2012 The year that was

Sun 30 December 12


With us all on the eve of the big day, in hope you have everything in hand, chances are though if you are reading this prior to Christmas that you have tried to escape the preparations and are just waiting for it all to end. Well here is the chance to waste a few minutes as I do what is customary at this time of year and look back at the year just past.

Last winter was somewhat of a grueller as far as pike fishing went. My season never really came alive until after Christmas which was somewhat of a problem as last winter saw me joined by a new fishing partner, my ten year old nephew Adam and keeping his interest when we were doing very little other than blanking was fine for a while, but I don’t know how long it would have kept that way if we didn’t start catching. Likewise my other fishing partner Mike and sometimes his partner Lydia were also relying on me to try to catch them their first double figure pike and though they had had a few chances, we were not any closer going into the new year.

All that changed in the run in towards the close season. First off Mike managed not the hoped for double figure pike but even better a double figure zed! This was quickly followed up by a near miss at 9.14 before we started to get amongst the pike. Mike’s partner Lydia kicked things off with a new pb of 16.04, followed by Adam catching his own sixteen pounder. Mike though was still resolutely messing up his chances, however this was all to change in the last week when he landed two twenties in three trips and on the trip that he didn’t have a twenty I managed to lose one right at the net which I thought was a bit harsh as I had been acting as ghillie most of the winter! Mike though managed two crackers of a little over 21lbs and just over twenty, so his first two doubles were twenties!

As the river season closed we entered my least favourite period of the year as usually about the only anywhere near consistent fishing is for carp and these days I really struggle to get too fired up about anything other than river carp. However a friend of mine Rik Wesley wanted to catch some decent perch and we had both heard whispers about a local commercial that may offer the opportunity of a big perch. Our first trip there wasn’t hugely successful from a perch point of view but I did manage a couple of nice tench and a rake of carp to 13lbs. Rik meanwhile was bagging up and managed in his catch to include five barbel to 7.08, the first stillwater barbel I had ever seen.

After that first trip we became regular visitors to the fishery and managed to catch some really nice fish from the water. Adam in particular loved the place and ended up catching several personal bests from there including a chub of 3.08, a tench of 6.12 and a perch of 2.04, the latter he was particularly pleased with as it was as big as his Granddad’s biggest perch.

Normally in the spring I would be spending every possible minute down on my favourite fishery, Bawburgh in Norfolk. Big changes took place at the fishery with the lakes going up for sale as part of the CEMEX restructuring and NACA who had run the water for a number of years lost control of the water as it was bought. Fortunately all the existing members were offered places and with the help of my mate Rodders I managed to get a ticket, however finances were so tight this year thanks to a lack of work that I only managed two trips to the venue, well so far at least. This was a real shame, but in reality Colney, the main tench lake, didn’t fish well for tench this year. It fished well for everything else with the carp being unusually receptive and even the tiny bream population showed themselves and as they hit up to 18lbs that’s some bream. My two trips though did yield three tench, which this year was pretty good, even though this represented ten days fishing! Best of the bunch was one of only half a dozen doubles that the lake produced at 10lbs 10ozs.

Moving back locally with the start of the season so we were right in the throes of a friendly competition between me and half a dozen of my friends. The rules of the competition were to try and catch every species of fish (bar dace) that topped a pound in weight, with the biggest three gaining three, two and one point respectively.

With the competition in mind that meant trying to get some of the fish on the list, particularly the smaller and rarer species. So far I had already gained three points for tench and barbel having caught a 3.08 barbel from the commercial. With a few other points here and there I was lying in second place and as there are a few side bets going on here and there I needed to get going.

Three species to my mind were likely to cause me issues. These were roach, crucians and catfish. There were varying reasons as to why they would give problems, but it revolved around all of them being rare or venues holding them hard to find locally. There was though a couple of very local possibilities for crucians. One was very hard, but very close, the other had a much better head of fish but they were mixed in with a number of cross breeds. A couple of trips on the harder lake threw up nothing much at all so it was off to the day ticket lake.

A bit of reconnaissance the day before we went showed me that the crucians were on the north side of the lake and had a particular fondness for luncheon meat. So my attack and Adam’s for that matter, was to float fish the margins with small bits of meat. We started off slowly with Adam struggling to hit his bites and me missing a few, which I put down to small rudd, but eventually the crucians moved in. I kicked it off with a two pounder, followed pretty quickly by a personal best of 2.06. After that fish though I lost the swim for pretty much the rest of the day with in turn Lydia and Mike nicking my swim. Lydia managed a new pb of 2.03, but Mike could only manage a “wrong un”. Adam meanwhile off his own bat managed to catch a brace of two’s, his best going 2.04.

With the rivers now open it was time to see if our baiting up of the Great Ouse had paid off. We had baited the river with particle for three weeks and intended to fish most of the first week. Sadly it turned into a wasted week with only bream coming to our rods and for various reasons that was it for the river carping this year.

The one thing that I always look forward to is summer rudd fishing on the River Cam. Thanks to a high and running river the fishing was a bit slower than in recent years but I did manage a brace of two pounders on my first visit that matched each other perfectly as both braces went 2.00 and 2.06. funnily enough on the first occasion I was helping Bob Roberts to get some rudd footage for his upcoming DVD caught in the act and fortunately after telling Bob and Stuart that the rudd would feed at such and such a time, they played their part to perfection and Bob was able to photograph the biggest of the brace for me, though I won’t be a video star!

The final major event of the summer was the quest for a catfish and points in our competition. A water in Wisbech called Willowcroft had been recommended to me as a good chance to catch a cat in the day as the water was being developed as a catfish runs water. Mike and I were joined for the day by another mate of mine George Day. George and I have been making a series of films for his you tube channel “The Fenland Fisherman” under the banner of chasing dreams and so far every time we put the camera on it was George that stole the day. No more so than in the back end of the previous season when we were making a chub film on the Cam and George pulled out two chub of 5.15 and 5.14 from a water where a five pounder is far from common. So I hoped that I wasn’t going to be jinxed again!

We turned up to the water and to be honest first impressions were that it was a bit of a hole in the ground and that there were small carp everywhere that were going to be a problem. We were only partly right about the carp as they attacked everything that we put in with gusto apart from worm rigs for some reason but initially the cats didn’t seem too interested in these either. In the meantime Mike and George had both landed cats of 9lbs and 14lbs respectively. I was literally reaching for one of my rods to change the rig when it shot off and I landed my first cat, all 3lbs of it! Things though took off for me from there as I went on to catch another five cats, all upper doubles, the biggest going just over 18lbs. Mike also had a 15 pounder on my rods and I lost one, whilst George added just one more cat a real tiddler of 1lb!

With the sport being so good we decided to return at the weekend with Adam in tow to catch him his first cat. Sadly the water didn’t fish anywhere near as well and cat runs were thin on the ground so Adam instead amused himself with catching the carp whilst we waited for a run on my cat rods. Eventually one of these roared off and after a rather quiet start to the fight it pulled in the way that only cats can and made Adam huff and puff a bit and complain about sore arms before he landed it all 16.12 of it.

With that cat it brought Adam’s personal bests for the three big species pike, carp and cats to a nice level 16lbs + for all three, but hopefully we can get him a bigger pike this winter and perhaps even the zander that has eluded him so far.

To be honest the autumn and winter so far as far as fishing has gone has been somewhat of a non-event. I did manage a couple of mid double figure pike from a new private water that I am fishing, but trips to other waters have been a bit disappointing. I have had a few small zander so far on jigs from the Ouse, but the rain has made this a hit and miss affair. Add to this a really debilitating illness that I am just about recovered from now, but which saw me off the banks for a month and you can see it’s been a spluttering kind of a start to the winter. However in my experience the fishing is always better post -Christmas and I have just been tipped off about some big roach less than a mile from my back door, so it may still prove to be a good winter.

Tight Lines

Mark Barrett