When the going gets tough…the tough get going (pike article, entry 185)

I think all of us – man and nature included – had been lulled into a false sense of security as far as the weather was concerned. We had got it into our minds that winter was not going to happen. And with birds chasing each other round as per the spring breeding style whenever I was out birding, daffodils in my garden coming through, and even the fuschia bush in my back yard was still carrying life from last year, even I was part of the non-winter crowd.

But suddenly it all changed. The wind direction switched from a mild SW to a fierce N, and that was the end of the plans to get the barbecue out of the shed, clean the patio chairs and extend our living accommodation beyond the back door. And of course, to us as anglers, the changes were much more emphatic than eating a few burgers or hot dogs in the back yard.

Although I had struggled for a couple of weeks, I still decided to continue with my pike campaign. It’s not a case of being stubborn or anything like that, but I do genuinely feel more confident when I am pursuing a single species as opposed to fishing for something different each week.

The canals were out though, unless we are talking ice skating instead of angling. Fortunately though, the rivers had dropped and so it was to Staffordshire’s River Sow that I headed to do some early morning piking. I have caught fish from the river before, and because I am on such a bad run, I even headed for a swim that has been productive in the past. When your last fish was caught on January 1, this is no time for pioneering.

Before setting off from home though, I had to scrape the ice from the car windows. It’s been a long time since I have had to do that, and it was a sharp reminder that winter had hit with a vengeance. I took the M6 northbound route, and as I am not a morning person and have no need to be up at the crack of dawn usually, I was surprised at how many people were out and about at such an ungodly hour. Mind, they probably think the same about me on the other end of the scale, as I never get to bed before midnight.

With the heater on full all the way, it sort of lulled me into a false sense of security. But arriving at the river and getting out of the car brought me back to reality. Walking to the water’s edge across the meadow produced a lovely noise though, as the sound made as my boots made contact with the crisp grass is one of those that many an early morning winter angler will relate to.

With ice at the edges of the river where the flow was having minimal affect, I knew it was going to be hard going. And it certainly was, as I clocked up my eighth consecutive blank. Apart from the odd item washing into the line and causing a single bleep, the indicators sat there on top of the rod rest as silent as the Cardiff section of the crowd last week at Molineux. (There were a grand total of 0 as they were banned)

Driving home, I analysed the session and weighed up my options. And so with a dogged determination to catch a fish, I was back again the next day. The only difference was that I was now on the other bank, but still fishing the same spot. A few seasons back I had walked this particular stretch of river during the height of summer when the sun was out and the river low and clear. I had made a note of gravel runs, streamer weed and depth etc. And so knowing that the bank I was now on had deeper water at the edge, as well as putting one rod out into mid river I fished the other just a few feet out beyond the now dead and decaying dense reed bed.

However it was still in vain as I again drew a blank. By now I was absolutely determined to catch a pike from the swim, and so for the third day on the trot I once more headed north in wintry conditions to break the terrible run of fish-less sessions I am on. Did I catch anything? Well, as they say in Lancashire, ‘did I heckers like’. Which means that the bottom line is that I now have ten sessions on the trot that have produced zero, nothing, absolutely zilch.

When the going gets tough though, we have two choices. We can take a break until conditions improve or we can continue with a determination that says we will turn this around. Apart from the fact I love fishing and not just catching fish, there is no question at all as to which path I will be walking on. The headline says it all, and just in case there are any doubts – see you next week with another update!

 (Originally published January 2007)

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