Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stitched up like a kipper, or just the time of year

The float dips briefly and re-appears before I get to the rod, as the sky over to the west turns pink. For the second time this afternoon, I reel in a teeth-marked bait a pike's picked up and had second thoughts about before I've had a chance to sink my hooks into it.

Pike can be finicky this time of year, as milder temperatures and longer days re-kindle the urge to spawn. Knowing where they're heading is only half the battle. You've still got to catch them, at a time when their minds are turning to other things.

I'm sitting on the edge of a spawning spot. The baits are placed along the margins leading up to it. The water's quiet - suspiciously so, making me wonder if the usual suspects are murdering them somewhere else.

Pike fishing breeds suspicion. Have I been stitched up like a kipper by the chorus of yew wanna get on there in the afternoon, fish 'till dark. Did the local Esox Mafia stage a dawn raid, sack up and disappear while I was still in bed, dreaming of a thirty.

Are they all laughing somewhere as they toast a successful morning..? As in where's four-eyes - bet the daft twunt swallowed that fish till dark business, bet he's still sitting there now.

As this dark thought festers away at the back of my mind, I start running through the long list of reasons why I'm not catching. It all comes down to the time of year, the weather, bet they're on the move to where they spawn, which is exactly where I'm sitting give or take a few yards.

So I decide to sit it out as planned and chuck the baits out again. I even get a couple of fish pick them up, as the afternoon wears on towards evening, but both drop them. Earlier in the season, I'd probably have played around with a rig, tried different baits, popped one up or something.

There's no point now. The only thing which is going to salvage today is if a fish holds onto the bait long enough for me to give it some prong.

Once again, the river comes alive as the wind drops and the sun breaks through beneath the low cloud for the last half hour or so before it disappears beneath the floodbank. Prey fish are topping all around the floats.

But there are no swirls and fry skittering away for their lives, as some predator takes advantage of the sudden burst of surface activity. I know they're here, all the same.

The season's dying on its feet in the Fens. Just two weeks left, a few more days to eke out another twenty if fickle fortune smiles.

I reel the floats closer as the light goes, still thinking it's going to happen until it's too dark to see any point in staying. I drive home wishing I could get back out tomorrow.

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