Icy reel

Friday just gone was extraordinary. With James and Rob Buckley, I fished one of my more serious pike lakes for little reward. James and Rob both picked up small fish and James pulled out of a decent fish that picked up a dead rainbow drifted at 13 feet over an 18foot swim. Interesting in itself.

Around 3pm, the brisk westerly died away and air temperatures rose 2 degrees despite the sinking sun. By 3.30 the surface was pitted by the rings of rising silver fish, though there were no obvious pike strikes. Now here is the thing: on the north bank, Rob threw in his deads, two roach of 4 ounces. One was immediately taken by a large fish as it lay on the very surface. The whole scenario could have been a summer carp taking crust. At almost the same time, on the south bank well over 100 yards away, James did exactly the same thing with exactly the same result. Only this second roach was slurped in by a pike that looked massive. The message is an obvious one. We all experience these calm moments before dusk when a dead lake comes alive. Perhaps they need to be exploited rather differently though. Sink and draw? Cast and retrieve repeatedly? Keep on the move until the light finally goes entirely? By the way, both these pike took close in to the margins so the pin would still be my reel of choice I think.

The following day I took a local wildlife photographer, Stuart Butcher, to my local complex, Snow White. Stuart had wanted to get in there before sun up, when the frost would still be thick and the mists at their best. We saw fallow deer, a badger and the inevitable otter but on the largest of the lakes what amazed me was the sight of a colossal bream shoal priming on the surface. As the light grew I could make out well over 100 bream, mostly doubles, cavorting in the surface layers. What on earth were they doing there in temperatures still hovering around zero? There was no sign of a fly hatch or of any food source that would explain their behaviour. When Stuart had finished his work, I drove away as baffled as I had been the day before. The bream, by the way, were still up top, backs and fins black against the pewter mist.

If there is any enlightenment out there amongst you, I’d really appreciate it!