I don’t know about you but the last couple of weeks have felt far from seasonal to me. Warm temperatures, strong winds and persistent rain have made for the most unusual December I can remember. I would imagine that come the end of the year the media will be rattling to us all about the “warmest December on record” just as they did at the end of November. I’ve no idea if the recent pattern is global warming or just an anomaly a few hundred million years in the making but what I do know is that it’s hard to feel “festive” when your waders are full of sweat. Yeah, I went there.
After a tough day grayling fishing on the Dove (tough for everyone but Glen the fish-whisperer…) I hauled myself out of bed bright and early for a days pike fishing on some East Midlands gravel pits before the yuletide commitments pinch too hard on my fishing time. I’ve not fished these pits for half a dozen years but felt confident that I could wangle a few jacks on light kit in between the squally showers.
The fishing was initially slow which gave me plenty of scope to go through the lure box. I’m a habitual changer of lures (and flies for that matter) and I really do believe that the best way to crack the code on a tough day is just to keep mixing it up. A few follows from jacks on an 8cm Savage Gear Cannibal Shad twitched along the bottom piqued my interest before I finally got a hit just as the lure bounced up the shelf. Even on my light Spro Mobile Stick this felt like a very small pike, so I cranked the drag right up and began to horse the fish from thirty yards – big mistake. What surfaced a few rod lengths from me wasn’t a small pike but the biggest perch I have seen and in the time it took me to react and dial down the drag I had pulled the hook from its mouth. I sat for a few minutes and pondered just what a naive and arrogant error I had just made. I was just glad nobody was around to see it happen.
I shook off the disappointment and anger, reassured myself that there should be a shoal of them and made the same cast again. Sure enough within a few twitches of the rod another fish had whacked the Cannibal Shad and I knew immediately this was no jack pike. With a delicate drag and an inordinate amount of care I eventually teased the biggest perch I have ever landed to the net. I’ve no idea how heavy a 40cm perch is in real money but it was without doubt a new best for me. A real old warrior of a fish, he was wearing a few old battle scars, a ragged dorsal and a mean scowl – I love the attitude perch give their captors!
While this fish had clearly been in the wars over the years it certainly wasn’t struggling for food – its belly was packed full of something and the width across its back was very impressive. As a lure angler who leans towards the finesse side of things it was amazing to see how small an 8cm lure looks in the mouth of a big perch – he could have eaten the whole shoal if he really wanted to!
After a few moments rest in the net I watched him idle very casually back in to the depths just as a particularly strong gust of wind pushed my rod from its position leant against a tree, right down on to the pebbles on the shore. I noticed a mark down near the butt which seemed to be no more than a scratch so I carried on in the hope of a few more perch.
There were to be no more perch however, as a succession of smaller pike smashed in to alkost any lure I rigged. The last one ate a floating diver inches from the rod tip as I paused the retrieve. With no line to wind in I had to set the hook using the power of the rod but as I did the whole thing folded in half! The earlier fall had clearly caused some critical damage and the force of my strike pushed the poor rod over the edge. I cant blame the manufacturer, it hit the ground with a hell of a thump, but playing an errant jack with a 2′ rod isn’t an experience I would recommend!
And that was that! Within ninety minutes of arriving at the water I was leaving with a new perch PB, a whole heap of pike and my favourite spinning rod splintered all over Staffordshire. If Santa’s gift to me was that perch than quite frankly I don’t mind if there’s nothing under the tree this year, though if St Nick is reading this then a new 5-5-15g soft lure rod would go down a treat pal…
Merry Christmas to all you Incompleat Angler readers – I hope that there’s lots of fishing treats for you on the 25th but more than that I hope you’re all healthy and happy and enjoying some time with your families and friends.
The Season’s best to you all!