Friday 30 December 2011

A walk by the water

Christmas was just manic this year, it sneaked up on me then pounced and then wrestled me for a couple of days. A healthy lay in was required then after bacon sarnies I poked my nose out of the back door to find a pleasant, mild afternoon. The good lady suggested a walk by the water, she'd take her camera and I'd take a fishing rod. Could I be bothered to rummage through the shed to sort out the necessary tackle? It's been dry around these parts for weeks. We had a bit of rain a few days ago but I figured that would have dropped out by now and the river would be low and clear. Pretty crap really but I'd have a chance on a lure. That would make a change as I rarely use lures these days. Lets do it then.

I braved the shed, and managed to drag a landing net and my lighter lure rod out. Grabbing a pair of pliers was easy next to find some lures. The second marg tub I looked in contained some spinnerbaits and a couple of rubber lures, that would do. I also picked up a bait trace and found a couple of Roach in the freezer, just in case. We left home around 1400 taking a short drive to the stretch of river I taught myself to fish on as a kid. I still hold a sentimental attachment to the Pike in this place, which I've fished for, off and on since the late seventies. In all that time the largest I have managed was 18 ½ pounds and doubles are not common but it's a place you can usually move a fish in all but the grimmest conditions. Every now and then I visit these places then rant on about how much they've changed, so I'll try not to do that this time.

Through the old houses and then to the river which looked pretty much as I'd guessed it would, only with more weed. I clipped on the lightest Zoota Wagtail in full confidence. Strange as I rarely cast lures these days and rarely fish my local river. Memories of what works where stick, almost instinct. We walked upstream through narrow, streamy stretches that really should have been stripped clear of weed by a winter flood by now. Not really good Pike water but I managed a cast or two and there were photo opportunities for Shelley. Further along the river was green and choked with duckweed, this is December? Past some bridges and on to a deeper, wider stretch of water from which I've caught many Pike in the past. There was a large sign but I had something in my eye...

A couple of swims into the stretch a cast upstream produced an unexpected thump on the rod tip and some instinct made me strike. Would you believe it, I'd hooked a Pike! After a bit of thrashing around I netted a nice little fish in perfect condition which had engulfed the wagtail. Hooks out easily and a quick pose for the photographer before I slipped a nice clean little Pike back. The first I've managed to pull out of my little local river since...? We walked further upstream past loads of fishing memories along a very nice, largely familiar stretch of river. At the top end of the stretch was another angler, I decided that as I hadn't been able to read the sign downstream I'd better make a discrete departure. A shame as I fancied my chances of another Pike or two along this part of the river.

After retracing our steps in the fading light we detour to a mill pool close to the car. Still a picturesque spot despite the encroachment of houses, if they want to live on the flood plain then good luck. Loads of memories along this stretch too but little sign of any aquatic life. It had been an enjoyable afternoon so why don't I do it more often? A decade ago lures were accounting for around 75% of the Pike I caught but after a few seasons of chucking big baits tennis elbow gave me grief. After becoming a boat owner I was captivated by trolling lures and caught literally hundreds of Pike but I grew tired of this too. T the moment my favourite fishing places don't respond well to lures and there just isn't enough time for all the fishing I'd like to do. However it was nice to remind myself that there is a time and place for the lure rod. When I sat back in the driving seat the clock said 16:09, a little over two hours out in the fresh air but enough to clear the dregs of Xmas from my mind, and a Pike!

And that will almost certainly be the last Pike I catch in 2011, a year that has gone very nicely on that front, ta very much. Then there was the Tench, Carp, Barbel or anything else I tried to catch this year. None of that went the slightest bit to plan and varied from funny to farcical although highly enjoyable. This time last year we were enjoying England thrashing Australia and retaining the ashes (more about that elsewhere) and a dominant summer followed. For the first time in my memory we have the best cricket team in the world. In fact this past year has been pretty bloody good on all fronts, concerts, festivals, parties....just those bloody Tench.

Apart from faffing around with the layout again, I've added yet another blog to the links on the right, 'Norfolk n good' is “one of them pike fishing blogs” in the words of the author, who is apparently anonymous. However I know who it is but I won't embarrass Chris by naming him. That's it for 2011, happy new year.

Thursday 22 December 2011

It's winter...

Out of bed at 5am. Outside it's freezing and conditions seem crap. I have two options, I can go back to bed for an hour, fish close to home and have a good chance of a half decent fish, or drive for an hour and have a slim chance of a whacker even though the conditions are all wrong. The whacker it is then. Out of the house quickly, after clearing ice from the windscreen I'm on the road. The Wailers throbbing from the speakers, the car feels funny, is something wrong with it? After a while it dawns on me it might be ice so drop the speed, lucky I did so as the wheels definitely went whilst braking for a roundabout. Further along the roads get worse, sleet has fallen over night and then frozen, this isn't good. Another dodgy moment on a bend, “why am I doing this?” Mostly because it's probably safer to continue than turn back. The roads will be much better tonight. Eventually I make the last turn with Peter singing “You can't blame the youth...”. After listening to music from the hot bosom (easy now) of tropical Jamaica I step out into a freezing cold English morning.

Next I get to work on the boat, which is nicely full of water and more ice. So full in fact the bunks on the trailer have shifted so that has to be sorted out too. After nearly an hour of bailing, grunting and swearing the boat is loaded, launched and I'm ready to go, three hours after my alarm woke me. Why am I doing this? Splashing myself with cold, icy water on a cold icy morning? Surely these are symptoms of madness? How could we ever explain this compulsion to a non angler?

I dropped the weights in the swim I wanted to be in. Deadbaits positioned nicely, I'm feeling confident and as comfortable as I could be. Options for later, stay in general area or move off to another favourite area?

All four rods were kept on move all day, twitches & recasts, cold water Pike will be close to the bottom and moving very little. Just how cold is it? Thermometer shows a water temperature of just 1.5*C! Oh shit, I didn't expect it to be that cold! With that news the confidence I'd had over night started to ebb away. I realised that I'd spent all week thinking about where to fish and had hardly noticed the temperature had been sliding. Madness! On the other hand I'm out on the water in a beautiful place with a chance, no matter how remote of.... What the??? Great, it's snowing just what I need...

After seventy minutes a bait runner ticked a couple of times. Fish? Probably not, that's the Herring I'd just twitched so almost certainly the line tightening against the swing of the boat. Hang on a minute...the float zipped along the surface and we're away! Gloves off, heart pounding, pick up the rod and wind down and 'Yes' fish on! A nice fight in the cold water then she's in the landing net. There she rested while I got the forceps camera and scales ready before collapsing the net and lowering her into the sladle. I don't usually wear an unhooking glove but in this temperature I decided it was well worth doing so. The top double hook was nicked in behind the scissors and came out with a twist. Normally I would have used both the scales and camera on this fish but in this weather it seemed easier to just lower her over the side of the boat and say goodbye. No weight, no photo...madness? A nice fish against the odds, a nice moment that justified my insanity, to me at least.

Twenty four hours later, who put the world on fast forward? Wrapped up tight against the cold braving the elements and the onslaught of humanity. Hell on earth or as some people call it, Christmas shopping. Wishing I was sitting in a damp boat, at the mercy of the elements in a wild and beautiful place. And they call me insane?

Added to the side bar are two new links, both to online magazines dedicated to Predator angling. The 'Pike Pool' is a blog made entirely from voluntary contributions from members of 'The Pikers pit' forum which is by far the liveliest place to talk about Pike fishing in the UK & Ireland. Initially created by Chris Hammond with a bit of help from Dave Lumb, now Rob Shallcroft is editor. The writers vary from experienced veterans to first timers. All have something to say and so far all have said it very well. Top work fellas!

Then there's 'Esox World' the creation of top Piker Steve Rowley. An online mag in the truest sense. Issue one featured Pike fishing in the UK, Ireland and Europe as well as Musky fishing in North America. The writing line up is quite literally, the best known names in the game. The result is first class. If the next issue is half as good it will be a 'must read'.

Two new online places to enjoy a really good piece of writing about predator fishing and both are totally free. Each done in a different way but both done well by passionate Pikers and are highly recommended, there is time and a place for both.

Sunday 4 December 2011

My little world

I've been wanting to write something for the blog but what? I don't want to say too much about the fishing this autumn however I've never enjoyed my fishing as much as I have the past couple of months and stuff is kind of bursting out. Firstly the new boat has made a hell of a difference. Longer, wider, more stable, shelter on the rough days, more comfort than I've ever known in a boat. Even as I leave the slipway, I'm feeling more confident already. This boat belongs here, and it's lucky!

A few years ago I decided there was only one water system that ticked all the boxes for what I enjoy about Pike fishing. The place is special, it's addictive, it gets into your soul and you crave it when you're away. Here was somewhere I could totally blank all day and still love every minute spent on the water. It's a bird watchers wet dream out there but ironically these Nazis don't know how to be patient enough to see anything. Along the way I learnt that to fish this place and do it justice, I would have to put 95% of my fishing time into it, leaving little time or energy to fish elsewhere. It was the best thing I ever done.

Out on the water this season I've caught some Pike largely by luck when a couple of last minute hunches paid off but equally a little bit of pre planning brought a few others to the boat. Things have gone well and this is mostly due to experience. Things that baffled me a few years ago, now make a little sense. Little pieces of the jigsaw begin to fall into place. Repeat captures tell us a lot, sometimes only yards from the original spot and on other occasions they're miles apart. Knowledge begins to build up, experience of where I've caught fish in similar conditions/times in years gone by. However the system changes every season too. A productive swim one year can be a dead loss the next and there seemed no logical reason why. Look a little closer and there are subtle changes, things aren't quite the same any more; man, nature and tide all take their toll. For example, one area that I like was always a bit 'hit & miss', what you might call a “50/50 swim”. However, approach the area from a another direction and position the boat in a slightly different way and I'm now seeing the whole picture in a different light. My baits are now spread out in a different way and I'm covering different water, the swim is now an “80/20”.

Talking of 'spreading the baits'. When I first fished here I'd generally cast four deadbaits from the four 'corners' of the boat. Nowadays I put a lot more thought into it. These Pike are feeding by smell, there are better ways to do it than just randomly chucking four baits out. Then there's the bait choice, how important is it? I'm sure the Pike will eat whatever they find, I'm equally sure that they find some types of bait quicker than others. There's loads to think about out there; if plan A isn't working then what are plans B & C? Stick or twist? To experience add persistence, the next time I drop the mudweights could be.... To some people it's a boat trip with fishing rods. To me it's tough, challenging, fascinating fishing and I love it.

Dave Lumb's rods come with an excellent reputation and this is certainly deserved. I bought one a couple of years ago but I'm afraid the lucky “pixie dust” that Dave applies didn't kick in to begin with. I took ages to christen the rod with a Jack then all the little landmarks along the way, (first double, first 15+, etc.) all took time. The 'pixie dust' must have been some kind of slow burn variety as I'm happy to say that this year my 'P3' has been my lucky rod. Using this rod I've boated some big Pike in often tricky situations and it's done everything I've asked of it with ease. After a thorough testing I can say Dave's P3 deserves the reputation and if in the future, I ever need another Pike rod I'll be choosing one from here.

Dodgy self timer shot, caught on a P3

Meanwhile...another world away a certain trout reservoir continues to produce one huge Pike after another. Personally I've never ever applied for a ticket and I doubt I'll ever cast a line in the place as it just doesn't float my boat. It is what it is, you pay your money and take your chance but it's not for me. I'm lost in my own little fishing heaven and what happens outside of this might as well be on another continent. To all the Pikers out there that fish the place, best of British luck to you, I hope you catch the fish of your dreams and I'll continue to fish for the one I dream of. Or as a friend said recently “As long as **** is fishing well the places I want to fish will be quieter”