Wednesday 18 February 2015

So many clocks ticking

In the mad world of Norfolk Angling the Broads Authority (not a national park) has come up with another bizarre plan.  Last week, without any consultation they sprung the news that they intend to dredge the boating channel on Hickling Broad commencing on 16th March.  It was precisely this area that was affected by Prymnesium in early spring three years ago and as far as Pike fishing goes it is a long way from recovering from this fatal bloom.  It may be the BA feels the improved suction dredging methods will make this operation safer this time around (assuming they use this method of course, reverting to a clam shell bucket is unthinkable but…) but all anglers will agree it’s just two risky.  The “what if…” is just too much.  The BA will argue they have been considerate to anglers because they will wait for the closed season but surely next winter is a much better time to do this work, if at all?  In reality there is little or nothing we anglers can do except make our voices heard.  John Currie & co at the NDPC will make sure the BA is held to account but it doesn’t hurt for all anglers have their say to the BA

Sunday arrived and after I had a 59 hour working week I won’t be waking up to an alarm clock so a nice lay in was followed by a big bacon sarnie for breakfast.  I lazily sorted the gear and loaded the car, stuck Eels ‘Souljacker’ in the CD player then hit the road "Ah Yeah!".  I couldn’t resist going back to the old place and by the time I arrived I knew where I wanted to fish, a different swim this time, one that had produced some good fish in the past. I arrived to find I had the place to myself which was a novelty and meant my chosen swim was free.  As I approached the water an Egret took flight, these things are far from rare in East Anglia these days.  By 1130 I was fishing with a Bluey and a smelt on the near shelf and a drifting Mackerel covering the open water in front of me. 

 Time for a sit down and a brew.  A pair of Swans crashed down onto the water then despite having the whole place to choose from they decided to swim straight over and muck around in front of me.  To the left I noticed some gulls seemed to be standing on the water, after a while I realised that part of the lake still had a thin layer of ice.  The day was bright with a wind from the north but still milder than the days that preceded it.  The water was obviously still cold but I felt I was in with a good chance.  I’d brought the shelter but was comfortable enough so didn’t use it.

I also had a lure rod with me and started pinging a few lures around; a Replicant, Wagtail, Reaper and a spoon.  All looked good in the clear water and I gave them a good go but saw and felt nothing.  The Swans buggered off across the lake and the Egret swooped down again landing in the reeds close to the Swans, they were the same colour after all.  The drifting rod worked well, with a floating braid and a big dumpy float made of balsa I could easily drift the bait out eighty yards or so then slowly retrieve it sink & draw style.  In this clear water surely something would see it?

After a couple of hours without a sniff it was high time for a move so I tidied up and hoofed it round to the area that had come alive a month previously.  Once again I placed two baits at the bottom of the near slope, one on either side to leave the middle free for the drifting rod.  As the sun began to dip the wind dropped away making the drifter much slower but still effective.  Everything seemed dead and I didn’t feel anything would happen.  I was waiting for dusk and hoping the silver fish would show again and the Pike would turn up too.

Around 1700 at last one or two Roach began to top right in the edge of the reedbeds.  As time passed and the sky grew darker they became more numerous and gradually spread out into open water in front of me.  There were obviously loads of fish here, surely the Pike would show?  I brought the drifting rod in, set the float at about three feet deep and swung it out again, just in case the Pike would be up in the water.  Everything looked good but until a Pike makes its presence known you just never know…  I fished well into darkness, the silver fish fizzled away and the Pike didn’t show up.  I never could make any sense of this place and in truth unless I’m getting my string pulled then it doesn’t interest me anymore.

I'd been tipped off that there might well be a nice sized Pike in another lake but it’s not the kind of place I could sit on with deadbaits so I’ve just had a couple of half-hearted sessions with lures.  That Pike was caught recently by a really nice bloke who had put a bit of effort in, fair play and congratulations.  Unfortunately word quickly got out and all the Pikers in the area now know about the Pike, the clock is ticking…

I had a Monday off work, a half term day spent with the kids and after a big roast dinner left everyone settled giving me the chance to slip out for an hour with a lure rod.  No guesses as to where I was headed.  On arrival it soon became apparent that I wasn’t alone; there were a couple of Pikers with rods well spread where before it had been uncommon to see one. Yes I’m jumping on the bandwagon too but like I said, bait fishing here doesn’t interest me.  If I’m going to catch this Pike it will be on a lure or not at all.  In reality my interest will probably be short lived and I expect before long it will be too late.

I started off fishing with a Reaper jig which I counted down then bounced back along the bottom which meant I could get a good idea of the contours of the lake.  This would especially be useful as I’m planning to fish the place for Tench this spring.  I wasn’t able to cover as much water as I’d hoped because parts were stitched up and I don’t think casting lures too close to anglers fishing baits is really the right thing to do.  What I did have to go at was covered nicely by the jig and I got a good feel for the depths, weed and stuff.  I then went back over the same ground using a little Salmo slider followed by a curly tailed thing made by Dave Greenwood.  All the lures I threw around during this short session looked just the part to me but unfortunately no Pike agreed.

It’s already that time of year when I look at the calendar and realise the river season is running out fast.  The weather is getting a little bit milder and the days are definitely getting noticeably longer.  I’ll only be able to fish on just two weekends before the close and there’s only one place I want to fish, whatever the weather throws at me.  You never know how long what we have left will last.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Little & Often

Winter has finally realised what it should be doing here in the East, cold frosty weather through the week and even a bit of sleet the weekend, not good fishing weather but I didn’t expect to be heading out anyway.  However Shelley’s car is in the garage and she required picking up from work so this gave me an idea to go look at the stillwater I’d fished last time.  I wanted to know if once again the place would come alive with baitfish at dusk. Firstly I had to make sure the kids were happy and get some household jobs done.  With both boxes ticked my idea had advanced somewhat.  I hastily filled a flask and picked up some bait, then sorted out a net, a lure rod and a rod to float fish a deadbait. No need for a chair or shelter today.

 I had to pick Shelley up from Town and a look at the clock confirmed I’d be able to get to the water, have an hours fishing then collect Shelley on my way back home.  By 1530 I was fishing but things hadn’t quite gone to plan.  In my haste to get going, the rod I’d picked up was the only one set up with a leger rig.  I had neither the time nor inclination to change it so a legered smelt was dropped close in at the bottom of the shelf.  Things didn’t look great for the deadbait, as well as being cold the water was flat.  On days like this a livebait can make all the difference.  I had none but I did have a lighter lure rod and a selection of smaller lures to through around. 

I really fancied working a Professor spoon as it was the right sort of size and I could fish at all depths.  Despite having caught loads of Pike on spoons, including a few big uns I rarely fish them at all these days but something I’d read had put the idea in my mind.  However for some reason the first lure I clipped on was a Reaper jig which I bounced around the bottom and caught nothing but leaves and twigs.  Next I tried the Professor fishing mostly deep and slow with the occasional faster turn followed by letting the spoon flutter down again.  After a cast parallel to the bank I casually lifted the spoon clear and beneath it the water boiled, I’d moved a fish!  The next cast the rod bent round and I dragged in a branch, bloody typical!  Detaching the debris gave me a moment to think.  Was that Pike sitting close in?  If so if I drop the spoon into the deep margin and jig it a bit that might work?  This old trick has worked before and it almost worked today, the rod went solid and I slowly pulled a Pike up to the surface where it shook its head and chucked the lure back at me.  Win some, lose some.

I stopped for a brew and looked out across the water, there were a few fish topping but nothing like as many as last time.  With the warm tea inside me I went back to flinging the lure around.  A long cast into deeper water brought a sharp thump at distance, definitely a fish but the hook didn’t set.  Was this one of those days when the Pike aren’t really up for it and just nip the end of the lure?  I kept on casting and tried different lures; a spinnerbait and a paddle tail jig before switching back to the spoon, all to no avail.  At 1640 I tidied up in rapidly fading light.  There had been nothing like the amount of silver fish showing this week but there had been at least one Pike willing to have a go.  I have a feeling I will be back.

Both the children were busy on Saturday morning which gave me a couple of hours free time but with sleet and freezing conditions could I be bothered?  What the hell!  It only took me a few minutes to grab a rod and a net then stuff a few bits into a rucksack.  With good thermals under plenty of winter layers; hat, shades and gloves and I was prepared for anything.  We hadn’t had much recent rainfall so I guessed the river would be in pretty good nick and I’d be in with a chance.  Lower the sights today, just a Pike any Pike.

I arrived at the downstream end of the stretch and saw the river looked bang on with a nice green tinge.  The first swim had a treacherous muddy death slide to contend with, usually this is precisely the type of obvious obstacle to which I succumb but by leaning on the landing net handle I made it.  I started off with a Shad but it didn’t give me any confidence so switched to a spoon.  This didn’t look right either, so I reverted to the faithful Wagtail and felt happy straight away. The other lures may well have worked but I wanted to move quickly today and confidence is everything. An Egret flew low looking to perch in a far bank tree.  It saw me and lifted off again, shame, would have been close enough for a half decent photo.

I made my way upstream casting to overhanging trees and along reedy margins.  Many features looked just the part but by the time I was half way along my chosen stretch I hadn’t had a knock.  It never crossed my mind to change the lure, the Wagtail has done the business so many times, maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy?  It doesn’t matter.  A cast along the front of a raft of winter muck saw the tip hoop round, fish on!  I don’t expect to catch big fish here and this one is run of the mill but on a light set up she charges about a bit and muddies the margins before I can chin her out.
 I worked my way to the top of the stretch and once felt a tap on the tip that may have been a Pike, or not.  As usual I swapped lures for a spinnerbait and made my way back downstream, travelling quickly with just a cast here and there.  I’d had enough and was happy to get back into the car with ‘Green day’ warming my ears.  Time to get back to being responsible(ish.)  
The cold weather has been here a week and looks set to stay for a while longer.  I think it’s fair to say we’ve had a ‘proper winter’ this year.  As much as I’ve loved the Pike fishing this season I’ve had more than enough of raw, frosty weather.  Here’s hoping for South westerlies and climbing temperatures.