Friday 12 April 2024

Grumpy Sunday, Happy Monday

Sunday morning, the Princess had grim news, my presence was required at a garden centre; “I need your input – we’ll just get what we want and come home…”  on balance this particularly sadistic form of torture was marginally preferable to the grief I’d have got had I refused.

Things didn’t bode well, the Princess was driving which is an experience I never enjoy but something I’ve gotten used to over the years.  The outing went awry from the start, instead of turning left and going to the garden centre a couple of miles down the road we turned right and headed for another one which was several miles in the other direction.  ‘Several’ miles became even more because the Princess just cannot drive in a straight line.  Yes she keeps the car within the lines but hers is a meandering course that likes to use the extremities of the lane.  The most direct route involved a single track country lane but ‘most direct’ doesn’t necessarily mean quickest.

We arrived at the dreaded garden centre to find the car park was rammed, in fact there were no spaces left.  There would have been plenty of room had the other users managed to use a bit of common sense and at least park straight.  Had I been behind the wheel I would have just driven away at this point but after a slow circuit and a couple of seven point turns we found a space that must have been just vacated, I’m not sure if I was pleased at this point?  I suppose the alternative would have been to drive to another fucking garden centre, at least when the car next started we would be heading home.  But before that blessed relief we had the main ordeal itself to contend with.

We were squeezed next to a crisp white sporty Range Rover thing.  These motors should not be clean and white, they are off road vehicles for fuck sake, they should be dark green and mud splattered.  Be real, that was Suffolk a lifetime ago, nowadays these motors are bought to impress others and are usually driven by a tiny, lone female.  The next car over was a vintage sports car of some description, I’m not sure what kind but its owner wore a tee shirt that said ‘Jensen’ in big letters so if I was a gambling man…  Either way it was an unsuitable vehicle to be weighing down with bags of fertilizer which was what Mr Jensen is doing.  But it was the first sunny Sunday of the year so all the soft tops and big motorcycles were bound to be out.

Into the labyrinth of rooms and spaces; (why are garden centres like this?  Random collections of dilapidated barns linked by rattling Perspex) there was very little here that I understood but it was a subject I’d strived to avoid all my life.  Small clusters of slow moving elderly people created hazards in the rows and reminded me of Pacman ghosts, I realised we were the youngest people in the building.  Despite the bursting car park there didn’t seem to be that many people around, where were they all?  Was there something fun going on somewhere in one of these random buildings?  Any curiosity I had was stifled by reminding myself that this was a garden centre, fun is not on the agenda, this was not a place where I belonged.

After a double circuit of the warren we chanced upon the item we set out for and quickly gathered it up.  The Princess could read the signs and knew it was time to steer me homeward before I done “something inappropriate and embarrassing…  We headed into the final building, the last bottleneck where they squeeze the cash out of us before we are allowed to escape.  But there was no one behind the counter.  We waited.  Then we waited some more.  The till area was unguarded as was the office, door wide open with computers and a handbag in plain sight.  I managed to resist the temptation for mischief.  After a while a member of staff appeared with an octogenarian customer in tow, while he flapped around the absentee returned all apologies and we eventually made our escape.

The drive home was on more country lanes, single track with passing spaces which can lead to some questionable driving but it wasn’t so bad today.  We passed a day ticket fishery, a couple of acres of admittedly quite pretty farm pond but it’s full of horrible ghostly carp and I could see anglers everywhere with another rammed car park.  That is not angling, no way and if that was all that was available I really wouldn’t bother.

 

My weekend plans to fish an evening tide had been thwarted by strong winds so here I sat, early Monday morning, facing the rising sun in calmer conditions.  I was wondering if two days of stormy weather would have stirred things up and the big Rays would be on the feed?  Despite the onshore breeze the sea was fairly flat and with a bit of cloud stopping the day becoming too bright everything looked about as good as it could get?  I fished my normal heavy rod/light rod and kept to the rigs I usually use.  Both sailed out nicely and gripped so the two rod tips had a nice curve.  All I needed was a fish.

One hundred yards to the south was Mr K, an old mate of long standing and he started fast with a couple of small bass on ragworm.  Shortly after that I heard a shout and looked up to see him standing up with a seriously bent rod, I picked up scales and camera and jogged down the beach in time to see a cracking big Ray of 7-12 flap up the slope.  This was a new PB so Mr K was chuffed as nuts and a few minutes later he added a second Ray which was about half the size though still a decent fish.

Back behind my rods I was starting to have my doubts, time was passing and starting to speed up, so far I still hadn’t had so much as a rattle.  I was using tried and tested methods on a beach I was familiar with, I expected to catch but it just wasn’t happening.  At times like this we start to second guess ourselves and get weird ideas but I told myself I just had to stick to what I was doing and the fish would come.  Another shout to my right, Mr K was dragging a third ray up the beach.  With a mate catching fish and my tips static the weird ideas started to crowd my brain again!  Around 0920 I wound in the light rod and was surprised to find a funny little flat fish had hooked itself on a strip of mackerel.  This creature was brown on one side, white on the other and almost transparent which makes it a Dab I believe?  Ah well, it had taken almost three hours but I’d caught a fish, the blank was avoided so now I could be happy sitting on a quiet beach on a pleasant morning watching my mate hammer the fish!

I hadn’t managed to recast the light rod before I looked up to see the heavy rod had slackened off and I was on my feet at a speed that surprised me.  I had to wind down a fair way before I felt the fish and for a few seconds I dragged a decent weight towards the shore but then it all went solid and no amount of heavy hauling would shift it.  I slackened off and put the rod back in the tripod for a few minutes.  The rod started to bend over and I thought this might have done the trick but this may have just been the tide taking up the slack as it was still solid.  Eventually the leader gave way and what was on the end I’ll never know although my money would be on a decent ray…

Despite this setback I still felt confident, the bites had started right on cue, exactly when I’d predicted they would to Mr K and I was sure I’d get another chance.  I switched the light rod to a bigger hook and a small whole squid and punched this out before retackling the heavy rod.  At 1005 it was the light rod that yanked over and I was soon doing battle again.  This time I kept the lump of fish moving, it didn’t get bogged down and after a tug of war in the surf I hauled a decent Ray onto the beach, greeted by a cheer from Mr K.  I’d barely recast this rod before the heavy rod fell slack again and I was soon winching back another decent weight.  It was no surprise to see a second, smaller ray come flapping onto the beach, that’s more like it!

In the next half an hour I had bites on both rods and landed three decent sized Dogfish and while that was going on Mr K beached a Whiting, a dog and two more Rays.  Then the fish just switched off and it went quiet on all rods.  Just after 1100 we met in the middle for a brief chat and decided ‘one more cast’ but still the rod tips remained still.  I started to tidy up and wound in the light rod to find a crab had impaled itself.  Around 1130 I had nothing left to tidy up so was forced to wind in the heavy rod and bugger me there was a decent weight on the end which I pumped all the way back to the breakers before it thumped once and came off.  Maybe another Ray but then again…

The hike back to the cars is always taxing and had us puffing, it was a relief to onload the kit then two broad grins broke out, today was a Happy Monday.

Monday 25 March 2024

An inviting sea


It’s not exactly warm in the east but spring can’t be denied now, buds and even leaves on bushes and spots of colour have appeared in the garden.  Weeks of mild, wet weather meant the first use of the mower was a real battle and this was after I’d had a back and forth fight with the hedge.  I won on points and it was about six feet lower when the final bell went.  I have to do this every year and the hedge looks brutalised afterwards but in five weeks or so it will be back to normal.  I get a strange sense of pleasure watching the buds break and the leaves form and so reassemble the green screen that blocks out the world.  Do I finally ‘get’ gardening?  I must be getting old.

No time to rest, with the jobs done I have to rummage around in the shed to assemble my beach fishing kit which hasn’t been used in a couple of months.  This came slowly together but the rig bin was a mess of abrasion and corrosion so a few hooklengths needed to be tied up.  The gear was coming together and I was on schedule but for once Giles was early.  Still we hit the road ahead of the arranged time, the motor splashing through puddles after what had been a breezy, showery afternoon.  The fresh west wind was forecast to remain throughout the evening so we picked a spot with shelter in mind and this just happened to be our favourite beach.  A fullish moon had already risen, the hike through gorse and scrub was taxing as ever, especially when our feet hit shingle but we arrived to find we had the whole beach to ourselves and the sea looked inviting.  For fishing that is, bugger swimming in that.  The winter tides had scoured the sea bed too, exposing lots of nastiness presumably put there in the early forties.  We’ve seen this before at this time in previous years, and when the tide comes up we ignore it and fish as if it wasn’t there and it’s rarely given us trouble.  What is left has eroded to effectively form flattish lumpy rocks although there is a piece of chain that is still solid after eighty years.

I made my first cast around 1730, with high tide expected not long after 2300.  A smooth cast with the heavy rod nicely propelled a pulley rig baited with a small, whole squid which sailed out.  With a rod out I set about assembling the shelter, then started setting up the second rod but was interrupted by a shout from Giles.  I looked up to see my rod tip bouncing nicely, a bite on my first cast of the spring.  I wound down and hooked a fish with a bit of weight to it, which splashed on the surface a fair way out.  I expected to see a decent sized dogfish as I’ve seen them come to the surface before but as I heaved with the incoming wave it carried in a brown diamond, my first Ray of the year was a small one but I was very pleased to see it.  I sent another squid east then got the light rod together; a two hook ‘up and over’ baited with strips of mackerel and squid.  I was using small hooks on this rig, size twos hoping maybe some type of flatfish would turn up as we’ve had them here in the past.  With that done I baited up another couple of spare hooklengths then sat back with a brew.

For an hour it was quiet, just the odd rattle on the light rod, which with a fish under my belt I was quite happy with.  After a day of hard labour in the garden a bit of sitting down was what the doctor ordered.  A seal pup swam up and flopped onto the beach to stare at us for a while, maybe it wanted a feed or maybe it didn’t like what it saw but it was soon back in the water, heading north.  As the light faded so things started to happen, first Giles had a couple of Whiting and a couple of dogfish, then I had a small doggy on each rod.  My next bite on the heavy rod saw me winching into a heavy weight which hung in the tide and made me fight for every yard.  It was obviously a Ray and I expected to see a big one but when it emerged from the waves I thought “where is the rest of it?” as it was barely bigger than the first?  Not the first time a Ray has fooled me like this though.

By this time it was proper dark, my tips now illuminated by clip on lights with added bells which are actually pretty good.  Even with the rod tips rarely stationary due to waves or wind, the bells hardly ever sound, unless there’s the sudden downward jag caused by a moving fish.  These are a vast improvement on the bells we tried to use in the eighties which were no use at all and just provided an annoying musical accompaniment.  Happily tonight the bells sounded often as we caught Dogs and Whiting steadily, though never too hectic that we couldn’t stop for a brew and a chat.  We felt confident we’d see more Rays tonight too as the baits were in situ long enough to be found, unlike some nights when the Whiting are on the fishy offerings within minutes.

At around 2140 the heavy rod slammed over again and stayed slammed.  I wound into the heavy, throbbing resistance with which we are growing familiar.  A few minutes later another small Ray arched its back on the shingle, again a similar size as the other two but this one didn’t pull anything like as hard the last.  After that the bites slowed up or at least the lengths of time between them grew longer which probably means the same thing.  The wind picked up and so did the waves making the tips wobble continuously.  We continued to catch the odd fish but all were Whiting or Dogfish, although I did have two unidentified creatures come off in the surf.  We fished until high tide then had one last cast but by 2330 we were knackered and ready for home, so packed up sharpish then commenced the long crunch back to the motor.  The car seat felt like a hug and on the drive home we were sustained by Jaffa cakes.  Giles had lost count but I’d noted eighteen fish tonight so we figured between us we’d caught well over thirty fish.  You have to be happy with that at almost any time but especially on the first trip of the spring.

Monday 18 March 2024

A funny ole time

March is a funny ole time for a Piker, you never know what you’re going to get with the weather and consequently the fish are often not playing then game.  There have been a handful of occasions over the years when the stars have aligned and the results have been spectacular but far more often I’ve found myself scratching around to find a fish or two.  As a young angler it took me a while to get my head round the fact that the spots I’d regularly been catching from through the winter were now a waste of time.  But even when we have a good idea of where to look for Pike they are very often difficult to tempt in March and at this time of year more than any other I think a livebait can make all the difference.

For my final visits to the swamp I was fishing with confidence having had a bit of recent fortune but my luck ran out before the end.  The weather was far from ideal, chucking a bit of everything at me on the times I was out and although I felt confident there were fish around they didn’t want to take my baits, at least Giles managed to nick a fish on a day out with me.  Despite the relatively mild temperatures of recent weeks the Pike certainly hadn’t spawned by the season’s end and I think on the places I fish they rarely do, whatever some people might say online.

My last trip of the season was on a private lake, sharing a boat with Mr RO. Giles was also out solo in another boat, his partner having cancelled at the last minute.  It was a relaxed day, mild and comfortable with light breezes and we even saw blue sky and sunshine from time to time.  We saw plenty of Pike too and I actually lost count of the final tally which must have been twenty or thereabouts between us. of which Mr RO caught the biggest share.  There were no monsters, these fish averaged seven or eight pounds with a couple of low doubles, all caught on simple float legered deadbaits.  We tried lures from time to time but just one Pike bumped a lure all day.  The day was long but passed quickly, good fishing in good company in the fresh air, I expect the others were as knackered as I was by the end.

Despite what they calendars insist my year finishes around about the middle of March. Even though the closed season hasn’t existed for nearly thirty years, the point when I stop Pike fishing is the moment my fishy year resets.  What this will mean in the near future is waking up naturally and a more leisurely mode of fishing, mostly looking upwards at nodding rod tips.


Sunday 25 February 2024

February

At this time of year, when I have the time and the conditions are right, I only want to fish in Norfolk, as was the case a couple of weeks ago.  I set off knowing the fishing was likely to be slow and I’d have to work hard to maybe catch a couple of fish if everything went to plan.  The plus side is the surroundings cannot be bettered and when the float slides away it could be literally anything on the end.  So I got up in the middle of the night, drove north then dragged my boat onto the water and gave it a go.  It was a long hard day spent searching, an hour here then an hour there but twice the float moved and the baitrunner purred resulting in a couple of nice fish, the biggest just into double figures.  I fished into darkness and arrived home late, thoroughly knackered but satisfied.

A week later and another mild one but this time I went afloat in the ‘other boat’ in the company of Mr P, a carp angler making his annual trip for proper fish.  There were many similarities in venue to last week and the methods were identical but this was a totally different kind of day.  Mr P wound into his first fish before I’d got my second bait in the water and by 0830 we’d boated six between us.  And so it continued, every time I mentioned maybe making a move a float would heed the call and delay any exploration on our part.  By midday we were approaching double digits and still hadn’t shifted the boat.  In the end things did slow up and we did move the boat on two occasions just to enjoy a different view if nothing else.

The afternoon was slower but we caught fish from both new spots however I’m sure we’d have kept on catching had we stayed put.  Whenever I’ve fished with Mr P we’ve done well, there’s been loads of chat and plenty of laughs as was the case today.  This is a place where we can reasonably expect a few fish but even so today was exceptional.  By the time we tied the boat up at dusk we’d managed fourteen pike between us with my guest taking the biggest share, most were between six and nine pounds although we both managed double figure fish.  Two days afloat with contrasting results but anyone who has read this shite before will know which one I prefer.

On the subject of all things Pikey, Roy Lewis’ thirty-two year old Pike record was finally broken this week with an amazing looking fish of 47-05 caught by Lloyd Watson from Chew Valley – where else?  This water has probably produced more thirty and forty pounds Pike than all the other waters in the UK put together but this Pike obsessed angler has never been and probably never will.  Over the years I’ve taken an interest from a distance without ever wishing to drive across the country and chuck a bait in.  There’s no need, I love what I do already.

Monday 5 February 2024

Respect the classics man

It might be hard to believe for some younger anglers but for many of us the only way we could indulge in our daft pastime at home was through words and pictures, magazines and books.  The only worthwhile filmed fishing was John Wilson, there were very few videos, no Discovery channel and certainly no Youtube.  So most of us scratched the itch by reading and found information and inspiration whilst turning pages.  As a teenage Piker Fred Buller’s ‘Domesday book of Mammoth Pike’ provided an ultimate goal, a target weight that if achieved would be our equivalent to a gold medal.  I learnt the basics of Pike fishing on the bank, from other anglers but when Neville Fickling’s ‘Pike Fishing in the 80’s’ was published I was given one for Christmas and it was the book that filled in the gaps.  A few years later the next inspirational read was ‘Pike – The Predator becomes the prey’ by Bailey and Page from which I also learnt a lot.  However the book that many anglers regard as the first classic of the late twentieth century was ‘Fishing for Big Pike’ by Ray Webb and Barrie Rickards and I never actually read it, until last week.

I’ve been aware of this book forever, its reputation amongst Pikers certainly preceded it and I have always revered Barrie Rickards’ writing.  It had been on my mind to get hold of a copy, something for the next time I make it to the PAC convention maybe, so when I won one in the raffle at a Suffolk PAC meeting it was perfect and I couldn’t wait to read it.

Published in 1971 the book is over fifty years old but very much of what the authors wrote, (the fundamental principles if you will) still hold good a lifetime later.  Obviously tackle, bait and lures have improved a great deal and have become much easier to get hold of. Also Pikers are more efficient these days, we convert more takes to fish in the net but with the important stuff, I don’t think Piking theory has changed too much.  Even in the nineteen sixties Pike anglers had learned that too much angling pressure is a bad thing and guarding your waters was essential, something that some, otherwise sensible anglers can’t get their heads around even now.  It was interesting that the authors recommended trolling for Irish Pike in the manner of George Higgins and friends while most writers a decade later advocated camping on the spawning grounds.  The chapter on Pike location was spot on, very little has changed on that score and the effect of different weather conditions was pretty sound.  BR was a consistent advocate of following barometric pressure and it all makes sense although I think it may be largely negated by the mostly shallow waters I fish, where temperature is the key.  Most modern pikers are aware of feeding patterns, in particular busy spells at various times of the day although the mobile angler will like to think he can create his own by dropping onto fish.  At the time Rickards and Webb’s hotspot theories were ground breaking and I dare say accurate.  It is hard for me to be sure because I don’t think hotspots as defined by these authors actually exist anymore, I think angling pressure makes this impossible.  In over forty years of Piking I have only found one classic hotspot and this was on a pit which at that time was unfished.  When I revisited it a few years later it the old hotspot was nowhere near as productive, other areas were now much better.


Overall I really enjoyed reading Fishing for big Pike, the writing is excellent, witty and informative without being boring, where the authors present theories they are able to back it up with evidence.  Where the book is dated it is still interesting as a document recording the realities of Pike fishing in that period, the anglers were every bit as clever and innovative as modern Pikers, probably more so.  They were keener and tougher too.

A mild day in February, there’s only one place I want to be but the weather intervened, it’s just not fun when there’s a gale blowing and I’m not as daft as I once was.  So instead I got up early and pointed the car in a different direction braving the whacky races on the A road.  By 0715 I was fishing three deadbaits on the Drain, two float legered and the other a simple running leger.  I was tucked behind a bramble bush which was a perfect shelter.  The sky was clear but the day mild and the strong westerly would make sure any cloud soon passed over.

I was barely settled before the first rod was away, half a bluey under armed along to the left was slowly being pulled into mid stream.  I was on it quickly and with a short line soon had a Pike of about five pounds in the net.  The bait was intact so I swung it back into the same position and my arse had hardly touched the chair before it was off again.  Another quick strike saw a similar sized fish netted, unhooked and returned.  This time the bait was gone so the other half of bluey was hooked on and swung out.

I’d just poured water onto a tea bag when the leger rod started bouncing, this time a smelt cast to the far side had been picked up.  Another fish hooked and with more line out this one had chance to plod about a bit, making it feel more promising.  A bit bigger this one but it wasn’t out of the water long and I soon chucked another smelt across the drain.  The next take was my third on the bluey down the edge and another nice fish netted then a few minutes later the smelt was travelling again, my fifth fish of the spell was probably the biggest but still didn’t require scales.  I looked at my watch it was only 0825.  I’d obviously dropped onto a few fish…

A quiet period allowed me to chill for a bit, soaking up the east Anglian flat lands and watching the bird life including the friendly Robin back on the scrounge.  The Pike were feeding and I was sure they would be doing the same in Norfolk but another roaring gust reminded me why I wasn’t there.  At 0915 the leger rod signalled another take but this time there was no weight on the end and I wound in to find my bait had been nicked.  That had been my last smelt but rummaging in the bag I found a lamprey tail which had been soaked for a few hours on a previous trip.  Normally any bait that goes in the water doesn’t go back in the freezer bag but the price of lamprey these days…  The Pike didn’t mind as the line pulled out of the clip on that rod and another Pike was hooked.  This one pulled back a bit but the formalities were soon over and I netted a nice plump fish, would that be a double?  Only one way to find out for sure, the scales told me it wasn’t quite.  I had a quiet half an hour then around 1000 I had two takes in ten minutes, the first was another fish on the lamprey cast to the far side.  I’ve noticed before that when the day is bright more fish seem to come from the shaded bank so recast a sardine to the far side.  A few minutes later the float on this rod jabbed and a coil peeled off the bait runner but nothing else happened.  I gave it five minutes then I wound in to find the bait had been literally bitten in half.

After that I sat inactive for ninety minutes or so, had the second feeding spell finished or had I simply caught all the fish that were in front of me?  It’s that question again pondered on by Webb and Rickards half a century ago.  Today part of me was convinced I should stay put, surely more fish would drift into the spot and pick up a bait?  It might be interesting to test this theory but I can’t sit still for long so by 1145 I’d set up again a bit further downstream in a spot more exposed to the gale.  The move didn’t bring another flurry of takes and despite recasting regularly and moving baits around I didn’t tempt anything more.  Around 1330 I was contemplating hitting the road when a sardine cast to mid stream started plodding off.  My eighth fish of the day was soon scooped up and with this I decided to allow myself to be battered by the wind for another half hour.  Nothing occurred in this period but ten takes is plenty for anyone, it had been an enjoyable morning’s fishing and I was content.  This water has always been prolific but the bigger fish of a few years ago seem to be ghosts now.  But then again I fish other places where I know the big fish are there but for long periods they can be equally elusive.

It’s February already so five, maybe six more trips before the season ends and in the frame of mind I have now it’s going to be Pike all the way.

Saturday 20 January 2024

When the weather is crunchy

I always end up with at least a week’s holiday in January.  It’s a horrible time of year but the work holiday period finishes at the end of the month and I usually have a few spare days.  Whatever week I end up having, sod’s law inevitably intervenes and arctic weather descends which is exactly what happened this time.  But after a couple of weeks housebound I’m feeling the pull and have to fish even if conditions are far from ideal.  Two and a bit weeks into the new year I was yet to catch a Pike which for some reason was bugging me, I needed to put this right.  Despite the cold there’s been a decent wind which has kept the stillwaters ice free but how would I find the Drain?

The answer was frozen, mostly, despite me having a late start to allow the sun to get on the water, (at least that’s what I told myself).  The only area clear of thin ice was one that hadn’t produced on my last couple of visits, so not somewhere I would have chosen to start.  I soon had three deadbaits out – near, middle and far but I wasn’t particularly confident.  However sat back on my chair with a brew, it was good to be out in the countryside.  The morning was cold and cloudy but there was little breeze so it stayed comfortable.  A Robin kept me company, scrounging a few little pieces of biscuit, I think these birds know exactly what they are doing.  A bird of prey glided over, a dark Buzzard shape in silhouette against a grey sky.  An armada of Swans flopped into the water opposite me, normally I’d curse the creatures but today they moved downstream and so broke up a lot of the thinning ice.

An hour passed, scanning the now drifting ice - planning a move my eyes noticed a line lift up, was it?  Yes, something was moving off with a smelt cast to the far side.  I wound down quickly and yes I was into a fish, there was no great resistance and I soon had my first Pike of 2024 in the net.  The smelt was still intact so was recast back to the far side of the drain and I sat back with a smile.  Half an hour later the same rod was away again, another mint fish a little bigger than the first and I completed a hat-trick shortly after with another one on smelt which might have been a double had I got the scales out.  I had two more takes before noon but both were dropped before I wound down, sometimes a sign of pressure but equally a symptom of cold weather.

Despite having plenty of action, after a quiet forty five minutes or so I had itchy feet, time for a move downstream.  A few minutes later I was settled in what would have been my first choice swim when I’d arrived this morning.  I had nice overhanging trees on either side so swung a bluey to the left and a herring to the right then cast a smelt to the far side again.  The Robin had followed me, still on the cadge for biscuit crumbs and bedraggled looking Blue Tits chirped in the trees.  After half an hour a float started creeping away downstream, I set the hooks quickly and bullied the fish away from the tree then pretty much straight into the net, the smallest fish of the day was soon unhooked and returned.  I’d barely recast this rod when the smelt cast to the far side was off again, I wound in and quickly brought a reasonable fish to the surface where it thrashed and spat the hooks back at me, oh well.

The right hand rod had been quiet so I cast it further out and back upstream.  This had been in position for about half an hour before the float jabbed and the Micron let out a couple of beeps.  I stood next to the rod expecting the float to slide away but nothing happened, surely that was a pick up?  I gave it five minutes then wound the rod in, the herring definitely showed signs of attention but was still good for a recast so back out it went.  The float had hardly settled before it was steaming downstream, I struck quickly and heaved the fish away from the middle line, just.  This fish plodded about a bit but soon rolled over and into the net, a long lean, tatty looking fish brought my tally to five.

The day was still gloomy but my mood was bright, I’d set out with the simple goal of catching a Pike and this I’d more than achieved.  By 1430 the wind had gathered speed and swung to the north, for the first time my face and hands were raw.  I gave it another half hour then thought ‘that’s enough’ and head for home.

A couple of days later...

I don’t care what anyone says, those crisp, frosty winter days with clear skies and a gentle breeze does not equal ‘pike weather’, not on the vast majority of the places I fish at least.  On some waters I wouldn’t even bother going when the weather is like this.  Two exceptions to this for me are rivers with a good flow and deeper stillwaters, on these waters I feel I have a chance when the weather is crunchy.  Which is just as well because I’d arranged to join a Suffolk PAC ‘fish in’ on a big gravel pit that I hadn’t fished for over twenty years.

I’ve kept an angling diary from the beginning and I’m organised enough to know where to look for details from two decades ago, so I was able to remind myself where I’d caught fish back then and google earth filled in a few blanks too.  I was last out of the draw so everyone else had picked their swims by the time I was hiking but this didn’t matter as I still ended up fishing roughly where I would have had I come out first.  I started off fishing a float legered bluey a couple of rod lengths out in fourteen feet of water while a smelt attached to a sunk float paternoster rig was cast into over twenty and twitched back towards me.  I also used a lure rod from time to time, buzzing Shads and Spinnerbaits about, just trying to wake something up if anything.  I moved twice in attempt to cover water and hopefully drop a bait near to a Pike as I didn’t expect them to be moving about much in this cold weather.  Despite putting in a big effort I didn’t get a pull, that’s fishing.

A few of my comrades caught Pike, two of which were while I was on the move so I did see a couple of nice fish and I’d forgotten what a pleasant water this is.  It’s big enough to be interesting with enough water for fish to avoid being caught too often, angling pressure should have less effect than a smaller water.  Being a mature gravel pit it’s also a nice place to sit and watch the world go by and I’m sure I’ll be back some time.  Two enjoyable days fishing two totally different types of water but what I really want to do is get back to Norfolk…

Saturday 13 January 2024

A slow start


My first fishing trip of 2024 saw me chasing Pike in the Suffolk boat in the company of Mr RO.  We’d picked a rare day when it didn’t piss it down but recent rain had coloured the lake heavily.  This didn’t put the Pike off but they were highly selective in what they ate, exclusively picking up Mr RO’s baits in preference to my own.  It was a really enjoyable day nonetheless and I would claim to be the perfect host after letting my guest catch all the fish.

Like the days before my last trip for Pike, the days afterwards followed the same trend.  It was as if the heavens had taken laxatives as we had relentless, torrential rain, (enough cliches?)  Actually this winter so far has to be the wettest I can remember, three times lately I’ve seen the river at new heights and the surrounding streets and fields new depths.  The river now seems to be flooding after every shower, such is the water table at the moment, we’ve had a hell of a lot of rain but it shouldn’t be forgotten that tons of concrete has been sunk into the river valley over the last couple of years.  Hundreds of acres of land that would previously have soaked and absorbed rain fall can do so no longer.  This water has to go somewhere, it runs off the concrete and into drains but ends up where?

Saturday came around, a dry day, not just dry but bright and sunny, virtually cloudless, too good to let go to waste.  I was feeling a Pikey pull but with all the flood water my options were severely restricted.  But the high tide was set for around 1840 and there was a manageable wind so why not head for the beach?  A couple of texts later and Giles was good to go too, so mid afternoon saw us heading east in the big motor.  By 1530 we were tramping across the stones at the Steep beach, an angler coming the other way reported grim returns but he had surely fished through the worst part of the day?

A few minutes later I was settled with the usual two rods; tonight I was able to hurl out the big bait and just let it fish.  The bait remained intact through a long soak which I suppose isn’t ideal but at least it remained in place long enough for something, in theory, to find it.  The lighter rod was a different matter, on this I fished for bites with a two hook rig using strips of squid on size 1’s.  Despite what the departing angler had said we had nibbles from the very start and darkness brought regular action.  To begin with it came in the form of plucks and tremors which I tried and failed to strike at.  After a while it dawned on me once again, if I sat on my hands for long enough a proper bite would come.  My first fish of 2024 was a small Whiting, something I never thought I’d find myself saying.

The bites continued and the results of these were the now winter standard Whiting and we caught these steadily throughout the evening.  The bites were never so regular that we couldn’t sit down and relax but equally we never had time to get bored.  The action peaked in the hour either side of high tide but never really let up at any time.  By 2045 we’d had about thirty Whiting between us and Giles also a Flounder.  If felt like it was another night where it would be Whiting or nothing and we’d had enough so head for home.