Friday, August 31, 2012

Norfolk's next top pike water..?

Probably not - as in almost certainly not. But I did see fish topping in the Purfleet in King's Lynn yesterday, while I was on a work-related assignment nearby.

Then I remembered a survey after they cleaned all the mud out and blocked it off from the tidal river with a sluice ten years or more back, which found silver bream among the butts and sticklebacks.

Eels used to run up through the sewers under King Street. An old boy who used to take pictures for the papers once famously photographed him babbing down one of the drains for them. So maybe, just maybe...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Autumn's on its way at last

White horses laid seige to the beaches at high water as a gale hit the Norfolk coast tonight. There's usually a day when everything seems to change this time of year, as autumn comes knocking on the door.

We're three weeks away from the equinox. It's still officially summer. But the days are getting shorter and the night time temps are starting to drop.

I'd have gone for a few hours tonight if I'd seen the weather coming and work hadn't thrown a couple of curve balls.

I might even have given the zander the benefit of the doubt in a spot or two on what used to be a banker stretch.

This weekend's a definite now. The temps are forecast a little high, as summer clings on by its fingertips. But autumn's shown her hand tonight, as the clouds rush in from the bay and the rain carries a tang of salt spray.

Bring it on podnas. We've got work to do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rediscovering the Kelly Kettle

I find another long-lost friend in my study. It's Mrs Kelly Kettle. I had a lot of fun with this baby, so decide to give her a clean out. Or rather a de-coke, as the chimney's got half an inch of soot encrusted on it.

When I used it all the time, it gave fishing a certain wilderness feel. A je ne sais quoi quality of man versus the big outdoors, as the pall of smoke rose into the air and sometimes gave the game away as I gave it a squirt of WD to get the reeds or whatever fuel I'd scavenged alight.

The best think about the KK was it would burn just about anything and boil enough water for a round of teas and a couple of pot noodles in five or ten minutes. I only used the cook set you can buy as an accessory once.

I left some scran frying as I hopped down the bank to nail a run and when I turned around the whole lot had gone up in a great whoosh of flame. Not even the dog would eat the aftermath.

I also nearly set the then PAC chairman alight with it a few years ago. "Whatch'a tryin' ter do again Bish," he said, non-plussed by the plume of sparks licking around his brolley. "Smoke 'em out..?"

A useful first aid thing - NB personal opinion

Time to stock up on one or two first aid essentials, ready for the inevitable raker rash and the odd cut finger.  I don't know if you've ever tried this stuff, but it's well worth having in your first aid box.

It's great for sticking over a plaster, to stop it falling off, as even so-called waterproof ones do. I think it's also better for those cuts you get from rakers, because it lets them breathe - although it's not waterproof.

NB this is my personal opinion and should not be taken as any endorsement or recommendation of any treatment regime the next time you go to chin a fish and it shreds your knuckles.

Bankside first aid is a bit of a minefield in this politically-correct age, as if you believe some of the stuff you read there are so many things you can catch it's a miracle half of us even survive the winter.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Time for new bank sticks

I can't remember the last time I bought bank sticks - let alone decided the time was right for a total refurb of the bent collection I've soldiered on with for the last couple of winters because I was too tight to change them.

Mates always seem to have natty new bank sticks, with the 'in' names on them. One even has carbon fibre ones. I always liked the Dinsmores ones, with the screw points you could use to get a firm support for your rods.

I'm now ditching these in favour of the arrow-pointed variety. They might not be the trendiest name on the riverbank, but one thing I will say about Dinsmores is their bank sticks last.

The one problem I've had with them is when it comes to changing rests or alarms around when I'm fishing steep banks, need to sink the rod tops to beat floating weed, or need to fish 'em up high to keep the line off the water in flow.

I use rests that have metal threaded screws on them, because plastic ones have a habit of breaking, especially when it's taters in the Fens. But they always seem to stick after a while, which is where accessory two comes into play.

I keep a can of WD40 in the back of the car and sometimes spray the threads to make sure I can get heads off if I need to change them round. Before putting the alarms and heads on my new sticks, I gave them a good soaking in WD.

A tiny detail, maybe. But sometimes being able to change things quickly makes the difference.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How big do you reckon this perch was..?

How big do you reckon this perch was..? I don't know either. In the 10 years or so since I caught it, I've even gone back once or twice to try and catch one on purpose.

I caught it accidentally, trolling a spoon over the back of the boat as my mate rowed us home after we'd emptied the battery on the Minn. I thought it was a jack, but when I went to chin it I found a stripey full of spawn the size of a rugby ball with spikes on the end.

I knew it was big, but I slipped it back without weighing it.

It turned and faced the boat, flaring its dorsal fin as I returned it - still guarding its spawning area against two hairy-arsed interlopers - before it swam off to make more perch.

I wish I'd weighed it now. I know the distance from my elbow to my fingertips is around 18", so this was one big perch. I did weigh one I caught on a livebait on the same stretch a week or two earlier and it was nudging 3lbs.

That fish didn't look anywhere like as big as this one. But a float went as I was rummaging for the camera, so I dropped it back without a picture. I found a shoal of half a dozen big perch the following season, tucked tight against a feature.

I tried and tried to catch one, but the best I could manage was half-hearted follows. Perhaps I just got the day right - totally by accident - as this perch and its peers got ready to spawn. As my lure zig-zagged past them, one lashed out to defend its territory.   

Korum rig clips could be useful for pike anglers

I rarely splash out on new rig bits, but I have a feeling these Korum clips I found in Hunstanton Tackle today are going to prove incredibly useful. 

They're meant for running rigs for carp and other species, but they have one unique attribute which will be of interest to pike anglers who move around a few waters during the course of a day - or fish waters which are apt to change, like tidal rivers or drains which can be standing one minute and pumping off the next.

The way they're made means that you can easily slip them on and off your line in a couple of seconds, without having to break everything down.

That means you could add a running lead to a rig if - for example - the three or four swan shots you pinched on your trace when you started off no longer hold the bait still when the wind gets up or the drain starts running off.

I can't claim to have discovered them. Hat tip to Dave Lumb for that, see here and here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pipeline will help scientists study fish migration

A £400,000 pipeline between the Cut-Off Channel and the Wissey will help eels and sea trout move to and from their spawning grounds - and help scientists learn more about how these rare species and commoner varieties of coarse fish migrate around the Fens.

As well as connecting the two waterways, the hi-tech siphon is rigged with sensors which can tell when a fish which has been implanted with a special tag passes through it. As well as tracking devices, the pipeline also has infra-red cameras, allowing Environment Agency fishery officers to keep a watch on which species are using it.

The EA-funded project, paid for by efficiency savings within the agency, is the first of its kind in the country. Similar schemes are planned elsewhere, as the agency steps up its work to conserve rare species and monitor the health of our rivers.

"It's an all-species, all-singing and dancing fish pass," said Kye Jerrom, a fisheries technical specialist with the EA. "It's a massive project. It's such a significant site it needed something like this."

The pipeline (right...) was designed and built in Holland, before being shipped across to Stoke Ferry in sections. It has a series of baffles and pools inside, to ensure the flow remains negotiable for all species. It also has a special eel lane, which helps anguilla ascend on its way inland, where it spends its life before returning to the sea for the long journey to its far-flung spawning grounds. 

It also contains sensors which can detect PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags. Around 150 fish have been caught and tagged as part of a special research project. The EA plans to tag a further 200 each year, to build up an ongoing picture of fish movements. So far roach, rudd, chub, tench, trout and eels have been tagged at Stoke.

Scientist Karen Twine, from the International Fisheries Institute at Hull University, is known as the Barbel Lady for her work radio-tracking barbel on the Great Ouse. The study showed that barbel in the river were not being predated by otters, but were declining because their spawning grounds were silting up.

Now she's shifted the focus of her research to the Fens, where she'll be keeping an eye on Eel 2, Trout 3, Roach 19 and other tagged fish, to monitor their movements as they travel from one part of the system to the other.

As well as the PIT tags, Karen said she'll be using acoustic tracking - along similar lines to her acclaimed barbel research - to learn more about what's going on in our rivers and drains. You can just about see the tiny tag in the picture.

While there are no plans to study pike at present, the PIT tags might just do so by default. For the gizmos should keep on working if Roach 19 happens to get eaten by one.

This is exciting, cutting edge stuff. Meet Kye and Karen and you can't fail to be impressed by their passion for their subject matter and their drive to advance our knowledge of how fish in our rivers and drains are faring.

There are hopes that similar siphons will be installed elsewhere - the next location which has been pencilled in is between the Ouse and the Relief Channel, at Denver. Maybe, just maybe, the future of our fisheries isn't quite as bleak as it's sometimes painted.

One thing's certain - we're going to find out a whole lot more about our bread and butter coarse fish, as well as rarities like eels and sea trout, over the next few years. 

Bang out of order, them pike

There's part of the system where the maggot drowners reckon they're plagued with pike. I read it in the local paper.

This scourge of the Fens was graphically explained to me in a tackle shop I occasionally frequent today.

Yew like yer pike, donch'a - well yew wanna' get down there podna, the man behind the counter says. Riddled with 'em it is. Well-known Match Angler reckon he was losin' feeders.

Taking his feeder they were. Dear old game that is losin' feeders. Cheeky bastards. They don't care, bloody things. I wait for the inevitable punch line.  I don' mind 'em an' I know you pike boys like fishing for 'em an' all, but...

Not cricket, is it, I say. Taking your feeder. Dear old game. That's bang out of order that is.

Bang out of order, agrees the man behind the counter in the tackle shop, as I pay for my socks.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pike anglers from Essex fined £500 each

Two anglers from Essex were fined £500 apiece in court today for fishing in the close season on the Ouse at Queen Adelaide and transporting livebaits. Story here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer's end in the Fens

Wherever you look, combines toil. The air's thick with harvest dust in the big bayou. And the drains and rivers look better than they have for years, running high with a tinge of colour and a healthy growth of weed, instead of covered with azolla and giving off that stagnant smell of water that's been standing too long in the sun.

I have a feeling about this season. A feeling things are going to happen. A feeling that the tide might just turn our way for once, after a clutch of slow winters. Perhaps it's because everywhere looks so good, so full of life, so near perfect as summer draws to a close.

I'd go back tonight if I didn't have work to do and things to write. I'd head out to the bridge where I saw a pike that can't have been much under mid-twenties, tucked tight to a concrete pillar waiting for its lunch. I made a deal I'd catch it, there and then.

If I'd had any sense, I'd have taken a lure rod with me to a morning appointment and fished my way back home. I wonder where that fish will be in a few weeks' time, when work goes on the back burner and fishing finally comes first.

What a start she'd make to my season if I've got a rod in my hand instead of a notebook the next time we cross paths. We can but wonder, those of us who spend our winters chasing dreams.

Ground breaking research in the Fens

Fascinating morning spent with Karen and Kye, looking at how a new fish pass will help eels and sea trout travel to and from their spawning grounds and give scientists a better idea of how fish migrate around the Fens.

There's some cutting edge science at work, including fish tagged with transponders, infra-red cameras and an amazing pipeline linking the Wissey with the Cut-Off Channel.

Karen's better known as the Barbel Lady, for an acclaimed  research project which involved radio-tagging barbel on the Ouse to find out why they were in decline.

Now she's studying fish movements through the new siphon, built by Kye and his colleagues at the EA after being shipped over from Holland.  Ground-breaking stuff I'm now writing up for the papers, so more news soon. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Making a date with the Wensum

I am on time for an important meeting in Norwich. In work terms, this is akin to catching a twenty - being on time being something I aspire to but frequently fail to achieve, owing to factors beyond my control.

Walking up the Wensum towards the old Jarrold Works, I am tempted to dally by the glorious spectacle of fish rising all over the river.

Got stuck behind a tractor on the A47, combine harvester jack-knifed at Swaffham, livestock on the road - I run through the possibilities for stealing a quick ten minutes to drink in the sights.

But this is an important meeting. I make a mental note to make a date with the Wensum another time, and spend a morning on a lazy bend downstream of a cascade of weeping willows that seem completely out of kilter with the city bustle.

Baitrunners for lure fishing in the Fens

Ten years ago, these were the reel most people used for pike fishing in the Fens - the good old 8010 Shimano Baitrunner.

I still own several in this size. One thing that strikes me is how the old GT series are still going strong, while some of the newer models have given up the ghost.

One of the (then...) new GTEs jammed solid the first time I bent into a fish using it. The shop I bought it from sent me a new one.

One thing you soon notice is as the models evolve, the line lay changes. So even if the spools from the old 8010 GTs fit the REs or even the new(ish...) cheap ST6000 RA reels, you can't just transfer spools and expect tangle-free fishing, as the braid doesn't lay the same after a few casts.

Instead of buying new reels for this season's lure fishing experiments, I'm planning to nick a couple off bait rods I rarely use and press them into service.

This is probably all wrong, should be using multipliers etc. But if I get bored with it - which, let's face it, is always on the cards with me and lure fishing - they can always go back on the bait rods.

The newer 10000 series Shimanos are probably the best reels I've used for most of my bait fishing, which tends these days to involve float-legered deads. Metal spools, so none of the wobbles you got with the old plastic ones. Click here for a review of those.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Beauty on the edge of the Fens

I fell across this place today. A magical stretch of the Nar miles from anywhere, where water surges through an old mill-race under a ramshackle bridge, speeds headlong across a riffle, through a long-demolished sluice, into a deeper pool.

I'm no chub angler, but it screamed chub. Dace flashed on the shallows - I can't remember the last time I saw a shoal of dace - while a thick black tail or two waved beneath the streamer weed.

What a glorious, glorious place. Flies were hatching on a steadier run above a bend, with the odd dimple as fish tucked into the free feed.

I wonder how many more places like this lie forgotten, where the fish never see an angler as the river winds through the meadows, keeping its secrets to itself.

Another must-have pike fishing lure..?

My must-haves just gained another member. This is a Bagley B-Flat. I have no idea why they call them these, other than they're a bit, well, flat. You'll notice this one is in fairly pristine nick. I did have another one, which caught several, before I lost it on a snag trolling.

It was a ringer for the surviving member of the pair I bought on eBay. As in almost identical. But it didn't seem to sink quite as fast, or have the pike appeal of its long departed cousin, which is probably still festooning some old bit of junk in one of the boatyards at Wroxham.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tides govern drains and rivers in the Fens

I have a theory the tides are going to play more of a part in pike fishing than they have for a few seasons right from the word go this autumn. The simple reason for this is that water from brim-full main drains and rivers is currently being pumped off or discharged between low tides.

The impact that this has, even miles inland, is that it brings some flow to the water. A few days ago, the bottom end of the Middle Level Drain was covered with azolla. Seeing a picture of it on Twitter, I took a detour to get a picture of it yesterday only to find it had almost disappeared - pumped off via the new pumping station at St Germans into the tidal Ouse.

The pumping station's not the only change on the Middle Level system. The sluice under the aqueduct at Mullicourt has now been removed, meaning when the pumps are running, the whole system's going to flow as far inland as the Sixteen Foot, Forty Foot, Popham's Eau and the Old Nene.

Tides govern the pumping regime, because it's cheaper to pump water at low tide than against the tide. One of this season's projects is to make a note of what the tides are doing before I go, to see how they impact on flows.

I know there are people who swear by moon phases. One thing the moon phase determines is the size of the tides, as they cycle between springs and neaps.

All that water, from the Ouse and its feeder rivers, to the main drains and the man-made sprawl of waterways that feed them, is connected. Fascinating place the Fens.

A study in tidiness

Tidy the study. Three little words that are so easy to say, but a whole different ball game when it comes to doing them.

Some of my mates are tidy, organised people, whose lives operate with the efficiency of a german railway timetable.

Others are more anarchic in their approach to both life and fishing. Neither faction seems to have an edge on the other when it comes to catching.

I make the odd effort on the study front, from time to time. Earlier today, for example, I informed the wife that I may tidy up later.

But it is the hottest day of the year so far and I am not sure strenuously re-arranging fishing tackle is good for you once temperatures exceed 30C (85F).

I decide to adjourn to the garden and drink some beer, to make room in the fridge for the shopping, when the wife returns with the shopping.

Let it never be said I don't pull my weight.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rapala Magnums - the lures that time forgot..?

I'm adding lures to my must-have, not to be left at home under any circumstances collection as I turn out shelves and boxes in search of forgotten favourites.

Some earned their place in my affections because I actually caught on them. Others promised pike, but failed to deliver last time around. I liked them all the same, because I knew I'd catch on when the right day came along - or possibly the day I finally got the hang of using them.

The lures are in pole position when it comes to kicking off this winter's campaign. How long I stick with them comes down to how much I enjoy this new approach. Enjoyment, as ever being the bottom line in pike fishing.

When I enjoy fishing somewhere, I keep going back. Sometimes this is down to enjoying what I've managed to catch - others, it's down to enjoying what I might catch if I stick at it.

My latest must-haves are Rapala Magnums. Lean, mean, deep diving Magnums. A lure that was designed for trolling but offers the option of being worked along the bottom, albeit clumsily, when worked from the bank until it's big lip bumps the clay.

Magnums are all but forgotten these days, in the aftermath of the jerkbait fad. A lure that's been overtaken by events, you might say - superseded by new techonology in the plastic department.

Maybe, just maybe this will be their season.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hugh Miles cormorant video

Click here for a little more on this.

+++Please do all you can to link to this, tweet or share it...

Fens get off lightly - despite fish kill in the Delph

We've got off lightly this summer. Just imagine what the drought they were predicting a few short months ago would have done to some of our drains and rivers, caught in a perfect storm of farmers abstracting the maximum water to try and save their crops, as the system cried out for rain.

While water levels have recovered, there's water on the Ouse Washes where the recent heatwave's fueled an algal bloom and made sodden vegetation turn to rot.

Now that foul water's started to find its way into the Delph, where another crisis looms. EA workers saw dead and dying fish in the Delph around Welches Dam on Wednesday. They've heaved in peroxide and deployed aerators to try and boost oxygen levels. It looks like they've got there in the nick of time, but the devil's in the detail as they say.

For they reckon it's going to take another three weeks for the remaining water on the Ouse Washes to clear, meaning a lot more de-oxygenated water could find its way into the Delph. Both the Delph and neighbouring Old Bedford are prone to fish kills at this time of year.

So far, the Delph appears to be an isolated case - meaning the rest of the system may well survive what's likely to be a short-lived heatwave unscathed. Let's hope so, podnas.  

+++Click here for schematics and maps of the Bedford system.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How old is a 20lbs pike from the Fens

How old do you reckon this fish is..? I forgot to ask it, so I don't know. Brian, the guy who does the Pike Blog, has tried his hand at a weight-for-age scale. But as Brian admits, there isn't that much info out there when it comes for age vs weight.

I sent the old boy some links and info that might provide a starting point in terms of people to ask, ranging from the guy that runs the gill-netting on Windermere, to Uncle Nev.

Weights of individual fish vary at different times of year, for obvious reasons. Growth rates also vary from water to water. Another no-brainer.

But Brian's scale got me thinking all the same, mainly because I've got no idea how long it takes a pike to reach 40-inches - the Mona's scale bench mark for a twenty - let alone the much-hallowed specimen weight.

In the back of my mind, I'm half surprised I don't know this after 15 years of fishing for pike in the Fens. I suspect I still wouldn't know the answer if I'd caught twice as many twenties.

I wonder whether knowing it would change the way I fish or the waters I choose to target if I did. If you'd asked me a few seasons back, when I was on a roll, I'd probably have come up with some glib response like keep at it on the right waters long enough and you'll catch a few.

But looking at the waters in the Fens which currently appear to be peaking in terms of big pike but seem to hold a dearth of smaller ones, knowing how long it might take another generation of big pike to come through might save  a lot of wasted trips.

It might, in other words, make the difference between keep going long enough and you'll catch a few, to this water's going to have several in next winter, because it was a good doubles water two years - or however long it takes - ago.

Interesting stuff.

+++I also should have remembered this scale from Fred Buller.

++++And this piece on the PAC website shows how few pike actually make it through to adulthood.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Storm Kicktail #2

I didn't give this lure much of a chance, to be honest, because something bit me and I went home after visiting the Village Pub and the Village Shop, where I acquired a bottle of Cognac for medicinal purposes.

I appreciate this is not exactly the spirit, no pun intended, and that I probably need to man up if I am ever to become a successful lure angler. I can highly commend the lure's action. Provided you don't retire injured after an insect bite, visiting licensed premises en route to same, you'd probably catch something using it.

I'm sure it will be a winner when the weather is cold enough to deter flying insects. It has the same snaky, sinuous action as the roach-patterned Kicktail, but it's getting on for half an ounce lighter and just looks better in the water.

Well, it did until I got bitten by something. Before my arm swelled up and I bought a bottle of VSOP Cognac, which has been aged for at least four years in oak casks.

You want to get that seen to, you do

You want to get that seen to, says Malcolm as I sink a medicinal brandy in the Village Pub. That looks nasty.

Thanks for that Doctor bleeding Kildare, I reply through the exquisite fumes of Cognac aged in oak casks for at least four years.

The Half Awake Barman sniggers as he pours me another. Malcolm extracts his wallet from his Chinos and slaps a tenner on the bar.

Oh for god's sake, he says. It's only a mosquito bite.

I am a girl's blouse. I am a gibbering pansy. I have been bitten on the arm by a mosquito. It is swelling before my eyes. I decide to take my bite elsewhere in search of sympathy.

Blast me that's a biggun, says the Village Shop Lady, as I invest in another bottle of brandy and a sausage roll, before exiting the premises before the Village Shop Lady has time to enrich my afternoon with any interesting anecdotes about interesting bites suffered by other customers.

Strictly medicinal Vic, I tell the Vicar, who is sitting on the Memorial Bench by the Village Pond, as his eyes alight on the bottle of VSOP Martell, which has been aged for at least four years in oak casks.

Been bitten by a this fly, and... I didn't know they sold VSOP, said the Vicar, moving the conversation away from my ailment. They age it in oak casks for a minimum of four years, you know.

For a moment, I contemplate offering the Vicar a swig. But I take my booty home instead.   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why we're really losing the war against cormorants

Everyone who fishes ought to read this story on the Guardian website.

It doesn't say anything new about a debate that's been going on for the best part of a decade.

But read the comments underneath it. See what I mean now..?

+++Click here for a video about cormorants...

Amnesia mono for tying up lead links

Here's another useful bit of kit - as in a spool of Amnesia. This stuff's the dog's for tying lead links, because it's a bit thicker and more robust than normal monos for the same breaking strain.

But its real USP is the fact it's a whole lot stiffer, so it doesn't tangle half as much - meaning those tangles when the trace and lead link spin round each other on the retrieve, which can lead to a mess to sort out, or worse still, a kinked-up trace.

You can help stop these tangles with another simple little dodge - cut the tails off your deads before you mount them on your trace. This stops them spinning on the retrieve and also prevents the tails of things like mackerel tails, herrings etc masking the top hook when you tighten into a fish. Tiny detail, but well-worth trying.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pike fishing's not for everyone

But if you're wild at heart, then I guess it's a good thing to do... So goes the quote from the old boy at the end of this mental trailer for A Backyard in Nowhere. I haven't got round to seeing the film yet, but I'm struck by some of the amazing filming, that really does make the fishing look like something incredibly wild and exciting.

Compare and contrast to sitting in the Fens with your mate. Your turn to make the tea 'Erbert..? Why I believe that might well be 'Orrie. Oh, hang on - I believe that float just went. Kin' you put the Charlie on while I have a quick primeval tussle with a fish with an attacking speed like a bullet..? Cor blast, I missed it. Best make the tea, shoot another moose and git nekkid' fer another quick swim then.

Bung us one of them old pike floats

I found this during my annual pre-season clear-out, nestling amid the boxes of junk I refuse to throw out just in case it ever comes in useful. I bought it for nostalgia's sake ages ago, because the first pike I ever caught was on an old bung someone gave me when I was but a lad.

One useful thing about bungs was they were easy to change if the one you selected wasn't the right size. Admittedly this wasn't often a problem in my bung days, as I only owned large bungs. Imagine if someone came up with something similar - either blow-moulded plastic, or even cork, with a hollow central tube so you could fish it as a slider.

End result, a through-the-middle float you could change to suit conditions, without having to break your rig down.

Power Gum

Here's another useful little item to tuck away in your rucker - a spool of Power Gum. I always start out with a couple of rig stops to set the depth on my float rods, but they don't last forever.

Sooner or later, they start to slip - even if you use two and moisten the braid before you move them.  Then they fall off, which is where the Power Gum comes in. It's great for tying stop knots, mainly because you don't have to break the rig down, slide on the rig stops, re-tackle the rod etc.

Sooner or later, I'll probably dump rig stops and just use Power Gum all the time. Leave a bit of a tag on the stop-knot and it goes through the rings easier than if you trim them down to a stub, which tends to catch.

New PAC membership card

I got my new PAC member's card in the post over the weekend. While the card they gave me when they first made me a life member in 2009 is looking a little tatty and dog-eared these days, the new one looks like it might last a bit longer.

Slipping it in my wallet also marks a watershed for me, having decided to spend my time fishing for the next few seasons and not get too involved in anything much away from the bank. Well, that's the idea.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How healthy are our rivers ..?

A while ago, I asked whether it was time to investigate the declining pike population of some of the rivers and drains in the Fens.

I can only guess this must be news somewhere or other today, as that post's seen a minor spike in visitors.

Here's an interesting piece by John Vidal about greenwash, and the way stats on how healthy our rivers really are get spun.

+++Click here for a video about cormorants...

Fuse wire tip for popping up deadbaits for pike

This is all you need for attaching bait poppers or polyballs to your traces to lift your deads off the bottom. Fuse wire costs a fraction of what they charge for the special wires you can buy in tackle shops to do the same job.

It's also better than using nylon, because it's a lot quicker to add bouyancy and make adjustments when you only have to twist the wire around the popper and the bend of one of the bottom hooks.

If you leger baits using a running paternoster - with the lead off a run ring and nylon link stopped at the trace swivel - it makes for a tangle-free rig you can get a fair bit of distance with.

You don't need bait poppers, either. You can get polyballs in all shapes and sizes from craft shops or online for far less money, you just need to carry a darning needle to get the wire through them.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Did you ever catch this pike from the Fens

There's another fish I've been meaning to write about for ages. So nearly my first thirty, but not quite both times I caught her. I'm trying to piece together some of the stories behind the captures of this pike, which hovered between low thirties and high twenties for two or three seasons, when a rag-tag band pursued her on one of the sprawl of gravel pits east of King's Lynn.

She even had a name at one point. We called her Nelson, because she was blind in one eye. I know of at least five other captures, the best looking every ounce of 32:04. The first time I caught her, she went 28lbs. The second time I caught her, she was 43.5" long, although she was shy of 27lbs by a few ounces because she was spawned out as you can see from the picture.

What struck me about this fish was how many people were chasing her. Few of them were successful. Yet the water seemed to take on a life of its own on the local grapevine.

There are at least three thirties in here, one of the regulars once told me. I enjoyed the time I spent chasing her, partly because it was incredible how a fish this size could do a disappearing act for months on end.

I found her MO out by accident. I was thrilled to catch her all the same - the waders probably give a clue regarding how you had to fish the water - I caught her both times I managed to get a bait right on her nose.

If you caught her, or one of your mates did, leave a comment.  No names or pack drill needed. I've still got the jaw bone I recovered from the pit after a carp angler told me he'd seen an otter feeding on the carcase of a big pike.

What I noticed, the last time I caught her, was how she'd lost all the teeth on one side of her lower jaw. The lower jaw I've still got somewhere in my study is missing the teeth on one half - I'm guessing where countless traces cut her, assuming the jaw bone was hers.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Old pike fishing lures by Storm and Rapala

I had a load of fish on this a few years ago. Memories of a particular morning came flooding back when I found it in a box of lures from the past, tucked away on a shelf behind a load of CDs. I'm not sure you can still find them these days.

It's a Jointed Thunderstick, one of several I bought years ago when I had the lure bug. This was the only one I ever caught anything on. In fact I only even remember it working on one particular drain, for a few hours after dawn one morning, when I had seven or eight twitching it slowly across the top.

That's about all you can do with these. They run very shallow, and if you try and pull them down deeper with a few flicks with the rod, they end up flying out of the water instead. They were hip for bass fishing for a while, but the problem is they're so light they don't cast very far.

One that's definitely going back in the box for a few chucks this autumn. And what do I find along with Mr Thundersick..? A Rapala J13 in the once must-have fire tiger colour scheme.

Trout, in the fields

I nearly went mackerel fishing today, after receiving a tip-off they're catching a boatload of them off one of the beaches a few miles up the coast.

I got as far as rooting around for a spool of 6lbs mono I bought last time I nearly went mackerel fishing, but didn't actually get around to putting on a reel.

Then I remembered I didn't have any ice or a clean coolbox. So I did what I did last time I nearly went mackerel fishing but didn't have any ice or a clean coolbox and went pike fishing instead.

There was a bit of water I fancied a look at, to check out the lie of the land for a few weeks' time. A mate put me onto it, so I sent him a text out of politeness. My phone buzzed as I was loading the car. I'm working, wanker. Hope you fall in.

I took one look at it and decided it wasn't worth the effort in the heat, so I went exploring instead. I followed a creek off the marshes, beyond the old mill race long past where the tidal influence ends. I clocked up a first for several years on a swift glide, where the stream skirts fields of blue and the air was thick with the scent of lavender.

A lean wild brown trout holds lazily in the current, with flicks of its tail.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

What's the best weather for pike fishing in the Fens

I know people have different ideas about the best conditions to go pike fishing in the Fens. In recent years, one theory which seems to have become accepted is that pike feed hard when a cold front's approaching.  Some reckon the day before, others the day it actually arrives.

One of the best days I ever had was when there was a westerly wind with a lof of high, fast-moving cloud, when two of us had more than 20 fish between us to high doubles and a couple of other guys on another bit of the same water enjoyed similar success.

I study the weather avidly before I go fishing and sometimes take a day or two off on the strength of the medium-range forecast. I've started linking to some of the weather sites I use below the weather widget thing half way down the sidebar. This will grow as I get round to it. Underneath it, you'll also find a collection of EA river guages for some of the main river systems.

These are a little limited. There's only one for the Ouse, for example and none for the Middle Level, Cut Off, Relief Channel or any of the Cambs or Lincs drains.

EA crackdown in the Fens

Nearly 500 anglers in West Norfolk and the Fens had their licences checked in a blitz by EA bailiffs and police a couple of weekends back. Story here.

EsoxWorld 7

EsoxWorld 7's another great read - especially Nick Peat's cracking piece about fishing rivers.

Apparently the PAC is going the same way. offering members the option of a digital magazine. I think this is a top idea for two reasons - you can take it with you on the bank, show people and encourage them to join; and it will save the club a packet in the long run.

Click here to have a read - you have to sign up, which only takes a minute or two, and you're away.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Open mind the key to pike fishing in the Fens

I've just realised the coming season will be my fifteenth in the Fens. I've seen some great fishing here and there in that time, several mediocre seasons and a couple it was hardly worth getting out of bed for.

If I hadn't enjoyed the bad ones nearly as much as the good ones, you probably wouldn't be reading this.

There's something strangely addictive about pike fishing, even when it isn't going your way and everything seems to conspire against you. When it does go well, I've been around long enough to know it never lasts.

Perhaps the transient, ever-changing nature of it all's the thing I find so fascinating. I know where I'm going to start off in a few weeks' time, because we caught a few good fish on that part of the system last time around.

But if the fish I'm after don't show when the conditions are right, I know I won't hang around because there's so much water to go at in the Fens there's always somewhere else to try, always another half-baked hunch or a whisper on the grapevine to chase.

You change your approach a little every passing season. This time around, my main ambition's my first-ever twenty on a lure. One of the reasons why I've never managed thisis that I gave up lure fishing before I really got to grips with it.

The day I caught this fish a few seasons back had a lot to do with it. Two or three times, it flirted with a Shad Rap trolled slowly behind the boat as I twitched it along a shallow run of snaking streamer weed which drops off into deeper water.

When I dropped an *undead* over the side, I felt the bait become agitated as I adjusted the stop-knot, before the braid was snatched from my fingers in a violent tug. I  snapped the bail arm shut, held the rod at arm's length over the side as the float went down a hole in the river and bent into a brute of a fish that tore off for the tree roots as I held it hard on a tight line.

I savoured every second, every head shake, before I slipped the net under it and paused to catch my breath. It might not have been the biggest pike I've ever caught, but in many ways it's still one of my favourite captures because it fired me up so much for what turned out to be my best-ever season.

The lure rods were sidelined after that day. I realise now the fish was up for it, but I wasn't good enough to translate its interest in my lure into my first twenty on one. Drop a you know what over the side and it was bang - job sorted.

Anyone could have caught that fish if they'd been the one on the end of the rod. Sometimes catching a big pike is as easy as finding it when it's feeding. Locating them in the first place is the hard part in the Fens.

I thought I'd cracked it for a while that season. Cracking it means I found a few bigger fish and worked out something that now seems very simple in hind-sight.

It's easy to be wise after the event.  It's easy to embellish past successes with rose-tinted theories about why we did so well, looking back. But what counts in pike fishing is what the bad days teach you, as well as the good.

If you stick to one method or one water because it's served you well in the past, your results soon start to suffer for it. I've been as guilty of this as anyone over the last 14 seasons. But if I've learned anything from the lean years, it's that you need to keep an open mind.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Is there pike on Mars

Amid the triumph of landing the biggest explorer vehicle thing they've landed on Mars since the last explorer vehicle thing they landed on Mars, a line in the story which has not so far been pursued by the angling media made me think.

NASA are now seriously considering a manned mission to the Red Planet, which lies on average 225m km from the Railway Bridge swim at Ten Mile Bank, near Downham Market, depending on where Mars and the Railway Bridge swim lie on their respective orbits.

I do not normally name swims, but the Railway Bridge swim was the place where I gained a whole new insight into the possibility of beings from other worlds visiting the Fens, and until recently more people visited this blog to read about that than anything else *linky thing*.

Anyway, this manned mission thing got me thinking. Like, what if we could nominate the crew of the first manned mission, which would take even longer to get to than catching a twenty from the Relief Channel, to give some idea of time span.

I know who I'd go for. I can see him now, as they touch down on the dark side 225m km away from the Fens, as he switches on his head torch.

Oi, you, little green man...

Changing times on the tackle market

Traders were being offered free pitches today, in a bid to boost the number of stalls on King's Lynn's 800-year-old Tuesday Market. Amid the bric-a-brac and local produce, there was a stall selling fishing tackle. It transpires said stall hailed from Yorkshire and was making a flying visit to the Fens.

The tackle shop several of us used to frequent began life as a market stall. Geoff Baker expanded into a tardis-like shop in Tower Street, before he retired a few years ago, as the internet banged the last nails into the coffin of the little street corner tackle shop.

I still miss Geoff in a lot of ways. Once he knew you, he looked after you. Life's moved on and I now buy my bait online instead of weekly from Geoff. I doubt you can make much of a living selling tackle anywhere on a small scale these days, unless you can carve out and own a niche.

I guess that's now true of a lot of things in life. The out of town shopping centres sounded the death knell for the once-bustling markets - just as the internet's killed off half the tackle trade and turned the other into an online superstore, click here to check out, enter your credit card details, do not pass a person who might be able to advise you on your purchase at any point in the process. 

No never mind Chris, drop the money in next week when you grab a week's worth of bait and find you've left your wallet at the office. No are you seeing your mate this weekend,  I know he was after some of these swivels - take a packet for him and tell him he can square it up next time he's in.

Up the other end of town, where they hold the Saturday Market, the once bustling flash is sometimes down to a single fish and seafood stall. It's run by the daughter of the late Chuffy Atkins - who as well as selling fish was a bit of a character on the local pike fishing scene until he died a few winters back.

Pike fishing still supports a few independents. Probably because pike anglers tend to be a conservative bunch who stick to things they trust, rather than the latest big thing.  

Fishing's changed a lot, like everything else has when it comes to how we shop. We might pay less than we ever have for it, in relative terms, since the days when a swing-tip rod cost a week's wages down the mine or in the steelworks.

But we're poorer for it as consumers, caught somewhere in the growing gulf between the soul-less online superstore and the car boot sale when it comes to buying bread and butter tackle.

Fox Trace Blades

Some of the best bits of pike fishing kit are the ones which you can just take for granted and forget about, because they never let you down.

I've used Fox Trace Blades since they first came out, because they're the best tool out there when it comes to cutting the trace wires I use for bait fishing.

I didn't realise quite how useful they were until I lost them and it took me a week to get round to buying another pair.

They now cost around a tenner, but when you bear in mind they don't seem to wear out and are just as good at cutting braid as they are at cutting wire, that's not exactly expensive.

Most people I know have a pair of these. As well as making traces and trimming knots, they're handy to keep in a pocket somewhere in case you have to cut a trace when you land a fish with a flying treble, or when the bottom hook is hanging out of the gill arch.

I have a couple of other Fox tools - a pair of their long-nosed pliers and a pair of their cutters. The pliers are sometimes better for unhooking fish, especially wheh you chin them or unhook them in the water over the side of a boat. The cutters come into their own when you need to cut a hook that's snagged in your net mesh; or sometimes when it's easier to cut a hook and remove it piece-meal, like when you get one in a pike's rakers.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Do you take your dog pike fishing in the Fens ..?

Nice fish, I think, as it wallows on the top. I'll get a picture of it, where's me camera, here we go... Grrrrrrrrrr... Kerrrrr-splosh... Woof-woof-woof-woof... Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr....

Do you take your dog out pike fishing..? I used to take mine whenever we fished the pits, because he could have a good old run around in the fresh air out in the middle of nowhere.

I say used to, because fishing with the dog soon became more focussed on fishing with the dog than fishing - as in stopping the furry thug before he did any more mischief.

While boxers are meant to be scared of water, mine loved it from the the first time I took him out as a ten-week-old puppy , when he stepped off the bank onto a lily bed and I ended up going in after him.

My dog eventually learned to swim. This turned out to be a bit of a mixed blessing. For as he got his head around pike fishing, he'd sense the excitement as you played a fish and go straight in after it.

On slower days, he'd walk up to your rods and knock them off the rests to set the alarms off. When I fished with mates, he'd amble up to theirs and piss on their reels.

If you brought food, he'd find it. He's a lovely dog, said one sucker, feeding him half his pasty. The dog walked up to his unhooking mat and left a great big steamer right in the middle of it.

My companion shrugged this off as some kind of canine misunderstanding. My dog had got away with it, yet again and he knew it. I wondered if he had the proverbial golden balls.

When a wildlife photographer accompanied me to try and get a picture of some otters, for a newspaper feature we were working on, I set him up with his long lens trained on the animals' usual patrol route. The otters failed to show.

One popped up the next day, right under my rod tops - the dog and the old dog otter in a mexican stand-off, the dog growled, the otter spat like a cat as I rummaged in my rucker for the camera.  By the time I found it, the otter was gone.  

I did catch a good fish once when I was out with him. A gravel pit twenty. The dog was asleep and I got a half-decent picture of the pike in the landing net before the dog woke up and began trying to supervise proceedings by weeing on the rod.

I slipped the pike back as Johnny Block came along. "How big was that Cress," said Johnny. The dog growled at Johnny, for some reason, when I told him it was a twenty.

Johnny looked the dog straight in the eye. "Don't you bleddy well growl at me buyhh," he said. "Bite bleddy smart-arse I jus' had a fuggen' pike Cress..."

Golden Balls turned round and sunk its teeth into my Skeeters, as Johnny disappeared laughing his head off.    

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Going with the flow in the Fens

Rain, rain and more rain. Instead of its usual semi-stagnant summer state, the Gaywood River is bustling along by Bawsey Ruin. Between various jobs in the Fens, I look in on a drain or two and they're all up and running too.

The relief channels that flow into the proper Relief Channel from the Nar look more like trout streams, with bur reed snaking in the current.

The Pulver, a drain I've never fished is brim full, with bream bubbling around the silent pumping station.

I check out a few more places. On the way back to civilisation, I wonder why I haven't seen a single soul fishing on any of them.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Pike fishing in the Fens QR code

My QR code splodge thing is now bringing as many people who access the internet via Android or iPhones to this blog as those using Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Mobile phones which can access the internet can be taken fishing, meaning you can access blogs like this from the bank, along with all kinds of other useful information ranging from weather forecasts and tide times, to e-mail, Twitter and Facebook.

Yet fishing websites, blogs and forums are still fairly static things. People post their writings. People mull over them in forums.

No-one's really grasped the potential for live blogging and interaction yet, but I've no doubt it will come as fishing embraces the technology.

Hi Guys, this is Simon from Southampton. Fishing this swim on the Avon for chub. Wondered where you guys would bait up - under the trees or down the deeper water on the near bank. What rig and how long would you give it before you move..?

Hi Simon, this is Nigel. Had a five-six under the second tree on meat last night. Long tail off a feeder.

Hi Nigel, just missed a bite on a 12" tail - Tweeted a pic of rig, reckon that's too short..?

Yeah Simon, your hair needs to be shorter if that makes sense.

Um, I'm bald Nige.

Yeah I know bonehead - I mean the one off the hook LOL.



It'll come. Just wait and see.

To use a QR code, go to the App Store and download a free QR code reader. To generate a QR code, try here.

Scan mine and save the link on your Android or iPhone. And stay tune this season....

Autumn might come early if that rain keeps on

I had a strange feeling, looking at the land drain flowing off as the gates in the tidal opened a mile or two away.

What if it rains right through the rest of August, bringing an early autumn instead of the prolonged mild spell which seemed to drag last summer out into October.

Somewhere - I can't for the life of me remember whether it was on here or in one of the papers - I wrote that we were in uncharted territory at the time as far as the weather was concerned.

This was my stock excuse when we weren't catching much, until a couple of bankside debates later in the season, when we agreed that there were a lot less smaller pike around than any of us remembered.

Some people have built up quite complex theories on how things like changes in pressure, weather fronts and even moon phases affect the pike. Many of them seem to contradict one another, while few include the direction of the wind, which can often drive the weather in the Fens, or the condition of the water.

The Ouse and some of the main drains have some flow at the moment. Two weeks ago, hardly anyone was catching. Now they're fishing well for bream and roach, which seem to be shoaled up in one or two areas.

I wonder if this will have the knock-on effect of making the pike fishing easier in terms of predicting where the pike are going to be. I can't pass a river or drain without stopping for a look at the moment.