Thursday 20 January 2022


My first trip of 2022 and for a change I had company.  Mr W is a former workmate I’ve known for over a decade but he’s only discovered fishing in the last two or three years and being a man of taste he’s particularly taken with Pike fishing.  We try to fish together a couple of times each year, just catching up is enough, the fishing a perfect excuse.  The first time was two years ago, he’d only recently caught his first Pike, a 17!  He took top honours on the day with two fish including a new PB of 19 pounds and has been a keen Piker ever since.

Today was clear and bright, apparently the temperature reached seven degrees at some point but the fresh westerly wind meant we spent most of our time fishing from the sheltered side of the stretch, casting deadbaits across to the shaded far bank.  Something I’ve noticed, when it’s bright the shaded bank always produces most of the takes and so it was today.  My first Pike of 2022 took a smelt from the far side and would have weighed around seven pounds. We had a fish each in our first spot but I also dropped one but added another from the next spot, three out of four takes came from the shaded bank. 

The middle of the day was very quiet despite us moving twice more and working hard we couldn’t find any fish wanting to take a bait.  Our final stop of the day was back towards the cars, the sun was now low and being hidden by clouds, would this convince the Pike to move?  Something did, I had three quick takes on the same rod cast to the far side again, bringing two more fish on Herring.  Mr W wanted just one more Pike and I was debating letting him use my rods too but in the end it didn’t matter.  He twitched a mackerel head back a bit then seconds later that float was on the move and his second fish on the day was soon in the net.

We finished with six fish between us from eight takes on smelt, herring and mackerel; the first one at 0810 was caught from a bush on the near side but all the others came from baits cast to the far side, baits on the sunny side of the drain remained untouched.  The fish were all between six and eight pounds, one of those days when the big fish don’t come out to play?  We’ll do it again soon.

Another gap in the week that I could fill with fishing.  This morning I didn’t hurry out of bed as I wanted to have a look around in daylight before fishing, my destination was a pit I first checked out a few years ago when another Prymnesium had made me desperate.  Even so I still got to the pit at a reasonable time, this after a three quarter mile walk.  I liked the look of a shady area on the southern bank, remembering it shelved quickly into deep water here.  I’ve realised what I thought was a shortcut isn’t and it’s just as quick to take the official footpath and this way I don’t risk any awkward questions from the quarry workers.  When I fished here before they were sound but who knows if things have changed since then.  I was in place and fishing with two rods by 0845, a float paternostered smelt swung to the right and a static herring head to the left.  Both were fished relatively close to the bank, as far as I could swing them under arm beneath the canopy of branches.  Overhanging trees provided excellent cover for a lurking Pike, in my mind at least.  The morning was mild and grey but without a breathe of wind, not great conditions for gravel pit fishing but what the hell.

After half an hour or so I thought I saw ripples from the left hand float, this repeated maybe a minute later.  I approached the rod cautiously and expectantly but nothing else happened.  After a few minutes I decided to check the bait but as I slowly retrieved it went solid.  I thought snag but something pulled back, my surprised strike didn’t set the hooks and there was an angry boil and a flash of gold, bugger.

I’d blown a chance, would I get another one?  Time passed, maybe an hour?  I decided to move things around and as I wound the paternoster in and there was another flash and another deep swirl in the water.  I recast quickly then set to work with a lure rod but nothing grabbed the reel eel.

At around 1045 I heard the unmistakable beep, beep, beep, beep… I was by the rod in seconds, the float was definitely moving, very slowly, so I wound down quickly and swept the rod low to my left feeling a pleasant weight on the line.  The fish surged up and down the margins, stripping a little line and bothering the snags but I mugged it quickly into the net.  The fish was short and fat, dark green with beautiful yellow spots, an absolute belter apart from an old healed scar.  At some time in the recent past a bigger Pike had definitely grabbed it.  A fish of this length should weigh about eight pounds but this was clearly heavier and I decided to weigh it quickly as I thought it might just be a double.  It was, with over a pound to spare and my first of the year.

I fished on for a couple more hours and even moved into another swim but never really felt confident here.  The day got even gloomier and the wind never disturbed the surface, I didn’t get any more takes.  The return walk had me sweating and it was a relief to get back to the car.

A few hours to spare and a sunny afternoon, what should I do?  Half an hour later I was walking my local river with a bag, net and a lure rod.  The river actually looked in pretty decent nick; yes it was low but had a bit of colour and pace, I actually fancied my chances.  I used mostly shads and spinny things, lures that have worked here regularly over the years but today, despite covering a couple of miles only one skinny jack half heartedly followed and I recorded my first blank of the year.  It’s getting more and more difficult to catch Pike from this river, they just aren’t around in any numbers but I will continue to try!

I used to fish the Fens regularly, for a few years it’s where I done most of my Pike fishing but in truth I never done that well.  I caught plenty of fish but few big ones, several eighteens and nineteens but just the one over twenty pounds.  I knew where there were big Pike to be had, everyone did but one water I just didn’t take to and another, well I just don’t like poaching, fishing is about relaxation for me, I hate spending the days looking over my shoulder.  But I did remember a few places where I could relax in nice surroundings and be in with a chance of a Pike or two.

I left home at 0645 on a cold crunchy morning with clear skies and sub zero temperatures.  The A road was as manic as ever but hassle free and I was soon heading off into the flatlands.  Once off the dual carriageway things had changed, the road for a start with new stretches and roundabouts.  I know another new road and bridge now cuts across one of my favourite spots on another river, is this progress?  There’s also a lot of new houses, expanding once quaint villages, who’s buying these things?  The roads get smaller and icier, I had to be careful or risk ending up down in the fields.  A Barn owl flew low across in front of me, both of us were glad it got its timing right.

To the river, a new spot for me, fishing from the bank at least.  I was set up by 0800, in time for a glorious winter sunrise.  Just two rods with float leger rigs; half a herring on the far side and a smelt dropped in close.  Now all I can do is wait and with time to think I remember this area was good for the odd fish but not exactly a banker.  Doubts set in, what am I doing here?  After twenty minutes there was a disturbance on the far side, splashes, ripples and shaking reeds.  It could be a fish but I’ve seen this kind of thing so often that I’m not at all surprised when an otter pops up and swims casually along the far margin.  This was followed a few minutes later by a pair of Little Grebes which got me thinking that maybe I’m not far off the mark.  These creatures won’t be too far from food will they?

Around 0840 the float stabbed, no mistaking that, something had picked up the herring and was heading upriver.  With the hooks quickly set a decent weight plodded up and down the river for a minute or two.  I had a little bother with marginal weed but soon dragged a fat Pike into the net.  My first Fenland Pike for over a decade which could have been a twin of the pit fish from a few days ago.  A low double that had no right to be as heavy as it was, photography is a piece of piss when you’re bank fishing so after a quick self take back she went.  An early take and a fat Pike, two very good signs, had I dropped in lucky?

With the sun climbing in a clear sky the fen looked glorious in its coat of frost, just as long as I didn’t climb the flood bank and look across the threatening black fields.  But that’s Fenland, the watercourses look beautiful but they cut through a flat arable wasteland that used to depress me on a gloomy winter day.

I spent the morning working my way downstream, moving alternate rods downstream every forty five minutes or so, we used to call this leap frogging once upon a time.  The day was bright and pleasant, the birdlife abundant and welcome, apart from the swans that swam into my line, I saw Fieldfare, Jay, Buntings, Pheasants, Moorhen, Starlings, Pigeons, a Wren and a Sparrowhawk.  But despite working hard and covering about 150 metres of river I hadn’t had another sniff, it was nice sitting by the river in the sun although I had forgotten about the noise, the regular roar of jets from away to the east.  The USAF still patrol these skies making sure all is well in Airstrip One.

At 1330 I was thinking about calling it a day but then I noticed the near side float was moving.  It wasn’t an obvious take but looking closer, something was definitely bobbing my float.  I positioned the net then picked up the rod but wound down to nothing but a tooth marked smelt.  I dropped the bait back out and sat for another hour hoping it would come back.  It didn’t.

Back in the car heading towards A road mania.  I’d enjoyed my morning in the Fens, I doubt I’ll ever fish regularly these parts in future but I definitely won’t leave ten years between visits.

I had another busy day in prospect but there was just time for a few hours fishing in the morning.  A couple of hours with a lure rod would have been sensible but Isaac fancied a fish and he likes to be afloat so we ended up going out in the Suffolk boat.  The dawn had long gone by the time we launched and it was 0900 before we finally spread a few deadbaits around a likely swim.  The morning felt good, a mixture of sunshine and cloud with a moderate north westerly, decent conditions for a January Pike?

Not judging by the first hour…  Lack of activity spurred me into action and a freshly re cast smelt finally got a response, the strike didn’t meet much resistance and I soon chinned a jack which was unhooked in the water.  We gave it another twenty minutes then had a short move and I hadn’t even cast my second rod before the first was away.  Another take on smelt and I soon had another small fish which was also unhooked in the water.

Our cut off time was 1200 and time was running out fast when finally Isaac was away.  He was a bit out of practice but soon dragged the fish towards the boat and I scooped it up in the net.  Isaac’s first Pike of the year took a herring and was probably the best fish of the morning, at least that’s what he claimed.  With that it was time to pack up which we did contentedly, three Pike in three hours would do us nicely but now there were jobs to do…