Friday, 21 October 2011
Hitting The Ground Limping
Six days fishing on two of the top trout waters in the UK, what could go wrong there? Kevin and I were to fish Blithfield Reservoir for two days and then move on to Chew Valley lake for four more, surely we'll get something worth catching. As usual though there was a fly in the ointment when I developed agonising toothache on the first day. It was expected, and the dentist had given me antibiotics to get me straight again but boy did it hurt!
That first day was wasted rather. I spent most of the time in the boat with my head in my hands wanting to cry with the pain but slowly, over several days, the antibiotics worked their magic and the pain subsided. The pain of blanking persisted however! Kevin got on with the job of catching pike and had several doubles at Blith while I remained fishless. We started off in shallow water as we always do in October but the pike were nowhere to be found and all those swims which people had fought so hard for, racing to get there first, were soon deserted as they all went off to try and find the fish.
As ever, those who did find the fish first had a good day with a number of fish falling to both baits and lures but most people struggled - even the ones who didn't have toothache! Day two was a little better as I did at least hook a couple of pike. The first hit a jerkbait but didn't feel the hooks at all and the rod sprung back as quickly as it had been pulled forward. I changed the lure, the fish having been spooked by the first one and on the next cast I got a better hit. It wasn't good enough though and after two hard kicks the fish dropped off.
A little later we moved out to deep water, away from the awful algal bloom that was dogging the lake and the sounder betrayed the presence of an enormous shoal of bait fish. We dropped an anchor here and started to cast with heavy soft plastics and after four casts I was into a pike. It fought hard as I pulled it up towards the boat and within seconds it burst from the surface in a tailwalk. I watched in awe as it shook its head, mouth agape and the lure went flying. A little later Kevin caught a similar sized fish, fourteen pounds or so but there was no more action for me.
Chew was no better it seemed, and we had a bit of a shock when we arrived. Overnight, vandals had set light to several of the fishing boats and had stolen some engines. For a time we weren't sure if there would be enough boats for us all to fish from but the fishery pulled out all the stops and everyone was catered for.
Once again I had to watch as Kevin got all the action and on day one it was very big action. Kevin took a great fish of 26lb 4oz on a smelt in the early afternoon, one of the biggest fish he's had from there and what a superb creature it was, fat and healthy unlike the Blithfield fish which were showing signs of red sore disease. He took a good double the same day but once again, I was fishless. Day two was little better but I did at least catch a jack, as did Kevin and the wind turned to the north and became quite strong.
Day three was another grueller with the nagging north wind making things uncomfortable and while Kevin managed a nice 16 pound pike, I was fishless once again and as we set out on our last day, the fourth on Chew but sixth overall, I had given up hope. It was clear that every fish we were going to catch was going to be caught by Kevin despite us using similar bait, similar tackle and both fishing from the same boat. Something was different now though, it had been a very cold night with a widespread frost but the wind had subsided and at first, it came from the West.
We got out a few minutes late in the boat, for one reason and another and headed out to our chosen spot. There were quite a few boats out there already and we had to squeeze in where we could. We dropped anchor and all was quiet in the light breeze and early morning sunshine. Soon though, there was action! Another boat had a fish, a good one and then the miracle happened - one of my floats moved!
A big chunk of bluey had been picked up by something and as the float bobbed and dithered I picked up the rod and started to tighten down to the fish. I struck hard and the fish pulled back with equal resolve so I piled on the pressure. This was a good fish I could tell but I was determined that it would learn who was boss. Within a few minutes I had the pike at the boatside and Kevin did a sterling job with the net, scooping it up first time. At 21lbs 7oz it proved to be my first twenty pounder of the season and was in quite fabulous condition, thickset with stunning markings and not a fin out of place.
We returned the pike and within a few minutes Kevin followed it up with another of around ten pounds. Then the wind swung round to the north again! It was quite amazing what effect this had. We were catching, the boats around us were catching and then nothing, the action ceased immediately. No-one could have imagined that such a simple phenomenon would have such a dramatic effect on the fish's feeding habits but it did, they just melted away.
Hours and hours passed with nothing to show. Boats moved out of the area in search of pike but we stayed put, knowing the fish were not far away and trying to find the trigger that would make them feed. In the end we moved across the bay where the weed was dense. The fish were in that weed, I was sure and so we lobbed out our baits (big baits) into the weed and waited.
We hadn't long to wait before Kevin had a run on a headless herring. He picked up the rod, wound down to it - and struck at thin air!. The fish had obviously not turned the bait and had left not even a toothmark on it. It was my turn next though and when my large whole herring was picked up I made no mistake. This turned out to be a super fish which fought like a tiger and looked every bit as beautiful as one. Fat, and with a broad back it weighed 21lbs exactly, making this my first brace of twenties for 18 months.
You know what, I've just realised this is my 100th blog entry!