Well it's been a busy few weeks, so I'm a little behind in my writing, and Gary and myself have now started our carp campaign for this season.. but I'm getting ahead of myself here, because I want to finish the reports on our piking exploits.. and what a story it turns out to be!
As most of you know, we've been chasing a 'twenty' from our local (and some not quite so local) waters, and while we've had plenty of pike, the best weights we've been getting have been in the high 'teens' most of the time.
So with the end of the season in sight, I book us a boat on Ardingly reservoir in West Sussex, and we're all set for our final trip out at a new venue for us, so even if we don't catch, we can explore the water for a possible return trip later in the year... sounds like a plan!
It will be an early start, so through the afternoon, and into the evening I'm getting my gear sorted, with Gary picking me up, there's an ever growing mountain of tackle appearing in the hall... whoops, sorry dear!
I'm so concentrating on what I'll need for the next day that I only subconsciously take in the fact that my youngest is not feeling that well. It's only when I hear the sound of some Premiership heaving going on in the toilet, that I realise there might be a problem arising here.
I go and do my good Daddy bit, giving him a cuddle, and passing on some reassurance that the worse is probably over now... he listens for a minute, before racing back to the bathroom with one hand clutching his belly, and more importantly, the other one clamped firmly over his mouth!
As I sit there listening to the sound my boys dinner making its break for freedom, another thought percolates through my seemingly dense mind... didn't my missus say she had to go up to town for an important business meeting tomorrow?
The idea of me sitting in a boat out in the middle of a reservoir, somewhere in Sussex, after my mate has driven us all the way there, when my boy's school back in Essex rings 'We can't get hold of your wife, can you come and get your lad as he's just trying to cover the whole of his classroom floor with his breakfast?', sort of had me a little worried!
I chat this through with my wife, and find out the meetings in the afternoon, so why don't I get out early, go fishing locally, and at worst she'll ring me to come home when she's leaving? So much for the plan.
Gary's as good as gold when I phone and tell him the news, and just asks me where I want to go, and I suggest Rib Valley, as its local, and still might just do us a reasonable fish. OK we're on for plan B then!
He arrives at around 5.30am, it's all peaceful in the house, so we load up and make our way to the venue.
As we push the barrows round the lake Gary asks where I fancy, and I feel its either half way down, on a bend where Gary had a good hit a couple of months back, or right down the far end, where at this time of year we've seen the pike shoal up before... I choose the bend, it just gives us so many area's to drop a bait.
And half an hour later, we're holding our first warming brews of the day, with assorted deadbaits laying off islands, in channels, out in deep water, and in the margins. As we relax back in our chairs, I would come to realise later that my day would boil down to one text message and one phone call.
It's now mid-morning, and we've not had a touch, the kettles been working overtime. My phone beeps and I get the text. It's my wife, my lad has woken up, chucked up, and gone back to bed, he won't be going to school today. My day's fishing now is of limited duration.
I fish for the next hour and a half, but besides Gary having a couple of slow drop-backs, nothing much happens. I pack up and head home after wishing him the best of luck.
My lads almost got a bit of colour in his face now, and it's nice just the two of us watching TV and chatting, even though I'm still armed with a towel and bowl... just in case!
Then the call. 'Clive, I've just had it!' What? I say. 'We've fished together for the last six months after this twenty, and the day you disappear, I catch it!' he says breathlessly. A few good expletives vent the air, as I find out Gary's walking round the bank to get someone to take a few pictures of this huge pike thats now sitting in his pegged out landing net.
'I'll have to ring you back, got someone now', but how big is it? I shout... 'Twenty four pounds and one ounce!'.
Well bugger me! On a venue that was only decided at the last minute, when one of us had to leave, and on our very last trip of the season... well you couldn't write it any better... well I couldn't!
So as I said at the start of this sort of catch up entry, we're now into the carp!
As with our pike campaign, we're starting earlier than we have done before, as fish are starting to come out, and they're definitely showing on lots of waters. The weathers been reasonably warm, so we thought give the carp a go until it properly heats up, then we have a water in mind to target for the tench... getting excited, I know I am!
So last week we're on our first carp outing, and it's a bit hurried, we're now talking brollies, sleeping bags, boilies, and overnighters. We pick a local club water for its ease of getting there, setting up, and of course, the chance of a good fish!
The clocks haven't gone forward yet, and it seems as soon as we've set up camp, its getting dark. A last cuppa, and I notice Gary's slipping on a hoodie, and I've already thrown on most of the clothing I've brought, but then we're all being fooled because of a bit of sunshine during the day, it's still March, and the night's are blooming chilly! We head off to get our heads down.
Even tucked up in my bag my toes are still getting seriously cold, and if I needed to confirm why, as I unzip my brolly early the next morning, I see small lumps of ice dropping off the zip! Everything is covered in a heavy frost... who said Spring is here?
On the fishing front there's nothing to report, beside a few fish topping, but no action. We have a run through of what gear we'd forgotten, or what we might need, then a quick reccy to the water we're hoping to fish next, it gives us something positive out of the session... roll on next week!
And here we are, up to date, and out this week on a water new to me, but Gary's fished here before, so it's good that he's arrived first. He appears as I park the car, and he tells me he's been speaking to another good friend of ours, Daryl Close, a very good young carper. They've watched a few fish moving along a tree-lined bank, and so Gary's lugged his gear into a nearby swim and shows me to another close by.
We both put a bait out into open water, and our other baits lobbed underarm to snags close by in the margins. I'm fishing a boilie on both rods, and both popped up, just feel it might catch the eye of a fish even though they might not be right on the feed? Gary tries a pellet close in, and goes for maggot out in the middle, even though he feels it might be a bit early yet.
The kettle is fired up, and pulling his rods in, Gary pops over for a cuppa. We chat about the next few weeks, and the kettle goes on again. It's not long before it's time for a kip, and I'm ready for my bed as I've had a busy week. I hear the sound of Gary's baits plop into the water and slowly the light fades.
I'm out like a light, and it's about six in the morning before the call of nature gets me up and I take a leak. A quick scan around the lake then feeling the cold I head straight back to my bag! It doesn't seem five minutes before I hear 'Oi you lazy sod, get the kettle on!'.
I curse, then drag myself up and try to smile at my supposed mate standing there grinning. But he's right, it's a lovely morning and why should I miss it. The kettles soon on, and not long after we're glugging back a steaming brew.
We chat about the fish that we heard crashing through the night, not that they disturbed us! But you feel better knowing they're around. It's as we're standing just behind my rods that we both see my margin rod twitch, then quickly pull round.. I grab the rod, and I'm in.. don't you just love that!
It's a quick, but lively fight, and soon a small commons in the net. Not any size, but a fish, and on a new venue, and on a different bait I'm trying. So I'm happy, well I think we both are, but let's see what happens in the coming weeks!