Thaw leads to charge of pike brigade

WEST AND THE FENS: Thaw came, sort of, and all of a sudden there were predator anglers everywhere on the Ouse around Ten Mile Bank.

Results weren't quite as predator-tastic on New Year's Eve, with hardly anything to show for the charge of the pike brigade.

One chap I promised not to mention had one. Several hours and enough swim changes to confuse Sharron Davies later, I landed my sustainable eel chunk from a DEFRA-registered lawful source smack on the nose of one that probably went five pounds on a good day.

Belly scales full of silt and covered in leeches, I doubt my jack had gone anywhere in ages before I did the dirty on him.

One or two of us stuck to our guns convinced they'd come on the feed the following day. Pike anglers lovingly cling to adages like it can't be this bad two days running – despite the fact it often is on day two, not to mention days three and four.

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Mind you, 85pc of anglers responding to a poll on the Pike Anglers Club blog reckon pike fishing's getting harder, so maybe we've all grown more cynical as well as older with the passing of another year.

Things looked up briefly, as drizzle heralded 2011's arrival and a float crept slowly upstream. I blamed the night before's excesses, when the strike met with thin air despite the pair of razor-sharp owners on the other end.

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I chucked the herring back in the same spot, missing another slow-motion take 10 minutes later. This time the head had been snipped neatly off and the entrails eaten out – my guess was mitten crab.

More moves eventually yielded a take. This time there was an angry green thing with loads of teeth on the end. When I went to chin it out, it shook the hooks, the bait went sky-wards, bounced off my new space-age thermal strides and landed in the margins.

One thing dipping my hand in the river to get it back taught me was it sure wasn't warm in there. Worse than losing 2011's first pike, the wind soon pushed all the ice and debris coming down the river onto the west bank, making fishing next to impossible.

Worse than the flotsam lies ahead for many when it comes to curtailing their sport, as fuel prices rocket to new highs.

Could this be the year when away-days become a luxury, as more and more of us weigh up the cost of getting to a fancied water where we'd once have done the drive on the off-chance of a bite..?

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