Saturday, 14 January 2017

Early January

With the Christmas nonsense over for another year January usually sees me with a little more time to fish but I'm not a fan of the short, cold days.  Still a few hours on the water beats the hell out of sitting in the house twiddling my thumbs so when the opportunity arises then out into the cold I go.

My first trip of the new year was in the company of my nephew Ollie.  To be honest it was no surprise that there was no sign of him when I called to pick him up, twenty year old lads like their bed!  No problem, I woke him up and he scrambled himself ready and off we went.  We still had the boat in position with five baits scattered before it was fully light. Methods would be the usual float ledgered deadbaits, Smelt and Herring had been consistent catchers in recent weeks and I also chucked out a Bluey.  The gloom gradually lessened and the floats were clearly visible bouncing over the slightest of ripples, it was a pleasant day to be out, despite the murkiness.  

The Pike have been switching on a bit later here in recent weeks so it was no surprise that takes didn’t come straight away.  It was the regulation forty five minutes before my Herring was picked up and I found myself winding into a fish.  The rod started to bend nicely but before I could really judge what was attached it became unattached, the fish was gone.  Bugger, or words to that effect but I didn’t have time to be disappointed as another rod was on the go, a smelt cast along the near margin was on its way down stream.  This time the rod stayed nicely bent and I could see a decent fish in the clear water, it didn’t do much and in no time at all I had my first Pike of the year in the net.  This was a scales and camera job and with the hooks removed in the net I hoisted her aboard, the weight was recorded, a couple of quick pictures then she was released, none the worse for the experience.  While this was going on Ollie had a fish swirl at a bait he was retrieving.  His repositioned bait was taken within seconds and he was briefly attached to a Pike but this too came adrift, maybe a bit of inexperience? 
 We stayed on the same spot for another forty five minutes or so before the first of many moves.  Firstly it was further down the stretch where we sat fishless for 45 minutes.  Next we began retracing our steps back upstream but our next move was rather an extended one.  Just as I was getting itchy feet Ollie had a take and second time lucky he set the hooks into a nice fish.  He’s not caught many Pike before so struggled to begin with but soon steered a fish of seven pounds or so over the net.  Once again the hooks came out easily and after another photo opportunity this one was slipped back.  Ollie had his Pike so it was mission accomplished for us both.  Things were working out nicely, two takes each and one fish each.  We decided to stay put a little longer and took the opportunity to toast a few sandwiches but by the time these were finished it was definitely time to move.
Next stop was back to my normal starting point, this time I took the boat to the opposite bank and fished the area from another angle.  We’d only just got set up when one of my rods went sailing downstream.  I wound down tight and felt another nice solid lump on the end.  At first it felt like a good fish but shrank at the net, still it was twelve pounds or thereabouts so happy days.  One thing I’ve noticed in the last couple of trips is that during the middle of the day we only seem to get one fish per move so didn’t stay on much longer on this spot.  The next spot, just upstream yielded nothing but we were able to observe Roach topping further up and our next move was in this direction.  As we dropped the weights down there were two Pike strikes with accompanying showers of Roach so our baits were sent out with confidence.  At first nothing happened, I’ve come to expect, but after half an hour there were a couple more strikes.  Shortly after these Ollie’s upstream rod was taken and he was into another fish.  He looked a lot more comfortable this time and was soon steering his Pike over the net.  This one was around nine pounds so he’d upped his PB a little.

After that we had one move short stop a bit closer to the boat shed but nothing happened here.  We packed up by torchlight then rowed quickly back to base.  For once the fish had been fair, we’d had three takes and boated two fish each.  Better than that we’d chatted and laughed all day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  That’s what fishing is about!

A few days later I was back in the boat, this time in the company of Mr N.  We started the day fishing some of his favourite areas then we visited some areas that I have caught from but Mr N rarely fishes.  We picked up fish in ones and twos throughout the day, I say we but in reality Mr N caught five or six while I had to settle for just the one.  We only fish together three of four times a year and it's always a good day sharing experiences and opinions on fishing and just about every other subject under the sun.  Speaking of which, we actually saw the sun today!  My recent fishing trips have all taken place under a blanket of gloomy cloud.

In the days that followed I racked my brains as to a reason why I had been so thoroughly outfished.  We were basically fishing the same deadbaits on similar float leger rigs, our traces at the business end were very similar.  The first obvious difference was line; was Mr N’s mono less visible than my braid in the clear water?  I began to think about using some kind of leader or uptrace, I don’t want to revert to mono as the advantages of braid are so great.  In the end another less obvious difference became apparent when I though a little more about bait.  As Mr N was catching steadily through the day it stands to reason that he was changing baits regularly. My only take of the day came to a Lamprey head fresh out of the deadbait bag.  I think that when we dropped down in new swims Mr N’s deadbaits were fresher and smellier than mine and were therefore found quicker.  In future I should change bait more often!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Years Eve

Three weeks since my last chance to fish and with the housebound hell of Xmas over I was itching to get the rods out.  Thankfully this year I managed a couple of extra days holiday and for once could pick my day.  I had intended to fish on the Friday but it was a cold raw day and the forecast following was much milder and in my mind better. For once I had a reasonable nights sleep ahead of a days fishing and I was filling the flasks by 0600 looking forward to a fun day ahead.  Isaac was joining me today but first I had to prise him from his bed.  This he did without complaint and after tea and a biscuit we set off into the dark.  The head-torch was still needed at the boat yard, firstly to equip ourselves with several layers of clothing, Isaac looked like a real tree Michelin man, then to sort the boat out.  We were soon loaded and away and without a visible sunrise the gloom gradually lessened enough to be treated to the sight of a Bittern flying parallel and soon overtaking us.

As we made our way downstream we chatted about the day ahead.  In the past Isaac's winter Pike fishing has been short sessions on waters that can be tough at the best of times.  Today we could expect more prolific fishing and I assured Isaac that he had a good chance of beating his long time PB, a nine pound fish caught on a lure from a fenland river.  He didn't seem convinced...  Whenever I fish this water I always begin at the same spot and today was no exception.  It is a consistent area so I suppose I fish it first, before anyone else can but I really should be more flexible.  By 0745 we had five rods out with a variety of deadbaits in prime positions, now it was just down to the Pike.

Forty five minutes passed and I was telling myself I definitely should have fished somewhere else, it was fully daylight and all of the floats were glowing out but not actually going anywhere.  There was nothing showing either, no swirls or showers of silver fish and I began to feel anxious, it would be sods law if today turned out to be a duffer.  Then all fears dispelled as Isaac's float cast upstream began to move towards the margin.  He picked up the rod and almost fluffed the strike but the fish was on.  It's been a while since he's hooked anything substantial so was out of practice and made a few mistakes but his luck was in and the first Pike of the day was netted to smiles all round.

The cloud was breaking up allowing the occasional spell that could almost be considered bright.  The day was the mildest for a week and a light south westerly rippled the surface, it was looking good.  Another half an hour passed and I suggested a move.  We were half way through tidying up when a ticking baitrunner sounded the alert, Isaac's same rod was away again.  This time he done everything right and it was soon clear to me that Isaac was attached to something substantial.  A gill flare on the surface revealed a long fish with a big mouth and Isaac couldn't quite believe what was happening.  It was in the net without too much trouble and with both of us looking down at a long, large Pike that would obviously obliterate Isaac's PB.  "I can't believe I've just caught that!" he said.  Unfortunately it was then that things began to get complicated.  

Isaac's hooks came out easily but I noticed another trace disappearing down the throat.  A steady pull brought a tangle into view, not just one trace but a second set of hooks too.  After a bit of teasing and turning I managed to get these out and we left the fish in the net to rest for a bit, thankfully the fish seemed OK.  While the fish rested I got the scales and camera ready and inspected the ironmongery I'd removed.  One of the traces had a couple of yards of line attached as you would expect, the other trace appeared to have been cut above the top treble.  All the evidence suggests inexperienced or uncaring anglers have been fishing.  The former can be educated but the latter should be made unwelcome.  With the Pike looking strong in the net I quickly lifted her into the weigh sling and onto the scales which revealed Isaac had almost doubled his previous PB.  After a couple of photos we slipped her back and thankfully she flicked her tail and cruised away.

Despite catching a good fish I decided to continue with the plan and move anyway, in hindsight this was possibly a mistake, another big Pike could well have been on the cards.  A while later we were settled again.  As usual after a move I was alert, expecting action quickly but by now I should know the Pike will make us wait until the anticipation and optimism has started to melt away.  Once again it was one of Isaac's rods, this baited with a smelt.  The float sailed downstream but the bait was dropped before Isaac made contact.  Within minutes the recast smelt was moving again and this time Isaac made contact and got into a proper tug of war with his third fish of the day which completed his first ever brace of doubles.

It was great seeing Isaac catch three nice fish and he was delighted.  The most important aim of the day had been accomplished and now I was desperate to catch, just one fish would be enough for a perfect day.  With a healthy 3-0 lead Isaac became confident enough to indulge in a little piss taking at my lack of success which provided more motivation.  Thirty minutes without action meant time for another move.  Time continued to pass, my son upping the wind up, surely I'm not going to blank?  Just before noon and was that?  Yes!  My float was away, a Pike had picked up a bluey.  At first the fish felt small but had run quickly towards the boat and when the rod bent fully it started to kick a bit.  Isaac netted her for me and I was on the score sheet at last.

We headed back towards the boatyard with one more stop planned.  I had an area in mind and this was confirmed by a couple of swirls and roach showers.  We stopped and set up quickly, naively expecting instant action again but the show seemed to be over.  Maybe we'd spooked the fish?  Would they return?  It was interesting to note the silver fish, the first I'd seen all day and in a different area yet again.  At this point of the day the sun actually came out and was visible for a few minutes, this hasn't happened often when I've fished lately.   I've become used to being pelted with rain this season and gloomy looking clouds were creeping up from the west.  After an hour without a fish we decided we were happy with our lot and enough was enough but float trolled a couple of rods back to the boatyard just in case.  A while later as we pulled onto the main road the first spots of rain hit the screen, perfect timing for once.

Fishing wise 2016 can be summed up simply and quickly by splitting the year into thirds.  The first four months went well and I put some good fish in the net.  The next four saw me almost failing to catch anything of note and all and the final four I was back to catching nice fish again.  My successes included Pike, Roach and more Pike.  I failed completely with Tench and Carp.  As always I thoroughly enjoyed it all.  The places I've fished have been a mixture, one water is relatively new to me, another is an old favourite that I hadn't fished for a decade and then there's my familiar Broadland haunts.  I don't expect things to change much in 2017 but you never know.  Here's my favourite fishy photo from last year.

In October of this year I wrote about travelling and included the following words; "These journeys have ended in ecstasy, despair and every emotion in between.”  A few days later I was fishing in Norfolk when a phone call brought horrific news.  I could never have foreseen such a desperate journey home, knowing a young angler had lost his life in a terrible accident.  A few weeks later another, older angler lost his long battle too.  Families and friends are hurting but we will remember them with a smile when we fish.  Fishing soothes the soul, a few hours of escapism by the waterside hunting down wet slimy fish, keeps us sane in a mad world.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Prescribed relief

December is my least favourite month of the year.  We are bombarded by bullshit under the name of “Christmas” and I rarely get any time to escape from it all with a day on the water.  This December has been worse than ever and respite with rods was a prescribed necessity.  Rich and I have been friends on and off the bank for nearly thirty years and despite constant communication and spending most of our Piking time in the same places we hadn’t actually fished together, from the same boat for nearly eight years. So here we were on a gloomy morning, sitting in a boat on an ancient East Anglian water slowly tackling up and waiting for the sun to rise.

This trip had been long planned but had suffered from a couple of false starts but at last here we were.  I’ve fished this water a few times now but this was Rich’s first visit The light grew gradually brighter although the sun never appeared from behind the thick cloud but our floats stood out, little spots of colour amidst the gloom.  Half an hour after casting one of these tipped and slid away, Rich was away on Herring and soon chinned a small Pike out.  His first Pike from a special new water meant the camera had to come out before the fish was quickly slipped back.  Another half hour passed before we had a flurry of takes, I managed a nice fish on smelt while Rich dropped a jack and had another helpfully unhook itself close to the boat.  Things looked good for more action but things went quiet and half an hour later we were on the move.  Another half an hour in a new spot and I was away again with a similar sized fish on Herring. 

We spent most of the day fishing in the same way, every move seemed to bring a take or two but all were small fish and some shook themselves off before they reached the boat.  As ever the chat was constant; we lauded our Rugby team which seems to keep getting better and discussed our cricket team which is also improving, despite getting a hiding in India.  As always we talked about our first love in angling, why do we still keep struggling and battling away at the 'special place'?  I always liken the Piking here as being like playing cricket at Lords, nowhere else comes close.  Rich agreed but said at the moment it’s like bowling at Lords with the opposition 500-2!  Dinner came courtesy of an excellent recent purchase.  The ‘Ridge Monkey’ sandwich toaster is a brilliant bit of kit, providing a hot, tasty snack with the minimum amount of fuss, even in a cramped boat.

In the mid-afternoon we took a long row to an area I hadn’t fished for some time.  As we neared the spot we were heartened to see a few silver fish showing, more than we’d seen all day.  By now the clouds had sunk lower and were depositing annoying drizzle (it always bloody rains when I fish here!), it seemed as if dusk would come early.  It didn’t feel like good conditions but as we’d managed to pick a few fish off through the day we still felt confident.  

Rich was the first in action, hitting a fish that put a proper bend in the rod for the first time today.  His first double from this water was soon in the net to smiles all round.  After a quiet half hour it all kicked off.  Rich again was into a decent fish which unfortunately threw the hooks on the surface.  Then it was my turn with a fast take on smelt, I wound down but felt nothing and retrieved a smelt minus its head! Rich had another aborted take and quickly got the bait back out but shortly after my Lamprey was picked up and after a good battle my first double of the day was in the net.  Minutes later the smelt ripped off again and for a second time I felt nothing and wound in a headless smelt!  I have a feeling something other than Pike may have been responsible?  I didn’t have time to think too long as a Herring cast along the near margin was away.  A nice fish tried to take me into the reeds but strong braid nearly always settles the matter and another double was brought to the boat.  As I was all out of Herrings I recast with another smelt, this had hardly settled before it was on the move again and I was attached to another, similar sized Pike.  By now it was growing dark and the threatening clouds had started to dump heavier rain on us.  We fished on for a while longer before calling it a day.

As I rowed back we reflected on an enjoyable day.  We’d caught fish on a variety of baits but Herring and Smelt had clearly produced the most; coincidence, positioning or preference?  There had been action throughout but that mad hour at the end had produced eight takes and all the biggest fish.  Had we finally located them in the afternoon or did the fish all over the water just switch on?  We can discuss debate and theorise but in the end we don’t really know and that’s the way I like it.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Autumn's end

A couple of proper hard frosts signify that autumn is at an end.  Even though I'm a lifelong Piker I hate the winter!  It's not the cold that does for me it's the short days and endless darkness.  The leafless skeletal trees, instead of vibrant greens everything is dull grey or muddy brown.  I'm forever having customers tell me that the crisp frosty frosty mornings are "Pike weather", I try to remain patient and explain it isn't that clear cut...

I've really enjoyed the fishing this autumn.  Early on the challenge of the special place was exhilarating and a welcome respite from a world going to shit around me.  I knew it would be tough and it didn't surprise me. I've said it many times before, it's not the fish its the fishing and when that float slides away...

More recently I've enjoyed more prolific fishing at another wild, out of the way water.  On one occasion the wind blew a hoolie causing chaos and carnage while Mr N and I fished in peace and isolation.  With the boat position in the lee of the gale we were confident and comfortable.  We don't fish together often but when we do a big bag of fish usually appears, as was the case this time.  The final weight would have been well into three figures and as usual Mr N caught the lions share of them.  That morning I'd opened the freezer and was knocked back by the stink!  At some point over the last couple of days it had packed in and my bait was unappetising at best.  Could Mr N's fresher bait have made the difference or was it down to his greater experience?  Then again it could just be the way it was on the day and on another things will even out.  It didn't matter to me at all, both of us boated good fish and as usual it was a thoroughly enjoyable day in great company.

A few days later the nephew joined me for a day on the water.  We'd both been socialising the evening before so an early start was never on the cards but still I had to wake Josh up!  For once the rain stayed away (mostly) and the wind hardly blew.  Circumstances saw us exploring water I'd rarely fished before and I really didn't know what to expect.  It all looked Pikey and interesting but nothing bothered our baits until we dropped weights in the third spot of the day when at long last a Pike showed an interest in one of Josh's baits.  Unfortunately a combination of inexperience and a small Pike saw the fish come adrift.  We had a couple more takes on the same spot but just couldn't put a fish in the boat, would it be one of those days?

Another move changed our luck or mine at least.  I was looking in the direction of a float above a smelt deadbait when it seemed to tremor, was that a take?  As I was wondering I noticed a patch of bubbles rise to the surface and then yes the float was definitely on the move!  After a short, sharp fight a nice, plump double figure fish was secured in the net.  We moved a short while later and this time it happened, Josh's float slid away and the strike connected.  The bend in the rod indicated a decent weight but the fish had managed to snag a branch and wasn't as big as we'd hoped.  The fish may not have been a monster but it had lovely colours and markings and most importantly the duck had been broken.  Josh had his first Pike for a few years was held up for the camera and he was made up.  He could have added another shortly after if he'd remembered to put the baitrunner on!

After that we had a quiet couple of hours before dropping weights for the final time that day.  As dusk deepened my bait cast to an overhanging tree was taken three times in quick succession and three nice Pike brought to the boat before the feeding spell finished.  It was properly dark by the time we made it back to the boatyard.  The day had been a success, Josh's fish was not the biggest of the day but it was definitely the one that we both enjoyed the most.  He's up and running now, the next target is to catch a bigger one.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


A midweek fishing window opened and it couldn’t be ignored.  There was not enough time to fish the special place properly but there is a viable alternative tucked away in the East Anglian countryside.  I was joined by nephew Josh who is on a mission to catch his first Pike for a few years and then hopefully a few more!  Over the last year he’s been out with me three times but so far the fish have avoided him.

The weather forecast was abysmal, it was set to piss with rain all day and we were to be fishing from a small, open boat.  In normal circumstances I would not have been at all confident in this kind of weather and if I had any sense I’d be on the bank under a shelter.  However given the nature of the water I thought we’d be in with a chance and the advantages of a boat outweigh a bit of falling water.

We arrived in the dark, and yes it was raining but not as bad as the forecast had predicted.  By the time I’d rowed into position it was light enough to set up without a torch.  We cast a mixture of baits around the boat then sat back with a brew to await the sunrise, which never really happened due to the filthy grey clouds that continued to drop annoying light rain on us.  Previous visits to this water had produced almost instant action but this was not the case today, had the shitty weather put the fish off?

Forty five minutes and another cup of tea later I looked round to see my float moving away, something had picked up a Herring and was gaining in speed.  Hooks set, the rod took on a decent curve and a nice Pike powered off.  It was soon in the net, unhooked and released.  First of many I hoped.  Another half hour passed and still the light rain fell.  Was it? Yes, the same float moved again and this time the rod hooped over properly.  A typical short, sharp fight ensued then another, bigger fish was in the net.  This was a scales and camera job for sure.  
 Time passed quickly and I began to ponder a move, should I stay or should I go?  A swirl and scatter of bait fish made up my mind.  A short paddle and we were on the spot in time to see two more fish strike.  Rods were quickly cast and we sat back, sure a float would go at any time.  I was happy with a couple of fish and was desperate for Josh to catch.  Cue the inevitable intervention of Sod’s law.  First of all another nice fish fell to a Smelt, followed a while later by a similar sized fish on a Lamprey.  Four takes, all to my rods, I assured Josh his time would come but no sooner was the Lamprey back in position and it was away again.  After waddling on the surface and allowing me to haul it back to the boat it dived and powered away, taking line and thumping the rod.  In the net it looked clearly the biggest so far, the scales agreed but not by much.
It was just after 1000, we still had six hours fishing ahead of us and I was still confident Josh would get his turn.  Privately I’d decided the next take would be his, no matter what rod it came to.  We kept moving and tried everything, including a bit of trolling.  The rain kept falling but the Pike just didn’t want to know anymore.  We fished on until darkness but the fish didn’t show, by the time we packed up the gear was thoroughly soaked and despite the best wet weather gear we were damp.  A day like this might put Josh off winter Piking for life but it hasn’t.  We’ll try again soon and he will get that Pike.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Some photos

It's not all about catching fish...

 I've been trying for a Bittern photo for over a decade then almost got one...
then they were like buses!

The Pike come along when this is blue.

Monday, 10 October 2016


I've made the journey north literally hundreds of times, I know every bend and every bump, I drive on auto.  I know when to put the foot down and when to ease up. Even so there are times on the journey that I'm deep in thought and don't know where I am.  I'm on the right road, that is all.

A good soundtrack is essential, sometimes an audio book but normally music played LOUD.  Tonight I have the latest Red Hot Chilli Peppers disc in.  I love this band and I love the new album, I suspect it will get a good few spins this autumn but there is half a dozen other discs to choose from;  Soulwax, Eels, Led Zep, Leftfield.  On the way home I'll listen to something different, something to reflect my mood, celebration or commiseration.  These journeys have ended in ecstasy, despair and every emotion in between. 

 The weather forecast promised North Westerly wind and heavy rain but as I cruised north the sky was clear although lightning threatened in the west.  Will I make it onto the water ahead of the rain?  It will be a big bonus if I do!  Where can I put the boat in these conditions, if it gets rough I need to be as comfortable as possible on the first night.  Getting damp won't cause so much trouble on the second night.  Where will I go on the first morning?  What will the weather be doing? What are my options?  Shit!  Momentary panic, have I remembered everything?  Yes I checked off my list before I left, chill...

My musings are always interrupted on the way to Norfolk, at some point I will need to stop for a piss. A sign of age I expect but anyway as I know the route so well I have a couple of lay-bys marked down for the purpose. These are back from the road a bit so a little bit more discrete, wouldn't want an interruption from the boys in blue would I? I need to go early tonight and the closer I get to the lay by the more I need to go. By the time I see the ironic P sign I'm wincing but just as I approached the lay by a car pulled in! Fuck it, keep going! My mind tells me I can't piss, my bladder discomfort eases, it's a miracle! Funny how the mind works. Next lay by and I’m shuffling in discomfort again but bugger me another car pulls in ahead of me! Hammer down the dual carriageway and finally, just as I’m about to explode a lay by oasis appears.

Back on the road, still dry and clear but the foreboding clouds to the west can only be getting closer.  The second half of the journey is more comfortable, the peppers go round again and by the time I’m in Broadland the sky is still clear but mist is forming.  I take it easy as I approach my destination, the roads are tricky and getting stuck behind a slow vehicle won't make much difference now.  I Park in the usual place, open the door and hear the Tawney's straight away, but no time to admire as I jog to the boat and take another desperate piss!

The routine at the slip is easy now, tried and tested by hundreds of launches.  It's still clear and dry and I'm going to get out and set up without being rained on! Everything loaded and ready, I head out into the darkness...

My Pike season has begun, despite the annual onslaught from the anti autumn Piking brigade. These people hide behind a facade of "fish welfare" but it's mostly a case of; "I'm busy catching Carp/Tench/Barbel so no one should go Pike fishing before I'm ready". I've covered that on here before, fuck 'em. If anyone should need a reminder;

Now comes the frustrating time for a blogger, time to dip below the radar for a while.  I may pop up again from time to time, or maybe not.  So as I'm unable to show any Pike, here are some Cranes.
PS.  It was Leftfield on the way home, read into that what you will.