The words of the Men In Black seem particularly apt given the ongoing shit storm we find ourselves in as a country. On a more personal level the fishing recently has been particularly pants, with a trip over to France at the end of October setting the tone. Took my little Advanta River Ambush rod and a few bits and bobs with a view to targetting the River Charente that runs less than five minutes from my in-law's cottage in rural Vienne.
Purchasing a holiday permit or "Carte de Peche" online is a pretty simple process nowadays and, whilst I had chucked in a couple of bags of pellets, most French supermarkets have a fishing section where you can buy tackle and bait, including worms and maggots. The section of river I had in mind was of a similar nature to my local River Soar and ran through an "aire de loisirs", which had an information board at the entrance depicting the species alleged to be present, including chub, roach, carp, bream and even wels catfish.
I'd seen quite a few chub of various sizes in the river at nearby Civray on previous trips, with barbel further downstream at Ruffec, so set my stall out accordingly. With daytime temperatures still in the mid-twenties I picked a handy swim downstream of a small weir that looked spot on.
However, despite pre-baiting with pellets and corn and then fishing for the next three evenings on the trot, baiting up again each time before I left, I failed to get a single bite. Not that it was entirely lifeless. A few pellets thrown into the margins soon attracted a cloud of fry and as the light started fading a few fish started topping mid-river - there just didn't seem anything of any size present. Frustrating and puzzling at the same time and certainly not the best thirty Euros I've spent in my life! Still, the rest of the holiday made up for it with plenty of walking, foraging for chestnuts and mushrooms (incuding some delicious ceps) and wildlife spotting, with several praying mantis, a family of coypu, a male hen harrier and a black winged kite being the highlights.
Back in a decidedly cooler and damper UK my thoughts turned to zander and when the first opportunity arose I headed off to the River Trent near Sawley. Had a rummage in the freezer before I left and found some small roach and lamprey sections that had seen better days, but stuck them in the bag anyway. Good job as when I called into the local tackle shop on the way they had virtually nothing in the way of deadbaits. Got to the river to find that, like an idiot, I had forgotten both my waterproof coat and my head torch in my haste to get out the house. With the light rapidly fading it was too late to go back so I soldiered on regardless and soon had two baits out in a swim that had produced zeds up to 9lb 11oz in the past.
As it got dark the lights from the nearby builder's yard proved more than enough to see by and when it did start spotting with rain I just sheltered under the fallen trunk of a crack willow.
The river was also in good nick, slightly above normal level and with a bit of colour. However, it was the quality of the bait that immediately started nagging at me and after a couple of biteless hours my confidence was unsurprisingly at rock bottom! Following the inevitable blank I therefore called into Walkers of Trowell the next day to raid their freezer. Stocked up on some more coarse deadbaits and a few lamprey, the latter costing me a small fortune - poor Mr Fickling must be down to his last farthing! First opportunity to soak some fresh bait came this evening on the River Soar following a meeting down in Rothley. Headed to a part of the river near Barrow where again I'd previously had zeds to 8lb 10oz.
Some match anglers were just leaving when I pulled up in the car park and a quick chat revealed that it had been tough going in the bright, clear conditions. However, a report of nuisance predators grabbing and biting off the odd roach sounded promising, so I got togged up and headed downstream. Unfortunately my optimism was shirt-lived as I found my preferred peg to be completely clogged up with huge mats of the dreaded floating pennywort and totally unfishable.
The same was true for the rest of the section, the low flows over the summer presumably insufficient to keep it on the move and prevent it from proliferating.
Therefore headed back the way I had come to the wider, deeper section upstream of the weir. Whilst the pennywort was still present on both banks, swims had at least been dragged out for the winter matches. Settled into a spot near the car park, popping one bait down the nearside margin and the other in mid-channel. Despite the enforced change of swim things felt good and as the light levels faded I focussed on the rod tips fully expectant of a bite. Sure enough, as the sun finally dipped below the horizon behind me, the rod down the side started nodding and I was straight onto it before the line pulled out of the clip. Wound down into a fish that came in like a wet sack and was further disappointed to see a small jack flop into the net.
As I was unhooking him the indicator on the other rod beeped a couple of times, but then stopped. Wound this one in after a few minutes to find that something had been chewing the arse off my lamprey, probably signal crayfish. Thought this would at least put a bit more scent in the water so re-positioned both rods and sat back to wait again. Unfortunately the sky had cleared in the meantime and the rising full moon lit everything back up again. Looked like this had put paid to my chances and after a biteless half hour I was ready to pack up when the rod in mid-river suddenly roared off. Wound down into a much better fish that felt like a zander from the initial head shaking, but which mysteriously turned into a nocturnal pike just shy of double figures by the time it hit the net, making several determined lunges under the blankets of pennywort and testing my tennis elbow before it did so. Gave it another half hour on the back of that fish, but didn't have any further luck.
Headed home having at least avoided another blank, but without catching the target species again. Guess I will have to keep trying until I find one!