Prior to leaving for the weekend I made the hard decision to not do any sea fishing when I visited Suffolk. I suspected it could be a decision I might rue, but truthfully I needed a rest. Like many, my work goes the floods and ebbs and the months leading up to this mini-break had not certainly been a flood. It can be hard to admit as a normally highly dedicated angler, but the idea of standing on a north wind battered beach on a late November morning really held little appeal right now. So with a heavy heart I concluded to leave the big guns at home and opt to just take the easy option filling a few hours of free time closer to warmth, chasing pike and perch in the marinas near our temporary home.
The marinas to which I refer for most of the year offer consistent sport of all kinds and the broad which they flank has a very good reputation for pike... big pike! With this in mind I took along two outfits. One capable of handling any essox from Jack right through Jill, and the other was just a general float outfit intended to fill the moments between runs. I have in the past made absolute commitment to pike fishing and on such occasions after a few action less days have found myself considering buying cheap rod and reel combos just too break the monotony. So rather than over commit, it seemed best to edge my bets and try to keep my options open.
I never intended to push my luck after arriving by chancing a quick session, but my when other half developed a migraine after a run in with some overly bright shop lighting, all that changed. Hoping to save the first day of the break, she headed for the darkness of a curtained bedroom to try and sleep it off. So I diligently did as I was told and cleared off fishing to give JB some peace and quiet.
The broad was interesting to say the least. With the north east wind ripping across the broad it actually had proper white horses forming across its breadth. The marinas were not much better as the entrances, though small, are positioned on the north side, thus allowing the dissipating mini waves to coarse right in. For piking the conditions looked spot on and excitedly I shot a sprat into a gully where I was sure a pike might lurk. In the meantime I began plying some casters into the clear water hoping focus the roach I was sure that would be sheltering in the marinas.The cut and thrust of it was I could not buy a bite for love nor money. In the end as dark crept in I switched to my ever faithful perch rig to try see if any obliging perch were around. Luckily two tiny Sargent's saved the day just as dusk fell. Walking away I was shocked at my struggle to find fish when I had been lead to believe these marinas were winter hot spots for sheltering fish.
The morning after the night before I was up well before dawn. After the shocking lack of bites I knew I had to try a locate some decent populations of fish to try and eek any modicum of success on any front. The broad could not have been any more different to the previous days incarnation; the waves were gone and in the moonlight the surface was like giant mirror in the freezing cold motionless morning air.
This was perfect for my needs, as even the tiniest movement would have easily been spotted. Over night I had morphed into something like a carp angler trying to locate signs of feeding fish in order to know where to set camp. A whole hour was wasted on this fruitless endeavour, as not so much as fish fart was spotted. In the end I had no choice but to just go for it in what I hoped might be a productive area. Having the day before seen how clear the water was I totally re-rigged using what I thought might be an inconspicuous rig that incorporated a small crystal waggler and virtually visible line.
To cut a long story short I kept mobile and over the next few hours fished four different marinas trying to locate fish. And truth of it is that for my efforts I had managed to catch a single perch. Thinking these perch might be my best option should I manage a second short session around dusk, I quite literally puréed a handful of worms and pre baited two spots just in case I got back in time for another try.
With the days currently so short it was only fleeting day trip before I was back. My other half is a truly good egg and is very tolerant of my incessant need to angle. So she duly shooed me off to try and grab a few hours before the sun disappeared behind the reeds. It looked spot on conditions as I trundled towards the waters edge. The mornings blue sky had be replaced by unbroken roof of grey which now retained any warmth built up by the sun. A slight ripple constantly wobbled across the waters surface and I knew if any fish were going to feed it would be tonight as dusk came in.
I went straight to the baited spots and settled in. I had purposely baited the two areas so as I could fish them from one spot, thus removing any need for a time wasting moves. The broad had swollen up with the tide through the day and now I had an extra three feet of water on top of the mornings depth. My float fished pike rod was cast just onto the slope of the boat channel that ran along the centre of the marina in case any patrolling pike should come along. That set I went about searching out my pre baited spots.
The first half an hour passed away quickly with no more than what I would call half a bite. I was beginning to think it was about to be a total wash out when something big swirled right at my feet. I stared intently a the fizzing patch of disturbed water expecting to see the flaring gills of a pike. That was all I needed to make moves to reel my dead bait in and reposition it right next to the bank. My pike rod was actually on my left hand side out the way of my float rod and so when I picked it up I had to pass it from one hand to the other. It was as I did this that I heard the water splash again. Instantly I stopped what I was doing. After uncrossing my arms looked down past my feet and came face to face wiht not a pike, but an otter!
I just stared at this perplexed looking furry faced critter and it stared back. For a moment I thought if I moved it would just disappear but as I slowly lowered the rod to one side it just looked at me unconcerned. Now I took my chances and reached into my bag for my camera which was positioned just under the unzipped flap. In the time it took my damn camera to make that beboopboop sound the very relaxed otter sauntered along the tyres which prevent moored boats from hitting the concrete bank, sat down and began cleaning its paws. Still not bothered by my presence it went about its business as I manoeuvred myself to try and get a good shot.
It's surprising how hard it is to get good shots of these fidgety creatures. Being in such a flap just to catch a shot I never thought to flip my camera in multiple shot mode and instead tried to just get as many as I could manually with that irritating processing pause between each shot costing me valuable time.
After allowing me only moments to get one decent shot of it about to dive back, the otter slid almost silently into the water. With it gone I just sat in shock thinking, did that just happen. Then from behind a row boats I heard a big splash and ripple soon emanated into open water. I knew the chances of me getting any bites now was about as likely as me winning the lottery, so I concluded to retrieve my gear and go off and see if I could get any better photos before the light went.
For the next forty minutes I followed the otter all around the marina as it dived again and again working its way methodically under the boats. Once I had it targeted I actually found it very easy to track, as when they are under water otters seem to send a constant foot wide stream of fizzing bubble up to the surface. Every now and again a head would pop up and I'd try to snap a shot which ultimately ended up with me having some twenty or more shots of where the otter once was. However I was surprised to see how little the fellow actually caught. Assuming I am correct in thinking that otters have to surface to eat, this one caught a single roach of maybe two ounces and found what I can only assume was a small bunch of zebra mussels in the entire time I was watching it.
It was boredom or lack of quarry that seemed to inspire it to move on and this resulted in my second really close encounter. Quite relaxed and really not bothered by this camo clad beast that was staring, it wandered straight up a boat ramp to within feet of me, before turning tail and wandering off down the path.
It looked like it was about to dive back in on the opposite side of the marina but then suddenly veered off . After rolling around under a speed boat drying its self off on the concrete it just got up and tootled off into the buses close to the marina.
After my excitement had died away later in the evening I pondered the encounter. I know that on small/medium big fish rivers it seems likely that otters have undoubtedly had an effect, and that on unprotected carp fisheries it's like an all you can eat buffet for them. But on these massive open water ways I suspect life is not going to be as easy as grabbing an overfed carp from an over stocked fishery. The otter I had seen was having to do a lot of work for very little return and I truthfully think that it and others present will make little difference on such a massive waterway. In no way did I actually ever think that this otter might be responsible for the poor fishing. In fact quite the opposite! It actually showed me there were fish hiding away in the marinas, just that my tactics seemed unable to catch me any of them.
With one last chance I seriously went hardcore to catch some fish. Float boxes were turfed out and the lightest float I had was threaded onto my line. Scratching around I located the smallest size hooks I had and the bread bin was raided. Then at first light I gently plumbed up the very area where I had seen the otter close to the boats, before half throwing and half spooning two handfuls of bread slop in. I had no choice but to actually fish bread punch. Yes, me, the one of the agricultural rig, fishing slop and punch in a desperate attempt to catch fish. Anyone who has knows me knows that me fishing punch is like a gorilla riding a really tiny little bike! But what the hell, needs must eh?
Lo and behold it damn well worked. After only moments of that tiny speck of bread sinking, the float dithered before half dipping and bang, a little roach.
I have never been so happy to catch a little roach as that one, and it didn't stop there either. The next three hours saw me doing a rather convincing impression of a match angler. Constantly trickling in small amounts of bread slop to cloud the water with shower of tiny particles kept the roach moving. The float was barely still and even with me hitting only one in five bites I managed to build up a respectable amount of precious silvers.
Thinking back now I was exactly right about me regretting not doing some sea fishing, but I did manage to relax whilst still catching some fish in the end. As an angler I know I am are meant to be a venomous hater of the now demonised otter. But I have to say that my close encounter where I could practically smell the fish on ones breath actually has to have been the highlight of my trip away. Even more controversially I have to be thankful for it turning up, as had it not I would have never had known there was actually was some fish present.