We realised this morning that I hadn’t been out fishing for a while, which is most unfortunate – so decided to do something about that during a spare couple of hours. What else is Sunday afternoons for in any case? Rhianna and I headed off down to the River Culm with a fly rod in the hope that there might be a couple of pike feeding despite the cold.
A favourite fly always instills confidence, so it was only natural to start and then persevere with mine – all 6 inches of him. After a very cold hour and a half, including a short session of the obligatory “letting the daughter” have a go, I did eventually tempt a small pike of around 3 or 4 lb to rush the fly. It missed, and couldn’t be lured back.
Not long after this wake up call, I managed to lose the fly in an underwater obstruction whilst trying to search some deeper parts of the river, which necessitated a new wire trace and change of fly. We worked our way back towards the car in the failing light and with no sign of further action was beginning to feel I was just going through the motions, when I was mildly surprised to find myself attached to something that started fighting back on one of the retrieves.
A small jack pike was my first thoughts, although after the first few spirited runs I glimpsed a flash of fish and realised it wasn’t pike at all, but a nice chub. The fish gave a good account of itself to start with although it was more than a little out-gunned on the pike tackle and quickly came to the net after it’s first burst for freedom. A few pictures for posterity and we decided to call it a day. Mission accomplished! we caught a fish, even if it wasn’t quite what we were after.
We’ve had a very mild autumn until now and it was only on Guy Fawkes night that the temperature here in the South West has really dropped to somewhere approaching what we’d usually expect for this time of year. Bonfire night in Devon was clear and cold, and the following morning was frosty and bitterly cold to match. I was awake early and down at the river Culm for around first light hoping to grab a couple of hours fly fishing for pike.
Trampling through the frosty fields to get to the river I was feeling really optimistic and hopeful. It only took two casts for that early enthusiasm to wane… The rod rings were iced up by the 2nd cast which meant stopping to break the ice build up off. Numb fingers also required warming before continuing casting. This cycle carried on for a while with me only able to get a couple of casts before needing to stop to de-ice the rod rings and warm my fingers.
The cold and a distinct lack of fishy activity quickly dampened my desire to be out in the countryside at this hour of the morning, and with the onset of numb toes I decided to head for the warmth of the car before the first hour had played out. Maybe it was the sudden temperature drop after such a long period of mild weather that had put the fish off feeding, or maybe I just didn’t put in the time – either way I didn’t feel bad to be heading for home early on this occasion. There’s always next time in any case.
With the end of the season for trout in our local rivers approaching and a couple of tokens for the Westcountry Angling Passport Scheme to use up, I headed up to the River Culm near Hemlock (Beat 4) for a quick after work session. Beat 4 is only 2 tokens which was perfect as that matched up nicely with how many I had left. Glorious weather and an hour and a half to spare before it got dark, I was feeling cautiously optimistic when I did eventually find the venue. Despite having lived in this area for a few years before we moved to Exeter, I still had real trouble finding the token box.
Upon arrival I noticed another chap fishing his way back up to the car. By the time I’d set up my rod, he’d arrived back at the car and was calling it a day. I spoke to him briefly to sound out if he’d had any success (which he hadn’t) and found out that he knew the river pretty well, having fished it on and off for the last 30 years. Apparently his last 6 sessions over the course of September had brought him a grand total of 4 fish – Now while catching vast numbers of fish isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for an enjoyable days fishing this news sent my hopes plummeting. No one likes the prospect of blanking and as most fishing is an exercise in sustaining the optimism that the next cast is going to result in a fish, hearing this news put a bit of a damper on things.
The River Culm on this section is pretty but tiny. Overhanging trees severely limit places to fish, and the fishing was from the bank, with waders not really offering any advantage. The flow was clear and quite fast with shallow sections and a few narrow but very deep areas.
Getting a drag free presentation with the flow proved difficult. I tried dry flies before switching to a nymph under an indicator but had no takes. In fact I saw no sign of any fish whatsoever, resulting in a less than satisfactory end to the river trout season for this year. Not quite how I’d hoped to finish it off. Still, it’s always good to try different venues and all helps to build up experience for the future.
Christmas was great but the days leading up to it brought a lot of rain which precluded fishing for a while. Father Christmas did however bring a nice set of waders and a fly tying vice (many thanks to my wife). With the limited materials to hand I tied what looked to me to be a killer pike fly – professional fly tiers may laugh but I was pretty pleased with my first effort. I went for blue and white to give a different colour option to all the shop bought ones I already have. Variety is the spice of life after all. The main thing I was after was a fly with plenty of movement, which as it turned out, my creation had as I saw first hand on my next fishing trip.
After a short spell of dry but bitterly cold weather after all the rain leading up to Christmas, I finally had a chance to get out and try for that fly caught pike that I’ve been so desperate to get before the end of this year. I arrived at the river Culm at dawn and set out to try my luck. The river was reasonably coloured but I thought it worth a go all the same. A few casts later and after pausing to thaw out my fingers it became apparent that it wasn’t just my fingers that were freezing – the wet line coming back through the rod rings was freezing on the rings, which meant I had to stop every few minutes to free the rings of ice. Who said fishing should be easy….
I had an enjoyable morning working my way along the river but without much success. I was particularly pleased with my pike fly and how it looked in the water – even more pleased when a pike, probably around 4lb followed it in to my feet. Frustratingly it couldn’t be tempted to bite.. A few casts later a little further down the bank a slightly smaller jack shot out of the backside weed to take the fly – the nice bend in the rod was sadly short-lived before the hook came free. That explosive take that came out of nowhere reminded me so much of many of the pike I’ve caught on lures in the past and certainly reminds me why I love pike fishing so much.
Today’s session has definitely left me more determined than ever to persevere with my efforts to catch that elusive pike on the fly – and on top of that I finished the session feeling a lot better about casting the big pike flies. For now though it’s back to the fly tying vice and dreams of the next trip!