Saturday 28 January 2023

Gloomy January

For some reason the New Year started with me having no desire to fish for Pike, certainly not with the time I had available and the conditions I was faced with.  So I’ve been Chubbing and failing spectacularly!  I’ve fished two stretches, one really fits the bill and I’ve seen summer chub along here many times but it has a busy footpath beside it which drives me mad.  It’s here that I’ve mostly been failing to catch which is frustrating because I know the fish are there but the foot traffic is off putting.  The other stretch is off the beaten track and I’ve seen Chub here too although in far fewer numbers.  This stretch takes more effort but it’s the one I prefer, even though I’ve caught bugger all here too!  But this will almost certainly be the scene of any future Chub fishing, to catch one from a swim I’ve made myself would be a buzz.

Having a break from Piking meant that when the temperature lifted again I was really in the mood for it, couldn’t wait to go.  I had a day planned with an old mate but also before that had another spare day, not enough time to go to Norfolk but just enough to make a trip to Fenland worthwhile.

By 0645 I was heading east on the A14, the busiest A road in the country and with the amount of freight heading to and from the east coast ports one of the most unpleasant.  It was a relief to get off it but then the fen roads weren’t much better…  Eventually I found myself fishing off a quiet farm byway on one of the tributary rivers.  The day was the mildest for a week and mostly cloudy with a northerly breeze. Today I travelled light with just two rods and moved swims every forty five minutes or so, cover water until you find fish, it’s the only way to fish these places.  I didn’t find anything until around 1100 when a newly recast herring started moving steadily downstream.  The strike put a bit of a bend in the twelve footer but unfortunately it wasn’t one that stayed in the rod and a pretty little fenland Pike found its way into the net.  My first Pike of 2023 and despite fishing for a couple of hours more, my only one of the day.  It was nice being in the fens which are full of wildlife in these remote places, highlights today a water vole which swam right up to me and a Barn Owl following a hedge row opposite.  The wilder parts of Fenland are lovely but those bloody roads...  

Up before dawn on the second day in a row, this time I met Mr W in the far corner of the county to pay a visit to a land drain.
  Over the years this water has been very prolific for Pike into double figures but in more recent seasons it seems to have a big head of jacks with the occasional big fish.  It’s a nice remote place to spend time where we could expect to see the float move and if we were really lucky we might stumble across something special.

We were geared up to fish on the move, just a pair of rods each the plan was to give each spot no more than forty five minutes until we dropped onto some fish.  This happened early with takes from our second spot; I missed one on mackerel then a few minutes later Mr W had a jack on smelt.  Just as we were talking about moving on this was delayed when my mackerel went again and this time I managed to net a jack.  The next three spots were fishless but in the early afternoon we found some fish at least Mr W did, three takes on bluey produced two fish of around eight or nine pounds before this area went quiet.

We kept moving and trying but by late afternoon we hadn’t found any more Pike and to be honest were both knackered.  We’d have probably had a good chance of more fish as the sun sank beneath the flood bank but that would mean hitting the rush hour traffic and we just couldn’t be arsed.  A pleasant day in good company came to an end.

I try not to fish at the weekend but Saturday afternoon was free and seemed an ideal time to have another look at the ‘out of the way’ stretch and get myself away from cheerful walkers, (not sure I've spelt that right).  The day was mild and cloudy and felt like good fishing weather to me.  The river looked pretty good too, normal winter level and flowing nicely with a bit of colour.  But what the fuck do I know?

I started a mile away from the car, just above an overhanging tree on a bend.  I fished with bread flake and the usual feeder rig with smelly groundbait.  The plan was to fish a few swims and gradually work my way back upstream towards the car.  And this I thoroughly enjoyed doing fishing three more chubby looking swims; a raft of floating debris, a nice overhang and a small pool that I’d never noticed before.  I fished into darkness and the starlite danced before my eyes but the tip didn’t pull round once all afternoon.

So that’s two sessions spent on this stretch without a single bite but there has to be fish about somewhere doesn’t there?  I’ll keep going back though because I enjoy being there and as it’s a little out of the way the wildlife is interesting.  So far I’ve seen a Barn Owl, Buzzard, Great and Long Tailed Tits, Heron, Egret, Deer, Rabbits and inevitably an Otter.  This may well be the problem, I know there were Chub in these stretches twenty years ago because I would see them and ignore them as I wanted to catch Pike.  There were Otters in this area back then for sure but in far fewer numbers and no local stillwaters were fenced.  Nowadays the ‘known’ Chub areas seem to be in the villages, where there are lots of people walking the banks to deter the cuddly little monsters.

That’s January almost done with, in the garden the snowdrops are just poking through the soil and there will certainly be more horrible weather to come but in my mind February is longer, brighter days and better fishing.

Sunday 8 January 2023

Bread flake on a size 12

The first week of January was mild and damp at times, decent winter fishing weather but I was busy, my window of opportunity shrunk to an afternoon.  If I was Pike fishing I’d fancy my chances but the recent rain had seen the river rise and then fall again and I figured it would be in pretty good nick and I’d have a chance of catching something silvery.  It has taken me a lifetime but in recent years I’ve realised that just because its winter it doesn’t have to be Pike and at times conditions and timing mean I’m better off trying for something else.  Today I would be trying for Chub but I’d settle for anything with fins. 

I could have gone out earlier but the day was bright for a change so I pulled into a busy car park around 1400.  After a bit of a walk I settled into the same swim I’d fished three weeks previously, a sharp reed lined bend, there had been fish present then so it was a starting point at least.  Today it looked good, the classic green tinge and with decent pace too.  What’s more there were definitely fish here, small ones probably Roach topping from time to time.  It looked like I was in with a chance.

I started fishing with three maggots on a size 16 with a two foot hooklength, pretty much same as last time but today I used a lighter feeder which I half filled with maggots and swung downstream.  Switching to the twelve foot rod made life a lot easier and I felt much more in control.  I’d also positioned my chair and net up with a bit more thought meaning I could comfortably do everything seated.  I felt I was fishing more effectively and I was even getting bites from the start.  Most were tremors and twitches but there were two proper pulls which a competent angler would have hit.  After an hour I was still fishless and it occurred to me that I was fishing with a set up that was probably a bit too heavy for Roach and not ideal for Chub.  I was doing neither one thing nor the other.  Still I was glad I’d come out and happy to be fishing for something other than Pike for a change.  The setting was pleasant and the afternoon was comfortable, even the dog walkers were sane and none bothered me.  I could hear plenty birdsong but all the ones I spied were pigeons, have they always been so numerous or is this a thing of recent years?  Later the nearby birds I couldn’t see shrieked in alarm and a second later a Sparrowhawk zipped silently past.  But still I couldn’t convert the rattles to fish in the net and it wasn’t necessarily because I was distracted.

Last time switching to bread flake had made the difference so after an hour I made the change but on this occasion if anything the bites slowed.  I was certain there were still fish in front of me but I was making a balls up of catching them. After a couple of casts with flake I reverted to maggots again but switched to a heavier feeder thinking that as I was too slow to hit the bites I needed a bit of weight to help a fish hook itself.  I’m not sure if this made a difference but the next time the tip pulled round I lifted into my first fish of the year, a small Roach which was swung into my hand, mission accomplished.  The sun had gone now, the light slowly fading but my watch told me it was lingering longer than the last time I fished here, for two weeks the days have been growing a tiny bit longer again.

With the red tip becoming more difficult to see I decided to stop hedging my bets and switched to a size 12 hook and a bigger lump of flake, if a Chub picked that up I might have a chance of seeing the bite, shit or bust.  I’d caught a fish so was pretty relaxed and happy to sit it out like this for a while.  Still when the tip wrapped round it was unexpected!  I lifted into a solid weight but instead of feeling Chubby it felt snaggy.  I remember Chub fight dirty so lowered the rod and slackened the line hoping it might swim clear.  When I tightened again it was out of the snag but the fish had gone.

I was disappointed but also encouraged, what I was doing had tempted the fish I was after, it was working.  I swung out another piece of flake and squinted at the rod tip.  After a few minutes I realised the rod would have to be pulled in before I saw anything, I wound in to find my bait had gone.  I baited up again, a few more maggots into the feeder then swung the lot downstream.  I’d seated myself so I was facing slightly upstream, away from the area my rig had landed.  I left my head torch on as it was the only way I’d see anything, this felt wrong but at least it was shining away from the area I was fishing.  I think it’s normal for night carpers to use their torches almost permanently these days but I still feel awkward if the beam is on the water. 

Just before 1700 the tip pulled round again and this time I connected with a fish that put a decent bend in the rod.  I don’t have any memories of hard fighting Chub, in my mind they are quite tame but this one certainly wanted to have a scrap trying in vain to bury itself in the reeds.  However with the twelve foot rod I was in full control, the fight one sided and I soon had it in the net, possibly the first Suffolk Chub I’ve caught by design this century?  It was no monster, probably about two pounds which would have been typical of the fish I used to catch as a teenager.  Not big but it was absolutely mint and I was delighted to catch it.  I had one more cast, by this time the sound of rush hour traffic was drowning out any birdsong and night had well and truly closed in.  This last cast didn’t bring anything and a little while later I was walking back to the car.  I’d really enjoyed doing something different and I’ll do it again soon.