Last week the rivers were in flood, this week they were very much low and clear. In reality this inconsistency is why I have been struggling this year. One day we have had heavy rain, the next bright sunshine, followed by a day of snow and then it’s been foggy. Whilst the higher temperatures of the summer can cope more easily with change, the colder conditions of the winter months mean that fluctuations hit angling prospects more acutely. And although I have attempted to be more flexible than in previous years, it’s still been hard battling against the conditions.
After a couple of weeks barbel fishing on the River Severn, this week I switched both species and river when I got the pike gear out and headed for a small tributary waterway. I was intending to fish another venue but when I arrived, I discovered that for some unknown reason it was now out-of-bounds to anglers. Not to be deterred I drove a few miles to a stretch that was open. It was a lovely day as I walked across the meadow to the river itself, and rather than being the middle of February it could quite easily have been a May morning.
The only downside of having to move to a new venue was that I only had my boots when in fact I could have done with waders. In order to get to the river I had to squelch my way through water, which at times was ankle deep. But I just got on with it and certainly didn’t let wet feet put me off fishing. The river itself looked just right for pike fishing, as although many are now crystal clear due to the lack of recent rain, this one had just enough tinge of colour so as to induce confidence to feeding fish.
Fishing two rods, I opted to fish a legered deadbait on one with a bite alarm and the other a float fished bait, both roach. It meant that I could cast out the former and let the alarm alert me to any interest, so I could then watch the float and give that my undivided attention. If you read my Angling Journal regularly you will be aware that I love float fishing for pike. Even aside from any fish activity, just the actual watching of the float I find incredibly exciting. It’s the anticipation that really thrills me, and when there is actually some action that is the icing on the cake.
And within thirty minutes of casting out, there was action as the float suddenly and without any warning whatsoever, disappeared and then came back to the surface immediately. Picking up the rod I waited for the expected bobbing, trembling and ultimate disappearing of the float. But for several seconds – and what seemed like an eternity – nothing happened. Eventually though it did move across the water and I struck into a fish. If it hadn’t realised that it was eating its way into a trap initially, as the rod bent there was a massive realisation that it was now well and truly hooked.
It fought really well and like any decent river fish, knew how to use the current to its full advantage as it tried its hardest to evade capture. But it wasn’t a massive fish and with no snags to head for, providing it was well hooked (which it was) then there was no doubt as to the conclusion of the contest. And so it was that eventually I found myself lifting the netted fish from the water and on to the unhooking mat. A few photographs and then following a weigh-in, the fish was happily swimming away back into the flowing water of the river.
It was only a short session but the fish was very welcome, particularly as I am not exactly setting the angling world on fire at the moment. In fact the other session I managed during the week – on the River Severn – proved to be totally fruitless. But when times are tough I am happy to settle for a fish. Depending on conditions and therefore what I decide to fish for, I do intend to return to the small tributary river. I doubt whether it contains really big fish but it would be fun finding out, that’s for sure.
(Originally published February 2008)