To begin with I did have my concerns as to the fate of the poor creature but to be fair it was soon brought to the bank, unhooked easily, admired, photographed and returned. No harm done and one young lad was having the time of his life and that's what it's all about. Shortly after this I noticed the mad lure angler too was into a fish so that was another happy angler.

Things seemed to have gone quiet in my own swim so I swapped the Smelt for a sardine and cast it a bit further along the margin to my left. I began twitching the livebait back towards me and it was seconds after giving it another pull that it was taken once again. This time the fish ran towards me and I had to wind up a load of slack line before making contact virtually under my feet. Pike number three was the smallest of the day and was quickly and quietly unhooked and returned.

By now it was early afternoon and the Pool grew quiet. The other anglers gradually drifted away leaving me alone which was how I expected to spend the day. It was disappointing to find so many other anglers but tolerable. I don't have much idea as to the stock of Pike in the lake and the unknown factor is appealing but it's popularity might suggest it's quite a good fishery? Maybe as time passes and the weather gets colder it will become quieter, time will tell. It was a pleasant few hours and I'm sure I'll have another go before too long.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Out of it

As is usual I was awake before the alarm clock sounded and once my mind had worked out what day of the week it was and where I was going I was out of bed and staggering around the house getting ready. I left home at an ungodly hour brimming with enthusiasm For once I had a dream of a journey north with roads that were as clear as the starry sky above. I arrived extra early so I could have a go at catching a few Roach for livebait before setting off. Maggots fished on a whip and a little bit of loose feed done the trick a lot easier than I'd expected and I soon had half a dozen nice baits in the bucket, result!

There was no problem at the slipway either and I was soon out on the water again. By 7am I was anchored up in the “Stump” area with four deadbaits carefully positioned around the boat. I was happy with the deads for the time being so transferred the lives into a Pike tube to keep them fresh. I had no plan to stay too long in this area but figured the dawn period was a good time to be actually fishing as opposed to motoring about the system. The sun rose into a clear sky, the day was mild with a fresh Easterly wind putting a good chop on the water.

After an hour I heard a ticking bait-runner and looked up to see the float moving downwind, the Bluey had been picked up! I quickly readied the net then wound down and struck...into thin air. “Bugger!” Or words to that effect. I told myself that it had to have been a small fish but it also occurred to me that the fish had been moving towards me and I'd actually struck at the fish in such a way I could have pulled the bait out of it's mouth. A really stupid mistake to make but it was too late now! Any quick move out of the area was put on hold for a while. After another 45 minutes or so I'd had enough of the area I shunted upwind about fifty metres instead. My second mistake of the day was discovered as I tidied up for this move. I pulled the tube of livebaits aboard only to discover that I'd forgotten to zip the bloody thing up, what a muppet!

After another hour here I was itching to move. I had an area in mind but decided to visit another spot en route. Here I was in with a chance of catching some more livebaits to replace the ones I'd pre-baited with earlier. I dropped the weights down, chucked a couple of deadbaits out then started to set the whip up again. It was only then that I discovered that the tip section was either back in the car, laying on the bank or lost. So that was cock up number three, what could go wrong next? Now I had a dilemma, should I stay in this area a while or move to the new area I wanted to try? A holiday cruiser bearing down on me made the decision for me.

By 1030 I was set up in a nice looking bay with the normal four deadbaits scattered about the boat. This was a swim I'd never fished before so I had a cast about to find a depth of around five feet and patches of weed in places.I cast a popped up Smelt upwind and a fresh dead Roach downwind. I placed a mackerel close to the reeds and fished a Bluey in open water. I was determined to explore new areas, this being one and had no real expectations so when, after about half an hour, the bait runner started purring it was a very pleasant surprise! The float on the Mackerel rod was heading steadily towards the reeds so I wound down and struck into a powerful fish. She tried to pull my arms off for a few seconds before turning and running back towards the boat at speed. The fish surfaced as she rounded the back of the boat and after a short tug of war she was in the net. “You beauty!” Long and lean, in mint condition though not yet anywhere near maximum weight but I was well chuffed.

Well chuffed!

I cast a fresh Mackerel back towards the reeds and sat back in the sun with a smile. It seemed my run of bad luck (or incompetence?) had ended in style! I had plans to fish elsewhere later in the day but that could wait, I'd be going nowhere for a while! At 1155 it happened again, the Mackerel was picked up but this time the float headed upwind. I bent into another fish which put a good bend in the rod but was soon bundled into the net. This fish looked longer than the first but definitely leaner and weighed in a few ounces lighter. Another beautiful Pike but this one had a red sore on one side, evidence of a recent capture perhaps?

After that success I spent a couple more hours in the bay though upped the weights and moved about a bit, however I had no more action and by mid afternoon I was back on the engine and heading out of the area. I started off fishing in a large bay then after an hour or so here I had a short move. Hopefully any scent trail coming off the baits from my two stops would be heading towards my intended destination for the night. By 1745 I was there, a small bay giving me a reedline horizon in three directions and I was brim full of confidence as this spot had “form”

Despite having to tolerate two holiday cruisers full of fuck-witted idiots I was soon settled with four baits in position. An “evil” was cast into the mouth of the bay, a mackerel fished on the weedline opposite, a Smelt on the near weedline and a Bluey in open water. All the rods were fished with heavy leads, tight lines and ET boat-biters. The cuddy thing was up and after an evening fry up I was warm, fed, comfortable and confident. I sat back and enjoyed another big sky broadland sunset as the Geese once again swarmed spectacularly. The wind was still fresh and from the east, the clear sky gradually grew dark and a glorious starscape blossomed before me. Or should I say above me? I listened to the sounds of animals, Geese honking, cattle mooing, Coots squawking and somewhere a dog was barking. I counted shooting stars and wished upon each one, 'health & happiness for my loved ones'. I didn't wish for giant Pike, leave that to Karma. I was happy as the proverbial pig in shit, a couple of good fish already under my belt, fishing with confidence on a wild night in a special place. Love it!!

Heavy lead, tight line, boat biter.

At 2330 my confidence was justified by a take on the “Evil” cast to the gap. I wound down and pulled into another fish that ran straight towards the boat and had me winding rapidly to catch up. By the time I was back in touch it was virtually under the boat and after a bit of pulling another long lean fish was in the net! She wasn't as big as the others and showed signs of an encounter with either an Otter or a propeller but I was chuffed to bits once more. With the fish slipped back and the boat re-organised I recast and fished on for another hour before giving in to tiredness and winding in for a few hours.

I love it when self timer shots go wrong.

I was back in the land of the living by 0615 and soon had four fresh deadbaits back out there. The day dawned with a soft red sky in the east, tweeting from the reed beds and a cacophony of noise from the Geese. I cooked breakfast, filled the flask and slowly tidied the boat while planning my next moves. I would have a move, that's for sure but where?? My thoughts were interrupted by the float on the Evil rod moving down the wind, another take! This fish wasn't in the same league as those that had preceded it but a nice fish none the less. That convinced me to have a short move back across the bay, thus staying in the general area. As soon as I'd made the move I knew it was a mistakes but sat here for a short while anyway. After a long hour I got my shit together and moved out of the area.


My next stop, predictably enough, was back in the bay I'd caught the brace from the previous day. Would there be any more big Pike about? No, in fact no Pike of any size put in an appearance. By midday I'd moved again, back towards “home base” I arrived with no clear plan of where to fish but once again I let the other water users decide for me. In this case it was psycho's on windsurfers. I settled into a spot where two bays joined forming a point in the reeds. This was another spot I'd never fished before, in fact over the previous couple of days I'd fished in five different areas I'd never dropped the weights down before, catching from two of them. The spot looked like an ideal ambush point and I'm sure it's going to produce the goods at some point but that was not the case today. After another fry up I tidied everything away and headed back to the slipway, dirty, tired, smelly but content.

After a couple of days of exposure to nothing but the wilderness and the weather; no people, no TV, no internet, no traffic, no phones (well maybe not quite), no routine. After two days of doing as I pleased I had to prepare myself for re-entry into the real world. Not at all easy, I cant wait to get back in the boat!

Wednesday 13 October 2010

It's that time of year again.

The curtain raiser to the Pike season is always the last weekend in September when the Pike Anglers club of Great Britain holds it's annual convention. This year it was held in Kettering and thanks to the efforts of Colin Goodge and the PAC committee it was a tremendous success. Rich and I travelled up on the Saturday to help Mark and Gary man the PAC products stand. The hall was full, the crowd was buzzing and a great day was had by all. The evening that followed was equally good, a pub full of Pikers drinking and making merry that continued well past midnight. Breakfast the following morning was a far more subdued affair...

October is here now, in fact the first weekend has been and gone but I haven't yet wet a line. I spent most of the weekend doing things with the kids. The weather may have been wet and windy but the temperature was comfortable enough for us to spend some time outside. A morning at the cinema, a nice walk around the local park lake. Time in the garden with the pet Rabbits, kicking a football around, all good. In between times I've also spent the last week or so slowly getting my shit together. New reel filled with braid and fixed onto the P3. All the rods checked out, rigged up, fresh knots tied etc. A batch of traces tied up ready for the new season. All the gear has been checked and re-checked. Fresh bait in the freezer, food in the fridge, all the flasks and cooking gear ready. In fact I don't think I've ever felt more ready or better prepared for the start of the Pike season.

The evening before my first trip, I had the car loaded and everything good to go. There's only one problem, I'd strained my back and it was giving me jip. Like a kid on Christmas eve I can never sleep the night before I'm due to fish and this was no exception. I was up before the alarm clock and soon out of the house and on the road. The journey north is always frustrating due mainly to the roads and the idiots that frequent them. Today's twat was someone in one of those highway maintenance pick ups who insisted on driving at 50 mph on the single carriageway then speeding up and flying off on the dual so he couldn't be over taken. My own car was misbehaving too, for some reason the indicators kept switching themselves on but this was rectified by some heavy handedness and bad language. Eventually I arrived at my destination unscathed and was met with another obstacle, the trailer was stuck in the mud. After a load more cursing, grunting, brute force and sweat the boat was in the water and cutting through the waves of my favourite place once again.

This year I've made up my mind that when conditions are good and I have time I will put in maximum effort. In this case I have two days without responsibilities so I'll be spending both days fishing and sleeping in the boat in between. This will be the way I go about things while the weather is still relatively comfortable. I've also decided that there are plenty of areas in the system where I haven't yet wet a line so it's high time I searched out ne water.

By 0730 I was anchored up and four deadbaits were spread around the boat carefully, in an effort to maximise any scent trail that would be seeping from them. The day was mild and mostly cloudy with a moderate southerly wind. I sat back and smiled, the pain in my back had abated, I was back in the land of big skies, reeds and water. I had a plan for the day; I intended to spend no more than ninety minutes in any area if no fish showed themselves. That's exactly how the day panned out, I kept on moving, searching and working. I fished two spots in the vicinity of “The Stump” area. This is one of my favourite spots and one where I've caught a lot of fish but I wonder if this is a self fulfilling prophecy? Whatever, there were a few baitfish of some variety topping in this area but no Pike moved to my baits. During this time the sky had become more gloomy and had been spitting drizzle at me from time to time. My bad back had woken up again and was giving me more grief.

Next stop was an area I've rarely fished but one I intend to visit more frequently in future. Not far from the “Stump” as it happens, the entrance to a bay just has to be worth a go surely? Maybe but not today so after 90 minutes here I was on the move again, passing through the gap and into the bay. Another fishless ninety minutes passed but was brightened up by a fry up. Time was passing by now, the whole area seemed devoid of Pike so it was high time I upped sticks and left for pastures new.

I passed anglers catching skimmers at one spot and carried on for a look around another area that was relatively new to me. By 1545 I was anchored with the regulation four rods covering two bays and open water. I've rarely fished this area over the years and this is something I will be putting right as I know it's a good area at certain times of year. However I just didn't feel confident or comfortable and I wasn't going to be happy here. I had to make a move and there were two destinations in mind. Both involved a bit of a journey on the engine but both were appealing in their own way. Eventually the choice was made, for better or for worse and off I went through dark skies and drizzle.

I fancied heading over to one area in particular but on arrival I noticed a boat already sitting in the vicinity. I settled for fishing on the corner of a bay, tucked into the reeds. I've fished this spot before and although I've never done any good it feels right and I felt I had a good chance in the hours ahead. One thing Rich and I have learned is that this area definitely produces at this time of year and I think this may be due to Pike migrating here from other parts of the system. I felt confident that I'd put my self in a position to intercept any Pike moving into the area, time would tell.

Dusk deepened and I was settled and comfortable. I fished the regular four rods; a Sardine, un-weighted, was dropped into the weed to my left. I fished a Bluey and an “the evil” on the weedline plus a Mackerel in open water. Overhead a massive swarm of Geese gathered and circled almost like those massive autumn flocks of Starlings. Thousands of birds honked and squawked as they settled into the marshes to the south for the night. The other boat left the area leaving me alone for the night, lovely. I rigged up the “boat biters” and settled down in the bottom of the tub. My mark2 cuddy was fixed up and with the middle seat of the boat now removed I'm able to stretch out. It may all look a little 'Heath Robinson' compared to the flash boats I see around, but it keeps me dry and sheltered. The very definition of “crude but its effective”.
Home. Crude but effective!

Time passed, the night grew dark and the stars came out in spectacular fashion. I reduced the rods down to two and slumbered in the bottom of the boat. Sleeping yes but waking at the slightest strange noise or movement of the boat. I suppose I'm lucky that when I'm relaxed (i.e. any time except the night before a fishing trip), I have the ability to drift in and out of sleep easily. I was comfortable apart from twinges of pain across my shoulder blade but able to block that out. By 1 am I was well tired so wound the rods in for a few hours of total sleep to recharge the batteries. Apart from the absence of fish, all was well in my world until around 3am. At this point the wind picked up with a bit more of an easterly influence to it and it began to rain. I was able to shut it out for a while and continue with my cat-napping but soon grew damp and uncomfortable. However with a bit of re-organisation I was sorted and able to drift back to the land of nod once more.

By 6am I was wide awake once more and back into fish hunting mode. I put fresh baits on all rods, two on the weedline and two in open water. I wanted breakfast but the bloody lighter was soggy and I just couldn't get the stove alight. Here I was, 24 hours without a fish, damp, tired, hungry, thirsty and fishless. Bugger!!! I eventually managed to get a flame and get my sausage and bacon on the go. After breakfast I got the kettle on to fill the flask up. This procedure was interrupted by a whirring bait runner, the Smelt in open water had been picked up, a take at last! Pandemonium in the boat, stove switched off, I picked the rod up and wound down quickly....only to find the bait had been dropped. The air turned blue. What was I like? 42 years old, sleeping in a bloody boat on a wet October night for the chance of a poxy fish? Why?

By 8.30am it was high time for a move, but where? I'd had a take so was loathe to go too far so opted for a short shunt about 50yds downwind, finishing up just off the entrance to a bay. I cast an Eel and a Bluey to the weedline, then a Mackerel and a Smelt were fished in open water. That dropped take had enthused me with a bit of confidence, there were fish willing to feed if I could put a bait to them. The day was grey and gloomy with drizzle blowing in on a fresh south easterly wind. Not ideal conditions but...

At 9.15 at last it happened, another take this time on Bluey. I wound down quickly and set the hooks. Yes! Fish on! My first Pike of the season from the system punched above it's weight but was quickly bundled into the net where it woke up and belatedly started to fight. Hooks were removed and a nicely marked fish of around seven pounds was admired briefly then returned. Nice one, blank saved! I recast with a fresh half a Bluey then sat back with a smile on my face, my mojo had returned, I know remembered “why”.
First of the season

Forty five minutes later I was contemplating another move when I noticed an oil slick calm the water around the float on the Bluey rod. A couple of seconds later it happened again. Had a Pike picked it up? I took the rod out of the holder to try and shake some weed off the line only to be greeted with a screaming bait runner as a Pike bolted into the bay. The bend of my rod soon stopped and turned it! This one felt a bit heavier than the first and so it proved, in the net it looked every ounce a double with a bit to spare. Nice one! The bait was still attached so went back out to the weedline once more.

Bit bigger

Another forty five minutes passed and I decided it was time to move once more, eventually settling just to the north of the bay. I spent an uneventful hour or so here watching the hunting Harriers before upping the weights and leaving the area. I went searching, fishing another 'new' area for an hour or so. A nice looking bay that I'm sure I'll visit again some time. No Pike were encountered here but a bit more learnt and stored away for the future. Next I went back onto more familiar territory. By now the sky had cleared and the wind was a fresh westerly. I was only here long enough to fry up and tidy up before heading back to the slipway. I pulled the boat out without incident, packed the car and was away. My first trip of the season was over, the cobwebs were blown away and I had a couple of fish under my belt, not a bad start. Can't wait to get back. A few days later I was back.......

Monday 20 September 2010

Killing time

Over the last few days the Angling Trust have made the decision to close their online forum after just 9 months. There reasons for doing so appear a little odd. In their statement the trust bemoans the fact that only a tiny percentage of the membership have used the forum then go on to say;

“The staff and Directors made efforts to answer questions when they became aware of them, but there were so many pages of debate to trawl through that this became impractical for the busy team.  “

A bit of a contradiction I think? There is also an accusation of aggression being shown on the forum, well I haven't found any....unless they are referring to my own irreverent contributions? In my opinion the Trust's leadership is afraid of the dissent that is being shown on the forum.

I joined the Trust back in April and at the time expressed my mistrust of politics and politicians.

During the five months that have followed I have experienced nothing about the Trust that has altered this opinion. Five months on they still haven't publicly come out in support of livebaiting, despite personal assurances from the CEO Mark Lloyd that they would do this. I am certainly not alone in my dissatisfaction as members from all branches of the sport are expressing their discontent. Far from unifying angling the Trust is becoming yet another match dominated organisation and a gravy train for its paid employees. The way things stand I definitely won't be renewing my membership.

Now back to the real thing...

With summer quietly slipping into autumn and the temperature beginning to dip I've been finding it difficult to motivate myself to have another crack at the Tench in “The Marsh”. Time has not been on my side it's true but if I'd really wanted to go fishing I'd have made time. I've got Pike on my mind now and planning for the season ahead which will take up a large chunk of my free time so while the weather is still fairly comfortable I've been spending as much time as possible with the children. While we can still get out and do things together we are making the most of it. Saturday morning gave me the opportunity to do both.

The boat has been in 'dry dock' all summer while I made a few slight modifications but now it was ready to roll and high time it was back at it's winter home. We left bright and early in the morning and headed north, arriving at our destination in mid morning. With a pitch secured and fees paid we launched the boat and set off with the intention of showing the Madison and Isaac a little piece of my favourite place in the world. The weather was pleasant, mild and bright with a light breeze from the north west. After a couple of hours of motoring around including a pick nick break the kids were getting fidgety so we headed back. The place still in the green hues of summer looked beautiful, the boat is safely in place and I'm looking forward to getting started.

The second half of Saturday afternoon saw me free of responsibilities so suitably enthused I made my way down to the 'Marsh' for a few hours. I chose a swim on the eastern side, mainly because I knew it to be one of the deeper areas but also because it was on the far side to a couple of other anglers on the water. I couldn't decide what to fish for so decided to hedge my bets and go for everything. On one rod I fished a 10mm boilie, balanced with fake corn and fished on a helicopter rig. This was swung beneath an overhanging tree with about 20 free offerings thrown on top. I set up a whip, float fishing maggots in mid water while I set up another rod. On this I used a float paternoster rig and before I was finished putting it together I had some bait in the net. A nice sized Rudd livebait was dropped in open water about 15 metres out. I hoped that here suspended in deep, open water the bait would stick out like a sore thumb.

After a while I became bored of catching smallish Rudd so set up a waggler rod to replace the whip. I fished two or three maggots on the bottom and fed a handful of maggots every now and then. I hoped a Tench might find this approach too good to resist but alas no. However the average size of fish increased markedly and I caught Roach, Bream and Perch to around 12 ozs along with the inevitable Rudd.

It was a pleasant, warm afternoon. The banks surrounding this water too were in full summer green but a few leaves were beginning to fall and the lilies were yellowing and growing tatty. I had cricket on the radio, the forty over final from Lords in which Warwickshire eventually overcame poor old Somerset. It was great to be out fishing again, I hadn't realised how much I'd missed my fix of fishing.

After an hour the float on the paternoster rod dipped and slipped away, I wound down quickly and bent into a fish. I got it to the surface quickly and kept it there, bullying the fish into the edge quickly where I unhooked it in the water. My first intentionally caught Pike of the season was small but perfectly formed and beautifully marked. Another Rudd was hooked up and swung into place and I sat back with a smile. What next?

Next was about half an hour later, the boilie rod sang out then stopped abruptly.....followed by nothing. Surely that was a take? I hovered hoping it would fly off but no. A few minutes later I wound it in to find the helicopter rig had tangled...bugger! I recast with another handful of free offerings but had the feeling I'd missed my chance.

As dusk began to deepen the surface came alive with Rudd but unlike earlier in the year there were no Pike hammering into them. Of course not, I'm fishing for them! I fished on until darkness when the bats were out in force and apart from the occasional silver fish on the waggler, nothing much happened. It was good to be out fishing again though, I really hadn't realised how much I'd missed my fix. It's nearly Pike time, roll on October.

Monday 30 August 2010

Where did summer go?

Where has the summer gone? Since my trip out after Barbel I haven't seemed to have any time to wet a line. I did have one evening at “the Marsh” where the kids caught a net full of Rudd & Roach in between dodging showers. I fished a rod for Tench, a balanced boilie cast to some lily pads which produced a half hearted pull. Apart from sneaking out a few silvers on the kids rod, I blanked. Time well spent though.

Now it's the last week of August and not only is the month running out but the summer weather has vanished too. Two days of torrential rain has caused most people to get a little depressed but apart from missing most of the first day of the fourth test I've actually welcomed the downpour. Plans for the bank holiday weekend included a night session on a fenland river in search of Zander. Normally this would be a regular summer occurrence for the children and I but due to all manner of things we hadn't actually made it this year. Now we had time and for once it seemed that conditions would come right. The cricket was going well too, Trott & Broad's record breaking partnership had put England in a commanding position and who would bet on Pakistan to have the guts to fight back? Listening to TMS on the radio helped the journey pass quickly.

We arrived in the early afternoon; Madison, Isaac and nephew Ollie joined me for our long awaited night session in the fens. The river looked good, nicely coloured with a steady flow. There seemed to be far less weed than a year ago but this could have been due to a foot or so of extra water. Ollie quickly set up a whip and began fishing maggots close to the edge, I mixed a load of groundbait, laced with maggots and sweetcorn which I fed little and often throughout the afternoon and evening. The afternoon was dry and bright but a stiff westerly wind made fishing with light tackle difficult, however Ollie persevered and began catching fish regularly; Roach, Bleak, Dace, Perch and some cracking Rudd to around 8ozs. Madi and Isaac busied themselves re-discovering the meadow and playing in the tent.

With everything sorted out and comfortable I began fishing myself. I set up a cage feeder, stuffed full of ground bait and began lobbing this into the middle of the river. I catapulted about a kilo of pellets into this area along with a few pouches of sweetcorn, corn was to be the hookbait. I hoped to catch Bream as well as keep trickling bait into the swim to pull fish into the area. I soon discovered a problem however, the flood water had dislodged loads of weed and large rafts of the stuff was drifting down river and snagging my line. This was going to make Zander fishing difficult later. I had the radio with me as usual and by this time Pakistan's batting had collapsed for the umpteenth time this summer, in fact by the end of play they were following on.

The afternoon passed into evening and apart from a couple of brief showers things were comfortable. The kids were happy playing in the outdoors, not bothered with fishing so far. Ollie was filling the net with good bait and I was slowly setting up the Zander rods for later. I was interrupted by a take on the feeder rod and bent into what I assumed would be a Bream but was pleasantly surprised by a lovely golden Rudd. It was a good fish too and not being quite sure just how big I decided to weigh it,I was surprised when it tipped the scales at 1lbs 4ozs. Now I'm sure I've caught bigger Rudd than this but I've never actually weighed one so (after checking when I got home) this was actually a new PB. This was followed a short while later by another lovely Rudd which was slightly smaller.

The sky began to darken and the children were hungry so after our usual fried fishing feast I cast the Zander rods out. A paternoster rig and a running leger were baited with good sized livebaits. Ollie too had a paternoster rig baited with a lively and all three rods were placed in mid river to avoid the worst of the rooted weed. Unlike last summer this vegetation wasn't too much trouble but unfortunately the drifting green snot was a pain in the backside, collecting on the line and regularly pulling our baits out of position.

Late august and night falls quickly, Bats began zipping across the meadow and along the river, the cloud thinned and the stars began to twinkle. I still felt we had a good chance of catching Zander as long as we could keep the baits in position for long enough. The youngsters grew tired and settled, giggling into their sleeping bags but Ollie sat up chatting with me. No Zander put in an appearance and with weed still making life difficult my confidence dipped. By eleven o'clock we were tired so settled back into our sleeping bags. No sooner had I got comfortable when the alarm on my paternoster rod sounded. I was quickly up and out and bent into a fish, the tell tale pulses on the rod told the story and sure enough I brought an Eel of about a pound to the net.

The rest of the night saw me cat-napping in between having to get up to strip more weed from the lines and recast. It would have been more bearable if just once when the alarm sounded it signalled a Zander but no. I couldn't just relax in the knowledge that my rigs and baits were doing what I wanted them to do. I couldn't relax so I couldn't rest either. I had plenty of time to think and came to the conclusion I just wasn't enjoying myself. I reflected that I'd be much happier fishing “the Marsh” for Tench and it wouldn't have made much difference to the children either. Visiting the Fens for our family camp-outs has been a kind of tradition and this is the sixth summer we've made the trip. The are several other quiet, pleasant places in the Fenlands where I know I can catch Zander, I need to have a good look around and find somewhere child-friendly before next summer.

I must have dozed off in the early hours as I came round at about 6am it was daylight, well kind of. Heavy cloud, gloomy skies and the westerly wind was even stronger than the previous day. I recast the Zander rods and lay back again without enthusiasm. After a couple of hours spent dozing the kids awoke and demanded breakfast so after a good healthy fry up I began to slowly tidy up our camp while Ollie tried to catch a few more fish. The clouds threatened rain and the wind made holding a rod difficult. My heart just wasn't in it, I wanted to go home which is incredibly rare for me whilst fishing.

Next summer we definitely need a new setting for our summer adventures. Madison and Isaac had a last scamper around the meadow then it was time to load the car and head for home. Switching on the radio I was astounded to hear the latest sorry tale of woe surrounding Pakistani cricket, sadly that one isn't going away.

Monday evening and I still had the itch to get out fishing so I grabbed a net and a lure rod and dragged Shelley out for a walk, to work off the Lasagne we'd just devoured. We started off along the river which was still weed choked despite last week's flood water. This led us to a couple of uninspiring stillwaters where I tried my luck with jigs and spinnerbaits. All the places I cast had one thing in common, no sign of a fish of any kind. Oh well. I don't fish close to home very often and this evening I reminded myself why. We were treated to the sites and sounds of the countryside; a kingfisher, a Heron, rabbits in the meadows and as darkness fell the sky filled with bats.

So that's August all but done and isn't September officially the start of Autumn? The next few weeks will be spent making sure my boat and kit is all ready for the start of the "Pike season". Over the passed six months I've caught thirteen different species of fish but for the next six I'll mostly be concentrating on just the one.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Wise words

Have a read of this; Couldn't put it better myself Dave!!

Saturday 7 August 2010

Into the west

Life is too short for work. With all the other stuff going on I just don't have time for work! Unfortunately I have to go to work so when time is short it's the fishing that has to give. Over the last couple of weeks I've only had time for short sessions after those elusive Tench.

Sunday, with all my duties dispensed I set up in the early afternoon in hot, sunny conditions. The wind had been fresh to strong and from the south for a few days so I chose a swim on the northern bank, one I'd never fished before. I fished three rods; on the left a balanced boilie/fake corn on a helicopter rig was cast to the edge of a reed bed and baited with about fifty mixed boilies. The right hand rod was a pop up on a chod rig with a PVA bag of mixed pellets and cast to the edge of a large bed of lily pads. The third rod was my float rig on which I fished a piece of fake corn next to some lilies, this area was baited with a couple of handfuls of corn.

I sat back in the sunshine, not really expecting to catch but enjoying a few hours of peace and quiet anyway. I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon dozing in the sun, the heat was a little uncomfortable until the sun dipped beneath the trees behind me. I left the two boilie rods to fend for themselves while I concentrated on the float rod. I fed a handful of Corn every now and then and noticed that every time I did so, bubbles would erupt in the baited area of the swim. I had the odd dip on the float but no positive bites. I can only surmise that the Rudd are following the corn down to the bottom and feeding on it there, thus causing the bubbles. How many times this season have I watched these clouds of bubbles erupting, thinking they were Carp or Tench when the culprits have been shoals of Rudd? Quite a few I think! Eventually my float sailed away and I set the hook into ...a Rudd. A fish large enough to engulf a grain of fake corn but not too big to make a lovely livebait in the winter. Shortly after I packed up for the evening.

Two days later Shelley and I arrived in the evening for a couple of hours chilling out after work. I elected to fish the same swim again, wondering if any fish would visit the area after the bait I'd put out previously. It was another warm sunny evening but with the evening sun lower in the sky, nice and comfortable. I fished a balanced boilie to the reeds on my left again, scattering about twenty free offerings in the area and float fished fake corn by the pads again. I used a bit of fishmeal groundbait in this area. Shelley float fished maggots using a whip and began catching fish right from the off, Roach and Rudd of a high average size.

The evening passed too quickly, I had the odd pull on the boilie rod and I'm convinced these were Rudd picking up the bait. Shelley would have filled a keep net with silver fish averaging about 4ozs a piece. I hope these are just as catchable in the winter! I had two proper bites on my float rod landing a Rudd and a Roach, both about eight ounces, nice fish but not Tench! Once again there were loads of bubbles over my groundbait and I've become certain that shoals of silver fish were responsible for these. The Tench are hard enough to catch as it is but these Rudd are making life even more difficult now. It would be almost impossible to use traditional Tench methods here at the moment.

We stayed until it got too dark to see the floats. A nice evening, time well spent but no Tench and I was left with lots to ponder. If I want to have a nice bed of feed for the Tench/Carp/Bream to find then I'm going to have to bait up with stuff that the Rudd can't eat! Boilies will work but should I use bigger ones? Larger pellets, 8mm and over? How about the seed mix, how much of that are the Rudd eating? I probably won't find the answers to these questions this summer, hopefully I won't have forgotten the questions come spring.

It's been party time this summer, hence the lack of fishing. The last few weekends have seen two all day parties, a trip to see “the Prodigy” at Milton Keynes bowl and last week something different again. The third day of the first test match between England and Pakistan to be precise. Rich joined me on the trip to Trent bridge along with Isaac, Shantel & nephew Josh. We were treated to a brilliant days cricket; over 300 runs, 13 wickets, a century from Prior and three late wickets to set up the win. As usual a great atmosphere with a very vocal crowd and a fantastic day out. Less than twenty four hours later I was looking down at a beautiful, tranquil stretch of river and contemplating fishing once more.

The arrangements had been made a couple of weeks back, a visit to what the friendly locals call “Gods river” in search of my first ever barbel, amongst other things. Shelley and I completed a three hour drive without a hitch, arrived at the camp-site and quickly pitched the tent. The plan was to go off exploring and I had just unfolded the map when I heard “You look lost mate..” and looked up to see a grinning Steve approaching. Plans changed, we jumped in the car and followed Steve to a pub where we were due to meet up with Rob. I noticed a car driving the wrong way round the car parks one way system, “that must be Rob...” and sure enough it was. After a well earned pint of best bitter we followed again down dirt tracks until we got to the river.

My guides baited up and we sat back for an hour chilling out, chatting and catching up. The setting was beautiful; we were fishing from an old Salmon groin on a lovely stretch of river, both banks thick with trees. After a cup of tea we started fishing. The method was a feeder full of hemp and halibut pellets on a hair rig. We fished two rods and kept on recasting and trying but as dusk began to deepen nothing had disturbed us.
“What are the bites like?” I asked
“A twitch on the rod tip of about three feet” laughed Steve.
It was nice catching up with Steve and Rob and an evening well spent, sharing fishy tales and laughing a lot in beautiful surroundings. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Steve but I arranged to meet Rob again for another try a couple of days later.
The next two days were spent mostly exploring the area by car but also on foot. Shelley and I enjoyed walking through the forest to the river valley, then climbing up again to enjoy breath taking views. The bird life was abundant and during the stay we saw a Buzzard, Red Kite and a Peregrine and also heard Tawny Owls at night. We saw Rabbits on the camp-site and heard lots of rustling in the undergrowth at night but the tent raiding Squirrels we were promised didn't put in an appearance. All this walking left us with a hearty appetite for fish and chips and we obviously needed to sample the local ales to quench our thirst.

Early evening and we met up with Rob and once again followed him off into the countryside, arriving at our destination after about twenty minutes. If the first stretch we'd fished was beautiful then this one was something else. Upstream the water tumbled over rocks then rushed past us forming eddies on both the near and far banks. At the downstream end of the swim a willow overhung the water. The far bank was lined with boulders and trees crowned the slopes. If Mr Crabtree wanted to catch Barbel he would have chosen a swim like this.

We started off using an Avon type float and trotting maggots downstream. We took it in turns to catch small Chub, Dace and Bleak whilst Rob kept feeding the swim regularly. I grew up fishing like this on my local river, ages ago when it still had some flow but it has literally been years since I've done it. Rob was hoping to get a shoal of good sized Chub feeding but they proved elusive. After an hour or so he spotted a bigger Chub in the shallows so after a few minutes I cottoned on to the fact it would be worth trotting the float through that area and began picking up slightly bigger Chub straight away. A couple of trots later I hooked into something more significant which hooped the rod over and pulled back, using the current to it's advantage. After a brief battle a nice chub of about two pounds came to the net. I'd managed to catch a proper fish from “God's river” so took a quick photo in case I didn't catch anything bigger. Rob kept feeding the swim, still maggots but also Hemp and pellets too.
Rob unimpressed with my Chub!

A couple of trots later I did hook something bigger that took line, ran past us and kept going upstream. Rob's verdict was “either a Barbel or a big Chub..” Unfortunately Rob was only half right, it was a Chub but was nicely foul hooked in the dorsal. A few more trots without success and Rob declared it was Barbel time so the float rod was replaced with two Avon rods, new style Mitchell 300 reels and feeder rigs. Methods were the same as the previous session, feeders packed with hemp, a long hooklength and Halibut pellets hair rigged. The feeders were cast across the river and allowed to swing round with the current.

We stood in the river and chatting while our eyes watched the rod tips. I was beginning to think I was destined not to catch a Barbel but at least I'd had a nice Chub and was thoroughly enjoying myself. Then it happened, something tried to pull the right hand rod into the river. The next thing I knew I had a buckling rod in my hands as a fish tried to pull me in too. For years I've read about the legendary fighting qualities of Barbel and I was not disappointed. This fish was not large and was soon in the net. Rob guessed the weight at about four pounds I was absolutely delighted! Rob was relieved, “pressure off” he declared with a chuckle.

First Barbel!

Soon after I had another rattle on the rod but struck thin air, once retrieved it was apparent that the hair rig had tangled. Oh well. I wasn't disappointed for long as the rod wrenched over and once more I was attached to a Barbel. This one didn't fight as hard as the first apart from one run across the river and was netted quickly. I was quite impressed with the new Mitchell 300 reels, the drag worked much better than the old models I'd used in the eighties. This fish was slightly bigger than the first and I took a moment to look at the beautiful bronze scaled, muscular lump of fish I'd caught. My target was one Barbel and now I had two!!!

The light faded quickly and I was struck by something obvious that I hadn't yet appreciated, this river had a voice! It tumbled and splashed over rocks, rushed and bubbled through gorges and rippled over rapids. My own local river used to have a voice until abstraction made it mute. I had one more bite, the rod yanked over again and for a second or two I was attached to a fish before it made it's escape. On winding in we found a busted hooklength most likely parted against the rocks. We took this as a sign to start tidying up and I couldn't be disappointed with two Barbel under my belt. The river, the scenery, the company, the voice and the fishing; tonight had been magic! We left the river, stopping for a quick pint on the way then it was goodbye and thanks to Rob and back to the camp-site.

The following day Shelley went off doing her own thing and I fished on my own at another nice stretch of river. I chose a swim with shallows upstream and deeper water in front of me. I began trotting corn with a chubber float on one rod and fished a bag of halibut pellets with hair rigged boilies on the other. The latter were methods I'd nicked from Dave Lumb's blog and a couple of emails from Dave had put me on the right track. After a couple of hours catching nothing with the float I decided a change was needed. I took a pair of scissors to one of the feeders I'd brought with me and soon modified it (i.e destroyed) to enable me to use hemp. I began with corn on the hook and switched to a halibut pellet after a while.

The stretch I was fishing was nice but wasn't in the same league as the swims I'd visited with Steve and Rob. I couldn't get the image of the “magic swim” out of my mind and in comparison this place just didn't inspire me with any confidence. Still it was nice to be fishing totally different methods to what I'm used to and as long as I had a bait in the water I had a chance. As it turned out there may not have been a Barbel or Chub for hundreds of yards but I enjoyed myself anyway.

After four nights under canvas we had a lazy drive home stopping off at a couple of places en route and now I'm back. So what about Barbel fishing then? Whenever I've tried something new in fishing and had a little success I've always come away full of excitement, itching to have another go and this was no exception. (Now I could easily drive for twenty minutes from home and have a crack at Barbel but that would mean stillwater Barbel. OK if you like that sort of thing but not for me. My first Barbel must come from a river.) It was great chatting to Rob & Steve and learning a little about the fish and the fishing. I loved the scenery, the river and it's voice. I really enjoyed fishing methods that I don't normally use. The bites were spectacular and the fish fought every bit as hard as I'd expected. The whole experience was everything I'd hoped for and more.