Having seen my first fieldfares since spring last Friday, with the air temperature in single figures the low sun and clear sky made it feel like pike time was here at last. With that in mind and work not going to plan I had an early lunch, packed the pike gear in the car and set off to make the most of the afternoon before the rain arrived.
The reeds are in their winter colours, the trees almost completely bare with a strong southerly stripping a few more leaves from their branches. Despite the ripple on the water it had that cold blue look which it takes on through the winter months on days such as this. A blue that makes orange pike floats glow like beacons in the sunlight. All that was missing was a frost to make the ground hard and the grass crisp. That'll come.
I thought that fishing the edges of remaining weed would be a good place to start so two float legered deads and a paternostered sprat were cast to strategic places that matched that profile. It was quarter past one as I settled in with my back to the wind to watch the floats. After an hour I repositioned the lamprey head. Half an hour later I was wondering if a move might be worthwhile. After moving my gear two swims along I put the rods in the second swim along for some reason and moved the rest of the gear to join it.
There wasn't much in the way of weed in this swim but I could cover more water. Two baits were dropped in the margins - left and right - the lamprey got chucked out into no-man's land. I can't say I was feeling any more confident. As so often happens as soon as you stop expecting or hoping for a run one materialises. So it goes. The least likely float was on the move.
The good thing about fishing braid off the baitrunner is that there is no slack and no stretch when you come to set the hooks. There's hardly anything to the 'winding down' part of the hookset. Half a turn of the reel handle and you feel the pike enough to pull the rod back and drive the hooks home. A carefully set clutch can be advantageous in case the pike makes a sudden lung on feeling steel.
This fish made no such lunge. It came in like the proverbial wet sack, only waking up at the net where it did the big-headed gill flare and shake that makes you think you've hooked something much bigger than you have. Obviously a double the headshake looked about eighteen pounds, the length about fourteen, in the net the girth looked nearer ten. Not really big enough for a self-take but I thought I should try out the camera I bought earlier in the year having caught nothing worth setting the tripod up for all spring and summer. I left the pike in the net, after staking the net out with a bankstick just in case the fish got frisky.
Everything went smoothly. I set the mat and forceps out, with the sling and zeroed scales close by, then rigged up the tripod, camera and bulb release. Two quick practice shots to make sure things were lined up and it was time to get the fish out of the water.
Laid on the mat the hooks were easily removed, the rod put out of harms way and the pike weighed. Just over twelve pounds and tatty for the time of year. More like a post spawn fish. Lift for two shots of each side then back into the sling to go back to the water. Easy peasy.
The lamprey head was still dripping blood so back out it went. I put a fresh joey on the other float leger rig and cast it further out to my right adjacent to some dying weed. The sky was getting darker grey from the west and the air temperature dropping.
Was another move in order, or should I put the brolly up to keep the breeze off? The first spots of light rain made up my mind. The brolly went up and I hunkered down on the low chair with another cup of flask tea. There was less than an hour of light left as the rain got a little heavier and the wind dropped. A small flock of starlings circled looking for a roost site. Jackdaws headed east. A kingfisher dashed along the margin clipping my middle line as the light faded to that stage where colours disappear. The rain eased again and I took the chance to pack up before the head torch was required.