Snow fish... with teeth!

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.

Talk about fishing out of your car! And with a resident pike too

Talk about fishing out of your car! And with a resident pike too

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.

Gary's swim, with the sluice in the distance

Gary's swim, with the sluice in the distance

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!

Now that's a snow fish! Gary with a 16lb'er

Now that's a snow fish! Gary with a 16lb'er

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!

My turn, but only a jack, but it's a nice clean fish

My turn, but only a jack, but it's a nice clean fish

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!


A huge one, a cold one, and the first one!

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.

Gary's swim on the main lake at Rib Valley Fisheries

Gary's swim on the main lake at Rib Valley Fisheries

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.

Proudly holding his new PB pike, Gary with a 24lb'er

Proudly holding his new PB pike, Gary with a 24lb'er

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!

Who says its cold?

Who says its cold?

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.

Out of the blue, a small common, but very welcome

Out of the blue, a small common, but very welcome

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!

My swim, think we'll be trying this water for a few weeks

My swim, think we'll be trying this water for a few weeks

Before the snow...

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!

  They are in there! Our first from The Warren

They are in there! Our first from The Warren

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.

The rods are fanned out as are our baits, covering lots of water

The rods are fanned out as are our baits, covering lots of water

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.

Scraper double? It's not weighed but it's got to be around 10-11lbs

Scraper double? It's not weighed but it's got to be around 10-11lbs

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...

I know it's tiny, but it's beautifully formed!

I know it's tiny, but it's beautifully formed!

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!

Herring 5, Roach 1

Here we are again... and we're getting a few more frosty days now... so it's plenty of layers, and then squeeze into the cold weather suit!

With the cooler weather you hope the bait fish are starting to shoal up, and near them hopefully the pike. We know this area holds reasonable numbers, but we want to find out whether the bigger females have moved in yet.

So the baits are put out, and we give them the full menu, mackerel, herring, roach, sardine... how could they refuse?

Well they do, or at least for a couple of hours, until Gary's alarm breaks the peace and quiet! And a scraper double is soon on the mat. Not a monster, but a good clean fish, caught on his herring deadbait.

As the kettle steams away and mugs are readied, I'm starting to think whether this'll be another blank day for me, with Gary already off and running?

Nice dark markings on this 13lb'er

Nice dark markings on this 13lb'er

But not long after it's my alarm that's working hard, as line pulls out the clip and I'm finally away.

I'm really taking care to feel what the fish is doing once I've tightened up to it. I've dropped a couple in the last few outings, so I need to make sure the fish has the bait. There's a few nods and tugs, as hopefully the fish is turning the bait, then a good hard pull as the fish moves off.. I strike, and it's definitely on.

A good fight, it seems the pike are quite boisterous today, but I steer it into the waiting net. The time taken to hook the fish properly has worked well, as we find the trebles are mid-way across the pikes mouth, and come out fairly easily, it weighs just over 13lb. With beautiful markings it's a reasonable fish... and again the going bait is herring.

More tea brewing, and I've now got a grin on my face! 

The grin then becomes a beaming smile as the next run, is again mine. These fish have definitely had their three shredded wheat this morning, as they put in some powerful lunges before submitting to the net.

Getting better, and bigger, a 14lb 7oz that's taken my herring

Getting better, and bigger, a 14lb 7oz that's taken my herring

This one goes 14lb 7ozs. And guess what, it's taken the herring too.

The day drifts on, and the action slows. During the early afternoon both of us have fish, but they're only jacks in the 7-9lb range, and the only curious thing being the bait... herring!

So that's five pike on the bank between us, all taken on the same bait, from different areas, when they had the choice of other normally favoured 'deads'... can you think why? We couldn't.

The afternoon wears on and as we're now thinking it'll soon be time to pack away the gear, Gary's furthest rod, which hadn't done a thing all day, rips off!

Putting a nice bend in his rod, this looked like it would be a good fish, and as Gary lifted its head over the edge of the net, we both knew it was. Unclipping the trace in the net allows us to get the rod out of the way, as we lift the fish onto the unhooking mat.

With forceps, scales and camera all ready, the pike's unhooked, weighed and photographed, and back in the water within minutes. 

Gary's the one with the grin now -  with a head on it the size of an average dog, if this pike had eaten a couple of good meals it would certainly be a '20' - but it's fairly empty, and only pushes the scales up to 17lb 14ozs, what a shame, but it's still looks impressive. And amazingly enough it's the first fish on a different bait.. a roach!

Yes, very nice, but stop grinning now and get that kettle on before it gets dark!

Seems Gary's had the last laugh, banking a 17lb+ at the end of the session

Seems Gary's had the last laugh, banking a 17lb+ at the end of the session

Break out the deadbaits we're off again...

Back on dry land after our session afloat, this week we're heading back to Rib Valley.

It's always a comfortable place to fish, and you're always in with the chance of a decent fish. Just to confirm that, we hear that one of our fellow Osprey members has banked a 19lb+ pike only days before.

We're there at 6am, the venues opening time, and soon have the gear loaded on the barrows before we head off down the bank.

We head toward our favourite swims, but we stop a little way before them as Gary fancies trying a slightly different spot. He recalls how on our last visit we saw some lads catch a couple of fish from this swim, so he wants to give it a go. 

I've got no problems with that, in fact I move just beyond him and still have access to the area of water where our friend had the 19... perhaps it's had a couple of good dinners since then, and might be pushing the 20lb mark now!

We're using a variety of deadbaits, mackerel (of course!), roach, lamprey and trout, all fished on straight legers, with running leads.

I used to be very worried about this style of piking, as sometimes bite registration could be a bit hit or miss with normal alarms, but now Gary and myself are both using backbiter alarms, and whatever direction the pike runs you get perfect, and instant indication.

Once the baits were out, we followed the normal routine... you know, broke out the kettle and got the tea brewing! You can't enjoy a serious days fishing without a regular supply of tea... well as serious as Gary and myself can get anyway!

Not a bad start, this one went 17lb+

Not a bad start, this one went 17lb+

It can't have been more than an hour gone by and he's in, in fact the whole days excitement can be broken down into two fairly distinct feeding sessions, morning and late afternoon.

As Gary plays in the first catch of the day it starts to put a good bend in his rod, and takes him a couple minutes to get under control, before I offer my netting services and bring the fish to the unhooking mat. It looks a good fish, and goes 17lb 6ozs on the scales, nice start mate.

But the morning drifts by without any more takes, and even with us moving the baits to search out the fish, we can't tempt a take. Tea is taken at regular intervals!

So we're well into the afternoon before there's a tug on one of Gary's lines. He tightens up and feels a fish, he strikes, but it drops the bait. He reels in to find a punctured bait, but doesn't waste any time in getting it back out in the same spot.

We then have an interesting last hour, with Gary having his same bait picked up again, but there's still no run, so it stays where it is.

Then I finally join the party, with a lovely slow dropback. First a couple of inches, then the full way down, but once I've tightened the line, feel a good tug, it all goes slack... I've got a feeling it's not going to be my day!

Yes you can smile... Gary's second of the day

Yes you can smile... Gary's second of the day

And to prove a point, a little while later, one of Gary's other rods rips off and he plays, and lands another reasonable double, this one going 12lb 2oz. Well at least he has to make the tea!

So that's all the action we had, sitting 20yards apart with our rods fanned out all around us... and all the action happens on his side... I'm not jealous, no, honestly I'm not...