Well we've finally settled into a period of much cooler, but calmer conditions. It suits me down to the ground - in fact the colder the better, as long as there's no wind involved. I've had a belly full of windy weather in recent trips and it was nice to wake up to something more tranquil.
-1.5C when I left home, it briefly peaked at -0.5C on the A46 before dipping away quickly to -3C as I reached the area where the Avon snakes its way down to Stratford.
After two weeks chasing pike which resulted in meagre pickings and a royal blank, I needed something a little more reliable this week. So it was back to a more familiar club water for a mixed session.
To the right a deadbait, to the left a couple of maggots with a block end feeder. I really wanted to go for the pike alone, but I bottled it and took half a pint of maggots as a back up. I knew it was low and clear and I was worried that it would be tough going. Blanking again wasn't an option!
The tip didn't stop rattling and bites were just lightning fast and extremely missable. I kept striking into thin air but eventually made contact with a couple of the perpetrators - small dace.
Fortunately the pike float started to move and that signalled an all out effort for predators from then on. A small jack hung on by the narrowest of margins to get me off the mark. A repeat capture of a fish last caught in October.
I like to keep mobile when I've had a pike so I moved 3 pegs upstream to keep things fresh. Having given up on the maggots I found a friend willing to offer its services.
A patient wait and a few twitches of my lamprey bait saw me eventually connect with a fish. The bite was very delicate though and played out over maybe 30 seconds. I don't like leaving it too late for fear of deep hooking, but I do like to see some positive movement before hitting the bite.
The float didn't dip under but when it started to slowly edge towards a snag I called time and hit it. The fish bolted away from the snag and into clear water - perfect I thought and moreover it was a good long fish that was taking line.
It turned and then I got that horrible moment where the hooks and bait are ejected. My best pike of the season for sure gone begging. I plugged on for a couple of more casts before moving down a peg for the last hour. Time was against me as I had to finish around noon to dash back for a trip to the vets with a couple of moggies.
Back to a sardine this time and a headless one for a change. It didn't take long to be engulfed and I was into a feisty scrapper that went off like a rocket. I readied the net, turned the fish and saw it was barely hooked again, with just one part of a barbless treble between success and failure.
A last violent shake of the head saw the hook fly clear and there was my net sat next to an unattached pike of around 8lb. I was actually quite calm for a change and opted not to turn the air blue. I'd at least played out most of the battle and it wasn't a huge fish either.
I would normally have considered a move but I had no time and pressed on with a change of bait to a smelt - the smallest of the baits used on the day.
It was picked up in the most aggressive fashion, with no thought required on when to strike. The float was heading for Stratford at a rate of knots! A quick strike was followed by a warm glow when I felt some serious and heavy resistance.
It took line and ended up a further peg downstream on the edge of a snag. It was easier to follow it so I picked up the net and met up with it at the snag. I lifted it clear and popped the net under it.
A nice clean fish that I didn't appreciate until I went to lift it. I then realised it had a decent belly on it after all.
It went 16lb 9oz - my best of the season and my second best ever. More pleasing is that it's a new fish to add to my archives.
I'm not sure where my next stop will take me. I'm not finished with the pike yet - I have too many baits that need clearing out of my freezer. The Leam is also calling and I was hoping for an away day in search of my first grayling. Much to do, but so little time...
With it now being much colder I must give an overdue mention to my winter clobber.
My boots are my pride and joy. They are the Skee-Tex variety and have served me proud for over 15 years. I have changed the liner in recent years but otherwise they remain in fantastic condition. They are a heavy boot and won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially if you walk long distances through muddy land. Warm as toast though and very comfortable, they do exactly what I want and have given great value for money.
I can't say the same for my fishing suit. Until two years ago I'd never had one, but I took the plunge for a birthday present and went for a Pro Logic Comfort Thermo Suit, which came with a few quid off at the time through Go Outdoors.
First impressions were good. It was plenty warm enough, not too heavy and comfortable. The only niggle was the braces which just wouldn't hold their setting - a minor issue though that could easily be overcome.
However, after year one, the stitching on a jacket pocket came loose and I had to repair it. Towards the end of year two, almost simultaneously both legs of the trousers split near the seams. They went around the boot line where the stress is at its greatest when in the sitting position.
I'm nursing them through the last part of the winter, but I fear a good spin in the washing machine will finish them off. I'm not attempting more repairs, so a new purchase is required. If anyone has any recommendations, I'm all ears.
Another similar week of cooler settled weather lies ahead. Just a possible blip around Friday, before settling down again.