It was a disaster, tens of thousands of fish wiped out, floating belly up, specimen fish of all species gone, and a once prolific drain dead in the blink of an eye. That was the reality of a summer 10+ years ago, a venue that I had caught my very first pike from, and a place that I had been to with my dad on many an occasion, it was a drain that I had literally grown up on and to see its demise was truly awful, I still remember the footage on the news of dead fish, including large pike being netted out to be dumped, words couldnt describe the carnage.
I know its not the most inspiring opening to a story ever but that was the reality of what happened and there was nothing anyone could do about it, we just had to accept it and move on, which is what happened, and anyway given enough time venues to recover.
In the years that followed my dad and I did pay the drain a few visits to see if there was anything worth being caught, and as to be expected the fishing was hard work with a few jacks and the odd very low double making an appearance , though out of the blue on a very remote area I did manage to fluke a nineteen, she was probably a fish that had survived the fish kill as it was only five years after the event, she should have been a lot bigger, but at least there where once again fish to be caught.
It was about three years later that a local angler had decided to have a bash on a section of the drain closest to our home and he caught three fish including a scraper twenty, this was big news as it showed that the drain was recovering well, and as much as we all hate people reporting catches in the press, particularly when the venue isn't kept a secret, we where not going to miss this opportunity.
Annoyingly the drain froze solid for a week, as did most venues in the area, but at least that would keep the masses away, lady luck smiled on us as a nice south westerly picked up and the drain defrosted in no time, and it just so happened during the week when both my dad and I where free to go.
We got to the drain early and everything looked spot on, there was a nice ripple on the water, and a nice green colour, we where optimistic. We dropped in where the fish had been caught before the freeze up and I was the first to strike we a lovely fat and clean 17lber, it was certainly a good start, a few more missed runs and lost fish came our way, then my big herring that had been left untouched next a marginal reedy overhang was away, a solid strike was made and the head of a big pike broke surface. At that point my dad said it was a twenty, not what I wanted to hear as I had never had one before and from then on my legs where like jelly as I was desperate for it not to come off, but I need not have worried as she was hooked right in the scissors and on the scales she went 21lb 8oz, to say I was over the moon would be an understatement, I caught my first pike from this drain and now it gave me my first twenty, it was rather fitting.
A few days later we headed for a two week trip to Ireland which put pay to me visiting the drain, but as I managed another two twenties while in Ireland I certainly wasn't disappointed not to be able to return to the drain, anyway there was still plenty of time once we returned.
It was two weeks after the Irish trip ended before I returned to the drain, this time I was armed with livebaits and fished a different area, where a small culvert created a nice area for the pike to force the food fish into, it was freezing cold and a low double was my only run, it was the same story the next day when a run at exactly the same time, on the same rod in the same spot as the day before bought another low double. After that the lives stayed at home as they in my mind are to much effort and certainly cut down the distance you can walk with them.
I returned only once more to the culvert swim, it was the last day of February and for once I was feeling energetic so the lives where bought along for the ride, the morning was very quiet, but as it was very mild I wasnt complaining, I had had a good season so catching was to high on my list, around mid afternoon though one of the lives was away and a nice 16lber was unhooked in the water, a few minutes later the live was away again and a battered, old looking 15lber was dealt with like the first, half an hour later another sixteen turned up and that was it for me on there for the season.
Most the fish where in immaculate condition and where well fed, the future looked bright for the drain and I left safe in the knowledge that I would be back next season.
It wasn't until the very end of October the next season that I returned as I was having great success catching fish to 16lb on wobbled dead's on a near by venue and it was great fun, rather surprisingly it was to a completely different area that I did return and only a low double rewarded my efforts.
Mid November was when I once again returned to what was the productive area, though it was only productive when the fish where feeding as it certainly wasn't where the fish spent their time as I was to later discover.
Anyway I was fishing away (blanking) when a lure angler further up the drain stopped and talked to me on his was back to his car, it transpired he had had a 19lb 15oz pike earlier on, I some how missed the capture but he showed my a picture. Needless to say with me still being fishless I started to get itchy feet and was trying to end the conversation asap so I could move. Eventually my disinterested face gave him a clear message and he left and once his car was out of sight I was off and a speed Usain Bolt would be proud of. In no time at all my 3 rods where out and I was feeling optimistic, soon enough my float fished herring next to a tree was away, or was it? The line had been pulled from the clip but the float hadnt moved, eventually I went to reel the bait in only to find a pike attached, which soon came off, BOLLOCKS! Soon enough my popped up mackerel was away and again I lost it, this was taking the piss.
I decided to leave at that point and return the next day, a first light raid, before the crowds descended on the lower end near the bridge and the footy started I managed three doubles to just over 18lb so it was mission accomplished.
A few more pre christmas trips produced a lot of good doubles, including my target fish, the blokes 19-15 which I snared at 19lb 12oz on a float fished macky head, everything was looking good and, being able to fish during the week meant no one saw me catching.
Over xmas the drain froze solid again, but at least it kept the Xmas part-time anglers off and the fish got a good rest.
Luck again smiled on me as I was able to fish the drain just after the ice had gone, and we all know that venues fish well just after the lid comes off, I managed five fish that day, with a jack being the smallest and the other four between 18lb and 23lb, I breathtaking day.
A few days later a brace of twenties from the same area bought the curtain down on my fishing on the drain for another season.
It was once again late October before I returned the next season and it was very mild still, though on other venues the pike where feeding I thought it was worth a go, first light found me in last seasons hot area and it was bliss, and early dropped run increased my confidence. It then went dead for a few hours, well apart from a screaming run from a mitten crab, it didnt go back. A couple of moves where made and I ended up just away from the hot area, soon enough another dropped run came my way, but there was no time to get the rod back out as my popped up eel was away and a low double came to the net, both rods where recast and I sat back, only for the eel rod to go again, a swift strike was met with a solid resistance, and after having the fish, which looked about 18 in the water lead me a merry dance I managed to bundle her unceremoniously into the waiting net. I still wasnt convinced she was very big until I tried to get up the bank with the net, and thats when it dawned on me that she was a bloody big fish, well big to me. I swiftly unhooked her and onto the scales she went and they settled an ounce the right side of 25lb, into the net she went for a rest and dad was called to come and photograph her, it was a terrific start to the season.
It wasnt until Jan that we could get back onto the drain, week after week of bitterly cold weather crippled the fishing and in two months fishing just one 8lb jack came my way, it was the worst I had ever known.
When we did return, just after the ice melted we where greeted to the drain being a rather strange orangy colour, this colour was spread over the hot area and for a fair distance past. Needless to say the hot area was devoid of fish so a long was was required and for me luck smiled on me when my popped up eel was the downfall of a scraper twenty.
A few days later another twenty turned up in the shape of a truly stunning and immaculate 24lber, and for good measure I added a seventeen to round the day off.
For the rest of the season a few more doubles to seventeen turned up but the drain was starting to get a bit to much attention and the fish had started to drift away from the hot area. I didn't realise it at the time, but that twnety five back in October was to be my last fish off of the hot area and even to this day I haven't had another run from it.
The following season exploring was called for, early trips to the hot area produced nothing and it was clear the fish had dispersed, so long walks and leapfrogging where called for to try and locate the fish again.
My first trip to a new area paid off nicely when three nice, but rather thin mid doubles to seventeen graced my net, but fish had been found, but there where to be my only fish from that spot and its another that to this day has never given me another run.
The next week, after trying the previous weeks good spot I moved to another spot and promptly pulled out a twenty four, a different fish to the previous seasons twenty four, though I could get proper pictures of her due to there being five people within my sight fishing, though that didn't see my fish.
A few more fish turned up in that area over the course of the season with the best going a shade over 19lb, but another area had to be found as we couldn't keep fishing the same old area.
Soon enough a new area was located and as it was a long walk from the nearest access it was completely unfished, it ticked all the boxes. It was home to vast quantities of fry and the pike where present in numbers and I managed several good fish to just over 20lb so it made the long walk worth it, I was also treated to the sight of a big twenty fry feeding in this area, it was a sight to behold as she slurped along the surface like a carp, that she so steadfastly refused my mini smelt cast into her path on numerous occasions was a source of great annoyance!
At the time I didnt realise that, that scraper twenty from the new area was to be my last fish from the drain, though I returned the next season only a solitary lost fish came my way, and that was the only run between the two of us. I could not explain what happened and put it down to a salt incursion forcing the fish miles up the drain, but even to this day the pike have not returned and nor have the food fish.
Our end of the drain has now been devoid of fish for two years and though the odd report of fish getting caught keeps coming through visits by ourselves have resulted in nothing.
On reflection now, if I had been able to predict the future I would have spent much more time on the drain and sacrificed the fishing on other venues, but as they say hindsight is a wonderful thing.I will keep my ear to the ground, and will continue to pay the odd visit as one day it will recover and hopefully I will be able to experience more fishing like I had for those four amazing years.