Sunday 31 December 2017

And Finally...

So the whole Christmas bollocks has come and almost gone.  After several days of being house bound by convention, weather, guests, food and booze, cabin fever was looming so I dragged Isaac out of the house and pointed the car in the direction of a favourite lake.  He chose the music and we rapped(?) along to NWA.  It was early afternoon before we got the boat away and out into a stiff westerly wind, I made a decision to explore a new area which just happened to be sheltered!  We began fishing with a couple of deadbaits each around 1330.

As we were short on time we moved every thirty minutes but after three moves it was beginning to look like we’d be unsuccessful.  Still it had been a nice couple of hours chatting and laughing with my son, there’s rarely such thing as silence, let alone an uncomfortable one.  The conversation has changed in recent times, whereas a couple of years ago we might be discussing which of the Marvel avengers was the coolest (For me, Black widow AKA Scarlet Johansson, Isaac preferred Iron Man), today we debated which member of NWA was the best rapper (Ice Cube - unanimous).

The best way to induce a take is to make food or drink and sure enough with the ridge monkey toasting sandwiches, one of Isaac’s rods was on the move.  He picked up the rod and done the necessary while I switched off the stove and got it out of the way.  Isaac enjoyed a tug of war with a Pike which punched well above its weight but was soon alongside the boat.  I reached out for the trace but a head shake threw both the bait and a load of water back at me.  After a bit of a wind up we decided a hand on the trace meant it counted and Isaac was in the lead.  This lasted for half an hour before one of my floats was on the move, in contrast this fish hardly fought at all and I was a little surprised to see a decent sized head appear.  This was soon unhooked, admired and returned, the score was leveled.
With the light beginning to fade I reached for my head torch which wasn’t where it should have been, in fact it was almost certainly on the shelf at home.  With this discovery there was no sensible option but to pack up a little earlier than expected.  The wind had dropped considerably by now but it still gave me a work out on the way back to the slip. 

So that was my last fishing trip of 2017 and at this time of year I usually type some bollocks about the fishy year about to pass but once again it’s all too predictable.  I fish a handful of waters for Pike and catch my share on most however, at my favourite place I have to work dam hard for a few takes but you know which I enjoy the most.  My warmer weather fishing is in a similar vein, trying to catch big fish from difficult waters but I just don’t find the time to put in the required effort and consequently catch bugger all.  I really should pick waters that suit my short session approach but I’m an angling masochist.

I've been a highly antisocial angler for many years but this changed a little in 2017 as I shared boats or bank swims with nine different people this year. This made a change and I'll probably do more of the same in the future, assuming other humans can put up with me.

Every angler has a ‘one that got away’ story and most of us have several.  I can remember a few from around 1981/82; there were a couple of big gravel pit Pike, what would have been my first double figure carp and a huge Chub that snagged itself in the near bank foliage.  I’m not sure I’ve landed a bigger Chub to this day.  Since then I struggle to remember anything really haunting, I can think of a couple of big Pike, one of which was at the net cord but I’m usually pretty philosophical about these things.  There have also been a couple of big Pike in the net that had no business being in there.  This year I added another memory that will last.

I’ve done a lot of lure fishing over the years and caught plenty of Pike on this method, in fact I caught so many that I actually became bored of the chucking lures.  In hindsight I did most of my lure fishing on waters that were prolific but held very few BIG Pike.  I can remember catching a nineteen pounder from a drain on a springdawg and also seeing a bigger fish follow and drift away…  But days like this were very rare.  I’ve done far less lure fishing over the last decade, in truth I enjoy relaxing behind rods more but over the last couple of seasons the lure rod has come out more often. 

On this particular day I’d been moored in a reedy bay for forty five minutes or so and as is often the case I picked up the lure rod to try and wake something up.  So I commenced casting a spinnerbait around, carefully avoiding the lines and after a few minutes I was running out of options.  I cast along the reedline with the line cutting through the outlying stems and began to mechanically retrieve.  From nowhere came a big bow wave and swirl, I thought there was a tap on rod tip then nothing!  I kept turning the handle and before I had a chance to think it hit for a second time, slack-lining me and was gone before I could react.  I stood with my mouth open with the spinnerbait dangling, scratching my head and the fish took for the third time!  It stayed on long enough for me to get a clear view of a long fish before throwing my lure back at me with a head shake and shower of spray.  As you’d expect, the Pike didn’t reappear and after a few vain casts I recommenced my head scratching.

How big?  Obviously I’ll never know but I’m sure it would have been a lure caught PB.  I didn’t tear out any hair or vandalise any tackle but it would have been highly out of character for me to not swear.  Yes I was disappointed but once again philosophical and now, a few months on, it is one of my best fishy memories of 2017.  

The last fish of 2017...

Sunday 24 December 2017


On 23rd December 1983 I peddled my tackle laden bicycle a mile and a bit to my local pit on a gloomy winter day.  I peddled home in elation that day as I’d finally caught my first twenty pounds Pike.  Thirty four years later I’m driving along the country’s busiest A road with the stereo pounding ‘The Wailers’ – “Rastaman chant” on a similar gloomy day.  The same result today would leave me just as delighted, if anything a twenty pounds Pike is an even rarer creature these days.

I’m afloat by 0700 and I don’t even have time to cast a second rod before the first is on the move and a jack brought to the boat.  I hoped for more of the same but I have to wait nearly an hour for the next which is a bit bigger.  A change of swim brings two more fish in quick succession, they are getting bigger but not by enough!  These days nearly all my Pike fishing involves fishing live and deadbaits from a boat and keeping on the move, why not when it nearly always works?  Thirty four years ago my Pike fishing was done entirely from the bank and I’d usually sit in the same spot all day.  I’d be fishing stillwaters, almost exclusively while nowadays it’s usually a river system.  My rods have got shorter but the reels are bigger but in reality I’m still chucking out a lump of fish and waiting for a Pike to find it!

With a few Pike under my belt I decided to go searching areas I rarely fish; the plan is forty minutes in a spot without a fish then it’s time to move, still soaking deadbaits but also pinging a sinking lure about.  If there’s room, I like doing this while I’m bait fishing in fact with three (at least) good reasons, it’s silly not to.  Obviously I may catch a Pike but if I don’t any fish in the area will be aware of the lure and may move and pick up a deadbait and I also count the lure down to get an idea of the depths.  The first spot produced a take and a small fish bumped off, the second spot yielded nothing.  Then it was third time lucky with the biggest fish of the day coming to a bluey.  Today was the latest in a series of gloomy and sunless skies but at least it was still mild and there was a good breeze.  Is it me or is December always like this?  Maybe it’s because I have a gloomy outlook on the season of greed and gluttony?  I’m sure December 1983 was just as dull, weather wise.  Despite the murk the hunters were active, to my right a Kestrel hovered whilst to my left a Sparrowhawk perched high.  Earlier in the day I’d seen a larger bird of prey a way off, maybe a Buzzard probably a Harrier but which kind?

The afternoon came and went without me finding any more fish and all too soon the daylight was running out.  I expect to catch at last knockings here and my last move of the day brought me two more takes, one dropped but the other made it to the boat and required the net.  I kept at, twitching the baits back to the boat in the growing dark until I’d run out of both line and light.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday 14 December 2017

What do I know?

Continuing the theme of fishing with mates I had a rare day afloat with Rich, it’s rare for us to be in the same boat at least.  The weather was clear, cold and bloody horrible and we didn’t expect instant action but it wasn’t long before one of my floats was on the move, unfortunately the bait was dropped before I wound down.  An hour later I was contemplating a change of scenery when another float started zipping along, this time it was a decent fish which stayed deep then just rolled into the net where it inevitably woke up and went mental.

Nothing else happened so we went for a long move and settled down, sheltered from the cold Northerly by a wall of reeds.  It looked and felt right down here out of the wind but only produced one jack to my rods.  At least this gave us a chance to discuss the critical state of the world, the Ashes look gone, poor selection and dodgy captaincy.  We retraced our steps and stopped just short of where we’d begun and were both into Pike within minutes.  I started with a double figure fish then seconds later Rich was into a jack.  We’d just got settled again when we had a repeat with me losing a fish and Rich boating another jack, then yet another a few minutes later. 

After a quiet half hour we moved for a final time and dropped down again a short way upstream.  This resulted in two more quick takes, both to my rod, the second was another good fish, which came in the half light and was the biggest of the trip.  Another lovely day with good fishing and great company, for once everything had gone pretty much to plan and we’d caught a few fish in what we’d considered poor conditions.

The next three days brought the dreaded white stuff falling out of the sky, three frosty nights and general panic around the country.  The fourth day brought milder air and a nice south westerly wind, for once my luck was in and I had a chance to fish!  I was on the water early and set up by torch light, three deadbaits were thoughtfully spread around then I sat back in the gloom to await the inevitable takes.  Ninety minutes later the sun was up but it was still gloomy on all fronts, I remained fishless and was pondering a move.  I’d had company from a Barn Owl which hung around long enough for a dodgy photo in the murk and there was a hovering Kestrel downstream.  There had been Roach showing so I should have been sensible and made a short move, instead I gambled and when for a long row.  An hour later I was rowing back again!

A few days earlier I’d been catching fish in crap conditions and now I was blanking when everything seemed right!  I kept going, an hour here and an hour there but it wasn’t until noon that I finally found some fish.  Scattering Roach gave the game away and in little over an hour I had six takes boating four jacks before the feeding stopped with the onset of annoying rain.  A friendly Robin joined me at the boat, pecking at a discarded Herring and a female Hen Harrier briefly perched in a tree on the far bank but typically took flight before I could get the camera out.  With a grim forecast and foreboding clouds I decided to get off the water early.

So we caught a load of fish when it should have been hard then I struggled when everything seemed right.  What of these weather forecasts and theories?  Well closer scrutiny shows the clues, the pressure rose yesterday then bombed again today and the moon phase wasn’t great either.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.