Killing two birds with one stone (pike article and video, entry 243)

It is often said that the joy of the newborn baby makes the mother forget the pains of labour. Not that I am trying to trivialise the value and importance of childbirth of course – and I suppose it could be classed as a poor analogy – but after a start to 2008 that had me struggling to even catch something at times, the current run of fish has certainly softened the bad memories. I’m glad that the majority of readers of my Angling Journal are men as the above would probably have the fairer sex enraged at the insensitivity of the words! But the truth is that a fish or two certainly helps the struggling angler put the blanks to bed and draw a definite line under a bad patch.

 Enjoying my recent visits to the small tributary river, that’s where I headed twice this week. Although certain stretches of river can become quite busy due to angling pressure, the reality is that within our country there are countless miles of running water (not to mention the lakes, ponds and pits) that very rarely see a fisherman from one week to the next. And because many think that they have to go to the hotspots to catch a decent fish, they will miss out on the thrill of seeking out waters for themselves. I certainly do fish venues where I know big fish reside – and there’s nothing wrong with that in itself – but there’s nothing like fishing somewhere where you have no idea what is in the water.

 And that’s exactly where I stand in regards to the current river that I am focusing on. In fact of the pike that I have caught so far, not one has been a repeat capture – well at least not to my knowledge anyway. So I am building up a picture that at the moment tells me the river has a reasonable head of average size fish. But what is really motivating me is that there could well be a real big one somewhere beneath the surface. We know that pike thrive on human neglect and as I have the place to myself the fish are hardly what you would call under pressure.


 With sunrise getting earlier as the days go by – although it seems to me that I am getting up at an unearthly hour (which I’m not to most people) – it is well into daylight by the time that I cast out the rods and settle back and wait for a fish to take the bait. On the first session I had exactly one hour to wait before the indicator started to sound and I struck into a pike. Unfortunately it was a pike that wasn’t hooked very well and within seconds I was retrieving just the sardine section.

 But within five minutes, I was striking at a fish on the other rod, as the tail end of the sardine was picked up by a pike. This one was hooked better and so it was a relief to slip the net under the fish and then to place it on the mat. The first thing that I noticed about it was that it appeared to have gash marks as if it had been attacked by a bigger pike. Very often you hear people talk about decent fish that they have caught that bear scars and they make a comment along the lines of how monstrous must the fish have been that attacked it.

 However what they fail to appreciate is that it may have been the victim of an incident that happened when it was much smaller, and so the mark is not indicative that a huge pike is lurking in the water. But what immediately struck me about the fish that lay on the unhooking mat was that the marks were very fresh. It certainly aroused a ‘hmmm’ response from me and although I have been enjoying the visits to the venue, it gave me an extra incentive. I’m more than happy to wade through a few small to average fish if there is the chance of a really good one around the corner.

 There wasn’t anything around the corner this time though, and I ended the session at lunchtime with just the one fish. I could have stayed another hour before I set off for home, but with the forecast for very heavy rains to break the dry spell, I decided to quit just as the spots started to come! Not that I have any issue about fishing in rain, but for the sake of a few minutes or so, the option of packing away and still being relatively dry was the most appealing of the two.

 By the time I returned a few days later, the rain had given the river a flush and it was now back to normal level. The mild weather of the recent session though was replaced with a sharp overnight frost. Arriving before the sun rose over the horizon, the trees and bank side vegetation had a crisp white covering. But once the sun did break through, that was soon gone and it was back to a reasonable temperature. As before the only fish of the day came within the hour.

 If you read my Angling Journal regularly I won’t bore you with the details of the float movements as the pike picked up the sardine head, but suffice it to say that I was thrilled as I lifted the rod, ready to strike as the float moved away and under. I again fished until early afternoon and as it was just another one pike, it once more highlights how thin the line is between success and failure in angling. As it was I was reasonably happy with the catch for the week, instead I could have been like a woman in labour!

 The birding was quite good though, with three new ones taking me to 63 for the year, all seen while fishing. I could certainly see a lot more birds if I chose to go to specific places, but as any birds are a bonus, I’m quite pleased with the tally so far. The new ones were treecreeper, snipe and raven. The snipe was a single bird that I flushed as I approached the river in the morning of the second session and several raven sightings were made on both trips. Of course, just like fish you can get ‘repeat captures’ and with birds it’s impossible to know otherwise. As all the four ravens were individual sightings they could well have been the same bird, although due to the circumstances I did feel that there were at least two different ones.

 Other birds included: wigeon (flock of about 60, in flight and grazing on the meadow behind the swim), goosander, great spotted woodpecker, kingfisher, common buzzard, lapwing, teal, oystercatcher (2 calling birds on the river bank during the first session), sparrowhawk, grey wagtail and reed bunting. So all in all, a very enjoyable week in that I caught fish and also got to see some nice birds. That’s what you call killing two birds with one stone!


Check out this week’s video clip by clicking here

(Originally published March 2008)

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