Every year it seems to be the same. Before we know it, time has flown by and the dreaded closed season is upon us. Me and Neil were out on the boat in tough conditions, murky flood water, the pike weren’t biting and we were counting the weekends left until we couldn’t fish the rivers anymore for a few months. It seems to creep up on us so fast. One minute we have loads of time the next it’s gone. Six weekends was all that was left and going by conditions in recent weeks, a few of those weekends we wouldn’t even get a chance. Why does it always rain on a Thursday? That rain then goes in to the rivers and by the time Saturday comes around they are up a meter or two and we’re not fishing again, not from the boat anyway and not doing what we want to do. So we had to hope that out of those six weekends left we could at least get one or two decent conditions to give us a chance to do what we like to do. Catching a few fish is what we want and if we are lucky then one of us at least will have a decent fish before the rivers close. We’re not specimen anglers so some good fishing will suit us, but we all love a big mamma don’t we!
As soon as Monday comes we’re already swapping messages, checking the week long weather forecast, watching those river levels and trying to predict what Saturday will bring and where we will end up. It better not rain again on Thursday or that’s going to leave us with five weekends to fish. Thats only five Saturdays and even worse, Neil works shifts so that will rule a few more of those out. By some sort of miracle, the week ahead forecast was actually favourable. At the minute the river was still carrying some extra water and also some extra colour but with luck that could be gone by Saturday if no rain comes in the mean time and at the minute, Thursday didn’t have one single drop of rain forecast. As the week went on we watched the river level slowly dropping and if that rate continued then Saturday would be the first day of normal level, so with that we just needed one more slice of luck and that was that there would be a little bit of clarity. Not too much, but at least enough to give us a chance on lures.
Fishing this winter and probably this past year has been steady. Personally i’ve not been out half as much as usual and I haven’t had that much luck with conditions when I actually have gone out. That’s not me making excuses or anything, that’s just how it’s been and I except that. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen how you want it. In an ideal world I’d have made up for it by getting out for those little short sessions before or after work just for an hour or so. They can boost your fishing time on the bank and also boost your mojo a bit if you catch a few. Short sessions blanking aren’t so hard to take and then when you actually do catch a few fish you feel like you’ve had your fix but not only that. You are already planning your next little session and then things just keeps snowballing. One day fuels the next and so on. But when you fish once per week or even per two weeks, and then that’s a long hard slug, it doesn’t really leave you wanting to get out again anytime soon. That fuels less enthusiasm and more excuses, that was me for the last ten months or so.
So anyway, we can’t believe it. Friday night comes and we are all set for some fishing the next day and even better we are thinking we have a half decent chance of at least catching a few fish. We arrive as dawn breaks, un load the gear and get the boat all set up. Another fishing boat turns up also. Just as we expected, we’re not the only ones seeing that today is the day to get out. Sunday is forecast a major storm. Strong winds and lots and lots of rain. So not only is Sunday a no go but from what is coming, that will be next weekend out of action also. Even more important to get a few fish today and get that fix. A quick chat with the lads on the other boat and then both boats are off. Me and Neil have a look at a spot that we know sometimes throws up an early fish while the other bigger, faster boat heads off upstream. We’ll no doubt cross paths at some point but for now at least we’re not in each others pockets. It’s nice to get an early fish, no matter how big, that saves the boat a blank and in no time Neil has landed the first jack.
Twenty minutes later and the pressure is off me as I land my first jack also. The target now is to get a few more pike numbers and just get a bit of action. This time of year I always say if we can catch ten pike, one of them will be a double at least. Sometimes i’ve had four fish with three doubles and other days i’ve had thirty pike but not a single double, but generally this time of year if you keep picking up the fish it’s only a matter of time before a chunky one comes along.
“What was it you said? Ten fish and one of the will be a double?” Neil asks. “Well then i make it the next fish will be a double” he says. It wasn’t. But we’ve had some sport and it’s still early so we are happy. The clarity is pretty good, not crystal clear but not coloured. Maybe it was just about perfect for lures. That doesn’t happen too often during winter fishing on the rivers so we had to make the most of it. The smaller pike were feeding, even though they were clearly sat on the bottom because every one of them had half a dozen or more leeches on them. Neil and I had pretty much caught the same amount of pike but before long, Neil had had another, and another and another. I think at one point he’d caught eleven pike to my five or something like that. It’s never a competition with us when we’re fishing, but that often happens. One guy seems to catch a few more than the other but then either later that day it evens itself out a bit or the week after it’s the other one catching more fish that time. I always say that if you can’t deal with your buddy catching more fish than you then you need to either fish on your own, or work out what exactly he is doing that you aren’t. Like I said, in time it evens it’self out. Unless of course your mate is simply better at it than you are.
There always seems to be something random or weird that happens when we are out. You’d think two lads going fishing could just go fishing but it’s never as simple as that. We turned a corner in the river and could hear someone shouting and we saw a group of people waving at us. Had they recognised us? Ha ha! Nah it was someone needing some help. We could hear a woman screaming a little histerically but couldn’t quite see what was wrong. Then we spotted it. One of those modern day snowflake dogs that are more used to being carried around in a hand bag had got itself in a pickle. It had fallen down a hole in the bankside and was teetering near the waters edge. The snowflake modern day dog owners couldn’t climb down the embankment and the woman was getting a little upset at her pet pooch struggling in the wet mud. So off we went to rescue the mut and be heroes once again. We must be a due a reward for that and Neil picked up two quick fire pike.
We’d covered a bit of water by now and the action was slowing down a little. We were chatting about how we had a few more fish in one short stretch, even though they were smaller it was sport. We were picking the odd fish up but not in any numbers and we weren’t finding any consistant sport in any of the stretches. We know loads of different parts of the river that can sometimes throw up a fish so we usually have a chat and see which bit we think to target next. You can either spend loads of time fishing smaller areas or run and gun and cover loads of water. To be honest both methods do work we’ve found, so you just have to make a plan and go for it. You could make a plan and stick to it but its actually better to know when to change the plan. You can spend all day on plan A and it never really happens, then go home thinking you should have tried plan B. So yep, make a plan and give it a good go but if it’s not working do something and change it. That could be moving to a new spot, changing fishing styles and tactics and so on. Why struggle on lures if the conditions aren’t right when a switch to bait fishing could mean you catch a few fish? If one favourite spot isn’t producing the goods then don’t stay there. Go have a crack somewhere else or even try somewhere new. You just don’t know what it might throw up.
We picked up a few more fish in time but it was steady. We’d opted to go looking at a few spots which meant quite a bit of travelling about. I’ve only got a 5hp petrol engine which means I can’t fly from one spot to the next so we have to think about what we are doing a little more. By now we’d seen another two boats out so that meant lots of water was getting covered between us all. We weren’t really sure if they were catching or not but you could guarantee that some of the places we would like to fish would be getting fished by those lads also. By now we were well upstream and a spot we had had a few nice fish from about a month earlier didn’t produce anything except a small jack pike. The first boat we saw early morning was now passing us and working some spots back downstream. We could do the same, there was plenty of water to go at. But we already had a plan. We wanted to target the area where we’d had more fish in the morning. Nothing big came from it but we were chatting about it and it was clear that me and Neil both felt that was our best shot at not only some more fish but maybe a better one.
It probably takes about an hour for me to cover all that water and get back to where we wanted to fish for the last hour. We did try a couple of spots on the way back but when nothing much happened in five or ten minutes we soon got going again. As soon as we got to the area we picked up a couple of quick fire pike. That made us feel happy about our decision and made us even more determined to fish this area hard. We’re due a better fish by my earlier theory, especially as now we were both in to double figures on the pike captures and I’d even nearly managed to even it up a bit, being just one behind Neil now (so at least I know i’m not a complete numpty.) Then Neil got whacked, set the hooks but a head shake and it was off. Before I could even ask what had happened I had a tiny knock, just as if my lure had touched something, and then the rod wrapped round.
I’m still using the Gator rods because I really do love them. I have the gumbait rod set up with 60lb Nano X braid and that’s always ready for throwing a jerkbait or a Burt and if i’m using bigger baits then the Gator Bigbait rod with 80lb braid. These rods are just a joy to use, they make casting all day long an absolute pleasure as you can throw a heavy lure about with little effort. It seems like years and years ago when i was last using shorter six foot rods and I can’t ever see me going back to that, especially for heavier lure fishing. I love also how much more you feel with these rods and how much they deal with an angry pike much better. You don’t bump as many fish or lose them so much on the fight. The pike shakes its head and the rod does it’s job, absorbing the headshakes while still keeping pressure on the hooks. I’ve already spotted that Gator have brought out a new version of these rods, the Elixir, and I’d love to get my hands on one. How long is it until my birthday?
It was a bit of a joke through the day. Neil especially had called a decent pike on a few occassions only for a jack to surface in the end. I love winter pike, they are so fit and strong and these river fish do give a good account of themselves. I’d also had a couple of calls that were way off the mark so by the time the last hour or two of the day was on us we were no longer even screaming for the net. We weren’t prepared to have our mate rip the piss out of us when a five pound fish surfaced. As i battled the pike, I was half thinking about Neil just missing a fish, we could have finished the day with a double hook up, and I was half trying to manouvere the boat in to the middle of the river as by now that storm was well on it’s way and we were getting blown about. I think Neil might have asked what it felt like and I can remember saying “this is a better one, this is a good fish”. The Bigbait rod had a proper bend on it, there was no thrashing around at all and even though there were no massive lunges or surges from the pike, it just felt heavy.
This thing surfaced, rolled and I know I used some strong language. “Don’t fuck this up Neil! I sceamed in a panic. The pike rolled one more time. You have that moment where you pray the hooks don’t come free, and they held firm. I can’t remember Neil ever fucking it up to be honest and as I slowly pulled the pike towards the net he was already sliding it under her. Get in you beauty! This was a proper one, this was a twenty.
We got the boat in to the edge and anchored up. Pike still in the net but now at least we could sort everything out without being blown all over the river. The hooks came out really easy as she was as good as gold in the net. No rolling about and tangling up hooks in the net, so that was a bonus. Neil turned to me and said, “that could be a twenty that mate”. As I rolled her in the net I saw the depth of the body and the thickness of her. I knew right then she would be well over twenty pounds. The last time i’d seen that girth on a fish was on a canal 25lb pike that I had, in fact Neil also later went on to catch that same pike. We both agreed this could be around that figure so we dug the scales out. Neils were handy and so in no time we had the net head detached from the handle and ready to weigh her. I’ve still not bought a bloody weigh sling. I guess it’s not a priority since I don’t catch enough big pike! Anyway i knew the head weighed something like 2.5lb, but we could check that afterwards. Neil lifted the net and the needle went right round to…….twenty three. “What?! It’s bigger than that” I suggested. Pike back in the net in the water I dug my scales out. Thinking about it, Neil is a short arse so i bet he wasn’t even tall enough to lift the pike up enough to get a weight. Either way this time it was me and my scales and when the needle this time tipped past 27lb I was much happier. That meant 24-25lb so all we needed now was a net weigh which i can now confirm was two and a quarter pound. So we both agreed that this fish was 24lb 12oz and it certainly looked every part of that.
We grabbed a few photos and made sure she was happy and then I reluctantly let her swim away. I love those moments and seeing a fighting fit beast go back down in to the depths is just magical to me, i never tire of it. The daylight was fading now and we still had a bit of a drive back. But we had to have another crack at the spot first to see if any other big girls were playing. But it wasn’t to be. We couldn’t complain though, it was a top day fishing. We’d had a few between us and we’d had my biggest pike from this river and my biggest pike on my new boat. Cheers for passing on the good mojo Jim!