Last week saw the pike in stubborn mood and the weather has been odd since then. A day of rain saw the rivers filling right up again beyond comfort. Temperatures plunged too, but then we had a sharp rise again into the weekend and the return of windy conditions.
Luckily the rivers had a chance to recover from the rain and the internet suggested there would be about 10 inches of extra water, which would inevitably be coloured. I'd hatched a plan to give the pike a miss and to concentrate on bream and roach.
I had a swim in mind that's really sheltered when a strong south-westerly is blowing through. The problem is that it's a proper mud fest to get down to in winter. I made my way down with all the grace and sure footedness of an Irishman at the end of a St. Patrick's day session. I stayed upright though!
I settled in and balled in the usual half a dozen cricket ball sized offerings of groundbait. I'd kept them on the same line in a slack area between the main flow and a back eddy. The plan was to put a sleeper rod with pellet / paste (hoping for a bonus fish) to the extreme right edge of the bait. I'd then fish a straight lead over the rest of the bait. A simple enough plan and little to go wrong I thought. Wrong!
Rivers can easily change without warning you. Where it was previously clear, I now found myself being snagged up almost every cast on my preferred line for the straight lead. Something unpleasant must have been deposited during the recent surges of water. I'd already used up my quota of groundbait as I like to get it in place early and leave it to settle.
Things were slipping off plan and I had to make do with fishing just off the left side of my baited area. Not what I wanted, but it was as good as I could get and I had to plug on.
Bites weren't as quick as I expected but I began to pluck a few dace and roach out. All were quite small apart from one roach pushing 12oz that fell to a lobworm on the sleeper rod after I'd ditched the pellet.
Then came the bite I'd been waiting for. A slow take was met with solid thump. The rod arched over and line began peeling off the reel. In no time the fish had reached the far bank and I was fearing another losing battle.
For over 10 minutes I battled hard, knowing I had just a 3lb bottom and a size 14 micro barbed (crushed down) hook. I kept trying to figure out what it was and gradually the suspects began to narrow. Its obvious size ruled most out and left just barbel, carp and pike in the frame.
I made steady ground and finally got a glimpse of a fin. It was a pike, clearly a double and judging by the angle of the line, probably foul hooked. Great!
Knowing that I wasn't dealing with a potential pb barbel or carp I cranked up the pressure as much as I dare on the light set up. After another 5 minutes of straining I got lucky, managing to reverse park the pike first time into a barely adequate net.
The hook was delicately lodged in a fin and was lucky to hold out, having been slightly straightened.
It was a nice clean fish too that had clearly been on the feed. It weighed in at 14lb 9oz and was the best I'd banked this season. Just a shame it wasn't by design! Who needs plans?!
I finally got the plan right and managed a couple of bream before the session ended. Two typical samples that went 4lb 5oz and 4lb 4oz.
Cooler weather is moving in again this week and looks set to linger into next weekend. Critically it sounds likely to remain on the dry side. Hopefully an opportunity to do some proper river piking again if the rivers continue to drop...