West & Fens Angling: Late show reward for drain hoppers

I caught one on Sunday. No, really. We'd leap-frogged enough drain to give Livingstone the colly-wobbles without a single pull. When we threw the rods out for the last hour of daylight amid the beer cans and the fag ends in the car park swim, the float disappeared and I caught a 17lb pike that looked as surprised as I was when Tom slipped the net under her.

We did all the right things all day too, spreading the baits and trying different things on different rods. The only thing missing was the fish. We tried an area that was obviously unfished, miles from anywhere. It seemed devoid of both predators and prey, the one pull coming from a crab that nipped through a foot long lamprey as clean as a carrot.

We tried a text book feature – coloured water entering from a land drain – and the floats didn't move until we reeled them in to up sticks.

When we found the prey, during a brief sunny interlude that brought the fry to life, the pike remained conspicuous by their absence. A few short months back, rudd swirling at a fly hatch would sometimes have heralded the start of a feeding spell.

When I finally bent into my only fish of the day in the car park swim as the shadows lengthened, I even thought it might have gone 20 as the rod went round and I briefly had a fight on my hands. It had the length, but this otherwise well-conditioned fish just didn't have the bulk to make the scales sing.

There have been a few better fish out, with low-20s cropping up here and there on a couple of the King's Lynn AA drains and even (allegedly) on the Ouse last week. What's missing are numbers of back-up fish – ie even if you didn't bag a 20, you could reckon to catch a few jacks and the odd low double on most waters.

When he came to give a talk to King's Lynn PAC, Mick Brown said he'd noticed a pronounced decline results-wise over the last three seasons, with catches over the current campaign the worst of all. No-one had an issue with that, looking around the room.

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No-one's really come up with anything resembling a realistic explanation for what's going on in our rivers and drains pike-wise. Other than they seem to be getting pretty good at avoiding capture.

Elsewhere, Ten Mile Bank had a brief flurry, with bream and even tench showing around the Chapel. That's right, tench. In January. Go figure.

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