Saturday 14 November 2020

Seasonal affective disorder

 So here we are allegedly locked down again although you’d never know this by the weight of rush hour traffic.  In reality it’s an evening lockdown, a token gesture and nothing more.  And if the clown in Downing Street has done such a good job then how did we end up here again?  Now speaking purely selfishly I’d have been pissed right off if the country had closed down when the scientists advised.  Autumn is my favourite time of the fishing year and to be kept away from my favourite places at this time would have been sickening.  So I was able to spend the season alone in my boat doing what I love, I fished hard and it all went rather well.  By the time the lockdown returned I was ready for a break and early announcements attributed to the Broads Authority suggested boats would not be welcome on the water.  But it seems the BA had no right to make this pronouncement so both anglers and boaters are going about business as usual.  Living an hour away from the boat yard makes the whole travelling thing problematic for me so I’ll be staying away for a while, even though I could drive up and launch without going anywhere near another human.

The lockdowns have contributed to this being a very busy year for fishing, commercial fisheries are rammed and many local clubs had to cap their memberships for the first time in years.  There have never been so many anglers out on the bank and with this latest period of restriction it could be bad news for the Pike.  That Pike suffer badly from angling pressure is accepted as fact by almost all experienced anglers, tackle shops are running out of dead bait and many waters are now seeing extreme pressure, it might not end well…

On a related theme, a club that is reasonably local to me acquired a new stillwater which has a reputation for producing seriously big Pike.  The club took some steps to regulate the angling pressure by inviting anglers to apply for one of two, ‘Pike tickets’ which would allow them to fish for a two month period. The club also introduced strict rules on the type of tackle people should use and what the tackle trade calls ‘fish care equipment’.  On the face of it this all seems sensible but all sorts of people applied for tickets which means experienced Pikers may miss out whilst Noddy with the big unhooking mat could be staring at a big head full of sharp teeth.  No sour grapes here, I’m not a member and have no interest in fishing the place as, amongst other things, it would mean interacting with people but I wish a couple of friends good luck on all fronts.

Also in the local-ish angling world the EA has been forced to back down on idiotic plans to block a Bure broad off to migratory fish.  Recent research using radio tags has revealed the broad to be a major spawning site for Bream which move into the area from all over the system.  Obviously stopping a species from reproducing is not going to end well and even when EA’s own staff pointed this out they were ignored.  This was part of another fuck witted scheme by which some scientist would splash around for a bit then write a paper that nobody reads and declare themselves clever.  As usual its anglers that have fought to stop this happening and once again PAC’s superstar John Currie has been in the thick of it.  Also rare credit to Angling Trust whose ‘Fish Legal’ team has also contributed to the argument and the blocking of the broad has been postponed.  I must caveat this by saying AT in the east has a habit of swooping in at the last minute to claim responsibility for other people’s work.  I say the scheme is postponed because these quangos are seldom held accountable and I suspect they will come up with a slightly different yet equally ludicrous idea in the near future.

When I go fishing in autumn or winter I go Pike fishing.  Always.  But today I changed the habits of a lifetime.  I left home with minimal tackle but I did take two rods; one was a quiver tip set up with a maggot feeder and the other was a float rod with a wire stemmed stick. A small rucksack, landing net, seat, bank stick and bait box made up my kit.  The morning was gloomy so I waited for the soggy clouds to pass over before leaving home around lunchtime.

My destination was a stretch of river that I’d fished in the summer, on that occasion I’d found it in perfect nick after heavy summer rain but today it ran low and clear, a barren river bed illuminated by the now bright afternoon sun.  I wandered along a muddy footpath, heading away from the houses looking for likely looking pools that may hold a few silver fish or better still a Chub.  When I was younger you could almost guarantee catching Chub between two and three pounds along here but now things are much changed.  The river is much shallower and the course of the main flow is not the same, well at least it had some flow today, that isn’t a given.  The reeds are brown stalks now but still choking the river in many places and look unlikely to be dislodged by winter floods, should we get any.

With half a mile or so in my legs I came to a spot that had looked the part in the summer and didn’t actually look too bad today.  But with the vegetation now flattened there was no cover and this clumsy bastard would have spooked any Chub around long before the float plopped in.  But I didn’t spook everything as my first trot saw the float bury and a nice Rudd was swung in.  The good start promised much but although a managed a couple more fish, pristine river Roach, bites were infrequent and there were other places I wanted to try.

The next spot was a long run that had been full of fish in the summer but today was low, clear and lifeless.  I tried a few trots but what I really wanted to do was have a cup of tea while sitting on my arse looking at a quiver tip so in the next spot this is exactly what I done.  Here a fallen tree almost crosses the river and traps a raft of floating natural debris that is in the process of fading from green to brown but has been invaded by a fleet of coke bottles.  The swim looks the part and was a very good area a lifetime ago so I swung the feeder upstream, perched on a folding boat seat and tried to make a brew.  However making tea proved difficult on a sloping bank but the main trouble was I kept getting interrupted by bites, one a chuck when the feeder landed in the right place.  A mixture of nice sized Rudd and Roach, in different circumstances almost all would have gone in a bucket.  In the end I chucked the feeder downstream just so I could enjoy my tea.  When I recast to the raft the bites came again but the fish seemed to be getting smaller and there was no sign of any Chub.

In theory it should have been enjoyable, catching sparkling fish in the countryside on a little fished river but the reality was different.  A little further upstream is a quarry from which came an almighty racket and away behind me there’s a large building site noisily sinking concrete into a former arable hillside.  Then there were the walkers who aren’t any bother but sitting so close to the path I couldn’t relax.  I’ve found there are three types of walker; my favourites just ignore me which is perfect.  Next are those that utter a polite greeting then carry on their way, these are a just a minor irritant. Finally there are the worst kinds, the ones who want to engage me in a conversation which will follow a depressingly predictable course.  I don’t want to be rude so supress the urge to scream ‘Fuck off!’ in their faces.  Thankfully there were no close encounters of the third kind today but the ever present threat made me nervous and uncomfortable.  I know, I’m a grumpy unsociable bastard but I’ve come to the conclusion that 95% of people are just sheep and at least half of those are fucking idiots.  Dealing with humans is unavoidable most of the time but when I’m fishing I’m too used to solitude.  So I went home. There’s a lot to be said for Pike fishing from a boat…

On reflection my mood may have been due the state of the river, seeing it up close, bare and lifeless was a disappointment.  The spots I’d ear marked for a Chub didn’t look at all likely, if I’m going to fish like this again this winter and I probably will, then it won’t be here.  But there are other places where I’ve seen Chub and I’m far less likely to encounter wandering humans so for the next couple of months I may be going off the rails some more.