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.

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