Wednesday, 15 December 2010


A change of scenery for me this week as I ventured out to pastures new. There was a certain river that I'd long fancied having a look at and so I invested in the three hour drive to see what it offered. I have access to several stretches through clubs that I belong to and so rather than visit a day ticket length I decided to try a couple of them first. It was to be a two-day trip concentrating on deadbaiting and lure fishing.

I checked out the weather forecasts and river level websites and conditions looked ok. There was to be no rain and the river was dropping slowly after last week's snowmelt had brought it up. I reasoned that the fish might be starting to feed if the water wasn't still too cold and too coloured.

It was cold and coloured! I arrived at dawn and after pulling on my woolies and boots I treated myself to a brew before setting off to find a swim. As I drained my cup another angler arrived. We exchanged pleasantries before setting off together along the bank. Pete (as he was called) told me a little about the stretch and settled into a swim he fancied as I marched on further upstream.

I found a likely looking spot with some dead water in between some bushes. The water was so dead in fact that a large sheet of ice, some thirty feet by ten was covering the swim so I dug out the landing net pole and, wedging it against the ice, heaved it out into the flow leaving me with clear water to fish.

I dropped a legered sardine at the edge of the crease where the slack water met the current and sat back to await developments. They weren't long in coming as, after fifteen minutes or so, the rod tip twitched round a little. I pulled off the bobbin by hand and picked up the rod watching the line peel from the spool. A hard strike met with a satisfying resistance and a lively six pounder was brought to the net. "That's ok" I thought, "first trip and I haven't blanked."

I moved on after a little while trying other similar spots but no more runs came. I bumped into Pete again and he told me he had blanked and I saw two more anglers, also fishing for pike. Staying mobile, I fished a number of swims but to no avail and as darkness fell I yomped my way back to the car. Pete's car was gone by now, as was another vehicle I had seen in the car park earlier. I loaded my gear into the car as the two anglers I had spotted earlier arrived at the car park. They too had blanked, though one had had a dropped run.

All in all I was growing disappointed with this bit of river. The lack of action wasn't a problem, after all conditions were not so good, but I was really surprised to find at least four other pikers on the stretch on a tuesday in late December. It's clear this stretch is fished heavily and that's something I really don't like.

I drove to my other stretch and after a nice pub meal and a drink or two slept in the car until dawn. An early start saw me on the bank as the sun was creeping over the adjacent mountains. The location was breathtakingly beautiful with rolling meadows bounded by dark, brooding forests leading away to snow covered peaks.

The river was wide at this point with slack water close in and the main thrust of the current on the far bank. At some point in the distant past a huge tree had fallen into the water just upstream. This had had the most profound effect on the river, diverting its flow and causing a great eddy to form just at the point I had chosen to fish. I plumbed the depth, at seven feet it looked ideal and I was confident that a pike or two resided in this text book swim.

I cast in two deadbaits and sat back to await developments. Little happened for a while, the odd fish turned, mostly small stuff but I did see a large dark salmon roll at one point, probably a returning fish. After a while, the float on one rod started to bob. I picked up the rod and waited but the bobbing stopped. I put the rod down again and after ten minutes or so it started to bob again, only to stop once more. Over the next hour this performance was repeated several times and I decided that some "nuisance" fish was the culprit, probably a chub or a trout.

In time the nuisance fish must have lost interest and all was quiet until I became aware of some movement to my left. Something large had splashed, or maybe just submerged and though I hadn't seen what caused it, I did see a line of bubbles move quickly upstream, past me until it reached the ancient fallen tree. Few creatures behave in such a fashion but I had seen this before and I was fairly sure an otter was responsible. I waited and sure enough after a while I saw a large otter emerge from beneath the tree and travel back downstream against the far bank, utilising the current to speed its passage.

Was this responsible for my lack of action so far? The answer came soon enough when a whole family of otters came swimming upstream rolling, splashing and playing in front of me. Four of them disappeared under the tree and then a straggler came up and joined them. I had never seen more that two otters together before and I sat transfixed by the sight. Before long they came out from their holt, for that is what the old tree had become, and played on the ice and in the water before me. It was a rare sight and one I managed to capture on film.

I packed up. There was little point in fishing right on top of an otter's holt, even the most stupid pike wouldn't set up home there and I had to accept that the competition at my two chosen venues was too hot for me. That said, I was truly thrilled to see those otters and absolutely delighted to get pictures of them. There are those in the angling world who would have otters done away with but not me, they are a predator, just like the pike I want to catch and for too long predators have been persecuted. Better to make room for them and enjoy their presence in my view.

As I tramped away from the river I heard a loud PLOP and turned back to see a kingfisher burst from the water and land on a branch, a minnow thrashing in its beak. What a fabulous sport this is, most people never get to enjoy such sights.


Paddy Pike said...

The footage of the Otters is fantastic, I could have watched them all day had i been there, They are a great creature and very playfull,

Andrew Kennedy said...

Hear hear, re: the otters and predator persecution, Eric. Like it or not anglers, the otter is a natural top-line predator which belongs in our rivers every bit as much as the pike does. There are only so few of them because humans persecuted them to the verge of extinction so they wouldn't eat "our" precious salmon & trout! Most water ecosystems have at least one natural mammalian predator which has adapted to hunt fish with a very important role to play. In the British Isles, ours is the otter, no further discussion should be needed!
Great footage of the otter family anyway and a very interesting read.