Euro Fishing: Clint Walker - Spring Approaches
Spring is definitely on the way, and although I love winter fishing, I enjoy feeling the warmth of the sun even more, so I was glad to be on the banks this week as subtle signs heralded the approach of warmer weather… I chose to fish a reservoir on the club card of Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society, a windswept body of water also known as Stanley Pool, high up in the Moorlands, and home to some nice pike, which were my target for the day. Sunrise was estimated for 7.27am by the forecaster, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it light when I went out to the van at 7am to scrape off the preceding nights frost and scrabbled it away frenziedly lest someone got to my intended spot first!
The drive down to the water is always a treat, and by the time I’d covered the few hundred yards from the gate, I’d already spotted cock pheasants strutting by the track, several rabbits bounding through the verges, and watched a buzzard set off for its first foray into the growing light. It’s a beautiful spot, surrounded by farm and woodland, and it was into the woods I wandered, intending to fish the small pool, so called because of the causeway which separates it from the main body of the lake. I’ve never fished this area before, but after listening to advice from club officials, I decided to spend a day under the trees to see if I could catch.
As I approached the peg, I could see it had been recently fished, the grass tramped flat, and a couple of holes indicated where banksticks had been sited, showing that two rods had been in use; a pike angler like me probably. This particular swim has a stream bed running across it, and most baits are flung into the channel where the pike often lay quietly, ready to ambush prey fish as they are silhouetted above, so my first couple of baits were dropped in hopefully, and I set about tidying up my gear. Both bobbins hung gently from my lines, and I took a few minutes to enjoy the sunrise through the trees, and marvel at the reflections on the mirror-like water… I hoped the weather would hold, although rain had been promised…
I travel fairly light when pike fishing, using only a brolly instead of a shelter or bivvy; I can carry everything else in one go, so can move quickly if required. As I was the only angler on the lake however, and in such a beautiful spot, I intended to stay whether I caught or not, so pegged down the umbrella, unfolded the chair, and pulled out the flask, intent on watching the wildlife around me whilst I enjoyed a brew. After an hour, I was approached by a gentleman I know well, my former science teacher at Middle School, and a chap I have much to be thankful for as an angler. When I was aged just 13 years old, over 30 years ago, he took me fishing as part of a school trip, and inspired my love for the outdoors and angling, so it is always a pleasure to see Geoff on the bank. He told me that the week previously, he had taken five fish from the spot I now occupied, including a hairy double run, but none of the big fish for which the water is renowned. We enjoyed a brief chat, before he departed for the opposite of the pool… no doubt to watch and see if I could remember what he had taught me!
I’d bought a selection of baits, including lamprey, joey mackerel, my favoured roach, and a couple of herring, and my initial cast had been with the roach, and mackerel. I’m a keen advocate of boosting baits, so my roach had been liberally dosed with Spotted Fin Salmon Oil, and the mackerel with blood drawn from the pouch of lamprey after they had thawed. Lamprey are absolutely full of blood, which is what makes them one of the best baits around, and once thawed, the blood pools at the bottom of the bag and a syringe can be used to remove some before injecting it into another bait. It’s perhaps a bit gruesome but can often pinch a bite when times are hard and is a handy tip for tough sessions.
After a few hours, the wind was really starting to cause a few issues, and I had to turn my umbrella completely around, and anchor it to a tree. The gusts whipped fiercely at the edges of the brolly and at times, I was concerned that it would be torn from the ground. As I looked out into the main area of the reservoir, I was surprised to see another umbrella, beneath which an angler huddled, holding on gamely as white caps whipped across the surface of the lake! At least I had some shelter behind a line of trees, but he was struggling in gusts estimated at up to seventy miles an hour! Unsurprisingly, as soon as he got chance between squalls, he packed up at light speed, and departed, but it wasn’t comfortable where I was either… As I hunkered down with a book, I heard Geoff shout, and watched him land a nice pike before returning it safely. I hadn’t had a bite, and on a water where I’ve yet to blank, I was getting a little concerned that I’d made an error and picked the wrong spot.
I stuck it out. Geoff packed up and went home, waving as he disappeared, and as the wind finally dropped, I could take in a little more of the surrounding beauty. As the sun started to sink, I recast my rods, and as I adjusted the bobbin, heard a deep, low, growl from close by… I looked up, and found myself staring into the glowering eyes, and slavering fangs of a huge, dishevelled wolfhound which stood about three feet away! I hadn’t seen it approach me through the woods, nor did it appear to have an owner, so I squatted motionless as it continued to growl at me… I sat for what seemed an age, until I heard a shout, and the dog turned its head. I looked up hoping to see it bound away but could only see what is best described as an extra from the film ‘Deliverance’, standing in the growing gloom, watching me from behind a tree, complete with checkered shirt, dungarees, and felling axe as the dog held station! As if things couldn’t get worse!
I had no intention of ‘squealing like a pig’, so reached out (slowly) for a lump of nearby timber, ready to beat myself to death first if required… Thankfully, a further shout got the beasts attention, and it slunk off into the woods. The interloper said not a word to me, but instead stalked off after the dog, swinging his axe, whilst watching me as he increased the distance between us. It was an uncanny encounter, which certainly unnerved me, and when my alarm emitted a high pitched squeak, I had to check it hadn’t come from me!
It hadn’t. The bobbin jumped off the line, which slowly spooled away as a fish made off with the roach deadbait. I wound down, and struck into solid resistance, bringing a scraper double figure fish to the net quickly. It hadn’t had time to engulf the roach, which hung limply from it’s jaws, and the hooks were removed swiftly without injury to the pike. It was quickly photographed and left in the net to recover, before it swam away into the gathering dusk. That was enough for me, my run of fish had continued, so I packed up, keeping a watchful eye on the woods… I was sure I could hear distant music… a banjo maybe? I hope not, it was a nice spot, but next time I’ll take a friend…