Friday, January 28, 2022

Return of the mojo?

There's nothing like catching to make you want to catch some more. So after my first session of the year I was keen to have another try. When I pulled up to the gate another car pulled up behind me, and the angler was in a hurry to get to his swim. It wasn't where I'd planned on going so I wasn't bothered. It was, unfortunately, near a swim I planned to end up in on dark but not wanting to be seen there I had to change my plans a bit.

 The rest of the pit was free so I was spoiled for choice. First off I dropped in a swim that looks as pikey as hell but has only thrown me one small jack to a lure. I'd soon lost confidence and moved to a swim that's been much kinder.

After an hour or so I'd lost interest in that swim too.Off to the third spot, another productive one. This was more like it. The left hand margin float, in the best spot, bobbed. Then it fell over and as I got to the rod it was dithering. Something had picked the bait up for sure. As soon as I picked the rod up the float lay motionless. I wound down to just the bait. Seemingly unmarked. I wondered if it had been a take at all. I just don't get finicky takes. I sat it out until dark without any further action.

A few days later I was due to have a cataract operation so spent the days before that working hard(ish) and knew I wouldn't be able to fish for a few more days after the op. It only took a couple of days before I was able to drive again, but I was still supposed to be 'off work' and unfit for gardening (not that I ever do any gardening but that's what the medics said.). No lifting heavy objects either. I was bored. To relieve the tedium one afternoon I tried my hand at some lure portraiture.

Yesterday I cracked when the air temperature rose and the sun shone. I put the rods in the car after an early lunch. This time there were three vehicles in the car park, but nobody fishing where I fancied. Walking to my Plan A swim I got the urge to fish a different one. This one has been hit and miss. It's another that screams 'pike' but doesn't throw them up to me too often. This time was another failure. I do wonder if I should give these less productive swims longer, maybe a whole session, to give them a fairer chance. Not this time though, after an hour and  a bit I was on my way to the swim I'd first had in mind.

The day was just about right. Not too cold, sunny with a stiff breeze blowing to put a nice ripple on the surface.Three baits went out, one on the paternoster Id started using as a change of tactic without any attention from old esox - so far. I'd not been settled in to the swim for long when one of the Delkims set up a continuous fast warble. I jumped up but none of the baitrunners were spinning. What?

Locating the culprit it was clear the thing had developed a fault. I tried a fresh battery. No joy.I think I'd got water in the alarm when I moved swims. Bugger. I'd have to keep a watchful eye on the float. With the gusting side wind catching the braid the bottom end floats were alternating between standing proud and leaning at a rocking 45 degrees. As the wind gusted strong the float's stood up, as it dropped they keeled over. I was pondering how I'd know a take if it came because the float action would be different because a float would stab down sharply, when the float on the now silent alarm stabbed down, rose, stabbed down and stayed down. Then the baitrunner began to spin like fury! 

One great benefit of braid for pike fishing is the direct contact it gives for setting the hooks. Before I had the rod up enough to put a curve in it I could feel the weight of the pike. It's been a long time since I sold the pair of P-4s I used when boat fishing, but this season and last I've had a set rigged up to use off the bank. I'd forgotten how useful they are. The one in my hand had cast the mackerel head and two ounce bomb as well as my beloved P-5s and was now well bent and giving this pike some stick as I pumped it towards me.

The weight felt respectable but the fish wasn't doing anything so it was hard to judge. It could have been a high single with it's gob open. Once under the rod top it woke up and did a bit of charging around and thrashing of the water before I slid it over the net. As I'd netted the pike I couldn't see the hooks, but when I peered down at the fish from above the hooks were in the net mesh. The bait had long since been lost. I made a better guess at the weight of this one, being optimistic to the tune of three quarters of a pound.

The dilemma I now had was to stay or go. Part of me felt like sticking around in the swim until dark, the other part felt like a move to another favourite for last knockings. In the end I compromised by stopping a bit longer than my usual hour in a swim. The final move did me no good.

There had been a lack of bird life all afternoon. Which surprised me. Maybe the wind had kept them down. I did wonder where all the mallards which had been around on my previous two visits had gone. There had been dozens, but I only spotted four this time. It's not yet February and the days are lengthening noticeably. Still no sign of the chinking of great tits heralding the approach of nesting season though. It can't be far off.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Long time no fish

Back in November I began my winter pike campaign.  Before I'd got my third bait in the water on my first session the second bait I'd cast out was taken. A lack of practice saw me wind down from an unfavourable angle and not hard enough only to feel the pike (not big) and fail to set the hooks. Not to worry, the conditions were good and the pike were feeding. I'd get a chance or two more before dark. Three swim moves later I packed up having blanked. There ended my piking for 2021...

I hadn't really enjoyed myself. Moving swims was a pain and failing to catch anything even more of a disincentive. I have no patience for blanking these days. In the past I'd happily settle into a swim before dawn and stay there all day regardless of how little action I had, then pack up after dark. Now I get bored if nothing has happened after half an hour. This only seems to be the case with pike fishing though.

Since that November session I've come close to getting the pike rods out again, but something has always seemed like a better option. From going out with a camera or staying home and putting the kettle on again. Today was different. I had vaguely planned to have a pike session when I got up by getting something quick to heat up for tea out of the freezer. Then I went to the Post Office and off to pick some work related stuff up. When I got back it was time for lunch. I nearly didn't bother putting the rods in teh car but I got that autopilot feeling as if something was making me get eth gear sorted. By one thirty I was unlocking the car park gate. The day was fresh and bright. A gently cool wind was rippling the water and I had the place to myself.

I went for Plan B and walked to get the wind off my back. The first bait, a lamprey head, was dropped in the margin to my right where I've had pike from before, the herring head went out to what will be a lily bed come summer. The third rod needed re-rigging before casting another deadbait out to my left. The float stops had perished and fallen off. I have a feeling they were cheap, unbranded, ones I'd bought in bulk rather than the ones I have always used in the past which last for ages. That'll teach me. It was getting on for an hour before I gave in and moved to a swim I'd been looking at across the water. A swim that had been Plan A.

One time this swim did me proud and from one spot. The lamprey head went straight in there. There are a couple of other spots which look like they should produce, but haven't done for me to date. With all three rods fishing and the alarms set I settled back in my low chair, my mind not thinking about fish. I was soaking up the scene. All the leaves were gone from the trees and bushes, and the hawthorn berries which had been abundant in November had disappeared, no doubt down the necks of winter thrushes. They were mostly gone too. I only saw a single fieldfare.

My session in November had been the debut outing for a new winter hat. A peaked affair with faux fur ear and neck flaps. New hats are always a curse so I should have expected to blank. thinking of this made me doubt my choice of headwear. A new woolly hat. While this was it's first fishing trip I had worn it a few times when out with a camera and just going to the Post Office. Maybe that would help?

With these idle thoughts in my head, and despite having gone deaf in one ear recently (I suspect a build-up of wax) I heard the warble of the sounder box. A quick scan of the floats and it was the lamprey on the move. This time I remembered how to 'strike' a pike run. Pint the rod at the fish from as low an angle as you can, then wind down hard. Success! I felt the weight of the fish and a head shake. Then it did a good imitation of a wet sack and was straight in the net. It looked about eight pounds so I left it there while I got the unhooking mat and forceps ready. The forceps live in the same rucksack pocket as my scales and sling. Pulling them out I decided I'd check the weight for the hell of it.

This was one of those fish that saved its fight for being on the bank and gave me a severe case of knuckle rash. It's amazing how much blood spills from the graves across the top of your knuckles.

I got a pleasant surprise when the needle on the Avons did a full sweep and a bit more. Not only out of practice with hooking pike, out of practice at estimating their weights.

Now I was feeling confident. Confident of another take from the same spot. Ordinarily I'd have made one more move before dark but something kept me where I was.

The wind was dropping and the sun dropping lower. I found myself looking at the colours of the reedmace against the sky reflected in the calming lake. Painters' colours. Reed stems of Naples yellow, burnt umber seed heads and pale, Payne's grey water. Wintry but not melancholy. 

As the light faded a robin visited me briefly. I had nothing to tempt it to stay longer. Then it was time to leave myself. Should I have made that last move?

I'd enjoyed this session more than the last. I hadn't gone because I thought I should, I went because I couldn't help myself. That's how I am with fishing these days. It shouldn't be a chore - or a habit. It isn't compulsory.

Happy New Year!