Tuesday, 28 December 2010
As I type this the last of the snow is melting tonight, the crisp white giving way to that greying, mushy hangover snow. What a few weeks it has been; forget "extreme fishing" on TV, Bridgwater recently resembled Siberia. And yet we ("we" meaning probably just a handful of fishing masochists) continue to fish. Most lately the Severn has been calling, but quite incredibly even this great river was largely frozen solid.
Regardless of the bitter cold, Norbert Darby still managed to get a bite and land a fit ten pounder. Otherwise the highlight was not the fishing by a long chalk, but celebrating Jim Smith's 40th with beer, curry and good company.
The Somerset Levels (above) have also provided passable fishing on all but the bitterest of days however with several stretches of the Tone offering at least the possibility of pike. Certainly beautiful in the snow, and trotting small deadbaits is a lovely way to fish. If nothing else though, winter fishing makes you remember the fundamentals of fishing and that on some days to catch anything at all is an achievement.
Hope all new and old blog followers had a good Christmas break and have a great 2011. Mine is looking stupidly busy, but I am already excited. Do also take a look for this weeks Angling Times where you'll find my musings on the crusty gem which is Tiverton and its beautiful canal. Proper writing and not my usual rushed blog. No 20lb pike here but a walk down the towpath of small town madness, count your fingers, lock up your daughters and avoid anything on the hot food counter of that strange little garage at the end of town...
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Some good news and bad news this week. But I'm afraid I must start with the bad. Whether anglers like it or not, the places we love best and the fish populations we take so much care to maintain are never left alone for long. Two current threats are very much to the fore at present in Devon- but also nation wide.
So what has a picture of the Exe in its summer prime (above) got to do with this? Well, perhaps it illustrates exactly what we must fight to protect. Hydro Power is the biggest menace to our rivers for many years in my opinion. Without consulting anglers at grass roots level, the EA is busy pushing through new plans via the back door. Bad news, because case studies show clearly that even the most carefully implemented hydro plants alter habitats significantly- they reduce flows in key areas, damage fish and ruin key angling areas such as weir pools. In fact, what is rolled out as "Green Energy" is actually nothing of the sort. The threat is ominous- "No salmon in the Exe within ten years" according to one expert. But coarse fish are equally threatened. I am currently gathering facts for the national press on this, but all of us can act in several ways: 1. contact the EA and let them know how you feel ( email: firstname.lastname@example.org) 2.Back the Angling Trust (www.anglingtrust.net)
3. Write to your MP (Ben Bradshaw for Exeter), local wildlife groups and any other interested parties. This is a fight where we have many allies if we get off our backsides!
The second worring issue is poaching- with pike in particular at threat. And again, non-action is not an option. Nightlines are cropping up again and information is key- take down details of any dodgy individuals with times, facts and even vehicle reg's. Don't grumble, act: The EA have a 24hr hotline on: EA 24hr Hotline number = 0800807060 It only needs one or two convictions and the message will quickly get out to these criminals (and there's no other word for them).
On a lighter note however, everyone is welcome to the Xmas PAC meet this Friday at The Barge, Halberton for 7 30pm. Not only do we have a cracking film screening (Dean Burman's seminal pike film "Lair of the Waterwolf" and a signed copy to win) there is also the lure of our monthly prize draw and a Christmas tackle sale- sure to include some tasty pike gear as well as other excellent kit. A buffet and the pubs usual selection of top tipples should ensure a great evening! See the Devon PAC blog for more info: http://devonpac.blogspot.com/
Monday, 13 December 2010
Does it ever get too cold to catch pike? In the Westcountry at least, I'm beginning to suspect the answer is a big fat no. It began as a day of bleak weather and fairly slim expectations for a crack at the Somerset Levels with Seb Nowosiad- but to our delight, the pessimism was misplaced. After a painfully slow start fishing between ice patches on the Bridgwater-Taunton Canal, we took a bit of a mystery tour to locate some more likely and less ice-covered water in the heart of the Levels.
A sound move as it turned out- sick of watching a motionless float, I switched to the fly rod and quickly received a pulverising bite. And it was no flash in the pan either. In spite of the freezing fog and -3C temperature, the fish seemed to be feeding well. Indeed, the next jack even coughed up a little roach as evidence! The pike responded best to bright patterns however-in particular those with weighted heads which I could present just off the bottom.
But what of the deadbaiting? Well, Seb got quality rather than quantity here, just one bite but a terrific, beautifully conditioned pike of 16lbs 4oz for sticking at it. A suspended smelt did the trick gently drifted under a float, a very underrated method on so much of the Levels.
I'm starting to think the text book should be thrown away entirely for winter piking. The fish took fly patterns and lures with gusto on our sub zero adventure today, and far from being sleepy in the cold they all fought excellently well on light tackle. Seb eventually switched to lures to catch another three jacks and by the end of play we had a dozen pike between us. By around three we'd had our fill- it had got to the balmy heaights of 0.5C and still so foggy it looked more like seven in the morning. Worth every chilly minute though.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
When ice strikes just about everywhere, the only real option is flowing water. And where better than the River Culm on a misty morning? I should visit this pretty river more often. The pike aren't big, but they're beautifully wild here, just like the river itself. And in the midst of grabbing more feature material it's always a real pleasure to go purely in search of some fun- just one rod, a few basics and a lengthy stroll along a quiet bank with a couple of friends.
Sadly the stirring beauty of the Culm wasn't matched by any dramatic fishing. One tentative bite was the sum total of our efforts, a lean four pounder briefly breaking the stillness of the river. No need for overkill with tackle here and I am very much enjoying Greys 11' Prowla deadbait rod- finally, a blank geared not towards shark taming but simply getting a good bend on "fun sized" pike waters!
As the mist cleared and the Culm produced no further bites we then decided the Exe was worth a look, heading for the town. A dead pike in the margins provided a sorry sight to greet our arrival- and further evidence perhaps of why I continue to bailiff for Exeter AA. Good to see therefore that those we met on the day were well geared up with unhooking mats to deal with this dodgy, concrete environment.
On some days you have to remind yourself there's actually life in these waters- and today it took several moves to buy a bite, Russ Hilton connecting with a lazy bite to tame a nice city pike of just under seven pounds.
On a final note I'm also delighted to announce the next T-shirt design destined for sale very soon. Some of you will recognise the inspiration- a real stiff upper lip type statement for the recession angler! Do have a peek at the site for more options, plus some other late additions (www.dgfishing.co.uk)