With the promise of some decent rain coming in from the Atlantic, I had my flexibility head on and was gearing up for some barbel fishing. However, as is often the case with the English weather, it didn’t just rain but ended up with wave after wave of torrential downpours that would have left even Noah wondering what was going on. I was in Worcester on Tuesday morning and my plan was to take my barbel rods and then move further downstream and fish the lower Severn. However, even before I set off I knew that I may as well leave the kit at home and have a re-think.
Once in Worcester and able to see the river for myself, I knew I had made the right decision. Just within its banks in the city itself, a quickly rising level meant even that wouldn’t be the case for long. And where there was a weakness, the river was more than willing to exploit that. Hence, New Road, which is the home of Worcestershire County Cricket Club, was well and truly underwater. I took a few photographs (which can be seen on the accompanying video clip) and got back on the M5 heading for home instead of Tewkesbury.
But the next morning I was up bright and early as I set off for a piking session on a gravel pit. I had considered continuing my perch campaign on the canal, but even that resembled hot chocolate in colour as the rain had washed the banks into it. And with spinning for perch being very much a sight-related way of fishing, visibility was not going to be good. So a pike session it was. Having to drive through the West Midlands conurbation meant that I set off early to miss the bulk of the traffic. However, I soon found myself caught up in a delay, courtesy of an accident further on. After doing just four hundred metres in thirty minutes, eventually I was back on the open road.
Arriving at the gravel pit, I was the only angler there. Not that it gets particularly busy in the summer, but in the winter you can pretty much guarantee the whole venue to yourself. Not that I wanted the entire forty-odd acres, just the section where the deep water was fringed by a dense row of overhanging trees and bushes. Even though the foliage has long gone, the density of the branches ensures that it is still a good looking area as far as fish holding potential is concerned. I have fished here before for other species, but have never caught a pike. But I was confident, particularly when the thermometer declared 6C, which is good for January.
Fishing two rods with small perch on each, the right rod used a bite alarm to let me know what was happening on the floor of the pit, but the other rod was fished using a small float as the indicator. There are several specific things that I could name in angling that really excite me, and one of them is the thrill of watching a pike float. There is something about the anticipation that comes with almost willing the float to move. And I didn’t have to wait long either as within half an hour the orange tip started to tremble, shake and then begin to move, as the fish picked up the dead perch, turned it, and made off.
Striking at the right time, I connected with the pike. It did feel very good to have a decent bend in my rod after a lean couple of weeks so far in 2008, and I soon found myself ‘praying’ that it wasn’t lightly hooked and that I would land it safely. My ‘prayers’ were answered and I soon found myself lifting the fish from the water and on to the landing net. The hooks were removed, the fish weighed and then photographed. The top treble was in the jaw but the bottom one required the forceps as although it wasn’t deep, it was still in the throat of the fish.
Many anglers assume that because pike are fearsome looking predators, that they are as tough as old boots. But that is definitely not the case. They are very delicate fish, and the combination of using treble hooks and the natural process of the pike swallowing the bait ensures that they aren’t a species that you can just ‘have a go at’. You really do need to be organised, both in terms of the tackle used and what happens once you have caught the fish. Unhooking mats, bolt cutters, forceps and wire traces are all absolutely essential items if you are considering pike fishing. Please, for the sake of the fish, don’t go out until you have done your homework and even then, if you do know an experienced pike angler, go with them if possible.
I returned my pike and it swam off strongly to fight another day, which is the ultimate aim of every capture. With the rest of the day ahead of me I was confident of more fish. But as is often the case with angling, I never had another touch. I decided to stay into dark, for the very practical reason of allowing the traffic to die down for the journey home. As the sun set though, cars and lorries were the last thing on my mind. It didn’t take long to realise that I was in a hotspot; and not an angling one either. There were rats everywhere, and by that I do not exaggerate in the slightest.
They were swimming in front of me, scurrying along the edges of the pit and every time I shone the headtorch into the bushes I was met with little fluorescent eyes shining back at me. I am not paranoid about rats – I never give them a thought normally – but I have had some encounters with the creatures during fishing trips that have hardly left me enthusing about them. It is true to say that the thought of rats doesn’t exactly fill me with the joys of spring!
Check out this week’s video clip by clicking here.
(Originally published January 2008)