Monday 30 December 2013

There goes another

I was up before the sun, tuning in the radio while I filled the flasks. News from Australia was dismal, I decided to spare myself some suffering and leave the radio behind. I lazily made my way to the water, it was growing light when I pulled up in the car park and there was one other motor, sure enough the angler was in my first choice swim. We exchanged waves as I wandered off to try somewhere new. Like all the lakes in the area the water is clear and weedy, I under armed a Herring next to an overhanging tree and left this area quiet while I cast a springdawg around, to explore the extent of the weed. By now it was 0800 and the sun was rising through the trees, the sky was clear and there was barely a breeze. Not what was forecast and not good Piking weather on these waters. Having found some clear water I chucked a Smelt out and sat back with a cup of tea, more anglers were arriving, all were friendly. Every now and then I cast a lure around but the weed made things difficult, after an hour I was beginning to have my doubts about the swim but a breeze was beginning to ruffle the water and cloud was building.

At 0915 I noticed the float bob and was on it quickly, with the float inching towards the tree I wound down and bent into minimal resistance, which soon turned into no resistance as whatever was on the end let go. I quickly dropped the Herring back on the spot and my arse had hardly touched the chair before the float was moving again. This time the fish stayed on long enough for me to pull it to the surface, a jack and I wasn’t too bothered when it dropped off for a second time.

With the wind increasing and cloud gathering I figured I was in with a shout so kept moving the Smelt around and kept persevering with the lure rod. After dropping the smelt in close I sat back to make another brew but before I had a chance I noticed the line twitch on the freshly cast rod. I pulled the line out of the clip and it trickled out slowly. After dropping the net in front of me I wound down and pulled, the rod stayed bent with a decent weight on the end. Before the Pike realised what was going on I’d dragged it into the net, here the fish woke up and thrashed the water in front of me. I held the net here for a minute until the fish calmed down then quickly lay down the mat and got all the kit ready. The hooks were just behind the scissor and popped out easily. This one was definitely worth weighing and worth a quick photo on the self-timer. Back into the lake, she slowly sank away.

I’d attached a poly ball to the trace on that rod. I had intended to pop the bait up but when I checked the smelt was a ‘slow sinker’ but whatever, it had done the trick. Dave Lumb mentioned a good method for popping up deads on his blog recently. I really like the look of it and will be giving it a try, like most of the best ideas it’s really simple. Check it out here

As the day wore on the wind increased and the cloud descended blowing drizzle with it at times. I rate these conditions for stillwater Piking so confident there would be a few fish on the prowl I worked my way steadily along the bank. I kept the deadbaits moving and cast lures around at times but the latter was still difficult. Despite my optimism I didn’t tempt any more fish into taking a bait and as the light began to fade another bout of drizzle convinced me enough was enough. It had been too long since my last fishing trip, I really needed a bit of chill out time and was happy with what I’d caught. And that will almost certainly turn out to be my last fish of 2013.

Some of that end of year crap I usually find myself typing...

So where the hell did that one go? Was it twelve months ago that I sat here full of Christmas cynicism, trying to find some words to end the year with thinking “where the hell did that one go?” Away from the water I spent many memorable hours and days with my family and friends in various situations. I’m blessed to know so many lovely people who put up with me. We managed to watch loads of live music, highlights being Eels playing a blinder in Norwich. The lil lady and I were so hyped up afterwards we went for a two hour midnight walk under a glorious full moon. It was a freezing cold March night with moon shadows and frost crunching under our boots but fantastic… Later in the year we made it to the Latitude festival which was brilliant again. Here Hot Chip & Kraftwerk were my faves but there was just so much good stuff going on and for once the weather stayed dry. 

I’m still addicted to Test match Cricket & following England has been frustrating. Yes we won the Ashes but we did it without playing well. I managed to get to the Oval for the first day of the fifth test against Australia, I think I must have jinxed the team because that was the start of Australia dominating…arguably? Then autumn and the calendar speeds up and it’s the return Ashes, a tired team that doesn’t want it enough or just a bloody shambles? As I type this there is a hint of a fight back, a bit too late. Whatever, this series is the end of an era for England and we passionate fans.

Last gig of the year was Happy Mondays with Shaun & Co on top form. Before you know it bloody Christmas again! Don’t get me wrong, I like the forty eight or so hours beginning the moment I hang the car keys up on Christmas Eve. It’s the month of bollocks that precedes it that makes me growl. It’s good to have these distractions when life in the real world throws shit at you. There’s always shit, it’s just the depth that varies. This year was a little deeper but I have big boots. Then there’s fishing…

2013 began cold and stayed cold for months, this made fishing hard work. The Pike were unpredictable and hard to find, the cold made it physically tough too. I managed to catch a few doing different things in different places but the highlight was seeing Isaac christen his Pike rod. By the time the river season closed I was Piked out, knackered, my bones ached and I yearned for warmer weather and different fishing in greener surroundings.

It stayed cold for months, frosts in April and single figure temperatures in May. My Tench and Carp fishing started slowly and continued that way, I could catch from the easy water with no problem but I didn’t bank a single fish from my favourite warm weather venue. Despite this I was learning lots and enjoying my fishing, that fish always seemed just around the corner.

The sun came out in July and the waters began to look how they should in the summer. At times the winter fishing had been an endurance test but now it was a joy to be out on the bank. Coincidently my fishing fortunes improved too and I had a really successful and enjoyable few weeks; my best Tench and a string of big Carp. It was really interesting fishing as I was learning all the time and for once I didn’t want summer to end. The previous Pike season had been tough and I wasn’t sure I had the energy for another.

My favourite Carp of 2013

It didn’t take long for my Piking mojo to return and the autumn season with the reeds still green was joyous, exhausting, bewildering and exhilarating, just as it should be. It was fantastic to be back on the water in a special place in comfortable conditions! On one trip I only had two takes in 40+ hours on the water and they both came within seconds of each other. On another I managed my best fish of the autumn from a new spot after a spur of the moment move. I spent many happy hours just chilling out and watching the Harriers. Then the salt tides came and who knows what next?

The definition of Irony? Just when the Broads Authority come to their senses and start to use improved methods and a more sensible attitude, nature at its most uncontrollable smashes in to the east coast with another tidal surge. Anglers are lucky to have great men on the ground looking after our interests so thanks and praise once again to Pike anglers of the year, John Currie and Micky Cox along with all at Norwich PAC/NDPC.

I think it was the autumn when ‘Mr Angling’ John Wilson upped sticks and moved to Thailand. JW did much to enhance Angling and its image to the general public. I’m sure he must have been the first person to celebrate Pike as a beautiful fish to be respected and above all returned alive, on national TV? However, away from the camera, it has to be said, he could be a grumpy old git. But then so can I! Matt Hayes had a new series this year too, another rod race thing and pretty good too but am I alone it finding his banging on about fly fishing bloody annoying?

I haven’t seen as many Otters in Norfolk this year but I’ve seen a dramatic increase on my local Suffolk waters. One water controlled by a local club has a serious problem that wasn’t apparent twelve months ago. I know of a Koi pond close to a brook that has been raided and chickens were taken too. Other waters where Otters have been present for some time have shown a large increase in numbers. In mid December I watched four juveniles swim past on a local stillwater. Established pairs are breeding and these will have to travel further for food.

My second favourite Pike of 2013

My local G.A.P.S club is taking the only sensible option and will begin fencing their waters very soon. This will take time and money but it just has to be done. Personally I much prefer natural looking waters and hate the sight of fences. It could also be argued that this will move the problem onto somewhere/someone else, including places I love to fish. Even taking these things into consideration the club has no choice, the fences must go up.

One of the happiest fishy things of 2013 has been seeing first-hand the G.A.P.S. club develop and grow. I’ve been a member for a couple of spells since the early eighties when I never felt part of the club. To my mind there were too many silly rules and I just joined because it controlled waters I wanted to fish. In my opinion there have been times when the club has (to put it plainly,) not been run for the good of all anglers. It’s great to see anglers of all types now having a say, making good decisions and making G.A.P.S. a club I’m proud to be a member of. So thanks to David Page and all of the current committee, long may it continue!

So then the fishing year is split nicely down the middle. The winter and cold spring was difficult all round but once the sun came out the fishing was good and all things considered, 2013 was a pretty good year.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

On borrowed time?

On the evening of December 5th the national news reported on the massive tidal surge that battered the North Sea coast of the UK. In the days that followed the news reported on the human cost, damage to homes and property that is heart breaking at any time, let alone the run up to Christmas. The news also told of the damage to coastal bird reserves, the mega rich RSPB (nature Nazis) even had the cheek to ask for more money! Then there were the pictures of wide eyed baby seals, separated from their mothers in the storm. It comes as no surprise that the damage to the freshwater ecology goes unreported in the mainstream media, nobody cares about a few slimy old fish.

For the second time since the autumn the Norfolk Broads have been hit by a surge of salt water that travelled up to twenty miles inland on all of the major rivers. Tides like this should only occur every fifty years or so but we’ve had several recently. Some will point to this being more evidence of global warming, who knows? The numbers of fish killed will probably never be known but previous surges in 2007 and 2008 devastated the fish stocks in some Broadland rivers. Nature is resilient and has a way of fighting back, it has done so in the past and there is no reason to believe it can’t do so again. However if sea walls are breached and dunes eroded the next tidal surge could change parts of Broadland forever. There’s nothing we anglers can do about this except enjoy what the Norfolk Broads has to offer while we can.

A recent Broadland Pike, hopefully it won't be my last!