First pike of the season felt so good

WEST AND FENS: That's too clear. That's too hot. That's too early. That's gone under. And that's a pike.

I heave the hooks in with my usual finesse, to be met with a head shake like a Status Quo reunion on the other end.

Then the first pike of the season hurtles upwards from the depths, gills flared and throws a spectacular tailwalk.

I'm holding on like a muppet as it crash dives through the cabbages, braid singing in the breeze.

I've caught pike twice the size of this angry double, but it's a memorable start to the season as it slides into the onion bag.


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Snick the Owners out of its munching gear, drop it back and I'm the happiest chap alive as it swims off with a kick of its tail.

The margins are full of rudd fry as I shake the net dry.

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Then they erupt with bow-waves as a shoal of perch around the half pound mark tear into them in a hit and run attack that sends the small fry skywards.

As I peer down into the river, I notice something else amid the cabbages. A speck of white, the tip of a snout. A sizeable snout too, connected in turn to a sizeable pike.

I've seen some big pike in my time but this one's nearly as long as an Ipswich manager's excuses, from its eyes to the tip of the tail rippling in the greenery.

I reach down for the rod, to rebait. Easy does it, I'll drop a legally-obtained bait from sustainable sources right on its nose, obeying all relevant local by-laws and fisheries legislation.

There's a chugg-a-chugga-a-chugga growing louder as I strip the weights off the trace and check the hooks are sharp, hardly daring to look back in the river.

The reeds do a Mexican wave as a sea-going tug chugs past. When I look back in the margins, the big fish has slipped away as quietly as it arrived, without so much as a ripple.

Maybe next time, I tell myself. There's a whole winter to come, after all.

The Ouse is up and down like a fiddler's elbow, depending who you talk to. But amid the blanks, there have been some decent catches.

The straight by Brown's Farm produced a 50lbs net of bream last week.

It might look featureless up top, but there are one or two swims there where the river's shallower.

There have been a few big tench out too along that part of the river – one angler netting a 10lbs specimen and a double figure bream in the same session.

• Plans to use barges to carry sewage sludge via the Ouse move a step forward today when Anglian Water carries out a trial run from Ely to King's Lynn.

That will explain the huge barge that went through your swim pursued by camera crews.

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