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.