Sunday, October 28, 2012

Remembering Johnny Block

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Johnny Block's death from cancer.  I was hoping to get out but ended up going out to remember him today.

He lived on steak and potatoes, washed down with the odd whisky, in a log cabin in the woods. Johnny wore his love of the countryside on his sleeve and if you shared his fascination with the weather, the changing seasons and the comings and goings of the wildlife, you were on his wavelength.

I still miss him now, for all the laughs and all the wisdom he shared in the 10 years or so I knew him. I fished some swims which held John-shaped memories, times I'll always treasure, on the sprawl of gravel pits he used to look after.

I nearly caught one in a spot he used to rib me rotten about, as the drizzle quickened into a shower. The float shot off as I twitched a joey along some trailing alders, but it came off as I pulled into it.

I could just picture him laughing his head off up there somewhere, great puffs of cigar smoke making the angels splutter.

Gamakatsu G-Point trebles

Got some of these on impulse when I ordered a few packets of Owners to top up my rig bins. Got to say they're seriously, seriously sharp straight out of the packet, nice round bend pattern with a whisker barb.

My two slight reservations are that the barb's perhaps a bit too shy and the eyes seem a little bigger than the Owners I've been using for the last couple of seasons.  At £2.99 for five, they're in the same price bracket - I wonder why people who make premium hooks don't at least package them in even numbers, so you get enough to make two or three traces.

I can see me using these on smaller sea deads. When I get round to catching on them, I'll let you know how they fare. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don't miss our date with Mr Barrett

Mark Barrett's going to be joining us for our first meeting of the winter at the Wm Burt Club on Wednesday, October 31 (8pm).

It's got all the makings of an interesting night, because as well as the odd big zander - like the one on the left - Mr B's racked up an impressive tally of other species from the Fens.

We'll be announcing one or two other things. Well, Ash says we will; like a pike comp, future meetings etc, so best turn up if you can.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A grey old afternoon on the drain

Hang on a minute - that beer can wasn't there yesterday. I suppose it's a bit much to rock up at lunchtime and expect no-one else to have seen the obvious signs of prey fish shoaled up in this bit of the drain, but whoever it was could at least have taken their rubbish home.

I decide to give it an afternoon in any case. A grey old afternoon, that looks like it's going to piss down when it gets round to it. I extract the rods from the quiver and hoof the first bait to the crease where water's gushing in from a side drain.

It's off before I've even got the second one out or the net made up. I pull into the fish and it comes off after a couple of head shakes. I can't get the bait back in and the others out fast enough, thinking I've dropped on them.

Two of the rods are on poppernosters - whole bloods popped up on long links, which should hopefully sit the length of the trace off the bottom. The other's got a mackerel on, float-fished over-depth so I can twitch it about and see where any takes occur.

Somehow, I manage to miss a couple more before it finally gets round to raining. Whatever they are, I begin to wonder if they're pike, after I fail to connect with a screamer and find the bait un-marked. Never mind, I say, as I convince myself to stay until dusk. At least there's something out there. Snag was, I never got to find out what it was.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nothing ever stays the same in the Fens

I mean to start where I left off but the fish have other ideas. I can see their point, on a drain which has come up a couple of feet and is still rising by the time I drag myself out there.

I start off close to where we finished up yesterday, moving further into no man's land. I get a follow in the third or fourth swim I try, followed by a tentative take or two just off the weed that shrouds the margins.

The pike seem to have moved into the edges where the margins drop away - probably because the drain's been run off hard overnight ready for another to-up today. I can't quite get the lures to work close enough to the weed to get a decent hit without catching the green stuff.

I decide to head for another part of the system where I missed the boat last season, to see if it might do the business this time around.

Grebes are working an area a couple of hundred yards long, while a squadron of gulls and terns are diving. Find the prey fish, find the pike.

But I can't quite get to it with the lure rods, so I call it a day and head home to dig out the big guns and tie up some poppernosters.

Nothing ever stays the same in the Fens.

An otter's leftovers beside the drain..?

Despite the number of otters I've seen in recent weeks, this bream we found yesterday is the first carcass I've found which looks like an otter's had a hand in it.

It was some distance from the water, half way up the floodbank, on a stretch where there's a sheer bank too high for even an otter to drag a fish of this size up.

It must have dragged it for 10yds or so, from a bit of bank that's collapsed into the drain. Looking at the displaced scales, whatever hauled it up the bank grabbed it near the wrist of its tail. I'm not sure if the otter dragged the fish up the bank and left it for something else - perhaps a mink or even rats to dine on.

The drain's got large shoals of bream around this size in it, so one down's no great drama in the scheme of things. I did see what looked like spraint a few yards down the bank, but with the rain and other disturbance on the bank it was hard to tell for sure.

I remain convinced otters aren't the menace they're made out to be. Not to our wild fish populations, at least. But I have to admit to becoming increasingly fascinated by these creatures, as they recolonise our waterways.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Relief Channel set for enforcement blitz

As soon as I hear the story on the local radio, I get that here we go again kind of sinking feeling.

"Fisheries officers will be taking to the water this weekend to tackle illegal fishing on the Great Ouse Relief Channel," the news reader says.

"This is the first time an approach from the water has been made and is in response to information received about individuals fishing from dinghies."

You wonder what's happened to the fledgling River Watch operating in the Fens and the idea that intelligence passed on by the pike angling community would be acted upon.

Because instead of going out there and catching those responsible in the act, the EA sends out a press release warning that "with the pike fishing season in full swing", we all need to make sure we're fishing legally.

If you were thinking of fishing illegally on the Relief Channel, you'd probably opt for a change of venue if you heard tomorrow's crackdown advertised on Radio Norfolk. I expect the enforcement officers involved will feel like the rug's been pulled out from under their feet.

Now the gaff's been blown, the illegal fishing that's been reported in recent weeks wasn't even on the Relief Channel. It was on the Middle Level, where people have been seen behaving suspiciously in rubber dinghies.

Of jacks and jerkbaits

I see it following the lure - a good double that turns away from the jerkbait at the last second in a puff of silt. Next cast, the same thing happens. I swop the jerk for a Shad Rap, which fails to entice the pike back. I grab the lighter rod with a Kickin' Minnow and a jack hits it instead.

Ash comes down the bank to check I've really caught one, astonishment written all over his face. When I hand him my phone to capture the moment, he says: "Th'ass a bit smaller than the last one I photographed you with..."

Small it might have been. But after a run of blanks which was monumental even by my standards, I could have kissed it. Five minutes later, a slightly bigger one hits but comes off just before I can grab it.

Then Ash gets one, which being Ash had to be three times bigger than the one I caught, ie 6lbs on a good day. Never mind mate - at least we're catching.

The drain was backing up when we got there after a fish-less foray on one of the rivers. The river looked OK, but we soon got bored with it. The drain looks like it might produce a few more, as the gentle backward flow stops.

We set off for a yomp and find another pocket of pike a few hundred yards down the bank. We're missing as many as we're catching but it's turning into an absorbing afternoon all the same.  Lures are Ash's weapon of choice these days and he rings the changes with a succession of rubber shads with different weightings.

I stick on a great big Smuttley I got from Chico back in the days when I was into lure fishing. Ash asks: "What you tryin' to do - knock 'em out..?" But what Mr Smuttley might lack in the finesse department, he makes up for by being the lure I can throw the furthest.

Looking at the drain, which is a couple of feet below its normal level, I have a feeling the fish are going to be out towards the middle, where it's slightly deeper than along the sides on the bank we're fishing. Mr Smuttley does something else, when you chuck him 50yds and tap him back with thick, floating braid on your reel.

I've caught two more before I suss what this is. Ash twigs before I work it out - despite the great swirls which accompany both takes, along with a couple more I bump off or fail to connect with.

My lure's riding quite high in the water, zig-zagging along a couple of feet below the surface. Apart from the fact I'm not catching any of the weed which grows in great clumps here and there, the pike seem to like it in the top half of the water column.

I'm guessing this is because pike sitting in the weed or on  the bottom can see the lure a mile off as it jinks and dithers in the top layers.

Ash switches to a shad which does the same and bags a couple more. By now the drizzle's turned into a downpour. I sneak out another, before we retrace our steps back to the swim where we had our first flurry.

By now, the drain's started running off. There's a slacker in the bank and it's opened up, letting water gush in from a land drain. A couple of other half-hearted swirls and missed takes later, we're trudging back to the car, soaking wet.

Later, I wonder if this is the turning point, as I sling my Sundies on the radiators to dry. Can't wait for tomorrow podnas - maybe see you out there.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Will rain boost pike fishing prospects in the Fens?

I wonder if rain's the missing part of the puzzle, as far as the Fens are concerned. I wonder if the downpours forecast for the next couple of days are going to tip the balance in our favour, bringing gin-clear stretches of river alive.

One or two mates have been catching. I've been trying to work out what's so different, on the part of the system they've been fishing, to the bits I've been blanking so spectacularly on. I can't see I'm going to learn much by just jumping on there. The difference is clearly what counts, if I could only work out what the difference is.

The way things panned out last season had a common theme to it, if you knew what was coming out where as Autumn came to the bayou.

Waters covered in azolla cleared. Those who were on them when the lid came off caught pike. You could see the change work its way up the food chain, starting with the fly hatches which happened as the light hit the water.

The rudd went mad, followed by the jacks. Bigger pike moved in. We caught one or two of them. This year it's all different. Clear water, abundant bottom weed. I've probably seen more pike than I caught all of last season already, here and there - but they've defied my efforts.

In a bizarre kind of way, I'm enjoying my fishing far out of proportion to the lack of fish I've caught. This is partly because I've been exploring places my gut instinct tells me will come good sooner or later.

I'll stick my neck on the line and say it's going to change soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted

Off to a new bit of river that's a bit of a walk. Nearly an hour's walk, in fact, once I've worked out how to actually get to it. This is what most people call the far bank, as most choose to fish this stretch from the opposite bank, which has a road running along it.

A lot of them then cast all the way across the river to this bank, myself included on my odd forays along the other side. The far bank, which is the near bank to all intents and purposes today, is totally different to the other bank.

It has cattle living on it, for starters. A rough-haired, rag-tag herd that have munched their way not only through the grass, but seem also to have denuded the banks of the fringe of flag rush that grows in great waving regiments elsewhere along both banks.

That means the far bank's bare and open enough to leap frog the rods along it. I have a plumb about to suss the depths as I get set up a couple of miles from the car. Interesting discovery number two - there's a shelf that goes out where it's shallower, instead of the plunge into 20ft of water on the other side.

The wind's tricky and the floats need 2oz leads to keep the baits anchored. Wrong floats too, but I can't be bothered to change to big inline sliders for this afternoon's scouting mission.

A mate texts from another water. He's catching but off soon. I decide to stick it out and leap frog the rods along this stretch instead of moving into his swim.

Even if I don't catch today, I'll get to know part of the river I've been meaning and meaning to try.

This is what my pike fishing's now become - shorter sessions, trying places which might come good later on once we've had some rain and the system colours up a bit.

Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted, as Dick Walker once said. Or was it the Duke of Wellington.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Blackberry crumble for tea

Long, long walk today - to an area I know hardly ever gets fished.  It would have been paradise found if I'd managed to catch anything.

There ought to be pike here, in the scheme of things. But I try swim after swim, baits on and off the bottom; sea deads and bloods, without so much as a sniff.

What a day it turns into all the same, with azure skies and the gentlest of breezes whispering through the flag rushes.

When I run out of drain, I notice the brambles that riot over the floodbanks are in full fruit.  

Out comes a carrier bag. I reel the baits in and spend half an hour filling it with blackberries. The wife's well-impressed when I tip my booty into a collander.

"Glad to see your hunter gatherer instincts han't diminished over the years," she says, as she admires my haul. My pike catching skills may be taking a bit of a back seat at the moment. But I know where to find the best blackberries in the Fens.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

KLAA votes to dissolve club and become company

Last night's EGM voted to transform King's Lynn Angling Association into a limited company. When you look at the background and the case made for the change by chairman Kelvin Allen at the meeting, it's hard to argue with the outcome.

My one reservation is that the 130-year-old club is now on the road to sweeping change, on the say of just 22 of its 850 members.

Opening the meeting, Kelvin said incorporation into a limited company was "a well-trodden path", which many of the country's larger angling clubs had gone down. He said the club had first considered the move in 2003, but it was a step too far at the time.

Kelvin said since then, the position concerning insurance had become increasingly complex, with the club having to inspect platforms to show "due diligence". Yet the trustees of the club could be found liable in the event of anyone suffering an accident and taking the matter to court.

He added passions were running high after a number of incidents on club waters. Recent weeks have seen illegal netters, rowdy encampments and other night-time activities.

Consequently, two trustees have resigned. Without trustees, the club can't operate according to its constitution. That means the only way forward is to transfer the club's assets to a limited company, in which the maximum liability any member would be exposed to would be £1.

No-one disagreed with this. The reservation one or two of us expressed was could we really give the committee a mandate to make the change with just a hand-full of votes.

The meeting had been advertised on the club's website, in the Lynn News and EDP. Maybe that's anglers and apathy for you. When a vote was taken, it was unanimous.

Kelvin said it would be business as usual for KLAA, with the change coming into effect from next season; when people would be joining KLAA Ltd.

A statement posted on the club's website today says:

"The membership gave a firm endorsement of changing the Association founded in 1881 to a new Limited Company at last Wednesdays EGM, (10th Oct 2012).

"Members learnt that risks of from possible litigation procedures had finally become to great for the Trustees to bear and as such had little option but to form a new Company Limited by Guarantee.

"This makes the members the guarantors with a maximum liability of £1 and is the path trodden by many angling clubs in the UK. It was stressed that no change would be seen by members and all existing fishing rights would remain. 

"Work will now start on the transition to the new company which will be launched on the 1st April 2013 and the new fishing season."

Text book drain day ends in a blank

Two more trips and two more blanks. On Tuesday, I chucked out three baits, got a book out and five or six hours passed without me really noticing. The one noteworthy thing which happened was I saw yet another otter.

Today, Colin foolishly decided to hook up for a trip. I say foolishly, because I think he was actually expecting to go with me and catch something. We started on a bit of drain that looked like we might have been in with a shout and leap-frogged the rods the mile to the next bridge, where I'd stashed the transport.

That's two blokes, five rods and a fairly thorough trawl of a mile of drain without a flicker of interest. I know people were catching on the same stretch last season, around this time. I've even caught on there myself, enjoying some good days a few years back. It was mild and overcast, with a nice ripple. Text book day, so where were the pike..?

We had a good catch up, as I haven't seen Colin for a year, maybe two. I showed him a top flounder fishing spot on the way home. A plan was forming as we watched the tide coursing in up the river. Perhaps we'll try some flattie bashing next time we've got a day off and the tides are right. Colin's a chef, which means he's handy to know if you catch a few.

Bizarrely, I do think the pike fishing's going to get better soon. I say this for the benefit of the reader I saw at last night's Lynn AA meeting. And yes, I really have caught just one pike so far. Still, there's always the weekend.

+++Pikers keep things close to their chest - great post on Lumbland here.

Friday, October 05, 2012

All change at King's Lynn AA..?

I've spoken to people on both sides of the fence about the changes proposed at King's Lynn AA in recent weeks, because I like to make my own mind up about things when it comes to anything as important as the future of my fishing.

I've been a member of KLAA ever since I moved to Norfolk, on and off. Wednesday night's meeting is probably going to be one of the most important in the club's recent history.

While it would be wrong for me to tell you how to vote, I'd urge anyone who cares about the future of the club to attend and hear it from the horse's mouth.

The issues are now bigger than any one branch of the sport, whether you're a pike angler or a matchman. The future of some of our prime waters is at stake. We all need a strong club, with a clear mandate from its members, to safeguard our fishing for the future.

More here.