Norfolk Pike Fishing Trip, February
By Andrew Kennedy
Since writing my
last article, I have only had chance to fish twice. The latter session
was the Norfolk Broads trip which I mentioned last time. Both trips
were extremely fulfilling; but for contrasting reasons. One resulted
in my biggest pike catch ever. The other was a full-on experience, with
hardly any fish action at all!
We had found a huge concentration of pike, which only seemed to be interested in slow-moving baits. I caught the majority of my fish on a large Mepps spinner, with two fish caught on a Salmo plug. Both retrieved very slowly, close to the bottom. I find this to be a reliable tactic in the colder months. My largest fish of the day just scraped into double figures, which meant just two double-figure pike between us, from a total of 13 pike caught. This told me that we'd hit on a pre-spawning congregation of pike, making use of the abundant roach shoals which were evident. Jack pike (the small males), will always out-number female pike when it comes to spawning time.
On to Norfolk...
Dawn came around extremely quickly, and after a quick breakfast we loaded the tackle, the all-important coffee flasks and a hip-flask of scotch, into the boat and set off. The mood was perfect - a true angler's dawn, with light mist still hanging over the water and thousands of waterfowl greeting us with their morning calls.
Every few metres we passed a likely-looking pike swim, but had to resist our urges to fish, as we knew only a few of them would actually hold pike. Due to the shallow nature of the broads, we concentrated on the main river for a start - looking for deep bends, overhanging trees, sheltered bays and broad/dyke entrances. After weeks of research and reading, this seemed to be the best advice for the first-time broadland angler in winter. The boat was equipped with an echo-sounder, allowing us to constantly analyse the depth as we travelled.
From my experience of fishing drains and rivers in the past, I tend to spend a good while in an area I think is likely to contain fish. Often I've fished a swim for an hour or two without a run, then returned to the same peg later in the day, to catch a few fish. This suggests that the fish have definite feeding spells. The same fish could have been laying dormant in your swim all day, then something suddenly triggers them to feed. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of sessions on a water to work out the feeding patterns and spells, and time was a luxury we didn't have on this trip. So, we opted for a mobile approach, to cover many swims with various baits and methods, in the hope of finding one or two feeding fish.
The first three
swims we fished were the outside of a sweeping bend - with depths up
to 8 feet and overhanging trees; then the entrance to a small broad,
with an island either side of us - with the shallow broad behind us
and the main river in front of us; the last was another, shallower bend
- with a reed-fringed bay just upstream. By this time we hadn't seen
another angler! There were, however, literally thousands of water birds,
including countless coots, but also tufted ducks, goldeneye, Egyptian
geese... and the odd bird of other species mixed amongst the flocks!
As we were nearing
a village with a few boat yards which we were planning to fish, an olive-coloured
shape dipped over our heads, then swooped into a tree. We knew instantly
what this was - a green woodpecker. So we manoeuvred the boat closer
to the bank for a better look - only to spot another woodpecker (male),
foraging on the grass beneath the same tree! We were gifted with an
excellent view of both birds for a couple of minutes, before they carried
on their way.
four very different swims fished, seven miles of river covered with
four rods and various different baits, and we hadn't even managed a
run. Still, we expected the fishing to be difficult and we were trying
to better our PBs, so the morale remained high as we headed back towards
our moorings. The Broads Authority doesn't allow motorised trolling,
so you must use oars if you wish to try this method. I'm not sure why
this rule stands, as there is nowhere else I know of which has this
legislation. Still, neither Matt or I had tried trolling for pike before,
so we decided it was worth a try. The boat had adjustable trolling rests
at the rear, which made it much easier. We trolled the stretch around
the dyke entrance which our cottage flanked, and after a couple of runs
through, Matt got a take, which resulted in our first broadland pike
- all 3 pounds of it! Despite it's size, the fish was very welcome,
although the irony that it was caught a stone's throw from our cottage
was quite hard to take!
We came across an extremely deep bend, with hundreds of yards of reeds fringing it. Unfortunately, the ropes on our mudweights weren't long enough to allow us to moor here, but the area looked very promising, so we decided to troll some deep-diving lures through the swim. Not long into the troll, my rod hooped over promisingly. The thing was, I had forgot to set the drag on my multiplier properly for trolling (which is much lighter than for casting), and before we could put stop the boat and reverse, the trolling rest parted company with the boat, sending my rod flying into the water! Catastrophe! Luckily, the large cork handle kept my rod afloat long enough for us to crank the motor up and hit reverse! The lure was lightly snagged when we retrieved it, but I'm convinced it was a larger snag - and not a fish, which had caused the trolling rest to snap.
So this left Matt to row, with me clutching my rod and trolling that way. Then after a short while, Matt was into a pike. Again, it was just a jack, but we found somewhere to moor up and deadbait fish, in the hope that a specimen was in the vicinity. Matt's float-leger rod went, with a tell-tale steady "bob-bob-run-bob-run" on the float. This fish turned out to be the largest of the day, but we still failed to hit double figures. After this fish, there was no more action until we set-off trolling again, when I was rewarded by a jack pike on a Rapala super shad-rap (quite a big lure!). Another jack came to Matt from almost exactly the spot he'd caught from the day prior; as we trolled back towards our moorings ready for the three-hour drive home to Derbyshire.
On one hand I regard this trip as a huge success - fishing from a boat
is not as hard as it seems, as long as you keep your wits about you.
We had some excellent encounters with wildlife and the whole atmosphere
of the trip was relaxed and fulfilling. On the other hand, we had only
caught a handful of fish between us, and none of these were of specimen
size, which was a disappointment. This started me thinking that no matter
how much preparation you put into a trip, no matter how many swims or
baits or methods you try - if the fish aren't feeding, you won't catch
them. Still, if you relax and take in your surroundings, just as much
enjoyment can be taken from simply being out on the water, absorbing
all that nature has to offer. Although catching the fish is a major
part of angling, it cannot be taken for granted and it certainly is