Wednesday 20 January 2010


Dreams are very strange. This morning my alarm clock interrupted an interview I was conducting with the South African Cricket captain, Graham Smith. He was telling me how he was about to retire from cricket in order to take up a position as game keeper at an East Anglian country estate. I'm not sure how I reached this conclusion as he was speaking Afrikaans.... Dreams are very strange.

An hour in the car gave me plenty of time to think. One thing I don't understand is, when you can see oncoming car lights from literally a mile away, why do people wait until the last bloody minute to dip them? After a month of sub zero temperatures and loads of bloody snow the thaw has finally set in. The rivers I crossed on my journey north had burst their banks and the flood plains were full of water. Surely this rise in temperature will get the Pike moving? But where will they be? I've only been on the water once in the last two months until today so I have no recent experience to draw on. I will just have to go looking for them. It took a while to bail out the boat after all that horrible snow and a couple of days of heavy rain but soon I was on my way.

I decided to start in the area I'd caught a nice brace from last time out and was sitting back comfortably with four rods out and a brew in my hand in time to watch the sun rise in a clear sky. This was the mildest day in nearly a month and with a nice wind from the west conditions looked pretty good. The baits were carefully positioned around the boat and a diving Grebe gave me hope that there may be fish in the area. After an hour without sign of a fish I was pondering my next move. I had absolutely no idea where the fish had been showing up lately so all I could do was think back to where I was finding them in previous cold, mid winter spells in past seasons. With a decision made I pulled up my mud weights and motored off to a place that had produced at this time in the past. I spent almost two hours here, not because I found any Pike but because I became engrossed in listening to TMS on the radio, England lost the test match before lunch on the fourth day. A 1-1 draw in South Africa has to go down as a good result but this together with the summer's Ashes win flatters a team which still needs a lot of improvement. Unfortunately Graham Smith did not announce his retirement either.

My next stop was another place that had previously turned up a fish or two in similar circumstances. This area is a bit deeper than the norm and at times the bait fish congregate here too. I remember the first time I ever fished this spot, a passenger in Richard's boat several years ago now. Conditions were atrocious, it was freezing cold and we were battered by a blizzard and I mean horizontal snow flakes stinging our faces on a strong Northerly wind. Anybody with half an ounce of sense wouldn't have bothered but.... We had just got settled, rods out and relatively comfortable when the wind blew the boat from the mooring and we were adrift. After hastily winding the rods in I discovered my livebait had been chomped and left for dead, that was the only take of a grim but memorable day. Today was much more comfortable but not memorable for any activity from the fish.

Time was passing quickly and more than half the day had gone. Somewhere out there were some Pike and if I could put a bait close enough I was sure I could catch, but where? Two areas came to mind, I hadn't fished either for quite a while but both had turned fish up in previous Januarys. One of these also had the advantage of being quite sheltered so I headed here first, I'd give it an hour and if nothing happened I'd move on again. I cast a Lamprey towards the reeds, a Bluey downwind and a mackerel upwind. Another Mackerel was popped up, cast into open water and twitched back towards the boat.

Half an hour later I was snapped into life by a purring bait runner, I wasn't dreaming, a fish was moving off with my Mackerel. I wound down and pulled into a fish that felt nice but not huge. At this point some plonker decided he could motor between my moored boat and the reeds leaving me no option but to drop my rod and quickly wind in another to prevent it from being towed away. Fortunately the Pike was still attached and I soon had a nice plump fish by the boat. The hooks were just nicked in the scissors so I decided to take them out with my fingers and not bother with the camera this time. My first Pike of 2010, not a monster but in the circumstances I was well happy and decided to stay put in this spot a while longer. Forty minutes later another float was on the move, this time the Lamprey fished on the reedline. I wound nothing and retrieved a tooth marked bait. A short while later another float was on the move, this time a bluey but once again the bait was dropped before I was able to connect. Dropped takes have been a feature here in previous cold winter spells.

There was obviously a fish or two in the area so I decided to sit it out here until the light faded but my baits were left undisturbed. As the temperature dropped I tidied up and began the journey back to the boat yard. A desperately needed fix of fresh air and countryside, and a nice fish to the boat, all was well in my world. After retrieving the boat I had another hours drive home, by the time I got back I was cream crackered. I'll sleep well tonight, maybe this time I'll dream about giant Pike?

Monday 4 January 2010

A year in the life of...

The Christmas and New year madness has passed once again and the closest I've managed to get to water was a walk along the river on one of the less freezing days. To help with the withdrawal I've been picking fishing books off the shelf, re-reading favourite pieces and gazing at the photos. The last few weeks have been hectic to say the least and I haven't been able to find the time to get out but with three weeks of sub zero temperatures I don't feel I've missed out on any great fishing. However I'm definately missing fresh air and countryside. Stir crazy again.

2009 was certainly a very eventful year personally; disorganised and difficult at times but falling into place nicely at others. As the year has gone on things have got a bit easier and a lot happier. I suppose the fishing has been in a similar vein. Throughout the warmer months of 2009 it seemed that whatever I tried to catch things never went remotely to plan. During the spring as England's cricket team laboured in the West Indies, I tried to catch Tench. Now these are a fish that I almost always struggle to catch but this year I failed spectacularly. But I like Tench and this has made me more determined to put in a proper effort and catch a few this coming spring. I tried to catch some river Pike in the early summer but whenever I did so all I seemed to catch was Perch. Later in the year it was the same, try to catch Zander and I catch more Perch and a couple of Pike. However, If I actually try to catch Perch all I get is Jack Pike.
Despite these frustrations I thoroughly enjoyed the summer fishing, warm weather makes it all so much simpler. The soundtrack was great too, England regaining the ashes provided by TMS. The cricket never matched the vintage of 2005 but in reality it never could.

This year the Pike fishing has been really enjoyable with many more brilliant memories added. It's probably obvious that I love the place I choose to fish, for me it ticks all the boxes. I also really enjoy the style of fishing, active yet relaxing and rewarding. I'm sure there are people who catch far more than me and good luck to them. I do my own thing, I love what I do and every thing about it. With Pike (unlike just about any other species), I am able to kid myself that I actually know what I'm doing...most of the time. Whether I actually do or not is irrelevant, I think I do therefore I'm confident and I caught enough in 2009 to enable me to kid myself a while longer.

Here's some of my favourite photos from 2009.
Happy New Year.

My children enjoying the adventure

I love this place

Without doubt my favourite picture of 2009

A dodgy self timer shot that I kinda like