Last week I paid a visit to an old estate lake in Bedfordshire. It’s about eight acres, almost entirely reed-fringed, and consequently only really fishable from a boat. I am fortunate in having almost exclusive access to this wonderful place, and over the years have enjoyed some memorable sessions there fly fishing for pike.
On one fabulous trip there I simply could not go wrong as fish after fish slammed into my flies. In just three hours I had boated no fewer than twenty one, including four or five doubles to fourteen pounds. Truly a day to remember!
There are drawbacks however, the main one being that it does tend to suffer with cloudy water, which is brought in by two feeder streams running along the bottom of some fairly steep-sided valleys. One heavy storm and it can be muddy for a week or two! As it is some distance from my home I have to weigh up the chances of making the effort only to find that the water visibility is 3 inches or so – hopeless for fly fishing. The lake also weeds up completely during the warmer months, so the chances of good sport can be quite limited and something of a lottery.
Two weeks ago I arrived there and almost didn’t fish at all. The water was extremely muddy, but I gave it a go anyway and ‘fluked’ out a couple of eight pounders, which I considered a good result in the conditions!
As we have had little or no rain in the meantime I was optimistic that the lake would be clear, so decided to head back. I was dismayed to find that it was only a little better than last time! Hope springs eternal though, as they say, so I launched my little boat, ‘Sneaky’, and set off. At this point I found that clumsily I had broken off one of the blades from my Minn Kota electric motor – a bad omen! Thankfully it still worked, although not with its usual quiet smoothness.
Concentrating on the shallow end, in the hope that they would be more likely to see my offerings, it soon became obvious that they were just not playing the game. An hour and a half of casting didn’t produce so much as a single offer. A bit disappointing I know, but if fish don’t want to open their mouths (perhaps because they are in spawning mode?) there isn’t much you can do about it… or is there?
This time, fortunately, I had taken the precaution of bringing a light spinning outfit and considered that one of my ‘Giant Ondexes’ could perhaps wake them up. This home-made, bar-spoon lure creates quite a vibration in the water, and has been very successful for me in the past in similar conditions. So Max and I wobbled and lurched our way back to shore with the injured motor. After a cuppa and a slice of Sally’s latest banana and chocolate cake, we soon had the spinning rod ready for action.
‘Would it have the desired effect? I wondered.
I did not have to wait long for my answer.
A well-conditioned ten-pound pike hammered the ‘G.O.’ on my third cast. It put up a great scrap before I was able to chin it out and, before I released it, I saw that she definitely had not yet spawned. At this sight my mood became more positive.
As it turned out, this change of method made all the difference. I started picking up takes and fish from all over the lake and, compared to the lack of action pre-cuppa, it became really good fun. After two hours no fewer than eleven pike had succumbed to the same lure – a twelve-pounder, an eleven, two tens, two in the five/six-pound range and five babies of about one pound each – every one in tip-top order! It seems that the fish were homing in on the vibes from the spoon – for sure something I’ll remember in future.
Although I prefer fly fishing to any other style of piking, this experience proves that, at times, it pays not to be too blinkered in approach.
Having said that, I am still very much looking forward to another session there when that water has cleared!!!