The review of my fishing year – the ups as well as the downs

Great friend Andy Field with a big rudd, surely the most beautiful species in the land.

Great friend Andy Field with a big rudd, surely the most beautiful species in the land. - Credit: Archant

As this is my review of my personal year, it will obviously be hideously incomplete, and I apologise for that.

I only hope there are one or two pointers that might prove of interest to all. Most obviously, since I have moved house from the coast to the river valley, my saltwater fishing has suffered even more. Those close to me, though, know I hardly did damage to the bass and mullet stocks in all the years I was a Salthouse lad so I guess my absence is no real piscatorial loss.

More pertinently, how do I look back on my fishing year on the stillwaters? My major successes were, to a degree, with tench and, perhaps to a lesser degree, with rudd. Whilst I didn't personally bag my own double-figure tench, I helped one or two friends on the way to theirs, which is just as satisfying. The one huge step forward I made was in the discipline of pre-baiting. Living close to my tench swims meant I could bait them liberally every day, sometimes twice a day. This had a two-fold effect. First of all, it made tench fishing much more immediate than it has ever been in the past.

Secondly, and vitally, it kept the tench going on well into the high summer and beyond, whereas before they had always tended to switch off sometime in early June. Evidently, if you can keep tench looking for an artificial food source, at least some of them will learn to ignore natural food items, however plentiful these become. There's a lesson here for anyone who wants to make the most of their tench fishing come next March and April.

I say I did well with rudd, but that's only half true. In fact, I piggy-backed on the success of my dear friend Andrew Field and the work that he did on the Fenland drains. Andy must have walked the equivalent to the moon and back to find isolated shoals of these magnificent, golden-scaled beauties and he was good enough to point me in the right direction whenever I had a free moment.

Where I failed with rudd was on my usual estate lakes. It was in these venues that I fell short with pretty much everything. Anything like a serious crucian carp avoided me and I realised it has been at least five years since I have had a decent wild carp. Oldies out there will know what I mean by the term. We're referring to long, lean, dark-coloured carp that many of us think originate from very old gene pools indeed. They are shaped more like barbel than anything else, go like a rocket and are becoming increasingly rare.

And rare remain big, wild, river brown trout. I've often written that one of these would cap my angling career nicely. Rather like mullet, I fear they will remain an unrequited dream. Possibly my quest for a Wensum barbel will go unanswered as well. I've seen them this year, but that's been about all. The chub have been kind and the dace seem to be coming back and there are even perennial hints of a roach revival, so I can hardly grumble. And on neither stills nor rivers have I seen much evidence of destructive work by Mr Otter, so that's a further bonus.

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My piking season, again, was a kind one. In large part, I feel this was probably due to generally mild weather throughout the first three months of this year. We like to think of pike as a cold weather species, but I don't think the fish see it that way. I equally have no doubt that my successes were down to pre-baiting.

I've seen some great anglers at work too, but my hat goes off highest to Simon who has ME and to Keith who has MS. Whenever I curse the day for not going quite right, I think about these two battlers and thank my lucky stars I've had the day at all, and on my terms too. No, I haven't had my 10lb tench, my 7lb chub, my 40lb pike or nonsense like that. In real terms, I'd say life in 2015 has been very kind and on biteless days, I do well to remember that.

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