Monday, 8 March 2010

Finishing with a flurry?

Well, the end of the traditional close season (which, in it's current form, I agree with 100%) is almost upon us.  I had the rare chance to go fishing twice last week and for the first trip I decided to follow my own yearning for a return to the Lincs drains (they can be frustrating at times and I hear many reports of fish thefts and that they're not what they once were, but I just love fishing them!) for a final try for a pike before the rivers & drains close on the 14th.  I made the 70 mile trip East and checked a few of my favourite places out, before settling on a very shallow drain, carrying only 18 inches of water down the centre.  The weather had turned and was much sunnier than we've experienced for months.  This wasn't ideal because bright weather can put fish off the feed, but on the other hand, the water was in need of warming up, so surely the sun couldn't do too much harm for my day fishing.  Plus, there were clouds dotted around and I have noticed pike and perch launch attacks on sunny days, just seconds after the sun goes behind a cloud, as if they have been patiently poised, waiting for anything which swung the odds slightly in their favour.

There were a few sporadic strikes up and down the drain, and the fish seemed to be striking in pairs.  There would be two strikes almost instantaneously, within feet of each other, then nothing for maybe half an hour.  That's the thing with fishing a shallow water; when a pike strikes, it has to create a bow-wave or break the surface.  In a deep water, the fish could be striking mid-depth and showing no signs on the surface that they're feeding at all.  So now it was my turn to be poised.  And frustrated.  The strikes would happen and each time I would have to sit on my hands to stop myself picking up the rods and charging upstream to cast there, because chances were that the next strike would be right in front of me!  I ended up mixing things up.  I fished two static rods and cast them either side of where I'd seen fish strike, give them half an hour, then move.  Other times I travelled up & down the drain with a roving float set-up, trotting a bait in the steady flow.  This turned out to be the winning method when, after several hours trying with no joy, my float darted under at speed.  With such a positive take I wasted no time in winding down to the fish and immediately caught sight of it, as it turned in the shallow water.  I could see the fish was easily into double figures so I took my time, but the fish put up little resistance and was soon in the net.  Then the battle began!  The battle between me and the muddy banks.  The banks on this particular drain are akin to a WWI trench and despite wearing boots with some serious grips, I found myself on my back, sliding towards the water, trying not to snap my rod, hurt the pike or let it jump back into the drain!  I eventually managed to claw my way out and found a slightly less precarious part of the bank to lower the net into the water to let the fish recover while I tried to pull myself together and sort out my forceps, camera & scales.

Often drains fish have taken some hammer from previous captures, but I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of my fish.  She had no wounds from hooks or lesions on her sides and all fins seemed in good nick too.  Either I'd done well to outwit this master of bait evasion or she'd recently moved in for a feast, from a more remote area.  Despite the time of year, this fish didn't appear to be carrying any spawn, and wasn't particularly bloated with food either, but she was thick set, with a large head and a broad back.  The scales told me she weighed 16lb 3oz so this fish was by far my largest of an altogether disappointing winter pike campaign, which had started with so much promise.  Still, a 16 is a very good pike and I'm really happy with it as a way to finish! 

I think the toll which the "unorthodox" pre-photo procedures had taken on me, showed on my face!...


I did go on to catch another fish of around 7lb using the same tactics, but when the action slowed I ventured off to find other drains with pike in feeding frenzies, but I'd have probably been better off staying put!  Except for seeing two Barn Owls, at two different drains a few miles apart.  I just managed a snap of one of them before it flew off...



A friend of mine tipped me off that after a lean winter, the tidal Trent barbel were on the feed and people were catching up to 4 fish during the day.  I've never targetted barbel in the winter - other species have always taken my fancy a bit more - but knowing where the fish were feeding was half the battle won, so I fancied getting myself amongst this late-season barbel action!  So, the following day I dug out my barbel kit and headed to the area these fish were reported from.  I spent a whole day doing... well, pretty much nothing!  I didn't have anything resembling a bite and nor did the chap on the next peg upstream, who specialised in winter barbel fishing.  So somehow in two days of the weather not changing much, the fish had either gone right off the feed or buggered off elsewhere to get their fill!  Roll on the summer, that's my kind of barbel fishing...

This week I've got two perch fishing sessions planned, on two different rivers in two different counties, in two days!  If I could land a decent perch on each session I will end this season smiling like you wouldn't believe!  I'll post the, no doubt disappointing results on here next week!

I've uploaded a new pike fishing article to my website.  It originally appeared as the front page feature article in December 2009 issue of Angling Star magazine.  I discuss the merits of chumming up when pike fishing and describe how to make a cheap and effective chum feeder to deposit the fishy mush near your hookbait.  Either visit the homepage or click on the link from the Article Archive or go Straight to it