Friday, 2 May 2014

Our Drain, & a Familiar Face - Mark Luffman

Whilst me and my dad were once again fishing on ‘our drain’, I worked out that we had been fishing there on and off for nearly twenty years. In that time, we have had a few adventures and gained a few stories, but we still look back and laugh or wonder why the f*uk we put ourselves through it.
Some of these stories include getting three vehicles (not all at once, but on separate occasions) stuck in the mud on the road next to the drain, or the time my dad’s parked car was hit/clipped by another car and he went storming off to give them a good telling off, only to change his tune and make sure they were all right, when six burly Irish travellers exited the Subaru Forrester.

I thought I would tell you about why we started calling it ‘Our Drain’ and a familiar face. I won’t name the location, but some of you may guess it. This story covers a period 8-20 years ago now so the fishing there, like anywhere, has changed. It seems a lot harder than it used to be.

My dad and I always fished together and hence shared most of our gear, one hook rig bin, one landing net, one set of un-hooking tools, one rucksack to carry tackle, you get the idea.
This worked out well for us, as my dad and I are more like mates, we can sit next to each other and not run out of things to talk about. Not girls or sex though! That would just be creepy.

Many years ago we fished a PAC match and the organisers arranged it so that whatever peg my dad drew, we would get the next one along. So off we went to fish and we witnessed the peg to the right produce a 24lber the peg to our left produce a 26lber and the peg along from that a 22lber (weights are roughly what I remember them being, it was 18 years ago!), there were also numerous doubles caught too. We however blanked.

Over time, we got to learn that this drain had the potential to produce some pretty good fish. Our current PB’s being mid doubles.

We decided that we would be returning to ‘the drain’ in the very near future.

After the match, another fisherman told us that a good place on this drain was in the other direction and although it was a long walk, it was a good place to fish. So the next week, we set off on the very long walk to a point where another drain intersected it and disappeared into the distance.

We did better than out last visit,  a missed run and a swan. Thinking back we might have been sold some duff information, but it did bring to our attention the other drain.
We liked to get off the beaten track and away from the crowd, so if the big fish were in this drain there was nothing to stop them swimming into that drain. So a plan was hatched.

A week later, we drove around the countryside looking for a way to this drain. After driving around in circles and knowing we were close, we found it. What a find, there was a road which ran the full length of this drain, even down to the point. We were however on the opposite bank, but we hadn’t had to walk with all of our gear to get there. No more walking for miles, we could literally fish out of the back of the car.
So our campaign started. We decided that we would leap frog along the drain every 45 minutes or so and move the car along with us. This is how I learnt clutch control whilst wearing Sundridge Hotfoots, as I was the one who had to move the car.
At the end of each trip we would make a note of roughly where we had finished and would start there the next time. Over the years we had pretty much covered every yard of the drain. There are some definite dead spots where we never caught anything from, but you would then move abit and be catching fish, so we learnt to avoid these dead areas.

We rarely blanked on this drain however and caught plenty of good fish. No twenties graced the net though.

On the very odd occasion we did see other fishermen on the drain, we could always pick another area further down the drain and fish in peace and quiet, so we started referring to it as ‘our drain’ as it really did feel like we had it all to ourselves. Sometimes the other fishermen were fishing the point on the other bank and we knew they had done the long walk, like we had done years before to get there. We would feel slightly smug, knowing our car was very close by and no walking would be required at the end of the day either.

‘Our drain’ provided us with various fishing achievements.

My dad’s PB pike of 26lb, caught at the same time as an upper 18lb, two nice fish to have on the bank at the same time.

My PB zander of 6.5lb was also caught there, I wasn’t targeting zander, and in 20 years of fishing it is still the only zander we have managed to land. We have had plenty of zander runs whilst fishing the fens, but have only managed to get one on the bank.

On one particular day we did managed eighteen runs with twelve pike banked, fishing two rods each. It was a good mixture of jacks and double figure pike.

The most interesting story I think is of a pike that became a very familiar sight from ‘our drain’.

One day whilst fishing I caught a pike of 14lb. She had a red mark on her left flank, about the size of a 50p piece, and the top half of her jaw did not align with the bottom half, this obviously did not affect her feeding though. She was unhooked, photos taken and she was slipped back. We continued fishing and did the usual of leap frogging down the drain. Towards the end of the day, on the same rod and same bait I caught the same 14lb pike with the miss-aligned jaw again. We were a good 60-70 yards further down the drain from where we had caught her earlier in the morning. She was un-hooked and slipped back into the water again.

A visit a few weeks later saw us start fishing about 600 yards from where we had fished the last time and once again we started leap frogging down the drain. Just after midday I once again managed to catch the pike with the miss aligned jaw.  We were a long way from where I had first captured her, so she was obviously traveling up and down the drain.  We decided to name her and seeing as she was a bit of a mug, possibly even a bit stupid, we decided to name her after my sister.  This fish was now called “Joanne”.
A season passed before we saw Joanne again, and again she fell to my rods. She was now putting on a few pounds and took the dial round to 14lb 8oz, so she was surviving the repeat captures and was doing ok. Her red mark was healing but you could still just see the mark. Over the next few seasons we took a few friends fishing to ‘our drain’ and one of them managed to catch Joanne at the heaviest we had seen her, she was now 15lb. I caught her again a season later and she had started to lose weight and was back down to 14lb 8oz. A few questions start to enter your mind, was she getting old? Was she ill? Had the bait fish population declined?
Who knows, but back she went to hopefully fight another day.

Fast forward four to five years and we have been fishing other drains as access to our drain had become harder due to the road being left to decline (hence the 3 stuck vehicles mentioned earlier). We had fished it on and off but not with the same intensity we had in previous years as it was a longish walk across a field to get there. We had been spoilt in years gone by with being able to drive along the drain, so we kept fishing elsewhere, with less walking to do. But now things had changed and I owned a 4x4 pick up.  The road (or lack of) next to the drain was not a problem any longer.
We fished it a few times with limited success. It was not the same drain it had once been. The reed beds were not cut down like they once were which made leap frogging harder. You had to find the gaps in the weed bed.  But it was still ‘our drain’ and held the memories of fish gone by.

On one of our visits we had struggled for a bite, the wind was in the wrong direction, it was too sunny, and the water was too clear (the usual excuses). It was nearing the end the day and we had decided to pack up in half an hour, when I got a run. As soon as she slips over the net we knew it’s was a twenty, and my first from this particular drain. Once the sling was taken off the final weight she just scrapes the magic number, 20lb 8oz. As my dad is doing the honours and taking the photo’s I keep looking at her head. Is the jaw miss-aligned? It is! Is this Joanne?  We look for the tale, tale sign on her left flank and although it healed years ago it is still evident where the red mark had once been.

This is indeed Joanne.

There is something special about this twenty. It might not be the biggest, but it is a pike I have almost grown up with. I’m still trying to decide if she is more special than my first 20. A pike I caught at 16 years of age, winning me the Junior PAC match I was fishing, and a John Wilson Super Specialist rod.

It is close, but I think Joanne can take the crown as a very special 20lb pike.

Mark Luffman