Thursday, March 15, 2012
So long then, 2011/12 season - roll on 2012/13
Looking back it's been a real grueller at times. I can't grumble about one or two of the better fish I caught, but leave them out of the equation and I probably blanked four times for every fish I caught. In fact in 2011/12, most days passed without a single run.
Most people I've fished with or bumped into on the bank had a similar story to tell. Been out 44 times now, blanked 26 of them, one mate said a week or two back.
The obvious question is why it's been so slow. I'm sure the weather had a hand in it, more precisely the lack of rain. Some also blame the fact November and December were far milder than normal, meaning the bait fish did not shoal up in their usual winter haunts on some waters.
I'm not sure whether this makes much difference or not, in the scheme of things. Pike feed when they're hungry, because they'd starve if they didn't. If your bait's in the right place, one might pick it up. That's probably all there is to it.
One water which did throw up several different twenties seemed to have an almost complete lack of small pike. It probably produced more doubles and twenties than jacks.
That might mean we'll be on a flier come next winter, if some of those mid-twenties pack a few more pounds on and nudge the 30lbs mark by the back-end when they're full of spawn. But that's assuming they make it through the summer, survive the widely-forecast drought and don't just disappear off to another part of the system.
If they do stick around, we could end up with a water which will peak spectacularly, get hammered when word gets out and then drift into the doldrums until another strong year class peaks a few years down the line when everyone's off caning somewhere else.
Something similar happened on another stretch of water not so long ago, where an exceptional season was followed by a run of mediocre winters, when twenties became increasingly rare.
That's the Fens for you. It's boom and bust, as waters come and go. A couple of years with poor spawning success upset the usual pyramid of pike a few years later, when they produce good fish in numbers for a season or two before they succumb to old age or angling pressure and the cycle begins anew.
Twenties are rare fish. Pike over 25lbs are even rarer. In my best season out of 14 in the Fens, when I landed or seven or eight twenties (depending whether you count the same one twice in a day as one or two...), I didn't catch one over 25lbs.
That's one thing I did manage this time around, though last November seems an age ago now. Right place, right day, float goes under. Sometimes, it's that simple, while people agonise over moon phases and feeding spells, air pressure and advancing cold fronts, mackerel or herring.
Looking ahead, it's a bit early for predictions when it comes to next season. But I have a feeling the drought's going to have a real impact if it's anything like as bad as predicted. It's probably not going to get any easier, either way. It rarely does.
I've got a couple of new waters up my sleeve. I've got a few years of dawn starts and clambering up and down the banks left in me yet before the knees give out or the odd senior moment turns into full-blown dementia.
Whatever happens, I'll be out there again come autumn, because I love it just as much as I ever did. If I've learned anything over the last few years, it's that the harder it gets, the more you appreciate every pike you catch.
It might not have been the best of seasons, but I did enjoy 2011/12 - for the odd big fish that came along, the company and some of the laughs we had on the way. Big up Rob, TLC, the three Ashes (big Ash, medium-sized Ash and the even smaller Ash I had a great afternoon with the other week...) ROM, Secret Van Man (so secret I've not dared mention him yet), Midnight Cowboy (not his real name...), and one or two others.
Johnny Block's death over-shadowed the start of the season for several of the rag-tag band above - a man who'd probably forgotten more about the countryside than most of us will ever know.
We loved him like the fishing that brought us together every winter. And I missed him every time I went back there, looking down the track still expecting him to come riding up on his moped or his mobility scooter to put us right..
Roll on 2012/13. Roll on autumn, when the big Fenland skies fill with geese at dawn. And roll on that feeling you get when the line tightens as a float slides away beneath the river, and you pick the rod up wondering what you're going to find on the other end.
Have a good summer. And keep on troshin'.
posted at 09:30