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.