Deserted banks tell the story of poor season

WEST & THE FENS: Beep. Beep. Be-ee-ee-ee-bee-bee-be-e-e-e-eeep. Down the floodbank like a mountain goat, skid to a halt in the mud.

Braid's trickling off the reel, so I dig my heels in, wind down like a good 'un and pull into another great big clump of sub-surface debris.

I wonder if I'm the only one who'll be glad when this season's dead and buried, as I pick through the mess of rotting stems to free the trace.

Yet again, I seem to be the only pike angler for miles. Usually, I don't complain about the lack of company. None of us likes fishing in a crowd.

But deserted banks spell it's fishing pants, as if you needed me to tell you.

Once reliable hotspots have been anything but since the cold snap descended.

Those who've persisted on the Ouse and other main rivers have found themselves well outside their comfort zones, as milder weather turned them into tea-coloured torrents.

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Leaving aside the braid vs mono debate, it's been impossible to fish across the flow at times with the amount of debris coming down, regardless which reel line you use.

I even spooled a couple of reels up with 18lb nylon and sunk the rod tips so far they touched the bottom in the margins to see if I could beat it.

No cigar.

When fishing close over the marginal shelf, it needs three ounces of lead to hold, with a big sea float and the rod tops skywards, you wonder if there's ever going to be anything there to take the bait.

Find slacker water on the inside of a bend, where you can hold on the crease and the same debris just seems to have dropped a few feet down the water column.

Stillwaters..? Trips to once-productive pits have been almost as hopeless.

At least it's been a bumper season when it comes to wildlife-watching.

It was once bittern twice shy the other day, as one of our rarest birds glided past the rod tops before it disappeared into the Norfolk reed.

Well it made my weekend – even if the pike didn't.