Saturday 30 January 2021


You must stay local’.  Define local?  Are we talking a mile, a couple of miles?  What?  Does anyone know or is this yet another deliberately vague instruction from an incompetent government?  I suppose it depends who you are really; I mean there are some in London who consider Durham to be local, anyway…

Another murky day in January and I had the urge but where do I go? I have to stay local of course which seriously cuts down my options unless I decide to fish for carp on a crowded puddle, nah.  So it’s the river then and by 0830 I was walking downstream, following the stream home, something I’ve done several times in the last year or so.  Today I took a float rod and some maggots, stopping here and there and running a stick float downstream.  The river looked idyllic in places with ethereal light and snow still clinging on in patches, if only the float would bury every now and then…  It never did, not once and the closer to home I got the lower my confidence dropped and the less persistent I became.  Angling is all about finding the fish, the truth is I just don’t know this stretch well enough and I’m not sure I can be arsed to learn more?  But the birds were active and it was nice to see an Egret though they can’t be considered rare anymore.

At the town end of the stretch is a series of pools and falls which were never as promising as they look but still it was annoying when homemade ‘No Fishing’ signs started appearing.  An acquaintance delights in removing these signs at every opportunity stating that whoever puts them there has no legal right to do so and I believe this assertion is correct.  I noticed today that far more permanent signs had appeared but they are still obviously homemade and will only be seen as a challenge.  Today I couldn’t resist dropping a float in, screw the signs and bollocks to whoever puts them there.  My attempt as bait didn’t lure he/she out on a cold January day.

I wasn’t satisfied, still had the urge and the forecast was looking good, the mildest day for a week and it was actually going to stay dry. ‘Fuck it I’m going fishing…’ 

I can’t say the day dawned because it was another one typical for January, sometimes if up early enough we get a quick glimpse of the big fireball before it slips under its blanket of murk but not today.  I stretched ‘local’ a little more today so found myself sitting in the Suffolk boat which is probably far enough from home to get me into trouble but still not as far as I drive to work.  On the journey and in the boat I didn’t come close to another person but at work I’m the regulation two metres from others.  We are the herd, our mental or physical wellbeing counts for fuck all, just keep the flow of money pouring into the very deep Armani pockets.  Anyone would think I had a chip on my shoulder?

Where was I?  Sitting in a boat on a remote stretch of slowly meandering water peering through the murk at three orange topped floats willing one of them to slide away…  It didn’t take long, I looked at the one closest to the boat and done a double take, it was moving ever so slowly but definitely on the go.  I wound down and the rod stayed bent for just long enough to make me wonder if…  But no the fish couldn’t maintain itself against the pressure and I soon had a Jack alongside the boat where I was able to unhook it with no bother.  The bait was gone and I couldn’t remember if it had been a smelt or a joey but as a pale green cucumbery thing was handy out it went.  Half an hour later another float was bobbing, this one definitely had a herring beneath it but by the time I wound down the fish had dropped it.  I gave it half an hour longer but nothing else happened, time for a move.

My next stop was way downstream, a shit or bust area which is inconsistent at best so I don’t visit it as often as I might.  Today I had a Jack on Herring after twenty minutes so settled back with confidence that proved unfounded.  A Buzzard flew close by and Blue Tits skipped through the bushes, the morning was mild and pleasant, nice to be out in the countryside.  After an uneventful hour I started making my way back upstream, stopping here and there, trolling in between but not finding anything interested in a lump of dead fish.  At 1115 I stopped at a spot which usually produces, chucked the baits out and settled back to demolish what was left of my food, washing it all down with a brew.  The light was changing, you could never call it bright but there was a definite lightening of the gloom, enough to make me dig the shades out to ease tired eyes.

With noon approaching and nothing doing I realised I was bored, should I have another move or just clear off?  Then all thoughts were banished as my eyes were drawn to the furthest float, the herring was definitely on the move so I wound down quickly and this time the rod bent over and stayed.  There felt like a bit of weight on the end and this was confirmed when a kick and a surge saw line pulled from a tight clutch.  Mid winter Pike rarely pull your arms off and this one plodded about before popping up beside the boat and revealing itself to be a nice long fish.  No fucking about now, I scooped it up in the net at the first opportunity.  The hooks came out easily and it was apparent I’d need scales and a camera for this one which turned out to be the best I’ve had from my home county for nearly five years.

I sat back again with a big smile and another brew, this was most unexpected as fish this size are seldom seen in these parts nowadays.  I should have felt full of enthusiasm but a nagging voice in my head was saying I’d used up all my luck and was unlikely to catch anything to better this one.  I want to be in Norfolk, that’s the trouble.  I feel like I should be there and nowhere else but in reality I might not get there again this season.  I stuck it out for another hour but by this time my interest had evaporated so I trolled my way back to base without incident.  Shortly after I was driving home along roads that were packed with crawling traffic, fucking lockdown hey?

I had planned another proper local trip to the river but it rained and then it rained.  Once again the level rose and the water burst into the fields and in some places the streets which put paid to any plans I might have had.  For some reason I find these floods fascinating, the power of water goes mostly unnoticed and I couldn’t resist putting on my boots for a walk and a wade, the gentle stream had become a dangerous torrent.  It will be interesting to see how much has changed when it all calms down again and it’s likely that’s what I’ll be doing the next time I wet a line.  But what I really want to do is get afloat in Norfolk…

Saturday 16 January 2021

Just because

 I don’t like January much either, it’s basically the same as December, short murky days when the sun never comes out and cold, too fucking cold.  There’s one saving grace though, we don’t have to put up with the Christmas charade, at the end of the month comes February and reawakening.  This January has been particularly shit, locked down tighter, you can’t fish – you can fish.  Make up your fucking minds!  The Angling Trust is lapping up the adulation but their motivation is keeping the trade happy, has AT really acted in our best interests?  Just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  Amidst the confusion the government avoids the blame, when this is all over don’t ever let anyone tell you that it was all our fault for not following the rules.  People are fucking stupid, they need to be told what not to do, our leaders have failed us, again.  But enough of all that bollocks. 

Halfway through the month and I still hadn’t made a cast, the weather had been uninspiring, a series of heavy frosts and day time temperatures just creeping above freezing.  “But that’s Pike weather!”  Really?  Not where I fish it isn’t.  When the temperature rose a little so came the rain, bucket loads fell and overnight the river was badly flooded again.  I felt the need to fish but my ‘local’ water was not going to be viable so decided to wait until things calmed down again.

A day off, no alarm clock set but the aging bladder had me out of bed at 0500, with a test match in progress it was hard to get back to sleep so I sat with a brew and TMS, listening to England piling on the runs.  I’m up early, should I go fishing?  I have nothing ready, the rain will have wiped out all the local places and the weather is shit.  But if I don’t go today when will I get to go again?  It would be no surprise if restrictions get tighter and there would be no complaint from me.  Fuck it, maybe I shouldn’t but I can so on this occasion I will.  There’s a place that should be okay, a land drain out in the fields that is probably stretching ‘local’ but I won’t see a soul.

A Kestrel hovered as I pulled into the first layby at 0730, the water was very high and the colour of piss weak tea, it didn’t look at all inspiring.  But from the second stop further downstream things looked better, still high but nowhere near as coloured so I soon had three deadbaits positioned covering the near bank, middle and far side.  I settled back amongst the reedbeds, sheltered from the northerly, warm and comfortable with TMS describing Root and Lawrence punishing Sri Lanka.  This will do me for a morning.  There was a good article in a recent ‘Pikelines’ by Dave Harrison which advised anglers to manage their expectations, you can’t catch what isn’t there.  I spend a lot of my Pikey time chasing monsters but there are times like today when just a Jack will send me home happy.  The day was typical; murky dull and cold with drizzle at times which was a pain as I hadn’t packed any shelter but if it got too much I’d go home.

After about half an hour I was surprised to see my furthest float jab and start sliding downstream along the far bank but by the time I’d tightened up nothing was moving and the line was weightless.  Still I recast with hope, if one fish was willing to pick up a bait then hopefully others would.  This proved correct as a short while later the float in mid stream was moving and this time I set the hook and started to winch a bit of weight back towards me.  But with a rap on the rod tip the line fell slack and another chance was gone. 

I sat it out for another thirty minutes but apart from a Kingfisher’s visit nothing else happened so I made a short move downstream and once again set up fishing near, middle and far.  This time it was the near side rod in action after only a few minutes, a take on Smelt saw me somehow strike fresh air.  What the fuck was wrong with me today?  The float had hardly resettled when it was on the move again but this time I hooked the fish and wound a Jack to the surface where it shook its head and spat the bait back at me.  I laughed out loud, what else can you do?  I resigned myself to one of those days when the Jacks are on the munch, this happens every now and then, a day of frustration, missed and dropped takes the norm.  Another half hour passed before a Mackerel in mid stream was moving and this time I connected and kept the pressure on.  Near the edge I could see the bottom hook in the point of the lower jaw so bullied it into the net before sod’s law could intervene again.  After a series of cock ups I had my first Pike of the year and closer investigation showed the hooks had dropped out.  It looked about ten pounds but didn’t leave the water; I seem to be photographing a lot of fish in the net nowadays.  They are rarely great photos but it does the fish no harm and records a memory for me.  I find it ironic that the ones we covet most are the ones we keep out of the water for the longest.

After rain in Galle had finally curtailed the cricket I had one more move, back upstream and it was noticeable that the tea coloured water was creeping its way down the stretch.  A family of Otters played on the far side, “oh what a lovely sight!”  Bollocks.  This didn’t stop the Pike though as a Smelt in mid stream produced a take and a head banging fish of around seven pounds tried it’s best to fight.  This too was lightly hooked and never came out of the water.  I’d hardly recast when the close range rod was away, this time I picked up the rod with renewed confidence, wound down and struck thin air. ‘Ah fuck it!’  By now it was early afternoon and I’d had enough, I set out to catch my first Pike of the year and had succeeded, that’ll do for today.  In all honestly I’d travelled further than I should but since leaving the car I hadn’t come within twenty yards of another human and I doubt any of the dog walkers even knew I was there.  My mind and soul felt refreshed, relaxing in the countryside done me a world of good and I didn’t hurt anyone.  Home in the daylight, we’re supposed to be in a lockdown so where is all this traffic going?  But who am I to talk?

Another year and another heavily edited fishing diary of sorts which will hopefully feature more Pike when it’s cold and lots of variation when it’s warmer; Tench, Bass, Gudgeon and if I’m really lucky a Suffolk Shark?  We’ve just got to get through this fucking pandemic first.