My soul yearns to feel that extended adrenalin rush when you hunt for something more special than the norm, for that moment when you hook some unseen monster than pulls so insanely hard that you think you'll never control it, for when you see the fish of lifetime roll onto the surface and the feeling of panic before it's in the net that is so sickening. It's because of this need that I've pigeon holed myself into chasing a true specimen these last few weeks and as the time for river fishing is ever dwindling, it's there that I've sought one.
Three sessions ago I searched for a pike on the Avon. Initially it was a zander but the river was considerably clearer than expected, hence zander became pike. I concocted a plan to fish a winding section of the Avon which is known to hold some very nice pike in the slacker water through winter. I arrived and fished and blanked. By mid morning I'd searched the entire stretch and felt that I was wasting my time covering the ground again with the same method. So I took the dead rods back to car to swap them for a medium weight lure outfit I had stashed in the boot. My hope was to make something happen and at least avoid the absolute blank. Sadly the best I managed in a second pass of the entire stretch was a single follow by a near double figure pike. I watched that fish follow the lure right into the shallows to the point where it saw my ugly mug and shot off.
Two sessions ago I returned to the Avon after some very heavy rainfall to find it looking perfectly coloured for a daytime zander session. This time everything felt so right that I stuck it out zarbelling in a known zander hunting area for most of my session. The only movement on my rod tip was from the last few bits of debris coming down the river and hitting my line. In the end with only an hour or so left to fish I scampered off to a slack downstream. The bait had only been in the water two minutes when the tip nodded positivity. I waited and waited for a second indication before striking at a soft pull which resulted in nothing. The next hour was probably one of the most frustrating times I've had zander fishing. I knew for sure in the big slack in front of me was quite likely a large amount of zander and that if I could get into them it would be just a numbers game before I found a big one. Over the next hour I had run after run, tug after tug and every strike resulted in nothing. In the end, time ran out on me and I had to leave but I feel that should I have gone to that spot earlier I might have been able to crack the finicky bites by ringing the changes in my rigs, as those zander I felt were still just about feeding.
My last session though was by far the most punishing. With two blanks under my belt I felt I needed to head for a bit of a banker location. My old mucker Andy had mooted that he was heading over to Saxon Mill to do some trotting and pike fishing. It was as I pondered all the silvers and predators stacked up above the mill weir that it occurred to me that there should by rights be a few big river perch hanging around all those prey fish as well. So I concluded to join Andy and target the perch instead of silvers and of course it would have been rude not to fish a pike rod as well.
As per normal I was late arriving and Andy was already set up and running a float repeatedly down the river through the area where the larger proportion of the silvers shoal up. The shallower water below him held no interest for me, so I headed up stream a little to the one area here that screamed perch.
Seriously, how could this swim not hold a massive stripy somewhere, it was perfect with the flow decreasing closer to the far bank. The only problem was that the bank above me seemed a little to eroded for me to sit comfortably without fear of it collapsing. So I concluded to have to fish it straight on rather than from upstream a little.
I wanted to keep it simple and cheap. There was no way I was going to be filling the swim in with chopped worm as the huge amounts of silvers would mop that stuff up quickly. So I decided to fish a maggot feeder filled with red maggot's that had a bit of chopped worm mixed in to flavour them up and use half a lob worm a hook bait.
You know I have never been so confident that something special was going to turn up, when on my first four casts I hooked a quartet of roach bigger than I've caught of the mill in years. Even downstream Andy could make out the much bigger size of the fish I was catching and made his opinion quite clear. It was my blind confidence of the impending big fish that made me not bother photographing anything and just push on and fish. But the harder I pushed the more I changed the situation! More casting meant more maggots going in and that just pulled more fish upstream and even a few inches of lob worm wasn't deterring the smaller silvers from eating it. In the end I had to back off and cut out the feeding which just stopped the bites entirely. It quickly turned into a no win situation as all I was catching was silvers and I figured those prey fish would be that confident to feed if there was any big perch in the swim.
In the end my only hope for really getting my chain pulled was left in the hands, or fins, of the resident pike. Now it's worth saying that I have never fished this bit of river and not had some kind of pike action. Till this occasion that is! What do you know, we never had a single run from two rods fishing different rigs in probably the most pike infested bit of the Warwickshire Avon. I fear that the dropping temperature through the morning may have been a factor in the lack of pike action and even catching a load of quality roach and dace early on I felt once again unsatisfied after committing to catch a specimen. Andy though finished off the morning very well after working hard trotting in the freezing weather all morning and filling his net up with a mess of roach and dace.
In truth I had forgotten what it can be like chasing after big fish. The famines can go on for some time and it seems like sheer madness to week in and week out take that gamble and forgo catching lots of fish for the chance of a monster. I know I will continue to bang my head against this brick wall though until I feel I've satisfied my need and caught something a bit more special, as after all it's still freezing cold and things have to get better as the temperature rises..