Angling is more than just catching fish (entry 26 pike article)

My first outing of the New Year was in pursuit of pike. Although I do prefer river piking to stillwaters, rain the day before had pushed the local levels up and so I decided to head for a lake that, although I have fished it before, it was the first time I had targeted pike there.

Because I have been on the water previously (after tench) I knew the venue and where to fish. I set up in a swim that enabled me to lob a couple of dead baits a rod or two lengths out into the lake. The first bait was at the bottom of a drop-off and the second was in a bay. I knew they were perfectly positioned, all I could do was wait!

I wasn’t too pleased with the water temperature reading at four degrees. However, it was to be expected, as the rain the previous day had been brought in by northerly winds. Still, as we often remind ourselves – we’ll never catch anything sitting by a warm fire watching television!

In spite of having the rods in the water for a combined total of eleven hours I didn’t even get a single bleep. Still, as with all my angling sessions I thoroughly enjoyed being at the water’s edge. And on this session I had something else to occupy my time.

Whoever said that you can’t do two things properly at the same time – I intend to blow that theory when I combine my angling with some birding this year. However, having said that, only certain types of angling will allow me to concentrate on the bird life, so maybe the theory is correct after all!

I’ve set myself a target of one hundred bird species this year and got off to a good start with sixteen in the first angling session. A number of fairly common birds were spotted – Mallard, Coot, Canada Goose, Goldfinch, Kingfisher, Carrion Crow, Greylay Goose, Blackbird, Magpie, Blue Tit, Grey Heron and the angler’s friend, the Robin. Plus I also saw a couple of ‘not the angler’s friend’ Cormorants.

It’s quite bizarre that I never saw one Sparrow, yet spotted several Buzzards. On one occasion a Buzzard was being mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crows as he flew across the lake. Being a novice, a couple of the birds I was watching had me reaching for my bird identification book. By a process of elimination, as well as positive identifying, I eventually added the Linnet (I changed this from what I first thought was a Twite) and Siskin to my list.

So apart from the fishing – which is why I was there in the first place – I actually had a successful day! However, as I have already stated, I did enjoy being at the lake, which was very quite and peaceful. I know we say it many times, but for me it is certainly true – angling is about more than just catching fish.

Continuing in the pike mode, I still kept thinking about the small river where I had caught the big fish from a week earlier, which somehow evaded the scales. Therefore, it was just a matter of time before I returned once more, to continue my quest for the elusive fish. (If you’re not sure what I am talking about, refer to last week’s journal entry!)

Again, conditions were not ideal, the water was fluctuating between three and four degrees and there was still debris coming downstream, as the water level was still up. However, my desire to do battle once more with ‘my’ fish was greater than the conditions, so armed with a bag of sprats I set off. Perhaps I should have listened to the voice of logic, because I blanked again!

Still, I’m going to spend some time on the river in pursuit of pike between now and the end of the season. It’s not heavily fished at all; in fact I can count the number of anglers I’ve bumped into on the stretch over the last few years on one hand. And I’ve never seen anyone fishing for pike, so it’s hardly what you would call a venue under pressure. And as we know, pike thrive on neglect, as my earlier fish had proved.

Whilst on the river I added another four species of bird to my list. For any angler, it’s just a matter of time before they spot Mute Swans and Moorhens. I’m just surprised it took me two visits! I also added the Little Grebe to the list, as I spent some time watching a couple of birds on the downstream bend. A number of Fieldfares took my tally for the year to 20 species.

The session also saw me have my first negative encounter with canoeists for a long time. I am certainly a tolerant person, and I accept fully that others have as much right to be on the river as I do. However, I do get annoyed when respect is not shown. On a recent trip to the Upper Severn, the female canoeist coming downstream literally scraped the far bank to avoid disturbing me. She also ceased paddling while in my swim.

But the three that came past me on this small river had no consideration whatsoever. They travelled three abreast, which meant that they literally filled the river. How they didn’t pull my rods in, I don’t know. And they literally ploughed through the swim, in effect killing it dead.

To complete my angling journal this week I had the last throw of the dice to see if I could catch a pike. I switched from the river to a still water in Shropshire. Arriving at the venue I noticed a bird watcher at the edge of the water. Upon asking him if there was anything interesting to be seen, he pointed out a Smew and a Goldeneye to me. I’m sure I would have identified them eventually, with the help of my bird book, but it doesn’t half make it easy when someone else does the hard work for you!

A Tufted Duck, Wren and Wood Pigeon took my tick list (I’ve learnt that is a bird watcher’s term!) to 25 species. I was feeling quite pleased with myself. Which is just as well, as I blanked once more! However, as always I thoroughly enjoyed being out in the countryside – angling is about more than just catching fish. And to round my day off as I walked back to the car I met a lady who was taking her two pet goats for a walk!

The rest of the week was taken up with football. First of all, I went to watch Wolves reserves trounce Bromsgrove Rovers 5-0 in the Birmingham Senior Cup followed by a draw for the first team at home to Blackburn in the Premiership. The latter in particular was very special, as my daughter Miriam was the mascot on the evening.

She went into the players’ area prior to the game starting, and the next I saw of her was when she was running out with our captain Paul Butler – and she was holding the ball. I was a very proud father at that moment. I know it doesn’t really have anything to do with fishing, but I thought I’d share it anyway!


(Entry 26, originally published January 2004)