Hanging fearlessly mid-water in the shadow of the old log she bristled in a state of constant readiness for the attack. For years now she had been the number one, the apex predator of the confluence pool and the arrival of the log in the very centre had only cemented her position further. Some time during winter just passed it had been lifted from its resting place high up the brook by the swollen waters and drifted slowly down to the pool. After a few days churning aimlessly round in the eddy, the water level fell as the rains abated and the log had grounded on the silty bar just off the main flow. Though its resting place was pure chance, the log was perfectly positioned for the pike and her brethren to use as an ambush point, from which they attacked the flashing silver shoals of prey that darted back and forth constantly.
Much like the log, she and hundreds of other microscopic pike had found their way down the brook into the pool. As per normal they had been gorging the tiny daphnia close to the surface to feed their constant hunger. In doing so they had inadvertently strayed too close to an invisible force which had sucked them against their will down into the brook. Many died in the initial fall, others were taken from above by stabbing birds that appeared from nowhere, but those who survived made their way into the pool where other predators waited.
The years passed and as they did perch, kingfishers and cannibalism all took their toll on the little pike. But she soon had begun to exceed her brothers and sisters in size and now she too had become quite partial to eating her kin. Now after many turns of the seasons only three of the originals remained, her and her two smaller brothers. The smallest of their trio had moved off over the shallow water for easy pickings in the small pool by the wall. She though was too big to dare try the journey. Only three nights past she attempted to get over shallows only to get stuck in a panic in the dark. But that was all forgotten now as some other disturbance had focused her and her scared brothers attentions on the pool in front.
Not long after dawn, out of the blue a bounty of tiny red grubs had fallen on the water. The silver roach and golden rudd were quick to harvest this bounty and in no time at all they were in a frenzy. With the nights growing cold their hunger had increased and such a wondrous source of food could not be ignored if they wanted to survive the winter, so they fed with unabated gusto. It was that activity that raised the attentions of the pike, but it was the vibrations of panic that made them strike. It was a thrashing perch that brought the little male out into the open, but it was the second one he sensed that he struck moments later. For a small fish it resisted more than normal when bitten but a few savage thrashes and it was his. It was her turn now! The small male had circled round to swallow his meal under the log and so any panicked fish were hers and hers alone. It took a while for it to happen again and when it did the panic was too far off for her to strike. Then moments later a sulking perch skulked back into the deep water all spines flared indigent at its ordeal. Before she could chase the perch a silver mass of terror flashed above. Without thinking she struck, grasping the fish side-on before turning back to the bottom. She too felt the resistance stopping her from swimming away but a surge of power brought a sudden end to it.
As she went around the log swallowing her meal she passed the two carp and their tench companion mooning in the roots of the undercut bank. Neither paid the other much heed as size had removed fear from all parties. The panic continued on and off but it wasn't until the last meals had stopped wriggling in their stomachs that the pair re-set into attack positions Again the small gung-ho male attacked first, missing his target as he swirled high in the water. Then something fluttered down through the water not far in front of her. It didn't flash and it wasn't panicked, but its wriggling attracted her and its size decided it. It had been a long time since she had eaten worms, but it was food and she wasn't about to pass up a free meal of this size. Unlike the speedy thrashing fish, the worm would not make a hasty escape so calmly she drifted forward stopping only inches away. Focusing on the gently writhing worm she manoeuvred herself into position before calmly opening her mouth enough to suck in the worm. As she turned off slowly back towards the log she felt a stabbing jolt in the side of her mouth and sudden resistance prevented her from moving. Unaware of any real danger she didn't panic and just hung motionless. Slowly she began moving backwards, then as the surface neared she bolted off towards safety Again and again she made a bid for the log but time and time again something prevented her escaping Now her panic rose as she did in the water and her surges to escape became more frantic, until finally her energy gave out and the force pulled her towards the shallows grew.
The one last ditch attempt to escape at the sight of the strange foreign object she was drawn towards came to nothing. She felt something rise around her before the normal comforting water dispersed under her and she found herself pulled into a cold alien world. Moments later she felt herself laid down onto something soft. It was then that the predator appeared in her eye line. Survival took over and she thrashed violently but this just drew the assailant onto her where it grabbed her by her chin. With her mouth forced open she felt the pain in the side of her mouth twist then fade, then again she was laid on her side as the predator loomed over her for a while. Suddenly the alien thing engulfed her again and she felt herself moving. Light and dark was all she saw for a while then it just became light, bright light that was blinding Then water rose around her and she could again breathe. Confused but happy that she was back in her world, she rested a moment before drifting slowly away. But this wasn't the pool, it wasn't even her world this was bigger, a million times bigger. Caution took over and she moved slowly to the safety of some weed to figure out this strange new place.
"I've got you this time!!!"
The jack pike had been plaguing me all morning ever since I had first deposited those first hand fulls of maggots to inspire the fish to feed. I had lost a few fish already to the pike and they had chased many more. I'd had to tie on new hooks when other had been severed from my line my the razor sharp teeth of the jacks. But finally one had actually taken my worm and it seemed like I had a clean and honest hook hold on one so maybe my light line would hold just enough for me to land it.
The snag was the problem. It had appeared after the winter floods and had annoyingly got stuck just about in the centre of the pool, essentially cutting the pool in half. I knew the tiny tench I sought to transfer back up to the lake liked to hang out along the under cut bank like there big relation that I had seen hanging around with the carp. But with the snag now in between me and them, I could not risk casting beyond it as I knew fish would get tangled under it. So I had resigned myself to fishing the main part of the pool in front of the snag in the hope that I could draw the tench up to me instead.
Saying that, the snag wasn't the only problem. The water level was low and it had concentrated all the fish into a very confined area, pike included, and they were having a field day in the shallow water. Although we have had rain here and there, it would seem that not enough water had fallen this summer to keep the lake topped up enough to keep the spillway flowing and this was reflected in the brooks. The brook to my right was reduced to only two foot wide strip that hugged the bank.
And the brook that entered the pool opposite me through the wood with its dry pebbles had seemingly become subterranean.
Even with the low water level the fish were in the mood to feed as the nights had grown a little colder with the on set of autumn, and even with the few fish and hooks lost to the pike I had already landed a slew of nice perch up to a pound and half.
But now I was hooked into something much bigger after my rod tip had pulled slowly round with intent. My light feeder rod bent double as it seemed that my hook had found safe purchase after one of the pike had taken my worm. The three pound line was holding as my lightly set clutch allowed enough leeway for the little pike to run but not snap me up. Now it was a case of just going softly until it was tired enough to land. I could see it hanging in the clear water before it surged off towards the snag yet again but this time it gave up half way there and it looked like the fight was soon to be over. On seeing the net in the water it did that classic one last surge to escape the net that pike always seem to do, but that came to no avail.
In the net and as I rested it onto the mat the fish was calm as you like. But when I bent over it all hell broke loose like I was about to eat it. So I quickly chinned the thrashing little pike opening its mouth to see where my lucky strike had set the hook. Just as I thought the barbless hook had caught home just in the scissor,s and upon trying to dislodge it with my forceps I found there was no way that one was coming out in the fight. A quick wiggle and it was out and the fish was unhooked.
I had to get a picture of this immaculate little pike and as I did I dawned on my that maybe this one might be getting a little to big for the confluence pool. I had in the past put any smaller ones back into the pool but this one was way bigger than those. The bailiff had told me before that any bigger fish could go back up to the lake from where they originated and this one would make a fine addition to the pike populations of the giant pool above.
It's only a short journey up the ancient man made bank up to the lake so I put her back into my net and scarpered back up the bank to the concrete outlet. After resting her in the water she soon righted herself and hung in my net. I knew it would be a bit of a new world for her in the massive lake, but as she slowly swam down into the weed to rest before going off to explore the place of her birth, I hoped she would have the opportunity to breed and start the whole cycle again.
Sitting on the point that dominates the pool I poured another cup of tea and watched the water settle. Already I could see one of the other small pike attacking the roach in the clouded water I'd stirred up. As I sipped the hot brew from my old tin mug I wondered whether now she was gone maybe one of the other two smaller pike I had seen this morning might rise up to become the king of the pool, now that the queen was gone.