Tuesday 30 December 2014

2014 and all that

 December rolled on with me far less grumpy than is usual for this time of year, ignoring Xmas works!  Three weeks into the month and we have the shortest days of the year to contend with too.  Despite this I managed to sneak out for a couple of hours fishing.  On the Saturday I wandered around a local pit flinging a few lures around.  I wanted to fish swimbaits close to the bottom but weed growth made this difficult and after much chopping and changing I ended up with a jerkbait.  A Cobbs Crazy shad to be precise which glided nicely above the weed and looked brilliant in the clear water but the Pike didn’t agree.  Nothing I tried got any response and I eventually became side tracked chatting to a brother Piker as well as dispirited by the cold wind.  I jacked it in after an hour but hoped to be back.

The following day I returned in the mid-afternoon, planning to fish into dark.  The children are of an age where they can be left for a couple of hours without killing each other so I can sneak off somewhere local.  I returned to the same pit with a couple of deadbaits as well as the lure rod.  I set up on the entrance to a bay fishing a float legered Bluey to some overhanging trees opposite me and a Paternostered Smelt was whacked out and twitched back towards me.  I also pinged my lures around and in between the floats as this may often wake up a Pike that will take a deadbait.  Two hours passed quickly and it was soon growing dark so I started rummaging around in my bag for a head torch.  The search was fruitless and I could picture it on the ledge beside the back door where I’d left it.  I had no sensible option but to pack up; fishing in the dark would be no problem but unhooking a Pike would be another matter.

Two sessions lasting about three hours in total haven’t produced any sign of a Pike but this is definitely not time wasted.  I will probably have time to pay another visit before the end of the month so I now have a few clues to go on and a method in mind that’s a little different to the norm….
 Christmas was quieter than usual with a nice stroll along the seafront before the children descended in the afternoon.  Boxing day was spent in the company of my favourite people, the house was jammed with family of all ages coming and going.  We all enjoyed Town getting a good three points away from home, the Adnams ‘Ghost ship’ and loads of delicious food thanks to Shelley. Isaac enjoyed ‘Mario Kart 8’. Madi enjoyed her Ipod.  That evening saw hours of torrential rain lashing the east, pounding on the windows and turning the road to a river.  Would it be enough to make the river burst and flood many of the pits?  Sure enough a drive along the river valley the next day revealed much of it to be under water.  I had one free day to squeeze a little fishing in but my options would be limited and the forecast didn’t bring any better news; cold and frosty with a light northerly breeze.  Just about the worst conditions for Pike fishing on gravel pits round these ways.  Unless of course you have a nice bucket of good sized livebaits but that’s another argument…

I was awake around 0630 but just couldn’t be arsed to get myself out of bed.  Scraping the windscreen in the half light was not what mind and body required at that point, I just didn’t have the motivation so I took things steady, had tea and toast before finally closing the gate behind me around 0900.  I drove to the far end of the lake where I planned to fish with the cold wind on my back.  Looking down from the top of the bank it was immediately clear that the water wasn’t, there was a definite muddy tinge to it but not so bad it would put me off fishing.  Whether I was concentrating on this as I descended the icey concrete steps I don’t know but a suddenly my foot slid from under me and I struggled to stay on two feet.  Somehow I didn’t go over but was sure my momentum would see me end up head first in the pit.  I don’t know how I avoided this fate, I only know I’m very glad to have done so.  Plunging into several feet of ice cold water laden with tackle would have been bad enough but there were also two good friends watching proceedings from the opposite bank.  My noisy stumble down the bank would probably have scared every Pike around so I decided to drive round the other side and fish close to Rich and Dave instead.  I figured conditions were pretty bad and I’d probably struggle so I might as well chill out in company and hopefully scrounge some hot tea and food along the way.

Rich and Dave had spent a frosty night bivvied up fishing for Carp of all things so I set up behind them in a deep tree lined bay.  I cast a legered Smelt along a tree line to my left and paternostered a Mackerel in open water.  This I intended to twitch back towards me every now and then.  On a third rod I float legered a bluey close in beside the trailing branches of a bush.  With three rods fishing and everything organised it was nice to catch up with the lads.  We all talk fishing most weeks but it’s rare for any of us to share each other’s company on the water. 

After about half an hour with a mug of tea each and the piss taking in full flow my close range float caught my attention, had something picked up the bluey?  I took a few steps towards the rod just as the micron sounded and the baitrunner began to purr.  I paid off a bit of line, took off the anti-reverse, wound down and… fish on!  I’d picked up a pair of Grey’s Pike rods months ago and this was only their second outing so this was the first Pike I’d hooked on one.  Whatever was on the end was heavy enough to bend it right through as it plodded around on a short line but when it made for the bush I turned it with no problem. I soon had it in front of me and pulled it over the net for Rich to scoop up.
 The hooks fell out in the net so I held her up for a quick photo before checking the weight on the scales.  It was a nicely marked mid double but showed signs of previous captures, a few marks, red around the scissors and also had a pelvic fin missing (that I only noticed when I looked at the photo).  There are lots of winter Pike anglers in this area and these Pike have few places to hide, a little wear and tear is bound to happen though how the fin had become unattached is anyone’s guess.  I was happy to have a fish under my belt in these poor conditions and this this also gave me more ammo to rib the blanking carpers.

The lads packed up around in the late morning and over the next few hours I gradually moved my rods in and out of their vacated swims covering new water.  By early afternoon the lake was busy with other anglers as well as people just taking a stroll.  Although I had enjoyed a couple of hours in friends’ company and one of the strollers was a welcome visitor, I am definitely not a sociable angler.  In fact if I don’t know people then I am probably a grumpy old bastard.  When strangers approach me on the bank my default setting is “you’re an idiot” but in my defence I can quickly change my mind if my visitor doesn’t talk bollocks.  Maybe my reputation precedes me as no other anglers encroached and I had my little section of bank to myself so I was able to fish without being disturbed by showers of boilies and crashing spods.  I dropped the static baits onto likely looking spots and kept the paternoster rod on the move.  I did have a few lures in the bag but just couldn’t be arsed to use them.  All day the lake had been flat calm and it was definitely a day for a thermals, hat and gloves.  The lake seemed dead, when conditions are this still it almost seems oppressive, you just can't picture a fish feeding.   I felt my best chance of another fish would come as the light faded but I’d had enough long before then and was back in a warm house by sunset.
 It was good to get out and avoid Xmas cabin fever but the fishing hadn’t held my attention, maybe if conditions had been better I would have tried harder?  I’ll be mostly fishing close to home for the next few weeks.  I know the standard my local Pike fishing is modest these days but I’d enjoy myself a lot more fishing quieter waters.  I’ll let the conditions decide where at the time.

 At the turn of the year I suppose it’s natural to look back and reflect on the one has just quickly passed.  The family is a year older and the children seem to be growing up in front of me.  Teenagers don’t want to spend so much time with Dad but mine have a lot of love to give.  Who’d want to be a teenager again?  Away from the bank I’ve had a quieter time than recent years.  The grim reality is money has been tight and certain luxuries had to be put on hold for a while.  Life always has its ups and downs but tough times don’t last, tough people do.  Things are changing for the better now, there’s a light…
 I didn’t manage to get to a cricket match this year, we had planned to watch Essex at the Colchester festival but the T20 was sold out and the Sunday was a wash out.  Elsewhere England had a mixed year in the tests.  After being embarrassed in Australia we were beaten by a decent Sri Lankan team before finding enough form to defeat India.  England were made to look good against India but just how good they are remains to be seen, I’m not convinced the selectors know what our best team is.  Next spring England travel to the Caribbean where they would expect to win.  Last time we toured there we somehow contrived to lose 1-0 but this low point led to a few years of England cricketing highs.  At home next summer we have New Zealand who look good enough to give us a proper test ahead of yet another Ashes series.  Twelve months from now we’ll know just how good England are and if the Ashes end up going south I expect Peter Moores will be out of a job.  Before the tests start again we have some mildly interesting ODI stuff including a world cup.  It’s hard to imagine England lifting that trophy but…
 We didn’t catch much live music this year either, circumstances were as much to blame as finances.  What we did get to see was brilliant starting with Eels on top form at the Royal Albert Hall.  This was an un-missable combination and we were not disappointed.  A few weeks later came the Latitude festival which is always the best weekend of the year.  The music line up was brilliant and we got to see fantastic performances from Goat, James, Black Keys and best of all Royksopp & Robyn.  We never want Latitude to end, coming back to the real world is always a pisser.  We had planned to see the Levellers in November but at £50 a ticket it just wasn’t going to happen.

So the Pike described earlier turned out to be my last fish of the year.  Thinking about it, I caught it from a lake I don’t often fish but where I also caught my first Pike of the year, another mid-double.  In between then the Pike fishing has gone pretty well, wherever I’ve spent my time.  In fact I'd go as far as to say that I have never enjoyed my Pike fishing more than I did in 2014 and long may it continue.  However the Tench and Carp fishing was a disappointment as I couldn’t catch either with any consistency in fact my best fish of the warmer months was a Bream.  I’ve fished ‘the Marsh’ for the last five years and although I enjoy spending time there the fishing has been a real head banger.  I’ve caught large Tench, Carp and Bream here as well as a few nice Pike but at no time have I ever felt I knew what I was doing.  It’s a funny old place and the difficulty adds to the allure but it’s time for a change so next spring and summer will be spent doing other things; different places for different species.  Until then, more Pike…

Thursday 18 December 2014

Ho ho bloody ho

I hate December.  People have been conditioned to leave their brains at home and act like idiots throughout this merry month.  I hate the noise that comes out of the radio at this time of year; that commercialised filth is not fit to be referred to as music.  Even the Pogues & Kirsty is starting to sound jaded and hearing yet another terrible version of “do they know it’s Christmas” doesn’t make me feel charitable, it makes me want to smash things.  I’ve got a decorated tree and a few strings of lights around the house but there’s no way on earth that I’d make my home become visible from space as some aspire to do.  It was “wear a Xmas jumper” day last week, well if people want to dress like a twat then fine but I reserve the right not to.  Why do people who barely grunt in your direction for eleven months of the year suddenly become super friendly “because it’s Christmas”?  The same reason is given when people pour even more alcoholic piss down their throats at this time of year.  Having done that to extremes myself I have more than enough reasons to opt out these days. All year we work for “them”, for a wage that is just enough to get us by and then in December we give what little we have left back to “them”.  I try to opt out of the whole thing but with a family it’s impossible so I’ve had to endure the town centre scrummage and give a chunk of my hard earned back to “them”.  Of course all of this means I’m miserable, according to the sheep.  For your information I may well be cynical and sarcastic whilst forced to mix amongst the brain washed masses but when I shut the door on it all I’m perfectly happy thank you.  I get what Christmas is all about but I think most of the western world has forgotten.

Another reason I hate December is I rarely find time to do any fishing during this month so I have to grab every opportunity.  Having escaped from the bedlam of the dreaded visit to town the lady suggested we go for a walk.  I quickly adapted this to a walk along the river with a rod and net so after a quick pit stop we were off and out.  We went to what is probably my favourite stretch of my local river, a place where during the eighties and nineties I spent loads of happy days and caught Roach, Rudd, Dace, Chub, Tench, Eels, Perch and Pike.  The stretch has changed for the worse over the last twenty years, I wrote about the neglect, abstraction and siltation a few years ago.  This area seems to have the highest concentration of Otters in the region too.  It’s still a lovely place for a walk though and I’m ever hopeful of a fish or two.  So with just a rod, a net and a pack on my back we strolled off. 

This stretch just screams Pike at you as all along it there is perfect Pikey habitat, unfortunately there appear to be few fish of any species in residence these days.  With the water at normal winter level and just a touch of colour it looked spot on so I clipped on my ‘go to’ lure, the Zoota Wagtail, sadly no longer made.  The first swim has overhanging trees on both banks and shallow water dropping off, though to not the depth it once did.  Large shoals of Roach, Dace and Chub used to reside here in the winter but not a sign of anything today.  Next swim down the river narrows up and once again there are trees on both banks creating a perfect bottleneck for an ambushing Pike.  A few casts saw no response and I was thinking of moving when the rod hooped on and it was fish on!  It was a small one that gave little resistance but I was forced to stretch out across the marginal reeds to net it.  Once in the mesh the fish done all its fighting and I ended up having to do a bit of untangling before the unhooking.  I held it up for the lady’s camera then slipped it back into the river.

We continued downstream passed loads of fishy features but with access greatly reduced there were many old holding areas I can no longer get a bait too.  A straight run I used to trot baits down has silted up to just inches in places and the old overhanging tree has now crashed down and spans the river.  The few swims I managed to fish all looked good but I failed to move any fish.  I swapped the wagtail for a homemade spinnerbait and we retraced our steps back upstream, I didn’t catch anything and didn’t care.  An hour wandering along a river was novocaine for the soul, I’d left home with little expectation so was happy with that little Pike from my local river.
1995 One from the good ol days.