Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Talk about lucky

What a glorious afternoon, I tell myself umpteen times as I head through the Fens to the place where even I can catch fish at the moment. I can't wait to get the rods out of the car, do the cowpat slalom and hit the drain.

Except it's not quite like it was a week or two back when people were filling their boots. The water's standing, almost flat calm and clear as a glass of Gordon's. As in the gin, not Gordon's, um, you know what.

A few casts, watching the lure shimmy back towards me through the margins, and the Chipper Bailiff appears. Hella Cress, they h'int bin catchin' much here lately, he chuckles. Time for a re-think, obviously.

I know. I'll try another drain. The sun's sinking below the far bank by the time I get there and it's also calm and clear. The water's dropped a foot or 18ins below it's normal winter level as well, which doesn't fill me with confidence.

I try a couple of swims until I see a big swirl scatter the rudd and it's game on. Well, sort of. After a couple of missed hits on a Hammer shad, I switch to one with a bigger hook and whack into a jack which comes off as I go to chin it.

A few chucks later, I hook a slightly bigger one that stays on long enough for a picture. It's almost dark when a pike that looks like a low double takes a shine to the shad. Nice scrap, as I give it some stick and it bangs around on the end.

I kneel down to grab it and snick the hook out of its scissors. The camera's up the bank, so I let it slide back into the water.

As I go to cast again, there's something wrong. As in no lure. As in its lying on the ground near the pliers. I look at the trace and the clip's somehow opened up and distorted. I've got so immersed in the fishing over the last half hour, I haven't stopped to check the trace, clip, lure, hook etc every few casts as I normally do.

Talk about lucky.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

After the storm

You can see how close the storm came to breaching the sea banks if you make the long walk from the King's Lynn AA lakes to the bird hides at Snettisham. Bathed in the low sun's morning light, you wouldn't believe how close we came to catastrophic flooding on this part of the Norfolk coast.

Just a week earlier, we were out covering the storm surge and its aftermath. People lost their homes further round the coast, as the biggest North Sea surge for 60 years lashed our coast.

After covering my patch for the papers, I ended up at the Sea Life Sanctuary where staff were racing against time to save sharks and turtles as the centre flooded, cutting off power to their tanks.

They got nearly everything out in one piece, during an incredible rescue operation. which involved catching the creatures and running through the flood water to the waiting vans.

Once or twice, I wondered how the rivers and drains would be affected as I binned the day off I would have spent on them and got stuck in with colleagues covering the aftermath.

The bridge at St Germans was seriously damaged, closed to traffic. I headed down there for a look and found the incoming tide higher than I'd ever seen it. Water had come gushing through the expansion gaps the night before, villagers told me.

I watched the river as the tide turned and the water lapped high up the banks. I checked my quotes, uploaded my pictures and filed my stories.

The water topped Denver Sluice at the height of the surge, as the tide lapped around the Custom House on the quayside at King's Lynn. Friends who were there thought the barriers would go as the sea came coursing up the New Cut.

At times like this, you realise just how vulnerable parts of the Fens are - truly a landscape living on borrowed time. Thirty years. Maybe 50. Perhaps even a century. Sooner or later, the waters will come rushing back into the great sink the Dutch drainers reclaimed.

Monday, December 02, 2013

I don't like Mondays

You should ha' bin here yesty - one bloke had 20-odd, says the Chipper Bailiff. I know this is probably true, as I also filled my boots with jacks last time I fished the current 'going' water. After half an hour's poncing about which yielded a couple of follows and the tail nipped clean off a Kopyto, I decide on a move.

The Chipper Bailiff mentioned it in passing. As in haven't seen anyone down there in ages. So I trog down there and find it deserted - apart from Rob, who's sat behind his bait rods looking like Rob sat behind his bait rods.

Hella mate. W'oss gorn on..?  Come out for a couple of hours with the lure rods, haven't been all week, I say, explaining why I haven't been all week. I wish I'd bothered to bring the bait rods, I think to myself, watching Rob's spread of floats in all the right places.

Hey ho, three or four swims later I decide to sack it. Had a 15, says Rob. I drop the rods and have a wander up the bank, to see if a bit I fancy might turn the day around is fishable, but it's not.

Here, you know Ashley's 30 was the 26 you had on here the season before, he says, as I sit down for a mardle. This fish, that fish. Who's caught what, your float's gone. I watch Rob nail a couple, as dusk comes and a parliament of rooks descend on the far bank.

Should have brought the bait rods, I keep telling myself all the way home. Four more jacks and a low double, says the text when I get there.