Gary had done one day during the week on the same stretch and had caught a leash of pike, two doubles to over 16lb, and a jack. We arrived in the pre-dawn gloom and set off across the field, it was noticeably muddy as we trudged across and slowly the light strip of the river showed beyond the trees along the edge of the field. As the light improved we set up two rods each, two with dead baits and two with live baits. The attraction of this spot was the fallen willows that lay in the edge with five foot of water beneath them. The shoal fish were beginning to use the slacks more and more and the pike were following.

The week before most of the fish had fallen to live baits but interestingly two of Gary's midweek pike had come to dead bait. Despite the shoal fish being there Gary had found his live bait catching difficult and only had a few small roach left but he also had some nice perch. I swung one of these out on a float paternoster with the perch set at a foot off bottom. Gary was first in with a small jack that took his small roach live bait almost straight away.

The skies began to lighten and the sun almost threatened to come out as we sat there looking across the river to the fields beyond, it really was a peaceful place he had found. The landowner came along a little later to speak to Gary; he had another field a few miles upstream that was alongside the river that Gary had been to see, but not fished. This field had a large drainage ditch leading in to the river as its main feature and Gary was optimistic about its possibilities, he was to fish there later that week. Oh to be a full time angler again!

Mid morning my perch live bait rig float began to move towards one of the fallen willows. It travelled another foot or two then dipped below the surface and I struck. I connected with a good solid weight that thudded back powerfully. It looked like it was a good pike and as it neared the tree I had to hold on hard to stop it getting into the sunken branches. The powerful rod bent over at stalemate for a moment before the bend started to go out of it as the pike swam out into the river. The fight then was short but fast and just beyond the outstretched net we saw the flash of a deep flank. The pike came to the top and we saw a broad back. The fish now was beaten and with one last violent shake of its head it was enveloped in the folds of the net. On the grass we found it was a short, fat pike but strongly built. The hook was nicely in the scissors and popped out easily. Onto the scales I watched, as they swung round towards two whole revolutions stopping a little short at 17lb 9oz. A real cracking looking Thames pike. It was not a fish that Gary had seen before, confirming his thoughts that this spot was not one for resident pike but a stopping off point as fish moved up and downstream. It powered off as we let it go, looking big in the water.

The rest of the day unfortunately was quiet as the sun emerged and the end of the gloomy weather came to an end. We packed up at dusk and popped in to the farm to say our thanks and to partake in some home made beer by the fire. Gary was planning to move on to the landowner’s new stretch next, plus another spot he had visited during the week, thus giving this spot a rest. I could see that serious river pike fishing was as complex and as hard work as serious carp fishing.

Towards the end of the week, after a couple of frosts the weather went very mild again so I escaped work at dusk and drove like a mad man over to the little lake I had dabbled at for carp in winters before. Two weeks previously I had caught a few and this day the weather was perfect, flat calm and very mild for the end of November. There was no one else there so I took the stuff round to the island and set up, casting stringers across to the old dieing lilies. As the light went completely, several carp of mixed sizes crashed out around the lake and I knew I was in for some action.

The first take was on a rod cast to the far bank, a sudden drop back as the carp came back towards me. I wound down and struck. I met some resistance and after a moment the carp crashed on top in the shallow water but it was off in seconds, the hook pulling. I quickly recast to the same spot and sat back in the mild evening looking and listening as more carp rolled around. The next take was a fast one on the same rod as the carp shot off along the far margin. This one was connected with properly and after a feisty short fight close in I netted a nice looking common carp a little short of 9lb. It was in perfect condition but I noticed how cold it felt, and when I put it back how cold the water felt.

All was quiet then for a while and I considered winding in and retiring to the hut but the weather was so mild and carp continued to show so I stuck it out. Just after midnight the same rod again was off to a fast take. I had cast a little short so the carp ran off towards the far bank and when I struck, it rolled heavily right in the edge. This was a better carp and I felt it find all the old lily stems as it begrudgingly came towards me. The fight close in was good fun in the shallow water but before long it rolled into the net. On the bank I found it was quite a deep mirror, one of the old fish and it weighed 12lb 6oz. Not huge but it is horses for courses and on this course that was a good fish, especially in late November.

An hour later, at last the other rod was away, a short take but I connected with something - but within a minute I was unhooking a small common that was shaped like a wildie. I remember the club put in some wild carp years before, they were meant to be 90% wildies and this one looked just like one, long and thin, the dorsal set slightly further back and a slightly underslung mouth, it weighed around 6lb. The final take of the session was at 3am and it came to the same rod as the wildie. I connected with a solid weight again and all the way in the carp fought before I quickly netted it. It was another original mirror with a damaged mouth; it just scraped over 10lb and was a great end to the session.

Winters are not much fun to fish in and these days I value getting any action in the dark nights. I’d rather be catching even small carp than sitting in front of Eastenders.

Have fun!