Friday, 22 June 2012

River Severn Results!, James Sarkar

As my Dad, Dilip, and my uncle, Neil, are anglers it was no surprise, I suppose, that at the tender age of three months old I was parked up in my pram behind their pitch whilst ‘The Group’ was carp fishing! So fishing was in the blood, and even before I could walk my Dad has taken me fishing. For a while, though, we stopped fishing completely, and became scuba divers, which was amazing – especially when we dived with pike at Stoney Cove quarry in Leicestershire. I missed fishing, though, and eventually Dad relented and started up again five years ago. Brilliant! I am now twenty and, having completed the First Diploma in Fish Husbandry at Sparsholt College, I am now studying the two-year National Diploma in Fish Husbandry and Fishery Management at South Staffordshire College, Rodbaston. I absolutely love it and everything to do with both fisheries and angling. My first-love is predator fishing and therein, as they say, lies a tale or two…

   My step-Mum, Karen, who is an artist, also got into pike-fishing a couple of years ago in a big way. Inspired by Dad’s life-long friends Chris Fowles and Martin ‘Spam’ Jauncey, Karen wanted to buy a boat. Dad, who still wasn’t 100% back in the groove, wasn’t up for it but eventually relented, so it was that last year ‘Ploddy Go Go’ ended up on our drive. We all worked on the renovation, and eventually had the boat out on Llangorse Lake, just to learn how to angle afloat. A few of the usual run-of-the-mill Llangorse pike were boated, nothing special, but it was good experience and great fun. The main object of the exercise, though, was to get us wised-up ready to fish this winter on our local River Severn. Having been out of the game for a few years Dad has missed out on catching a double-figure zander – whereas Spam and Chris had caught a number in excess of 15 lbs, including, of course, Spam’s historic 20.02 zed.

   During the autumn Dad and Karen had a few average sized zander, all the time Dad saying that it was all good practice, ready for THE time later in the year. As my new college at Rodbaston was closer to home I am able to come home more often, and did so one weekend in October 2010. Karen and Dad had been out on the boat earlier in the week and had a few pike, but no zander. The river was low and quite clear after an early flush through, so hardly perfect so far as zeds were concerned. Anyway, a while before first light saw Dad and I motoring along the river to our favoured area. As dawn broke we anchored up, and we had baits out PDQ. A few yards downstream of the boat my float disappeared, and winding down I felt the lunge of a heavyish fish. At first I assumed that it was a pike, but when it didn’t run off, but did lots of head-shaking, I knew it was a zed. I played it carefully and it went really well. Eventually we caught a glimpse of the fish some feet down as it twisted and turned, near the boat “Oh my goodness, son, it’s a big zander!” said Dad – or unprintable words to that effect! I had already caught a big zed of 11.06 from the Warwickshire Avon three years before and this one looked bigger! Safely in the net and on the unhooking mat, on the scales and 12.09. Result! The first double-figure zed boated by ‘Ploddy Go Go’! Dad followed on with a few nice pike to 13.12, all of which scrapped really well, as these fit river fish do, especially in the autumn, but no more zeds. Karen and Dad were very pleased for me... or at least that’s what they said through gritted teeth!

  A few weeks later and the country was in the grip of an untypically early freeze-up. The very cold weather always brings the river right down, and by late November 2010 it was virtually at summer level. A goodly dose of training for our lecturers meant that I had a few bonus days off, I hatched plans to do a bit on the Severn from the bank. The pitch was one that Dad, Chris and Spam had first fished when they were kids in the 1970s. I was truly inspired by their tales of tussles with mighty pike. I was up bright and early and before first light I was at the pitch. A jack soon fell to my sunk-float paternoster and a free-roving bait was grabbed. Unfortunately this fell off, as did a low-double shortly afterwards.

   The freeze continued across the whole country and the river even froze in parts. Two-days later and a repeat performance: I was on the river and setting up in darkness. The good news was that although it had snowed during the night the air temperature was just above freezing – increasing my confidence. At first light my paternoster rod went out, and when properly light I had free-roving baits doing the business. At 8 am I decided to check my free roving bait, pulling it to the surface and deciding it was OK, when suddenly – out of no-where – a pike struck, engulfing the bait! I struck and the beast went mental! The fish fought largely on the surface, and until it rolled over close-in I thought it was a mid-double – seeing its gut I thought ‘Blimey, that might just be my first 20!’ After a long fight I netted the beast – and was staggered at the size of it!

    Pike in the snow – 18.8
Severn pike are long and lean, making them fit and hard-fighting, with great tails, or ‘paddles’ as our pal Steve Bown calls them, and big heads. This fish, though, wasn’t like that, being comparatively short and fat and hence why I thought it a mid-double. On the scales it went 18.8. Not a 20, but still a PB my previous best being a fish of 16.12 from the Warwickshire Avon. After Christmas, of course, such a pike would weigh around the 20 mark, so best we catch it again then! After a couple of photos the fish was safely returned – and I set out to catch its grandmother!  Back home and Dad was in a quandary. For a variety of reasons it was impossible to launch the boat, so bad were the conditions, and the Wye was out due to frozen margins and ice-flows coming down the river. A colleague of Chris’s, in fact, recorded a temperature of -13° centigrade at Hay-on-Wye, where he lived, and thought it positively tropical when he got to Worcester where it was ‘only’ minus three! The conditions were harsh. Karen decided to stay in the warm and paint, so the question was could I persuade the Old Man to come out in the cold with me, back to a place he hadn’t fished for 25 years? Well after the result we’d had he didn’t need a lot of persuading, to be fair! The following morning Dad and I were on the pitch. There was a frost so although it was colder than the day before it wasn’t actually too bad. The forecast was for a strong easterly wind, increasing the wind chill factor to something ridiculous, but early in the morning it was quite still. Wrapped up warm and we were fine. At 7.45 a.m. Dad’s free roving bait was directly in front of us, about a rod length out, when it just sailed away in a classic run, no shaking about, just smoothly disappeared. Another excellent scrap ensued and this one also ended up in the net – “Result”, said Dad, “Be about 16 or 17, I reckon”. It looked bigger than that to me, but the ‘Master Angler is always right’…. On the scales the needle settled at bang on 19.0. So, the Master Angler isn’t always right! This was a typical Severn fish, long, lean and fit, was fin and scale perfect. I had been trying to persuade Dad not to keep going boat-fishing but to come to this bank-side pitch with me – now he was glad I had! Given the appalling weather, we had had another right result! I planned to go again when the weather was slightly warmer, so keeping an eye on the forecast for a couple of days I decided to go at the weekend, both days being the warmest that week.

   The session started off as normal, a paternosterd chub livebait out by 7.00 a.m. and the free-rovers out by 7.30. I lost a fish on the ‘noster. Nothing else happened until 9.00 a.m. when I decided to put a dace on the free-rover, cast to the far bank. The float immediately bobbed and suddenly sailed away! I hit it but at first it didn’t feel heavy until it came in closer - when my 2.75 test curve rod started to really slam over! The pike neared the surface and I thought “That’s a biggun!” After a 15 minute fight the beast was landed. Shaking, I returned to get the fish out and placed it on the mat, by then even I thought it was very big! The fish was unhooked and placed into the sling, the scales already having been zeroed crept past the magic mark by some distance and she weighed in at 22lbs and 8oz! My first ‘twenty’, so, needless to say, I was ecstatic! I called Dad who came straight over with Karen, who perfectly photographed my prize, which was then safely released to fight another day. Result!

    My first 20 – 2208

   The following morning I was back again. I used one rod only, a paternostered roach livebait cast into the same spot that produced the 22.08. Almost immediately I had a run and landed a pike weighing 10.12. After a bit I cast out again to the same spot and left it for the final 10 minutes of the session. We were slowly packing up when the alarm went again! I hit this one and again it gave a decent scrap before being safely landed, unhooked, weighed and returned. This final fish before returning to College weighed 17.4. Another right result!

 So this is really a tale of two PBs broken in the space of 4 days – modest by some people’s standards, I daresay, but they mean a lot to me, and a bonus big double caught by Dad – all, to be fair, by making the effort to get out there in the freeze whilst sane people stayed at home! I have caught a fair few double-figure pike over the years and now I have finally landed my first 20, which I, of course, feel was well deserved.

Dad and I took several more fish over the next few months, we both had a few fish until on one session dads alarm goes, as soon as he struck into the fish I could see it was a biggun! The beast was netted by yours truly by which time we both agreed this was a monster. This fish weighed 25.1 – Result!

  The autumn/ winter of 2011/12 had been rather poor compared to the year before. I managed to persuade dad to take over the stretch that I was fishing in order to form another syndicate in place of the one before as a model of pike conservation rather than a commercial tool. Dad and Karen had been fishing there whilst I was away at college and had caught several pike with traces stitching up their throats, a severe effect from bad angling, which this stretch was suffering from.
Dad took over and formed another syndicate with his lifelong fishing pals whom he had fished in that very spot with back in the early days, so for them it truly was a dream come true!

Dads huge 27.2
  I managed to squeeze a few mornings fishing in around working times and banked a few decent fish to 18lb. At the time I was undertaking a college assignment which involved weighing, measuring and photographing every single predatory fish caught on our stretch regardless of size. The aim of this was to monitor pike growth rates and population in a specific area. Towards March I used this to study the steady increase in male pike to female pike leading to the spawning period, I always thought the females were always there in this specific spot and the males once the urge to spawn kicks in would slowly increase in number. My results proved completely different and showed me from our catch records that there was not only an increase in males but there was also an increase in females too! During one of Dads many sessions with Karen on the stretch helping me out with my predator survey, he had an amazing result and banked a superb River Severn specimen of 26.8. A few weeks later dad had exactly the same fish at 27.2. To my knowledge there is no other angler who has had more than three pike over 25 from the Severn. Another Result!

Like many others, our fishing pal Steve Bown had set his sights on a big Severn Zander. That dream was fulfilled when one night he had a cracking Zed of 15.4 – his first double - and soon after a 14.2 – Well done Bownie! Karen also had a good evening - just before packing up she hooked into a good zed, which gave her the run around the river before being landed,this fish proved to be Karen’s first double at 11.07 and possibly the biggest zed caught by a female – certainly from the Severn, we think.

Karen’s big Zander – 11.7

   Whilst Dad, Karen and the rest of “The Group” were banking pike after pike with a few Zander in between, I was away at college. One Thursday I came home and noticed that the river was running slightly higher and had a little tinge of colour; plus the air temperature was warmer than it had been – Perfect Zander conditions!
I don’t think I’ve ever ridden home so fast in my life! Upon getting home, the deadbaits were out the freezer and the gear was ready in a flash, like a rat down a drainpipe, I was off down the stretch yet again and set up in the same spot from where I had taken several zeds to just over 11lb.

   Using buoyant ledger stems and long traces with small sections of deadbaits I had one bait out close in just under a submerged bush. The rods were on a crossbar up in the air, similar to barbel fishing. No sooner had I put the left rod out and still setting up the other, my left hand rod slammed over and nearly took the rod in! Most unusual for Severn Zander since the indication to strike is usually the slightest twitch on the rod tip, hence why our prefered method is to touch-ledger for them.
 I struck immediately and could straight away feel the weight of this one. It shot straight into the middle of the river, tearing line of the clutch, making me think I had hooked a small pike. After a good 10 minute battle it rolled on the surface showing off its full length and it was at this point that i managed to net it. Upon doing so the hooks came out in the net! Looking at it, it was clearly the biggest Zander I had ever seen before and i was on the phone straight away to get the old man down with the camera. Under orders to let dad know what the weight was, I zeroed the scales and placed the fish in the sling. Holding the scales up they read 18.1, “That can’t be right” I thought so I weighed it three times - but the scales settled on 18lb 1oz. After safely retaining the fish in the net back in the water I was on the phone to dad again who was well on his way. “How big is it then?” says he, to which my reply was “It’s the biggest zed ive ever seen and its 18.1!” I can still hear the tyres screech before I put the phone down!

   Sure enough dad was soon on the scene and we photographed the fish on the bank, such a perfectly conditioned fish, no fin or scale marks whatsoever – RESULT!

    My big Zed – 18.01

   Now the river is closed and we have all had our fair share of River Results these past couple of seasons, using the close season to plan ahead. I can only hope that once the season opens again yet more bigguns will come out – Who knows what the future holds?

James Sarkar – 15/5/2012

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