With a disappointing pre season lure day on
Rutland behind me, the urge to get into dead
bait mode was strong, so for my season opener I decided to fish my local
reservoir, local meaning less than a mile from my front door. I hadn’t fished
the “Res” for a couple of seasons as the fish are generally small, although
plentiful, but reckoned it would be an easy way to get in the swing of things.
Albeit a trapped nerve in my shoulder was causing serious discomfort and had
precluded me from driving to the PAC convention.
The “Res” is bisected by a causeway, which carries the local rail line, a tunnel joins the two areas of water and fish move freely between the two, albeit that each area of water is distinctly different in appearance, bottom, bank side vegetation and access.
The main "res" is a featureless basin with a sandy bottom and an odd mussel bed and 50% of the banking comprises of steep pitching stones, with no tree cover and it can be a wild and inhospitable place in any other than a slight breeze. The “Little Res” however is totally different “kettle of fish” nice pun yeah?, immediate access from the roadside, with plenty of tree and bush cover on two sides, although the best pegs require packhorse and jungle skills to access.
I had spent the weeks through, September getting all my piking gear sorted and putting the kids bit bashing gear and my occasional carp gear to bed. I ventured onto the small “Res” the Sunday before ‘D’ day for a shakedown session, to be met with choking brambles, cow shit and had great difficulty negotiating the route round to the side of the “Res”.
The level was a good 3ft down and much of the exposed bank was deep mud and the normal path overgrown and passable. After sinking in mud up to my knee, I finally staggered to the only accessible spot giving me access to an area of overhanging willows flank of the "Res". I had decided to take with me three rods rigged up for float ledgering – bad move. I quickly found that at the distance I wanted to fish towards the willows that it was difficult see and gauge the floats satisfactorily so I quickly replaced the float rigs with ledger rigs and put two baits out a about 40 yards hard up against the willows at 9-10ft deep.
I ended up with two jacks and had another four runs which resulted in nothing, The trapped nerve was proving painful and troublesome, but it was not going to get in the way of my ambitions. I packed up early afternoon as I had other things to do and contemplated a more organised “proper” session the following weekend – the first weekend of Pike season proper!
The following Saturday, I decided to make a recce, in anticipation of a Sunday session and ended up clearing most of the jungle of brambles or as much as one guy with a dickey shoulder, a pair of tree loppers and some secateurs could manage. Actually quiet impressed myself!
So Sunday morning is arrived, “The Bus”, a Peugeot 806, already loaded with everything required and no more (3 dead bait rods). I passed the water in the dregs of darkness at circa 6.45am and proceeded a further ½ a mile to the local Maccy D’s for some breakfast.
A big u-turn and I am parked outside the gate to the small “Res” and all quiet except for the sound of birds and the bait fish breaking the surface on a still mirror of a surface.
Gear out of the bus and on the bank and two trips round to my spot, way much easier after my earlier jungle clearing activities.
By 8.00am I had three rods out with smelt, Joey and a large Mack after removing its head. Despite my best planning I’d forgotten to pack a towel "doh!" ,but had a pack of faithful baby wipes. I lent down at the waters edge to rinse of my hands and as I rose to upright, noticed a snout, a good double fish, as little as 12 inches from where my hands had been in 8 – 10” of water! As I rose in pleasant shock the fish turned and the water boiled, leaving cloud of slit where it had laid. The strange thing is all my rod rest where out in the water and I was paddling about whilst setting the backbiters and obviously was unconcerned.
For the next twenty minutes every time I moved I noticed a boil and muddy cloud a few feet from my toes and assumed old Pikey was quiet happy sitting at my feet. I rummaged in my bag for my Polaroid clip on's, as things began to brighten up and “Fred” as I will refer to him could be seen clear as day drifting in a out of the clear shallow patch at my feet. He looked a low double and I was gripped by this close encounter, shame my camera couldn’t see through the glare!
Some minutes later my left hand backbiter sounded and I hit a positive run, it was only a jack of about 6lbs but it gave a goods account of its self, as it came towards the net I noticed that Fred was sat there bold as brass at my feet, despite all the hullabaloo I was making. The jack tail walked as came in towards the net straight over Fred who just moved gracefully out of the way, but then turned and followed the jack to the net, for a split second I honestly thought I was going to net two fish.
Anyway the jack shed the hooks in the net, so it was quickly back into the water and Fred appeared to have moved off. Not more than three minutes passed and back he drifts into view, I toss the mackerel head that was lying next to me, a foot from the edge and the remains of shredded Joey from the encounter with the jack a further foot out. For the next hour Fred came and went and swam over the free offerings and seemingly totally disinterested. By this time I was focused on Fred’s comings and goings and the fishing seemed somehow less important.
A little Kingfisher was screeching is shrill song as it darted across the water and back and I started to think this is just awesome day on the bank, just me, nature, almost hidden from the main road, just a stones throw away.
Out of the gloom a long shadow came into view heading for the Joey carcass, it glided by and swam straight through between the bank sticks holding my left hand rod, I was literally still as statue and holding my breath - non of this would have visible were it not for the Polaroid’s! Fred circled round again and headed right up to the Joey and with flared gill covers sucked in the Joey and chomped on it a couple of times before casually sauntering off.
I thought I’d had my time with Fred and smile to myself with deep satisfaction, but not fifteen minutes later and he was back! The Mack head had got washed right in to the edge so I slowed leaned down and picked it out , he didn’t flinch, I tossed out in front of where I could see his snout. Sure enough maybe a minute later, he slowly moved towards the Mack head and again with flared gills took the Mack and gave it a good chomping, turned and moved out of sight. Surely this was goodbye Fred?
Moments later my right hand rod screamed off and I got out my chair and into the water to pick up the rod, as I did the middle rod went too! Shit I thought, I hit the first and felt a couple of thumps and then nothing, so put down the rod and hit the other, same again, two missed!!! Both baits were ok so I recast the first and set the alarm, I was about to cast out the other, when I noticed Fred not more than 3 ft from my toes, I hadn’t thought of trying to catch him, we’d become “close” as I was so engrossed in observing him and this unique (to me) prolonged close up behaviour.
With mixed feelings I succumbed to the urge and dropped the half herring bait, I was about to recast, no more than two feet from the edge in 10” of now somewhat cloudy water, although I could still see the odd shadow and fin manoeuvring. I had the rod in my hand with a big bow of slack line over the bait and almost immediately the line started to twitch and tighten, I hit it immediately and the rod curved in a big arc as the fish powered off. It broke the surface, my heart pumping and at such close range I could see it was a fish of around 15lb, it gave one big shake of the head and fish and hooks parted. I was partly gutted and part feeling guilty for having hooked the guy I had been quietly feeding and observing.
I didn’t see Fred again during the session, although another free offering disappeared whilst I wasn’t paying attention! I almost felt relieved not now to be on tender hooks watching my old mate sniffing the toes of my muck boots, but to capped it all off , the Kingfisher later came and sat on the adjacent jetty and stayed there for a good fifteen minutes before I moved and flew off screeching. I kicked myself for not bringing a decent zoom camera, only the pocket canon for captures!!!
I packed up at 1.00pm having landed six jacks, lost another four before the net and had at least another six runs, but Fred was way uplifting than counting runs.
By the time I’d made two trips back the car the trapped nerve in my shoulder was pounding and I was in significant discomfort, the wife gave me no sympathy for going fishing, but I wouldn’t have missed such an awe filled morning no matter how much the pain.
Can’t wait for the next session, will take something special to beat today – more to fishing than just catching fish!
Pete Crisp Aka Crispy