Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Cold Turkey

What a tough end to the year! We had the coldest December for 120 years and not only were most of the stillwaters frozen (including the very large ones) but many stretches of river froze over as well. The bad weather conspired along with the Christmas festivities to prevent me from fishing altogether for fully three weeks and by the time New Year was over and done I was becoming stir crazy. January 3rd was a bank holiday, I try to avoid fishing on public holidays since the waters are invariably busy but I was desperate to wet a line so decided to take the boat out for a couple of days.

An early start almost ended in disaster the jockey wheel fell off my trailer as I was getting the boat out of its garage. Exactly how this happened I'm not too sure but it appears that during the very cold weather, when temperatures dipped down below minus 15 degrees locally, the bolts holding the jockey wheel to the trailer must have contracted so much that they snapped the lugs off the jockey wheel. As soon as I started to move the trailer the wheel fell off and the drawbar fell to earth with a clunk.

I managed to patch this up temporarily and set out an hour later than planned, meaning that I arrived well after first light and after a number of other anglers were already out fishing. This delay was important since it meant that my first, second and third choice swims were already taken and it left me scratching around trying to find fish on the sounder. It came home to me how lucky I am to be able to fish midweek most of the time. People who work monday to friday must be faced with this problem all the time and I don't doubt it impacts on their catches a great deal.

The day was grey and cold, very cold and the fish were very hard to find. I ended the day fishless, not a great start to 2011, and made my way back to the slipway in the dark where I encountered two other anglers. They had blanked as well but told me another piker they'd spoken to had had six fish, five of them jacks.

After cooking up some curry and rice I made my bed in the car and, exhausted, was asleep before eight but I awoke little more than an hour later when I experienced a strange rumbling, shaking feeling. I looked out expecting to see a vehicle driving past but there was none, nor was there a boat chugging by. I fell asleep again, mystified as to the cause of the disturbance and was awoken many hours later to the sound of rain hammering on the roof of the car.

It was soon time to get up, though the prospect of going out in such awful weather didn't inspire me and I switched on the radio as I made my first brew of the day. The news reporter revealed the source of the strange rumbling I'd experienced during the night, a minor earthquake had occurred in North Yorkshire and though that was many miles away, I had been aware of it due to the quietness of my location. What's more, the dawn was to bring another natural phenomenon in the way of a partial eclipse of the sun - what would the pike think of all this?

I got out at first light, successfully avoiding the few remaining ice floes and made my way to my first choice swim. Sure enough there were familiar arches on the trace from the sounder, betraying the presence of a number of large fish, probably pike. The downpour continued though and after getting four baits out in the water I raised my collapsible cuddy and snuggled down under the shelter it offered. I soon picked up a pike of around nine pounds on a mackerel head, a pretty fish which had a busted gill raker and expected more action to follow but it wasn't to be and in time I moved on.

I dropped into several more swims, watching the fishfinder intently at each one, looking for those telltale arches and eventually found what I was looking for. Several big fish were holding close to a dropoff in 29ft of water. I marked their position using an "H" block marker, anchored up and started to fish. The rain stopped but the wind picked up markedly and this swim was in a very exposed location so I started to get quite uncomfortable. The waves were building bigger and bigger and as each one slammed into the boat I was pitched forward, only to be dumped back down on my chair as the trough followed the wave.

It was early afternoon, I had only a couple of hours left before I had to go and I had just about made my mind up to move to quieter water when one of the floats disappeared beneath the waves. I swept back the rod and pulled in a scrappy fourteen pounder which was quickly unhooked and returned. A few minutes later a second float dipped and I subsequently boated an eight pounder. My mind was made up for me then, I had to sit tight and ride out the waves.

After another hour the wind had subsided a little and I was glad I had stayed put but I only had until three oclock to fish before I had to go home. It was two thirty when I got my next run, a screamer which was ripping line from the baitrunner on a legered bait right from the off. I pulled into this fish while it was still running fast and the rod bucked hard as a result. This was a very hard fighting fish and for a time I thought I might be into something a bit special so I was just a little disappointed when I got it to the boat and saw that it was only a mid double.

During the fight the baitrunner on the other legered bait had buzzed a few times. I thought this had been caused by the hard fighting fish pulling the boat around but as I netted the pike it continued to run and started to pick up speed, it was another run! I left the first fish in the net in the water and picked up the second rod, winding down hard and hooking into my fifth pike of the day. This was a fish of similar size and I was forced to hand-land this one, the net being already occupied.

I quickly took a picture of the two pike together in the net but I was till being tossed around by the wind and the picture suffers a little from camera shake as you can see. Both fish were fourteen pounds odd, the biggest being short of the fifteen pound mark by just two ounces and had I the time available I would have seen the day out in this spot but it was time to go.

Wind, rain, earthquakes and eclipses what a start to 2011, what will the rest of the year bring?

1 comment:

Paddy Pike said...

Happy new year to you and yours Eric,
What a tremendous story, I was well captured, What a lot of things happened, as you said "Wind, rain, earthquakes and eclipses" Appart from all that you had some great sport, Lets hope it gets even better for you for the rest of the year,
Best regards,