Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Family Fishing Renaissance

Jonathon Myles

Pike fishing became an obsession for me for a few years ,its importance eclipsing all other area‘s of my life and more specifically my desire to capture a pike weighing 30 pounds in weight. It started after the capture of a magnificent river pike of over 28 pounds, unlike many anglers who perhaps slow down after marriage and kids, my fishing intensified. I am not proud to say that the desire for me to make it happen began to distort my perception of life and which aspects of it were most important to me.

As many away trips as I could afford and make time for were ventured upon, to venues such as Blithfield, Mentieth, Chew, various Anglian water reservoirs and Ireland. In addition to weekly dawn till dusk sessions on my home waters. This took its toll on my family life to such an extend that one day quite suddenly I discovered that my marriage was finished. I lost my wife, kids and house, almost everything that I had worked hard for disappeared in in instant. Although there would never be a happy reunion I was forced to re-evaluate my priorities, I love my children dearly and they would now have to come first. With child maintenance to pay and every other weekend taken up spending quality time with them, the costly away days would have to go or at best be drastically reduced in number. My fishing would have to become a much more casual pursuit if it were to survive at all. I am fortunate in that I live in an area with some good pike fishing available for those who look hard enough, but over the years, whilst I had caught doubles readily on my local waters I had always found bigger fish very hard to come by.

(The river 28 that began the obsession)

Not long after the split with my ex wife I had the honour ( as I now consider it) of netting a magnificent personal best of 36lb 6oz for my boat partner, followed very quickly by a 24lb fish. This should have been a very happy joint triumph as I always feel that boat fishing is teamwork. However, instead I became consumed by feelings of envy and jealousy, as I had travelled far and wide to try and catch a fish of that size, at great financial and personal cost. I felt that it should have been me and if I am brutally honest my head was not in the right place. By the end of the following October I had also been ‘unjustly in my opinion’ banned from my local Angling club, their waters I had fished for many years.I'd been physically threatened by a local match angler at my work place and a little while later by another in the pub whilst out on a date in the early stages of a new relationship.
To be honest by this point  fishing had really started to get on top of me, I realised that it was no longer enjoyable for me, the hobby I had enjoyed since childhood was becoming a problem for me in many ways. I had not only lost my family and home but seen my access to my local waterways denied. It was now unpleasant,  involving both work and my social life. With my available time being restricted I felt that my chances of catching that dream fish were further away than ever. That summer after an expensive and unsuccessful trip to the Emerald Isle, I thought seriously about calling it a day, although a couple of good mates did their best to persuade me otherwise. With a couple of days at Chew already paid for the following October I had a couple of half hearted days without any great success and i did  not fish at all for almost the remainder of the season.

Every cloud has a single lining however and during this summer I met a wonderful lady and began an immensely fulfilling relationship. The relationship cracked along at an incredible pace and I felt on top of the world. By the New Year we were living together and pike fishing was the furthest thing from my mind. Rather than the nagging and moaning that I had become accustomed to during  the previous ten years my new partner seemed genuinely interested in my fishing and really pushed me into getting out again, we fished together one morning.I caught a fine river fish of 18lb, I also enjoyed teaching Lynda about pike fishing and she also had her first pike under her belt on that trip. Encouraged a little by the trip I decided that it was time to teach my oldest son Harry and took him to a small Still water that I knew held pike, I thought it safe and easy for him, the trip was a success, alternating runs he was first off the mark with his first pike of 7lb, and I followed up with a fine 21lb 12oz pike expertly netted by my 7 year old son, it was my first twenty from my local waters for quite a long time. As we packed up at lunch time Harry turned to me and declared it the best day of his life! A very rewarding moment as any father will know.

A week later on the last weekend of the season Lynda and I were back on a local River together and this time she did me proud by netting a venue best of 24lb 4oz. I felt the passion return instantly at that moment.I was totally fired up and gagging to continue, it was if I had been overcome by a tidal wave of piking enthusiasm, the pike season unfortunately came to a close. I continued to fish sporadically through the Summer either with Lynda or the children on their weekends and we had some great times enjoying success with carp, catfish and towards the end of the summer Perch. A particular highlight being my son Harry following up on his 7lb pike with a superb 3lb+ river perch, which was proudly sent in and printed within one of the weeklies. Although Joseph and Lynda all weighed in with fish over 2lb and I too a 3 pounder.

(Harry’s 3lb river perch)

I now couldn’t wait for the pike season to start, I was extremely excited but had learned , I hoped , from previous mistakes.  I made a decision to fish only two trout water days on a local water and my fenland fishing would be limited to half days at the most  and on the weekends when I didn’t have Harry and Joseph staying with me. Along with the odd trip with them for a few hours when weather conditions suited.  I would not fish weekends when I felt the weather was against me and I would try to pick what I considered to be the peak times to base my short sessions around by only fishing days when I felt the weather was in my favour. I would be forced to forget about some old venues having been banned, so would concentrate primarily on the river I had the 24 from the previous season and fish three different areas on rotation. Although my available time fishing was reduced dramatically if I could catch a good fish over the season with the much reduced hours available I would be more than pleased. Things started well in October with a venue best of 23lb 4oz from the second of the two reservoir days, mission accomplished, but further fired up by this the following weekend I fished a new area of my chosen Fenland river, well away from the scene of the previous seasons 24 and within an hour had a mighty 27lb 4oz pike in the net. My second biggest Fenland fish and one of a size I had waited six years for.

(Fenland 27)

Time was soon to become even more precious, as by now Lynda and I were expecting and my 3rd son Lucas duly arrived in December. Fishing again took a back seat for a good six weeks or so and whilst I could not get out, my closest angling friends were at least enjoying some good fish.With Lucas a month old I managed to sneak out with him and with only an hour available on the bank we were both very pleased to sneak out a mid double !.

  Lucas and Daddy with a mid double

My son Joseph who is six had become very keen to go pike fishing and often asked when I would take him.With our water ways frozen I told him that he would have to wait. We seized our opportunitIies whenever we could together. These days I am really having to squeeze time in when I ever I can and one morning I managed to squeeze in just two hours either side of dawn at a venue close to home I had  selected, I had fished this water a fair bit in the past catching nothing but a few jacks and the odd double. The trip was successful with a fine brace of 18lb 10oz and a real beauty of 21lb 8oz. So with young Joseph in tow at lunchtime having carried out our shopping duties we loaded the car and set of for the water again, a small fenland drain, with an hour he noticed that a sardine in the margin was on the move, I looked up and the float moved across the drain at a fair pace, the run was struck and met with a solid resistance with the rod taking on an alarming battle curve. The fish plodded about hugging the bottom and my initial thoughts of passing the rod to him were abandoned !. I could not move the fish from the bottom and as such could not get a look at her, she ran two or  three times causing me to backwind but soon she was ready for netting. It was a hell of a job for me to slide down the steep bank without entering the water but she went in the net first time with me perched precariously above the water line. I hauled a heavy net up the bank and was astounded at what lay before me on the unhooking mat, here was probably the most beautiful pike I had ever seen, certainly on a par with any trout water pike I had caught or witnessed and from a humble Fenland drain no more than 15’ wide and 3’ deep. She weighed 22lb 4oz but had the length of a mid double.  A phrase that many years ago we used to use at work to describe a nice and very saleable house sprung immediately to mind ‘An Absolute Peach’.

The Drain peach 22lb 4oz

Other good fish were caught during this 12 month renaissance period and I have caught more big pike than ever before whilst fishing less time and I have caught many of them in the company of the people that I love the most. I have even had a marriage proposal accepted on the bank whilst fishing !. It has surely been the most rewarding 12 month period of my pike fishing life. All due to a combination of circumstances I couldn’t possibly have planned, I really should thank those over zealous bailiffs and outdated club rules which forced me on to pastures new. 

I have still managed to find time for the odd short session with my piking buddies. Instead of enviously looking at my friends who have been able to combine family life and fishing, I do seem at last to have the balance about right. This has been helped not least by a good woman and a bit of good fortune. I now value my fishing so,so much and seem to be much more relaxed about it, whether this has had a bearing on results I don’t know?.  But I am amazed at how it has changed in a year. One thing I do know is that I am enjoying it more than ever and if I don’t ever get that 30 I am no longer bothered what-so-ever. If and when it arrives I would be the happiest man in England but until then I just want to continue enjoying it as much as I have been more recently.

Since writing this piece for The Pool I treated myself to a full day out back end, on my own on a local water. It was only my 3rd full days fishing of the season and a long pre dawn walk was rewarded with this fabulous 25lb 8oz pike within minutes of arriving at my destination and it was to be my only take of the day!This  proved to me yet again that I didn’t need to be out all day to catch a decent fish, it was a fantastic way to end the season.With the Pike Gods smiling upon me once more I do feel truly blessed. 

Roll on next season!

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