Saturday, June 30, 2012

To Coles of King's Lynn, for sardines

I've always been a big fan of Coles of King's Lynn. Tucked away on an industrial estate, on the way to Wisbechistan, it's well worth the trek for one reason. Their bags of sardines appear to have side-stepped the recession and still cost less than £2.50.

For this you get 10 glazed pilchards - as sardines are known in the part of the world where I come from, which have an almost metallic sheen to them when they thaw. I think they're just that bit fresher and oilier than the ones you get from bait companies - probably because they're good enough to eat.

Take them out still frozen and they're a great bait. Hardly anyone else seems to share my fondness for them, so maybe that adds to their appeal to the pike. You can also get a few casts out of one if you're careful, and make sure the top hook goes into their backbone before you sling 'em out.

There are other reasons Coles has a bit of a cult following, mainly among people who are fond of fish. They sell just about everything the sea throws up in this part of the world and beat the pants off the supermarkets when it comes to quality. Well worth a look next time you're passing - especially if you're into fish.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

John Roberts run rings reviewed

These might not look like the most exciting bit of kit, but two quid's worth will last you a season and enable you to make what's probably the perfect rig for legering deads. Thread one of the rings up your line, followed by one of the rubber beads and that's it - job sorted.

The bead will snug down over a size eight swivel or a Breakaway clip. Tie a link to the run ring and attach your lead to it. Simples.

Some people like a lead link longer than the trace. This looks all wrong to me, surely the fish will foul it with a hook point when it picks your bait up or get the link in its laughing gear, ergo lost lead or a pike with a headache after you smack it on the nose with your lead.

Mates tell me this is my usual paranoia, don't worry four eyes tie the lead on a three foot link and hull it out there. I tend to ignore this and have a link shorter than the trace, so the lead is just ahead of the bait.

Either way, you can cast a lot further than you can with a bomb running on the line straight off a bead or clip, with no link. You also get less tangles.

If the link wraps around the trace on the way in, get your scissors out and do like what we do - cut the tail off the bait, which is what makes it spin on the way back when you're reeling in. It also stops the tail masking a hook when you pull into a fish, so the ironmongery goes into the pike's gob, not the bait's tail.

The rings eventually groove if you use braid. I chuck them when this happens, as they're only 10p a throw. I've never had one break on me, even when using 4oz leads for distance or when the Ouse is flowing hard.

John Roberts make several other little bits and bobs that are usually a couple of quid for enough to last yonks.

Pike fishing's Royal connections

Maurice Roche - better known as Lord Fermoy - was the MP for King's Lynn in the 1920s and for a brief spell in the 1940s. He lived at Park House, on the Royal Estate and as a friend of King George V and keen angler could fish the lake at Sandringham.

This caption accompanying this undated picture in his autobiography says he's fishing for pike. There's no mistaking the building in the background.

I wonder what happened to the pike - or if there are any still in the lake, a stone's throw from the Queen's Norfolk retreat.

Could weevils be the answer to dreaded weed..?

Here's a familiar early season sight on some of the drains and rivers in the Fens. They call it blanket weed, but it's actually a species of fern called azolla, which can reproduce so fast it doubles in size in days and forms a thick blanket across the surface.

It comes from Australia and SE Asia, where it's grown alongside rice in paddy fields, to fertilise the old basmati and keep mosquitos at bay. When it gains a foothold in a drain, it soon ends up looking like this one.

In bad years, it can cover miles of waterway, making it impossible to fish. Now the Environment Agency is experimenting with a natural cure, that might nip the stuff in the bud.

Scientists introduced a load of weevils - bugs which feed ravenously on the stuff - to one of the Boston drains today. They're hoping it might be the answer. I know a lot of pike anglers who'd drink to that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last 20lbs pike from the Fens caught on film

Talking about the Ouse and my miserable failure to catch a twenty downstream of Queen Adelaide had me rooting through my old pictures to find one of a 20lbs pike from anywhere on that part of the system. I knew I'd had a few back in the dim and distant, when the river was throwing up a lot more of them than it has in recent seasons.

Here's one from - struggling to remember exactly when - the back-end of the season some years ago. After poncing about here and there all day, my partner in crime and I adjourned to an obvious feature where a degree of stealth was required.

I can't recall much else about the capture, other than it was probably the last fish of any size I caught which was photographed on film. Nowadays, thanks to digital cameras and phones that take pictures, we happily snap away all day.

A few years back a film would often last me half the season. Despite the fact I was once a photographer, this did not guarantee a clear, sharp shot of your latest twenty.

There would also be a nervous wait to see whether the pictures had come out, or whether they'd be fogged, wrongly-exposed or fall victim to some other catastrophe, like your mate cutting your head or half the fish off.

Worse still, if you used slide film, you had the added possibility of the pictures getting lost in the post to and from the lab - or, as once happened to me, getting someone else's slides instead. I can remember pictures of a low-twenty, that morphed into someone's office Christmas party by the time they landed on my doormat.

The girl photocopying her, um, charms brightened up my day. But I'm guessing the person who took them wasn't too impressed when he opened the envelope and found pictures of me with a fish. When I wrote and complained, I got a free roll of slide film.

Tornado risk 'high' in Fens tomorrow

Regular readers will know I'm well into the weather. Tomorrow could turn out to be an interesting day on that front, as a forecaster's just told me there's a high risk of a tornado in the Fens. Give me a shout if you see one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Best river for pike fishing in the Fens

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how different cliques of pike anglers view different waters in the Fens. Their experiences sometimes lead them to draw conclusions which are completely at odds with each other's - how one man's meat is another man's poison, if you like.

Take the Ouse, a river which has been good to me on a handful of occasions over the 15 seasons I've fished it, dealing me a bum hand far more frequently than a decent fish or two.

I've never caught a twenty downstream of Queen Adelaide. What few I've ever caught from the river have come from one or two areas with little in common, other than they were throwing up a few good fish at a time when I was fascinated by the Ouse and spent a lot of time trying to get to to grips with it.

Just as I started thinking I'd got my head round the river, it went off the boil for me. Some big fish came off another stretch I was targeting a few seasons back. I knew I was fishing bang on the money, right swims, right method. But could I catch it - the fish nudging 30lbs that was knocking about the same area..? Sadly not.

We wrote it off in the end, my mates and I. One big fish in one big, daunting river, we seemed fated not to catch. To add insult to injury, I lost a big fish off one of the few runs I ever managed on that part of the Ouse one freezing February afternoon, as ice formed across the river.

Yet others were quietly catching with a different approach, completely at odds to ours. It seemed so obvious I kicked myself, when one of them candidly explained it to me after I quizzed him about pictures I'd seen that looked like the area we'd been fishing.

The first time I tried their method, I had seven or eight fish to mid doubles from a stretch I'd given up on in a single morning. No monsters, but I thought I'd cracked it all the same.

I told a mate, we went back the weekend after and blanked. I tried the same swims several times as the season wore on without success. At the start of last season, I had a lanky double on the bank first chuck doing it their way. That turned out to be the only run I managed in half a dozen trips up and down that part of the river.

By then, another water was screaming fish me, fish me. That turned into another long haul, but at least we finished the season with a couple of twenties each.

Towards the end of it, I bumped into one of the guys who'd done well on the Ouse. He hadn't had a run on the water we were fishing. But he'd had a couple of twenties on the river - from the bit we'd long since given up on.

You should try down there, he said. People say it's hard, but it's loads easier than here.

Click here for a 20lbs pike from the Ouse caught on film.

Hats off to a great fishing blog

If you haven't read Mick Hastings's blog - aka Fishing is Great - then you should. I was lucky enough to rub shoulders with this wonderfully laid-back guy during my PAC Committee days. A real character, whose love of fishing and the countryside shine through in his writings. Click here to read it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hang on - I thought we got beat by the h'itallyuns

Somehow, I can tell my mate's not impressed with my latest idea.  No, it's not that pond I've been on about. Yes, it does have pike in it. Well one at least.

Look, it's another water. No, I don't know for certain if there are any in there, but there might be, you never know until you try.

So anyway, I was thinking about having a go with the lures one night after work. You fancy it..? Um, why's that so funny..?

Maybe my mate's had a tough day. Maybe he's been on that old moonshine they make down his way. Maybe he's just gone quietly off his chump since I last saw him. Oh, I see. Tres amusant, as people in France who have pike fishing blogs on the internet say.

I might be the world's worst lure angler, but I'm up for a shot on this new water on the off-chance there are some pike swimming unknown in its mysterious depths.

Tell you what, he says. You give it a go and let me know how you get on. If you catch any, I might come next time. How's that for a plan..?

I decide to forge ahead regardless. I will rise above this like Roy Hodgson, the England manager, who pressed on despite the sceptics who said if the Italians didn't beat us on penalties, we'd get knocked out by the Germans.

They didn't baulk at a challenge, did they - those lads with three lions on their shirt. I bet if Roy Hodgson had said look lads, I think there are a few pike in this water and I want Gerrard and Cole to give it a go on lures after the game, they'd have gone for it.

My mate finds this a difficult analogy to get to grips with. Wh'uddya mean four-eyes, he asks, I thought we got beat by the h'itallyuns.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Owner trebles for pike fishing reviewed

People talk a lot about these trebles, which are probably as good as anything else you can get your hands on at the moment. The main debate is whether the ST36 pattern (pictured left...) is strong enough, or whether the ST41(on the right...)  is a more reliable hook.

Both are seriously sharp, with a whisker barb. Having tried both, the slightly finer 36 gets my vote - not for reasons of strength, although I've never had one straighten on a fish, but because I've got more confidence in a hook with a straight needle point, than the curved points on the 46s.

When the points blunt - as all hooks do sooner or later - I find it much easier to touch up the straight ones with a sharpening stone than the curved variety. I tend to use the black ones, which currently cost upwards of £4 for seven. Mates tell me the red ones are just as good.

Hooks usually outlive the wire, so when a trace becomes kinked, I cut the hooks off and re-use them. I always used barbed hooks, because I lost too many fish when I used barbless. Most of the time, I use size fours, but will happily go up to twos for larger baits.

Both have a smaller barb than a lot of other hooks. So they come out easier. In fact despite the fact they're barbed, I still land fish and find the hooks in the net from time to time - or lose the odd one that throws the bait, taking the hooks with it.

There's not much else you can say about a hook, other than it's obviously the thing that connects you to the fish. For these reason alone, it pays not to skimp on them.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What will they think of next..?

An hour trawling the web and a few phone calls later, I still can't find the braid I need to get a couple of rods set up for the season.

"No demand for it," a contact in the trade says. "You lot spool up with the stuff and it lasts you five years."

One online emporium has special mats, to stop your reels getting dirty when it rains. Another has the latest must-have accessory for the camou enthusiast, on special offer.

You wonder what fishing's coming to sometimes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shimano Baitrunner reviewed - the best reel for pike fishing..?

+Original review plus update added at the end...

I've been using Shimano GTE 10000s for just over a season, after replacing some of the aging Daiwas on the rods I use for float fishing deads and un-deads. They're not cheap, but some of the old 8010s I bought 10 years ago are still going, so I'd expect them to last for several seasons.

I always thought the 8010s were a little on the small side, especially using 65lbs braid. The 10000s have a bigger spool, as well as far better line lay than the older variants. The rollers are also larger, although the reel itself isn't much bigger or heavier - something to consider if you ever have to walk any distance with three or four tackled-up rods.

There were three or four different variations of these on offer when I forked out my hard-earned on the premium version. They felt much more solid than the entry-level models, which I guess have been brought in to compete with budget reels by the likes of Okuma.

Friends who've bought cheaper reels have found they can be false economy, giving up the ghost after a season or two. You know what you're getting with Shimano and it probably works out less in the long run.

While I often adjust the baitrunner to cope with wind or flow when float fishing, I never use the drag; preferring to fish with it screwed up tight and backwind if I have to give a fish some line when I'm playing it.

Some people don't get on with the double handles. I've never had a problem with them. I don't usually bother much with maintenance on my reels, but I always close the bail arms by hand after casting, rather than turning the handle, thinking this probably reduces wear on the mechanism.

It also means you can check the braid's going back onto the spool 'tight', which means you can more or less eliminate those dreaded tangles you get when a couple of looser coils come off the reel when you're casting.

So far, these reels haven't developed the clunky spool wobble the older models seemed to get after a few seasons' use. For most pike fishing situations, they aren't far off being the ideal reel.

++UPDATED April 2013... The reels are still going strong after more than two seasons, despite an almost complete lack of maintenance or TLC on my part. The bail arm rollers are still working, despite being out in all weathers, dropped in the mud and - in one case - dunked in a lake.

The free-spool mechanism still retains a wide range of tensions without sticking, despite all of the above. On days when you've got wind or flow to contend with when float fishing with the rod tips up - most of the time on the drains and rivers - I could adjust the tension to just enough required to hold on all but the worst days, when everywhere was hammering through.

Looking around last winter, I noticed most people I fished with or bumped into out and about now use Shimanos of differing vintages for their bait fishing - mostly the 10,000-size. Some fold the handles down when they band the rods at the end of the day, or put them in a quiver to move swim or to a different water.

I thought this would make the handles go 'wobbly' after a while, but I'm assured it doesn't.

Despite the fact I don't fold the handles down on mine, I haven't managed to bend one despite the inevitable bash or two getting stuff in and out of the car.

+++Click here for a review of the other reels I use.

Nene back to normal after fish kill

The Wash has been re-opened, after tests showed the chemical spill in the Nene which killed thousands of roach hadn't contaminated shellfish and shrimps. The company which owns the site where the spill occurred, near Peterborough, is blaming vandals. Police are now looking into it, while the Environment Agency says water in the river has returned to normal.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How much gear do you need to go pike fishing

Not much is the obvious answer, in fact the assortment in the picture goes in a couple of those plastic clip-lock lunchboxes you can pick up for a couple of quid in supermarkets, which I now much prefer to tackle boxes.

Nothing against tackle boxes per se, but they make it very easy to carry stuff you're hardly ever likely to use. When I re-discovered the joys of walking and a more roving style of fishing last winter, I soon realised I'd fallen into this trap.

Leads were the biggest offenders when it came to extra weight, for obvious reasons. I keep a box with a selection of different styles and sizes in the car, but only take when I think I'm going to need with me once I set off for the water.

Floats don't weigh a lot, so it's worth taking a few in different shapes and sizes in case you need to change methods or the wind or flow changes. Other than that, you don't need a lot else in the way of end tackle - a little bits box with spare clips, beads, run rings and swan shots takes care of all the nuts and bolts in case I need to alter a rig.

I have boxes full of other stuff, much of which I used to take just in case. Another reason to prune the kit down, apart from wear and tear on the legs and ticker when I'm on my toes, is I'm shortly looking to change to a smaller vehicle.

Part of the idea behind this is it will be far cheaper to get about once I start pike fishing again. One of the knock-on effects will be there won't be room for all the stuff I used to lug about with me when I was fishing waters accessible by vehicle.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting for news after River Nene fish kill

Fishing boats have been tied up in King's Lynn all day after officials declared The Wash closed. 

Scientists from the Food Standards Agency fear chemicals which spilled into the Nene near Peterborough, killing thousands of coarse fish, could have washed downstream, contaminating cockles and shrimps in the estuary.

The Environment Agency seem to be playing down the spill, saying tests show the water is now returning to normal in and around Peterborough. Dead fish have now washed down as far as the tidal stretch at Wisbech. The EA says it's all under control, but I can't ever remember The Wash being closed to fishing because of pollution in one of its feeder rivers.

Anglers are also being asked not to fish the Nene further upstream. The chemical has not been named, but some reports say it's a pesticide, which entered the river at Orton Southgates. The dead fish include roach, tench and eels, but the EA says no large specimens were affected.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Google turns to pike fishing with river views

Cor blass' me w'oss that funny ole boat with the camera on top lookin' at me for..?

You're in your secret hotspot at the crack of dawn. As the first rays of the winter sun pierce the mist, a strange craft hoves into view, complete with a 360-degree camera on the top.

You reel in that sneaky extra rod and hold up your license as it passes, just in case.

But that isn't the EA podna. That's Google out taking pictures of the river, that is - so you can pore over them online. Reports today say the internet giant is going to extend the Streetview function of its mind-boggling mapping app from roads to rivers.

Just imagine if you're dealing with a *nature run* when the camera boat chugs past, struggling with the zips on your thermals. Or pulling some other stroke like the old magic float trick.

Fortunately, this latest wheeze is going to be confined to places with footpaths running along them. Which presumably means some chap with a camera on his head riding a bike or something, which shouldn't be too hard to spot and take evasive action from. Watch this space, as NASA say.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Make your own rig bins for pike fishing

Shop-bought rig bins leave a bit to be desired when in comes to storing traces. Apart from those fiddly pegs to trap the swivels, they're a little on the small side - especially if you use larger hooks, like size twos on your traces. 

You can make your own for a fraction of the cost, if you keep your eye out for those plastic cannisters that peanuts and cocktail snacks sometimes come in.

Buy a length of 6cms pipe insulating foam next time you're in one of those DIY superstores, cut it to fit and you can store your traces by pushing the swivels into the slit and wrapping them around it.

The foam was 99p a metre last time I bought some, which is enough to make several bins. Much cheaper - and better than shop-bought rig bins.

The main advantage is they're bigger, meaning it's easier to get traces on and off them without tangles or getting a hook in your finger. You can also store traces with links or poppers attached, meaning less faffing about on the bank.

I find one of these will easily store 10 or 12 traces, which is more than enough to see me through most days' fishing. I've also gone from carrying traces of different lengths, with different-sized hooks, spacings etc to just a basic 24ins trace with two size fours for most of my fishing, with a couple made up with size twos for bigger baits.

This makes things simpler too. And simple's usually best when it comes to pike fishing in the Fens..

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pike fishing when it's black over Will's mother's

It rained all the way to the far-flung broad. By the time we'd made it up the river and turned off down the winding dyke, the clouds scudding in from the North Sea seemed so low you could stand on a thwart and touch them.

Many years ago, in the pre-internet era, there was a lively debate in the letters pages of Pike and Predators about the weather. One well-known pike angler said he'd never caught a decent one when it was raining. Another had a list as long as your arm of pike caught when it was pissing down.

My catches - or lack of - fall into the first category. I remember one twenty from the Ouse on a wet day nearly 10 years ago, and a picture where I look like I've given up the will to live, despite a decent fish on the bank.

On the day this picture was taken, a few winters back, we didn't catch until the skies lightened as the sun began to sink.When I say we, my podna had four or five in quick succession, while I sat run-less. Podna changed his rigs and tried popping up his baits against the weedbeds, balanced by just a couple of swan shots on the trace.

He took a few casts to get this right, with rods held high and the wind on the braid pulling the lightly-anchored rigs against the weed fringe.  I was so wet I was past caring, so I just threw them out and sulked over the rods.

Therein lies the lesson, perhaps. If you keep thinking you're going to catch, keep trying different things and you might be in with a shout. Lose all interest, sit there moaning about the weather and you probably won't.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

End of ban bodes well for pike fishing in the Fens

The red light flashes on the engine house, as the pump fires up with a puff of diesel exhaust. The bank beneath me trembles, before a torrent of water pushed up from the land drain courses into the Ouse sending a tinge of silty water downstream.

A mate once had two twenties here, like peas in a pod, within 10 minutes of dropping a bait just off the slacker, where water pouring in from one of the numerous land drains in the area has scoured the bed of the river a couple of feet deeper.

I've given it the odd go over the last couple of winters, but the pumps have stood silent more often than not and the pike seem to have melted away. Another slacker swim on a nearby water, where even I could catch pike in years gone by, has gone the same way.

In a roundabout way, the picture sums up what autumn and late season in the Fens should look like. A time when there's usually water everywhere, and the rivers and drains are doing the job we've spent three centuries adapting and building them to do, carrying water away to stave off a flood.

Last winter was the driest for yonks. Spring saw a hosepipe ban imposed, amid widespread drought warnings. Then we had three months' worth of rain in a few weeks and the ban's been lifted. And all bets are off regarding what the weather's going to do over the rest of the summer.

I'm starting to get optimistic about the autumn now. This could be partly down to the fact that when you haven't been pike fishing for months, you tend to remember the rose-tinted days when you had a good haul or a decent fish or two, rather than the run of blanks.

It's also down to the rain. For my best-ever season was when we experienced above average rainfall, and the rivers were coloured and running through from the word go. We might have to endure a hotter-than-average July, the papers say.

There again, the long-range forecasts have got it spectacularly wrong so far, so I'm not going to rush out and stock up on Factor 40 and Pimms. Well, I might get some more Pimms in, but you can drink it when it's raining too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lured into a sneaky summer sesh or two

Autumn's still a summer away in Norfolk - or whatever we get that's going to pass for one this year.

But the cold and wet weather we've had of late is seriously tempting me to have a few hours' lure fishing of an evening, if my injured foot continues its current impressive rate of recovery and my toes turn revert from purple to their normal toe-coloured hue.

From barely being able to walk three days ago, I reckon I can waddle a good 100 yards now. No way I can hoof it far enough to fish anywhere half decent. But there's a couple of places I want to try just to see if they actually hold any pike, as I start thinking ahead to winter. 

I'm really into lure fishing again - in theory, at least. After two sort outs, I've got my must-take selection down to just a handful, which fit in a couple of lunch boxes. Not too much to carry, then. I'm wondering about de-barbing the hooks on a few of them as well, since the object of the exercise if see if the waters hold pike rather than sacking up.

If I get a hit, I'll hobble home happy. When it warms up and stops raining, in a week or so if the forecasts aren't Pete Tong, I'll sack it and turn my attentions to my woeful record of catching bass on them. Then there are the mullet I've seen from time in previous summers when I've been out picking samphire. I've no idea how you even start when it comes to mullet, never having never caught one.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Good crack checking out new waters - literally

It's a fair old walk - the best part of a mile - to the sprawl of lagoons and creeks between the current sea wall and the coastal defences that were breached by the great floods of 1953.

Most of these waters, which came about more by accident than design,  look less than appealing, with great slabs of concrete jutting out and a lack of trees or any marginal vegetation. But some do contain coarse fish,  while at least one allegedly held pike in the not too dim and distant.

I fancy a go up there, just for a change. Maybe even try for bass off the beach, but have a few chucks here and there along the way. Long walk, but you can't really get lost in the dark on the way back as long as you follow the floodbank.

I snap a few pictures, thinking this might be an enjoyable way to waste an evening when the tides are right. Moving to adjust my viewpoint, I slip on a step and come down heavily on my left foot.

There's an audible crack and I'm in agony. The long hike back to the car takes most of the morning. That's me done for walking anywhere else until I get whatever I've just broken fixed. Not good, bearing in mind most of the waters I'm planning to start my season on are a fair old walk with all the kit, even it that's still a few months away.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Counting on lures for pike fishing in the Fens

When I started lure fishing, around 10 years ago, I started with a selection bought from the then Harris Angling Company. One or two of them caught fish. One or two of them didn't. And the rest ended up festooning trees, lost on snags, or sold on eBay.

I pressed on all the same, graduating to better rods, getting better at using multipliers and learning the actions of different baits. My collection grew in leaps and bounds, until I gradually tired of wandering the banks, slinging lures for a succession of jacks and the odd double.

After a season or two when I've hardly ever used them, I've decided to dust off a few and give the method a second chance.Rummaging around the house, I'm surprised to find how many of the things I actually own.

Losing count at over 100, I wonder what ever possessed me to buy them all. I must have fished with most of them at some point, but less than a tenth of them probably ever caught anything.

Most reliable of all were Rapala Shad Raps and J13s, closely followed by spoons. One or two of the jerkbaits I bought, during a brief flirtation with jerkbaits, caught. Another dozen or so didn't.

I also found boxes of soft plastics, of different shapes and sizes. I must have been really into them at some point too. Yet most failed spectacularly to deliver much apart from the odd jack.

They say the bad workman blames his tools. I can't deny an element of this when it comes to lure fishing. As I lost faith in it, I returned to baits and occasionally caught the bigger fish which had eluded my efforts with lures.

So why go back..? Because it's different, it's a change and there's an obvious box which needs to be ticked, having never caught a twenty on a lure. If I prune my collection down, add a couple of new hopefuls to the old favourites, who knows.

If I can shake off my hoodoo, it'll be the hardest-earned twenty I've caught in several seasons.  That's reason enough to give it another go.

Friday, June 08, 2012

This season's must-have pike fishing accessory

I am not really a gadget geek, but I have just seen a must-have accessory. This isn't an item of tackle, strictly speaking, but a piece of kit which will come in handy whenever the sun's shining.

Having become an iPhone addict as soon as I traded in my last BlackBerry for one, sexing it up with apps to play with on the bank. Some of these are incredibly useful, like the ones that give you the tides and weather.

Then there are the different photo apps, that let you edit your pictures. And then there are the ones that let you read the papers, play chess or keep an eye on the ups and downs of the FTSE. And last but not least, there's Spotify - a must-have if you like listening to music while you're willing the floats to go. 

This pocket-sized techno marvel has one drawback. The battery life is pants. Hence the latest object of desire to find its way onto my wish list - a solar-powered charger with USB output, that'll keep Apple's finest in tip top fettle for £29.99.

That's that, then - job sorted. Hold on, they do mini wind turbines too. While you can't always count on sunshine in the Fens in the winter, it's nearly always windy. A quick bodge with the hacksaw, an old rod rest and a bit of Araldite and I could stick one on a bank stick.

And hang on... They do caravans too. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Pike fishing part of way of life in the Fens, says MP

"With Chris here, we're also providing an amenity for fishing people as well which is incredibly important," says North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham before he unveils the plaque, declaring the end of a three-year refurb of the Relief Channel Tail Sluice. 

"One thing I would like to say about the Environment Agency, they do take the fisheries policy incredibly seriously and that is part also of the culture and way of life of this area."

Clouds sailed menacingly overhead, as dignitaries and journalists gathered for the official re-opening of the imposing structure, which stands at the end of the Relief Channel, dug after the catastrophic floods of 1947 to protect large swathes of the Fens from future flooding.

The channel acts as a 12-mile-long reservoir, storing excess water from the Ouse. When the tide falls in the tidal river south of King's Lynn, the mighty gates rise and allow water to escape down the tidal river to the sea.

As the speeches finish, I spot a seal close to gates. Cameramen rush to catch a glimpse, as I point it out. Mr Bellingham asks me what it's feeding on. My guess is smelts, I say, judging by the herons lined up along the mud bank, as the gates lift and water swirls into the tidal.

We talk pike, as reporters wait their turn to speak to the MP. Asked whether I could catch one this afternoon, I say it's doubtful as their numbers have declined in the channel in recent seasons. Dr Geoff Brighty, regional manager for the Environment Agency, concurs when I say believe this is down to fluctuating water levels and flows around their spawning time.

I explain this to a couple of hacks. "Don't, just don't get him going on about pike," yawns a photographer, as the press pack tire of my thoughts on the predator/prey balance in the drains. A few miles from our offices, the sluice stands between thousands of homes and the onset of climate change, protecting properties and farmland from rising sea levels and our increasingly erratic weather.

The EA has spent £1.8m replacing the chains which lift the huge steel sluice gates. It's also replaced the seals, as in the ones which stop salt water leaching through into the freshwater channel at high tide through the gates.

A few miles upstream at Denver, the gates which allow water to flow out to sea from the Ouse have also been de-silted, meaning less water will be diverted down the Relief Channel, meaning less of the harsh run-offs which may have impacted on predators' spawning success.

I feel good about the start of the season, as I drive back to the office.