Monday 22 March 2010

Out of it


Three more days before the season ends and the rivers close for fishing. Three more days of free time for me to spend on the water, fishing at my favourite place. I spend a mad evening getting the kids fed and bathed whilst sorting everything for a few days fishing in between. Where to fish? Previous experience puts a few areas in mind and temperatures that have been steadily climbing give me a bit of confidence. However, the place has been rock hard lately by all accounts so I have to be prepared for anything. I think of got a tent/cuddy/contraption sorted but only time will tell if it works? A late night, can't sleep, can't wait to get out there.

I had a take it easy morning, got the kids ready and dropped them at school. They'll be with their mother for the weekend so I have the next three days without responsibilities. All the gear, bait food etc. was ready so there was no mad rush in the morning. I left home just after nine o'clock, driving through light rain and grim clouds but thankfully milder weather. Mid week traffic meant the journey would never be rapid so I trundled along, happy to see signs of spring, masses of snowdrops growing in the woods.

I was on the water by eleven o'clock and taking a bit of a trip, with the wind (was that brown, finch sized bird a Reed Bunting? ), then against, watching a spectacular display by the Harriers along the way before I reached my destination. There were a few other boats about, well it is the last weekend of the season. I had an area in mind but one of the boats was close to it so setting up there was not an option. No problem, I dropped the weights in an area that looked the part and a spot I'd never fished before. It was mild, a nice chop, the cloud was thinning and the rain had all but stopped. Four baits spread out and I was fishing, love it!

A couple of hours later I was on the move settling in to another area where I'd found fish in the past but not this afternoon. What I was really doing was killing time until I could get into the spot I really wanted to fish. This didn't happen until dusk when the other boats left but I was soon settled with fresh baits cast and a lot of chopped bait spread over the area. A pair of Cranes flew noisily high overhead, heading for their roost? I managed to erect a cuddy of sorts. It was a short notice bodge job and looked crap, however it worked and won't take too much fine tuning to get it right in time for next season. I felt confident now, the fish had been here this time last season but has the cold weather delayed things? Time will tell.
Rich arrived and anchored up near by, setting up by torchlight. Not long after dark the cloud cleared away revealing a spectacular splash of stars. Soundtrack provided by Tawny Owls away to the north above the chatter of ducks. After dark I add extra weight and tighten right up, using bait-runners and ET boat biters to alert me to any takes. Tonight there were no takes and by midnight I'd wound the baits in and settled into my sleeping bag for a few hours sleep in the bottom of the boat.

The night was mild and I was surprisingly comfortable and woke before dawn feeling refreshed. First priority was to get four fresh baits out and put the kettle on. I had cricket on the radio too, England battering a weak Bangladesh team. There were already other boats making their way into the area but I was happy with my choice of swim. There was a splash and a swirl to my left, I looked round just in time to see the arse end of an Otter diving away from me. For the next few minutes there were more tell tale signs of Otter activity which is all very nice but it's hard to feel confident of catching when there's a large fish eating mammal around. A while later there was a strange 'shape' moving across the surface, it swam out from the reeds then seemed to change its mind and head back towards the bank. It turned out to be a water vole and I can't remember the last time I saw one of them. All very well but where were the Pike? Should I stay or should I go? I liked the area I was fishing but felt I would have caught by now if fish were about. Also there was the Otter....The options for a move were limited by the amount of other boats about, plenty of other people were out, enjoying the last weekend of the season.

Eventually I opted to move to a spot that I hadn't seen fished so far this weekend which was an area I'd had action before. Straight away it felt right and I was soon fishing four rods again with renewed confidence. I hadn't been in position long when something fishy swirled to my left, has to be a Pike? This was repeated four more times during the afternoon, these were totally different swirls to the disturbance caused by the Otter. Despite repositioning the baits, chopping & changing I couldn't get a fish to take. Oh for a livebait! On the last occasion something large made a deep swirl and displaced a lot of water, I was sure there was a big Pike in front of me. I hadn't seen or heard of anything caught during the day and with fish showing in the area the decision to stay put was easy. As the light faded I heard another splash away to my right. This one sounded different and sure enough an Otter's head popped up. Not good news and sods law saw it come closer and closer, this thing wasn't afraid of me and was quite happy to splash and bubble its way through my swim and back again.

Despite the frustrations I was loving the whole experience. With everything I needed for the weekend stowed in the boat, once I'd left the slipway I felt completely free. For a couple of days I could just do as I please and here I was, fishing my favourite place in the world, watching the sky darken and listening to the night come alive. Anchored up as I was it seemed as if the environment had just accepted me as part of the scenery and the wildlife didn't seem nervous about coming closer than normal. I've never seen Otters(s) at such close quarters before and I should have felt privileged but once I'd seen them I just wanted them to bugger off. There had been no sign of any Pike of any size since they arrived. By ten o'clock my eyes were heavy so I wound the rods in & climbed into the sleeping bag again. Was that big fish about or had the Otter scared her away? Would I have a chance in the morning?

I awoke early again, four fresh baits out and cricket tuned in on the radio. The kettle had hardly boiled when the first boats arrived. I felt confident as the day brightened, was that big fish still around? It only takes one run to make your season here, would I get that run? The answer is no. The highlight of the morning was a Bittern flying close by and once again an Otter put in an appearance. The experience had been fantastic but I knew I was beaten. I moved a couple of times, working my way back towards the slipway but fished without confidence. The weekend had finished, like the season without me getting the one I'm after. I retrieved the boat in the mid afternoon, hitched the trailer and packed everything away for a while. I was about to re-enter the normal world after two days almost completely cut off, as it turned out it took me an equal amount of time to re-adjust. The weekend had been a grueller fish wise but I'd loved every minute and would do it all again tomorrow given half a chance.

I've had some nice fish this winter but not the one I dream about. Happily good friends have done better.Roll on October.

Friday 5 March 2010

Rain, Ice and Hangovers

For once I had a little time, the kids were with their mother and I had no responsibilities for almost three full days. The previous week had been all rain but by now it was a bit milder although still far from ideal conditions. The plan was to make my way north around midday but the weather was particularly foul and I had a hangover. The previous evening had been fun, company was great, too much food, too much wine and will I ever learn? Instead I slowly and unsteadily got myself organised and set off in mid afternoon. It was still raining but not as heavily now and the north west wind was easing off.

I was on the water by 1730 and fishing, anchored securely in a sheltered spot by 1800. I put three deadbaits out fished on heavy leads with tight lines and 'boatbiters' then settled back in the boat and tried to keep myself dry. Rich was somewhere out there too and we exchanged texts, nothing doing. I sat in my boat which was extra organised awaiting developments and planning my approach for the next two days. Where should I fish tomorrow? I was still undecided, Plan A involved the longer journey and far from ideal conditions. Plan B ? Let's just see..........Also in my mind I was making modifications to the boat, next winter I need more shelter, some kind of cuddy. The rain was annoying but didn't make things too uncomfortable. It was great to be back on the system.

By 2130 I'd twitched two of the three baits back to the boat and recast again. The rain had all but stopped, the moon shone above the thick cloud and it was still a fairly light, if that's the right word? Somewhere to my left something splashed so I recast the nearest rod to where I thought the sound had come from. Could have been a bird but could have been a fish. An hour later I'd had enough so made my way carefully back to base for a late hot pasta supper before crashing out in the car.


I slept OK despite a cold night and was up early the next morning, anchored up in time to see the sun come up. Rich was back on the water too and had opted for plan A. I went for plan B and we'd keep in touch by text. I put a Mackerel and Bluey downwind and cast a popped up Pollan across. The fourth rod was a bait I hadn't used all year, codename 'the evil'. The early morning anticipation turned to 'what next?' as time ticked by. Rich wasn't doing any better so if I move, where to? I repositioned the boat once but stayed in the same general area then made a second move late in the morning. This time I left the area and stopped some way away in a part of the system I hadn't fished for a good while.
Once again I fanned out four baits then settled back, warm and comfortable in the early spring (?) sunshine. A north west wind put a good ripple on the surface and things looked good. I chilled out and watched the harriers at close quarters as they skimmed the reedline however they didn't look like they were hunting. One soared high then cartwheeled downwards again as if it were flying for the shear joy of it. This bird was joined by another and they wheeled around in what I'm guessing was some kind of courtship game. All very well but where were the Pike? Another text from Rich, nothing was happening where he was either and he was heading back for a lunch time rendezvous. As the time passed I became agitated, it wasn't happening, where next? At a little after noon whilst scanning the floats I noticed something amiss, surely one of them.....? Yes it was on the move, something had picked up 'the evil' and was running straight towards the boat. I picked up the rod and wound down a load of slack line before pulling into a fish which pulled back...for a second or two. Not a monster but needed the net and where there's one there might well be another.

Rich appeared an hour or so later and after a short move we tied the two boats together, cast a couple of rods each and settled down for a fry up. Despite pooling information, swapping ideas, theories and fishing as a team it was the first time Rich & I had been in the same place, at the same time all season. It made a nice change to have a bit of a social for a couple of hours. The blue & white team is happy this season but Rich has definitely been the leading scorer. Sunshine, sausage sarnies, hot tea but no Pike. Time for a move.

We both stayed in the same general area but set off in different directions trying to find fish. I got settled in a spot which enabled me to cover both the reeds and the open water and spread the baits around again. As the day waned the wind dropped away completely and so did my confidence, this place fishes better with a bit of chop. The flat calm surface reflected a beautiful sunset but no Pike. We left the broad just after dark without sign of a fish.


A drive in the car through deserted country lanes with Led Zeppelin pumping out saw two men with red faces arrive at a pub, for a couple of pints and a chat about the day ahead. It was hard going and we felt the fishing was unlikely to improve dramatically the next day. We struggled to come up with any ideas or locations that would inspired us at all. At this time of year the Pike should be on the move but the wicked winter had delayed things. Do we look for the places we'd expect to find them or chose areas where we would be likely to intercept the wanderers? Rich had driven so I had the opportunity to drink too much, will I ever learn? Obviously not. Still it knocked me out and numbed me to the cold but caused me to sleep too well as I was woken by the rising sun the following morning. I emerged from the car feeling dodgy and bewildered but was soon in the boat and after breaking ice in the dyke, out for another crack at the Pike.

I opted to fish an open water area which I felt would give me a chance of intercepting any Pike that might be wandering. A Mackerel and Bluey were fished downwind, a popped up Pollan cast upwind and 'the evil' was dropped off the back of the boat and baited with a load of chopped fish, former hook baits. The day was a repeat of the previous, bright and breezy but this time the wind came from the north. Rich was away fishing another similar spot and so far had nothing to report. At around 9.30 a float jabbed and slid away, it was the rod fishing 'the evil' again. The strike met something solid and pleasing, a nice bend in the rod. Yesterday's fish needed the net and this one needed the sladle too. Hooks out easily, a quick glance at a beautiful spotty fish in mint condition then back she went to grow bigger.

In the net!

This gave me a well needed confidence boost so I chopped a load more bait up and spread it around. Usually I move about a lot but today I decided to stay in the same general area, just repositioning the boat every now and then so I could put baits in places I hadn't previously touched. The day passed quickly, Rich was in sight but a fair way off, he kept moving and searching but couldn't find any fish. I stayed put and didn't fare any better fish wise but thoroughly enjoyed another sunny day afloat. Once again the Harriers were spectacular and for the first time this year it really did seem like spring was on its way at last.

By late afternoon the sun was beginning to dip and the temperature started to fall. I decided to call it a day and get the boat off the water and head home while it was still light. The two and a bit days had been very tough but I would have happily stayed for another two. Time is short now, just one more big effort before the season ends. Here's hoping.