Thursday, December 25, 2008

Festive Fun

Some weeks back I got it into my head to go pike fishing on Christmas Day. If only for the morning. Waking early it still seemed like a good idea, so I got out of bed, snaffled a couple of slices of toast, grabbed some bait from the freezer and set off along the deserted roads. Deserted apart from dog walkers and nutters out jogging. Have these people nothing better to do on Christmas Morning? That's irony, folks!

Yes, it is a pike float!

Needless to say the lake was deserted when I arrived well before daybreak so I took my time and ambled along the high path with my head torch lighting the way. As I approached the swim I fancied, one I first fished almost twenty years ago (or is it longer?), I heard rustlings in the trees near the water's edge. Deer. I've often seen their point hoof prints near the shore and spotted an occasional one on the far bank during daylight. I turned my head to peer into the darkness and the light from my Petzl was reflected back in half a dozen pairs of glowing pinpricks. Although I knew full well they were deer eyes it was still quite unsettling - something deep in the primaeval part of my brain was saying, "Wolf!"

Nothing stays the same for ever. The last time I had fished this particular swim it had been subjected to some pruning by anglers who had 'discovered' it. Back in 2006 I'd had a few productive sessions there. It was a bit cramped and the overhanging branches made casting difficult, but not impossible. The bush to the right could be fished round by stepping to the left, the brambles on the edge of the water to the left provided some cover. Further to the left the water was inaccessible making a close-in cast in that direction worth a punt. I got three baits out in darkness knowing the swim had been opened up a bit more since my last visit. When it came light I saw the full state of the devastation.

The bush to the right was no longer. A pile of branches being its mortal remains. The overhanging branches were also long gone. To the left the brambles were a memory, and where you would previously have had to pull branches aside to go further along the bank was a cleared path to a new swim. What a mess that was. Bankside bushes stripped out, trees brutally pruned behind and the bank well trodden mud. There seems little point in creating the swim as it's so close to the original one it opens up no fresh water. I guess the fact that the bank was level was the reason as the original swim was less paddled to a mire. On further inspection I noticed the swim to the right looked like it also received more pressure, it too being a muddy mess. It all makes me wonder what feeling for the natural world these people have. The next thing we know there'll be fisheries with gravel paths to the flat concrete swims and mown grass all around...

I feel like proposing a ban on saws at the next AGM

Apart from the obvious fact that the area was getting a lot of pressure the insensitivity of the 'anglers' who had done the clearance was depressing me. One time back in 2006 I was set up in 'my' swim when an other angler arrived and cast across one of my lines. While this was annoying it shows how well concealed the swim was just a few short years ago as he said he hadn't seen me. The only tidying I ever did was to cut a few stems of grass to stop them interfering with my drop-offs. Now, with the bush gone and the gap wide enough to accommodate two anglers, I was in full view of anyone approaching the swim. I just can't see the sense of it. Leaving the swim cramped discouraged people from fishing it and kept it as a bit of a banker. Needless to say I was glad when I'd had enough of blanking today. Even my new bite alarms didn't bring me any luck.

A Billy's Special

While silently cursing the environmental vandalism I was also bemoaning the standard of piking in the North West. While the chances of a twenty pounder are better round here than they were a couple of decades ago, it's usually a case of fishing for one or two runs a day - half a dozen if you're really lucky. If you can face blanking time after time trying to catch a biggie then good luck to you. It's not what I call good fishing. Piking in other parts of the country I know that you can expect to get ten or more runs in a session, with a high percentage of the pike being doubles and a chance of a twenty among them. Not every time, of course, but often enough. Such a day round here would be the highlight of a couple of seasons. It's no wonder I'll be back on a river fishing for something else next time out.

That was what I was doing on Christmas Eve. It was mild again, but the river was cooler than it had been. As usual I'd missed the window of barbel opportunity, but the chub were active. I'd elected to take some bread and cheese paste along with the barbel baits. With the water temp 6.4 it was borderline barbel conditions. Fishing two rods the S-Pellet was getting a bit of attention - from chub, but the bread flake was getting more. As it started to go dark I switched to the paste and it was a bite a chuck. But I couldn't connect with any of them. The twin isotopes did make a big difference in spotting the slow pulls though.

Eventually a chub of between three and four pounds made a mistake on the pellet rod. I had saved a blank, which was nice after a run of poor efforts. The bites continued on the paste right up until I packed up at eight. The pellet rod had signalled a sharp chub rap then gone still. I suspected the rig was snagged but was concentrating on trying to hit bites on the quivertip so left it where it was. When I came to wind it in to go home the rig did feel snagged, but came free with a good steady pull. It felt like I'd picked the snag up and was dragging a branch or something across the river. Funny thing was the branch kited upstream at one point. Then it pretended to be a small barbel as it hit the shallows and made a surge for freedom. The beam of my headtorch lit up a pair of big white lips and a second chub, a few ounces heavier than the first, slid over the net.

Better than a blank

Although a couple of accidental chub is nothing to get excited about the enjoyment I got from the session was immeasurably greater than that of waiting for one of my drop off alarms to sound. The frustration of missing bites to the paste was a perverse kind of pleasure. I'm coming to understand the adage that says anglers start out fishing for the most, move on to fishing for the biggest, and end up fishing for the most challenging.