Those in the know might find the pike in the Fens
Sometimes, it can all go right in the time it takes a float to slide away or an alarm to shatter the silence as the sun rises over the floodbank.
Once or twice, this has even happened to me over the course of this winter's travels. But as I parted company with the first good fish of 2012, I learned how quickly success can turn to failure.
That one lost fish was the only take in two long days. I was crying in my beer instead of toasting my luck, another 20 to the good.
When the Fens were fishing well a few seasons back, I caught more in a month than I've managed all winter. I've leap-frogged drains, adopted a more mobile style on and off and probably worked harder than I have in ages.
I've chased rumours and shadows, plumbed new stretches of the moody Ouse and agonised over new baits and presentations.
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Pike fishing's still two hooks on a bit of wire, a lead and a float or alarm to break the news when you get a run – however much you try to reinvent the wheel.
You can only catch what's in front of you is an oft-quoted maxim and the problem most predator anglers in the Fens seem to be struggling with is finding the fish.
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Knowing someone's caught a twenty from this or that drain or river can fire you up to try a new stretch. But just because they've caught it, it doesn't mean you will.
Mild weather means the prey fish aren't shoaling and the pike are scattered. The clock's ticking now and there's a growing possibility we won't really get much of a winter, in the form of a prolonged, settled cold snap.
That almost certainly means fishing's going to remain a struggle for the next few weeks until the pike begin moving towards their spawning grounds.
Those who know these areas or can make an educated guess might just enjoy the best of a poor season. Might being the operative word.
But unless the mild, dry spell ends soon, all bets are well and truly off when it comes to finding the pike, leaving anglers chasing their tails.