Now the river Close Season is here most coarse fishing rods will be put away for a few weeks at least. It’s a good time to reflect and look back at some of the angling highlights of the past nine months. Rather than bore you with my own captures I thought it would be interesting to ask some of my colleagues at the Angling Trust for their reflections.
As you would expect from an organisation dedicated to promoting, defending, improving and enhancing fish, fishing and fisheries most people who work at the Trust are mustard keen anglers just like those we seek to represent.
This is the second of three blogs and I’ve asked Dave Wilkins (South East Region Enforcement Manager), Paul Thomas (East of England Regional Enforcement Manager) and their boss Dilip Sarkar (National Enforcement Manager) to recount some of their their recent fishy tales. These enforcement types do seem to like their pike fishing and are rather good at it as you can see!
Dilip and Karen Sarkar – Big Pike from the Avon and Severn
A retired West Mercia police officer and extensively published Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Dilip Sarkar is a lifelong angler who has caught specimens of most species. For the past few years, however, he has concentrated exclusively on winter fishing for pike and zander on his favourite rivers: the Severn and Wye. Jointly with son James, a Sparsholt fisheries management graduate, Dilip initiated the unprecedented Severn Basin Predator Study, an important partnership between anglers, the Environment Agency, Canal River Trust, Severn Rivers Trust, Angling Trust, the Pike Anglers’ Club and Zander Anglers’ Club to scientifically study pike and zander on the Severn, Wye and Warwickshire Avon; this is now a PhD study via Bournemouth University. Any anglers wishing to get involved should email Brecht.firstname.lastname@example.org. Dilip is a former President of the Pike Anglers’ Club and Editor of the magazine ‘Pikelines’. His book, ‘River Pike’, published in July 2015, rapidly sold out and is already a collectors’ item. Dilip manages his own stretch of the Severn in Worcester and is totally committed to protecting fish and fisheries.
Karen hails from Southampton where she fished in saltwater as a child with her father and brothers. Years later, after moving to the Midlands and meeting her husband, Dilip, she caught a small pike – which was life-changing! Karen has since doggedly been out there in all winter weathers, on the bank and afloat, taking double-figure zander from the Severn and pike to over 23lbs from two rivers. Karen supported Voluntary Bailiff Service administration for four years as a Key Volunteer, and, a Volunteer Bailiff herself, now works part-time supporting the Fisheries Enforcement Support Service. Karen’s ambition next season is to catch a double-figure barbell from the lovely river Teme, her current best being 9.09.
It is fair to say that we lead somewhat busy lives – leading on delivering the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign and managing the Fisheries Enforcement Support Service, which includes the Voluntary Bailiff Service, is an enormous task. Indeed, getting this far has literally taken every waking hour on occasions, so although time for fishing is limited, we certainly appreciate those occasions when we can get out there. Over the years I have come full circle and now only fish for pike, and only occasionally zander these days, and exclusively in winter. This gives me time to devote to other interests outside of angling which, when you deal with anglers’ issues daily, is important to have, I think, to retain a certain perspective. Ours are spate rivers, however, meaning that they are frequently in winter flood and unfishable – which can be very frustrating and as a result of which we often lose weeks on end of what is, for us, a short self-imposed season. Nonetheless last winter was a good one, starting with a brace of Severn twenties, followed with two more in short order from two different rivers, and concluding with another local Severn biggie. Karen had a twenty from a new river, so all good. This winter not so good, although strangely the rivers have been in better fettle than for many winters. We knew, though, that because of developments with the FESS and VBS, this would be an especially busy winter, leaving very little time for fishing. Consequently my target was a realistic one: just one twenty from one of ‘my’ rivers. Last Tuesday I’d had enough of the laptop and having a phone stuck in my ear, so re-located for a lunchtime on the Severn. With a phone still stuck to my ear, discussing fisheries enforcement issues with SW Regional Enforcement Manager Nevin Hunter, ten minutes after chucking out the right-hand rod was away – after a terrific scrap I was delighted to net my season’s target at 20.07 – duly sampled for the all-important Study. The following day the river flooded – all about timing. There’s still a few days left before the proverbial Fat Lady sings, though, and both Karen and I are hoping that the Severn drops and clears sufficiently to get out there again – Karen may even get the monkey off her back and catch that long-awaited and well-deserved Severn twenty!
PS…Although Karen’s Severn twenty failed to show I was delighted to to land a very rare Warks Avon 21.14 in the final week. I hadn’t fished the Avon for three years, on which occasion I caught a 26.10, the third biggest pike recorded from the river. The fish came a few minutes after first light on a paternostered deadbait, in very heavy rain and was a great way to end my season.
Paul Thomas – A Towpath Twenty
A former member of 5th Airborne Brigade and former Detective with Gloucestershire Police and now owner and manager of a small but thriving investigation agency, Paul Thomas is an angler who has been held spellbound by fishing for more than 45 years. Over these decades Paul has concentrated on fishing for specimen sized fish, be they carp, barbel or perch but his true passion has always involved chasing wild pike in the rivers Severn and Avon that pass through his home town of Tewkesbury and on the nearby Gloucester & Sharpness canal.
This past season has flown by and it is hard to believe that it is nine months since the river rods came out of the garage back in the early hours of June 16th and even more difficult to believe that there is less than a fortnight of the season to go. What with working full time on my investigative business and working part time for the Angling Trust on top, I have had to be very careful in my time management to allow time to fish, with my trips out often being of the splash ‘n’ dash variety either at dawn or dusk but I recently had an enjoyable trip out on a new stretch of the Gloucester & Sharpness canal. The old adage that one good turn deserves another certainly holds true as, after helping a friend with his boat that had sunk inexplicably in Tewkesbury marina, I was invited for an afternoon afloat on the canal to pioneer the piking potential of a new stretch as reward for my assistance. We motored for several miles using the 360 degree side scanning sonar looking for likely looking spots for an old pike to hang out and to seek out the huge bream shoals that the canal holds…for wherever the bream are the pike are always nearby, and just before dusk we found what we were looking for. Sat in mid canal in about 13 foot of gin clear water was the signal we craved. Pinging back an image about an inch in size on the screen was a lone pike sat just off bottom, along with several smaller signals that indicated the bream shoal nearby. With the inch long signal suggesting a twenty pound fish which is quite a rarity for the canal, we quietly tied up to the bankside and made good our preparations to cast out into the inky, calm water.
Quietly we both cast small ledgered baits out into the gathering gloom and sat back to await developments. Whilst sat quietly discussing all manner of pikey subjects, once the initial disturbance of tying up and casting has abated, I saw the limp line hanging from the rod tip to the flat calm waters’ surface twitch quite violently. I quietly leant forward and took the rod from the rod holder, pinching the braid between thumb and forefinger, just waiting for the tell-tale indication that my bait had been picked up. A few seconds passed with nothing and I thought my chance may have gone when, all of a sudden, like an electric shock, there was a thud through the braid as the fish took the bait with some gusto and was away. I quickly wound up the slack until the rod was almost pointing directly at the point the braid entered the canal and, cupping the reel spool, struck hard into my quarry.
In the dark the fight of a good pike is always exhilarating and this was not to be any different. I could immediately feel that I was connected to a heavy fish and was able to distinctly feel several violent head shakes out in the darkness as she tried to throw the hooks. These head shakes allied to surging runs to try to reach the sanctuary of the far bank foliage made the clutch slip until I could feel the tide of the battle turning in my favour. What seemed like forever but was in all honestly only a few minutes passed before, in the beam of my head torch, laid the prize…a pike that would surely be my first ever towpath twenty.
Into the net first time and held over the side of the boat whilst preparations were made ashore for accurate weighing and measuring, and once the unhooking mat and weigh sling were dampened, I lifted the pike onto the mat. As I got the net up out of the water I was convinced that she would easily go into the twenties and so it was to be. After unhooking her a weight of 20lb 8ozs was agreed upon but with a length of just 36 inches but a girth of 20 inches, she really was a well fed specimen, and as the pictures were taken I mused on just how many unfortunate bream had gone down her enormous maw in her lifetime.
Now the close season is upon us, I fancy that I will make a few more trips down the towpath to seek out more of the hidden treasures that lie within.
Dave Wilkins – Some Sussex Successes
Dave joined the FIsheries Enforcement Support Service of the Angling Trust in October 2016 after retiring from Sussex Police following 30 years service as a Detective in the Force . He is an all round angler enjoying his fishing in both saltwater and in freshwater but much of his focus is based around pike fishing in the Sussex rivers near his home and in the use of “ traditional “ split cane rods and tackle which he collects.
Looking back on a fishing season is always an interesting experience especially if you managed to catch a few fish ! But maybe the thing to do is learn from your mistakes and plan for the new season ?
I am fortunate to have access to a boat on the Arun and it opens up opportunities to fish areas which are difficult to reach from the bank plus of course its great to be out and about and enjoy the lovely Sussex countryside and wildlife .
My season began with a few trips after mullet on the lower stretches of the River Arun , but unfortunately they beat me yet again and they have become the “ fish of a thousand casts “ and will hopefully be easier to catch this year !
I then progressed to a heavy baiting campaign on the Arun in the hope of catching one of the elusive carp or barbel . The result : lots of very large bream to 8lbs but no carp or barbel . So lessons learned and a change of bait for next year might avoid the bream . As the season developed I moved onto pike fishing and set myself a target of a double from each of the main Sussex rivers and things began to look good with the capture of a 23lb pike from the Arun . I moved onto the Adur and on my first cast had a 14lb fish . Unfortunately despite 8 trips to the Ouse I only managed one pike so another attempt next year !
I have also started a blog and I am trying to combine an interest in photography with the time spent out fishing , please take a look !