Monday, December 24, 2012

Does my bung look big in this..?

Dead simple gravel pit rig for deadbaiting - cross-lock to attach trace, buffer bead, ET "river float" (no idea why they're called that, as they're just as good on drains and stillwaters...), bead and stop knot. Four or five swan shot on the trace, which cock the float as the wind blows a bow into the line.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Catching some jack therapy

The water's flat calm as the bait trundles off, towing the big sea float along the reeds behind it.  As I flick the line behind it, it disappears in a swirl.

Nothing like catching one first chuck. And it turns out they were on today too, after a fashion. Four or five jacks might not be much to write home about, but it's therapy to get a few runs and land some fish for a change.

I wonder if they were all males, staking out their territories at the entrance to a bay. I know it's a bit early for this, but it's incredibly mild again today, with temperatures into double figures and a warm westerly for the time of year.

On impulse, I pull a couple of leger rods out of the car and blast a couple of big popped-up deads out, to see if there's anything bigger out there. No joy on this score, but it's still a lovely day to be out. And it's amazing how going out and catching a few makes up for the last few blanks.

+++This is it for me, fishing-wise, until after Christmas. So if I don't catch up with you before, have a good one. It'll certainly be interesting to see if things pick up in the New Year, having spoken to a couple of other guys who are also having a dreadful season today.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I retire to my study, with a bottle of Schnapps

"Twenty eight," says Mick in the Tackle Shop. "Your mate's son's mate caught it. Can't say any more - they told me not to tell you."

I shrug this off, once MITTS confirms the identity of the mate whose son's mate landed fish concerned. I press on with Christmas shopping. Cue costly trip to King's Lynn with Mrs Norfolk N' Good.

We hit Tesco for a few last minute essentials on the way home. And there's my mate's son, whose mate caught it, in front of us at the check-out.

"Nice fish your mate had," I tell my mate's son whose mate caught it.

"We'll have to have a day out in the New Year," he says.

Pushing the trolley back to the car, I get a text from Rob: "Had a 24 ;-)."

I retire to my study, with a bottle of Schnapps.

I get another text, this time from the wife: "You're sulking, aren't you..."

Friday, December 21, 2012

Where have all the zander in the Fens gone..?

Here's the explanation, according to Barry McConnell, who's kindly provided some pictures of the culprits.

Mitten crabs are now spreading through the Fens. They started turning up in fish traps the EA placed for sea trout a few seasons back.

Here's Barry's take on the latest arrival in our drains and rivers:

"I started catching them around 2003, 2004 because I fish at night, with deadbaits. They're eating the zander spawn, because zander lay their eggs in a hollow in the ground.

"If you can't leave a deadbait out without it being eaten by crabs, there's no way spawn can survive that. I came down here for a year a couple of seasons back and I caught bloody hundreds of crabs."

Unlike Barry and his mates, I've never actually landed a crab. But I've had chunks taken out of baits on the Relief, Cut-Off, Middle Level and the lower end of the Ouse.

Even after I stopped zander fishing a decade or so ago, I used to catch them occasionally pike fishing until four or five seasons back.

I suppose there's an irony in one alien invader wiping out another one. But I can't help mourning the zander's passing.

The Severn has now overtaken the Fens when it comes to zander fishing. Who'd have thought that 10 or 15 seasons ago.

But I wonder how long the crabs will take to get there. Zander aren't the only fish which lay their eggs on a scrape in the bottom.

Barbel and trout spawn likewise. I wonder how long it will be before the dreaded crabs start impacting on them. The mitten crab is considered one of the world's top 100 invasive species. They came to our shores in the ballast of cargo ships from Asia, which docked in the Thames.

Their young migrate inland, until they reach maturity after four or five years, when they return to brackish water to breed. During those four or five years, they can travel hundreds of miles from the sea.

That puts the upper reaches of most of our rivers within their reach - let alone the Fenland system. Some might wonder if the zander's decline will boost our pike populations. I'm no fisheries scientist, but I doubt it somehow.

Both existed side-by-side, when zander were prolific throughout the system. There are enough fodder fish in our waters to sustain both. Perhaps the explosion in silver fish over the last few seasons stems in part from a decline in predators.

I sometimes fear for the future, when it comes to predator fishing in the Fens.

I'm just the average bloke who goes out because he loves it, like most of the people I fish with.  After a grim start to the season, we're yet to see the impact of the Ouse being run off through the Relief Channel, with the resulting changes in flows and  levels.

I wrote about a drain last season where we caught more twenties than jacks. The question is what's going to happen once those few big fish are gone through old age or being flushed through the sluice gates.


No fish again today. But on a brighter note, the world didn't end as predicted. So Sid owes me £1.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's the end of the world, as we know it

"Um, you know that, like, the world's going to end tomorrow," says Hawkwind Sid, summing up the conversation doing the rounds in the Village Pub. "It's the Mayans, ma-a-an. Their calender, like, um, runs out  tomorrow, yeah..?"

I wonder why the Mayans couldn't just go to WH Smiths in King's Lynn, or even one of the town's growing plethora of pound shops and buy another calender. World saved for another year, with nice pictures of puppies.

"Always the optimist, eh," says Malcolm. "What if it's true. Bet you'd wish you'd listened to all the hippies then, huh..?"

It is raining. The Half Awake Barman has a cold. Other than this, I have seen no credible portent of impending disaster during my short walk to the Village Pub. There have been no reports of looting or civil disorder in the village. There has even been a delivery of extra-strong Christmas ale.

I decide to go fishing tomorrow, on a whim.  I intended to go Christmas shopping - but imagine how cheesed off you'd be if you spent all that money on presents and the apocalypse came. Talk about a waste.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fenland zander talk was truly a cracker

Barry McConnell could talk for England - and he talks a lot of sense, amid tales of his some of his madcap eel fishing adventures on the other side of the globe. As well as some incredible zander catches, he shared some thought-provoking ideas when it comes to locating them on waters like the Middle Level and Relief Channel.

He also came up with some cogent theories on why they've declined in recent seasons, through a combination of heavy run-offs and the spread of mitten crabs from the seaward side of the system.

I've met the guy at past PAC conventions, where he's had a trade stand, but he's such a modest character you'd never imagine how he got his head around the Fens in the mid and late-90s, when he was travelling down from Manchester to do marathon stints on the 'Channel.

I know it was an evening largely dedicated to zander, but what he said made me think about pike fishing too, especially when he described where and how he caught on one particular stretch where even I managed to catch pike reliably a few seasons back, without realising why the fish were where they were.

Big thanks to Barry - aka Zandavan - for a great night, that certainly gave us all plenty to think about.  Big thanks to Big Ash as well, for getting the guy all the way over from Shrewsbury for the evening.  I can see how knowing Barry has rubbed off on Ash, who made we walk miles last time I fished with him and kept saying just a bit further - let's try down there by them reeds.

Yet another great night's entertainment for a couple of quid on the door. The next meeting's on Wednesday, January 30, at the Wm Burt. We're finalising a speaker for that, if it comes off it should be another evening to remember.

My only slight disappointment tonight was we didn't get a few more people along. You don't have to be a PAC member or a top notch pike angler to come to a meeting. You're as welcome if you're new to the game or even thinking of taking up pike fishing as one of our regulars.

Here's a Zandavan vid from YouTube - check out the near 20lbs 'nuisance fish'....

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First day out in ages

After eight days off, it felt good to get out again. The drain was pulling off quite hard as I stuck one out on a big float and two-ounce running lead. By the time I had the others ready to rumble, it had come to a stop.

It didn't look too bad, slight tinge of colour in the water and not much sign of bankside activity. The baits still held nicely with just a few swan shots on the traces, as the drain started filling up and the surface started running back.

By late afternoon, it was a struggle as clumps of marauding weed started to catch around the lines. I kept thinking I was going to catch one until the weak sun dropped below the floodbank and it was time for home.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Study to be quiet to seek the mighty pike

Izaak Walton died at the ripe old age of 90, on this day in 1683. His writings show the awe with which "solitary, melancholly" pike were regarded more than 300 years ago.

"The mighty Luce or Pike is taken to be the Tyrant (as the Salmon is the King) of the fresh waters. ’Tis not to be doubted, but that they are bred, some by generation, and some not: as namely, of a Weed called Pickerel-weed, unless learned Gesner be much mistaken; for he sayes, this weed and other glutinous matter, with the help of the Suns heat in some particular Moneths, and some Ponds apted for it by nature, do become Pikes.

"Sir Francis Bacon in his History of Life and Death, observes the Pike to be the longest lived of any freshwater-Fish, and yet he computes it to be not usually above forty years; and others think it to be not above ten years; and yet Gesner mentions a Pike taken in Swedeland in the year 1449 with a Ring about his neck, declaring he was put into the Pond by Frederick the second, more than two hundred years before he was last taken, as by the Inscription of that Ring (being Greek) was interpreted by the then Bishop of Worms.

"All Pikes that live long prove chargeable to their Keepers, because their life is maintained by the death of so many other Fish, even those of his own kind, which has made him by some Writers to be called the Tyrant of the Rivers, or the Fresh-water-woolf, by reason of his bold, greedy devouring disposition; which is so keen, as Gesner relates, a man going to a Pond (where it seems a Pike had devoured all the fish) to water his Mule, had a Pike bit his Mule by the lips, to which the Pike hung so fast, that the Mule drew him out of the water, and by that accident the owner of the Mule got the Pike.

"And the same Gesner observes, that a Maid in Poland had a pike bit her by the foot as she was washing clothes in a Pond. And I have heard the like of a woman in Killingworth Pond, not far from Coventry. But I have been assured by my friend Mr. Seagrave, of whom I spake to you formerly, that keeps tame Otters, that he hath known a pike in extream hunger fight with one of his Otters for a Carp that the Otter had caught, and was then bringing out of the water. I have told you who relates these things, and tell you they are persons of credit, and shall conclude this observation, by telling you what a wise man has observed, It is a hard thing to perswade the belly, because it has no ears.

"But if these relations be disbelieved, it is too evident to be doubted that a pike will devour a Fish of his own kind, that shall be bigger than his belly or throat will receive, and swallow a part of him, and let the other part remain in his mouth till the swallowed part be digested, and then swallow that other part that was in his mouth, and so put it over by degrees; which is not unlike the Oxe and some other beasts, taking their meat, not out of their mouth into their belly, but first into some place betwixt, and then chaw it, or digest it after, which is called Chewing the cud. And doubtless pikes will bite when they are not hungry, but as some think in very anger, when a tempting bait comes near to them.

"And it is observed, that the pike will eat venomous things (as some kinds of Frogs are) and yet live without being harmed by them: for, as some say, he has in him a natural Balsom or Antidote against all poison: and others, that he never eats the venomous Frog, till he have first killed her, and then (as Ducks are observed to do to Frogs in Spawning time, at which time some Frogs are observed to be venomous) so throughly washt her, by tumbling her up and down in the water, that he may devour her without danger. And Gesner affirms, that a Polonian Gentleman did faithfully assure him, he had seen two young Geese at one time in the belly of a pike. And doubtless a pike in his height of hunger will bite at and devour a dog that swimmes in a Pond, and there has been examples of it, or the like; for as I told you, The belly has no ears when hunger comes upon it.

"The pike is also observed to be a solitary, melancholly and a bold Fish: Melancholly, because he alwayes swimmes or rests himself alone, and never swimmes in sholes or with company, as Roach and Dace, and most other Fish do: And bold, because he fears not a shadow, or to see or be seen of any body, as the Trout and Chub, and all other Fish do.

"And it is observed, that the Pike is a fish that breeds but once a year, and that other fish (as namely Loaches) do breed oftner: as we are certain tame Pigeons do almost every month, and yet the Hawk a Bird of Prey (as the Pike is of Fish) breeds but once in twelve months: and you are to note, that his time of breeding or spawning is usually about the end of February, or, somewhat later, in March, as the weather proves colder or warmer; and to note, that his manner of breeding is thus, a He and a She Pike will usually go together out of a River into some ditch or creek, and that there the spawner casts her eggs, and the Melter hovers over her all that time that she is casting her spawn, but touches her not.

"I might say more of this, but it might be thought curiosity or worse, and shall therefore forbear it, and take up so much of your attention, as to tell you, that the best of Pikes are noted to be in Rivers, next those in great Ponds, or Meres, and the worst in small Ponds.

"His feeding is usually of fish or frogs, and sometimes a weed of his own, called Pickrell-weed. Of which I told you some think some Pikes are bred; for they have observed, that where none have been put into Ponds, yet they have there found many: and that there has been plenty of that weed in those Ponds, and that that weed both breeds and feeds them; but whether those Pikes so bred will ever breed by generation as the others do, I shall leave to the disquisitions of men of more curiosity and leasure than I professe my self to have; and shall proceed to tell you that you may fish for a Pike, either with a ledger or a walking-bait; and you are to note, that I call that a Ledger bait, which is fixed, or made to rest in one certain place when you shall be absent and I call that a walking bait, which you take with you, and have ever in motion.

"Concerning which two, I shall give you this direction, That your ledger bait is best to be a living bait, whether it be a fish or a frog; and that you may make them live the longer, you may or indeed you must take this course.

"First, for your live bait of fish, a Roach or Dace is, (I think) best and most tempting, and a Pearch is the longest lived on a hook, and having cut off his fin on his back, which may be done without hurting him, you must take your knife (which cannot be too sharp), and betwixt the head and the fin on the back, cut or make an incision, or such a scar, as you may put the arming wier of your hook into it, with as little brusing or hurting the fish as art and diligence will enable you to do, and so carrying your arming wier along his back, unto, or near the tail of your Fish, betwixt the skin and the body of it, draw out that wier or arming of your hook at another scar near to his tail: then tie him about it with thred, but no harder than of necessity you must to prevent hurting the fish; and the better to avoid hurting the fish, some have a kind of probe to open the way, for the more easie entrance and passage of your wier or arming: but as for these time, and a little experience will teach you better than I can by words; therefore I will for the present say no more of this, but come next to give you some directions, how to bait your hook with a frog.

"Put your hook into his mouth, which you may easily do from the middle of April till August, and then the frogs mouth grows up, and he continues so for at least six moneths without eating, but is sustained, none but he whose name is Wonderful, knowes how, I say, put your hook, I mean the arming wyer through his mouth, and out at his gills, and then with a fine needle and silk sow the upper part of his legg with onely one stitch to the arming wire of your hook, or tie the frogs leg above the upper joynt to the armed wire, and in so doing, use him as though you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possibly, that he may live the longer.

"And now, having given you this direction for the baiting your ledger hook with a live Fish or frog, my next must be to tell you, how your hook thus baited must or may be used: and it is thus. Having fastned your hook to a line, which if it be not fourteen yards long, should not be lesse than twelve; you are to fasten that line to any bough near to a hole where a Pike is, or is likely to lie, or to have a haunt, and then wind your line on any forked stick, all your line except half a yard of it or rather more, and split that forked stick with such a nick or notch at one end of it, as may keep the line from any more of it raveling from about the stick, then so much of it as you intended; and chuse your forked stick to be of that bigness as may keep the fish or frog from pulling the forked stick under the water till the Pike bites, and then the Pike having pulled the line forth of the clift or nick of that stick in which it was gently fastned, will have line enough to go to his hold and powch the bait: and if you would have this ledger bait to keep at a fixt place, undisturbed by wind or other accidents which may drive it to the shore side (for you are to note, that it is likeliest to catch a Pike in the midst of the water), than hang a small Plummet of lead, a stone, or piece of tyle, or a turf in a string, and cast it into the water, with the forked stick, to hang upon the ground to be an Anchor to keep the forked stick from moving out of your intended place till the Pike come. This I take to be a very good way, to use so many ledger baits as you intend to make trial of.

"Or if you bait your hooks thus with live Fish or Frogs, and in a windy day, fasten them thus to a bough or bundle of straw, and by the help of that wind can get them to move crosse a pond or mere, you are like to stand still on the shore and see sport, if there be any store of Pikes, or these live Baits may make sport, being tied about the body or wings of a Goose or Duck, and she chased over a Pond: and the like may be done with turning three or four live baits thus fastened to bladders, or boughs, or bottles of hay or flags, to swim down a River, whilst you walk quietly alone on the shore, and are still in expectation of sport.

"The rest must be taught you by practice; for time will not allow me to say more of this kind of fishing with live baits. And for your dead bait for a Pike, for that you may be taught by one dayes going a fishing with me, or any other body that fishes for him, for the baiting your hook with a dead Gudgeon or a Roach, and moving it up and down the Water, is too easie a thing to take up any time to direct you to do it; and yet, because I cut you short in that, I will commute for it, by telling you that that was told me for a secret: it is this;

"Dissolve Gum of Ivy in Oyle of Spike, and therewith annoynt your dead bait for a Pike, and then cast it into a likely place, and when it has lain a short time at the bottom, draw it towards the top of the water and so up the stream, and it is more then likely that you have a Pike follow with more than common eagerness."

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Can it get any worse..?

We used to catch loads here, I tell Matty, as we plot up on a corner overlooking one of the deepest parts of the pit.

Today looked so perfect, it took several run-less hours to put a dent in my confidence. Mild and overcast, nice ripple - ideal conditions to start making up for lost time with a few fish .

We'd looked at two other waters - the water had risen far enough to make the most likely swims on one unfishable, while someone was already in the best swims on the other, leaving just a corner with a cross-wind tearing into it.

After a couple of hours watching motionless floats, I put a bait out as far as I could popped up off the lead link on my tangle-proof pop-up rig. After an hour or so of twitching it back and re-casting, the alarm goes. The line's slackening as it comes towards me.

When I pick up the rod, it stops. Any second now, it'll roar off with it, I tell myself. But it's long gone. When I reel it in, I find the trace has tangled around the lead link on my tangle-proof rig. This turns out to be the only offer of the day.

A guy who dropped into the corner I didn't like the look of appears. He's had four, but for some reason seems to want to move into our swim. We debate this, as the man in the corner heads off somewhere else. An  hour or so later, he rings Matty, to check if we've moved anywhere else.

I wonder if he knows something we don't. Maybe it's done a big fish. We sit there until dusk, when the geese lift off in great screaming skeins, but nothing happens.

I realise this is my 30th trip of the season, when I get home and tap out a quick update. Thirty trips - admittedly some of them short ones, not to mention several on a water which it now appears there aren't any pike. But 10 fish in 30 trips, not even a double let alone a twenty.

At least it can't get any worse. Or can it..?

Monday, December 03, 2012

Time for bigger floats and heavier rigs

One thing that's become obvious over the last couple of days is that the rigs I've been using just aren't heavy enough to cope with the flows I've been trying to fish in.

So I've broke a couple of rods down and tackled them up with the biggest through-the-middle sliders I've got, eight-inch polystyrene sea floats. I reckon these will stay up in any flow the drains can throw at them.

This all looks mighty crude, compared to my usual way of fishing, but I can't see me catching much until I can at least cope with the conditions. So its out with the big sliders, two or three ounce running leads and a trace with the hooks stepped up to size twos for good measure.

Who pulled the chain..?

I thought it was going to be game on today, particularly as I knew no-one had been on the bit of drain I'd pitched up on for several days. It was filling up slowly when I turned up at lunchtime and got the rods in. No hurry as the last hour is widely acknowleged to be the best time on here.

I sit on the rods all afternoon and sure enough, the bungs only move when enough wind-blown weed catches around the braid to pull one under. Things briefly look more promising as the sun's about to drop below the flood bank, as the wind drops and the drain stands still.

I recast the rods, baits dropped up and down the margins and two across to the far side. I start thinking I might get one for a minute or two. Then the water shivers and the surface boils and eddies, as the drain goes from dead stop to running off hard in the space of a couple of minutes, like someone, somewhere pulled the chain.

I debate whether to stay until dark with baits reeled in under the rod tops, which is the only place my rigs will hold in the flow even with rods up high and the biggest leads I've got, but I give it up and hit the road instead.

I know I'm not the only one who's starting to wonder what on earth's going on, as a procession of weather from autumn into winter fails to kick the fishing into gear. It's been so bad I daren't have a week or two off it now, because I don't want to miss out if it all comes back on with a bang for a few days.

With three months of the season left in the Fens, I'd like to think it might do. I just hope it happens soon.

Iconic socks live up to their name

Iconic. As in Iconic Socks. If you're Eddie Turner and you bring out a 21st Century version of the Driftmaster pike rod, you can probably get away with calling it iconic. But iconic socks..?

Rewind a few weeks, when I went to a tackle shop to buy socks. When I asked the man behind the counter where he'd hid the Skeetex, he said: "H'int got none. They 'int making 'em any more."

Mourning the demise of your favourite toe rags might sound slightly sad - even for me. But before I got round to surfing the net to buy up any I could find online, I got a pair of these in Tesco. Every little helps. And blast me they're warm. They also don't appear to wear out as fast as Skeetex.

They were £6 in Tesco - but I've seen them cheaper since then in garages and got this pair for £3.50 in one of those discount shops that sell plastic tidy boxes, bulk rolling papers and lighters with pictures of Bob Marley or scantily-clad ladies.

I'm still not sure if they're iconic. But they don't half keep your feet warm.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

A run a chuck - thanks to the cursed weed

For the second day in a row, I marvel at the torrent surging through the sluice into the swollen channel. The drain's even higher, sloshing over the deserted banks. But something's changed from yesterday. There are goosanders and a couple of cormorants working an area of the opposite bank, where there are clumps of weed on the surface. The goosanders are moving, but the weed isn't - slack water an easy chuck from the bank.

I fancy this slightly more than the stretch I was planning to head for the couple of hours into dark. The fields are still frozen solid, while a line of flotsam shows how high the drain rose a few hours earlier. High tide was at 08:10am, with low water at 5:45pm.

So by mid-afternoon, with the gates open 12 miles away at the King's Lynn end, the channel's going to be running off hard. Not ideal conditions. But there's two hours of daylight left and something's got to have attracted fish eating birds to the spot.

It turns out to be a run a chuck all afternoon - as in runs from the clumps of weed moving in the slight backward flow, where the main current hits water pouring in from another drain. I switch to big  leads and sea floats but can't keep enough line off the water to fish where I want - the visible crease where slacker water meets the full force of the flow.

The Chipper Bailiff looks in. The stretch I was planning to head for is in perfect nick, he says. There are 45 minutes of daylight left. Insufficient time to pack up, walk back to the car, head down there and get the baits in, so I opt to stay put - if I could only beat the cursed weed, I should be in with a shout. 

I realise something else, as I look down at the drain after the CB disappears elsewhere on his rounds. The level's fallen by getting on for two feet in as many hours. There are already fears that fish are being swept through the sluice at St Germans into the tidal Ouse.

As the sun dips beneath the sluice, the drain blushes pink before darkness falls.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Water, water, everywhere in the Fens

When I looked over the bridge by the big sluice at Denver, I'd never seen as much water flooding through.

The Relief Channel was up over the banks - that's some head of water, when you bear in mind it's 12 miles long and 80 - 100yds wide.

The Impoundment Sluice (no idea why it's called that...) was also open, meaning water was pouring in from the Cut-Off, as well as the Ouse. I'll normally have a few casts regardless, but words like hopeless don't quite sum up the magnitude of how daft you'd have to be to expect to catch anything in that.

This is why we've been digging drains, diverting rivers and building banks and sluices for hundreds of years in the Fens. It might not do the fishing any favours when the system goes into flush mode, but it prevents the incredible scenes of flooding and devastation wrought by the downpours elsewhere.

Just about the only things that flood - apart from the odd corner of a spud field - are the washes at Welney and elsewhere, which were designed to flood by Vermuyden, the architect of much of the system.

There one or two things the great drainers didn't factor into their calculations. The first was how much the peat would shrink, leaving rivers twenty feet above it and vast tracts of the Black Fen the same distance or more below sea level.

The other was siltation, how the incoming tide would bring in more than the river could scour on the ebb; meaning parts of the Ouse are now badly silted. This hampers efforts to clear water off the Welney Washes, with all the problems that brings for the wildlife.

A little further downstream, it means they can't let water out into the tidal via the "eyes" of Denver Sluice, which in turn means water has to be discharged via the Relief Channel.

I check out several miles of river, which are practically deserted. I look in on a drain that's got a lock which keeps water from the rest of the system out - it's still within the banks but frozen over.

There are footprints everywhere up and down the bank by the one clear spot near a bridge - I wonder how many people have tried there already.

The idea of today was find somewhere fishable for the next couple of days. The jury's still out on that score.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Snow on the way for Norfolk..?

This might well be the scene that greets us tomorrow, with forecasters saying there's a chance Norfolk will awake to a sprinkling of snow. If not, we might well be in for a touch of the white stuff on Sunday, with a band of rain coming from the west hitting cold air over the badlands.

If I'm starting to sound a bit like a weather forecaster, it's because I've been reading through all kinds of websites, charts, satellite pictures and blogs all night. With several days' off ahead, I'm wondering what I'm letting myself in for on the weather front.

We seem to have escaped the worst of the deluge, looking at how the other side of the country's still counting the costs of the floods, with many pikers elsewhere facing a weekend off the water.

Some of the forecasts look quite dire for the next few days, but let's face it - it's winter. And however slow the start of the season's been, you can't catch them sitting at home in front of the fire.

Tomorrow's going to be a drive round and have a look-see at a few places, to see if I can second-guess how they're going to shape up over the week. I know where common sense tells me to fish, but I won't be alone in fancying this particular water so I'll wait until the week, when there's a bit more room on the bank.

+++Postscript - they got a bit of snow in Swaffham and a few flakes in Norwich.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

First the flood, next the freeze-up..?

That's definitely getting colder, I tell the Half Awake Barman. That definitely is, he replies. And they reckon that's gunna git even colder, I add. They do, agrees the HAB. Someone was saying that the other night.

That was me, I volunteer. I said it was going to be the coldest winter in 100 years. So it was, says the HAB. I stare into my pint, pleased that staff behind the bar of the Village Pub clearly value my penetrating insights into the issues of the day.

As I head homewards, frenzied sawing noises come from Hawkwind Sid's garden. He is demolishing his shed, ready to burn it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pumps run full belt as the Fens fills up with water

The pumps are running full belt out in the bayou as they work to keep the land from flooding. Ditches and dikes, lodes and leams, land drains and main drains are all full and coloured, pulling off hard as water surges for the sea.

I've seen this many times over the years, but never this early, I muse aloud, as I stand on Saddlebow Bridge with a colleague and survey the Relief Channel which is five feet higher than it was a few days back, with white caps whipped up by a gathering gale.

Nearby, the new pumps on the Middle Level at St Germans have kicked in as rain falling 50 miles inland swells the system. Gravel Bank and Smeeth Lode are brim-full and running off hard.

A bridge has fallen into the land drain near Marshland Smeeth, presumably cutting off a few homes from civilisation in the process.

As we sit down for a work meeting over sandwiches and cake, I look out of the window and know where I wish I was today. I console myself with the thought I'll be out there as the waters recede, if for once I've timed a run of days off right.

Judging by the forecasts, there might only be a brief respite before winter descends in earnest on the Fens. Pike fishing could well turn into a race against time, before the big freeze comes.

The picture of the pumps running at Ten Mile and the river frozen are both from a couple of winters back. But this is the scene that might well greet those who venture out in a week or two's time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A short-lived pike feeding frenzy on the pit

Nothing like a 50mph gale to focus your thoughts when it comes to where to fish. I toy with the idea of trying some new pits, but decide to try some old ones instead as the car sways in the wind tearing across the marshes.

I'm in no hurry to get out, thinking I'd let the storm that lashed the coast last night blow itself out first. By the time I get to the water, the skies are clearing and the wind's starting to die down.

The plan's a simple one - blast a couple out as far as I can heave them and twitch them back towards me, with a sneaky one down the margins. The first one's off as I'm fiddling with the rests on the second rod to keep the line out of the alders which line the banks.

I pull into a feisty little jouble - not quite a jack, not quite a double - that tears up and down in the clear water until I get the net under it. The hooks are out in a snick and as I drop it on the mat for a picture, the other rod goes.

Back goes one, out comes another slightly smaller pike which stays on despite the fact it's only attached via one point of the bottom hook.

Baits out again and the bluey down the margins trundles off in under a minute. I pick the rod up and pull into another jack. As I'm sinking the net under it, the other one goes. I drop net and fish in the margins and hook into what's obviously a much bigger fish which comes off inexplicably on the way in.

Goodness me, what rotten luck, I say. Or words to that effect. The jack's managed to get snarled up in the net, leaving me with a mess of trebles and mesh to sort out once I've dropped it back.

Seven or eight seasons back, I shared an incredible haul of 30-odd pike in this swim. I wonder if I'm on for something on a par with that today, so I take my time getting everything sorted, baits, spare traces and one or two other bits of kit to hand after I rebait the rods and sling 'em out again.

But the pike have got other ideas and the swim just dies on its feet. Common sense says move round the pit and see if I can find a few more. But it's turned into a glorious afternoon. And I wonder if it's gone quiet because a big fish has moved in, attracted by the jacks' thrashings.

As the last of the sun makes the birches shine like silver on the other bank, I wish I'd moved. As the light fades, the margin rod's away and the big pike that's taunted me through an afternoon's pipe dream turns out to be a six pounder, as the full moon rises over the pit.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Desolation Row

I go to the Village Shop to buy bread, but plump for a Bob Dylan CD, a jar of extra-strong Marmite and a bottle of peach schnapps instead. This is the way I roll these days - anarchic, unpredictable, on the edge.

Realising I still have £5 left, I decide to take a detour on the way home and reinject it into the rural economy via the Village Pub.

The lounge bar is empty apart from Malcolm and Hawkwind Sid, who was never actually a member of Hawkwind, but claims to have jammed with them when he used to *like, uh, do the festivals, man*.

"Hello stranger," says Malcolm, peering at the recycled carrier bag plonked on the bar. "Been shopping, have we..? What's this, Marmite, schnapps and - oh, get this Sid, the man of letters has bought a CD by the greatest poet of the sixties, as in uh, Bob, uh, Dylan, ma-a-a-an."

Malcom makes a peace sign over his gin and tonic. Sid scratches his crotch through his combat pants. "Like, uh, right," he says. "What's it, uh, got on it..?"

"Bob Dylan mainly," I reply. "Bought it to like, uh, listen to in the car."

"Never had you down for a Dylan man," Malcolm says. "Sid met him in the seventies once, didn't you Sid..?"

"Uh, like, yeah, uh, no, that was Lemmy," says Sid. "When he was, like, uh, in Hawkwind. Or maybe after he left and, uh, formed Motorhead."

Quality conversation with my neighbours is one of the reasons I enjoy the occasional visit to the Village Pub. We are unsure when Motorhead were formed. I plump for 1980. Malcolm thinks I've confused them with Radiohead.

The latter half of the 20th Century is largely a blank as far as Sid's concerned. His dog is called Lemmy, in memory of temps perdu, but said hound does not play bass guitar for Motorhead, or have a wart on his nose.

Half way down my pint of Shuck, Malcolm disappears to water the horses.

"Uh, I was, like, uh, wondering something," says Hawkwind Sid. "I thought you were, like, uh, a journalist, man."

I reply in the affirmative, eyeing up my rapidly emptying glass.

"But Malcolm said you were, like, uh, a man of letters," Sid continues, clearly perplexed. "So if I buy you another pint, would you like, uh, write one to my probation officer..?"

Two hours and several pints later, I stick on the Dylan CD, sit down in my study with the bottle of schnapps and start writing.

Dear Mr Jenkins,

I am truly sorry for the mess that Lemmy my dog made in the probation office. I particularly regret the fact that he urinated on your photocopier, rendering it inoperable and causing a power cut in which your colleagues lost their work.

I hope that the remorse I feel on behalf of Lemmy regarding Friday's events will go some way towards assuring you that I am a changed man who is well on his way to rehabilitation. While I have not, strictly speaking, breached the terms of my licence, since preventing my dog from urinating on office equipment was not included in my parole conditions, I am willing to make a donation of £50 towards a charity of your choice by way of recompense.

Yours Sincerely,

Sidney Breeze Esq

I e-mail it to Sid, along with instructions on how to buy a stamp, attach it to the envelope and address it to the probation office.

Let no-one say I'm not prepared to go the extra mile for my mates.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Good vibrations for pike fishing

Here's an interesting theory which came out of last night's Lynn PAC meeting. Do the vibrations caused by trains going over railway bridges, or traffic going over road crossings sometimes stimulate a pike to pick your bait up..?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An evening with Steve Rodwell

Rodders did us proud with an entertaining talk at tonight's King's Lynn PAC meeting. One of pike fishing's larger than life characters, he's also probably one of the greats among the current generation of Fenland pike anglers.

There was plenty of banter. We got side-tracked here and there with the mysteries of piles and a certain well-known personage's wedding tackle trick - which I wouldn't recommend  anyone trying after a few shandies.

There were also one or two touches of brilliance, little theories and snippets which made sense when you stopped to think about them.

Pike fishing's all the richer for people like Rodders, whose love of the game shines on despite the decline we've all experienced in recent seasons. Truly a top notch evening.

Next month, Big Ash (as opposed to Young Ash and Little Ash...) has lined up something completely different, as John Cleese used to say. Zandavan, aka zander and eel nut Barry McConnell, will be on the oche.

It'll be at the Burt on Wednesday, December 19 (7.30pm).  Get you along, buh.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Postcard from Norfolk - the Barbecue Swim

HOTSPOT: Remains of a bankside barbecue, still smouldering away on the bank of the drain this morning.

Last roll of the dice throws up a pike

There aren't meant to be any pike in this place, officially. After fishing places which do have pike in all day and only managing to catch a large fertiliser bag, I thought I'd try the old borrow pit for half an hour on the way home.

Tucked behind the retirement bungalows with their wind chimes and manicured lawns, it doesn't exactly scream pike as dusk falls on the platforms and the picnic benches.

Three or four casts later, the rod's got other ideas, as one hits the lure so hard it nearly pulls it out of my hand.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Relief for Old Bedford as dredgers move in

There's been plenty of lobbying going on behind the scenes since the EA started letting water into the Old Bedford from the tidal Ouse to replenish levels after abstraction a couple of summers back. 

The Salter's Lode end of the drain soon began to silt up, with reed encroaching into the channel. Of all the drains, recent history shows the Bedford to be most prone to fish kills after heavy summer rain "turns" the water.

Now the EA has started making good the damage, with a pontoon dredger backed up with a bigger version on the bank. It might wreck the fishing for a few weeks, but it will help secure the future of this historically-important pike fishery.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The PAC president's new address

The Angling Trust has appointed Dilip Sarkar, a "recent former president of the Pike Anglers Club" as its first-ever enforcement officer.

Recent, to say the least. For I'm not sure exactly when he went from being president to former president, but the copy of Pikelines which arrived on the same day as the Angling Trust's press release has a two-page President's Address chronicling Dilip's recent activities on the PAC's behalf.

"One of the best things about PAC, I have always thought, is being connected with like-minded people," he writes. "I'm sure we've all made many friends."

I'm sure some of those like-minded people would now love to know what's been going on behind the scenes of late. And I'm sure they'd rather hear it from the club, than the first angling journalist who decides it's worth investigating this a little further.

The PAC has been a cornerstone of pike fishing for more than 30 years. It's survived worse in its time. It needs to get a grip on this and move on.

++The PAC has announced Mark Green as its new president on Twitter tonight.

+++Angling Trust press release of November 14 *linky*.

How time flies pike fishing in the Fens

I started this a year ago today. It's amazing how time flies.

It's even more amazing how many people now visit this blog on a regular basis.
Some of them leave comments. Some of them rib me about it when they see me on the bank.

It's all good fun - not to mention largely being composed of my honestly-held personal opinions, rather than conjecture or speculation being presented as fact.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An evening with Rodders

Steve Rodwell's the special guest at next week's King's Lynn PAC meeting - definitely one not to be missed. It's at the Wm Burt Club at West Winch on Wednesday, November 21 (7.30pm). 

Having fished with the bloke once or twice, he's a real legend who seems to be at home on just about any kind of water.

It's hard to think of anyone as consistent when it comes to catching those hallowed twenties in recent seasons. While others struggle, Rodders catches.

See you there.....

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Slow start to pike fishing in the Fens

It says a lot when November comes around and you're running out of ideas already. Just about everyone else I know is struggling, which lessens the pain somewhat. But the question that remains is why.

I spoke briefly to a couple of the Cambs guys at last week's King's Lynn PAC meeting. One said the smaller fish which used to save a blank seem to have disappeared from a lot of waters down their way.

The swim above used to reliably hold a few pike of all sizes, as it's on a deep bend where the roach and skimmers shoal. Nowadays, getting a run's an event in itself on there.

One school of thought doing the rounds is there's now so much food in our drains and rivers that the pike are probably swimming around stuffed to the gills. Well fed pike are much harder to catch than hungry pike, for obvious reasons.

Lure anglers seem to be faring better than the herring soakers at the moment - possibly because pike will attack a lure on instinct, whereas one with a full belly might baulk at cramming in another deadbait.

I'm not sure I agree with the idea that the first frosts will throw the switch and bring them on the feed. But in the 15 seasons I've fished the Fens, I've normally caught far more fish in the first couple of months of the season than the rest of it put together.

This could be because I usually fish a lot harder for the first few weeks after the summer lay-off, because I'm full of the joys of going pike fishing again. Christmas is usually followed by a cold snap, meaning January and February can be quite slow in my experience.

Instead of a few hints on waters to try, my response to a couple of e-mails from anglers thinking of having a go in the Fens has been don't bother - it's so slow at the moment it's not worth the effort and expense of travelling from the North or Midlands.

This is a warts and all blog, meaning one that tells it like it is. Someone also suggested I was down playing things to put people off fishing the waters I fish. If I was catching, I'd be saying so - probably without mentioning where.

I met some Polish guys who'd travelled up from London for a weekend's fishing the other day. They were serious lure anglers, who looked like they knew what they were doing. One said he'd heard and read so much about the Fens he was surprised how hard it was to find a few fish. Join the club mate, I said.

Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door

The Chipper Bailiff has tears in his eyes as he hands me the revolver. "I'm, um, we're all really sorry it, um, had to end like this," he says.

"It's not your fault old podna," I reassure the Chipper Bailiff, as a I chamber a round in the breech and flick off the safety catch. "It's just one of those things."

"But I used to like checking your ticket," he sobs. "I mean, you were one of the ones I used to look forward to seeing on the river. We always used to have a right old mardle.

"I never realised all them times you said you hadn't caught any you was tellin' the truth."

As I kneel down in the reeds, the Chipper Bailiff's mobile phone goes. He has Knockin' on Heaven's Door as his ringtone.

Greys Prodigy Tip & Butt Protectors

Chef asked me if I'd ever broken a rod the other day. I don't know if this was a comment on my casting, as the tip bounced off a tree in mid-chuck.

It's probably a testament to how well made modern pike rods are that we don't break more of them heaving them in and out of the car or rattling around on the boat.

With a change to a smaller vehicle imminent, I'll have less space to cram everything into, so I'm stepping up the protection afforded to my eye-wateringly expensive collection of carbon fibre. I've seen one or two people using these tip and butt protectors from Greys.

They pass my usual maxim of if my mates can't break it, then it's probably a fairly durable bit of kit with flying colours. I liked them straight out of the packet, especially as they were £5.99 a pair from Harris.

The slimmer one fits snugly over the butt and tip of a rod once you reverse the sections and hold them together with a rod band above the reel to keep them secure and hold the trace clip. The thicker one will hold two rods if you use it to cover the male and female half of the spigot or overfit (if you have posher rods than me...).

One minor disappointment is the tip/butt half of the bundled up rod won't fit into the pocket of a Korda quiver with one of the protectors on. No big drama, as I don't always use a quiver.

They fasten securely with the Velcro strap and offer far more protection than using a rod band to keep the tip and butt sections together.

Half price Rapala Glidin' Rap

I didn't know Rapala made jerkbaits either. First impressions of this one straight out of the box are it's a well-made, good looking lure. It's roughly the same shape and size as a Shad Rap, but without the lip and with finer-guage VMC trebles.

Not every mass-produced lure does what it says on the tin, but they reckon this one will get down to 5ft and zig zag if you bring it in with downward taps of the rod. I'll let you know how I get on with it.

+++They're half price at Harris Sportsmail at the moment - £8.49 instead of £16.99.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Chef rustles up a quick pike

As we pitched up in Sump Corner, I glibly told Chef I managed to nail seven or eight last time I fished here. I felt quite confident as I threw a joey down the reed line and launched another one out into the deeps.

Skeins of geese glide in as we bustle over the rods. Netting a fish here means a balancing act on the mat of dying flag rush - possibly a wet foot.

But it's a glorious morning as a brisk westerly pushes the clouds down the valley. And if catching one means soggy tootsies, I have a spare pair of socks in the car; which means in theory I could net three before risking trench foot.

When Chef's float goes, I discover he has come wearing clodhoppers which are waterproof to a depth of a couple of inches, so in I go to net it. My socks stay dry as out comes a gloriously pristine, if slightly pissed off-looking pike.

I guess if you fastened your munching gear around a nice fat sardine, got yanked out of the lake and ended up with me and Chef staring at you, it might drive a coach and horses through your morning.

This is it, I'm thinking. We might catch a few today. This turns out to be a somewhat  optimistic prognosis, as we move to a nearby water, then another, with a lost fish the only other run.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Remembering Johnny Block

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Johnny Block's death from cancer.  I was hoping to get out but ended up going out to remember him today.

He lived on steak and potatoes, washed down with the odd whisky, in a log cabin in the woods. Johnny wore his love of the countryside on his sleeve and if you shared his fascination with the weather, the changing seasons and the comings and goings of the wildlife, you were on his wavelength.

I still miss him now, for all the laughs and all the wisdom he shared in the 10 years or so I knew him. I fished some swims which held John-shaped memories, times I'll always treasure, on the sprawl of gravel pits he used to look after.

I nearly caught one in a spot he used to rib me rotten about, as the drizzle quickened into a shower. The float shot off as I twitched a joey along some trailing alders, but it came off as I pulled into it.

I could just picture him laughing his head off up there somewhere, great puffs of cigar smoke making the angels splutter.

Gamakatsu G-Point trebles

Got some of these on impulse when I ordered a few packets of Owners to top up my rig bins. Got to say they're seriously, seriously sharp straight out of the packet, nice round bend pattern with a whisker barb.

My two slight reservations are that the barb's perhaps a bit too shy and the eyes seem a little bigger than the Owners I've been using for the last couple of seasons.  At £2.99 for five, they're in the same price bracket - I wonder why people who make premium hooks don't at least package them in even numbers, so you get enough to make two or three traces.

I can see me using these on smaller sea deads. When I get round to catching on them, I'll let you know how they fare. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don't miss our date with Mr Barrett

Mark Barrett's going to be joining us for our first meeting of the winter at the Wm Burt Club on Wednesday, October 31 (8pm).

It's got all the makings of an interesting night, because as well as the odd big zander - like the one on the left - Mr B's racked up an impressive tally of other species from the Fens.

We'll be announcing one or two other things. Well, Ash says we will; like a pike comp, future meetings etc, so best turn up if you can.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A grey old afternoon on the drain

Hang on a minute - that beer can wasn't there yesterday. I suppose it's a bit much to rock up at lunchtime and expect no-one else to have seen the obvious signs of prey fish shoaled up in this bit of the drain, but whoever it was could at least have taken their rubbish home.

I decide to give it an afternoon in any case. A grey old afternoon, that looks like it's going to piss down when it gets round to it. I extract the rods from the quiver and hoof the first bait to the crease where water's gushing in from a side drain.

It's off before I've even got the second one out or the net made up. I pull into the fish and it comes off after a couple of head shakes. I can't get the bait back in and the others out fast enough, thinking I've dropped on them.

Two of the rods are on poppernosters - whole bloods popped up on long links, which should hopefully sit the length of the trace off the bottom. The other's got a mackerel on, float-fished over-depth so I can twitch it about and see where any takes occur.

Somehow, I manage to miss a couple more before it finally gets round to raining. Whatever they are, I begin to wonder if they're pike, after I fail to connect with a screamer and find the bait un-marked. Never mind, I say, as I convince myself to stay until dusk. At least there's something out there. Snag was, I never got to find out what it was.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nothing ever stays the same in the Fens

I mean to start where I left off but the fish have other ideas. I can see their point, on a drain which has come up a couple of feet and is still rising by the time I drag myself out there.

I start off close to where we finished up yesterday, moving further into no man's land. I get a follow in the third or fourth swim I try, followed by a tentative take or two just off the weed that shrouds the margins.

The pike seem to have moved into the edges where the margins drop away - probably because the drain's been run off hard overnight ready for another to-up today. I can't quite get the lures to work close enough to the weed to get a decent hit without catching the green stuff.

I decide to head for another part of the system where I missed the boat last season, to see if it might do the business this time around.

Grebes are working an area a couple of hundred yards long, while a squadron of gulls and terns are diving. Find the prey fish, find the pike.

But I can't quite get to it with the lure rods, so I call it a day and head home to dig out the big guns and tie up some poppernosters.

Nothing ever stays the same in the Fens.

An otter's leftovers beside the drain..?

Despite the number of otters I've seen in recent weeks, this bream we found yesterday is the first carcass I've found which looks like an otter's had a hand in it.

It was some distance from the water, half way up the floodbank, on a stretch where there's a sheer bank too high for even an otter to drag a fish of this size up.

It must have dragged it for 10yds or so, from a bit of bank that's collapsed into the drain. Looking at the displaced scales, whatever hauled it up the bank grabbed it near the wrist of its tail. I'm not sure if the otter dragged the fish up the bank and left it for something else - perhaps a mink or even rats to dine on.

The drain's got large shoals of bream around this size in it, so one down's no great drama in the scheme of things. I did see what looked like spraint a few yards down the bank, but with the rain and other disturbance on the bank it was hard to tell for sure.

I remain convinced otters aren't the menace they're made out to be. Not to our wild fish populations, at least. But I have to admit to becoming increasingly fascinated by these creatures, as they recolonise our waterways.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Relief Channel set for enforcement blitz

As soon as I hear the story on the local radio, I get that here we go again kind of sinking feeling.

"Fisheries officers will be taking to the water this weekend to tackle illegal fishing on the Great Ouse Relief Channel," the news reader says.

"This is the first time an approach from the water has been made and is in response to information received about individuals fishing from dinghies."

You wonder what's happened to the fledgling River Watch operating in the Fens and the idea that intelligence passed on by the pike angling community would be acted upon.

Because instead of going out there and catching those responsible in the act, the EA sends out a press release warning that "with the pike fishing season in full swing", we all need to make sure we're fishing legally.

If you were thinking of fishing illegally on the Relief Channel, you'd probably opt for a change of venue if you heard tomorrow's crackdown advertised on Radio Norfolk. I expect the enforcement officers involved will feel like the rug's been pulled out from under their feet.

Now the gaff's been blown, the illegal fishing that's been reported in recent weeks wasn't even on the Relief Channel. It was on the Middle Level, where people have been seen behaving suspiciously in rubber dinghies.

Of jacks and jerkbaits

I see it following the lure - a good double that turns away from the jerkbait at the last second in a puff of silt. Next cast, the same thing happens. I swop the jerk for a Shad Rap, which fails to entice the pike back. I grab the lighter rod with a Kickin' Minnow and a jack hits it instead.

Ash comes down the bank to check I've really caught one, astonishment written all over his face. When I hand him my phone to capture the moment, he says: "Th'ass a bit smaller than the last one I photographed you with..."

Small it might have been. But after a run of blanks which was monumental even by my standards, I could have kissed it. Five minutes later, a slightly bigger one hits but comes off just before I can grab it.

Then Ash gets one, which being Ash had to be three times bigger than the one I caught, ie 6lbs on a good day. Never mind mate - at least we're catching.

The drain was backing up when we got there after a fish-less foray on one of the rivers. The river looked OK, but we soon got bored with it. The drain looks like it might produce a few more, as the gentle backward flow stops.

We set off for a yomp and find another pocket of pike a few hundred yards down the bank. We're missing as many as we're catching but it's turning into an absorbing afternoon all the same.  Lures are Ash's weapon of choice these days and he rings the changes with a succession of rubber shads with different weightings.

I stick on a great big Smuttley I got from Chico back in the days when I was into lure fishing. Ash asks: "What you tryin' to do - knock 'em out..?" But what Mr Smuttley might lack in the finesse department, he makes up for by being the lure I can throw the furthest.

Looking at the drain, which is a couple of feet below its normal level, I have a feeling the fish are going to be out towards the middle, where it's slightly deeper than along the sides on the bank we're fishing. Mr Smuttley does something else, when you chuck him 50yds and tap him back with thick, floating braid on your reel.

I've caught two more before I suss what this is. Ash twigs before I work it out - despite the great swirls which accompany both takes, along with a couple more I bump off or fail to connect with.

My lure's riding quite high in the water, zig-zagging along a couple of feet below the surface. Apart from the fact I'm not catching any of the weed which grows in great clumps here and there, the pike seem to like it in the top half of the water column.

I'm guessing this is because pike sitting in the weed or on  the bottom can see the lure a mile off as it jinks and dithers in the top layers.

Ash switches to a shad which does the same and bags a couple more. By now the drizzle's turned into a downpour. I sneak out another, before we retrace our steps back to the swim where we had our first flurry.

By now, the drain's started running off. There's a slacker in the bank and it's opened up, letting water gush in from a land drain. A couple of other half-hearted swirls and missed takes later, we're trudging back to the car, soaking wet.

Later, I wonder if this is the turning point, as I sling my Sundies on the radiators to dry. Can't wait for tomorrow podnas - maybe see you out there.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Will rain boost pike fishing prospects in the Fens?

I wonder if rain's the missing part of the puzzle, as far as the Fens are concerned. I wonder if the downpours forecast for the next couple of days are going to tip the balance in our favour, bringing gin-clear stretches of river alive.

One or two mates have been catching. I've been trying to work out what's so different, on the part of the system they've been fishing, to the bits I've been blanking so spectacularly on. I can't see I'm going to learn much by just jumping on there. The difference is clearly what counts, if I could only work out what the difference is.

The way things panned out last season had a common theme to it, if you knew what was coming out where as Autumn came to the bayou.

Waters covered in azolla cleared. Those who were on them when the lid came off caught pike. You could see the change work its way up the food chain, starting with the fly hatches which happened as the light hit the water.

The rudd went mad, followed by the jacks. Bigger pike moved in. We caught one or two of them. This year it's all different. Clear water, abundant bottom weed. I've probably seen more pike than I caught all of last season already, here and there - but they've defied my efforts.

In a bizarre kind of way, I'm enjoying my fishing far out of proportion to the lack of fish I've caught. This is partly because I've been exploring places my gut instinct tells me will come good sooner or later.

I'll stick my neck on the line and say it's going to change soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted

Off to a new bit of river that's a bit of a walk. Nearly an hour's walk, in fact, once I've worked out how to actually get to it. This is what most people call the far bank, as most choose to fish this stretch from the opposite bank, which has a road running along it.

A lot of them then cast all the way across the river to this bank, myself included on my odd forays along the other side. The far bank, which is the near bank to all intents and purposes today, is totally different to the other bank.

It has cattle living on it, for starters. A rough-haired, rag-tag herd that have munched their way not only through the grass, but seem also to have denuded the banks of the fringe of flag rush that grows in great waving regiments elsewhere along both banks.

That means the far bank's bare and open enough to leap frog the rods along it. I have a plumb about to suss the depths as I get set up a couple of miles from the car. Interesting discovery number two - there's a shelf that goes out where it's shallower, instead of the plunge into 20ft of water on the other side.

The wind's tricky and the floats need 2oz leads to keep the baits anchored. Wrong floats too, but I can't be bothered to change to big inline sliders for this afternoon's scouting mission.

A mate texts from another water. He's catching but off soon. I decide to stick it out and leap frog the rods along this stretch instead of moving into his swim.

Even if I don't catch today, I'll get to know part of the river I've been meaning and meaning to try.

This is what my pike fishing's now become - shorter sessions, trying places which might come good later on once we've had some rain and the system colours up a bit.

Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted, as Dick Walker once said. Or was it the Duke of Wellington.