Winding its way though the flat, but anything but featureless Fenland landscape this is a river that shot to prominence in the late 80s, early 90s. Big pike abounded in numbers with a good healthy stock of back up fish, I can only therefore imagine how good the fishing was as unfortunately this was well over a decade before I seriously started pike fishing.
Judging by what the fishing is like present day, then I can only surmise that the lucky few who where fishing it in its hey day where in heaven with the quality fishing, for today the river is a grainy, distant shadow of its former glory. What has caused the the river to fade so dramatically I don't know, but otters in my mind have played a huge part in its demise, for not only have the pike stocks crashed so spectacularly but so have the shoals of specimen bream that use to roam the river.
So having set the scene, I'm sure you can tell that this isn't going to be a story of countless big pike captures, far from it in fact. This will however be a story of a love for a place that will never die, despite the constant kicks in the proverbial and the seemingly never ending blanks.
So you may be wondering what keeps drawing me back to somewhere, where blanks out number fish banked. Well the answer is the atmosphere, the history of the river, and the main one that is a river that never sees another angler, whole seasons pass you always have the river to yourself, its bliss.
Also in the back of my mind I know (or is it delusional hope?) that one day my number will come up and my bait placed so carefully next to that marginal weedy overhang will be taken by the pristine monster that never stops swimming through my mind.
My earliest memory of the river is lost somewhere in the fog in the back of my mind, but I do remember my first run from the river, being young and needing something to occupy me on a mildish October day my dad placed a float ledgered mackerel close in just off the weed, not long after the float starting bobbing in an unusual manner and me, being as excited as anything called my dad over, where a swift strike resulted in a bootlace eel coming to the surface, luckily it fell off, to say it was an anticlimax would be an understatement!
From there my memory cant remember anything after the eel event, and it was until four years later that I caught my first pike from the river, three fish came my way that day with the biggest being a low double, and to me being a young lad it was very satisfying.
A few weeks later a visit to another spot, which was unimaginatively named the ditch swim, because of the ditch entering the river resulted in a long spawned mid double, it showed that there where still a few fish present.
The fishing was never prolific in my early days there, me having missed the truly amazing fishing of almost a decade ago, not that it bothered me unduly as it was just such a nice place to sit, and a few fish where still there to be caught.
Over the following seasons fish did continue to show up and eventually there where signs of a recovery taking place, vast quantities of fry amassed in the margins, large bream roamed the miles of river and young fat pike started to come to the rods fairly frequently, and multiple captures of doubles where starting to become quite common, though still no twenty made an appearance, but sometimes its not always about the biggest pike.
Some trips to the river stand out more then others, and though its disappointing not being able to remember them all, having some memories is better then none, after all countless cold frosty mornings, with the sun shimmering off the frosty reeds and the glass like water reflecting everything as it gently flows downstream eventually all merge into one big blur in the back of ones mind.
The wildlife was another big part of fishing on the river, as there was a plethora of different birds, and animals to be viewed whilst waiting for a run, and whether it was a marsh harrier circling overhead, and barn owl silently hunting the far side bank in the half light or a group of deer working along the bank before you it was, the blue quick flash of a king fisher, the sight of a flock of cranes taking off from the opposing marsh or the rare sight of a bittern it made it a truly unique place to pass a day, and as I said, the catching of pike was not that important.
Anyway back to the fishing! As I previously said a recovery of sorts was taking place and the following season promised to be a fairly productive one and our first trip down in October was certainly one to remember, but for all the wrong reasons.
The day had started off nicely, it was still fairly mild, the river banks where deserted and untrodden but for the trails the cattle had made in the summer and there where plenty of food fish topping along the stretch we where going to fish, not long after casting out I had a low double and things looked good for the rest of the day.
An hour of so later though, and to my horror a team of EA weed cutting boats appeared to remove the vast marginal overhanging weed that the fry and pike used in times of heavy flow for shelter, this they started literally right next to my furthest rod! They showed no sympathy for the river, cutting it right back to the bank and leaving absolutely nothing to shelter the fish, I'm sure it was all done to keep the pleasure boat owners happy.
I knew the weed being removed was going to have a detrimental effect on the fishing and the following season our fears where confirmed, gone where the vast quantities of fry, washed away with the previous winters heavy flows I'm sure, and likewise gone where the pike. That season was a long hard slog, and though pike where caught the numbers where down, as was the weight of the fish, some looking thin and in poor condition, the river was now looking like a prize fighter on the ropes, where one more blow would finish him off, and unfortunately that final blow came with the appearance of the otters, at the time I didn't consider them a problem, but looking back at it now, they did play a devastating role in the demise and though not entirely to blame the river could have done without them.
I still continued to fish the river in the following seasons because I just simply couldn't walk away from it, though the frequency of the trips dropped as fishing on other venues picked up, though, as my own little ritual, I do always try and have my last trip of the season on it.
The fishing never attained the same heights of the previous years, and I well remember on one trip in particular starting at first light and covering every inch of the two miles of water between starting point and car for just one run, which came as I was packing up, though as she went 18lb 8oz I could hardly complain.
Eventually, and with a huge slice of luck I did managed to get a twenty from the river, I had again started in a spot miles from the car and worked back with only a dropped run to show for my efforts, out of desperation I dropped in near the car and immediately my herring in the margins was taken by an old warrior of a fish weighing exactly 21lb, and she remains to this day my one and only twenty from there in nearly ten years of fishing the river.
I still fish the river now, and my love for the place has actually grown over the last two seasons despite my lack of results on the fish front, with just two fish caught all last season and just one so far this, but those three fish where all in immaculate condition which is something that is very hard to find in the fens, and I honestly believe that a very big fish, and recovery is just around the corner for some lucky angler, and of course I hope that lucky angler is me.
So there we go, not a very long, or particularly exciting story from a fish catching point of view, but I felt like sharing with you something a little different from the just norm of catching lots of pike and writing about it, I wanted to convey how I feel about a venue and that sometimes for whatever reason a venue grabs hold of you and wont let go, and I'm sure we all have a certain special venue like tha
t(chew does not count just in case anyone wonders...).