Monday, 23 November 2015

I got that wrong...

Why was I parked at Jeff's Lake again - read on...
I spent last week thinking about fishing in colder weather. My first thoughts were to target silver fish but after discussing it on one of the fishing forums it seems that I really need some lighter gear, at the very least some finer line. By the time I had come to this conclusion it was too late for me to make any considered purchases, so I decided to forget that Idea for Sunday's trip.

I had already decided that I would fish a small pond on the corner of the complex I had not fished before. Said to be heavily stocked with a good variety of fish and to be carp-free I thought this would be a good place to have a go at catching myself a decent sized perch. With a purpose in mind I tackled up a couple of my rods and got everything ready to load the van for an early start.

Alarm went off at 05:00 AM. All the, now usual, routine followed including the ritual filling of the flask. A few more clothes than normal, including my new (Really cheap) Aldi Boots, were either worn or piled into the van. I am completely sold on the idea of using the van now. I can throw a lot of stuff in the back just in case. As you will read later, it paid off on Sunday.

Frost!
Loading the van at 05:30 AM on a Sunday morning is a case of trying to get it all in while making the minimum of noise. For some reason, most of the neighbours seem to be in bed and waking them is not conducive to good relations. Door slamming is kept to a minimum and I usually start the diesel engine just before I am about to leave. However this time I had a problem. The screen was covered in a hard frost. A lovely view of ice crystals against the dark outside. Scraping the windscreen of the car is a pain, but when you are only 5ft 8¼ inches tall (Yes it is worth mentioning the ¼inch!) the top of the Van's window is way out of reach. I had a scraper/pad fitted with a long handle which was fine until my mate Guy stood on it and made it half the length. I knew I should have got around to replacing it... Nothing for It I will have to run the engine for a bit to remove the last of it. I needn't have worried about the neighbours, by the time I left most of them had lights on...

I left rather later than usual but still managed to get to the the fishery just before the gate opened. There was a queue. Hmmm... looks like I was not the only one who fancied a spot of fishing on this cold November morning. I paid my day ticket and made my way to the car park nearest the lake. There were a couple of bivvies pitched, on the mound that retains Major's lake, and a few vehicles parked up that were covered in frost. Either these guys are very keen or they have had a row with the missus...

My chosen swim - I had the pond to myself
Out with the sack barrow, I was going to have to walk round to where I planned to fish today. After loading up I dragged the barrow up the slope and around the edge of Majors lake down the slope to Horseshoe Pond that is in a bit of a hollow. I set up at one end and got everything just how I wanted it. By now it was full daylight and I could see the sun was a misty glow behind the white cloud. The forecast was for a sunny day later. Right now it was -2ÂșC and there was frost on the ground.

Frost on the ground looking over the the other 'leg' of the pond
After clearing a few dead and floating weeds from my swim I set about sorting out my float and plumbing the depth. To my surprise it is very uneven with a bit of a hollow about ten foot out and then becoming shallower for about as far as I wanted to cast. Chuffed to bits with my subterranean mapping, I started to fish. Taking note of what others had said about perch, I was fishing just off the reeds, near a patch of lilly pads and close to the margins using prawn or maggot. After a couple of hours I had nothing not even a twitch. the water was mirror flat and as I cast and the float hit the water the rings went to the far side of the pool uninterrupted there was nothing moving and it was cold - very cold!

I tried changing my float and dotting it down with differing shot patterns - Nothing, not a sign of anything. At this point I gave up on Sargent P. and marched off back to the van to pick up a feeder rod. I made a couple of casts, All I had with me was some rather damp groundbait I had used in my 30mm ball maker for few balls to chuck in, to pre-bait the swim first thing this morning. This was not doing anything at all, and I decided to go back to the float. I was retrieving the feeder when all of a sudden it was taken by something a bit bigger than a gudgeon. The thing was nodding and thrashing about. after what seemed like ages (probably a few minutes) it calmed down and started to give up some line. I got it all the way down the pond to about six foot out. Although it had broke water at the other end of the lake, while fighting, I could not see what it was. Well, I am now a pike fisherman! I know everybody say "It was enormous" but to me it was! Just as I was contemplating what to do next (I do have forceps and stainless steel wire gloves). The pike broke or cut (?) the hook length and it was gone...

I decided to give float fishing another go. After a few casts the tip started to twitch I looked at the float as it was sitting on the lake with the surface tension of the water seamlessly merging the tip of the float. I realised the tip was quivering because my hands were shaking, along with the rest of me. I must have been sitting there, eyes transfixed on the float, letting the cold get to me. I wound the float in, cast again and the float disappeared. My was that an instant take?  No the tip of the float has parted from the body... Oh bother! (well something like that anyway)

By 11:30 AM the sun was shining on the other end of the pond - is was not shining on me!
It was now 11:30 AM and apart from the angry pike, nothing was biting. In fact I saw nothing else move in over four hours. I had now given up. It was so cold in that spot and it showed no sign of changing any time soon. I packed all the gear back onto the sack barrow and headed off back to the van.

My mate Ian had said he would meet me here. He is not one of life's early risers but by this time I was beginning to think he had made the wise choice and stayed in bed. Time to move elsewhere. The sun had started to shine and that meant it would be shining on my favourite peg. Guess where else the sun had been shining? On the way to the pond the grass path was a bit 'crunchy' now, the only place I could have done without warming up, was a muddy track that I had negotiated to get back to the van. My best impression of Billy Elliot still did not prevent me from getting covered in mud.

Just as I was standing at the back of my van filling it with the gear and my off-road sack barrow, Ian arrived. We decided to make our way back over to Jeff's Lake. As suspected the lake was bathed in sunshine. My usual choice of peg was taken (Cheek!) so we set up on the near side of the lake and got to it. By now it was midday and although the ambient  temperature was still low, the sun made it a whole lot better. 

As we arrived on Jeff's, there was a shout of "Ralphy!" from the other side of the lake, I hate that name but gritted may teeth I smiled and said hello. It was Dave and Alan, along with Sid (he's a Jack Russell) running up and down. I went over and had a chat while Ian was 'winterising' and getting set up. They too had caught a big pike and, unlike me, landed it. The bailiff re-homed it to Major's Lake, where it could join its mates... Que the Jaws theme.

A winterised Ian on his peg in a corner of the lake
Ian was float fishing and I wanted to have a go at feeder fishing using the riddled groundbait to see if it would do anything. I did catch a few carp but I am convinced that If I had used my No Dog mix (winter version of the Two Dog) I would have caught a few more. Ian was after the bream and did catch the odd skimmer. He also caught a lot of silvers on line and hooks I was advised would be too big and heavy. He was helped by a nice light float rod that is a lot more sensitive than my collection of 'broomsticks' as he calls them!

We fished and chatted until it was dark before heading off home. Although I was cold and covered in mud, I had a real good day. I learnt a lot and experienced my first pike. Okay the pike won but at least I now know what one on the hook feels like. Now, the question is will I get out again before the 12th December when I am fishing in a fun match with the guys from the Maggot Drowning forum. Let's hope the weather is kind to us.

Ralph.