Well we've been giving the new water a go and even had the odd fish out, well Gary has, pulling in a jack on both our initial outings… while it seems I only came along to make the tea!
But carrying on from last year we don't seem to be getting regular visits here. When I ring Gary to sort out our next trip he tells me his boss has done his ankle in and he'll be needed at work for the next few weeks, bad luck mate, so looks like I'm on my own now for a while.
I'm moving round into different swims each trip, trying different places around the lake, obviously on the hunt for the pike, but also keeping an eye out for features and interesting spots that could be good for the tench and bream this coming Spring.
I've also started meeting some of the regulars on the water, mainly carpers who've been fishing through the winter, or just keeping an eye on the water themselves. They're a friendly lot and have started to pass on bits of info about the water, which all helps to build up that picture of fish hot-spots, spawning areas, underwater features, etc, that let you start to plan your future fishing.
In fact it was while chatting to one of the lads a couple of weeks back that I had my first pike… well, sort of.
As we were talking a fish rolled on the surface literally right in front of us, it couldn't have been more than 4-5ft from the bank. We both stared, and came to the conclusion it was a pike rolling, as opposed to a carp 'jumping', it was just that sort of splash?
I told the lad how I was using mackerel tails as bait, and where I had removed the heads a moorhen had come along and had a good peck at them, before dragging them off into the water… I wonder if it had inadvertently baited the spot for me?
So as soon as the lad made his way off I repositioned one of my baits about 2ft off the end of my rod, just about where the fish had shown. It was only about half an hour later before the alarm started screaming.
It wasn't huge, a plump 13lb'er, but it was our first double from the venue.
Obviously certain distractions can't be avoided, like Christmas, and it was great to be with the family, but with a week off I still sneaked in a quick session. Not that I caught, but it did get me out and away from the excesses of the dinner table!
After both of us missing a week because of New Years, it was back to the dynamic duo the following week, as Gary was back out. We headed up the top end of the lake, somewhere we hadn't tried yet, and somewhere the lads had said could hold a better stamp of fish.
Of course a day or so before we're out it starts to snow, but the temperatures aren't low enough for the lake to freeze, and the snow's only a few inches deep, so that won't stop us.
We move round to the top two swims, just around the corner to the sluice which sits at the top of this part of the lake, it's river fed, so an obvious holding spot for the pike.
The standard deadbaits are chucked out, plus some lives which we caught first thing. Gary chucks a bait long into the deeper channel coming off the sluice, and we both spread out our other rods to cover the margin features.
My other method is the lure rod, which after an hour of no action on the deads, I decide to set up. And it nearly brings immediate results, as after a few chucks there's a swirl in the water as I lift out the lure, and looking closely I spot the dark torpedo shape of a pike sitting a couple of feet under the surface.
Plopping the lure a few feet past the fish, I work it back right in front of it's nose, and it follows behind but just won't make a grab. This happens twice more, before the pike gets bored and disappears off into the depths. Time to get the kettle on!
A little later and Gary's alarm fills the cold still air. I secure my rods, and walk round. He's playing a fish that looks to have taken the bait near the sluice, and with a good curve in his rod it's not long before I slip the net under a nice fish.
Unhooked, and into the sling, it goes 16lb 1oz, and after a few nice pics in the snow, back it goes. The kettle is fired up again for a warming cuppa, and I congratulate Gary on a good catch.
For the next couple of hours it's all quiet, the baits are regularly checked, as the crayfish can leave your deadbait as little more than a fishbone, but then that's one of the good things about the cold weather, it keeps the crays quiet!
I keep persevering with the lure, and finally induce a take. As the lure hits the water I feel a sudden thump on the line and then it tightens as the fish makes a run.
It's a lively fight but I don't think it's big, and as Gary returns the favour with the net, we can see it's a jack of around 8lb. Not a monster but good enough to get the blood pumping on a winter's day… and of course, I get my pic of a snow fish!