Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Beating the Boxing Day Blues

Frankie was flying off to Madeira this morning with her friend Jo for a week, so in keeping with tradition, I decided to walk down to the river with just a lure rod and one bait rod.

It was mild with a still, quiet atmosphere as I trudged the long walk to my favorite, out of the way stretch. No mist to speak of, but overcast and placid. It was Boxing Day and I hoped that this far down, the river would be peaceful without too many dog walkers or children.

I started at the far end, putting out the deadbait rod whilst I cast lures around trying to drum up some interest. I intended to slowly make my way back to the car fishing different areas as I went. After an hour or so casting under interesting trees and bushes I hadn't had a touch on lures or the deadbait so I started to move back towards the car.

As I got towards the middle of this stretch I put the bait at the back of the river, where I had seen a fish strike back in September, and continued to lure fish. On checking the float in between casts, I saw it bob and dance before steadily moving off. I picked up the rod and lifted into the fish, which had taken a smelt, and, after a short but spirited tussle managed to get the obvious double into my small landing net. I really wasn’t geared up for catching fish, so you can see what mind set I had when I set out this morning! all I had was the lure bag, smaller net (with telescopic pole to navigate the steep banks) scales and no pike tube. It was to get worse!

Anyway I managed to get the fish onto the bank and weighed it in the net. At 14 pounds six ounces it was my biggest UK river fish believe it or not. After more than 14 years of fishing this river, I had finally caught a decent pike!

After carefully photographing and releasing the fish, I put on another smelt and cast the bait back out to the same place and carried on lure fishing. After half an hour or so I again moved the bait this time to the tree stump on the far bank and twenty minutes later I was in again. This fish weighed nearly 11 pounds and so was my second biggest fish from this river. I was having quite a good day. I put a half mackerel back over by the stump and continued lure fishing, but the pike float bobbed again within minutes and soon I was into another fish which ripped away on the strike, before I could gradually coax it back. It felt like another good fish, and it went on another short but very powerful run. When I finally saw it on the surface, I thought it might be a 20 and then panicked about landing it! My smaller net was seemingly inadequate for this fish! However, I managed to get its head in and then as most of its body followed I quickly lifted it onto the grassy bank.

It was another personal best! My biggest pike and biggest fish from the river. My second twenty pound fish in 3 months! I was very pleased as the pictures show. I could not measure the fish and had to weigh her in the net, but to have three doubles from the river in one day including one twenty was too much. I sat down finished off my coffee and had a couple of smokes trying hard not to smile inanely at the scenery.
I caught nothing on the lure rod all morning, but maybe I enticed the pike to feed or maybe it was just a good day for feeding pike – who knows?

And I christened my Lumby BB350 rod too.

Sunday, 29 October 2006

First Twenty (Going Dutch)

Well, here we are back in Rotterdam as Franc is working with our good friends in the city for two days. I decided to fish the River Keen just outside Strijen in a spot I found in May. I wasn’t sure if I could fish with three rods or not, so, setting up in the dark, I put out two rods with deadbaits which had been carefully transported across the channel, France, Belgium and Holland. These included some lovely fresh Herrings I bought in Deal and froze immediately. They were the freshest herrings I had ever seen, still pink and bright eyed.

Nothing actually happened until about 9 o’clock when I had a take on a half mackerel float legered against the reed bed opposite my swim. The fish fought well and was soon hand landed. I weighed her at 15.12 and was chuffed to bits with her. She was my second largest fish to date after all and so I was very pleased. I had a couple more takes from the same place over the next hour or so and lost one fish, but the bites do seem to be quite twitchy, not exactly screaming runs.
In the meantime, the other, legered bait had also been receiving attention of a twitchy nature, but at about 2.15pm I leaned into one such take and hooked a fish. The bait was half herring fished as far as I could cast (not far in the wind) up along the reed bed toward, but not reaching, the overhanging trees. She fought well and stayed quite deep and as I netted her I felt she could be a twenty pounder. At 21.03 I was so pleased I could have done a Gord Burton and yelled Yeeee-Haaah at the top of my lungs - but I didn't! I sacked her and carefully to allow both her and me to recover for half an hour or so. A nice Dutch couple came along at about that time and took the photographs for me before I gently slipped her back. She had been nicely hooked in the front of the mouth but I also removed another treble from her gill rakers, so obviously others fish here for the pike.I had no more takes at all in the afternoon, so I packed up to drive back to the hotel, very pleased with my day’s fishing.

The next morning saw me back at the swim before first light, setting up in the dark again. Remember though, that in Holland as the closks don't go back in the winter, it doesn't really get light until about 8am at this time of year. This early start was made all the harder due to a late night out in Rotterdam with René in a lovely cigar bar. I was suffering a bit. The wind had switched overnight and was blowing a lot stronger into the reed bed where I caught the fish yesterday. As yesterday, nothing happened at all until after 9am, when I had a run on float legered sardine against the reedbed, right on the corner. These fish do seem to switch on at a set time here. It was another double at 12.03, a long lean fish and completely different to the next I was to catch an hour or so later.

After no activity for a while I cast the legered half herring into a small depression in the reed bed to my right and almost immediately had a run which resulted in a short stocky pike of 11.12.So in a day and a half’s fishing I had four doubles totalling some 61 pounds in weight, an average of 15 pounds per fish. Not bad, Mikey, not bad at all.

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Fat, Fit and Fiesty

I thought I would have an early morning piking trip along this top part of the local river. Franc and I had a walk along here a few evenings ago and I saw some fry jumping near an overhanging bush, so I thought I would investigate.

It was drizzling and overcast for the first couple of hours, but I started with a slider jerkbait going on to try the Sossy Perch, but the first fish, a very nice Perch of around two pounds or so came to a shad soft plastic in firetiger. It took on the drop and from the area where I saw the fish swirling the other evening. A nice fish, and very welcome at that hour of the morning.

I walked right back along to the lock without so much as a knock, trying various lures, spoons and plugs, until I was actually standing on the weir bridge. I cast up river with a Shakespeare Big S and had a savage take, but the fish came off. I thought it might have been a jack, because it felt ‘toothy’ but on the next cast it hit the lure again. My 'toothy' jack turned itself into a lovely Chub of three pounds; a fat, fit and fiesty fighter that capped off my early morning jaunt very nicely, thank you. So not a bad morning in all, but no Pike, which is a little strange for such a jack infested river.

Saturday, 27 May 2006

Dutch Intermission

Franc is doing a couple of workshops over here in Holland for the weekend with a friend. Whilst here we are staying with Renita in her flat in the middle of a delightful little village called Strijen. This morning I ferried the girls into Rotterdam and then drove back to the village to do a little fishing.

There is water everywhere in Holland, but right outside Renita’s flat there is a river called the Keen, which flows towards the Holland Diep, but back up stream there are some delightful stretches, with lily pads, bends and a deep bay which I’m looking forward to fishing later in the year.

I had my new sneaker rod from Dave Lumb and was chatting to a Dutch guy who fishes this part of the river in the village itself. While we were talking about the fishing, I had a take, just after changing from a Rapala to a Storm Wildeye Perch soft plastic. The fish fought well on the new rod, and it was good for several firsts.

First Pike in Holland, first pike on a soft plastic, first on a multiplier and first on Lumby’s new rod. Excellent! I would say it was around 8 pounds, but I didn’t weight it. Ramone, the Dutch guy did the honours with the photo’s. She slipped quietly back seemingly none the worse for her brief encounter with the outside world and I continued to stroll upstream.

Once you're through the town part of the river, the reed beds are more extensive and I tried casting along most of these as well as alongside the lily pads that were beginning to show ready for the summer.

Although I fished on for some time, trying out a lot of new lures and fishing in the big bay, I caught nothing else. The sun has come out, though and the day was bright and clear, it would have been nice to start a little earlier but there you are.

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

From Little Acorns

In 1989, just as my first marriage was coming to an end, and my fishing and music career were about to be curtailed, I found a very small drain that was to produce a couple of personal bests and several nice double figure pike. All of the above events were unknown to me in 1989, which is probably just as well other wise I might just have done something really stupid. (as if throwing away a perfectly good marriage wasn’t stupid enough) But that’s just water under the bridge now, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Ray and I had found this little stream in a part of Kent, near the coast and if I forget to give it a name, I’m sure you will forgive me for the oversight. It was scarcely 10 feet wide and in some places only 18 inches or so deep. In the summer it was barely fishable, with thick blanket weed on the bottom and chick weed on the top. Oh, and did I say it was gin clear?

But in the winter we discovered it was fishable and contained pike, (actually I think Ray discovered it) and whilst giving it our second go with lures Ray caught a fat fifteen and three quarter pounder. I caught a four pounder!

But in January of 1990, I fished for two hours on a hundred yard stretch of the water to catch 9 fish - three of which were doubles - on Tobys and Kuusamo Professors. Now, none of these fish were larger than 11 and a half pounds but, of course, at the time I knew that there were larger fish to be caught, because I had seen at least one in Ray’s arms.

Over the years as my fishing moved away from this part of Kent, I managed to get down for the odd session, taking a few more fish up to 8 or 9 pounds or so, and one more low double, but I never really fished it hard. This season though I wanted to spend just a little more time here and my fourth short session took place on Wednesday 15th February.

I had completed the hour and a half drive in the rain and howling wind to arrive at the venue at first light. As I emerged from the Jeep, the rain stopped, but the wind just kept on trying to flatten everything in sight.

I climbed over the bridge to find the water high from the rain, and the wind was pushing hard in the direction of the flow. Hiding behind the big oak trees that lined this side of the stretch, I managed to avoid most of the wind, but a 2 oz bomb was required to keep the float legered joey mackerel static on the bottom. On the other rod I decided to trot along the flow with a smelt, off the bottom.

On my second leap frog, the trotted float stopped midstream just hanging in the water and I thought it had snagged on some weed. As I was about to lift the rod to free the bait, the float bobbed!

Isn’t there just something about that moment? Like your first kiss or the first time you see a great movie. For me, it’s even better when you make your own floats; it’s an evocative moment, full of anticipation, hope and satisfaction.

It was a five pounder!

Still it didn’t matter; a fish is a fish is a fish. As I was returning this one, the pencil float on my other rod, stood firmly to attention. Isn’t there just something about that moment - when your pencil stands firmly to attention..? Well, never mind.

Anyway, slipping back the five pounder I watched the float carefully, but it didn’t move again, not a twitch. I leapfrogged this rod a little further upstream as I re-set up the trotting rod. Within five minutes the pencil ducked beneath the surface hanging there in the flow. It seemed the fish were taking the bait, but not moving off with it at all. I gave it a couple of seconds and then leaned into the fish, which, I’m ashamed to say, did not fight at all, really. She hung in the flow, just a rod length out, putting a nice bend in the rod, but I handed her out relatively easily.
She was 37 1/2 inches long with a girth of 18 inches. Fat? I’ll say so. And at 16.04 she was also a personal best. Now, I know what you’re thinking: '16 pounds is that all?' But after 17 years and hundreds of Pike, the biggest were always, and I mean ALWAYS 13 pounds something. Last year in Scotland, 12 fish in a morning, biggest – 13.06. Bassenthwaite, biggest 13.08 and so it goes on. But finally, a sixteen pounder and from this delightful little stream in difficult conditions and after travelling 72 miles in the dark, with a wind and rain storm trying to put me off.

Life doesn’t get much better than this does it?

Oh, and it was on a home made float, with a home made lead and a home made trace.