Let battle commence

WEST AND THE FENS: It's a relief to start pike fishing again – even when the conditions are all wrong and the rivers run as clear as gin.

Sooner or later, it might all just come right, I think as I sit behind an assortment of legally-obtained baits from sustainable sources.

That's what fires up the predator angler with a whole winter ahead in the Fens. You really never know what's around the corner when the geese squeal overhead and autumn arrives in the badlands.

Grown men, who dress like extras from Mash and smell of mackerel, will soon be pitting their wits against an adversary with a brain the size of a walnut, who can make fools of the best of them.

It's hard to explain to anyone who doesn't go pike fishing. But when that alarm goes or a float bobs and disappears into the murk, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in that instant as you sweep the rod back and wonder what's going to be on the other end.

Blame the weather all you like, the last couple of winters have been less than kind to us.

But these things run in cycles, waters come on and off the boil, and those who endured the worst the cold threw at us last time around could be forgiven for thinking the rivers owe us one.

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One thing that struck me driving around on early forays was how many swims are overgrown and unfished on our waterways.

Part of the Ouse that threw up plenty of fish last autumn clearly hasn't been touched all summer, leaving several hundred yards of water where fishing pressure's clearly a thing of the past.

If you need inspiration for the coming season, there'll be a full-on dose on offer on Saturday week, at the Pike Anglers Club Convention.

Stephen Harper, Norfolk's own chronicler of Broadland pike, is among the speakers at Kettering Conference Centre, along with Dave Horton and Micky Jones.

There will also be tackle stalls galore, a day of free junior teach-ins and the chance to network, enjoy the banter and put away a few low alcohol lagers.

Those behind the day work hard behind the scenes to provide something for everyone, whether you're a seasoned hand or picking up a pike rod for the first time.

Attendances have remained fairly constant over the last few years, despite the recession, so the PAC must be doing something right.