Thursday 20 January 2011

Bluster & luck

At long last we've had a week of milder weather without snow, ice or frosts. Most waters have been fishable for about a week now, those not prone to flooding that is. This was my main concern as I made ready for another early start. Car loaded; tackle, engine, bait, food, clothing, everything ready the evening before, all I need is a decent night sleep... As usual I slept fitfully and it was a struggle to get out of bed when the alarm went. Six weeks away, what would I find when I get there? It was hard to feel confident.

The roads were clear and I sped along quickly, forgetting the bloody speed camera until too late??? Or was it?? I got to the boat yard in plenty of time but then had the task of bailing out six weeks worth of rain and melted snow along with a few running repairs to the trailer. As I had made slow progress getting ready I decided to get the boat sorted and organised before heading out into the wild. When I left the shelter of the yard the wind hit me full in the chops and the waves threw the boat around. I had a wild journey with drizzle and spray hitting me in the face but it was good to be back.

I eventually made it to my destination, an area selected from previous experience at this time of year. It looked like I might have stumbled on to something as there were a couple of other boats in the area. Normally this would be a cue for me to head off somewhere else but with no better idea coming to mind I decided to stay put. I used the normal methods of carefully positioning deadbaits around the boat, hoping to make a nice trail of oils, smells and other gunk which the Pike would find irresistible. Conditions were uncomfortable, cloudy but mild with a fresh to strong south westerly wind and a little drizzle early on. Not nice weather to fish in but normally good for fishing at this time of year. A little over an hour later nothing had happened so I decided on a short move upwind. Here it was more of the same. I was struggling to get my head around things, struggling to come up with some kind of plan to put a Pike or two in the boat, feeling out of sorts again.

By late morning I was on the move again. I couldn't get comfortable getting battered by the wind and didn't feel confident either. I retreated to a relatively sheltered spot which is also a pretty consistent area throughout the year. I was glad to have moved because the wind was increasing making this spot little more comfortable than the first couple had been. Then I heard the lovely rhythmical purr of a bait-runner, surely that had to be a take? I picked the rod up and began winding down, something just didn't seem right as I bent into...nothing. It was at this point that I realised the mudweights had pulled free and I was slowly drifting, by which time two other bait-runners had joined in.

By the early afternoon I was feeling a little deflated and despondent. The wind may have been making things uncomfortable for me but these were decent conditions to be fishing. Having been away from the system for so long I had no recent experience to fall back on. Looking back to previous seasons hadn't worked for me today either. Time for another move but where? The was a spot I've been meaning to try for a long time now but for whatever reason I just hadn't got around to fishing it. Today it was extra appealing as it would give me a good deal of shelter from the battering wind. It would be quite a journey to get there but once there I'd not only be out of the worst of the wind but my journey back to base at the end of the day would be considerably easier.

After a white knuckle journey I was settled and fishing by 1340, enjoying a bit of shelter which actually made a hell of a difference to the comfort level. If I didn't catch anything here, at least I'd learn a little bit more. After about fifteen minutes I was treated to the very welcome sight of a fish swirling close by, surely a Pike? I had a mackerel popped up off bottom close by so carefully twitched this back to hopefully cover this fish. However when the bait runner screamed out a few minutes later it was another rod, this one baited with a Bluey. When I first wound down the fish felt decent but the curve in the rod straightened out and the tell tale head shakes transmitted down the line told the story. Not a big one but a Pike none the less and the way things had gone today I was grateful for that!

I re-baited, recast again and recommenced fishing with renewed enthusiasm. A couple of fresh baits were cast into previously untried water. Just over an hour passed and as the sun began to descend I had another take, this time on a mackerel. The strike put a proper bend that stayed in the rod as a clearly heavier fish kited downwind. I soon had it close to the boat where it powered up and down a bit before I drew it into the net and it was only then that I realised that the mudweights had slipped again and the boat was drifting. The hooks came out easily and normally I would have got the camera out for this one but that wasn't a priority at that time, getting the boat under control definitely was. She was a nice fish, long and surprisingly lean but showing signs of a previous capture in the recent past. All too quickly she was returned and I set about getting the boat anchored securely again.

I felt chuffed that after six weeks away I'd managed to find a couple of fish, it had been a hard day but I hadn't given up. However, if it hadn't been for the weather conditions I may well have never tried the spot I ended up catching from, you have to make your luck. That was the last action of the day and as I packed up with daylight fading the wind too seemed to be subsiding. Still it was a relief to get the boat back to sanctuary and begin the long process of getting it out and sorting everything. After that follows a ninety minute drive which will see me arrive home knackered. I'll repeat the procedure at the first available opportunity.

Saturday 8 January 2011


It's the New year and I haven't been fishing for weeks. I was so bored waiting for the cricket I ended up brightening this blog up. I'm kind of getting itchy feet but at the same time I'm struggling to motivate myself to get off my arse and go out into the cold in search of some fish. It occurred to me that the last time I fished was before the Ashes series started and now here we are, the series is done and dusted with an England win. Now the cricket has finished there is one less thing to occupy my mind so motivation increases again. I have a bit of time this weekend but all the local stillwaters are only just showing signs of thawing after a few nights where the temperature has stayed above freezing. Tonight we have another frost forecast so the chances are they'll freeze solid again. I might find open water if I put some miles on the car but just can't be arsed to put in that amount of effort when I know I'll struggle when I get there.

There was a time when I'd have spent the last few weekends scouring the countryside looking for fishable water. These days would inevitably end up in a struggle but most of the time we'd find a fish or two and very occasionally hit jackpot. Like the time the 'Big fella' and I travelled up to the fens. The river we'd planned to fish was rushing through, carrying all sorts of debris down with it. We drove on to another river which looked better but didn't inspire any confidence. We ended up setting up on a drain where we were confident we could keep our baits anchored in one place while we chilled out for a while if nothing else. Out of the blue an alarm sounded, the 'big fella' dropped onto a 12+ pound Zander! In hindsight although the conditions weren't great for Pike but were pretty good for Zeds. Other than that I struggle to recall another day when things went quite so right.

Despite all of the above I'm also sure I could have caught a few fish had I been a little bit more open minded about where I fish. Now cabin fever is looming I've been racking my brains and realised I do know a couple of venues where I would have had a chance of some decent fishing in recent weeks, had I been able to get the timing of my visits right. Back to the old catch 22?

A few days have passed and during this time the temperature has slowly risen. Driving around I've noticed the first signs of waters thawing out. Forecast for today was for a high of 10 (yes ten) degrees with a fresh westerly wind. After six weeks of Arctic weather, stillwaters will thaw and the Pike will feed. It's a great time to go fishing and I had time to squeeze a short morning session, somewhere.

I couldn't get my arse out of bed too early but managed to make my way to 'The Pool' around 0745, happy to see that for once there were no other cars parked up. I wanted to fish an area I hadn't tried before, a small point which would allow me to move rods about and keep covering water. I was sure Pike would be feeding, it was just a question of finding them. As I walked down the path the lake just didn't look was still covered with a thin sheet of ice! Bugger!! Or words to that affect. What should I do now? I scanned the lake and noticed what looked like a thin strip of clear water on the windward bank. My choice of swim was cut to one but at least it was a spot I'd caught from before.

By 0800 I was fishing. I legered a buoyant smelt and float legered a Herring head. These were cast into open water and twitched back towards me every now and then. I also rigged up a lure rod using a Replicant which I fished deep and slow. This was cast around every now and then, in between and around the bait rods. The morning was a stinker, dank and murky with light rain but it was mild with a fresh westerly wind. Good conditions for Pike fishing in my experience, especially as the icy lid was only just beginning to lift.

The wind was doing a good job of breaking the ice and after an hour about 1/3 of the water was clear, giving me more scope to cast and search the water. After another half hour even more water was clear but I still hadn't seen sign of a fish of any kind. Conditions were good, I may not know much about this lake but I knew I should be catching fish. I switched the float leger to a paternoster rig to keep the bait away from any debris as I twitched it back towards me. This was cast about thirty metres to the edge of the receding ice. The other rod I just dropped at the bottom of the marginal shelf to my right. 10am, I should move but where? The area I wanted to try is still frozen but there is another swim now clear in between, should I give it a go? I picked up the lure rod to have a few casts while I pondered the decision...

Out of the blue came the sound of the BBBB alarm, surely not a take?? My lure was cast nowhere near so that ruled out one potential calamity. It was the margin rod which I picked up and wound down putting a nice bend in the rod. A decent fish plodded up and down the margin but was soon bullied into the landing net, my first Pike of 2011 and clearly the largest I've caught so far from this particular water. A nice lean fish in good condition with unsurprisingly a sprinkling of leaches. I took a quick photo then slipped her back. A fresh smelt was dropped into the same spot then I sat back with a cup of tea. I only had an hour left so decided to stay put.

That hour passed quickly without any further action then it was time to pack up and get back to the madhouse. My motivation is back and I'm fishing again!