Monday 26 March 2018

Score draw

I can’t remember a March that has been as cold as this one, it’s been brutal but eventually milder weather arrived.  With Pike time and opportunities running out it was even mild enough to tempt Isaac out of bed at an early hour.  We’re a little slow getting underway and Isaac is virtually mute on the journey but eventually the mug of tea in his hands does the trick and he’s almost awake by the time we reach the water.

We only have a few hours so I went for a long row with the intention of fishing our way back to base throughout the morning.  We dropped the weights in a narrower, shallower stretch, flanked by thick reeds.  It looked and felt right for the time of year.  With our baits scattered about the swim we got settled.  The wall of reeds sheltered us from the southerly wind, Isaac was still quiet but had his headphones on and was nodding to the music, Kendrick Lamar apparently.  He was lost in his thoughts and totally unaware that one of my floats was on the move and stayed oblivious until this small fish was splashing by the boat.  This brought surprised laughter and the volume came down a couple of notches.

With Isaac now in the land of the living conversation and laughter flows and half an hour passes in no time before we are interrupted by a Pike.  My rod again and this time a better fish which deceived me but in the end it didn’t need the scales and was unhooked in the water.  Dad 2 Isaac 0 I’m in the lead so not getting any ribbing but I’m desperate for him to catch!  Forty five minutes later and just as we were discussing a move another of my rods is away and soon after another nice fish is unhooked in the water.  I didn’t have time to recast before it was Isaac’s turn at last.  As soon as he set the hooks the Pike ran towards him which took him by surprise and the line went slack.  Isaac kept winding and somehow the fish was still on and in the net shortly afterwards.  As Isaac had no trophy shots for his efforts this season, this one did come in the boat for a quick photo.

Fifteen minutes later the boat was back to normal but not for long, Isaac was in again and mostly in control, certainly for long enough to be secured in the net.  This was slightly bigger than his first so warranted another quick photo.  Dad 3 Isaac 2.  That’s a nice score so I don’t feel too wicked in having a little wind up which is met with mock outrage and more laughter. 

After a quiet hour we have a move and this was rewarded with a take inside ten minutes, Isaac wound down quickly and this time played the fish like a pro, wiping out my early lead.  With time running out it could be a case of the next fish being the decider.  I fancied one more move but the mild weather had brought a few people out and our options were growing limited.  In the end we decide to settle for a draw and pack up a little early.  As I rowed back the verbals continued, I claimed victory as I’d caught the biggest fish but after some mental arithmetic Isaac declared himself winner with the highest weight.  His grin widened as I struggled for a comeback.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Only an idiot

So the weather had wrecked my plans but cabin fever had well and truly descended so I was determined to get out fishing at the weekend.  As forecast the thaw set in on Saturday, the roads were getting back to normal and the tide of whiteness was ebbing.  Sunday looked good, seven degrees would feel like spring after the last week and surely the rise in temperature would get the Pike moving?  The only potential problem was whether the boats would be iced in?
I set off with light already growing as I didn’t feel the need to be driving in the pitch black on roads that had been impassable a few days earlier.  The main road was clear but very wet, there was still a bit of snow laying on the fields. 

Traffic was light and I cruised nice and steady, singing along to Weller.  I turned off the main road and the lanes were full of puddles, snow piled ominously high against the hedgerows.  As I went further the lanes were narrower and the snow piles ever higher and as it closed in around me I began to get a feeling of disquiet.  I arrived at the gate and had a careful look at the track, it looked okay as far as I could see but what lay around the bend?  There was only one way to find out and by the time I did so the track was covered in snow and I was stuck!  I got out for a look, it didn’t seem too bad and sure enough a bit of shunting saw me free again.  Thank fuck for that!

Now I had a decision to make with facts to consider.  The track ahead of me looked okay but just round the next bend, out of sight was a slope and after that still a good half mile that could be in any kind of condition.  There was nowhere to turn round so whatever I decided I’d be reversing out.  Okay it was all thawing so I’d get out eventually but that could take hours.  The only sensible thing to do was to reverse up to the gate, then turn around and go home.  Only a total idiot would try to go any further in these conditions.

So I put the Focus into first and proceeded towards the water; to begin with all was good, however half way down the slope the track was ominously white.  I still didn’t have the sense to go back and at that moment didn’t seem to be capable of doing anything other than keep going, as if in a dream.  Yes the inevitable happened, I got stuck and this time no amount of shunting got me anywhere.  I considered the facts once again; I was stuck in the snow on a farm track miles from anywhere.  I wish I could say this was a one off moment of madness but if I’m honest, ploughing on regardless of the consequences is typical for me.  I cursed my own stupidity and let off steam but all the bad language and hot air failed to speed up the thaw. 

As I sat behind the wheel a bird flew quickly along the track directly towards me, as it got closer it turned into a Sparrowhawk which looked certain to fly straight into the windscreen but lifted at the last moment and skimmed the roof of the car. All I could do now was wait so I opened the boot, found the flask and made a brew.  I dug out the camera and went for a little walk, snapping a Chaffinch in the hedgerow but too slow to catch the rabbits in the field.  The valley looked beautiful but I didn’t have time to capture it all before I heard the sound of an engine.  I met the friendly farmer at the track and we had a good laugh at my predicament.  He assured me that I was stuck in the worst part of the track which was all clear below and everything would thaw quickly.  He was less certain about the state of the water but thought it would be ice free.  With a bit of a push we got the car moving again, “Thanks!” and another good laugh. 
As I approached the water I kept stealing glances but didn’t like what I saw, the upper stretch was definitely frozen, as was the boat yard.  I had no option but keep going, whether I fished or not I’d have to give the track a couple of hours to thaw.  Thankfully I found plenty of ice free water further down so I would be able to have a go from the bank, even if my boat kit wasn’t ideal.

By 0800 I was actually fishing!  I chucked a Lamprey at the far bank, a bluey along the near bank to my left and fished a smelt on a paternoster.  This I cast as far as I could, with the intention of twitching it back a few feet every now and then.  I sat in my folding ‘L’ shaped boat seat on the damp ground but was comfortable enough and more than happy.  The morning had definitely not gone to plan but I was fishing and I was in with a chance.  The water looked lovely with its sleeves of snow and above me I could see blue sky and a glimpse of sun.  I couldn’t resist a laugh.  After half an hour the Lamprey was on the move and I bent into a fish.  It didn’t do a lot except kite to my left and there didn’t feel at all heavy.  Still after everything I was delighted to have a fish on the line and was pissed right off when it dropped off for no apparent reason.  Half an hour later the same float tremored and wobbled again but when I wound down there was nothing doing.

Another half hour passed, I’d just twitched the paternoster and by the time I’d fallen into my seat the smelt was on heading towards the estuary, I had to quickly scramble to my feet again.  This time I hooked the smallest Pike in the water but netted it anyway just to be certain that I could take a cheesy snow photo.  It’s probably just as well as the hooks fell out in the net.  This began a mad hour when the fish switched on.  I had a couple of dropped takes, missed one and lost another but also managed to land a couple more small Pike, both of these were very lightly hooked.

After an hour of inactivity I had a move and had just got all three rods out again when I noticed the Swans had broken off a big sheet of ice which was being blown towards me by the wind.  Five minutes later I was forced to move again.  By the time I’d settled it was midday and if the forecast was correct then I had an hour before a band of rain was due to reach us.  Sure enough the cloud was building and a couple of short showers blew through.  These were enough to convince that sitting on my arse in the rain wasn’t going to be much fun so for the first time this day I made a sensible decision and packed up before the rain got too bad. 

Thankfully the return journey was without incident, the farmer had been spot on, all the snow was gone from the track but the stuff piled high along miles of hedgerow will linger a while longer.  This is supposed to be spring and I was supposed to be in Norfolk!  Will there be time for another go?

Thursday 1 March 2018

Arctic Bastard

"The beast from the east", what a lovely, media friendly name for our current winter storm.  What a load of bollocks.  Another tag line to use to sell more crap to fuckwitts.  Drum up some hysteria, hint that supplies could run out and people go mad.  To be fair this time it's a proper snowstorm, about six inches dropped on us overnight, which is the most snow we've had in one go for about six years.  I'm calling it the bastard from the Arctic but I don't suppose that's very media friendly.  Work was snowed off so I had an unplanned day at home, which was a pleasant surprise.

The lady and I went for a walk into the whiteness in the early afternoon.  The town looked suitably quaint after the whitewash but we'd got our timing wrong and strolled headfirst into a blizzard.  The wind was raw and cruel, cutting through clothing and scorching any exposed skin.  I had my camera but could only click half a dozen pictures before my finger tips needed warming up and the gloves were back in place.  Halfway round the lake and the clouds blew over, the skies cleared for a while allowing the sun to light the scene.  For a few minutes it became almost pleasant, the birds were singing and many were boldly searching for food, coming quite close in doing so.  A Robin followed us, Blackbirds were plentiful, a Chaffinch posed for us.  There were a couple of Redwings and a Fieldfare, birds I wouldn't expect to see in normal circumstances.

Another day of snow and ice later, forget the rural roads the main routes are bad enough.  This leads to no school for the kids and no work for me again.  It's that frustrating situation where I actually have some time but can't really do anything with it.  I did consider going down the river for a few hours but in this weather that really would be idiotic.  All I seem to do is look at weather forecasts on TV and online, hoping for anything other than bad news and still being disappointed.  It seems certain that my plans for a weekend in Norfolk will have to be postponed, I won't have time to get up there again this season so my special fishing is done for the time being, Arctic bastard.  By the time I throw the Pike rods out on the Broads again my son will be at college and my daughter at university, I don't want to wish this time away.

With time on my hands I've read the latest Catch Cult magazine and read most of it for a second time.  CC is now a year old and has gone from strength to strength, we're now up to edition six which is probably the best so far.  My favourite articles this time are all written by Robs.  Mr Christian's unique writing style tells us of a magic session after Fenland Pike.  Mr Young describes his incredibly successful approach to Hampshire Avon Barbel, culminating in a river record.  Finally Mr Olsen takes us on a Mongolian adventure seeking Taimen and it's a proper angling tale.  Honourable mentions also for Dave Marrs' balanced look at the Angling Trust and James Hinley's fishing on the northern spate rivers.  CC1 to CC4 have all sold out but you can get hold of CC5 and CC6 by clicking this link

So with Norfolk off the agenda I have to have a rethink, I should be able to make it to the waterside for a couple more tries for Pike before the season ends.  Maybe when one door closes there might be a surprise behind another?