Find the bream and you’ll find the pike
WEST AND FENS: I never knew there were so many bream in the Ouse. As dawn turns the sky a blush of pinky-mauve, a procession of black backs break the surface stretching 100 yards or more.
That's some shoal of slabs, I think, as I haul the last of my gear over the towering floodbank and take a breather. A few miles downstream, anglers have been bemoaning the lack of fish.
This is where they've decamped – upstream into the boondocks, where the river winds 20ft or more above the black peat Fens and nine out of 10 spuds grow.
Apart from the lack of anglers and the wealth of root vegetables, there are other subtle differences to this part of the river. Deep margins, as in straight down into six feet of water.
And the banks are lined not with Norfolk reed but the sparser, greener stuff, that leaves enough gaps to poke a pike rod through.
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I can smell the mint I've bruised with my clod-hoppers as I fiddle with the rests to get the line tight to the floats. By the time I've got a trio of baits spread along a pikey-looking bend, the bream show is over other than the odd roll a few swims downstream, marking the great shoal's departure.
The old boys reckon you find the pike when you find their prey. I want a big bream muncher, with a head the size of a shovel. No big ask.
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When my Tesco's herring wakes up and the float slides away, there's an eight-pounder on the end instead. Big bait equals big pike, um, not. Ten minutes later, a lanky jack makes off with Tesco's twin sister.
Another one grabs a sardine as I recast, the float disappearing as soon as it settles. It's Jack City down the near bank, so I wind the rods in and disappear downstream, in search of bream. Find them, and you find the big pike – or so the old boys reckon.
Saturday sees the Pike Anglers Club's annual Convention at Kettering Conference Centre. Despite the economic doom and gloom there'll be nearly 30 traders on site, along with three top speakers and a day of junior teach-ins.
This is the nearest the event's going to come to the Fens for a while, with a new venue set to be announced at this year's bash. Closer to home, the revamped King's Lynn PAC has its first meeting at the Burt Club, West Winch, on Wednesday, October 26 (7.30pm); when Denis Moules will be guest speaker.