October flashed by without me wetting a line - more pressing family matters to attend to, followed by a well-earned break in rural France. With things settling down I thought I would take advantage of the continued mild weather and fish some short sessions into dark for the zander. Last seasons zander "campaign" consisted of one trip out onto the cut where I was lucky enough to catch a new canal PB of 8lb 4oz. This time, however, I would be concentrating on a section of the River Trent about 15 minutes from home where I'd had zeds of up to 9lb+ in the past.
Eventually the inevitable happened and everything locked up solid and I could no longer feel the fish, it presumably having shed the hooks. Pulled for a break with the wire trace coming back "pig-tailed" just above where the top hook would have been. To say that I was gutted was an understatement, particularly as I carried on for another hour and a half without another sniff.The following session proved to be a total blank despite renewed enthusiasm and some fresh deadbaits, so tonight was really make or break. Ignored the snag pit this time and instead settled into the next swim upstream, which gave access to a lot more water. Put the roach straight out in front of me and then cast the lamprey down alongside the margins to my left. The bailiff arrived shortly afterwards and we had a quick chat before he took his leave and I settled down properly to await proceedings. Once again it felt a lot milder than forecast, which brought a late plague of midges buzzing 'round my head. Darkness brought some respite from the little buggers, but I'd not had a twitch on either rod until, completely out of the blue, the bobbin on the margin rod dropped off. Picked up the rod and felt the line pulling slowly through my fingers before winding down into what felt like another lump.
Steered it away from the trees into open water where I was confident that my balanced tackle would do the job and after a couple of short runs and more tail slapping I had the fish on the surface and sliding over the net. I'd not had to use my head torch up to this point, so it was only when I went to lift the net up onto the bank that I realised how big the fish was - not a zander, but a very decent pike. Quickly got it unhooked, into the sling and onto the scales. Thoughts of a twenty briefly went through my mind as the arrow span 'round the dial, but it eventually settled at 19lb 10oz, still beating my previous best by an ounce.
Snapped off a couple of photos and then had a good look in it's mouth where a recent mark on the lower jaw suggested that this could have been the fish I'd lost a few nights earlier. Let her rest in the net in the margins for a bit before watching her swim away strongly into the darkness. Had no further action, but couldn't have cared less really. Went home in a much better frame of mind, but certainly puzzling over the apparent lack of zander.