West and Fens: Get down to the Ouse to land big pike
'Yew can't get a bait in four-eyes. That's all fruz. As in fruzzen right over. Hev yew seen the wevver..?'
Thanks for all the texts and e-mails charting the freeze-up's progress. I remember fishing the Ouse with Rob King the last time Arctic conditions descended on the Fens.
We sat on the Wissey Mouth, as the ice sheet closed in around our floats. We wrote that day off, like many last winter when our hopes fell victim to the cold.
It's not been nice out there this time around, let's face it. Conditions are less than ideal for fishing when waters have an inch-thick lid of ice on them.
But keep your eye on the weather, all the same. For when it thaws, the pike can come on with a bang and you can enjoy some great fishing – assuming you can find them.
Stillwaters and standing drains will fish well, if you're out and about in the right places. Water heaviest at four or five degrees, head for the deepest spots and all that. Received wisdom if you're a pike angler.
But my tip's the Ouse to do a big fish, as snow melt pours in bringing some flow and colour. It'll settle down within a day or two, once the water temperature stabilises.
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Despite the fact I've had next to nothing off the river all season, it's where I'll be heading come the weekend. I'd even back some of the unfancied stretches to do a big fish, because conditions won't be far off where they were a couple of winters back, when pike to nearly 30lbs showed over the space of a few short days.
They weren't repeat captures, either. There were two of them, looking at weights of the fish that came out. I remember losing a real lump, that fought like a bag of spuds before it reared up and threw the bait and two size two Owners in a tailwalk as I stretched to slip the out-sized landing net under it in the reeds.
I was still fuming the best part of an hour later, when Mr King appeared. 'Wh'oss up four-eyes..?' 'I just lost a fish as big as that bit of wood in the margins', I remember saying – possibly in slightly more colourful terms. I've never caught a 30, but that fish had 'bye-bye, I was your 30' written all over it as I watched my rig fly out of its laughing gear into a tree.
I got up the next day, headed for the same swim and found Mr King senior in it – looking somewhat un-chuffed. 'Wh'oss up, mate?' I said. 'Just lost one four-eyes,' quoth he. 'Don't tell me,' I said, looking at the bit of wood in the margins. 'It was as big as, um, that bit of wood.'
That bit of wood was 45ins long. As in quite a big bit of wood, as yardsticks for the pike you've just lost go. I can't believe I was sad enough to measure said piece of timber.
It's been a struggle all season. Such are the delights of pike fishing. Sooner or later, you realise the more you do it, the less we actually know about the big fish we all yearn to catch and their movements through the drains and rivers.
This is why we do it. This is what drives those of us who yearn for their next 20 onwards. There's not long left now. But remember the Ouse. For my tip is it will do a fish to make us all sit up and wish we'd fished it more at some point. That bit of wood's probably still there in the margins. Just in case you lose a pike that big and need something to measure it by.