Once a year just before Christmas I go up and stay in Uttoxeter with a good friend called Simon Everett. It turns into a fishing fest for Pike weather permitting. OK, we may stray into the odd hostelry that happens to serve real ale, another passion of ours.
As it happened the only available weekend this year coincided with the imminent arrival of Storm Desmond. We have had a few storms since but this was the one that hit the NW particularly hard.
Day 1- Despite 60mph winds we decided after a tot of Sloe Gin that lure fishing the river Derwent would be a good idea. I know, catastrophic falling pressure, flooded river and water the colour of Oxtail soup we should have known better. To be honest we did but hey a 200 mile drive and the Sloe Gin clouded our judgement. We started in the club car park and wondered on to the bank. The wind and rain now decided to put us through our paces. Yes, leaning into the wind and questioning our sanity we made a our first casts. Wow, did those lures fly. I make my own lures out of hardwood which cast like a bullet in normal conditions. Needless to say we both had a snag but we got the lures back and battled on. Simon made an early cast under a bridge and boom! He got a very nice 2lb Perch to the bank only to see it come off as he reached down for it. Obviously I was very sympathetic and never repeatedly mentioned that a net would have been a good idea. Still, a much unexpected bonus that given the conditions gave a glimmer of a decent session. Yeah!
Fishing Karma is a funny thing. We continued downstream casting at anything that we thought might hold fish. Having taken the Mickey out of Simons Perch exploits I found a great spot that had Perch written all over it. So let’s show him how it’s done. I cast to the far side just as a mega gust hit us. Off balance and with all the grace of Eddy the Eagle i slid down the bank in the perfect tuck position and ended up in the river up to boot level. Despite being muddy and wet I still managed to get back out the river and back up the bank before Simon could get his camera out. Phew, but a real comedy moment.
We walked 4 miles in total, spoke to many Barbel anglers that were hiding or sheltering in the bushes and we all shared the same fishing fate – BLANK! There was another comedy moment when a rather portly Barbel angler got out of his seat only to see his chair get blown down the bank. In a less than athletic or elegant way he managed to scramble and slide down the bank and just save it before it joined the Derwent flotsam that was now heading for the Trent. Time to re assess our options. The decision was to go back and sulk over Simon’s real ale collection. Best decision we made all day.
Day 2 – So we assumed that as the storm was still raging the river Dormant would continue to live up to its new nickname. Simon suggested we give a canal that joins the Derwent and Trent a go. “I have never blanked there”. My first reaction was “Is there a pub close by”. Lovely stretch to be honest that had fish written all over it. Although the wind wasn’t as strong as the previous day we were still in a storm. There was a small coarse match taking place and both Waggler and Pole was struggling to find even Roach so we realised we were in for another tough session. I can’t claim to be the world’s greatest Perch angler and all my lures were definitely for the big crocs so I had to watch as Simon landed a 3oz strippey from a closed lock gate. I have never seen a grown man get so excited over such a small fish but blank avoidance was what it was all about. Well done Simon. (Through gritted teeth). Me, well I did have some fun with a one eyed Jack (not joking). He followed the lure repeatedly but would not take it despite changing the presentation and pattern. At least the first signs were there that the fish were beginning to wake up as the storm started to disappear over the North Sea.
Day 3 – My final morning before I had to head back down the M1. I couldn’t blank 3 days on the trot could I? Simon suggested a club Trout Lake that had a decent head of Pike. It was at least dry and the high wind was no longer constant, just the odd gust blowing through. When we arrived the Trout Lake looked OK but the Coarse lake just over the way looked even better. I subtly suggested we focused there but Simon wanted to hit the Trout water. “I’ve never caught anything in the Coarse Lake” he said. So we headed off to bombard the Pike and scare the Trout. When Simon wasn’t looking I couldn’t resist sneaking off to the Coarse lake. I felt like a naughty school boy but it wasn’t long before he joined me. The lake was a really well kept lake with platforms every 10m. Lots of trees on all the banks and reeds on the downwind side. Finally conditions and a location that I was getting excited about. Each of us took up station on a platform and armed with Smiler lures hit the water hard from the middle of the lake to the margins. The lake isn’t that deep so we used floating divers in a Perch and Jazz pattern. We just leapfrogged each other making our way down to the reed beds. Simon was the first to get some interest. Bang! He suddenly had a very pretty 5lb Rainbow to the bank….nice. Great scrap on a lure and light rod. He then moved on to another platform. He had multiple follows but couldn’t get a nice Jack to take the lure. He gave up and moved on to the next platform and had a nice 4lb Jack on the Perch pattern again. He and that Perch lure was on fire. Nice. Time for me to rethink. I had been using my most successful Jazz pattern with no interest. Time for a change. On went my larger Perch Smiler. I moved to the swim that had the Jack that didn’t strike. My theory was that maybe the first lure just wasn’t big enough to justify its effort. So I cast out, let the water settle and started a very slow retrieve. This dives the lures down to no more than a couple of feet and produces a very strong, injured action. It was good enough. The Jack couldn’t resist and hit it hard almost under my feet. He fought well but I managed to get him on to the bank. At around 8lb he wasn’t my biggest Pike but certainly one of my most appreciated. Weekend blank avoided.
So came to an end a difficult but really fun weekend with many a great memory. That’s what fishing is all about. Here’s to next year and whatever else nature wants to through at us.
If you want to find out more about Smiler lures then please join us on Facebook www.facebook.com/smilerlures. They are a bit different but very effective.
~ Paul Fennell