Sunday 28 February 2021

The not so secret pit

Towards the end of the last century my friends and I had been enjoying some excellent fishing on a group of gravel pits local to us.  We found that with them being located in the river valley life established itself quickly and by the time the diggers moved off, the pits would usually be worth fishing.  Sometimes we done well from the start but at others we had to bide our time.  Usually we had the pits to ourselves and enjoyed the solitude as well as some very good Piking which included PB’s for two of us that were in the know.  By the turn of the century things had changed, the gravel digging had finished, the site was under new ownership and our presence was no longer welcome.  Sitting it out with the full deadbaiting kit was no longer an option but covert raids travelling light with the lure fishing gear were very much on.  For a couple of years we played ‘cat and mouse’ with the new owner who would regularly patrol the site in his bright red pick up.  We would nearly always see or hear him long before he got anywhere near us and all it took to avoid detection was to slip into the bushes or just lay down in the undergrowth.  When the red pick up had passed on we could then resume fishing, albeit on a higher state of alert.

The lure fishing photo pose of choice at the time...

In the end it was bloody Carp that were our downfall, as no one else was fishing for them it seemed too good to miss.  We'd regularly seen a group of five fish that looked in the fifteen to twenty pounds range and Mr G confirmed this by catching a couple.  They were usually easy to see because one of them was a bright orange Koi, find that one and the others weren't far behind. ‘Looks like a fucking carrot’ I remarked to Mr G one day and the name stuck as it’s still swimming around today in the most popular day ticket fishery in the area and it still has the same stupid name!  But by static carp fishing I was a sitting duck and eventually made the acquaintance of the new owner who had the nerve to accuse me of poaching!  This I strongly denied stating I was fishing and if I’d actually been poaching he’d have never found me.  After a brief discussion I was firmly told that I wasn’t welcome on his land and I’d be in big trouble if I was found there again.

So it was back to the lure fishing and covert tactics once more but even this was becoming more difficult as the new owner had twigged that cars left in certain laybys meant he had visitors.  Another spring visit brought another dive into the undergrowth as the red pick-up appeared again but this time he knew we were there and kept circling.  We were absolutely determined not to be caught, this was a point of honour.  To ensure this meant Mr G and I had to make short sprints from bush to bush when the pick-up was moving away and stand still as he passed again.  Eventually we made our escape by wading a stream and sneaked back to the safety of the layby.  

We were disappointed as it was a mild spring evening and we really wanted to have a cast.  The increased security patrols had now made fishing these pits more trouble than they were worth.  We needed to find somewhere else and it was then that I remembered the ‘secret pit’ which I’d cased but hadn’t yet fished.  We decided to load all the gear into one car and leave the other in the layby to keep the red pick-up busy, then we set off for the new pit which was a few miles away.  A slow drive over a long bumpy gravel track brought us to an isolated, tree lined water of about four acres that looked beautiful in the spring green.  The water was clear and weedy, if nothing else it looked the part.  As we started fishing we weren’t even sure if the water held Pike but this was soon confirmed and from memory both Mr G and I caught a couple each that evening. 

First Pike from the secret pit!

That was the first time we fished the secret pit and we paid occasional visits over the next couple of years, it wasn’t exactly a poach as there were never any unfriendly signs but ownership was never established so it was prudent to keep a low profile.  But it seemed we were either too early or too late, we caught Pike regularly along with the odd Perch but doubles were few and far between, in truth the fishing wasn’t a patch on what we’d been driven away from and the interest waned.  I didn’t go near the secret pit for over a decade and it was only Prymnesium in Norfolk that made me look for other options. I revisited the place about five years ago when once again I only caught Jacks.  Now desperate times have come again and the lack of anything else interesting that can strictly be considered local means the pit is back on the radar once more.

But it’s hardly a secret as I know other anglers have visited it over the years, there are other like minded local Pikers who know these things must be checked out.  But it is tucked away nicely, you’d almost have to know it was there to be able to see it and nowadays it is a good three quarter mile yomp from the nearest suitable place to leave a car.  The urge to fish was pulling at me but I was bored of tramping along a river which currently seems to consist of miles of lifelessness.  The same stretches that had been full of Dace in the summer are beyond either my skill or my motivation, perhaps both.  But there was the not so secret pit which would give me the opportunity to mix the fishing up a bit as well as chill out in the spring sun and the more I thought about it the better the idea became.

I travelled light and made a leisurely start, it was approaching 1000 before I made my first cast, I swung half a herring out on a float leger rig, just beyond an overhanging tree close in to my left.  I was fishing a small point in the south western corner which gave me the most scope so I began casting a shad on jig head, counting it down to remind myself of the depths and contours.  After doing this for a few minutes I recast the deadbait, this landed on a slope in around nine feet of water.  To the right it shallowed up with a bit of weed and to the left it dropped away into about twelve feet of water.  I was happy with that and recommenced casting the shad around.

After a few casts I was dreamily taking in the rather nice scene before me, a tree shrouded piece of water lit up in bright sunshine, the first hints of new greenery trying to break out.  I retrieved again, lifted and recast the lure then glanced down to notice the clear water at my feet was disturbed.  Something had followed the lure but I’d been distracted and hadn’t seen it.  No drama, there’s something about so I’m in with a chance.  I always used to be tempted to recast to the same spot when I got a follow but nowadays I do anything but.  That disturbed fish is on the move and to where I don’t know so I tend to make a couple of casts away from the area that produced the response.  I can’t remember where I picked this up from but the thinking is to give the Pike time to get back into a striking position again.  It may all be theory and bollocks but I don’t think so, I have a real feeling there’s something to it.  But nothing else at all happened over the next few minutes so I switched to a lighter, larger shad in supposed pike colour and started again.  After a few minutes there was a proper rap on the rod and I put a bend in it and soon had a Jack splashing about in the margins.  The goalposts are wider now that my options are so restricted, on a trip like this any Pike is a good Pike.

A few more casts with the Shad produced nothing but I was happy so sat back on the mat and made a brew.  The pit is certainly a nice quiet place to while away a few spring hours, the tree lined banks seem to shut the real world, enclosing me in a little oasis.    The lower branches were stained white showing the water level had dropped a good foot in recent weeks leaving a pale ring that went right around the lake.  Moorhens squawked and splashed, and at far end I spotted several white blotches that I suspected might be Egrets.  As I sat a Sparrowhawk crossed over then a little later some kind of Plover.  It was good to be out, sitting on my arse in the sunshine staring at a motionless float.  If only I could shut out the sound of traffic but to do that means moving away from local…  There was barely a breath of wind and I consoled myself as these were the worst conditions for fishing on the broads, I wasn't missing much?  

After a lengthy break I resumed casting lures again, starting with a Slider in the upper layers then buzzing a spinnerbait back in midwater.  My intention was to wake up any dormant Pike, maybe they’d find my deadbait?  Don’t laugh, it’s worked plenty of times in the past and almost did today in as much as a small Pike followed up and this time I saw it.  When I say small it was half the size of the first Jack but I thought I might as well try to catch it.  I switched to a smaller lure, a ‘real eel’ and began casting this around.  It didn’t take long before the tip yanked and I hooked a Jack which was so surprised it allowed me to just wind it in and pick it out of the water.

Another fish prompted another rest and another cup of tea.  An occasional asthmatic breeze stirred the surface from time to time but the middle of the day was warm and comfortable.  Unhappy with laying my rod on the deck I fashioned a natural rest, I think these might catch on...  I recast the deadbait, changing it to a smelt then sat back some more, it was nice just being here.  The Egrets had become braver and perched on a branch half way along the lake.  They are no longer a rare sight but I can’t remember ever seeing four together before, I suspect spring may have something to do with it, perhaps the secret pit is the place to be for a young, single Little Egret?

By now it was early afternoon and I had stayed longer than planned and caught more than I expected but I was still enjoying myself.  I picked up the lure rod again and started fanning the water, diligently covering all the depths and altering speeds but nothing else bumped my lure and the deadbait remained motionless.  I packed up at 1330 and began the trudge back to the car.  The fields have been turned over recently and a skylark landed, looking for a snack.  By the time I made it back to the motor I’d worked up a sweat and still the sun was shining.  I’m resigned to not being able to visit the broads before this season comes to an end, I really want to get up there but as tempted as I am, I know in honesty I wouldn’t relax if I made the trip, if others do so I won't judge but for me it’s just not right.  There’s always next season and maybe the break will make me return with extra enthusiasm.  For the next few weeks though any fishing will have to remain short, lightweight and local.  When the restrictions are lifted I’m looking forward to fishing from the Suffolk beaches and this time last year I’d never have guessed I’d be saying that.

Saturday 20 February 2021

The return of Mr Happy

Three weeks without a cast, almost the whole month of February has passed me by.  A week of arctic bastard conditions didn’t help, my only motivation then was to stay warm though it was nice to get out for a yomp across the fields.  It’s not that I’m afraid of the cold and I know it’s nice to get out for that much coveted ‘snow Pike’ photo but with the local fishing available to me, nah fuck that!  In truth there are three sizable stillwaters within an easy walk of my house.  One is a park lake which is very busy with dog walkers and fuckwitts; fishing there would drive me mad.  Another is a gravel pit carp fishery that I have fished on and off over the years, when I was younger and had more tolerance for cloned bellends sitting behind rod pods talking bollocks.  Then there’s the Marsh which is a lovely place and holds some good memories for me but since I last fished there it’s become a Carp syndicate and the price of membership has tripled along with a rule book that bends and flexes to the whim of the syndicate leader - allegedly.

That just leaves the river which does allow me to wander about in solitude but it is a poor fishery these days and I’ve already written more than enough about its demise on these pages.  But because I can’t resist the pull of angling I do still fish it …

Yesterday I sorted some lure fishing kit and drove down to the ‘childhood’ stretch.  I unloaded the car and walked to the bridge but after looking at the boiling current below for a few minutes I thought better of it so retraced my steps and got back in the car without a cast.  In hindsight I’m sure I could have made a go of it and had a cast or two but I’d probably have been better off plopping a deadbait down somewhere.

This morning I had to drop Isaac in Stow so repacked the same kit and on my way home parked in a layby a couple of miles out of town.  Today was that day, the first warmish sunny Saturday that makes you feel that spring is getting closer, every year this encourages idiots to come out of hibernation.  On my way out I passed the cool kids who felt obliged to wear shorts and someone else dressed like Biggles who was driving a convertible and looked like he was trying to convince himself it was all worth it.  Then there was a plague of fucking cyclists, lycra clad wankers everywhere.  If I have to stay local for my hobby then what is local to a cyclist?  I can’t drive for an hour alone then get into my boat and head off fishing alone but these twats are allowed to pedal unsteadily off and block the roads in groups of four?

Talking of lycra, what is it about sports that involve dressing up in skin tight multi coloured clothing that makes them obliged to be a pain in the arse?  At places I’ve fished including parts of Broadland bloody windsurfers are a damn nuisance, not to mention bastard Jet skis.  This reminds me of a story I read in the local news just a couple of days ago.  Two total fucking rockets used this very mode of transport to set off on a drug run, across the North sea to Holland!  I’ll say it again, to Holland on a fucking Jet ski!  They made it there and three quarters of the way back before running out of petrol and had to call the coast guard for help whilst 27 miles off Lowestoft. This lead to the discovery of their dodgy cargo and a custodial sentence was handed down last week.  Fucking priceless!  How did these clowns reach adulthood?  You could be forgiven for assuming they were locked up for their own safety.

Anyway, back to the river…  Usually when I fish this stretch I walk downstream but today I went the other way instead, fishing a stretch I’d never even looked at before carrying a lure rod, a net and with a rucksack on my back.  I fished a Shad upstream and a spinnerbait back down, I wasn’t expecting anything and I wasn’t surprised, the stretch was mostly shallow and uninviting but at least I’d got out and had a cast.  There were a few spots that looked good for a Chub in other circumstances but I’m not sure there are any of these left in the river nowadays.

Now I’m waiting on that useless bastard of a PM to waffle his bollocks on Monday evening.  At some point his verbal vomit will be translated into English and I’ll learn if I can get out in a boat again before March 14th.  The whole ‘mental health’ thing is being flogged to death and for me to claim my right to fish on these grounds is an insult to those who are genuinely suffering.  But having said all that, it would do me the world of good to get a dose of proper wild countryside before the Pike season comes to a close but its unlikely that this would stem my urge to swear and moan.