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.......