For once both the UPS and Royal Mail drivers arrived earlier than expected. Early enough for me to throw the pike gear and some baits in the car and get to the water with plenty of daylight remaining. Even better was that the day was fairly mild, with no wind-chill. If it stayed that way I could fish an hour or more past sunset. So far so good. My usual plan hit a brick wall when I found the swims I usually end up in during my roamings were all occupied. I'd have to try something different. The area I fished on Christmas Day didn't appeal, and I didn't fancy a long walk either. Off to a swim I have fished a few times with success.
Faced with open water the third bait usually gets whacked well out and sort of twitched back. The other two fish the obvious feature. The margin. Had there been more wind I'd have got my little drifter out for a play, but that wasn't an option. As I was planning on stopping into dark I left the Mk2 night floats on.
Despite the conditions feeling favourable I wasn't happy with where I was, even though I repositioned the baits after twenty minutes. I wasn't all that confident of the rather skinny bluey I had on one rod, nor the lamprey tail on another. I moved early to a swim which had yet to produce a pike for me, as in one banked. The first time I dropped a deadbait in the left hand margin it was taken quickly by a pike which felt a fair bit bigger than the mid double I'd put pack in another swim a few minutes earlier. That's what keeps drawing me back to the swim.
I left the sardine I'd been fishing in open water and cast it to some far bank willows. Then I put a fresh lamprey head in place of the washed out tail section, which I chopped into four pieces and scattered around the head section after I'd swung it into the margin on my right. The bluey was replaced with a small, but cucumber-smelling, smelt and dropped to my left. The sun came out.
One of the night floats I'd painted black and made a 'sight bob' for it by wrapping dayglo gaffer tape around a dead starlight. This actually showed up quite well at a moderate distance, better still at close range. None of the floats moved.
I sort of had it in mind that if any of the other anglers packed up before four o'clock I'd make a move. In the end I didn't. It seemed like sitting it out in this swim until the usually productive time when the light began to fade might be a good idea. Usually I move out of this swim to a 'banker' for last knockings. Maybe that's why the swim had never produced.
My head torch was out of the rucksack ready for action when the horse needed watering. Cue the sounder box to do what it's supposed to do... Dash to the rods and it's the lamprey head that's away. At the start of the winter I loaded one reel with Asso Bullet mono to see how it behaved. So far my few sessions proved that it cast and spooled okay, but it hadn't been tested with a fish. That was about to change. Turn the reel handle and wind straight into the pike. No problem. Another four or five pounder was coming in easily. Not much of a test for the line. I reached back and grabbed the net, sliding it forwards into the water. Now the jack was under the rod tip but for some reason was refusing to pop to the surface as I bent into it. A lunge and a swirl and I realised it wasn't a jack at all!
The first glimpse I got of the fish suggested a scraper double. A lightly hooked one at that with the lamprey section flapping around from the top treble well outside the pike's mouth. Sink the mesh and give the fish some rice. Job done. A quick look suggested eleven pounds before I wedged the net to retain the fish while I got the unhooking gear and scales sorted.
Lifting the fish ashore in the net it felt a bit heavier than my guestimate. On the mat the hook fell out. In the sling the needle spun round past six o'clock. The fish being lean across the back was what fooled me. Nicely marked and conditioned, with room to fill out before spawning she was lively on her return to the water.
I sorted the usual mess out then sat back to watch the starlights get brighter as the sky got darker. Although the air temperature had dropped markedly at sunset it didn't feel too chilly. I was quite comfortable in my bunny suit. If it hadn't been for hunger I might have stayed longer, but by five fifteen my belly was complaining.
It just goes to show that you shouldn't write a spot off until you've fished it at the most productive times. Common sense really. However, the temptation of fishing a swim which has produced on a regular basis is difficult to stay away from. It can be a bad habit to get into, though. I'd caught a first pike from a 'new' swim and a first on the mono. I'll keep on with the mono until spring, then I might use it for eels. Quite why I'm not sure when braid has so many advantages for predator fishing. I guess I just like experimenting.