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