A very early start and a long drive is often the start of a little adventure and I always have that sense of excitement about what the day may hold. I often don't sleep well when I know I am getting up early and a ritual stop half way to take on coffee has become part of my trips away. I like to get to the events early and enjoy the inevitable car park banter. Tackle that has been bought or sold is exchanged, new tackle shown off and plans for the day discussed and tales of recent fishy encounters are told
I had asked a fellow LAS member if I could buy some of his home made extra heavy drop shot weights and was delighted when he handed over a bag with my weights and some of his soft plastic shads. I have found many members of the society to be generous to a fault and he point blank refused to take my money. It was the kind of gesture that restores your faith in people and put a smile on my face.
It was great to catch up with familiar faces and event regulars and to meet new ones. I must admit to feeling a little out of place when I attended my first event, but having been to a few over the last three years I really enjoy the sense of community that our shared love of fishing brings.
With tickets bought and boats paid for the next job is to load the boats with small mountains of tackle and prepare for the hunt.
We were in a boat on the jetty next to Mark Kelly and John Copeman and at one point it was like it was raining shads as they both gave me lures they thought might work!
At 9 am we were given the 'go' and the armada of boats set off to their chosen spots. Rutland is the largest man made reservoir in England and has a surface area of four square miles so there is plenty of water for everyone!
Steve, my boat partner for the day, and a season ticket holder for the water, wanted to spend some time targeting the pike so we headed to the North Arm. It took us almost 25 minutes at full throttle to reach the area we wanted to fish. Steve knows the lake well and placed us over a 'hotspot' that has produced some big fish recently. Not long after we started Steve hooked and played what was clearly a good fish, unfortunately as it neared the boat it shed the hooks and was gone. I got a good look at the fish and estimate it was around 20 lb! Despite the disappointment it was clear that there were fish in the area that might be persuaded to take our lures. We were fishing fairly shallow water over dense weed beds and a while later I was pulling my lure clear of some weed when suddenly everything went solid and I was into a good fish myself. I played the fish right to the side of the boat and I could see that it would have smashed my lure caught personal best. It is always hard to be accurate when estimating the size of fish in the water but again this fish was obviously a large double figure pike. As it neared the boat it turned and went on a powerful
run, taking line off the reel. I managed to turn it before it reached the sanctuary of the nearest weed and as I pumped it to the surface it rolled and spat the hooks. Another opportunity to practise my Anglo-Saxon vocabulary! Every angler has experienced that horrible moment when you realise that the big fish you had on the line has gone- time just seems to stand still. A good boat partner knows there are no words of consolation to compensate for the lost fish. Instead of two trophy shots of big pike we both had tales of 'the ones that got away'. Undeterred we covered the area for a few hours and had a few more attacks but failed to make a solid connection.
By lunch time I was itching to have a go for the zander. There are non in waters local to me and I had never tried vertical jigging from a boat. Steve had shared phone calls with other anglers and had an idea of where fish were being caught so we motored to the South Arm at around 1 pm. We knew that fish were being caught between 40-50' so once a suitable depth had been found the drogue was deployed and jigs lowered over the side.
Within minutes we both had small fish which are fairly typical for the water.
As always in these circumstances boat partners get into a mini competition and by 4 pm we ended with honours even at five each. Towards the end of the day we found ourselves drifting close to another boat. Andi had had a few fish but his boat partner John hadn't had a sniff all day. I shouted across and wanted to give John the lure that had been producing for me. Typically as he reeled in he had his first knock which didn't stick. They motored over and I gave John the lure and both boats began fishing again. John kept the lure on that he had just had a bite on and on his first drop down nailed his first fish of the day. I have never seen a man so pleased to catch such a modest fish! We were all chuffed to bits that he had avoided the dreaded blank. Having paid for a days fishing and made the effort to travel the journey home can be very long when you haven't caught. It was one of the moments when fishing despair can turn to elation in an instant!
The 'ZanderCup' for biggest fish was won by Andi with a really nice fish of 6lbs.
Sunset over the North Arm
So the day was not about the big fish caught, but the place, the good people and the ones that got away!