Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gemini Genie link clips for pike fishing

These are the other useful bit of pike fishing tackle Gemini make. They're intended for attaching leads to the end of sea fishing rigs, so they're totally bomb-proof. I have no idea what they're meant to break at, but it must be hundreds of pounds.

Where they come in incredibly handy for the pike angler is attaching your trace to your main line. There are plenty of snaps and cross-locks in the tackle shops, including the Berkley ones everyone used to use before these appeared.

While snaps are fiddly, wear out and sometimes come open when they're not intended to, these are as simple as it gets and 100 per cent reliable. You just snick your trace swivel in and that's that - job sorted. I use snaps both for convenience - no tying and re-tying the trace on every time the rods come out of the car or you move waters.

They're also a boon when you have a fish in the net, as you can unclip the trace and drop the rod back on the rest while you unhook it, so no having to carry the rod as well as the net and fish to the mat. That also means less chance of kneeling or standing on a rod in the excitement.

They're £1.99 a pack - 10 of them would easily last me a season, but you get five extra for free at the moment for some reason. They also make them with swivels, which some people prefer.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Normal for Norfolk

Rain drums on the windows of the Village Pub, like rain drumming on the windows of a village pub. Fancy a game of dommies, says Malcolm, who is reckoned to be one of the best domino players in the village.

I decline, suggesting the weather's all wrong for dominos. I like playing dominos in the beer garden of the Village Pub, but it is raining too hard for dominos al fresco. Malcolm asks if there's anything else the matter.

Nothing a day's fishing wouldn't cure, I reply, looking at the rain descending on the village through the second window to the left of the door of the Lounge Bar of the Village Pub.

You and your fishing, says Malcolm. Fancy another pint..? I'll have another pint of Shuck, I reply. Just for a change. Malcolm heads off to rouse the Half Awake Barman. I look outside and it is still raining. I go for a wee, to break up the evening.

I return to find two pints of Shuck on the table. Malcolm is staring intently into one as he fiddles with a beermat. I stare briefly into the other, before I raise it to my lips, noting how the hoppy after-taste soon competes with the brew's initial bitterness, delivering the balancing act of flavours associated with this particular brand of ale.

I look outside, through the second window to the left of the door of the Lounge Bar of the Village Pub, noting that it is still raining. Gonna' rain all night, says Malcolm, as he raises his glass. An' they reckon that's gonna' rain all day ter-morrow.

A seriously useful bit of kit for pike fishing

If you haven't got one of these, go buy one. It really will help you catch more pike over the course of a winter, it's really that simple.

I always carry a sharpening stone in my pocket to make sure the hooks are sharp, because blunt hooks can cost you fish. I inspect them every cast when I'm bait fishing, because it's surprising how often you can blunt them without noticing until you bump a fish off because they fail to go in on the strike.

Gravel pits are particularly bad when it comes to getting a point dinged on a stone or piece of flint. Sod's law that'll be the one that fails to gain a hold in a pike's bony mouth, when one picks your bait up. Hooks on lures need sharpening regularly too - not just every few weeks, if they start to go rusty.

I got the carborundum stone from a tool shop. It cost me two quid four or five seasons ago and it still does the job, despite getting a little bit grooved. The pocket file alongside it in the picture below cost around the same from Tesco. It's got a finer groove in it, which is ideal for touching up the points on smaller hooks on bait fishing traces.

Both stone and file are used in a similar way. Just grasp the hook firmly by the shank, between thumb and forefinger of you left hand (if you're right-handed...) and stroke the stone along the point, working from the bend to the point.

Don't try working the hook along the stone, as - speaking from bitter experience - it's an easy way to end up with a hook point in your finger.

Once you get the hang of if, you can sharpen the hooks on a bait trace or a lure in a few seconds. And those few seconds just might make all the difference between a good hook-hold and a fish that stays on, to one that comes adrift.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Maps of the Old Bedford River and Delph

Here's a useful couple of schematics of the Old Bedford and the Delph, which shows how the system operates to allow excess water to collect on the Ouse Washes before it can be discharged out to sea via Welmore Sluice and the tidal Ouse.

This is one of the more vulnerable areas of the Fens, as far as the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels are concerned.

It's also likely to become one of the areas where pike fishing becomes more vulnerable in years to come, as conservation groups buy up areas of land to turn them into new wetland reserves, to replace threatened coastal habitats for wading birds.

For now, it remains one of the more challenging parts of the system, partly because of the impacts of siltation and periodic problems with brackish, turbid water being allowed into the lower reach of the Bedford to replenish levels for irrigation during dry summers, and occasional fish kills caused when the water "turns" after heavy rain, causing oxygen levels to crash.

Pike are mobile and seemingly in decline on both drains. A few big fish were caught last winter, from areas off the beaten track. But like many of the drains in this part of the Fens, those who were successful had to put a  lot of hours in and some long walks to find them.

They're still fascinating waters to fish, partly because both the Bedford and Delph were dug when the drainers first began to shape the Fens into the landscape we know 300 years later.

The map below gives a view of the Middle and South levels, bordered by Well Creek, the Ely Ouse and the Old West. It's perhaps no wonder where to start is the dilemma many pike anglers face as autumn nears.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Skee-Tex North Pole socks for pike fishing

The humble sock performs a vital role when it's freezing cold. They keep your feet warm. I've tried all kinds over the years but keep coming back to these because they're the best I've tried - despite the fact they're not the most expensive.

A couple of pairs of these usually last me through a winter's pike fishing, which isn't bad for the price of a day or two's worth of deadbaits. Coupled with the same company's legendary moon boots, one pair keeps your tootsies as warm as toast.
When it's really cold or they start getting a bit threadbare around the heels, I wear two pairs.

They're made from a blend of wool and man-made fibres which really warm you up without making your feet sweat, which can be a pain and make the car smell like a sumo wrestler's jockstrap on the way home.

One small confession - I've found washing them tends to make them wear out faster, so don't tend to launder mine too often. Staying warm out-ranks personal hygiene every time, in my book. They're a steal for £4.95 a pair.

Olympics ruin the Village Pub

Opinions are divided in the Village Pub, where the Half Awake Barman is doing his best to referee the discussion. A number of us do not believe a television screening the Olympics belongs in the bar where the locals drink, where we try to maintain a certain quality of conversation except on Friday nights when there is a band on; and Sunday afternoons when wives, partners and same sex spouses are permitted when the Village Cricket Team are playing away.

I would rather debate the coalition government's failure to grapple with the economy, or even the deteriorating situation in Syria than the merits of the South Korean volleyball team. But others, led by the Man from the Garage and Malcolm's mate Tom, argue that live coverage of the greatest sporting event on earth will enrich time spent in our favourite hostelry.

The Half Awake Barman reaches for the remote. I finish my drink and go home to make traces.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fifty shades of grey in new pike fishing book

I am writing a book, between you and me. Several of my friends have already done so. One thing I have noticed is the ones who have written non-fishing books tend to live in larger houses than me and spend their holidays in Tuscany or on the Cote D'Azur.

Those who have written fishing books tend to be more like me, in terms of their socio-economic profile, except they have written fishing books.

Since I have neither the intellectual firepower or the literary connections necessary to write best-selling crime thrillers, withering critiques of the 21st Century political zeitgeist or erotic novels, I am stuck with pike fishing as my main subject matter.

I have written a punchy introduction already. It focusses mainly on why the book is about pike fishing, before going on to explain in more detail why the rest of the book is mainly about pike fishing.

This seems like a good way to start. The book is also a little different to the norm, as I am determined to produce something which stands on its own merits, without hitching a ride on anyone else's success.

At present, the plan is to use a rich selection of black and white photographs, by way of illustration. Hence the working title - Fifty Shades of Grey.

Norfolk pike anglers are UK's happiest

People in Norfolk are some of  the happiest in the UK.

Only those living in the Orkneys and parts of Cornwall are happier, says a report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Bearing in mind there aren't any pike in the Orkneys and they're few and far between in Cornwall, that must mean Norfolk pike anglers are the happiest pike anglers.Go figure.

Monday, July 23, 2012

More to life than pike fishing in the summer

I've started a blog of my landscape pictures. I don't pretend to be all that good at taking them, compared to some of the incredible photographers I sometimes get to work with, but it helps fill the summer months when I don't tend to fish much.

This picture is on one or two pike anglers' walls. A few who've come to stay with me over the years have ended up taking it home as a souvenir of the Norfolk coast that they never got to see because they were too busy pike fishing to go sight-seeing. Click here for more of them landscape pictures. Shameless plug ends.

Best lure for pike fishing in the Fens..?

I used to catch more pike on Shad Raps than all my other lures put together. Back when I used to use lures far more often than I have in recent seasons, when I used to regard it as a good method on the right day.

Other anglers have a love-hate kind of relationship with these babies. Some reckon they can't get a hit on them. Some regard them as poor hookers, which I've never found to be the case, although I do check the hooks every few casts and give them a swipe with the sharpening stone as soon as they don't catch when you drag them over your thumb.

One reason I like them so much is they seem to work equally well cast or trolled. When you cast them, you can twitch them back slowly, bulging the surface. Or you can get them down with a few sharp swipes with the rod, reeling the slack in faster to keep them running deeper.

You'll struggle to get them down much deeper than six or eight feet casting, but that's often all you need on the shallower drains and rivers. If you feel that big lip hit the bottom, pause briefly and the lure's so bouyant it backs off without snagging most of the time.

My best one's not actually in the picture. I can't remember ever catching anything on the red and white one, which explains its pristine look. The yellow one's nailed a few in its time, but the ones that always worked best for me were the roach patterns - both the natural one and the silver foil variant, closely followed  by the shad-patterned one with the blue dot.

Messing about with these to get a picture of three lures has got me quite into using them again. One ambition for the coming season is my first twenty on a lure. I've somehow never managed it, although my lure captures include pike to just shy of 19lbs and half the rear bumper from an Austin Montego.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sling some pike in - that'll thin 'em out a bit

New signs have appeared in the village and there are men with clipboards surveying the Village Pond.

Veronica, the Vicar's Wife and the Village Shop Lady are being interviewed by a TV crew. The Village Pub is a-buzz with rumours that this has nothing to do with Chip Van-gate, the media interest focussing more on ducks than the lack of takeway food outside the Vicarage on Friday night.

Hanging baskets and herbaceous borders are being pecked clean. Washing is disappearing from washing lines, the culprits (allegedly) leaving a trail of feathers leading to the Village Pond. Those living close to the water's edge find their 4x4s sometimes fail to start for the school run, as duck down clogs up air intakes.

Something clearly has to give, I agree with Malcolm, as we sip pints of Shuck and watch the media circus on the Village Green from the beer garden of the Village Pub.

"I reckon you ought to sling some pike in there. They'd soon thin 'em out a bit," he whispers. "I know someone's already tried, they just bought the wrong fish, some sort of carp or something, yah..?

"Might help get the parish council on-side if you ever fancied building an extension - you know, scratch my back and all that."

I raise my glass as I consider the ethics of breaking Section 30 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act in order to obtain planning permission for my new extension. A pair of ducks skim overhead on their final approach to the Village Pond, narrowly missing the camera crew interviewing Veronica, the Vicar's Wife, and the Village Shop Lady.

I think back over a summer briefly dominated by the saga of the pike in the Village Pond that turned out to be a grass carp, which culminated in the invention of the Sausage Roll Rig, before I make my excuses and leave.

Weather apps for pike fishing in the Fens

Tyne, Dogger, Humber, Thames, German Bight - I  sometimes used to listen to the Shipping Forecast on Radio Four before I went fishing or while I was on the way, depending how early I got up.

I also used to take a tranny, as in a small portable radio with me to tune in to the weather throughout the day. Now I have a phone which forecasts the weather, thanks to some of the array of apps you can download, which offer hour-by-hour advance forecasts and even satellite maps charting the advance or frontal systems, rain and snow.

To say that these are incredibly useful is an understatement. Many of the theories about the impact of air pressure on pike fishing began in the Fens, as set out in Fishing for Big Pike by Barrie Rickards and Ray Webb in the early 1970s.

Just as important are the changes which can happen while you're actually out there.

A bright spell towards the end of the day can kick start a fly hatch, which in turn gets the prey fish active as they feed on the emergents, bringing the pike on the feed.

A wind that moves to the West after an overcast low-pressure spell can bring the high, fast moving clouds that many think herald the best conditions of all in the Fens.

Now you can get all this on your phone, while you're out fishing. Another highly useful app is TidesPlan, which you can set up to give you the tides for umpteen ports and coastal locations around the UK.

While most of the rivers and drains we fish in the Fens aren't strictly tidal, in the same way that the rivers of Broadland are, they're still affected by the changing tides.

Water flows out of the sluices at Denver as the level falls in the tidal river. When this happens, the flow picks up in the Ouse and after an hour or two, its main tributaries inland follow suit.

This applies equally to places like the Middle Level and Delph, where they tend to pump water off when the levels are falling in the tidal because it requires less energy than pumping water uphill.

Pike sometimes come on the feed as a water starts to move, or when a water that's been running off comes to a halt. One one stretch of river I used to fish a lot, the increase in flow sometimes created the classic crease swim - an edge where the flow bustled past slacker water.

For an hour or two, you were always in with a shout there if you placed your baits along the crease.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Great potential for fishing pictures..?

Messing about on the beach today, I've finally got the hang of doing panoramic pictures. I can see some great potential for fishing pics using the same technique when winter comes. Click on the images to see a bigger version.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chips are down in village

The Vicar has that worried look I have sometimes seen etched across the faces of members of the clergy at times of crisis in the church.

A small crowd has gathered in front of the Vicarage. While I do not propose to embark on any kind of blame game in the heat of the moment, the Vicar's foreword in the Parish Magazine clearly stated that a visitation from the Chip Van would occur this very evening.

And yet there is no Chip Van, or takeaway food of any description available outside the Vicarage.

"Where's the Chip Van then Vicar," a woman asks. "I tol' my kids th'ass sossidge an' chips fer tea."

The Vicar wrings his hands, looking up at the leaden skies for inspiration. Were I in the Vicar's shoes, I would crisis manage matters and pledge a full, independent inquiry, using social media to reach my key audiences and generate stakeholder sympathy.

I would probably also include an update in my Sunday sermon, perhaps moving the narrative on to more positive territory by stressing my ownership of the problem and the steps being taken to resolve it.

The opening bars of Paranoid by Black Sabbath shrill from a pocket of the Vicar's coat. It is the Vicar's mobile. I do recall the Vicar telling me he was a roadie for various heavy metal bands, before becoming a vicar.

The Vicar confers briefly, before he turns to the queue. The Chip Van has a flat tyre. It is stuck on the A149 somewhere near Snettisham. There will be no chips tonight.

I feel the crisp new twenty pound note in my pocket, as I set off through the drizzle for the Village Pub.

Big pike, small amount of watercraft

I was like the proverbial dog with two dicks when I caught this pike. This was partly because it came down to a snippet of watercraft, a throwaway remark that's put me onto the odd decent pike in the Fens ever since I noted it down for future reference.

We all know location's half the battle. If you can't find 'em, you can't catch 'em. But a few years ago, I heard an interesting take on that one that departs from the usual find the prey fish and you find the pike advice.

It's all down to the plants that grow along some of the rivers and drains. Where different varieties grow along the margins, the one to look for is Phragmites australis - aka the common, or Norfolk reed.

While different varieties of plants grow along our waterways - like reedmace, sweet grass, clubrush and branched bur reed, Norfolk reed has a unique characteristic that helps hold pike in a roundabout way.

It's hollow, for starters. That means air can pass down its stem, providing oxygen for bacteria living around its roots - which in turn digest rotting plant matter, which would otherwise silt up the margins.

A veteran Fen angler once told me he looked for swims where Norfolk reed grew and fished tight to it for zander at night. His theory was it attracted them - or rather the small fish they fed on - because the water tended to be that little bit deeper where it grew.

That helps pike too - well, this one seemed to like it. In fact the spot where I caught it has a spit with reedmace growing on one side which has silted up, and Norfolk reed on the other where there used to be three or four feet of water off the stems.

I fished the reedy side, as opposed to the reedmace-y side.

Click here for more twenties from the Fens, NB work in progress.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rescue drama by the river in King's Lynn

Fire crews were called out to rescue a man trapped in the hold of a fishing boat in King's Lynn today. He slipped and his foot got stuck under machinery as the vessel, which was tied up behind the Corn Exchange, shifted as the tide ebbed.

Thankfully, the man escaped with minor injuries after an impressive rescue operation. Apart from the usual calm professionalism we expect from the emergency services, what struck me was how prepared the firefighters were.

Along with the pumps and gear needed to free the man from the confined hold of the vessel, their new rescue boat was standing by ready to be deployed if needed.

The tide was ebbing fast in the river and the station manager said they brought it to the scene as a precaution, in case rescuers needed to take to the water.

I have a feeling it's going to be a lifesaver in the Fens.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Did maps show best pike fishing spots in the Fens?

I wonder what we did before Google Earth was invented. Pored over maps, I suppose. Or got lost.

Nowadays, we can explore waters to heart's content using Google Maps on our computers, and use navigation apps on our phones which show us how to get to some far-flung spot. One thing computers and iPhones can't yet do is show us where the fish are.

But the Environment Agency had an answer to that one a few years ago, when it went published  maps compiled after acoustic surveys of some of the rivers and drains in the Fens, using different colours to show the concentrations of fish found in different areas. Red meant lots of fish. Yellow meant not many.

Back in 2007, I wrote this at the time:
 Finding the prey can often be the key to locating the predator, or so the oft-quoted theory goes.
And EA staff who like to wet a line in their spare time have been using the survey results to plan their own fishing, one of its fisheries scientists has revealed.

The revelation comes in the latest edition of Angle, the EA's magazine for anglers in its East Anglian region.

"Every angler wants to know where are the fish. Well, we have the maps that can tell you," it says.

The article explains how data collected from electronic surveys of rivers is plotted into maps. The piece is illustrated with a map of the Great Ouse between Ten Mile Bank and its confluence with the River Wissey, near Downham Market, in Norfolk.

A large concentration of fish is shown immediately downstream of the infall, which will be of no surprise to anyone in that part of the world.

At the time the survey was carried out last July, the swims shown as having the highest density of fish were producing 100lbs nets of bream and tench.

EA fisheries scientist Justin Mould said: "I'm an angler myself and I can tell you they really do work. I've had some memorable fishing trips using these maps.

"I used the maps to identify where there might be shoals of prey fish and then went fishing for the predators that would be aound them."

Mould said his best catch using this technique was a 14lbs zander.

"Fish move, of course, so the maps are never 100 per cent accurate. But it does show you stretches where the fish are likely to be.

"These maps, once they are made, can be distributed to anglers free of charge. All they have to do is ask."

Angling Times ran with the story, reproducing part of one of the maps. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who  got hold of them, fished a few of the red bits, caught sod all and went back to more traditional methods of fish location like getting off my ass and looking for them.

I wonder if anyone's still using the EA maps...

Stormy night as I start getting the gear ready

Storm clouds sail in from The Wash as the thunder echoes off the roof tops. The lights in my study flicker as I pore over rods and tackle boxes, working out what I need to replace or top up before autumn proper comes to the Fens.

There are traces to make and set-ups which will need replacing with fresh knots and a new float here and there.

I'm not one of those people who devotes hours to this side of things. I prefer the if it ain't broke approach to my pike fishing, relying on tried and trusted friends like my old Marvic rods.

This season's shopping list doesn't extend far beyond some new braid on a couple of reels and a few boxes of trebles, extra swivels and a some leads.

Pike fishing in the Fens isn't exactly complicated in the rig department. The head-aches come later, when I start trying to catch them. As long as the gear's all squared away, I can worry about that one later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A word from the Vicar

Jesus was a fisherman - and some might say a chip off the old block, for he was a carpneter too, begins the monthly foreword from the Vicar in the Parish Magazine. I note that the Vicar's Wife has not spell-checked this month's Parish Magazine, but read on regardless as I wait for Malcolm in the Village Pub.

Our Lord turneth fish to bread and water into wine, or so the Gospel tells us. Continuing on this theme I am pleased to announce that Veronica and I have agreed to allow the fish and chip van to park outside the Vicarage on a trial basis on Friday nights between 6.30 and 8pm. Rejoice!

I point this out to Malcolm, when he arrives fresh from the gym in King's Lynn and orders a brace of Shucks with whisky chasers.

"Chip van's back then, is it," he says, looking at my midriff. "That's your diet gone for a Burton then, fat boy."

Time to try pike fishing for jacks..?

A plan forms, regarding the lack of jacks. As I use three or four rods a lot of the time, why not sacrifice one of them to targeting small pike next winter, with a small dead or un-dead dropped in the margins.

This stems from an interesting point of order from m'learned friend, along the lines of you don't catch many jacks using deads the size of my usual bait choice - as in eight or 10 inches, with a couple of size fours or twos stashed in them fished on (mate's emphasis...) your usual crude bad boy rigs that'd pull a horse out.

I don't fish pike matches, but know that some of those who do target small pike on the basis you win more catching a few jacks most of the time than you do sitting it out with a big bait hoping for a twenty.

Some of them scale their tackle down too, which I'm loathe to do, because I caught the odd big pike using small baits, along with lots of small fish, before I switched to using big baits most of the time. I'll probably get bored with this after a few weeks, but it might prove an interesting exercise until I do. As in are there any small fish left in you know where, you know where and, um, you know where.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Spare a thought for the pike amid the downpours

Poppies dance in the wind as the clouds thicken, ready for yet another downpour. It's mid-July and it feels like September already in the Fens. Autumn never comes soon enough for me most years, the time all pike anglers yearn for as the geese sing Summer's swan song and we make our plans for the winter ahead.

While I've long given up pondering the vagaries of the weather, I can't help wondering what this autumn's going to bring when we get back on the rivers. You never know, the brief heatwave widely tipped to happen as July gives way to August might not be enough to bring them to a weed-choked standstill.

But the last couple of winters have shown there are a lot less pike, particularly smaller fish, in some of our waterways. It'll be a season or two before we know whether this year's spawning was a success.

Yet the summer's downpours might just have been what nature needs to start restoring the balance, after two dry years. Spare a thought for that, as long as the rain lasts.

Rail plan's threat to a green oasis by the Ely Ouse

They call this the railway bridge swim, for obvious reasons. Apart from the trains which rumble almost constantly over the bridge, where the lines cross the Ouse a few yards from Ely station, there's also the continual blaring of the sirens from the level crossing, which does your chump in.

There'll be even more trains in a few years' time. Ely North Junction, the other side of Roswell Pits, is being upgraded as part of the government's plans to invest £9bn on long-needed improvements to our railways, announced in a fanfare of photocalls today.

But the racket from the crossing might be silenced too. For part of the bigger plan for the area is a new southern by-pass for Ely, which would give lorries and other vehicles too high to use a nearby underpass another route in and out of the city.

And therein lies the rub, as far as the river's concerned. Because the favoured route for the by-pass would require a new bridge across the river and its flood plain - a currently undeveloped green field area.

Regardless of its ups and downs as a pike fishery, the river upstream of Ely contrasts sharply with the stretch which winds through the city.

The wildlife and the views of the cathedral from the Stuntney Causeway won't be enough to put the brakes on things, when Cambridgeshire County Council meets to decide the by-pass scheme in September. 

A mile or two of reed-lined river flanked by meadows won't stand in the way of progress. But the character of another wild, magical place will have gone forever when the sirens on the level crossing eventually go silent.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The ultimate boat for pike fishing in the Fens..?

"Hella Cress, th'ass Will'yum. I got a new boat," goes the voice on the phone. "Thought you might like ter come an' see her."

Will'yum's taste in boats differs from mine. I'd have a Seastrike, or Sea Jeep, or better still, I'd live on a narrow boat if the old folding stuff was not a material concern.

Will'yum owns a DUKW but what really floats his boat are landing craft, like the 60ft amphibious troop carriers which carried US Marines to war in Vietnam.

One he converted into a pleasure craft a few years back has turned into a major tourist attraction, taking sightseers out to the sandbanks in The Wash to see the seals. His second LARC - Light Amphibious Resupply Craft to its friends - is going to be re-named Wizzy The Whale.

"You'll have to come on for a ride when we take her out," he says. I quite fancy a go, having been on its sister craft once or twice.

Be great for fishing, provided you had all day to get there as they only do 15mph on dry land. They're a bit thirsty, too - with twin 300hp V8 diesels, one powering each of the rear wheels.

Once you get afloat, there's plenty of elbow room on board. And if anyone beats you to the swims you fancy, you could always just run 'em over with its 6ft dia wheels.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Is braid the best line for pike fishing..?

A couple of seasons back, I had a brief return to using mono on a water where I needed to fish with the lines sunk to avoid the frequent boat traffic. The 20lbs nylon I spooled up with worked a treat, meaning I didn't have to reel in every five minutes. Everything was peachy, in fact - until the alarm went and I pulled into a fish.

After years of using braid, I'd forgotten how stretchy nylon is. Landing a mid-double seemed to take an age as it bounced around just out of reach of the net. I'd convinced myself this was because I wasn't used to using mono by the time I'd unhooked and returned it.

A fish or two later, plus a couple that inexplicably came off almost as soon as I'd pulled into them, I realised I was wrong. Nylon was still as crap as it was the last time I used it.

Back in the days when I used 15lbs Daiwa Sensor as my main line, I seemed to spend half the winter buying the stuff. After a few trips, it always seemed to get twisted and ribbony, where the stretch had been knocked out of it.

I used to cut back the last few yards every couple of trips, but still suffered the odd breakage. I'd had pretty much the same experience with premium brands of nylon, that cost twice as much.

When braid came along 10 or 12 years ago, it was a learning curve. The first brands which came on the UK market had their limitations. Some were prone to tangles. Others quickly went "furry", which cut down on casting distance.

You had to put mono backing on the reel, to prevent braid slipping on the spool. You also had to spool it on tighter, through a wet cloth, to cut down on those infuriating tangles caused by any slack, and make sure it was tight when you closed the bale arm - again to make sure a turn or two of slacker line didn't find its way onto the reel, causing another tangle in the making.

But when you got used to it, it was amazing to fish with. Since then I've tried two or three different types before settling on 50 or 65lbs PowerPro for most of my fishing. The price has come down since then, to around £35 for 300yds. If this sounds pricey, bear in mind the stuff lasts for several seasons, in fact I've had it on some reels for five.

You can carry the rods tackled up, with a clip to attach the trace, with the same knot lasting several sessions as long as you use the right knot - learn to tie a grinner, taking the line twice through the eye of the clip or snap swivel.

From time to time, you read that braid isn't as abrasion-resistant as mono. I don't know where this idea comes from, as if anything it seems far more robust than nylon. Apart from its lack of stretch, the other great advantage of braid is you can straighten the hooks on most snags with a straight pull.

You also snag up less using it, because it floats; meaning it doesn't lie along the bottom when you're legering. When a fish unclips you, the slack line rises up in the water slightly, meaning less risk of catching any debris on the bottom.

Floating line is also a boon for most kinds of float fishing - from float legering a dead to free-roaming, trotting or even drifting an un-dead.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A healthier approach to pike fishing in the Fens

With less than two months to go before I plan to start pike fishing in the Fens again, I have decided it's time to start getting myself in shape for the rigours of the winter ahead.

As well as buying new socks and ensuring my lucky pants have had their annual wash, I have decided that my preparations for the coming seasion will also extend to my diet this year.

I am somewhat proud of this small step on the road a healthier lifestyle, as I turn the corner by the harbour and look out at the boats bobbing in the gathering gale, beneath a threatening sky. Fresh air and exercise will also be an integral part of my new regime, I tell myself.

I make it past two chip shops, before I succumb to the smell coming from the third. Rome wasn't built in a day, I tell myself, as the man behind the counter greets me like an old friend.

"Hella there me ole podna - usual with all the trimmins..?"

Mice to get out on the river pike fishing again

Haven't been for a few months, my mate said stowing his gear in the boat. Hope we don't need the net, them 'effin mice has had 'it.

I nodded as we set off on our first troll of the day, deftly steering the boat along the reed line with that combination of experienced hand and eye which kept my lure chugging along in the killing zone and my mate's waddling around near the middle of the river.

Once or twice, I swear I heard a scrabbling noise, but I am concentrating on my trolling. Three or four jacks later, I hook into a bigger one. A need the net for pike, pushing double figures.

My mate begins unfolding the net, before he recoils in horror. No way man, as in no way am I touching that, he says like a total girl. The net remains in a heap in the bottom of the boat, while I chin the fish and flip the hook out.

Get it out man, just get it off the boat. I can't stand 'em. I pick the net up gingerly, not knowing what to expect. As I unwrap its folds, I find a small, furry rodent strangled in the mesh.

I check it has gasped its last, before I flick it over the side with the forceps. A black-headed gull dives down and flies off with it. I look at my mate's horrified face. Then I laugh so much I nearly fall out of the boat.

Confessions of a bass fisherman #1

This is it. This is the hotspot, so they reckon. When the, um, tide's in obviously. You won't catch many when the sea's retreated half way to Lincolnshire and there are people building sand castles on this lot. You can probably tell from this I am a seasoned sea angler.

I have been told there's a feature out here where the bass queue up when the tide's right, as in when it's in. After a pleasant but relatively feature-free walk, I decide I've had my plonker well and truly pulled by the local sea angling fraternity.

Turning for the car, I finally find it. A gully just a few yards from the high tide mark you'd miss unless you were right on top of it. I line it up with a few distinctive rocks so I can retrace my steps and get a bait in it.

Heading off to consult the tide tables, I wonder how different pike fishing would be in the tide went in and out on the waters we target them on, so we could inspect every inch of the bottom.

Monday, July 09, 2012

My first 30lbs pike from the Fens - well, sort of

I've never caught a thirty. While I've caught a couple of pike others went on to catch at over 30lbs, this fish remains the only thirty I've ever seen weighed and witnessed, in the flesh as it were.

+++It was, at the time - until I photographed Ash's thirty in March 2013 *linky*.

Leafing back through some of the pictures on an old lappy, I thought the story worth an airing - partly because I don't think it's ever had one before. Seeing a pike in another league to anything you've ever caught spurs you on so much when it happens - it sparks a hunger that gnaws away, a craving you just can't kick.

Turn the clock back a few seasons and I got a phone call, out of the blue, from someone who had some gravel pits in the Fens which friends and I had shared the odd day here and there on.

One or two of us had caught fish to low-twenties from them. But the owner reckoned there was a much bigger pike in one of his waters and he wondered if we fancied having a day on there, to see if we could catch it. A few phone calls later, we had a firm together and off we went, like you do.

I wasn't in the biggest hurry to get set up. While I was having a mardle with a couple of mates and getting a brew on for all and sundry, my mobile went. It was the owner.

"Hey, Chris - got your cameras on you..? Well bring 'em round to the corner, because XXX's caught it."

Off we trekked, at the double, leaving the tea to its own devices. When we got to the corner there was the captor, looking totally blown away. One look in the tube in the margins told you why. As he hauled this thing out onto the mat, one or two of us were lost for words.

There were pats on the back and the obligatory few digs, as the scales went round to 32lbs. The owner wanted it hushed, so mum was the word for a few years afterwards.

Looking back at the pictures, I've long forgotten the finer details regarding who was there and what else we caught. But I remember the feeling I got, as I framed the picture with one of my old Nikons and worked out how much fill-in flash to give it, with people telling me to blur the background.

It was the same feeling I had more than 30 years ago, when I saw my first twenty as a teenager. I'd seen the guy catch it and drank in every detail, wishing I'd been the one who caught it. It inspired me so much, yet it took me years to catch a pike to rival it.

I was like a kid again, when I photographed this pike. I just so wanted to catch one like it. And I still do, every time I go fishing. Every time the float goes or the alarm sounds, I still wonder - is this going to be the one, as I pick the rod up and wonder if it's the day my dream comes true.

Making drop-off indicators for pike fishing

I started making drop-off indicators a few seasons ago, because I wasn't happy with shop-bought versions. It took a little trial and error to get them right, but once I'd got my head round the two main problems, they were simple to solve.

Problem one was that the plastic clips they came with were fiddly to adjust and - potentially worse still - had a nasty habit of sticking to braid. That meant drop-backs didn't always register promptly. The other drawback, which compounded the first problem, was that they weren't heavy enough.

I cured both problems by using Solar ball clips, which being made of metal, didn't stick to the line. They were also far easier to adjust and didn't slacken off once you'd got the tension right. Solar also make heads, which take screw-in weights.

I originally thought this would be useful, as I could adjust the weighting. Before long, I just stuck to the heaviest weights, which are around an ounce. Fish tight, with the drop-off right under the reel, and they'll ping off the line as soon as you get a pull. You can tighten the clips when fishing in wind, flow or undertow.

The weighting means the set-up will register a drop-back, while the ball clips don't stick to the line, meaning the indicator will drop, pulling line through the alarm, meaning you'll hear it go when a fish comes towards you.

I don't buy into this idea that if you use a heavy enough lead on your rig, a pike which comes towards you will still register by pulling the line out of the clip, due to some pulley effect. In my experience, the fish moves the lead most times, meaning the line slackens and the weight on the indicator makes it show a drop-back.

The stem of the incicator is just a cane barbecue skewer you can buy for peanuts. I glue a rig sleeve to the end so it screws into the thread on the weight. It looks a bit ramshackle, but they stay put for months. If I break one, I just stick another cane skewer in.

At the other end (not shown...), there's a bit of thick silicone runner to make a hinge, attached to the time-honoured Terry clip. The heads and weights cost around £10 an indicator - or they did when I made these. Once you've bought these bits, they last forever unless you lose them or your mates nick them.

I always use a front alarm, usually one of the budget variety, because at £20 a throw, it's not the end of the world if you lose one or drop it in the drink. It also means I don't have to use different alarms for legering and float fishing.

Go swivel on this baby

Swivels. What's there to say about swivels, other than they're a vital connection between you and the pike.

A lot of the time, they don't actually swivel, for starters when they're under load. The main reason we use them is because they're a convenient way of attaching a trace to your rig. The main thing you need is strength and reliability.

Living near the sea, it's no surprise my local tackle shop stocks Gemini gear. These are the bits a lot of sea anglers make their rigs from - including swivels designed to withstand chucking rigs with five or six ounces of lead around.

I don't know if sea anglers are more price-conscious than carp or even pike anglers when it comes to such things. But the bits and bobs they use not only come in plainer packaging. They also cost a fair bit less.

Take these Gemini swivels, with an 80lbs breaking strain, which are £2.40 for 25. Swivels in the carp section of the same shop come in a nicer packet, with rig diagrams in several languages. They also cost more than twice as much, for half the breaking strain, which probably works out an expensive way of learning how to explain a carp rig in Italian.

You'd probably struggle to push a 40lbs swivel anywhere near it's limit in most pike fishing situations - apart from repeatedly casting heavy lures, when you'd presumably be looking to step things up for safety's sake in any case.

An 80lbs swivel means a swivel you can just stick on your trace and happily forget about, in my book. So what if they're plain steel-coloured, as opposed to black. Gemini make something else that's totally streets ahead. Stay tune for more on this, when I can remember where I've put them.

Click here for more reviews.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Best stove for pike fishing in the Fens..?

This is clearly not an accessory for the roving angler, but if you're fishing out of the car or on a boat it's the dog's bollocks.

You can make tea on it, like most stoves. Or coffee if you prefer. Where it comes into its own is you can get a brew on while you're cooking, because it's got two burners - or cook more ambitious meals, requiring the use of two pans.

I once went zander fishing with a chef who made an ambitious curry with all the trimmings from scratch using one of these.

If you're more inclined to rely on tins and boil-in-the-bag fare, you can do just as well with curries, chillies and some nifty things with pasta - not to mention some impressive fry-ups, like the pommes sautes, avec saucisson and whatever the french is for bacon above.

None of this means you'll catch any more pike, of course. But there's nothing like a decent scoff when it comes to a morale booster when mobility's not the order of the day.

The stove's a Coleman duel-fuel twin burner. It comes in a metal case, which eventually goes rusty and smells like a sumo wrestler's jockstrap if you don't give it the occasional clean. You can run them on unleaded from the garage, or Coleman fuel - a refined white petrol, without the additives - which costs around £6.99 a litre.

A tank-full or either lasts me three or four trips. One of the great things about these stoves is that once you familiarise yourself with how to light them - pump prime it with the plunger, turn it, lift the lighting lever, get it going, leave it until the flame goes blue before lowering the lever etc - they'll keep going no matter how cold or windy it is.

Read the camping forums and these things are the Marmite of stoves. Some reckon if you run them on unleaded, the fine jet at the end of the nozzle gets blocked and the pump washer eventually corrodes. I get around this by alternating fuel - run it on unleaded for a few tankfulls, then buy a bottle of Coleman fuel, which has a rust inhibitor, and run it on that.

You get a special filter funnel with them, which has a gauze to trap any bits of grit or muck from the fuel, which might find their way into the nozzle. This is quite important, as the nozzle shoots a fine jet of petrol into an expansion chamber, where it mixes with air. Once the burner's lit, this is heated and the jet from the nozzle becomes a mixture of air and vapour, which burns a lot hotter, with a blue flame. So if the jet gets blocked, it all goes pear-shaped.

The first ring burns a lot hotter than the second, which is for simmering on - or warming through a couple of cans of chilli, meatballs etc; while you boil the rice or pasta on the hotter main ring.

You can still get the stoves for under £100 if you shop around. This might seem a lot, but they should last for several seasons if you look after them - Coleman also do spare pump assemblies, spare fuel pipe nozzle things etc.

Fire steels are a lot better than matches for lighting them - click here for a bit about them.

And click here for more reviews.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Weevil meet again, dunno where, dunno when

Could this little chap be the answer to all our prayers when it comes to defeating the dreaded Azolla..? They might not look like much, but they breed like rabbits. An initial stocking of the 2mm long North American weevil, Stenopelmus rufinasus to his friends, can multiply into millions within weeks.

And with all that makin' whoopee going on, they get pretty hungry. Stenopelmus is monophagous, when its tiny tummy starts to rumble. That means they only eat one thing. And that one thing happens to be Azolla - aka the floating weed which blankets some of the drains, making them unfishable by autumn.

You don't need a licence to release them. And you can buy them online from these people, who do a starter pack for £120, plus postage. Keeping an infestation under control on a large water body is going to cost a fair bit more than this, initially. Azolla Control - the people who breed the weevils, somewhere in Surrey - reckon they can do you enough to munch their way through 50 sqm of weed for £342.

But the mild winters which favour the weed - it didn't completely die on a couple of waters I fished last season - also mean the weevils may survive. The Environment Agency has been experimenting with weevils on one of the Boston drains.  Well worth keeping an eye on, if a few hundred quids' worth of the things spread and keep the water clear.

Friday, July 06, 2012

No lure rod..? Then best make a run, Hun

You can smell the ozone as we take the winding path down to the beach. I was going to bring a lure rod, tackled up with one of those tiny krill things you can cast miles, but I've decided to take a camera instead to capture the storm clouds massing over Mussel Bay.

The sea's almost flat calm, as we walk along the foreshore, clouds shrouding the last of the sun. A few pictures, then the thunder echoes off the cliffs as the first drops of rain fall. Time to make a run, Hun, I tell the wife.

As we turn for home, I see terns diving for whitebait a few yards off the shoreline, accompanied by the odd swirl. Bass...! Should have brought the lure rod after all, with that krill thing you can cast miles. By the time we get back to ours, 10 minutes later, it's raining so hard our road's turned into a river.

Ever fished this tidal river for pike..?

As in this tidal river..? Me neither. Yet one or two areas of it definitely hold coarse fish, the upper reaches of the Hundred Foot, as it's known well upstream of the sluices at Denver, for one.

It might not scream pike. Yet if you go far enough upstream to get above the brackish water washed in by the tides, there were zander caught in years gone by.

And there are more fish than you'd probably think, in its tea-coloured water downstream of the sluices, where water surging through the gates has scoured a deeper hole or two.

The EA has captured pike on a camera in a fish pass on one of Fenland's other great tidal rivers, built to give eels and sea trout a short cut through a sluice. So who knows..?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Guru leads are worth a look for pike fishing

These are the leads I was on about. I've been fishing long enough to treat claims about special this, special that with a degree of scepticism, but I quite like these.

The two-thirds of an ounce size I got seem small for that. It says on the blurb that they're made of a special dense material, which I'm guessing is probably lead. In the old days, I'd probably have just given one a good whack with a hammer to see what they're made of, but they're £2.85 for three. 

Instead of using them with one of those fiddly safety clips, I'll probably just fish them off a run ring on my float leger rigs. Coupled with one of the ET floats I tend to use most of the time, I reckon the ounce size would be just right and probably better than most of the other weights I've used over the years.

I know a few companies make leads you can change without breaking your rig down, but having tried most of them they all seem to have their limitations. One variety had a habit of falling off when you were playing a fish. Another entailed messing around with bits of tubing to trap it in place.

Maybe these are the ones if you fish them off a run ring so you can change for a bigger weight if the wind gets up or the flow increases. Other than those zinc bombs which come in a range of weights but don't hold bottom very well because of their shape and lack of density, it's hard to find small weights which do the job.

Click here for more reviews.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Is it time to research Fens pike decline..?

It's great news that the EA is working with the pike angling community on an innovative tagging project on the Norfolk Broads. I just wish they'd do the same in the Fens.

We know that our pike population is changing too. While we all like catching big pike, there are one or two waters where smaller fish seem to have become thin on the ground. The worrying thing is what's going to happen when the bigger pike die off in these places.

We all have our own theories regarding what's happening. Mine is that pike no longer spawn successfully every spring on many of our waters in the Fens. This explains why the pyramid of pike sizes which you'd otherwise expect to see has become disrupted, leaving - in one or two extreme cases - waters with a dearth of small pike.

On run of the mill, bread and butter drains and rivers, you'd expect to catch more pike under 10lbs than over. You wouldn't expect to blank most times you went but catch more twenties than jacks.

Small pike should be more numerous, according to the widely-accepted pyramid theory. Another reason for this is that male pike rarely grow any larger than 10lbs. They are smaller than their female counterparts, because they spawn eye-to-eye with each other, the male's shorter length means its milt fertilises the eggs the female deposits during their nuptials.

On one water I fished, I watched pike spawning before the end of the season on an area of grassy bank which had been flooded to a depth of 18ins or more as the water level rose after heavy rains. Within a week, the levels had receded, leaving the spawn high and dry before it had hatched.

It's no secret our weather's changing fast. After one of the driest winters on record, we're experiencing one of the wettest summers. During those crucial few weeks around spawning time, levels should have remained fairly constant this year, hopefully meaning a strong year class in a season or two's time.

If two extreme cases cited above become waters where you get 10 runs a day but finish the season with just a handful of doubles and the odd battle-scarred twenty, this spring will have been the exception that proves the rule.

Some blame the burgeoning otter population for declining catches. Otters are far more numerous than they've ever been. Up until five years ago, I'd seen just two in more than 20 years of pike fishing.

Three or four years ago, I began seeing them on a water I was fishing regularly.  By the 2009/10 season, there were areas where you saw them every other time you went.

The otters could have been there all the time, of course, perhaps losing some of their caution as they became accustomed to seeing anglers. I say otters, because by the back-end of that season, I'd seen them sufficiently closely to identify at least two individuals, while on one occasion, I saw an adult otter and a kit together.

Otters are a high-risk issue for anglers. While the general public probably doesn't care too much whether the rules are relaxed when it comes to culling cormorants or goosanders, most would probably rather see otters than us on waters if it came to a choice.

Otters eat other fish, besides pike. While commercial fisheries have the option - albeit a costly one - of otter-proofing their stock with fences, this clearly isn't possible in the Fens.

The only way of otter-proofing pike stocks, to a degree, is ensure their spawning success, so there are enough fish to replenish those eaten. In parts of America, where pike are routinely eaten as part of the angling experience, they have an answer which may well be the way we have to go to preserve our own pike.

On some waters, spawning areas are carefully managed to ensure that pike can use them successfully. If the EA can spend tens of thousands on eel passes, or efforts to safeguard the sea trout which run up the Nar and the Wissey, why not look to pinpoint and preserve the pike's spawning areas.

A survey of barbel in the Upper Ouse, conducted using radio-tracking methods,  revealed that the siltation of spawning areas was the reason for their declining numbers. We know that pike are in decline across the Fens. Maybe it's time we threw a little science at the question, to find out why. 

Click here for more on the Broads pike tagging project.

Click here to find out how repeat captures show there are less pike than you think in the Fens.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Crazy weather by the time pike fishing starts

This is one of my favourite newspaper front pages of the last few days. Lightning, hail, gales and even heatwaves, says the strapline.

My guess is that over any period of six months, it's a fairly safe bet we're likely to see all four - not to mention rain, snow and ice. And by the time pike fishing begins in earnest again, it could well be a bit colder than it is now.

Those whose working arrangements have a degree of flexibility - or recurring bouts of mystery illness, requiring spells off work when their local waters are fishing well - fastidiously pore over the forecasts.

Sometimes, I compare notes with co-conspirators. When you out next week..? Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday - or maybe Friday, depending on the weather.

Reckon it'll be best before that cold front gets here on Tuesday, Wednesday while it's still here or Thursday after that's blew through..? Um, I'm not sure I buy their conclusions on how that frontal system's going to develop once it crosses the Azores. I mean, that could easily stall when it hits that trough of low pressure over the Irish Sea and be delayed by a day or two. So you reckon that'll be better Thursday then..?

+++Weather Update... Met Office now saying we've had the wettest June since records began, more stats here.

Monday, July 02, 2012

REVEALED: WWII drama that led to deep hole in drain

Why's there a deep hole in the drain. Now there's a story, yew got me going now. My ole Dad told me all about that years ago see, cuz he was one of the old boys what dug that bit of the channel. There was this Lancaster bomber in the war there was what caused it. Now that got all hushed up at the time, that did, so best you don't you go round tellin' everyone mind.

I promise I'll keep mum. It started out, innocently enough, when I wondered why there was a deep hole in a drain, together with semi-circular bulges in the floodbanks on either side. 

I'll let my source resume the story:

"Anyways they bin' off to Germany, these ole chaps on their Lancaster like, bombing Fritz somewhere or other back in 1944 or thereabouts they wuz like they did in them days.

"But when they wuz comin' back in to land at Downham Market they found they still had one bomb left on board, they did. Five-hunnerd pounder. Big ole bomb what h'ent dropped right, or summat.

"Now they wuz runnin' out of fuel, they wuz. So they wuz circlin' round an' round, with this 500lbs bomb still on board, they must'a bin goin' cor blast that's a rum ole dew, what we gunna dew now, that'll go off if we try an' land.

"So one of them ole boys on the plane, he say to the all other fellas on the h'innercom or whatever they had like, cor blast gimme that axe an' I'll sort this out. He say bomb doors open skipper, or summat like that, over the h'innercom thing, like what they had.

"An then, an then he gew back in the bomb bay an' he give it a right ole ding with this axe like what they used ter 'ave on planes in them days and that ole bomb dropped just as they was on their final approach ter what use ter be the runway.

"Ph'wee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ker-frickin' boom, that went. They musta' heard it in King's Lynn. Nearly blew Denver Mill up, that did. Anyways, that's why there's a deep hole in that bit of drain see. Cuz when they come along after the war they just dug an' took the ole channel right through it, they did.

"My Ole Man tole me that. But that's still classified. So don' go puttin' that on the h'innernet..."

Of course not, I say. Your secret's safe with me.

Best Daiwa reel for pike fishing in the Fens..?

Waxing lyrical about the latest Shimano Baitrunners - which were the latest Shimano Baitrunners when I bought them but have now been superseded by another Shimano Baitrunner - I half forgot the reels I use for the other half of my pike fishing in the Fens. By other half, I mean the half that involves legering baits.

I originally got a couple of these old metal Emblems for beach fishing, but they soon ended up on my pike rods. I then found they were going for less than £50 on eBay, so ended up with three or four more.

At first glance, they're a totally no-frills reel. No Baitrunner, or whatever the Daiwa equivalent's called these days. Front drag and a bail arm that closes when it whacks a lump of metal sticking out the front of the reel stem. Hi tech, not..?

One or two things about these reels endears me to them to the point where I'll never use anything else for legering, as long as I can get my hands on them. The bail arm rollers seem to keep working, regardless of how much you abuse them and how often you drop them in the mud. This reel is a relatively clean example of the genre.

I once trod on one, leaving a Daiwa Emblem-shaped hole in the peat when I pulled it out. I once had a swan fly into the line, catapaulting rod and reel into 20ft of river. When it came out, to Muttley-like sniggers from Rob fishing down the bank, it shrugged off the experience.

They have their drawbacks, the main one being they're quite heavy, so you wouldn't want to walk far with four of them in your quiver. But they just seem to go on and on.

I also love the low gear ratio and the huge, chunky handles. As I don't use other reels for legering, I can't comment on how good the line lay is, but they seem to have spools the ideal size for 65lbs Power Pro, which is another major plus point for me.

Click here for a review of the Shimano reels I also use.

A definite for later in the season

Flushed by the success of the sausage roll rig, when it came to solving the mystery of the Village Pond, I decide to strike while the iron's hot and have a bash on another water.

The only similarity is it's not meant to have any pike in either, although I have heard some interesting snippets which suggest otherwise.

It's been blowing a gale for the last couple of days, punctuated by plenty of rain. The idea's to go and try a few swims out to suss out its potential for later in the season. I've also got a new bit of kit I want to try, before I splash out my hard-earned.

It's a fair old walk to the bit I fancy, especially with a dodgy foot. I'm travelling light, with just a couple of rods, net and a few bits and baits in the rucker. But it's still a good 20 minute walk to the first swim. Instead of fishing, I snick a lead on the trace clip and have a plumb around.

Struggling to find more than three feet of water, I move 20 yards or so down the bank and have another go. Slightly deeper, but I don't fancy the rocky banks with a bad ankle, so I hoof it another 20 yards to a grassy bank where I should be able to net a fish without any problems if I do hook one.

It takes a few casts to get the depth right, so the floats sit up as the wind tightens the line. For years, I used swan shots pinched on the trace when float legering deads. Earlier today, I popped in the tackle shop to get a tub and paid £1.80 for nine of them. So I also picked up some of the new Guru leads, which are meant to be shaped so they hold the bottom well. These come in three sizes - an ounce, two-thirds and a third of an ounce.

If these work out on the slightly-modified rig I have in mind, it may be bye bye swan shots. The two-thirds size seemed to anchor a pencil float fairly well in five or six feet of water, attached via a safety clip. After 10 minutes or so, the float on a rod baited with a mackerel bobs and keels over.

I wind down straight away but there's nothing on the end. I begin reeling the bait in, to see if a pike's picked it up or an eel, when there's a bump on the end and the bait's gone in a swirl. That'll do for today, I decide, as the first spots of rain fall. There's definitely pike in here. Roll on Autumn.