Friday, December 30, 2011

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.

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