West & Fens Fishing: Nothing really to get otter under the collar about

One minute, the drain was alive with bait fish. When a swirl sent them skywards in a shower of silver, I thought the first pike of the season was about to pay a visit to my weigh sling.

But as I debated which rod to beef up with a bigger lead to get a bait into the far bank killing zone, a furry head appeared.

I saw an otter in almost exactly the same spot last autumn. Perhaps it was even the same one. Unlike those who see Tarka's presence as yet another burden on our waters, an encounter with a creature which has clawed its way back from near-extinction never fails to make my day.

The drain went dead after it graced me with its presence. Yet while I found signs these animals leave behind on nearby stretches last winter, such as spraints and smashed swan mussel shells, I only found the carcase of a single fish – a bream which had been eaten down to fin and bone by rats.

I'd probably have a different view if I ran a commercial fishery, whose stocks provide my livelihood. But I don't be-grudge the otter the occasional blank day, when a cruise through my swim kills the fishing.

Elsewhere Ten Mile Bank's starting to show some consistency, with bream feeding well. Reading between the lines and talking to a few of the faithful, they're responding to heavy baiting - or coming from swims which are getting fished, meaning anglers are putting bait in.

This creates a kind of virtuous circle, where shoals stick around in areas where people fish, because that's where the extra food is.

Most Read

Springside Lake is also going out with a bang as far as the carp are concerned, with fish feeding up in the water on brighter days. Pellet waggler is accounting for fish to low doubles, while there have also been tench showing from the road bank.

Problems in one or two of the drains thanks to low oxygen. The Delph and the North Forty Foot up in Lincolnshire continue to suffer, but the Environment Agency is on hand with hydrogen peroxide.