Most people that you talk to say that they can’t wait for the winter to end and for spring to put in an appearance. But as anglers, because we are out and about on the front line of nature’s comings and goings, we have been aware for some time that the merging of one season into another has been taking place before our very eyes. For some time now, lambs have been in the fields, early flowers have been out in force and this week I witnessed a hawthorn bush with green leaves and a pair of blue tits chasing each other as per the mating display.
And with the weather now on a general upward trend, the fishing also starts to pick up. I find that January and February are the hardest months of my own angling year. I always start the new year off with great enthusiasm, but very quickly get pulled back to reality as my catch rate invariably falls short of where I would like it to be. But that’s the challenge of angling and specifically specimen fishing. Sometimes it’s hard enough to catch anything, never mind when you are targeting probably less than a fraction of 1% of the total fish that live in the water you are fishing. But love it or hate it, that’s what specimen angling is all about.
Enjoying my recent visits to the tributary river that I’ve been fishing for pike, I continued this week with more of the same, although just one session as opposed to my more usual two. Although I do have more flexibility than the average angler, I still have a lot of responsibility and commitment away from fishing and that often gets in the way of things. But having said that, I do enjoy my work immensely, and wouldn’t want to give even the faintest impression to the contrary. For those who are unaware, I am the minister of a growing church and also the director of a charity that works predominantly in Africa. Both keep me more than occupied!
Arriving at the river early in the morning, although it was dry and would continue that way for the rest of the day, there had been rain overnight. Not a lot, but certainly enough to freshen the river and add just a slight tinge of colour to it. And with it being a shallow waterway, that was a good thing, particularly as it was a bright and sunny day. Fishing sardine sections, I cast one to the far bank cluster of trees that hung over the water and literally dropped the other inches away from the edge of the near bank. The former was fished on a bite alarm with a float providing indication for the latter.
It was the float that broke the deadlock first as it began to dip, shake and tremble before eventually disappearing beneath the surface. At the risk of continually repeating myself, fishing for pike with a float is one of the most exciting forms of angling as far as I am concerned. There’s just something about even watching the float that I find riveting, but once it starts to come alive, well, that’s a great feeling. The pike that I have encountered so far in the river haven’t been massive, but they certainly put up a good fight and this one was no exception. But after last week’s brace of lost pike, it was nice to finally get the fish (pictured above) in the folds of the net and lifted onto the unhooking mat.
And as if to reinforce my previous comment about the fishing starting to pick up, I had a second pike (pictured above) early afternoon. This one was on the bite alarm rod and was a little smaller than the first one. Sitting there in the quiet peaceful surroundings, I thought to myself how wonderful it is to be at one with the natural world. So many non-anglers have such a negative view of our glorious pastime, that words such as ‘boring’ are reeled out (no pun intended!) as word associations with fishing. But how wrong people can be, and particularly so when you take into account the big picture and consider everything.
As I sat there by the river, even taking the fish away, the sightings of goosander, teal, wigeon and other water-based birds either in flight or on ponds in the meadows alongside the river, made it all a very enjoyable experience indeed. Just from fishing trips this year I have seen over sixty species of birds, and as I live smack-bang right in the middle of the country and haven’t been anywhere particularly special as far as our feathered friends are concerned, it just goes to show how many different kinds of birds are out there once you start to look.
(Originally published March 2008)