Before the recent snowy blast Gary and myself had started having an occasional visit to The Warren fishery, at Stanford le Hope in Essex.
With a reasonable history of big pike, we fancied this might give us our 'twenty'.
So our first visit resulted in a very hard earned... blank! But even though Gary had fished here before, a few years ago now, this was an exploratory session. We'd studied the maps on their website and picked out a possible place to start off the visit.
We arrived at the main gate a few minutes before 7am, the official opening time, and sat waiting in the car. Being our first time we weren't sure whether a bailiff came to open up, or whether the gate was on a timing mechanism?
Well just after seven I get out the car and give the gate a push, but it's solid, and I get back in the motor and we wait again for something to happen. Of course it does, as after ten minutes Gary needs a pee, so he disappears into the nearby bushes and answers the call of nature. On his way back, and with no signs of life anywhere, he goes up the gate and gives it a hefty shove, and guess what... it opens!
As we park up, Gary's giving me a good ribbing, along the lines of me not being able to open a gate on my own... looks like its a few more press-ups in the morning then!
We have a walk round, our plan is to fish the main lake, and we finish up at the end of one the many spits that break up this large water. It seems fine, with access to a lot of open water, as well as more obvious features like islands, overhanging trees, and reed beds.
It's back to the car, get the gear, then return to our spot and set up. The rods are soon out, with us hoping to cover as many different aspects as we can. Gary chucks a deadbait out long, and into fairly deep water, I've put one into a narrow channel opposite, then pop another bait to the back of an island, Gary then covers the margin with one of his baits, dropped almost off the end of his rod.
There's a 3 rod per person maximum here, and we take our full quota, fanning them out from our swim.
But then it happens, the reason why we're here... I get the kettle on! Well you've got to get your priorities right haven't you. I mean, it was blooming cold, and we needed a brew.
Within a couple of hours the bailiff turns up to take some money, and give us our tickets. He's nice and friendly, and we chat about what stuff has been coming out, and where. He lets on that a big 'twenty' came out in the first few weeks of the season, and also reckons he's seen a couple of 'nice' ones being banked by some of the more secretive pike anglers that fish here... wink, wink, tap on the side of the nose!
Once he's gone, the kettles on again, and we mull over what's been said, and the obvious point is, we're fishing in the wrong area. The mugs are drained, and we then pack the barrows and move.
Back down the spit, around a few bends, along the bank, and we pitch up at a more open bit of water. As the rods weren't fully broken down they're out pretty quick this time, and we're fishing again. But after a short time we're both feeling this isn't a good spot, and with a bit of map checking, we find we've inadvertantly drifted onto the 'Square' lake, another of the four lakes on the complex here.
So we have our lunch, then move again, getting back onto the main lake. We find a couple of swims at the end of a larger stretch of water, and this feels much better. But eventually time runs out, and as I mentioned at the beginning of this story, we finish without a touch.
The days been enjoyable though, and we've found out a fair bit about the venue, lets hope it helps us next time!
Trip 2 - Contact!
We're back for our second visit here, and we head straight round the main lake to explore the area of water further round to where we finished up last time.
In fact we march right up the far bank, until we come to a rope across the path, its then that we remember the bailiff saying the venue had been doing a bit of crayfish netting recently... obviously the reason for the cordoned off area.
So we plump for the two nearest swims, which aren't bad at all. There's plenty of open water in front of us, and reed lined banks either side of us... it's a race to get the rods out!
There's no live baiting here so we've got a full menu of 'deads' for our waiting quarry. We both have a nearside margin rod put out either side, then fan out the others at varying distances into the main body of water.
Tea is drunk, and during the first couple of hours we reposition the furthest baits, trying different spots, hoping to drop on a fish and entice a bite. But just when we're thinking its not going to happen, Gary's margin rod lets out a beep, and we watch as his drop arm indicator slowly falls.
He's in, and he plays a lively fish into the net. There's a beaming smile, our first pike from the new venue is lifted onto the unhooking mat.
It's hooked perfectly, so there's no problem getting them out. We're not weighing this one, it won't break any records, it's around 8-9lb, might even make double figures, Gary's just happy to have opened his account here.
We don't have any more action till later that afternoon, when I think it's going to be my turn, but after getting a drop back bite on my margin rod, I pick it up, feel a fish but it drops the bait instantly!
That was to be the last touch we got on the day, but it's getting better each visit, maybe next time...
Trip 3 - A monster?
The weather was definitely colder now than a couple of weeks ago, but it was bright, well once the sun had come up!
On this session we'd finally got into the swims we'd wanted to fish, at the end of what was basically another spit. With features all around, our baits were cast to overhanging branches, ends of islands, reed lined margins, deep bays, and out into open water, of course.
With baits placed, and a hot cuppa in our hands, all was right with the world. Talk even turned to where we might hold our carp campaign this Spring and Summer... or were we fancying a few tench this year?
Well it only seemed like we'd been here for a few minutes, when Gary has the cheek to spoil our conversation by getting a run! I suppose the fish wanted to have a closer look at that rather fetching hat you're wearing... it's alright, I'm only jealous... of the fish of course, not the hat!
But that doesn't stop him landing a feisty pike that would scrape double figures, and a nice clean fish it was too. Quickly unhooked and returned, it was now Gary's turn to man the kettle.
After an hour or two, Gary's setting up his lure rod, and with no action recently, he reels in his open water rod to give him room for a few casts. But after half an hour of chucking all different shapes and patterns of lure into the depths without result, its back out with the leger and get the book out!
As nothing much is distracting me I ask if its alright for me to have a go with the lure rod, muttering something about showing him how to do it. I clip on a large copper spoon, and proceed to launch it to the far corners of the lake, before dragging it back with about as much luck as Gary had! I'm soon sitting down again.
It's late in the morning when the quiet is broken, as the alarm on my middle rod screams into life. My mackerel tail placed just off a large bank of reeds has obviously sparked some interest. I tighten the line, feel for the fish, its mouthing the bait, I wait, then strike, and it's on.
But not for long, as it pulls away my line goes slack. Damn and blast, its let go of the bait, I wind in with no pike and no bait, just empty hooks. A chuckle from Gary...
I rebait and cast back to the same spot, I'm not sure anything will happen as the fish was well and truly spooked, but it's worth a try.
So we have some lunch, and as Gary makes the tea, I'm eyeing the lure rod again. I dig out a small thin, fish pattern lure, that I found on the bank a few years ago, it's bright yellow and has black stripes down its back. Its hooks are old and rusty, so I spend five minutes putting on new ones before having a cast.
It works well in the water, and as Gary brings over two steaming cups of tea, I cast out and start to wind it back in. Then suddenly it stops, and there's a pull on the rod... blimey, I've only gone and hooked one!
I soon realise it's tiny, in fact it's probably the smallest pike I've ever caught, about 2lbs at most. But at least I've not blanked this time. Gary's now laughing...
Neither of us get any other action through the afternoon, and we're getting near to packing up time... when that middle rod of mine goes off again!
Will this be my chance to get a good fish on the bank? I tighten the line, and I can feel the fish playing with the bait, I wait for what seems like ages, until I get a good pull as the fish moves away, then I strike hard... and my bait shoots out of the water and lands a few feet away with a big splash!
I look at Gary, he looks at me, we then both look back to the spot where I had my bait as a huge boil disturbs the water, then almost in slow motion a back fin and big tail break the surface of the water before disappearing back into the depths.
Oh don't you just love fishing... strangely enough, I wasn't a happy bunny as we packed the gear and headed off back to the car!