Monday 21 March 2022

St. Patrick's Day

17th March 2022.  The date is significant because I’m sitting behind Pike rods, deadbaits soaking.  The Pike police would have me executed without trial for three cardinal sins; 1 – Fishing when Pike should be spawning 2- Fishing in the old closed season and 3 – Fishing in the mild spring sunshine, enjoying myself and not feeling at all guilty.  Experience, (real experience i.e. mine, not someone else’s read on the internet and repeated) tells me all will be well and the Pike will be in no more peril now than they were a fortnight ago.  And you know what?  It’s my birthday so fuck off.  With it falling frustratingly three days inside the old closed season for years I could never fish on my birthday and as I never make a fuss about it I’ve usually been at work ever since.  How many times have I fished for Pike on my birthday before today?  Once, maybe twice?  But today here I am fishing the way I enjoy most and I’ve already had a couple of Jacks on Smelt as early presents.  There is barely a cloud in the sky and the sun is warming the air quickly, I’ve slapped sun block on my face already.  The water is gin clear and rippled by a westerly breeze.

My aim today is purely relaxation, I’m not at work, I’m chilling out in the countryside, this warm spring weather only enhances this.  But I can’t chill out for long so soon I’m flinging lures around, going through the box trying to find something they’ll like.  Nothing interrupts my cast/retrieve rhythm apart from takes on the deadbaits my lures have been passing.  The biggest is a fat fish that had no right to weigh nine pounds (yes I checked it) and this one definitely hadn’t spawned.  I’m wondering how many of the reports I’ve read online that told me Pike were already spawning (at unlikely times in unlikely places) are actually true, how many are really fake news?  Clever snippets of misinformation designed to thin out the competition…

By 1030 I’d had nine fish all on either smelt or Herring.  It was obvious fish were grouped together in preparation for spawning, the average size of the ones I’d caught suggested many were males.  This was all good fun but I hoped the big sisters would be along.  The mad spell stopped and things went quiet but a couple of short moves saw me add two more fish to my tally.  If I worked hard, kept making little moves or adjustments maybe I could tempt one of the bigger fish?  But by 1400 I’d had enough and called it a day even though I’m positive I could have caught a few more had I stayed till dusk.  That’s me Piked out, for the day and for the season.  I’m tired of 0430 starts, hundreds of miles and getting myself in and out of boats, getting home exhausted and stinking like a bad day in hell.  This is where I draw a full stop on all of that, I’ve had enough.  Now I’ll take a rest from the hard stuff and do something more comfortable and less strenuous.  By early September I’ll be right up for it again.

It’s been a strange Pike season; The wilderness in Nelson’s county had been unusually settled for a couple of years so I was expecting things to be different this season but was still surprised as to just how unpredictable things would become.  In the end I manged to catch a few and came away content but there were many days when the float didn’t move and it felt like it never ever would.  Elsewhere I caught Pike from a variety of waters in three East Anglian counties and a fair sprinkling of big ones.  But for the last six weeks, despite catching plenty of Pike not one reached double figures, ah well at least the float was going under and I did get to net and photograph a PB for a friend, something that doesn’t happen often these days.

It seems we live in an age where most anglers now go to youtube when trying to find a fishing fix whilst sat at home but I still prefer words with the occasional picture and I think I always will.  I like to read and re read books and magazines and I like to read other blogs.  But…  It occurred to me that a long time ago someone, somewhere writing on the subject of fishing, cleverly used military metaphors to enrich their descriptions.  This worked very well, so much so it has been endlessly imitated ever since with increasing frequency to the point it’s gone beyond cliché and become the everyday, accepted norm.  Now it’s just fucking boring.  You don’t have an armoury mate you have a fucking shed.

It’s rare to find any decent printed angling literature these days but as long as twenty years ago things were on the slide.  Even then the weekly and monthly angling mags were driven by advertising, the articles were riddled with product placement and cliché ridden bollocks.  It’s accepted that the demise of the angling press was caused by a change in advertising strategies but could it have survived if the articles were something other than sponsored anglers peddling tat?  Catch Cult is a rare exception these days but it’s not immune to the crimes mentioned above, with a multi species mag there will always be things that don’t appeal to me but I have to say it’s been more miss than hit for me lately.

And while I’m having a moan what’s going on with all the nicknames the media is giving fish?  I know we call small Pike ‘Jacks’ and we always have, this has gone on for centuries.  Going back to the military theme, in recent years some muppet nicknamed a big Perch a ‘Sargent’ (it’s got stripes, geddit..?) and the smaller ones are called Wasps…  Fuck sake, a wasp is a stripy flying sadist, a Perch is a fish.  We have the angling trade to thank for this as Perch are the trendy, sexy fish of choice for the carp angler who isn’t tough enough for winter fishing.  He or she can just wrap up in suspiciously trendy clothes, travel light and nip out for a couple of hours trying to catch a predator that won’t bite them back.  That he or she has to buy a full new kit to do so is very convenient.  Talking of trendy fish, small Carp are known as ‘pasties’ around these parts, possibly due to the millions of identical small commons we caught from Layer pit in the eighties.  And Tench, ‘ol red eye’, when I was carp afflicted we referred to them as ‘slimy greenbacks’ but what I’d give for a gnarly old green bottom truffler of epic proportions this spring and a big Roker (Thornback) would be nice too…