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Shock, horror! Whatever is to come in this amazing life?

PUBLISHED: 13:40 17 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:40 17 November 2017

How does Robbie Northman catch these whoppers on lures? Picture: John Bailey

How does Robbie Northman catch these whoppers on lures? Picture: John Bailey

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Sunday saw an unmitigated pike disaster.

John Bailey's chub was the smallest of the lot! Picture: John Bailey John Bailey's chub was the smallest of the lot! Picture: John Bailey

I was fishing with a close friend and the only run of the day occurred around 2.30pm. Paul played the fish hard, but then he always does. Everything was going well until the pike, a really good one, began to fight heavily under the rod tip. Suddenly, all went slack and the trace had broken beneath the swivel. Fortunately, Paul strikes runs really quickly so I suspect that the barbless hooks would have fallen out, but it was still a massive worry for us both. What had gone wrong? Here, I think, is a lesson for us all.

During that day, temperatures had dropped steadily and all our gear had become doused with frequent showers of sleet. Almost certainly, the clutch of Paul’s reel had seized up at the critical moment, failing to give line and leading to that break off. I’ve noticed this over and over. In the depths of winter cold, clutches can become unreliable and can stick. It was my fault, this. I should have checked the clutches knowing how they can react to plummeting temperatures. Paul paid the price for my negligence, I just hope the pike do so, too.

Monday and I revisited a cormorant colony that I found some months ago deep in the most hidden of Wensum woods. It overlooks both the river itself and a score of pits, but I hadn’t appreciated the scale of the problem. As I crept through the long grasses, still wet with the dew, I counted around 70 of the birds, either at roost or flying in the crisp air. I cannot begin to think of the damage that these birds wreak up and down our river and along our pits. And is that even the final tally, I wondered? How many more birds might join these as the winter progresses? Believe me, please, cormorants in our area are the biggest single threat to wild fisheries that we face. Something must be done. Soon.

On Wednesday, another disaster befell me, but one I happily took on the chin. In short, I was trounced by my mates! Along with Ian and Robbie, I went chub fishing to a stretch of Wensum I haven’t known well since the ‘70s. Robbie fished brilliantly with a lure and took chub to five and a half pounds. Ian pushed his float up a couple of feet over depth and laid-on in the margins with pieces of flake on size 10 hooks. He took five pounders as well. Old JB insisted on the purist approach, trotting till his arm fell off! And what did I catch? The scrawniest, smallest chub that we banked all day. And just one of them. Quite obviously, the chub didn’t want a moving bait and in the clear water and the bright sunlight, my trotting was making just too much flash and commotion. When will I ever learn and follow the example shown me by my younger pals?!

Thursday, a keeper got in touch with me. It seems the more I write about otters, the more people tell me what they know. I went over to meet him and there, on a platform by a lake was a dead greylag goose. He knew exactly what had happened. The day previously, an otter had come up beside it in the water, grabbed it by the neck and held the head down until the unfortunate bird struggled and drowned. The otter then dragged it to the bank, hauled it onto the landing stage and cleared off into the woodland. It didn’t come back to eat it and I’m told it hasn’t done still. The animal killed the goose, it seems, simply for fun.

So, that was the week that was! But the more I think of it, perhaps just a normal week in this extraordinary fishing life that I now seem to lead.

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