05/03/2019 - Thank goodness for grayling, but where have all the pike gone?
Couldn't help thinking that my timing and hence the conditions weren't quite right the last time I went pike fishing, so there were to be no excuses this time. The day I picked was overcast, but still mild, the river was at normal, winter level and clear - what could go wrong?
As I headed upstream from the car park at first light there wasn't even a breath of wind and, as the sun slowly crept over the horizon, the surface of the river became a mirror. Even more puzzling then that the two, fresh dead baits that I placed carefully in the margins failed to attract any attention for at least the first hour. When a take did come it was savage, the downstream float disappearing with an almost audible "plop", swiftly followed by the "smack" of the bite indicator hitting the back rod rest.
Unfortunately, whatever had grabbed my lamprey section had not taken it down sufficiently for the hooks to take a proper hold, so my strike met with only momentary resistance and then nothing. A quick glance at the still bloody lamprey and it was put back right in the same place. A couple of minutes later and the float disappeared again, darting away under the surface - same fish or a travelling companion? This time the hooks found a purchase and a jack soon graced the net. Blank avoided! Leapfrogged the rods downstream with increasing frequency as runs failed to materialise and my impatience grew. Eventually, a rod placed over next to a boat on the far bank resulted in another jack.
With him sat in the net in the margins awaiting unhooking I wound in the the other rod and recast it over to the far bank. Tempting fate? Yep! As I went back to deal with the pike in the net, another decided to make off with the smelt I'd literally re-positioned seconds ago. Got the hooks out and the fish back in the water as quickly as possible, but the bait had already been dropped and the chance had gone. Frustrated, I threw everything back in the car and drove a short distance downstream to try and salvage something from my morning off. However, my normally reliable swims failed to produce and I headed home disappointed, but also very troubled. Where on earth have all the pike gone?
Over the next few days work and the weather conspired to prevent me going out again until, finally, a short window of opportunity appeared one afternoon. Leaving the office at 3 o'clock and armed with a pint of maggots I headed out with the float road once again to the River Derwent. Arriving to find a couple of cars already in the car park I walked to the only spot that I knew would be fully sheltered from the brisk prevailing wind. Thankfully the swim was free, but there were two anglers just upstream. Went to check that they were okay with me dropping in just below them, but found they were packing up not having had anything on the feeder all day - "not even a grayling"! Undeterred, I got set up and waded out into position as they headed off. The river was gin clear and I could easily see the bottom off the end of the rod top. However, second trot down the float disappeared and I was into my first fish!
Carried on trotting away until I couldn't see the float any longer and the cold had started to seep through my neoprenes. Whilst the bites hadn't been prolific, I had still managed to catch ten nice grayling in a couple of hours. Headed back to the car, my satisfaction tempered slightly by the thought that this might be the end of my river season. Oh well, perhaps the weather won't be as crap as it's meant to be?!