"Go easy! We've got all day", she said as I stood two feet below ground level with a large Japanese maple draped around me, in the hole where our nature pond used to be. But as I am a man and we're not known for heeding our other halves warnings I carried on like a man possessed. And possessed I was at reclaiming the hundred pound or more of pea gravel that I'd used as a leveling agent under the hard plastic pond years ago. I'd tried a shovel and a spade but neither seemed to be making a dent in the ever shifting gravel, the only thing that seemed to be making an impact was a terracotta plant pot as big as my head. On my knees sweating like a pig in barbecue season, I repeatedly scooped up pots full of gravel and tossed it up onto the ground around the pond. Bar being filthy and sweaty all was well until one particularly awkward twist prompted an almost audible twang accompanied by a dull stabbing pain in the right side of my lower back.
That was two weeks ago when I had specifically booked some time off work to clear my vegetable patch which has languished terribly since BB's arrival. We'd even sent the little fellow off for a day with the grandparents so as be free of the hindrance of childcare, and there I was two hours in with a developing back pain, starting to do the old Charlie Chaplin walk.
Not only did that end the gardening but it also shot down three shorts sessions I had been planning in my head. The kit and caboodle came out to nurse the strained back, but still it's taken well over a week to get back to anywhere near close to being able to get out fishing again.
I didn't think sitting on the old chair for a session would be beneficial for my first time out so I grabbed the crazy cranker and shot over to Napton for a lure session, hoping the perch might be on the feed as they have proved to be in the past in late summer. With all the perch that I've caught in Napton bait fishing, I have a suspicion that somewhere in those moody depths hides some real monsters. So I went at it with a range of small to medium sized lures to try and sort out something bigger if that was possible.
Over the last two years I have lure fished Napton a fair bit, and on every single trip it has been a case of feast or famine. I reckon it's just one of those waters where the fish are either on or off. I chatted to a few anglers just generally fishing before I started to see how the day was going and all bar one were struggling to get bites from any species. After hearing the fish seemed off the feed I quickly nipped back to the car to pick up a couple of extras boxes of lures I bought along just in case, and boy was I glad I did!
The perch were not in the mood to attack what so ever and after covering the smaller half of the water I put away the small soft baits which I'd been working slowly along the bottom. Out game the shallow running hard baits and surface baits to try and lure any waiting pike in the shallows to attack. Not long after I began casting a shallow running Yozuri lure along the reeds I watched and undeceive pike of maybe five pounds follow it all the way to the bank before thinking better of attacking. A few casts later a tiny jack pike shot out from the edge not five feet from where I was standing the bank and smashed the lure without even a moments consideration.
It was undoubtedly going to be a hard session but the fact I'd had one follow and one fish kept me going with the knowledge that it was a case of covering water to find pike rather than perch. The only problem was that the pike did seem to be holding in the shallow water, which on Napton is largely inaccessible. This in mind I headed down to the weedy shallow end at the head of the lake which most anglers avoid.
With the wind coming off my back I began casting slow sinking Sizmic toads tight against the reeds and reeling them quickly back just under the water but above the weed. Straight away another small pike slashed after the lure twice before disappearing. A lot of casting later I found a second fish which bow waved after the lure making me think it was a better fish before it hit the lure and turned into a second tiny jack.
After covering the whole shallow area at the top the lake and not finding any more fish I moved round working different diving hard baits trying to locate fish. Although I had no more takers I did spot a very large carp drifting over the weed with seemingly not a care in the world. The last modicum of action came when yet another small jack shot out from the nearside reeds after my little plug only to stop a foot off the lure with a look in its eye like it had just clocked the rouse.
In the past I might of said it was a bit of a disappointing session, but since I've been lure fishing I've figured that expectations are different from when bait fishing. Strikes and follows are seemingly as much as a prize as catching the fish in some cases, and when you can get one chasing the lure just under the water that I find is just as exciting as watching float lift up amongst a fizz of tench bubbles. My session in fact was made by that tiny jack snaffling the toad lure after following it for at least twenty feet before smashing so hard it sent the lure right up the trace over the clip and swivel. So even as hard a Napton has proved to be in the past I know I will be back in the future and maybe the perch might be a bit more obliging then.