Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Biggest Not Always The Best

Rob Sidell

Many people have a soft spot for certain waters and they are usually the ones that they first cast a line into on the start of their angling journey with whatever species they fish for and I'm no different. Being brought up in Norfolk with our multitude of waterways, it was a certainty that at somepoint I would try angling as this was what my brother did. I used to be a bit of a pest to him by sitting and watching him for hours on end in the boat dykes at Wroxham near where we lived. I would always be begging him to let me have a go whilst he was catching small Roach,Gudgeon, Cocky Ruffe and if he was really lucky a decent sized Perch that were ever eager to engulf his double maggot that was presented on crude tackle.
It was in one of the boat dykes that I first came face to face with a species that has captivated me more than any other during my angling career. I remember I was about six at the time and whilst rumaging through my brothers old wicker fishing kreel while he was out I found a small spinner and some sea fishing line (must of been about 20lb BS). I don't know what possessed me to do this but I thought that I would try some sort of jigging method with the spinner.It was only when I had dropped the spinner between a moored boat and the key heading and jerked it up and down(ooh eer) that I felt something pulling at the other end and it turned out to be a tiny jack of about 8 oz. From there on in a pike angler was born.

It wasn't until about 6-7 years later that I tried piking properly and this was during the school holidays when myself and a mate used a rowing dinghy to troll livebaits through the stretch of the Bure at Wroxham. We caught mostly jacks with the odd double thrown in which seemed an absolute monster to me at the time. It was from this time onwards that I used to go piking regularly and steadily my pb's got bigger until eventually I managed to surpass the magical 20lb barrier one late November day with a 22lb fish whilst fishing the river at Horning.

Since that day the Bure system with its many miles of river and broads has produced stacks of doubles and several 20's for me, by fishing on average two and sometimes three sessions a week, over 100 doubles for the season (Oct to March) was not too difficult to achieve. However in recent years I think this has become a little harder to achieve due to various reasons that include increased angling pressure, Otters and salt tides. One thing the system never used to produce were many fish over 25 lb and a 30lb fish came up once in a blue moon!.So for many years my pb on the system stood at 24 lb and whilst this is a very good fish I felt that if I was to improve my pb I would need to search some of the other Broadland systems to achieve this.With this in mind I left the Bure system alone for a while and did in fact manage to improve my pb half a dozen times topped by a cracking 30.4 from another one of the Broadland rivers.
It was then brought to my attention that a certain part of the Bure system which had been left alone for quite a while was indeed worth a look again.With my pb now increased I decided to give it another whirl to try and catch one of the specimens that the Bure rarely throws up.... a 25 plusser!.

It was one late November day that I found myself going up the river with the outboard at full tilt due to the fact that the area I intended to fish took the best part of half an hour to get to. Once the area was reached I was full of optimism as there was a lovely light to moderate south westerly blowing with recent night time temperature not dropping below 9 degrees. I was feeling confident and after a couple of swim moves my confidence had been well founded as I caught eight fish up to fifteen pounds and all in fantastic condition. After that initial session I began fishing the area fairly regularly and caught plenty of fish with several of my early sessions on there producing over twenty to just under 20lb and at times keeping all the rods in the water at once was a bit of a feat in itself!.

Over the next couple of years I continued to fish the area with decent catches being made with a few low 20's thrown in and with my best from this particular part of the Bure being upped to just over 23lb. The one thing about these particular fish that kept me going back there were their stunning markings,bluey grey with very vivid grey spots quite unlike anything that I had seen before. I can remember one particular fish that I'd caught in 2005 that weighed 18.8 and was a truly stunning looking fish that had obviously never seen a hook before and having the aforementioned gorgeous markings. She was a fish that was always going to stay etched in my mind to some degree. After this capture the thought of catching a real big one with these stunning markings really did give me increased drive to fish the water more often even if it did mean possibly missing out on potential big fish from other areas of Broadland.

Looking back over time I've found an attitude to move on in several other instances of my piking where if I've had a decent run of good fish from a certain place,I'll go somewhere different. Even though the chances of a big fish are very slim,I do this just to get away from the crowds.I do get a buzz from catching a 20 from a water that struggles to produce such fish as much as I would catching say a 25lb fish from an area that does quite a few if you get my drift. I have seen myself do this several times by fishing the lesser fashionable areas of Broadland. Now to maximise my chances of catching a 25 plusser from this part of the Bure I thought that I would only fish the area at the back end of the season or at least from January onwards and only if the conditions were also conductive to good fishing.

After having a chat with a mate it became apparent that the area had produced a fish in excess of 30lb about 15 years previous which didn't surprise me, due to the fact that the area was mostly left alone and had a healthy population of overwintering preyfish.These obviously being two of the main ingredients needed to produce a really big fish. Then in the Autumn of 2006 came a real hammer blow when we had a big salt surge after a couple of days of strong north westerly winds, these two factors combined pushed salt water through the broads system and killed thousands of fish on most parts of the Broads. This really did put a big dent into my fishing plans. Luckily a mate of mine had managed to get me on to a Trout fishery in Suffolk that was very rarely pike fished, so with the fishing on the Broads looking a bit bleak it was there I did most of my piking in the late autumn of 2006. By the turn of the year I had managed to catch quite a few fish from the Trout lake including a sprinkling of 20 pounders to 26.8 so things hadn't actually worked out to badly with the change of scenery too.

On a late January morning when I was due to fish the Trout lake I awoke only to discover that the weather was different to what had been forecast the night before.The conditions were still and overcast and not ideal for the fish in the Trout lake to feed well in my limited experience of fishing there. Thoughts of what to do were spinning through my head, then it struck me that I had said to myself I would,when the conditions were right go and troll the part of the Bure that I had been doing well prior to the salt tides. I would then find out if anything had survived the salt incursions. Armed with some decent livebaits I thought I would have a good chance of tempting anything that had survived with the methods and baits that I was going to use.With the weather conditions as they were it would be easier to attain the right trolling speed which I do find important especially when trying to tempt the bigger fish using this method.In my experience going to quick while trolling will cause the bait to rise up in the water too much and out of the strike zone, this may not be so important when the water temperatures are a bit warmer, but when they are really cold I feel that you need to have the bait presented just at the right speed to keep the bait at the right depth to tempt them.

Once I had made my decision not to fish the Trout lake,I had to quickly load the boat with the relative tackle and sort my baits out. I was soon on my way and by about 7.00am I was making my way up river in the half light, negating the 25 minute run up to the area that I wanted to fish. On reaching the area I found I could see the prop on my outboard motor quite easily which I use as a bit of an indicator as to whether the water colour is ideal for livebaiting. Coupling that with the previous night time temperature not dropping too low things were looking promising. I hooked up a Roach of around 8 oz on the first rod ,then on the second went a Bream off around a pound and I managed to get a decent spread on the baits which can be a bit tricky when using baits of this size. After trolling for about 50 yards with the baits working well I noticed one of them getting extremely agitated !.This is always a sure bet that there is a pike in the vicinity, although there were no takes forthcoming it still made me fairly confident that something had survived the salt water. I'd moved about another 30 yards when a take came without warning, as the rod with the roach was seized. Line was leaving the reel at a fair pace and I was fairly confident that a small fish would be responsible.I wound down and leaned into the fish I found this to be the case as a chunky fish of around six pounds was soon unhooked and released.

With the optimism gained from the first fish I soon hooked up another bait of around the same size and I had hardly repositioned the oars in the rollocks when I had another take on the same rod which turned out to be another chunky fat fish of around thirteen pounds. The fish had a similar build to the fish that I'd been catching at the trout lake, which at the time I didn't think too much about, but it was however a bit unusual for these fish to be like this, but more on this later....

I carried on trolling over the area but no other takes were forthcoming so other areas were tried but to no avail, which after such a good start this was a bit of a blow especially as through the day the sonar it had shown quite large concentrations of prey fish. With only about two hours of fishing time left I decided to go back over the area where I had started and after a short while the Bream was taken in a large vortex. Anyone that has had this happen it makes you tremble slightly when winding down !.When I wound down to set the hooks I found a reasonable resistance and was optimistic that I had in fact hooked a decent fish, but as with most Broadland fish the fight was fairly unspectacular with the fish making a few short runs when it neared the boat. When I first caught a glimpse of it I didn't think it would weigh any more than 18-19 lb and my view had not changed when it went over the draw cord of my landing net. It wasn't until I lifted the net that the fish revealed the depth to its flanks that I realised I had a good 20 on the boat. It was also an absolutely stunning looking fish and totally unblemished.
I rowed over to a piece of bank to do the weighing and photography and after safely unhooking the fish I popped it into the weigh sling to reveal the needle on the Reubens spun around to 26.14. I'd finally accomplished what I had set out to do several years ago, to catch one of the Bures rarer fish a 25 plusser. As I laid the fish on the unhooking mat I was in total awe of the condition of the fish as it looked like it had a totally undisturbed life. It had even more girth than the two fish that I had caught earlier, this got me thinking as to why? The only reason I could come up with was the salt tides that had came in the Autumn two years before had perhaps littered the bottom with dead fish which would make easy pickings for the pike that had evaded and survived the salt water. Alternatively as the sonar had suggested the salt surges had squeezed alot of prey fish into a small area which again would end up making catching food for the pike relatively easy, resulting in the build and weight of the fish caught.

There was one other surprise in store for me as I was comparing this particular fish to some of the photos of the other 20's that I'd caught from that part of the Bure. I noticed she was not actually any of them. It was only when I looked a the 18.8 that I had caught two years previous that I recognised it as the same fish and amazingly it had gained over 8lbs in weight, for a wild fish to do this in such a short period of time I found remarkable!

I now have a A4 size picture of this fish on my garage wall to remind me when going through a lean spell of what can be achieved with a little bit of persistence,drive and without doubt a little bit of luck.This still remains my most cherished capture to date, even though I have managed to catch bigger fish from various other places.

Be Lucky

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