Sunday, September 02, 2012

It's otter than July

Another winter's pike fishing begins with a cold, grey, drizzly dawn. The water's clear but there's a gentle flow, a slight ripple and prey fish topping for a fly hatch.

Bream anglers are having a post mortem after a biteless night session a few swims downstream. There was a shoal here but it seems to have decamped elsewhere. One look at the water tells you that, with no colour caused by the silt a shoal of grazing slabs disturbs as they root around on the bottom.

This doesn't bother me too much - I'm sure the pike follow the hand-sized roach and rudd around on here, not the dustbin lids. The banks are overgrown but I can get the rods over the worst of it and crash through the rest if I need to net a fish.

I check the hooks, bait up the traces and drop one either side of the feature the prey fish are dimpling over.  I let the flow pull the braid into a slight bow to cock the bungs.

The 2/3oz Guru leads hold the floats steady, baits parked just where I want them. As I crack open an expresso, a familiar cacophony of honks and squeals sounds in the distance as skeins of geese make their final descent to the beet fields. Autumn's here, no messing.

A bung wobbles and falls flat. The line tightens and falls slack as I pick the rod up. I sweep it back over my shoulder anyway and connect with weed instead of the first pike of the season. Maybe it dropped it as it felt the rig weeding up. They do that sometimes.

I re-bait and drop it back in the same spot. Maybe that's where they are, I decide, so I reel the other rod in and pull off the slightly sorry looking sardine to replace it with something more solid that will withstand a longer chuck.

I sling the sardine in the margins, watching it sink down onto the weed. Then the weed moves as a pike of three or four pounds shoots out, grabs it and does a U-turn in a swirl. Oh well, at least I've seen one.

A run-less hour passes, before there's a swirl that sends the prey fish flying in all directions off the reeds on  the far side. Bigger lead and I could get over there, I think as I debate which rod to reel in and change to a 2oz bomb.

Then a head appears. Then a long shape sets off along the surface - another first of the season. I grab the camera out of my rucker and stand to get a better shot, as the otter heads off along the bank.

The picture's pulled up and sharpened a bit in GIMP but you can see what it is - as in not a mink.

I saw one here last season too - not to mention spraints and smashed swan mussel shells elsewhere on the same part of the system. This time around, the water just goes dead. The prey fish stop topping and if you hadn't been here half an hour earlier, you wouldn't think there was a fish in this part of the river.

It's lunchtime. The sun's broken through and the day's doing its best to warm up. A hobby hurtles up and down the reeds as I pack the rods down. I'm sweating in my bunny suit by the time I get back to the car.

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