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.

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