A mere three months later and we were back on the bank. This time “The Bream Team” three had become “The Bream Team” two. Sie couldn’t make it, his daughter Simona had arrived on the 19th October and unfortunately had a routine hospital appointment on the same day.
Picking a venue was more difficult this time. It was autumn now with lower temperatures and less predictable weather generally, making consistent fishing trickier to find. Although at this time of year all coarse fish are feeding up in preparation for the cold winter months ahead, river conditions can vary enormously and as Keith was only here for the day, I needed a venue with guaranteed sport, or at least as near guaranteed as you could get.
For me, I’m with Bernard Venables famous cartoon character “MrCrabtree,” autumn is the time for roach and perch. I know he fished for other species as well, but I always associate “the golden season”, with redfin’s and stripey’s, and from moving water. So a local river it would have to be, especially as Keith was already driving a fair distance to get here, the last thing he needed was a long journey to the river and anyway I had lots of great places locally to choose from.
The Great Ouse itself is a superb water, as are it’s tributaries, the Wissey, Lark and Little Ouse, all within ten to fifteen minutes drive from my home in Littleport, which itself sits on the banks of the Great Ouse. Last October my initiation to the Little Ouse was absolutely wonderful. I had a fantastic double figure bag of pristine silver roach, with the odd small perch on feeder fished maggot and after a couple of hours the predators arrived in the form of large perch which attacked the roach as soon as any feed hit the water. On one occasion, after a missed bite, I had two huge perch attack my empty cage feeder as I reeled in and when I dipped the feeder back in, they both charged it for a second time. I could see them clearly in the crystal clear water. How big we’ll never know, but I would guess the smaller one was well over 3lb and the bigger one who knows!
A week later I was back in the same swim fishing half a lobworm on a size ten hook and yes you guessed it, a good bag of perch this time with the odd roach. The predators also arrived only this time they were pike. A good perch of over 1lb was taken by a very large pike, just as it was approaching the net and lots of jacks of 3lb or so tried and missed. The Little Ouse had certainly lived up to its reputation as a good autumn/winter venue and so it would be my choice for “The Bream Teams” second trip. As before I wanted an element of adventure, so decided to fish the stretch by the disused sugar beet factory and not just above the iron bridge where I’d fished last season.
As usual Keith and I met up at Mum and Dads. It was convenient but also gave him an opportunity to meet Simona. Time seems to go faster as I get older and I guess that it won’t be too long before we’re hopefully taking the kids with us. After all at our age we need someone to carry the tackle. I know, I’ll introduce a new game, lets see how long we can carry Uncle Bob’s gear for. That’ll do it!
And so, after a cuppa we set off on the short ten minute journey. The side road, off the main road, to Little Ouse village and the river is very Romanesque, straight as an arrow, but once through the village, which is really just a couple of dozen houses, it changes into a narrow lane with mixed woodland on the right and a steep bank separating road from river on the left. I love travelling down country lanes to fish, it enhances that getting away from it all feeling that we anglers love so much.
The hard ground in front of the old buildings was deserted, so it looked like we had the fishing to ourselves and although another angler pulled up in his car, as we were unloading ours, he only stayed for a brief chat about fishy things in general before driving back down to the iron bridge section, much to our relief. I’m not an antisocial angler, but we didn’t want anyone to disturb our tranquil piece of water.
Once again the sight of the river for the first time was quite amazing. I had by complete accident, appeared to have found two perfect swims right next to each other. They had everything. For starters we were on a sweeping bend with its deeper water, there were also two houseboats moored opposite, with several trees overhanging the water on the far bank and another to our left. With all these fish holding features, how could we fail?
We set up opposite the boats, Keith next to the tree on the inside of the bend and me in the next swim upstream. The line was threaded through our rod rings as fast as our little fingers would let us and all the other items, most necessary, some not, were also assembled, including wisely as it turned out, our umbrellas. The forecast was cloudy with scattered showers throughout the day, the first of which arrived just as I was tightening the guy ropes on the brolly. A light breeze and an average November temperature of 11c, made for fairly comfortable conditions, but we were both glad of the hand warmer sachets in our jacket pockets. I’ve been using these little gems for a couple of seasons now and they are a lifesaver on a cold winter’s day. You simply take them out of their sealed plastic bag, squeeze several times to activate, then stuff them in your jacket pockets and within a couple of minutes they’re hot and will remain hot for up to eight hours. I don’t know how I ever survived without them. Add to this my moon boots, hunting cap and thermal jump suit, which Sie says makes me look like a “Telly Tubby” and I was as warm as toast. If anything, a bit too warm, as I sat down to bait up, beads of sweat were forming on my forehead.
While I was faffing about with brollies and bait, Keith was sat in his chair concentrating on the fluorescent orange tip of his waggler, having cast about two thirds across, close to the boat. As usual, a pinch of bread flake on a size 14 was his chosen bait, although like me he had maggots and between us some sweetcorn and a selection of worms. I’m not sure whether or not it was his first cast, but within five minutes or so he was gently unhooking an immaculate roach of about 8oz. Because it was the first fish I wandered over to have a look and as I approached Keith’s swim there was an explosion of small fish just in front of the tree, between the boats. The surface had erupted with at least a dozen silver fish scattering in all directions, probably roach, but it was too fast to tell for sure. Definitely perch attacking I said, confidently passing on my in depth knowledge of river craft and almost before the words had finished coming out of my mouth, a second explosion. This time a simultaneous swirl and a mottled green flank broke surface………or pike, I said! These battles between predator and prey continued throughout the day, mainly in Keith’s swim, but also occasionally in mine. I’ve never seen a stretch of river so alive with fish before, pike were striking more and more aggressively as the day went on. We weren’t the only ones fishing that day and around lunchtime another angler joined us, this time of the turquoise and orange feathered variety. That kingfisher spent most of the afternoon opposite us, dipping into the clear water and returning to his perch with a fishy prize virtually every time. Isn’t nature wonderful?
I was a bit slower off the mark than Keith, failing to connect with whatever was causing my quivertip to rattle. I really must float fish more often, it’s so much more sensitive, especially for shy biting roach. It took me a good half hour to get my eye in. First a small skimmer bream, followed by a roach and then another and another, and so it continued until lunchtime, when a larger hook and a switch to worm transformed my catch from roach to perch instantly. None were over a pound, most half that size, but in every other way they were absolutely perfect, boldly striped with crimson fins, bristling with defiance as only perch can. I reckon that by the end of the day, if I’d been using a keepnet, it would have held somewhere between fourteen and fifteen pounds of fish. A superb days sport.
Keith also caught consistently all day, mostly roach, but also perch. When we packed up he reckoned he’d had about twelve pounds. I think he was trying to make me feel better, as he’d been out fishing me all day. I conservatively estimated nearer twenty pounds and it could have been more than that.
We’d both had a brilliant day by the waterside, fantastic fish, great company and a good laugh, which is unavoidable on a ”Bream Team” trip. But the day will not be remembered for any of those things. The 13th November 2007 will be remembered for one thing only and that is the surprise pike.
Mid morning Keith had struck in response to the disappearance of his float for the umpteenth time, in the same way as he had many times that day, but instead of the flapping of a roach, he felt something much more substantial, more solid, not quite a dead weight, but almost and it was moving. Keith was on his feet and I was quickly by his side with the net. We both realised it had to be a pike and to be honest, were just hoping to catch a glimpse of it before the inevitable happened and it’s sharp teeth severed the flimsy monofilament line. Suddenly the pike realised he was hooked and powered off towards the sanctuary of the boats. Almost unbelievably Keith managed to turn him with only a couple of feet to go. Remember this fish is attached to a size 14 hook and light roach tackle. Maybe six or seven yards of line were gained back, before he surged off on what was the second of several more runs, but with each he became weaker and when we caught sight of him on the surface briefly for the first time, the possibility began to dawn on us that he might actually be landed. I sank the landing net in the margins, in hope more than expectation. Meanwhile the tug of war continued. The next time the pike broke surface he did it in style, leaping clear of the river and spraying water with his tail everywhere. How the line held I’ll never know, I guess sometimes if your names on a fish, you’re going to land it. The pikes acrobatics must have sapped his energy, as now he was only able to slowly circle beneath the rod tip, allowing Keith to guide him into the waiting net.
Unhooking was remarkably straight forward, he’d only been nicked in the scissors, the roach which was his target had long since been shaken off. A couple of digital photos later and in less than a minute and a half, he was being supported in the crystal clear water while he got his breath back, before returning to the deeper central channel, with the merest flick of that powerful tail. For the record a weight of 7lb4oz was recorded. Not a big pike I know, but a great achievement on such light tackle and what a way to christen Keith’s brand new 13ft float rod. In fact the through action of the new rod, as opposed to the more tippy action of his old rod, helped considerably.
Pike continued to harass the shoals of silver fish throughout the day and late afternoon, just before we packed up, both of us had a go for old esox. Keith with lures and I wobbled a dead smelt with absolutely no success what so ever, not as much as a follow. I guess they were just too preoccupied with the roach.
Even though Sie missed this trip, we both agreed that some kind of recognition was due to mark such an epic battle and therefore, slipped in with his Christmas card, was a pewter bream pin, signed by the maker. I know it probably should have been a pike, but a bream somehow seemed more appropriate.
The next trip is already planned for early 2008, now where shall we go and what are we going to fish for?
Complied by Rob Redfin Littleport Dec-08