Winter now approaches and the nights have drawn in. The time has come for me to share a tale which has kept me ever keen to return to the lake. All ponds, lakes, meres and locks have at least one tale of a monster that is whispered late at night beside fires, when anglers are suitably lubricated by whisky or ale. And with all the time spent by the lake this summer just passed I was bound to hear a tale two as I angled. Though I never thought I would be the glassy eyed character regaling such a story.
It had been a good morning by the lakes standards. The tench had been cooperative before the sun rose over the wood on the opposite bank. Though my method of choice on this occasion had been a classical sort for tench, I had also employed a back up just in case by way of the ubiquitous sleeper rod. Which as it's name implies had been snoozing away ever since I cast it out into the centre of the lake.
By now my float was out of the water dangling from the rod rest, and I was several feet away peeping through the bushes beneath the surface, watching a hypnotic ballet of fish passing by under the lilies close to where I had been fishing. With my mind elsewhere I had no thoughts to this still fishing sleeper, when the almost vulgar sound of the electronic bite alarm screeched into my ears. The lack of consistency to it's tone already betrayed the culprit as I casually approached the now active rod. The strike as expected met with that dullest of fights as the bream responsible did what bream do best; fight like a wet sack full of silt.
Not meaning to diminish the capture, I was not exactly being careful knowing what was on the end of my line as I pumped it in just under the surface. Now the swim I was fishing was as classical as the method I had employed to fish it, or at least half the methods I had used.
Two beds of white flowering lilies emanated from the bank on ether side flanking a generously raked space in which to cast. Where the lilies ended the water deepened by an extra foot or so where the silt could not accumulate round the thick tubers of the pads above.
It was just as I pulled the bream just beyond this ledge and that's when the monster struck. Still wearing my polarising glasses, I got a full view as the massive mouth opened and its gills flared white. In an instant the four pound bream was gone! and by gone I mean gone! it was not held in its sharp teeth, it had just plain old disappeared from sight in a single strike.
I have had a lot of fish nobbled by pike over the years and even seen bigger pike grab jacks as they fight on the end of my line, but in just about every case you can still see the fish held tight in their jaws. But this bream was truly inside it's mouth. No head nor tail protruded, not a single scale could be seen fluttering down to the bottom giving any sign of attack.
I think neither of us could quite comprehend what had happened. I was gob smacked and just held the rod firm frozen to the spot, and she seemed confused by this invisible resistance that gently held against her.
Three or more years ago a massive pike nailed a five pound jack that had indecently attempted to steal dace from me on the Avon. The hook by sheer chance had caught in the edge of the jacks mouth and my landing of it looking inevitable until the big girl struck. Ever since that incident I always swore if another big pike grabbed a fish I was landing I would just let off the clutch in an attempt to land it. On this occasion how my mind processed the information in time was nothing less than a miracle, but my hand did some how creep up and engage the free spool on my reel.
Then she slowly moved away as I braked the free spool gingerly with my finger. My thoughts ran over my gear. One and three quarter pound rod, ten pound line, braided hook link and my 36" net on the ground next to me. I had a chance!
In a feat of pure genius, I managed to flip off the free spool and let off the clutch sufficiently so as her slow exit was uninterrupted. But starting to play the fish would be another matter as for what I knew my whole rig was inside her mouth along with the bream, and my soft monofiliment was between her teeth. My only hope here lay in maybe the line was right in the scissors of her mouth or maybe she was a gummy old gal.
Taking it easy I gradually applied pressure and when confident enough I increased the drag slightly one click at a time. Slowly and surely I made ground, and low and behold she seemed to yield. After a while I spotted her tail not far from the site where she had taken the bream, and that was when she turned on the power shaking her head violently. No crack or thump was heard as the line fell slack. It was as if it had been severed by the sharpest of blades and in my hand it looked that way too.
It was one of those strange moments when even though I had just lost the fish of a lifetime I was not upset. In fact the only way to describe how I felt was honoured. Honoured to to see such a giant beast.
I did worry for a while that maybe the end tackle may of done her some damage passing through her digestive system. So I touched base with the bailiff regarding my encounter and he told me he would keep me informed if any big pike should turn up dead.
He never did utter those words even when asked. So as far as I know there is still a monster lurking somewhere beneath the surface of the lake, and I for one have have a rough idea of where she sometimes patrols.