With the final cessation of the rain came a period of dry weather. Sunny days followed by frosty nights, in fact foggy nights. Not ideal for carp fishing in February so when my long term fishing mate Gary phoned to say he had been to the special spot on the river Thames and found the pike in residence I knew where I would be fishing during the week.

To put you in the picture, 15 years ago by accident we stumbled on a small exclusive stretch of the Thames that had just about every feature needed to hold pike fodder and of course pike. There was a weirpool, an outlet to a small stream, vast areas of fallen trees in the river and a variation of depths from 2 feet to 20 feet. However the pike are not always there in numbers, in fact they are only there when conditions are absolutely perfect and it took us the first 10 years to find exactly what they were. We would catch some good pike one day and return a couple of days later in seemingly exactly the same conditions to find the area devoid of pike. It is not only the water condition that needs to be perfect but the weather as well.

What is needed are flood conditions but not a new flood, it needs a consistent flood of over a week and then only when the colour is beginning to go. This is not good enough in itself though, what is needed to coincide with the flood is a period of night frosts. Not good enough again though as the days have to be steady in temperature, over 5 degrees centigrade and dull. As you can imagine floods are caused by rain, rain brings mild temperatures, no good for the pike. Frosts bring dry weather, no flood. The coincidence of conditions is very rare and often only lasts a few days at best.

Of course it is not the pike so much that likes these conditions, it is their prey. In these perfect conditions they shoal up in the inlet to the stream and in the edge of the weirpool and the pike follow. Big pike as well. A few years ago I was fortunate to catch a 30lb Thames pike, a rare beast indeed. To make things even more rare, the best weather on the day that makes the pike vulnerable is what the weather men call 'anti-cyclonic gloom', this is when high pressure spreads across the country but the gentle airstream brings low cloud in from the east off the North Sea. This heavy cloud cover with steady temperatures a few degrees above freezing are ideal and this is exactly what we had for just three fantastic days.

I arrived at the fishery before light to find a heavy mist clearing to low cloud and the temperature a couple of degrees above freezing. Due to the rain causing flooded fields I could not drive to the stretch but had to walk the half-mile across the heavy-going ground laden up with two pike rods, net, unhooking mat and small chair. The rucksack, laden with all the other odds and ends, on my back. Hanging from one finger was a bucket containing the livebait catching gear, a five-foot telescopic rod, that folds to one foot, a small reel and float and hooks and shot.

20 minutes later I arrived at the weirpool to find the river high and a little too coloured so I wandered on and quarter of a mile later I ducked in under the fallen trees to the stream outlet. As I looked roach flipped on the surface and a pike strike came seconds later as one of the roach came to a sticky end. Wasting no time, I went about flicking a small smelt out on a float paternoster to the far bank, so the smelt fluttered in the flow two feet off bottom. Then I went about catching livebait that, when the roach are in residence, is easy; a bite a chuck, and 15 minutes later 6 roach were swimming in the bucket. Soon one was swung out to the edge of a fallen tree.

The dead bait had produced nothing but only ten minutes after being cast, the livebait produced a lovely 12lb pike. Another roach, slightly bigger, was swung out a little nearer the main river where a crease was forming. Another pike strike showed in the vacinity but I had to wait another hour before the float on the deadbait (that I had changed so it was over-depth fluttering right on the bottom) disappeared. The fight was dogged but there were no heavy charges so I was not surprised to net a fish a little under 10lb minutes later.

The mist was beginning to clear and a tiny patch of blue appeared in the sky, I knew it would not be long before the perfect conditions would be replaced by sunshine. Then the roach would move on and the pike would melt away. Half-hour later, at last the livebait float became agitated and sunk from sight only to appear again moments later. Ever so slowly the float moved out into the stream and moved downstream slowly getting lower in the water. A quick tightening of the line and a hard pull set the hooks. A good pike set off downstream. The fight was typical of a Thames pike, slow and steady, no quick charges. It hugged the bottom looking for a snag to free itself in but after 15 years I knew every branch in and above the water. There was one dodgy moment when it neared a tangle of roots but soon it was on top and in the net. A thickset long fish taking the scales round to 17lb 12oz, lovely.

That was all the action. The sun became brighter through the low clouds and before long the sky was cloudless. The roach stopped showing and despite staying until dusk I was untroubled. I released the unused roach and trudged back to the car.

Two days later I was back, Gary had taken a 23lber the day before, the day had again been foggy. This day was not foggy but the cloud was low and the windless conditions ensured a temperature just the right side of freezing. I was at the swim before light this time, not wasting time looking at the weirpool. Again the roach were there and soon half a dozen were in the bucket.

The pike were not showing and it was nearly 9am before finally one slipped up, a 14lber. A cold wind blew up shortly after and the clouds began to break, the river too was falling. I knew we were loosing them. At 11am though, a free roving livebait roach was taken savagely and after a heavy fight I drew the fish I wanted over the net, a plump female just the right side of 20lb.

There was no more action that day and when Gary fished the following day it produced just a jack, a sure sign the bigger pike had gone. The final day of the week we fished together and both blanked. The low cloud/foggy conditions had gone, to be replaced by broken cloud and a breeze. The river too had fallen too low. The moment had passed.

To put this into perspective, this was the first time this winter that conditions had been perfect. This despite the frequent flooded conditions. Gary, who is an all-out pike angler, had tried often when conditions seemed close to perfect but had blanked on every occasion. A truly fantastic stretch of river, the jewel being the big pike. If there is a 40lb pike in the Thames it will come from here. Five years ago the pike chose to spawn in this spot. We saw them just on one day, two fish were massive. They had not spawned there before, or since, but when they do again we will be ready!

Have fun!