Perseverance wins through (pike article, entry 392)

Although we have left the ice age behind, at least for the time being, the effects of the severe weather still lingers on. In simple terms, from an angling perspective, that means the ponds, pools and canals are still frozen and therefore not fishable. The layer of ice had built up to such a depth, that even though there has been a raise in air temperature, it is going to take some serious sun to restore everything back to where it was in the middle of November. Therefore as I wanted to get my pike fishing underway for the new year, the usual indecision I have with such a variety of venues available to me wasn’t an issue this time. Unless you consider the various river options I had. But with my heart set on the River Sow even that wasn’t a problem.

I first came into contact, albeit in print initially, with the Sow way back when I was about 11 or 12 years of age. I was a devoted reader of the Angling Times (I had a pile of hundreds of them in my wardrobe at home) and one day I remember reading a feature (black and white in those days) on the river. I can’t recall exactly why I was captivated, maybe the Isaak Walton connection, but I never forgot the article; in fact even now as I put this piece together in my office at home I can still visualise it very clearly in my mind. Yet it was to be many years later – at the start of 2000 to be precise – until I finally got to lay eyes on it, never mind fish it.


Since then I have fished it many times and it is one of my favourite haunts. It’s probably not the sort of river that anglers would travel halfway across the country to have a go at, but as it’s quite local to me then it’s definitely worth the effort. The variety of species include barbel, and I am the holder of the record for the river which goes back to August 2006. I’ve certainly caught bigger fish elsewhere but the 12lb 4oz specimen from the Sow is one of my best fish. But this time round, with conditions being still quite harsh it was pike I targeted. The river was slightly up, debris wrapped itself around the line and the temperature was affected by the snow melt that had entered the river. But the reality is that if you only go fishing when conditions are perfect you may as well take up another hobby. I’m a great believer in the principle that you never catch sitting at home and so at first light I had two sardine tail sections lying on the bait of the river. With great anticipation and hope I willed the floats to tremble and tremor.


However, the only movement was when a particularly big piece of weed hit the line, taking the float under. I fished all day from dawn till dusk without so much as pick-me-up-put-me-down from a pike. I was so confident and I knew my bait, rig and presentation was right, but the conditions meant it was always going to be an uphill struggle. It didn’t stop me from enjoying myself though, and as a passionate lover of British wildlife I always get something out of every fishing session even if I blank. On this occasion the highlight was not only one water rail but two. As I sat there the birds were totally oblivious to my presence and they confidently fed in the open. It is times like that when any fish caught is a bonus, although I do often remind myself that I am there first and foremost to catch something otherwise I may as well just go birding!


Call it stubbornness or determination, but I was back on the river a few days later. Up for the challenge, the Sow had laid down the gauntlet and I was more than eager to respond. I decided to stop at one of the numerous bridges over the river to get a shot which you can see left. As I got out of the car though I don’t know who was more surprised, the six feeding roe deer that were just yards away, or me. We all looked at each other for a few seconds and then they were off, bounding back into the woods from where they had ventured. More was to come however, as I made my way to the river I saw two more pairs thus making it a total of ten roe deer in just minutes. A great way to start the day but would I get any fish this time? I again cast out a sardine tail section but on the second rod I reduced the bait size to just a small sardine head. If the pike weren’t hungry it was no point in sticking a massive meal in front of them when a snack would probably be the better option.


However it was a case of groundhog day as once more the best that I could give didn’t produce even so much as an enquiry from a pike. Although the river had dropped a little and so presentation was easier, the temperature had also fallen as well by a whole degree (C) which was always going to be an issue. The water rails were showing well again though and the caption for the photograph on the right could be titled ‘Spot the WR’. I’ve only got a basic camera for my fishing which does the job it is intended to do, but even if I had the fancy gear I wouldn’t dare take it with me as it would only get ruined. That’s why I have a basic pair of Bushnell binoculars when angling, I wouldn’t even consider taking my expensive Swarovski out to the water’s edge. And as for my Kowa scope, that’s not even a remote possibility. Finally on the nature front I witnessed one of the water rails bursting from the undergrowth squealing as it was being pursued by an american mink. Fortunately they didn’t connect. Like me, the predator failed to catch the prey.

Really keen on landing a pike from the Sow, this was all put on hold as the weather turned once more. and a deluge of SW rain pushed the rivers up. Great for barbel but not for pike, so determined to catch an Esox lucius I switched my attention to the Dudmaston complex on the Kinver Freeliners AC ticket. Although some days had passed since I started the article (this one has evolved with the sessions) and there had been a general thaw, nevertheless over two weeks into the year and ice was still covering significant areas of the pools. I managed to find places to fish though but as with the visits to the Sow, I didn’t even get a tremble, tap or tremor on the pike floats. I did three trips in all, which meant a grand total of five pike blanks for the year. By now it was getting very personal and I was taking the challenge head on.



As I arrived for my sixth and final session a very sharp overnight frost had left the pool 50% covered with a sheet of ice – and more importantly, the bits I wanted to fish were in that category. Well, never mind, when the going gets tough and all that. And would you believe it, I ended up striking into a fish at noon as a jack picked up the sardine tail section and the float sailed away. What a relief it was to finally catch something. I tweeted from the water’s edge that it may have only been a small one but I felt like the pike record holder. I know from what other anglers are saying to me that many haven’t been out fishing much since the end of November, and of course I understand why. But personally I’ve been plugging away, and even though I’ve had more blanks than otherwise so far in 2011, when it does come together it makes it all worthwhile. And sometimes just a fish, regardless of size, is worth getting excited about. (Article published January 20 2011)


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