The end of the river season came to an end and the finale had been disappointing on the big fish front. I caught decent pike upto 16lb on most trips but on two of the stretches I couldn't find more than the odd fish, typically this size..
Went to a completely different area one day and had a few fish to 18lb.... in t-shirt weather!
The fish had obviously moved to their spawning areas getting ready for their yearly romp. I'd found a group of fish on another stretch but it is easy to get to and so very popular. Getting on them was proving difficult; they were moving around the area and were only occasionally feeding. You were either on them or you weren't! To show how tightly grouped they were; one day I'd taken my Dad along bait fishing. In the morning he had a 19lb something on the first stretch but on the afternoon we went to the second stretch and found the three main consecutive swims free. My Dad chose the middle one and I started in the downstream swim... to cut a long story short he had a 6lb'er, a 12lb'er and 2 x 20's. I fished just below him then moved above him and only had one take late on, which I missed! He's caught a few bigger pike over the years but it was his best ever day's piking.... and I'm still hearing about it on a regular basis.
Well that was the end of my river season. As I do every year once the pike have spawned I give them, and me, a rest to recover after spawning. This year I'd decided to pretty much leave the pike alone everywhere as warm water temperatures after the mild winter and the extending daylight hours meant that most pike in the lower part of the country had spawned.
I must admit, although sometimes I would like to fish a bit longer into the year on the rivers in cold years I do quite like the break. I fish long and hard on tough ground from October to March and it's quite frankly exhausting. A typical winter on the rivers for me usually includes walking at a guess about 300 miles in mud, at least one trashed landing net, a couple of twisted ankles or wrists, cuts, scrapes, bites, stings, 10 faceplants in the mud, 20+ slips on my ass, a couple of sideways slips (which really hurt your ribs), several barely controlled slides down to the waters edge and a couple of close shaves which nearly ended up with me wet, or worse. It's hard going and I welcome the rest.
So, when the rivers close and pike fishing is done for a month or two I often end up dabbling for small zander down the local canals for short evening sessions. Always the chance of a decent pike or perch as well down the cut. No monsters but a few hours on a peaceful, warm evening quietens the soul and any memories of the tough winter fade almost immediately... lure fishing therapy.
This spring has been very tough down the local canal. Numbers and size of zander and perch are way down on recent years and after having a chat with an old fella I often speak to, who lives on the canal bank, it became evident why. He told me that the section had been electro fished about a month or so ago and they, I assume the Canals & Rivers Trust, removed the zander and a handful of decent pike. He didn't know about the perch. I guess the zander were killed. Now I don't know if this is true or accurate but it would explain a lot and this section has been electro fished several times over the years. A sad state of affairs and an issue that the authorities need to seriously reconsider. Zander aren't the monsters they are made out to be by some and the numbers in canals are usually well overestimated.
With the real lack of predator fishing locally, this has left me with nothing to target but while having a couple of hours fishing recently a chap showed me a photo on his phone of an eel he'd caught when float fishing. It was a bad photo but it was a big eel. In my teenage years I used to be a member of the British Eel Anglers Club and do a lot of eel fishing locally. I even kept two I'd saved from being eaten by my neighbour in a garden pond, hand feeding them worms and baby frogs. The biggest I caught back then was 5.6lb along with several 4lb'ers. Where I was fishing at the time a 6lb eel would have been an unheard of monster but it was an unlikely ambition of mine.. although I used to dream of catching a 7lb eel on the quiet, knowing that I'd most probably never even see one.
Well, the eel this chap had caught was that big! Hard to say exactly due to the poor photo but I'd say an absolute minimum of 6lb and more likely 7lb+.. maybe even bigger! It was BIG! I've geared myself up again for eels but just for short evening sessions.. it's local to me and I don't want it to become an obsession like it can get with these enigmatic fish.
That's where I am now. I'm quite excited about fishing for eels again and have already been a handful of times. It'll also give me something to add to the blog so I'll be doing a few posts about how I go about it... it's not likely fishing 3 hour sessions but you never know, a monster just might make a dream come true. He who dares, rodders!