Saturday, December 31, 2011

Nam Pla fish sauce review

I had a mate who used to swear by this stuff. He put it on his baits - not his noodles. Honest.

I've been using it to jazz my baits up this season, after ages when I haven't bothered with things like oils, flavourings etc.

Some reckon they give you an edge. What I noticed was most of your hard-earned floats away in a great big slick.

This stuff is made of fish essence - not oils diluted with other oils that end up smelling nothing like fish.

If all else fails, it seriously sexes up a pot noodle. Even if it makes your rucker smell like a Sumo wrestler's jockstrap if you don't put the top back on the bottle securely. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Well oil be...

Check out the oil slick from this bluey. Awesome or what..?

Sump thing sure has changed

The first run comes minutes after I get the last rod in. A screaming take from a 3lbs jack. As I drop it back, another one's off. 

A plan was forming, as I loaded up the car. I'd try a pit I haven't fished seriously in years, where a stretch of bank offers a gentle increase in depths from a couple of feet to the deepest part of the water.

The idea was start in the shallows and move the rods into deeper water until I found the pike. This lasted until I got out there and found most of the swims were too overgrown with alder to fish.

Water levels were down to the lowest I'd ever seen them too, with barely a trickle of water through the outfall. This meant there was enough exposed bank on a corner which was usually underwater to get the rods out over the reed fringe, so I decided to give it a go there.

I like corner swims, because you can cover a lot of water. I put one up the margins on either side of me, in five or six feet of water,  and one out into the deeper hole. First the right-hander goes, followed by one cast along a reed line as I'm returning the first fish.

Two jacks becomes three almost as soon as I get the rod along the reed line back out. I recast and one takes it almost as soon as it hits the water, but comes off as I bend into it. I miss two further runs, one after another.

All the action's on the reed line. Or rather it was, as the swim dies on me.  Six runs in an hour adds up to a pack of jacks. This is the part of the pit where you used to find the bigger pike in the winter.

For the reed-fringed corner hides a secret in the shape of the sump - an area dug down to collect the water while the pit was being excavated. When it gets really cold, this is where the pike get to.

But it's not really cold today. It's as mild as anything. The westerly's lost its wrath overnight and it must be 10 degrees by 10am. There's a mackerel sky forming, like I haven't seen in years.

When I twitch a bait, it fouls. I reel in and find it covered in Canadian pondweed. Bright green Canadian pondweed - not the black, rotting stuff you sometimes collect on your hooks on gravel pits in the middle of winter.

The alder bushes behind me are in bud. When the next fish takes the bait, the penny drops. I sweep the rod back and find something slightly larger on the end. Not quite a jack, not quite a double - a jouble maybe.

It's one of the most vividly-marked pike I've seen in ages, so I snap a quick picture or two. I'm struck by the line of scales behind its eyes. This is no young eight pounder. I'm guessing it's a slower-growing male pike, few of which ever get to weigh over double figures.

This is so that during spawning, when they swim eye to eye with the female, their milt reaches the eggs as she sheds them. Male pike usually gather before the females arrive in the areas where they spawn.

I return it and when I get another run half an hour or so later, it's the same fish. Up the road on the Norfolk coast, there are daffodils already in bloom. An idea forms as I slip it back for the second time - is the weather now so out of kilter that the male pike on this pit are already gathering ready to spawn.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ride 'em cowboy - NB not his real name

Fuggin' 'ell - what you doing here, says the figure hunched under the brolly. Blast me, it's the Midnight Cowboy. 

I clocked his van in the layby on the BTEAB drain. That's Blank to End All Blanks drain, between you and me.

Wotch'a doing Midnight Cowboy..? Blanking mate - wossit look like..?

Midnight Cowboy - not his real name, by the way - is a bit of an enigma in these parts, mainly because he seems to pick the hardest waters and keep fishing them regardless.

I have a lot of time for Midnight Cowboy, which isn't his real name, because of this. Midnight Cowboy does his own thing. He's been doing his own thing on this water two days running.

Trouble is you could be miles away from them on here, I say - adding a hefty shot of realism to the conversation. 

Hunkered down behind the only bit of undergrowth for miles, he's sure he's going to catch - despite the westerly tearing down the drain that's rendered one or two nearby waters virtually unfishable.

"Get your rods out then," he says. "You can't catch if you h'int even got a bait in the water."

I look at Midnight Cowboy (not his real name...). I look at the drain. The waves are starting to crest, rolling over into white horses. My rods stay in the car.

Midnight Cowboy - who wasn't called this by his mum and dad - says he might fish on into dark. I fancy this as much as I fancy a cabbage water enema.

Today had grim written all over it from the word go. Got up late, people in the swims I fancied on the first couple of waters I looked at. Gave the river an hour and needed three ounces of lead to keep the float still against the gathering gale.

Went to a nearby drain in time to spy a couple of this country's newest inhabitants packing up with the perch they'd just killed in a carrier bag. I looked at the new water I fancied trying and there were people everywhere.

"Someone had a thirty out last week," one explains, when I ask why there are people everywhere.

I checked out somewhere else, on my travels. Litter everywhere - beer cans and vodka bottles topped off by a bike someone had obviously hauled out of the drain.
Midnight Cowboy - which I stress is not his real name - is non-plussed by all of this. Conditions are almost perfect in his book.

The wind' s howling down the BTEAB drain. Midnight Cowboy (whose birth certificate carries a different name...) shrugs: "I don't care if the bobbins in't dropping off every minute. You just got to keep trying."

I decide to do just that. As in keep trying. As in tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An evening with Mick Brown

Here's one not to be missed. Mick Brown's doing a talk at King's Lynn PAC at the Burt Club in West Winch on Thursday, January 26 (7.00pm).

Decisions, decisions - where to go..?

I have a feeling I might catch something tomorrow. Mainly because it's my first day out fishing for a week thanks to work.

The weather looks like staying unsettled and windy for the next few days, with temperatures drifting down a few degrees and rain on the way. This is no hardship, bearing in mind we had snow to contend with this time last year.

There's a new water I can fish if I can be bothered to cut the kit down to a couple of rods and minimal bits and bobs in the rucker. It's a fair old hoof to the spot where the pike might be.

Then again I might head for some pits I can fish out of the car which seem to have fallen off most people's radar this winter for some reason.

There's a drain which has been fishing well, but it's been in the local papers, so will probably have been caned.

Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Whale I'll be - a Norfolk forty

As in a forty foot long sperm whale, washed up on the beach at Old Hunstanton. I went along to get a few pictures for work and joined the hundreds marvelling at the size of a creature that roams the seas unseen by most of us, except on the rare occasions one turns up dead on our shores.

It's the first I've seen in several years, since I walked miles with a photographer to find a much larger whale which had washed up dead on a remote stretch of beach at Thornham. We got caught in a blizzard as the tide turned and it was seriously hairy picking our way back through the mud and marsh creeks as they began filling with water.

Click here for a bit on that whale.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We got more crabs than Cromer in the Fens

Rings appear around the blob of orange sitting on a flat calm drain. When it falls flat, I pick the rod up, wind down and connect with fresh air.

I use big baits and from time to time, I fail to connect with what's on the other end. Usually, this means a small fish has picked it up by the head, avoiding the hooks.

I recast to the same spot and the same thing happens. This time, I leave it a few seconds longer, but bend into nothing again.

Checking the bait, it's clearly been damaged but the slashes in its flank don't look like teeth marks from a pike. A zander's front fangs weren't responsible either, because it was only marked on one side.

I've seen similar on the Ouse and Middle Level, which have both been colonised by Chinese mitten crabs. I am a long way from both and even further from the sea, but suspect the crabs have now made it to this part of the system.

Something tells me this isn't good news. These things are capable of travelling a considerable distance upriver from the sea as larvae, living in freshwater until they migrate back downstream to breed.

First found at Denver Sluice, in around 2005, they are becoming more numerous. Matchmen have caught them when their claws have become entangled in their feeders. Some now count their fingers after mixing groundbait.

The as-yet unanswered question is what impact they're going to have on the ecology of our rivers, where coarse fish already have cormorants, increasing numbers of other fish-eating birds and otters to contend with.

Crabs eat fish spawn. Some believe they are partly responsible for the decline in schoolie zander on the Middle Level and lower reaches of the Ouse. I have no idea whether this is true, but one thing's certain. Looking at how efforts to eradicate the American signal crayfish have failed, these things are probably here to stay.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Twenty..? That's twenty and some...

Ash looks down at the landing net. Then he looks at me. Big fish mate. Definitely a twenty, I say. Twenty..? That's twenty and some, he says... 

A float slides away with a tick-tick-tick as the line trickles off the reel. I wind down, the rod goes round and I knock the anti-reverse off as it powers away.

This is more like it, I think to myself, as we slug it out. I up the pressure, glad I re-tied the braid to the trace clip and checked everything was sound before I found myself attached to this old gal.

As I pump her back towards the margins, she rears up with a furious head shake, scattering a mouthful of rudd, along with the remains of a larger meal.

When she wallows on the top, I drop to my knees and ease her over the draw-cord. In she goes, good as gold, the first time of asking. I unclip the trace and find the bait in the net, along with my hooks.

I plop her back for a rest in the onion bag while I sort my shit out. Ash appears as I'm zeroing the Avons. "Big fish mate,"  he says. Definitely a twenty, I say. "Twenty..? That's twenty and some mate."

She flops into the sling and the dial goes round and round to twenty and some as predicted. Twenty and quite a bit, in fact. I hand her over for a second opinion and the weight's the same - 26lbs 8oz.

Knock 14oz off for the sling. So that's still twenty and some. As in 25lbs 10oz. Plus a couple of ounces, to allow for the fact my ancient scales are weighing two or three ounces light. So I reckon that comes to 25:12 in old money.

After a quick snap or two,  I lower her back. "I think the picture thing on your phone worked," shrugs Ash, as she slides from my grasp and disappears. "Well, I hope it did."

I fish on wondering if I'll get another. When the float goes again, it's a low double, which also coughs up a mouthful of rudd. The rest of the day passes without another run, apart from a jack to Ash.

Maybe things are starting to look up a bit. We can only hope. But when one part of the system's going through a lean spell, you sometimes find people were quietly catching somewhere else.

That's the Fens for you. Sometimes it can all come good in the time it takes a float to slip beneath the surface. And them's the moments we pike anglers live for.

+I probably should have updated this, but never got round to it. Rob had a fish of more or less exactly the same weight from the same swim a week or so later. Looking at the pictures, it was clearly a different pike. What are the odds of that happening - as in two different 25lbs-plus fish in more or less the same spot..?

++I didn't quite reveal how I ended up fishing the swim in the first place. I was standing on the bank with Ash when we got there, and he had his back to the water, as we were debating who was going in what swim. I saw a swirl on the top and a big tail break surface. I reckon I'll plonk in here, I said. OK, said Ash. I thought I was so clever when I bashed it out at nearly 26lbs right under his nose.

+++Ash obviously had the last laugh, 18 months later, when he caught a thirty on the same water *linky*. If it was the same fish I had, that's the third pike I've caught at big-twenties someone else has gone on to catch over 30lbs. This probably explains why I believe I'm jinxed when it comes to catching a thirty.

++++Fifty/fifty it's the first twenty of 2012... linky

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A pattern emerges in the snow

The margins are frozen when I get there at first light but it's almost clear enough to fish. After half an hour and a wander up and down the bank, I find a clear swim and plonk two out there.

The sun comes out and I'm on the phone comparing notes with a mate when a float pops under and I  miss a run on a large joey.

Hooks too far back, dinged it one a second or two too early. Might come back, says matey when I call him back. So I give the hooks a quick tickle with the sharpening stone and decide to give it another hour.

Then it snows so hard I can hardly see the floats, carpeting the banks in white. The snow starts settling on a large ice floe in the next swim, which breaks free with a cr-r-r-r-r-ack as the wind gets up.

The drain's flowing, ever so slightly, as well. So the 'berg starts inching towards my floats. I reel one in as the edge of the ice reaches it. Then the sun comes out again, the sky clears and I can see clear water the other side of the ice a few swims up the drain. I fancy a move there, so I start getting the gear together when a couple of cars come down the track.

Out they  get, straight into the swim I fancied. Oh well, I think - probably wouldn't have caught any there anyway. Ten minutes later, one of them gets a double.

Maybe they'll come on the feed now, I tell myself. I move swims the other way and poke two out across to the far side, rods up high to keep the line clear of the cat ice in the margins. As I'm knocking up some grub, one swirls right under the rod tops shattering the remains of the ice.

Being a more astute pike angler than some give me credit for, I have noticed a pattern emerging today. It's got catch sweet Fanny Adams written all over it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whatever floats your boat

I used to carry several types of float - pencils for pits, dumpy through-the-middle ones for free roaming lives and big sliders for fishing deads on the rivers in winter, when you need a couple of ounces of lead to beat the flow.

Now I use just one type for most of my fishing, wherever I am. The ET Hi-Vis floats look all wrong but they're great for fishing rivers and drains at close to medium range and longer-distance stuff on pits and stillwaters.

They show up well, come in several sizes and you can fish them bottom-end-only with the rod tops up. On pits, I just use a couple of half or 3/8oz bullets on the line above the trace clip to anchor the rig and give me a bit of weight to tighten up to.

Fish a couple of feet over-depth, let it settle when you cast, then either tighten up until the float just cocks, or let the wind do the job as it blows a slight blow in the line.

Ditto drains and rivers. although you may need to use one of the bigger floats and more lead - I'll happily use up to two ounces in the form of a lead on a run ring stopped by the trace clip.

Crude..? Maybe. But it catches fish, so who cares. I modify them slightly, removing the swivel bead from the floats as they come out of the packet, substituting a strong snap swivel and cross-lock.

I usually have a stop below the float and push this a couple of feet up the line above the lead as this stops casting tangles. For £1.50 a throw, you can't beat these. The largest couple of sizes are most useful if you fish flowing or wind-swept waters.

The tiny ones are great for fishing small drains or close-in stuff on pits.

Click here to order them from Eddie Turner.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sundridge Igloo Suit - review

I don't think you can get much better than Sundridge when it comes to cold weather clothing.

Someone loaned me one of the Igloo suit's predecessor's on a trip to the Broads last winter, when he spied me shivering on the boat dock.

It was that good, I bought one when I got home. It lasted me through the worst of last winter. As well as keeping you warm, these things also keep you dry.

I haven't looked after it at all. The only downside is you can't wash them, so you do end up honking after a few months.

Bits I thought would go haven't. The outer material looks flimsy, but it's deceptively strong. The pockets are still all attached. The neoprene cuffs have frayed a bit but they're still attached.

The bottoms of the legs on the bib and brace have got damp countless times, but they dry out between trips.

Despite kneeling down to unhook fish - not to mention sitting on cold, wet banks and boats - the knees and seat still keep the water out.

This gets a massive top marks from me. It's got at least another winter in it, which isn't bad for £99.99, when you look at what clothing with trendier names on it costs these days.

+++UPDATE: In fact, nearly a year later and it's still going strong. The coat has stayed in the back of the car and seen even more frequent use than the bib and brace. Bits of the lining of the latter are starting to look a bit threadbare, but when you bear in mind the use it's had I'm incredibly impressed it still keeps me warm and dry.

I thought I'd have wrecked it by now - most of my outer clothing only seems to survive for a season in the Fens. Little things like the pockets are all still attached, the zips haven't bust, the braces still hold it up.

More info on the Sundridge website here.

Friday, December 09, 2011

God rest ye merry gentlemen

God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing ye dismay. Th'ass blowing a gale on Ten Mile bank, you'll catch feck-all today.

To the Ouse, for the King's Lynn Christmas Pike Comp. Conditions could have been better, shall we say.

We heaved a collective shrug as we turned up for the draw. One or two hurtled off for favoured swims, but deep down we knew a half decent double would probably be enough to win.

Hats off to Bob Harrod (pictured...) for catching it, on a dingy old day. He tucked in where he knew the roach were and bagged a 14:06. Jordan Brown had a 7lbs - the only other fish caught.

Prize for effort goes to the young lad from Narborough, who stuck it out and tried and tried all day. Him and Jordan are getting a year's PAC membership each from the King's Lynn region, by way of a well done.

The wind doth blow

The lazy wind's been howling down the drain all day. I'm togged up to the nines but I'm cold for the first time this season.

I've messed about with different things on the leger rods. Big baits, small(er) baits; joey, lamprey and new secret squirrel deadbait.

I've tried popping them up different distances from the bottom, twitching them back, messing about trying to re-invent the wheel.

The float rod needs a 2oz lead and a big ET blob fished 6ft over-depth to hold it still.

The water's clear but the waves are tipped with foam. I've had a feeling this was going to be a lost cause all day, but I stick it out as the clouds mass and the wind whips up another notch or two.

I was going to call it a day at 3pm, but Rob rocks up full of Rob-esque enthusiasm. I move the rods around to make room for a couple more. I've had one in front of the feature he casts his first one out to all day on and off.

As I get the stove on, Rob gets a pull. He's down the bank like Rob going down the bank when he gets a pull.

He picks the rod up, sweeps it back and misses whatever was on the end. I take no delight whatsoever in this. I would clearly have been happier if he'd turned up, dropped one in and caught a twenty right where I'd been fishing.

Sod this podna - I'm off, I say as the sun lights the gathering clouds for a minute or two, before it dives for cover.

Let's go and have a mooch and see

I'm off out today to see if the wind and rain have woken 'em up.

No game plan, as such. I'm going to sling the rods in the car, go for a mooch about and see what turns up.

The forecasters can't make their minds up, either. Might be fine all day. Might be fine to start with followed by rain, sleet or even snow later.

We could probably use a decent downpour to get some water in the system, along with some flow and colour. Snow would be bad news.

This season has been uncharted territory all the way, with mild weather and drought conditions lasting this late into the year.

I can't remember another year like it. Would pike fishing in the Fens be as fascinating if it was the same year after year..?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Review - Online Baits UK

I used to get nearly all my bait from Geoff Baker's shop, in King's Lynn. Several guys I fish with did. 

Then Geoff closed down and when I was bemoaning the fact to Rob one day out fishing afterwards, he brought over his coolbag to show me the baits he'd got from an online company I'd never heard of.

They were lovely-looking baits, vaccuum packed with no frills. A quick google when I got home and I found Online Baits UK. Apart from sardines from Coles and the odd impulse buy in Morrisons, I now get nearly all my bait from them.

They're incredibly cheap when it comes to the staple baits like mackerel. Three good-sized joeys will set you back £1.30, for example, while herrings are slightly cheaper. Large blueys are going for £1.70 for three. You can easily pay twice as much.

They also have just about everything else you might want - including some monster lamprey and pollan.

Despite the slightly ramshackle way I fish, I try to get the best bait I can. Best usually equates to fresh with deadbaits.

I can vouch for how good this bait is. They send it by overnight courier - well packed in poly boxes, with little ice packs. It's always been frozen when it's arrived.

I've always been a big fan of mackerel as a staple bait I always have out on one or two of the rods. Online Baits joeys are fresh and still shiny. The blueys also come fresh and give off a lot of oil - even after several casts.

They've been out of stock on things once or twice when I've ordered. They'll either refund, send it when they've got it, or add it to the next order.

The website says £7 carriage but if you order more than £60 worth of bait, delivery's free. That's a lot less than some other firms' minimum order.

Another thing I like is you set up an account and can then order as you go along, maybe as a particular bait does well and you start to run low on it, then check-out when you hit the £60. When you log out, it saves your partially-completed order for you to amend or add to.

I can't fault them so far.  Click here to check them out.

Pike fishing's first blockbuster..?

"Pike fishing's not for everyone. But if you're wild at heart it's a good thing to do."

A Backyard in Nowhere is a true story, about a group of Danish fly fishers who travel off to the wilds of Alaska in search of monster pike. They get more than they bargained for when they encounter some locals. 

For more about the film, click here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The fish man cometh

"Glad you're in," says the representative of a large courier company, who has just dragged two huge polystyrene boxes up the path to my front door, knocking over a garden gnome en route. 

"That's roight stunk my van out that has. Din't wanna have ter take that old lot back to the depot. Wotch'a got in there then - fish..?"

Fish indeed, I reply. Right in one, my knight of the road, brave carrier of enough bait to see me through the next few months.

"Well that don't half smell," he smiles, handing me a clipboard to sign complete with pen. "And that's off-fish-al."

I decide I'd better write that one down. Just in case I have a career change, end up delivering fish and need to pull a quick one-liner out of the bag to amuse a been there, heard all the smelly fish jokes kind of customer.

I check the contents of my consignment as the fish man drives away, with van windows down. Despite the fact he decked one of my gnomes, I am happy with the spoils of the fish man's visit.

I now have a freezer brim-full of shiny mackerel, blueys and lamprey. I will sit down at some point and write a review on the people I get them from.

Long Live Rock and Roll

As I drive down the track, I see a man fishing on the bend swim. He's standing by his rods hunched over with his back to the road, shaking his head from side to side.

Any good mate..?

"I'm outta my head can't take it..."

Why's that podna, bit slow..?

"You cast a spell, so break it... Wo-a-wo-oh, wo-a-wo-ah-wo-oh... EVER SINCE... YOU BEEN GONE..."

When he turns around, strumming an imaginary guitar, I half expect to find myself face-to-face with Graham Bonnet, who sang on Rainbow's 1980 classic Since You Been Gone.

Perhaps even another member of the band's line-up, which featured Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Roger Glover on bass, Don Airey on keyboards and Cozy Powell on drums.

Instead it's a short, bald chap, who blushes bright red as he pulls the hood of his suit down to reveal a pair of headphones in each ear.

"Wh'assat..? Hang on, I can't hear yer," he says, as he pulls an iPod out of his pocket. "I was miles away there bud. Miles away list'nun to music I was. Wh'assat - you'll have to speak up a bit. Frickin' thing does my ears in."

We go through the formalities when strangers meet on the bank in some far-flung corner. Any good/not yet. You ever done any good here/sometimes. You fish here much etc etc.

I bid the Rainbow fan goodbye and he slips his headphones back in his ears as I drive away down the track.

When I've found a swim I half fancy and got the rods out, I check up and down the bank to make sure no-one's coming.

Then I stick my 'phones in, find Rainbow on my iPod and wonder whether I fancy listening to Down to Earth, or the band's earlier and some would argue far stronger album Long Live Rock and Roll.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Another day, another drain

I had slighly more optimism about today. Bearing in mind I didn't manage to catch any yesterday, it couldn't have been much worse.

But TLC and I sat there from first light, trying different things, without a pull. The wind got up, and we kept stepping up the size of the floats and putting the rods as high as we could to keep the line clear of the odd bit of debris being blown along the top.

In the end I went back to the car for a couple of leger rods so I could fish against a feature without the wind dragging me off into no man's land.

When the sun dipped towards the floodbank, the wind dropped and a herd of roe deer tip-toed past us on the far bank. Bait fish began topping here and there, as the surface turned flat calm.

We sank a brew before we rebaited the rods for the last hour. I shuddered at the splash the 2oz lead made as it landed on the far side feature, hooks festooned with a pilchard I'd found in my bait bag.

I swopped the baits over on the other rods and poked them back out. Five minutes later, the pilchard rod beeps. The drop-off stayed on but the tip knocked.

I picked it up, the line twitched and I felt a fish kick on the end as I pulled into it. Just a jack of a few pounds. It came up without much of a scrap, but it was hooked by just the bottom hook on the apex of its top jaw, so I dropped the net and handed TLC the rod so I could chin it.

The hook pops out and I drop it back. Two rudd appear in the swirl, as it kicks its tail and shoots off. Two very dead rudd. It must have coughed them up, because the margins were clear before.

I scoop them up and drop them in the coolbox - waste not, want not. They looked quite fresh. Just eaten, almost. We decide that must mean they're on the feed, so we sit it out as the sky comes alive with geese and flights of duck.

As dusk falls, the surface activity ceases. One fish was feeding. The others - if there were any others out there - clearly weren't.

As we trudge back to the car with the gear, there's a chill to the air. Snow on the way up north, gales on the way down here according to the forecast on the radio.

I'm a fire starter

This is such a useful gadget, because however damp, wet or cold it gets, it always lights your stove.

You can dip it in the water, in fact. Dry it off and bosh - it works again. How many lighters do that..?

It's called a fire steel. It's just a magnesium bar that you strike with a bit of steel to produce a spark. The sparks are quite hot, so they'll light a petrol or gas stove nil problemo.

I got this in a camping shop for around a fiver. The carabiner clip wotsit attaches to the stove, so I don't lose it. Well it did, until I lost it and had to buy another one.

Monday, December 05, 2011

I don't like Mondays

I was itching to get out today as soon as I heard the forecast. Cloudy with a westerly wind..? I'll have some of that.

It was a bit on the bright side as I cast the baits, but definitely a good westerly blowing - and a few bits of cloud in the distance.

The rods I'd rigged up the night before weren't quite set up right. I needed more lead to hold the floats where I wanted them, so I began reeling them in one by one to sort it.

One goes as I'm rummaging around for a bigger weight. I pick the rod up and it pops back up again several feet upwind of where it was. Dropped take. Must have felt the wind on the line.

At least they're out there, I think, looking at a clearly chomped joey. I change the weight and sling it out again, dropping the rod tops a couple of feet so there's less of a wind-blown bow on the line.

Be-ee-ee-ee.. The rod I've slung down the margins on a pencil float is off. The rod top's sunk and I've got an alarm on this one. At least it won't feel the wind on the line, I think. The pike thinks otherwise and drops it anyway.

Two dropped takes in 15 minutes. With the sun now up, I can see down far enough into the margins to clock a couple of discarded baits. Someone must have been here yesterday. Maybe they caned 'em.

A little voice says move. But I've had two takes, so there are clearly fish out there. It's starting to cloud over, as well. So I decide to stay put.

For a couple of hours, it looks ideal. Got to get one in a minute, I keep telling myself as I twitch the baits and recast them between a couple of brews.

A big swirl in the next swim convinces me it's done deal, as I recast one of the baits past it and gently reel it back to the spot.

Another hour passes and I decide to up sticks and drive to a swim I fancy on another water. Should have gone there hours ago, I tell myself. Marvellous thing is hindsight.

As I'm reeling the first rod in, the float I cast to the swirling fish begins moving off against the wind. I bend into it as the line tightens and don't even feel whatever's left teeth marks in the head of the bait.

Heads or tails, recast or floor it five miles for an hour somewhere else. Move wins the toss. But best of three says stay put.

So I stay until skeins of geese begin lofting off the beet fields on their way to The Wash, but the floats don't move again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Octopus the going bait, says man at Morrisons

The sight of fresh sardines in Morrisons is often enough to make me spend a Lady Godiva or two on bait.

This time, the Chipper Fishmonger has just nine of said fish - and little else that grabs my fancy.

I'll have the lot, I say. Chipper Fishmonger can tell by this that I am the sort of customer who knows what he wants.

The sort he's seen before, apart from on his days off, when I am clearly served by other fishmongers.

"Going fishing?" he asks. "Bloke came in earlier who's a big pike fisherman. Nearly cleaned me out, he did. Comes in every week, usually has a few mackerel as well."

Que sera, I say - in case the fishermonger is multi-lingual or a fan of Doris Day, who won an Oscar for best film music with a song of the same name, in 1956.

"Tell you what I have got though," he says, picking up a large octopus. "Bet you've never tried one of these for bait."

I look at the creature and can't quite picture it on two size fours. No thanks Mr Fishmonger.

"Go on, I can let you have it for a fiver..."

Not my sort of bait I'm afraid. In my experience, pike like eating fish not octopi.

"Not what the other bloke says you know. Swears by it he does. He catches some big ones too - I've seen the pictures. Tell you what, I can do you half for £3.Or how about a couple of tentacles...?"

I have my sardines and am already perusing the carrots in the root vegetable aisle. The Chipper Fishmonger shakes his head and goes back to filleting salmon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In actual fact, it was a twenty...

'So nearly a twenty, this prizefighter' went the original post. When I got home and checked my ancient Avons against a 1lbs brass weight I double-checked on the kitchen scales, I found they were 3oz light. So the fish I settled on a weight of 19:14 for wasn't nearly a twenty after all...

As the sun began to drop towards the floodbank this afternoon, a movement caught the corner of my eye. Fry had started topping in the next swim. I shinned up the bank for a better look and saw dimples along the edge of some blanket weed, along with my mate's van bouncing down the track.

Time for a move, I think. Not only is there activity in the next swim, I can press gang matey into helping me move the gear and be there double-quick.

As I cast the baits and stick a brew on the stove, the fry skitter away from some unseen predator. Things are looking up.

They look up even more five minutes later, as one of the floats bobs and jinks away across the surface. I pull into it as the line tightens and there's a big swirl as it bow waves off across the top.

Good fish, decent double, we think to start with, as I pump it back and it surges away again with the reel handles spinning. Then I glimpse its head and wonder if it's the first twenty I've managed from this part of the system.

It takes a few minutes to beat it, every time I gain line on it, it tears off again. My mate reckons he hasn't seen one fight like that in ages.

Netting it's a nightmare thanks to blanket weed and a flying treble, but my mate does a great job. As I cut the trace and lift it onto the mat to unhook it, I find the other treble's just nicked in behind its bottom lip.

It's a mint fish, with olive flanks and vivid markings. In the sling and the dial can't make its mind up between twenty and ounces and two ounces under. So I thought I still hadn't had a twenty from this part of the system - until I checked my scales and found they were weighing 3oz light.

Time for a new set of scales...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rain in the Fens - at last

A foggy start, but there's no mistaking the large drops of cold, wet stuff falling as I load up for today's sortie. Rain.

They're going on  ten to the dozen about it on the radio. Tha'ss rainun' like the clappers that is. Th'ass rained for a good hour in Watlington. Th'ass bin pourin' in King's Lynn.

Needless to say, it's all but stopped by the time I get to the river. The river looks pretty much like yesterday, apart from a bit muddier around the edges.

There's only one other bloke fishing the stretch I've plumped for on a whim. And he's sitting right slap bang in the swim I fancied.

"This is where the roach were shoaled up on Sat'dee," he says, staring at his waggler. "Had a foo today, but that's just died all of a suddin'. I'm off if that rain starts again."

My little mind's whirring away. Roach shoaled, had a few, then went dead - might be off soon. So I drop in next door. Not quite the right place, but near enough to be in there like a rat up a drain pipe when the precipitation prompt's my new-found friend's departure.

I start with two out, keeping the banter going with helpful metereological observations like: "Cor that looks like it's going to piss down soon."

As the sky grows steadily darker, he slings his keepnet up the bank to dry. To say the swim he's in has a slightly obvious feature is a bit like saying Henry VIII liked the odd wedding. As he loads his car and disappears, I'm in like Flynn.

Two hours later, I'm staring into gin clear margins willing the river to colour-up. Or even just flow. It did flow weakly for half an hour or so, as the sluices opened near the bottom of the ebb in the tidal.

Just enough flow to pull the line round and tension the floats, but enough to make me think I was going to get one. Oh well, if the pike aren't feeding I can.

Cook up some pasta, drain, add a tin of meatballs and some of that fancy Italian seasoning stuff and job's a good'un. Jamie Oliver eat your heart out. Suitably fortified, I sit there into the gloaming again without a run. But I reckon things might pick up soon, looking at the weather.

I'm Hank Marvin but Don't Worry - Be Happy

It's Monday and I'm Hank Marvin, because I've forgotten my food. I've got several jars of that powdered tea from the pound shop, which does contain glucose and hydrogenerated vegetable oil (as well as anti-caking agent E341, whatever that is...) but it's not quite the same as proper eating stuff. As in food, like what you need a fork for.

I was going to wind the rods in and head for the nearest garage, but bream started rolling two-thirds of the way across the river and I wondered if the shoal might have a pike or two following it.

So I re-bait and throw all three across, landing one so close to a bream the surface erupts as it bow-waves off for the far margin. Half an hour later and the bream have cleared off a couple of swims upstream, where they're now bubbling away on the bottom.

The river's flat calm and as the sun sinks into the haze it's got lost cause written all over it. By the time I've twitched the baits back across the river, the geese are squealing overhead and a barn owl's patrolling the far bank.

Someone's stuck a couple of great big banners by the road near Downham Market. Don't Worry. Be Happy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

NNG review - tea

When it comes to being a sponsored angler, I'd rather be sponsored by someone who makes tea.

While I can only get to use so much gear or bait over the course of a winter, I never seem to have enough tea. Earl Grey was my brew of choice last season - the subtle citrus note of bergamot helping to cleanse the palette after an early morning fry-up and a couple of roll-ups.

My mates didn' t like my choice of tea. I won't bore you with their less than politically-correct responses. 

My current brew of choice is Ty-Phoo QT. This is dried tea, with added milk. Sling it in, add water and it's job sorted. Better still, it's a quid a jar from the pound shop in King's Lynn.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another piece of the puzzle falls into place

Sometimes when you go out, you learn something. Another bit of the puzzle that's pike fishing falls into place, if you like.

It took a while to make my mind up where I was going today. I fancied a drain I haven't fished in years, but the first stretch I looked at was mirror-calm and devoid of life apart from a horde of gulls. If they'd been diving for fry, I'd have given it a go, but they were sitting aimlessly on the top preening themselves in the mist.

The next bridge had half a dozen cars, so I drove on without stopping. Then I remembered another stretch nearby, where I'd had a few fish several winters back.

The first time I tried it this particular spot, it was the middle of February and the rest of the drain was frozen. I gave it a go and found the pike grouped up in a clear area. I caught seven or eight jacks fishing literally under my feet down a steep bank that was a bit of a scramble.

I went back a few weeks later, towards the end of the season and had three good doubles. I didn't twig why this bit of the drain was any better than any other bit and by the next time I went back a couple of seasons after, the bank had fallen away meaning I couldn't get down it to fish so I wrote it off and never bothered again.

When I pulled up today, there were a couple of grebes diving by the steep bank. One came up with a roach as I watched off the bridge. Sizing it up, I reckoned I could cast across to the same area of drain with a bit of jiggery pokery, so it was out with the rods.

The grebes had skulked off 20 yards downstream by the time I had the first trace clipped on, but something swirled on the far side and sent the roach skittering across the top. The mackerel tail landed a few yards short, but I threw a lamprey over on a second rod to keep it company and after half an hour or so, it was away.

The float was coming towards me at a rate of knots as I wound down into a jack of three or four pounds. Still a fish first chuck, I told myself. It was a glorious day, so I wasn't too bothered about moving. There was more than one fish in the swim the last couple of times I'd fished it - so odds on there might be today.

Wraiths of mist were drifting off the fields, turning the distant landscape into a watercolour painting. I dicked about taking pictures for a bit, fired up Chernobyl to make a brew and as I was savouring the last few drops the lamprey went for a burton.

Yes, a better fish. A need a net for fish, until I pump it close enough to see it's just hooked at the front of its snout, on the bottom hook of the trace. I drop the net, shove the other rod out of the way and kneel down to chin it. It thrashes on the top - a scraper double with a huge gob and 10 inches of lamprey hanging outside.

It shakes its head, gills flared, as I go to grab it - throwing the lamp and the hook in the process. I can live with losing a twelve-pounder. So I decide to sit it out for another hour or two. There had to be another one there, surely.

Church bells were ringing in the foggy distance. A merlin swooped low over the reeds. Lost in my reverie, I nearly jumped out of my skin when a voice piped up behind me: "Are yew doin' any gu-u-ud..?"

An old boy with binos around his neck had appeared from nowhere. Just like an old boy with binos around his neck appearing from nowhere.

"Had one, lost one," I shrugged. "Lovely day all the same ole' podna."

"This used to be a good area roight hair," he said. "I used to pike fish a lot 'round hair. Still do, but th'ass not as good as it was. Yew wanna be over thair, that's where they used to git to."

So I told him I'd had the odd fish over the other side, before the bank collapsed into a sheer drop Bear Grylls would baulk from four or five seasons back.

"There's a slacker over there you know," he said. "Tha'ss why you used to git the pike there. They used to go through it into the ditch to spawn. But summit's happened to it. They blocked it up. That's not been so good the last two or three year now."

As the old boy with binoculars around his neck walked away,  like an old boy with binoculars around his neck walking away, another piece of the puzzle fell into place.

Neville Fickling at Lynn PAC meeting

King's Lynn PAC got up and running again last month with an excellent evening's entertainment provided by Denis Moules. On Wednesday, November 30,  Neville Fickling's going to be the special guest at the Wm Burt Club, in West Winch (where the meetings used to be held years ago when Phil and Mike were the ROs).

The fun gets under way at 7.30pm. Bet it's packed out as it's hard to think of anyone who's had more influence on the modern pike fishing scene than Neville. Get there early's probably a good plan.

He started off fishing round the King's Lynn area and still has the occasional dabble locally, so it will be interesting to hear how he thinks this winter's going to pan out in these parts.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Leeches on pike..? Pull the udder one

See, look - that's got leeches on it. Them pike aren't moving, they're just sitting on the bottom.

If there's one bit of widely-accepted pike lore I disagree with, it's the old maxim about leeches and what they tell us about what the fish we catch have been up to.

If they're the hallmark of lenghty periods of inactivity, how come you can step in the margins and come out with your clod hoppers covered in 'em..?

Sometimes, we look to nature to reinforce our own, rather shallow view on how it all works above or below the surface.

Them cows up the bank are lying down in the field, for example - so that must be going to rain. As in cows never get tired, have an off day or just fancy a breather.

If a pike festooned with leeches is a torpid fish that's been crashed out in the silt, how come it could be assed to take your bait..? Pull the udder one.

I'll send you a text if I get a decent one

LOL ;) UR fishin where just seen ya car no pike there ha ha. Yeah, right. How come I just had one then you muppet. U got lucky how big. Mind your own you *sexually explicit expletive*. Hope you *equally graphic sexual perjorative* drown, you *unconventional use for a ruminant animal's genitalia*.

Ha ha. Ha, *mildly graphic sexual term* ha. How did we ever get by, before the days of mobile phones and text messages..? Slow day, was it mate. Text me next time you're on there. LOL ;) PS: <;)}}}}}}><

Friday, November 18, 2011

Give it a few days - maybe that's the answer

I go through phases when I fish every day. I sometimes find hitting a water for three or four days on the trot is the key to cracking it - possibly because if you're on there long enough, they've got to start feeding sooner or later.

Last time I tried this, I blanked four days out of five, which is dire by even my standards. Then again, I knew of other waters where people were catching, one day enduring a running commentary via text messages from a mate who had dropped right on them and was nailing them one after another a few miles from where my floats sat motionless.

You might think this means I'm stupid. But I've decided if I only learn to fish one more water, it's got to be the Ouse. That means struggling through the blank days until the penny finally drops. I've had a few good twenties off it over the years, but these have all come from well-known areas further upstream from the stretch I'm concentrating on.

The bit I'm fishing has produced the bigger fish in recent seasons, but they're literally few and far between. In fact predators seem to be thin on the ground full stop, which belies the incredible volume of prey fish.

I know find the silvers and you find the pike doesn't always hold true, but what's struck me about the few fish I've managed so far this winter is how thin they are. It's November now - not high summer, when pike do tend to look a bit skinny (from what I remember from when I used to catch the odd one or three zander fishing).

But the pike must be somewhere. Maybe the water's low in oxygen because of lack of rain/flow and amount of weed in the river. Maybe that's what's put them off the feed, along with the incredibly clear water.

Either way, I'm going to give it a few days on the trot and try a new area as well - mainly because parts of the river where I was catching a few pike last season now seem all but devoid of them.

I might even dust off the lure rods - just to see if a more mobile approach pays off better than planting my arse behind three or four bait rods and trying just a handful of swims in a day. Maybe it's a confidence thing, after all.

Confidence is a funny thing in pike fishing

Confidence is a funny old thing when it comes to  pike fishing. Sometimes, you work harder when you think you're going to catch one any minute. Maybe the anticipation spurs you on.

Other days, you put more effort in when you know it's going to be hard, because deep down you know if you don't put the work in, it ain't going to happen, no siree Bob.

The other week, I was full of vim on a rare trip to a large stillwater I used to fish a lot with TC, Chippy Bob and one or two other characters. One of my favourite swims clearly hadn't been fished, if the ankle-deep grass was anything to go by.

I put two legered deads out, one along a line of trees; one tight to an island. As we finished off the last of an ample fry-up, I looked at the rods and just knew they weren't quite right, as I wiped the last of the tomato sauce off me strides and wished I'd brung more bread rolls.

I knew I wasn't going to get a pull on either of them, even though I couldn't quite put my finger on why. They were tightened up a treat, nice baits, sharp hooks. They just had blank written all over them.

Looking across  the lake, I remembered a bar which I can just about hit with a float-legered bait when the wind's right.

Off your back, the cast is a breeze and the braid bows nicely to just pull a float to half-cocked against a lightly-weighted trace in eight or nine feet of water.

Five minutes later, I landed a mackerel tail right on the money. Don't ask me why, I just knew I'd catch one there.

And I was right, for once. The float didn't even settle. As I tightened down I felt a bump, gave it a couple of feet of slack and pulled into a cracking double that turned out to be the only fish of the day, apart from a jack to TC.

I couldn't get another bait back out fast enough after I unhooked it. I reeled one of the leger rods in and re-cast it onto the near slope of the bar upwind of the float rod. Both fouled thick weed as I tightened up, so I wound them in and slung them back out into yet more more thick weed.

I messed around with trying to pop the baits up just above the weed. I tried casting around to find a clear area and twitching back a bouyant pollan on a long link.

In the end, I dropped the baits under the rod tops and sat well back from the bank - just in case there was a kerb crawler or two doing the rounds. I was sure I'd catch another, until the greylags started squealing overhead and I adjourned to licensed premises to toast the season's second double.

Funny thing, confidence.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

There's aliens in the bridge swim at Ten Mile Bank

I know I shouldn't have started talking to one of the colourful characters I sometimes attract when I'm sitting by the river. A little voice inside was going: "Don't - it only encourages them..."

After the usual nice day/yes it's a nice day/caught anything/no not yet preamble, he moved so close I thought he was trying to sneak in my Igloo suit, looked up and down the river to check no-one else was in earshot, and asked: "Hev you ivver seen anythink, you know, like a bit, um, wierd when yew bin fishin' 'round here..?"

Not really, I said. Some skinny dippers once when I was tench fishing. Bold as brass they were. Otherwise, no - can't see Mulder and Scully rocking up down here any time soon.

"Well that's funny you should say that," he said. "Because you'll nivver guess what I see the other night when I was riding my ole bike home from the pub - that was hovering right over that railway bridge that was.

"It was one of them h'alien spacecraft. That look just like the ones what you see on the telly.  C'ept it had like a trunk, like a h'elephant's trunk or something like it.

"And it was dangling down touching the wires. I reckin' they know there h'int no trains last thing at night in the week. They come down and nick the 'lectric off British Rail to charge up their spaceship, I reckin tha'ss what they dew.

"No wonder our bills keep garn up all the time."

It's the 21st Century. Tens of thousands will be born or die today. Major events are happening on the World stage. War is looking increasingly likely with Iran. The Eurozone debt crisis is making politicians look to re-shape our relationship with Europe.

At Ten Mile Bank, I've just met a man who swears he's seen an alien spacecraft.

Is there pike on Mars..? linky

While we're on the subject of baits...

Bait's a funny old subject. I swear by mackerel. One guy I fish with swears by smelt. Sometimes I catch more than he does. Sometimes I don't.

When blueys came out a few seasons back, they were all the rage for a bit. Now they're just another bait, which sometimes catches pike and other times doesn't.

Now you've got to have lamprey on the end or it's no cigar on the big river. That's the upshot of a lengthy phone call comparing results with someone who's been catching more than me of late.

My mate's only been using them on one of the three or four rods he routinely uses on the river. This is the rod the runs come to. 

I like lamprey. I get mine from somewhere that sometimes has the really big mofos, so I stock up when they do.

But they cost two or three times as much as most other fish. So I tend to ration myself and use them when it gets really hard when the rivers are out of sorts.

That trail of blood and gore oozing out of them's a real confidence booster - even if you have to hook them on carefully to ensure the points stay proud and find a good hold.

Sounds like a rummage in the freezer's going to be in order, along with a few new traces tied with Size Twos slightly further apart than my normal bait rig.Whether it'll make any difference is another thing.

There's a little tip in the picture. Trim the tail fins off your baits. It stops the tail masking the points of the top hook, and also stops the bait spinning on the retrieve, which means less kinked traces and tangles caused by line twist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ouse sorry now

You'd have to go a long, long way to beat today on the weather front. Shame the fishing was pants.
I ended up on a bit of river I must have driven past 1,000 times but had never got round to fishing before.

So when the drain I fancied turned out to be covered in blanket weed, I decided to give it a go. Sometimes, when you have a feeling about a certain swim or piece of water, you end up catching.

No-one had told the fish this today, and as the afternoon wore on towards dusk, the only activity had been an eel shredding one of the baits and a crab trying to sneak off with the other one.
Blanking when the weather's dire sometimes has a kind of inevitability about it. I genuinely thought I was going to bag a couple today, the swim just had everything going for it.

For some reason, the river's a good bit shallower than it is a few hundred yards upstream by the telegraph poles. Instead of plunging into 20ft or more of water down the middle, there's a gentler drop into 15ft. 

That means the sluggish flow picks up a bit. I thought that might mean the roach would be there, meaning there'd be a few pike about.

As the sun dropped behind the floodbank, the river came alive with silvers topping. Of maybe they were rudd. When the sky turned blood red, I reached for my phone and took a picture. 

Tick, tick, ticka-ticka-ticka. A run at last, or a crab strong enough to pull a 10" joey along and take line off the Baitrunner.

It's still going like a good 'un as I pick the rod up, wind down and miss it.