Friday, November 30, 2012

Snow on the way for Norfolk..?

This might well be the scene that greets us tomorrow, with forecasters saying there's a chance Norfolk will awake to a sprinkling of snow. If not, we might well be in for a touch of the white stuff on Sunday, with a band of rain coming from the west hitting cold air over the badlands.

If I'm starting to sound a bit like a weather forecaster, it's because I've been reading through all kinds of websites, charts, satellite pictures and blogs all night. With several days' off ahead, I'm wondering what I'm letting myself in for on the weather front.

We seem to have escaped the worst of the deluge, looking at how the other side of the country's still counting the costs of the floods, with many pikers elsewhere facing a weekend off the water.

Some of the forecasts look quite dire for the next few days, but let's face it - it's winter. And however slow the start of the season's been, you can't catch them sitting at home in front of the fire.

Tomorrow's going to be a drive round and have a look-see at a few places, to see if I can second-guess how they're going to shape up over the week. I know where common sense tells me to fish, but I won't be alone in fancying this particular water so I'll wait until the week, when there's a bit more room on the bank.

+++Postscript - they got a bit of snow in Swaffham and a few flakes in Norwich.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

First the flood, next the freeze-up..?

That's definitely getting colder, I tell the Half Awake Barman. That definitely is, he replies. And they reckon that's gunna git even colder, I add. They do, agrees the HAB. Someone was saying that the other night.

That was me, I volunteer. I said it was going to be the coldest winter in 100 years. So it was, says the HAB. I stare into my pint, pleased that staff behind the bar of the Village Pub clearly value my penetrating insights into the issues of the day.

As I head homewards, frenzied sawing noises come from Hawkwind Sid's garden. He is demolishing his shed, ready to burn it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pumps run full belt as the Fens fills up with water

The pumps are running full belt out in the bayou as they work to keep the land from flooding. Ditches and dikes, lodes and leams, land drains and main drains are all full and coloured, pulling off hard as water surges for the sea.

I've seen this many times over the years, but never this early, I muse aloud, as I stand on Saddlebow Bridge with a colleague and survey the Relief Channel which is five feet higher than it was a few days back, with white caps whipped up by a gathering gale.

Nearby, the new pumps on the Middle Level at St Germans have kicked in as rain falling 50 miles inland swells the system. Gravel Bank and Smeeth Lode are brim-full and running off hard.

A bridge has fallen into the land drain near Marshland Smeeth, presumably cutting off a few homes from civilisation in the process.

As we sit down for a work meeting over sandwiches and cake, I look out of the window and know where I wish I was today. I console myself with the thought I'll be out there as the waters recede, if for once I've timed a run of days off right.

Judging by the forecasts, there might only be a brief respite before winter descends in earnest on the Fens. Pike fishing could well turn into a race against time, before the big freeze comes.

The picture of the pumps running at Ten Mile and the river frozen are both from a couple of winters back. But this is the scene that might well greet those who venture out in a week or two's time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A short-lived pike feeding frenzy on the pit

Nothing like a 50mph gale to focus your thoughts when it comes to where to fish. I toy with the idea of trying some new pits, but decide to try some old ones instead as the car sways in the wind tearing across the marshes.

I'm in no hurry to get out, thinking I'd let the storm that lashed the coast last night blow itself out first. By the time I get to the water, the skies are clearing and the wind's starting to die down.

The plan's a simple one - blast a couple out as far as I can heave them and twitch them back towards me, with a sneaky one down the margins. The first one's off as I'm fiddling with the rests on the second rod to keep the line out of the alders which line the banks.

I pull into a feisty little jouble - not quite a jack, not quite a double - that tears up and down in the clear water until I get the net under it. The hooks are out in a snick and as I drop it on the mat for a picture, the other rod goes.

Back goes one, out comes another slightly smaller pike which stays on despite the fact it's only attached via one point of the bottom hook.

Baits out again and the bluey down the margins trundles off in under a minute. I pick the rod up and pull into another jack. As I'm sinking the net under it, the other one goes. I drop net and fish in the margins and hook into what's obviously a much bigger fish which comes off inexplicably on the way in.

Goodness me, what rotten luck, I say. Or words to that effect. The jack's managed to get snarled up in the net, leaving me with a mess of trebles and mesh to sort out once I've dropped it back.

Seven or eight seasons back, I shared an incredible haul of 30-odd pike in this swim. I wonder if I'm on for something on a par with that today, so I take my time getting everything sorted, baits, spare traces and one or two other bits of kit to hand after I rebait the rods and sling 'em out again.

But the pike have got other ideas and the swim just dies on its feet. Common sense says move round the pit and see if I can find a few more. But it's turned into a glorious afternoon. And I wonder if it's gone quiet because a big fish has moved in, attracted by the jacks' thrashings.

As the last of the sun makes the birches shine like silver on the other bank, I wish I'd moved. As the light fades, the margin rod's away and the big pike that's taunted me through an afternoon's pipe dream turns out to be a six pounder, as the full moon rises over the pit.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Desolation Row

I go to the Village Shop to buy bread, but plump for a Bob Dylan CD, a jar of extra-strong Marmite and a bottle of peach schnapps instead. This is the way I roll these days - anarchic, unpredictable, on the edge.

Realising I still have £5 left, I decide to take a detour on the way home and reinject it into the rural economy via the Village Pub.

The lounge bar is empty apart from Malcolm and Hawkwind Sid, who was never actually a member of Hawkwind, but claims to have jammed with them when he used to *like, uh, do the festivals, man*.

"Hello stranger," says Malcolm, peering at the recycled carrier bag plonked on the bar. "Been shopping, have we..? What's this, Marmite, schnapps and - oh, get this Sid, the man of letters has bought a CD by the greatest poet of the sixties, as in uh, Bob, uh, Dylan, ma-a-a-an."

Malcom makes a peace sign over his gin and tonic. Sid scratches his crotch through his combat pants. "Like, uh, right," he says. "What's it, uh, got on it..?"

"Bob Dylan mainly," I reply. "Bought it to like, uh, listen to in the car."

"Never had you down for a Dylan man," Malcolm says. "Sid met him in the seventies once, didn't you Sid..?"

"Uh, like, yeah, uh, no, that was Lemmy," says Sid. "When he was, like, uh, in Hawkwind. Or maybe after he left and, uh, formed Motorhead."

Quality conversation with my neighbours is one of the reasons I enjoy the occasional visit to the Village Pub. We are unsure when Motorhead were formed. I plump for 1980. Malcolm thinks I've confused them with Radiohead.

The latter half of the 20th Century is largely a blank as far as Sid's concerned. His dog is called Lemmy, in memory of temps perdu, but said hound does not play bass guitar for Motorhead, or have a wart on his nose.

Half way down my pint of Shuck, Malcolm disappears to water the horses.

"Uh, I was, like, uh, wondering something," says Hawkwind Sid. "I thought you were, like, uh, a journalist, man."

I reply in the affirmative, eyeing up my rapidly emptying glass.

"But Malcolm said you were, like, uh, a man of letters," Sid continues, clearly perplexed. "So if I buy you another pint, would you like, uh, write one to my probation officer..?"

Two hours and several pints later, I stick on the Dylan CD, sit down in my study with the bottle of schnapps and start writing.

Dear Mr Jenkins,

I am truly sorry for the mess that Lemmy my dog made in the probation office. I particularly regret the fact that he urinated on your photocopier, rendering it inoperable and causing a power cut in which your colleagues lost their work.

I hope that the remorse I feel on behalf of Lemmy regarding Friday's events will go some way towards assuring you that I am a changed man who is well on his way to rehabilitation. While I have not, strictly speaking, breached the terms of my licence, since preventing my dog from urinating on office equipment was not included in my parole conditions, I am willing to make a donation of £50 towards a charity of your choice by way of recompense.

Yours Sincerely,

Sidney Breeze Esq

I e-mail it to Sid, along with instructions on how to buy a stamp, attach it to the envelope and address it to the probation office.

Let no-one say I'm not prepared to go the extra mile for my mates.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Good vibrations for pike fishing

Here's an interesting theory which came out of last night's Lynn PAC meeting. Do the vibrations caused by trains going over railway bridges, or traffic going over road crossings sometimes stimulate a pike to pick your bait up..?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An evening with Steve Rodwell

Rodders did us proud with an entertaining talk at tonight's King's Lynn PAC meeting. One of pike fishing's larger than life characters, he's also probably one of the greats among the current generation of Fenland pike anglers.

There was plenty of banter. We got side-tracked here and there with the mysteries of piles and a certain well-known personage's wedding tackle trick - which I wouldn't recommend  anyone trying after a few shandies.

There were also one or two touches of brilliance, little theories and snippets which made sense when you stopped to think about them.

Pike fishing's all the richer for people like Rodders, whose love of the game shines on despite the decline we've all experienced in recent seasons. Truly a top notch evening.

Next month, Big Ash (as opposed to Young Ash and Little Ash...) has lined up something completely different, as John Cleese used to say. Zandavan, aka zander and eel nut Barry McConnell, will be on the oche.

It'll be at the Burt on Wednesday, December 19 (7.30pm).  Get you along, buh.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Postcard from Norfolk - the Barbecue Swim

HOTSPOT: Remains of a bankside barbecue, still smouldering away on the bank of the drain this morning.

Last roll of the dice throws up a pike

There aren't meant to be any pike in this place, officially. After fishing places which do have pike in all day and only managing to catch a large fertiliser bag, I thought I'd try the old borrow pit for half an hour on the way home.

Tucked behind the retirement bungalows with their wind chimes and manicured lawns, it doesn't exactly scream pike as dusk falls on the platforms and the picnic benches.

Three or four casts later, the rod's got other ideas, as one hits the lure so hard it nearly pulls it out of my hand.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Relief for Old Bedford as dredgers move in

There's been plenty of lobbying going on behind the scenes since the EA started letting water into the Old Bedford from the tidal Ouse to replenish levels after abstraction a couple of summers back. 

The Salter's Lode end of the drain soon began to silt up, with reed encroaching into the channel. Of all the drains, recent history shows the Bedford to be most prone to fish kills after heavy summer rain "turns" the water.

Now the EA has started making good the damage, with a pontoon dredger backed up with a bigger version on the bank. It might wreck the fishing for a few weeks, but it will help secure the future of this historically-important pike fishery.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The PAC president's new address

The Angling Trust has appointed Dilip Sarkar, a "recent former president of the Pike Anglers Club" as its first-ever enforcement officer.

Recent, to say the least. For I'm not sure exactly when he went from being president to former president, but the copy of Pikelines which arrived on the same day as the Angling Trust's press release has a two-page President's Address chronicling Dilip's recent activities on the PAC's behalf.

"One of the best things about PAC, I have always thought, is being connected with like-minded people," he writes. "I'm sure we've all made many friends."

I'm sure some of those like-minded people would now love to know what's been going on behind the scenes of late. And I'm sure they'd rather hear it from the club, than the first angling journalist who decides it's worth investigating this a little further.

The PAC has been a cornerstone of pike fishing for more than 30 years. It's survived worse in its time. It needs to get a grip on this and move on.

++The PAC has announced Mark Green as its new president on Twitter tonight.

+++Angling Trust press release of November 14 *linky*.

How time flies pike fishing in the Fens

I started this a year ago today. It's amazing how time flies.

It's even more amazing how many people now visit this blog on a regular basis.
Some of them leave comments. Some of them rib me about it when they see me on the bank.

It's all good fun - not to mention largely being composed of my honestly-held personal opinions, rather than conjecture or speculation being presented as fact.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An evening with Rodders

Steve Rodwell's the special guest at next week's King's Lynn PAC meeting - definitely one not to be missed. It's at the Wm Burt Club at West Winch on Wednesday, November 21 (7.30pm). 

Having fished with the bloke once or twice, he's a real legend who seems to be at home on just about any kind of water.

It's hard to think of anyone as consistent when it comes to catching those hallowed twenties in recent seasons. While others struggle, Rodders catches.

See you there.....

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Slow start to pike fishing in the Fens

It says a lot when November comes around and you're running out of ideas already. Just about everyone else I know is struggling, which lessens the pain somewhat. But the question that remains is why.

I spoke briefly to a couple of the Cambs guys at last week's King's Lynn PAC meeting. One said the smaller fish which used to save a blank seem to have disappeared from a lot of waters down their way.

The swim above used to reliably hold a few pike of all sizes, as it's on a deep bend where the roach and skimmers shoal. Nowadays, getting a run's an event in itself on there.

One school of thought doing the rounds is there's now so much food in our drains and rivers that the pike are probably swimming around stuffed to the gills. Well fed pike are much harder to catch than hungry pike, for obvious reasons.

Lure anglers seem to be faring better than the herring soakers at the moment - possibly because pike will attack a lure on instinct, whereas one with a full belly might baulk at cramming in another deadbait.

I'm not sure I agree with the idea that the first frosts will throw the switch and bring them on the feed. But in the 15 seasons I've fished the Fens, I've normally caught far more fish in the first couple of months of the season than the rest of it put together.

This could be because I usually fish a lot harder for the first few weeks after the summer lay-off, because I'm full of the joys of going pike fishing again. Christmas is usually followed by a cold snap, meaning January and February can be quite slow in my experience.

Instead of a few hints on waters to try, my response to a couple of e-mails from anglers thinking of having a go in the Fens has been don't bother - it's so slow at the moment it's not worth the effort and expense of travelling from the North or Midlands.

This is a warts and all blog, meaning one that tells it like it is. Someone also suggested I was down playing things to put people off fishing the waters I fish. If I was catching, I'd be saying so - probably without mentioning where.

I met some Polish guys who'd travelled up from London for a weekend's fishing the other day. They were serious lure anglers, who looked like they knew what they were doing. One said he'd heard and read so much about the Fens he was surprised how hard it was to find a few fish. Join the club mate, I said.

Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door

The Chipper Bailiff has tears in his eyes as he hands me the revolver. "I'm, um, we're all really sorry it, um, had to end like this," he says.

"It's not your fault old podna," I reassure the Chipper Bailiff, as a I chamber a round in the breech and flick off the safety catch. "It's just one of those things."

"But I used to like checking your ticket," he sobs. "I mean, you were one of the ones I used to look forward to seeing on the river. We always used to have a right old mardle.

"I never realised all them times you said you hadn't caught any you was tellin' the truth."

As I kneel down in the reeds, the Chipper Bailiff's mobile phone goes. He has Knockin' on Heaven's Door as his ringtone.

Greys Prodigy Tip & Butt Protectors

Chef asked me if I'd ever broken a rod the other day. I don't know if this was a comment on my casting, as the tip bounced off a tree in mid-chuck.

It's probably a testament to how well made modern pike rods are that we don't break more of them heaving them in and out of the car or rattling around on the boat.

With a change to a smaller vehicle imminent, I'll have less space to cram everything into, so I'm stepping up the protection afforded to my eye-wateringly expensive collection of carbon fibre. I've seen one or two people using these tip and butt protectors from Greys.

They pass my usual maxim of if my mates can't break it, then it's probably a fairly durable bit of kit with flying colours. I liked them straight out of the packet, especially as they were £5.99 a pair from Harris.

The slimmer one fits snugly over the butt and tip of a rod once you reverse the sections and hold them together with a rod band above the reel to keep them secure and hold the trace clip. The thicker one will hold two rods if you use it to cover the male and female half of the spigot or overfit (if you have posher rods than me...).

One minor disappointment is the tip/butt half of the bundled up rod won't fit into the pocket of a Korda quiver with one of the protectors on. No big drama, as I don't always use a quiver.

They fasten securely with the Velcro strap and offer far more protection than using a rod band to keep the tip and butt sections together.

Half price Rapala Glidin' Rap

I didn't know Rapala made jerkbaits either. First impressions of this one straight out of the box are it's a well-made, good looking lure. It's roughly the same shape and size as a Shad Rap, but without the lip and with finer-guage VMC trebles.

Not every mass-produced lure does what it says on the tin, but they reckon this one will get down to 5ft and zig zag if you bring it in with downward taps of the rod. I'll let you know how I get on with it.

+++They're half price at Harris Sportsmail at the moment - £8.49 instead of £16.99.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Chef rustles up a quick pike

As we pitched up in Sump Corner, I glibly told Chef I managed to nail seven or eight last time I fished here. I felt quite confident as I threw a joey down the reed line and launched another one out into the deeps.

Skeins of geese glide in as we bustle over the rods. Netting a fish here means a balancing act on the mat of dying flag rush - possibly a wet foot.

But it's a glorious morning as a brisk westerly pushes the clouds down the valley. And if catching one means soggy tootsies, I have a spare pair of socks in the car; which means in theory I could net three before risking trench foot.

When Chef's float goes, I discover he has come wearing clodhoppers which are waterproof to a depth of a couple of inches, so in I go to net it. My socks stay dry as out comes a gloriously pristine, if slightly pissed off-looking pike.

I guess if you fastened your munching gear around a nice fat sardine, got yanked out of the lake and ended up with me and Chef staring at you, it might drive a coach and horses through your morning.

This is it, I'm thinking. We might catch a few today. This turns out to be a somewhat  optimistic prognosis, as we move to a nearby water, then another, with a lost fish the only other run.