Friday 31 December 2021

Seasonal bollocks

At this time of year people tend to spend a lot of time at home, eating too much and drinking too much.  Boredom and inebriation inevitably sets in which may partly account for some of the grumblings on PAC’s facebook pages, season of goodwill my arse.  Anyway here are a few thoughts from a long time member.

The previous and latest club committees have been coming in for criticism and I find it difficult to understand the reasons behind all the angst.  From what I’ve gleaned the previous secretary Saint John Currie, has been accused of being only concerned about Norfolk. That this is nonsense is easy to demonstrate to anyone with the ability to read and half a brain to understand.  When JC stepped up to do the secretary’s role he continued to do all of the things he’d been doing for years as a Norfolk RO.  People are quick to criticise but when offered the benefit of JC’s experience to help them fight their own battles in their own patch they go quiet, then later complain PAC isn’t doing anything. 

The selection of committees has also been criticised with allegations of it being the “same old faces” or “jobs for the boys”.  This is just bollocks.  The reason people end up doing two or even three stints is because there aren’t enough people putting themselves forward to do the jobs.  It’s easy to moan on social media but it all goes quiet when there’s work that needs doing.  Also the club which has been run in the same way for over forty years, now apparently needs to embrace democracy, that noble philosophy that never actually works in practice.  Polling the membership achieves little, in reality less than a third of members will ever respond, that’s just how it is.  People are apathetic with the crooks that run countries so won’t get off their backsides to vote for a badge.  Talking of which…  I’ve never liked the new design, mostly because I love the logo that was originally designed by Barrie Rickards in 1977 and was tweaked a bit over the years.  This is the second time the club has gone away from the original logo, last time it didn’t last long either.  But it is just a badge, the club is its members.

I’m told some of the most enthusiastic critics of the club are in the North West and I don’t really know any of the characters as such but there is one who glories in self promotion, strutting around in his sponsored clothing he just comes across as a bit of a tired joke, big fish in a small pond mate.  Any of the alleged ‘problems’ with PAC over the years have almost always stemmed from egos out of control.

Some people may have forgotten and others might not realise but PAC was formed almost as a protest group, in days when Pike were routinely chucked up the bank to die, PAC changed opinions.  Also the club campaigned for better treatment for Pike anglers who were very often seen as pariahs.  This included opposing bait bans, changing silly fishing club rules and gaining better access to Pike fishing.  The trout water ‘scene’ would never have come to pass without PAC getting the ball rolling.  These are the reasons I joined the club, the social aspect has always been secondary.

Going off in a slightly different direction, I’m being told that Pike fishing is dying because we are all a bunch of old men, we’re not attracting the youngsters etc.  I remember discussing this with one of Piking’s gentlemen, the late Peter Green who reckoned there was no point in trying to appeal to young lads because by the time they are eighteen the trouser brain has taken over, Pete was absolutely right.  Nowadays anglers whose ages range from twenty to forty are attracted to Carp fishing for many reasons but one of the biggest is it’s all so laddish.  Groups of men can get an easy weekend pass from the wife or girlfriend if they are spending this time camped by a lake trying to catch fish.  She doesn’t need to know about the amounts of beer, weed and other consumables they go through on what amounts to a camping trip with rods.  Also these people are mercilessly targeted by brilliant marketing campaigns so end up spending a fortune on kit, much of which has nothing to do with the act of catching a fish.  Carp fishing is comfortable and has been made idiot proof by the advent of commercial fisheries.  However you look at it, Pike fishing is tough and appeals to a different type of person but very many anglers discover our sport when they are a bit older, wiser and more discerning.  A summer happy camper is not likely to drag himself out of bed before dawn on a frosty morning, it’s a totally different mind-set.  Pike fishing won’t die, there will always be enough old farts around to keep the sport going.

My last casts of 2021 were made on the morning of Xmas eve; I wandered around with a light lure rod but my heart wasn’t in it and after hanging my spinner in a potential PB tree I returned home fishless.  This time was spent in the same little area of mid Suffolk where lockdown had forced me to fish at the beginning of the year.  I’ve come to enjoy poking my rod in unexpected places (!) and although the fish aren’t likely to grow big it does have that important air of mystery. 

This year I’ve realised that I enjoy the act of fishing every bit as much as winding them in, which might not make any sense?  I enjoy fishing most when it’s relatively simple, I really can’t be arsed with the complicated self-flagellation that carp anglers go through and any item of kit that requires a car battery or power pack isn’t for me.  Nowadays I mostly use a small Karrimor rucksack that I’ve had since I was a teenager, (unless I’m boat fishing,) if I can’t carry it then I don’t need it.  I travel light to make the hike easier and when I get to my destination (which will fit the criteria I’ve mentioned many times before) I love casting, trotting and spinning.  I enjoy sitting back and watching the wildlife, I don’t take my surroundings for granted.  Whatever fish I may catch really is a bonus (or insert your cliché of choice).  It’s the fishing I enjoy, not necessarily the catching.

But having said all that…  I got bored of carp fishing when my tally reached one so 2021 was a year of either beach casting or Pike fishing.  All things considered I caught more than enough fish to be satisfied my effort had been rewarded (but I wouldn’t lose any sleep either way).  I caught many firsts, a few PB’s and a couple of landmarks, if you keep a count of things, which I do.

Next year, twenty fucking twenty fucking two, more of the same please.  I still find Broadland Pike fishing exhilarating and I’m looking forward to learning more on the beach.  I will find time to try for a river Gudgeon and I’ll never give up on the big Suffolk Tench but for the first half of the year, while I sit behind rods I’ll be hoping for a proper Smoothound or dreaming of the unknown monster Pike.

Friday 24 December 2021


Suffolk has good sized, flowing rivers forming the county boundaries to the north and south but the rest of the county isn’t blessed with rivers.  We have some dramatic estuaries which I’m just beginning to explore but we don’t really have much in the way of proper lowland rivers.  There are a handful of watercourses given a name beginning with ‘river’ but in reality these are shrinking year by year and are now little more than streams.  There are many of these, some run so low at times that I doubt there are any fish left but a few have a population of fish of sorts.  The largest stream runs through my home town and has held good fish of many species but sadly gets less interesting with every passing season. 

There’s another fairly substantial stream to the east which had been noted as a fishery in the past but for some reason I’d never actually got round to fishing it.  I know that in the past it held Pike to a reasonable size but at that time I had much better fishing closer to home.  However it had been niggling me for a while, a local river that I’d never caught a Pike from half an hour away, putting that right has been something I’ve been meaning to do.  The problem with these streams is access; firstly getting to the water itself can be almost impossible and then there’s the issue of finding areas that aren’t weed choked and unfishable.  I’d deliberately waited until winter had taken hold and the rivers had received a bit of rain water to flush them through.  After scanning google earth I’d found a promising area, a layby for the car and a footpath along the river.  That would be a starting point, time to go and have a look.

The Suffolk countryside looked dull and subdued on another sunless December day, after half an hour driving I found the river and pulled over.  I wandered up to the bridge without much clue what I’d find but a brief look downstream gave me hope and I was soon back with a lure rod, landing net and a few bits in a small rucksack.  The river was running clear and low but looking at the scoured banks it was apparent that it could rip through with force when in flood.  The pool beneath the bridge was wide and relatively deep so was an ideal place to start.  I was using my lightest lure set up with small lures, the best way to search new ground and probably the best method of all when these little rivers are running low and clear.  I clipped on a small shad and began casting, within five chucks I’d pretty much covered the pool and it didn’t seem like anything was home but on the sixth cast something grabbed the lure and I was soon pulling back.  After the briefest fight I pulled a very welcome Jack into the net.  Mission accomplished, a Pike from a new river so by default a PB!

After a few more casts around the pool I went downstream to explore and found that this little river split into two, then three separate streams which then reconnected a way downstream.  I walked every stretch that I could, having a cast here and there.  Many parts were very shallow with water running quickly over gravel, other bits were slow and choked but I found the occasional pool which looked like it could hold a fish or two so had a few casts where I could.  With a mile in my legs I had a second, smaller Pike which took an Ondex spinner but I didn’t see any other fish of any kind.  Back at the car I made a brew and leant against the bridge watching water running away towards the sea.  Two jacks was a right result, I hadn’t wished for anything more.  But there are other stretches of this little river to have a look at; I’ll be back before the end of the season. 


The next day was completely different.  For a start the sky was clear leading to the type of sharp frost that makes internet Pikers orgasmic.  And it meant for only the second time in weeks I’d actually see the sun.  On the road in the dark, away to the east things are starting to light up.  I’ve never seen the northern lights but it must be some experience if it’s better than pre-dawn on a crisp winter day.  Today I was fishing running water once again but on the other side of the county and on a different scale to yesterday’s stream.  This time I wouldn’t be wandering for miles, today I’d be staying put, sitting it out in one swim.  What’s more I would be sitting on a comfortable chair, fishing from the bank, something that has become a novelty in recent years.  Not only that, the nature of the spot meant I’d be using a bloody rod pod and I think that might be a first for me when Pike fishing?

I set up by torch light and soon had three rods assembled; float legers near and far baited with bluey and herring, and a legered smelt cast upstream, in the middle.  The sky grew slowly brighter, gradually revealing the frosted marsh around me.  I know this is what is supposed to happen but I haven’t witnessed it in a while, this morning was beautiful and I appreciated it.  As the sun rose higher I even had to find my shades, sitting comfortably behind rods with a brew in the middle of nowhere, anticipation growing, what could be better?

Two hours later the anticipation had vanished and I had reminded myself of all the advantages of fishing from a boat; there’s a reason why I don’t fish from the bank very often.  Normally by this time I would definitely have moved at least once, as it was I’d recast and repositioned all three rods but I’d run out of options now.  Mobility, that advantage alone makes boat fishing preferable in almost all situations.  But at least I was comfortable and enjoying a bright day that was becoming warmer, there’s more to it than catching blah blah.  But then a float moved, slightly but very definitely, a herring cast to the far side and as I rose to my feet it went off downstream, gathering pace. By the time I reached the rod the alarm had just started to sound and the baitrunner tick.  I wound down quickly and pulled the rod into a healthy bend, which stayed as the fish kited in to the left.  I turned it before it managed to tangle the leger rod and began to pull it back upstream, it dawned on me that this fish actually felt far heavier than I expected it should on this water.  Up close in crystal water it did look a good un and I breathed a big sigh when it went into the net at the second attempt.  Peering down at a big framed fish I couldn’t believe it, that’s got to be over twenty!

I left the fish in the net while I got all the essentials ready, then lifted a heavy fish onto the mat.  One double hook was nicked in nicely and came out with a twist.  The scales confirmed what I already knew, with a bit to spare.  The fish was dark and a long one, an old warrior that could weigh more at times in its life.  Unfortunately I’d drained the camera battery taking sunrise photos so could only snap a couple of photos on the mat with my phone.  Back into the clear water, she slid away defiantly while I grinned like an idiot.

An hour later the same rod went again, this time I netted a skinny Jack, a fish I’d have been happy to catch not long ago and more like what I’d expected when I set up this morning.  Big Pike aren’t common in this part of the world these days which is one of the reasons I’m usually driving for an hour or more for my fishing.  I fish places where I can reasonably expect to catch the odd biggun but this isn’t one of them, a real surprise early gift if you’re into that kind of thing.  It’s nice to be proven wrong with a fish I didn’t believe could be present in this water.  I was back in the car just after noon, stuff to do this afternoon, that time of year…  But from the car stereo Led Zeppelin never sounded better.  Happy bloody Christmas.


Saturday 11 December 2021

Winter Sun

No work today but I woke at the usual time and knew I wouldn’t be getting any more kip, I was able to indulge myself with a lie in of sorts while the princess rattled through the kitchen.  Bloody cricket.  We’d been thrashed for the previous two days so God knows what I’d wake up to this morning.  Only one tour in the last thirty five years has cheered me up at breakfast.  But I couldn’t resist tapping the cricinfo icon on the bloody phone.  As the screen started to go blue over white I squinted my eyes, figures slowly came into focus, England 220.  Had we been bowled out FFS?  Squint again, 220-2.  For two!  Now I was awake.  We’re back in it, another couple of good sessions and this is an even game.  But that’s the trouble, it’s the hope that does for ya, a couple of quick wickets and it’s another fucking story.

I can’t lie in for long as I must drive into Town, the roads are soaked after heavy rain overnight but it’s after rush hour so the traffic is flowing.  Unfortunately it’s one of them days when all the wankers go for a drive.  First of all a bloody hire van on the dual carriageway, switching lanes into gaps that aren’t really there.  After that it’s fucking Range Rover’s, fine in the sticks but who the hell needs one driving in town?  None of them have even a splash around the wheels but of course they are impregnable, just witness the one cruising serenely through a red light or the other stopping everyone whilst doing a three point turn on a busy street.  Half an hour later I’m driving home, now triple jabbed and just in the nick of time by the look of things as we look like we're heading to the same situation we were in a year ago.

In the late morning Isaac and I headed out on a more relaxing drive.  He’s 19 now so can rarely crawl out of bed much before noon, consequently it’s a while since he’s been fishing so today we’ll fish the afternoon into dusk.  Soon we leave concrete and head down a crackling track fringed with hedges.  We follow a couple of partridges which are determined to outrun us but eventually have to flap their wings and admit defeat.  At the bottom of the slope a Buzzard lifted out of the hedge then flapped slowly and grumpily away, maybe we’d spoiled its plans for lunch.

By now the rain was long gone and the clouds were thinning but the wind was fierce and unexpected, rowing out would be easy but getting back might be a challenge.  With the boat loaded we were quickly away but where should we fish?  I couldn’t decide so anchored up in lee of shelter and soon we were fishing with two static deadbaits each plus a fifth shared rod, fishing a smelt under a float which would be allowed to drift.  After half an hour something off to the left caught my attention, I turned to see a familiar shape disappear into a large swirl.  A minute or so later the armchair animal lovers’ favourite furry killing machine was just a few yards away and swimming towards the boat before it dived and disappeared for good.  It’s uncanny how often something fishy happens after one of the beasts has moved through.  Minutes later and shortly after paying out a bit more line the drifting float disappeared.  Isaac wound into it and our first Pike of the day was hooked.  After a couple of splashes it was soon in the net where it helpfully unhooked itself.  We peered over the side for a few seconds then lowered the net and allowed it to swim away.

We gave it half an hour more then moved back against the wind into another spot that gave a bit of shelter, for the first time in weeks the sun actually came out while I was fishing!  The gusting wind made judging the casts tricky but we were soon settled and fishing again. On these trips the first priority is seeing the boy wonder enjoy himself so I was glad Isaac had caught the first fish. I now had custody of the drifting rod but Isaac was content and subtly reminded me that he was “in the lead”.  But this wasn’t the reason I wanted to catch, my recent form was two tough blanks on the concrete broad, I wanted to feel a bend in my rod.  After half an hour in the new swim nothing had happened so I moved a rod to the far right, a spot Isaac had left clear that often does a fish.  It was only a couple of minutes later that I saw the float wobble then slowly but definitely start to move away.  I wound down quickly and set the hooks but the bend in the rod soon started to straighten and Isaac had it scooped up in the net in no time.  Once again we peered into the clear water and it was at this point that a debate began, as to whose fish was larger/smaller.  This debate is still ongoing.

The sky began to dim, a creaking Heron flapped past which made me realise the wind had dropped a bit.  With a fish each we decided to call it a day, the row back to base wasn’t as bad as I’d feared and soon we were back in the car, heading home along the track.  Movement to the left, there was a Deer bounding along in the meadow beside us, I slowed and allowed it to overtake then it crossed the track and away through the fields.  A few minutes later we were back on tarmac and heading back to what they call civilisation.  It was proper dark by the time we got home, the sky now fully clear, it’ll be a cold one in Suffolk tonight and probably too bloody hot in Brisbane.