Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Another ice mess you got me into

Large stretches of the drain are clear when I roll up just after dawn. About the only bit that's still frozen is the bit I was banking on fishing, which still has sheet ice stretching two-thirds of the way across.

Goosanders take off in droves as I hop down the bank for a closer look. The ice is trembling in the wind and there are cracks and holes starting to appear in both swims I fancied.

Thirty yards down the bank, where you never seem to catch anything, it's clear. So I elect to start off in the clear swim, in the hope the one I want to fish will thaw enough to get the rods in.

By 10am, the ice is starting to visibly recede and turn from opaque to clear. Thawing fast. A westerly's got up and lumps are drifting off down the drain in the ripple.

By lunchtime, it's not quite clear enough to fish. But I'm worried someone else will dive in if I don't, so I cart the gear up the bank and as I'm getting the rods baited ready to go, the sheet breaks away from the bank and drifts across the drain. Now we're in business.

I can fish the near margins comfortably, as the ice clears off to the other side. I drop two in tight to bank on either side and one out on the edge of the ice, which by now has fetched up two-thirds of the way over.

I'm feeling confident by now. It must be 10C, I'm sitting up the bank with a fleece on as woodpeckers drum in the trees further up the drain. By 2pm, the last of the ice has drifted off in the breeze.

One of the floats down the side trembles and starts inching towards me leaving a tiny V-wake.As it picks up speed, I reel in the slack and bend in hard with the rod smacking the reeds.

A tail comes on top in a big swirl as a big pike wallows briefly on the top before she crash-dives for the depths.

I'm liking this. I'm liking this a lot more as she bounces about on the end without really going anywhere, as the rod stays doubled over. Good fish.

When I gain a few turns of line, she comes on top and I see how lightly-hooked she is - one point of the bottom hook at the very apex of her top jaw. I'm not liking this bit quite so much.

She rolls a rod length out, inviting the net. Got to be a good twenty. I see it all in slow-mo, as I up the pressure slightly, to guide her in towards it the mesh as I slide it out to meet her.

Instead of engulfing the fish, the net snags on something in the margins. It's a big stick, with something red on the end - a bait popper, connected to a trace someone's bust off on it.

Stalemate for a second or two. Then she throws a head shake and she's gone in a swirl, as the hooks fly up the bank behind me.

I grab the stick and find it's connected to the net with a trace, complete with popper and a leger boom. I cut the hooks out of the net, sit down and marvel at how quickly it can all go wrong.

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