Thursday 31 December 2020

Wasn't all bad...

December always seems grey.  Short days and low cloud there’s no light and I wonder if this contributes to me being so grumpy at this time of year?  These last few days have seen plenty of cloud and buckets of rain, enough to raise the river as high as I’ve ever seen it, Xmas eve saw parts of the town under water.  This kind of flood should shift and scour, perhaps making the river a different entity to the one I’ve fished this season?  But here in the east it all drains away quickly and thankfully very few people are affected, today I actually saw the sun which made a nice change.  The season of good will is an obstacle to overcome but once we’ve all paid Xmas tax and the New Year is upon us I tell myself we’re through the worst, the days are getting a few minutes longer now and things will start growing again soon.  But for a couple more hours we’re still stuck in 2020, a year most people want to forget.  

Apart from a few weeks in the spring the angling year was hardly affected and those of us with an angling affliction have probably found the whole lockdown experience less stressful than most.  I’m doubly lucky, living in the countryside meant that even when I couldn’t fish I was able to get out wandering in wild places.  2020 started pretty well with plenty of Pike to upper double figures along with my first ‘target’ of the year, a Pike from my local river.  Then spring came and as usual my attempts to catch wild Tench and Carp were fruitless, my latest grand plan being a total failure.  By the time we were able to fish the rivers in June I’d had enough of chasing myths so set off on a quest to catch a Gudgeon from my local river.  This ultimately proved a failure but I rediscovered the pleasure of watching a stick float trundle down the river and caught plenty of Rudd, Roach, Chub and Dace.  Some were from swims I’d fished as a lad and others from areas I’d never before trotted.  And I have come up with a location where I may catch that elusive Gudgeon next year…

Mid summer brought another change of angling scenery as for the first time in nearly forty years I found myself staring out to sea, watching rod tips and becoming totally hypnotised by the whole experience.  Everything about it felt new, fresh and exciting; with three ‘new’ species caught every fish was a potential PB.  What sea fishing has is an air of mystery that is almost extinct in coarse fishing in an era where fish have names.  A rod slamming bite and a Bass of a couple of pounds was one of my fishing highlights of the year, one I hope to repeat next summer.

But despite the interesting variety 2020 was mostly about the Pike fishing and it all went rather well, in fact I’ve had very few years that have been better.  There was a spell early on when everything just clicked and confidence soared, times like this come rarely so I made the most of it. On one unforgettable occasion I dropped into a spot, swung a herring out underarm and after a few minutes saw the float stab.  After a short but terrifying battle I drew a very long fish over the net and I knew without doubt that I’d achieved my one and only ambition in Pike angling.  This finally came after literally shedding blood, sweat and tears of all types over many seasons but I wouldn’t change a fucking thing!  

However within days I realised that one ambition had been replaced by another and then another! My desire for solitude means there are very few places where these Pikey ambitions could become reality but luckily I know a couple so on I’ll go for as long as I’m still enjoying it.  When I next go fishing, sometime in the early days of 2021 I’ll be after Pike once more and I’m starting to look forward to it already.

Friday 25 December 2020


December, my least favourite month and because I never worked out what was happening with work leave in this interrupted year I have a few days off.  Once upon a time I would have spent every single one of them by the waterside but nowadays I take it easy, a trip here and another one there will do for me.

I woke up on a gloomy, grey morning with persistent rain, enough to flood the river again I expect.  Certainly enough to put me off going fishing this morning, the good thing about keeping diaries, I KNOW my chosen water doesn’t fish well in grey, rainy weather. 

So me and Isaac arrived in the early afternoon by which time the clouds had broken up and at one point there was even a brief appearance from the sun.  By the time we’d got the boat loaded, rowed out and baits in the water it was around 1330.  We shared rods with five deadbaits scattered about the boat, fishing a spot I’d caught a few from in recent times.  It didn’t take long before Isaac was away on smelt.  He wound down, done everything right but for some reason the fish didn’t stay hooked.  I had the next two takes, a bluey on a single hook rig accounted for a seven pounder at 1400 then half an hour later I had a low double on Mackerel.  We moved after a while, back upstream where Isaac had another take but this one was dropped.  By then it was getting dark and by the time we got back to the boathouse I needed the head torch.

Two takes each but on this occasion the luck was on my side.  Its great fishing with my son, we don’t do it often enough.  I struggle to get motivated to fish anywhere other than the special place nowadays but I enjoyed fishing today, the best company and only a short trip.

A few days later I was out of bed at an ungodly hour and soon driving north with ‘Chemical Brothers’ keeping me awake.  I was a little held up at the slip, I wanted to catch some bait and things didn’t go to plan but soon the bucket was shimmering and I was heading out into the wilds.  On paper everything was on my side; just after New Moon, mild with a light south westerly and a bright sky for once.  Maybe it was too bright as the predicted cloud cover didn’t arrive and despite working hard and moving often I failed to find any Pike.  That’s not unusual in these parts but it didn’t spoil my day, still it was fantastic to be back out there after more than a month away, travelling up during a lockdown didn’t sit right.  I didn’t see any Pike but the Harriers were ever present and I saw a Bittern along with a large white heron shaped thing that I think is a Great Egret?  And still I dream of the unknown monster…

After a lay in and a day of rest I was feeling the urge again so the Princess dropped me off on her way to work and the plan was to walk home along the river casting lures, starting at the old ford and heading back upstream.  I also had a plan B worked in should the river be pushing through too hard, the secret pit should be fishable and its five years since I last visited it, who knows what has changed?  It was a beautiful sunny day, mild with a light south westerly and I arrived at the river to find it just about fishable.  I walked along way and cast infrequently but where I did fish, my old K11 Kwikfish seemed to be working in the stream okay.  The water was high which made it difficult for me to read on this little known stretch and I didn’t feel confident.

I got to the pit and as expected it was even more overgrown than before, the water was high but clear enough.  I tried the bottleneck swim but could only manage a couple of casts with a shad because there just wasn’t room.  I walked round to the northern side where there was a bit of space and within a couple of casts the shad was taken and I gladly dragged a Jack into the margins.  After a few more minutes I felt I had fully covered the water available so moved on again.

There’s only one more fishable spot on the pit but it’s a good one, a small point with tree lined bays both sides and a view the length of the pit.  Within a few casts I felt a bump on the shad, definitely a fish but it didn’t hook up.  The same thing happened again a few minutes later which gave me confidence to carry on and eventually I had a proper take and landed another Jack, a little bigger than the first.  After a tea break I resumed fishing and covered the swim with a few different lures working different depths but nothing else pulled back.

It wasn’t long before I got itchy feet so I clipped the Kwikfish back on and returned to the river, trying to fish slacks where I could find them.  I was headed in the general direction of home but soon came up against an obstacle, a ‘footpath closed’ sign blocking the rickety bridge.  To retrace my footsteps would have added a couple of miles and almost an hour to my day so after the briefest of inspections I ignored the sign and crossed.  Another identical sign at the other side seemed evidence that the only obstacle had been overcome but I could see no reason to block the bridge, it seemed perfectly safe to me. So I resumed fishing but nothing grabbed the lure and it had never really seemed likely.  It was nice to bump into a couple of old acquaintances when I returned to civilisation and after a good yarn I packed the gear away and yomped home via the park.  A few hours in the countryside and a couple of Jacks for my trouble, I’d have settled for that.  I grew up fishing the gravel pits but how long since I last caught a Pike from one? 

A few days later I was awake at a reasonable hour, the Princess was off to work again, did I fancy getting dropped off and walking the river home again?  Could I be arsed?  In truth no, through the window it looked horrible out there.  But for some reason I got my bits together and around 0900 found myself walking down a track towards the river.  This time I was a couple of miles upstream and today I found the river lower, flowing nicely with a tinge of colour.  I felt confident fish would at least see my lure and felt I was in with a chance.  The cloud had broken up a bit and by now the morning was a mixture of sunshine and gloomy periods with the occasional light shower, mild with fresh winds from the south.  I began fishing with more confidence than I’d had the last time.

So I made my way downstream towards home, mostly fish shads and sometimes a spinnerbait, casting here and there, gradually waking up.  But nothing was happening, there were no fishy pulls on my line and no sign of any fish of any description.  Much of the river was straight, shallow and uninviting but the further I walked the better things looked.  At last a fish flashed at a shad but from the glimpse I got it looked like a smallish Perch and it never returned.  On a bit further and I felt a definite tap, a few casts later something grabbed the Shad and with no fuss whatsoever I hauled a Jack out of the river.  It may have been small but it was perfect.  I’m easily pleased on a trip like this; just catching a fish makes it a result, especially as Pike seem to be much scarcer on my local river these days.  Why is this?  The river is slowly dying and has been for many years now; the fish are under more pressure from enemies with two feet, four feet and wings.   Still I had another couple of miles of interesting looking river to go at and if I could catch one there was still every chance of another.

Most of the river looks the part along here and I’ve fished it a few times without any real success and this was repeated today.  All of it looked right and there were a couple of pools that looked bang on for a Pike, this may be the case but today they didn’t want my lures.  After a couple of miles of slip sliding through mud my legs were tired as I trudged back up the road.  Maybe I’ll do it again?  Maybe with a stick float and some maggots?  Maybe but first we have to get through the festival of greed…