West & Fens Fishing: Even the best pike anglers have been struggling lately

Blown onto the pits by the gales that tore across the Fens, I found the fish straight away on Sunday, with three coming one after another to baits cast up and down the alders.

Things went awry when I lost one that felt a fair bit bigger before it came off in an angry swirl, leaving me to contemplate a shredded mackerel.

I sat it out in case the bigger fish came back, or the day turned into a repeat of an incredible haul I enjoyed from a nearby spot on the same water seven or eight seasons back.

I finished up with four, none of them breaking the double figure barrier – a mediocre day, in years gone by, but quite a result for how things have been going more recently.

Good pike anglers I know – several of them much better than me of spotting and exploiting windows of opportunity which occur when the weather throws a curve-ball – have been struggling too of late.

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We all reassure ourselves these things work in cycles and it'll all come good again, but the swings seem to have become more extreme, with briefer ups and much longer downs over the course of a season. I only wish I knew why.

I know a few are pinning their hopes on the cold snap that's predicted to hit this week, but the jury's out on how it's going to impact on our swollen drains and rivers.

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By this time last season, one or two of the drains had at least started throwing up a few better fish to bring solace amid the blanks.

Smiling faces in the pictures belied the effort that went in to catching them, the hours spent willing floats or indicators to budge.

Perhaps this is just another downturn, a blip before the rods start bending again. Perhaps we're in for plenty more blanks before it all comes good once more.

I remembered a bizarre statistic of my own, as I rebaited the rods as the moon rose over the pits for one last cast into the gathering gloom.

Years ago, the day came to a premature end once or twice on the pits because we'd caught so many, we'd run out of baits. Somehow, I can't see this happening again any time soon.

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